Saving Sunset on the Westside

The Westside has a rich legacy of historic homes and heartfelt stories on every block, and 220 Sunset Avenue in Vine City is a prime example. Once home to Reverend Maynard Jackson, Sr., and his family, this home was once part of a thriving middle class Black neighborhood, but years of neglect have left it in desperate need of repair.

Thanks to Westside Future Fund, the five-unit building, purchased from The King Center in January 2020, will be revitalized in the coming months, and it will be added to the National Register of Historic Places. Learn more about the famous family who once called this place home.

Built in 1949, Reverend Maynard Jackson Sr, the family patriarch, chose this location to build his family’s home because of the neighborhood’s reputation as a nice middle class Black neighborhood.

The Jackson family lived in apartment three on the second floor and he used the third floor apartment as his office. The two first floor units were rented out to generate additional income.

Jackson Sr. was the preacher at Friendship Baptist Church from the mid-1940s, and he quickly became a community leader and advocated for increased political participation of Black families and Black children living in poverty – and his family followed suit.

History Makers

Just a few years after his passing in 1953, his wife, Dr. Irene Dobbs Jackson, daughter of John Wesley Dobbs, made history.

In 1959, Dr. Jackson returned from Paris where she had been using her skills as a Spelman College French professor to enjoy the nation’s history, including reading literature at the French public libraries.

While in France, she was able to access any public library she wanted, but when she got back to Atlanta, she faced the harsh reality that the local library system remained segregated.

Dr. Jackson was determined to be the difference, so she decided to apply for a library card at the main branch. Within just a few days, her application was approved, and Dr. Irene Jackson was the first Black person in the city’s history to be issued a public library card.

Model Leadership

Watching his father and mother’s leadership in the Black community, Maynard Holbrook Jackson, Jr. inherited a passion for the fight for equality.

From his earliest days on Sunset Avenue into his adulthood, Maynard was a champion for the Black community. After years of community leadership, he was elected as Atlanta’s first Black mayor in 1973.

The Jackson family would eventually sell their home in 1969, but its historical significance grew. In 1970, the home was purchased by Southern Rural Action Incorporated and it was used to house visiting scholars who came to see The King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, an organization begun by Coretta Scott King, wife of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Preserving the Past

To ensure that the bountiful history of the property is preserved, Westside Future Fund is moving forward with extensive restoration work and will have the property added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Once completed, the reimagined property will serve as affordable housing for researchers and graduate students who are affiliated with the Atlanta University Center, and it will stand as a landmark for years to come.

Finding Home on the Westside

For N’Dieya Danavall, the Westside had always felt like home, but finding a house in the community that fit her budget wasn’t easy.

When she heard about the Westside Future Fund Home on the Westside opportunity, it seemed too good to be true. Because N’Dieya has lived, worked and attended school in the Westside community, she qualified to apply for one of several homes available through the program. After months of careful planning and preparation with the financial team, she was set to purchase her new home.

The community’s rich history is personal to N’Dieya, and that makes her move even more special. Watch as N’Dieya talks about why she chose to buy her home on the Westside.

Volunteer Spotlight: Justin Mah, LOVE ATLANTA Project

Revitalizing our community is a team effort, one that relies heavily on the support of our many incredible volunteers. To thank them for their hard work and dedication, we will shine a light on people who actively support our mission.

This month, we honor Justin Mah, a long-time LOVE ATLANTA volunteer. See what inspires him to give his time.

Q: How did you first hear about the Westside Future Fund?

A: I first heard about the Westside Future Fund through Passion City Church. Each year around late June, Passion City hosts LOVE ATLANTA week, where they partner with various organizations throughout the city that champion the city of Atlanta. I was the onsite coordinator for a community clean up with the Westside Future Fund in 2021 and I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Raquel, Genora and Robyn. I’ve been serving with WFF on a monthly basis with their community clean up since leading that project.

Q: What is your favorite part of serving with the WFF Volunteer Corp?

