BLACK HISTORY IN CHATTANOOGA
It is only through examining history that you become aware of where you stand within the continuum of change." - John Lewis
Martin Luther King Jr.
Annual Dr .Martin Luther King Jr. March (Parade), Birthday Week Celebration, and Commitment to the Movement
In 1970, the Unity Group initiated the Annual MLK Day March (Parade) in Chattanooga. One of the primary reasons it was began was to push to make Dr. Martin L. King Birthday a National Holiday. One of the pioneering figures who helped spearhead the Annual March (Parade) was the Rev. Leroy T. Griffith. In the years that followed, a week-long Dr. Martin L. King Birthday Week developed which now consists now consists of a wide range of programming that includes: presentations, workshops, education, annual prayer breakfast, worship services, racial reconciliation forums and other events that lift up and promote many of the ideals, principles and initiatives undertaken by Dr. King and other civil rights stalwarts both locally and nationally.
Throughout the inception of the organization, the Unity Group has strived to keep the beliefs and principles of the Civil Rights Movement alive and well. The Unity Group was the driving force behind the renaming of 9th Street to M. L. King Blvd in the 1980s. The Unity Group has also been a participant in the Dr. King National Day of Remembrance, Poor People’s Campaign and International Human Rights Day.
Historical Significance of the Preservation of Lincoln Park
(Article from the Times Free Press on April 25, 2017.)
City officials vowed on Tuesday that Lincoln Park will be preserved despite a major road extension and sewer relocation planned nearby.
Maura Sullivan, the city's chief operating officer, said the Trust for Public Land will hold public meetings geared around ideas for refurbishing the African-American park that once featured ball fields, a swimming pool and other attractions.
She said environmental studies in the vicinity of Lincoln Park, which is next to Erlanger Hospital off East Third Street, should be concluded within days or weeks.
Meanwhile, the city is about to embark on relocating a major sewer that is under Erlanger and that dates to 1907.
Justin Holland, public works administrator, said the sewer serves "a huge area" of about 500 acres.
He said there is an opportunity to replace the old brick sewer with a separated system that will take about 350 million gallons of stormwater out of the Moccasin Bend Sewage Treatment Plant annually. He said that equates to about 10 days of operations at the plant.
Mr. Holland said the sewer work is separate from a plan to extend Central Avenue so that it connects with Amnicola Highway, but he said work could be coordinated to gain savings and efficiencies on the two projects.
He said the stormwater will be diverted into nearby Citico Creek.
Mr. Holland said the sewer, despite its age, shows no sign of failing. But he said "brick and mortar does fail as we found out at Market Street and Aquarium Way (Cheeburger Cheeburger building that partially collapsed).
He said the sewer is along Blackford Street and is now "under Erlanger Hospital."
The City Council is being asked to approve a contract with Ragan Smith Associates for $375,000 to draw up plans for the new separated stormwater and sewer lines.
Mr. Holland said work may start as early as this fall.
Bill Payne, city engineer, said there would be an initial phase built near where some apartments are rising off Amnicola Highway, then the full project would be completed later.
Councilman Anthony Byrd asked about the effect on Lincoln Park, saying residents there "are very concern" about development threats to the park.
He said, "The citizens are in an uproar and they say they are not being heard."
Councilman Russell Gilbert also spoke in behalf of saving Lincoln Park. He said, "So many people growing up we couldn't go nowhere but Lincoln Park."
Meanwhile, a citizen group led by Tom Kunesh and Eric Atkins held a press conference on the Lincoln Park topic on Tuesday. They cited the Native American history of the location near the old town of Citico as well as the park's rich history.
