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What do community leaders look like?

  • 1.  What do community leaders look like?

    Ambassador
    Posted 20 days ago
    Edited by Jamesha Gibson 20 days ago
    I was at a brown bag lunch a few years ago where the subject was engaging diverse communities in Preservation. One of the participants shared an experience where she was talking with a preservationist from a preservation organization that was starting an initive to engage an underrepresented community. The preservationist told her that they were unable to find (identify) any community leaders to work with on the initive.

    This stuck with me as I entered into my carrer as a young professional in Preservation. Even now, as I do my work in preservation diversity, inclusion, and community engagement, I wonder: what do community leaders look like to us? Do we tend to privilege individuals that hold high civic, organizational, religious, or other positions when we identify community leaders? Is this because of long-standing engagement traditions and/or because they are able to relate to us on a professional level, even if they don't  share our jargon (basically, is it because they are easier to identify and relate to)? If we do, are we missing opportunities to connect with other "non-traditional" community leaders who may have deeper connections and relate better to community members? Finally, what are our motives in identifying community leaders? Is it only to gather input from the community that we later accept or dismiss based on our expert perspectives and our goals for the project? Or is it to steadily build community capacity so that they can actively be involved in negotiating outcomes in the preservation project based on their needs? How do these motives influence who we acknowledge as community leaders and who we ignore?

    Looking forward to the discussion,

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    Jamesha Gibson
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  • 2.  RE: What do community leaders look like?

    Posted 19 days ago
    You could substitute the word "Planning" for "Preservation" and this would be food for thought for anyone in the planning profession. Community engagement is at the heart of everything a planner does. The questions are eye-opening. This is timely for us since we are in the middle of our Comprehensive Plan update and preparing for a survey of African American historic resources in our community.​

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    Mike Cowhig
    Greensboro HP Commission
    Greensboro NC
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  • 3.  RE: What do community leaders look like?

    Posted 18 days ago

    Here is a link to the new American Planning Association guides and frameworks for planning for social equity:  https://www.planning.org/resources/equity/.  No need to reinvent.

     

    Sam Herzberg, Senior Planner, AICP

    San Mateo County Parks Department






  • 4.  RE: What do community leaders look like?

    Posted 19 days ago
    Such an important discussion for us to have in the preservation field. Inviting people of diverse backgrounds into the conversation or onto your non-profit boards is only step 1. We have to make it a welcoming environment and be open to the new perspectives people bring to the table, not just pay lip service to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

    But to more directly answer your question--I think it's important to look beyond the individuals that we traditionally ID as "community leaders." Those people are already over-committed. We need to connect with future leaders or, as you say, with "non-traditional" leaders who may actually have better connections to community members. Those are the people who are more likely to have the bandwidth and genuine interest in engaging with our organizations in a meaningful way. But it's still on us, as the "preservation establishment" to make a seat and a voice for them at the table and to be open to change.

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    Caitlin Meives
    Preservation Planner
    The Landmark Society of Western New York
    Rochester NY
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  • 5.  RE: What do community leaders look like?

    Posted 16 days ago
    Jamesha's question is a very good one: "what are our motives in identifying [diverse] community leaders?" It's also an incredibly complicated question that invites many more.

    I've long said that historic preservation is much better at preserving itself than it is in preserving buildings and places. We operate on Victorian-era theory based on the values and meanings of white, male aristocrats. In the US, we operate on 60-year rules and regs created by elite white men. And now we expect to have a useful dialog with someone not in the dominant class with this hanging over our shoulder? Yeah, right. Good luck.

    On a more positive note, what if we start these kinds of dialogs by pushing aside everything we've been taught - the rules, the regulations, the doctrine, preservation theory - and really listen to people and what they want from preservation. No judgement and no attempt to "educate." In other words, listening on their terms and not the terms of the preservation professional. I realize this is easier said than done, but it would be awfully useful to recognize this more broadly as a goal in our field.

    But what this means is to recognize, as a fundamental goal, that the reason we want a dialog with diverse community members is to improve and change our field to make it better for more people. It needs to be explicit that we (preservation practitioners and academics) are here to learn from these individuals, and not vice versa. Engagement in the other direction that includes an agenda of "education" is disrespectful and maintains the inequity that has long hung over these conversations.

