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THE TIGER AND THE TORCH ebook

Community can also be

Community can also be described as a feeling, a mutual connection, or even an emotional space where one feels at home. Because community can also be intangible, the process of creating PLACE (Purpose, Leadership, Access, Choice and Engagement) can be as complex as building a nest. At some point, though, seemingly unrelated experiences can be woven together to make a safe and welcoming place for people to live and learn. An empty nest however conveys the exact opposite and evokes a sense of loss. Yet, it can also represent changes in the environment or changing seasons in life. Sometimes seasons require staying put and other times, seasons require moving elsewhere. Migrations occur because of environmental changes whereby the current conditions aren’t suitable for living. It’s the perpetual coming and going that makes it possible for a bird to determine the ideal location and materials with which to build its home. Image Credit: Junie Lee: Africana Book Nests are temporary residences. Once the eggs have been laid and hatch, the nest is often abandoned. 81 The advent of mandated desegregation with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 82 prompted massive societal migrations. Many of the homes that were built by Blacks, financed by Black banks and occupied by Black families were quickly abandoned. The same also held true for businesses, parks and schools. Highways were cut through the middle of predominantly or exclusively Black neighborhoods in the name of progress. Although a new-found freedom began to emerge, engagement took on a new form and many places in the Black community wound up being empty nests. ROAR! IT’ S BEEN SAID THAT HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF; HOWEVER, “THERE IS NO REASON TO REPEAT BAD HISTORY.” 83 ELEANOR H OLMES NORTON THE TIGER & THE TORCH Page | 57

THE EXODUS Walking along the grass on what remains of the Christiansburg Institute campus, I looked down and saw a bird’s nest. It struck me as odd. Why would there be a bird’s nest in the middle of a field? At the same time I found it ironic because like the nest, the campus was once a home that is now empty. First, an opportunity. Obtaining an education… Next, the legality. Mandating full integration… Now, another generation. Discovering the reality… History repeats itself? History corrects itself? For buildings such as the Christiansburg Community Center on High Street and the Edgar A. Long Building on Scattergood Drive in Christiansburg, VA, these one-of-a-kind historic landmarks continue to have stories to tell. Their existence lets us know that it is still possible for something extraordinary to happen with them; and just like the community came together to build them, it will take the community being fully engaged once again to revitalize them. With what remains throughout the United States, opportunities abound to create experiences that will make great things happen wherever we choose to nest ourselves. When it comes to revitalizing these relics, a clear purpose, visible evidence of moving forward, and sound leadership are essential to create the partnerships that will bring these empty structures back to life. THE TIGER & THE TORCH Page | 58