Social Values in Action: Building Equitable and Sustainable Cities

Join us on Wednesday, September 18, at 7:00pm in the New York Room in Mary Woolley Hall at Mount Holyoke College to celebrate and engage with Serin D. Houston’s new book, Imagining Seattle: Social Values in Urban Governance.

Houston will speak about how classism and racism often constrain efforts to advance sustainability, creativity, and social justice within Seattle’s urban governance. Panelists Cynthia Espinosa Marrero (Board Member, Nueva Esperanza in Holyoke), Wayne Feiden (Director, Planning and Sustainability for the City of Northampton), and Waleska Lugo-DeJesús (CEO, Inclusive Strategies, and Director, the Healing Racism Institute in Springfield) will discuss their sustainability, equity, and social justice work in this region and highlight connections as well as differences between western Massachusetts and Seattle. This symposium will illustrate social values in action and will emphasize the necessity of developing effective strategies for building equitable and sustainable cities.

This event is hosted by the Mount Holyoke Department of Geology and Geography and the Odyssey Bookshop, and co-sponsored by the Mount Holyoke College McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives, Weissman Center for Leadership, Community-Based Learning Program, Office of the Dean of Faculty, and the International Relations Program.  

About the Book

Imagining Seattle dives into some of the most pressing and compelling aspects of contemporary urban governance in the United States. Serin D. Houston uses a case study of Seattle to shed light on how ideas about environmentalism, privilege, oppression, and economic growth have become entwined in contemporary discourse and practice in American cities. Seattle has, by all accounts, been hugely successful in cultivating amenities that attract a creative class. But policies aimed at burnishing Seattle’s liberal reputation often unfold in ways that further disadvantage communities of color and the poor, complicating the city’s claims to progressive politics.

Through ethnographic methods and a geographic perspective, Houston explores a range of recent initiatives in Seattle, including the designation of a new cultural district near downtown, the push to charge for disposable shopping bags, and the advent of training about institutional racism for municipal workers. Looking not just at what these policies say but at how they work in practice, she finds that opportunities for social justice, sustainability, and creativity are all constrained by the prevalence of market-oriented thinking and the classism and racism that seep into the architecture of many programs and policies. Houston urges us to consider how values influence actions within urban governance and emphasizes the necessity of developing effective conditions for sustainability, creativity, and social justice in this era of increasing urbanization.

About the Author

Serin D. Houston is an assistant professor of Geography and International Relations at Mount Holyoke College. Her research draws on qualitative methods and a geographic perspective to examine questions of equity and justice from the individual to the global scale. Her book, Imagining Seattle: Social Values in Urban Governance (2019), uses Seattle as a lens to analyze the translation of sustainability, creativity, and social justice from theory into praxis within Seattle, Washington’s urban governance. Her other current research projects focus on sanctuary policies and social movements in the United States; climate change and human migration; and global/local community engagement and scholarship. 

About the Panelists

Cynthia Espinosa Marrero is a scholar and activist, with the passion to help diverse communities grow and be empowered. Her passion for the community and the environment was seeded with her family and neighbors in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico where she grew up. After moving to Holyoke, Massachusetts in her teens, Cynthia participated in extracurricular activities related to environmentalism and community building. Her ultimate goal is to give opportunities to underrepresented groups to find their inner power, voice, and  skills to build a socially just system. She has a Bachelor’s of Art  Degree in Sustainable Food Management from UMass Amherst and a Masters of Science in Environmental Studies focusing in Environmental Education from Antioch University New England.

Wayne Feiden, FAICP is Director of Planning & Sustainability for the City of Northampton and Lecturer of Practice in planning at UMass. His focus includes sustainability, resiliency, revitalization, open space, alternative transportation, and public health.  He led Northampton to earn the nation’s first 5-STAR Community award for municipal sustainability. His publications include “Conservation Limited Development,” “Building Sustainability and Resiliency into Local Planning Agencies” (APA PAS Memos), and Local Agency Planning Management and Assessing Sustainability (APA PAS Reports). Wayne’s Bellagio Residency (Italy), State Department Professional Fellowship Exchange (Malaysia), German Marshall Fund fellowship (United Kingdom and Denmark), Fulbright Specialist fellowships (South Africa and New Zealand), Eisenhower Fellowship (Hungary) all focused on revitalization and sustainability.

Waleska Lugo-DeJesús is the CEO of Inclusive Strategies and the Director of the Healing Racism Institute of Pioneer Valley, widely recognized for her advocacy for racial and social justice work.  She has helped thousands of community key stakeholders in elevating consciousness about the causes and effects of racial divisiveness by building inter-organizational capacity and advancing inclusion. While creating linked strategies and alliances to address race-based bias and establish equity. She serves as Commissioner to the Massachusetts Arts & Cultural Council and is a founding member of the Massachusetts Women of Color Coalition, an advocacy group centered on the experiences of women of color. She has received numerous professional and civic awards including 2019 statewide “Service Hero Award” by Project 351 for helping build a just, inclusive and united global community, 2018 Massachusetts Public Health Association “Community Leadership Award”, 2018 Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief Warrior Awarded by Mayor Cruz of San Juan, Puerto Rico, State of Connecticut 100 Women of Color Award in 2018, 2017 Ruth M. Batson Advocate of the Year Award which is the Providers’ Council’s in Boston pinnacle award for excellence in advocacy and 2017 Martin Luther King, Jr. Social Justice Award for Excellence in addressing Race Relations. 


This event is free and open to the public. To RSVP, please click here.

Get Your Copy

Books will be available to purchase at the event, but if you would like to reserve a copy ahead of time, you may do so below.

Event date: 
Wednesday, September 18, 2019 - 7:00pm
Event address: 
New York Room in Mary Woolley Hall, Mount Holyoke College
50 College St.
South Hadley, MA 01075
Imagining Seattle: Social Values in Urban Governance (Our Sustainable Future) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780803248755
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: University of Nebraska Press - May 1st, 2019

Author Photo: 
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