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Edgewood Is Changing

The following post was written by Derrick Beasley, Community Support Liaison at Alliance for Children and Families member agency Families First in Atlanta, Georgia. Families First, through its multiple locations, collaborations with community partners, and virtual services responds whenever and wherever they are needed. Families First is a 120+ year old organization that is building strategy to go beyond direct service and lead a cultural transformation to galvanize community responsibility for all children. Derrick was a member of the first cohort of New Voices Civic Engagement Fellows in 2011.
 
I recently read an article on Colorlines.com that detailed gentrification in Oakland, California. The article caused me to reflect on a similar, yet different transition in the Edgewood neighborhood on the East side of Atlanta.
 
As community organizer and family coach first entering the neighborhood three years ago, I quickly noticed that Edgewood was a neighborhood undergoing some serious changes. If you drive through the neighborhood today, you will notice a relatively new retail district anchored by major retailers including Target, Best Buy and Lowes, several newly renovated homes, a few residential construction projects, a large, old and highly subsidized housing development, several churches and several abandoned or dilapidated single family dwellings.  This is not a particularly unique scenario in the neighborhoods surrounding downtown Atlanta.
 
While neighborhoods in Oakland are experiencing tension related to affordability of housing, the tension in Edgewood and its adjacent, also-gentrifying neighborhoods is coming to a head in the form of public education.  As the city struggles to recover from a school district-wide cheating scandal, and enrollment in public schools in Edgewood drops, the neighborhood has seen an influx of influence from its newer, more affluent residents.  Issues of race and class have arisen from both sides of the debate over what to do with neighborhood schools whose effectiveness has been brought into question.  These issues have been a threat to the progress of Edgewood for the last several years. However the same issues that pose a major challenge also make it poised to transform into a neighborhood inhabited by a diverse, thriving population.
 
Between place-based philanthropic efforts and other nonprofit entities, Edgewood has more than a few organizations and individuals committed to ensuring those with the least resources still have a voice in the change that is coming to the neighborhood. My organization, Families First, is committed to building capacity of the current parent voice in the neighborhood while building bridges to the newer parent voice to ensure a unified vision for education. While there are pieces of this puzzle that are outside  our sphere of influence, we know that we can equip parents whose voices have not been heard in the past with the tools to amplify their voices and communicate their own vision for their community to those in positions of power.  We also know that change can be a positive thing for Edgewood as long as it is built on a foundation of equity, inclusion and respect.

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