Blog Archives

Health in the Neighborhood

The Health in the Neighborhood Initiative

Poor health is the top socioeconomic challenge facing the Black community.  The premature death rate among blacks is higher than any other group in the United States, while the quality of life, measured in health terms, is the lowest.  Blacks cannot meet successfully other challenges if their bodies are ravaged with disease and they die prematurely.  The UB Center for Urban Studies is working with other organizations and groups to attack this problem at three interrelated levels: (1) health disparities and social wellbeing (2) changes in the medical school curriculum and (3) the transformation, recreation, and regeneration of underdeveloped neighborhoods. Toward this end, the UB Center is working on three local initiatives.

African American Health Disparities Task Force

The mission of the Task Force is to eliminate race/ethnicity-based health disparities in Buffalo’s predominantly Black East Side community.  To advance this mission, the Task Force is working to establish a Center of Health Disparities that will lead, plan and coordinate efforts around research, advocacy, community mobilization and neighborhood transformation.

Health Disparities Conference

IDM 560 S: Health in the Neighborhood (Jacobs Medical School). 

Health in the Neighborhood is an electronic/experiential pre-clinical medical school elective offered on Wednesday afternoons during the spring semester. It addresses these issues in collaboration with The Martin Luther King Community, Hopewell Baptist Church, UB Center for Urban Studies, and Greater Buffalo United Ministries.

The course is composed of on-line discussion with students and faculty, sessions in The Martin Luther King Neighborhood, and class discussion at the medical school. Course work and class time is designed to require a usual time commitment of three hours per week. Grading is Pass/Fail, and there is no final exam.

Students visit and tour the MLK neighborhood; meet with community members and leaders; visit with neighborhood host families (cultural guides); learn about health resources and public health services in the neighborhood and East Side of Buffalo; and speak to community stakeholders about allocation of funds for public services to the MLK neighborhood. Students read on-line relevant medical, sociological, and popular literature about health inequities and disparities, as well as about life in underdeveloped Black neighborhoods. They will keep reflective on-line logs of their weekly experiences.

Quilt of Hope

Health Disparities 

King Urban Life Center and Neighborhood Regeneration

The UB Center partners with the King Urban Life Center (KULC) to carry out its mission of providing educational, social, and cultural programs in the neighborhoods, while collaborating with the residents to bring about its recreation and regeneration.  Professor Henry Louis Taylor, Jr. is the vice-president of the Board of Directors and the Center is working on an innovative neighborhood transformation plan.


The East Side History Project

The East Side History Project

The East Side History project is based on the premise that history is a continuum, which moves through the dimensions of time and space, going from the past to present and future, and continually jumping from back and forth across different moments in time.  Thus, history is a dynamic, interactive process that transforms people into “time travelers” and change agents, who can refashion the present and create alternative futures.  To bring history to life, we must build interactive connectors to the past, present and future.  This view fuses together history and urban planning, transforming them into one entity, with two interactive dimensions that connect the past to the present and future.

This conceptual framework informs the East Side History Project. Through funding from the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library (from the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences), a large collection of historical documents, reports, plans, photos and news clippings are currently being digitized, annotated and organized in order for researchers and practitioners to be access to access them. In addition, citizen engagement helps drive the project. Residents are involved in the project by (1) sharing stories about their lives and experiences in the Commodore Perry Neighborhood and elsewhere (2) being engaged in the collecting, processing and digitizing documents, photos and oral interviews and by (3) participating in program development and in the interpretation and analysis of data.

The East Side History Project is about using the past and present to meet the challenge of recreating the distressed East Side communities which are embedded in a shrinking city and region situated on an international border.

View the East Side History Project here.

The Allstate Minority and Women Emerging Entrepreneurs Program

The Allstate Minority and Women Emerging Entrepreneurs Program

The Allstate Minority and Women Emerging Entrepreneurs (MWEE) Program is a joint venture of the UB School of Management’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership and the UB Center for Urban Studies. The program’s mission is to construct a pathway that enables minority and women entrepreneurs to move their companies to the next stage of their development through mentoring and technical assistance. Participants (protégés) work with a mentor (who is, or has been, successful with a business with a similar background), and attend monthly business development seminars,  networking events and complete a revised or newly developed business plan. The Protégé of the Year receives the Allstate Minority and Women Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year award and a $1,500 prize.

