The Geer Cemetery: A Lesson in Black History – The Herald Sun

The Gate Keeper’s response: But why the focus can’t be put on both?

In a region inundated with debates over Confederate monuments, Black History Month invites us to refocus our attention to a largely unrecognized section of Durham known as the Geer Cemetery. Tucked away in the northeast corner of the Duke Park neighborhood, the 142-year old cemetery is slowly succumbing to the encroaching forest. More than 1,500 black people are buried there. Those everyday black men and women lived and worked and died in this place long before we arrived. Their labor built much of the world in which we now move. Many of them had no choice. Some were enslaved. Others were poor black people who worked segregated jobs during Jim Crow. All of them deserve to be remembered, and their final resting place deserves better than its current state of neglect.

Our landscape is filled with the names of elite white families. Members of these elite white families fought, even killed, to ensure that white and black remain separated and stratified. As we remember their contributions, let us also acknowledge that they perpetuated slavery and Jim Crow. They used the lives of human beings, both black and white, to build their wealth. And when that fortune was earned, a lot of people in those families simply packed up and moved away. Yet, we unflinchingly celebrate the landscape of statues and named-buildings they left in their wake. Today, some people argue that we must maintain those monuments; and that we must forgive the now-unthinkable historical white supremacy of our region’s forebears because of everything else they gave us. To do otherwise, we hear, would be to erase history, or to make elite white families disappear. (Read more)

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These Special C’s Are Something Else, They Talk About Me But When I Challenge Them They Block Me From The Group Rocky Mount Concerned Citizens

This is when you know you are winning. I love it! Check out the order of events, but look at when Barry Rhem got on board and then when he sent that threat to my inbox, all of sudden he became a moderator for Rocky Mount Concerned Citizens. Oh that is because they wanted to save him if I went down to see the D.A. I was told it was a woman who was the moderator of the group but it really does not matter. But if he was a moderator, since had a problem with me being a member since I didn’t live in Rocky Mount, then why didn’t he just delete me? Oh but he came after me and when I came back he couldn’t handle me. White privilege kicked in but he found out that I ain’t scared.

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Rocky Mount NC: Downtown development highlighted on day two of council retreat

Rocky Mount, N.C.- On day two of the Rocky Mount City Council retreat, members received information that state funds have been secured for 60 units of housing from 218-242 Tarboro St., which are city-owned parcels. 
 
“This is affordable housing for your workforce,” said Sarah P. Odio, project manager for the Development Finance Initiative (DFI) at UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Government.
 
According to Odio, the housing would be street facing with approximately 66 total parking spaces that would require a zoning change. 
 
DFI was engaged by the state to assist with attracting private investment for the development of affordable housing for low and/or moderate-income households in hurricane-impacted communities. To date, the organization has identified two communities and two sites, one in each community. The NC Office of Recovery and Resistance has committed to financing the development of the proposed 60 units using Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds. 
 
Odio proposes that units will be for households at or below 60 percent of the area median income. That income amount ranges from $22,260 to $31,800 annually depending on the number of people within the household. Rent would cost approximately $500 per month. 
 
“You have households spending 50 percent of their income on their rent,” noted Odio. “They can’t save to buy a house or spend the money in the community, so this is a vehicle to give people a chance to save that money.”
 
The council did make a motion to vote on the project during the council meeting on Monday, Feb. 25. A vote would commit the council to convey the property via sale or ground lease, contingent
that the council will later approve a development partner and executive of a development agreement. 
 
If approved, the next steps would include public information sessions expected to take place in March. From there, the solicitation for a development partner would occur, with a Memorandum of Understanding negotiations following. There are some negotiation factors, such as having a blended mix of income ranges within the units or restricting a portion of the project to families and the elderly. 
 
The downtown conversation continued regarding expansion of the current toolbox for downtown revitalization. 
 
“We are wanting to hear about the toolbox that is both code enforcement and incentive based and how we create a way to communicate that to everyone central to the downtown area,” stated Councilmember Reuben Blackwell. 
 
Currently, the toolbox is comprised of five full-time building or multi-trade inspectors. The toolbox also includes a Downtown Business Assistance Program and Downtown Development Incentive Grant to assist with rehabilitation and redevelopment costs. The Department of Community and Business Development is also looking at a façade grant to get buildings improved quickly. The grant would be $5,000 to improve the face of the building, such as windows, doors, fresh painting, etc. A certificate of occupancy is not required, and it is non-matching. Council agreed to examine this further soon. 
 
As a part of downtown revitalization, Kevin Harris, business development manager, has also been assigned the duties of downtown manager with a responsibility of identifying key stakeholders and staying in frequent contact with them, feeding their issues to a team within City Hall. This team includes individuals from Community and Business Development, Development Services, Police, Fire and other departments that interact with stakeholders downtown. The team meets bi-weekly to discuss issues that may arise, communicating back to the stakeholders. 
 
On day two of the retreat, council also received a budget and financial update. Sales tax growth continues, and general fund revenues remain stable. Challenges include the tax base and infrastructure projects for utilities. Current debt ratios are within policy targets. Event Center bond payments began May 2017, with interest only for two years. Principal payments are to begin May 2019. 
 
In the general fund, the city should finish FY 2019 without using $1.25 million of appropriated fund balance included in the adopted budget for the current fiscal year. That money will return to
the fund balance at the end of the fiscal year. Council also identified budget priorities for FY 2020. However, due to the length of this article, that information will be shared tomorrow. 

