African-American Churches as Entrepreneurial Agents of Social Change

Rydell Payne runs the nonprofit Charlottesville Abundant Life Ministries, and he has a plan to lift up poor African-Americans living in the city. He wants to develop three acres of Woodlands off Prospect Street, building about 20 residential units in single-family homes and duplexes, a multi-purpose educational and vocational center, and perhaps some retail space for a coffee shop or launderette. The “Prospect College” would provide job training and financial literacy courses, and possibly include some dormitory rooms.

Abundant Life was formed as an alliance of local church members and neighborhood residents. The organization has raised $100,000 on its own, and hopes to gain access to $67,000 in federal funds through the City of Charlottesville. The organization also is partnering with Habitat For Humanity to build some of the houses, and the ambitious Payne has held discussions with the Virginia Employment Commission about opening a satellite office there and hopes Piedmont Virginia Community College can offer workforce development and job training courses as well.

Churches appear to be the main institution in inner city neighborhoods that African-Americans rally around. Not-for-profits such as Abundant Life Ministries are the leading agents of enterpreneurial action. The poor and working class people who participate in this project will gain far more than places to live — they’ll gain skills it takes to succeed in the world… Not just the formal skills that can be taught in a classroom, as important as they are, but the organizational skills to set goals, raise money and execute projects.

Building communities from the bottom up through projects like this will accomplish far more to lift inner-city African Americans out of poverty than well-meaning but bureaucratic anti-poverty programs out of the Great Society mold that breed passivity and dependency. Let us wish Mr. Payne the best of fortune in his endeavors.

(Read Seth Rosen’s story in the Charlottesville Daily Progress. Photo Credit: Charlottesville Daily Progress.)

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  1. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    An now if Mr. Payne’s Beta Cluster was designed to be part of a viable Neighborhood and that Neighborhood was designed to be part of a viable Villiage, Mr. Payne’s Cluster could become an Alpha Cluster.


  2. Accurate Avatar

    EMR – the problem is that he doesn’t know that what he is proposing is a Beta cluster, neither do most of us. I don’t think he cares if it is a Beta cluster, most of us don’t. Most of us, including (I’m sure) Mr. Payne don’t understand or look at the world the way you do.

  3. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse


    You are accurate!

    Most, even among those who read Bacon’s Rebellion, do not look at the world the way we do.

    Many do not know what a Beta Cluster is.

    You and the others have two choices:

    One you and / or others can come up with a an accurate and comprehensive Conceptual Framework and a clear Vocabulary so that human settlement patterns are intelligible and citizens can make intelligent decisions, or

    Your can check out the Glossary and the New Urban Region Conceptual Framework.

    If you would like to see your grandchildren live in a sustainable society — perhaps a democracy with a market economy?– continuing with the Humpty Dumpty view of human settlement patterns will not work.

    Your choice, but you had best be accurate.


  4. Anonymous Avatar

    It appears that Mr. payne is doing what he can with what he has to work with. I can’t fault him for that, even if it turns out later he was wrong.

    He could just sit around and criticize others. He could write a bunch of new definitions to define his condition to be what he would like it to be. I think that is what we call “Gloss”ing over the facts.

    Mr. Payne has decided to make something useful, with what he’s got. He has apparently come up with a third choice, one that doesn’t depend on beta clusters.


  5. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Without a CLEAR articulated alternative – what would we expect anyone to do?

    folks do what they think is the right thing… and if others throw rocks at them without helping them understand what is a better way…then what should we expect?

  6. Accurate Avatar

    EMR – thank you, but you pretty much make my point for me. I have checked out your ‘Glossary and the New Urban Region Conceptual Framework’ – after the third paragraph my eyes began to glaze over, by the fourth paragraph it reminded me of trying to learn Esperanto – basically incomprehensible. Unlike you, I do not have a gloom and doom outlook on our country. We have weathered and figured out many things that doomsday sayers have predicted would be the ruin of our country. Typically, we come up with something unexpected and get results better than anyone could imagine.

    While I understand your motives, as I’ve said before, I certainly don’t agree with you solutions. I do believe a market driven solution WILL be THE solution. I also believe that the solution that you continually suggest is akin to a socialist/communist solution. So far, I’ve never been impressed with ANY of the results that those governments have come up with.

    Best Regards.

  7. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    Ok Accurate, the ball is in your court.

    My words make your head hurt so it is your turn.

    The market says the current solutions do not work.

    Citizens need better information to make intelligent decisions in the voting booth and in the marketplace.

    Now you come up with the Conceptual Framework and the Vocabulary to do the trick.

    We address your “market” preperences on the Blog comments about Lewenz’s book.


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