Asheville| North Carolina

Our city is on a FAST march toward gentrification and repeating similar histories under different guises (Redlining in the 30’s and Urban Renewal in the 70s).  We have 6 plus hotels going up Downtown and a total of 18 in the county.  We regularly make top 10 lists as destination site for tourists or great places to live while continuing to disguise ongoing segregation and oppression (see State of Black Asheville, http://www.stateofblackasheville.org/), food insecurity, and housing crisis. And this summer experienced another murder by the APD of a black community member, Jerry Williams.
Structural Issues:

  • Lack of space to gather and grow trust
  • The work to build trust is hard and long-term – already poses a challenge when needs are immediate
  • Disagreement about what leadership looks like and where it should come from
  • Asheville has a large transitory community which can make relationship building difficult. Lack of clarity about motives, concerns about power dynamics, and questions about what kind of commitments someone has to long-term residents often come up and create tension and division.
  • No thought out foundation from which to work through disagreements about ideology, strategy, etc.
  • No community oversight mechanism to ensure police accountability. Serious tension between police chief and community members.
  • Corporate takeover of Pride; continued erasure and marginalization of QTPOC under the guise of “being open and inclusive to everyone”.
  • Small groups of motivated, talented people that care about the world tend to coalesce here and do their work separately from others doing similar work. Fractured network of social/environmental justice organizations.
  • Centering of white voices and leadership.
  • ICE crackdown and the impact on Latinx communities (no freedom of movement b/c of fears of being stopped and detained, having to pack bags to leave quickly if ICE shows up in neighborhood, splitting up of families).
  • Heroin overdoses in communities that are not receiving adequate level of harm reduction outreach/support.
  • Inhumane conditions in local jail; visitation only happens via video and is limited to 15 minutes; only one free visit is allowed per week, the rest must be paid for. Considering the populations that are disproportionately represented in the carceral system, this is yet another way to both isolate people within the jail, and transfer wealth upwards and out of the community.
  • Economic opportunities are scarce outside of service/tourist economy, which bolsters white supremacist/capitalistic interests; i.e., more perceived ‘need’ for policing (crowd control, property protection), and since people want to hold onto a stable job they are lucky enough to get, it de-incentivizes challenging those interests.
  • Mass displacement of historically Black community, the Burton Street community, due to NCDOT planned I-26 connector.

Assets:

  • People and resources to share information about and foster the creation/growth of more worker-owned cooperatives: classes at Mountain Bizworks about co-op development/business ownership in general (and potentially loans available outside of mainstream banking system), connections to US Federation of Worker Cooperatives, worker-owned businesses in town to use as models/mentors, etc.
  • Smaller projects in town that have potential to sprout, grow, serve as models for long term community development: Hood Huggers (Pearson Plan), Date My City, BeLoved Asheville, Firestorm, CoThinkk, Center for Participatory Change, BLM Economic Justice Working Group
  • Population of people who consider themselves as committed to a progressive lifestyle but who are largely disengaged and could potentially be strategically mobilized. As a small sized city, finding ways to mobilize a small group of dedicated activists and community members can have a real impact.
  • Downtown businesses are also feeling the effects of gentrification and owners (many of whom fit the progressive label above) are nervous — opportunity to organize with them? (Laura)
  • Projects like State of Black Asheville and Economic Justice Working Group that are providing empirical evidence through data collection of disparate outcomes/inequality; research community
  • Under tapped relationships with UNCA (Center for Diversity Education), Warren Wilson, Lenoir Rhyne
  • High concentration of people with the skills and knowledge in holistic healing and community design: plant medicine, homesteading, permaculture, self-sufficiency, sustainable and environmentally sound building, etc.
  • Ongoing efforts by groups and individuals to bring in and develop new models in every area of life – education, health care, agriculture, building, governance, business, etc., including alternative currency and gift economy
  • Experienced facilitators trained to promote healthy dialogue and collaboration