Charleston Promise Neighborhood March 21 held the first of five community forums this year about ‘The Miseducation of Gentrification’ in an unprecedented panel discussion at Burke High School. CPN supports Expanded Learning Time (ELT), Healthcare and Parent & Community Engagement in its focus area that extends from the peninsula west side to the Accabee community in North Charleston. Since its inception, CPN has partnered with its neighborhood schools to co-design strategies and to fund and implement initiatives aimed at improving academic and social outcomes for students and their families.
CEO Sherrie Snipes-Williams said the March 21 panel discussion was an initiative hatched by CPN’s Community Engagement Council. CPN’s parent and community engagement activities empower and engage community members and strengthen families, Snipes-Williams said. It provides residents with the tools necessary to help build the supports all communities need to affect change, foster good will between caregivers and the schools their children attend, and better equip community residents to advocate for their neighborhood.
Through its meetings residents identified gentrification as a topic that needed discussion, Snipes-Williams said. Gentrification presents both challenges and opportunities, she said. A enlightening panel was assembled to bring information and perspective to the discussion which included Charleston Housing Authority Administrator Melissa Maddox Evans, Duncan Chaney of Metanoia Community Development Corporation, local writer Herb Frazier, John Mitchell from the City of Charleston and Emeka Swain of Do Work Media.
Though CPN anticipated about 75 attendees, about 300 people showed up who included a diverse group of families and young and older residents in a predominantly Black audience. Julian Gooding, who set the tone of the discussion at the outset, noted gentrification isn’t a Black/white issue. It’s already happening not only in CPN’s targeted Charleston Neck community, but all over Charleston County including Mount Pleasant’s Shem Creek area. Moderator Tina Singleton asked the panelists various questions about contributing factors ranging from wages and income to cost of living.
Maddox Evans reiterated that gentrification is neutral and can be either positive or negative. “By the time you see the cranes, it’s too late,” she said. Redevelopment takes years of planning. Early planning – ‘getting in on the ground floor’ – is essential to positive gentrification that benefits everyone, she said.
Snipes-Williams said that’s the message CPN hopes to take to the four other panel discussions to be held at dates and locations later to be announced. Escalating housing prices and education gaps among students will persist, she said. Gentrification that affects structures and people often results in displacement. What become opportunities for some represents challenges for others, she said. The panel discussions will facilitate conversations about economic development, employment, health, housing, who lives in communities, transportation and most importantly education.
“We encourage resident to be a part of the conversation – join the community engagement council and attend the discussion,” Snipes-Williams said. For information contact Radia Heyward or Snipes-Williams at 8436476209 or at [email protected]