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From Kenya to Friendship Plaza, Lincoln Heights, Ohio

Friendship Plaza, one of United Church Homes’ affordable housing communities, isn’t just home to Yvonne, but her brother Paul also lives there. When he was 11 years old, Paul also lived with Yvonne as he spent a summer vacation with her in Nairobi, Kenya. Today, they live in Lincoln Heights, Ohio, one of America’s first black suburbs, according to an article by The Atlantic, The Destruction of a Black Suburb.

When it was incorporated in 1947, Lincoln Heights was the first primarily black self-governing community north of the Mason-Dixon line. Today, it has one of the highest concentrations of African-American residents in the state of Ohio — 95.5 percent — according to the census. 

Yvonne’s journey to Friendship Plaza included being a resident in Kenya. Yvonne and Peter met as students at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He pursued her for nearly two years while she studied English. At first, she was hesitant to accept his admiration, but Peter won over Yvonne and they married after graduation. They moved to Kenya in 1962, a time of turmoil for the African country as it sought independence from British rule. 

“I thought he looked lost, so I went to help him and he fell in love with me,” Yvonne said. “I used to tell him, ‘You’re not in love with me — you’re just homesick.’” 

Peter, who passed away in the 1990s, served as the assistant secretary of state of Kenya. Through this role, the couple met and dined with dignitaries and heads of state for African countries. 

In Kenya, Yvonne was a housewife and mother of two children, a boy and a girl, who both decided to stay in Kenya as adults. The family visited London and France for sightseeing and often went to the game park in Kenya. The wildlife refuge featured all sorts of animals, but Yvonne distinctly remembers the lions. 

“It was neat to be able to get close to the wildlife and see them in their natural habitats,” she said.

Yvonne hopes to return to Kenya in the future to visit her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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