Letter writer: Make sure African-American viewpoint is heard and honored in redevelopment of The Block

Graphic by Lori Deaton

I hope everyone will go back and read again Dwight B. Mullen’s letter in the June 17 Mountain Xpress (“Development Destroying African Americans’ Historical Legacy”).

Apparently there are plans to redevelop the Eagle/Market Street area, “once the heart of black Asheville.”

Some of us older white people are beginning to learn a different perspective from the one we absorbed or were taught in our youth. Back in the ’60s, I never saw, for example, how African-American slave labor afforded Thomas Jefferson the time to become educated, the time to study current political thought, the time to think, the time to complete the Declaration of Independence. The gift of time is hardly incidental.

Dr. Mullen wrote his letter before the sickening and sad events that occurred in Charleston. Because of that racially motivated violence, black experience in America is everywhere getting another past-due look. The possible destruction of their historical center in Asheville seems unconscionable to me now. It would have been unconscionable (in my opinion) before the murders, but I am now taking the time to look with new attention.

I don’t know a single thing about the planned development of The Block, but I am convinced that it is time to pause and rethink, and make sure the African-American viewpoint is heard and honored. This is not about guilt or appeasement. This is about gratitude. Even science, now joining with the voices of kind religion, tells us that gratitude is essential to happiness.

In the South, particularly, we have a lot of mistakes to correct. Both the city of Asheville and the new property owners, who Dr. Mullen says are from South Carolina, will want to do their part. This is a great opportunity.

— Anne Bevilacqua

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