Rooflines: Make It Better

Welcome to Rooflines, the new group blog of the National Housing Institute.

At the risk of going all biblical on you, Rooflines’ launch is one of many signs that Americans are emerging from 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.

I came of age in an era long on idealism but devoid of effective progressive leadership. After the 1968 assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy , my generation sank into a chronic state of rudderless opposition, punctuated by moments of excruciating disappointment, such as the occasion of my first foray into the voting booth in 1972.

The day got off to an inauspicious start when my dog Jude pulled me into a sign post on a Philadelphia street, leaving me with an egg-shaped souvenir of my debut as an enfranchised citizen.

My headache the next morning when I awoke to find Richard Nixon was the one again had less to do with the lingering effects of a mild concussion than with the realization that my candidate had been buried in a landslide.

And like anyone old enough to have had that Nixon headache, I spent the subsequent decades watching the marginalization of progressive values in American society.

Lately, though, it seems that there are innovative ideas and visionary leaders everywhere I turn, using this medium to get people moving — from the local grass roots to the national level. And they are there for the googling online.

It is not just a matter of electoral politics. Van Jones’ Green for All movement has made a quantum leap by joining Dr. King’s vision of social and economic justice with the emerging green economy. Once you’ve seen how Green for All is catalyzing Americans across generational, ethnic, rational, and economic boundaries your consciousness about the possibilities for a transformative 21st-century progressive agenda will be forever altered.

Watching Majora Carter talk about her organization, Sustainable South Bronx, I fairly jumped from my desk chair with excitement, galvanized by her passion, her brilliance, and her drive to revitalize her community while restoring connection to the natural environment.

And then there’s former presidential candidate John Edwards, who has not retreated from public life to prepare for another campaign season. Instead, he is spearheading Half in Ten — a coalition of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), the Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF), the Coalition on Human Needs (CHN), and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) dedicated to cutting poverty in America in half by 2018.

On Rooflines, you’ll meet bloggers who, like Van Jones, Majora Carter, and John Edwards, are using the Web to make change.

They exemplify what NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen has to say about the genius of the link, making the Internet a “web of connections.”

This medium gives us the opportunity to forge community across generations, time zones, professional specialties, and other barriers to connection, which is the prerequisite for true synergy. By sharing information, we can empower one another, and ourselves, as an informed citizenry, to work together for economic and social equity.

No wonder we’re coming out of the wilderness and finding our way to Rooflines. To paraphrase the Pulitzer-Prize-winning bard Robert Zimmerman, we just need an Internet connection to know which way the winds of change are blowing.

A Shelterforce ad seeking donations from readers. On the left there's a photo of a person wearing a red shirt that reads "Because the Rent Can't Wait."
Alice Chasan served as editor and associate publisher of Shelterforce from 2007 to 2008.

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