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Get to Know the Members of the Asheville-Buncombe Reparations Commission: Housing

More than 50 local residents applied for a seat on the Asheville-Buncombe Reparations Commission. Twenty-five were selected, along with several alternates. Who are they? Asheville Watchdog collected their applications, figuring that it’s best to let them introduce themselves in their own words.

The 25 commissioners divided into teams, each team focusing on one of five impact areas affected by generations of racial discrimination: Economic Development, Education, Criminal Justice, Healthcare, and Housing. The members of the Housing impact area are:

JOYCE HARRISON

Joyce Harrison // photo courtesy Chamber of Commerce

Focus Area: Housing

Representing: City of Asheville

Background: 

I retired from Self Help CU as Regional Director (covering 24 counties in the West). Processed and closed mortgage loans, business loans, personal and car loans. Former Boards: Wells Fargo, Community Action, NC Center for NonProfits, AB Tech Small Business Advisory Board, Mission Hospital, Asheville Housing Coalition (founding member of the Housing Trust Fund), founding member of WRES Radio Station, Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce (Athena Award Winner for lending to women own businesses). Note: I resigned from all boards when I retired in 2011.

Reason for Serving: 

I am interested in seeing positive changes in Asheville. As a former economic development lender, I have seen what a hand up can do for communities and I would like to be a part of making it happened. As a native Ashevillian I have seen minority neighborhoods disappear and businesses fade away. I would like to see the percentage of small businesses and home ownership represented somewhat properly.

What do you hope to achieve by serving on the Reparations Commission?

Positive changes for Asheville.

Have you been impacted personally by systemic racism in Asheville? 

Respondent skipped this question.

What do you believe your greatest contribution will be in serving on the Reparations Commission?

I believe my knowledge of the history of Asheville will be my greatest contribution along with my work and board experience.


BOBBETTE K. MAYS

Focus Area: Housing

Representing: Shiloh Neighborhood

Background: 

All of the African American communities have suffered in all areas.  We are excluded in all of the areas and I want to represent and become more of a presence in meetings, etc. I have worked in Healthcare and Psychology.Reason for Serving: I realize that we cannot change the past but we can heal from it and have positive ways to create an atmosphere for change. Giving back to  the communities would begin the process.

What do you hope to achieve by serving on the Reparations Commission?

Moving forward in a positive way.

Have you been impacted personally by systemic racism in Asheville?

1. Racism as a child going to town with my father and how he would move us off the sidewalk to let white people pass.

2. Integration of the school system in the 6th grade.

3. Sophomore at Asheville High during the riot of 1969.

What do you believe your greatest contribution will be in serving on the Reparations Commission?

Better communications.


MILDRED NANCE-CARSON

Mildred Nance-Carson // photo courtesy The Urban News

Focus Area: Housing

Representing: Southside Neighborhood

Background: 

Healthcare, I worked at Mission Health for 41 years in the Legal Department. Reason for Serving: I am a firm believer in equality regardless of race, age, or wealth. The African-American community in Asheville has been a sacrificial lamb for many decades, in numerous avenues, and I feel that it is time that this community is made whole, and I would love to be a part of that project.

What do you hope to achieve by serving on the Reparations Commission? 

Achieve outcomes that are visible and assist in healing and building of tangible wealth and education.

Have you been impacted personally by systemic racism in Asheville?

While working on my job for 41 years, there were comments made regarding the type of car I drove or the clothes that I wore. At the time for evaluations and pay increases, I would excel during my evaluations, but would have to go the extra mile to be compensated for my years of experience and knowledge which in turn I was instructed to rewrite my job description in order to receive a pay increase. 

What do you believe your greatest contribution will be in serving on the Reparations Commission?

To interact and listen to what the African-American community desires and needs in their lives and not be dictated by local government.


KELSEY SIMMONS

Kelsey Simmons // LinkedIn photo

Focus Area: Housing

Representing: Buncombe County

Background: 

Ever since 2013, I have worked with several non-profits that focus on these impact focus areas. These non-profits consist of the YMI Cultural Center, OpenDoors of Asheville, Just Economics, and Youth Empowered Solutions. I am also a realtor at Keller Williams, so I am very familiar with the current housing market conditions in Asheville and the obstacles that communities of color face when trying to become a homeowner. I am also a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission of the City of Asheville and the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council of Buncombe County.

