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Q&A: Renée White discusses the ongoing legacy of the East End/Valley Street neighborhood

As president of the East End/Valley Street Neighborhood Association, Renée White is no stranger to community activism. Holding the position since 2012, the Asheville native says her work within the historically Black neighborhood is driven by a desire to serve her fellow neighbors and preserve the area’s history.

“I saw the need for someone to step up to the plate and take responsibility for making the East End/Valley Street neighborhood a nice, safe place to live,” she says.

Over the last 50 years, White points out, much of the community’s former African American-owned businesses and homes have been demolished through urban renewal and ongoing gentrification. As a leading voice for those who remain, one of White’s major motivations is ensuring that lifelong residents aren’t priced out of their homes.

In 2018, the city of Asheville recognized White for these efforts, naming her Asheville Volunteer of the Year.

More recently, White received the 2022 Pauli Murray Brilliance Award from the Tzedek Social Justice Fund, a local organization that redistributes money, resources and power to support systems change and community healing in Asheville.

Xpress recently caught up with White about her latest award, as well as her ongoing work within her neighborhood and the need for community involvement.

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