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"Smoketown" (Organizational Change Strategy)

Patricia D. McClendon, MSSW Candidate

SW 605 - Spring 1992

To see the specific assignment, click here or see below.

I. Introduction

Smoketown is one of the worst neighborhoods in Louisville: it has high crime rates, inadequate housing, high unemployment just to mention a few of its problems. According to the 1990 census, approximately 76% of Smoketown's residents are black and approximately 75% live in the Sheppard Square Housing Project with 423 units. 1 According to the 1990 U. S. Census, 2,071 residents live in Smoketown.

"With respect to so-called bad neighborhoods, we have essentially three public policy choices: we can ignore them, we can attempt to dismantle them and spread their problems around more equitably, or we can try to transform the bad into the better on the way to becoming good." 2 Social workers shouldn't consider the first option at all. The second option, spreading the problem around brings to mind the scattered housing endeavors which appeared at first to indeed be scattered and now appear to be clustering the down trodden in a few areas. No doubt the opposition to scattered housing and limited funding by the powers that be have caused this scattering to go from salt and pepper distribution to a dab here and another dab there. That opposition will continue but perhaps in more subtle forms and is difficult to deal with. The third option, transforming the bad neighborhood to good, is the only viable option for a long-term solution.

To be successful, the social worker or community organizer needs to empower the residents of the neighborhood in question to identify and solve their own neighborhood problems. Many problems can be solved by mutual aid: one neighbor needs a babysitter and another can baby-sit but needs someone to do their grocery shopping. Unfortunately, many problems in a transitory neighborhood can't be solved by the individual residents and sometimes can't be solved by residents collectively without linking up with outside agencies/organizations. 

A combination of locality development, social planning, and social action would be required to organize this community. These models of community organization (CO) could be used singularly or in combination with the other two models, depending on the type problem to be addressed. The three models of CO are described in Cox's book, Strategies of Community Organization. 3


II. Problem to be addressed in this paper 

Smoketown is a transitory neighborhood that lacks cohesiveness due to disorganization in the "three crucial dimensions" of neighborhoods described by Warren. They are:

1. Interaction: How often and with what number of neighbors do people visit and interact on the average during a period of one year? 

2. Identity: How much do people feel they belong to a neighborhood and share a common destiny with others - a sense of consciousness about what their neighborhood is and where it is spatially and symbolically?

3. Linkages: What channels exist in terms of both people with memberships in outside groups and those who bring news about the larger community back into the neighborhood? 

... Taken together these elements constitute the social-structural characteristics - differences in organization - which cut across social class, income, or ethnic lines in our society to define what neighborhood really is for people in urban areas. 4

"Neighborhoods must be understood as multifaceted social organizations...miniature bureaucracies. In such settings people have fixed roles - they know who are the leaders and who are the followers..." 5

"In the transitory neighborhood the population turnover is so great or the institutional fabric so divided that there is very little collective effort...It often stays in this pattern for decades while successions of people move in and out. There are no institutions at all for dealing with this turnover..." 6

"Overall, the transitory neighborhood may show a moderate degree of participation, but this belies the fact that it is a divided system, usually with newcomers having low participation and oldtimers a high degree of participation. The result is a great deal of dissensus and lack of cohesion in the neighborhood. This is a neighborhood in which clique formation is very likely to emerge with little pockets of intense interaction. But on a whole, the level of interaction is not impressive." 7 

"The norms of the neighborhood often suggest that one avoids participation in local entanglements either because the new families moving in tend to be different from oneself or because the very diversity of the neighborhood makes it difficult to feel any common set of values with one's neighbors. There may be cliques that operate in the neighborhood and small groups which may claim to represent the total neighborhood. Such subgroupings tend to be separate from one another and to form pockets of activity which are not really knit together as a total pattern of neighborhood cohesion." 8 Because of this neighborhood's (Smoketown) high crime, high unemployment, poor housing, much of the surrounding area has a negative image of it, yet some in Smoketown feel a strong identity with their neighborhood. It is a place that they call home and feel bonded to it and its history. 

On the whole, this neighborhood lacks linkage to the larger community, yet there are linkages to other predominantly black neighborhoods. Linkage to the "power elite" is lacking. The overall strategy for this community will be one of empowerment. "... (I)t is preferable, whenever possible, to use an informal grass-roots-network approach to problems rather than relying on formal, bureaucratic organizations." 9 


Objective 1: Increase interaction within the neighborhood.

"In the transitory neighborhood ... newcomers particularly are lost ... and if a special effort is made to tap their expertise and organizational savoire faire, the results enhances the capacity of collective action on problems...The primary role of the neighborhood organizer is to create an `internal' linkage which emphasizes the building of indigenous human resources with a realistic reliance on outside linkages..." 10 Increasing the interaction in a neighborhood can tap natural talents and abilities, making the people in the housing project an asset to the neighborhood.  

