State of Black Asheville
Dr. Dwight Mullen gave a talk on his “State of Black Asheville” course last week. The State of Black Asheville is a public policy course at UNC Asheville which Dr. Mullen has been teaching since 2006. Students pick a topic of interest and study the influence race has on local public policy. Afterward, they share their findings with the public. The disturbing statistics about racial disparities in Asheville collected by these students provide crucial insights as to the inequitable reality of our community faces. You can visit stateofblackasheville.org to see some of their findings. During his talk, Dr. Mullen gave the latest stats (2014-2015 school year) around disparities in academic outcomes. One example: for grades 3-8, only 26% of blacks are at or above grade level, compared to 83% of whites. Click here to read an article about the talk.

One point that Dr. Mullen made that night was that our city government does not have a formal plan in place to address racial disparities. He expressed the need for a plan with specific goals, timeline and BUDGET, with a system to assess progress annually. That certainly sounds like something to advocate for. He also talked about the Chamber of Commerce, their unwillingness to share stats related to race with his students, and their general failure to address issues of inclusion and equity. Another advocacy opportunity.
dr-dwight-mullen

Hood Huggers Party!
Meanwhile, resilient African Americans in Asheville are, as DeWayne Barton puts it, “making the hustle happen.” His organization, Hood Huggers International, is active on many levels, running Hood Tours, convening grassroots/neighborhood leaders, and putting plans into action to support youth in academics and entrepreneurship. For Barton, “A Hood Hugger is anyone who restores themselves while helping to transform their communities for the good of all.” A party to support Hood Huggers is being held on Friday, February 5 from 7 to 11 pm at THE BLOCK off biltmore, 39 S. Market Street. DJ Supaman will provide great music, and Cooking With Comedy Catering will provide delicious food. Tickets for the party are $20 each. There is a matching challenge grant of $1500 for money raised by this event. So your ticket purchase will be matched! Space is limited, get your ticket today! Click here to purchase tickets.

hood huggers party

Sweethearts: Supper Songs & Silent Auction
Youth Transformed for Life (YTL) Training Programs is an organization, led by Libby Kyles, which focuses on “creating equity for disadvantaged teens, homeless teens, and young adult offenders reentering the workforce.” YTL is “committed to working outside of the classroom to close the achievement (opportunity) gap that exists within the Asheville City Schools. By creating positive summer experiences and opportunities to participate in activities that challenge them both physically and intellectually, YTL’s summer program, GRACE for Teens, seeks to be a change agent in the lives of program participants.”

A fundraiser for GRACE for Teens,“Sweethearts: Supper, Songs & Silent Auction,” will be held on Saturday, February 13 from 6 ­to 10 pm at the Arthur R. Edington Education & Career Center (133 Livingston St.). The five-course dinner will feature local chefs Liam Rowland of GO! Kitchen, Gene Ettison of J. Lee Catering & Wine Co., Sherri Davis of SD’s Home Cooking & Catering Services, and Clarence Robinson of Cooking With Comedy. Tickets are $35 for individuals and $65 for couples. Email ytltraining@gmail.com for tickets.

ytl-grace-for-teens-group

Grow the Grassroots
Finally, I’d like to share this article, Trickle-Down Community Engagement, part 2: The infantilization of marginalized communities must stop, from Vu Le’s Nonprofit With Balls blog. His post is a reminder that it’s past time to critically examine funding structures and systems. Excerpt: “A major frustration—probably THE major frustration—that many of us grassroots organizations have is that there seems to be a disbelief among many funders and other people in power that communities actually have the solutions to our own problems. It is really ridiculous if you think about it. The people and communities who have personal experiences dealing with society’s entrenched problems should know more about it than those who have not. But there seems to be this weird paradox, where if you are too close to a problem, then people may assume that your judgement got harmed by it or something.” I encourage you to read the whole article, and Trickle-Down Community Engagement, part 1 as well.

Thank you!