In this week's reading roundup, we share several examples of cities and cross-sector partnerships taking steps to move forward and address the systemic issues of racial injustice across America.

This week, the nation confronts another tragedy, one which is currently under investigation as a “hate crime” against racial minorities, in the form of a shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC. And our staff too stepped back to consider the implications of this event on our journey to embed a racial equity and inclusion lens at Living Cities. In today’s #GoodReads post, we examine what it takes to address the systemic issues of racial injustice. Our staff have shared #GoodReads that strike an intensely personal chord, and highlight how cities and other cross-sector partnerships are carving a path forward with racial equity and inclusion at the forefront of their work.

Racial Equity and Inclusion

Charleston Shooting: Speaking the Unspeakable, Thinking the Unthinkable - By Charles P. Pierce, Esquire

I’ve struggled to wrap my head around yet another tragic loss in the black community and our whole community. Pierce’s piece was a welcomed encouragement to continue thinking, and speaking about the underlying issues of race, faith, and historical injustices that led to this horrific incident. As Peirce says, we can’t afford to be timid.

Charleston Shooting Vigil 6.2015

Two Muslim women hold signs at a Vigil held for the victims of the Charleston Shooting. Photo by Stephen Melkisethian, Flickr by CC.

Recommended by Ellen Ward, Senior Investment Associate, Capital Innovation


Shifting Planning From Pretty Renderings to Affordability and Inclusion - Next City

With grants from HUD’s Sustainability Communities Initiative combined with challenge funds raised locally, Seattle used lessons from their Race and Social Justice Initiative to develop the Community Cornerstones project. The Seattle Office of Housing termed this project “a new model for equitable development that supports the existing economically and culturally diverse residents and businesses while also welcoming new ones.” When it comes to longstanding urban planning practices, many would agree that efforts to solicit community input have grown stale, inauthentic, and disempowering. What I enjoyed most about the article “Shifting Planning From Pretty Renderings to Affordability and Inclusion,” is that it highlights the wonderful possibilities that can come of taking a different approach to public outreach, community capacity-building, cultural competence and economic development.

Recommended by Tiffany Ferguson, Associate, Public Sector Innovation

The Deeper Problems We Miss When We Attack ‘Gentrification’ - By Emily Badger, The Washington Post

“Gentrification” is a frequently used term, but what does it really mean, and why does it have such a negative connotation? I think this article does a great job of looking at the nuances of the issue and offers a lot of food for thought. I had the chance to see Emily Badger discuss some of the issues raised in this blog at an Urban Institute panel this week, and I absolutely agreed when she said that displacement–not gentrification–was the real concern most people have. And in that case, the bigger (and more useful question to ask) “isn’t whether “gentrification” is good or bad, but what it might look like to have new investment in a community that benefits existing and future residents alike.”

Urban Institute Panel featuring Rolf Pendall and Emily Badger

The Urban Institute Panel featured Rolf Pendall (left) of Urban Institute and Emily Badger (right) of the Washington Post.

Watch a recording of the event on

Recommended by Sindhu Lakshmanan, Intern, Capital Innovation

Municipal Innovation

Google’s New Sidewalk Labs Wants to Improve City Living - Next City

On the heels of our own announcement, launching a new Civic Tech and Data Collaborative, Google launched “Sidewalk Labs,” their startup incubator that will work to apply tech solutions to “improve city living for all.” As you can guess, there’s already been a lot of buzz–both optimistic and critical–around Sidewalk Labs, and I’ve been following the news. Google has introduced another player to the game of leveraging technology to be used by governments and civic institutions. I’m optimistic, and see potential in Sidewalk Lab’s model of cross-sector collaboration to bring technology to bear on issues that challenge city residents every day. I’m curious to see how, if at all, the approach impacts outcomes for low-income people and communities of color across the nation.

My Recommendation

Main Photo: Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church by Calvin Webster, Flickr, CC By 2.0.