Confronting COVID, Racial Injustice, and Economic Inequality



Session 1:
Global Perspectives on COVID: Urban Communities and Inequalities
Moderator: Arturo Flores, Anahuac University | Speakers: Rebecca L. H. Chiu, Hong Kong University |Clarissa Freitas, Federal University of Ceará | Roger Keil, York University | Xuefei Ren, Michigan State University

Arturo Flores

Arturo Flores, Anahuac University

PhD in Politics and MA in Public Administration and Public Policy from the University of York, UK. Dr. Flores performed a post-doctoral research at the Singapore Institute of Planners. He possesses twelve-years teaching experience in the National Autonomous University of Mexico and Anahuac University, both at the undergraduate and the post-graduate levels. His research interests cover the development and analysis of citizen participation mechanisms, matters of accountability, transparency and government innovation. He has been part of several international research projects involving academic institutions from the UK, Germany and Brazil. Currently, he is director of the joint research (Anahuac University-University of Bristol, UK) project Empowering Citizen-Oriented Smart City Innovation in Mexico (ECOSCIM) funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, Newton Fund and the National Research Council of Mexico. Since 2017 he is a UAA Board member and, at present, Chair of the International Committee.

Rebecca Chiu

Rebecca L. H. Chiu, Hong Kong University

Professor Rebecca Lai Har CHIU obtained her PhD in Human Geography from the Australian National University. She is Director of Centre of Urban Studies and Urban Planning and Belt and Road Urban Observatory, and former Head of Department of Urban Planning and Design (July 2014 - July 2020), Faculty of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong. She is the Founding Chairman of Asia Pacific Network for Housing Research. She was founding program director of master’s and bachelor’s degree programs in housing management, and currently a founding program director of MSc (urban analytics). Her current research interests are housing and urban sustainability, comparative Asian housing policies; comparative planning systems and policies, urbanization in China, housing and livability in ageing societies and housing models in One Belt One Road cities. She has been member of government committees/boards of planning, land, housing, urban renewal, built heritage, country parks, and research funding schemes.

Clarissa Freitas

Clarissa Freitas, Federal University of Ceará

Clarissa F. Sampaio Freitas is a scholar in the field of Urban Planning affiliated to Federal University of Ceará (UFC) in Fortaleza, Brazil. She holds a master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC-2003) supported by a Fulbright fellowship, and a PhD degree in Architecture and Urbanism in “Universidade de Brasilia” (UNB-2009). She spent 2015/2016 academic year as visiting professor at UIUC. Since 2018, she holds the position of academic coordinator of the Graduate Program of Architecture, Urbanism and Design at UFC. Recently, she has been researching on the challenges that informal settlements pose to planning, using urban data to fight spatial injustices, working at the intersection of political economy of urbanization and urban design policies. She teaches undergrad and grad courses on Landscape Planning; Urban Design and Planning Theory, also routinely contributing to local urban movements struggles for Right to the City.

Roger Keil

Roger Keil, York University

Roger Keil is professor in the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change at York University in Toronto where he has also held roles as the Director of the university’s Cities Institute and a position as a York University Research Chair. Among his publications are Suburban Planet (Polity), The Globalizing Cities Reader (ed. with Xuefei Ren, Routledge) and Public Los Angeles (ed. with Judy Branfman, UGA Press). Keil is also co-editor of Suburban Governance (with Pierre Hamel), Massive Suburbanization (with Murat Güney and Murat Ücoglu) and the forthcoming After Suburbia (with Fulong Wu), all UTP. Related to the theme of this panel, Keil’s co-edited book with S. Harris Ali, Networked Disease (Wiley 2008), was called one of “ten books that offer lessons from past pandemics” by Canada’s Globe & Mail in 2020. With Ali and others, Keil is involved in ongoing research on Ebola, Covid-19 and other infectious diseases in urban society.

Xuefei Ren

Xuefei Ren, Michigan State University

Xuefei Ren is a Professor of Sociology and Global Urban Studies at Michigan State University. Her research focuses on urban governance, architecture, and the built environment in global perspective. She is the author of Governing the Urban in China and India: Land Grabs, Slum Clearance, and the War on Air Pollution(Princeton University Press, 2020), Urban China (Polity Press, 2013), and Building Globalization: Transnational Architecture Production in Urban China (University of Chicago Press, 2011).

