Nicholtown historians teach youth civic responsibility, neighborhood preservation through tours
In recognition of Black History Month, Eleos Ministry, a faith-based after-school nonprofit, decided to partner with Nicholtown’s historians and activists. Preservationists hope more youth leave the tour more empowered and civically responsive.
GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - You’re never too young for citizen engagement and participation. Greenville’s Nicholtown neighborhood traces back to 1849. It was a self-sufficient Black community, with many firsts. It was home to some of the region’s first Black brick masons, doctors, electricians, lawyers, politicians, and teachers. And today, some historians worry about preserving what was built.
We’re on the bus with 14-year-old Tristan Shell whose being schooled on local Black pioneers and contributions that aren’t all bound in history books. Many exist through monuments and landmarks, that some just pass by, and word of mouth.
“It’s Nicholtown, I mean people had to fight to live here,” Shell said. “I’m feeling prouder to be in this community.”
His tour guide for the day is Yvonne Reeder, a former energy specialist and Nicholtown resident, turned historian with deep roots in the neighborhood.
“We didn’t have to leave Nicholtown for any reason, anything you wanted you found it in here,” Reeder said.
Sentiments echoed by other local historians like Sylvia Palmer.
“My family is all here,” Palmer said.
Palmer is referring to the entrance of Nicholtown’s Community Garden, where the names of the neighborhood pioneers including the community mother’s, father’s, entrepreneurs, business leaders and other influencers are forever etched in stone.
“Because when we’re gone, people will (still) be able to still come here and learn our story,” she said.
A story that also includes a Black Wall Street.
“Really (a story of) freedom and bravery,” Shell said.
Which leads us to why Shell and a group of other kids are on a historical scavenger hunt and tour.
“We have always had the desire to somehow intersect the lives of the elders of the neighborhood who have the rich history that they’ve experienced and our students who have moved into the neighborhood,” said Joy Hill, Eleos Ministry family services coordinator.
In recognition of Black History Month, Eleos Ministry, a faith-based after school nonprofit, decided to partner with Nicholtown’s historians and activists.
“They have the potential to do great things. And we want to see that,” Hill said.
“The timing of the partnership couldn’t come at a better time for Sylvia Palmer and Yvonne Reeder. both have their hands deep in neighborhood preservation and fighting profit hungry real estate development.”
“We don’t want to be erased off the map,” Palmer said.
“They do have a place at the table, and they should take advantage of it because they can make a difference,” Reeder added.
In fact, Reeder serves on the Land Management Ordinance committee and contributed to Greenville’s draft 2040 plan, a 400-page roadmap on what the city and its neighborhoods can and can’t look like in the future. Learn more here https://www.greenvillesc.gov/182/Greenville-Development-Code
“To limit what changes will be made in our communities,” Reeder said. “Their thoughts and ideas are valued.”
“You need a seat at the table where things are being discussed that affect your life,” Palmer added. “Whether you are for something or against something.”
These preservationists hope more youth leave the tour more empowered and civically responsive.
“They’re working to do that,” Hill said.
A lesson Shell has already received.
“I’m ready to go to my next city council meeting,” he said.
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