ATLANTA-- A call to action was laid out to Atlanta University Center students interested in solving some of the issues facing the inner-city of Atlanta.
About 50 students from Morehouse College, Spelman College, and Clark Atlanta University met Thursday to collaborate on solutions to enhance the quality of life for residents of the West Side. They touched on many topics during the forum, including homelessness, gentrification, and what the AUC community will look like in the future.
Students first heard from former Georgia State Senator and potential mayoral candidate Vincent Fort, whose campaign page is centered around rebuilding the infrastructure of the city to ensure a level playing field. Fort, a graduate of Clark Atlanta University, spoke about the history of the West Side campuses and the importance to sustain the area for future endeavors.
"If the approach to our community, to our issues is going to change, we have to be the ones willing to change it." Fort said.
Spelman sophomore and #ATLisREADY organizer Eva Dickerson also spoke to students about the different organizations and resources available to make an impact in their community. She spoke about how important it is for the conversation to go past the classroom and into solution-based actions around the community.
"We go to City Hall meetings, we have people putting together policy pieces, we have meetings with our college presidents to hold them accountable, many of us are mentors at Washington High School," Dickerson said. "There's so much that we do and more we're looking to do."
Students then began brainstorming about the issues they feel impact the community the most. Topics like public school redistricting and the upcoming construction of the Atlanta Beltline through the West End created more questions than answers. Students were most concerned about how new developments would affect those already living in the community.
"Watching the changes that are happening so rapidly coming to the community," Dickerson said. "I'm a renter in the West End, very soon this will affect me, you almost have no choice but to fight it."
The conversation shifted to the importance of maintaining homeless shelters, specifically the Peachtree-Pine shelter. Students were charged to help at the shelter while the center still exists. The Atlanta City Council voted in October to begin talks to buy the property.
Some students are involved in the #TentCity movement taking place outside of Turner Field, where surrounding neighborhoods are asking Georgia State University and Carter Development to negotiate a binding community benefits agreement that will allegedly ensure that residents have a voice in how the neighborhood is developed.
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Dickerson was encouraged by the turnout to the event and looks forward to what she hopes is a larger conversation with a larger audience.
"You create the change you want to see in this world, so we're out here creating the change we want to see in our institutions"