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Historically Black Neighborhoods need to be
Policy Protected!


The Solution/Demand

Pass the Historically Black Neighborhood Ordinance sponsored by Councilmen Jecorey Arthur (Demand issued to Louisville Metro Council Members and Mayor Greenberg)


Louisville Metro Government has been saying for years that we need an anti-displacement policy to protect poor and working-class communities being ripped apart by gentrification. We’re done waiting! We need clear and decisive action now. For the last two years, residents from across Historically Black Neighborhoods in Louisville, KY, have been working together to develop a policy that not only protects us and our neighbors but also will work to restore our communities. We call this policy the Historically Black Neighborhood Ordinance.


The Problem

As a result of decades of Louisville Metro Government giving away public dollars, land, and Metro Officer support to corporate developers, gentrification has devastated Black communities in Louisville, KY. In neighborhoods like Smoketown and Russell, gentrification has pushed out, destabilized, and disinherited countless deeply rooted working-class and poor Black families. That ain’t right!

In 2016, the city launched the Vision Russell development project, and then in 2018, the Russell Place of Promise development initiative began. The impact of these two initiatives using public assets and resources to build market-rate development in Russell neighborhood(1) has been dire. We lost so many of our neighbors as a result. According to the US Census, between 2010 and 2020 Russell Neighborhood lost about 2,450 Black residents while its white population rapidly increased(2). We don’t know where these families have gone, but we know that a 2016 study found that a $100 increase in median rent is associated with a 15% increase in homelessness in urban areas(3).

These nonprofit and for-profit corporate developers feeding off our public assets have not built housing that we can afford. Instead, they have taken our resources and built properties that are driving up the cost of living in our communities. That ain’t right! Single mothers and our elders have been hit the hardest and rents are still skyrocketing. What do we want? We want Louisville Metro Government to actually do what it has been saying it will do. We need our policymakers to pass the Historically Black Neighborhood Ordinance!  



  1. Louisville Metro Government. (2019, October 17). Open Records Request #12478. Louisville.

  2. US Census data. Note: Russell Median Income is based on Census Tract 24.01, 2021 ACS 5-Year Est

  3. Munley, E., Fargo, J., Montgomery, A., & Culhane, D. (2012). NEW PERSPECTIVES ON COMMUNITY-LEVEL DETERMINANTS OF HOMELESSNESS. Journal of Urban Affairs.





LOUISVILLE, KY March 8, 2023 — On Wednesday, March 15th at 1:00 pm a press conference will be held at Shirley Mae’s Cafe at 802 S Clay Street in the historically Black Neighborhood of Smoketown. Residents, business owners, and policymakers will be standing together in support of the Historically Black Neighborhood Ordinance, which seeks to protect Black residents and Black-owned businesses from being priced out of their community.


Louisville’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan supports the enactment of the Historically Black Neighborhood Ordinance in order to meet its housing goals and commitments. According to the comprehensive plan, Metro Government is committed to “[ensuring] the long-term affordability and livable options in all neighborhoods.” The document goes on to make recommendations and remedies with the understanding that “as neighborhoods evolve” there is a need to “discourage displacement of existing residents from their community.” This ordinance takes decisive action in doing just that.


Not only Black Louisvillians are interested in this issue. This ordinance is gaining a lot of popularity across the city, with petition signers representing 25 of the 26 council districts in Jefferson County. After launching the campaign to pass the Historically Black Neighborhood Ordinance a month ago, hundreds of Louisvillians from across the city and over a dozen local organizations have signed on in support. We welcome our allies to stand with us as we hold our first press conference on this crucial policy.





LOUISVILLE, KY Feb. 3, 2023 — Jessica Bellamy and Jasmine Harris have been residents of the Smoketown and Russell neighborhoods, respectively, are apart of the legacy of those communities.


“Everyone deserves peace in knowing that we can afford our rent. Each of us should feel that where we live is worth what we’re paying. But for Black poor and working-class people in this country, that’s often not the case,” Harris has been fighting alongside her neighbors to obtain sustainable housing and appropriate living conditions at New Directions Russell Apartments for years now. In January 2021, she formed the New Directions Tenants Union to combat the tyranny of the New Directions housing corporation.


Harris, a hardworking, mother of three, spent six years dealing with the dangers of living in Russell Apartments. Suffering through filthy carpets, windows with no screens, safety issues, and unreasonable rent spikes, she was fed up. Submitting complaints to the landlord got nowhere, and conditions weren’t changing. Harris began talking with her neighbors about their shared struggles, and she began organizing tenants to work together in taking action to get their maintenance issues and concerns addressed. As a result, the New Directions housing corporation retaliated against Harris. The existence and visibility of the New Directions Tenants Union threatened to compromise their public reputation and relationship with their funders. They punished Harris for standing up and for motivating her neighbors to stand together. 


“I was a tenant organizer who needed emergency housing, and New Directions denied me access to what we had agreed upon. I had no choice but to move my family to my sister’s home. My kids and I shared a twin bed in my sister’s children’s room. There were only 2 bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms. On average there were eight of us living there, with five of us living in one room. This should have never happened.”


Her’s is one of many stories about housing insecurity in the city. 


Bellamy grew up in the Smoketown neighborhood. Her and her family’s historical legacy fill the streets’ rich culture, which local nonprofit and for-profit housing corporations seek to subjugate. 


Growing up in Smoketown in a shotgun-style house, she was constantly surrounded by family and community that cultivated her youth. Her father grew up in Sheppard Square. Her grandmother’s restaurant, Shirley Mae’s Cafe, has been a community staple for generations. 


“The house we lived in had this outdoor faucet that saved my life in the summers, there was a stoop out front that I fictionally married a kid on my block, a mud pool my barbies joyfully flopped around in, and over by the Grace Hope food pantry, in that sidefield, I made daisy chains and watched clouds go by.”


So when, at the age of eight, Bellamy’s family made the painful decision to move them out of the neighborhood, she struggled to navigate the rest of her life. Just a few years prior, her father was murdered causing her family’s sense of safety and financial stability to waver. This world-shattering experience only added to the devastation she was experiencing, knowing that she had now lost her father, her community, and as a result, her childhood.


Nearly 30 years later, Bellamy is still fighting to return to her community, but it is no longer as easy as it might have once been. Though she now owns the house she grew up in, repairing the home in a now gentrifying neighborhood has become a financial impossibility. As a result, she has been indirectly displaced due to classist and racist lending barriers, rising property taxes, and the skyrocketing financial burdens of construction.



Both of these residential struggles stem not from a series of unfortunate events, but rather from a malicious systemic issue known as racial capitalism. Racial capitalism is a system built on race and class in which the wealthy (who are overwhelmingly white) gain wealth and power from the exploitation and oppression of poor and working-class people. Bellamy and Harris’ stories are just a few examples of how racial capitalism plays out in the average Black Louisvillian’s life.


It’s time for Louisville Metro Government to take decisive action. For years, our government has talked about needing an anti-displacement policy. Well, here it is, The Historically Black Neighborhood Hood Ordinance (HBNO). The HBNO dares to directly challenge the housing and development corporations that are profiting off of our communities by exploiting residents for their rents, labor, and disparity metrics in order to get access to our public assets and resources.


Call to Action 

  1. Sign the petition  –  Individual Petition   &  Organizational Petition

  2. Follow the campaign online –  HBNO Campaign Webpage  

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