About 60 years ago, The English Avenue neighborhood was known for being a central location for the leaders of the Civil Rights movement, including Martin Luther King, Jr. and his family. Since the 1970s, the neighborhood has been in decline, and it has since become a dangerous and difficult place to live.
In collaboration with WABE in Atlanta, I walked around English Avenue with one of its decades-long residents, born and raised.
30,000 people came to the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta this morning for the March for Our Lives. It was difficult to see the physical beginning or end of the march. How many blocks, how many miles did the crowd stretch, how big a footprint, how solid an impact, was made? In 845 other places on earth, similarly energized, angry, motivated groups of humans were also demanding their voices be heard.
Students marched. Students chanted. Students registered to vote. Thousands strong.
The city of Clarkston, not far from Atlanta, Georgia, is home to a phenomenally large population of refugees from around the world. In the last 25 years, it’s estimated that more than half of the population of about 8,000 people have migrated there from over 50 countries. With affordable housing, government programs, specialty grocery stores, and international churches, the city has been welcoming refugees officially and unofficially since the 1990s.
This is the Refugee Family Literacy Program in Clarkston. Downstairs is a preschool, and upstairs is an English as a Second Language program for the mothers of those preschoolers, all refugees, all non-native-English speakers. After their classes, the mothers and children come back together to engage in early literacy skills. The mothers and their kids sing songs, play games, and read books together.
The early years are incredibly influential. 90% of a child’s brain is formed in the first five years of life. A person with a strong early-childhood education is 17% more likely to graduate high school, and 20% more likely to stay out of jail. Refugee Family Literacy Program is working to give these families a boost in development that will affect their success in the rest of their lives.
In many African American communities, mental health issues have a history of being undertreated and underdiagnosed. According to the federal government’s Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population, but less likely to seek treatment.
I worked on this story with reporter Leila Day for public radio station KALW in San Francisco.
I was lucky enough to go for a walk around the Mission in San Francisco with Alexander Murguia, 6th Poet Laureate of San Francisco, and Martina Castro, reporter for KALW Public Radio. He told us what the Mission was like when he was a young poet.