Louisville Magazine

MAR 2019

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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kyselectproperties.com 122 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 3.19 of Chestnut Street's once-grand homes were abandoned, boarded up and sometimes set afire by squatters. Unscrupulous contractors, in the middle of the night, began to dump huge loads of construction debris in the alleys behind our homes, creating unsight- ly messes, inviting critters and blocking, sometimes for days, residents' access to our driveways and garages. Right before my eyes, the community I loved had become a dumping ground and was abandoned, it seemed to me, by everyone with the power to stop it. Eventually, I had the heartbreaking realization that the thrill was gone, and that I, too, would have to abandon the first home I ever owned. After 10 years, I reluctantly decided to put my Chestnut Street house up for sale in 1994. My decision included the fact that my mom and Aunt Ebby were right when they predicted the daily treks up and down the stairs would take a toll. After a year on the market, the house sold (for less than I had hoped), and I retreated to a single-level condo in the East End. I've been following the news about the plans to revitalize parts of west Louisville, including the Russell neighborhood. My excitement is tempered by my fear of gentri- fication, my fear that the community I fell in love with — and where, as a young woman, I could afford to buy my first house and pa- tronize black-owned small businesses — will gradually disappear. I want to see Russell cleaned up and revi- talized, but will the residents who've hung on through the lean years be forced out? Will they have a real say in what's coming? Will they be allowed to move back when all is said and done? I fear gentrification because I have seen the heart and soul ripped out of the Har- lem that I once knew and other black com- munities. I fear that outsiders will make all the major decisions, suck up the majority of the government and private-investment dollars, and then pitch pennies to the organizations and churches that never abandoned the West End. In a recent speech, Sadiqa Reynolds, president and CEO of the Louisville Urban League, said something that resonated: "We can't only be focused on pretty buildings. Black ownership has to be a priority." I grew up in a public-housing project that was paradise compared with the slums my family had moved out of. I watched my mom and dad work hard but never earn enough to buy a house or even a car. ey wanted the best for me, and I want the best for other African-Americans in Russell and other neigh- borhoods being eyed for revitalization. I want other African-Americans to experience the joy and the sense of accomplishment that I did 34 years ago, when I put a key into a lock, opened the door of my first house, stepped inside and said, "is is mine." Every now and then, I ride past my old house and recall the good times. Maybe one day I'll get out of the car, knock on the door and ask the owner if I can look inside. I won- der if the flowers that Aunt Ebby planted are still blooming. Betty Winston Bayé is the author of the forth- coming memoir e Book of David: An East Harlem Love Story.

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