Redevelopment is causing brown water in one of Raleigh’s historically Black neighborhoods 

There was a packed house at the City of Raleigh 2030 Comprehensive Planning public meeting held on June 14th at Tarboro Road Center. People from all walks of life voiced concerns over the direction the City and its current council are taking that is continuing to make Raleigh a fragmented city of the have’s and have not’s. A city where people have to literally fight for housing as “Affordable Housing” is quietly being rebranded ‘workforce housing’ for middle income new comers. As this occurs, we see less funding going towards supporting low income residents who are being pushed out of the city and away from amenities, jobs, their families and transit.

A College Park resident stood to speak and held up a gallon of brown tainted water from her kitchen sink.

Flash back to 2015, the City of Raleigh developed a Neighborhood Revitalization Plan for College Park. Well, actually, not all of College Park, just ‘East College’ Park. The NRSA plan was submitted and approved by HUD even after several members of the community spoke out in opposition to the plan. Many felt they had not been included in the process and the plan reflected little to address the needs of the existing community.

The NRSA was eventually approved and certain things changed. For example, instead of selling off the 140+ lots land bank by the City over the last 20 years 50/50 for affordable verses market rate, they agreed to do a 60/40 split to increase the affordability of the houses. Still, almost two years after the NRSA was started, very few long term Southeast Raleigh residents know about the opportunity to buy back into a revitalized community. 

Raleigh has given such a small amount of resources to the community development and  people development over the years that this lack of accumulated interest cannot be disconnect from the results we’re seeing today with crime and drugs, especially with our youth.

Some time in 2016 there was another community meeting where the City discussed the infrastructure for ‘East College Park’ and the City decided they would not provide new water and sewage pipes to all of College Park, only for ‘East College Park’. Community opposition from long term tax paying residents was strong because people were concerned that the new water and sewage piping would impact their own water supply. The City steam rolled the infrastructure plans and awarded the $5 million dollar job to the contractor TL Loving.

Fast forward to last night! A long time resident and her family the expressed outrage over the brown water in their neighborhood and how it was impacting their lives. College Park, a neighborhood created by blacks in Raleigh shortly after the end of the Civil War! A neighborhood that is filled with many fixed income seniors who are now feeling the influx of middle income new comers and their new pipes. 

She was told that the construction trucks were causing her pipes to produce the brown water. How exactly that conclusion was gathered? I would also like to know what type of issues an outside consultant would foresee when the newer and cleaner pipes are laid on the ‘East College Park’ side of one of our recently divided, most historically black neighborhoods. There will be issues as their pipes fight to keep up with the pressures of the soon to be, fast track, gentrified side of ‘East College’ Park.

How redevelopment is causing brown water in one Raleigh historically black neighborhoods 

There was a packed house at the City of Raleigh 2030 Comprehensive Planning public meeting held on June 14th at Tarboro Road Center. People from all walks of life voiced concerns over the direction the City and its current council are taking that is continuing to make Raleigh a fragmented city of the have’s and have not’s. A city where people have to literally fight for housing as “Affordable Housing” is quietly being rebranded ‘workforce housing’ for middle income new comers. As this occurs, we see less funding going towards supporting low income residents who are being pushed out of the city and away from amenities, jobs, their families and transit.

A College Park resident stood to speak and held up a gallon of brown tainted water from her kitchen sink.

Flash back to 2015, the City of Raleigh developed a Neighborhood Revitalization Plan for College Park. Well, actually, not all of College Park, just ‘East College’ Park. The NRSA plan was submitted and approved by HUD even after several members of the community spoke out in opposition to the plan. Many felt they had not been included in the process and the plan reflected little to address the needs of the existing community.

The NRSA was eventually approved and certain things changed. For example, instead of selling off the 140+ lots land bank by the City over the last 20 years 50/50 for affordable verses market rate, they agreed to do a 60/40 split to increase the affordability of the houses. Still, almost two years after the NRSA was started, very few long term Southeast Raleigh residents know about the opportunity to buy back into a revitalized community. 

Raleigh has given such a small amount of resources to the community development and  people development over the years that this lack of accumulated interest cannot be disconnect from the results we’re seeing today with crime and drugs, especially with our youth.

Some time in 2016 there was another community meeting where the City discussed the infrastructure for ‘East College Park’ and the City decided they would not provide new water and sewage pipes to all of College Park, only for ‘East College Park’. Community opposition from long term tax paying residents was strong because people were concerned that the new water and sewage piping would impact their own water supply. The City steam rolled the infrastructure plans and awarded the $5 million dollar job to the contractor TL Loving.

