Black women in Fresno California

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Cracked ro and blocks of wilted grass and dirt envelop the Edison High School campus in the heart of west Fresno. Meanwhile, across Highways and 99 heading north toward Bullard Avenue, there is another side of Fresno, where amenities flower and many white residents prosper.

You can actually breathe there. The injuries and killings of black men and women at the hands of police officers have made international headlines in recent weeks. Bound roughly by Highway 99 on the east, Marks Avenue on the west, North Avenue on the south, and Highway on the north, west Fresno is home to about 26, people. Latinos make up about two-thirds of the area and black people about one-fifth.

According to data from the U. West Fresno residents earn about half the median salary as the rest of Fresno. Fewer residents graduate high school or own homes. And, on average, they live about 20 years less than residents in wealthier parts of the city, according to a Fresno State study. Residents told The Bee unrelenting disinvestment, neglect and a lack of representation have held back generations of black and brown residents. During her time at Edison, Cotton said she endured several instances of blatant racism, including a teacher calling her the n-word multiple times.

But fighting tooth and nail for equal treatment while achieving a 4. Cotton was diagnosed with acute stress disorder, constantly fought off illness, and ended up in the emergency room several times throughout high school. It sucks a lot of energy out of me. Cotton is the latest in a long string of west Fresno residents who have poured their hearts into securing a better life for the community. While they have made progress, residents feel that without champions on the north side of Shaw Avenue, the divide between the two Fresnos will grow.

Like thousands of southwest residents, she grew up with acute asthma, which also afflicts her 8-year-old son.

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Factories, meatpacking houses and slaughterhouses were all placed in west Fresno. White residents refused to lease, rent or sell property east of the tracks to the Chinese immigrants who built them.

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Through the 20th Century, the city cornered Mexican, Japanese, Armenian, and Italian immigrants and eventually blacks into the west side. Many immigrants moved north, but black residents were denied the opportunity to live anywhere else through redlining. The practice originated in Congress in the s through a program to extend low-interest, long-term loans to new homeowners.

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Government entities and private banks then denied mortgages to those residents and discouraged investment in those areas. Inthe U. Department of Housing and Urban Development infused millions of dollars into Fresno to develop housing, business and clean up dumps on the west side. They mandated cooperation between city leaders and a resident group to distribute the funds.

Around that time, the city pledged to curb sprawl in the general plan, but carved out crucial exceptions that allowed for the development of Fashion Fair Mall and later, River Park. Many shops once located in west Fresno left the area or closed. About a decade ago, HUD gave Fresno millions in Community Development Block Grant dollars to service neighborhoods in poverty that could have helped revitalize west Fresno. The city instead used the money to fund police and code enforcement, City Council President Miguel Arias said.

Insouth Fresno residents and councilmembers clamored for gas tax revenue from Senate Bill 1 to build sidewalks and fix broken ro. A bitter political battle ensued, and the money was split evenly across the city. After cutting deals with city leaders who wanted to boost the local jobs market, Amazon was exempt from paying taxes, addressing local pollution or even hiring from these neighborhoods.

West Fresno used to be a vibrant, growing community, according to Darden. In the 70s, she and her friends would walk to Kirk Elementary School and spend weekends picnicking at the lush Cosmo Park. But the city tore down the green haven to make way for Highway The freeway never touched the space, and a storage unit now sits on the lot. Highway 41 — like the 99 before it — also destroyed entire blocks of homes, uprooting black families who lived there.

According to Darden, the houses were demolished decades before the highway was even built.

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Where a dilapidated storefront now sells items for 99 cents, Safeway once supplied west Fresno with fresh, affordable groceries. A realtor, barbershop, drugstore, veterinarian, gas station and several small grocers lined the strip, mostly owned and run by black business people. But in the 70s, the Fresno Redevelopment Agency labeled the area blighted and tore down middle-class single-family homes, according to Bob Mitchell, a retired Fresno police officer turned community activist. Multi-family apartments eventually replaced those homes, but the area never rebounded.

You begin to depreciate. The community has struggled for years to get anything from a bank to a Walmart in west Fresno, which business leaders have attributed to its poor infrastructure, low-income levels and limited rooftops. That belong to us. Key to that goal, according to Mad Illustrators owner Myrick Wilson, are banks that will provide reasonable loans to black entrepreneurs. West Fresno is teeming with payday lenders, while its only bank is in Chinatown. Construction is slated to begin later this year. A acre park on the west side of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Boulevard between Church and Jensen Avenues will break ground later this year. Surrounding the park, Sylvesta Hall and development partner Jim Shehady plan to build apartments and senior citizen living, with market-rate single-family homes further out. A grocery store, dry-cleaning, movie theater and other stores will form part of a commercial strip along Jensen Avenue and Martin Luther King, Jr.

The developments are not without opposition, according to Arias. Community members fear gentrification. But he believes the city has to do everything possible to reinvest. David Paredes, a west Fresno advocate and co-chair of the local Democratic Socialists of America, said that to move forward, the heavy police presence that has plagued his neighborhood for years must end. He and his neighbors formed West Fresno Peacemakers to install a playground at Tupman Park, a green space with a few picnic tables.

Growing up, he resented west Fresno for its notoriety and neglect.

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But as the years passed, he grew to love the culture. He teems with pride as he describes the women selling elote, the panadero selling pan and the seeming suspension of time on the west side. McKoy, from Fresno Building Healthy Communities, wants to ensure the next rounds of city, state and federal dollars benefit her community. Manuela Tobias is a reporter with The Fresno Bee. This article is part of The California Dividea collaboration among newsrooms examining income inequity and economic survival in California.

We want to hear from you. Want to submit a guest commentary or reaction to an article we wrote? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact CalMatters with any commentary questions: commentary calmatters. Manuela is the housing reporter for CalMatters. Her stories focus on the political dynamics and economic and racial inequities that have contributed to the housing crisis in California and its potential More by Manuela Tobias.

The building had one time been a Safeway grocery store, which was part of a bustling economy in west Fresno. In recent decades, however, businesses moved north, leaving behind blight and decay. Police cars, churches and liquor stores abound. But trees, grocery stores, hospitals, parks, restaurants, and banks remain out of sight. We want to hear from you Want to submit a guest commentary or reaction to an article we wrote?

Manuela Tobias manuela calmatters.

Black women in Fresno California

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