Social Justice Tours uses tours as a medium to dig beneath the surface of what New Yorkers regularly see. We aim to engage New Yorkers in a critical dialogue about the past, present and future of our city, from the perspective of marginalized populations. The ultimate aim is to assist in movement building; that is to disperse information, expose injustice, and highlight inequality in a digestible, understandable way to encourage thought and inspire action.
In some ways, the beginnings of Social Justice Tours started in 2010, when Dan Kaminsky (founder) was living and working down in Post-Katrina New Orleans. The organization he worked with gave tours of the Levees to visitors to highlight systemic injustice, and the ways in which Katrina was a human and justice related disaster more than a natural one.
Five years later, incidentally, he had a job as a tour guide on the double decker buses, and was working on unionizing workers there. As a guide, any time he would mentioned anything social justice related, he was met largely with blank stares by the tourists. While he was disillusioned with the audience on the buses, he very much saw the power in using tours as a medium to create dialogue, ask hard questions, and spread information on histories of justice and equity that many people weren’t seeing as they were looking at certain areas.
After getting fired for organizing he decided to start giving a gentrification tour, largely as a side project to plug into this conversation. The goal of that tour was mainly to spread information among locals and residents, who may be aware of the changes in the neighborhood, but may be unaware of all the backstory behind it, the policies that lead here, and how to work to change it. In this way, that first tour was created as both a way to spread information, as well as ideally, a movement building tool.
Around that same time Trump started to rise, and Dan decided to add a second tour, a Trump tour, to connect national events with local ones. From there, the demand really began to take off. He started connecting with many other guides, whose stories were the stories of the neighborhoods and issues he thought tours could help highlight.
This will be the third season of Social Justice Tours, and we hope to expand even farther!