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

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 Economic Development impact focus group are:

DEWAYNE BARTON

DeWayne Barton // provided by DeWayne Barton

Focus Area: Economic Development

Representing: Burton Street Neighborhood

Background: 

Economic Development — started own business and am active with several initiatives to build black businesses, entrepreneurs, and business opportunities. 

Education — currently run a youth development program (HHI-UI) that interfaces and partners with various local education institutions in order to deepen youth learning, growth, and preparation.

Reason for Serving: 

To continue the work of the ancestors who came before me to create freedom and justice for everyone.

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

Clarity, momentum, communication, implementation that results in increased economic health and wealth for the black community.

Have you been impacted personally by systemic racism in Asheville?

It’s difficult to be brief when you’ve experienced racism your entire life. Looking at the State of Black Asheville (including all of the categories researched), I have been directly and indirectly impacted by systemic racism the entire time I’ve live in Asheville. Housing discrimination by the bank when we went to purchase our first home. 

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

Lived experience and over 20 years of work in Asheville trying to better the lives of the black community (and everyone else).


KIMBERLY JONES

Focus Area: Economic Development

Representing: Stumptown Neighborhood

Background: 

My qualifications and experience include retail manager (customer service, get along with others, listener, problem-solver, successful business manager, and human resources), Banking (financial), Asheville City Schools (working with students and staff (essential workers). I’ve held the position at church as the leader of Children’s Church. I have family members and know families and individuals who had experiences good and bad with the criminal justice system here (support). I am currently a student at Mars Hill University studying Social Work (advocate for children and adults). 

Reason for Serving: 

I am a native of Asheville who feels that it is important to be a representative. I want to gain more knowledge about the process and how it will impact the community. What I am most interested in is being able to share and encourage many Ashevillians to get involved and to help with making decisions that will benefit us now and future generations to come. 

I also want to be a part of the change to create positive outcomes amongst the black community. I want to work with the change agents who suffered during the urban renewal to bring recognition and restitution to them. I think reparation is a great start for the beginning of change. It’s time and we need it to sustain those of us who are left and those who will be our future. It can happen if we are intentional! 

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

I hope to assist with increasing community involvement to make solid and informed decisions for the black population in Asheville. 

Have you been impacted personally by systemic racism in Asheville?

Yes, in high school. The guidance counselor did not work with students of color to assist with furthering education outside of AB Tech (nothing wrong with AB -Tech I attended briefly as an adult) or career paths. In my class, it was 15 black students who graduated. Less than five of us went on to college right after high school. I was one and attended ETSU. It was because I did the research myself to find a college that would take me with the credits, classes, SAT/ACT scores, and a bonus in-state tuition (Asheville was less than 100 miles from the school).

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

I believe my greatest contribution will be that I am a native who knows the people and will work with the people to secure what it is they want for our community. It takes a village and I have been a part of it for 41 years. I grew up in the housing community on the west side of Asheville. I attended Buncombe County Schools. I have a church home at one of the largest membered black churches. I am a mom of two black sons who have and do attend Asheville City Schools. I have worked in retail, banking, and now the public school system. I am well versed in many areas of the city and I can adapt wherever I am needed to do the work. 


GLENDA MCDOWELL

Rev. Deacon Glenda McDowell // photo courtesy All Souls Cathedral

Focus Area: Economic Development

Representing: East End/Valley Street Neighborhood

Background: 

I’m a retired mediator having retired from the Mediation Center after 21 years. Served as the District Mediator for Asheville City Schools for 10 years. Presently a member of the clergy of All Souls Cathedral here in Asheville.I have good communication skills and thrive living with all people. I feel I have knowledge of the Asheville community.

Reason for Serving: 

I’m an active member of the Asheville community, I served as the President of the East End/Valley Street Association for many years. I’m a great-grandmother with five grandchildren and two adult children, my wish is for their future with improvements in employment, housing, health care and their treatment as fully human beings.

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

I wish to live in a healthy community — if one member isn’t achieving the whole community suffers, however if I’m invisible and not heard or there is no real change or movement.

Have you been impacted personally by systemic racism in Asheville?

I’m an African-American female living in the South (Asheville) — was it the redlining, separate but equal schooling, low wages, along with the dehumanizing communications of those in the majority class.

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

Representation of a working class community who works to achieve for the better of the whole.


DWIGHT B. MULLEN (Chair)

Dwight Mullen

Focus Area: Economic Development

Representing: City of Asheville

Background: 

I have directed research and offered public presentations of data each year since 2007 on Education, Health Care, Housing, Justice and Economic Mobility of African-Americans in the City of Asheville and Buncombe County. The State of Black Asheville has been my professional and personal interests.

