Fenobia I. Dallas, Ph.D.
Professor of Rhetoric and Professional Writing
Department of Rhetoric & Professional Writing
Saginaw Valley State University
7400 Bay Road
University Center, MI 48710

Community Activist


What is a community activist?

Most people believe that a community activist is someone who is vocal and engaged in action for the community. This engagement is often seen as demonstrative, a committment to a stated, specific cause, and a willingness of the activist to use any means necessary for a solution.

This type of activism is merely one aspect of community support and engagement. Another type of activism is less direct, but no less impactful. This latter version of activism lends support to the community through a different way.

While much of my research (and teaching) focuses on technology and rhetorical strategies, I am similarly connected to my research on the impact of the Eisenhower Interstate System in urban communities. The historical eminent domain policies surrounding city and state government’s practices on uprooting populations is examined through public policies of local governments. Many citizens do not understand or are knowledgeable about the roles of the “volunteer” local government that exists in the form of boards and commissions. These appointed positions have much input into decisions voted on by elected officials. Analyzing the reticence of citizens to become involved at this level can offer ways to shape new understandings and garner their active participation. Voting for an elected official is one thing. Knowing where the real change occurs is another.

In helping students address contemporary issues, I find that being a role model means actively addressing – and being involved in – community concerns. Oftentimes we situate ourselves solely within the university community, but I believe that “community” should be extended into the local area. Showing my students the university “community” means that I have served as department chair, as internship coordinator, and as the advisor to the student organization, where I initiated the annual mini-conference, a venue for PTW students to showcase their research, projects, and internship work to the campus and local community.

When I returned to higher education after service in the U.S. Navy, employment in state government & the non-profit sector, and then the corporate sector, the driving force was to locate a way to shape, elucidate, and relate ideas that impact society. That desire has not waned. I have always found a way to be directly involved in my community – wherever I was living. In the Saginaw, Michigan area I have served on planning commissions in Carrollton Township and the city of Saginaw for almost fifteen years combined. This volunteer action parallels with my research focus on African American neighborhoods and community, and related public policy initiatives. The challenge facing many planning commissions is to manage land use at the local level, while juggling directives from the county, state, and federal government. The balance between improving the quality of life for residents and the desire for fiscal security through economic growth from businesses is a never-ending dance; however, the more voices that are brought to the table, the better and more robust continuing solutions will become. The five-year review of master plans that municipalities undertake ensures that as cities change, those voices will be heard. In my current role as chair of the Saginaw Planning Commission, we are in the process of revising/updating the master plan, which should be completed by June 2022.

Community activism is a living, growing thing. Community activism must reflect the community is serves.

This page last updated 2022
by RexJr
for Blak Kat Productions.
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