Save The Date for Grounding Reparations: Community Land Ownership & Racial Equity


The control of land determines who is displaced and who reaps wealth. Communities of color, in particular Black and Indigenous communities, have suffered a long history of displacement from land and housing leading to instability and contributing to the racial wealth gap. Can grassroots efforts to create community land trusts offer an alternative framework for just land use and permanently affordable housing as a human right? And can this model offer a strategy of reparations for historical injustices stemming from the ongoing effects of slavery and the racialized systems it generated? Please join this conversation on how we can move from profit and evictions to inclusive democracy, repair and liberation.

This event is also a release event for Repair: Redeeming the Promise of Abolition, the new book by Katherine Franke.

When: Tuesday, May 21, 6:00pm – 8:00pm

Where: 6 East 16th Street, room 1103 (Wolff Conference Room), The New School, New York, NY

Speakers will include:

Katherine Franke, Author, Repair: Redeeming the Promise of Abolition

Monique “Mo” George, Picture The Homeless

Mychal Johnson, NYC Community Land Initiative

Mia Charlene White, Assistant Professor, The New School for Public Engagement

Peter Sabonis, National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (moderator)


Monique “Mo” George joined Picture The Homeless as the Executive Director in January 2017. Mo formerly worked with Community Voices Heard (CVH), often called PTH’s sister organization. During her time at CVH, Mo was the NYC Chapter Director of Organizing. Mo worked to advance CVH’s NYC Chapter work, which ranges from the preservation of public housing, supporting the need for low-income housing, and participatory budgeting. Mo’s organizing experience begun in college where she worked locally with NYPIRG on various environmental issues. Upon graduation, Mo began working with SEIU Local 1199 and was there for close to 10 years. After leaving 1199, Mo moved on to become the Lead Organizer at the Empire State Pride Agenda, where she fought for the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. At Pride Agenda, Mo worked on various statewide campaigns including being on the lead team that developed the organizing strategies to win Marriage Equality across New York State. She also furthered the annual statewide lobby day, as it expanded from 400 to over 1000 participants. After she moved on from Pride Agenda, Mo joined CVH to work on something near and dear to her, public housing. As a proud product of public housing, she feels that her past work at CVH has helped to preserve public housing, and the campaign has won over $700 million towards that preservation.

Mychal Johnson has a long-standing track record in community-based advocacy for environmental, economic and social justice in the South Bronx. He advocates for greater access to green space, truly affordable housing and quality of life enhancing efforts without gentrification in the South Bronx. He is a co-founder of South Bronx Unite and a member of the Board of Directors of the Mott Haven-Port Morris Community Land Stewards. He also serves on the Board of the NYC Community Land Initiative, the Bronx Council for Environmental Quality, and NYC Waterfront Management Advisory Board.  Mychal was also appointed as a civil society voting member of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Open Space Committee.

Katherine Franke is the Sulzbacher Professor of Law, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Columbia University, where she also directs the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law and is the faculty director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project (Formerly the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project). She is a member of the Executive Committee for the Institute for Research on Women, Gender and Sexuality, and the Center for Palestine Studies. She is among the nation’s leading scholars writing on law, religion and rights, drawing from feminist, queer, and critical race theory. Her forthcoming book, Repair: Redeeming the Promise of Abolition (Haymarket  2019) makes the case for racial reparations today by telling the story of experiments in South Carolina and Mississippi in the 1860s where freed people were given land explicitly as reparation for enslavement and then had it taken away by the government. Wedlocked: The Perils of Marriage Equality (NYU Press, 2015) considered the costs of winning marriage for same-sex couples today and for African-Americans at the end of the Civil War. Franke was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2011 to undertake research for Wedlocked. In addition to her work at the Law School, she works regularly in Palestine, although this work has been put on hold given that the Israeli government has banned her from entering Israel or Palestine after deporting her in April, 2018.  She also chairs the board of directors of the Center for Constitutional Rights, based in New York City.

Peter Sabonis works with community groups to promote dignity and economic and social rights. During his 24 years of legal services to those with low or no income, Sabonis co-founded the Baltimore-based Homeless Persons Representation Project where he spearheaded a Day Labor initiative that resulted in the creation of the United Workers – a multi-racial human rights group that successfully campaigned to increase wages and improve working conditions of temporary laborers at Camden Yards. As an Assistant Director of Advocacy at the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau, Peter specialized in public benefits and employment, supervising the Farm Worker unit and directing systemic advocacy on unemployment insurance and barriers to employment. In 2010, he led the Bureau to adopt a human rights framework for its statewide advocacy. Sabonis was a former legislative counsel at the Massachusetts Senate Ways and Means Committee, and received a B.S. in Economics from the University of Maryland, and a J.D. from Northeastern University.

Mia Charlene White is Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies in the Environmental Studies Program at The New School for Public Engagement, with a co-teaching appointment at the Milano School for International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy. She is a faculty-affiliate of the Tishman Environment and Design Center (TedC), as well as with the Heilbroner Center for Capitalism Studies. She has a bachelors degree in Anthropology and Political Science from the State University of NY at Stonybrook, a Master of International Affairs (Environmental Policy) from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), and a Ph.D in Urban Studies and Planning (Housing and Environment) from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Given the diversity of her training, Mia’s work is interdisciplinary and she situates herself among radical geographers (race geography) and applied anthropologists, planning/urban theorists (fugitive planning), radical sociologists/historians and those others seeking to link social science concepts of space and race, to the humanities via art and protest. In her research and teaching, Mia theorizes “space” and “environment” through critical race concepts, seeing race as a series of historical and spatial projects. Critical race theories and black geographical concepts permeate her outlook. She is currently working on her first book manuscript titled Race, Space, and the Wake-Work of our Undercommons —an ethnographic and photographic exploration of socio-spatial resistance and everyday revolution in Brown and Black spaces, towards what she hopes to suggest as a “Theory of Love.” Mia has been featured in Harpers, Glamour, AlterNet and HuffPost. She has also been honored as a Ford Foundation Minority Fellow and a National Science Foundation Fellow;  her published work has been awarded the Marsha Ritzdorf Prize for the Best Student Work on Diversity, Social Justice and the Role of Women in Planning by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP), a consortium of university-based programs offering credentials in urban and regional planning.

This event is presented jointly by the New School Henry Cohen lecture series and the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative Michael Ratner Roundtable series. It is part of a larger conversation being advanced through the New Social Contract project. The project seeks to build a collective new understanding of ourselves as a country in order to face the challenges revealed, as the fragile veneer of our democracy has been pulled back. It also focuses on community- and social movement-driven solutions to our deepest problems and argues that the many transformative solutions already being practiced at a smaller scale provide the scaffolding for a new social and economic model that can define our future. You can read or download the New Social Contract here.

Hosted by Milano School for Policy, Management, and Environment