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Youth Transformed for Life – YTL

We have gems in our communities. Libby Kyles is one in Asheville. Not only is she a 5th grade teacher at Isaac Dickson (one of about 10 African American teachers in all of Asheville City Schools – ACS & ACSF have not been able to give me an exact number), she is also the co-founder of YTL – Youth Transformed for Life, among other ways she gives to this community. Please take a moment to read her words below. If you are looking for hope for our future, consider investing in opportunities for all youth to experience the richness of life.

YTLFrom Libby:

Having just returned from a DC trip with my fifth-graders, I know now more than ever how important it is that children of color get outside of the walls of Asheville and see other successful people of color and experience activities outside of their realm of knowledge. The African-American population in Asheville has decreased by half from a little over 12% to 6%. Our children are suffering and struggling through the public education system. I cofounded a nonprofit. Each summer we take participants who might not otherwise be able to take a week and go away to horseback riding camp or Clay making camp or soccer camp, and we provide for them eight weeks of enrichment using various activities such as therapeutic horseback riding, experiences with artist in residence, a continued partnership with Clay works in the River Arts District, and lots of other fun summer activities. This year we provided an afterschool program and would love to take seven amazing young men and women to Atlanta for three days of their spring break. Our youth need these opportunities!
For all the people who are asking what they can do this week to combat what’s happening with the presidency, who can we call and where can we march — consider making enrichment and summer fun for children of color in Asheville a part of your political agenda.
We are working really hard to provide opportunities of enrichment and to create programming that is consistent and follows them through the school year so that we can aid in their ability to advocate for themselves.
Consider sponsoring a student for the summer at $800, a week of camp at $2,000, or a hotel room stay at $180 per night. Whatever you choose to give, we will greatly appreciate it!

 

Donations are always welcomed – even if you’re reading this post much later than it was posted!!

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Black Pride is Powerful & Beautiful


This powerful video was made by students at Asheville High School last month. Its byline is “spread love – not only this month, every month. to everyone.”

The students wanted to show it at a school assembly to celebrate Black History Month. They were told they couldn’t because there was too much black power expressed in the video.

#ProBlackIsNotAntiWhite #BlackPrideShouldNotBeControversial #NarrativesMatter #ListenToYoungPeople #TheyKnow

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Asheville’s African American Community & Systemic Oppression

Keeping certain people invisible, not letting them speak for themselves, not letting them be a part of (or lead) important conversations that effect their future… This is oppression. This is racism. This is whiteness. This is white supremacy. If the words ‘whiteness’ or ‘white supremacy’ turn you off or make you feel uncomfortable, please look at how I am using them in this situation below. It is not about the color of any particular person’s skin. It is not about violent or aggressive racial slurs. It is about perpetuating histories and behaviors of oppression, subordination, marginalization and silencing that continue a narrative that keeps those with power as the ones with power and those who have been stripped of their power, continuously subordinated, disregarded, and often harmed.

NPR’s “All Things Considered” came to Asheville and hosted a panel about “what happens when a town gets hot and becomes highly attractive to outsiders.” The panel discussed how the city’s popularity “has placed a significant burden on many of the city’s oldest communities by accelerating a gentrification process that prices out older residents in favor of new and more affluent residents.” The panel acknowledged that “the communities that are most impacted by gentrification are largely African-American.” However, no one from the city’s African-American or Latino community was invited on the panel.

Screen Shot 2017-03-05 at 10.47.37 PMDarin Waters, Ph.D. points out, “As a native of this city’s African-American community, I found the absence of these voices troubling. In the case of the African-American community, this experience of exclusion from important conversations has deep historical roots. Throughout the period of slavery and Jim Crow segregation, our community was kept on the social, economic and political periphery. Only in those instances where we were willing to assume great risk were we allowed to speak for ourselves. In most instances, our lives, interests and aspirations, if it was even acknowledged that such existed, were expressed for us, and in most cases by those who were responsible for our community’s marginalization in the first place. The failure to include African-Americans in a conversation that addressed issues that impact their communities so directly only reinforces this history.”

When the audience brought attention to this issue, it was glossed over with justifications that there were people of color on the panel. As if the presence of some minority voices should be seen as representative of all minority voices.
Dr. Waters points out that “by failing to include a representative from the (Asheville) African-American community on her panel, Martin, whose show attracts a weekly listening audience of more than 13 million listeners, not only reinforced false notions about the region, but also perpetuated the sense of marginalization and invisibility that African-Americans have been combating for a long time.”

All quotes from this article, “Were All Things Considered” by Dr. Darin Waters

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Asheville Youth Voices & Leadership

Screen Shot 2017-02-05 at 2.39.15 PMOur youth deserve dignity and respect as they ARE our leaders. The premier issue of the Word on The Street/ La Voz de Los Jovenes teen magazine just came out. I’ve met some of these youth and they are AMAZING. These are the voices of leadership we need to be listening to NOW. Read. Learn. Share what touches your mind or heart.

This is Asheville.

Our youth deserve dignity and respect and one way we can show that to them is by being real with the conditions they are facing right now, recognizing that some youth do not have access to some opportunities as fairly as others do. We must face how opportunities do or don’t prepare youth to navigate the world. We can shift that narrative that is playing out and create a new reality… This is Asheville.

 

Footage for the film, Beneath the Veneer, a documentary currently in production about opportunity, success and inequity in America?

