Kesha Monk has lived in Raleigh on and off for over 20 years. She is a graduate of Shaw University & a full-time media professional; having worked as a radio personality in markets such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston. After a devastating cancer diagnosis in 2011, she had to make a career pivot and became a voiceover artist. She has been the live announcer for the Tony Awards, The Soul Train Awards 6 years in a row and even voiced a GM commercial that aired during the Super Bowl earlier this year. Her voice has been behind various major political campaigns across the country including President Biden’s Democracy Summit, Thom Tillis for Senate and Raphael Warnock in Georgia.
Kesha Monk delivered public comments to City Council on July 5, 2023. She was not able to finish her remarks in the allotted time and has provided Livable Raleigh with the full version of her remarks.
Like many people across our state, I have been guilty of becoming detached from political processes (both local AND national) because time and time again, we are met with disappointment with leadership, especially those who unapologetically put profit over the people. No matter how many petitions, protests, marches that occur, people like myself and our concerns – historically speaking, are consistently ignored. And so, you become exhausted. You become deflated, disappointed – and as a result, YOU DISCONNECT.
But with our new councilmembers, I was super encouraged that the Shaw University rezoning case would be about right vs wrong not black vs white.
Just in case you missed it, Shaw University recently approached the city seeking permission to rezone 27 acres of land & I adamantly opposed because there were way too many concerns hidden in their application.
My husband Eugene Myrick & I collected over 3,000 signatures asking for full transparency. I don’t know – we figured that if we let council know that Shaw was refusing to answer our questions, maybe – this would help them make an informed rezoning decision. Through those signatures, I THOUGHT our voices were being heard. Even Corey Branch told the News & Observer that more conversation should be had between Shaw & the community.
But yet, SHAW STILL REFUSED TO TALK. Their response? Go to the website.
Shaw’s VP of Real Estate inserted himself in a robust conversation about possible displacement on the popular app NEXTDOOR. He posed as a South Park resident, regurgitating that same talking point of “GOING TO THE WEBSITE’. That’s not community engagement. We asked Dr Dillard, President of Shaw, on behalf of the community for a virtual town hall where actual questions could be asked about a campus plan (or lack thereof). After emailing her 19 times and she viewed the letter 49 times – the external PR firm responded and said, GO TO THE WEBSITE.
Just in case you don’t know, this neighborhood is full of our elderly. Many of which don’t even have access to the internet.
I thought our voices were being heard – ESPECIALLY by councilmember Jane Harrison who defines herself as an “Environmental economist”.
I thought our voices were being heard when we felt that we had no choice but to embarrassingly uncover the long history of corruption that had taken place over the years at Shaw. We hoped that the council would have some sort of moral responsibility not to give Shaw’s board of trustees access to a new revenue stream.
And I definitely thought our voices were being heard as Jane Harrison gave a “heartfelt” soliloquy of why she voted down ONE 40 story building on the white side of town citing many, MANY policy inconsistencies at a previous council meeting.
But even with Shaw not adhering to council’s directive, thousands of petition signatures, a protest, existing environmental issues, a callous act of religious discrimination, a huge conflict of interest between a planning commissioner and Shaw University, the and nearly 10 direct references of this application not being consistent with the comp plan – our voices didn’t matter.
Councilmember Harrison absolutely took our breath away when she IN THE MIDDLE OF THE VOTE, read a letter from one single “resident” about the Prince Hall District, but conveniently omitted the part where the author revealed that COREY BRANCH ASKED HER TO WRITE IT.
Please do us all a favor, spare us from the dramatics of making us believe that 1) policy matters and 2) that community engagement is the key to a progressive, vibrant city for ALL if you are going to deliberately ignore the voices of SOME.
RALEIGH – IF THEY REFUSE TO LISTEN TO US, VOTE THEM OUT.
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