In 1998, I made a decision that would greatly shape my life – I bought a small bungalow in the Montford neighborhood. Fast forward to 2021 where I am writing this in that same house, my home for literally half of my life, which I share now with a wonderful partner and our darling dog.
I can look out of the windows and see trees and bushes that have grown big from their start as small plantings, and a well-established herb and flower garden that fills a yard that once was only grass. Inside, we’ve made a variety of improvements over the years, creating a domestic sanctuary where we live and work. Things are especially dialed in now after a year of quarantine. There is love in every corner.
The weight of the cumulative memories in my home is comforting and crushing. When I expand my observations to the neighborhood that surrounds it, even more so. My being reverberates with this place, the primary container of the last two decades and then some. Montford is part of me.
Today I acknowledge that, as I let this neighborhood hold me, I have not held it back with enough care. As my analysis deepened over the years since I moved in, I became aware of the systemic racism behind the loss of the economic and racial diversity that existed when I first moved to Montford. A loss my arrival contributed to. A loss that was on top of previous losses dating back to when this was indigenous land.
Yet as gentrification was rapidly accelerating in Montford, I offered little beyond an essay in resistance. Instead, my community activism has happened in neighborhoods besides my own, or on a broader geographic scale.
Like the bushes that now surround my house, the income level of my neighbors has grown up around me. And while I have no ill will towards these specific individuals, it has broken my heart to watch an influx of wealth squeeze Black people, working class people, college students, artists, and others out of Montford and the adjacent Stumptown/Hill Street Neighborhood.
I am not alone in my concerns. Montford is full of Black Lives Matter signs. And the 2016 Montford Neighborhood Association neighborhood plan submitted to the City of Asheville lists the goal of “Working to preserve Montford’s diversity in race and income.”
What would it take to achieve such preservation and restoration?
An opportunity for action towards repair is the “Montford & Stumptown Fund.”
This fund, newly established with the Asheville-Buncombe Community Land Trust (ABCLT), will go towards permanently affordable housing for Black people in Montford and Stumptown (census tracts 2 and 3). The fund is a resident-led effort aimed at repairing the damage caused by centuries of racial inequities in real estate. In being a part of the Montford Community Club, which is spearheading this initiative, I hope to be more accountable in the neighborhood where I live.
Find out more about the fund and how to support it at montfordandstumptown.com.
There will be more Montford musings in the coming months.
Graph by Asheville Quantified using census data:
Racial demographics in Montford & Stumptown/Hill Street (census tracts 2 and 3) from 2000 to 2019. The first two columns are 2000 and 2010 (ten year increment), the rest are in 1 year.
Key: green is Black/African American, red is white, and purple is all others.