Systems Change in the Neighborhood: Meet Carol Davis


Meet Carol Davis, executive director of Simon Green Atkins Community Development Corporation and recent Trust grantee. We sat down with Carol for her perspective on what long-term change looks like for her community in Forsyth County.

What is the mission you’re working to accomplish in Forsyth County?

We’re working to create opportunities that increase Black ownership.

When residents own homes, businesses, and property, it can stabilize the neighborhood and the families who live there, increase the neighborhood’s value, and overall make it a better, healthier place to live.

For us, it’s about asset-building and wealth-building. Helping people generate revenue that can help them take care of their families and have something to pass on to their children.

What I like to do is work in partnership with other people and organizations that have similar missions, because we can have greater impact by working together. I’m thrilled to be associated with Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) and everything they’re doing to provide greater access to higher education.

What motivates you to work for change?

I just have this spirit for wanting to right whatever I see that’s wrong. I guess it’s something that came to me through the way I was raised.

I love doing community development work because I believe everybody deserves a good place to live, great health care, good food and nutrition, and high-quality education in their schools. It’s so unfair that we live in a nation as wealthy as ours, yet so many don’t have access to opportunity and a level playing field.

No one should be held back from achieving their goals and displaying their full talents because of socio-economic or other barriers. We know the playing field isn’t level, and that’s what draws me to this work.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention how the energy of our team serves as a daily source of motivation. Many staff grew up in this neighborhood and have returned to apply their knowledge and experience toward helping others in the community succeed. It has come full circle.

How is racial equity and anti-racism critical to your work?

It’s important to address inequity and racism because they exist.

We’re associated with Winston-Salem State University, where 50 percent of students are first-generation college students. The fact that half of the student body is the first in their family to go to college is evidence of something systemic.

Some of the images of things that happened over last summer, videos of Black people being killed by police … the entire world could see it. So many more young people are wanting to study policy and create change. Being out marching with signs is one thing; knowing how to work within the system to create new policies and systems is really what we need to do.

The team celebrates a new home in the neighborhood.

So, what’s happening in the neighborhood?

We try to be responsive to what people tell us their needs are, which is why we’re working on housing, business, and food support right now.

We work with the county, city, and other nonprofits on home ownership, helping first time home buyers navigate the process. We also renovate older homes and build new, affordable homes.

To increase business ownership, one of our largest projects is The Enterprise Center.

The building was an old Boys and Girls Club that we purchased to create affordable office spaces and provide support for small business owners who choose to operate where they live. Despite being told that this neighborhood was undesirable as a business incubator, our space was full within three months.

We also have a conference center, computer lab, shared-use commercial kitchen, community garden, and other assets that give people the opportunity to have something they’d typically have to go outside of the neighborhood to find.

What will success look like when you achieve your mission?

We’ll work ourselves out of business!

We’ll have healthy neighborhoods, and quality housing and amenities for everybody. We’ll have home appraisals on this side of town near WSSU that match your West Winston home appraisals. We’ll overcome the impact of segregation and red lining.

We’ll have high-performing schools all across town, and kids won’t have to leave Winston-Salem to attain opportunity or develop their talents and skills to the fullest.

We’ll have business owners of color in the neighborhood with capital. They say there’s been $1 billion invested in downtown development over the last 12 years. Why just downtown? Let’s spend some money where people already are, not to attract them from afar to live downtown.

That’s the blue sky for me—get rid of disparities and create opportunity for everybody, so that everyone can realize their full potential. People deserve hope and optimism about their future.

Learn more and get involved with Simon Green Atkins Community Development Corporation here.