Richmond Must Confront Deep Canyons of Poverty

John Moeser presenting data from the 2010 Census (Photo: Don Cowles)

This is a guest post by Rob Corcoran. Rob is the national director of Initiatives of Change and founder of Hope in the Cities which models honest conversation and sustained partnerships across traditional boundaries. This article was originally posted on the Hope in the Cities website.

It’s time for the Richmond region to confront the “deep canyons in the social landscape,” urban studies expert John Moeser told two hundred community leaders at a forum on “Unpacking the 2010 Census: The New Realities of Race, Economics, and Jurisdiction” on March 18. Poverty, which is concentrated in city neighborhoods, is now emerging in the suburban counties.

Mayor Dwight C. Jones used the occasion to announce an anti-poverty commission focused on employment, education, transportation, and health. The forum, hosted by Hope in the Cities and the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities made front-page news in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Dr. Moeser, a Senior Fellow at the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement at the University of Richmond and a member of the Hope in the Cities Council, developed his presentation using 2010 census data. He called for multiracial coalitions to advocate dispersal of high-density poverty through mixed-income and mixed-use development in every jurisdiction.

He noted that African Americans are disproportionally impacted by concentrated poverty because of the city’s history of racial discrimination:

“Actually, building good cities needs to happen across our nation. But why not start here, where the greatest of all national tragedies – the slave trade and the Civil War – were played out at such enormous cost?”

Questions from the floor (Photo: Don Cowles)

The event kicked off a collaborative project between Hope in the Cities and the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities to train facilitators to present the data and lead dialogs throughout the region. This will support the work of the mayor’s commission by expanding the base of informed residents and by mobilizing civic and faith communities. Many members of the anti-poverty commission have been committed to racial reconciliation work in partnership with Hope in the Cities for many years.

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