(Ray McKinnon is the pastor of South Tryon Community United Methodist Church)
It is often said, “A picture speaks a thousand words.” Maybe that is true. But, when I see the pictures of the squalor which has become Brookhill Village I am left with very few words.
Lisa Howell and Tracy Watt have documented, for the past two months now, the abysmal condition which exists in the Brookhill Village.
Some of the photos captured by Lisa Howell are included here.
At the beginning of August, I became pastor of South Tryon Community United Methodist Church.
This church is located at the corner of South Tryon and Remount roads.
The church is one of the United Methodist Church’s missions. Which essentially means that the primary purpose is to serve that particular community.
One of the first things that gripped me, even before beginning as the pastor is the state of the “homes” in the community.
On a sunny day back in June, my friend, Bert and I took a drive from the University City area of Charlotte over to look at the place that I’d soon call my home. What I saw was something from a documentary.
There were homes that were missing siding and had broken windows and visible holes in the exterior of the homes. Even the homes which are still occupied by tenants are a throwback to a time long since passed.
I am not sure that there has been any maintenance to these homes since they were built, thirty years before I was born: 1950.
Listen, I grew up poor in the Dudley Heights community of East Greensboro.
Dudley Heights is a working class neighborhood with affordable homes. But what passes as affordable homes in the Brookhill community is something that defies reason.
No person should be live in these conditions, no matter if they are poor.
There is talk that development is coming to this intersection.
That is likely true because you can go a block over and see the familiar apartment/condo buildings which have become ubiquitous in the Uptown area. But whether this development comes (and whether that is good or bad) is not the matter of concern.
The matter of concern, from my view, is how this community has been forgotten.
I have learned that the land (about 36 acres) is owned by a company affiliated with the Spanglers but has been leased to a private company — who presumably operate Brookhill Village — for multiple years.
In our desire to continue to become a growing, thriving, and world-class city, we cannot forget about the folks who have lived in these spaces. We must take care to consider how our growth can contribute to the displacement of native Charlotteans—a rare category of folks here.
Is growth a good thing, ultimately, for a city? Certainly.
But should that growth come on the backs of our most vulnerable and, often, those with little or no voice? Certainly not.
I hope that we can get answers about what is happening on the southern corridor into Uptown.
I hope, at the very least, the city comes in and demands that these buildings not remain in the state they are currently. Because, even poor people tire of seeing things like this. Even poor people want to have pride in the place where they call home.
The Brookhill Community once was a place where affordable housing could be found. It seems, however, all that it currently offers is squalor and uncertainty.
(Editor’s note: Last month, the federal government began the process of seizing the Brookhill Village property due to alleged drug activity)
Cover image via Google Maps. All other images of Brookhill Village courtesy of Lisa Howell.