The Cooper-Young Community Association (CYCA) was formed in 1976 around the following mission: to make our neighborhood a safer and more desirable place to live, worship, work,and play. Encompassing an area of Memphis, Tennessee, where homebuilding flourished from 1881 through the early 1930′s, the association was born when residents became activists to stem the tide of decay that so many urban areas experienced with the rise of suburban-ism and the phenomenon known as “white flight”.
At that time, home owner occupancy within the community had dropped to less than 47%; industries which had supplied jobs to this working-class neighborhood had relocated, leaving deserted commercial properties throughout the area along with the abandoned railway tracks that once served them; banks were refusing mortgage loans; tax codes made it more profitable to level historic homes and build multi-family units; establishments serving the community, such as restaurants, grocery stores, and other retailers folded (A History of Cooper-Young, (c) 1977, Metropolitan Interfaith Association). In the absence of these stabilizing factors, crime and poverty moved in.
But the volunteers who established the CYCA saw the need to revitalize this unique, urban landscape and sought out solutions. Working with local law enforcement, they created neighbor support groups for crime prevention, eventually winning a number of citywide awards for their efforts. They surveyed the housing stock and other contributing structures within the neighborhood and gained placement on the National Register of Historic Places. Publication of the LampLighter Community Newspaper and volunteer distribution to every household and business in the neighborhood allowed the CYCA to reach diverse stakeholders. This monthly communication helped strengthen relationships, develop dialogue among many different points of view, and keep the community apprised of the challenges and opportunities available.