Fast forward to last night! A long time resident and her family the expressed outrage over the brown water in their neighborhood and how it was impacting their lives. College Park, a neighborhood created by blacks in Raleigh shortly after the end of the Civil War! A neighborhood that is filled with many fixed income seniors who are now feeling the influx of middle income new comers and their new pipes. 

She was told that the construction trucks were causing her pipes to produce the brown water. How exactly that conclusion was gathered? I would also like to know what type of issues an outside consultant would foresee when the newer and cleaner pipes are laid on the ‘East College Park’ side of one of our recently divided, most historically black neighborhoods. There will be issues as their pipes fight to keep up with the pressures of the soon to be, fast track, gentrified side of ‘East College’ Park.

The Quest to protect one of NC’s most intact Reconstruction-Era Black communities: Oberlin Village Seeks Historic Designation

Oberlin Village is one step closer to becoming a Historic District, but they have a few more steps to take before this Reconstruction-era black community receives protection from the fast pace development happening around the village.

Oberlin Village was one of Raleigh’s first freedmen communities settled by black people shortly after the Civil War and one of the State of North Carolina’s most in-tact  Reconstruction-era black communities. The 149 acres primarily consisted of farmland, where its residents eventually built churches and schools and opened businesses. 

Raleigh City Council and 24 of the 49 resident petitioners provided the organized support that will take the request to preserve what remains of  Oberlin Village to the State of North Carolina.  

Oberlin Village is seeing a lot of development and if more of the 34 remaining structures are demolished, it will make the area ineligible for the historic designation.

Time is of the essence! 

If the State approves the designation, Oberlin Village will become Raleigh’s 8th historic district among: Blount Street, Boylan Heights, Capital Square, Moores Square, Oakwood, Prince Hall and Glenwood Brooklyn. 

As reported in the News and Observer, “The council’s decision Tuesday to seek permission from the state is the first of several steps for Oberlin to become a historic district. The city will send a report on Oberlin’s history, authored by area residents, to the state Office of Archives and Cultural History for review.

Raleigh must then file for a request to rezone the area, which spans Oberlin Road about a mile north between Clark and Wade avenues.”

Raleigh North: can policing alone heal a community? 

Have you ever been driving down the highway in an older car that may need some work and feel all the newer and faster cars zooming past you as you drive to your destination?  That’s probably how a lot of people living in Raleigh North Apartments feel with all the growth and development sprouting up around them! 

Over the last week, Raleigh North residents received notice that the property manager was partnering with the Raleigh Police Department to enforce a 10pm curfew on all residents due to an increase in gang activity and crime. Some of the residents breathed a sigh of relief with hopes that their community would become a safer place to raise their family. Sounds like a win, win for those of us looking in, yet some residents were not expecting such a high level of police presence. In an hour,  visitors and residents noticed that over a dozen police patrolling the area.

Why such a high police presence in a neighborhood that serves predominately low income single mothers and their children? This is an effort by the property managers to “take back” their community and make it safer for the people who live there. The partnership with Raleigh Police Department and the owners of Raleigh North Apartments is just one way this situation can be bandaged, but it will not solve the problem. 

City resources and man hours are being spent to provide the owners of the complex a service. Tax dollars wasted? I would say yes, unless the City of Raleigh, Raleigh Police Department and Raleigh North Apartments partner with members of the community, organizations and churches by sharing resources to improve the quality of life for this community!  

What other resources can the City of Raleigh make available other than police patrol? The city recently released it’s annual budget and I have scanned it to see what resources would make a direct impact in Southeast Raleigh. Not much to say the least, compared to the annual budget that is being proposed. 

Most of the outreach services rendered in Raleigh North consist only of more Band-Aids in the form of food and clothing,  but what services are being offered to show them an alternative to lead them to a better life? 

Diana Powell and Bring Back the Village community organization has done a lot of work in Raleigh North with very limited resources.  She is leading one organization with what should be a shared purpose for us all: to give our children a chance! Diana Powell makes herself and her organization available by working to prevent gang activity with little to no support from the City of Raleigh. She is currently working on a ‘Scared Straight’ program that she hopes with awaken some of the youth from their slumber. Let’s say the program works, then what? Unless she has help from outside resources to facilitate and support positive activities of the youth, we could possibly find a continuation of the same issues rapidly progressing.

When we look at the changes happening in Southeast Raleigh right now, we all must have an honest discussion. We are leaving behind a large segment of our population who need us the most. It’s easy to give to ‘cool’ causes, but when was the last time you helped a grassroots organization, as Diana Powell like to say, that has ‘boot’s on the ground’ ? We can’t expect the problems in Raleigh North to disappear by osmosis nor can the proposed help be one sided. 

