“…we cannot create cities for everyone unless we’re first willing to listen to everyone. Not just about what they hope to see built in the future but also about what has been lost or unfulfilled…” – Liz Ogbu, “What if gentrification was about healing communities instead of displacing them?” TEDWomen 2017.
In our December 2022 newsletter, Yolanda mentioned that you would be hearing from some new voices in this space in 2023. I’m definitely the newest of them all – having been at DHIC for just 10 months. In April 2022, I joined DHIC as Vice President of Resource Development and Partnerships, a senior-level role that supports our communications, civic engagement, and outreach strategies and identifies, cultivates, and grows resources and community partnerships to advance our mission: supporting individuals, families, and seniors by providing homes and opportunities that promote the financial, physical, and mental well-being of people and communities.
My vocational journey to DHIC is one that includes law, documentary arts, and community organizing – all of which have taught me how deep listening can be deeply transformative, and the power of storytelling. The stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves and each other literally shape our worlds. When I moved back to North Carolina in 2014 after working for several years in Boston, I noticed how much the state appeared to have changed from the time that I left after college (Go Heels!). But a friend admonished me to remember that beyond the headlines about our state’s growth and “newfound popularity,” there were people, neighborhoods, and communities that have been here for generations. “Spend time getting to know them,” she said.
About a month into my new role at DHIC, I spent two hours walking around one of our communities – The Village at Washington Terrace – with a community elder and Raleigh native who gifted me with her historical perspective on the rapid change of the neighborhoods she’s known since birth: “You know, a lot of people think us old, Black folks don’t want change,” she said. “It’s not that we don’t want change… it’s that we don’t want to be erased.”
It’s been almost a year since that conversation, and those words have stayed with me – not only because of their potency, but because of their resonance with conversations happening all over the counties and cities where we serve. As I sit (and sometimes stand) in rooms filled with neighbors holding the tensions of the promise and pressures of our changing communities, I’m imbued with the sense that folks are raising expectations not only about what DHIC does, but how we do it.
As I often say, “Things are thinging!” here at DHIC. With the launch of a new 3-year strategic plan and new initiatives focused on expanding housing preservation, strengthening resident services coordination, developing health partnerships that support housing investments as a means of supporting community health, broadening the reach of our Homeownership Center, and building the internal infrastructure to support our growth, it’s clear that our work has never been more important or relevant. To everyone who helped us get to this point, whether you were part of a survey, focus group, interview, phone call, email or research data pull: THANK YOU and we hope you’ll join us on the journey.