Saturday, January 31, 2009

How we talk about Distressed and Challenged Cities

In the past two days, people have asked me about the extend of poverty and inequality in East Cleveland. All have been well-intentioned, honest and reflective in their questioning. One thing that has come to mind, is the need to re-map how we speak about, and the language we use to describe economically challenged rural and urban neighborhoods. Most of the research literature on "poverty and inequality" mention defecits, the lack of, whether its housing, jobs, education, health care, etc.

Rarely, does the language speak of assets, assets of the people, the physical space, the neighborhoods, access to water, rail, and the overwhelming odds of its children who maintain and achieve despite daunting circumstances. We just put President Obama in the White House, can we not, envision and tackle a new language that speaks addressing the challenges, while using a language that is defeatist and not focused on what we need to solve, rather than on what is wrong?

In Instructions for the Cook, Recipes for New Conversations, my friend, George Nemeth and Jack Ricchiuto, engage in a language and practice of gifts, invitations, dreamspace and small acts.

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