After Big Man, a resident of Nashville’s largest public housing complex, the Cayce Homes, meets his wealthy white neighbors up the hill, a friendship blooms. It’s the last thing he expected to happen. For months this house, an imposing white modern structure, had nagged at him. It’s very presence threatened his sense of place in this rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.
Everything is changing around Cayce, and soon, Cayce itself will change, too. The city is about to embark on a $600 million renovation of the complex, turning the decaying 1930s-era buildings into a colorful mixed income development of townhomes and condo-style apartments. The city is promising that this grand experiment to mix various incomes and people will work. But Big Man is more skeptical.
“Them houses, they’re going to be there,” he says pointing toward the fancy white house up the hill. “But this right here,” he adds, gesturing to the dense cluster of decaying brick two-story buildings all around him. “This right here is not. Because now we’re an eyesore to the people that’s up there.”
To Big Man, the two sides of this neighborhood mix about as well as oil and water.
But he’s willing to challenge those assumptions, to face his fears and his judgements head on. So he walks up the hill, knocks on the door of that fancy white house, and meets its owners, Wolfgang Blair and Stephanie Jackson. What comes from this meeting is nothing short of remarkable. Wolfgang and Big Man begin to talk regularly. They hatch a plan to start a business to employ residents of the housing project. A genuine connection is made. And it all started with a walk up the block, a handshake and a hello.
In many ways, Big Man and Wolfgang’s lives couldn’t be more different. But in breaking the silence between the two sides of the neighborhood, a true friendship begins to form — only to be dashed in a way no one could have expected.
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