Reason for Serving: 

For a number of years now, I have been able to bring positive, measurable change to this thriving city known as Asheville. My hope is to continue being a strong advocate in the community and provide the necessary opportunities needed to uplift people of color in Asheville. I would like to serve on this committee because I strongly support that with the combination of being a strong community advocate, knowledgeable with the essential elements of real estate, and my dedication to serving this community that I would be a beneficial asset to the Reparations committee.

What do you hope to achieve by serving on the Reparations Commission?

As an Asheville native, I have grown up developing a great care and respect for Asheville accompanied with the desire to create a beneficial impact on this community. I hope to achieve the chance to provide beneficial opportunities for people of color in Asheville, especially when it comes to sustainable, affordable housing. Having a sustainable place to live greatly benefits the foundation of a family and it can also create generational wealth for generations to come. I know we will most likely not be able to provide people with affordable housing through this commission but we can provide the education around obtaining a home and the existing opportunities available to do so.

Have you been impacted personally by systemic racism in Asheville?

When it comes to being impacted personally by systemic racism, I have been impacted in a few ways. When I was in the market looking for a home to buy, I was very limited with my options. Mainly because, during the 60’s, there was a lot of redlining going on that prevented people of color from obtaining homes and buying homes in certain areas. I found a house in Shiloh, a historic black neighborhood and put in an offer the first day I saw it with the fear that I would have a hard time finding anything else available especially in predominantly white neighborhoods.As a realtor, I also have experienced it being very hard to find clientele. After urban renewal happened, many people of color lost their homes. Which means there were less families of color who had a home to sell and even less families of color knowing what the first step is when buying a home. So with the lack of black homebuyers and sellers, it made it difficult for me to find clientele. Especially when most of the clientele in Asheville are middle to upper class white people who can afford the houses in this market and they prefer to work with someone who looks like them.

What do you believe your greatest contribution will be in serving on the Reparations Commission?

My greatest contribution will be being able to provide my experiences and education to the commission to find the most beneficial way to impact the communities of color through the decisions made by the commission.


ANGELA YOUNG

Focus Area: Housing

Representing: Asheville Housing Authority Communities

Background: 

N/A

Reason for Serving: 

Considering the largest population of black people in the city of Asheville reside in public housing, I feel it is important that as many residents as possible are represented. What do you hope to achieve by serving on the Reparations Commission?I hope to bring the voices of my community to the the conversation as we are often left out of these conversations and told what we need. 

Have you been impacted personally by systemic racism in Asheville?

Respondent skipped the answer.

What do you believe your greatest contribution will be in serving on the Reparations Commission?

As the chair of the Hillcrest Resident Association I can be the liaison between this committee and my community. 


KEITH YOUNG

Keith Young

Focus Area: Housing

Representing: East End/Valley Street Neighborhood

Background: 

Architect of the reparations resolution and nationwide consultant on reparations … studied implementing public policy at Harvard and a member of its community of practice for implementing public policy. 

Reason for Serving: 

To repair the black community from the harms of systemic racism.

What do you hope to achieve by serving on the Reparations Commission?

Consistent meaningful tangible progress in providing actual reparations to the black community.

Have you been impacted personally by systemic racism in Asheville?

Disparities in healthcare, criminal justice, housing, urban renewal, redlining, education, economic mobility.

What do you believe your greatest contribution will be in serving on the Reparations Commission?

Extensive knowledge from developing the resolution and working in multiple communities around the country to forward reparations.

ALTERNATE 

DEE BURRUS

Focus Area: Housing

Representing: Southside United Neighborhood 

Background: 

I am a retired Emergency Medical health care professional. Served and serving on the following community boards: Wesley Grant Center Southside Advisory Board, Arthur Edington Center Advisory Board, ABT Emergency Medicine Advisory Board, and the YWCA. With my community involvement, hopefully I can provide input on what the community needs are.

Reason for Serving:

I’m a lifelong resident of the southside community and was effected by urban renewal, also very involved in the community. Hopefully I can help with recommendations, bringing community together by sharing information on this process. 

What do you hope to achieve by serving on the Reparations Commission?

Assist in any way possible to see increase in minority business, better health care, neighborhood safety, and fairness in our criminal justice system.

Have you been impacted personally by systemic racism in Asheville?

Employment: Holding the same job, with the same title, same responsibility with more seniority but salary is two pay grades less than coworkers. Experiencing thru family members injustice in our criminal justice system.

What do you believe your greatest contribution will be in serving on the Reparations Commission?

Bringing the community together by sharing information and most of all honesty. 

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