Connect with us

#NNPA BlackPress

Economic summit projects ‘new start’ in Orange Mound

NEW TRI-STATE DEFENDER — After earlier serving notice that property values in the Orange Mound Community had declined by up to 30 percent over the last 10 years, Shelby County Tax Assessor Melvin Burgess held his first Economic Empowerment Summit at the Teaching & Learning Center on Tuesday. Hundreds of homeowners, entrepreneurs, legislators and investors turned out for the summit. They heard Burgess set the stage for inclusion and difficult conversations with one goal in mind – community restoration.

Published

on

By Dana S. Owens

After earlier serving notice that property values in the Orange Mound Community had declined by up to 30 percent over the last 10 years, Shelby County Tax Assessor Melvin Burgess held his first Economic Empowerment Summit at the Teaching & Learning Center on Tuesday.

Hundreds of homeowners, entrepreneurs, legislators and investors turned out for the summit. They heard Burgess set the stage for inclusion and difficult conversations with one goal in mind – community restoration.

Audience comments indicated a strong commitment to return Orange Mound it to its beginnings 130 years ago when African-American small businesses thrived and homeowners exuded pride, unity and ambition. (Orange Mound was developed for African Americans 25 years after slavery was abolished.)

The summit was designed as the start of an initiative to make minority neighborhoods vibrant and safe. Goals include: (1) developing a dedicated task force (2) creating a comprehensive plan and (3) avoiding gentrification. A panel of policy makers, real estate experts and housing agencies was heavily engaged.

Defusing racism – “the elephant in the room” – was on the mind of participants since funding for disenfranchised minority communities can be challenging.

“If we plan to do something, we’ve got to change the culture and the thinking,” said Anthony Elmore, entrepreneur, activist and former five-time World Karate/Kickboxing Champion, who has long resided in Orange Mound. Elmore asserted that because of race and power, business models he proposed to past city administrations were never supported.

“Racism is strong in Memphis,” said Roshun Austin, summit panelist and president/CEO of The Works, Inc. community development agency.

“We need investment in minority communities to replace roofs and plumbing like there’s investment in the suburbs. Memphis can seem like it’s still on the plantation of a William Faulkner novel.”

Summit panelist Dr. Mark Sunderman, a Real Estate professor at the University of Memphis, asked, “Are we obsessed with moving forward, or is this just another meeting? …

“Will the city, county and state work together? Are we really committed to understanding the issues of blight? If we are, then the second and third generation of young adults will have homes they can devote to their children.”

“We got the best up here to provide ideas,” said Burgess, “so when we plan with good thinking, people will be in place in my office to take calls directly on this initiative.”

Bobby Rich, a married 32-year-old Orange Mound resident, said his “green thumb” has turned into a business growing vegetables. He started growing his own food two years ago and gets excited seeing vacant lots in the area because he wants to use the land for urban farming and small scale agriculture.

“Seeing people go to McDonald’s (for food) is sad,” said Rich. “Seeing my veggies leave the table is encouraging.”

Partnering public officials include: Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, Mayor Jim Strickland, Shelby County Schools Superintendent Joris Ray, State Rep. G.A. Hardaway, State Sen. Katrina Robinson, Trustee Regina Morrison, Shelby County Commission Chairman Mark Billingsley, County Commissioner Reginald Milton and Memphis City Council members Martavius Jones and Jamita Swearengen.

“Demolishing properties isn’t the answer,” said Hardaway. “There’s more to transformation than that … we need to recapture repairable properties and put them back into service.”

“The root cause of crime is lack,” said Robinson, referencing an uptick in criminal activity in Orange Mound and media focus on crime. She committed to securing capital investment as residents indicated strong desires to remain in the community.

Several homeowners said they willingly cut yards of nearby vacant properties that may only need small repairs – larger repairs require loans or grants when insurance won’t pay.

Austin referenced assistance provided by United Housing and other agencies, but stressed that “funds run out and more is needed.” She said the National Fair Housing Alliance is investigating insurers unwilling to cover roof replacements in the area.

Orange Mound Community Development Corporation Director Tiana Pyles, who has been on the job two years, urged residents to continue helping to mow nearby, abandoned lots as new strategies for maintaining properties develop. Pyles has lived in Orange Mound for 15 years.

As a vital contribution for the future of Orange Mound, SCS Supt. Ray committed to providing financial literacy education to district students at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

Next steps

In the next two weeks, Hardaway and Billingsley will work to identify prospective partner agencies for the Orange Mound Task Force.

