Community self-help movements in Old West Baltimore provide an example of participatory democracy for other neighborhoods
A New Theory of Community
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Harold A. McDougall
Through extensive neighborhood interviews and a compelling assessment of the problems of unraveling communities in urban America, Harold McDougall reveals how, in sections of Baltimore, a "New Community" is developing. Relying more on vernacular culture, personal networking, and mutual support than on private wealth or public subsidy, the communities of black Baltimore provide an example of self-help and civic action that could and should be occurring in other inner-city areas. In this political history of Old West Baltimore, McDougall describes how "base communities"small peer groups that share similar views, circumstances, and objectiveshave helped neighborhoods respond to the failure of both government and the market to create conditions for a decent quality of life for all.
Arguing for the primacy of church leadership within the black community, the author describes how these small, flexible groups are creating the foundation of what he calls a New Community, where community-spirited organizers, clergy, public interest advocates, business people, and government workers interact and build relationships through which Baltimore's urban agenda is being developed.
"Black Baltimore is an illuminating look at the history and contemporary practice of black vernacular politics and community life in the city of Baltimore, generated through a remarkable, dialogical engagement with the major African American leaders of the city. On a larger stage, Black Baltimore is also an important contribution by one of the nation's most promising young African-American political theorists and activists to the development of a democratic politics adequate for our time.... McDougall makes a significant contribution to current debates about the role and meaning of community in American lifethe centerpiece idea in Bill Clinton's 'New Democratic Party' and in contemporary progressive politics."
"...provides impressive proof that black people have always believed in the axiom 'nobody can free us but ourselves.' McDougall shows that the black community is continuing to create and implement self-help programs in even the most devastated neighborhoods. Both critics and proponents of black development should take note of this book."