Reflection on the WFF Vision Statement

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After a break, the Westside Future Fund is back to supporting thought leadership in the SaportaReport on Atlanta’s historic Westside.

As a leader of the WFF, I am founded and inspired by the vision statement of the WFF, to “help develop a community that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be proud to call home”. Much of Dr. King’s life has been lived and shaped in the Historic Westside: he attended Booker T. Washington High School in historic Ashview Heights. He then attended Morehouse College, practically across the street in the AUC neighborhood. In 1965, after he and his wife Coretta returned to Atlanta, they bought a house in Historic Vine City., 234 Sunset Avenue, NW, now owned by the US Park Service as part of the Martin Luther King National Historic Park, Jr..

Reflecting on WFF’s vision statement, I imagine Dr. King would be proud if we preserved and refurbished iconic buildings that were part of his original community, and the civic and academic institutions that nurtured and sustained the community, as well as so many international African-American leaders.

The Transform Westside summit on October 1, 2021 lifted one of these structures and institutions: Fountain room and Morris Brown College. Built in 1882, Fountain Hall is one of Atlanta’s most historic structures and in 1972 was declared a National Historic Landmark. Morris Brown College is the only higher education institution in Georgia organized for and by African Americans.

Dr R. Candy Tate, Founder and CEO of Culture Centers International; ATL MLK Main Street Coordinator, led a round table which included Dr. Kevin E. James, President, Morris Brown College. You can watch the rich panel discussion and accompanying videos by clicking here. During the roundtable we learned the exciting news of a recent scholarship from the National Park Service to begin the restoration of Fountain Hall, but additional funds are needed to complete the renovation.

Dr James discussed the Morris Brown College ‘hard reset’, attribution of the “candidate for accreditation”. This means Morris Brown College can apply to the US Department of Education to participate in financial aid programs and Title IV funding, which it lost in 2002. Dr James shared that Morris Brown College applied and look forward to positive news very soon! In recent years, Dr James has already announced some exciting partnerships, including a $ 30 million investment by CGI Merchant Group to convert some existing facilities into a high-end hotel and hospitality management training complex with 150 keys and a $ 500,000 gift of the Chick-fil-A Foundation to train student leaders.

Morris Brown College is approximately half a mile from 234 Sunset Avenue. I imagine if Dr King walked out of his house and witnessed a thriving Morris Brown College and restored Fountain Hall, he would be proud! We have plenty of miles to go, but the leaders of our panel discussion today are determined to complete the journey and would be happy for your support!

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Photo by Kelly Jordan

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