DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Our “I Love Dayton” series spotlights what is unique about Dayton. West Dayton’s history certainly is just that.
Yet those days are decades in the rearview mirror.
2 NEWS Today Anchor John Seibel looks into the west side’s heyday, where it went and where they are going now.
“Dunhill’s, I used to work here. There was an exclusive men’s clothing store. We had the nice Dobbs hats and everything. It was a fashion plate,” said Dayton City Commissioner Jeffrey Mims, Jr.
Long before Jeff Mims was “Jeffrey J. Mims, Jr., Dayton City Commissioner he was like so many growing up on the west side of Dayton. Full of hope and dreams in what was a healthy and happening part of Dayton.
Factories were booming. GM, NCR, McCalls, Dayton Press, General Tire. Everyone had something going on, so if you wanted a job, you could get a job,” said Mims.
And the funk music that was sweeping the nation and topping the charts in the 70’s was given its first beats right here in Dayton.
Mims said, “Seven of the top 10 records in (the) nation were from bands that were from Dayton, Ohio.
Then politics, economics and education combined to strike a not-so-sweet chord.
A state bill capping school funding from property taxes in 1976 and a years-long desegregation battle dealt a one-two gut punch to the school system. Throw in companies boarding up their factories and West Dayton was firmly staggered.
Marlon Shackelford of the Omega Development Community Corporation said, “Linden Center literally transformed my life.”
Shackelford perfected his freestyle form as a young boy in the pool here at the Linden Center. Swimming his way to the top rung in the Miami Valley. He credits Ms. Gibson for his swimming success but gives thanks to all the mentors who poured their hearts into himself and others to mold a better life within these walls. The walls that like so many centers that are now closed.
Shackleford said, “It’s painful because this isn’t the only one I see closed up. It just hurts that we don’t have enough of these centers.”
Sinclair Community College Associate Professor Amaha Sellassie said, “Lack of access for things for kids to do, but then people complain when kids are acting up. Where are the adult-structured programs to give them self-esteem, positive outlets to move forward.”
Amaha Sellassie is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Sinclair and resident of West Dayton. He says tackling the truth means wrestling with race and a controversial policy of “redlining” that he says makes Dayton’s population experience “extreme hyper-segregation”.
Sellassie said, “98% of all African-Americans that live in Dayton live on the west side, which is a result of red lining that was done all over the country. African-Americans were pulled into them because the belief that African-Americans living in non-African-American communities would pull down property values.”
So what is the city doing? Commissioner Mims says the Commission spends a lot of time focusing on west Dayton and are putting their money where their mouth and the problem is.
Looking at the new library going in at the 35 and Abby Street location. We’ve done a lot with the Salem Avenue corridor. We still have $40 million in investments with the Kettering Health Network at Grandview. We passed a tax increase, Issue 9, that is vital and touches on so many areas of need,” said Mims.
“But it’s not enough, said Shackelford. “We have to do more. When we decide as a community that this must happen by any positive means necessary, then we’ll see change. I put a lot of that on us to hold them accountable.”
Shackelford says accountability is important. So is trust and listening to the people… all the people. He is also certain of one imperative point for any resurgence. There is hope.
Sellassie said, “I really do see a renaissance on the east side and the west side.”
“Every community has the right to shape their community the way they think it should be,” said Commissioner Mims.
Shackelford said, “I think that we can do it. Are we behind the eight-ball a little bit? Yes. Working together works.”
Commissioner Mims says $206 million has been invested in west Dayton over the last 12 years and more is coming, including redesigning lower Salem Avenue to make it safer and more attractive.
More money for recreation and youth centers is on the way and later in 2018, construction begins on the Gem City Market.