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Is redlining the cause for the lack of generational wealth? New exhibit takes a closer look

The “UnDesign The Redline” exhibit at the Forsyth County Central Library shows how redlining was key to the development of Winston-Salem neighborhoods.

Is redlining the cause for the lack of generational wealth? New exhibit takes a closer look
September 30
16:13 2021

The Winston-Salem Foundation, HUSTLE W-S, and the African American Heritage Initiative have come together to bring an exhibit to the city that takes a critical look at redlining, it’s impact on the community and the people who call Winston-Salem home. 

Redlining is a form of lending discrimination where for decades, banks across the country denied mortgages to Black people and other people of color, preventing them from buying a home in certain neighborhoods. The interactive  exhibit on display at the Forsyth County Central Library, “UnDesign The Redline,” explores the city’s history of racism and inequality and gives the community an opportunity to see how neighborhoods have evolved and/or stayed the same over the years. 

“The exhibit has two great purposes, one is to educate people on how we got where we are today. Some people may have heard the term redlining but don’t realize how systemic it is,” said Charlie Gardner, program officer for The Winston-Salem Foundation. 

“There’s also a lot of people in the community who are well steeped in this and kinda tired of talk, so we also need to try to find ways to move beyond talk and so we’ve been trying to work with community partners to identify opportunities to get tapped into this work as well as to support work that’s ongoing.”

Cynthia Villagomez, chair of the African American Heritage Initiative (AAHI) and a history professor at Winston-Salem State University (WSSU), said that it’s impossible to teach African American history without discussing redlining. Vilagomez and her team were responsible for collecting information and archives related to redlining in the area.  

In addition to providing maps of redlined neighborhoods in Winston-Salem, a timeline of historic events, narratives from individuals who witnessed redlining firsthand, at the end of the exhibit visitors have the opportunity to share their ideas on how to improve neighborhoods that were dilapidated by redlining. 

“This is really an opportunity to serve the Black community and really use history to promote change and commentate the beauty of Black life,” Villagomez continued. “There was a lot of ugliness and suffering from discrimination and segregation, but yet when they were living through those horrors of Jim Crow and redlining, they took great pride in their neighborhoods, their institutions, their friends … Winston-Salem was an incredible place for Black people in those hard and harsh times. We had our own Black Wall Street with thriving businesses in thriving neighborhoods, so there’s this story of survival in the beauty of having Black neighborhoods.” 

Magalie Yacinthe, executive director of HUSTLE Winston-Salem, partnered with The Winston-Salem Foundation to develop programming around the exhibit and last week they led a panel discussion on creating a legacy through Black business ownership and intergenerational wealth. Yacinthe said when Gardner reached out and explained the exhibit, she was eager to get involved. She said the history of redlining goes hand-in-hand with the lack of generational wealth in the Black community. 

“When Charlie mentioned this to us, we immediately thought it was perfect because I have a true belief and the numbers and the data speaks for itself when I say that redlining historically and still today robs Black families of generational wealth,” Yacinthe continued. “I don’t think outlawing it has changed the situation because the impact was so dire … so it’s going to be forever before we see a positive turn from what redlining did so many years ago to our communities.” 

In coming weeks HUSTLE Winston-Salem will hold other programs centered around the exhibit and generational wealth. When asked what she wants the community to take away from the exhibit, Yacinthe said she hopes it creates chances for the community to come together and address issues that were created by redlining. 

“Even after it leaves Winston-Salem, I hope this exhibit creates opportunities for community members, organizations, institutions, whoever, to come together and think about what policies we can put in place to really address things that align with redlining,” she said. “Although redlining is very specific sometimes to houses and businesses … I do think the mindset behind redlining still exists and shows up in so many ways, so I hope this exhibit gives us the opportunity to say, ‘What do we need to put in place to advance these communities?’”

UnDesign The Redline Exhibit will be on display at Forsyth County Central Library until Nov. 14. The exhibit will be accessible to visit during the library’s operating hours: Monday-Wednesday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Thursday -Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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