The Rev. Anthony A.W. Motley has a message for people who wonder what adjacent neighborhoods hope to glean from the new Atlanta Falcons stadium being built in their midst. It’s simple, not profound at all.
“We want what the Buckhead kids have,” said Motley, pastor of Lindsay Street Baptist Church in the historic English Avenue community.
“Resources. Our children’s needs are no less. They don’t have options for resources. We need recreational facilities and green space. All they have are the drug deals and the users, the appearance of glamour from the drug dealers (and) police not as friends but as occupiers. We know the stadium will be built, but it is a luxury among all the needs around us.”
The stadium could affect the surrounding neighbors of English Avenue, Vine City and Castleberry Hill. As guest columnist Brian McGowan writes today, resources are being aligned to ensure redevelopment in these predominantly black, poor, hardscrabble neighborhoods. I spoke to Motley, a community advocate, about the issue.
Q: What’s different about this stadium proposal as opposed to past venue deals?
A: Hopefully, there is a desire to not repeat the past. We trust the mayor’s word. We must commend the mayor and his willingness and forthrightness to work with the communities. No. 2, we have come a little more armed with the mistakes of the past. We have been burned too many times. I still think they want to throw us a bone and keep most of the meal for themselves.
Q: What’s the role of neighborhood churches?
A: The churches are going to have to be the institutions to help regulate what is good for the community — not that we are better at doing it but, historically speaking, we have more respect from the powers that be. Hope lies in the coalition we have formed. I’m not going to feel good about anything until I see real solid legal deals have been made and confirmed. I still have the feeling that we are sort of just being tolerated. If we weren’t making noise, nothing would be done.
Q: What is the objective for the neighborhoods?
A: For health care, employment, education, training, whatever. Their needs to be an awareness of our needs and our people. We need to be sure there are priorities and human needs from a Christian standpoint, what we believe Christ demands of us. We are so desperate here and in Vine City that we see this as a means to an end, a vehicle for community transformation.
Q: The public’s perception of English Avenue is all negative. Why is that?
A: We have seen a decline in the homeowners, the senior people. Some remain, but quite a few have passed away. Some owners have moved on or not maintained the properties or the taxes, and you have renters. The population has declined because it is a high-crime area. Then you have low-income residents who go to work every day, just like everybody else.
The Rev. Anthony A.W. Motley is pastor of Lindsay Street Baptist Church.