This spring semester, 11 students will travel to Los Angeles to study the reality of gentrification for those who have called the City of Angels their home for decades.
The African and African Diaspora Los Angeles Domestic Study will bring students into LA neighborhoods facing gentrification to study the effects of disruption and displacement through interviews, partnership with community organizations and self-reflection, known as ethnographic research.
“What does it mean to be an ordinary citizen in those places?” said Omi Jones, African and African diaspora studies professor, who will travel with and teach the group in LA. “The ethnographic strategies allow us to be literally shoulder to shoulder with one another in ways the other strategies around urban issues have not.”
Students will also study and create art that addresses social issues in their own lives and in the community with artist and professor Sharon Bridgforth.
“The thing that I am bringing and most want to offer are the tools that artists use to make work and live and participate in (the) community,” Bridgforth said. “(As) someone doing ethnographic work, part of what you’re doing is seeing other people’s vulnerability. It is unfair to do that if you haven’t practiced vulnerability yourself.”
Each participating student will pay $11,006 for the program and housing, with normal tuition and flight costs paid separately. Despite the cost, Azia Tisdale’s mom pushed her to have this different experience as a first-generation college student.
“I’ve lived in the same house for 17 of my 19 years, and I can’t imagine what it’s like to be pushed out of your house and move even further down in living standards,” Tisdale, a psychology junior, said. “I believe there are a lot of pros in gentrification, but how do we take those cons and make them pros as well where it benefits both worlds?”
The interpersonal skills the students will learn will translate beyond this semester, Jones said.
“To be with somebody in an environment that you don’t know, that’s a skill that we seem not to have very much of,” Jones said. “We’re living inside of the failure of knowing how to listen, to be open (and) to change internally. My hope is (for) there to be a transformation in approach, collaboration, community building and interacting with other human beings, regardless of major.”