by Ashley Scott
Watching the video of George Floyd being murdered, after having just watched the video of Ahmaud Arbery being murdered, something clicked on the inside for Black people and their allies across the world. Something clicked on the inside of me.
Who am I? I am a Black woman from Philly, living in Stonecrest, Georgia (right outside of Metro Atlanta), a realtor, a Bennett Belle, an AKA, a Believer, mothering Black children and loving on my Black husband.
I am concerned. At times distraught. For the first time ever in my life, I felt disempowered. So much so that the overachieving, solution-oriented, practical, non-emotional person that I am had to stop.
I sought counseling from a Black therapist and it helped. It helped me to realize that what we as Black people are suffering from is racial trauma. We are dealing with systemic racism. We are dealing with deep-rooted issues that will require more than protesting in the streets. It will take for us as a people, as Atlanta rapper and activist Killer Mike so eloquently put, “To plot, plan, strategize, organize and mobilize.” So that’s what I and my good friend Renee Walters, an entrepreneur and investor, did.
We began to look for ways to change the world for the better in whatever small way we could. We wanted to make some kind of difference that could ensure the safety of our Black sons and Black husbands when they went about their lives just breathing and being. We wanted to do something to amass Black power to affect real change.
We considered the reality that even in Atlanta, with an exceptional Black woman like Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, there was still no respect for the humanity of Blacks. That even with Erika Shields, a Black woman Chief of Police at the helm, there was the murder of Rayshard Brooks. We can see there is something much deeper happening. Politics, as usual, isn’t the answer. Something new has to happen.
Something new is happening! We discovered the viral post about Toomsboro, Georgia, for sale and we joined several Facebook groups discussing building Black cities and new Black Wall Streets — and we were here for it! It was clear to me that developing new cities was necessary because these old ones, even with strong Black leadership, have too many deep-rooted problems.
As a realtor, I’ve been sitting in on zoning and city council meetings. At first, I attended wanting to get a few new clients, but seeing the progress of the newly created city of Stonecrest, Georgia, inspired me. It motivated me to look more deeply into local politics and how cities are created. My research into cityhood gave me insight that this is how we change our communities and build real Black power.
Black power comes from wealth. Wealth is created through cash-flow and assets. Who has more cash flow and assets than governments? Where does the cash-flow come from? Taxes and bonds. Who pays taxes? Landowners. Who runs governments? People. We are the people. We have to be more involved, especially young people!
We as taxpayers, as landowners, as homeowners, as business owners, even as renters, should be involved in our local governments. We should be much more engaged in the zoning, ordinances, budget votes, district meetings and neighborhood planning committees. Ask yourself, when was the last time you went to a district meeting for your neighborhood?
I implore you to take a trip to your city council’s working meetings. In fact, most are virtual now, so you can watch at home with a glass of wine and some popcorn, ‘Scandal’ style. Make note of how the money is moving. What are the projects being funded? Who are the corporations coming to town? Who is running the economic development initiatives? Which vendors are getting big contracts?
All the happenings to Black folks are being dished out at the local level by your district judges, the D.A.s, sheriffs, development authorities, city councils, congress people and mayors. Mayors are the ones using their executive privilege to remove Confederate monuments in their cities. Zoning committees choose whether or not a toxic dump gets built in your ‘hood. The local county is responsible for watershed management and what pollutants make it into our drinking water and natural waterways. We have to get busy on a local level.
I know you’re wondering, “What in the world does all this have to do with why you all purchased land in the midst of protests and a pandemic, and how you used cooperative economics to do it?” Well, everything.
We figured we could try to fix a broken system or we could start fresh. Start a city that could be a shining example of being the change you want to see. We wanted to be more involved in creating the lives we really want for our Black families. And maybe, just maybe, create some generational wealth for ourselves by investing in the land. Investing in creating a community that is built around our core values and beliefs.
A community built with green environmentally safe and eco-friendly building materials that honor Mother Nature and all Her glory! A community that is self-sufficient and thriving with a living food system built by Black farmers to provide food security for all its neighbors. A community that prioritizes diversity and inclusion by hiring BIPOC and women vendors, suppliers and contractors. A community that boasts accessible spaces for all people. A community where our Black sons, our Black husbands, our Black women could make it home without being murdered by police.
We made a PowerPoint presentation the day after we left the “Toomsboro for Sale” open house. We called our like-minded friends and family. We impressed upon them the urgent power of now. We brought 19 families together on one accord during a series of online meetings. We started an LLC. We considered a field and we bought it. We bought 96.71 acres of land!
Now is not the time to sit around and complain. Now is the time to pool our resources. Now is the time to tap into our collective knowledge. Now is the time to organize ourselves on the local scale and build new cities. Now is the time to vote locally and nationally. Now is the time of the new Black Independent Party. Now is the time for you and your Black families and friends to go build independent private assets, residuals, trusts and yields.
Amass land, develop affordable housing for yourself, build your own food systems, build manufacturing and supply chains, build your own home school communities, build your own banks and credit unions, build your own cities, build your own police departments, tax yourselves and vote in a mayor and a city council you can trust. Build it from scratch! Then go get all the money the United States of America has available for government entities and get them bonds. This is how we build our new Black Wall Streets. We can do this. We can have Wakanda! We just have to build it for ourselves!
The Freedom Georgia Initiative is doing just that and we hope you will take action. We hope you will connect with us and support us. So, for all the folks that have an eye to see and an ear to hear, “Govern yourselves accordingly.”