A: My favorite part is seeing the transformation of the areas that we have served. It warms my heart when nearby residents come by to let us know their appreciation for taking time out of our weekend to clean up and beautify their neighborhood. I also enjoy seeing the WFF staff members who show up each month to lead each project. I enjoy the friendships that I have built with them over the past year as we make a positive impact on the Westside. They also provide Capri Sun® which is a bonus!

Q: What inspires you about this service opportunity?

A: I love being part of the process of restoring and renewing the neighborhoods the Westside Future Fund serves. Each opportunity is a glimpse of the transformation of these neighborhoods. I live on the Upper Westside, and I want the surrounding areas to know that they are seen and will be taken care of, whether that be cutting down overgrowth or removing and cleaning up trash that has been dumped there.

Q: What do you want others to know about the Westside Future Fund and why it’s so important?

A: The Westside Future Fund is a wonderful organization that seeks to champion the residents of English Avenue, Vine City, Ashview Heights, and Atlanta University Center. Atlanta is a beautiful city that I am proud to call home, but there are still pockets of this city that seem forgotten or overlooked. I wish to see those that have called the Westside their home for many years remain residents for years to come, while still being able to be a part of the change that comes into their area. I feel that it is crucial to break the cycle of poverty that strickens these residents and provide them with opportunities and access so that they can build a foundation for success and flourish.

 

A Bright Future for Home on the Westside

Of all of the incredible work Westside Future Fund does every day, one of the organization’s most important efforts is ensuring that legacy residents and people who are connected to the Westside have access to affordable housing.

Tameka Askew manages the Home on the Westside, a program that focuses on community retention for people who have ties to the Historic Westside. We help Westside residents live in the place they love by connecting them with the right housing and education support and strengthening the community they call home.

“We placed an Atlanta Police officer and his family this summer, and they’re the first family with children to purchase one of our affordable homes,” says Tameka. “We also placed a Morehouse School of Medicine professor who has been in the community for quite some time – and he believes it’s important to remain in the Westside community,” said Askew.

More homes for more people are on the horizon as the program continues to grow.

“Ten homes are being developed – four will be complete by the end of 2022 and the remaining six will be done by the beginning of next year. Some multifamily units will also be available in the Spring,” says Tameka. “The demand for housing, especially renting, is extremely high. We have a long waitlist because people are actively seeking affordable housing.”

In some cases, people who are farther down the waitlist may not be able to get into a home quickly, so Tameka can refer them to other affordable housing options thanks to her years of experience in the community and her connections to resources.

Askew isn’t new to helping people. She worked as a social worker and a therapist for more than 25 years, and 15 of those years were dedicated to housing. For her, the mission of the Westside Future Fund is something that she connects with personally.

“I love building rapport with people, holding their hands and giving them someone who is like their personal coach through the homebuying process,” says Tameka. “I also love doing work in the community and getting to know what our residents want and need.”

Real Estate is Real Equity

Meet Dave Stockert, WFF’s Real Estate Committee Chair

For Westside Future Fund board member Dave Stockert, real estate is in the blood. Since moving to Atlanta in 1995, he’s been entrenched in the industry, most recently as CEO of apartment company Post Properties. That made his current role serving as the chair of the real estate committee a natural fit.

Stockert’s involvement with WFF started back in 2017. Despite the monumental challenge of affordable housing, the revitalization approach outlined for the Westside neighborhoods intrigued him. “If we could pull it off, it would be unique in the country,” he says.

Housing owned by the nonprofit and kept affordable in perpetuity would be different from the typical strategy of using development to catalyze growth and gentrification—change that often pushes out longtime residents. Instead, Stockert wanted to contribute to the effort to preserve affordability for those who have lived in the historic neighborhoods and ensure they benefit from the improvements coming to the area.

