Last week in this space we noted that High Point is at the vanguard for Triad cities when it comes to reparations. In our telling, we noted several instances in the Furniture City’s recent past that suggested a troubling trend of resistance to Black causes, like naming a street for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In hindsight, we recognize that this is not entirely fair to the city, which has in even-more-recent-history begun to show signs of real change.
The construction of Truist Stadium and Congdon Yards in downtown marked a first of sorts: major capital investment downtown for people who actually live in the city. Before, most investment, public or private, went towards the Furniture Market and its biannual guests or High Point University, which has achieved its own sort of gravity just north of downtown.
These projects, and others that formed in their wake, seem to be at least as successful as promised.
And then there’s 2019, the year four young, Black men — Michael Holmes, Tyrone Johnson, Cyrill Jefferson and Christopher Williams — made it to city council, all by healthy margins, creating a delicate balance of power on council. And consider that Mayor Jay Wagner, the tiebreaker vote, beat Black challenger Carlvena Foster, by just over 400 votes.
Not that everything in High Point is Black and white. Indeed, the demographic has shifted such that just 45 percent of the city is classified as non-Hispanic white in Census data — a lot, sure, but not a majority, which gives more weight to BIPOC issues like housing and economic opportunity.
But it’s clear that this is not the same city that sent Wendy Fuscoe packing when she attempted a road diet on Kivett Drive. They don’t even call it Furniture City anymore — now it’s “NC’s International City.” High Point is rising — economically, socially and culturally, in ways that have nothing to do with High Point University. Or maybe everything. Who’s to say?
Bottom line is that there’s real progress there, with a path towards sustainability.
There will be a litmus test of sorts later this year, when Jefferson, currently serving in Ward 1, faces off in the mayor’s race against longtime council member Vic Jones, currently in Ward 5. There are a couple of other candidates running — political newcomers Abdul Siddiqi and Eugene Kininmonth — which is enough to necessitate a primary in October, and give us some clue as to how this one might turn out.
Ten years ago, this would have been a fairly predictable race. The fact that it is not is testament to the changes in High Point.
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