Midnight On Beatties Ford: The Happenings Of A Community Must Be Told From Within
The Beatties Ford community in Charlotte, North Carolina, is near and dear to my heart for several reasons. Through family ties and personal experiences, I have an eternally strong connection to a place that shaped me at pivotal points in my life. It is disheartening when tragedies such as the one that took place this past weekend strike in a historically Black neighborhood. Additionally, it hurts more when the timing of said tragedies align with celebratory moments of the Black experience, like Juneteenth weekend.
Occurrences like this past weekend almost make celebrating freedom feel bittersweet, especially when considering the circumstances that for decades, have contributed to community violence and policing. As if Black people could not be more tired of being told when, where and how to be Black and celebrate Blackness, outsiders view tragedies like this as unavoidable when large groups of Black people gather, and solely place responsibility on the community itself.
Remarks from those same outsiders are often loud when violence in this manner occurs in predominantly Black areas of Charlotte. This rhetoric highlights how segregated Charlotte is geographically and psychologically, specifically magnifying the many divides between Charlotte natives and transplants, white and Black Charlotteans, and communities of color and the police department..
When we speak on communities such as Beatties Ford, and analyze the historical context of the violence there, many who aren't qualified to speak on said issue are quick to adopt a tone that does very little to address the very systems that have failed the community in the first place.
When retroactively analyzing the history of the Beatties Ford community, we must honor the efforts and services that schools, churches and libraries have provided over many years. Personally, I have taught children of the community at a Title I summer camp hosted by Clinton Chapel AME Zion Church, the oldest Black church in Mecklenburg County, which sits at the intersection of Beatties Ford, West Trade and Rozzelles Ferry road. At that same intersection sits M&F Bank, the second oldest Black banking institution in the United States, and Johnson C. Smith University, a private HBCU that my stepfather attended. It is also worth noting that Clinton Chapel was my home church as a practicing Christian. Most of my family members attended West Charlotte High School, my sister and I marched in the band, while my brother played varsity basketball and football.
To say that my ties to the community run deep would be an understatement, as there are numerous parts of my life that are intertwined with the people of Beatties Ford. The aforementioned institutions and countless others, stand as pillars in a layered and resilient community, which is why I understand the importance of questioning what has taken place in a community that has changed so rapidly. It is also fair to question intra-racial violence such as what occurred Sunday night. Before being loud and wrong, we must ask ourselves what contributes to said violence, and what steps can communities take to prevent senseless acts.
Contrary to popular belief, communities like Beatties Ford don’t revel in violence. In fact, members of the community will tell you that they denounce it, and often come together for positive change more often than what is covered, exploited and sensationalized by those who have failed to acknowledge, assist or understand the community.
We can agree that crime and violence disproportionately impact low-income and underfunded communities. We can also agree that Black communities like Beatties Ford need resources, structural support, and positive change in the wake of rising racial tensions, as well as healthcare and employment disparities. What outsiders, white allies and other non-Black community members should work harder to realize is that finger-wagging in the wake of violent events does nothing to dissect the system that allows and contributes to the very violence they selectively react to. Scolding the community that the violence occurs upholds the very systems that contribute to decaying resources, while taking up space where constructive conversations and healing could be held instead.
In no way is this an attempt to absolve the Beatties Ford community of accountability, however, communities like these need agency and resources to support the people that inhabit it. This includes resources that provide fresh food and vegetables, scholastic support for schools and libraries, affordable housing that promotes the community’s growth, eased tensions between police and residents, and an infrastructure that revitalizes the community and changes the narrative surrounding its residents.
Independent media outlets, writers, creatives, image activists, artists, educators and individual members of the community have a personal responsibility to tell the stories of the happenings within the community, and change the perception of such a historical area. It is also our societal duty to protect the narrative and essence of Black communities like Beatties Ford. Most importantly, it would be tremendously irresponsible of us to allow others to tell a story only we know best.