Residents also bare a great responsibility in making their own community safe and should try and make better decisions to reach this goal. It all goes back to us being honest. A lot of the single mothers come from single family homes themselves and are struggling to make ends meet. They may not always know of availabile tools to make better decisions for their families. Making the process of locating resources more accessible is a start! If the property manager is saying they need police, then the community is saying they need resources to help them reach households in Raleigh North!  

The City of Raleigh has chosen to use resources to police the community, but if would be so much more impactful if they also implemented or supported programs to reduce gang initiations or programs to show a teen a new employable skill. 

Youth who come from low income homes should have more options and activities to choose from other than what’s being offered!  

It comes down to who has the resources makes the biggest impact. The type of impact depends on the results one is seeking. By having an increase in police presence in Raleigh North, what is the end result the City of Raleigh and the owner’s wish to see?

Do they not want to see the faces of struggle, the faces of color, the faces of those who want better? Do they intend to make this an invisible community left to solve the real problems alone? Out of sight, out of mind?

The issues impacting Raleigh North is just a microcosm of what is to come as our City continues to become more and more divided by the haves and the have not’s. Yet, because our population is growing so much, we’re at a crossroads where both income spectrums meet. Some traveling in fast eco-friendly cars and some just making it from point a to point b in their older cars.

It’s our individual responsibility as well as the City of Raleigh and the Raleigh Police Department to figure out how we can holistically make this situation better for those who want it!  

There is no denying that Raleigh North has had its issue that may have measurably intensified over the last few years, but as big as those issues are, solutions should not be limited just to the police circling the block looking for people out of compliance. A balance of resources would mean one child’s opportunity to see outside their circumstance to see a better future. How can we keep an apartment complex safe as well as open up doors of opportunity for those who need it the most?



20th century Black Raleigh, NC 

​Imagine how at the start of the 20th century, black men and women created their own business district in downtown Raleigh. Prior to this time, blacks had business along Fayetteville and Wilmington Streets that serviced both blacks and whites. There was twice the number of black business compared to  white businesses around this area. Between 1900 through the mid-1920’s, blacks accounted for more than 50 businesses in this area, but the will of segregationist forced most black businesses relocated to what would be coined as, “Negro Main Street” located on East Hargett Street. {Sidebar-  I hope to see if there are others who would like to see a historical marker on Hargett Street, very soon!}  

As Jim Crow became the law of the land, many whites stopped patronizing black establishments. One of the most hard hit business sectors was the barbershops.  ‘Between 1900 and 1915, the proportion of Raleigh’s black barbershops fell from 82% to 67% and by 1925, only half of the barbershops were run by blacks.”

It’s not hard to image how Dr. Manassas Pope, graduate of Leonard Medical School and Spanish American War veteran, thought he may have had a shot at becoming the Mayor of Raleigh.

“Dr. Pope’s political activity reached a high point in the spring of 1919, when, in the midst of Jim Crow segregation and at a moment of extreme racial tension in the nation, he courageously ran for mayor of Raleigh. At that time the Raleigh city council consisted of only three members: mayor, commissioner of public safety, and commissioner of public works. Dr. Pope headed a non-partisan African American slate of candidates along with Calvin Lightner (whose son, Clarence Lightner, became the first black mayor of Raleigh in 1973) and J.Cheek in the April primary. Though this bold stand by three prominent black citizens must have been the talk of the town, predictably the News & Observer chose to virtually ignore their candidacy (except for several veiled editorials stressing the need to vote for the “best men,” and one article the day before the election, pointing out where the “colored” candidates appeared on the ballot). Raleigh, with a population of about 24,000, had 3,500 registered voters in 1919. Of those registered 2,550 cast ballots, with Dr. Pope receiving 126 (98 in the second division of the Third Ward, the predominately black precinct in which he lived). As Calvin Lightner later remembered “we knew we wouldn’t win, and if we did win the whites wouldn’t let us administer, but we did it to wake our people up politically.”

An entire Manhattan village owned by black people was destroyed to build Central Park 

When Reverend Christopher Rush laid the cornerstone of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1853, he placed in it a time capsule, a box that contained a bible, a hymn book, and copies of two New York papers, The Tribune and The Sun. These were mementos for future New Yorkers.

Rush, who escaped slavery and became the second ordained bishop of the AME, also delivered the church’s first sermon. He read in part from the First Epistle of Peter, an address to the oppressed and persecuted, assuring the congregation that “although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials,” salvation would reward those who kept the faith.

