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Historic Westside Thought Leadership

Reflecting on WFF Vision Statement

After a hiatus, the Westside Future Fund is back to supporting thought leadership in the SaportaReport on Atlanta’s Historic Westside.  

As the leader of WFF, I am grounded and inspired by WFF’s vision statement, to “help develop a community Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be proud to call home.”  Much of Dr. King’s life was lived and shaped on the Historic Westside: he attended The Booker T. Washington High School in the historic Ashview Heights neighborhood.  He then attended Morehouse College, practically across the street in the AUC Neighborhood.  In 1965, after he and his wife Coretta returned to Atlanta, they purchased a home in Historic Vine City, 234 Sunset Avenue, NW, that is now owned by the U.S. Park Service as part of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park.  

In reflecting on WFF vision statement, I imagine Dr. King would be proud if we preserved and renovated iconic buildings that were part of his home community, and the civic and academic institutions that nurtured and supported the community, as well as so many national and international African American leaders.

The October 1, 2021 Transform Westside Summit lifted up one such structure and institution: Fountain Hall and Morris Brown College.  Built in 1882, Fountain Hall is one of Atlanta’s most historic structures and in 1972 declared a National Historic Landmark.   Morris Brown College is the only institution of higher learning in Georgia organized for and by African Americans.

Dr. R. Candy Tate, Founder & CEO Culture Centers International; Coordinator ATL MLK Main Street, led a panel discussion that included Dr. Kevin E. James, President, Morris Brown College.  You can watch the rich panel discussion and supporting videos by clicking here.  During the panel discussion, we learned the exciting news of a recent grant award from the National Park Service to start the restoration of Fountain Hall, but more funds are needed to complete the renovation.  

Dr. James discussed the “hard reset” of Morris Brown College, importantly the award of “accreditation candidacy.”  This means that Morris Brown College can apply to the US Department of Education to participate in financial aid programs and Title IV funding, which it lost in 2002. Dr. James shared Morris Brown College has applied and hopes for positive news very soon!  Over the last few years, Dr. James has already announced some exciting partnerships, including a $30 million investment by CGI Merchant Group to covert some existing facilities into a 150-key upscale hotel and hospitality management training complex and a $500,000 gift from the Chick-fil-A Foundation to train student leaders.

Morris Brown College is about a ½ mile from 234 Sunset Avenue.  I imagine if Dr. King were to walk from his home and witness a thriving Morris Brown College and restored Fountain Hall, he would be proud!  We have many miles to go but the leaders on our panel discussion today are determined to complete the journey and would welcome your support!

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Photo by Kelly Jordan

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