The original homes built by Orange Mound African Americans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were modest in square footage on narrow lots. The majority called shot-gun houses were one room about 12 feet wide and several rooms deep. A hallway to one side connected all of the rooms. A front porch with several rocking chairs and a swing, if space allowed, was always the norm.
Front porches were intentionally used to bring friends closer to the heart of the home. After supper in the Summer and all day on the weekends, the still air was stirred with chatter about current events, canards, kindness, and courtship.
The ladies at the House in Orange Mound on Carnes are continuing the tradition as they rock on our front porch. Neighbors and strangers passing by are offered a wave and a smile. The “how to be a good neighbor” has been passed through generations, but the “where to do it” has diminished in time with the attrition of affordable, stable housing here. The once proud and thriving community has been weakened by neglect, poverty, and graft. No matter the deplorable condition of the home, the rent has increased, along with the leaks in the roofs and the numbers of rats entering through the holes in the floors. Front porches are gone, and the front doors are doubly bolted most everywhere.
Almost every woman wants a safe home and one in which she can put her treasures on display, whatever those treasurers are to her. The My Cup of Tea ladies eagerly learn from our resourced volunteers how to personalize their spaces to reflect their taste and culture. Friendship and common interests have identified yet another soul connection in our midst. We continue to grow in fellowship sharing the common threads of domestic interests, home beautification, and how to DIY.
Painting a cracked wall, putting plywood over a rat portal, or signaling S-O-S to repair a sinking roof is our immediate, temporary fix. Much like the boy with his finger in the dike, we have helped stave off disaster, but it is inevitable without a longer-term solution.
When we founded My Cup of Tea in the duplex on Semmes Street, we
also purchased the lot across the street with the idea that one day we might grow enough to expand there. Over the last few years, circumstances changed. The duplex was better suited for the Neighborhood Christian Center, so we swapped locations giving us the space we need for now. And we discovered first-hand the deplorable living conditions plaguing some of the women who work here.
With a sense of urgency, we partnered with United Housing, a local nonprofit whose mission is to provide quality housing opportunities to Mid-South residents. Our plan is to build 4 single-family, rent-to-own homes in a style consistent with the original architecture of Orange Mound. Using their expertise, United Housing is securing the funds to build these new homes. My Cup of Tea
is working to raise $25,000 to cover architectural, legal, environmental, and surveying expenses, known as “soft costs.” We need your help.
We have applied for a $25,000 grant through Gannett, the parent company of the Commercial Appeal. Through their annual A Community Thrives campaign, we can become eligible for the grant, but first must raise a minimum of $6,000. If we, don’t qualify for the $25,000, we still keep everything raised and intend to use it for our housing initiative. All you have to do is click HERE and make a donation in any amount of your choosing.
With your support, women at The House who are interested will have the opportunity to apply to rent to own one of the houses. Securing these homes helps to stabilize their lives and further stabilize the Orange Mound community. Enthusiastically with prayer and assurance, a community with front porch hospitality will soon be a reality. Several of the ladies of My Cup of Tea are more than ready to rock on their own front porches on our block.