Session 2: Populism and the Prospects for a New Urban Policy Agenda
Moderator: Thomas Vicino, Northeastern University |Speakers:  James DeFilippis, Rutgers University | Davia Downey, Grand Valley State University | Valeria Fedeli, Politechnico di Milano | Robin Hambleton, University of the West of England | Tim Weaver, University of Albany

Thomas Vicino

Thomas Vicino, Northeastern University

Dr. Thomas J. Vicino is professor of Political Science, Public Policy and Urban Affairs and Associate Dean of the College of Social Sciences and Humanities at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. In his various roles as an administrator in higher education, researcher and teacher, and strategic planner, Dr. Vicino brings a passion for student success, experiential learning, and community engagement. As an interdisciplinary scholar trained in Public Policy, his work is motivated by a dedication to shape and improve the public good. The author of the five books, Dr. Vicino specializes in the political economy of cities and suburbs, focusing on issues of metropolitan development, housing, and demographic analysis. Currently, he serves as Chair of the Governing Board of the Urban Affairs Association. Dr. Vicino holds a PhD and MPP from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and a BSc from the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida.

James DeFilippis

James DeFilippis, Rutgers University

James DeFilippis’ research focuses on the political economy of cities and communities. He is particularly interested in the processes of social change, and questions of power and justice in cities. While his interests are broad, it is questions of community control and building forms of power in poor neighborhoods that have been at the center of his work. He began working on and with efforts for community control over economic development more than 20 years ago and continues to work with and in support of community land trusts, community development credit unions, worker co-ops and other forms of community control. He is a founding member of the New York City Community Land Initiative (NYCCLI) and the Western Queens Community Land Trust (WQCLT). He is the author or editor of six books, around 50 articles and book chapters, and many applied monographs and reports for practitioners and advocates.

Valeria Fedeli

Valeria Fedeli, Politechnico di Milano

Valeria Fedeli, PhD in Planning and public Policies at IUAV, is currently Associate professor and vice-coordinator of the PhD program in Urban Planning, Policy and Design. Her research interests deal with processes of regional urbanization and related governance challenges, innovation of policies and actors; strategic planning; inter-municipal cooperation; national and EU urban policy and agenda. She is currently President of the European Urban Research Association; Member of AESOP Teaching Excellence Board and of the Scientific Board of Urban@it- Centro nazionale di studi per le politiche urbane. She is currently working on the Polisocial Award Project Safari Njema, and coordinator of two ESPON EGTC targeted analysis projects, MISTA and IMAGINE both exploring processes of socio-economic-spatial and institutional change in large urban regions in EU. Among her recent publications the books “EU Regional and Urban Policy Innovations and Experiences from the 2014–2020 Programming Period,”  Springer, 2020, and “Post-metropolitan territories: looking for a new urbanity,” Routledge, 2017.

Robin Hambleton

Robin Hambleton, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK

Robin Hambleton BA, MA, PhD, MRTPI, FRSA, FAcSS spent ten years working in UK city governments and in central government before becoming an academic. He has held professorial appointments at the University of Cardiff, Wales, University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol. He was the Founding President of the European Urban Research Association (EURA) and served on the UAA Governing Board for two terms. After five years as Dean of the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs at UIC Chicago he was appointed as Professor of City Leadership at UWE, Bristol. Via his company, Urban Answers, he advises city leaders across the world on leadership and public innovation. He is widely published, and his latest book is Cities and Communities Beyond COVID-19. How local leadership can change our future for the better (Bristol University Press, 2020).

Tim Weaver

Tim Weaver, University of Albany

Timothy Weaver is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University at Albany, SUNY. He is author of Blazing the Neoliberal Trail: Urban Political Development in the United States and the United Kingdom (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016) and co-editor, with Richardson Dilworth, of How Ideas Shape Urban Political Development (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2020). He has published articles in the Labor Studies JournalNew Political Science, Studies in American Political Development, and Urban Studies. He is currently serving as President-Elect of the Urban and Local Politics Section of APSA and is an editorial board member of the Urban Affairs Review.

Session 3: Racial Justice and Cities
Moderator: Akira Drake Rodriguez, University of Pennsylvania | Speakers: Lisa Bates, Portland State University | Prentiss Dantzler, Georgia State University | Willow Lung-Amam, University of Maryland |Todd Swanstrom, University of Missouri, St. Louis | Clara Irazábal Zurita, University of Maryland

Akira Drake Rodriguez

Akira Drake Rodriguez, University of Pennsylvania

Akira Drake Rodriguez is an Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Weitzman School in the Department of City & Regional Planning. Her research examines the politics of urban planning, or the ways that disenfranchised groups re-appropriate their marginalized spaces in the city to gain access to and sustain urban political power. Dr. Rodriguez’s forthcoming manuscript, Diverging Space for Deviants: The Politics of Atlanta’s Public Housing (University of Georgia Press 2021), explores how the politics of public housing planning and race in Atlanta created a politics of resistance within its public housing developments.  This research offers the alternative benefits of public housing, outside of shelter provision, to challenge the overwhelming narrative of public housing as a dysfunctional relic of the welfare state. Dr. Rodriguez was recently awarded a Spencer Foundation grant to study how parent and educational advocates mobilize around school facility planning processes in Philadelphia


