|Rev. Gregory J Edwards|
I'm absolutely concerned about the gentrification of our cities. It's happening in Allentown. Allentown now has the largest community development initiative in this state's history. It's happening in Allentown, where 125 acres have been set aside to gentrify and reclaim space that was owned by others that were indigenous here, prior to developers like J.B. Reilly, Zach and Mark Jaindl and Gregory and Lee Butz.
So we have to know that land is valuable. Land is valuable, property is valuable, God is not making any more earth. Through public policy and legislation written by [Senator] Pat Browne and made sacrosanct by Mayor Pawlowski, we have 125 acres that have been set aside, that have been gentrified. Those natives, folk who have been indigenous, going to work there, going to church there, worshiping, walking there, the barber shops, the bodegas, the nail salons, ordinary folk, have been and will continue to be displaced.
We gentrify because there is no talk with $6 billion, give or take, in economic development taking place downtown. There is no talk to do anything with the largest public entity in the Lehigh Valley, which is the Allentown School District.
We've got 18,000 children, a graduation rate of about 60%, and only 19% of that 60% go on to college. Almost 90% of our children qualify for free or reduced lunch. Eighty or 90% of our children are determined to be "at risk" in terms of poverty. Ninety per cent of the children are children of color and really, if I wasn't a preacher I'd cuss right here, but really, nobody cares.
There seems to be a lack of outrage. We have churches everywhere. We have nonprofits everywhere. But there really seems to be a lack of consciousness on how important and how valuable our children's futures are when it comes to education.
I firmly believe that one of our greatest civil liberties is public education.
All of the state tax dollars that are funding Allentown's gentrification come at the expense of those 18,000 children, whether it is deficits in children healthcare funding or in state educational funding.