Watching the killing of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery was just too much for Ashley Scott to bear to the extent that she had to seek help. Scott, a realtor of Stonecrest, Georgia, sought therapy and realizing the lack of secure spaces for her fellow Black folks amid high-profile incidents of racism and police brutality, she teamed up with her good friend Renee Walters to start The Freedom Georgia Initiative.
The initiative recently purchased 96.71 acres of land in Toomsboro, Georgia, to set up what aims to be the new Black Wall Street, a community where Black people can feel safe and flourish.
“I sought counseling from a Black therapist, and it helped. It helped me to realize that what we as Black people are suffering from is racial trauma. We are dealing with systemic racism,” Scott wrote in an op-ed published on Blavity.
“We are dealing with deep-rooted issues that will require more than protesting in the streets. It will take for us as a people, as Atlanta rapper and activist Killer Mike so eloquently put, ‘To plot, plan, strategize, organize and mobilize.’ So that’s what I and my good friend Renee Walters, an entrepreneur and investor, did.”
Scott and Walters, after launching their Freedom Georgia Initiative, attended local city council and zoning meetings before 19 other families joined them to purchase the massive land in Toomsboro.
“We figured we could try to fix a broken system, or we could start fresh,” she wrote. “Start a city that could be a shining example of being the change you want to see. We wanted to be more involved in creating the lives we really want for our Black families, and maybe, just maybe, create some generational wealth for ourselves by investing in the land. Investing in creating a community that is built around our core values and beliefs.”
In effect, The Freedom Georgia Initiative says it “hopes to be an innovative model for self-sufficiency, environmental sustainability, and cooperative economics among BIPOC communities across the African Diaspora globally.”
The newly owned land will host Black farmers, contractors, suppliers and vendors, said Scott.
“Amass land, develop affordable housing for yourself, build your own food systems, build manufacturing and supply chains, build your own home school communities, build your own banks and credit unions, build your own cities, build your own police departments, tax yourselves and vote in a mayor and a city council you can trust,” Scott concluded in her op-ed.
“Build it from scratch! Then go get all the money the United States of America has available for government entities and get them bonds. This is how we build our new Black Wall Streets.”
The purchase of this large amount of land comes as more Black families begin to move into homeownership. This month, a Black couple spoke of their joy after becoming owners of a 53-acre ranch that they will pass down to their children and grandchildren.
Over the years, the black homeownership rate has been lagging behind that of white families, and this gap has widened since the Great Recession, a report by Prosperity Now said. It added that in 2017, the black homeownership rate was the lowest of all racial and ethnic groups at 41.8 percent, about what it was when the Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968.
Experts have blamed the situation on affordability. A recent Bloomberg report said renters across the U.S. are unable to find properties they can afford as starter-home prices continue to rise.
Despite these challenges, “it appears that now, more than 10 years after a housing bust that hit black homeowners the hardest, more black families are beginning to move into homeownership,” Jeff Tucker, an economist with real estate marketplace website Zillow, said in February.
What is more, the idea of creating an all-Black town is not new to the Black community in America.
Between 1865 and 1915, about 50 years after the Civil War, there were at least 60 black towns settled in America. With more than 20, Oklahoma led all other states. It is documented that nowhere else, neither in the Deep South nor in the Far West, did so many African-American men and women come together to create, occupy, and govern their own communities. From 1865 to 1920, African Americans created more than 50 identifiable towns and settlements, with some still existing at the beginning of the 21st century, according to Oklahoma Historical Society.
By 1888, at least 200 black towns and communities had been established nationwide. According to an article on The Washington Post, some of these towns were modeled on Black towns that had been formed after the American Revolution and during the antebellum era – from the late 1700s to 1860.
They were mostly formed by the millions of enslaved Blacks who were freed after the Civil War. These former slaves managed to purchase some lands just to ensure their independence without any interference from a white world.