Why We in Greenhaven Cannot Wait
Depending on who you are, where you are, and the mark on a calendar year, the very mention of the term “cityhood” engenders an array of contending emotions. Without hearing any other single word, one might feel anger, rigid resolve, distinction, elitism, isolation, safety, despair, caution, suspicion, fatigue. Another side of the same town of people might feel another way for entirely different reasons. They might feel hope, possibilities, promise, anticipation, renewal, inspiration. Fittingly, we could also be talking about the flowof feelings within the Civil Rights Movement led by scores of advocates and the man whose life, ministry and mission we celebrate this week – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
While I dare not equate the scope and significance of the Civil Rights Movement to any campaign to launch a new incorporated city, some fundamentals to the two scenarios and the debate remain much the same.
Civil Rights advocates were never to be seen as a monolith of ideas and issues. They were quite diverse in their opinions. The debate was even heated at times. But the common ground on which they stood, the fundamental truth for which they prayed and marched and were jailed, was simply to have the same right as others had – to be free to determine their own destiny and to speak their voice with their vote.
Yet, many who sincerely appreciated the stakes still felt that King was moving too fast; that perhaps he should wait to allow more time for fairness and repair to evolve. There are legislators, opponents and some who are not sure of this Greenhaven movement who echo similar sentiments or fears, who say while others have been given the right to vote for cityhood, we in south DeKalb should “wait.”
I have to admit that my mom confided that as a young woman she didn’t care that much about why a young Martin King was marching. But as she looked back later on in life at all the times she saw King on TV, all the times people were talking about what he was questioning, she understood that in the end, it had much to do with allowing the full flow of public discourse and participation; the chance to debate, the right to discuss, and the right to learn and disagree. That is the purpose of a public referendum – an opportunity for people to hear the issue, understand it, discuss and debate it, and then decide/vote for what they want. That is democracy.
No member in the GA Senate, no member in the State House, especially of the DeKalb Delegation should deny us the vote out of fear or popular discomfort. There is no justifiable retribution to any legislator for doing the right thing. There is no understandable explanation for why residents of south DeKalb, having fulfilled all that was requested of all other cityhood applicants, should be denied the right given to others – the right to vote on a city they researched and determined to be sustainable. The question arises, “Why are we [in south DeKalb] being treated differently….Why must we wait to be treated fairly?” We echo Martin Luther King’s question,“Cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But, conscience asks the question, is it right?”
From this hallowed Metro Atlanta ground, I exclaim loudly to our state legislators: don’t deny us the right to vote on Greenhaven cityhood. Pass the legislation that will allow citizens to vote in a referendum come May 24th. Then join the conversation and participate in the debate, and enjoy the note in history that you did the right thing.
The CCCSD Communications Team in honor of M.L.King