    -Jeremy





  • 6.  RE: What do community leaders look like?

    Ambassador
    Posted 15 days ago
    Edited by Jamesha Gibson 15 days ago
    @Caitlin Meives and @Jeremy Wells, ​​​I completely agree with both of you! It's imperative that we, as practitioners and academics in the "preservation establishment," learn how to better discern the future leaders1 in underrepresented communities and not only provide them a seat at the table, but also a more equitable role in the preservation participatory process. One that, as Jeremy commented, is free of an agenda to "educate" future leaders and their constituents about professional values in preservation; and demands that the community (via leaders) communicate their needs through these "learned" values.

    Not only is this agenda and subsequent practice disrespectful-and I would venture to say somewhat manipulative in favor of preservationists' goals in the projects/process-it also reasserts, again as Jeremy said, the power inequity between professionals and the community leaders/members they are supposed to be serving.2 This way of engaging leaders and communities smothers them in their efforts to fully address their community's needs in the preservation process because, as Jeremy talked about, professional preservation values do not always accommodate the holistic needs of their community.

    But until we, as practitioners and academics, begin to acknowledge, take responsibility for, and investigate our values, motives, and traditional methods, we can not change the way we think about our field and its impact. And if we don't change the way we think, we can't change and improve the way our practice accommodates the needs of more people. As a side note, I do believe this is the key to maximizing the potential of holistic thinking as @Dana Saylor and @Kris Kobialka talk about in another post.

    Continuing to look forward to further discussion,

    Jamesha

    1Caitlin, I LOVE this term! It is, in my opinion, a perfect description of non-traditional leaders regardless of age, position, or profession.

    2Laurajane Smith, (2006), Uses of Heritage, 37-38. New York, NY: Routledge.

    3Laurajane Smith, (2006), Uses of Heritage, 37-38. New York, NY: Routledge.

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    Jamesha Gibson
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  • 7.  RE: What do community leaders look like?

    Posted 15 days ago
    Totally agree with all of you @Jamesha Gibson @Jeremy Wells ​and @Caitlin Meives -- and I think rooted in all of this is how we define and talk about "preservation." What if what the community wants is new windows to lower their heating bills? What if they don't have the money to properly maintain their properties? What if they consider the stories themselves preservation?

    (We're losing one of the most historic schools in the Los Angeles area -- Roosevelt High in Boyle Heights, one of the locations of the 1968 Chicano Student Blowouts -- for a number of reasons, including the attitude of many (but not all) students, staff, and alumni that they know the history that happened there and don't need a nasty old building to remind them. Old is bad; old is second-class.)

    Is it time to get more flexible about our standards? Do we need a new narrative and perspective? I say, yes, and no time is too soon. But how do we stop talking about it and actually do something about it?

    Thanks so much @Sam Herzberg for the APA policy info -- it's a wonderful framework with several references to community involvement and education, through the word "listen" appears not once. How can we get more innovative with community outreach? How seriously do we really take it among so many competing priorities?

    Are any of you going to the conference next week? I am, and I'd love to get into this more.​

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    Cindy Olnick
    Los Angeles, CA
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  • 8.  RE: What do community leaders look like?

    Ambassador
    Posted 14 days ago
    @Cindy Olnick in translating new ideas and approaches into practice, Ned Kaufman suggests that the key is changing preservation "laws, regulations, and programmatic guidelines." He says: "These are responsible for channeling the work that preservationist do and the thoughts they are allowed to think. Changing [these] is indeed the only thing that will allow preservationists to turn in new and different directions."1 While I agree with him that it is essential that we must change the laws, policies, and programs of preservation in order to transform the field into a more equitable and holistic practice, I don't agree that these are the first things we need to attempt to change. Primarily because I don't agree that the "laws, regulations, and programmatic guidelines… are responsible for…the thoughts [preservationists] are allowed to think."