In his role as chair of the WFF real estate committee, he helps the team work on renovations, development and acquisitions to meet the organization’s affordable housing goals. “We’re picking up steam in our single-family program with renovations of vacant homes and new construction, with Home on the Westside giving preference to those with connections here,” says Stockert. “More homeownership makes the neighborhoods more stable. Neighbors get to know each other and watch out for one another and for their kids.”

He notes it’s also an equity-building opportunity for many Black families who have historically not had that chance because of institutional impediments.

In addition to the residential revitalization, Stockert’s excited about new greenspace and future retail. Avid bike-riders, he and his wife use the recently opened portion of the Westside Beltline to frequent the new reservoir park and Lee & White complex. “We’re looking forward to seeing a variety of restaurants opening there, too. Echo Street is also going to be a strong addition to the Westside. It’s going to bring a good mix to the area.” He hopes these developments will bring people to the Westside to experience the history and charm it has to offer, which too few area residents really know.

Looking to the future, Stockert remains committed to WFF’s vision of responsible, inclusive growth. “Atlanta is going to grow and have plenty of opportunities for people, but if we pay attention to those who could be left behind, it’ll be a better type of growth. We’ll all be better for it.”

Transportation for a Connected Community

One of the biggest barriers to equity is access to transportation. For many legacy residents on the Westside, owning a vehicle isn’t an option and frequent ridesharing can be too costly. That’s why Auna Tyson started Strive Transit, a hyper-local, micro-transit shuttle service company for eight Westside neighborhoods seven days a week.

Strive Transit was also the official transportation partner for our inaugural Ride for the Westside ride/bike/walk cause event earlier this month. Hundreds of participants joined our effort to raise awareness and funds to support the equitable revitalization of historic Atlanta neighborhoods.

“Our sole goal is to pick up and drop off residents and visitors and take them to businesses on  the Westside including Midtown and the Peachtree Corridor. Our eco-friendly vehicles promote environmental sustainability while offering an alternative to MARTA, Uber and Lyft,” says Auna.

Building Community

Tyson first moved to the Westside in 2010, leaving her home in St. Louis for the first time. While it was daunting to make the leap halfway across the country, she immediately found herself at home on the Westside.

As Auna reflects on her time on the Westside, she is proud of the community’s progress and hopeful for the future.

“When I think about the Westside, I think about growth,” says Auna. “These neighborhoods are about  building community, maintaining sustainability and connecting with people who share the similar interests and mindset to help each other grow.”

Auna has high hopes that Strive Transit will continue to grow thanks to funding from the WFF Program Related Investment (PRI) program. The company was selected as a PRI recipient last year and immediately experienced a positive impact. Auna has also applied for the opportunity to qualify for a home with our Home on the Westside, a community retention initiative created to ensure that long-time residents can benefit from revitalization efforts in the historic community.

According to Auna, “The PRI funding has opened doors we had no idea would be possible. We’ve secured contracts and additional vehicles to expand our business and we’re now in the room with other Westside businesses who utilize our services for some of their events and other ventures.”

Why walk when you can ride? Book with Strive: 470-231-9941.

Join our Ride for the Westside (October 22)

Inaugural event supports efforts to revitalize our Beloved Community

Support Dr. King’s vision for a Beloved Community by joining Westside Future Fund’s inaugural Ride for the Westside on Saturday, October 22 from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm. Sign up and meet us 970 Jefferson Street, Atlanta, GA 30318.

Why Ride for the Westside?

An influx of jobs and people are returning to the heart of Atlanta, bringing new life to an area rich in cultural history but long neglected due to systemic inequity. This economic growth drives up the price of housing and threatens to displace legacy Westside residents.

Join friends, neighbors, and colleagues and ride to disrupt the cycle of poverty and empower the potential of our neighbors who call the Westside home. With your support, Atlanta’s Westside, a neighborhood rich in civil rights history, can become a national model for racial equity and justice.

Ride: 11-mile circuit through Westside neighborhood streets and along the Westside Beltline. Bring your bike and some friends and enjoy a great fall ride.

