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Friday, February 12, 2016
February 12, 2016. From my archives of news articles . This is a portion of the article and also a portion of the original artwork commissioned for my special feature on Cherry.
The Charlotte Observer
Apr. 08, 2005
Without city action, historic black community will be lost
Can Cherry, a
century-old African American neighborhood of affordable housing, be preserved?
It's beginning to look as if the answer is no. Unless city leaders step in, the
neighborhood will almost certainly be lost to gentrification.
Cherry, which was named
in 1891 but probably predates the Civil War, is a marvel of survival. For
decades it offered black Charlotteans a place where they could own a small home
and grow a garden. Meanwhile, all around it, farms developed into
theMyers Park neighborhood, Independence Boulevard and the
Midtown shopping area. Nearby property values have soared.
Cherry's land values
haven't, though, probably due to the many houses in poor repair, plus lingering
racism, which can depress property values in many black neighborhoods.
But unless it gets
protection from relentless economic forces, Cherry will succumb. Over the years
developers have bought and demolished houses on its fringe. That process will
continue, with higher land values creeping farther into the neighborhood's
heart. Rising tax bills will force landlords to raise rents and push low-income
and elderly homeowners to sell out.
Or maybe Cherry becomes
the next NoDa, with urban pioneers refurbishing its houses. That, too, raises
property values. In either case, the neighborhood's low-income residents would
eventually be displaced.
Houses are dangerous for real estate agents and brokers. Most people don’t know
that because the, you know, to tell the truth, I don’t know why. There are
courses and pamphlets available from the real estate commission and from the
Realtor association; there was even a special class for agents to be licensed
to carry a concealed weapon. I am. The other story is Open Houses are
good for meeting folks who might be prospects. And yes, sometimes a house is
sold at an Open House. I card Open Houses as risky. I wash my car, clean out
the car, sort newspapers in the car, but I try to never be alone with someone I
don’t know. And that can be women as well. The stalkers change their methods of
I held an Open House this past weekend. A couple came in, whizzed around, asked
about leasing the property after the sale, I asked their names. He gave me
their first names and I asked for their last name. I explained the Homeowner’s
Association, to their credit WISE,changed
their by-laws on the cusp of the Great Recession to allow only three rentals at
one time and only for a period of a year. “Jerry” called me yesterday to say he
had found a townhome not on the market and the seller and he had come to an
agreement, would I fill out the contract and a lease agreement for them? You
know, “just point to where each would sign”, that’s all. Of course, I said “No.” PROCESSReal estate is not just a document (or 20
or 30 or more), I think it is an intention to reach a thorough meeting of the
minds on all levels and make sure all parties know that. If not, explain until
it is understood: obligations, dates, money, options. Thoroughness, ad
Now the real cool thing is,TECHNOLOGY. Buyers and sellers can be in distant
places even all four of them if they are couples and DocuSign is one of the
wizards that can accomplish all initials and signatures across thousands of
miles in a snap.
I should write more about real estate. Writing is different
from real estate. Writing is where my head and my heart are connected, both
defining my whereabouts, the peace and serenity of coaxing myself to the
surface, out into this world, right here and allowing the spirit to dance in
different time zones without any interference. Real estate is swimming in the
And I am a swimmer of sorts. Three times a week for sure, during some of the
cancer treatments I went everyday even in the winter when the bubble was over
the pool. I made myself go. It was a challenge. Myself challenged myself. Go!
Real estate has many faces. Limitless personalities. Varying
surfaces, juxtaposed plains, unimaginable outcomes, complex partnerships,
simple dreams, devouring machinations, mesmerizing. The ocean.
Very simply, it amazes me so many folks are caught up with granite and hardwood floors, with the
notion that that is what we do, so I stay at arm’s length. And I am very, very
careful of the stories I tell so I don’t because that is your business, your
life, your money, your home. I am a guide, an advocate. I am a shape shifter. I
come from the ocean.
Okay, that is your introduction. I am about to start writing about
real estate. And of course my wild woman will occasionally write about where she
is dancing at night.
Before the day is out…I think I do better at free write when I am just waking up
or before I wake up. The word that stuck with me all day was “enough”. Oh, and
the companion word is “stuff”. If you stop to listen you will hear them everywhere.I look at my own life. I had enough of a job that I loved
and then I had “enough.” I got myself fired so I would get paid for being fed-up.
Looking for a job in Charlotte in the late seventies, I would up in Oklahoma
City because the jobs for women around here did not pay “enough.” And then a
long term relationship ended because “enough is enough”.What is and has always been “enough” is my home. And along
came “stuff”. I could not do “enough” for this nest, and I gathered. I
collected. I arranged. I searched for the things, the “stuff” that made me feel
better. I went beyond “enough”. My sweetest love asked, “Do you have to possess
something to appreciate it?” And it took me years to realize it wasn’t the “stuff”
ever, I thought it was, but it was feeling I was “enough”, for her, for the
world.The French have a saying something like, “In order to know
where enough is we have to go too far”.So I started letting go. Small at first, then more and more
as the space and simplicity became intoxicating. One bowl, one hat. One
painting, one chair. And sometimes looking in the mirror and saying, “You are “enough”.
You have all the right “stuff”.
Almost February 8, 2016 THE GAME is over…
I am assessing how I feel.
