In September, 25 students and professors hopped on a bus for a trip through Nashville that you do not get as a tourist. We visited neighborhoods that are experiencing rapid gentrification resulting from Nashville’s development boom. We witnessed how family homes are being turned over into condos and the effects of rising costs have on decades-old residents. We learned from Harvest Hands, a Nashville-based youth development focused social enterprise, about “gentrification for justice” and how they’ve reinvested impressive real estate sales into their community and training high school students how to roast coffee, barista, and make soap so they have marketable skills when they graduate.
We witnessed how an old taqueria in the Nations performed a marketing face lift to become 51st Deli and appeal to the more affluent taste of the new community. As a result 51st Deli has expanded their loyal customer base while keeping their original menu – the shrimp tacos come highly recommended! We learned how community services provided at St. Luke’s, a non-profit community house, are shifting their strategy and partners as the needs of the community members change.
Our final stop at Casa Azafran, gave students insights into the suite services available to immigrant communities to support their dignified assimilation to Nashville. We debriefed on our experiences over tasty Columbian food from Que Delicias, a small catering business that uses the commercial kitchen at Casa Azafran to run their business from.
Students share their post-Trek reflection here:
“[I] learned about some of the key challenges that arise from rapid urbanization with limited forethought to the displacement it causes in existing communities, [the trek] gave me some things to think about on how to be mindful of these factors so I don’t exacerbate them.” -Owen School, M.S. Finance student
“I learned that the best way to understand a problem is to get out and actually talk to people – a variety of people with different perspectives of the problem. Hearing the different perspectives gave me so much insight into what exactly was happening.” -Owen School, Master of Marketing Student
“Gentrification is a multi-faceted social problem that takes many different perspectives to combat. It is important to tailor community services to the individuals/communities you are serving, asking them what they need, and also serving them in a way that maintains their dignity.” -Peabody School, M.Ed Student
“These organizations themselves are eye opening to me. When we help/work for people, we should always know what they really want, overcoming gaps in ethics, language, discipline…” -Graduate School, Graduate Program of Economic Development (GPED) Student
“It was eye opening to see the actual impact of gentrification instead of just reading it in newspapers. I am going tobe more mindful of the impact my work and goals has on other people, not just on myself. Change will always occur but it should be done in a way that considers other people.” -Owen School, MBA Student
This whirlwind of a trek around our own city was certainly eye-opening. We have longer visits and more focused conversations planned for the year ahead. Reflection with Bart Victor at the conclusion of this trek drove home the fact that our leadership must be informed and shaped by experiences like these. As we continue to engage as leaders of impact and members of this community – though perhaps only for our time in graduate school – we will seek to continue learning and continue thoughtful action and leadership beyond.