    Instead, I believe discourse, or "a specific ensemble of ideas, concepts, and categorizations" that manifest in "the way people talk about, discuss, and understand things" (such as historic preservation or heritage) does more to influence how preservationists think about their work and how they do it.2 Discourse (specifically one of the dominant discourses in the historic preservation/heritage profession-the Authorized Heritage Discourse (AHD) 3) works to define and give meaning to the values and assumptions that preservationists hold and share.4 The values and assumptions embedded in the AHD are reproduced and reinforced in what is considered by a majority of preservationists as "acceptable" preservation practice (because it upholds the aforementioned values and assumptions).5 6 7 Through "acceptable" practice, the values and assumptions of the discourse become so normalized and pervasive, they are received as "common sense" and "givens" and, more often than not, are uncritically accepted and performed by preservation professionals in practice.8 9

    The content of laws, policies, and programmatic guidelines are informed by the discourse and practice. The laws, policies, and programs then double back and work to give structural authority to "acceptable" historic preservation practices and to legitimize the discourse and its values and assumptions. So, if we first focus on changing historic preservation laws, regulations, and programs to shift preservation in new and innovative directions; we've already missed half of the equation and would be working from a deficit. Consequently, should we even get the opportunity for regulatory reform, we more than likely would end up only addressing symptoms of issues rather than their root causes because we haven't critically evaluated the inconsistencies in discourse and practice that have produced the issues and their more discernible symptoms. This is why I emphasize changing the way we think and, in turn, changing the way we practice.

    If we considered tackling discourse and practice first, the obvious obstacle would be finding opportunities to research and produce viable, empirical evidence that demonstrates the root causes of problems in preservation laws, policies, and programs, and that offers practical and sustainable solutions to implement. As I mentioned in another post, practitioners don't usually get the opportunity to conduct this type of research because of their day-to-day duties. But @Jeremy Wells suggests that academics-particularly those from the Critical Heritage Studies discipline-who have the opportunity to generate this type of research should partner with practitioners, and the two-as allies-should work to investigate and generate solutions for the problems in preservation discourse, practice, and law.10 11 I agree with this. I think that the potential of this alliance will be best maximized if there are both academics and practitioners who are committed to seeking to improve the preservation field for the better. Those who won't shrink back or turn away, even when the research and evidence may challenge their privilege and authority. This behavior has, and continues to hinder the progression of innovation and change in preservation.



    Ned Kaufman, (2019), Resistance to Research: Diagnosis and Treatment of a Disciplinary Ailment, in J.C. Wells and B.L. Stiefel (Eds.), Human-Centered Built Environment Heritage Preservation: Theory and Evidence-Based Practice, 315. New York, NY: Routledge.

    Laurajane Smith, (2006), Uses of Heritage, 14. New York, NY: Routledge.

    Laurajane Smith, (2006), Uses of Heritage, 29-34. New York, NY: Routledge.

    Laurajane Smith, (2006), Uses of Heritage, 29-34. New York, NY: Routledge.

    Laurajane Smith & Gary Campbell, (2018). "The Tautology of "Intangible Values" and the Misrecognition of Intangible Cultural Heritage," 4, downloaded from https://www.academia.edu/35563575/The_tautology_of_Intangible_values_and_the_misrecognition_of_intangible_cultural_heritage

    Laurajane Smith, (2006), Uses of Heritage, 14. New York, NY: Routledge.

    Laurajane Smith, (2006), Uses of Heritage, 29-34. New York, NY: Routledge.

    Laurajane Smith & Gary Campbell, (2018). "The Tautology of "Intangible Values" and the Misrecognition of Intangible Cultural Heritage," 4, downloaded from https://www.academia.edu/35563575/The_tautology_of_Intangible_values_and_the_misrecognition_of_intangible_cultural_heritage

    Laurajane Smith, (2006), Uses of Heritage, 29-34. New York, NY: Routledge.

    10 Jeremy, I apologize for citing you and your book so much, but it has so much good information! I hope that's ok.  :)

    11 Jeremy Wells, (2019), Bridging the Gap between Built Heritage Conservation Practice and Critical Heritage Studies, in J.C. Wells and B.L. Stiefel (Eds.), Human-Centered Built Environment Heritage Preservation: Theory and Evidence-Based Practice, 33-44. New York, NY: Routledge.
    ​​​

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    Jamesha Gibson
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  • 9.  RE: What do community leaders look like?

    Posted 13 days ago
    Woah @Jamesha Gibson You blew my mind with all this great, thought-provoking info. But yes -- research, research, research! I'll get back with more thoughts once I've gone over this several times... Thanks!​

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    Cindy Olnick
    Los Angeles, CA
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  • 10.  RE: What do community leaders look like?

