Closing a portion of Laney-Walker Boulevard inside the campus of Medical College of Georgia would be shutting off a major artery through the black community and would be yet another way it has been a “target” for unwanted closures, members of the Augusta NAACP said today.
The request by MCG President Ricardo Azziz to close Laney-Walker between R.A. Dent Boulevard and 15th Street comes on the heels of the closing of the Gilbert Manor housing area next to MCG, which was leveled and turned over to the school by the city. MCG is building a new School of Dentistry building on the site and is planning other facilities there.
“Why target the African American community again?” asked Dr. Charles J. Smith Sr., president of the Augusta NAACP. “If we continue to allow everything that is important to our community to be taken away with the stroke of a pen and by way of politics and manipulation, we will never preserve the integrity of our community and never build a partnership that will unify us. Never!”
The group expressed its strong opposition to the closure, which members said would result in great inconvenience and traffic problems for those in the community.
“Enough is enough and our community is fed up,” Smith said. “We’re tired of being pushed around and shoved around.”
Other solutions to help MCG faculty and students safely cross Laney-Walker should be considered, said NAACP member Shirlene Ball.
“They could put a bridge over the road,” she said. Many other universities have major roads going through campus or are located in lower income areas without incident, Ball said.
MCG’s request went to a committee of the Augusta Commission but was just received as information while the city studies the traffic patterns in that area. The matter will not likely come back before the commission any time soon, said Commissioner J.R. Hatney, who attended the NAACP’s press conference.
“A lot of due diligence still has to be done,” he said.
There will be a community forum on the subject at 6 p.m. tonight at A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet School, 1324 Laney-Walker Boulevard.