Faith holds up a photo of the boarded-up, vacant house: ""It's the first thing I see. And I just call it `the Homeless House' `cause it's the house that nobody fixes up."" Faith is one of fourteen women living on Syracuse's Southside, a predominantly African-American and low-income area, who took photographs of their environment and displayed their images to facilitate dialogues about how they viewed their community. A Place We Call Home chronicles this photography project and bears witness not only to the environmental injustice experienced by these women but also to the ways in which they maintain dignity and restore order in a community where they have traditionally had little control.
To understand the present plight of these women, one must understand the historical and political context in which certain urban neighbourhoods were formed: Black migration, urban renewal, white flight, capital expansion, and then bust. Ducre demonstrates how such political and economic forces created a landscape of abandoned housing within the Southside community. She spotlights the impact of this blight upon the female residents who survive in this crucible of neglect. A Place We Call Home is the first case study of the intersection of Black feminism and environmental justice, and it is also the first book-length presentation using Photovoice methodology, an innovative research and empowerment strategy that assesses community needs by utilising photographic images taken by individuals. The individuals have historically lacked power and status in formal planning processes. Through a cogent combination of words and images, this book illuminates how these women manage their daily survival in degraded environments, the tools that they deploy to do so, and how they act as agents of change to transform their communities.
K. Animashaun Ducre is assistant professor in the Department of African American Studies at Syracuse University. A committed advocate for environmental justice for over a decade, she worked as a toxics campaigner for Greenpeace for four years. She received her PhD in environmental justice at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.