Media Contact:
Tameka Kenan-Norman Chief Communications and Marketing Officer
(252) 972-1333
tameka.norman@rockymountnc.gov

Condolences Goes Out To The Family Of Commissioner Jonathan Felton

The Gate Keeper’s response: I have been knowing Commissioner John Felton since my school days. His wife was a school teacher. I always had respect for him and he had respect for me as well. I really got to know him through the Democratic Party and attending the county commissioner’s meeting. Visit Carlisle Funeral Home For Arrangements.
From the page of Edgecombe County, NC

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Commissioner Jonathan Felton. Commissioner Felton faithfully served our County in many capacities. He’s been a County Commissioner since 1996, and for many of those years he served as the Vice Chairman of our Board.

He leaves shoes that can never be filled and a legacy that will never be forgotten. Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers.

By order of Chairman Leonard Wiggins, the flags at our County buildings will be flown at half staff to Honor Commissioner Jonathan Felton.

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Press Release: Challenges and strategies for success presented at council retreat

Rocky Mount, N.C.-The Rocky Mount City Council started the first day of their annual retreat with a three-hour presentation from Dr. Jim Johnson, professor and director of the Urban Investment Strategies Center at the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at UNC Chapel Hill. Johnson’s topic was “A roadmap for inclusive and equitable development in Rocky Mount.”

According to Johnson, this roadmap cannot be developed without first looking at the demographic reality of Rocky Mount and the Twin Counties region. Research shows that between 2010 and 2017, the area was losing population. Rocky Mount lost 29 percent of its white population, gained in the African-American population by 11.8 percent and experienced growth in the Hispanic population. Similar trends are noted in Nash and Edgecombe counties as the areas experience a “Browning of America.” 

“You’re losing everybody but the 65-plus population,” noted Johnson. “In Rocky Mount, your 4564 population is growing, but it is a booming population, and the next wave is 65+.”

Johnson also indicated the significant percentage of the working poor population in the region, reasons why strategies should be devised for both the working poor and for those doing well. 

“How do you embrace and recruit new talent and at the same time be inclusive of the existing population that is there?’ asked Johnson. 

One way is to develop key drivers for inclusive and equitable development, as well as shared prosperity. Johnson defines shared prosperity as “fostering income growth among the bottom 40 percent of a country’s population. Without sustained economic growth, poor people are unlikely to increase their living standards. But growth is not enough by itself. Improvement in the Shared Prosperity Indicator requires growth to be inclusive of the less well off.”

These key drivers include having the city lead as an engine of opportunity or serving as a model employer. Examples might be enacting policies and practices that promote equity, inclusion and shared prosperity; developing inclusive hiring practices; contracting with historically underutilized businesses and more.  

Drivers for inclusive community economic development would be making sure the city leverages its procurement dollars in an equitable and inclusive way. The city could also offer education, training and technical assistance robust enough to serve a pipeline of potential vendors. 

A final key driver is the establishment of a Development Venture Fund, or a pool of dollars to support the growth and expansion of home grown historically underutilized businesses. 

Johnson encouraged the council to create an inclusive development logic model indicating problems like economic insecurity, homelessness, gentrification and others, as well as activities to help solve these issues. Putting together a technical assistance and lending program; establishing a competition on innovative ways to create affordable housing; credit building activities; and the establishment of career academies are prime examples. 

“What do you want the city to look like in 2025?” asked Johnson. “You write the script now and work backwards to achieve it.”

Dr. Landis Faulcon, director of Community and Business Development, and Julie Brennan of Fountainworks, a management and consulting company, facilitated one of those scripts. The two led the council in a discussion on the development of a housing policy. The policy would be “a broad statement about the work that local government will do,” said Faulcon. 

The goal of the proposed housing policy will be to facilitate or promote safe, affordable and sustainable housing for its residents. 

After research, comments from various groups and previous studies, Faulcon and her staff drafted five key focus areas for a housing policy. Areas include increasing the supply of safe and decent rental housing, as well as creating affordable home ownership opportunities. Improving the quality of rental properties through housing repair and rehabilitation programs was a third area.  Faulcon also noted the creation of city and private investment opportunities to support housing development, operations and services. Finally, creating a plan for acquiring properties that need to be renovated, and preserving historic properties is a key focus area. 

After discussing focus areas with council, along with objectives and target populations, staff will later provide council with a housing policy draft for consideration. 
“You now have the bones for a good housing policy,” said Brennan. “So, you can continue moving forward with that.” 

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Media Contact:
Tameka Kenan-Norman Chief Communications and Marketing Officer
(252) 972-1333
tameka.norman@rockymountnc.gov

Council studies housing – Rocky Mount Telegram

CHAPEL HILL — The city of Rocky Mount is dedicated to promoting safe, affordable and sustainable housing, according to a mission statement developed Wednesday during the first day of the City Council retreat in Chapel Hill.

Whatever course the City Council takes, it must keep elderly residents in mind, said James Johnson, professor of entrepreneurship at Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC-Chapel Hill.

The 65 and older population is growing in Rocky Mount and nothing — restaurants, hotels, parks — is age-friendly, Johnson said.

Prince George County in Virginia is the only location in the country with people migrating to Rocky Mount who have more money than the folks who live here. A lot of those people moved out of this area many years ago but might be looking to return home.

Johnson said the city should be running ads in magazines up there luring those folks down here.

“Recruit your own back home,” Johnson said.

The city should also enact local workforce agreements in which companies have to agree to hire a percentage of locals. (Read more)