- Palmer Harvey
- Jamila Michener
- Gretchen Purser
Research Project Description
Our project investigates how building local power among tenants can enhance community health and well-being. We define power as the ability to influence the processes and institutions that shape the circumstances of one's life and environment. We ask how power can be developed and wielded to improve health in marginalized communities. We concentrate our inquiry on housing because it is an enduring channel through which structural racism has shaped outcomes in Syracuse, New York. Tenants—confronted with a tremendous imbalance of power—experience substandard housing, lead poisoning, predatory renting arrangements, evictions, and more.
Our research highlights the ways tenants are endeavoring to alter these conditions and with what effects. Specifically, we will investigate how building power through the tenant's union helps to achieve concrete improvements in housing conditions for poor and predominantly Black families in Syracuse. Second, we will examine how building power among tenants can help mitigate processes and mechanisms through which policies, practices, and programs uphold structural racism in housing. How, for instance, might a robust tenant's union help ward off involuntary displacement generated by public housing redevelopment plans? Third, we will examine how local political participation in the form of the tenant's union leads to improvements in mental health through diminished feelings of isolation and resignation and an increased sense of collective efficacy as political agents. Ultimately--designed around the goal of strengthening the capacity of the Syracuse Tenants Union--this project will document the central role that building power among marginalized communities plays in establishing a culture of health.
Palmer Harvey is the founder of, and an organizer with, the Syracuse Tenants Union and an active leader in the statewide coalition Housing Justice For All. She is the local NAACP chapter's Housing Committee Chair, the Southside Lead Community Ambassador, a Northside Housing Taskforce member, and a board member of the Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP), which provides legal counsel to tenants facing eviction in Syracuse. She is a fierce community advocate, dedicated to housing justice.
Jamila Michener is an associate professor of Government and public policy at Cornell University. She studies poverty, racism, and public policy, with a particular focus on health and housing. She is author of Fragmented Democracy: Medicaid, Federalism, and Unequal Politics. She is co-director of the Cornell Center for Health Equity, co-director of the Politics of Race, Immigration, Class and Ethnicity (PRICE) research initiative, and board chair of the Cornell Prison Education Program.
Gretchen Purser is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. As an ethnographer and community-based researcher, Purser's research and teaching focus on work and labor market transformation, the housing struggles of the urban poor, and the policies and practices of poverty management in the U.S. She received her PhD in Sociology from University of California at Berkeley.