Wanted: “Infrastructures of opportunity”

Wanted: “Infrastructures of opportunity”

MDC, Inc., the Durham-based nonprofit, has just published its periodic “State of the South” report, in which it takes the measure of the economic and social progress of the region and makes pragmatic recommendations for moving forward. The series, begun in 1996, is the brainchild of UNC professor Ferrel Guillory, who saw a need to highlight and promote the manifest ways in which public investment complements private-sector innovation to improve the lives and livelihoods of

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National policy directions, local impacts: thoughts on rental housing

National policy directions, local impacts: thoughts on rental housing

Last week my colleague Donna Bell and I attended a housing summit sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center. The conference took its themes from the BPC’s 2013 report, “Housing America’s Future: New Directions for National Policy.” Its four key recommendations: (1) increase access to credit for potential homeowners, (2) reform the housing finance system to shift most of the burden to the private sector, (3) focus rental assistance dollars on lowest-income renters, and (4)

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HOPE for community gardens

HOPE for community gardens

In 2009, the Homeless Outreach Poverty Education arm of the UNC Campus Y founded HOPE Gardens, a community garden on land owned by the Town of Chapel Hill. In partnership with Active Living By Design and the town’s Department of Parks and Recreation, HOPE got into the business of community gardening and urban farming. Initially envisioned as a transitional employment center for homeless people, as well as a source of

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Local law enforcement responds to Ferguson

Local law enforcement responds to Ferguson

The tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri have brought into sharp relief a subject not unknown, but rather lingering at the edge of our collective consciousness: “the militarization of policing.” Sarah Stillman’s essay in The New Yorker and Ta-Nehisi Coates’ essay in The Atlantic are a couple of thoughtful, provocative responses. When Coates writes that Black people are not above calling the police—but often we do so fully understanding that we are

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DHIC: Down, but not out.

DHIC: Down, but not out.

Last week brought news that DHIC‘s application for low-income housing tax credit funding for a project in Chapel Hill was denied. Although this is terribly disappointing, it in no way dampens my enthusiasm for the project or my interest in seeing it through to another application next year. The application was rejected because DHIC’s own commitment of $300,000–itself a tremendous vote of confidence in the project–was not properly documented. While the mistake is

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Evicting the New Jim Crow

Evicting the New Jim Crow

Say a high school student does something extremely dumb. She calls in a false bomb threat. Naturally, threatening a public building is quite illegal. She is arrested on a felony charge. But she is contrite and cooperative. She completes a diversionary juvenile justice program. Case dismissed. Three and a half years later she applies for public housing. A crim check turns up the charge, and she is denied. What are her alternatives? If she

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The Activist’s Daughter

The Activist’s Daughter

Greetings from on the road. Paul and I are en route to East Texas, via Nashville and the Mississippi Delta. We started out in Asheville, where we attended the North Carolina Writers Conference. This year’s honoree was Kathryn Stripling Byer, a wonderful poet and former poet laureate of North Carolina. On a panel discussion that took up the theme of the global dimensions of southern literature, I was so taken

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Homelessness and human rights: alternatives to criminalization

Homelessness and human rights: alternatives to criminalization

According to a study published last week by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, the criminalization of activities like sleeping, eating, sitting, or begging in public spaces is on the upswing in cities across the country. Even serving food to homeless people in public spaces is being targeted–as we know from recent events at Moore Square in Raleigh. Reporting on 187 cities that it tracked for five years, the

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“I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not.”

“I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not.”

Elizabeth Alexander, the poet, ponders a single sentence from W.E.B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk (1903) as she talks about his life and work in a recent episode of “On Being,” with Krista Tippett. Note first, she points out, that it’s in iambic pentameter. Du Bois is saying to Shakespeare, look: I can do what you do. I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not. It is a brilliant stroke–Robert

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Reading the Declaration “In Defense of Equality”

Reading the Declaration “In Defense of Equality”

My reading for this July 4 weekend is Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence In Defense of Equality, a welcome contribution to our understanding of our founding document by Danielle Allen, a MacArthur genius and a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton.  With strategies of close reading and recovery of draft work and historical context, Allen argues that within the Declaration, the concepts of

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