“Dear Atlanta Beltline, stop using poverty to fund your project!” #ConcernedAtlantaCitizen
First it was the money taken from the inner city Atlanta Public School District, then the lack of affordable housing for citizens who became victims of gentrification from the Beltline to now, the art work included on the Atlanta Beltline Westside Bridge, in an affluent and historic African-American community sitting directly behind the Historic Washington High School. These photos of African-American black males in prison pictured with dogs is not only discriminatory but racially insensitive, professionally distasteful and profoundly disrespectful.
“Right down the street from the Georgia Dome where Michael Vick was a player imprisoned because of alleged dog fighting, the Atlanta Beltline saw it fitting to honor our communities by placing photos of Black men in prison with dogs for our youth and the world to see. Deplorable!”, stated by a Washington Park community leader. As the Atlanta Beltline is doing a lot to transform the City of Atlanta, at the heart of the leadership goals has been gentrification. Gentrification that has had negative effects on life long citizens; including seniors, children, families, historic churches, the Atlanta University Center, historic businesses, communities and schools. “They are pimping the ghetto to make money for the privileged!” That’s how some youth and other residents in the community feel about some of the new development that’s coming to the inner city communities. The students feel as if they’re getting a “treat” for being confined to schools that have been overlooked, underfunded and severely suffering academically because of a lack of resources and intentionality of ensuring all students succeed. All the funders come in with give aways, money promised, changes and photo ops but it doesn’t feel genuine. Actions like this from the Atlanta Beltline make us feel like we’re just being used.
Our schools have a history of excellence. What are we truly doing to help children who have been robbed of a quality education and most importantly how is this truly fixing the problem of failing schools? The Atlanta Beltline is an example of how companies and investment groups can come into communities like the Historic Westside of Atlanta with gentrification based development plans that ultimately displace our heritage and families. Companies like this also aid in the further exploitation of the oppressed. The Atlanta Beltline’s Art display in West Atlanta reaffirms this country’s history with race. A county with some citizens whose hearts resonates with hatred towards those who are labeled as the oppressed because of race, religion, sexuality or disability. This art display on the Atlanta Beltline say to our children that Black Lives really don’t matter. It puts into question that at least our community is our safe haven. It reminds us that some Americans still believe that Black men are less than dogs and should be confined to prison walls. No thank you Atlanta Beltline, that’s not the message we are accepting for our community.
Questions To Consider:
Is this the America we want for our children?
Are these companies that we want to spend our money at and support?
Is this the message we want to teach our Black and brown children?
Does this type of message displayed on the Atlanta Beltline help us to change the complex struggles faced by Black men in America?
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.