Alternative Research Project: Thurman Brisben Center

Emily Curtis

December 4th 2015

Dr. Martin

Thurman Brisben Center

I decided to do the alternative research project for my second project because I went to the Thurman Brisben Center a couple of different times over the course of the semester. The first time that I went, I went with my church, volunteering in the kitchen. We prepared the food, we served the residents the food, and we went out and sat with them as they ate and talked with them for a while. I’ve gone with my church twice this semester alone to volunteer. I went again with a couple of my friends from UMW and decided that I wanted to do things a little bit differently to see if the interactions were the same coming from a church group and coming from a University.

When I was with my church, we were all wearing aprons that said ‘Bethel Baptist Church’ and when I went on my own, I was wearing a UMW sweatshirt. When with my church I sat with multiple different people for a few minutes at a time socializing with them and talking about why I was there. With my church, it was a much different atmosphere. They knew I was volunteering because I wanted to and that I was with a church so it’s a different feeling. But when I was wearing my UMW shirt, and talking with them, I would say that I went to the University and that I was volunteering to get out in the community and do something to engage in the community but I wanted it to be personal, and beneficial.

The reactions weren’t the same. I didn’t encounter anyone who was rude or unfriendly, but I could tell that they felt differently hearing from a UMW student than hearing from someone volunteering from a church. The quality of the conversations weren’t the same. I didn’t sit with individuals as long as I did before. It was a much different situation than what it was with my church group. It was so obvious that the difference was because I was in UMW attire and told them that I went to the school. I’m sure that being in a homeless shelter and having your food prepared and served by a 21 year old UMW student isn’t a pleasant feeling because of the fact that me going to the university makes it seem that I have money and that I’m more privileged to be able to afford something like that while they can’t afford to have a home. I had people ask me if I paid for school or if my parents did. I also had someone ask me if I was there volunteering because I was required too for community service for a class or because I wanted to be there. I related this to the course because I think that money can relate to power. And I’m sure that the people who I encountered may have felt the same way.

My church has volunteered at the Thurman Brisben Center for years. I haven’t always been able to go, but every time that I did I would sit and talk with parents of kids, I would play with the kids and color with them. But when I went on my own, it was a much different experience. The younger kids obviously didn’t know the difference, so I still played with them a little but it was not as comfortable of an experience as it’s always been. I think that the idea of being a wealthier and more privileged college student had a lot to do with the differences in my experiences. I hope that it isn’t something that made those who are at the Center resentful or uncomfortable with being helped by a college student. Being helped by a church is something that is in a way expected or more normal, but being helped by a college student isn’t.

Reaction Paper 3

Emily Curtis

Dr. Martin

November 23rd 2o15


The New Inquiry reading that we read in class on ‘The Difference between riots and protests has more to do with who and where than what’ discusses in depth the differences between the two. It began with talking about something that was going on in Sudan and hashtag #sudanrevolts was used, and when the issues were addressed they were called riots. But, there were mass ‘protests’ in Egypt, Turkey, Brazil, Greece and Spain, and Sudan’s mass protests received the title of ‘Riots’. The article proceeds with discussing how the protests in Istanbul and Greece had graffiti, busted windows and things set on fire. Much of what we would consider to be a riot. The article continues to say that essentially the difference between a riot and a protest is if you’re black, it’s a riot and if you’re white its a protest.

In a reading in the book ‘Race, Space and Riots in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles’ we read about a specific riot in New York in which began with a young 15 year old black boy getting shot by an off duty white cop on July 16th. The boy was apparently in a place that the cop thought he shouldn’t have been and the officer said that the young boy had a knife, but that part of the story was a bit hazy and was never proven. The next few days in Harlem a riot sparked because of this. July 17th picketing at the school was met by the police officers, core rally march, resulting in police trying to break up crowd. Their goal being to isolate harlem but the crowds grew. July 19th tried to clean up, and the commissioner called for order. Then in Bedford, July 20 CORE meeting then marched until the police broke them up and the police were called in to stop riots. Then ‘the worst day’ being July 21st when the Mayor tried to recruit minority policemen which didn’t work. The NAACP said to “cool it” and that didn’t work. The rain ended up being the cause of the end of the riots, with 302 arrests and $1.5 million in expenses. This was a riot in New York. Throughout the entire reading those participating were called ‘rioters’ and talks about how the response to this riot was the most relaxed and non-chalant response to a riot because there was pretty much no response. But nevertheless was still considered a riot.

Up until reading the piece on the riots in Sudan and the difference between riots and protests, I never even thought that the difference was race related, which I’m shocked that I didn’t because everything is race related. So the fact that I was so shocked by this is a bit embarrassing. I’ve always just thought that one was more peaceful and one is violent, being the determining factor in differentiating the two. But the article on Sudan riots put it into perspective. “Still, the situations where lighter skinned people were filling the photographs: protests. When darker skinned people are involved? Riots.”


Abu-Lughod, Janet. 2007/2012. Race, Space and Riots in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. Oxford University Press.

Rakia, Raven. 2013. Black Riot. The New Inquiry.

Reaction Paper 2

Emily Curtis

Reaction Paper 2

October 21st 2015

Dr. Martin

Section 2

I decided to do a critical synthesis of the two readings from October 14th – 16th. ‘There Goes The Neighborhood’ by Mark Atlas and ‘The Education of an Organizer’ by Saul Alinsky.

When reading the two articles, Alinsky and Atlas I didn’t really understand how they correlated or if they did at all. But after listening to the discussion we had in class I understand how the two can relate. In the Alinsky article, he is talking about what a good community organizer looks like. What traits an organizer has, what things essentially make a good organizer. He argues that a movement will not really be successful if the organizer isn’t a good community organizer. He is arguing that community organizers can’t just appeal to one group. They have to appeal to all groups. In the reading Alinsky said that qualities such as a good sense of humor, an open mind, curiosity and many more are good qualities to have to be a good organizer.

