Title: Oral History Interview with Tawana Belinda Wilson-Allen, May 11, 2006. Interview U-0098.
Interviewer: Gritter, Elizabeth
Interviewee: Wilson-Allen, Tawana Belinda
Subjects: Women political activists--North Carolina African American families--Charlotte--North Carolina Race relations -- Southern States.
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.