Thank you to those who joined us to celebrate WSR’s third birthday. We were thrilled so many of you could join our panel discussions of WSR staff, key collaborators, and community members discussing building community power in the age of disaster. We were excited to share many of the lessons we have learned about how to address inequality, organize our communities, build local knowledge, and build resilient homes. Although we couldn’t be safely together in person, coming together with our broader community remains crucial to sustaining the energy and enthusiasm that makes WSR such a wonderful organization to be part of.
We’re happy to share that we met our fundraising goal! Much appreciation for those who contributed, we are immeasurably grateful for your support.
Here are links to videos of the panel discussion to learn from our clients, volunteers and allies about how we can continue to make a society that is more just and inclusive:
Environmental Justice organizers and activists teach us that those most impacted by toxic industrial facilities, climate change and natural disasters are both best positioned to understand the impacts of these phenomena, and to shape long term solutions to the damage they cause. Guided by this principle, this panel presents the research done over the last year by WSR and five community researchers to both evaluate the government and charitable sector’s response to Harvey and articulate ways to build immediate improvements rooted in a long term struggle for equity. Formalizing community knowledge around Harvey is one way to increase the power of survivors to create a new approach to disaster recovery rooted in justice.
West Street Recovery provides services while seeking to build political cultural and social power through community organizing. We use an horizontal organizational structure that is both empowering and challenging. This panel examines how we share power across our group while still helping each other build skills and develop capacity and how forming a new community across race, class, age, ability, and language can support the most marginalized communities and the most marginalized within our community. But we know we cannot build the power we need as a solitary organization; this panel asks why and how we collaborate with other organizations fighting for justice and how we can all include more people in our family and movement.
How can recovery empower survivors to build the world they want to live in? Why do we rebuild houses that are likely going to flood again? What is resilience in terms of housing, economics, and community?
Houston is in a state of ongoing and imminent disaster and we believe that, in order to create structural changes that lead to a more just world, we must take care of each other here and now. We must address immediate needs of survivors by building safe, flood-resilient homes creating dignified employment while building towards a world where disasters won’t be as catastrophic because the environment is less toxic, homes and neighborhoods are built to withstand impacts, and communities have the resources to address vulnerabilities in advance and recover after an event. WSR has tried to enact this through resilient design, hiring locally, and employing other survivors. Our construction work and hiring compliments outreach, advocacy, and organizing work by deepening our understanding and building relationships between neighbors and across race, class and culture. This Panel will recount our experience, highlight successful strategies and imagine ways that this strategy can be replicated elsewhere and scaled up.
We are also excited to share an organizational profile that articulates our strategy for using home repair, community organizing and case management together to build a truly democratic institution that promotes justice.