The task force will map out steps for a formal plan – Hardaway recommends the name, Renaissance 2020: A New Vision for Orange Mound. Preliminary ideas include restoring one block to start and working with agencies such as Habitat for Humanity to erect or repair housing.

With Orange Mound hampered by a “food dessert” (an urban area lacking access to affordable, high-quality fresh food), the task force will review options for creating a community garden with fresh fruit and vegetables.

Melrose High School principal Taurin Hardy expressed interest in being on the task force with Latonia Blankenship, the school’s family engagement specialist, to encourage millennial families to purchase area homes.

Orange Mound is included in Tennessee Tourism Development Zone (TDZ) funding, a plan in initial stages to transform vacant land at the former Mid-South Fairgrounds site and surrounding area, including the old Melrose High School.

TDZ funding aims to attract visitors and families through development of a hotel, youth sports center, retail stores and possibly housing at the site. Approval passed at the state level and is now being reviewed at the local level.

(For more information, contact Yvonne Parron, public relations specialist at Shelby County Assessor’s Office: parrony@assessor.shelby.tn.us.)

This article originally appeared in the New Tri-State Defender

#NNPA BlackPress

U.S. Business Leaders Step Up to Fight Inequities in the South

Even as the pandemic has laid bare societal inequities that have long eroded the foundation of our democracy, political leaders in Washington and in state capitols are mired in a level of rancor and partisanship not seen since the ideological struggles over the Vietnam War. 

Published

on

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr./ NNPA Newswire

Even as the pandemic has laid bare societal inequities that have long eroded the foundation of our democracy, political leaders in Washington and in state capitols are mired in a level of rancor and partisanship not seen since the ideological struggles over the Vietnam War. 

This toxic atmosphere has left them incapable of addressing pressing, yet ingrained issues like the racial wealth gap, the digital divide, and vast inequalities in everything from health care to home ownership.

With COVID-19 still an omnipresent concern and the country’s recovery still very much in jeopardy, individuals, families, and communities – particularly communities of color throughout the South – are struggling to deal with issues that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic.

From impediments to wealth creation opportunities and a dearth of education and workforce development to a lack of access to reliable broadband, substandard housing, and inadequate political representation, communities of color have suffered an outsized toll during the ongoing public health crisis.

Yet political leaders can’t even agree on basic facts that would allow the nation to implement a coherent national strategy for combatting a pandemic that appears to be entering a new wave amid the rise of the highly contagious Delta variant that is currently ravaging parts of the South.

Against that disillusioning backdrop, there is at least some reason for hope. Moving to fill the vacuum created by the inaction of our political class, a group of business leaders in the technology and investment sectors have embarked on a far-reaching – and perhaps unprecedented – campaign to address the social inequities and systemic racism that has historically plagued our country’s southern communities.

Known as the Southern Communities Initiative (SCI), the campaign was founded by financial technology company PayPal, the investment firm Vista Equity Partners (Vista), and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

SCI was formed to work with local elected officials and advocacy groups to tackle the ubiquitous problems of structural racism and inequalities facing communities of color in six communities throughout the South. SCI notes that these areas – Atlanta, Ga., Birmingham, Ala., Charlotte, N.C., Houston, Texas, Memphis, Tenn., and New Orleans, La., – were chosen in part because they are home to around 50% of the country’s Black population and are where some of the greatest disparities exist.

SCI is aiming to drive long-term change, as outlined by PayPal CEO Dan Schulman, Vista CEO Robert F. Smith and BCG CEO Rich Lesser. 

In Atlanta, for example, SCI is working to bridge the wealth gap that exists among the region’s African-American residents. While there is a strong Black business community in the city, and high levels of Black educational achievement thanks to the regional presence of several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and the voice of the Black press, there is still an extremely low level of Black entrepreneurship and business ownership with only 6% of employer firms being Black-owned.

To remedy this disparity, SCI is working with the Southern Economic Advancement Project to create entrepreneurship hubs and accelerator programs to increase the number of minority-owned businesses. The corporations behind SCI are also using their networks to help other companies work with minority-owned supply companies.

In Alabama, SCI is seeking to bridge the massive digital divide in an urban area where 450,000 households are without connection to the internet. In order to tackle the crisis, SCI is leveraging relationships with local schools and libraries to distribute laptops and service vouchers. Another tact SCI is taking is to partner with the owners of multi-unit buildings in low-income neighborhoods to install free public Wi-Fi for residents.

