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Virtual Butler Place video screening, panel discussion set

🕐 3 min read

Fort Worth Housing Solutions, the Fort Worth Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce and the City of Fort Worth will present a free, virtual screening of the short documentary “Butler Place” at noon Wednesday, Feb. 24, followed by a panel discussion.

The video about Fort Worth’s first public housing project is co-produced by the City of Fort Worth and Fort Worth Housing Solutions and commemorates the 80-year-old community that closed in December 2020. The event is part of the organizations’ Black History Month recognition.

To attend, register online. Registrants will receive a confirmation email with details about joining the online event.

The panel discussion will be moderated by longtime journalist and media executive Bob Ray Sanders, now Fort Worth Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce communication director. Panelists include:

  • Sonya Barnette, Fort Worth Housing Solutions deputy director and senior vice president for public housing, housing operations and client services.
  • Devoyd Jennings, president and chief executive officer of the Fort Worth Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce.
  • Michael Morris, director of transportation, North Central Texas Council of Governments.

“Butler Place was more than a place to live. It was a community with a rich African-American history. It was our home,” said Jennings, who grew up in Butler with his brothers, Jerry and Melvin, and their mother Margaret. “It is time to move forward, determine the best use for the site and ensure that families can find affordable homes in areas with access to economic opportunity.”

Fort Worth Housing Solutions President Mary-Margaret Lemons said the agency is working through federal processes and with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to determine next steps for the 42-acre site and its assets. The agency will move its headquarters from the historic Carver-Hamilton Elementary School building at 1201 E. 13th St., to 1407 Texas St. later this year.

“Over the years, the way that we administer public housing has changed,” Lemons said. “We know that concentrating lower-income families in one area is not good for anyone. We want our residents to have access to green space, grocery stores, parks great schools, jobs and transportation. And we are increasing that access by expanding affordable housing options across the city.”

The documentary features interviews with former Butler residents as well as historic photos and video from Fort Worth ISD Billy W. Sills Center for Archives, Fort Worth Public Library Genealogy, History & Archives and Tarrant County Black Historical & Genealogical Society.

Many scenes of everyday life at Butler Place were never recorded or have been lost. The documentary includes drawings by Fort Worth artist Taylor McDaniel, who listened to interviews and re-created scenes of residents’ fondest memories.

The documentary was produced and edited by the city’s Communications & Public Engagement Department and is narrated by City of Fort Worth employee Alexandra Thurston.

Butler Place opened in 1940 as one of the federal Works Progress Administration’s 52 low-income housing projects and was initially heralded as safe, stable housing for people who had lived in substandard conditions. The red brick community just east of downtown grew up around the Carver-Hamilton Elementary School and I.M. Terrell High School, a once-segregated school that educated generations of Fort Worth leaders.

Over time, Butler expanded to cover 42 acres. Eventually, highway construction separated the community from downtown. Fort Worth Housing Solutions began helping residents lease homes of their choice across the city in 2012 through HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration, or RAD, program, and completed the process early this year.

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