For some, Joppa is simply a neighborhood tucked away in the shadows of high rises and an ever-changing city. For those who know it well, Joppa is a small Dallas neighborhood that is home to people with big dreams. No matter what you’ve heard about Joppa, don’t call it a lost community. However, it has been underserved and under-sourced.
Shalondria Galimore’s family has lived in Joppa for generations. In fact, her great grandmother helped establish the neighborhood. She knows where Joppa has been and has a clear vision for where it’s going. The Melissa Piece Project is the catalyst. The former all-Black school will soon be transformed into a multi-purpose community center.
“For generations, we’ve needed it,” said Galimore. “I’m fourth of five generations in the community, so I just got tired of hearing ‘we just need a community center.’”
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Historically, Melissa Pierce wasn’t just a school, but a refuge for Joppa - a Freedmen’s Town founded by formerly enslaved people.
Joli Robsinson is VP of Government Affairs and Public Policy for the Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity. Habitat recently acquired the building and put support behind Galimore and others advocating for resources and transformation.
“The schools that were in our communities were such safe havens for us. They were places where community could gather,” said Robinson. “There’s a lack of city facilities, there’s a lack of investment. So, the opportunity that the Melissa Pierce Project brings, and this reemergence of this community center is really special.”
Robinson says it’s important that a school built for this community continues to serve within this community, despite changes throughout Dallas.
“Habitat understood that there was a bigger scope out there,” said Robinson. “Dallas can be a very ahistorical place that doesn’t necessarily lift up and honor and put our hands around the history that exists. So to see the advocacy work of Shalondria and what they want this project to be has been absolutely inspiring."
It’s a full-circle moment for Galimore, who says Joppa never vanished but is now evolving.
“We were never lost,” she said. “We were just tucked away and preserved is what we like to say.”
$60,000 has already been secured for the project, and the City of Dallas has made an additional commitment as well. That amount is currently undisclosed. The general community will soon be able to contribute to the Melissa Pierce Project once a 501(c)(3) status is officially secured. Groundbreaking is expected in the fall.