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North Charleston Blacks Face Same Displacement As Blacks In Charleston
5/22/2013 3:12:55 PM

Rahim Karriem, LAMC President

Last week’s protest by Jerome Smalls of Charleston who charges City of Charleston policies over the past have led to the elimination of Blacks from the Charleston peninsula rekindled concerns similar policies in the City of North Charleston may produce the same results.

Since 1980 the Black population on the Charleston peninsula declined by 63 percent, according to a recent report. Increased housing costs driven by community redevelopment displaced many of the peninsula’s low income Black families. Some relocated to North Charleston.

By 2000, North Charleston’s Black population swelled to about 55 percent of the total population. Aggressive annexation and redevelopment of traditional Black communities - dynamics that contributed to the decline in the Black population in downtown Charleston - have reduced North Charleston’s Black population to about 45 percent of the total population currently.

In 2010 officials for the City of North Charleston and the Lowcountry Alliance for Model Communities (LAMC) said as new development occurs in the city’s southern district they are working to prevent adverse impacts to Black communities.

LAMC President Rahim Karriem said Monday, North Charleston’s Black community may be looking down the barrel of the same gun that blew away Black communities in Charleston.

In a previous interview Karriem, president of the Union Heights Neighborhood Association and LAMC, said the seven LAMC communities that include Union Heights, Accabee, Chicora/Cherokee, Five Mile, Howard Heights, Liberty Hill and Windsor historically have been identified as opportunities for exploitation by developers.

Preventing that exploitation depends on the actions of Black elected officials, he said this week.
“We’ve got some opportunities, but taking advantage of them will depend on our leadership. So far, our leadership seems to be asleep,” he said.

Blacks are in pivotal positions in the city’s administration and at various levels of government, Karriem said. But for the most part, they do not return to their constituent communities with the information necessary for those communities to become empowered.

He specifically cited former North Charleston Tourism Director Teddie Pryor’s new role as program manager for redevelopment projects on the city’s predominantly Black southern end. He said Pryor’s role offers a unique opportunity to Black residents.

Pryor, who is Black, is a native of North Charleston. His role facilitates discussions about housing, economic development and collaborative efforts that can help protect Black communities, Karriem said.

The problems facing Black communities are systemic. Karriem said developers play a waiting game that counts on the death of elderly homeowners and the displacement of young Blacks who must move elsewhere for economic opportunities to redevelop and repopulate communities.

“It’s just a matter of time before we face the same fate as Blacks in Charleston,” Karriem said. “As we leave our communities, others come in to fill that void.”

As organizations such as LAMC work to sustain and empower Black communities, the city’s Black leadership must step up to the plate, Karriem said.

“We talk unity but we don’t know how to unite. Our children are going to hell in a hand basket while we perpetrate.”

Noting LAMC recently realigned its organizational structure to include agencies and individuals outside the Black community Karriem said, “Our communities need help. We have to use whomever will provide that help. Those people may not always be our own kind. 

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