The group said:
Historical Significance and Preservation of the Citico-Lincoln Park Site
1. Whereas, Native Americans were the first inhabitants of the Chattanooga area and were the first to create communities on the Tennessee River, to name the local creeks and land features, like Cvtonuga, and for over a millennia were the primary inhabitants of the many lands and waters of this region; and
2. Whereas, several indigenous tribes, such as the Yuchi, Muscogee, Shawnee and Cherokee have had an important and lasting impact on the history and legacy of the Chattanooga region, such that the Tennessee Commission on Indian Affairs passed a resolution in 2006 that identified and recognized these and other historical tribes of Tennessee, like the Koasati, Tuskegee, Natchez, Chickasaw and Choctaw; and
3. Whereas, the legacy of the Chattanooga region’s indigenous tribes began during the Paleo-Indian Period (12,000 B.C.E,.- 8000 B.C.E.),and includes the Mississippian Mound Builders — ancestors of the modern Yuchi, Muscogee (Creek), Chickasaw, Choctaw, who built Citico Town and its sacred temple mound; the famous Cherokee leader, Dragging Canoe, who relocated the Resisting Cherokee to this region in 1776 following his dissent from the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals and armed resistance from his base on Chickamauga Creek; one of this area’s most famed diplomats and Principal Cherokee Chief, John Ross, whose persistent advocacy for the rights of Indigenous Tribes led to the first U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of a Native Nation (Worcester v. Georgia 1832), but whose trading post site served as the base of the City of Chattanooga after the Removal of all Native Americans from Tennessee in 1838; and
4. Whereas, Citico Town (ca. 900 C.E.) became an extensive agricultural area, extending for at least a mile radius in all directions, a crossroads and an integral link along the ‘Great Indian Path’, the foot highway that was traveled by indigenous persons and settlers, whose network of roads and pathways, along with the Cisca-St Augustine road which includes Nickajack Lake and the Unicoi Turnpike, and the Natchez Trace Parkway, served as precursors to the modern day American Interstate Highway system; and
5. Whereas, beginning in 1540 Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto, and later, Tristan de Luna (1560) and Juan Pardo (1567), began to engage the chiefdoms of the East Tennessee area, including Citico Town. The travels of James Needham and Gabriel Arthur were also significant explorations in the 1670's, as well as that of James Adair in the early 1730's; and
6. Whereas, part of the initial concentration of the Cherokee ‘Removal’ at Camp Cherokee began at the Citico-Lincoln Park site, and in 2009 the 111th United States Congress, through Senate Joint Resolution 14, officially acknowledged the “long history of official depredations and ill-conceived policies by the Federal Government regarding Indian tribes, and offer[ed] an apology to all Native Peoples on behalf of the United States”; and
7. Whereas, the Citico-Lincoln Park area served as an advanced fortified position and later a recreational area for Army troops during the American Civil War; and the systematic desecration of the sacred temple mound at Citico began during the Civil War when it was dug into and used to store ammunition; its ultimate destruction began in 1914 as it was considered “in the way” for the construction of the Dixie (Amnicola) Highway; and while many of the sacred items and valuable artifacts of this area were removed and now stored within the historical collections of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC, most have been lost to Native American communities; and
8. Whereas, several research studies have been conducted on Citico Town and mound, including M.C. Read (Smithsonian Institution Report 1867); C.B. Moore (1914); James W. Hatch (“The Citico Site (40HA65): A Synthesis" (Tennessee Anthropologist 1976); Lynne Sullivan, “Reconfiguring the Chickamauga Basin”, Frank H. McClung Museum, University of Tennessee, Knoxville 2011; Nicholas Honerkamp (“What Ever Happened to the Citico Mound?”, Chattanooga Times Free Press 2015), University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. These earlier 20th century studies failed to include the input and inclusion of Native Americans communities; and
9. Whereas, after 500 years of Mississippian occupation, the systematic destruction of the Citico Mound eliminated the last surviving Native American structural remnant in downtown Chattanooga; and
10. Whereas, in 1887, the lands of Citico town and mound on the south side of the creek were developed by the local modern African American community as ‘Citico City’, “the first negro city on American soil”; and
11. Whereas, the development of Citico City culminated with the opening of Lincoln Park in 1917, Chattanooga’s first and only public park for African-Americans during segregation; among Lincoln Park’s many attractions were the Lincoln Center, lighting for night activities, a ferris-wheel, merry-go-round and other rides, a concession stand, tennis court, mini zoo, picnic area, and by 1938, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, built by the WPA, an auditorium for arts, dancing, drama, clubs, skating, badminton, and movies; adult programs in the evening - clubs, basketball, dancing, with daily preschool classes and school age activities; and
12. Whereas, Negro League Baseball became a pivotal aspect of the history of the Lincoln Park area with the formation of the Negro Southern League in 1920, and by the Chattanooga Black Lookouts serving as an inaugural member of that League. Teams from across the Negro League played on Andrews and the baseball fields of the Lincoln Park area; and
