“I’m hoping that it will be a thriving safe haven for people of color, for Black families in particular,” Scott says.
The land sits simply East of Macon in rural Wilkinson County, Georgia. Scott and her good friend, investor and entrepreneur Renee Walters, did not initially plan on shopping for a big plot of land, however they’d a imaginative and prescient that was clear — to create a protected area for his or her Black households.
“Being able to create a community that is thriving, that is safe, that has agriculture and commercial businesses that are supporting one another and that dollars circulating in our community, that is our vision.”
A protected area
The unrest that took maintain of the nation earlier this yr after the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by the hands of police, and nearer to residence, the capturing dying of Ahmaud Arbery whereas jogging outdoors Brunswick, Georgia, prompted the ladies to seek for a brand new neighborhood, one they might begin themselves.
“Watching our people protesting in the streets, while it is important, and I want people to stay out in the streets, bringing attention to the injustices of Black people. We needed to create a space and a place where we could be a village, again, a tribe, again,” Scott stated.
“We wanted to create this safe space where we can address our own issues and concerns.”
The two needed to launch an initiative that might create a brand new metropolis based by Black households.
“We both have Black husbands. We both have Black sons. And I was starting to get overwhelmed and have a sense of anxiety when my husband will leave the house to go to work,” stated Walters. “So, it was like, OK, what can we do? And once I saw the post of Toomsboro going viral, about a town being on sale, I was like, ‘Oh, this is perfect.'”
Scott and Walters reached out to household and buddies to see who is likely to be interested by becoming a member of their effort. Together, they created the Freedom Georgia Initiative to spearhead the acquisition. They hope to include the land they purchased into a brand new Black metropolis, known as Freedom, Georgia.
Town on the market?
The advert Renee Walters noticed had been circulating on-line, publicizing the sale of the Town of Toomsboro. The advert ultimately went viral.
Scott stated she acquired a name when her good friend caught wind of the sale. “She said Ashley, did you see the article about Toomsboro for sale? For the price of a small condo, we could buy a whole town for $1.7 million,” Scott stated.
“It is one of the few places where you can buy a whole town with every kind of building including a historic inn, a syrup mill, an opera house, a school house, a railroad depot, a cotton warehouse, a restaurant, a barbershop, a water wheel, a grist mill, a work shop, a filling station, and several houses,” the advert learn.
Turns out, the city itself wasn’t truly on the market. Joyce Denson, the Mayor of Toomsboro, made that clear.
“I have gotten calls from New York. I’ve gotten calls from North Carolina. I’ve gotten tells calls from California,” Denson says. “We welcome business. We want new people to come in. The thing that we want to make sure is that you promote and help keep the flavor of the community.”
After Scott and Walters found the city itself wasn’t up on the market, Scott placed on her actual property hat and regarded for land within the space. They discovered acreage on the market simply outdoors Toomsboro, in unincorporated Wilkinson County.
“It was just such a beautiful piece of land. It was affordable, and it just made sense that we could create something that would be amazing for our families,” stated Scott.
History of Black cooperatives
The combining of sources to create a collective or cooperative economics isn’t new — particularly relating to Blacks within the United States.
“We have a very long history of doing cooperative economics, economic cooperation, creating our own communal towns,” says Jessica Gordon Nembhard, writer of Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice and professor of neighborhood justice at John Jay College. “More recently, we’ve been establishing community land trust, which actually give official land ownership to the community.”
One of the earliest all-Black municipalities was Mound Bayou within the Mississippi Delta. It was established by former slaves after the Civil War.
“Almost every society that had enslavement also had marooned societies,” says Gordon Nembhard. “They set up their own communities … and start to farm it together, create a town, run the town, work collectively as much as possible and basically have a secluded space that was totally community controlled, and a way to be away from slavery.”
“There’s so many former Black cities,” stated Scott. “We hope that we can be one of those as well.”
Scott and Walters say they’ve gotten questions on why they need to create an all-Black metropolis. Their response? It’s one thing that is been completed for generations.
“It’s impossible to have anything exclusively Black because our families are integrated,” says Scott. “We are an integrated, tolerant and diverse community even as Black people, so we don’t intend for it to be exclusively Black, but we do intend for it to be pro Black in every way.”
‘We’re making a legacy’
Scott and Walters plan to develop the land in phases. The first section includes clearing the land, farming, and making a man-made lake for sustainable fishing.
At a ribbon-cutting ceremony, Scott stated whereas they did not know the precise historical past of their plot of land, the symbolism of reclaiming this land provides them a chance to put in writing their very own story.
They hope to develop inside a number of years. By the top of their improvement plan, they hope to have a totally operational, self-sufficient metropolis — placing Freedom, Georgia, on the map.
“To be able to pass this land down to my children and to the children that are represented by each of our 19 families. As a piece of legacy. We’re hoping to create legacy.”