This is primarily an example of the locality development model of community organization. "... (A) good initial tactic to utilize in this situation is the newsletter." 11 The purpose of "The Smoketown News" is to increase interaction between all neighborhood residents, especially the "newcomers" and the "old-timers". The newsletter will promote a sense of identification and promote collective action on shared neighborhood problems. The newsletter could serve as a "grapevine" for future social activities/actions. A "crosstalk" section would encourage dialogue about issues of concern and could be educational in that more than one side of the issues are discussed. Self-help groups could place announcements free in this newsletter, thus linking up residents with self-help groups. Adult educational opportunities could also be listed free in this publication.

Tactics/Strategies for Objective 1 

The initial problem will be one of funding a newsletter. It is hoped that Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church will be interested in providing funds for the newsletter. The church is expected to have an education center and this project would complement an adult educational program. The Reverend Alex Shanklin should be approached about this project as soon as possible. If this effort is not successful, other strategies for finding funding, available space, etc. should be tried. Joe Cleasant of the Ghetta Life Society should be approached about participating in the newsletter as well as having youth in this organization deliver the newsletters door to door. 

"The Smoketown News" should be published regularly every month and hopefully be anticipated by the neighborhood residents the 1st week of each month. "The Smoketown News" should be known as slightly controversial to increase awareness of its existence. I would suggest a review and follow-up on the Courier-Journal's article about the use of "no loitering" signs and "community-oriented policing" in which some have complained of harassment by police, while others applaud the police patrols. 12 

Hopefully, after a year of publication, the newsletter will be a viable instrument in addressing the problems of low interaction, lack of identity, and poor linkage to the outside community. It will also be a viable instrument for social action, if needed. If the urban renewal that Mayor Abramson plans turns out to be an attempted "land grab" this newsletter would help unite the neighborhood against any unwanted plans for their neighborhood. If Mrs. X had a problem with the Department for Human Services (DHS), she could write to the newsletter to complain or if she successfully resolved a problem with DHS, she could share with the readers what steps she took to resolve the problem. This would serve to educate the readers as well as be used to get the appropriate action taken by DHS or other agencies/organizations. The Jefferson County Social Services - Information and Referral number can be published in every issue to aid residents in linking up with needed services.


Objective 2: Improve and instill pride in the identity of the neighborhood. 

Tactics/Strategies for Objective 2: 

This is primarily an example of the locality development model of community organization. This objective can be accomplished by gathering an oral history, as well as, collecting the existing bits and pieces of written history. I believe a contest is the best way to approach this objective. The contest should be open to all junior and senior high school students currently living in Smoketown. Since according to the 1990 U. S. Census, 291 properties are owner occupied and 404 are renter occupied, I believe that many of the "owner occupied" residents have lived most of their lives in Smoketown. I believe that these people, along with ex-Smoketown residents, can provide rich oral historical accounts for the students to record in writing for future publication in "The Smoketown News". These written oral histories could eventually be published in bound volumes for purchase by Smoketown residents and other interested parties. The public schools could use these published oral histories in their classrooms to teach about African American history. For residents unable to purchase the book form, "The Smoketown News" would publish at least one story a month until all oral histories were shared with its readers. 

The obstacle to this contest would be, of course, funding. It is hopeful that a corporate sponsor could be found to fund scholarships for the top three entrants and funds for publication in bound form. The center of activity is once again hoped to be Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church because if its education center. If that's not possible, the Presbyterian Community Center could be approached to provide room, tutoring, word processing, etc.

The University of Louisville could be approached about providing a volunteer historian to help prepare these oral histories for publication. Perhaps, Mr. Robert Douglas, an ex-Smoketown resident of 18 years, would be interested in this endeavor.  

This objective could best be done in the summer since students will be out of school and need summer activities that are stimulating to the mind. Tutors could be older students or recent graduates, as well as parents and volunteers. This objective should be attempted by Summer 1993.

This activity's goal is to increase the sense of identity and belongingness to the neighborhood, as well as increasing interaction between the "newcomers" and the "old-timers". Locating ex-residents may also provide linkage to outside resources.


Objective 3: Increase Linkage with the outside community. 

