ANYONE WHO KNOWS me is familiar with my diatribe. We must revitalize this historic African-American neighborhood that is literally a stone’s throw from the Augusta National Golf Club. We are surrounded by Georgia Regents University, the Augusta Country Club and Summerville, but we continue to serve only as a thoroughfare.
Ironically, I was told by a local historian that there used to be Masters celebrations and parades in Sand Hills during the 1940s and ’50s, as it was home to many of the caddies. That’s some history I would love to see.
Today, the dichotomy stings somewhat. On one side was the celebration of the world’s best known tournament, and on our side – nothing, for now. The white and gray passenger vans roll through, and the G5 and G6 private jets’ landing patterns pass over our neighborhood on their way to Daniel Field. I hear Bill Gates passes right by my house on the way to the Augusta National from Summerville. Really? Bill, we need you to see the incredible opportunity in this forgotten community and invest the Gates Foundation’s monies into it.
I also was excited to see the newest Augusta National member, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in town for the tournament. Now that she’s an honorary Augustan, I want to invite her to come to Sand Hills during next year’s Masters. What a way to inspire our youth and community at large!
ON APRIL 6, our neighborhood association played host to a community breakfast. Leaders from various city departments and civic leaders were in attendance. Augusta Commissioners Bill Fennoy and Alvin Mason; Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick; City Administrator Fred Russell; Georgia Regents University Augusta Director of Community Affairs Cedric Johnson; Fire Chief Chris James – the list of speakers was incredible. We presented a scholastic achievement award to Frank Booker Jr., and provided vital resources and information to our community. Thanks to all who participated on that Saturday morning.
More importantly, thank you to those leaders who have committed to helping Sand Hills move forward. We need holistic revitalization, the model founded by Purpose Built Communities of Atlanta: “Rather than focusing on just a single component of community change, holistic initiatives typically include mixed-income housing, radically improved cradle-to-college educational opportunities, youth and adult development programs, jobs and job training, health and wellness programs, transportation access, recreational opportunities and commercial investment.”
That is what we need, plain and simple – revitalization that makes Sand Hills beneficial for those who live here and those around us. Then we can be an integral part of the yearly celebration that is Augusta. Purpose Built’s executive director, former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, came down in January to discuss opportunities already. We are the perfect fit.
LET’S MAKE THIS happen, Augusta. By 2014, we intend to be a part of this holistic revitalization, and we need the support of our local leaders to speak as one voice. For now, our association is working on our youth programs. Some of the neighborhood kids are helping with our community garden, but they’re anxiously waiting for computers at our community center. Any local companies, libraries or corporations that have a surplus, please let us know.
(The writer is president of the Sand Hills Neighborhood Association.)