There will be three plenary sessions at this year’s Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference, featuring some of the top voices in the field.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

2:00 pm – 3:30 pm

Race, Disinvestment, and Revitalization: A Conversation with Dr. Ibram X. Kendi

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi (Photo: Stephen Voss)

Every community has some vacant properties. But systemic vacancy is the kind that is so widespread it changes the character of a neighborhood. Systemic vacancy is a result of deep issues like concentrated poverty, economic decline, and market failure, which are often rooted in historically racist policies. Time and experience have clearly shown that neighborhoods of color have experienced historic disinvestment that more often leads to systemic vacancy, the effects of which persist today.

In this plenary, we are honored to be joined by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi to discuss disinvestment in communities of color, and what can be done. Dr. Kendi is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University, and the founding director of the BU Center for Antiracist Research. He is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and a CBS News racial justice contributor. His relentless and passionate research puts into question the notion of a postracial society and opens readers’ and audiences’ eyes to the reality of racism in America today. Dr. Kendi’s lectures are sharp, informative, and hopeful, serving as a strong platform for any institution’s discussions on racism and being antiracist.

Dr. Kendi is also the author of many highly acclaimed books including Stamped from the
Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, which won the National Book
Award for Nonfiction, making him the youngest ever winner of that award. He had also
produced five straight #1 New York Times bestsellers, including How to Be an Antiracist,
Antiracist Baby, and Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, co-authored by Jason Reynolds.
To learn more about Dr. Kendi, visit


Thursday, September 8, 2022

4:00 pm – 5:30 pm

Same Address, Miles Apart: How the Folded Map Project™ Generates Conversations About Segregation in Chicago

Chicago is one of the most segregated cities in the United States, a direct result of racist
housing policies over the course of more than a century. And while housing segregation has
gradually declined over the past ten years, the disparities among white Chicago residents and
residents of color remain.

Tonika Lewis Johnson, a visual artist and lifelong resident of the South Side neighborhood
of Englewood, investigates inequality in her city while finding opportunities to bring
Chicagoans together. Her Folded Map™ Project connects “map twins”—residents who live
at corresponding addresses on opposite sides of Chicago (e.g., 123 South Main Street and
123 North Main Street). What started as a photographic study has evolved into a multimedia
exploration that invites audiences to open a dialogue and question how we are all impacted
by social, racial, and institutional conditions that segregate us.

Lewis Johnson’s goal is for people to understand how our segregated urban environment is
structured and to challenge everyone to consider solutions. In this plenary, Lewis Johnson
will be joined by “map twins” Jennifer Chan, Nanette Tucker, and Wade Wilson, as well
as Eleanor Gorski, Executive Director of the Cook County Land Bank Authority, the local
landbank who works with partners to re-develop areas of Cook County, which have suffered
from historic disinvestment and segregationist policies. They will share how Folded Map™
has transformed from a visual art project into tool for social justice, advocacy, and policy
influence that invites audiences to open a dialogue and question how we are all socially
impacted by racial and institutional conditions that segregate the city.

Moderator: Eleanor Gorski, Cook County Land Bank Authority
Speakers: Tonika Lewis Johnson, The Folded Map™ Project; Jennifer Chan, Chicago Resident; Nanette Tucker, Chicago Resident; Wade Wilson, Chicago Resident


Friday, September 9, 2022

12:30 pm – 2:00 pm

Responding to Crisis: Building an Equitable and Resilient Future

All available data shows that communities of color are disproportionately harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the growing frequency of extreme weather events, and the legacy of racist land use and housing policies and practices. These crises have fueled displacement, disinvestment, and the growing concentration of vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties in Black and Brown neighborhoods. Amid these crises, however, there is an urgent opportunity. Philanthropy can play a key role in community recovery to help ensure communities don’t just survive these crises, but emerge stronger and thrive. In our final plenary session, leaders of national philanthropic organizations—including the Surdna Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Melville Charitable Trust—will inspire you to radically envision an equitable future where all people live in sustainable, healthy communities.

Moderator: Tene Traylor, Urban Institute of Land Policy
Speakers: Richard Besser, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Susan Thomas, Melville Charitable Trust; Don Chen, Surdna Foundation

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