The program, partially funded through the Allstate Foundation, is designed to help participants:

  • Forge relationships with successful business owners
  • Learn more about the varied aspects of running a small business
  • Formulate clear objectives and outcomes to guide the development of their business plan
  • Devise realistic business goals and timetables and develop strategies for achieving them
  • Learn about and connect with existing organizations and resources, public and private, that can assist with the development of their business

The community as classroom initiative

Futures Academy Community & Creative Placemaking Initiative (Community as Classroom)

The Community as Classroom uses the Fruit Belt neighborhood of Buffalo, NY and other distressed neighborhoods, as a “classroom” where students use the knowledge and skills learned in the traditional classroom to work with neighborhood residents and stakeholders to solve problems in the “neighborhood” classroom. There are four components that comprise the initiative: (1) Community Art, (2) Futures City and Neighborhood Building, (3) Community Heritage, and (4) Community Parks and Gardens. The varied components are highly interactive and relate to different aspects of the community development process. The Community as Classroom compliments the school’s curriculum, but it is not integrated into regular classroom activities. All of the activities occur during the school day, with students participating in the program being given release time from their science/social studies blocks. Referrals to the program come from the school’s guidance counselor, principal, and teachers, with some students referring themselves, after hearing about the program from participating students. Community as Classroom programs are taught by UB undergraduate and graduate students from a wide array of UB Departments, including Urban Planning, Architecture, Education, Engineering, and Visual Arts.

  1. Community as Art: The community art project involves students in the struggle to change the visual image of their community by adorning it with a range of art projects. The principle is to show students how they can change the way their neighborhood looks and feels. Dilapidation and a forlorn environment do not have to be the characteristic features of distressed communities. Within this framework, we want students to think aggressively about ways to re-image their community and to imbue it with the energy of youth culture.
  1. Futures City and Neighborhood Building: The Future City competition engages the students in a simulated problem-solving activity with real world implications. Each year, as part of a broader national competition, we develop one or two teams of no more than 10 seventh and eighth grade students, who use SimCity software to build a futuristic city based on a specific chosen theme such as nanotechnology, transportation, or alternative energy sources. In this process, they explore various policy choices and decide which ones to apply in the building of their city. In addition to developing a computerized city, they must also construct a scale model of a smaller portion of the city. The students take field trips, using the broader community as their ‘classroom’, to deepen their understanding of the theme and to gain insight into ways that the policy and decision making process shapes neighborhoods and cities. Local engineers and urban planners volunteer to work with the students in the development of their projects. This further facilitates neighborhood connections and deepens the ties between students and role models in the larger community.
  1. Community Heritage: Neighborhood pride and identity are critical community building components because they create attachment to place and give students, along with residents, a stake in the neighborhood development process. The purpose of the Community Heritage component is to provide students with an opportunity to gain insight into the Fruit Belt’s history, its process of development, and forces that have driven its development over time. The ultimate goal is for students to learn how to reflect on the past in order to gain insight into the present and formulate perspectives for the future. The Community Heritage project represents an effort to begin the systematic analysis and understanding of the neighborhood’s history.
  1. Community Parks and Gardens: In 2001, the UB CENTER transformed three vacant parcels of land across from Futures Academy, where dilapidated housing once existed, into a community garden. The project was more than symbolic. The vacant parcels were the first and last thing Futures Academy students saw to start and end the school day. The message the vacant parcels sent to the children was that no one cared about the neighborhood. The community garden, designed by Futures Academy students, was the first step to helping the students understand that they could change their community, if they were willing to put forth the effort. Since then, the UB CENTER has added a vegetable garden as well as a bird garden. The gardens are used as a home for several public art projects; to teach the principles of community gardening and urban food systems; and assists in the visual transformation of the areas surrounding the school.
  1. The Community Clean-A-Thon (CAT): The annual CAT is a community building project, which seeks to create linkages between Futures Academy and residents and stakeholders by using a neighborhood clean-up to improve the health and visual image of the community. A major objective is show students that even with limited resources a community can improve its living environment. The guiding principle is that citizen participation and building partnerships are the keys to building a strong community. Thus, the Clean-A-Thon is an empowering strategy and an organizing vehicle that connects Futures Academy to residents and stakeholders. The Clean-A-Thon is organized around the theme, “Collective Work and Responsibility,” which stresses the importance of the entire community taking control of the neighborhood’s destiny.