Beth Roy

The Bernal Story

Mediating Class and Race in a Multicultural Community

Foreword by John Paul Lederach

Cloth $29.95 978-0-8156-3346-4 ebook 978-0-8156-5276-2

Series: Syracuse Studies on Peace and Conflict Resolution

May 2014

“The Bernal Story is rich with lessons. It illuminates the way a seemingly straightforward distributive conflict about public space can be an identity-based conflict rooted in race and class divisions fueled by socio-economic processes of gentri­fication.”

—Heather Pincock, Kennesaw State University

For eight years, the San Francisco neighborhood of Bernal Heights was mired in controversy.  Traditionally a working-class neighborhood known for political activism and attention to community concerns, Bernal housed a diverse population of Latino, Filipino, and European heritage. Now, it was growing rapidly upscale. The branch library, beloved in the community, was being renovated, raising the issue of whether to restore or paint over a thirty-year-old mural on its exterior walls. To some of the residents, the artwork represented their culture and their entitlement to live on the hill. To others, the mural blighted a beautiful building. To resolve this seemingly intractable conflict, area officials convened a mediation led by Roy, an experienced mediator and Bernal resident. The group, which reflected the wide range of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds in the community, ultimately came to a strong consensus, resulting in the reinterpretation of the artwork to reflect changing times and to honor the full population of the neighborhood.

The Bernal Story recounts in detail how the process was designed, who took part, how the group of twelve community representatives came to a consensus, and how that agreement was carried into the larger com­munity and implemented. Roy’s firsthand account offers an essential tool for training community leaders and professional mediators, a valuable case history for use in sociology and conflict resolution courses, and a compel­ling narrative.

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