Enough Pie's Zommer keeps focus on inclusivity in Upper Peninsula

Enough Pie was established in 2012 by Kate Nevin as "a catalyst for inclusive and inspiring community engagement in the Upper Peninsula of Charleston, S.C."

Within the next year, by early 2013, the Upper Peninsula Initiative was created to mold the area into a "neighborhood of the future," using the model from EcoDistricts Incubator at a three-day intensive workshop in Portland, OR. 

Enough Pie and the Upper Peninsula Initiative intersect under the umbrella of "creative placemaking," a term to address the nuanced task of trying to make an area more desirable to those with means, usually the upper- and middle-class white population, while not displacing current residents, usually lower-income blacks and other minorities. 

Enter Cathryn Zommer, who stepped in as Enough Pie's Executive Director in April 2015. With a background spanning from documentary director to Director of Communications at the Charleston Wine + Food Festival and having led the reestablishment and become the president of her neighborhood association on James Island, Zommer proved a smart choice with the right creative edge for Enough Pie.

Cathryn Zommer: Inclusivity is in.

Cathryn Zommer: Inclusivity is in.

The area  Zommer and the Upper Peninsula Initiative focus on roughly includes the Meeting Street Road and King Street Extension corridor from around Pittsburgh Avenue to Huger Street. 

At our meeting, Zommer knowingly asked, “Has gentrification ever been done so that there’s an inclusivity component? 

She answered her own question; "Probably not.”

And what would a neighborhood association meeting look like in that area of the Upper Peninsula with inclusivity? 

The peninsula, as 2016 begins, is predominately white, but The Neck, which is a stay-over on the path of the migration of minorities up King Street to North Charleston, still has a significant black population. The Upper Peninsula is also an industrial area. Zommer further describes, “This area is somewhere that people feel very attached to because there are a lot of artists’ studios up here. There's Rosemont and Silver Hill. There are pockets, but there’s not a lot of connectivity. There are sidewalks for two blocks, and then there’s nothing. There are no crosswalks."

For contrast, at a 2013 meeting hosted by Enough Pie and dubbed the Muster Plan, the number of minority attendees could be counted on one hand. But, for growth, a fall 2015 informal gathering of creative types at the Royal American on Morrison Drive, was much more integrated and based upon openly discussing race in the city. 

In her first year as director, Zommer has been straightforward about race, about obstacles, about true progress. She says she spends her time "trying to figure out what we can do as an organization and as an individual. What can we do in our daily lives to walk the talk?"

A tool used to help facilitate real change during Enough Pie's meetings is a practice in chart-making called "dotoccrucy," but is also known as dotmocracy. Facilitators put boards out at meetings with questions like, “What do you care so much about that you’re willing to give up your time to help realize?” Then there are options like building a park, and the participant puts their dot on it, with name and contact information. 

And the care extends to food, a burgeoning industry in Charleston. Zommer asks, “How do we make sure with restaurants that are coming online in this area that people who currently live in the community feel welcome and that there are affordable options on the menu, so that people can afford to eat in the community?"

These are the organization's challenges as it grows under Zommer's leadership: “When Enough Pie started, it was about getting out into the streets and all being creative and making stuff together, and now through creativity, we can imagine what’s possible. It’s both an opportunity and a challenge."

The true challenge is inclusivity: "With that belief comes the responsibility to make sure our neighbors get a piece of the pie."

ELIZABETH BOWERS