Run: Peachtree Road Race qualifier, timed 5K run/walk with overall and age group awards following the event.

Walk: Tour a neighborhood on the move!  Learn about the heritage and future of the historic Westside neighborhood where WFF is working to create economic opportunity and affordable housing.

Ride for the West includes:

  • Breakfast and refreshments to start your day
  • An 11-mile bike circuit along the beltline and through WFF’s Westside neighborhoods
  • A 5K race and official qualifier for the Peachtree Road Race
  • A family-friendly self-guided walking tour to highlight the neighborhood’s incredible civil rights heritage and Westside Future Fund’s work on the Historic Westside
  • Post-race festivities include music, awards, finisher medals, and fun!
  • Volunteer opportunities for companies and individuals
  • Prizes!

Explore Omenala Griot Museum 

 

A Living Legacy for African Culture in Atlanta

Atlanta is widely regarded in America as the capital of Black culture, as our city is the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement and home to institutions dedicated to understanding and dismantling systemic injustice.

On the Westside, one museum is working hard to ensure that the roots of African culture are not forgotten: the Omenala Griot Afrocentric Museum.

“I’m carrying on the legacy that my mother Dr. Narvie Puls started back in 1994,” said Kevin Williams, museum director. “She was a public school teacher for Atlanta Public Schools, and she really wanted to make sure that the true story was being told about African-American history.”

After a 35-year career as an educator, Dr. Puls founded the Omenala Griot Afrocentric Museum to provide a teaching and research facility that uplifts African history and culture through diasporic artifacts, artwork and historical literature. The museum also serves as a destination for interactive group and community discussions as well as special events.

Williams hopes that the museum he calls Atlanta’s best kept secret won’t be a secret for much longer.

“I work from volunteerism. I really need people to come and give me a hand. The Westside Future Fund has provided a tremendous amount of help,” said Williams. “I welcome all who want to serve, and they came in and did a great job sprucing up the place. I am so grateful for Westside Future Fund.”

Drop in for a tour of African history and make a donation to help sustain the beauty of the space: www.omenalagriot.com/donate

Roots on the Westside: Trees Atlanta

Partnership helps heal the land, connect people

Three decades ago, the Westside Future Fund partnered with Trees Atlanta to change the landscape of the community for the better – literally.

For years, the Westside community had suffered from environmental inequalities that caused tremendous damage to the natural landscape. To help heal the land, Westside Future Fund turned to Trees Atlanta, an organization with a deep commitment to maintaining the natural beauty of our city known for its sprawling tree canopies.

“We know that reconnecting to nature helps people, and what better way to ground ourselves in nature than with trees?” says John Ahmann, President and CEO of Westside Future Fund. “A lot of environmental injustice issues happened in our neighborhood, so we’re working to rectify this by adding more landscaping with lots of trees.”

Together, Westside Future Fund and Trees Atlanta have planted hundreds of trees alongside affordable multi-family housing developments on the Westside. As a matter of fact, Trees Atlanta named Westside Future Fund their 2022 Tree Champion Community Award winner, an honor that inspires WFF to forge ahead with a joint mission to revitalize the natural beauty of the Westside.

Read about the impact of Trees Atlanta: www.treesatlanta.org.

Meet Ashley Collier, Our New Major Gifts Officer

We welcome Ashley Collier in her new role as Major Gifts Officer where she will focus on stewarding relationships with new and existing donors. She brings more than 12 years of development experience to the position, including previous roles with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Hands On Atlanta.

“As the organization continues to grow, our philanthropy must grow, too. Our impact is limitless when we have donor support to unlock new avenues to support the Westside,” says Ashley.

Ashley chose the WFF opportunity because she is intentional about serving Black and Brown communities with hopes “every child who looks like my daughter Lauryn has a better chance at a more equitable life.”

Ashley is a graduate of Furman University where she played golf as a student athlete. She and her husband enjoy teaching their daughter new sports – and running appears to be their 19 month-old’s favorite thing to do.