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The Voice of the Black Community


Diversity fuels SE Raleigh engagement session
Published Tuesday, August 13, 2019
by Lori D.R. Wiggins, Correspondent

RALEIGH – Visions of Southeast Raleigh’s future filled a meeting room Saturday morning much like it has dozens of times in other places around the city, but the scene at Tarboro Road Community Center mirrored the diversity that is quickly beginning to define the area’s demographics.   

“It was an amazingly diverse crowd,” said Carmen Cauthen, who grew up in Southeast Raleigh and whose grandfather and father both owned drugstores in nearby downtown. “The diversity was rich in many ways, not just in terms of color. I was pleased to see diversity from different parts of Southeast Raleigh. It wasn’t just the old guard, but quite a number of middle-agers and younger people. The conversations were engaging, people were excited to talk about what they want to see.”

The Southeast Raleigh Community Engagement Strategy Session is the brainchild of Cauthen and Aaliyah Blaylock, a SE Raleigh resident who shares Cauthen’s focus on ways the community, through its residents, can “recreate itself instead of being recreated.”

“The community has got to get together,” said Cauthen, who now lives in Oberlin, where she’s watched gentrification take roots as strong as those in SE Raleigh. “Smaller organizations are doing this, too, but we need to figure out how to come together and be one big voice because we keep getting done to instead of doing.”

Education tops the list of goals for the community development work session, she added, pointing to the need to know about and how to access local, state and federal community development programs and funds. That kind of information fuels action.

“There’s so much that people want to do; we already know that,” she said, emphasizing that while some people don’t have time to devote to community development efforts, “they still have a voice.” Still, she said, “We need to find people willing to sit down and put legs to what the community wants to do. It’s not going to be a fast process, but, if we don’t start it, we won’t ever get anywhere.”

Jeanne Milliken Bonds, who in 2002 became Knightdale’s first female mayor, and who is now with the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, led the first half of the two-hour think-tank session. Among Bonds’ topics were the Opportunity Zone tax credit, bipartisan federal tax legislation that passed in 2018 and offers tax benefits to investors when their investments create opportunity in poor and distressed areas deemed opportunity zones by each state’s governor. North Carolina has 252 Opportunity Zones.  

Even so, “guard rails” in the legislation intended to help communities were stripped from the bill before it was passed and signed into law, watering down the requirements to benefit the communities in need, Bonds told the group. Now, perhaps, the burden is on communities to encourage people who have the funds to use the tax credit for community good.

The second hour was filled with small-group table talk to share ideas and dreams for the community. The wish lists will be compiled and distributed among the group, Cauthen said.

Cursory reviews of the table talk reveal residents like the area’s neighborhoods and architecture; its “legacy of leadership;” proximity to downtown; and its sense of community. They also use words such as “proud,” “comfortable,” and “long-term stability,” but want an end to gentrification that “pushes residents out,” and want to preserve community legacy, culture and affordability to “keep residents in their community.” Other disappointments discussed include the area’s lack of restaurants other than fast-food chains, sidewalks, affordable housing, and innovative solutions to community problems.

Longer lists emerged when residents talked about what SE Raleigh needs, including intergenerational leadership; job training opportunities; reentry programs; more grocery stores; better race and police relations; a more diverse business ownership; more inclusive events; a focus on preserving green spaces; a strong community voice; wealth building; and public transportation.

Cauthen said the gathering helps newcomers to SE Raleigh understand where they live and their neighbors. “What they can learn and need to know is people who have lived in areas that are part of gentrification have the same hopes and dreams for their neighborhoods, families and children that everybody else does,” she said. “And they don’t want to be done to. They want to be part of the process.”

The next steps of community engagement will be a compiling of the wish lists of those in attendance, followed by workshops on each, Cauthen said. The next meeting is planned for October.


Thank you Lori and Triangle Tribune for such a thoughtful article ?
Posted on August 14, 2019

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