On July 14, 2020, Asheville City Council passed a Resolution supporting community reparations for Black Asheville. Buncombe County Commissioners followed suit in August. In their Resolutions, each body names, apologies for, and resolves to “make amends” for policies and practices that have negatively impacted Black residents from slavery through the present day.
In March of this year, the City Council and County Commission each appointed five representatives to a Community Reparations Commission. The Commission is charged with developing recommendations to repair the harm done by decades of racial discrimination and systemic oppression against Black Asheville residents. The City also announced representatives “appointed by the historically impacted African American neighborhoods.” Kimberly Jones and Thomas Priester have been named as the representatives chosen by Historic Stumptown. Congratulations to them both!
Jones is an Asheville native, with close ties to Montford and Stumptown through her family and in-laws. She is the Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent of Asheville City Schools, and serves as the Clerk to the Asheville City Board of Education. She is married to Leonard Jones, Jr. and the couple has two sons, Elijah and Jeremiah. Her mother’s family moved to Montford from South Carolina in the 1960s. “It was a time when many black families moved from SC to Asheville for work in areas like hospitality and manufacturing,” she says. “I was always told growing up that Asheville was a hub for black people as Western North Carolina was growing.”
“I am excited to be serving on the Community Reparations Commission representing Stumptown,” Jones shares. “There is so much work that requires urgent attention in our city to repair the harm caused by urban renewal. I am honored to be a support in this important undertaking for people who were affected and are still being impacted today in Asheville.”
Priester is also an Asheville native who takes “great pride in being a champion of the people.” He grew up in Montford in Klondyke Apartments and on Blake Street where his mother still lives. Currently, he works for the Housing Authority supporting homeownership and family self sufficiency programs. Prior to that, he served as Executive Director of YTL (Youth Transformed for Life). He has also worked as a Student Specialist for Children First and a Behavioral Specialist for Buncombe County Schools. His extensive volunteer community service includes mentoring youth and serving on numerous committees including the Success Equation Housing Team.
“I joined the Reparations Commission to share my experience of being a native and growing up in Asheville,” says Priester. “I’m intrigued about the actual unfolding of the plans and process of Asheville providing reparations to the people of past, present and future.” As their representative, he plans to bring the perspectives of Stumptown elders to the table, with the intention “to be a part of the discussions/decisions of making things right.”
In April, current and former Stumptown residents had their first official meeting with Jones and Priester, where the group also designated Ami Worthen as Community Ally. Worthen, a writer and long-time Montford resident, will be supporting the group’s documentation and storytelling. Buncombe County and City staff will be working closely with the group as well.
Pictured: Stumptown meeting attendees including current and former residents, Community Reparations Commission representatives, and County and City staff. (Photo by Ami Worthen)