BY FRAN FARRER
THE COUNTY NEWS
CHARLOTTE, NC –Thursday, April 5, 2017, at Mosaic Village, Dr. Justin Harlow announced his candidacy for Charlotte’s City Council District 2 seat. Already actively working in many capacities to revitalize the District, this announcement only comes following recent indications by Councilman Al Austin that he is not seeking a third term.
Proof of Dr. Harlow’s active community engagement was evidenced by the level of support already on the ground working on a successful campaign, and secured proven campaign chair Mark Jarrell to lead the force. He was introduced by community activist Dorothy Counts-Scoggins, and NoGrease Barbershop owners, Damian and Jermaine Johnson provided their space for the announcement, which highlighted a great and successful business on the west side.
By his side was wife, Kiara, who he thanked for being supportive of him going after his passion of helping our communities better themselves, and acknowledged 8-month old son Remington, and his parents from Atlanta. And as he looked throughout the crowd gathered, he said, ͞this is a perfect example of what it means when people say ͞it taking a village. This is our village – And that’s why we’re here. We must grow our village again so that for generations to come, Charlotte’s west side can thrive and prosper like every other part of this city.
In sharing his story and his why, Dr. Harlow said he grew up on the south side of Atlanta, which is very similar to Charlotte’s west side, and learned early on as a teenager, while being bused to the north side of town, that privilege and social capital is real and not everyone has access to it. ͞Only upward mobility or intentional public policy implementation can break down barriers to ensure equity in socioeconomics, education, housing and our justice system regardless of upbringing. I learned that diverse public education yields the best results, especially benefitting those from less fortunate socioeconomic backgrounds, he added.
͞In college at Emory University, I studied anthropology, the study of societal interaction and culture and learned that it is our differences, not our similarities that make us such a vibrant society. That despite our individual circumstances, our Culture makes us understand each other better. If we understand each other personally, it is easier to overcome the economic and political barriers that exists in our daily lives. I carried these thoughts with me to the University Of North Carolina School Of Dentistry. Chapel Hill showed me that the south was very different than how I’d known it coming from a large urban environment. Ever since, I’ve tried to share a little bit of myself with every patient I treat to get closer to that deeper understanding, Harlow said.
He noted that when he and Kiara came to Charlotte they decided to move to the Biddleville/West End area mainly due to the historical contributions of African-Americans in the community. We wanted a place to raise a family but also a place that promoted the growth of minority and women owned businesses and had a unique history in its majority- minority neighborhoods. But I’ll admit some of that history is being lost, he said.
Harlow said, ͞Our west side has a lot of dynamics at play that other parts of this city don’t have. We’ve accepted a stereotype, a narrative of what ͞west Charlotte is and looks like. We’ve forgotten that we’re just one mile from uptown – no different in distance than South End 1 mile south, Plaza Midwood 1 mile to the east, Optimist Park/NoDa to 1-2 miles to the north but this one mile difference west doesn’t get the same positive investment or same recognition as other parts of our growing city, he noted.
He went on to say, ͞This has to change. We’ve heard the findings from the Opportunity Task Force around economic mobility. Out of the US 50 largest cities, if you grow up poor in Charlotte, you’re most likely going to stay poor. We’ve seen what deep seated wounds were reopened since the Keith Lamont Scott shooting. Minorities don’t feel safe and feel neglected by our police and governing bodies. We don’t have adequate jobs or adequate living wages so we can’t afford our homes and our fixed income senior citizens are being hit with booming tax bills as a result of gentrification and Charlotte’s real estate market growth.
For those reasons Harlow said that’s why he was here to announce he is running for City Council here in District 2. He reminded that there have been great servants to include Malachi Green; At Large Councilmember James Smuggie Mitchell and currently Councilman Al Austin who has graciously served us for 2 terms and has indicated he is not running for reelection. I would like to fill that void for you so that your voice can help our city. I stand on their shoulders along with others in this room like Dorothy Counts-Scoggins, Charles Jones, Wallace Pruitt, and Mattie Marshall, Dr. Harlow added.
Sharing a bit of experience and community engagement, Dr. Harlow said, ͞I’m running for City Council in District 2 because as a member of the West End Advisory Committee for Charlotte Center City Partners and as neighborhood President of the Biddleville-Smallwood Community Organization, I’ve sat at the table with developers, educators, city staff and urban planning coordinators to help find ways to bring jobs, events, development, and a better brand to District 2 while being sure we never lose sight of our history. I want to use my relationships with these folks to help bring new economic development opportunities to Beatties Ford/ West Trade Street corridor in similar ways that we’ve seen new development in other parts of the district near Northlake mall, Mt. Island Lake, and 3rd and 4th wards uptown. I’ve worked tirelessly to help build better community collaboration and promote cleaner, inclusive, and safer neighborhoods. I want to continue to empower communities to utilize city and county resources like neighborhood matching grants, public art installations, parks & greenway enhancements and public transit initiatives.