Digging Deeper Into Community (Re)Building Through Interactive Storytelling

The struggle for urban justice—and now the conversation around equitable rebuilding—is happening to a city near you.

In 2006, I relocated to New Orleans to document how the iconic city would rebuild after the massive devastation of Hurricane Katrina. My co-producer, Micheal Boedigheimer, and I filmed the stories of people who were on the front lines of this unprecedented reconstruction—public housing residents, developers and planners, unregistered Latino laborers, community activists, and displaced youth, among others. We captured hundreds of meetings, protests, rallies, demolitions and groundbreakings, where disparate visions over the “new” New Orleans clashed in sometimes violent ways. After filming full-time for five years, we built a substantial archive of more than 1,500 hours of footage that was culled into the 97-minute documentary, Land of Opportunity, which we released in 2011.


Long before the film came out, however, I realized that the themes and tensions in the stories we were documenting went far beyond post-Katrina New Orleans. Climate disasters, economic collapse, and conflicting agendas for development and space resonate from Detroit to the Gulf Coast, from New York City to Chicago. The topic of how our communities are (re)built in the face of crisis seems to grow more and more relevant. We wanted to continue to tell this evolving story in a dynamic way that reflected the diversity of voices and stakeholders involved. We needed a new way to showcase these issues—one that drew connections across time, place, and community.

We started by reaching out to technologists who were developing new interactive storytelling tools online. Then we partnered with filmmakers, educators, and advocates in sister communities (New York, Boston, Detroit, Chicago and the Gulf Coast) to create layered multimedia narratives that connect the dots between the people and processes shaping our increasingly fragile and fragmented landscape. And so the next phase of our project was born: LandofOpportunity, an experimental web platform (currently in beta*) that merges multimedia storytelling about community rebuilding with data, research, and calls to action in one collaborative interactive space.

This experimental platform invites users to dig deeper into multifaceted stories linking post-Katrina displacement to the effects of the BP oil spill on the Gulf Coast, public housing redevelopment in Chicago to gentrification in Brooklyn, youth organizing in Boston to participatory budgeting initiatives in New York and New Orleans, and more. By housing these diverse stories in one interactive space, LandofOpportunity encourages users to think beyond single-issue silos and contribute to a growing dialogue around solutions to the complex and systemic issues that impact the daily existence and future growth of our communities.

These interactive stories feature content from an accomplished and diverse group of mediamakers, including Kelly Anderson and Allison Lirish Dean, (director and producer of My Brooklyn, the acclaimed documentary about gentrification in Downtown Brooklyn), Mark Lipman and Leah Mahan (producers of the documentaries Holding Ground and Gaining Ground about the power of community organizing in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston), Ronit Bezalel (director of the films Voices of Cabrini and 70 Acres in Chicago, on the redevelopment of the Cabrini Green housing development in Chicago), and Bridge the Gulf, a multimedia site devoted to fostering citizen journalism on the Gulf Coast. It also features reports, research, and calls to action from educators, advocates, and researcher partners (including National Housing Institute/Shelterforce, New Orleans Coalition on Open Governance, prominent author and housing expert Edward Goetz and more).

As we learned in New Orleans, how we (re)build our increasingly vulnerable communities just might be the defining challenge of the 21st century. We’re excited about how this platform can broaden and deepen conversations about urban justice and community rebuilding, and allow for more informed and connected analysis and action. We encourage users to explore how crises (economic, natural, or manmade) are shaping their communities—and to add their voices to those demanding a role in determining the future of their homes and neighborhoods. The struggle for urban justice—and now the conversation around equitable rebuilding—is happening to a city near you.

* Note: The platform is a work-in-progress in beta and currently works best on laptops or tablets with a high-speed internet connection and updated browsers.


This article was produced in partnership with the United Nations to launch the biggest-ever global conversation on the role of cooperation in building the future we want.

When half of the world's population doesn't share the same opportunity or rights as the other half, the whole world suffers. Like a bird whose wings require equal strength to fly, humanity will never soar to its full potential until we achieve gender equality.

That's why the United Nations made one of its Sustainable Development Goals to "Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls." That goal includes providing women and girls equal access to education and health care, as well as addressing gender-based discrimination and violence against women and girls.

While there is still much work to be done, history shows us that we are capable of making big leaps forward on this issue. Check out some of the milestones humanity has already reached on the path to true equality.

Historic Leaps Toward Gender Equality

1848 The Seneca Falls Convention in New York, organized by Elizabeth Lady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, is the first U.S. women's convention to discuss the oppression of women in sociopolitical, economic, and religious life.

1893 New Zealand becomes the first self-governing nation to grant national voting rights to women.

1903 Marie Curie becomes the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. She is also the only woman to win multiple Nobel Prizes, for Physics in 1903 and Chemistry in 1911.

1920 The 19th Amendment is passed in the U.S. giving women the right to vote in all 50 U.S. states.

1973 The U.S. Open becomes the first major sports tournament of its kind to offer equal pay to women, after tennis star Billie Jean King threatened to boycott.

1975 The first World Conference on Women is held in Mexico, where a 10-year World Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women is formed. The first International Women's Day is commemorated by the UN in the same year.

1979 The UN General Assembly adopts the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), also known as the "Women's Bill of Rights." It is the most comprehensive international document protecting the rights of women, and the second most ratified UN human rights treaty after the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

1980 Vigdis Finnbogadottir of Iceland becomes the first woman to be elected head of state in a national election.

1993 The UN General Assembly adopts the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, the first international instrument to explicitly define forms of violence against women and lay out a framework for global action.

2010 The UN General Assembly creates the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) to speed progress on meeting the needs of women and girls around the world.

2018 The UN and European Union join forces on the Spotlight Initiative, a global, multi-year initiative focused on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls.

As the UN celebrates its 75th anniversary, it is redoubling its commitment to reach all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, including gender equality. But it will take action and effort from everyone to ensure that women and girls are free from discrimination and violence. Learn more about what is being done to address gender equality and see how you can get involved here.

And join the global conversation about the role of international cooperation in building the future by taking the UN75 survey here.

Let's make sure we all have a say in the future we want to see.

via WFMZ / YouTube

John Perez was acquitted on Friday, February 21, for charges stemming from an altercation with Allentown, Pennsylvania police that was caught on video.

Footage from September 2018 shows an officer pushing Perez to the ground. After Perez got to his feet, multiple officers kicked and punched him in an attempt to get him back on the ground.

Perez claims he was responding to insults hurled at him by the officers. The police say that Perez was picking a fight. The altercation left Perez with a broken nose, scrapes, swelling, and bruises from his hips to his shoulder.

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