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Here Are Some of the Rising Developments in Titusville

BIRMINGHAM TIMES — Ronald Bayles may not live in the Titusville community, but it is where he has attended church for the past 30 years and where he spends most of his time as executive director of the Titusville Development Corp. (TDC).

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Lisa McCarroll, CEO, Navigate Affordable Housing Partners, Inc. (Ameera Steward, The Birmingham Times)

By Ameera Steward

Ronald Bayles may not live in the Titusville community, but it is where he has attended church for the past 30 years and where he spends most of his time as executive director of the Titusville Development Corp. (TDC).

“It’s very personal for me [to be] in a place that was once cited as one of the most blighted neighborhoods in the state and see the changes,” Bayles said. “We’re at the place where change is literally happening.”

“We’re here to fix the blight and pass the knowledge so the blight does not happen the same way it has in other neighborhoods,” he said. “We want to make sure that what we do in this community is something that is both viewed and received by the residents as a … collective effort.”

The TDC has been in existence for 35 years, maintaining, revitalizing, and developing the area. One of the top priorities, Bayles said, is to replace, preserve, and rehabilitate the housing stock in North Titusville.

“We’re going to do that through … rehabbing homes that are currently existing and offering critical repairs for current homeowners … [through] a partnership with the city and other equity partners like [Navigate Affordable Housing Partners Inc.],” said Bayles. “We’re looking to offer funds to people who qualify to actually work on their particular homes.”

Bayles, who attends Living Church Ministries on Omega Street in Titusville, said he’s in the community at least six days out of the week and has worked with the TDC for the past 11 years. His team is looking at a “holistic revitalization.”

“It’s not just building with sticks and bricks,” he said. “It’s making sure we are actually dealing with people.”

For example, the TDC plans to be more specific with its Greek Street Initiative, which has been in the planning process for the last two years. Titusville’s Greek Streets are a series of streets named with letters of the Greek alphabet — Kappa, Iota, Theta, and Omega — by the community’s founder.

The Greek Streets Initiative is a 50-house development of workforce housing priced between $140,000 and $200,000 on each Greek street and is part of the Titusville Community Framework Plan, an effort supported by funding from the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham (RPCGB) and the Birmingham Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Building Communities Program that involves mixed-income housing, said TDC Director of Housing Development Archibald Hill.

The Framework Plan was presented first as an existing condition report and then developed and adopted by the community to be conducted in three phases: community assessment, public involvement, and plan development and action; the final draft was presented to the Birmingham Planning Commission in 2015.

“This is not something the TDC is just jumping into and doing,” Hill said. “This is something we are assisting with.”

The TDC isn’t the only entity investing in the Titusville renaissance. Other nonprofits and businesses plan to participate, as well. Here are some of their proposed plans.

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Navigate Affordable Housing Partners

Navigate Affordable Housing Partners Inc. is a Birmingham-based nonprofit that has taken an interest in Titusville for several reasons. The location, for starters, said Navigate CEO Lisa McCarroll.

“Sixth Avenue is a significant portion of the … [Birmingham Bus Rapid Transit Project (BRT Project)] they are starting to build. It’s also historic, … [it has] proximity to downtown Birmingham, and … it’s got defined boundaries,” she said. “Many of the other communities in Birmingham sprawl. … We wanted something we could get our hands around, … [something through which] whatever efforts we took could be seen by the community. … We wanted something that was meaningful.”

Navigate—a nonprofit group that focuses on ensuring safe, quality, affordable housing by focusing on the unique needs of specific neighborhood—plans to start small, working with the Center Court apartments on Fifth Avenue Southwest, behind the Titusville Library. The group said, “We’re going to involve the community here, [asking them], ‘What type of housing?’” said McCarroll.

“Some folks may say senior housing, but what does that … look like? They may say single-family, but that could be duplexes, that could be town houses. We’re trying to figure out what [all of that] means [to and for the residents],” she said.

Navigate Planning and Development Coordinator Matthew Churnock added that the first step is to demolish existing units and then leave the site as an open canvas for the community or leave one of the buildings on the property for a community mural project.

“We’re probably at least a month out from breaking ground on a new project, so we don’t want to leave it as a vacant site for the next year,” said Churnock. “The intent is to work with the community to reprogram that site into an amenity while we wait on redevelopment plans.”

He added that Navigate is planning an event to kick off the mural campaign on August 15, if it can get permits in time. The group is working with the community to figure out the highest quality and best use for properties, “whether it’s family or senior housing, town houses, or single-family,” he said.

Navigate also recently closed on the Marc Steel Company Building on Sixth Street next to DC BLOX, where the group would like to redevelop a few single-family homes.

“The other part of redeveloping homes and helping revitalize a community [involves good schools]. People move where there are good schools,” said McCarroll. “We’ve been partnering … with Washington [k-8] School [on improvements]; that has included everything from helping paint during the summer to participating in some of their programs to reading to the children.”

McCarroll said Navigate wants to do its part for Titusville, which she calls a “jewel.”

“When you place on top of that the folks that live in this community, the people who care about it and want to see it stabilize and do better [things will move forward],” she said. “With all the efforts that are happening, … as long as we’re all pulling together—and from my standpoint, we are—as long as we’re moving in the same direction, it’s a win-win not only for this community but for South Titusville and Birmingham in general.”

Davenport and Harris Funeral Home

All three Davenport and Harris Funeral Home buildings across from Elmwood Cemetery on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive are being renovated.

“This will help transform the Titusville community from what is considered a low-income community to a historic designation,” said Titusville resident and Davenport and Harris President Marion Sterling. “It’s going to also change the landscape of how we look as a community. The visual landscape will change.”

Sterling, 64, was born and raised in South Titusville, where he still lives. He recalls when Avenue F became Sixth Avenue.

