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Waynesboro needs to do a better job reaching out to Black, Brown community

waynesboroWaynesboro leaders don’t listen to the local Black and Brown community. That was made loud and clear at Monday’s City Council public hearing on Sunset Park.

“Black people spend money. They just don’t spend it here,” said Sharon Fitz, the co-founder of RISE, a local Black advocacy group launched in 2017. “I mean, we actually have money, we just don’t have anywhere we want to go to spend it, you know what I mean? This Riverfest and these musical things going on, and I like reggae and blues and jazz, too, but the combination just doesn’t really offer anything for people like me.”

A selling point from Sunset Park advocates is that it will increase recreational opportunities for residents on the east side of the city, which has a small public park, North Park, but is far behind the amenities available at Ridgeview Park located centrally between two upper-middle-class neighborhoods.

It seems from the feedback from Fitz and RISE co-founder Chanda McGuffin that there wasn’t much in the way of outreach from advocates to find out what east side residents want.

“We are not being transparent with the people,” McGuffin said. “Yes, the grant could be used for parks and recreational activities outside, got it. But it also was changed by the federal government to include for you to be equitable in your disbursement to low-income, Black and Brown families, because they found out it was not being distributed across all of the community. And that’s why it was changed. I don’t know how you sleep at night. I guess because it’s not your children. It’s not your grandchildren. But RISE is contacted almost every day of people being evicted with no place to go. I was told yesterday that teenagers getting ready to graduate from Waynesboro High School will be living in a car when they graduate. I’m trying to find housing for two families right now. And you think $2.5 million should go into a park. I don’t care where it came from. It was for COVID money to bring the families and citizens back in our community. It’s not for you to mismanage to use for a park.”

Andrea Jackson, a former chair of the Waynesboro Democratic Committee, and a current committee member, echoed that point.

“If you want to invest in Ward A, there’s way more than a park,” Jackson said. “What about Basic City? There are dilapidated buildings. I ride through Commerce, and it’s just like, what are you doing? Whoever brought that up about the renovation and doing all of this doesn’t know anything about the history of Basic City. Basically y’all have just been like, well, nobody’s going to come down there, so we’re just going to, like, overlook it and try to make it into some type of industrial area. You’ve just basically written it off.

“We need investment, just like any other area, but we don’t need a park. We need stuff that’s actually going to help the citizens in that area,” Jackson said.

Story by Chris Graham

augusta free press
augusta free press
augusta free press

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