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Gainesville's African-American Community Discusses The Future

The crowd gathers to listen and discuss important issues.
The crowd gathers to listen and discuss important issues.

After years of attending meetings about Gainesville’s black community and not seeing actual community members present, Tyra Edwards decided to act.

Edwards, commonly known as Ty Loudd, hosted The State of Our Black Community at the Civic Media Center Thursday night, with about 50 people in attendance. She’s held similar workshops and discussions in the past, but this is the largest project she’s tackled. As a longtime resident of Gainesville, Loudd noticed most meetings about black neighborhoods rarely have black people present. Because she’s connected with the community, she decided to hold her own event.

“I just noticed when I go to these meetings, there’s never people from the community at the meetings,” Loudd said. “Ever. They’re never there to give their voice. The meetings are about black neighborhoods and housing and education, jobs, family, what’s going on, it’s always a conversation about black neighborhoods but never with black neighborhoods in mind. So I said, you know, we really need to have a conversation with the community, because the community engagement with other organizations, you know, isn’t good.”

Though she hosted the meeting, she said the goal was to hear from the black community about what they want to see done. At the meeting she had attendees write questions on index cards and fill out anonymous neighborhood surveys, with questions about education, police presence and more.

“This is their meeting,” Loudd said. “It’s not my meeting. This is the black community’s meeting. They are there to give their voice, to ask questions, to give statements, and we are there to cater to them so our communities can be better for the future, for our children.”

One of the issues Loudd feels is most pressing is gentrification. She said some development is good, but other developments can push people out of their communities by raising rent prices to unaffordable rates. She said she’s especially concerned about changes to Sugarhill.

“We know that gentrification in black urban communities is never about renovation, it’s always about relocation,” Loudd said. “That means that we have to relocate because we can’t afford to live there anymore.”

Gainesville’s minimum wage, $8.10 an hour, makes it impossible for some people to buy the brand-new condominiums or houses. She said now, more than ever, the change is accelerating in a negative way, which motivated people to come out to the meeting.

“I’ve seen it coming, but I think it didn’t really hit home for them,” Loudd said. “They didn’t really feel it as much, they didn’t really see it as much. It wasn’t as much work being done in Gainesville like it is now. Now you see it everywhere, you feel it. If you don’t have the income and if you’re not a student, you know, you wonder, ‘Wow, what’s gonna happen? What’s gonna happen to me?’”

Different speakers presented at the community event, including Black Men United, a new group aimed at mentoring black youth from age 9 to 14, and the Goddsville Dream Defenders.

One attendee, Reginald Mosley, has been living in Gainesville almost all his life. He said he’s worried about economic issues and job opportunity. For the past five days or so he’s been writing down all his concerns on a notepad, which he planned to share at the meeting.

Mosley said Gainesville has two areas, the black communities and the white ones.

“When you say Gainesville, you can be speaking in two different aspects. You can be speaking of Caucasian, white Gainesville, or you can be speaking of black, African-American Gainesville,” Mosley said. “So of course, there are some African-Americans in Gainesville you see thriving to a certain extent, but the majority of people I see thriving in Gainesville are Caucasian.”

Bella Peoples, a Gainesville resident who helped Loudd with the event, said she wants to see people, white or black, unite.

“Unity is mainly what I mean. You don’t have to choose a side, black or white, it can be in the middle,” Peoples said. “We all work together for the best of Gainesville.”

Romy Ellenbogen is a reporter with WUFT News. She can be reached at romye@ufl.edu