In the midst of a country going through social unrest and what has been described as “racial reckoning,” 19 Black families got together to create a safe haven for Black people.
Under the name, Freedom Georgia Initiative and with the leadership and vision of two women, Ashley Scott and Renee Walters, they initially purchased 96.71 acres of land in Central Georgia.
“Our initial goal was simple, to create a safe space for our families, our 19 families, to have a place that was economically independent and self-sufficient for ourselves to enjoy and to bring our friends, our family, visitors, people who want to enjoy the space that we are creating, to give them the place and the opportunity to do so,”
Ms. Scott, a realtor and one of the founders of the initiative, told The Final Call. “At its core, we’re just simply 19 families that are on one accord. We’ve unified to start the Freedom Georgia Initiative, which is our goal and our way of creating generational wealth and food sovereignty for ourselves,” she said.
The group has now purchased an additional 500 acres of land, because they had gotten so many requests from people asking to live in the area with them. “They saw the vision, and they wanted to be a part of it. So, we are establishing what we hope will become the city of Freedom, Ga., which is a self-sufficient, safe haven for Black families,” Ms. Scott said.
They are currently in their master planning phase, where they are identifying joint venture partners: people who match their core values of building around renewable energy, food sovereignty and healing for Black families.
“Well-being and environmental friendliness are at the top of our values when it comes to the community we’re designing. And so, we want to identify people who have those same practices and values in their businesses to partner with us to help us build a space for ourselves,” Ms. Scott said. “We’re identifying ideal Black businesses and corporations that have strong Black leadership or are committed to creating that Black equity that they’re claiming that they want to see when they shout out Black Lives Matter.”
Freedom Georgia Initiative founder Renee Walters told The Final Call that the first step to building an all-Black community is changing your mindset.
“I know it’s always a stigma on the Black community that we can’t do anything as a whole together, but I would just say you have to change your mindset and your thinking and know that you can do all things,” she said. “And it’s not always going to be the people that you grew up with and people in your family. You have to find like-minded individuals that think like you, that’s on the same wavelength as you, and those are the people that you connect and deal with.”
Ms. Scott elaborated on the step-by-step process. After you find the people, she said, you have to find the land appropriate for your vision.
“You need to make sure that the land is going to be zoned appropriately for what it is you intend to use it for. So that’s the best place to kind of get started. And if your ultimate goal is municipality building, creating a space that is a city or your own kind of nation-building, it should be on unincorporated land, a place that doesn’t already fall under the jurisdiction of a city, because you have to always follow the laws of the land,” she explained.
“And so it’s easier to work with the county or the state and to be able to build a community according to your standards when you don’t have to meet the standards of the city ordinances and permitting processes, especially if you’re planning on being on the cutting edge and implementing any kind of environmentally friendly practices and you’re trying to live off grid. Those are the best places to do it.”
She said one of the major challenges is access to capital, but they are dealing with it by seeking out the right people to partner with to provide that capital.
A few years ago, Student Minister Dr. Ava Muhammad, the national spokesperson for the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, started holding town hall meetings that are happening now under the title “Project Separation.” She convened the town halls at the instruction of the Minister. A petition was launched asking people to sign up if they were interested in the vision.
At the beginning of May, Dr. Muhammad launched a new series, “Project Separation: Building Our Promised Land.” She unveiled and shared the concept via her Elevated Places online radio show. The first episode’s special guests were the founders of the Freedom Georgia Initiative, Ms. Scott and Ms. Walters.
Cardia X, a police officer, and Michael J.H. Muhammad, who owns 22 acres of land in Lehighton, Pa., were also on the show.
“The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, on the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March, under the theme Justice Or Else!, spoke to people all over the world. And he said to us, make your own community a safe and decent place to live. And if you look at that statement, he said, ‘your own community,’” Dr. Ava Muhammad said. The Minister called for 10,000 fearless men and women to be part of this effort.
“Well, in order for it to be our own, we have to own not only the structures that we live in, but we have to own the land that the structures are built on in order for it to truly be ours,” explained Dr. Ava Muhammad.
She said it has to be made clear that separation is a logical, sequential process, and not one Black people are unfamiliar with. Coming out of slavery, Black people set up about 60 all-Black towns. Student Minister Dr. Abdul Haleem Muhammad, an urban planner out of Houston and the Southwest regional minister of the Nation of Islam, said the reason Black people set up separate communities in the past was because of their experience under White rule during enslavement, the freedom and liberty that they felt during the brief period of Reconstruction and the oppressive nature of the Jim Crow system. Yet, many of those communities are no longer in existence.