But even as he counseled hope, the church was doomed. What Rush didn’t know was that the land where the Church would stand, part of a thriving African American community, had been condemned two weeks before as part of the plan to create New York’s Central Park.

The community, called Seneca Village, began in 1825 and eventually spanned from 82nd Street to 89th Street along what is now the western edge of Central Park. By the time it was finally razed in 1857, it had become a refuge for African Americans. Though most were nominally free (the last slave wasn’t emancipated until 1827) life was far from pleasant. The population of African Americans living in New York City tripled between abolition and complete emancipation and the migrants were derided in the press. Mordecai Noah, founder of The New York Enquirer, was especially well-known for his attacks on African Americans, fuming at one point that “the free negroes of this city are a nuisance incomparably greater than a million slaves.”

Most landowners at the time refused to sell to African Americans. A white couple who lived in what was then a distant northern outpost of Manhattan was an exception, subdividing and selling off their land first to Epiphany Davis and Andrew Williams, two prominent members of the The New York African Society for Mutual Relief, and then to the African Methodist Episcopal Church. More members of the African Society, whose purpose was in part to build black communities, followed suit and purchased land too. Slowly, houses were built. Some of them were rather grand, two-story affairs, with barns and stables, and some were modest shacks. The area was eventually anchored by three churches and a school.

By 1871, Seneca Village had largely been forgotten. That year, The New York Herald reported that laborers creating a new entrance to the park at 85th Street and 8th Avenue had discovered a coffin, “enclosing the body of a Negro, decomposed beyond recognition.” The discovery was a mystery, the paper reported, because “these lands were dug up five years ago, when the trees were planted there, and no such coffins were there at the time.” That’s unlikely, as the site was the graveyard of the AME church.

Researchers from Columbia, CUNY, and the New York Historical Society have been working on excavating the site of Seneca Village since the early 2000s. The work has been slow, with excavation starting in 2011.

The only official artifact that remains intact on the site is a commemorative plaque, dedicated in 2001 to the lost village.

Written by Heather Gilligam: 

Senior Editor @Timeline_Now

An entire Manhattan village owned by black people was destroyed to build Central Park – Three churches, a school, and dozens of homes were demolished

When Reverend Christopher Rush laid the cornerstone of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1853, he placed in it a time capsule, a box that contained a bible, a hymn book, and copies of two New York papers, The Tribune and The Sun. These were mementos for future New Yorkers.

Rush, who escaped slavery and became the second ordained bishop of the AME, also delivered the church’s first sermon. He read in part from the First Epistle of Peter, an address to the oppressed and persecuted, assuring the congregation that “although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials,” salvation would reward those who kept the faith.

But even as he counseled hope, the church was doomed. What Rush didn’t know was that the land where the Church would stand, part of a thriving African American community, had been condemned two weeks before as part of the plan to create New York’s Central Park.

The community, called Seneca Village, began in 1825 and eventually spanned from 82nd Street to 89th Street along what is now the western edge of Central Park. By the time it was finally razed in 1857, it had become a refuge for African Americans. Though most were nominally free (the last slave wasn’t emancipated until 1827) life was far from pleasant. The population of African Americans living in New York City tripled between abolition and complete emancipation and the migrants were derided in the press. Mordecai Noah, founder of The New York Enquirer, was especially well-known for his attacks on African Americans, fuming at one point that “the free negroes of this city are a nuisance incomparably greater than a million slaves.”

Most landowners at the time refused to sell to African Americans. A white couple who lived in what was then a distant northern outpost of Manhattan was an exception, subdividing and selling off their land first to Epiphany Davis and Andrew Williams, two prominent members of the The New York African Society for Mutual Relief, and then to the African Methodist Episcopal Church. More members of the African Society, whose purpose was in part to build black communities, followed suit and purchased land too. Slowly, houses were built. Some of them were rather grand, two-story affairs, with barns and stables, and some were modest shacks. The area was eventually anchored by three churches and a school.

By 1871, Seneca Village had largely been forgotten. That year, The New York Herald reported that laborers creating a new entrance to the park at 85th Street and 8th Avenue had discovered a coffin, “enclosing the body of a Negro, decomposed beyond recognition.” The discovery was a mystery, the paper reported, because “these lands were dug up five years ago, when the trees were planted there, and no such coffins were there at the time.” That’s unlikely, as the site was the graveyard of the AME church.

Researchers from Columbia, CUNY, and the New York Historical Society have been working on excavating the site of Seneca Village since the early 2000s. The work has been slow, with excavation starting in 2011.

The only official artifact that remains intact on the site is a commemorative plaque, dedicated in 2001 to the lost village.

Written by Heather Gilligam: 

Senior Editor @Timeline_Now