I also have a PH.D. in Political Science with subareas that include Public Policy, State and Local Government and Black Politics. My professional experiences include nearly 40 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in Political Science, Public Administration and Africana Studies. My civic service has been to the city, county, state, nation and several African nations. In these places I have worked to improved the formulation and implementation of public policies that match the range of policies to be addressed by the Reparations Commission.

More specifically, I have worked locally with Asheville City Schools, Buncombe County Schools, the University of North Carolina, the Department of Health and Human Services, MAHEC, the Fair Housing Commission, the Asheville Buncombe Community Relations Commission, Asheville Police Department, Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department, the Justice Resource Center, the Asheville Chamber of Commerce, Dogwood Health Trust and several churches and neighborhood associations.

Reason for Serving: 

I want to be a part of the positive change Reparations will have on the city and county.

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

I want to see the end of racially disparate outcomes in public policy areas. And in the process I will also bring attention to gender disparities.

Have you been impacted personally by systemic racism in Asheville?

Housing: I was denied housing when we first moved to the city in 1984.

Health Care: Prenatal care for my wife and subsequent studies of Health Care disparities have made it evident to me.

Education: Four children, each having matriculated through the ACS system had multiple incidents of discrimination.

If needed I can offer more of many specific examples.

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

I will add clarity and simplify the complex interplay between the impact focus areas. The discussions that will develop during the Community Reparations Commission process must remain accessible to all who are concerned.


BERNARD OLIPHANT

Bernard V. Oliphant

Focus Area: Economic Development

Representing: Heart of Chestnut/Northside Neighborhood

Background: 

Did personnel and management for the military and community operations and security operations for more than 46 years. A native of Asheville for 70 years, active in the community and have lived in the current community for the same amount of time.

Reason for Serving: 

To use management skills, lived experiences and background training in equal opportunity and race relations.

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

Conflict resolution, lived experience and management skills.

Have you been impacted personally by systemic racism in Asheville?

Education, job opportunities, and criminal justice system. 

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

Team building, management skills, and lived experience.


RAYNETTA WATERS

Raynetta Waters

Focus Area: Economic Development

Representing: Buncombe County

Background: 

Knowledge and experience in Economic development — business owner for over 13 years, able to read budgets and how funds should be distributed or not; I understand as a minority business owner issues and task can be different from other business owners but you have to still stay focus on the task. I have experience in staying focused and communicating in a non-hostile discussion/environment. My time serving on the housing authority board provided the experience of understanding the issues of housing and racism that some residents face by being a resident of housing. I understand the high cost of healthcare. Also, by not having medical insurance it can affect your treatment and level of care. The disparity of having medical insurance or not.

Reason for Serving: 

With my knowledge as a business owner and having the position of treasurer in two organizations, I understand the importance of economic development. Making sure you work/operate within a budget based on your income compared to expenses. I completed a five-year term in 2020 on the Housing Authority of the City of Asheville Board. I understand the issues of housing in Asheville. Also, the lack of affordable housing for working residents in housing who would like to move from public housing but the hardship of being able to afford outside of housing is sometimes unobtainable. Along with my knowledge and experience by serving on the Community Reparations Commission, I am able to keep an open mind and listen to others without a personal agenda. I have an interest to assist by serving to assist in a positive outcome that will strengthen the black communities here in Asheville.

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

Helping to achieve a plan that will be helpful to Asheville, Serving on the board with an open mind and not a personal hidden agenda for myself. Respect what the community has to say about reparations to come up with a plan that is fair and will strengthen the Asheville African-American communities.

Have you been impacted personally by systemic racism in Asheville?

While taking care of my mom, health facilities did not explain all health care options available until I explained we would pay for the extra test or I inquired if they had received approval from her insurance. Once a medical facility was aware of insurance, her care was treated much different. Also, compared to another family member who did not have medical insurance. She received little treatment and we were blessed to share medical supplies with her. The systemic racism based on whether you have insurance or not. Also, whether the doctor office can verify payment does assist which at times is based on your level of treatment.

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

My greatest contribution is being a great listener and listening to the community. Also, my business experience and knowledge will be another contribution to serving on the Community Reparations Commission.


ALTERNATES

STEPHANIE LEE

Focus Area: Economic Development

Representing: Buncombe County

Background: 

I have been employed in the financial sector for over 25 years along with 10 years of Human Resources experience. I have a MBA and am a graduate of Harvard Business School majoring in Business Analytics. Analysis for development and growth is my passion. Economic development should be a priority for all races as the hindrance of one race financially cripples the entire economy. I believe this experience and knowledge would be beneficial to the commission.

