The Atlanta Way vs The Water Boys
This term has been watered down to a matter of focusing on the cough and not the cancer. Celebrity over credibility. Titles over talent. The priority of The Atlanta Way is now a means of fighting for the perfect color bandaids to be placed on these wounds that clearly need stitches and antibiotics. These 'Water Boys' are the symptoms and not the disease, they are the cough and not the cancer.
The actual disease is the grim circumstance purposely created around these children and their family members. Their family members' unemployment and underemployment mixed with horrific living conditions and a lack of real positive opportunities is at the center of this cancer. To deny this clear reality as if these 'Water Boys' are hustling on our streets as some fun activity simply reveals how disconnected and dishonest the guards of The Atlanta Way really are.
Councilwoman Marci Collier Overstreet says some people are afraid because some of the 'Water Boys' are too aggressive and tap on windows trying to make a sale.
These are children. Children. Black boys. Sadly as Black boys our sons are discarded and disposable within this system unless they are privileged enough to be on the right side of the Brown paper bag test. Atlanta has had one Black mayor after another since 1974 and the state of Black peoples' living experiences continue to sink with each passing political ribbon-cutter. Think about it, this city has failed poor Black people in every sector- public education, community programs, small business support, The Arts, housing, employment and on down the line. The City of Atlanta has made it nearly impossible for working class Black people to become upwardly mobile thanks to The Atlanta Way.
“We appreciate the entrepreneurial spirit of youth who
are selling water to motorists, but we have seen an increase in unsafe and violent activity
in some locations and cannot allow it to continue.”
- Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms
Now is the time for new eyes, new leadership, new voices and new skills to be infused into The Atlanta Way because applying those old vanity bandaids to this grossly infected wound will not work. We are sitting on a powder keg that will eventually explode if our city’s leaders are not honest about their intentions and actions. On one side of this story Mayor Bottoms is claiming to care about this group of young boys, meanwhile the police are on the other side of her care handcuffing and arresting them for simply trying to survive…legally. Can you honestly say if these were white boys in Atlanta who were fighting to survive and help their families the city’s leaders would be taking the same clumsy approach to solving their issues? The narrative would be totally different and our white 'Water Boys' would be celebrated as enterprising champions of their communities.
Atlanta has an opportunity to be a national leader in this troublesome space of gentrification, low employment, unemployment, COVID19 and the reality of the impact of this genocidal cocktail for Black people. I know that our country’s goal is not and has never been to empower Black people on any level. From a Federal level on down to our local city and county levels, we have been fighting through this storm.
Transparency is needed. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Atlanta’s city council members should take a public stand to fix this problem or publicly let us know they really don’t give a damn. Be honest and transparent about what this really is. Stop focusing on the cough and be honest about the cancer. Make no mistake about it, this will not turn out well for Atlanta by continuing to be dishonest about the handling of this matter. These are children who have dire needs and if our leaders will make it impossible for them to work honestly they are making it possible for them to work dishonestly. This will produce a terrible squall that will not fit neatly back in the bottle.
All this talk about entrepreneur workshops is just smoke and mirrors being produced to calm the public as the city continues to make criminals out of these children. Anything short of having all of what is listed below, working at the same time will not cure this cancer.
Community Food Programs: A real quality program with healthy and good food choices is needed. This can also create employment opportunities for the community. Partnering with local farmers to create a farm to table process will give our community a better sense of who we are while teaching viable skills to our people.
Employment Assistance and Entrepreneur Workshops: This will be designed for the young boys and their family members. Employment helps to address their needs right now. Partnering with established businesses will teach these families how to start small and move to scale. The more employment opportunities, the more local taxes will be collected. This will be a win for all parties involved when this is managed correctly.
Community Building: This will deal with the gang violence, multiple levels of abuse and challenges that have been created within their communities by Atlanta's power structure. Without dealing with this issue, all else will fail. To partially invest in these children and then send them back into these war zones will only cancel out any of our efforts.
Arts Programs: There are so many bright geniuses within these communities who simply need an opportunity to learn how to express themselves as artists. It would be even more beneficial to teach them how to monetize their artistry and build a business as an artist. We would partner with local professional artists of all disciplines, non-profits, companies who provide art supplies and the City of Atlanta’s Cultural Affairs Office to make this a success.
This is just a snapshot of what will be needed to truly heal our community and children who are fighting this war against poverty, racism and class in Atlanta. Now is the time for us to redefine and reimagine what The Atlanta Way could be in our lives. As we look behind us it is clear that it hasn’t worked well for the working class Black people of Atlanta. This goes beyond my personal opinion, we can go outside and see the facts of this matter. How much more do we really have to see before we adjust ourselves into becoming the best versions of who our children need us to be? These are children. Children. Starving and dying because of The Atlanta Way.
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