“The things that we could learn is what the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Honorable Minister Farrakhan remind us of. There were three things that the enemy said that he would not teach the Negro, as he was debating appropriations for our HBCUs. One was the science of business, two was the science of military warfare and three was the science of chemistry/mating,” Dr. Haleem Muhammad said.
“These three things he did not want to teach us, because the business of America is business. If you’re going to build a community, you’ve got to protect it and defend it. And lastly, after you built it and defended it, you have to leave it to someone who is capable, competent and qualified to carry on the work that you have begun and to build on the progress that you and I have made.”
A Ph.D. in urban planning, Dr. Haleem Muhammad said, the five main reasons why it’s important for Black people to build all-Black communities is because of economics, security, environment, safety and equity, and he lifted words from the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan on the unraveling of America. “We’re watching the unraveling of a great nation, and as it unravels, we cannot unravel with it,” Dr. Haleem Muhammad said. “So, we have to tighten up and unite and form a solid wall and a united front for our own survival.”
Christina Muhammad, coordinator for the 10,000 Fearless First Responders out of Austin, Texas, has been building on land in Thrall, Texas, which is a little less than an hour away from Austin. She and her husband purchased 100 acres of land in September, which will be used to establish a community called 10,000 Fearless Community Ranch.
A portion of the land will be used for residential living, a portion will be used for farming and a portion will be for commercial uses. They are looking to have 30 residential homes, a school, a medical facility, a gas station, a hotel and other amenities. The 10,000 Fearless First Responders, made up of 30 families, are helping to build the community.
Christina Muhammad told The Final Call, that they already have an area where they have raised bed gardens, are growing fruit and are raising fish. They are currently getting ready for infrastructure.
“People think it’s just about owning land. It’s not just about owning land. There are a lot of different steps you have to go through. You got to pull permits … you have to be able to get your blueprints. From your blueprints, you have to make sure you follow the correct steps on how many homes that land can take. You have to get a builder. We have our own builder that we’re working with. He’s a luxury home builder,” she said.
Christina Muhammad explained after getting a builder, you have to lay down the infrastructure.
“If you’re going to have 30 homes, you have to have 30 homes set up, 30 plumbing sites, 30 electrical poles and 30 everything. You have to start from the top and go all the way up to the sky. So, you have to own air rights. Do you own air rights? Just because you own the land, do you own what’s above your land? So, it’s bigger. It’s bigger. It’s not just that land,” Christina Muhammad continued.
“Yeah, there’s so much that you can do with that land, but you have to be able to go step by step, and you still have to work with the county. You still have to work with the cities on getting those permits. You can’t just get the land and say, ‘I’m going to put whatever I want to put.’ You can’t do that, not starting out. That’s why it’s important to build quietly.”
They have started underground with the water system first. They have their own body of water on the property.
She said the plumbing has to be laid out, and roads have to be built, infrastructure, land appraised, and the city and county have to see images of the idea.
Even with infrastructure, for sewage, you have to decide if you want a septic tank or if you want to go with the city, if you want well water or the city’s water and if you want solar panels or the city’s electric, Christina Muhammad explained.
“Why wouldn’t you have your own water district? Why wouldn’t you have your own electrical district? And how do you do those types of things? That’s what we were never taught, and we’re learning and I’m learning it, step by step by step,” she said. “Are we going to have bumps and bruises? Yes, be ready for the bumps and bruises. Be ready for them to tell you no, you can’t do that. You got to find out how can I go around, how can I do that and still be in obedience to the law.”
She also said you have to decide if you want a homeowner’s association (HOA). “What type of community do you want? Do you want it to be a lower income community?” she questioned. “Well, you got to be able to set up laws. You got to be able to say, ‘trash day.’ You got to be able to say this is how your yard needs to stay.”
Although it can be a long and expensive process, Christina Muhammad said, the opportunity is there. “We just got to go take it. I will tell you right now, White folks are buying up the property because they know it’s our time. They know it’s our time. And we’re just going to have to put our faith in Allah (God). It’s rough. It’s even scary sometimes, because you’re looking at it like, ‘oh man, I don’t even got the money.
Oh, my credit. Oh, what else am I going to do,’” she said. “But if you believe and trust in Almighty God Allah, you don’t have to worry about that. Go get it. Let’s go get it, and let’s make it happen. That’s how we do that. Trust in Almighty God Allah. Say He will give us that luxury. He will give us what we deserve. You just got to want it, you got to believe, and you just got to go take it.”
(This is a continuation of an occasional series of articles spotlighting efforts of Blacks to do for self, to own and build their own reality and make their communities safe and decent places to live.)