"Salute to Black Jockeys" is a "grass-roots" organization formed to draw attention to the abandoned history of black jockeys. According to a Courier-Journal article, the organizers had to take out of their own pockets $15,000 to sponsor the salute in the past two years. This organization has had trouble getting corporate sponsors because of the competition with other Derby events. 13

Tactics/Strategies for Objective 3: 

The problem of lack of adequate linkage was addressed by me because of my position on the Affirmative Action Committee at Colgate Palmolive Co., which is also my place of employment. After researching Smoketown for the first paper for this class, I became interested in trying to help "Salute to Black Jockeys" find the necessary funds for their annual events. The first thing I did was to bring two articles about the "Salute to Black Jockeys" to the February 6, 1992 Affirmative Action Committee at Colgate. The idea was to get an initial reaction and to plant the seed about the idea of Colgate participating in some way. I agreed to research this idea further and to report back at the March 5, 1992 meeting. The second thing I did was to mail a copy of the first paper on Smoketown to Shirley Mae Beard, the founder of the organization and to give a copy of the same paper to Jim Gales, the Chair of the Affirmative Action Committee. I asked Shirley Mae to call me.  

Shirley Mae Beard called me and thanked me for my interest. I told her about our company and our affirmative action committee. I asked her to come to the March 5, 1992 meeting prepared to make a brief formal presentation about her organization, the events being sponsored, and how that Colgate might participate. She agreed and I mailed her a map of how to get to Colgate, etc. 

Jim Gales contacted me after reading the article and he was very enthusiastic about how we might be able to help secure funding for the salute. He wanted copies of the Smoketown paper to help him as he went about trying to build support for this endeavor. He asked if I would mind him calling and/or meeting with Shirley Mae Beard to get more details about what was actually involved. I gave him Shirley Mae Beard's phone number and told him I would call her to inform her that he would be calling and/or visiting and that I would forego asking her for the information and let Jim Gales collect this information. Jim visited with her and collected the necessary information to get started. Jim Gales went about networking with other black co-workers as how best to proceed. It was suggested that he talk to Greg Andrews in New York. Greg Andrews is in charge of minority advertising at the Corporate Headquarters in New York City. In the meantime, Shirley Mae Beard and Bill Simpson came to the March 5, 1992 Affirmative Action meeting and made a formal presentation about their organization and needs. The director of manufacturing, Bill Christopher, was interested in Colgate possible participation and stated that he would have Philip Kercher, Employee Relations Supervisor, hand deliver the information to Greg Andrews on his visit to New York the following Tuesday. Greg Andrews has sent his recommendations to Reuben Mark (C.E.O of Colgate) for his approval. All during this time, Jim Gales was in close contact with Greg Andrews from the inception of this idea. Jim Gales and I kept Bill Simpson of "Salute to Black Jockeys" informed on the status of the request. On March 24, 1992, Colgate announced its decision to donate $2,000 to the "Salute to Black Jockeys". It chose not to sponsor any event entirely. Hopefully, Colgate will donate money for next year's event.

 The reason for approaching Colgate is that the company is committed to affirmative action and community involvement. I simply acted as a broker for the "Salute to Black Jockeys". This gives Colgate an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment, as well as, use its participation in these events to advertise its products and get some public relations mileage from this participation. It is a case in which the needs matched. I was not originally thinking of what was needed was linkage, but rather two dissimilar groups being able to benefit by joining together.

The "Salute to Black Jockeys" fits in well with the other two strategies mentioned - increasing interaction and improving pride/identity. It also serves to increase linkage with the outside community because there are several events that need to be sponsored. Shirley Mae Beard and Bill Simpson are approaching other corporations. This year events will be held in several black communities which is likely to increase linkage between those neighborhoods.


Objective 4: Strengthen Existing Community Coalitions 

Tactics/Strategies for Objective 4:

"For a neighborhood to become organized effectively, it needs to use the tools of bureaucracy without the form." 14 I believe a coalition could use a specialized task force as a tool for effective action. The Smoketown Priority Board would be a good place to start. This organization can only be effective if the problems of the Smoketown neighborhood are addressed: interaction ("The Smoketown News"), identity (oral history project), and linkage (i.e., "Salute to Black Jockeys"). Once these critical dimensions of community organization are improved, other problems such as crime, unemployment, poor housing, vacant lots, pregnant teenagers, etc., can be more effectively addressed. The article "Organizing A Community Coalition: Operation Independence" is an excellent example of coalition building. 15 

The purpose of strengthening this coalition, is to empower the neighborhood to help themselves. The coalition could call for the formation of a task force responsible for identifying neighborhood problems, coming up with ways to prioritize and solve them. An expert community organizer should be sought out to volunteer their services/expertise. The University of Louisville would be a good place to seek such a volunteer because of the Pan-African Studies program, the Urban Institute, and the Kent School of Social Work. The task force should include: Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church, the Presbyterian Community Center, church leaders, "Salute to Black Jockeys", Carla Curry of the Department for Human Services (Information and Referral Service), Cynthia Wilson of the Courier-Journal, the Urban League, Louisville Housing Authority, the Mayor's office, etc. This task force would be in charge of identifying problems that could be addressed by applying for grant money. Again, the University of Louisville should be a helping resource.The task force could be a tool for the Smoketown Priority Board (a coalition). This would involve the social planning model of community organization because expertise not found in the community is sought out.

