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Identity & Community

Housing Summit Aims To Bridge Gap Between Activists, Academics


A three-day housing summit hosted by the University of Pittsburgh this weekend will bring together academics and activists.

The University-Community Housing Summit will explore urban renewal, human rights and gentrification through talks, workshops and neighborhood tours.

Mindy Thompson gave the keynote address Thursday. Her 2013 book Urban Alchemy: Restoring Joy in America's Sorted-Out Cities explored the urban renewal of Pittsburgh’s Hill District.

Summit organizer and professor of sociology Jackie Smith said the idea is to bridge the gap between the community organizers and academics who usually tackle these issues independently.

She said she hopes the summit will “create spaces where we can have conversations that wouldn’t otherwise take place because people don’t know each other, they don’t get to interact and their paths never cross.”

Smith works with the Human Rights City Alliance, which is part of the coalition Homes For All Pittsburgh. But she said it can be difficult for many university faculty to get involved these days, fearing job security, managing bigger classes and just having busy lives. 

“We need to really rethink our universities and put pressure on our administration to reorganize the resources of the universities so that we’re not just teaching students and writing for professional academics, but we are also serving the community,” Smith said.

Smith said the summit’s efforts will continue with future author visits, book discussions and community conversations.