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Philanthropy Thought Leader Uncategorized

Alternatives to Gentrification: Building the Beloved Community in Atlanta’s Historic Westside Together

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Beloved Community was conceived on the Westside. As explained by The King Center, “Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood.” Home to Dr. King when he was assassinated and cradle to the civil rights movement, Atlanta’s historic Westside is where he lived when he articulated the vision for a society based on justice, equal opportunity and love of one’s fellow human beings. This inclusive vision requires that we respect and value each other’s human dignity and promote a shared prosperity for all, especially the most vulnerable.

The historic Westside of Atlanta, decades removed from any meaningful prosperity, is starting to shift. New homes and parks are being built, crime is decreasing, schools are getting better. Positive change is happening. However, this revitalization is tinged with fear and concern from long-time residents and small business owners. Revitalization can be a double-edged sword, bringing new investment, opportunity and hope, while also bringing the specter of gentrification. Gentrification has quickly, and justly, become the most discussed and significant issue on the Westside. It has become synonymous with the physical and cultural displacement of longstanding Westside residents by new, more affluent ones, generally white residents (though not exclusively so).

The Westside is on the rise, but for whom? It is at a critical crossroads. Will it go the way of many black and brown neighborhoods across the country where economic development has displaced longstanding residents via increased taxes and rents? Or can we find a way collectively to chart a different path? Can we create an inclusive revitalization and transformation that both honors the history of the Westside and aspirations of its longstanding residents AND embraces how Atlanta is changing and evolving? In short, can we create the Beloved Community?

No small feat. However, that is our collective challenge and charge. It is our promise. The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation is committed to a transformed Westside for decades to come – one that embraces shared prosperity for all. To paraphrase Dr. King, we cannot be what we ought to be, until you are what you ought to be. We All Rise Together – that is our belief and promise.

Join us this Friday to learn more about work on Atlanta’s historic Westside at United Way of Greater Atlanta’s C3 Conference. To register for morning sessions and lunch, click here. Registration closes at 5 p.m. on April 19.

frank-fernandez-bs-750Frank Fernandez is the Vice President of Community Development at The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation.

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