Lisa Bates, Portland State University

Lisa K. Bates, PhD is Associate Professor at Portland State University in the Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning and is a Portland Professor in Innovative Housing Policy. She is also affiliated with PSU’s Black Studies department. Her scholarship focuses on housing and community development policy and planning, and her research and practice aim to build new models for emancipatory planning practices and to dismantle institutional racism. Recognition of her work includes the 2019 UAA-SAGE Marilyn J. Gittell Activist Scholar Award and the 2016 Dale Prize for scholarship advancing community self-determination and racial justice.

Prentiss Dantzler

Prentiss Dantzler, Georgia State University

Dr. Prentiss Dantzler is currently an Assistant Professor within the Urban Studies Institute at Georgia State University (GSU). Prior to GSU, he served as an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Mellon Faculty Fellow at Colorado College. He also served as a Fulbright Scholar in the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto. His research sits at the nexus of urban poverty, housing policy, race relations, neighborhood change, and community development. Dantzler’s research has appeared in several academic venues including Urban StudiesHousing Studies, Urban Affairs Review, Housing Policy Debate, and Sociology of Race and Ethnicity. He currently serves as a Deputy Editor for City and Community and on the governing board for the Urban Affairs Association. He received his PhD in Public Affairs with a concentration in Community Development from Rutgers University-Camden. He also holds an M.P.A. from West Chester University and a B.S. from Penn State University

Willow Lung-Amam

Willow Lung-Amam, University of Maryland

Willow Lung-Amam, PhD is Associate Professor of Urban Studies and Planning and Director of Community Development at the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education at the University of Maryland, College Park. She has written extensively on suburban poverty, racial segregation, immigration, gentrification, redevelopment politics, and neighborhood opportunity. She is the author of Trespassers? Asian American and the Battle for Suburbia, and a forthcoming book on redevelopment politics and equitable development organizing in the Washington, DC suburbs. Her research has also appeared in various journals, books, and popular media outlets, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, National Public Radio, New Republic, Bloomberg’s CityLab, and Al Jazeera. Dr. Lung-Amam is a nonresident fellow at the Urban Institute’s Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center and a nonresident senior follow at the Brookings Institution’s Governance Studies program.

Todd Swanstrom

Todd Swanstrom, University of Missouri, St. Louis

Todd Swanstrom is the Des Lee Professor of Community Collaboration and Public Policy Administration at the University of Missouri – St. Louis. His book The Crisis of Growth Politics:  Cleveland, Kucinich, and the Challenge of Urban Populism (1985) won the Best Book Award from the Urban Section and Policy of the American Political Science Association (APSA). His co-authored Place Matters: Metropolitics for the Twenty-First Century (3rd edition, 2014) won the Michael Harrington Award from the New Politics Section of APSA.  In 2011, he published a co-edited volume, Justice and the American Metropolis.  He is currently co-authoring a book with Alan Mallach entitled Understanding Neighborhood Change.  Todd has used the resources of his endowed professorship to support the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis and the St. Louis Anchor Action Network which is working with eight institutions in the St. Louis metropolitan area to target hiring and procurement on disinvested communities.

Clara Irazábal

Clara Irazábal, University of Maryland

Clara Irazábal is the Director of the Urban Studies and Planning Program (URSP) in the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (MAPP) at the University of Maryland (UMD), College Park, Washington DC area. In her research and teaching, she explores the interactions of culture, politics, and placemaking, and their impact on community development and socio-spatial justice in Latin American cities and US Latinx, immigrant, and minority communities. Irazábal previously was the Director of the Latinx and Latin American Studies Program and Professor of Planning at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. Irazábal also worked as Associate Professor and Director of the Latin Lab at Columbia University in the City of New York, and Assistant Professor at the University of Southern California. She got her PhD from the University of California at Berkeley and has two master's degrees, one from UCB and another from the Central University of Venezuela. Irazábal has published academic work in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian.

