Atlanta Business Leaders Share How To Move Forward After Protests
Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images
Atlanta Business Chronicle reached out to some of the city’s business and community leaders to get their reactions to the violent demonstrations that began the night of May 29, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. Here’s what Executive Marketing Company clients, past and present, had to say about what Atlanta’s business community should do in response to the demonstrations, and how to move forward:
Milton H. Jones Jr., Member, Peachtree Providence Partners, LLC
We all as human beings, regardless of our demographic category are understandably full of righteous indignation for the wrongful death of Mr. Floyd and the pain inflicted on his family. In Atlanta we have always been a city that came together through its business, faith-based and civic leaders to resolve issues that troubled us as citizens. The speed and level of violent reaction that we have seen is not typical of Atlanta, as Mayor Bottoms accurately states. However, we cannot idly stand by and silently watch economic disparities continue to grow. What we are seeing in the streets of Atlanta and cities across our nation is frustration that has been festering for years as black Americans see blatant racism, both economic and social, continue to have a prominent place in our society. One must ask the question “Do all citizens believe the American Dream is a possibility no matter the color of your skin”? We cannot continue to ask people to be patient and wait for improvement when the pattern of facts clearly indicates otherwise. We, as business and community leaders in Atlanta and across America must focus on preventing atrocities like the death of Mr. Floyd, address the root causes of social and economic disparities and simultaneously build processes that clearly respond swiftly and fairly if prevention fails. Great communities earn the patience of their citizens to believe in the dream of a better life, economic opportunity and equal justice by demonstrating that leaders will deliver on these fundamental promises.
Rodney Bullard, Executive Director, Chick-fil-A Foundation
My heart is heavy. I am a native Atlantan. I realize that what we’ve experienced in the past few days is not the Atlanta I love and not the Beloved Community of Dr. King. However, generations after the civil rights movement, we continue to find America struggling with fundamental issues of race and racism. The recent highly publicized and horrific deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and others have rocked our city and nation and shed light on the injustice, systematic racism, and disparities that African Americans endure daily. We are at a crossroads – a moment of decision. Now, more than ever, Atlanta influences the world. But, if we are to reach the true measure of our potential, we must pull together to address the glaring brutality that we too often see on display, as well as the underlying inequalities that continue to persist in our community — income inequality, gaps in education, and differences in meaningful access and opportunity. Atlanta has long aspired to be better: the city too-busy-to-hate. Now is our time to show the world who we really are.
Cassius F. Butts, President and CEO, 1st Choice Credit Union
In the middle of a global pandemic, while we are all adjusting to a new of way existing as human beings, we also find ourselves dealing with the aftermath of an unfortunate tragedy. As citizens of Atlanta, a city rooted in the civil rights movement and Georgia, a state that is a global business center – we also find ourselves at the epicenter of a national protest. It is critical that we get it right. The non-violent protests of our past paved the way for societal change that led to greater equality based on race, gender, age, and sexual orientation. Yet despite this significant progress, our work is still unfinished. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “a riot is the language of the unheard.” While in no way will riots and property destruction resolve the unjustifiable killings of African Americans, they are a result of the anger that many people are feeling across our community. The best way to honor our history of peaceful protest and the community leaders who have set the example of constructive protest, is to treat others as you would want to be treated. Let us be the solution for peace and the example for respectful solutions. I welcome my friends, business associates and colleagues to look within yourselves and reflect on the words of Mahatma Gandhi “you must be the change you wish to see in the world.”