Workshop Leaders

What is Gentrification Anyway?
Imani Keith Henry

Imani Keith Henry

Imani Keith Henry is a longtime activist in the anti-police brutality, anti-war and LGBTQ movements in the US.  He is an organizer with The Peoples Power Assembly, which helped to coordinate emergency day of/day after actions in NYC and nationally in response to the Ferguson grand jury decision.  He is also the founder of The Equality for Flatbush Project (E4F), which does grassroots anti-police repression, affordable housing and anti-gentrification organizing in the East Flatbush and Flatbush communities of Brooklyn, NY. His writing has appeared in several publications including the Lambda award winning Does Your Mama Know (Red Bone Press), Voices Rising: Celebrating 20 years of Black LGBT Writing (Other Countries) and Marxism, Reparations and the Black Freedom Struggle, (World View Forum Publishing) and the newly released, Against Equality: Prisons Will Not Protect You,  (Against Equality Publishing). Under the brand, OD For the People, Imani is an Organizational Development Consultant and Diversity Trainer who provides change management services specifically for nonprofits and universities.  Imani has a Masters in Social Work from New York University’s Silver School of Social Work and a Masters in Public Administration from The Wagner School of Public Service.  Imani has travelled to Ferguson, MO twice and most recently took part in a 36-person civil disobedience action on December 4th in response to the Garner grand jury decision.

Right to the City, what’s happening nationally – Intersections with the Fight to Get Free
Rachel LaForest

Rachel LaForest

Rachel LaForest has been the Executive Director of Right to the City Alliance since May 2011. During her time at the Alliance, the membership has doubled, movement-building work has expanded and the organization has launched a highly successful national campaign, Homes For All.  Rachel joined the Alliance after eight years of working with progressive labor, directing the Organizing and Public Policy departments of the Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100 and Actors Equity Association (AEA).  Rachel organized and led multiple mobilizations of thousands of TWU members to City Hall and the state government in Albany; conducted extensive research and designed education and training in public policy for rank-and-file union members and officers; and was one of the lead coordinators of the 2005 New York City transit strike, after which the union leadership was jailed. Prior to her career with TWU and AEA, Rachel served as Lead Organizer/Co-Campaign Coordinator for Jobs with Justice – New York, building community-labor solidarity organizing joint actions and co-coordinating the campaign that won an increase of $2 per hour in the minimum wage for New York State.  Rachel holds a BA from Hunter College/CUNY in Political Science (Black and Puerto Rican Studies) and Education.

What’s the city trying to do about it? Mayoral planning and development under Bloomberg and de Blasio
Ava Farkas

Ava Farkas is the new executive director of Met Council on Housing. She brings a well-established history of organizing on behalf of working people and progressive causes, having organized for the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition on the Kingsbridge Armory redevelopment; the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union’s living-wage campaign; the South Brooklyn Accountable Development Initiative, and most recently serving as chief of staff for City Council member Antonio Reynoso of Brooklyn.

How to Create and Run Your Own Tenants Union!
Mariano Muñoz-Elía & Esteban Girón

Mariano Muñoz-Elías is a founding member of the Brooklyn Jewish Hospital Tenant Association and currently work as the Parent Coordinator & Community Associate at the International High School at Prospect Heights. He is also a founding member of the Immigrant Worker Justice Group (IWJ). Born and raised in Lima, moved to the Tri-State in 1993. He has been displaced out of his home every two years since she was 9 years old. Currently, he is fighting ALMA Realty to stay as a rent-stabilized tenant in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, where he has been living together with his wife for the past 3 years.

Esteban Girón is an organizer and tenant advocate with the Crown Heights Tenant Union (Local 2 – Burke Leighton Tenants). He recently formed the CHTU Court Solidarity Committee, a group of CHTU members tasked with helping fellow members navigate Brooklyn Housing Court. He is a graduate of The New School (’04) and lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his husband Sean and their dog Chicochu.

The Crown Heights Tenant Union is a coalition of tenant associations formed in February of 2013 to fight back against displacement and illegal rent overcharges in Crown Heights. The CHTU uses a collective bargaining model and is calling on our landlords to sign legally-binding contracts with tenant associations, or “locals,” that would effectively end displacement in our neighborhood. For more information or to see our demands, please visit

People’s Theater Project

Facebook Cover Photo Gentrification Tour

Pardon Our Appearance, a new play that raises issues of gentrification, is a one-of-a-kind theatrical event created by a diverse group of English and Spanish speakers from Washington Heights, a rapidly changing neighborhood in northern Manhattan. Unlike most creative teams behind a new production, this all-volunteer acting company is made up of everyday New Yorkers rather than professional artists. The plots of the play are inspired by true stories shared by the group and reflect pressing issues that residents of neighborhoods across New York City are currently facing.

Rather than providing answers to issues of racism, classism, or clashing cultures, the stories in Pardon Our Appearance boldly pose the questions. Following the rehearsed play, a community brainstorming session will take place in which audience members will be invited onstage to experiment with alternative solutions to the challenges portrayed. This is where things can get really interesting.

Pardon Our Appearance is the fifth annual production created and performed by People’s Theatre Project’s Uptown Action program participants, and the first of its productions to embark on a citywide tour

People’s Theater Project

People’s Theatre Project, a nonprofit arts engagement organization founded in 2009, facilitates groups of children, teens, adults, and seniors through a process of creating and performing original theatrical events that raise awareness of the community’s shared struggles. People’s Theatre Project currently offers free afterschool, evening and Saturday programs for community members of all ages as well as serves as an arts provider for 5 local schools.


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