The Westside Future Fund has had the pleasure of having Bashel Lewis, a Westside native and Pitzer College sophomore, join our team as an intern for the summer!
Read below to learn more about Bashel’s work in the community, his time working at the Westside Future Fund, and, of course, his hope for the Westside.
What do you love most about the Westside?
My family has lived on the Westside for four generations. In that time, we’ve all witnessed the history that runs through the streets of Vine City and English Ave. Personally, I love the Westside because it is my village. It took my family, friends, neighbors, teachers, and community organizations to shape me into the man I am today! I remember as a kid, my neighbors would pick me up from school and take me to Raising Expectations until my mother got off work. Raising Expectations provided me with homework support, mentorship, college readiness tools, and more. Sometimes, even going the extra mile, literally, they would take me home after the program day was over. Then, my grandmother would cook dinner and read the Bible to me until my mother got home. These are just a few examples of how the community came together to help raise me.
What made you want to get involved in your community?
Since 4th grade I’ve always been a self-proclaimed community activist. I remember going out into the neighborhood knocking door to door, asking people to sign a petition for speed bumps in front of schools. This may seem small but at that time there was no one in Vine City, to my knowledge, under the age of 18 advocating for change within the community. Thus, making me the first “youth advocate.” It is very often that when big decisions are being made, there is no young adult present to speak about how that would affect their experiences within the neighborhood. Now, at the age of 19, I chose to be so involved because I represent the voice of the youth. I’m learning to navigate certain spaces and say “yes, we are young and yes we do have a lot to learn, but our voices matter!” In fact, in the next decade or so we will be the ones leading the community. Because while the youth may make up 25% of the population, we are 100% of the future.
Now, as an out-of-state, full-time college student, how has your work on the Westside changed?
Since going to college, my level of commitment and dedication to the Westside has not changed, it’s merely taken a different form. Granted, California is very different from Georgia, but issues like displacement and the disenfranchisement of neighborhoods are still present. I am able to observe how other communities fight against systemic community-based issues and incorporate those ideas into my work on the Westside. As an advisory board member of the Westside Atlanta Land Trust, I call into every meeting via FaceTime to fulfill my role as youth committee chairmen. Of course, the more I learn about organizational studies and the functions of organizations within communities, I am able to apply this knowledge to the work on the Westside.
What has been your experience with the Westside Future Fund this summer?
Thus far, my experience with the Westside Future Fund has been very informative. I’m currently working as an intern, taking on different projects as they come. Mostly, I’ve been working with Communications to increase Westside Future Fund’s social media presence and visibility within the community. It’s been interesting for me to explore the dichotomy of being a resident of the Westside and an intern for the Westside Future Fund because my perspective is slightly different from others.
What is your hope for the Westside?
My hope for the Westside is to create permanently affordable housing, while also preserving the rich history of my neighborhood. Every break I come back from college, it seems like a different part of my childhood is being torn down. I’m afraid that my baby sister won’t be able to fully experience the culture that I had when I was growing up. So, I hope that when I complete my undergraduate degree, that I’ll be able to not only recognize my neighborhood, but also raise a family in my neighborhood.