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Guardians of Atlanta’s Future Thought Leadership

Looking Back and Moving Forward

By Frank Brown 

This has been a year of radical transparency and recognition – of the shortcomings of our democratic system, of the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots, and of the importance of philanthropy and not-for-profits to serve the community. 

Over the past 11 months, we’ve written about the work of Communities in Schools of Atlanta, from expanding our services to students from Spanish-speaking households to highlighting our coronavirus relief efforts to keep families whole. 

Thanks to the generosity of BET and other donors, we have provided nearly $350,000 in assistance to approximately 26,000 families by providing meals, laptops, and other school supplies, virtual one-on-one tutoring, and emergency housing and utility assistance to ensure no child in our schools goes without the basic necessities. 

 As a former Hill staffer, I have been dismayed – but not surprised – by the inability of our leaders in Washington to provide meaningful, swift support for the working class. 

Yet, I have found hope in our organization’s work and so many across the region have dedicated themselves to this year, in particular. 

Hope in the single mother who began the year struggling to make ends meet. Then, COVID-19 hit and dealt her an even tougher hand as she faced with fewer hours, mounting bills, and children now having to receive online learning. Our school coordinators and partners provided meals for the children, helped the mother with the bills, and gave her the support she needed to be more active in their academic success. 

Individuals and organizations took it upon themselves to stand in the gap while our elected leaders twiddled their thumbs as Americans stood in food bank lines. 

During this holiday season, we have partnered with schools and other education groups to provide gift cards, groceries, pay for funerals and other support to parents, bus drivers, cafeteria, and custodial employees.

In the face of great difficulty, this year continues to teach us that we can choose and achieve success. But success demands a clear commitment to proactively address the things that need to be changed and having the courage to show up for honest, hard conversations. 

This summer we saw the Black Lives Matter movement reach a fever pitch as people across the country took to the streets to call out inequality. As a result, every sector has been challenged to address what has historically been a lackadaisical approach to meaningful diversity. In metro Atlanta, we have made incremental progress in raising Black and brown communities’ economic power. Still, our journey to ensuring every child born in poverty has a clear path out is nowhere near over. 

Each turn of the clock to a new year brings excitement for what is to come and hope that the future is filled with the promise of better days. Symbolic gestures to placate the calls for change must no longer suffice. The chants on boulevards across this country must lead to disruptive action. 

As President Barack Obama reminds us, “Hope is not blind optimism. It’s not ignoring the enormity of the task ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. It’s not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we dare to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it.”

As we ready for the coronavirus vaccine and prepare for the eventual return to in-person learning and the normalcy of life without social distancing, the board and staff of Communities in Schools of Atlanta is ever committed to surrounding our students and their families with a community of support to help them achieve in life. 

The trials of this year have shown us all that we are indeed “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality,” no matter our educational background, the size of our bank accounts, or on which side of the tracks we live. 

As a nonprofit executive and Atlanta leader, I will continue to advocate for those we serve to rightfully access the American dream and for metro Atlanta’s business, civic, and government leaders to take the bold, necessary steps to transform our communities from poverty to progress. 

Frank Brown, Esq. is the CEO of Communities in Schools of Atlanta. This is the final Guardians of Atlanta’s Future column from the organization. We encourage you to continue to engage in the great work of Communities in Schools of Atlanta by visiting https://www.cisatlanta.org/


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