How Gentrification Can Contribute to Racial Reconciliation

By: Annie Blazer  

This paper presents a case study of one religious group that actively promotes racial reconciliation in a neighborhood undergoing rapid gentrification. East End Fellowship is a non-denominational, evangelical group that emerged from several home churches in 2007 with an explicit mission to focus locally in their gentrifying neighborhood of Church Hill in Richmond, Virginia. While most churches in the U.S. remain racially segregated and tend to have older congregations, East End Fellowship is evenly black and white and skews younger with the average age of membership at 27. I am conducting a larger study on the churches of Church Hill exploring themes of racism, economic inequality, and neighborhood change. For this paper, I will focus on East End Fellowship to highlight the role of social and new media in their self-presentation and, in particular, how they pursue racial reconciliation through these media tools. I will argue that media works in this context for self-fashioning a radically local agenda that takes seriously past and present racism while promoting a vision of achievable racial reconciliation through Christianity. This deserves our attention because it stands in stark contrast to most congregations in the U.S. that either do not prioritize racial integration or have not been able to racially integrate. I hope to use this conference paper to engage in a larger conversation about the role of religious communities in the pursuit of social justice and racial reconciliation.

Segregation, Reconciliation, Gentrification, Race, US, Cities, Urbanization, Justice, Media
Religious Community and Socialization
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Annie Blazer

Associate Professor, Religious Studies, College of William and Mary, United States
VA, United States