Part Five: Community Organizing and Community Building within and across Diverse Groups and Cultures
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PART FIVE The past quarter century has witnessed a growing appreciation of the community organizing and community building efforts that are taking place among and with women; people of color; people with disabilities; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people; and other diverse groups. For the most part, however, this wealth of experience has not been well represented in the literature. Furthermore, what literature does exist has suggested that traditional models of community organizing are often ill suited to work with marginalized groups, whose reality tends to differ markedly from that of the architects of many of these models (Gutiérrez et al., in press). This part begins in chapter 12 with Lorraine Gutiérrez and Edith Lewis’s thoughtful approach to organizing with women of color, which stresses the utility of feminist perspectives for developing a culture- and gender-relevant model of practice. The special accent placed on both the theory development and the lived experience of women of color in Gutiérrez and Lewis’s model have led to its becoming a classic in the field, and this updated presentation of their work underscores its continued relevance. Using as a framework interrelated principles of education, participation, and capacity building, the authors draw on the literature, and on a wealth of personal experience in social work, to develop an approach that acknowledges and confronts the combined effects of racism, classism, and sexism. Building in part on the early work of Felix Rivera and John Erlich (1995), Gutiérrez and Lewis’s model sees varying Community Organizing and Community Building within and across Diverse Groups and Cultures roles for organizers, depending, in part, on their degree of oneness and identification with the community in question. Regardless of the role played, however, Gutiérrez and Lewis argue that a number of precepts are critical to effective organizing with women of color, among them learning actively, recognizing and embracing the conflict inherent in cross-cultural work, involving women of color early on in leadership roles, and in other ways contributing to community capacity. The roles of history and culture in community practice with people of color is then developed by Laura Linnan and her colleagues in chapter 13, where they present an in-depth look at the historical and present-day significance of barbershops and beauty salons as cultural sites of meaning, community education, and organizing that extend well beyond their surface roles. When professor and social commentator Melissa Harris-Perry (2011) recently joked that she left Princeton for Tulane University so that she could get her hair done, she was speaking to much deeper issues than personal grooming. In that same vein, the comfort of entering an African-owned and -run beauty salon or barbershop in the life of black women and men has not been lost on health educators, who have recognized the critical role these venues could play in helping provide health education and further sense of community critical to the reduction of health disparities. From Project BEAUTY in central North Carolina to the HAIR project targeting the high rates of prostate cancer among African American men in Pittsburgh, we see in chapter 13 the application of community building and health education principles to two unique and successful efforts to address health disparities by “starting where the people are” and developing educational messages in and with community members in “places of strength, safety, rich cultural heritage, and social connections.” In these case studies, shop owners and workers are key to efforts at reducing health disparities, serving as, for example, lay health advocates, while other forms of community engagement (e.g., through the BEAUTY project’s use of an active community advisory board) also contributed to these highly effective interventions . Although not offering a traditional community organizing example, this chapter is included because for many professionals in fields like health education and social work, learning to call upon and use some of the lessons of more traditional community building and organizing can also help us engage a community around issues, such as prostate cancer screening and improving diet and fitness, critical to building healthier communities and reducing health disparities. COMMUNITY BUILDING ACROSS DIVERSE GROUPS 212 In the final chapter in this part, Charlotte Chang and her colleagues illustrate the potent combination of popular education, community organizing, and participatory research in work with an immigrant population—low-wage restaurant workers in San Francisco’s Chinatown—to build individual and community capacity while studying and addressing some of the major problems facing this...


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Subject Headings

  • Health promotion.
  • Community health services -- Citizen participation.
  • Community organization.
  • Community development.
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