Digital Forums Discuss “Race and Space” in the Lehigh Valley

On October 14th and 21st, the LVEHC hosted a series of digital discussions moderated by Claudia Volpe. These discussions focused on the topic of “Race and Space in the Lehigh Valley,” with the first forum focused on “Where We Are and Where We’ve Been,” and the second forum focused on “Where We Are and Where We’re Going.” The events drew a combined 50-60 audience participants who were engaged with questions and commentaries in the event’s chat feature throughout the evening(s).


The first forum featured panelists Sholomo Levy and Brian Alnutt of Northampton Community College, Sirry Alang from Lehigh University, and Becky Bradley of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission. Topics of discussion included the historical backdrop of race and racism in the Lehigh Valley, the long-term and far-reaching impact of unfair housing laws, legal and social exclusionary practices in the USA and Lehigh Valley, and racial and ethnic disparity across the Lehigh Valley (as evidenced by the LVPC’s recent equity analysis).

The second forum featured panelists Hasshan Batts of Promise Neighborhoods Lehigh Valley, Melanie Lino of Afros in Nature and Made by Lino, Rayah Levy of the Bethlehem Area Public Library and lead on the Black Bethlehem Oral History Project, and Lafayette’s Andrea Armstrong and Wendy Wilson-Fall. Topics discussed during this forum included access to and feelings of belonging in green spaces, race-related stressors and the life-long impact of casual and institutional racism, and searching for representation in local archives and institutions and finding a ‘history of exclusion.’ Participants and audience members also engaged in discussion about colonial paradigms and the definitions of who and what is considered valuable and “worthy.” On this subject, audience member Berrisford Boothe remarked in the chat:  “When knowledge and mastery of your (‘white’) culture is required, but knowledge of ours is ‘optional,’ we have a problem.”

Both Afros in Nature and Promise Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley have received funding from the LVEHC in the most recent award cycle for projects related to their work on Race and Space in the Lehigh Valley. Stay tuned here for updates on the progress of their project and other upcoming events!

Recordings of events can be accessed on the LVEHC Digital Discussion Series showcase. Click here to learn about how stipends of $350 are available to Lehigh Valley Educators who wish to incorporate LVEHC digital content in their coursework. Please contact LVEHC Coordinator Kate Pitts with any questions. 


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