March 4th Virtual Transform Westside Summit: Celebrating Ambassador Andrew Young’s 90th Birthday

Westside Future Fund’s March 4th Virtual Transform Westside Summit celebrated the 90th birthday, life, and accomplishments of Ambassador Andrew J. Young. Ambassador Young, Founder of the Andrew J. Young Foundation, and Rodney Mims Cook, Jr., Founder & President of the National Monuments Foundation, were the featured guests. John Ahmann, WFF President & CEO, moderated the discussion.

WFF Co-hosts Ebony Ford, and Benjamin Earley opened the program welcoming viewers and recognizing Women’s History Month before introducing the panelists.

Ambassador Young Talks Winning through Loss and Education

Young: “I lost to Zell Miller running for governor but it was the best thing that ever happened to me and Georgia because I lost in the primary. But before I lost, Zell Miller and I both agreed that we wanted the lottery funds to go into the HOPE Scholarship. And, that they should be designated just to education.”

Andrew J. Young shares lessons from history at the Virtual Transform Westside Summit.

Young: “Losing that election, was probably one of the best things that happened to me and Georgia, because I doubt that I was close enough to members of the state legislature so that if I had won, I could have convinced them to put all of the money into the HOPE scholarship and education as a result of that. We now have almost half a million college students in Georgia; 350,000 in the state university system, and there’s at least another 200,000 in the private higher education system. So that election, by losing it, I helped to transform Georgia, and Zell Miller and I became very good friends.”

The key to the Westside is education.”

“Those historically Black universities—when you can walk from Georgia State to Morehouse, Spelman, Clark, and Morris Brown, and you can walk also to Georgia Tech—this is one of the premier academic communities is the world.”

Making Rodney Cook, Sr. Park a Reality

Rodney M. Cook, Jr. reflects on the legacy of the original Mims Park as a precursor for Rodney Cook, Sr. Park in Vine City.

Cook: “They built it in the 1890’s. It was the first integrated park in the city system, and it was a thing that dad told me to put back. And then he died. And so you have a father telling you to do such a thing. You just get it done until it’s done.”

“The park, with the extraordinary assistance of the Trust for Public Land and the city parks and watershed departments, has built one of the most astonishing parks in the world really. It’s an engineering marvel.”

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens Announces Peace Walk Honoring Ambassador Andrew Young

Mayor Dickens invites Atlantans to the Andrew J. Young Peace and Reconciliation Walk

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens joined the summit briefly via pre-recorded video to invite viewers to the Andrew J. Young Peace and Reconciliation Walk in honor of the ambassador’s 90th birthday. The walk, which took place on March 10th, began at Centennial Olympic Park and ended at Rodney Cook Sr. Park in Vine City, commemorating historic sites from the Civil Rights Movement along the way.

John Ahmann’s Full Circle Moment

John Ahmann (left) shares a touching memory of an encounter with Ambassador Andrew Young.

In closing, John Ahmann reflected on a chance encounter with Ambassador Andrew Young ahead of the 1996 Olympic Games which helped ignite a flame for social justice in Ahmann, leading to his current role as President & CEO of Westside Future Fund. Young noticed Ahmann’s name tag in an elevator and asked him, “Do you know Matt Ahmann?” Ahmann replied, “Well, yes, sir. That’s my uncle.” Young’s response: “He used to march with us so we didn’t get killed.”

“In a way, I’m in this seat today because of the words you said so many years ago,” Ahmann said in closing as he thanked Young for his work to create a more just and equal society.

Use #WestsideFutureFund to share your Westside stories and engage with us on social media as we work to make the Historic Westside a place that Dr. King would be proud to call home!

View the entire program below.