Charlotte announces $250 million investment in step toward racial equity

CHARLOTTE — In a major step toward racial equity in the Queen City, the city of Charlotte announced on Monday a $250 million investment in education, housing and jobs.

The investment is being called unprecedented and will, among many things, ensure internet access, enhance Johnson C. Smith University and revitalize the city’s corridors of opportunity, like Beatties Ford Road.

The announcement at Johnson C. Smith University was huge and was attended by dozens of the city’s top executives, politicians and community leaders. The response to it was overwhelming, even making Mayor Vi Lyles emotional.

“My parents gave me the ability to go to college. My dad didn’t have that. Don’t I have an accountability to make sure that the children of Charlotte have that ability now?” Lyles said in a news conference after the announcement. “It’s been one of those days that can change the course of our lives in our city.”

The initiative was born in response to the killing of George Floyd and the protests that followed in Charlotte and across the nation.

It’s a $250 million public-private partnership to address inequities and boost opportunity. $80 million will go to Johnson C. Smith University; $109 million to corridors of opportunity, like Beatties Ford Road; and $3 million to catalyze employer commitment, including more diversity in corporate boardrooms. $58 million are slated to tackle the digital divide.

Of the $250 million, $196 million has already been raised.

The funding for Johnson C. Smith University is nearly double their annual budget. It will be used to transform the school into a top-tier, career-focused HBCU, creating scholarships and new programs of study like pre-medicine, data analytics and computer science.

“Each and every one of those employers that get one of these students will be able to show that they are able to demonstrate not only competence but excellence in their chosen fields,” said Clarence Armbrister, JCSU’s chancellor.

Outside of JCSU is Beatties Ford Road. It’s one of six corridors in Charlotte that will be targeted by this investment.

“I cannot even begin to tell you what making an investment in technology, making an investment in opportunity, making an investment in entrepreneurship will do to the corridor,” resident Tiffany Capers said.

Capers lives off Beatties Ford Road and said it has already changed so much in the past two years. She hopes this investment will create buzz and energy for the thousands of people who live nearby.

“It is sort of the past being prologue. Beatties Ford Road used to be this for the Black community. There were resources here before. The trolley was here before. Now, we are just sort of coming back to the future, if you will, and putting back in place what has always been here to make sure residents on this side of town enjoy the beauty that is Charlotte,” she said.

An estimated 55,000 households in Mecklenburg County lack internet access. The funding from the initiative will provide access to the internet and devices. A new center is being formed at Queens University to oversee distribution.

For more information on the mayor’s Racial Equity Initiative go to EquityCLT.org or click here.

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