KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Knoxville’s newly appointed African American Equity Restoration Task Force sat down for the first time Wednesday at the Beck Cultural Exchange Center to talk about its next steps.
This task force is an extension of the resolution proposed by Vice Mayor Gwen Mckenzie last year. It was designed to identify strategic solutions to improve areas of disparity in the Black communities and make recommendations on how a 100 million dollar grant funding will be distributed over the next 10 years.
“I mean it feels amazing. Today was a historic day to finally get the task force at the table, start to set down what are some of the parameters, what are some of the guidelines,” said McKenzie.
Urban renewal had devastating impacts on Knoxville’s most successful Black neighborhood. According to the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, there were 107 Black-owned businesses before urban renewal, 15 Black churches were removed and more than 2,500 residents were displaced — with more than 70% of which were Black families. This committee has been tasked with helping to right those wrongs according to Mckenzie.
“When we do have this 100 million dollars available, I think that if it is a one-off event, a one-off program a one-off thing, I think that we missed the mark,” said Anderson Olds, one of the task force members, “and so something that can not only change where we are — but 10, 20, 30, 40 years on down the road we can say that this 100 million dollars brought a great return on investment.”
The first meeting was mostly establishing order for future meetings, and deciding how they will move forward. The task force agreed to hold one meeting a month, on a weekday, in the evenings. They’ll be held at the Beck Cultural Exchange Center and are always open to the public.