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Communication News & Events

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  •  Faculty Feats: Gordon Young

    Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014

    Communication Senior Lecturer and author Gordon Young is doing his part to fight blight in his hometown of Flint, Michigan. He raised more than $11,000 in crowdsource funding to tear down a vacant, decaying home that attracted squatters and drug users on Parkbelt Drive in the city. The surrounding neighborhood is comprised of homes that have been well-kept by hard-working families.

    "This is really a testament to all the care the residents of Parkbelt Drive have put into their homes and their block," Young said. "They may not be able to influence the corporate decisions or U.S. trade policies that contributed to the layoffs that damaged Flint so profoundly, but they are doing everything they can to preserve their neighborhood. I'm glad I could help them out in some small way."

    More than 150 people donated to the Indiegogo campaign. The idea came from Young’s book Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City that explores the struggle of Flint residents after General Motors eliminated more than 70,000 jobs in the city. Thousands of abandoned houses still attract crime, depress property values, and destabilize neighborhoods. He says he discovered pockets of hope where people refused to abandon the city his family called home for four generations.

    “Flint is on the edge of an important turning point that I’m happy to take part in,” Young said. “Despite heartbreaking conditions, people are fighting back and taking pride in their neighborhoods. It’s an important reminder that community is ultimately defined by people, not politics or economics.”

    Crews tore down the house November 11 as neighbors cheered. Paulette Mayfield, who grew up in the house next door, plans to adopt the vacant lot through a city program and maintain it.

    Learn more about the project here.

  •  Faculty Feats: Gordon Young

    Sunday, Mar. 30, 2014

    Writing in Belt Magazine, Senior Lecturer Gordon Young examines what it takes to be an urban homesteader in one of America's "shrinking cities" like Detroit, Cleveland, and Gary, Indiana. He finds that helping revive these once proud cities is not for the faint of heart.

    "If you’re not financially stable, committed to years of hard work, and willing to deal with the frustrations that come with life in a city that used to build things, your psyche and your bank account will take a big hit. And you might end up hurting the very place you were trying to help when you call it quits and walk away."

  •  Faculty Feats: Gordon Young

    Sunday, Apr. 14, 2013

    After living in San Francisco for 15 years,  Communication Department Senior Lecturer Gordon Young found himself yearning for his Rust Belt hometown: Flint, Michigan, the birthplace of General Motors and “star” of the documentary Roger & Me. Hoping to rediscover and help a place that once boasted one of the world’s highest per capita income levels, but is now one of the country's most impoverished and dangerous cities, he returned to Flint with the intention of buying a house. What he found was a place of stark contrasts and dramatic stories, where an exotic dancer can afford a lavish mansion, speculators scoop up cheap houses by the dozen on eBay, and arson is often the quickest route to neighborhood beautification .

     
    In Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City, published in June by the University of California Press, he skillfully blends personal memoir, historical inquiry, and extensive interviews with Flint residents to construct a vibrant tale of a once-thriving city still fighting—despite overwhelming odds—to rise from the ashes. He befriends a rag-tag collection of urban homesteaders and die-hard locals who refuse to give up as they try to transform Flint into a smaller, greener town that offers lessons for cities all over the world. Hard-hitting, insightful, and often painfully funny, Teardown reminds us that cities are ultimately defined by people, not politics or economics.
     
    Teardown was listed on The Atlantic Wire’s summer reading list, and filmmaker Michael Moore described it as “a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city.”
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