Post Emanuel 9- What Will We Do? Regress or Progress
The Emanuel 9 has created a pivotal shift in race related discussions involving symbols and institutions of the confederacy, and our city, I believe now more than ever, is ready to take the next step in eradicating racism, and that next step should be the support of community based economic initiatives within underserved communities, such as the Eastside Revitalization Master Plan, that fosters self- sustainability. We can move to eliminate racism and avoid a civil rights complaint by coming together as a community to ask the City of Charleston to implement the SC Bridge Mitigation Agreement in the spirit of the Civil Rights Laws of 1964 that created this unprecedented opportunity for the Eastside and East Central residents. Community leaders feel the Eastside and East Central neighborhoods, Charleston, and the nation would be served better all parties came together and worked out an amicable solution under the spirit of unity and healing. The Eastside community doesn’t want to go against the tide of good will and conscience as it relates to eradicating White anger and indifference, and conditions that maintain the status quo in communities of color, we want to enhance it. History will forever be defined by what Charleston does in this moment, and by The City of Charleston providing unprecedented economic opportunity to residents of the Eastside and East Central, she honors the Emanuel 9 in a way that strikes a crippling blow to racism and its individual and institutional support systems.
The civil rights complaint is being developed because this is last community economic development opportunity remaining on the peninsula, and the residents within the Eastside and East Central communities are concerned that the Mitigation Agreement between the SCDOT and the City of Charleston has been implemented to benefit traditional economic structures that have historically excluded them. The deal, backed by civil rights law, primarily says that the Trolley Barn, $3 Million dollars, and the Old Cooper River Bridge property would be used to benefit the low income and minority population impacted by the bridge. The Trolley Barn is primarily benefiting a developer who bought a portion to develop market rate units. The $3 million dollars given in the agreement is being spent on streets and sidewalks along Huger Street, and thus primarily benefiting the hotel, and market rate condominiums slated to go there. The community with its partners developed a Master Plan, including a phase 1 $60 Million Dollar financing plan, for the area that would have given ownership, profits, business development, infrastructure, and recreational benefits to the community negatively impacted by the bridge project. The City said “No”. This is an opportunity, in light of the good will displayed by millions of people around the world, to instead of filing Civil Rights complaints, sit with Mayor Riley and discuss the alternatives.
My mom said it best, “I have never seen in my lifetime such good will on the part of the White people to address racism,” and Eastside leadership wants to use this good will to economically enhance the residents of the Eastside and defy once again racism and its remnant of poverty in honor of those who have suffered at its hands. Mayor Riley’s role in the movement to take down the Confederate Flag is well documented, and his historic relationship with the African- American community gives him the moral obligation to lead people of good will into an era where opportunity is extended beyond the grips of white privilege and power. The cities within the region, and around the world will follow his lead in offering economic opportunity above and beyond assigned economic roles of servitude to the roles of owners and developers. Economic diversity and inclusion is the new civil and human rights movement, and Mayor Riley can become one of its most significant pioneers.
Would it not better serve the Eastside neighborhood, city, and nation if this civil rights dispute could be resolved in the spirit of solidarity and offer up to the world a true example of stamping out entrenched racism? Contentious press conferences, and Civil Rights lawsuits would tear away at the layers of goodwill we as a city have built since this tragedy. The spirit of goodwill has given the community hope that this can be worked out amongst neighbors. The call by South Carolina’s elected, business, and academic leadership to take down the flag shows they recognize and admit the damaging affect racism has on our state. The community is now hoping that these same institutions work to reverse these negative impact with action. Mayor Riley, can begin this work by sitting down with Eastside and East Central Neighborhoods to find a resolution.