Bay County Black Community Focuses on Youth, Housing and Economy

As we continue our celebration of black history montha group of community members chose to use this time to come together to discuss the black community heritage in our region. In addition to remembering the great heroes of the past, a list of priorities for the present and the future was developed, from the point of view of the priorities of/for the black community, or lack thereof, and the current opinions of the community.

The list has been condensed from a long list of actionable items to three main focal points that have a tremendous impact on the African American community in particular, and by proxy, Panama City and Bay County: youth development, affordable housing and economic development. As simple as the list may seem, there were many rationales behind each item listed.

Black History Month Events:Make the most of Black History Month by attending one of these events in the Panama City area

Associated column:MLK and Rosa Parks, Garrett Morgan and Lewis Latimer: A Walk Through History | Opinion

youth development

The devastation of Hurricane Michael went far beyond the loss of homes and jobs in the black community. One of our greatest assets, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center has been lost. This center was the hub of youth development and enrichment in the black community. Youth development programs have since been developed by other community groups. However, the love and importance of the recreation center reigns strong, especially today. Community leaders began to explore other ways to deliver programs such as tutoring, financial literacy, sports skill development and more. These opportunities have allowed our youth to gain a sense of “belonging” while waiting for the recreation center to return. Leaders expressed the goal of continuing to provide our youth with a wide range of activities that will develop character and academic success.

affordable housing

The American dream has always included home ownership. This dream remains an achievable goal in the black community today. Affordable housing based on the Glenwood area’s median income has become an even higher priority since Hurricane Michael. Housing to accommodate the single parent with two children, the two-parent family looking for a small starter home, or the bachelor looking to get their slice of the American pie, has become in high demand. Homebuying courses, down payment assistance programs and training for real estate agents have increased as the community emphasizes the importance of home ownership. Organizations such as the LEAD Coalition have and continue to lead the way in making this dream a reality for community members.

Economic development

Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, formerly known as Cove Boulevard, was once known for its sprawl of small, black-owned businesses that lined both sides of the street. This burgeoning strip served as a hub for the economic growth of the black community. From gas stations to restaurants, these businesses have provided the community with the resources needed to be self-sufficient. The financial literacy taught by past generations was put to the test as business owners not only supported their families, but also supported community causes in a time of great racial disparity. In the late 1990s, the causeway was built to widen the freeway. As a result of this change of path, many businesses were closed and demolished. More than 20 years later, the community has placed the reconstruction of black-owned businesses as a priority in the community. Through business courses provided by local organizations such as Minority Panama City Corp. and Cornerstone Trust, a new perspective of entrepreneurship has been instilled in the community. The quarterly “Afro Market” was developed by Minority PC to highlight aspiring minority-owned business owners. The marketplace allows these business owners to showcase their products and services to the community while learning the pros and cons of entrepreneurship.

While these three priorities were highlighted today, there are many additional lines of effort that impact our community and influence our development.

Alesia Rhodes is a local community leader, counselor and business owner. She is originally from Panama City.

Comments are closed.