Walking around turning off the lights in my home, I am thinking about our team,
the Panthers. How I know how hard they worked, how coordinated as a team they
are, how they will feel. Coming back home. I hope they know how special they
are, what true winners they are, how they will always be heroes and how their
lives will always be enhanced by this experience. Because they are winners.What I know at almost 77 years of age, we are defined by
more than one day or week or even year and even as the image of who we are is
forming with every word and every action, the soul is constant, the spirit
grows, and the different paths we are shown and take and grow with help make us
who we are and who will become or who we are as wisdom seekers who can look
back and learn from what we experience. And gain from it. Winning is cumulative.
It is how close we take it to our hearts and how long we hold it.
And I think the lesson I learned is no matter how sure I am, I don’t know the
outcome. So I try to learn to be grateful for now, this moment.I am grateful I learned somethings about football, about
this team who has charmed our hearts, who have worked well, danced on the
field, shown us their joy. And their disappointment and their tears.
They have shown us how to get up time and time again, how to help our team
mates, our neighbors, our family. They have shown us how to show our joy in
having fun at/with something we love.Thank you, Panthers! Thank you and count me on being there
watching the game and reading the papers. Cheering you on always. Go Panthers!
We apply what they teach us to our everyday world. Follow me
please, this way.
The bottom line is the bottom line. Our world is about money
larger than the good works of which there are many. I want to think about long
term. The days and weeks we could have where we are all talking about the team,
the game, the excitement from chicken wings to flags on cars and even me in a
Panthers hat. Together.
It is a big picture like the Super Bowl.
Select one elementary school with the lower scores. Put the
best pre-K and elementary teachers here.
Invest the money to make the school clean, pretty, safe,
with great playgrounds, a good cafeteria with good healthy lunches for all.
Engage the parents, the neighbors, the neighborhood, the nearby churches, city
services. Because this is a test. An investment. It will take time maybe. Good
teams take time. And hard work, practice, defeat, disappointment, mistakes.
Are there grants available? Companies who would invest in an experiment like
this? It is done for trial drugs, how about the health and welfare of our children
and our communities all the while building a base for being a revenue producer,
a community enhancement, a gift to all of us?
When it works this is what can happen: the children get a better start, the
teachers meet their passion, the parents get some help, the churches get more
and it becomes “the village”. Not easily, not without pain.
When it works, the school district gets healthier, when that
happens, the neighborhood becomes stronger, the housing improves and homes are
sought after and real estate values improve and the tax basis strengthens. Can
you imagine if our schools were like the Panthers what our city would look
like? Be like? And the very best part, our children get a chance, a real
We start at the bottom and work our way up. Not easily, not
without struggle, not without the nay sayers, the penny counters, but with the
dreamers, the workers, the players, the coaches, the cheerleaders, the quarterbacks
and line men, the team. All of us.
How could we know? How could we have any idea? We try to stay on the tracks,
hang on through thick and thin as they say, do what we think is expected, play
by the rules, sign the promise, keep the faith, be true to oneself and let go,
learn to let go.
I have stood here before. Twenty seven. Alone. I knew it had to be done so I
came here, stood here, said,”yes, this will be okay.” Sign the bill of sale,
take the paper. I have stood here before where my mother’s ashes would be
placed when she died. She was dying. Someone needed to plan. I am looking at
the signature, my twenty seven year old’s signature, signing for my father, my
brothers, my grandmother, me, her daughter, her friend.
The world changes from an inflatable ball to a life raft. From the zodiac to an
iceberg, from the iceberg to a polar bear looking for food for her babies in
her homeland that is shrinking because of where I stand, where our ashes and
bodies go because we cannot let go and scatter the ashes back to the earth.
And the pattern has been set from long ago. To build
pyramids or anoint caves, burning pyres, digging graves, lowering the casket,
or sealing the ashes in a metal box and placing them in a place where there are
others in a hall made of marble and a floor made of marble and large stained
glass windows and row after row and hall after hall of small name plaques made
of bronze to last forever and forever where I am standing.
And the legality of perpetuity is as ominous as the place
where I stand. Forever. I try to unravel what was made legal. The rite to
occupy the space, not own, but interment. To inter is “between”. And because we
are human, interment is described other than real estate. The right to
So when I try to unravel what I started and signed in my
father’s name, it is not so easy. My mother died and he remarried. He died and
was interred here, before the place I stand. His second wife now has the rights
of interment. She died and the rights go to her children, if none, her
siblings, and then their children. It looks like I may not be able to wipe the
slate clean as intended.
Hold on. I doubled back a year later or less and bought the crypt below hers.
Only one row away. I would be there with her. That is grief, that is not only
hanging on, that is sadness and terror. Alone.
We go on. Standing here every day does not move me forward.
I leave and do not go back. There is no place for flowers. The walls are marble.
There are row after row and after row of small bronze plaques with the dates of
birth and death. It is too final for me. I leave. I do not come back until
The good news is we got them out. My brother was slow in
letting go. But we did. He took them to Virginia, my mother and grandmother and
father. He strew the ashes on a hill in a most beautiful small town cemetery, a
hill overlooking the valley not far from where we lived. And I followed with a
basket of dried flowers from my garden and glass marbles of all colors and
scattered where I knew their ashes were. This was the first time I could take
flowers that would be close, scatter glass marbles for headstones, lights for
the heavens to see. Free.