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Oral History Interview with Tawana Belinda Wilson-Allen, May 11, 2006. Interview U-0098. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    Tawana Belinda Wilson-Allen shares her experiences working with community empowerment groups. Wilson-Allen begins the interview with a discussion of her family background. Throughout the course of the interview, Wilson-Allen chronicles her work with several North Carolina grassroots organizations, largely serving under the umbrella organization known as the Carolina Community Project. She expresses the importance of strong leadership within organizations. Wilson-Allen argues that the rapid economic and spatial growth of Charlotte, North Carolina, requires grassroots organizations such as the ones in which she was involved to employ direct action strategies. Such strategies provide community members with the tools to advocate for themselves and focus on issues most relevant to them. She explains the differences between community and political organizing: the latter is temporary work, while the former allows workers to help people work through the established system. According to Wilson-Allen, the political organizing may provide immediate tangible results, but community organizing provides sustained training and benefits over time. She began working on Congressman Mel Watt's political campaign in 1991, and sees it as an extension of her grassroots work. Wilson-Allen discusses the importance of constituent-friendly voter education materials. Since largely low-income, black neighborhoods received fewer city services, Wilson-Allen argues that voting would attract politicians' attention to their neighborhoods. As a congressional liaison for Watt, Wilson-Allen took a trip to Charlotte's sister city of Kumasei, Africa. She credits this trip with awakening her sense of black consciousness. The trip led her to reflect on segregated schooling and its merits, which she discusses in the interview. Wilson-Allen also voices her opinion about the federal Hope VI initiative.
    Excerpts
  • Organization of the Carolina Community Project
  • Critical influence of one effective grassroots organizer
  • Jim Pierce's successful strategies appealed to a broader electorate
  • Ron Charity helped integrate traditionally white agricultural worker groups
  • Necessity of empowering people to self-advocate
  • Differences between community and political organizing
  • Visit to Charlotte's sister city in Africa awakens black consciousness
  • Positive attributes of segregated schools
  • Low voter turnout results in fewer city services for the poor
  • Hope VI housing initiative offers ray of hope to lower income residents
  • Charlotte's population boom creates need for more direct action programs
  • Effective voter education resources are needed to appeal to black voters
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • Subjects
  • Women political activists--North Carolina
  • African American families--Charlotte--North Carolina
  • Race relations -- Southern States.
  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.