Expert panel discusses power, race, revitalization during City Club event

Experts suggest local leaders work together for revitalization

By Graig Graziosi


Power, race and revitalization were discussed Tuesday night during the City Club of the Mahoning Valley’s free community panel at the Youngstown Playhouse.

The panel featured Alan Mallach, the author of “The Divided City: Poverty and Prosperity in Urban America”; Evelyn Burnett, the co-founder and sponsor of ThirdSpace Action Lab and ThirdSpace Cafe in Cleveland; and Presley Gillespie, former Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. executive director and current president of Neighborhood Allies.

Ian Beniston, executive director of the YNDC, moderated the discussion.

Prior to the panel discussion, Mallach discussed his new book, which explores the recent revitalizations in older Rust Belt and Midwestern cities – Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Detroit, for example – and how those revitalizations, while positive, haven’t succeeded in alleviating entrenched poverty in those communities.

“Huge parts of these cities are being ignored despite these revivals,” Mallach said. “Many of the areas that were poor before the revivals remain poor after.”

Mallach argued that strong local leaders and institutions working toward a common goal that emphasized reinvestment into local neighborhoods is paramount to addressing the struggles faced by post-industrial cities such as Youngstown.

“Youngstown State University is a central part of the picture,” he said. “If they could become a real partner with the city and neighborhoods, they could become real leaders in a revitalization. They’re a key player here.”

Near the end of the evening, the panelists discussed what the public can do to engage in the continued revitalization of the city.

“First, the burden shouldn’t always be on the least among us,” Burnett said. “But we need to elevate ourselves as people. We’ve been complacent as a country and as a state. We need to start holding the people who are supposed to be working for us accountable.”

Burnett also recommended that local groups consider smaller funding campaigns, such as crowd-funding, to launch smaller-scale programs rather than waiting for a larger institution or organization to come into their neighborhoods and develop programs for them.

Gillespie also emphasized local organizing.

“We need to push the problem solvers in our communities to solve problems,” Gillespie said. “No one knows what we need in our communities like we do. Anyone can be a part of the solution.”

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