Started from The Bottom and now WE HERE!
Named after the Black neighborhood and business center in East Knoxville that was demolished by urban renewal in the 1950s, The Bottom was established in January 2020 as a multi-use community space. Dr. Enkeshi El-Amin, a local sociologist studying race and place and Black communities, was inspired to build The Bottom after her research on Black Knoxville revealed resounding themes of Black dispossession and displacement. The Bottom was conceptualized as a justice and equity project centered on space reclamation, reimagination and transformation. Given the historical obstacles for Black Knoxvillians to claim space, a collective effort is required to hold Black space in Knoxville and to engage in place making practices. Recognizing historic and systemic injustices that have indirectly impacted Black people and places is also required to respond and heal from related trauma.
Our mission for Black Place Justice...
The mission of the Bottom is to build community, celebrate culture and engage the creativity of Black people through curated events, ongoing projects, shared resources and physical space. At the Bottom, community leaders, artists, university faculty and students, cultural workers, activists and more can blend culture, politics and social history in smart, strategic and engaging ways. We strive to cultivate a sense of belonging and safety for Black people who come from different class, religious, sexual orientation and gender backgrounds. In the legacy of our elders who organized and fought against urban renewal (dubbed "Negro Removal" by James Baldwin) that began in Knoxville in the 1950's, we hold down our space for the beloved community that remains.
In one year, the Bottom has held various programs such as:
1) Sew It, Sell It, our youth program that gifts sewing machines, teaches pro-Black entrepreneurship, and has a community-supported market day.
2) Bookshop at The Bottom, an independent bookshop and writing space for writers, artists, activists, creatives and others. Our specially curated collection is Black affirming, empowering and authored literature for all ages.
3) Community Podcast Studio, an initiative that seeks to provide a space for counter narratives. We are working to support local and independent audio makers by providing a professional recording studio and offering hands-on podcast training. The project aims to create accessible and affordable entry points for new audio makers, and to activate an inclusive DIY audio community in Knoxville.
4) Events and Advocacy that includes "Brown Girls Brunch", "Maggie Lee's FishFry", Beauford Delaney film screening, Kwanzaa Open Night, "UnMuted: Oral History project", and the Zora Neae Hurston Read-In-- All for creating and giving assess to gather and advocate for Black lives in Appalachia.
We want to stay, remain, and reclaim!
To proclaim....Black Place Matters!
We need a space that is OURS! Our next step is addressing our insecurity with the new wave of harmful development in the Bottom. Our neighborhood is rapidly changing, being rebranded, and we are threatened by the same harmful mechanisms that launched our mission. We are pursuing to purchase a house in our neighborhood and we need your support. We are taking a step in faith and by the urging from our elders to fundraise to remain in our changing neighborhood: to claim our place!
Please give! and then Share!