Speaker addresses the topic of racialized spaces
Professor Kishi Animashaun Ducre delivered a speech in Diamond Hall on Feb. 16 about environmental hazard areas and those who inhabit them.
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On Thursday, Feb. 16, Professor Kishi Animashaun Ducre from Syracuse University came to the College to discuss her hypothesis on “racialized spaces and their effect on society” in a lecture entitled “Mapping Power, Mapping Resistance: A Black Mother’s Photovoice in Syracuse.”
After Ducre completed her undergraduate education at Tulane University, she began working with Green Peace, a non-governmental environmental organization, going from town to town organizing the citizens to fight against industry and environmental hazards brought on by companies.
Beginning with her involvement in Green Peace, Ducre thought that she would dedicate her life to environmental justice, but after four years with the organization she went to study sociology at the University of Maryland’s graduate school. However, Ducre did not stay with sociology for long, re-entering the field of environmental justice for a second time as a scholar rather than an activist.
Ducre formed her own niche in the environmental justice field by examining the cause of unusually high levels of environmental hazards in certain areas, such as the south side of Chicago, Ill. By looking deeper than simple statistics and numbers within the area, Ducre differentiated herself when she started asking, “What about the people who live there?”
Her experience with Green Peace gave her the opportunity to meet some victims of environmental hazards. Ducre said that she not only wanted to find out what caused these unsafe areas, but also “how [the residents] cope with living in a risky environment.” Through her research, Ducre found that often racial and ethnic minorities were kept in certain spaces that were prone to high levels of environmental hazards, which created a “culturally inferior other.” She found that people were often constrained by where they lived and that risky and hazardous living situations were often found in areas with a high concentration of minorities.
Ducre examined the history of Syracuse, NY and found that racial minorities, particularly African Americans, were concentrated in two areas of Syracuse. The spaces were so segregated that, in an older map, one area of town was marked as the “negro zone.” The town actively worked to displace African Americans from 1940 to 1960 and tried to restrict living areas for them to a particular zone. The city engaged in an “ethnic cleanse” and bulldozed many historically black areas, degrading the citizens and forcing them to move into dangerous areas. She found that in 1999 one particular area of Syracuse was 80 percent black, 50 percent of the women were single mothers and 25 percent of the residents were living on an income of less than $10,000 a year.
Ducre examined the lives of the African American women who were living in the poor and dangerous part of Syracuse and the effect their living space had on their lives. She focused on the three questions, “Where do you live? How would you characterize that space? Did living in that space shape your identity?” She held weekly meetings with a group of women, gave out maps and had the women mark the positive and negative spaces within their area. Ducre found that the positive spaces were usually places that held institutions—such as a community center—green spaces and places that held positive personal memories. The negative spaces were overwhelmingly those that had either had past violence of potential violence.
The final part of Ducre’s study was called “Photovoice,” where the women in the group were given cameras and were told to document their lives. Moreover, these photos showed how mentorship and support played a large role in these women’s lives, particularly those who have had drug and alcohol abuse issues. The other two focal points were faith-based institutions, and spirituality and the role of the natural and built environment played into the women’s lives.
Through her research, Ducre realized that the women “are not victims; they have made a home out of their space.” These mothers shape and control their environment to the best of their abilities, trying to work past the challenges of their risky neighborhoods and finding positive spaces for themselves and their children.