Q&A with legacy resident and visionary behind Historic Westside News Makeda Johnson

Read below as Westside legacy resident, community advocate and visionary behind the Historic Westside News Makeda Johnson talks about the birth of the publication, its mission and the role it plays in fostering community and action.

What is your role with the Historic Westside News?  I am the founder and managing editor.

Where did the idea for the Historic Westside News originate and how did it come to pass? The Historic Westside News was an initiative that arose from the community’s desire to produce an expanded version of West End and NPU-L Historic Westside newsletters. The goal was to ensure the connectivity of Atlanta’s Historic Westside communities and create a space for uncensored community voices. In 2016, the community vision received support and funding from the City of Atlanta’s Living Cities City Accelerator grant that was awarded to increase civic engagement in the Westside neighborhoods and realize their collective vision.

What’s the mission of the publication and what differentiates it from other publications in the city?  Our mission is to produce an independent, self-sustaining community newspaper that preserves and promotes the history and legacy of Atlanta Historic Westside Communities from the voices of the residents and engaged stakeholders. It’s also to be a bridge of connectivity for those who serve and those who need resources.

We are a publication envisioned and driven by community that provides residents with the opportunity to express their voices and tell the story of the Historic Westside from their lived experiences. Our audience is the community, and we deliver the publication to them via hard copy and social media.

We are linking neighbors and celebrating diversity.

What do you most enjoy about your role with the publication? The opportunity to give voice to the voiceless and create an alternative Historic Westside narrative that one day will inform generations.

What has been one of your favorite articles published in the paper? I especially love the story in our May 2017 edition, “Celebrating resilience in underserved communities” and, of course, the editorial on “The Beloved Community.”

How has the publication been received by the community?
Very well! If they do not receive their copy, I am sure to hear of it. For the stakeholder community, their support has been slow to come but after demonstrating our ability to keep it going for three years now, I think more will begin to support us. The paper has become a direct bridge to the community.

What value do you believe it brings to the community? Connectivity, voice and an opportunity to tell its own story.

What is your vision for the Historic Westside News? Expansion! The HWN is phase one of a larger vision. The larger vision is Vine City Press, a multimedia business that can provide printed materials, promotional items, gifts and greeting cards, memorabilia, t-shirts, etc. It will also be an engine for workforce development. We will be able to provide people in the community with skills so that we can ultimately begin to employ ourselves. We want to be able to build and support microenterprises. The Vine City Press is a social enterprise, and HWN is its first venture.

What can the community do to support? Community can support community journalism.  The community can support by contributing articles or information or by volunteering their time – we need graphic artists, content editors, distributors, marketers. We also need advertisers with a social conscious. We strive to be the voice of the collective of residents and engaged stakeholders.

What is your hope for the Westside? That we will realize the “Beloved Community,” where diversity is celebrated and not feared. This will be realized because we have, with intention, been inclusive. This will happen because we have defined a purposeful approach to community transformation that maintains and retains human dignity for existing residents and welcomes the new. This will happen because we have built a community where equity and social justice create safe spaces for all to strive and grow.

Click below to read the most recent edition of the Historic Westside News and follow the HWN’s Facebook page or visit its website, www.historicwestsidenews.comfor additional community news and updates.


Click here to read the full issue.