2014 Social Justice Research Paper Awards Winners

Congratulations to 2014 Social Justice Research Paper Awards winners Aletia Robey and Elisabeth Virgo.

2014 Graduate winner: Aletia Robey, Women & Gender Studies

“The Bricks in Action: Louisville Women’s War on Poverty in Public Housing Communities”
By the time President Johnson’s War on Poverty programs were implemented in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1964, local neighborhood organizations had already established a solid political presence for their communities in City Hall. This paper examines how local women-led public housing neighborhood groups like the Southwick Improvement Club and the Beecher Terrace Improvement Club worked collectively among local residents and with their middle-class allies prior to and after the implementation of the Community Action Program in Louisville. With the assistance of community organizers paid through the City-County Action Commission, after 1964 groups such as the Beecher Terrace Improvement Club, the Taylor Progressives Club, and the City-Wide Resident Council were formed, they expanded upon the organizing efforts of the existing neighborhood clubs. This development increased people power and also boosted resident involvement in the development of bureaucratic policy making. The Southwick Improvement Club and its sister organizations made drastic changes in their neighborhoods, but they also witnessed a dissolution of trust among community members. This paper illustrates the emergence of the Beecher Terrace Improvement Club and other councils and suggests that the City-County Action Commission both promoted the cause of neighborhood women’s organizations, and, as in the case of the Southwick Improvement Club, somewhat divided these activist women in resident clubs from their middle-class allies. The story of the these clubs and their involvement with the War on Poverty and the City-County Action Commission illustrates the impact of federal community action funds and the effects of cross-class coalition building.

Undergraduate winner: Elisabeth Virgo “Water Privatization: An Environmental Justice Concern”

This paper addresses inequalities in the global practice of water privatization. Water privatization refers to methods of water management in which private companies extract water from the environment and sell it to water users. Although these companies claim the ability to deliver potable water to people throughout the world, they often damage the environment, and charge too much for many people to afford their services. Water privatization favors the wealthy and actually deepens poverty and health disparities for people who have already been economically marginalized; these are often people of color, women, and the children of each of these groups.