Avondale Estates residents protest in support of Black Lives Matter movementCourtlyn Richard, 9, holds a sign she made for the peaceful protest against racial injustice in Avondale Estates June 6. Photo by Dean Hesse
By Zoe Seiler, contributor
Avondale Estates, GA — Hundreds of Avondale Estates residents lined North Avondale Road on Saturday, June 6, in support of Black Lives Matter and to protest police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minnesota.
Protesters stood along the sidewalk from North Clarendon to Sam’s Crossing holding signs. Many drivers honked in solidarity as they made their way through Avondale. Organizers counted more than 800 people in attendance.
Some protesters also acknowledge that the city has had problems with racism. One Black woman in attendance, Kecia Howson, said she has experienced issues with racism in Avondale and Decatur. She moved from Avondale to Decatur two years ago.
“I think it’s long overdue,” she said. “I think people are expressing their view that everybody should be able to function and live in this world equally which is obviously not the case. I’m hoping that this is not just a moment in time that passes. I’m hoping that it is a time where everyone will continue to fight the fight.”
She added that she hopes this moment will bring about change, especially for her children.
Carol Calvert and Sarah Galatioto-Ruff organized the event via social media two days prior and were happy to see so many fellow residents supporting the cause.
“I just think it’s a really important time for white allies to be very visible and very vocal,” Calvert said. “I wanted Avondale Estates to step up. I know it’s viewed as an area and it is an area of a lot of white privilege and it’s important for us to amplify these messages and our voices.”
Galatioto-Ruff added that she doesn’t think Avondale has done anything like this before.
“I think it’s so important for us to show solidarity with the rest of the state and the country and the world and raise our voices in a way that shows we’re not just this little town that doesn’t care, has our own agenda,” she said. “We’re here for justice.”
Calvert said they are putting a group together called the Avondale Allies to advocate for equity within the city.
Natlyn McGhee, a Black woman who lives in Stone Mountain, participated in the protest. She wore a shirt that said “I stand with Black women” and held a sign that said “Stop killing Black people.” She was also happy to see the crowd of people lining the street.
“I am just so proud of Avondale stepping out and doing this,” she said. “Everybody seems to be uniting behind something that’s so important.”
McGhee added that when she thinks about George Floyd’s death it’s painful for her.
“On a day, a single day, a man could go to the store, leave home and end up dead. And that four men could all be in the same place at the same time, grown adults, and not one of them could say ‘let’s stop this.’ We’re all human beings. How could you do that to somebody,” she said.
As the protest continued more and more people showed up with signs in hand. Some began briefly chanting “Black Lives Matter,” “No justice. No peace”, and “What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now.”
Many families attended and children held up signs. At least one child chanted “Black Lives Matter” throughout the morning.
Judy Eustace and her wife stood along North Avondale Road with their 15-year-old and 11-year-old twins.
“I think it’s fantastic especially for towns like Avondale that have a racial history within Atlanta, that we can show the new and open side to a city and start to erase and unlearn some of what we’re known for here,” Eustace said.
Eustace has lived in Avondale for 19 years and said there’s a history of segregation and racism but has felt that shift throughout the years but also said it’s still too close to forget.
Eustace, a white woman, held up a sign that said “I will do better.” It was based on the Maya Angelou quote “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
“Now we know better. We’ve known better. We have to act on it,” Eustace said.
She mentioned that it was important to bring her kids since her family was talking about the experiences of Eustace’s grandparents and parents.
“This is really going to be on (my kids) one day and I don’t want the gap to widen again. We’re going to make progress now and then it’s going to be up to them,” she said.
Some city officials also participated including Mayor Jonathan Elmore and Commissioner Lionel Laratte, who is the city’s first Black City Commissioner.
“I’m amazed that with two days notice we got all of these people out here,” Laratte said. “It’s encouraging. It makes me happy. It makes me proud to be in Avondale and it’s the great place that I always believed it was.”
Elmore was also happy with the turnout. He’s interested in things like collective action to end systemic racism.
“That’s what I want to follow through on is working with other elected officials in the county and the state to improve the ability to buy a house, to build equity, to get free healthcare, in my opinion,” Elmore said. “If you look at the things that divide us it’s access to education, healthcare, homeownership. Those are things that are damaging for a long time and that’s what you have to fix.”
He hopes to be able to work with other county officials to make some changes.
“I think this is something where we have to use our collective influence to do bigger and better things for everyone’s benefit,” Elmore said.
Laratte added that the most important takeaway from the protests happening across the country is that “people looked at the videos of what was going on and I think America looked in the mirror and said, ‘This is not us.’”
“The fact that you’re getting so many people and a multicultural and diverse group of people means that America is looking itself in the mirror and saying, ‘This is not who we want to be,’” Laratte said. “It’s who we are but it’s not who we want to be and we’re going to change that.”
Here are some more photos from the June 6 protest in Avondale Estates:
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