    Posted 12 days ago
    10/8/19

    This discussion reads like the beginnings (planning for) a serious workshop with a series of panels discussing issues - "gentrification aka erasure of African American neighborhoods; destruction of historic buildings or moving them from original sites" "Changing preservation laws - new ideas and approaches in practice(s)" "Re-examining how we define preservationists or looking at how to include community leaders and people who live in historic communities" "a specific ensemble of ideas, concepts, and categorizations" that manifest in "the way people talk about, discuss, and understand things" (I am certain there is a more focused term for this).

    Just my observation. If this comes together keep me in the loop I want to attend.

    Gylbert Coker

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    Gylbert Coker
    Mitchell-Young-Anderson Museum, Inc.
    Thomasville GA
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  • 11.  RE: What do community leaders look like?

    Posted 11 days ago

    Kudos to Jamesha Gibson for thinking about the rationale behind the things we do as preservationists and questioning the "laws, regulations, and programmatic guidelines" that steer our practice. While we should always be on the lookout for new tools and methods that best fit the changing needs of constituencies, I recall an impressive talk by Carol Shull, longtime head of the National Register, at a recent National Trust conference, in which she discussed the many types of sites that had come into her office for consideration over the years. She defended the National Register process as one that was endlessly forgiving in terms of the kinds of buildings, objects, sites, or landscapes that could be listed. The main limitation, she suggested, was the imagination of people who nominated potential listings. 

    Shull said that the Register lacks an appropriate number of sites related to minorities, women, non-traditional genders, and so forth in large part because we haven't been spending enough time looking for those kinds of sites and because we haven't taken enough advantage of flexible criteria like the concepts of "feeling" and "association" regarding integrity. Laurajane Smith's critique of the "Authorized Heritage Discourse" is certainly valid, but it doesn't mean we can't do more with what we already have. Context statements and focused surveys that set the stage for adding sites related to understudied topics, such as the recent NPS theme study of LGBTQ history, help us use the authority we already have to better reflect the diversity of American history.

    That isn't to say we can't make new tools to fit our needs as well. My research with Donna Graves and Gail Dubrow on San Francisco's non-traditional approaches to recognizing and protecting historic sites through local cultural districts and legacy businesses shows the promise and the potential peril of experimenting with new methods:

    Donna Graves, James Michael Buckley, and Gail Dubrow, "Emerging Strategies for Sustaining San Francisco's Diverse Heritage," Change Over Time, 8:2, Fall 2018, 164-185.

    James Michael Buckley and Donna Graves, "Tangible Benefits from Intangible Resources: Using Social and Cultural History to Plan Neighborhood Futures," Journal of the American Planning Association 82:2 (2016), 152-166.

    Unfortunately, this research is imprisoned behind an academic pay wall, which reinforces Jamesha's point about the difficulty of having researchers and practitioners collaborate. I'd be happy to share these with anyone interested.

    --------

    Jim Buckley

    University of Oregon Portland






  • 12.  RE: What do community leaders look like?

    Posted 11 days ago
    Thanks @James Buckley I'd love to see those documents - thanks for sharing!​

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    Cindy Olnick
    Los Angeles, CA
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  • 13.  RE: What do community leaders look like?

    Ambassador
    Posted 11 days ago

    @James Buckley, I recall Ms. Shull's remarks at that conference session, and have since heard several individuals use this argument. However, I believe this claim deflects blame onto practitioners in order to preserve the structural legal process itself. In other words, this argument scapegoats the actions and perceived bias of preservationists so that it may attempt to put to rest any questions or counterarguments/narratives that stand to challenge the legal process (this is a sobering thought). In reality, the bias is embedded in the regulatory framework (which stands to reason why the "endlessly forgiving" National Register process does not confront, correct, or hold preservationists accountable for the bias that this argument claims they have and act upon on their own accord, but, instead, reinforces and empowers it).

