According to Fullilove, root shock is the emotional pain and reaction of displaced people suffering from destruction of neighborhoods and communities, whether by natural or human forces.
By conducting community visits, interviews, and analyses of residents’ photographs, and drawings, Fullilove studied how national Urban Renewal Projects destroyed African communities from the 1950s: “Root shock disables powerful mechanisms of community functioning, leaving African Americans in particular at an enormous disadvantage for meeting the challenges of globalization.” During the progress of Urban Renewal from 1949 to 1973, the U.S. government wiped out 2,500 neighborhoods in 993 cities, leaving a million people in displacement. The Housing Act of 1949 created unstable and isolated communities of African Americans. The 1955 Commonwealth Project removed the historic Virginia neighborhood in northeast Roanoke, causing severe polarization between the rich and the poor.
The tragedy of the jazz, a music that flows through the communities from home to street to club in the African American communities, is a great example of explaining root shock. Young kids used to learn to play outside the clubs dreaming one day they might participate. Major chunks of the jazz world: the Fillmore in San Francisco, the Hill District in Pittsburg, and the South Side of Chicago, were torn apart during Urban Renewal Movement. Once the home-street-club structure is destroyed, Jazz nearly disappeared in the United States and existed only in academic studies elsewhere.
As described by those who survived, the experience of root shock is like an aftermath of a severe burn. It does not end with treatment, but will stay with the individual for a lifetime, hurting people from generation to generation. “The divided city is a subjugated city”, we are part of the buildings, neighborhoods and nations we are living in like living in a emotional ecosystem, as they are torn apart, we too.
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