University of Georgia and Athens community leaders hosted a discussion about the need for recognition and redress from the UGA administration after the screening of the documentary “Below Baldwin” at the Tate Theater on April 23.
A five-member panel consisting of leaders from the UGA chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Athens For Everyone and Athens Economic Justice Coalition shared their opinions on how the UGA administration handled the remains of mostly African American slaves found under Baldwin Hall in 2015.
Lonely, disgusted, disappointed and unsurprised were the words used by the panel when describing how they felt the administration handled the situation.
“The way this was handled is unforgivable,” Athens For Everyone fundraising coordinator Imani Scott-Blackwell said. “People don’t realize what it actually means to be a black student at this university. There’s like a slap in the face every single day.”
Linda Lloyd, the executive director at Economic Justice Coalition, shared a similar sentiment.
“It felt lonely. That’s how I felt a lot of my life,” Loyd said. “When I saw Fred Smith up there at the gate, and he was locked out. As a black woman in Georgia, you have to understand lots of times I feel locked out.”
The panel focused part of their discussion on the wage gap between UGA employees and the administration.
“Hoards of people come to the campus to drink and throw their beer bottles and don’t you dare let them into your departments because they will just trash the place,” Athens for Everyone board member Rachelle Berry said. “Then we come to campus on Monday and it’s just clean and spotless every time and those people don’t make enough money to live here.”
On what the administration could have done differently, the panel emphasized the importance of listening to community leaders and how the administration ignored their input. “Listen to the people who told you what to do,” Berry said.
“People have purposed solution after solution for what can be done to address these issues. Just listen to them. Figure out what needs to be done to move forward in that direction,” Scott-Blackwell said. “Don’t try to come up with your own plan. No one is asking for anyone to reinvent the wheel.”
Other panelist included UGA NAACP Vice President Genesis Moore and Public Relations Chair Noah Saffo. President of UGA NAACP Kaela Yamini moderated the panel.
In a previous version of this article, Fred Smith was misidentified in a quote. This error has since been corrected. The Red & Black regrets this error.