I continue to share in the grief resulting from overt and covert inequality, and the anger rising to match the horrific injustices that fill the news. I am encouraged by the bravery and compassion of Americans from all around who have refused to give into hopelessness for our very lost nation. I am sorry for the suffering caused in a war that should have been won before it started.
With that being said, I want to address my city. Athens, Georgia, we have work to do. I am thankful for local ministries and organizations who have worked for years to promote diversity. Every person has the right and responsibility to pursue justice for all.
Our Athens-Clarke county police have required body cameras, de-escalation training, procedural justice training, and communication training for all officers. The force is led by Chief Officer Cleveland Spruill, a black man who actively promotes building trust by serving his community. He abides by New Perspectives in Policing strategies that encourage officers to be guardians rather than warriors– to protect the people and treat collateral damage as unacceptable*. If you have witnessed encounters in which the department has fallen short of these standards, you can voice complaints at accgov.com/858/office-of-chief-of-police under professional standards. You can also submit commendation forms for officers who are standing up for justice to celebrate their integrity. These men and women are dedicated to creating a safe environment for us to live in. Let’s encourage them as they serve and enforce accountability for situations that are handled in ways that do not align with their mission.
Athens Church is starting an online discussion group focused on racial justice. You can fill out a form on their website to join the conversation and learn how we can protect peace in our city at athenschurch.com.
Enlightened Media Productions has created a Black Business Directory for Athens. You can support local Black business owners by going to enlightenedmediaproductions.com and finding a restaurant or business you’d like to try this week.
Students can email President Morehead of the University of Georgia at email@example.com with strategies to promote diversity.
Athens residents can contact Governor Kemp and legislators Houston Gaines, Spencer Frye, Marcus Wiedower, Bill Cowsert, and Frank Ginn at gov.georgia.gov/contact-us/constituent-services and athensforeveryone.com/state-legislators/ with policy changes you would like to see.
Giving to organizations that support the families of the victims across the nation as well as organizations that support civil rights is simple and impactful. You can donate to causes you are drawn to or find some options at usatoday.com/story/life/2020/05/29/george-floyd-death-donations-resources-justice-petitions/5282539002/ and papermag.com/where-to-donate-protests-minneapolis-2646128317.html?rebelltitem=20#rebelltitem20
Hosting a movie night or book club is still possible via text, zoom, facetime, and other virtual communication platforms. Set up a night with friends to watch a historical film featuring a person of color or start a book that expands your perspective and encourages conversation.
Don’t burn bridges, build them. You are far more powerful than you realize, and every effort helps. Be brave, be kind, be good. We need you.
*New Perspectives in Policing ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/248654.pdf