By Leslie A. Smith –
Pondering over black history, I found myself thinking about my forefathers and mothers encountering what black people still encounter today: rejection, abuse, racism, exclusion, gentrification, and being treated as if our lives, needs, desires, and voice do not matter.
I wondered … “Why?”
In reviewing my old pictures, articles, and notes, I came across a poem titled “Lord, Why Did You Make Me Black?” by RuNett Nia Ebo. As I reflected, the words of this poem resonated with me. I began to search, and found articles and notes from attending many city of Asheville community meetings about the Walton Street Park/Pool. It was the only pool Black Asheville could use at one point in time, and a park that to this day has true meaning to many blacks residing in Asheville.
After all the time invested, energy spent, and voice of the black community shared with the city via community petitions, verbal expression, and even official city surveys, Asheville City Parks and Recreation shut down the conversation. It has been almost four years now, and there hasn’t been any further conversation about Walton Street Park, much less any action. This is a prime example of how “Black Lives Don’t Matter” in the city of Asheville.
After all the promises, the claims that “major changes are coming to the Walton Street Pool,” the Southside Town Hall meeting, surveys, plans for Phase 2, and taxpayer money spent on a consultant’s report completed in August, 2016, by Aquatics H20 and Matthews Architecture … after all that, still no actions have been taken.
“We would like for the community to design this facility, so that we know the community is using it, not something that we sit back in that room and design for the community,” [yada-yada -yada] said Roderick Simmons, the director of Asheville Parks and Recreation. But there was no action, not even further conversation.
Does this mean real estate development is in the future for Walton Street Park?
This is extremely discouraging—especially when we were told there was money for renovation and/or rebuilding the pool. It is extremely discouraging when we see that a soccer field was funded—only to be flooded less than a month later.
A planning meeting is scheduled to discuss additions to the Wesley Grant Center down the hill. Yet, no action for the Walton Street Park/Pool is extremely discouraging. It’s extremely discouraging when there is no conversation with the city, and there are no answers to the big question: What has happened to the money that was (supposed to be) set aside for Walton Street Park/Pool?
There are plenty of black people who pay city taxes, but who are extremely discouraged—not to say completely fed up—at not seeing any of that money going to preserve one of two historic, even legendary, black icons of Asheville.
Well, I guess we can include the topic of Walton Street Park/Pool as part of the ugly Black History that has already occurred and still occurring in this city.
Lord, Why Did You Make Me Black?