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Mokah Jasmine Johnson speaks at the opening of the new Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement Justice Center on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 in Athens, Georgia. The AADM celebrated the grand opening of their physical space at 3190 Atlanta Hwy. (Photo/Taylor Gerlach; taylormckenziephotography.com)

On a cold Saturday afternoon, members of the Athens community maintained a socially-distant huddle from the sidewalk to the parking lot at a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The crowd was gathered for the grand opening of the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement’s new justice center and bookstore.

Government leaders and activists in the Athens community spoke at the ceremony and showed their support for the AADM and its initiatives. 

According to its website, the AADM aims to empower Athens citizens through education and assistance in an effort to fight discrimination and protect their civil and human rights. 

President and co-founder of the AADM Mokah Jasmine Johnson said the reason for opening the new center was to continue the work of the AADM. 

“We will continue to provide community service, we will continue to provide legal support and also bail-out support and advocacy support,” Johnson said. 

According to a press release from the AADM, in addition to providing a new home base for the AADM’s work, the justice center will also house after-school programming for teens aimed at cultivating future community leaders.  

Two recently-elected officials also spoke at the grand opening — Sheriff John Q. Williams and District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez expressed their appreciation for the AADM’s work in Athens and pledged to work with the organization moving forward. 

“I just want to say to all the team of the AADM, you’ve done such an incredible job,” Gonzalez said. “I’m proud of you, I’m proud to stand here at your grand opening, and to let you know you have somebody who is always going to have that door open for conversations as we do this important work going forward together.” 

Athens Mayor Kelly Girtz was also in attendance and shared the gratitude for the AADM’s work in Athens. 

“I don’t think there’s any organization in Athens over the last five years that’s lent this new vitality and new energy like AADM has, so thank you for all your work,” Girtz said. 

Girtz also brought attention to the AADM’s specific efforts toward justice reform. 

“There are two things that are intrinsically linked in Athens and that is safety and justice,” Girtz said. “You can’t have one without the other and frankly, we couldn’t do any of the work we do as formal officials of the governmental machine without what you bring to the table. If we are the vehicle, you are the gasoline that makes that vehicle move.” 

The justice center is supported by donations and the sale of books and art.