Bishop James L. Davis: Sustainable Communities in South Africa
by Phillip Bellury
When Bishop James L. Davis, a devout servant of God, is confronted with a challenging situation, he systematically demonstrates his ability and willingness to “show up for work” and “let God show out.”
While leading his Big Bethel AME Church over the past 12 years, Reverend James L. Davis initiated numerous ministries and projects to help the members of the congregation and the community develop economic power, as well as a strong spiritual foundation. Among his initiatives and innovations were the following: (1) establishment of Big Bethel Village, an affordable 120-unit facility located in southwest Atlanta for seniors with an active lifestyle; (2) construction of 12 Habitat for Humanity houses; (3) development of plans for the Auburn Avenue revitalization project; (4) negotiations to regain control of Bethel Towers, a 132-unit apartment complex on Auburn Avenue, (5) a renovated Youth Retreat and Recreation Center/Administrative Complex, (6) the Trinity House for recovering drug addicts, (7) Big Bethel Credit Union, and (8) Big Bethel Endowment Fund.
Assigned to the Republic of South Africa as a new bishop of the AME Church, Bishop Davis soon observed after his arrival the critical nature of the living conditions and the lack of basic services for a vast majority of South Africa’s residents, particularly the residents of Evaton, South Africa. Some of Bishop Davis’ observations are delineated in the following statement:
“During recent years, as the distances between all humanity shrink, the inef for people lacking the most basic of services in various poverty-stricken parts of the world has become starkly visible. In my introduction to Evaton, South Africa, as a new bishop of the AME Church, I have witnessed an impoverished community with inadequate and unsustainable housing, deplorable health care, and economic devastation. These intolerable conditions are the disastrous legacy of the former apartheid system, under which black South Africans in the historic Evaton community saw land they had owned con
” According to Bishop Davis, the South African government and international entities are aware that the situation is URGENT. Nevertheless, they maintain that it will take another ten years to ameliorate the conditions and provide new opportunities for the people in the villages and townships of the 19th Episcopal District over which Bishop Davis presides. It did not take a great while for Bishop Davis, a visionary who will not accept “no” for an answer or yield to devious delay tactics, to do something to bring help and hope to the destitute residents of Evaton and other townships in South Africa. In simple terms, Bishop Davis gives an overview of his plan: Our plan is to create a village consisting of 50 houses, a multi-purpose church facility,a day care center, and a health clinic. All of these facilities will be constructed in a community plan on land owned by the AME Church. Initially, all of the homes will be available for a modest $50.00 (USD) per month rent. These funds will generate a yearly income, which will be used to sustain the housing development, including repairs and maintenance, living quarters, a salary for a full-time caretaker, the upkeep of the public facilities, and security.
Bishop Davis envisions a community renewal, involving the creation of a planning team referred to a Self-Help 19 and the construction of the HOPE (Housing Our People Economically) Villages. Self-Help 19 will deal with eradicating the effects of apartheid and poverty, focusing on economic development and growth, The HOPE Villages are to be erected in
Bishop Davis is inspired and rejuvenated by the “overwhelming faith and devotion to God demonstrated by the people of the Republic of South Africa” to make HOPE (Housing Our People Economically) Villages a reality.
The community renewal project is a joint venture of the 19th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal church, Project Self-Help 19, and Global Covenant Development Corporation, Inc. “With private partnerships and you as an active member of our partnership, our people need not want for simple basic shelter, health care, child care, and economic recovery”, Bishop Davis’ notes.
Bishop James Levert Davis, a native of Birmingham, Alabama, and his wife, Mrs. Arelis Beevers Davis who hails from the Dominican Republic, met as students at Morris Brown College. Mrs. Davis is a Spanish teacher in the Atlanta Public School System, as well as the Supervisor of the 19th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. They are the parents of two daughters---Nicole Tatiana D. Pass who is married to Patrick Pass, a NFL New England Patriots’ football player, and Damarys Monique Davis, a senior at Georgia State University. Bishop and Mrs. Davis have two grandchildren---Patrick James Pass and Ashton James Pass.