13. Whereas, the Black Lookouts, reconstituted as the Chattanooga White Sox in 1926, counted pitcher Leroy ‘Satchel’ Paige, “one of the all-time great baseball players of American history”, among the team’s players; and, after a short hiatus, the Negro Leagues returned to Chattanooga in the 1940s, and one of the more notable players from the Chattanooga Choo-Choo’s roster was a sixteen-year-old center-fielder named Willie Mays; and
14. Whereas, in 1947, local tennis star Wylma McGhee Reid played matches at Lincoln Park’s clay courts and became Chattanooga’s first national champion tennis player; and
15. Whereas, Lincoln Park was the residential and recreational focal point of Chattanooga’s African American community from 1887 through 1960, and declined with the implementation of the desegregation social movement, culminating in the City transfer of the Park property to Erlanger Hospital in 1979, while the Lincoln Park neighborhood remained; and
16. Whereas, the City of Chattanooga applied to the National Park System to become a federally-recognized Historic-Preservationist ‘Certified Local Government’ in 1989, and has actively and successfully promoted the preservation of several European-American neighborhoods, including Fort Wood, Battery Place, Ferger Place and St Elmo, with “Historic Neighborhood” status, while failing to designate and preserve the Lincoln Park neighborhood and Citico site, or any other African American or Native American area in or adjacent to downtown as ‘historically significant’; and
17. Whereas, African Americans have resided in Chattanooga for over 180 years — survived slavery on Beck’s Farm in ‘North Chattanooga’, created Hill City after the Civil War, survived lynchings in downtown and on Walnut Street bridge, lived in the structural rejects of Chattanooga’s upper class on Cameron Hill before it was chopped off, and then moved into Public Housing Projects, like Poss, McCallie and Harriet Tubman Homes, which have since been closed and torn down, and yet there is no African American structural history or neighborhood that bears witness to their local habitation like there exists for European Americans; and
18. Whereas, in the summer of 2013, the Lincoln Park Neighborhood Association and coalition members began an Annual Reunion in order to rekindle public interest, awareness and support for the Lincoln Park site; and
19. Whereas, from May to July 2016, the Bessie Smith Cultural Center hosted Negro League Baseball exhibits, educational workshops and panel discussions which focused heavily on the influence of Negro League baseball in Chattanooga; and
20. Whereas, these contributions and continued active influences include important aspects of Native American, African-American, and Civil War history, and that the combined Citico-Lincoln Park site is one of the most historically relevant and culturally significant sites in the greater Chattanooga region;
21. Therefore be it resolved, that we proudly recognize, honor and cherish the history, heritage and active influence that the Native American Citico and African-American gutLincoln Park sites contribute to the United States, to Tennessee, and to Chattanooga; and
22. Further, we call on the City of Chattanooga to comply with the federal requirements of being a Historic-Preservationist ‘Certified Local Government’, and to install a City of Chattanooga Historic Preservation Officer who will recognize, protect, preserve and promote the Citico-Lincoln Park site, and to devise and implement an Historic District preservation plan for the area; and
23. Further, before we the City of Chattanooga ever allow this Native American founding site of Chattanooga, now in private ownership, be finally and forever destroyed by private development, we call for the most in-depth study of the area – a Phase 3 archaeological study, by Native American Indian archaeologists, to provide the most up-to-date, and potentially, the last, historical analysis and interpretation, anthropological assessment and preservation of Citico town and mound site; and
24. Further, we call on the City of Chattanooga to honor Mayor Berke’s 2013 promise to preserve Lincoln Park, by providing Erlanger/Chattanooga Hospital Authority with surplus public property in a different favorable location, as it has previously desired, and deeding all extant, historical, and feasibly severable lands and property formerly encompassed by the Lincoln Park fairgrounds, including the former pool site, parking lots, ball fields and tennis court, to the new Ubuntu Century Institute land trust of Chattanooga for the preservation of local African American land; and
25. Further, we call for the intact preservation of the primary Citico Town site as a burial ground and public historical park, and for the reconstruction of Citico Temple Mound, as the First Site of Cvtonuga (as written in the native Muskogee language of this area) and as a commitment by Chattanooga to atone for and honor its Native American history and existing related Native American tribes by reconstructing the monument (anastylosis) that it destroyed in 1915; and
26. Further, we call for a Citico-Lincoln Park Interpretive Center to be developed that will work for the protection, preservation and promotion of this site, public education and outreach, and seek partnerships with appropriate agencies that includes the Smithsonian Institute, Tennessee Historical Commission, UTK McClung Museum, and the Negro League Museum; and
27. Finally, we resolve that this honored and sacred place shall remain intact and be rebuilt, and that it shall remain a symbol of human ingenuity, achievement, and reconciliation, both for ourselves and for future generations to come
Community group outlines steps for Harriet Tubman site
CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) – Members of the Unity Group want a say in the future of the old Harriet Tubman Housing site.
