Pre-conference Visit to Dudley Street

2013 ANNUAL MEETING – BOSTON – November 8-10, 2013
Pre-Conference Session and Outing
Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI)

Thursday, November 7, 12:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Cost:  $25, collected at the time of the Session

One of the best-known, most creative neighborhood revitalization initiatives in the country, the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) demonstrates how religious communities partner with other institutions in the public domain, and how religion contributes to civic responsibility and the common good. Established in 1984, DSNI partners and collaborates with religious institutions, businesses, nonprofits, community development corporations, government agencies, and other entities to implement resident-driven plans. Dudley is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Boston, located less than two miles from downtown Boston in Roxbury/North Dorchester. Highly diverse, its residents are African American and Cape Verdean (72%), Latino (24%), and White (4%); the per capita income is $12,332.

Two strategic emphases of DSNI are of special interest to many religious educators:

  1. Leadership development overall, and
  2. Developing the self-agency and leadership skills of young people, and mentoring their engagement in the public square.

Four seats on the DSNI Board of Directors are reserved for young people ages 15 through 17. A high percentage of youth raised in the neighborhood return to render significant leadership. The very first youth member of the Board, John Barros, eventually became Executive Director of DSNI, and today is a mayoral candidate in Boston.

The work of DSNI has been the subject of scholarly inquiry (cf. chapter 4 of Robert Putnam, Better Together), and two documentaries, “Holding Ground: The Rebirth of Dudley Street” (1996), and “Gaining Ground: Building Community on Dudley Street” (2009). Several youth volunteers featured in “Holding Ground” now serve on the staff of DSNI, and appear in “Gaining Ground.”

As part of the session, before we depart from the Waltham Hotel we’ll preview the hour-long “Gaining Ground” in preparation for conversation with DSNI staff. In response to the extensive interest in their work, DSNI has developed a formal visitor’s program, which includes an hour-long guided tour through the DSNI neighborhood—visiting key sites, as well as an overview of DSNI history, philosophy, and accomplishments, and a Q & A session.

[Note: if your flight schedule prevents you from joining us promptly at 12:30, you can catch up with us before we depart for Roxbury. Transportation to and from DSNI will be arranged. After the session, we will return from Roxbury to the Waltham Hotel by at least 6:00 p.m.]

Be sure to register your plans on your REA meeting registration form.

Co-planned and co-hosted by:

Peace and Justice Task Force
Harold D. (Bud) Horell, convener
Fordham University Graduate School of Religion & Religious Education
horell [at] fordham [dot] edu

Forum on Religious Education in Public Life and Global Community
Susanne Johnson, convener
Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University
susannej [at] smu [dot] edu