Joined by more than 200 of its closest friends and supporters, Valley CDC celebrated its 30th anniversary on April 12. Valley CDC primarily serves four communities in Western Massachusetts: Northampton, Easthampton, Amherst, and Hadley. Through affordable housing development, services to homebuyers and homeowners, and small business development services, Valley CDC demonstrates its commitment to economic justice every day.
In her remarks, CDC Executive Director Joanne Campbell said that she moved to Northampton in 1997, and joined Valley CDC to run the CDC’s affordable housing initiatives, thinking that work in Western MA would be slower-paced than what she left in the New York City area. She soon realized that affordable housing work is by its nature difficult anywhere. Undeterred, in less than a year, Joanne became Valley CDC’s Director, and led the CDC out of difficult times. More than one speaker noted how fortunate we are that Joanne is leading the organization, along with other skilled and dedicated staff.
The highlight of the evening was a keynote speech by Charles M. Blow, a New York Times Op-Ed columnist, CNN commentator, and author of his best-selling memoir Fire Shut Up in My Bones. Mr. Blow spoke for 30 minutes, and then answered questions submitted by the audience for another 40 minutes.
In his prepared remarks, Mr. Blow provided counter-points to a number of widespread talking points about poverty and the black community. He noted how President Trump, in his campaign, described life in the inner cities as “hell”, and rhetorically asked those living there what they had to lose. Mr. Blow replied that the answer was, and is, “everything.” He went on to speak about the “othering” of communities, and that “more law and order is simply code for organized state oppression in many of these communities.” He concluded his prepared remarks by using a metaphor of life being a hill; some people start at the bottom while others start halfway up or at the top, and finished by declaring “For God’s sake, stop pretending there’s no damn hill.” In response to one of the audience questions, he pushed back against the belief that racism is only a southern thing, with “No, it’s your thing,” citing segregation in New York’s schools and how Martin Luther King Jr. fought for fair housing in Chicago toward the end of his life. He added, “Liberal cities cannot lecture anybody else until they take a long hard stare in the mirror.”
At the conclusion of his remarks, attendees bid their good-byes and ventured out into the night. And, no doubt, Valley CDC’s staff went home for a night’s sleep before returning to work the next day to start the CDC’s 31st year of service to the community.