Community members demonstrated on the steps of City Hall on Tuesday to gain attention for their plans.
They are presenting steps they would like the Mayor and City Council to take to use the 44 acre site to help families in East Chattanooga.
Eric Atkins said “What we would like to see is the recommendations that we have clearly outlined in our addendum, and we know that the voice of the people must be heard, and the interests of the people must be kept. And so we are hoping that you will look at this document, and we hope that in the days and weeks ahead, that it can be a starting point, to get that done.”
The group has submitted a paper to the city requesting several actions be taken related to the site. Their first request is that the city withdraw its request from the planning commission to rezone the site. That meeting is scheduled for Monday.
Unity Group Calls For "Just And Equitable Local Planning Processes"
Sunday, February 3, 2019 via chattanoogan.com
Unity Group officials, commenting on the recent rezoning of the Harriet Tubman site to M-1, said the group believes more citizen input is needed.
Officials said, "For the last several weeks, the Unity Group, vested community organizations and concerned citizen advocates have been immersed in public dialogue about the most effective and productive uses of the Harriet Tubman site.
"A core principle that has continually emerged throughout this discussion is the firm proposition that all people in all communities matter, have meaning, and should be afforded a substantive and unequivocal voice in determining the decisions and outcomes that will most effect the welfare and future sustainability of their respective communities.
"While it will be less than disingenuous to assert that there is not a very earnest desire to improve the economic prospects of this particular marginalized and distressed area, unfortunately, the recent determination to zone the Tubman site M-1 is more reflective of the historic systemic inequities and inadequacies that has befallen most urban centers in modern cities, namely, the disparate and discriminatory treatment that is perpetuated by planning and design processes that lack diversity and inclusiveness, are overtly hierarchical, and whose biased-based approaches have created barriers that have greatly maligned and constrained the mobility of minority and impoverished communities. As a consequence, many of the courses of action that have been undertaken in our local planning and design processes in the last half-century in many instances have been explicitly determined according to race, class and elitist entitlement.
"Several scholarly works have come to enhance our understanding of much of the disparate and discriminatory treatment that has been evident in planning processes. W.E. B. Du Bois's the Philadelphia Negro (1899) was one of the first sociological case studies of a black community. Others include: June Manning Thomas & Marsha Ritzdorf, Urban Planning and the African-American Community: In the Shadows (1997); Douglas S. Massey and Nancy A. Denton American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass (1993); and William Julius Wilson’s The Truly Disadvantaged (1987), just to name a few.
"The most influential of America's urban planners may have been Jane Jacobs. In the 1960's, she helped to lead an epic crusade to stop a ten lane expressway through the SoHo community that was being heavily pushed for by New York City Parks Commissioner, Robert Moses. In her groundbreaking treatise on urban planning, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), Jacobs observed, "Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”
"One of the more revealing critiques on exclusionary planning can be found in Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America (2017). Rothstein meticulously traces how public policies at the federal, state and local level were not De facto but De jure segregation in nature. He notes how the Public Works Administration created segregated public housing in the 1930s, the ways the Federal Housing Administration not only subsidized segregated communities but denied lending institutions financial guarantees if they loaned to black applicants, to the highways that transected through the heart of poor and minority communities as well as the invidious urban renewal projects that decimated those same communities. Rothstein notes, “We have created a caste system in this country, with African Americans kept exploited and geographically separate by racially explicit government policies. Although most of these policies are now off the books, they have never been remedied and their effects endure.”
"Another analysis which sought measure many of these lines of divergence was provided by Angie Schmidt in a Streetsblog USA review entitled, "How Structural Racism at Regional Planning Agencies Hurts Cities," in which she contended that many regional planning agencies (MPO'S) are structured to disempower minority communities. A major point of reference for Schmidt was a report by the Bookings Institute, An Inherent Bias? Geographic and Racial-Ethnic Patterns of Metropolitan Planning Organization Boards (2006). Out of the 50 planning agencies reviewed, not only were women and minorities woefully underrepresented, but 25% of boards had 0% and were overly stacked with suburban as opposed to city residents.
"Likewise, in a report produced by Chattanooga Organized for Action, Chattanooga Next: Moving Beyond Good Intentions (2016), Dr. Ken Chilton, in a review of local non-profit and philanthropic boards, cited a great need to diversify organizational leadership and strengthen whole community engagement. Chilton's most recent report, Negro Removal in Chattanooga: The Impact of Market-Based Displacement on Communities of Color (2019) provides an even more sobering assessment. Some of the startling statistics include that since 2000, majority-minority districts lost 2,592 black residents while gaining 5,066 white residents. In economic terms, the black poverty rate in Chattanooga was 30.9% in 2017 compared to 13% for whites while the average median income for blacks was only 54% that of white residents.
