Familiar stories will be featured at the Classic Center starting Thursday at Annual Conference when United Methodist clergy and lay delegates from the North Georgia Conference gather in Athens for three days of worship and decision-making. Hattie Thomas Whitehead, consultant to Oconee Street UMC and local author, will have a table featuring her memoir “Giving Voice to Linnentown” in the ballroom space for Prayer Stations: Community Engagement. Whitehead was invited by DuWanna Thomas, chair of the North Georgia Black Methodists for Church Renewal, to share her quest for acknowledgment and redress for her family’s home which was lost when Athens condemned a thriving African American neighborhood to make way for University of Georgia student dorms in the 1960s.
Materials at the table also will explain the collaboration by Oconee Street’s Reparations Action Committee, members of Ebenezer Baptist Church West and other community leaders to establish the nonprofit agency Athens Reparations Action (ARA) in 2022. The ARA seeks to educate Athens-Clarke County about the violent impacts of urban renewal on Black homeowners in our community and serve as a financial instrument for direct reparations to individuals harmed as a result.
Money raised by the group first will go to direct descendants of Linnentown, currently the best documented instance of such destruction. The group will work toward redress for other affected Athens-Clarke County communities with the vision of a Beloved Community healing together from harm inflicted by White Supremacy and living fully into the Biblical call to love our neighbors.