Trouble brewing between black Americans and African refugees in Roanoke, VA
Posted by Ann Corcoran on April 24, 2008
Update! Thanks to reader “Bill” I had this story happening in Richmond when it really was happening in Roanoke!
Uh oh, we have heard anecdotal stories about tensions brewing but this is the first news account we’ve seen. Look at this story today in the Roanoke Times. It’s not clear where the fault lies but things seem to be out of hand.
The small barren courtyard that separates the apartment buildings of Dwan Dillard and Mohamed Adin in Northwest Roanoke might as well be an ocean, so deep is the dislike that the American-born black woman and the Somali Bantu refugee have of each other.
“That out there is a war zone,” said Dillard, whose four children live with her at Maple Grove Apartments, a blighted complex of four buildings with a total of 40 units on Pilot Street near Melrose Avenue. “The African children attack ours. They throw rocks.”
“I have a gun. If they hurt my kids, I’ll use it,” said Tricia Arrington, an American-born black woman with five children. Interviewed Monday outside her apartment, she said, “My 9-year-old daughter came in from riding the school bus with those Africans and they had spit all over her face. I ain’t about to let them keep doing that.” Further complicating the issue and this story is the reference to the cheap rundown apartments in which the Catholic agency places refugees. That part of the story is not new!
Further, the rundown apartments in which the Catholic resettlement agency is placing refugees may be a contributing factor—nothing new there.
The Catholic Diocese of Richmond’s Refugee and Immigration Services office in Roanoke has been placing families from Africa and other countries in area apartments for years, with low rents being a key factor in settling them.
Maple Grove has been a favored destination for refugees from Somalia and other African nations since 2003, said Beth Lutjen, the agency’s director. “They have become a community here,” she said, walking around the complex Monday after receiving several complaints from her clients. “But now the tensions between the Africans and the American blacks have reached a crisis point.”
A contributing factor of late is the worsening physical conditions of some apartments and the public laundry room. Roanoke city code enforcement officials have cited four apartments as needing repairs since March 19, and one was condemned and ordered vacated.
I guess we have a malfunctioning melting pot situation. I wonder do all those who get warm feelings about the joys of multiculturalism ever have any doubts when they read stories like this one. By the way, can’t call this racism now can we.
Brian Mosely of the Shelbyville Times-Gazette has posted on this story today here.
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