As a resident of Ora Street in the Southside neighborhood, I live in one of the most distressed census tracts in the entire city. Our section of town is considered a food desert with poor transportation connectivity. A large amount of our neighbors live completely economically segregated lives caught in a cycle of poverty and trapped in substandard public housing.
The “State of Black Asheville” spells out these problems in raw data. The median income for black women in our community is a paltry $14,843 a year, while 61 percent of African-American single mothers live below the poverty line. However, it hasn’t always been this way. Southside used to be a bustling hub of economic opportunity at the center of an established black neighborhood district. But this was before institutionally racist practices like redlining and urban renewal tore the heart out of this community.
I first met Sheneika Smith one afternoon when she was standing out in front of Green’s Mini-Mart. As a job training coach at Green Opportunities, she was pounding the pavement out in the community recruiting disenfranchised individuals to take advantage of a chance to better their lives. I have seen her work through Date My City, the grassroots organization she founded to help bring African-Americans back into the mainstream of community and civic life. I have personally witnessed her tireless dedication to making Asheville a better place for everyone.
I believe that Sheneika Smith will bring a commitment to equity as a member of Asheville City Council. I trust her to work collaboratively with the newly hired equity manager to help create solutions to the problems outlined above. I see in her a devotion to compassionate community leadership. Asheville touts itself as bastion of progressivism, but for that to be true, we need politics that match our people. That’s why I’m voting for Sheneika Smith for Asheville City Council.
— Andrea Desky
Editor’s note: Desky reports that she has produced pro-bono video for Smith’s campaign.