The lack of access to capital is another reason Black communities throughout the South have been traditionally underbanked. In Memphis, where 47% of Black households are underbanked, SCI is partnering with Grameen America to cover the $2 million per year per branch start-up cost to build brick-and-mortar banks in minority communities.

This alone will provide 20,000 women access to more than $250 million per year in financing.

Beyond these initiatives, SCI is partnering with groups like the Greater Houston Partnership and the Urban League of Louisiana to provide in-kind support to improve job outcomes for minority college students, expand access to home financing through partnerships with community development financial institutions, and harness the power of technology to expand health care access in underserved urban and rural neighborhoods.

The issues facing these communities throughout the South are not new nor will they be fixed overnight.

Fortunately, SCI is taking a long-term approach that is focused on getting to the root of structural racism in the United States and creating a more just and equitable country for every American.

A once-in-a-century pandemic and a social justice movement not seen since the 1960s were not enough to break the malaise and rancorous partisanship in Washington. Fortunately, corporate leaders are stepping up and partnering with local advocates and non-profit groups to fix the problem of systemic injustice in the U.S.

We, therefore, salute and welcome the transformative commitments of the Southern Communities Initiative (SCI). There is no time to delay, because as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so accurately said, “The time is always right to do what is right.”

Continue Reading

#NNPA BlackPress

NNPA – Black Press w/ Hendriks Video Interview

Published

on

By

Continue Reading

#NNPA BlackPress

Black Woman to Lead United States Park Police

 Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

Published

on

Pamela A. Smith

Pamela A. Smith, a 23-year veteran of the United States Park Police, will lead the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency.

Smith, who became the first African American woman to lead the 230-year-old agency, immediately remarked that she would establish a body-worn camera program for USPP within 90 days.

The program will initially begin in San Francisco and be implemented across the country by the end of the year, Smith said.

“Body-worn cameras are good for the public and good for our officers, which is why I am prioritizing implementing a body-worn camera program within my first 90 days,” Smith offered in a statement.

 “This is one of the many steps we must take to continue to build trust and credibility with the public we have been entrusted to serve.”

Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and graduated from the FBI National Academy. She is a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

During her law enforcement career, the proud Zeta Phi Beta Sorority sister has served as a patrol officer, field training officer, canine handler, and academy instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

 According to a news release, Smith also served as executive lieutenant to the chief of police, assistant commander of the San Francisco Field Office, commander of the New York Field Office, acting deputy chief of the Homeland Security Division, and deputy chief for the Field Operations Division.

Smith was the first woman to lead the New York Field Office as its Major.

At the USPP, she will lead a 560-member workforce that protects the public, parks, and the nation’s most iconic landmarks in Wash., D.C., New York City, and San Francisco metropolitan areas.

“Chief Smith’s commitment to policing as public service and her willingness to listen and collaborate make her the right person to lead the U.S. Park Police at this pivotal moment in our country,” Shawn Benge, deputy director exercising the delegated authority of the NPS director, noted in a statement.

 “Over the coming months, the leadership of the National Park Service will explore opportunities with Chief Smith designed to strengthen our organization’s commitment to transparency. Her personal and professional experience make her acutely aware of and ready to meet the challenges and responsibilities that face U.S. Park Police and law enforcement agencies across the nation.”

 Jennifer Flynn, the associate director for Visitor Resource Protection at the National Park Service added that she’s looking forward to Smith’s leadership.

“Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

 “As federal law enforcement officers, the U.S. Park Police officers have a new opportunity each day to give their best to the American people. Chief Smith exemplifies that approach as a colleague and mentor, and she will be instrumental in refining and shaping the future of the organization,” Flynn said.

Smith declared that she would lead by example and expects all officers to display integrity.

 “I have dedicated my career to the professionalism of law enforcement, and it is my highest honor and privilege to serve as chief of police,” Chief Smith declared. “Today’s officers face many challenges, and I firmly believe challenges present opportunities. I look forward to leading this exemplary team as we carry out our mission with honesty and integrity.”  

Continue Reading

CHECK OUT THE LATEST ISSUE OF THE OAKLAND POST

ADVERTISEMENT

WORK FROM HOME

Home-based business with potential monthly income of $10K+ per month. A proven training system and website provided to maximize business effectiveness. Perfect job to earn side and primary income. Contact Lynne for more details: Lynne4npusa@gmail.com 800-334-0540

Facebook

Trending