"For many, the zoning decision on the Tubman site decision is emblematic of these historically contravening paradigms, not only because of the glaringly apparent discrepancies, disparities and disproportionateness that exists in our planning processes, but also because of the outright ambivalence and benign neglect given to empirical data, scholarly assessment and community concern. Neither can the economic and functional failures that have not been transactional, transformative, and transferable to minority and poor communities continue to be devalued.
"As the vice-president of Avalanche Consulting stated to local business and civic leaders,'"Your chances of success in Chattanooga and Hamilton County (are) significantly different based upon the color of your skin.' We must be cognizant to the fact that these historic and institutionalized patterns not only exist but continue to manifest themselves, such as excluding many of these communities from the Opportunity Zone, to the negative impacts and adverse effects as a result of gentrification, such as mass displacement, exponentially increasing home and property rates, and minority vote dilution caused by neighborhood demographic shifts. As professor Justin Moore conveyed in a 2016 interview to the publication Fast Company, “There is a need to redesign the designers, and to give them the tools and competencies to work within social constructs and spatial contexts that they are meant to serve.”
"Therefore be it resolved, the Unity Group of Chattanooga calls for political and planning
processes that includes social equity, sustainable development including environmental justice, and that recognizes our mutuality and intersectionality in order to ensure the just and equitable distribution of public goods and services for all."
Sherman E. Matthews, Jr. is chairman and Eric A. Atkins, editor.
More News Coverage:
Historic River To Ridge Community Benefits Agreement Town Hall
Sunday, March 10, 2019 - by Ella Kliger on chattanoogan.com
A coalition met Saturday at Hope for the Inner City to build support for a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) for the development of land on Roanoke Avenue. The property is owned by the city and has been vacant since the Harriet Tubman Homes, 440 public housing units, were demolished in 2014.
Residents, representatives from the seven coalition member groups, and other community stakeholders met across the street from the property to learn about the components of a CBA.
Used as a tool to hold developers accountable to the community, a CBA is typically advanced by a coalition after assessing and analyzing the priorities of the people who will be most impacted by the development.
The coalition is composed of Hope for the Inner City, Unity Group of Chattanooga, Chattanooga Organized for Action, Chattanooga Area Labor Council, Glass House Collective, Urban League of Greater Chattanooga, and Accountability for Taxpayer Money. During the introductions there was talk of working together for the greater good.
Quentin Lawrence, Deputy Executive Director of Hope for the Inner City, said, “Many of us representing different constituencies, many of us with different focuses in the area, we may have our differences on different things, but one thing that we are united on is the fact that for this, in particular, the Harriet Tubman site, that there is a need for a Community Benefits Agreement…This is really so that everyone’s voice in this community can be heard and represented.”
To explain the process to produce a CBA, Anne Barnett, Campaign & Community Coordinator of Central Labor Council in Nashville, was invited to talk about the CBA that was signed regarding a stadium on Labor Day, 2018. According to the coalition’s website Stand Up Nashville is a coalition of community organizations and labor unions that represent the working people of Nashville who have seen our city transformed by development, but have not shared in the benefits of that growth. We believe that development and growth are an opportunity to invest and strengthen all of our local communities.
Ms. Barnett gave a brief history of circumstances that led to the creation of the coalition, including unsafe labor practices that contributed to a number of deaths on construction sites in Nashville and wage theft in the hospitality industry. The city was crafting incentives for developers and she described an “A ha” moment, “Why are our taxpayers going to pay for these projects where workers were being exploited?”
The project that spurred the group to action was the Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium that was being planned for Nashville. The city proposed a 99-year lease, the developers would keep all profits, plus the city offered a gift of 10 acres of land that could be developed as the developers wished. According to Ms. Barnett, when the Metro Council took out bonds for the costs of rezoning and demolition, Stand Up Nashville met with council members about a CBA. 31 of 40 Nashville council members signed a letter that they would not vote yes on all aspects of the plan unless there was a CBA in effect with Stand Up Nashville.
