I Have A Dream for a Diverse and Inclusive DT Athens: Fight for Civil Rights Committee

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Mokah Speaks
President of Athens Discrimination Movement
I Have A Dream for a Diverse and Inclusive Down Town Athens: Fight for a Civil Rights Committee continues

We still live in a nation where people are not only judged by the color of their skin, but also by their economic status, and appearance opposed to the content of their character. Since Dr. Martin Luther Jr King delivered his famous speech, “I have a Dream” there have been many setbacks confirming race relations is still an issue and that the fight for civil rights must continue.

In December 2016,  Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement (AADM) established an in-house civil rights council to provide guidance and resources to local citizens who may have experienced discrimination in downtown Athens. After spending several months collecting community input and reviewing issues regarding discrimination claims/issues in Athens-Clarke County, AADM believes that the Mayor and Commission should consider creating an independent citizens committee. One that would work together with the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government with the purpose of building dialogue, reducing the discriminatory behavior, and creating a more diverse and inclusive community in Downtown Athens.

By June 30th, the ACC Manager and Attorney’s office will submit a framework for a possible citizens civil rights committee but for this structure to truly be effective Athens-Clarke County- Mayor and Commission must be held accountable and willing to “listen” to the non-privileged. We must work together!

In theory, this citizens committee would act as separate but related arm joined with Athens-Clarke County Government.  It would require a member of Athens-Clarke County Commission and staff to act as a liaison. The goal of this new public/private structure would be to help make Athens-Clarke County a better place for ALL people to live, work and do business.


Discrimination has been a debilitating problem for many people for many years in this community. In order to adequately address this issue in our community and ultimately to eliminate systemic racism, our local government must lead the way to establish real communication and equitable opportunity for minorities.


This citizens committee would review community input, recommend action, and implement community activities and educational programs aimed to improve human relations and civil rights.

Turning a blind eye or deaf ear to discriminatory behavior based on an individual’s race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, national origin, citizenship, age, disability, or pregnancy does NOT nor SHOULD NOT reflect the values of Athens-Clarke County.


1.Make recommendations and to serve as a liaison between the county and other local diversity and minority organizations

2. Implement activities and programs that can establish economic equity within downtown Athens

3. To report to the Mayor and Commission on the extent of discriminatory behavior within Athens-Clarke County, the activities of the citizens committee, and the overall health of human relations in the County.

4.Organize community activities and educational programs geared toward stimulating a more inclusive and welcoming environment in Athens.

5. Work towards creating and maintaining a healthy, equitable, and diverse community, consistent with Section B of the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government Charter.

Section B of Athens-Clarke County Charter under Article 1, “The unified government shall encourage the meaningful involvement in its operations of all citizens of Athens-Clarke County, particularly those who are members of minority or other traditionally disadvantaged groups, as appointees, employees, and independent contractors. No individual shall be denied any opportunity on the basis of race, gender, religion, age, handicap or national origin.”


The Committee should be made up of eleven (11) members including both an Athens-Clarke County elected official (a Commissioner) as well as the Director of Housing & Community Development. The inclusion of an ACC staff member is pertinent for this partnership to be truly effective, the local government must take accountability and open to recommendations.

The committee members should be appointed by the people of Athens based on an online voting process or by submitting recommendations to Mayor and Commission or appointed chairperson (this section was recently updated for clarification purposes).


Local organizations that currently fight for the voiceless and those most likely to be discriminated against, should be allowed to recommend a representative to have a seat on the citizens’ committee.

Committee members should be individuals who are committed to creating a more diverse and equitable community and are affiliated with organizations aligned with these goals.

An Athens-Clarke County Commissioner should serve as liaison to the citizens’ committee and the County Manager’s office. Liaisons may also be requested from the ACC Police Department, CCSD School Board, Athens Downtown Development Authority, and both the administration and student body of the University of Georgia.

Athens Citizens Committee Operational Requirements: Meeting space, support services and operational and program funding.

When our local government and various people say they want to see a more diverse and welcoming downtown,  It will take more than an anti-discrimination ordinance, marches, and festivals to combat the current issues of discrimination in Downtown Athens.

Local citizens and organizations can show their support by posting comments below. I also encourage local citizens to write or email their local commissioner, the county attorney, and managers’ office.  Visit www.athensclarkecounty.com/168/Commission-Information-Biographies for Athens-Clarke County Unified Government contact information. For more information, you may contact Mokah-Jasmine Johnson at jasminejohnsonedu@gmail.com.

8 thoughts on “I Have A Dream for a Diverse and Inclusive DT Athens: Fight for Civil Rights Committee

  1. I fully support this proposal. I have lived in Athens since 1990 and downtown Athens has historically been a place where some people feel very welcome and some people feel very unwelcome. There is a need for change and a committee described in the above proposal sounds worthwhile, beneficial, and critical to be able to make real progress in DT Athens.

  2. In this day and age with everything that has taken place, the time is NOW. It is time to create a safe, welcoming place for everyone no matter the color of their skin, sexual orientation, religion, age, gender, or socioeconomic status. The push to make Athens downtown area a place of inclusion is vital, especially as a college town, and a place where young families are being formed. Why not make it a place for all to celebrate life for EVERYONE! Lets make that time now!!! Lets see downtown Athens become an example for every other small and large town across America.

  3. As a tax paying residents of Athens Clarke County since 1993, our family supports this initiative to end the systemic discrimination that plagues downtown Athens. For too long, racism has been normalized under the guise of so-called dress codes or other means, like sales persons stalking people of color in stores to the point where they are reluctant to enter certain establishments. This is 2017!

  4. The best thing to do against discrimination is to do it with care, intention and multiple voices whose work is consequential. It’s time!

  5. I support this vision, much better than the thought put forth by many progressives last year, that “any” committee would work. A thought, btw, repeated many times over the course of many weeks. Our committee must be unique to Athens to be effective, so the deep content expressed in AADM’ s proposal gives us a chance to protect and strengthen our city, and survive superficial political maneuvering, which in my mind, is a bigger concern than direct opposition by interest groups trying to maintain their status quo.

  6. It’s a privilege to know that there are still people like yourself out there who are willing to stand in the gap for the voiceless .I fully support the cause.

  7. I have been supporting this initiative since it was first proposed. Racial discrimination as well as all other forms of discrimination (against LGBTQ people, immigrants or different religions) is a disgrace and sometimes a crime and we need to take a stand against this throughout the community, not just in the downtown bars.

  8. I see discrimination, especially racism, every day. There is a disparity between the population of the greater community and the population that can be seen downtown almost any time. Downtown businesses and officials have not yet made our city center a safe, let alone welcoming space to people of color. For a just and economically viable business center to exist, all consumers should feel safe and welcome. Pathways for Athenian people of color and women to open brick and mortar establishments should exist, which will further that welcoming and safe atmosphere while keeping money in our community. This will ripple to other parts of our great city and make all neighborhoods more diverse and safer for all people.

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