“By protecting and restoring our places, we can mend our destiny and create new hope for a bright collective future.” -Dr. Mindy Fullilove, Urban Alchemy
Spirithouse, a cultural arts and organizing organization in Durham, North Carolina, and the Durham County Library have chosen Dr. Mindy Thompson Fullilove’s Urban Alchemy: Restoring Joy in America’s Sorted-Out Cities, a New Village Press book, for the August 2015 citywide book study. In the book, Dr. Fullilove combines her work in public health with her personal life experiences and helps readers explore ways of healing deeply connected social and spatial fractures. She leaves them with the palatable Periodic Table of the Elements of Urban Restoration- nine tools that can mend our broken cities and reconnect our communities to make them whole.
The subtitle phrase “Sorted-Out” has its origins in the Thomas W. Hanchett 1998 book Sorting Out the New South City: Race, Class, and Urban Development in Charlotte, 1875-1975, a book about the ways segregation, both economically and racially, were programmed into the built environment over time through governmental and economic policies in a city that shares a state with Durham. Evidence of the legacy of these processes can be found in the history and continuation of redlining in Durham, the building of Highway 147, which marked the destruction of Black Wall Street, the Durham Police Department’s celebration of “Operation Bull’s Eye,” which sits over a historical redlined neighborhood, and the war on drugs and its wildly disproportionate effects on poor communities of color, all of which Pratt Institute students of Dr. Fullilove will be helping to map as the book study approaches. To see Durham getting behind a book that provides the tools to begin reversing decades of sorting out by being critical of how it came to be is both stirring and encouraging. In August, much of Durham will be asking the questions Urban Alchemy begs: What if divided neighborhoods were causing public health problems? What if a new approach to planning and design could tackle both the built environment and collective well-being at the same time? What if cities could help each other?
We can’t wait to see what becomes of this citywide contemplation on ways of bringing wholeness to the city and its communities!