While the national debate rages as to what programs coming out of what ideology will work best for struggling American neighborhoods, opportunities continue to abound for worthwhile initiatives that draw on the resourcefulness of community leaders, the caring attitude of nonprofit organizations and the good neighbor philosophy of some businesses.
The Miami-Dade County neighborhood of Brownsville — or Brown Sub, as it is also known —is an example of how such a partnership can produce progress for residents battered by economic ill winds and the resulting loss of businesses, jobs and homes and the disintegration of communities.
At the center of the partnership is Neighborhood Housing Services of South Florida (NHSSF) which has put the spotlight on revitalizing Brownsville since 2005, in particular to develop leaders who can take control of development.
Brownsville is located near Liberty City in Miami. Its heydays of the 1940s, when it was the home of a thriving black middle class, has given way to abandoned and shuttered homes, flight of residents, especially the young, and a pervasive feeling of despair among those who have remained because they could not leave or wanted to stay.
But NHSSF, working in collaboration with the homeowners association, is gradually helping to turn the situation around. Homes are being renovated, new homes are being built, businesses are coming in and a feeling of optimism is rising again among some longtime residents.
Based on its experience in Brownsville, NHSSF recently organized a Miami Community Leadership Forum, with support from TD Bank, to extend its efforts to train some 150 grassroots organizers to lead the way in the development of their communities.
The outreach is now spreading to other so-called inner-city core communities such as Allapattah, Liberty City, Little Haiti, Overtown, West Coconut Grove and Wynwood, where mostly African Americans and Latinos live.
The Brownsville experience is proving that we African Americans can seize the moment and take responsibility for the revitalization of our ravaged communities, with the help of willing partners such as NHSSF, rather than just waiting on others to come in with ever-diminishing handouts.