ATLANTA — An organization is working with Atlanta's "water boys" to turn a site of tragedy into one of promise.
Helping Empower Youth, or HEY!, aims to transform the home of Kathryn Johnston, a 92-year-old Atlanta woman who was shot and killed insider her house by police in 2006 as they served a no-knock warrant at the wrong location.
KD Boyd, the co-chair of HEY!, said they wanted the home, on Neal Street in Bankhead, to serve as a space for youth mentorship.
The group has been mentoring the water boys for a year now, after the city began to crack down on the practice of youth selling bottled water at busy stoplights and faced a backlash for not doing more instead to help nurture their entrepreneurial impulse.
HEY! has been providing the boys with neon vests, teaching them safety habits and providing some of the bottled water they sell. Boyd said the goal is to set the youth up for long-term success by providing them a business space, encouraging entrepreneurship and changing the perception of young Black boys in Atlanta.
"They understand they get lumped into that category (of being criminalized), so I want them to know that they did in fact have the right idea about what to do," Boyd said. "That the adults were the ones that failed them in nurturing that and bringing it to fruition."
Boyd said the group has a partnership with DeKalb County to provide water to the youths, and he is hoping the organization can soon partner with the City of Atlanta to get the boys a vendor license.