“I want students to know that we have an entire city that has a story to tell you,” said JaNesha Slaughter, a senior at UNC Asheville and student employee at the Key Center for Community Citizenship and Service Learning. Slaughter believes stories are powerful, and she wants students to use that power to tackle a big issue for the Asheville community: affordable housing.
This fall UNC Asheville will be one of five colleges and universities in North Carolina to carry out a “Facing Project,” examining a community issue through the collection and sharing of individual stories. UNC Asheville and other participating North Carolina schools are all members of North Carolina Campus Compact, a coalition of 36 public and private colleges and universities dedicated to improving community life and educating students for civic responsibility.
In UNC Asheville’s Facing Project, students will collect stories by interviewing members of the Asheville community about their individual experience with affordable (or unaffordable) housing in the city. The students will then compile those stories in the first-person and share them through writing and acting. “Facing” the issue of affordable housing in Asheville is especially important, according to Slaughter.
“When we have a 1 percent vacancy rate and three people moving here every day, there’s going to be a problem,” Slaughter said. It’s a problem that disproportionately affects African-Americans in the community, and has historically led to the destruction of African-American neighborhoods, Slaughter explained. Urban renewal projects in Asheville in the 1950s-1970s displaced several vibrant black communities, like the one at the city’s East End. The effect of that displacement is still felt in Asheville.