In the Atlas reading on hazardous waste and the placement of TSDF’s, we understand that communities didn’t want these hazardous waste facilities in or near their neighborhoods because of the obvious, they’re hazardous. He argues on environmental equity and the problems that brings to the table in relation to the TSDF placement. The article talks about how upper class neighborhoods, higher income neighborhoods don’t have the TSDF’s near them and that they are placed more commonly in the lower income neighborhoods that are composed of mostly minorities. The article goes to say that this is not actually true and that the TSDFs are placed in the areas in which the residents didn’t have a lot of input on whether they should be placed there or not. Those who did make a big deal and said, no that they didn’t want the TSDF’s near or in their communities, didn’t have them in or near their communities.

After having a good understanding of both of the readings, I was able to relate them in the sense that, in the Atlas reading, if there is a good community organizer saying “Hey no we don’t want these hazardous waste facilities near our community for pollution purposes” then they are more likely to be heard and not have the facilities near their communities. Those communities who have a good organizer in them and that fight against having the TSDF’s, are less likely to have them.

Throughout the studies demonstrated in Atlas’ argument and throughout the studies Atlas did, we can see that the placement of these facilities has nothing to do with income or race or any other factor like that. We can see that the placement of the facilities is based off of community input. So while the two readings talked about somewhat different things and it was difficult to relate the two at first, I can see how they relate now. Good community organizers lead and fight with the community for the things that they do want and for the things that they do not want, such as the TSDF’s.


Atlas, Mark. “There Goes the Neighborhood: Environmental Equity and the Location of New Hazardous Waste Management Facilities.” Policy Studies Journal (2002): 171-192.

Alinsky, Saul. “The Education of an Organizer.” Alinsky, Saul. Rules for Radicals. 1971. 63-80.

Research project 1

Foster Care is becoming more and more known and used throughout America each year. It is when a child is taken out of their home and placed into temporary, more suitable housing than what they were originally in. But who makes the decisions when it comes to foster care? Through an analysis of primary sources, and new’s articles, research suggests that the caseworkers from social services have the authority to remove a child from their home and there is a hearing in which the judge has the final say in permanent housing decisions, but the actual placement of the child is done by The Department of Social Services. Power holders in foster care would be not only at the individual level, but at the local level. The Department of Social Services collectively makes the decisions regarding children being placed in foster care.

research project 1

Green Development Zones and Graffiti

Emily Curtis

September 28th 2015

Reaction Paper 1

Green Development Zones and Graffiti

We have talked about Growth Machines in just about every class so far this semester. In the two articles that we read for the last class, we discussed growth machines in New York City, and in Buffalo, NY. In the case regarding Buffalo, The Green Development Zone article by Aaron Bartley talks about PUSH, which known as People United for Sustainable Housing, came up with the GDZ, the Green Development Zone. “Green Development Zones can serve to expand employment in a range of green jobs sectors while producing high-quality affordable housing; reducing housing vacancy; insulating homes and upgrading their heating systems; eliminating health hazards such as mold, asbestos and lead; increasing access to healthy food; and cleaning-up neighborhood brownfields. Buffalo’s GDZ leverages the power of community organizing to win commitments of public and private capital for needed improvements to the physical infrastructure of low-income neighborhoods.” (Bartley) The growth machine in Buffalo benefited everybody because it benefited the lower class by helping with housing and employment which in turn, benefits the businesses and business owners by giving them business. So everyone wins.

But, in the case of New York, City, it revolves around the Graffiti around the city. People were concerned that the graffiti being done all around the city was going to push people away from the city. Businesses would be less popular and people wouldn’t want to go shopping or eat or promote any type of business in a place that had graffiti everywhere. And, people wouldn’t want to live in a place that had graffiti everywhere. [Graffiti] hurts business because it turns the street into a frightening place. (Probation Commissioner Raul Russi, quoted in Bertrand 1997) The consequences of graffiti include businesses relocating to other cities or states and tourists foregoing trips to NYC. When this occurs, New Yorkers lose jobs and economic opportunities, and the city loses revenue. (Giuliani Brochure 1996) The graffiti affects everyone’s quality of life. It’s ugly and it brings down property values. (Coordinator of the 106th police precinct Sal Petrozzino, quoted in Lemire 2002) Graffiti poses a direct threat to the quality of life of all New Yorkers. (Mayor Bloomberg, quoted in Saul 2002)

The article talks about how individual business owners had to take care of removing the graffiti if that was something that they were concerned with. But Kramer argues that this wasn’t true and that the growth machine is benefiting only the machine itself and not the collective good. “It is reasonable to conclude that the panic in question ultimately serves the interests of the city’s growth machines. While it might seem to be the case that the ideological shift from privatism to broken windows and/or anti- graffiti rhetoric is trivial, I would suggest otherwise. Broken windows and anti-graffiti rhetoric are politically popular frameworks insofar as they offer elites a powerful device that generates widespread public support for a set of economic pursuits that do not necessarily improve the lives of that very public.” (Kramer) So we can see that the machine exists here because of everyone overreacting and putting a huge emphasis on the graffiti issue when in reality it wasn’t as big of an issue as it was made to look like. No one really benefited from the machine in New York City other than the business owners and the government officials. These two articles both show how growth machines exist in both these cities in New York, so while they are similar in that aspect they are different in the end goals of the machines. The Buffalo machine demonstrates what a good example of a growth machine would be.

Kramer, R. (2010). Moral Panics and Urban Growth Machines: Official. Qual Sociol, 297-311.

Bartley, A. (2011). Building a “Community Growth Machine”. Social Policy, pp. 9-20.