Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Urban Renewal - what an expat has to say

Delighted to be a guest blogger for ObamaLondon. I'd like to use this first post to give a bit of background. Born and bred in the north suburbs of Chicago, I'm not a city girl. I've earned my urban dweller badge here in London, where I've been living for 13 years. So, what's my interest in Urban Renewal? It begins with the journey I've had with American cities. Basically, I grew up in fear of them. In the 70s and 80s, Chicago meant Cabrini Green and serious gun crime. New York meant 'Alphabet City' and danger zones to me. Sadly, I was so fearful I didn't really enjoy either city while I lived near them. Then in the mid-90s,I spent time with Operation Push folks in the South Side of Chicago. By then, the crime was far from the levels it had been before. My fear was replaced by dismay: the high-rises with burnt out apartments and broken elevators, the main street that was a couple of liquor shops, a pharmacy and a Western Union. Chicago has changed a lot since then, including with the help of our President during his community organizing days. And there are many positive urban renewal stories to be told across the country.

No longer afraid of them, I now love exploring cities and drawing on their amazing diversity and richness. Cities are often the first port-of-call where dreams of a better life begin and where the majority of wealth is produced. They buzz and excite - one of the reasons I love London. But the reality is that our cities still continue to be home to segregated communities and abject poverty. The President's Urban Policy agenda is large, exciting and needed. As we lay the foundation for economic recovery, we have a challenge - a challenge also high on the agenda here in the UK - to ensure that social mobility in our cities isn't just a dream but a real possibility for all communities. And that's why I want ObamaLondon to include a focus on urban renewal - because to me it epitomizes the American experience and ethos of pursuing one's dream (the same ethos that I reckon brought me here to London). And that's also why I want to kick off by focusing this week on equal opportunities, a high priority agenda for urban policy here and back home....on which I shall say more in my next posting. Meanwhile, if you haven't seen it, here's the link to the Obama-Biden Urban Policy platform.

1 comment:

Obama London said...

"Thanks for your thoughts Veena! And a hearty welcome ot Obama London.