When Community Wins… We All Win
Updated: Jan 22, 2020
I moved to Delray Beach from Chicago six years ago. While in Chicago I worked in the infamous public housing development- Cabrini Green. Cabrini Green (now Target, Buy Buy Baby, Whole Foods and half million dollar condos) has all but been erased- too close to the gold coast for a marginalized community to take up space.
I feel lucky to have landed in Delray Beach. Not because of the beaches, nightlife, restaurants, or homes in this so called village by the sea- I feel lucky to live in a town that can boast the history, resilience, and relevance of The Set- A community filled with historical narratives, resident activists, and the tight-knit social fabric of days past.
The product, like so many other communities, of real history not a whitewashed version of it.
For those of you who don’t know, The Set is a historically Black, thousand-acre community in the heart of Delray Beach. In 1935, Delray Beach’s City Council adopted Resolution #146-35 designating The Set as the “Negro Area or Settlement”. It was once the only area residents of color could legally build or own property and live. It was once (and not as long ago as you might think) where people of color needed to find themselves after sundown in this sundown town. Look it up.
Here is what people who are not from The Set need to know... more people living in The Set 30 plus years ago are still living in their neighborhood today than any other place in Palm Beach County. That’s 1 out of 338 or so census tracts. That’s an amazing data point.
Community will tell you it’s because people love where they’re from. They have pushed through redlining, desegregation, disinvestment, urban renewal and still fight to stay where they are. Today, area redevelopment efforts threaten this PLACE- data wouldn’t look like it does if there wasn’t a deep sense of PLACE.
Early leaders of The Set advocated for creation of plans to improve the community and mitigate blight due in large part to the effects of segregation, desegregation, expansion of Atlantic Avenue, extension of I-95 through the community, and general disinvestment in Downtown. This is now documented in The Set Transformation Plan, a community-led and championed revitalization plan, to fight displacement in this historically relevant community of color. Petty politics and personal vendettas threaten generations of hard work.
Insert [Name of Community Here] and you have a story being told all over the country. Opportunity zone designation to bring outside investment, outside investors buying up property and waiting for gentrification, land ownership changing with the help of inequitable practices, and sometimes the direct public transfer of wealth to White owned industry using public tax dollars.
A lot of gain for some but what do we ALL lose?
Get involved where you are from.
In Delray Beach go on a historical tour with Spady Cultural Heritage Museum, spend time with the Ancestors of Frog Alley, attend an Elder’s Breakfast at Donnie’s Place, and learn more about the Roots Cultural Festival. Sign up for a workshop by the Race Equity Institute when they are in town and begin to understand systemic racism. Actively seek out information that fights the narrative you have been fed.
If you are White like me, find ways to share your advantage and honor and invest in this community. If that statement upsets you, learn more about White Privilege (it doesn’t mean your life wasn’t hard, it just means your skin color didn’t make it harder). Do all of these things for YOU, not because you think marginalized communities and communities of color need your charity. Do it for the history, do it because you want to protect authenticity in Delray Beach, do it for a cultural connection to raise your children in, do it so stories aren’t lost, do it because you value diversity, do it because people should have places that aren’t threatened.
Do it because an investment in community is an investment in yourself.
Residents of The Set can’t be the only ones willing to fight for it.