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Community Development Conference Brings Youngstown Native Home, Praise for ‘Renaissance’ - The Business Journal

Speaking to more than 130 people Thursday morning, Youngstown native Evelyn Burnett said she is surprised by the revitalized part of downtown.

As she sat outside on Phelps Street with her parents Wednesday, Burnett was “blown away” by the area.

“What was most striking was not only the physical development of the building… But there was a lot of diversity of people sitting outside,” especially Black people, she said.

That wasn’t always the case. In the 1950s, there were still segregated entrances that her parents used, she said.

Burnett was the keynote speaker at the Ohio Community Development Corporation Association 37th annual conference. Community development isn’t limited to restoring structures, Burnett said.

“The role of the CDC is to introduce a lifelong resident, or re-introduce a lifelong resident, to their city,” she said.

It’s also a responsibility of CDCs to encourage engagement from lifelong residents to feel a sense of belonging, Burnett said.

For Burnett, a sense of belonging for her and her family to their community is her parents sitting outside, having a meal and not worried about being treated differently because of their skin color.

Burnett lives in Cleveland and is co-founder of ThirdSpace Action Lab, a grassroots cooperative dedicated to prototyping creative place-based solutions to complex socioeconomic problems in low-income communities of color.

The greater Youngstown area is on the cusp of greatness, Burnett said after a campfire-type conversation Thursday in the Ford Recital Hall at the DeYor Performance Center.

To see the full story from The Business Journal, click here.