    The bias embedded in the NR process is rooted in discourse. The AHD promotes "the idea that 'heritage' is innately valuable."1 The NR criteria exemplifies this feature of the AHD. The criteria "are based upon intrinsic value, or an assumption that the things that make a building or place 'historic' are somehow inherently embedded in the fabric of these resources."2 "Intrinsic value is therefore understood to be an objective characteristic of an historic 'object...or place'."3 Consequently, intrinsic value "…leads to a focus on the physical fabric of heritage [because] [i]f value is inherent, it follows that 'heritage' must be contained within the physical fabric of a building or object[.]"4

    I believe the focus on physical fabric is at the core, if not the very bias, Shull describes in her comment. However, preservation practitioners do not operate or act upon this bias independent of the NR regulatory framework. Preservation practitioners are mandated by law to use the NR criteria "to evaluate historic sites' 'integrity' against a range of categories that focus largely on objective, tangible architectural descriptions; and, based on these categories, to determine if the sites can visually represent evidence of authenticity ."5 6 These categories include feeling and association-the "flexible" criteria Shull mentions. Feeling and association appear to evoke and accommodate laypeople's values-their beliefs, interests, ideas, ideologies-regarding heritage (or what many preservationists call "intangible values"). However, these categories ultimately rely on the overarching criterion of integrity-or the ability of the building or landscape to physically represent feeling and association-which, itself, is based on intrinsic value.

    Therefore, it is not simply the limitations of practitioners' bias that prevent the law from fully exercising its potential. Instead, as I mentioned earlier, laws are a manifestation of discursive values and assumptions reproduced and reinforced by practice. So, the NR regulatory process is working for and with the bias Shull described.

    Furthermore, most of the tools we, as practitioners, use are rife with discursive underpinnings that renders them unjust-particularly as it pertains to our authority and how we use it "to better reflect the diversity of American History." The AHD emphasizes expertise based on the idea that "proper care of heritage, and its associated values, lies with the experts, as it is only they who have the abilities, knowledge and understanding to identify the innate value…contained at and within historically important sites and places."7 Consequently, we, as practitioners, have "exclusive power to legitimize or delegitimize the authenticity and significance of heritage ."8 9  Thus, we have the ultimate deciding power to pick what should be considered and added to the NR-the "official list of the Nation's historic places worthy of preservation."10

    Along with expertise and authority, the AHD supports a narrative of identity-wherein "material or tangible heritage provides a physical representation of those things from 'the past' that speak to a sense of place, a sense of self, of belonging and community. At the same time, it upholds a narrative of nation, which promotes "a sense of national community" as well as the "experience and values of elite social classes."11 So, we, as preservationists, would usually claim that historic sites/landscapes are a physical testimony to our American history which, in turn, shapes our collective American identity. And, in order to tell a more complete American history, and to draw a fuller picture of the collective American identity, we need to add historic sites/landscapes to the NR that represent traditionally marginalized groups in our society.

    This is a laudable effort. However, we run into problems when we hit the part in the narrative of nation that privileges the "experience and values of elite social classes," because preservationists then categorize traditionally marginalized groups based on the dominant/elite social classes' perception of the "Other." This categorization is usually based on race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation rather than experiences which are fluid (and can incorporate all of these categories at one time) and continuous (encompassing past, present, and future perspectives, not just static historical facts/concepts).  This problem is compounded by practitioners' and academics' attempts to "educate"  traditionally marginalized groups about preservation values, and assimilate them into these values; while at the same time ignoring the fact that these values don't recognize  the unjust trends of social inequalities (ex: segregation, social/economic marginalization, social/environmental/economic discrimination, etc.) that would compromise the "integrity" of historic sites/places that these groups value-effectively excluding them from listing on the NR because they don't meet the criteria.

    I know that discourse may seem lofty and distant from our day-to-day work realities, but it's really the underpinnings of what we do and why. It's the response to the statement: "that's just the way things are." The truth is, it is not by accident that things are the way they are. Discourse does intentional social and political work to shape how we think about, talk about, and practice historic preservation. If we ignore it, don't take time to reevaluate it, and/or continue to deflect it, we are going to continue to perpetuate social injustices not only in our community engagement efforts, but also in our contributions to other issues such as climate change, environmental justice, and community/economic development.

     *Before I get to the citations, I just wanted to share that there are ways around the dreaded paywall. Some authors have free, pre-printed versions of their publications on Academia.com and Researchgate. Google Books also provides previews of book chapters for free (but the content is limited).  I hope this information and the citations below are helpful!

     

    Smith, L. (2006) Uses of Heritage.  (pp.29). New York, NY: Routledge.

