Public Affairs Ph.D. Student Leads Camden’s Return to Urban Gardening Roots

Looking at the City of Camden, says Lew Bivona, its reputation as the community gardening epicenter of the Garden State, let alone the country, may not be outwardly obvious.

However, explains the Rutgers University–Camden doctoral student, there was a time when the city may have actually held the unofficial title. He cites a 2010 report from the University of Pennsylvania that led its authors to suggest that Camden growers may have created more community gardens per person than any city in the United States.

“The city’s rich legacy of gardening was built on maintaining cultural and historical ties,” says the Ph.D. student in public affairs. “Many gardeners had grandparents who were sharecroppers and much of the food produced was mutually shared among neighbors.”

View full story on Rutgers–Camden NewsNow at


CURE Virtual Roundtable: Bandos, Symbolism, and Placemaking in Camden, NJ

Header image with talk title listed above and below

“Bandos, Symbolism, and Placemaking in Camden, NJ”

Thursday, March 25, 2021 from 12:30 – 1:30 p.m.

In her forthcoming book Toward Camden, Mercy Romero writes about the relationships that make and sustain the largely African American and Puerto Rican Cramer Hill neighborhood in Camden, New Jersey where she grew up. She walks the city and writes outdoors to think about the collapse and transformation of property. She revisits lost and empty houses—her family’s house, the Walt Whitman House, and the landscape of a vacant lot. Throughout, Romero engages with the aesthetics of fragment and ruin; her writing juts against idioms of redevelopment. She resists narratives of the city that are inextricable from crime and decline and witnesses everyday lives lived at the intersection of spatial and Puerto Rican diasporic memory.

Toward Camden travels between what official reports say and what the city’s vacant lots withhold. In this virtual roundtable, Mercy Romero, Ph.D. was joined by Vedra Chandler, Rev. PJ Craig, and Sis. Anetha Ann Perry to talk about landscape, dispossession, and the making of public memory in Camden, New Jersey.


  • Mercy Romero, Ph.D. Associate Professor of American Literature and American Studies, Hutchins School of Liberal Studies, Sonoma State University, CA Author of Toward Camden (Black Outdoors: Innovations in the Poetics of Study). Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press (release date 10/15/21).

  • Rev. PJ Craig Sr. Pastor, Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Germantown, TN Ph.D. candidate in Public Affairs at Rutgers–Camden. PJ’s work focuses on youth connections with place. In her current project, she worked alongside youth as co-researchers in North Philadelphia, PA and Camden, NJ to understand how youth shape stories about their neighborhoods and themselves.

  • Vedra Chandler (pronouns: she/her) Project Manager, Cooper’s Ferry Partnership. Born and raised in Camden, Vedra Chandler graduated from Harvard University with a degree in Government before pursuing a careers in business, music and now community development and creative placemaking. Since 2017 Vedra has worked as a project manager at Cooper’s Ferry Partnership where she uses the arts as a vehicle to tap into the potential of Camden city and its residents. She coordinates the Connect the Lots and A New View initiatives which revitalize underutilized spaces with vibrant programming and public art.

  • Moderator: Sis. Anetha Ann Perry Ph.D. candidate in Public Affairs at Rutgers–Camden. Sis. Anetha Ann Perry grew up in Camden. In her dissertation research she uses auto-ethnography to tell the story of her family’s home, Perry House, and investigates the uses of “good neighboring” as an African American survival strategy. Despite evolving societal dynamics, Anetha’s study purports to show how settlement houses such as Perry House practice “good neighboring” as part of a modern-day underground railroad support system to African Americans living in urban fragmented communities.

Chaos or Community? Urban Policy in the Biden Administration.

Thursday, November 19, 2020
12:30-1:30 p.m.
Online Zoom. Registration Required.





Dr. Algernon Austin

Dr. Algernon Austin
Senior Researcher, Thurgood Marshall Institute
NAACP Defense Fund

Algernon Austin is a Senior Researcher at the Thurgood Marshall Institute. He conducts social science research and writing across a range of areas relevant to civil rights, policy development, public education, and advocacy. He is also involved in building partnerships with other research organizations and individuals. 

More information at


Alan Mallach, (Credit: Jim Moy)

Alan Mallach
Senior Fellow
Center for Community Progress, Washington DC

Alan Mallach is a senior fellow at the Center for Community Progress in Washington DC. A city planner, advocate and writer, he is nationally known for his work on housing, economic development, and urban revitalization, and has worked with local governments and community organizations across the country to develop creative policies and strategies to rebuild their cities and neighborhoods. A former director of housing & economic development in Trenton, New Jersey, he currently teaches in the graduate city planning program at Pratt Institute in New York City. He has spoken on housing and urban issues in the United States, Europe, Israel and Japan, and was a visiting scholar at the University of Nevada Las Vegas for the 2010-2011 academic year. 

More information at

Sandra J. Newman

Sandra J. Newman
Nonresident Fellow
Urban Institute

Sandra Newman is a nonresident fellow in the Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center at the Urban Institute. She is professor of policy studies at the Johns Hopkins University, where she directs the Center on Housing, Neighborhoods, and Communities at the Hopkins Institute for Health and Social Policy in the Bloomberg School of Public Health. She holds joint professorial appointments with the department of sociology and the department of health policy and management. Newman’s interdisciplinary research focuses on the effects of housing and neighborhoods on children and families and on the dynamics of neighborhood change. Her current research includes studies of the effects of key housing attributes, such as affordability, tenure (owning versus renting), and receipt of housing subsidies on the life outcomes of children and adults; racial disparities in the effects of the tumultuous 2000 decade on young adult household formation; and the Housing and Children’s Healthy Development Study, a new longitudinal survey that includes a housing voucher experiment.