Session 4: Film screening: A Reckoning in Boston

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Session 5: Open Discussion on film: A Reckoning in Boston

Moderator: Margaret Wilder, Urban Affairs Association

Discussants: James Rutenbeck, Film Director/Brandeis University | Kafi Dixon, Film Producer/The Common Good Cooperative | Russ Lopez, Boston University | Richard L. O'Bryant, Northeastern University | Fernando Ona, Tufts University

James Rutenbeck

James Rutenbeck, Film Director/Brandeis University

James Rutenbeck’s nonfiction films have screened at various forums including Cinema du Reel, Museum of Modern Art, National Gallery, Flaherty Film Seminar and Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival. He is a two-time recipient of the Alfred I. duPont Journalism Award for his work as episodic producer of the PBS series Unnatural Causes, and Class of ’27, three short films about children in rural America. His film Scenes from a Parish aired on the PBS series Independent Lens in 2009, after premiering to critical acclaim at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Mr. Rutenbeck’ films have been supported by Sundance Documentary Fund, LEF Moving Image Fund, Southern Humanities Media Fund and Corporation for Public Broadcasting. James’ editing credits include Zoot Suit Riots, Jimmy Carter and Roberto Clemente for the PBS strand American Experience and the Peabody Award-winning DEEJ for Independent Lens. Mr. Rutenbeck received his M.S. degree at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and B.A. from Macalester College.


Kafi Dixon, Film Producer/The Common Good Cooperative

In 2014 as a landless farmer, Kafi Dixon began laying the foundation of the Women of Color Urban Farm and Co-op Cottage for African American Women in lower resourced communities of color. As a certified urban and rural farmer, Kafi envisioned a hub of urban economic development, housing, and health for women. With her experience and competency of gender, class, and culture, Kafi reached back into her community as a social entrepreneur to educate and re-engage women in the importance of cooperative works for the development of safe, healthy, sustainable communities for women and their children. Based on systems and models of dignity and equity The Common Good Project was founded. Kafi's perspective is: "To understand the adversarial political systems we face, we first have to understand the history of Black women in a country which built and sustained itself on the violence to their being, their families, and their communities." Kafi brings our history forward to heal by laying it in the fertile soil to be tended by all.


Margaret Wilder

Margaret Wilder, Urban Affairs Association

Margaret Wilder received a PhD in Geography/Planning at the University of Michigan, and M.A./B.A. from University of Texas-Arlington. Her career began at Indiana University. After accepting a position at Cornell and earning tenure, Wilder served on UAA committees and was elected to the Governing Board, eventually becoming Board Chair. Recruited into positions at SUNY-Albany and University of Delaware, she served as department chair and graduate program director. Wilder has over 25 years of experience on tenure/promotion, faculty search, and admissions committees. Her research on economic/community development, race and poverty, and comparative housing policy resulted in service on several editorial boards including the Journal of Urban Affairs, Journal of Planning Education & Research, and Public Administration Review , and national best paper awards from UAA, and the Journal of the American Planning Association. She conceived of and led the development of UAA’s new Journal of Race, Ethnicity and the City.

Richard L. O'Bryant

Richard L. O'Bryant, Northeastern University

Dr. Richard L. O’Bryant is Director of the John D. O’Bryant African-American Institute at Northeastern University – named in remembrance of his dad. At the John D. O’Bryant African American Institute Dr. O’Bryant oversees educational, leadership development and cultural programs, services and activities focused on African American students, engagement with many aspects of Northeastern University including academic components, community outreach efforts, the NU Black alumni, and university diversity and inclusion efforts. Dr. O'Bryant also teaches in the College of Professional Studies, the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, School of Social Science and Humanities and is a senior research fellow at the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy. Dr. O’Bryant joined Northeastern in 2003 and came to Student Affairs in 2007. Dr. O’Bryant received his PhD in urban and regional studies from MIT in 2004.

Russ Lopez DSc, MCRP, Boston University

Dr. Russell Lopez has published papers on the health and social effects of racial segregation, income inequality, and urban sprawl. He is the author of several books on the history of architecture and health as well as the history of Boston and its neighborhoods.

Fernando Ona

Fernando Ona, Tufts University

Professor Fernando Ona is an environmental epidemiologist and medical anthropologist with interests in systems theory and soft systems modeling, phenomenology, Bayesian methods, complex humanitarian emergencies and spiritual-therapeutic interventions. His research interests are primarily with refugees, internally displaced populations, and asylum seekers who are survivors of torture. Fernando also works with poor populations living in informal settlements in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, southern Africa and among refugee populations in Europe and North America. At Tufts, Professor Ona supports the dual-degree PA/MPH and BA/MPH programs and teaches in the Tufts University Prison Initiative at Tisch College. Fernando holds faculty affiliations with the Department of Anthropology, Community Health, Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, and Race, Colonialism and Diaspora Studies. He is a part-time psychotherapist with the Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights. Professor Ona is also a Dean's Fellow in the M.Div. Chaplaincy program at Boston University, School of Theology. He received his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley and San Francisco.