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See Jane Make Cities Run

April 26, 2017

“If I were running a school, I’d have one standing assignment that would begin in the first grade and go all the way through school, every week: that each child should bring in something said by an authority—it could be by the teacher or something they see in print, but something that they don’t agree with—and refute it.” —Jane Jacobs

What makes a city vibrant, safe, and functional for residents? Writer and activist Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) had plenty to say on that subject, and although she wasn’t trained as an urban planner, her people-watching observations and opinionated commentary wound up shaping both city landscapes and approaches to public transit, urban design, and public policy. Citizen Jane, a documentary film out this month, shares archival footage of city life from the 1950’s and 1960’s and recounts Jacobs’ fight to preserve neighborhoods like New York’s Greenwich Village from the wrecking balls of tyrannical real estate developer Robert Moses, who sought to construct expressways and monolithic, uniform building complexes. Her David-and-Goliath story resonates today as a playbook of grassroots organizing against authoritarian power.

Conducting outreach for the film over the past few months, ProSocial has contacted hundreds of organizations, neighborhood councils, and leaders in urban planning, design, and architecture to collaborate on developing screenings, discussions, and other events related to the film. For example, in select cities, neighborhood walking tours, coordinated by the organization Jane’s Walk, will culminate in participants seeing Citizen Jane at a local theater—an activity in keeping with Jacobs’ assertion that “You’ve got to get out and walk,” paying attention to how people truly live day to day, in order to understand the building plans that work best for a city.

Though many people will first learn of Jane Jacobs as a result of this documentary, working on this project we consistently heard comments like, “She’s the reason I went into the urban planning field,” or “Wow, she’s my idol,” or “I grew up learning about her legacy.”

Watch the Citizen Jane trailer or get information on theaters and tickets here. If you’re involved with grassroots organizing, women’s leadership, urban studies, public policy, or another focus and you’re interested in organizing an event to educate and inspire a group with Jacobs’ story, group sales are available in orders of 25 for $200, or $8 per ticket; please contact Lauren Galaz at