Attending to distressed communities

When I look across the nation at urban communities that are traditionally African American communities, I find that it is painfully easy to conclude that we are under siege. Well, we are. Gentrification of what is often called “distressed” urban communities is real. It is not a joke—at least not to the generations of families who have lived in these communities, loved and cared for them, and call them home—still. What we know is that the “distressing” has not been naturally grown; it has been man-made, by policies and practices that disempower and by disinvestment. What we also know is that, despite the facts of our urban conditions and the economic imperatives that drive development without caring about displacement, there is still much to cherish, celebrate, and preserve. We are determined to do so and determined to help our youth to see how special our urban places have been, are now, and will continue to be if we bring our knowledge, vision, and enthusiasm to making it so. In NextGen—ATL, this is our mission: to love ourselves and our homes; to know and appreciate who we have been, who we are, and who we can be going forward; and to find innovative ways to be the change that our communities need to thrive, prosper, and sustain ourselves.

Jacqueline Royster

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