    Gibson, J., Hedricks, M.D., and Wells, J.C. (forthcoming). Defining Partnership: Incorporating Equitable Participatory Methodologies in Heritage Disaster Recovery Planning for Socially Vulnerable Groups


    Harrison, R. (2009). What is Heritage? In R. Harrison (Ed.), Understanding the Politics of Heritage (pp. 25). Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press.

     4 See 2 &3.

    5See 2.

    Wells, J., & Lixinski, L. (2016). Heritage Values and Legal Rules: Identification and Treatment of the Historic Environment via an Adaptive Regulatory Framework (Part 1). Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development, 6 (3), (pp.347). doi:10.1108/JCHMSD-11-2015-0045

     7See 1.

    8See 2.

    9See1.

    10 NPS. (n.d.) National Register of Historic Places. Washington, DC: National Park Service. Retrieved from https://www.nps.gov/subjects/nationalregister/index.htm

    11See 1.

     



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    Jamesha Gibson
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  • 14.  RE: What do community leaders look like?

    Posted 10 days ago
    10/10/19

    I wanted to follow up with some information on Dr. Sandra Harris Thompson. Dr. Thompson has researched an historic area in Tallahassee that consisted of a series of plantations that then after the Civil War became black families who owned property and among those people were her ancestors. I add this as one "new" perspective/concept of a preservationist who has roots in the history of a community.
    https://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/2018/05/30/juke-joint-jam-seeks-honor-leons-legacy-communities/604775002

    Gylbert Coker

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    Gylbert Coker
    Mitchell-Young-Anderson Museum, Inc.
    Thomasville GA
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  • 15.  RE: What do community leaders look like?

    Ambassador
    Posted 10 days ago
    Edited by Jamesha Gibson 10 days ago
    Hi Gylbert,
    Thank you for sharing this information. I think it ties in great with what you have been saying. Dr. Thompson represents a unique and invaluable source for her community. She is able to delve into the research and use it to bring the legacy community and the current community together in a communal cultural dialogue. I think this space has the potential to foster respect for the history of the community on the part of the current residents, but to also to foster mutual personal investment in ensuring this history is respected, recognized, and included (and its legacy bearers are entrenched in the community) as the community (its demographics and built environment) grows and changes. I think that Dr. Thompson would be a rich resource for a workshop like the one you mentioned because, as you said, she provides a new perspective on what a community leader looks like and does.

    I also think that, as you mentioned elsewhere, it is important to look into and learn from international examples on community engagement and heritage protection. Globally, heritage practioners are grappling with the same issues we are here in America, but because  their practice ,and dialogue about practice,has developed differently, they may be able to offer valuable insights. Also, this would grant us the opportunity to join the international dialogue. I think that Barbara Howard's post, "Looking for international preservation inspirations," is a good place to start.

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    Jamesha Gibson
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  • 16.  RE: What do community leaders look like?

    Posted 10 days ago
    Excellent, Jamesha - I agree that our preservation system is biased against those who haven't been included in creating it or who don't necessarily fit into the frameworks that have developed within it (the discourse of heritage). In my message, I wanted to point out that it isn't necessary to wait for new systems to emerge to begin to address the issues. For example, the City of Portland, OR is working on a Multi-Property Document that would lay the foundation for listing a number of historical sites associated with the city's African-American population in the National Register. This is just a start towards building a more equitable way to recognize our broad heritage, and, as you point out, it is not a change in the system.

    The articles I mentioned discuss a different system that San Francisco is experimenting with, one that relies more on what community members themselves feel is important in their history than on the standardized criteria of our existing frameworks. In this system of cultural heritage districts and legacy businesses, what is considered "historic" could include the beautiful buildings by famous architects that make up the majority of historic sites in the current system, but they would more likely include a street corner where the trans community stood up for its civil rights in the 1950s, the intangible aspects of the Japanese-American community's annual Cherry Blossom Festival, or a restaurant that has been the heart of the Bayview African American community for decades (the business itself, not the building it is in).

    Thanks for sharing your deep knowledge of the way we construct our heritage systems! Thanks also for pointing out the "work-arounds" for paywalls - the first article I listed should be downloadable on academia.com but the second is embargoed by the publisher until next year, so I can send it to individuals.