So let’s say that your city or town needs a new highway. Construction will involve removing whatever’s in the way, and it makes sense, of course, to take “blighted areas” or “slums” for the project. Everybody wins! Those eyesores become gleaming new highways which improve traffic patterns and make commuting from the suburbs easier.
The Wikipedia definition of Urban Renewal literally puts it that way.
What actually happened in many of our cities and towns was Urban Removal. African American neighborhoods were sacrificed for various “renewal” projects, and although the most photographed properties in the city proposals showed rundown lots, most of the properties served a thriving middle-class African American community.
In 1958, the City of Charlotte voted to destroy the Brooklyn Village neighborhood. Brooklyn Village included the first Black high school, twelve churches, stores, medical offices, restaurants and the homes of about 9000 citizens – all owned or occupied by African Americans. The Charlotte City Council at the time promised to create a new and improved neighborhood for the Brooklyn residents. It never happened.
What does this have to do with the Church?
I could go on and on about this but I won’t for now.
What I will say is that our Presbytery – 96 congregations covering seven counties – voted unanimously over the weekend to send a resolution to the Charlotte City Council and the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners asking them to urge the new developers of what was once Brooklyn Village to:
- Ensure that 20% of the planned housing units be affordable for households or individuals earning 30% or below the area median income.
- Ensure that 20% of the planned commercial spaces would go to African American owned businesses, offering subsidies if needed.
- Allocate ongoing revenues from the development to a Restorative Justice Fund to provide economic stimulus and support to the African American community in the hopes of repairing some of the economic damage done to this community.
Our Presbytery commissioners unanimously approved this and many of our churches are committed to attending future meetings to speak up.
My friends, this is the 21st Century Church. We build. We repair. We support the least of these. I am profoundly grateful to serve among people who want to be this kind of Church.
Images of Brooklyn Village before it was torn down in the 1960s and 1970s in Charlotte, NC.
I really grateful that our denomination is speaking out on this issue. I have written to the mayor and my city and county reps about the resolution. It would be great to set up a network to communicate with the congregations in the Presbytery when our support is needed at meetings.