Cities are undergoing rapid change. In Washington, D.C., an influx of younger, affluent new residents, often white, are remaking the face of a city that for decades was defined by its majority-black population.
What is the identity of the city? Who belongs? Increasingly, cities like Washington are becoming defined more by the tensions between their communities than by what they share: the same piece of land.
The fundamental promise of a city, any city, is this: If you live here, you belong. No one can question your right to be here, and it cannot be removed without your consent.
That's not a promise that some authority makes to its residents. That's the promise we make to each other, as neighbors. And living up to what that promise obliges is the hard but rewarding work of being a part of a city. Your life is marked by pride of place, and your obligations extend beyond yourself and your family to those -- friends and strangers alike -- with whom you share the city.
It means knowing your fellow urbanites, and caring about and attending to their well-being. It means giving rides and taking meals; attending funerals and watching out for someone else's kids. It means making sure your neighbors’ voices are heard, and respecting what they say. Even if they are different from you. Especially if they are different from you.
Every sad story of a city is ultimately one about its residents’ failure to live up to that promise. And nearly every urban triumph, especially in the face of overwhelming adversity, is the result of fierce unity among neighbors who see more that unites than divides them.
All One City works to reinvigorate the social contract by:
helping cities envision an embracing, inclusive identity for themselves;
convening residents under that identity, to celebrate what they love;
building pathways to greater civic engagement around common urban challenges.