- Podcast Interview Transcript
In each volume of Progress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education, and Action, the editors select one article for our Beyond the Manuscript podcast interview with the authors. Beyond the Manuscript provides authors with the opportunity to tell listeners what they would want to know about the project beyond what went into the final manuscript. Beyond the Manuscript podcasts are available for download on the journal's website (www.press-dev.jhu.edu/ journals/ progress_ in_ community_ health _partnerships/ multimedia.html). This Beyond the Manuscript podcast is with Christopher Heaney of the University of North Carolina School of Public Health and lead author of the "West End Revitalization Association's Community Owned and Managed Research Model: Development, Implementation, and Action"; Sacoby Wilson of the University of Michigan School of Public Health and lead author of "Use of EPA Collaborative Problem-Solving Model to Obtain Environmental Justice in North Carolina"; and Omega Wilson, president of the West End Revitalization Association, which services residents, homeowners and landowners of five African American communities in Alamance County and Orange County, North Carolina. Clara Goldberg-Freeman, a PCHP editorial fellow conducted the interview. The following is an edited transcript of the Beyond the Manuscript podcast.
Goldberg-Freeman: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us. I hope our audience shares our enthusiasm in finding out more about your project. I am particularly interested in the various issues raised in your manuscripts, and I hope we can cover most of the issues they raise. Omega can you give a brief description of your project that includes a brief background about WERA, the West End Revitalization Association, and the path that led to the development of the Community Owned and Managed Research Model, or the COMR model.
Omega Wilson: Our organizational history started in1994, when community residents became aware that a major highway corridor was planned through two African American communities in Mebane NC, in and just outside of Mebane. The residents had no knowledge and it had been planned for close to 15 years or more, according to some accounts. That plan was going to eliminate homes, churches, and in some cases cemeteries that dated all the way back to slavery time. Trying to get some handle on how to address it was the part of it that created the organization and created the COMR model as a result of it.
We were looking for ways to address the issue. We filed a complaint with the US Department of Justice on the question of the construction of the 119-Bypass Highway. Talking to deputy justices, they made it clear to us that we had – in this process that was planned – the highway was planned with federal monies – the community residents were denied their rights to basic amenities, a whole lot more than just the structural path of the highway. Of course we had to prove it. Local, county, and city officials wanted us to prove that they were violating our rights and there was discrimination involved. [End Page 351]
We first got involved with some university officials, professors and researchers, who had a conflict of interest because some of them were directly involved in planning the industrial growth that planned along the highway corridor. We had to dismiss that relationship, which was very difficult to do. We needed legal assistance to do it. So out of necessity, came our developing and designing our own way of developing research, our own way of collecting data. As EPA officials call it, ground-truthing, because we found people who we had trusted originally, were in fact compromising what we were doing, very credible PhDs and sometimes legal people. So that's what brought us to the need to develop the community owned and managed research model.
Goldberg-Freeman: Chris, can you continue with this discussion and expand on how the COMR model is different from a traditional community-based participatory research model?
Chris Heaney: Like Omega said, he had been involved with other researchers at major universities in the triangle. They had conflicts of interest. They were coming to the community with an agenda of their own...