Over the course of the semester our class has discussed and analyzed urban spaces, and were introduced to our fundamental and powerful concepts; power, interaction, environment, and behavior.These concepts can be applied to urban spaces and provides answers and explanation for social standards that exist in our society. Through understanding our fundamental and powerful concepts we have studied human interactions, structures, processes, and problems that exist within urban areas.Through our community perspectives project I was able to interview Allen Maddox, a community stakeholder within Atlantic City, New Jersey. It has become clear to me that higher institutions hold the power to control the change, development, and interactions that occur within the community; therefore younger generations must become involved in urban sociology, and work with community stakeholders to improve urban spaces without the use of gentrification.
During my interview with Maddox we began by conceptualizing the changes that Atlantic City has gone through, along with community developments, and civic engagement. Maddox is a community volunteer with the Eastern Service Workers Association (ESWA). Through this association, volunteers assist workers with health, legal, and food services. When asked what the main purpose of this association was, Maddox claimed they focused on, “…advocating for people without a voice”. There are many people within Atlantic City who struggle to survive, and it is extremely important that they receive all the help they can. Maddox also voiced his concerns for the changes the community has undergone recently; he believes the Atlantic City population has been disenfranchised through events like the takeover bill, the failing of casinos, and overall the creation of policies that only hurt its own people. As a resident of Atlantic City myself I really resonated with the concerns of Maddox. There is a lack of trust Maddox voiced, between the community and local political systems, “There is some suspicion of backdoor political agendas occurring, I believe the [state and local political systems] do not always have resident’s best interest at heart”.
I can agree that the elite powers do not have the natives’ best interest in mind due to the fact that I see new forms of gentrification every few weeks. New beach side apartments are being built fast,in hopes of improving the overall appeal of the community. The process of gentrification has become an extremely important issue within AC because many community members feel like they are being pushed out, which is exactly what is happening through this process. Although it may be improving the visual look of the city, these lavish apartments are too expensive, and have sat vacant while people’s homes were destroyed to make room. As everyone knows there are also plans to build a new campus for Stockton University in Atlantic City. I pass the construction site everyday on my way to work and school and always debate on whether it will be a positive or negative addition to the city. After talking to Maddox on the issue we both agreed it has the potential to improve the area by bringing in “young intellectual thinkers… who may see the state of the city and take action for improvement”. With the new campus there is also suspicion that it may not put any focus on helping the community and only serve as another form of gentrification.
It is vital that all people begin to educate themselves on the issues that exist within urban areas. We must understand that elite powers have control over the behaviors, interactions, and the environment which people live in. This can be controlled through policies, gentrification, and provided a low amount of public services. It must be understood as Maddox told me, that, “minority lives are devalued in society.” So we must advocate for these people with no voice. We must raise awareness by educating people on racial issues that are present in all communities.