Reason for Serving: 

As a professional in the Buncombe County and Asheville market, I constantly observe systematic racism of community members attempting to advance and grow financially, professionally and personally.  As a resident, I am constantly subjected to micro-aggressions that are supported by long-standing leaderships and bylaws that have been in place for years. A start has to begin somewhere. The Community Reparations Commission is a good start. If I can contribute in any way that will allow for growth and development of the community that will leave a positive impact (not only in the Asheville community but in other communities as well), than I am willing to put in the work to be a part of that change.  

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

To be an active community member.

Have you been impacted personally by systemic racism in Asheville?

When relocating to Asheville, our realtor attempted to direct us towards a specific area of Asheville. She consistently kept showing us homes that did not meet our request. After two weeks of these conversations and home showings, we fired her and hired a new realtor to assist us with our relocation process.  

As the parent of an athlete who plays a sport that has less than 1% black participation in Buncombe County, my family and I have consistently had to defend him. He played soccer for TC Roberson High School. As a member of the high school varsity team, he averaged 15 minutes per game.  As a member of Highland Football Club Red Team he average 75 minutes per game. His graduating year from TC Roberson, he was the ONLY player to receive a soccer scholarship. My son was recruited by three schools, two of which spoke with the high school coach at TC Roberson. Those collegiate coaches relayed the comments made by the high school coach. Needless to say, the information they shared validated what we already suspected.

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

A unique perspective of a resident who relocated to the area. Sharing what those experience were like and how it impacted my families decisions to remain a resident in Buncombe County.


DWAYNE RICHARDSON

Dwayne Richardson // LinkedIn photo

Focus Area: Economic Development

Representing: Buncombe County

Background: 

My contributions and strengths would be best used within two of the five impact focuses: Economic Development and Housing.

— Developing housing projects within the affordable housing sector has given me an understanding of land development and the importance of home ownership on wealth building in the United States.

— Organization and planning of large scale projects and requisite team building required to succeed. As a result of working as a legislative assistant to a NC General Assembly member I have an unique understanding of how governments function and their responsibilities to their citizens.

— As a former speech writer for the previously mentioned congressman, I have developed the communication skills often needed to deliver the narrative of projects undertaken.

Reason for Serving: 

Asheville’s history, economic development and growth, education of its citizens, and the diversity of its culture has been shaped largely by the African-American community. Too often these contributions, while vital to the success of Asheville, have been underappreciated and grossly undervalued. The memories of our forefathers and foremothers deserve more than just verbal recognition. Their labors deserve to give to their descendants the same things that the White community has passed on to their followers and that is economic empowerment.

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

By shining the light on our ancestors and their hard work, discipline, and incredible strength, the Commission has a chance to start a movement that is long overdue. I would love to be a part of that movement. For whatever we do with this Commission will be a potential model for our Brothers and Sisters across the nation and beyond. If we don’t give it our best efforts we will have failed our ancestors. So this Commission has a tremendous responsibility to deliver a well thought out and thoroughly planned proposal for reparations. If it succeeds it will be the beginning of a new dawn in recovering some of what was denied to our ancestors. Their contributions were too large to ever be fully compensated. Their value was beyond true quantification. However, we can show the youth of today the greatness which they come from and possibly give them some assistance as we go into the future.

Have you been impacted personally by systemic racism in Asheville?

In 1974, the City of Asheville had a program known as Urban Renewal. At that time my grandparents owned the last remaining Black-owned business in the South French Broad area community at the corner of Blanton and Phifer streets, known simply as Haynes Grocery. The city made a pitch to them to obtain their property stating that their lot was vital to the longterm success of the Urban Renewal project. Ultimately, and reluctantly, they agreed to sell their property to the city, wishing to be a positive part of the city’s long term growth plans. However, it now appears that it was just a ploy to remove the last Black owned business from the community because as of this writing, now 48 years later, the lot remains empty and has never been built upon. Except for a funeral home, no Black owned businesses have ever returned to the community.

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

I believe that in order for the commission to be successful, an extremely organized and thoughtful plan will need to be developed to tell the story of the African Americans history and impact on the long and rich narrative of Asheville from its origins as “Morristown” up to the modern era. How slave labor and lives were exploited for the gains and enrichment of others and how African Americans were excluded from the fruits of their labor. I believe that my greatest contribution to this process would be through my organizational skills and the ability to quantify the value extracted from the use of slave labor and how it set the stage for what Asheville has grown to be in the modern era.

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