On April 29, close to 100 local activists marched through the University of Georgia campus, demanding reforms and reparations from its president, Jere Morehead, and the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents.
“This has been 400 years in the making. We have a flagship university here that all of us are able to benefit so much from, but somehow, we don’t have anything left to redress the oppressed members of this community that have been struggling for centuries here,” Imani Scott-Blackwell, activist and Coalition for Recognition and Redress member, voiced to the crowd of protesters.
The demands of the students include:
- Issuing a public statement taking responsibility for UGA’s role in white supremacy and fully fund the faculty-proposed Center on Slavery.
- Guaranteeing scholarships for every African-American student who graduates from a public high school in Athens.
- Increasing minimum wage to at least $15/hour for all UGA employees.
In November 2015, the expansion and reconstruction of Baldwin Hall came to a temporary halt when the University of Georgia uncovered the remains of former slaves. The remains were relocated without input from the community. These events were chronicled in the documentary “Below Baldwin” which premiered on March 31..
UGA’s history is. heavily steeped in slavery, and the exploitation of Black people in Athens-Clarke County continues to this dayday. The university is the largest employer in the county with a total of 10,700 jobs—more than the next four largest employers combined. And yet, Athens-Clarke County has the 4th highest poverty rate in the state. The university’s role in the continuation of poverty in Athens cannot be overstated.
To take a snippet of the statistics from “Below Baldwin,” “…the median annual salary for Service and Maintenance workers [at the University of Georgia] is $27,000, while administrators take home over $144,000 per year. Black people make up 44% of Service and Maintenance workers, but just 7% of administrators.”
This class stratification has created distinctly wealthy and white areas like Oconee County, a 15 minute drive from the campus, that’s 5 percent Black, has a median income of $74,352, and a poverty rate of 7 percent. This is a sharp contrast to Athens-Clarke County (where the university is), which is 27 percent Black, has a median income of only $28,118, and a poverty rate of 34 percent. It goes without saying that this has a large effect on funding and quality of education for the county’s public schools. As activist Chris Xavier stated to the crowd on Monday, “… only 1 percent of Athens-Clarke County students end up at this university that they lived a mile from.”
The protesters consisted of students, faculty, community members, and local organizations, including the Coalition for Recognition and Redress, Athens 4 Everyone, Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement, ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), and the Economic Justice Coalition. The march ended at the front steps of UGA’s Administrative Building, where a letter was delivered to President Morehead demanding that he schedule a public meeting to address the demands. The Coalition has stated that actions will continue until the demands are met.
Catch the live stream of the event here.
Catch upcoming screenings of Below Baldwin:
May 11 at 4PM, Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation Screening and Q&A
May 18 at 4PM, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Athens – Georgia Screening