Refocus energy on Laney-Walker to fight community's real problems

I write this column knowing well what repercussions I will get from some in the black community. And I am doing it at a time when I can least afford it economically. I am depending on many who oppose the closing of Laney-Walker Boulevard, from R.A. Dent Boulevard to 15th Street, to purchase my recently published book, I'm Still Standing, Thank God!

SINCE I AM AN independent voice and have no alliances with any particular group, including anyone from the Medical College of Georgia, I feel I can speak uninhibitedly on the issue of the proposed closing of the aforementioned portion of Laney-Walker.

My family was the first to sell its property, in 1962, to make room for the expansion of MCG on the south side of Laney-Walker, then known as Gwinnett Street. We lived at 1435 Angle St. The expansion took in all the area bounded by R.A. Dent, 15th and Laney-Walker, except where Gilbert Manor sat. Recently, Gilbert Manor was demolished to make room for the new dental school. I felt building the dental school on that property was a better use of it.

The way I look at the issue of closing is that MCG is as much a part of the community as any other household or business there. It serves the medical needs of us all, and should not be looked at as an outsider taking something from us. As I see it, nothing is being taken away, but rather enhanced.

Furthermore, Laney-Walker is not black people's alone. It belongs to the taxpayers, and it should be looked at in that manner. We should have the same attitude toward MCG that we had toward the board of education when they came in, closed off streets and demolished properties to build Lucy C. Laney High School's stadium. We went along despite the opposition because making the change, we said, was for the better good. Most are proud of the decision.

THERE ALWAYS is going to be resistance to change, especially if that change encroaches on something we hold dear to our hearts. In this situation, we have to ask ourselves: What harm is done to the legacy of the Rev. Charles T. Walker and Lucy Laney, for whom the street was named, if this project were to move forward? We also have to ask: Will the redirection of traffic negatively affect the businesses in the community?

While we are answering the first question, keep in mind we have not done a very good job ourselves of preserving the legacy of these individuals on this all-important boulevard that runs through what used to be the business hub of the black community. Now, very few private black businesses exist on the boulevard. There is more public money invested on Laney-Walker than private.

Do we really believe in the legacy when it comes to investing our own money in the area, instead of using our energy going against something that is going to be done eventually anyway -- an exercise in futility?

The legacy of Ms. Laney is the education and caring for children. If we want to preserve that legacy, we need to be involved in more substantive things, other than whether a portion of a street is cut off.

I WISH THOSE same strong voices were out there giving their support to the fight against the many ills we suffer from in our community. One in particular is teen pregnancies. If we do not get a grip on that, many children will suffer unnecessarily because their parents are not equipped with the skills to meet their basic needs.

This is something about which we all should be concerned.

(The writer is a former Augusta City Council member and a retired labor relations manager from Bechtel Savannah River Inc.)

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