Meet the 2019 Loeb Fellows: Jeana Dunlap

Meet the 2019 Loeb Fellows: Jeana Dunlap

Good afternoon, everyone. I am Jeana Dunlap and very
proud to be part of the Loeb Fellowship. It’s an amazing community. My fellow fellows
never cease to amaze. And the two presentations
today certainly confirm that I feel like I’m
in the right place. I have worked in public and as
a public official in Louisville, Kentucky, for the last 13 years. I did my undergraduate work at
the University of Louisville in Louisville,
Kentucky, in economics and then broke
ranks in loyalties to go to the University
of Kentucky, which caused quite a stir in my family. But it was good. I studied economics and public
policy and administration there. But it wasn’t until I started
working at Louisville Metro government that I
grew an appreciation and a love for real estate. So housing and
community development is where I cut my teeth in
Metro doing affordable housing finance and then understanding,
over time, why so many of the ills and the
lack and deficiencies that I saw in the community
that I grew up in, why that persisted. Doing government
work is very tough. But I pride myself on learning
from all the disciplines that I’ve engaged in terms
of trying to get things done. And I sort of characterize what
I do is make things happen. So most recently, I was
director of the Office of Redevelopment Strategies. It’s probably a
overly used term. But for me, it meant
collaborating or coordinating between people inside government
and outside government. I learned a lot from
all of the disciplines because it takes all those
disciplines to actually make things happen. Right? So the lawyers, I love lawyers. They get a bad rap, but I
learned a lot from the lawyers. The engineers, they’re
not the strongest with community engagement. But they play an
important role in terms of making things safe and
tractable in our community. Designers, developers,
architects, landscape architects, I’ve come
into a greater understanding and appreciation of what
all of those disciplines have to offer and bring to
bear in bringing something beautiful into reality. So, yeah, I’m not an architect. I’m not a designer. But I understand the
importance of good design. Over the summer, I’ve been
working with a 2018 Loeb fellow, Matthew Mazzotta,
on a project in Louisville, Kentucky. It’s a public art project. But what he’s understood is
that it’s so much more than just about art. He’s trying to bring
function and utility. He’s talked to the community
and asked them what they needed. And he’s trying to address those
needs through this art project. And one of the
things that came up is I explained to him that
the very people that he’s trying to engage with had never
had the luxury of sitting down with a design professional,
helping them craft something purely from the imagination. That’s something that typically
the affluent get to do. So it’s not so much
that regular folks and regular, average
communities aren’t interested and that’s why they don’t
come to the meetings, they just oftentimes
don’t understand the value and the
potential and haven’t had the opportunity for somebody
to provide that service to them and cater to their
needs and priorities. So I get it. Design is important. I want to brag a little bit. How many people have ever
been to Louisville, Kentucky? All right. Yes, yes. We’re known for several
things that I’m proud. So Muhammad Ali,
it’s his birthplace and his final resting place. So if you ever come through,
you can visit not only the Muhammad Ali Center for
Peace and Reconciliation but you can go to
his grave site. The Kentucky Derby,
right, the most famous two minutes of horse racing– we take two minutes, and we
turn it into about two or three weeks of nonstop partying. So I do encourage
everyone who likes to have a good time to come
check us out around Derby. It’s the first Saturday in May. The Louisville Slugger– we
went to Fenway Park last night and saw the Red Sox
play the Houston Astros. And I’m quite certain that many
of the professional bats that were utilized last
night were made in my hometown, downtown
in our Historic District on Main Street. The Louisville
Cardinals, go Cards, got to represent
for my alma mater. We’re also known for
bourbon or bourbonism. Right? We’ve turned it into
a science, bourbonism. You can visit the
Urban Bourbon Trail and take your pick of a variety
of selections of bourbon. So we’re proud of that. And then how many people know
about the “Happy Birthday” song and where it came from? It was actually written by two
women in Louisville, Kentucky. So probably the most sung song
on the planet in every nation, every language, that
originated from Louisville. So I’m very proud, again, and
like to brag, and encourage everybody to visit. So as many positive things as
we have in our local history, we also have some not
so positive things. So this is a historic marker in
our Historic Downtown District that talks about the
slave trade in Louisville. So unlike a lot of
very southern cities that based their economy
on plantations and things like that, Louisville
was actually a place where human beings
were bred to serve as slaves. All right? And so that’s a good
thing and a bad thing. I mean, so maybe life wasn’t
as harsh because of that, because there were
no plantations to actually work on. But on the other
hand, it sort of bred what I consider a
sense of complacency. Life in Louisville is very easy. We don’t have these traffic
problems that you all have around here in Boston. It’s very easy to get around. I can get to the
airport in 20 minutes. It’s very easy. But underneath
the surface, there is also something that,
at least in my lifetime– I’m in my mid-40s. I’m a Gen Xer. There is an uneasiness
underneath the surface of all the niceties in Louisville. And so that has to do with
my work and what inspires me. If you’re familiar
with the horse racing, there’s a term
called the trifecta. It means you guess all the
first, second, and third place winners. Well, in Louisville, we
have what I call or consider a trifecta of oppression. Redlining, circa 1937– you’ll
see the historic map up here in the corner. This practice
outlined neighborhoods based on the people who
occupied or inhabited those neighborhoods and,
at least in its origins, dictated where mortgage
capital would flow and where it would not. And it is the origins of
the very term “redlining” because they actually
outlined these areas in red on the map in a
color-coded system. And so it’s no coincidence
that East Louisville, what we call or consider
East Louisville, has more prosperity
than other parts. They’re also racial
covenants, for those of you in planning and
