AUGUSTA, Ga. – Big change can have small, local beginnings.
“We can’t worry about what’s in Atlanta if we don’t take care of Augusta, we can’t worry about what’s going on in DC if you can’t take care of Augusta,” said Christopher Johnson, founder of Greater Augusta’s Interfaith Coalition. “All change is local. Change has to start in one spot and it spreads.”
Aiken County NAACP president Eugene White said there are four simple things anyone can do that would make a difference in the fight against racism and social injustice:
Use your voice when you see injustice
The 2020 tragedies of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor lit a fire and those flames turned into change.
Last summer, just after Floyd’s death, Augusta University’s Black Student Union gave a list of demands to college officials in an effort to raise awareness and support. Club president Sydney Strong said some items on the list have already come to fruition.
“The diversity training has started and is still going … right now, they’re working on a task force … to look over renaming some things and … kind of integrating the Black history and culture and even other cultures,” Strong said.
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, has become a vocal activist for criminal justice reform in her native Burke County with the ‘I Run With Maud’ initiative. Gov. Brian Kemp recently announced a plan to overhaul Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law. Rep. Gloria Frazier said the repeal was because of Cooper-Jones’ hard-work and strength.
Donate to and join an organization
Those tragedies also gave way to several brand new activists and grassroots movements actively fighting for racial justice, equality and inclusion.
Unify: North Augusta has dedicated much time and energy to bring attention to North Augusta’s controversial Meriwether Monument.
BLM Augusta assisted with voter events and communicating voter information during the last general election and U.S Senate runoffs in Georgia.
New Un1ty organized a large Juneteenth celebration last year, and member Jameka Gardner said she looks forward to what the holiday will bring this year.
“Things like that, bringing in people and saying ‘Hey, let me show you what our culture is about. Let me show you that … it’s not all about … ‘let’s give praise to Black people’ … it’s like ‘let me see what someone else has done, let me see what the culture is really about, let me go experience what they experience,’ ” Gardner said.
Organizations like these also invite those with privilege to be better allies, as Robert Hulse of Evans says he has tried to be.
“Instead of bringing the solutions to the groups, they listen to the groups and participate alongside them,” Hulse said. “At best, an ally is someone who walks beside someone. There’s a role too, a very real role … for allies to be stepping in front where most people feel threatened … but, I think, if we’re going to listen to the people who are marginalized and oppressed, then we need to listen to the people who are marginalized and oppressed.”
Volunteer in the community
When they are not marching against injustice and fighting for reform, many of these organizations are doing community service.
New Un1ty hosted a blood drive Feb. 6. Bringing Lives and Communities Closer (BLACC) brings food and supplies to the homeless every Thursday evening. The National Action Network of the CSRA picked up trash off the road last month.
While all of these efforts help, White said the simplest tool is the most powerful.
Voting in every election
When these advocates were asked about what needs to change and what people can do to help, their answers had a lot of variety, but one thing they all talked about was the importance of an election and the impact a vote can make.
“The vote really is the thing that’s going to promote, provide lasting changes,” White said. “The vote is precious. It really is the most powerful nonviolent tool that we have in a democracy.”