“Happy Hill!” “Black history!” The voice of Ben Piggott rang through the Sims Recreation Center Saturday. Ben Piggott, a longtime rec center manager and organizer in Happy Hill, served as MC for the first-annual Happy Hill Black History Expo. The Happy Hill Neighborhood Association hosted the event.
Monday night’s city council meeting was the first meeting of our city’s elected body in over a month. At Monday’s meeting, a bakery/wine shop on Reynolda Road was approved, a property on Northwest Boulevard was rezoned, as were two churches. The rezoning of the Burger King on MLK Drive was postponed yet again. The BK on MLK will likely stay closed until BK lets the City have it their way. Speaking of the City of Winston-Salem having it its way, the city council unanimously approved a four-story apartment complex in the Southeast Gateway development, near the Gateway YWCA.
Earlier this week, Mayor and Winston-Salem Alliance president Allen Joines oversaw the official powering-up of the LED lights on the Twin Arches over Highway 52. The public art initiative is a public/private partnership spearheaded by the Creative Corridors Coalition. It’s the first of several projects that Creative Corridors are working on in conjunction with the ongoing road-work along Highway 52 and Business 40. The Winston-Salem Journal is reporting that opinions on the Twin Arches are mixed. I personally find the Twin Arches a little underwhelming. But the view from Research Parkway is compelling.
Saturday, Mayor Allen Joines, members of the city council, various other local officials and community members gathered in Happy Hill for a historical marker unveiling, but the dirty truth about Winston’s oldest African American neighborhood was not mentioned. The marker honored both the Brothers’ Spring and the African School, which were adjacent to each other, near where the Alder’s Point Apartments are currently located. Both were lost to development years ago. I came out to honor and remember the African School. The Brother’s Spring was a source of water, a campsite and place of recreation for early Moravian settlers in Salem.
Last Saturday Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf visited Winston-Salem. According to the Winston-Salem Journal this was the first time in Mayor Joines fifteen years in office that a foreign head of state visited Winston. In recent years presidents Bush and Obama have made frequent trips to Winston. Presidents have visited our modest sized city fairly consistently since George Washington visited Salem during his southern tour. But I don’t remember any of them visiting any of Winston’s black neighborhoods.
“They took one of the old notorious housing projects, and they leveled it and rebuilt it as “Mixed Income Housing”. It’s called “Hope Six,” and it’s supposed to… sort of rejuvenate everything. It certainly looks a lot better.” -Paul Schwartzman
British rock veteran P.J. Harvey recently released her new album titled, The HOPE 6 Demolition Project. Harvey traveled to war-torn Afghanistan, Kosovo and Washington D.C. to find material for the Hope Six Demolition Project.
Saturday evening, local law enforcement and politicians-Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough chief among them hosted a spaghetti dinner fundraiser at Fries Memorial Moravian Church. Their goal was to raise $15,000 to upgrade Piedmont Circle’s pathetic playground. According to WXII, they exceeded their goal by $3,000. Eighteen thousand dollars for new playground equipment at Piedmont Circle is a wonderful thing. I commend the diverse group of folks who came together to make this happen.
Yesterday, the Winston-Salem Housing Authority named Kevin Cheshire its new executive director. Kevin Cheshire previously served as the Vice President of Real Estate Development and General Counsel at HAWS, where he has been employed since 2013. He replaced Larry Woods, who retired at the end of December. Cheshire told the Journal’s Wesley Young that “the mission of HAWS stays the same: To help individuals move in, up and out of assisted housing.”
Our local housing authority has a shameful history of evicting tenants “out of assisted housing.” Kevin Cheshire is the first white leader of the Winston-Salem Housing Authority in decades.
In August 2018, the Winston-Salem Housing Authority put Crystal Towers up for sale. Last summer, the Journal reported that the Arden Group (car dealers turned real estate developers) made an offer to purchase Crystal. Yet, Crystal Towers is not a downtown redevelopment story. Selling Crystal Towers, removing 200 poor and elderly (majority POC) residents from downtown to god-knows-where is GENTRIFICATION! If you don’t believe me, ask Councilmember Jeff MacIntosh.
A couple of days ago I stumbled upon a 2011 master’s thesis online that is must reading for anyone in Winston that cares about fighting racism. Reynoldstown: Race, Blight, Disease, Highway Construction and the Transformation of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, by Shane Cruise is a revelation. Through exhaustive research into the city council’s records, the Winston-Salem Journal’s pages, as well as mining Robert Korstad’s work on Local 22, and conducting interviews, Shane Cruise has done a service to Winston-Salem. Reynoldstown: Race, Blight, Disease, Highway Construction and the Transformation of Winston-Salem, North Carolina highlights the role “blight” played in justifying Urban Renewal. Many white citizens favored Urban Renewal in the 1950s, not out of concern for the squalor that many African Americans were condemned to at that time, but because they feared diseases born in neighborhoods like The Pond and Monkey Bottom could spread to white neighborhoods such as Ardmore and Buena Vista.