Monday, June 22, 2009

Jeffrey Higgs Reminds Us Why We Care About Soulsville

We wrote today about someone we really admire, Charlie Santo, and someone who has an equal amount of our respect, Jeffrey Higgs, executive director of Lemoyne-Owen Community Development Corporation (CDC) replied with conviction, so we're posting it here.

Finally, we can't think of a neighborhood that is more poised for this kind of revitalization. No neighborhood has more pride and more history than Soulsville, and for that matter, no neighborhood deserves our support more for the exciting progress being made there.

Here's Mr. Higgs' beautifully stated comments:

It appears to me that whenever this community (Memphis) decides to do something that attracts positive attention, there are those that say "...we cannot or exhibits the (NIMBY)- Not In My Backyard - syndrome…"

The idea of creating an artistic community in SoulsvilleUSA is a great idea, not only for what it brings to this City but what it tries to capture ...the essence of the music industry TODAY. Which is a vital part of the history of Memphis, and it is not just EP or BB, it is the creative class of minds young and old that says yes we can, have a vibrant and lively music scene and residential community as well that celebrates music and the economics associated with it.

And why not SOULSVILLEUSA? Over $150 million in revitalization activity, the City's only HBCU, Elmwood Cemetery, Soulsville Foundation, East Trigg Missionary Baptist Church, Memphis Slim's House, Aretha Franklin Childhood Home, J. E. Walker House, Historic Fountain Court, Rouhlac Mansion Bed and Breakfast, Firehouse Black Arts Alliance, Boys and Girls Club, Four Way Grill, College Park, Towne Center at SoulsvilleUSA and the people who make this neighborhood vibrant and contribute to the mosaic of diversity and a sense of being...a sense of place.

When we talk about crime and SOULSVILLEUSA proper, we are speaking about some of the lowest crime statistics in the county. While I know that image and perception counts for a lot, the reality is quite often much different than the perception and for SOULVILLEUSA, we are changing perceptions daily.

It takes a sense of ownership to instill pride. Now I am not naive enough to think that crime does not exist here, but it exist in Midtown, Germantown and Downtown and these are communities of choice. Residents in SOULSVILLEUSA are not opposed to reporting crime and the elements that drive it. Quite frankly, we have four neighborhood associations that are very active and contribute to the success of this neighborhood daily by reporting - vacant lots, vacant unboarded homes, spotting the criminal element and making the calls to the authorities as good neighbors should. All this to ensure that change in its self-image is one positive step to being a better neighbor and neighborhood. One cannot stand on the outside and get involved in this notion of perception, but one must immerse themselves in the fabric of the neighborhood to see the good and the changes that have occurred.

SOULSVILLEUSA and its residents are working to become a place that welcomes everyone, everyone that is trying to make this neighborhood a better place to live, work and play.

I can assure you that the people of this neighborhood are hard working and honest people that want the same things that others may want for their own neighborhoods - positive economics, green spaces and a environment that is lively and inviting to all.

I suggest: what better place to have Musicians live, work and play than SOULSVILLEUSA, a neighborhood with it rich musical history, creative young musicians attending the Academy now, and the future of Memphis Music all rolled into one thriving neighborhood (SOUSLVILLEUSA) and community Memphis.

Bring on the Musicians.


Zippy the giver said...

DON"T ignore Zippy, because, Zippy knows exactly what he's talking about!
Zippy has experience at this, not just ideas and empty talk.
I'm all for this, if you don't put unprepared people in harms way. That is wrong, and "other people do it" and "I didn't know it was that bad" won't be good enough excuses when the cases hit court. If you put them in harms way without doing your background work I will make sure of that.
The best way to nail Memphis' coffin shut would be to import a lot of people from outside to try to get them to do the work that native Memphians should have done in the first place and then the outsiders get to pay the price while Memphians get another free ride.
When they leave they won't be saying what you wish they would.
Like I said, I have done that work before and that isn't how it's successfully done. You gotta look at the reality on the ground and the stats, both.
I know it CAN be done right, and that it COULD be done right HERE. You will first have to control the environment, because the environment will always win, so you better get in charge of it first.
BUT, will it be done right?
Will you do what's called for 100%, can you see what that is at all. I hope so.
This is the ONE SINGLE PROJECT that Memphis NEEDS to get right.
I can't emphasize enough that you don't want to botch this one, this IS your signature thing, your Memphis brand recognition. THIS THING.
You have picked a winner and it's your last chance. It's also your very best shot!
This is for all the marbles. If you get this right just once, you will know how to do this in every other neighborhood, and that ain't all. There is a huge future in this one , but, it isn't in the donor/benefactor/grant money/federal or state aid crew's interest to see you succeed. If you do you won't need them, if you use them you will never succeed. This isn't the one to throw a lot of money at and have the crew get too happy about having a lot of money around till it's gone because there's no result.
This needs to be run like a HUD 203K loan, results first, then some money, then more results, then more money. 100% Accountability.
Coincidentally, you should be getting people who live here involved in the HUD 203K loan process, especially in Soulsville.
Owning your own results is the bet way to cement that you can duplicate them and that you have the power to succeed.
People who know that make a community attractive on a national and international level.
When things are right, word gets around.
You can do this and it can be done, even here, but will it be done?

Gwyn R. Fisher said...

As someone who is just beginning to know the wonders of Soulsville, I am amazed every day at what a fabulous, committed community it is. Their holistic approach to neighborhood building is a shining example of what we can do throughout Memphis. By creating change from the inside out, they are changing perceptions from the outside in. A raucous "Hat's off!" to the residents who give so much to their community. Keep up the good work!

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