“That is what I remember as being a spark of change,” he said. “There’s been a lot of change in the community. When I was growing up, the yards were pristine, the homes were very well kept, there was not much blight. … Now, I think the revitalization is not only with businesses but also within the community. I think there’s a different level of respect in movement now. … I think it’s returning to what it was like when I was a child.”

Looking at the funeral home from Elmwood Cemetery, Davenport and Harris will have three buildings. The first will support funeral and/or cremation services. The second will be utilized as a community life center for events, such as repasts, the gathering of family and friends after a funeral, and community meetings; it also will have a nonprofit to support seminars and events for youth and seniors. The third building will be used as a second chapel.

In addition to helping with the renewal in Titusville, Sterling said the changes will offer options for families.

“Today, most families are restricted to communicating with churches for locations, but some family members are not members of a church, so they often have to look for a repast location,” he said.

“Outside of churches, there are few community life centers where families can hold events. … There also are very few facilities in the city of Titusville or across Birmingham where groups can host seminars for our youth; they usually have to contract with large facilities like the Boutwell [Auditorium]. … Now, [our facility] will be available,” Sterling said.

“We’re hoping our renovation will spark other businesses to come into the area.”

This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Times.

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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.

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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.”  

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Children’s Defense Fund: State of America’s Children Reveals that 71 Percent of Children of Color Live in Poverty

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22 percent of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

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Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

Part One of an ongoing series on this impactful and informative report.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The child population in America is the most diverse in history, but children remain the poorest age group in the country with youth of color suffering the highest poverty rates.

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22 percent of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

Dr. Wilson’s remarks come as the Marian Wright Edelman founded nonprofit released “The State of America’s Children 2021.”

The comprehensive report is eye-opening.

It highlights how children remain the poorest age group in America, with children of color and young children suffering the highest poverty rates. For instance, of the more than 10.5 million poverty-stricken children in America in 2019, approximately 71 percent were those of color.

The stunning exposé revealed that income and wealth inequality are growing and harming children in low-income, Black and Brown families.

While the share of all wealth held by the top one percent of Americans grew from 30 percent to 37 percent, the share held by the bottom 90 percent fell from 33 percent to 23 percent between 1989 and 2019.

Today, a member of the top 10 percent of income earners makes about 39 times as much as the average earner in the bottom 90 percent.

The median family income of White households with children ($95,700) was more than double that of Black ($43,900), and Hispanic households with children ($52,300).

Further, the report noted that the lack of affordable housing and federal rental assistance leaves millions of children homeless or at risk of homelessness.

More than 1.5 million children enrolled in public schools experienced homelessness during the 2017-2018 school year, and 74 percent of unhoused students during the 2017-2018 school year were living temporarily with family or friends.

Millions of children live in food-insecure households, lacking reliable access to safe, sufficient, and nutritious food, and more than 1 in 7 children – 10.7 million – were food insecure, meaning they lived in households where not everyone had enough to eat.

Black and Hispanic children were twice as likely to live in food-insecure households as White children.

The report further found that America’s schools have continued to slip backwards into patterns of deep racial and socioeconomic segregation, perpetuating achievement gaps.

For instance, during the 2017-2018 public school year, 19 percent of Black, 21 percent of Hispanic, and more than 26 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native school students did not graduate on time compared with only 11 percent of White students.

More than 77 percent of Hispanic and more than 79 percent of Black fourth and eighth grade public school students were not proficient in reading or math in 2019, compared with less than 60 percent of White students.

“We find that in the course of the last year, we’ve come to the point where our conversations about child well-being and our dialogue and reckoning around racial justice has really met a point of intersection, and so we must consider child well-being in every conversation about racial justice and quite frankly you can only sustainably speak of racial justice if we’re talking about the state of our children,” Dr. Wilson observed.

Some more of the startling statistics found in the report include:

  • A White public school student is suspended every six seconds, while students of color and non-White students are suspended every two seconds.
  • Conditions leading to a person dropping out of high school occur with white students every 19 seconds, while it occurs every nine seconds for non-White and students of color.
  • A White child is arrested every 1 minute and 12 seconds, while students of color and non-whites are arrested every 45 seconds.
  • A White student in public school is corporally punished every two minutes, while students of color and non-Whites face such action every 49 seconds.

Dr. Wilson asserted that federal spending “reflects the nation’s skewed priorities.”

In the report, he notes that children are not receiving the investment they need to thrive, and despite making up such a large portion of the population, less than 7.5 percent of federal spending went towards children in fiscal year 2020.

Despite Congress raising statutory caps on discretionary spending in fiscal years 2018 to 2020, children did not receive their fair share of those increases and children’s share of total federal spending has continued to decline.

“Children continue to be the poorest segment of the population,” Dr. Wilson demanded. “We are headed into a dark place as it relates to poverty and inequity on the American landscape because our children become the canary in the coal mine.”

Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children.

The $1.9 trillion plan not only contained $1,400 checks for individuals, it includes monthly allowances and other elements to help reduce child poverty.

The President’s plan expands home visitation programs that help at-risk parents from pregnancy through early childhood and is presents universal access to top-notch pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds.

“The American Rescue Plan carried significant and powerful anti-poverty messages that will have remarkable benefits on the lives of children in America over the course of the next two years,” Dr. Wilson declared.

“The Children’s Defense Fund was quick to applaud the efforts of the President. We have worked with partners, including leading a child poverty coalition, to advance the ideas of that investment,” he continued.

“Most notably, the expansion of the child tax credit which has the impact of reducing poverty, lifting more than 50 percent of African American children out of poverty, 81 percent of Indigenous children, 45 percent of Hispanic children. It’s not only good policy, but it’s specifically good policy for Black and Brown children.”

Click here to view the full report.

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