What to do with the Past

Piedmont Housing Alliance is honored to recognize February as Black History Month. Instituted in 1926 by historian Carter G. Woodson, Min. Jesse E. Moorland and their Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, Negro History Week became Black History Month in 1976. Since then it has taken on the name of African-American History Month.

Seen as a time to reflect on the past and current achievements of African-Americans and their contributions to society, it is also a time move conversations about race forward.

The great abolitionist and orator, Frederick Douglas, said in his, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” speech in 1852:

“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and to the future. To all inspiring motives, to noble deeds which can be gained from the past, we are welcome. But now is the time, the important time.”

As the organization that’s taken it upon itself to redevelop Friendship Court Apartments – formerly Garrett Square, we believe now is the time to reflect on the past, but also to push to conversation forward. We know we have a lot to prove.

Oprah Winfrey is quoted as once proclaiming, “Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.”

It sounds simple enough but the movement from moment to moment can be a struggle and at times an uphill battle. In this country, slavery lasted over 200 years. Legal segregation lasted nearly 100. Blacks in America have been “free” for just 54 years. To say that the repercussions are still felt today is an understatement. One of those repercussions of years of free labor, segregation and unfair lending at an institutional level at banks and lending services is the wide discrepancy in housing seen in our city and cities around the country. Further, the issues of segregation divulged into landowners unwilling to sell to African Americans and zoning that has impacted everything from where low-income people can build to where their children ultimately end up going to school.

We’ve claimed ourselves to be part of the solution. So how are we doing that? We want to create affordable housing for the largest number of residents possible. We are doing this by improving and redeveloping existing properties. We recently began managing a multifamily community, Parks Edge Apartments, in Albemarle County and we continue to work toward a complete redevelopment of Friendship Court.

We also want to financially empower members of the community and help them achieve their dreams of home ownership, breaking free of debt and becoming more financially sound, which we are doing through our Housing Counseling team.

Equitable treatment of all individuals is important to us and we hope to exude this at our organization from the inside out.