This coalition could be in a position of power and adopt social action plans that are feasible for particular problems. It may vote to march on City Hall if it doesn't like the mayor's urban renewal plan. It could call a general strike or boycott of companies, as the situation may require. It could use "The Smoketown News" to embarrass any social service or government official that does not do their job., etc. This coalition needs to be "flexible, responsive, and democratic to be effective." 16 It must truly represent a broad spectrum of residents. I believe the leadership exists in this neighborhood but is not as effective as it could be. The community organizers job will be one of helping the existing community leadership link up with one another to form a solid coalition for effective community actions. 

Whichever model of CO (Community Organization) is used, the goal of this community organization would be to empower the people of Smoketown by improving the interaction, identity, and linkage. Saul Alinsky agreed with

Tocqueville's assertion that American democracy would wither and die without the active
participation of ordinary citizens in the daily affairs of their community - that "citizen
participation" was a critical measure of democratic vitality. In Alinsky's view, of
course, real citizens participation meant getting organized and getting power, but even
here, his characterization of the methods and process suggested Puritan values.
Organizing, for example, was "hard, tedious work", and poor blacks cannot
"get opportunity or freedom or equality or dignity as a gift or an act of charity. They
only get these things in the act of taking them through their own efforts." 17

Community organizing is serious work. The costs are too high to stand back and do nothing or to attempt only half-heartedly. Saul Alinsky believed that reason was not enough, empowerment was the only way to effectively organize a community.

Summary of Recommendations

Objective 1 ("The Smoketown News")

bulletstart: ASAP
bulletone year: Should be viable and should continue indefinitely.  

Objective 2 (Oral History)

bulletstart: Start advertising the contest ASAP - students may start early. Attempt by the summer of 1993.
bulletend: Select winner in September 1993. Begin to plan other similar activities for each year.

Objective 3 ("Salute to Black Jockeys")

bulletstart: February 1992
bulletMarch 24, 1992: Colgate has agreed to donate $2,000 for the salute.
bulletNext year: Seek to maintain or increase this funding level.

Objective 4 (Coalition strengthening)

bulletstart: Start discussing strengthening Smoketown Priority Board ASAP in "Smoketown News". Should continue indefinitely. January 1993 - starting working on the Mayor's Office to have a task for by June 1993.



1. Hunt Helm, "Car makes wrong turn into hail of bricks, bottles", The Courier Journal, 5 October 1988, p. C1. 

2. Peter L. Berger and Richard John Neuhaus, To Empower People: The Role of Mediating Structures in Public Policy (Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 1977), p. 9. 

3. Fred Cox, editor, Strategies of Community Organization - 4th edition (Ithaca, IL: F. E. Peacock Publishers, Inc., 1987) p. 3-26. 

4. Rachelle B. Warren and Donald I. Warren, The Neighborhood Organizer's Handbook Notre Dame, IN: The University of Notre Dame Press, 1977), p. 95. 

5. Warren and Warren, p. 94. 

6. Warren and Warren, p. 106. 

7. Warren and Warren, p. 106. 

8. Warren and Warren, p. 107. 

9. Warren and Warren, p. 33. 

10. Warren and Warren, p. 152. 

11. Warren and Warren, p. 164. 

12. Marvin Greene, "Police program in projects draws protest from some", The Courier Journal, 22 March 1992, p. B1. 

13. Cynthia Wilson, "Jockeying for recognition-organizers say salute to black riders revives Smoketown residents' pride", The Courier Journal/Neighborhoods/East End, 15 May 1991, p. 1. 

14. Warren and Warren, p. 53. 

15. Fred Cox, editor, Tactics and Techniques of Community Practice - 2nd edition (Ithaca, IL: F. E. Peacock Publishers, Inc., 1984), p. 130-153. 

16. Warren and Warren, p. 53. 

17. Sanford D. Horwitt, Let Them Call Me Rebel: Saul Alinsky, his life and legacy (New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1989) p.471.

Kent School of Social Work - University of Louisville
SW­605 Social Work Practice II
D. Shackelford, Jr., Instructor
Spring 1992

The Organizational Change Strategy (this paper) must be submitted on the date established. It will identify a significant problem or need that can be met by altering or improving an existing agency or procedure or by establishing another. There must be a clearly stated strategy to accomplish set forth goals and objectives: It must include a timetable and a criteria for successful intervention or change. Time permitting, each student will make an abbreviated oral presentation to the class of not more that 15 minutes. This paper must not be longer than 20 pages.

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