Houston’s Quiet Revolution

Last spring the editors of Places Journal commissioned journalism chair to write an article about Houston and inequality.  The story would be one of three city profiles called “The Inequality Chronicles,” underwritten by the Kresge Foundation. (The other cities are Memphis and Baltimore.) Finding inequality in Houston would not be a problem, Berryhill said, but as Mark Twain said about the weather, was anybody doing anything about it? Working with Places’ two talented editors, Nancy Levinson and Josh Wallaert, he decided to focus on a Houston nonprofit organization, Neighborhood Centers, and its pioneering work with immigrant communities. This story appeared on March 14 at Houston’s Quite Revolution

“Like many Houstonian’s,” Berryhill said, “I was aware of the settlement house movement in Houston, which goes back more than a hundred years. One of its founders was the grandmother of James Baker. But I had no idea that Neighborhood Centers had grown into one of the nation’s largest nonprofits, running Head Start programs, charter schools, workforce training programs, credit unions and much more. The organization is well known by public policy analysts at the Brooking’s Institution, and its plain-spoken leader, Angela Blanchard, has a growing world-wide reputation for building communities from the ground up rather than the top down.”

“With our national politics paralyzed and the political discussion of immigration  hysterical,” Berryhill said, “perhaps the most promising answer to inequality is Neighborhood Centers’ quiet brand of private/public partnerships, working at the local level.

The article was written for an unusual academic publication that values journalism.  Places is dedicated to “public scholarship on architecture, landscape and urbanism,” and is supported by a network of 26 academic partners including the University of Texas, UC Berkeley, MIT,  Columbia University and other major universities.