October 1st Virtual Transform Westside Summit: Restoring Morris Brown College & the Historic Fountain Hall #TheHardReset

Westside Future Fund’s October 1st Virtual Transform Westside Summit featured the historic Morris Brown College. Streaming live from The Gathering Spot, the summit helped viewers learn all about what Morris Brown President Dr. Kevin E. James dubbed #TheHardReset—the initiative to revitalize the legendary institution located in the heart of the Atlanta University Center. Moderated by Dr. Candy Tate, CEO of Culture Centers International & Coordinator at ATL MLK Main Street, the featured panel also included; Dr. Lula Ballton, Director of Community and Economic Development for the Church of God in Christ International; Dr. Rodney T. Cohen, Author of Black Colleges in Atlanta (2000); and Irvin Henderson, President at Henderson & Company.

WFF cohosts Ebony Ford and Benjamin Earley

WFF cohosts Ebony Ford and Benjamin Earley opened the program before tossing to WFF President and CEO, John Ahmann. The pair shared info about the nonprofit’s Home on the Westside program and Anti-Displacement Tax Fund (ADTF) which help legacy residents of Atlanta’s Historic Westside avoid being displaced from the neighborhoods they know and love. Ford, an ADTF participant, spoke to the impact the program continues to have for local homeowners. “They pay the increase in taxes from whatever your baseline was for 20 years,” said Ford. “Taxes have jumped up a lot in the Westside…How blessed am I to sign on and see that my taxes are paid when they jumped up that much this year?”

John Ahmann, WFF President & CEO

John Ahmann took the stage to introduce moderator Dr. Candy Tate, who presented Ahmann with a Fountain Hall t-shirt before introducing the rest of the featured guests.

Dr. Candy Tate, CEO of Culture Centers International & Coordinator at ATL MLK Main Street

Dr. Rodney T. Cohen, Author of Black Colleges in Atlanta (2000) discussed the historical significance of Morris Brown’s Fountain Hall, originally named Stone Hall when erected in 1882 as part of Atlanta University, the first of the Atlanta University Center HBCUs.

Dr. Rodney T. Cohen, Author, Black Colleges of Atlanta (2000)

Located next to the first AU construction, North Hall (now Gaines Hall), Stone Hall housed the office of intellectual, civil rights activist, and author W.E.B. DuBois and was where the AU Professor published Souls of Black Folk (1903). Stone Hall was also one of the few locations throughout the United States where Black soldiers trained during World War 1.

Dr. Kevin E. James, President, Morris Brown College

Dr. Kevin E. James, Morris Brown’s 19th President, elaborated on the cultural significance of the institution which was built by former slaves to educate Black students in post Civil War America.

Morris Brown is the first and only historical Black college founded by Black people in the state of Georgia. We cannot allow this institution to die,” he said.

Dr. James went on to share his excitement for the college’s recent triumph of being named an official candidate for accreditation by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools.

They determined that we are an institution of quality,” he said. “We’re now eligible to apply for federal financial aid, and we just submitted that application, and we’re hoping to hear any day now that Morris Brown College’s federal financial aid and financial programs have been reinstated. We’re very excited, the hard reset is upon us!”

Dr. Lula Ballton, Director of Community and Economic Development for the C.O.G.I.C. International

Dr. Lula Ballton shared about her experience as a co-founder, President & CEO of West Angeles Community Development Corporation and how that experience informs her work to create equity for residents of Atlanta’s Historic Westside. Under her leadership, WACDC won a Best Practices Award from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for its signature affordable housing project, West A Homes. Dr. Ballton spoke to the importance of Historic Westside community members “occupying the space you’re” and having agency: “Having other people tell your story is not your story, it becomes their story” she said.

Irvin Henderson, President of Henderson & Company

Closing out the panel was Irvin Henderson, President of Henderson & Company, who broke down the intricacies of successfully preserving historic locations such as Fountain Hall—a process which requires collaboration among community members, local government, private and philanthropic partners. “Small or large, you’re going to have to figure out ways to bring equity to the table,” said Henderson. With Morris Brown’s hard reset making quantifiable strides, the legendary HBCU may soon reclaim its once iconic stature in the AUC. Click here to donate to Morris Brown College, or text TOWER to 71777 today!