Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Women in the Black Panthers | Watch Independent Lens PBS online

Women in the Black Panthers | Watch Independent Lens PBS online: In this excerpt from the Independent Lens documentary Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, we meet some of the women in the Black Panther Party, who did everything from fielding phone calls to delivering speeches. While the central image of the Panthers may be of males in jackets holding guns, the majority of its rank and file members were women who struggled to overcome chauvinism.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

UPDATE: Historic Zoning Denied for America's First Black Housing Site, Advocate Releases Fact Sheet on Rosewood Courts Case

Though they were told the Commission approved historic zoning, the vote was actually 3-3 instead of 4-2 as advocates were led to believe before they left the meeting late Monday night. This is likely going to mean an appeal based on procedural abnormalities (what constitutes a quorum, vote changes after those bring forth the case left, etc.) . 

Here's an article on the case's final results:

Here's a statement released about the case from Preserve Rosewood Courts:

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Sensing Public Housing History: Historic Zoning Process for Rosewood Courts Advances; Austin Affordability & Preservation Debate Continues

Update on Rosewood Courts in Austin! Here's a little background on the Courts:

Here's a snippet of last night's (follow link) City Historic Landmark Commission meeting on the matter of it being designated a local landmark. See Item 7A 5

Item 7A 5

C14H-2015-0008 Rosewood Courts 2001 Rosewood Avenue Council District 1 Applicant: Fred McGhee; Historic Landmark Commission City Staff: Steve Sadowsky, Historic Preservation Office, 974-6454 Staff Recommendation: Do not initiate historic zoning. The Housing Authority of the City of Austin (owner) recognizes the historical significance of this site, and has developed a plan in conjunction with neighborhood input, to rehabilitate six of the original units, and to re-open Emancipation Park as part of their master plan. Staff instead recommends that the Commission endorse the Rosewood Courts Master Plan, which includes the preservation of original units of this public housing complex.

  Some thoughts...

I am longer on the commission, but its nice to see this matter advancing to the exploration or "initiating" of historic zoning phase. I feel strongly, that for this matter to advance, a myth central to this ongoing public debate be dismantled: That those in favor of a historic designation are against upgrades in public housing or a better quality of life for residents. 

One of my problems with historic preservation as a field and regulatory regime (on all levels of government) is the inability for us to have holistic conversations about the relationship between historic conservation and the preservation of quality, affordable housing. As you will see during the debate, so often we can only discuss preservation matters in a Landmark meeting and planning and development matters in another meeting. While it often works in the favor of preservation matters, it causes us (residents) to have what I feel are performative, intellectually dishonest, short sighted conversations about development.

 I hope that activists will continue to hold space for conversations about how historic preservation is also about how conservation of truly affordable housing. Too often redevelopment equals the elimination of truly affordable units (for extremely low income) that are replaced with semi affordable housing units (for those at median to above median income). These two issues (preserving units' history and affordability) are deeply intertwined and not opposed to one another. The federal trend toward declining investment in maintenance and increasing utility costs at public housing complexes are far more threatening to affordable housing stock in Austin than a historic designation, which amounts to a process of accountability, not prohibition of rehabilitation. In other words, a designation doesn't automatically mean air conditioning doesn't get fixed, or that children don't have safe places to play. It means we determine what aspects of the building and landscape need to be preserved in order to integrate it into the public history of Austin while we refurbish or retrofit existing structures. 

Here's why this matters. Demolition is too often undertaken in this town after the fact. And once historic buildings are gone, they are gone. Once affordable units are gone, they are gone. You'd be surprised at how cities have tried to get around the one for one replacement rule. An extra layer of accountability to extremely low-income residents can only help, not hinder access to affordable housing, slow gentrification, and preserve the community's cultural fabric. It slows down a process enough to shine a light on government-led (though often public-private) development. With the history of low income residents' relationship with HUD or federal projects, I would hope we would want local government to stand up for ALL residents and increase the visibility of Austin's local history. I encourage Austinites to continue to watch and speak out on this issue as it advances through Commissions and City Council.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sensing "Church Songs" - Remembering Childhood Church

I go through a little music withdrawal whenever I return from dissertation research in East Texas. These are just a few of the songs I miss hearing all the time. I hear them when I go to homecoming celebrations in East Texas, but not so much anywhere else. Some I remember being sung a little faster and with guitar, but its all good.