Letter to the Editor: How did we get to this point?


Sunday, March 17, 2019

My husband and I relocated to Rocky Mount in the late 1980s and it did not take long for us to discover the housing instability and economic decline beginning to take form on the east side of the city while the west side was rapidly growing.

As previously engaged citizens in community, civic and political affairs, we were eager to get involved. To our surprise, we discovered that name recognition and apparent racial quotas factored into who was appointed to serve on boards and commissions. We did not let this discourage us and eventually served on various boards and commissions.

By the 1990s, the unraveling on the east side was in full motion. House after house was for sale, realtors were making a killing “blockbusting,” businesses were closing and moving, downtown was looking like a ghost town and the west side was benefiting. The three minority council members were helpless to effectuate change without the support of one council member from the majority voting with them. This was indeed a rarity.

In 2003, the election of African-Americans as the council’s majority was like doomsday. The critics lined up and they have not broken that line to date. In spite of ongoing criticism, positive accomplishments over the past 15 years are evident and should impress all of us. We see housing initiatives that are changing the landscape, the sports complex, restoration of the Douglas Block, reduced electrical rates, the commercial and residential development of The Falls and the completion of the Event Center.

Underserved communities are slowing being revitalized, OIC has expanded educational programs that improve student career choices and two community health care centers have opened. Two industries will be locating in Edgecombe County and the completion of the Event Center has created interest in downtown real estate.

Yet no matter the positives, criticisms remain the topic for discussion.

While criticism of the Event Center’s construction bordered on the ridiculous, the restoration of a broken-down tobacco warehouse, the Imperial Centre, was met with enthusiasm by some of these same critics in spite of over-budget cost. Is it unreasonable to ask why? How did we get to this point? I suspect it is because of an unwillingness to let go of generational stereotyping on one hand and a struggle for equality on the other hand with no tolerance for constructive dialogue.

Gardenia B. Hobbs

Rocky Mount