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Listen to and Follow Young Leaders

Me2WeYoung people want, deserve, and need spaces where it is safe to voice their opinions and where they can talk about the issues that are relevant to their daily lives. This event on MLK day was powerful because it was designed by young people, for young people. The adults collaborating were in service to helping the students create an agenda that allowed them to have the conversations that they thought were most important. CAYLA (City of Asheville Youth Leadership Academy) high school students generated a list of over 20 topics and then narrowed it down to the 7 table discussions that they hosted (safe sex, housing shortage, police brutality, discrimination in school, leadership, dealing with stress, and gender equality/HB2). In the closing circle the power of the event was felt as participants shared that they were feeling educated, empowered, inspired, motivated, hopeful, connected, that their voices mattered, and grateful for the opportunity to talk about things that don’t get talked about in regular conversation. Asheville’s young people have so much wisdom, insight, and clarity about what our community needs. It was an honor to get to learn from them. Let’s keep listening to them and giving them opportunities to lead themselves and us.

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What Do We Do?

Urgent messages are coming out of Aleppo, horrific violence against civilians (particularly women and children) has intensified. A genocide continues to happen and the world sits silently, including myself. I breathe and offer prayers and light a candle. May their souls escape the suffering… And I wonder… what do we do?

I will me honest, I don’t really understand all of the pieces and connections between Russia and Syria. What I gather is that people on the ground say that Russia is heavily involved in the inhumane mass torture and murder of civilians, while Russia says it is terrorists. What do we as global citizens do to join together to over-power the violence and hate-filled terrorism that is overcoming this world… and also our local communities?

Meanwhile (cause we only care when it threatens our own safety?), Trump has just announced that he has nominated Rex Tillerson, the CEO of EXXON, as the U.S. Secretary of State. Not only is that horrifying from big corporate OIL money being at one of the most powerful positions in our government, Tillerson was awarded Russia’s prestigious Order of Friendship by Putin in 2013 for his work with the Russian oil giants, further illustrating the potential ties between Tump and Putin moving forward. Is what is happening in Syria a glimpse into what could happen here? There are so many warning signs from points in history and realities in other countries that point to the possible future of the United States. Can we of good hearts find the vigilance to step out of our comfort zones, activate, and unite to truly make our communities safe against violence and terror? Starting now?

And then moving closer to home… yesterday a black man was found on the side of the road here in Asheville, beaten on his morning jog, and left there with a chord wrapped around his neck. This is terrorism. This is unacceptable. How do we stand up against the increase in hate crimes?

Last week Bryan Stevenson spoke about 4 things that are essential for us to do at this time in history. One of them is to STAY HOPEFUL, that we have to protect our hopefulness because when we become hopeless we become part of the problem. And it is our hopefulness that will motivate us to stand up when others say sit down, or speak up when others expect us to be quiet. My hopefulness rests in the power of all of us with good hearts… all of us who believe in human rights, in treating all people with dignity and respect, and in caring for our planet in ways that support its ability to be alive and healthy for our children’s children and their grandchildren.

And… those with good hearts have to be ACTIVE and ORGANIZE ourselves and do all that we can to connect with the good hearts in other people, particularly those who might be vulnerable to following orders of violence. As Renku sen said, “If you have some privilege, then you must risk it.” What sacrifices are we willing to make to protect the dream of freedom for all people?

 

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Houses Not Handcuffs

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BeLoved Asheville is an intentional community of people on the streets and margins of our city, working to end homelessness, poverty, and prejudice. BeLoved’s Homeless Voice Project is about amplifying the voice of people who are living on the streets and in shelters on issues concerning homelessness and the housing crisis in Asheville.

In a procession and press conference today, the Homeless Voice Project presented public data concerning the arrests and citations of people who are homeless. The data reveals that over the past 10 years, there’s been an increase in arrests and citations for trespassing for individuals who are homeless. These citations and arrests levy fines on the poorest of the poor, give people an arrest record which creates further obstacles to finding a job or housing, and costs taxpayers a great deal of money.
BeLoved Asheville is calling on the city for a simple solution — “Stop charging people with trespass when they’re homeless. Just ask people to move.” Rev. Amy Cantrell of BeLoved Asheville.

The data was collected from 2005-2016 to correspond with the City’s 10-year plan to end homelessness. This plan was built on the fact that housing people is cheaper than jailing them. The data reveals that in these 10 years homelessness has not ended and the City is criminalizing the homeless through the increase in trespassing charges.

Homelessness is a public health emergency, not a public safety issue.

BeLoved Asheville hopes to work with leaders to reduce these numbers. They believe that taxpayer money ?could be better utilized ?by diverting those funds to support people moving from the streets and shelters into housing and to stop contributing towards people who are homeless having a criminal record that only makes it more difficult for them to obtain jobs and housing.

Today’s press conference was part of the national campaign, “Houses Not Handcuffs” launched by the National Coalition of the Homeless.

BeLoved Asheville partnered with Code for Asheville to obtain public records — citation and arrest data from the Asheville Police Department. Code For Asheville’s goal is to use this data as the start of a larger initiative to empower the community to access and analyze public information and data. In October 2015, Asheville passed an Open Data Ordinance to improve the availability of government data sets to the public.

What to do:

  • Call City Council and the Asheville Police Department and let them know that you would like to see a decrease in the number of arrests and citations for trespassing for people who are homeless. “Please just ask them to move.” Let City Council know that you would like to see that money diverted towards programs like BeLoved Asheville and others that support people who are homeless moving from the streets and shelters into housing. Contact BeLoved Asheville to learn more.
  • Encourage City of Asheville to advocate for the release of a regularly updated, complete public data feed of all citations issued in Asheville. An improved data feed would allow the community to engage with our local government in an informed, data-driven manner. Contact Code for Asheville to learn more.

See the data:

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