City officials connected Stand UP Nashville to the developers and stepped aside for the negotiations. As Ms. Barnett detailed, there was a good reason for that. “It is very, very, very, very important that city officials not be at the negotiating table. Why? Well, number 1, it’s just the right thing to do, right? If it’s a Community Benefits Agreement, then it should be driven by the community. Number 2, if the city has a role in the negotiations then it’s opened up to State Pre-Emption. The state can say, ‘Oh, this is the city putting in these mandates, and if the developer has to do this, then we’re going to take that away.’” She described other ways that city officials can participate. “But, they can be cheerleaders outside all day long…appear at your press conferences, put out statements, talk to the media, say ‘Yes, I support this’, but cannot be part of the actual negotiation process.”
Some of the benefits to the community that were secured by Stand Up Nashville were commitments for a wage of $15.50 for stadium employees, at least 20 percent of housing stock would be affordable, and there would be a focus on Minority Business Participation for construction and concessions. Targeted Promise Zone Hiring would not just mean that local applications would be on the top of the pile. Barnett said that a position would be created to focus on recruiting employees locally as a priority, so that money would be kept locally, that it would benefit people in the area. “Not just an abstract program, an actual plan,” said Ms. Barnett.
After Ms. Barnett’s educational presentation, Dr. Everlena Holmes introduced the community participation activity: table discussion of what people want, and don’t want, in the CBA. “You’ve heard a lot about Area 3…this project is not just for the Avondale neighborhood. It’s for all of Area 3. One of the things that we are doing is trying to determine places that will benefit all of Area 3. So our new name is called Historic River-to-Ridge. That is from 1-24 to Chickamauga Creek, from the Tennessee River to Missionary Ridge.” That is an area encompassing 17 neighborhoods. Dr. Holmes struck a chord when she said, “If Nashville can do it, we can do it, too.”
Creating the CBA is a work in progress. Dr. Holmes explained how facilitators were seated around the room to guide conversations about what could be developed on this large piece of land. “This is what I call community engagement. I see some young people here. We have youth in the room, please get their input. We are trying to put together a 10-year plan. These will be the adults. I may not even be around. Make sure you get youth input, as well as Seniors…We need your input. Let’s get moving!” Groups were given 20 minutes to brainstorm. One representative from each table was asked to present the information to the room.
In January, the 44-acre property on Roanoke Avenue was rezoned to M-1 industrial. This is the broadest level of industrial zoning and gives the opportunity for a variety of businesses and buildings to be placed in the neighborhood. There is a condition that the site cannot be used for a poultry processing plant. However, that leaves open a lot of options. There were many suggestions reported to the gathering. Some ideas were concrete ideas such as a supermarket, day care, pharmacy, bank, covered bus stop, artists’ space, and a community garden. Other recommendations made had to do with other elements: no pollution production; numbers of jobs spelled out in the CBA with a claw back option if numbers were not met; apprenticeship programs, minority/unionized contractors, and a facility that valued jobs for people more highly than automation.
Youth input was gathered and communicated. Allen Shropshire, green|spaces’ Outreach Coordinator, was a facilitator who had several young people in his group. The energy he had when speaking of them showed how they impressed him. “The biggest thing was to see the young people more involved, engaged, because they are the future...It’s important to have more of an understanding of what they want in their community. To see that a kid who is in private school wants to help a kid who is in public school, for him to see the injustice of him having a better opportunity than the next kid, that’s important. They wanted to see a center where they are all connected, some type of major Rec (center) that’s a Rec for all of them, where everybody could come together, not just in one neighborhood.”
Unity Group Corresponding Secretary Eric Atkins thanked the coalition members and spoke of what lies ahead. “We do have some Next Steps to take. It cannot stop right here…We have to add people to this coalition. This has to be a growing movement, that we keep pushing forward together. It’s gonna take all of us coming together, taking these community surveys, from the community itself, so the residents can voice, just like we did today, some of these things that we want done.”
Elected officials were invited to come to the microphone. Councilman Anthony Byrd said, “Thank you all for having me, for having this, for having this amazing educational setting. Just want you all to know that hands down 100,000 percent behind this. You got my vote. I think this is something we should always do. We should come together more. I’m ready for the second meeting for this and I can’t wait to start putting these things in line so that the community, that the people can see that we are coming together. There’s going to be a lot of times where we disagree, there’s going to be a lot of times where we are going to sit down and have some very uncomfortable conversations. But I think that’s how families work. Today, I was enlightened and educated and I just think it’s an honor to be here. Thank you all for coming and please come back. Please stay a part of this because if we don’t do it, no one else will we have to do it together. So please come back and thank you all so much. You got my vote. Thank you.”