The stories communities tell about themselves – through monuments, memorials, and other common spaces – often need to be challenged because they value one group of people over others. A $399,664 two-year grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation will support a project in Charlottesville, Virginia that will help both Charlottesville and communities around the country to grapple with these stories and advance equity.
The University & Community Action for Racial Equity (UCARE) and the Institute for Environmental Negotiation (IEN) in Charlottesville, Virginia have launched “Transforming Community Spaces (TCS)” in order to help communities address the legacies of harm and transform destructive narratives embodied in monuments, memorials, and other sites identified with slavery, colonialism, and other harmful histories. While this work has been made more urgent by the violent and deadly events of August 11 and 12, the initiative was launched more than a year ago with seed funding from the UVA School of Architecture and Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.
“Throughout the nation, we are seeing insistent challenges to monuments, memorials, and other sites identified with histories of oppression. These challenges offer opportunities to foster more complete understandings of history and to take action to remedy deep, systemic inequities, which tend otherwise to be ignored or suppressed. But many communities are unprepared to navigate the new conflicts that these challenges bring,” said Project Director Dr. Frank Dukes. “’Transforming Community Spaces’ will help institutions and communities benefit from past lessons learned in order to design and convene inclusive, transparent dialogues that will seek to uncover hidden histories, advance social justice, and promote collective healing.”
TCS features two pilot projects, including one that will link truth-telling with committed action in Charlottesville in the wake of the 2017 attacks by white supremacists. “Charlottesville is searching for ways to work together to build stronger, more equitable communities, and UCARE has been doing that for over a decade,” said Dr. Selena Cozart-O’Shaughnessy, the Lead Community Facilitator for the project. The second project will be at another location in the U.S., to be determined later.
TCS will work at a national level as well, producing guidance for communities and institutions to authentically engage diverse participants to build understanding and design ways to address the narratives and legacies of harm associated with their contested sites. At the global level, the UVA Provost and School of Architecture are supporting a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) that will explore how problematic community spaces around the world can serve as trigger points for conflict and harm or as entry points for transformation and healing. “These are not just Virginia issues, nor just southern issues,” said Tanya Denckla Cobb, Director of IEN. “Throughout the world our history is littered with inhumane and horrific atrocities that are often untold and rendered invisible. History is not old and dusty, but a new currency of discussion. There is a movement across the globe to surface the deep legacies of harm that are real and tangible, and to transform public and community spaces as welcoming spaces, rather than perpetuating harm. We hope to help communities do this work.”
Transforming Community Spaces is a project of University & Community Action for Racial Equity (UCARE) and the UVA Institute for Environmental Negotiation (IEN). UCARE, supported by IEN, has spent 10 years confronting the legacies of slavery, segregation, and white supremacy at UVA and surrounding communities. UCARE has robust connections with grassroots leadership across a diverse spectrum of engagement, including the faith community, neighborhood organizations, and local activist groups. It will seek to expand its network and understanding of local issues and emergent leaders during the course of the project. A National Advisory Committee of experts from a broad range of disciplines will help develop and broadly disseminate the guidance.
About University & Community Action for Racial Equity (UCARE) & the Institute for Environmental Negotiation (IEN):
UCARE is hosted by UVA’s School of Architecture, which straddles the fields of design and public policy to bring the perspectives of design professionals into direct conversation with those of community residents, policy makers, local business leaders, and more. IEN has over 35 years’ experience bringing the tools of facilitation and mediation to bear on complex social and environmental issues. With a belief that robust community engagement yields long-term resilience, IEN helps ensure that communities are sustained ecologically, socially, and economically. In 2007 IEN launched UCARE and has worked to sustain it for the past decade.
About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation:
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life. The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit http://www.wkkf.org/.