understand zoning codes and things like that. We actually had
race restrictions that dictated how and
where people could live. You see an example here that
explicitly excludes anybody of color from living
in a certain place and ties that to the land. And then urban
renewal following– this is what we call
Old Walnut Street. It’s kind of like the
best you could ever imagine in terms of traffic,
and activity street activation, commercial and residential. This entire area was
destroyed in urban renewal, completely demolished
and eradicated. And this was what was referred
to as the Harlem of the South. This was the black business
district and the only place that African-Americans could
live, work, and play freely in our city. So take it a step further. Louisville Metro government
is a merged government, roughly about 700,000
people in the Jefferson– the city county proper. Our MSA is about
1.3 million people. It includes southern Indiana
and some other surrounding counties. But this is a racial
distribution map. So right here you see
this dark blue section. That’s pretty much where the
majority of the population are people of color,
African-American in particular, with another enclave here. So we, are by some
measures, considered the fourth-most segregated
city in America. I’m sure it’s debatable. But for those of us
who experienced it, West Louisville is a thing
But it’s not just one thing. It’s nine neighborhoods
that constitute the western part of our city. Some 65,000 people reside there. It’s like whereas Louisville
is the largest city in Kentucky and Lexington is
the second largest, Owensboro is the fourth largest
city in the commonwealth. And West Louisville is about
the same size as Owensboro. And so John Peterson,
our curator, asked us to talk about
a tough question. And I’m gonna– you know,
the first question that comes to mind for me is a
very simple question, but it’s a loaded question,
is why is there not a single Starbucks in all of this area? This is a fairly large area. Like, say, in the
City of Owensboro, there are two Starbucks, all
right, in that small city. But in all of this
area, which constitutes, I think, about 12-square
miles, not a single Starbucks, a declining number
of grocery stores, and there’s no shortage of
demand for those services. But yet, you don’t see those
things happening or occurring as the normal sort
of market would dictate or indicate it should. So that’s one of the reasons
despite my work in real estate, bringing abandoned
and underutilized properties back into productive
use, it’s very hard work. We spend a lot of
time on those efforts. But we’re not seeing
the needle really move. And so it was a
moment of serendipity. I met a gentleman
named Joshua Poe, who’s an urban planner
and dabbles in GIS. He went to the National Archives
and pulled the original redline maps, documentation,
and memorandum and was able to put
them in this platform, a story-mapping platform
with a interactive component. And we launched this
project in 2017. And we’ve gotten a lot of
national and international attention. Unfortunately, not as many
local people tapping into it, but I certainly encourage you
to visit our map because what it shows quite clearly and
eloquently through this type of approach and presentation is
that the decisions and policy practices that were
put into place in 1937 are still impacting us today. In fact, shortly after
we released our project, Richard Rothstein released
his book The Color of Law. If you haven’t heard about it,
I encourage you to check it out. There’s a wonderful interview
with Mr. Rothstein on NPR with Terry Gross and
on Fresh Air that just makes it really clear
that this was not happenstance. This was not an accident. And certainly, Louisville is not
unique in this type of outcome. This was done in every
major metropolitan city across the United States,
including here in Boston. You can pull up
the maps, and you can see the correlation
between decisions that were made by
policy professionals, real estate professionals,
that were made 80 years ago are impacting us today. The question is, what
do we do about it? Right? When I give my redlining
presentations and if any of you are interested in
inviting me to come do a presentation on relining,
at least what it’s meant for Louisville, I get confronted
with the question, well, what are we going
to do about it? Even my administration wanted
me to write a white paper on how to solve 80 years
of economic inequity. It’s not quite that simple. So just like good projects
take a lot of disciplines and coordination
to make it work, it’s going to take us
as community members to come up with all sorts
of radical ideas about how we can tackle these issues. At the end of the
day, the majority of people in West
Louisville are hardworking. They pay their taxes. And but yet, we’re not as
responsive to their needs. So even though there is a
higher rate of unemployment, that also means that there
is a majority of people who are employed and who
deserve to have professionals from multiple
disciplines striving to bring love and compassion
and understanding what life is like when you’re
lacking basic necessities like a full-service
grocery store. So this year I plan to– if I can get this next slide– to focus on three things. One is combating what I
consider a redline thinking. Right? Black people drink coffee. There should be a Starbucks
in West Louisville, right? It’s not that complicated. So why is it not happening? Well, I think it’s perception. We’re also trying to find the
balance between revitalization and gentrification. It’s the same tools and skills
that are used to do both. But it’s about how the end
does– or the means justify. Or we need to pay more attention
to how that happens, cocreation as opposed to allocating
resources and ideas and then raising the
capacity and confidence levels across the
socioeconomic spectrum. For architects
and designers that want to come in and be
engaged, oftentimes they’re a little nervous about doing so. But there are ways that
they can be equipped to operate in a more
compassionate, more genuine way and understand that the
frustration that they’re getting in return is not
truly directed at them. But it’s a circumstance of all
the history and the experiences that people have gone through. So that pretty much
concludes my presentation. Sorry, I’m a little bit over. But if anybody here is
interested in collaborating and talking more about
any of these issues, I do welcome and invite
you to reach out. So thank you very much. [applause]

You May Also Like

About the Author: Oren Garnes

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *