First and foremost, we at Neighborhood Preservation, Inc. are outraged and appalled by the senseless homicides of Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many others. This outrage makes us all the more motivated to continue our work and to be better, more equitable, more sensitive, more inclusive and more committed as individuals and as an organization to fighting racism in all of its forms. We are and will continue to be allies in the Black Lives Matter movement. We are excited to be a part of creating lasting change.
NPI’s work fighting to eliminate systemic barriers to neighborhood revitalization starts with an acknowledgment that systemic and structural racism has significantly contributed to the neighborhood conditions we are working to improve. Specifically, generations of discriminatory policies, programs and practices have targeted black Americans and have resulted in widespread destruction of social cohesion and the destabilization of countless Memphis neighborhoods. Our team often works on what we call “intractable” problem properties – those problem properties that the private sector won’t touch and the government can’t touch but that we all believe someone MUST do something about. Those properties in Memphis are almost always in neighborhoods that have been most recently majority black neighborhoods. This is not a coincidence.
The challenges to stabilizing the properties are daunting – market appraisals are low, demand is low, infrastructure is poorly maintained, public transportation and public schools are poor. In many instances financial lenders have carelessly redlined or outright refused to provide fair loans to borrowers in these communities. These properties are as much a part of Memphis as any other properties. The nearby residents and business owners are as much Memphians as anyone else in Memphis. So whose job is it to make struggling neighborhoods stronger?
Our team and our partners often encourage citizens to take action – get organized – pick up a broom or plant a tree. But we know that the problem is systemic and many factors are at play. Banks and other financial and private institutions as well as elected officials and government agencies must be willing to invest enough to make a difference. So why don’t they?
Systemic and structural racism are unfortunately part of the answer. We as a society must act with urgency to confront this head on using every possible tool, and we must advocate for the use of the ballot box by our allies to empower the right leadership at all levels. The NPI team is committed to the hard work of rebuilding and revitalizing neighborhoods and to fighting the systemic barriers that have been holding many neighborhoods and many people back for far too long.