Community members and business leaders convened at The Gathering Spot October 20 for the Transform Westside Summit. The program began with a moving devotion from N’Dieye Danavall, English Avenue resident and homeowner through Westside Future Fund’s signature program, Home on the Westside.
Following the devotion, Reverend Winston Taylor, legacy Westside resident, local preacher and founder of The Beloved Community Inc., took the stage to discuss the activation of St. Mark’s AME Church. He was joined in conversation by WFF President & CEO John Ahmann.
Located at the intersection of Cameron Alexander and James P. Brawley in the English Avenue neighborhood, St. Mark’s Church was originally opened in 1895. It was abandoned in 1948, following a catastrophic fire. Taylor purchased the property in 1997, despite substantial challenges. The church, once a symbol of a thriving community, had fallen into disrepair and misuse due to changing demographics and drug-related issues. Taylor recognized the suffering in the neighborhood and felt called to make a difference. His efforts to acquire the church were marked by his unwavering faith and determination.
Key Moments from the Conversation
Pastor Taylor was born in Carver Homes but later moved to the Old Fourth Ward. His journey led him to invest in various neighborhoods, including English Avenue, in the 80s. His passion for helping those in need, inspired by his own upbringing, eventually led him to the ministry. Interestingly, he was mentored by Reverend Cameron Alexander.
Taylor’s work focused on bringing order and safety to the area, which in turn led to hope and transformation for the people there. He cleaned up the area, removed trespassers, and emphasized the importance of addressing financial needs rather than engaging in unnecessary conflicts.
He has partnered with SCAD Serve to explore the preservation of the church and the potential for activation. The community has been actively involved in this process, and the vision to activate the space. He envisions St. Mark’s Church as a community center, offering childcare, support services, and a gathering space for neighbors. Taylor stressed the need for safe places where people can socialize and interact in underserved communities. He also highlighted the opportunity to provide food trucks with a legitimate place to operate, allowing individuals to transition into lawful businesses. Winston shared that he plans to have the space activated by spring 2024.
Recognizing its historical importance, the church was designated a landmark earlier this year by the City of Atlanta’s Urban Design Commission.
It was announced at the Summit that the Beloved Benefit has awarded $100,000 to the Beloved Community Inc. to help support the activation of St. Mark’s.
Miss the event? Watch the full Transform Westside Summit on YouTube.