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Community center captures the magic of The Bottom, a neighborhood destroyed by urban renewal policies

Dr. Enkeshi El-Amin and her team built The Bottom to celebrate culture and create a safe place for Black Knoxvillians to gather.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Bottom, a community center in East Knoxville, opened its new doors on Saturday. The center's new space includes a tea room, a podcasting center, a sewing room and a book store.

The Bottom's creator, Dr. Enkeshi El-Amin, said it's a place for Black Knoxvillians to gather and feel safe. 

"I'm talking safety from oppression, microaggressions," said Dr. El-Amin. "Come as you are, whoever you are."

The Bookshop at the Bottom features Black authors and Black affirming authors, for all ages. Dr. El-Amin said the podcasting studio is a place for the community to tell their own stories.

"We can have creativity, we have celebration, we have dialogue," said Pumpkin Starr, the Bottom's Strategist. "We can have whatever we want, really." 

Starr said her goal is to carve out 'Black space.'

"Our motto is, 'Create space to take up space,'" Starr said. 

The Bottom is named after a historic neighborhood in East Knoxville, that was eventually torn down during Urban Renewal. 

According to the Beck Cultural Center, the federal government provided grants to communities "wanting to eliminate slums." It ended up displacing 2,500 families in Knoxville, and 70% of them were Black. 

"Instead of building better housing, instead of giving resources and support to communities, cities moved people out," Dr. El-Amin said.

Dr. El-Amin said she wants to focus on the community before it was destroyed.

"Black folks were living and loving and being a community before that destruction," Dr. El-Amin said. "I just love the way that people were in tune with their place ... It felt special."

The Bottom includes a wall of pictures of the original neighborhood. 

The community center is still looking for donations, and people can donate on their website. They can also visit The Bottom at 2340 East Magnolia Avenue.

Credit: The Bottom
The Bottom before Urban Renewal

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