SUNSET AVENUE BECOMES HISTORIC DISTRICT

For years, Pamela Flores has lived in English Avenue and worked to gather local history and set it in stone. She serves as Executive Director of HELP (Help Elevate and Liberate People) and in the Westside Atlanta Land Trust (WALT), non-profits which are both located on Sunset Avenue. The Land Trust, staffed by local volunteers, buys distressed neighborhood properties, coordinates their refurbishment, and leases the homes below market value. The organization represents a concerted effort by locals to renew physical spaces.

While her activism targets the revitalization of spaces for livability, Flores also aims to renew spaces for local memory. In 2007, she spearheaded the campaign to have Sunset Avenue designated by the City of Atlanta as an historic site. The approved plan for the Sunset Avenue Historic District highlighted the significance of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, in particular. In person, Flores also invokes a more distant past when discussing local history. She pinpoints the cultural roots of English Avenue and Vine City residents among the Gullah/Geechee people of the Sea Islands. At a WALT meeting, Flores and other board members lamented how local few residents know about this ancestry. Flores proudly discussed Michelle Obama’s Gullah roots and mentioned South Carolina’s Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor.

Flores has a vision of her own for a specific local site. Using a vacant historic home as a neighborhood history museum, Flores imagines replacing the structure’s exterior walls with thick glass. Historical images and text will fill these transparent divides. Instead of a neglected site of history, the imagined structure would be a luminescent site of memory. For Flores, the rebirth of the past in natural and built space is a means to revitalize the neighborhood.