More information at

About the Seminar

Cities in the US are at a crossroads, with a severe lack of affordable housing, exclusionary zoning in the suburbs, persistent racial and economic segregation, rising homelessness, and a steep increase in evictions. In “hot market” cities, these problems coexist with rapid gentrification in favored corridors, often leading to displacement and a loss of affordable units. As Martin Luther King, Jr., asked, “Where do we go from here – Chaos or Community?” CURE, as part of our ongoing webinar series, is presenting a panel discussion on the priorities for programs and policies to address urban and metropolitan problems. Our panelists, noted urban policy experts from different backgrounds and perspectives, will share and debate their visions for what urban policies and practices should be pursued during the next administration at the federal, state, and local levels. In addition, panelists will discuss ways to address the housing needs of low- and very low-income residents, based on their experience and different vantage points (academia, policy circles, city government, and grassroots organizations).

CURE Webinar: September 10

Police, Policing, and Police Reform:
Implications for the Future of our Cities

Online webinar/discussion

Thursday, September 10th | 12:30pm – 1:30pm


Registration is LIMITED.


About the Discussion:

The murder of George Floyd precipitated widespread national and international outrage and protests, and reignited the Black Lives Matter movement in a significant way. People from all walks of life have joined the protests in solidarity with People of Color, to demand justice, an end to police violence, the abolition of unjust and unfair police practices (such as the use of excessive force and racial profiling), defunding and/or reforming the police.

This webinar will feature a panel discussion of experts on the current national state of police and policing, police reform, and a local/regional perspective.

The webinar will be moderated and offer time for online audience Q&A.




Michael Fortner
Professor of Political Science, CUNY Graduate Center NYC

Kayla Preito-Hodge
Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, Rutgers–Camden

Shaneka Boucher
Councilwoman, Camden City Council
Camden resident





Ivonne Roman, PhD student Public Affairs
Retired police captain

Moderator: Stephen Danley
Associate Professor of Public Policy & Administration, Rutgers–Camden,
Camden resident



Recap of 3rd Summit for Civil Rights, co-sponsored by CURE, held remotely on July 30 and 31

CURE co-sponsored the 3rd Summit for Civil Rights which was held remotely, and presented by the University of Minnesota Law School in Minneapolis, The Workers’ Rights Institute at Georgetown University Law School, The Journal of Law and Inequality at the University of Minnesota Law School in Minneapolis, and Building One America.

The online event featured many powerful speakers, including:
• Attorney General Keith Ellison, Minnesota,
• Congressman Robert C. Scott, U.S. House of Representatives, Virginia,
• Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Ph.D., author, activist, & Assistant Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University,
• Richard L. Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO,
• Prentiss Dantzler, Assistant Professor in the Urban Studies Institute at Georgia State University, graduate of the PhD program in Urban Affairs at Rutgers University in Camden/ his dissertation was supervised by CURE director Paul Jargowsky), and many others. For a complete list of speaker and their bios,


For the past three years, the Summit for Civil Rights has convened multi-racial and intergenerational gatherings of some of the nation’s top civil rights leaders from labor, faith, academia, law and government to respond to the dangerous intersection of enduring racial disparities, widening economic inequality, and rising political polarization in our society. The 3rd national Summit for Civil Rights continued to focus on these timely topics that have only intensified with the pandemic and been courageously amplified by the protesters.

The Summit was broken down into four distinct but interrelated discussions over the course of the two days (see topics below). While much of the attention was appropriately aimed at calls for sweeping police reform, the Summit for Civil Rights examined some of the deeper, historical
structures of racial apartheid in American’s institutions and their meaning, especially at this critical time, for working people of all backgrounds, for political action, multi- racial power, and a meaningful and transformative policy agenda.

We have witnessed an extraordinary outpouring of anger, outrage and solidarity across the nation, sparked by the killing of an unarmed Black man by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25. This movement for radical change is coming at a time of a global health crisis, political turmoil, and a massive economic catastrophe deepening existing inequalities while accelerating economic trends already devastating workers
and communities. Some of the topics, building on the past two Summits and attempting to learn from and draw on the new energy, anger and desire for change, included:


The national election/s,The Black electorate and the rise and fall of populist insurgencies of both the left and right, From Black lives to Black Power


The consequences of our inaction and our acquiescence to a racially divided society, 52 years since Kerner Commission, 57 since March on Washington, Pandemic as microscope and telescope


Racial segregation as a lucrative and anti-worker business model, How America’s enduring ”Color Line” drives economic inequality and racial oppression


Is America ready for a 2nd Reconstruction? A 3rd “Founding”? What would a Civil Rights Restoration Act Look Like in 2020?

An agenda for Economic Opportunity, Racial Justice, Freedom, and Inclusion A highlight of this year’s summit was a verbal commitment [via zoom] from Congressman Bobby Scott, U.S. House of Representatives, Virginia, to work together with the Building One America consortium on furthering the Economic Opportunity, Racial Justice, Freedom, and Inclusion agenda. As such, Congressman Scott agreed to include recommendations and strategies laid out by BOA in his Civil Rights and Voting Rights taskforce on the Hill!!