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The Voice of the Black Community

Arts and Entertainment

'Welcome to Brookhill' focus of Gantt Center exhibit
Alvin Jacobs' photos chronicle community
Published Wednesday, September 5, 2018 4:00 am
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

What do you know about Brookhill Village?

It is more than the sign you pass on Remount Road heading toward or away from the I-77 exit. It has represented home to many Charlotteans for nearly 70 years. Developers have an eye on demolishing the community, something Historic South End has become quite familiar with since the instillation of the Lynx Blue Line.

Enter “Welcome to Brookhill,” an exhibition by image activist Alvin C. Jacobs Jr. and his first as the Harvey B. Gantt Center’s artist-in-residence. It serves as the signature work in the Gantt’s latest instillation of exhibits, opening Sept. 8, with a preview on Sept. 7 from 6-9 p.m. “Welcome to Brookhill” is on view through July 31, 2019.  

“Brookhill the community was established in 1951,” Jacobs said. “It’s one of the oldest historically African American communities in the city. Since the 1930s, it’s been all-black everything. So many people since this project has been launched have expressed concern, love and admiration—things that they remember, whether their own personal experience, or a relative’s. People that they cared about.”

Jacobs uses black and white images to tell the story of 36-acre Brookhill, not only as it pertains to the broader narrative of development and displacement across the city, but to the people who call this space home.

“Brookhill has meant a lot to a lot of people, and it continues to,” Jacobs said. “So the Gantt decided that it was a great idea, an amazing idea, to focus on Brookhill. There are lot of communities in this city that are going through gentrification and urban redevelopment, but there’s also a side that includes banishment. There’s also a side that includes pain and frustration.”

With the land owned by Brookhill Land, which is affiliated with Charlotte businessman C.D. Spangler, and the physical buildings belonging to Brookhill Village Two, the fate of the residents, their homes and potential redevelopment remain in question. Jacobs has been tasked with documenting the area throughout his residency.

“We needed to humanize not just the community, because it’s always been what it’s been. It’s this amazing, amazing neighborhood. This beautiful community of great people that do everything everyone else does—go to work, attend school, take care of their families, but where it physically sits, and the battle between who owns the land, and the battle between who owns the actual buildings, there’s a reality of a rock and a hard place,” Jacobs said.

“The Gantt decided that it was our responsibility to do the work of not only uncovering the truth, not only shining a light on some of the plight, but some of the power. If you see that there is an opportunity for something, you are supposed to do it, and we are doing it.”

Said Gantt Chief Operating Officer Bonita Buford: “One of the things that David [Taylor, Gantt president and CEO] and I talked about was, are we willing to go where the story leads? We don’t know where it will lead, but are we willing to make the commitment, and see where it leads? We decided yes.”

Jacobs will lead a panel discussion and guided tour titled “Welcome to Brookhill: Behind the Exhibition” during the Sept. 8 opening at 1:30 p.m.

David Butler of A Way of Life LLC designed “Welcome to Brookhill.” James E. Ford of Filling the Gap Educational Consultants provided additional interviews for the exhibit.

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