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

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

2:00 pm – 3:30 pm

The Power of a Single Decision: How the Great Migration Reshaped America

Isabel Wilkerson, author, Pulitzer Prize winner, and National Humanities Medalist (Bio)

In her bestselling and award-winning masterwork, The Warmth of Other Suns, Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the greatest untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities in search of a better life. To this day, Americans rarely understand the full impact of this movement that was driven not by one single leader, but by six million Americans seeking political asylum in their own country. This migration reshaped cities and neighborhoods, culture and politics, North and South, and set in motion the current racial disparities and dynamics the United States now grapples with as a country.


Thursday, October 3, 2019

3:30 pm – 5:00 pm

Leading a More Equitable Future for Community Development: A Discussion with Nonprofit CEOs

Over the last several years, a number of national community development organizations have undergone executive leadership transitions. Most of these marked a shift from white leaders to leaders of color at the organizations’ helms. In a field that has long been criticized for failing to reflect the diversity of the predominantly Black, Latinx, and other communities of color it serves, this is a noteworthy change in the status quo. In this plenary, the heads of five organizations – Center for Community Progress, Grounded Solutions Network, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, NeighborWorks, and Smart Growth America – will discuss the impact of increasingly diverse leadership in the field, their priorities as the newest generation of community development executives, and their efforts to rectify unjust policies and practices and support equitable outcomes in disinvested communities across the country.

Moderator: Don Chen, President, Surdna Foundation (Bio)
Speakers: Calvin Gladney, President and CEO, Smart Growth America (Bio); Tony Pickett, CEO, Grounded Solutions Network (Bio); Lisa Rice, President and CEO, National Fair Housing Alliance (Bio); Marietta Rodriguez, President and CEO, NeighborWorks America (Bio); Akilah Watkins-Butler, President and CEO, Center for Community Progress (Bio)

Friday, October 4, 2019

12:30 pm – 2:00 pm

Stuck in Place: The Persistence of Urban Inequality and the Next Model of Urban Policy

Patrick Sharkey, author, professor, and Chair of the Department of Sociology at New York University (Bio)

Just over fifty years ago, cities across the United States faced a growing crisis around the issues of concentrated poverty, rising joblessness, social unrest, and relentless racial injustice. Instead of responding with a policy agenda focused on justice and investment in urban neighborhoods, the nation embarked on an agenda that abandoned central cities and relied on the police and the prison to solve the problems of central cities. In this eye-opening keynote, Patrick Sharkey looks at the consequences of this approach for urban neighborhoods across the United States. Despite the persistence of urban inequality, Sharkey argues that the decline of violent crime has opened up space for a new model to confront neighborhood poverty—one that no longer relies on the principle of punishment, and instead relies on the principle of investment.

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