Awareness –> Action

My most recent post, “Asheville, Invest in Black-led Solutions,” generated a strong response. Many of you, with a greater understanding of how systemic racism operates in our community, have asked, “What can I do?

Since that post was primarily a case for the redistribution of wealth, today I’ll share four local projects that deserve financial support. Two of these projects are social enterprises – businesses that are being built to create jobs, wealth, and power in the black community. With that in mind, I encourage you to think outside of the “tax-deductible donation” framework. There are benefits that can be reaped that hold a value above and beyond a tax deduction. Contributing to new, positive patterns of equity and enterprise in Asheville will pay off in a myriad of ways.

sheneika-smith-date-my-cityDate My City
Founded by Sheneika Smith in 2013, “Date My City” is a social organization that seeks to enhance the cultural identity of black communities in Western North Carolina. As a motivation of hope, a community advocate, and a source of empowerment through cultural and civic engagement, Date My City has the overall purpose of fostering social cohesion, increasing civic participation and igniting pride through unity and self-determination. Date My City works primarily through organizing special events that promote inclusion and cultural advancement.

Opportunities to support Date My City include: 1) being an event sponsor (either as an individual or as a business or organization); 2) advertising on the Date My City website; or 3) hiring Sheneika Smith as a consultant, event planner, or speaker. Find out more at

Hood Huggers International
Artist, poeDeWayne-Barton-HHIt and activist DeWayne Barton founded Hood Huggers International, LLC (HHI) this year, using insights gained from his 20+ years of successful community organizing. HHI “offers sustainable strategies for building support pillars for systemically marginalized neighborhoods, providing a framework for community capacity building while increasing the effectiveness of existing service programs. These strategies incorporate the arts, environmental education and social enterprise.” One component of HHI is Hood Tours, an interactive tour focusing on Asheville’s African American history and future in the arts, environmentalism, and entrepreneurship. The tour will visit neighborhoods with existing and active green spaces, art, and grassroots initiatives that showcase neighborhood resilience.

The Art of Resilience” show at the YMI Cultural Center (39 South Market), is up through the end of the month. The show reflects both the issues that Hood Huggers is addressing, and the solutions HHI is designed to enact. You can stop by the YMI gallery Monday – Thursday between 11 am and 4 pm. Note that DeWayne is there every Tuesday from noon until 3 pm to talk with people who stop by. You can also make an appointment to see the show with the artist by emailing

Opportunities to support Hood Huggers include contributing to the Hood Tours GoFundMe campaign, sponsoring Barton’s traveling art exhibits, sponsoring a youth group’s visits to the outdoor classroom at the Burton Street Community Peace Gardens, renting the Peace Gardens space for events, using HHI transportation services, and hiring Barton as a consultant, speaker or performer. Find out more at

tracey dorsettFounded by Tracey Dorsett and a committed group of community leaders, “CoThinkk is a ‘giving circle’ that uses our collective time, talent, and treasure towards investment strategies that address education, economic mobility/opportunity, and leadership development towards impacting some of the most critical social issues facing African-American and Latino communities in Asheville and Western North Carolina.”

The group will hold their formal launch in April 2016. Find out more and make a donation at

Center for Participatory Change
center-for-participatory changeThe mission of the Center for Participatory Change is “to strengthen grassroots capacity, build collective power, and create equity in western North Carolina.” They have a number of powerful initiatives, I encourage you to explore their website for details. Of particular note is the fact that CPC is “a democratically run, non-hierarchical organization, with all staff and board sharing in decision making…CPC’s governing board is representative of the communities with whom we organize and work….The board uses consensus decision-making and we strive to ensure that all members have an equal voice by actively considering issues of privilege and oppression, dominance and marginalization, and working to equalize power.”

You can support CPC by making a donation. You can sign up to be a CPC “Agent of Change” by committing to regular monthly gifts. Find out more at

It’s Up to You Now!

Feel free to share this post with your friends! Let me know if you need help connecting with any of these groups. Also, please consider subscribing to Asheville Action, as I will continue to highlight initiatives and information related to issues of equity, inclusion, and justice in Asheville and WNC.

p.s. We’ll Also Need to Lobby Local Government
Going forward, as we look at our community’s investments, I hope to use this blog to discuss policies or decisions that our local government can enact to support equity. In the meantime, we all need to look at how our tax money is being used. For example, I read recently that the City of Asheville spent over $840,000 on consultants last year. Were any of those consultants local people of color? We need to get into the habit of looking at all of our institutions with an equity lens.

p.p.s. In full disclosure, I am working actively (and proudly) with Date My City and Hood Huggers International, and I’m a founding member of CoThinkk. I can honestly and enthusiastically endorse each them, as well as being a close observer/admirer of CPC.

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