By Keyanna Jones
Most people know that Rosa Parks was a Civil Rights leader, most known for her refusal to give up her seat on a bus. The setting was Montgomery, Alabama in the year 1955. At the height of segregation, amidst racial unrest, Rosa Parks made a firm decision to stand against the injustice of the day. Her decision sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a campaign for transit equity that lasted 380 days from December 5, 1955 - December 20, 1956.(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montgomery_bus_boycott). Today, labor unions, community organizers and activists are still marching for transit equity. They come together during Transit Equity Week to commemorate the sacrifice of Rosa Parks; raise awareness about disparities in transit and demand that all residents have equal access to public transportation. They have named the annual observance Transit Equity Week, which takes place during the week of Rosa Parks's birthday (February 4th).
This year in the City of Atlanta was no different. The Atlanta North Georgia Labor Council partnered with Georgia Stand Up and New Georgia Project to facilitate the Transit Equity March, starting at 501 Pulliam Street, marching to West End Transit Station (located at 680 Lee Street). The march was marked by music from trombonist Lorenzo Williams and chanting from participants in the march. An Organizer with New Georgia Project spoke into a bullhorn and gave the cause of the occasion as they progressed along the route. She encouraged residents to come out of their homes and join the march because Transit Equity is an issue for all people. The march ended with a rally, which was attended by several Elected Officials and Labor Executives.
To kick off the rally, Sandra Lee Williams, Executive Director of the Atlanta North Georgia Labor Council greeted the crowd and acknowledged Deborah Scott, Executive Director of Georgia Stand Up. Ms. Williams expressed her gratitude for Ms. Scott and the work of Georgia Stand Up, stating that it was actually Georgia Stand Up, that coordinated the very first Transit Equity March in Atlanta. She then introduced Britt Dunams, President of the Amalgamated Transit Union of Atlanta, who emphasized the need for reliable, safe and clean transportation for residents.
The next speaker was former Marta Board of Directors President and CWA member, Rita Scott.
She talked about federal funds that had been secured for MARTA expansion and mentioned some of the projects for which the funds would be used. One of the most notable projects, being the Stonecrest transit hub, which has been long awaited by residents of DeKalb County. Ms. Scott gave her personal guarantee that the project would go forward, as there had been $1 million earmarked for it to be completed. Another $1 million is earmarked for the Justice Center Transit Hub in Clayton County, and yet another $1 million for safe routes of transit, according to Ms. Scott.
Other speakers included:
- Andrea Wiggins (representing Senator Raphael Warnock)
- Marta CEO, Collie Greenwood
- Daniel Blackmon, Environmental Protection Agency (Region 4)
- Councilman Antonio Lewis, City of Atlanta
- John Taylor, BMI/ AFL-CIO
- Micah McClure, Association of Flight Attendants
- Representative El-Mahdi Holly (HD 111)
- Senator Josh McLaurin (SD 14)
The last speaker was Klaire Gumbs, Lead Organizer for Georgia Raise, the economic justice organizing team at New Georgia Project. She thanked everyone for coming out and stressed the importance of holding legislators accountable for transit equity. She announced the launch of the Letters for Power Campaign, wherein community members can write their legislators (in creative ways) about the issues that cause them concern.
To participate in the Letters for Power Campaign, please click the link below:
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