July 17th Virtual Transform Westside Summit Devotion with Valerie Williams
July 24, 2020
July 17th’s devotion message came from Valerie Williams, President of the Atlanta Alumni Association for Booker T. Washington High School. Williams framed her devotion message with mention of some of the challenges Nehemiah faced as he returned to his hometown of Jerusalem to rebuild. She then shared some of the advocacy work she has led through the Alumni Association and talked about her own experience of leaving the Westside and eventually returning.
Whether it was the “Bulldog Call” she helped lead to support the Washington band, or advocating for much-needed facilities improvements, Williams has identified a higher significance to her work. More important to Williams than any single initiative is the call for action her work represents for her fellow Washington alums and, indeed, the broader community. It is a call to come back and support the school that provided love and education to her and her classmates and produced leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Lena Horne, and Michael R. Hollis.
Williams reflected that, similar to Nehemiah’s experience, “rebuilding the wall” to strengthen and restore Washington High School will likely not be easy. She reminded viewers, however, that the school was “built on opposition.” As the first high school for Black students in the Southeast, Washington High came into existence through the collective action of the Black community. Williams called on viewers to join her in working to “ensure that the legacy and tradition of Booker T. Washington High School continues in a traditional manner.” She ended her message with a direct question to viewers, “Will you answer the call?”; the call to assist in restoring a tradition of excellence at 45 Whitehouse Drive.