- Goldmine: Root
- Oral History Collections
- UNC Charlotte Honors College and Charlotte Action Research Project Interviews on Charlotte Neighborhoods
- Small But Significant : The Optimist Park Community
- Mazella McDowell oral history interview, 2015 October 31
Mazella McDowell oral history interview, 2015 October 31
Mazella McDowell describes her childhood in Huntersville, North Carolina and her move to Charlotte when she was thirteen. She lived in the Belmont and Optimist Park neighborhoods where she raised her children. She details her experience building her house in Optimist Park with Habitat for Humanity and the excitement generated when President Carter and Habitat founder Millard Fuller visited the neighborhood in 1987. Mrs. McDowell discusses her own high school experiences at segregated Second Ward High School, where she played trombone in the marching band and ran track. She contrasts this experience with that of her children who were bused a considerable distance to attend racially integrated schools. Having children at a young age, Mrs. McDowell was not able to pursue her ambition to join the army, but she did become a leader in her community, serving as president for a local Habitat association and more recently as vice president for the Optimist Park Community Association. She outlines her concerns for the neighborhood, noting in particular that its small size makes Optimist Park vulnerable to development pressures from the adjacent North Davidson neighborhood. Ms. McDowell also expresses her hope that community campaigning will lead to aesthetic improvements, limit apartment growth, and create a more cohesive neighborhood. However, she notes her frustration that there may be insufficient support within the community to make this change happen.