Silence covers a brick house that was once filled with Athens’ activist. An intern taps computer keys as time winds down on her final day at work. The executive director comes in with final words of thanks and encouragement before sending the intern off to contribute to the economic justice of the community. This is part of a typical day in the life of Linda Lloyd.
Lloyd serves as the executive director of the Economic Justice Coalition in Athens. She dedicated almost 10 years of her life to the enhancement of others lives and their rights and does not plan to stop in the near future. Her passion to serve others stems from her humbled upbringing and personal experience with economic injustice. Her influence impacts cities around Georgia but centers in Athens, Georgia.
Lloyd had her final meeting with Strozier Monday morning to discuss her learning plan to complete for the internship requirement. The interaction was brief but substantial to the interns start in the real world of social work.
“I’ve really enjoyed her she’s very caring and nice and so involved in so many different things. She’s really a hard worker she’s also my teacher at Athens Tech,” said Daniela Strozier.
Lloyd recruits social work interns for the Economic Justice Coalition from her classrooms at Athens Technical College. Strozier was Lloyd’s most recent catch whose term as an intern came to an end on Monday. Students complete the internships for an out of classroom experience as well as for course credit. Lloyd enforces “Good News Day” every Tuesday in class. Students share news about something good has happened to them within the week or share something they’ve done good for someone. She believes that when people acknowledge good things they come back to us.
“I enjoy teaching social work because I love my profession,” Lloyd said. “I’m just as excited now as I was 30 years ago about social work to be able to instill this passion I have in others to become foot soldiers and carry on task that need to be done.”
Lloyd described experience as the best teacher, which led to her implementation of the interns for the Economic Justice Coalition. Lloyd’s past experiences inspired her to expose her students to first hand experience and motivated her to work harder for economic justice for all. She also serves as a field instructor of the master’s of social work program at the University of Georgia.
Lloyd swayed in her desk chair as she reminisced about her personal experiences with economic injustice. She experienced two incidents where she knew that something had to be done to stop the unfair pay and treatment of workers.
With closed eyes, Lloyd recalled a termination from a previous job that she challenged in various levels of court.
“In the middle of my career I was terminated without due process after working for this company for 18 years,” Lloyd said. “ I fought that case for 10 years and eventually got my name cleared but now I’m so avid of workers rights because my rights were violated. I try to teach my students that you have to advocate for another person’s rights like they were your own.”
Lloyd served as the first African American female county manager of Green County, Georgia in 2001. Lloyd was responsible for the management of over $14 million and 150 employees. When she suggested allocating a larger portion of the budget toward raising wages for workers in the county she was confronted by a commissioner. The commissioner scolded her for the request and cursed so loud that others in the building noticed. Lloyd checked nearby offices to ask others if they heard what happened. They did, but reassured her that her decision came from the heart and referred to her as a breath of fresh air in the department.
“People go bizerk when you talk about increasing people’s wages at the bottom,” Lloyd said. “But I enjoy fighting, I don’t know what else to do when your rights and mine are violated, you can’t just do nothing,” Lloyd said.
Her firm belief in fighting for others translated back to Athens in the past 10 years through her work with the Economic Justice Coalition and other organizations.
Lloyd met with a representative from the Peachy Green co-op program to discuss the next step to get the program on its feet in the near future. Lloyd listened with pursed lips and concerned eyes as updates were shared. Excitement took over once she discovered that the program was well on its way to a good start. The meeting was brief but progress was made.
The Peachy Green co-op is similar to how a food co-op is set up but focuses on providing work for day laborers in Athens. The program started around three years ago when the Economic Justice Coalition created Unity Cooperative Labor partners as a social enterprise. They recruited handymen, lower maintenance workers and cleaning staff. After receiving a planning grant from the Interfaith Worker Justice in Chicago Lloyd along with 15 other businesses built upon the idea of the co-op to make it a reality.
“We will be Athens’ first worker cleaning co-op and in the south people are familiar with cooperative but they are usually doing food cooperatives,” Lloyd said. “But now in terms of an industry like we’re doing you got other folks that are used to other cleaning co-ops like in the West.”
The program is still in the beginning stages but affiliates see a promising future for the success of the program. Lloyd understands that in order for the program to flourish she has to be active in the community and with other businesses
“We have to spend time with people,” Lloyd said. “When you establish a relationship and show people your passion for a cause, they believe you and are willing to help.”
Lloyd twiddled her thumbs as she talked about the wage system at the University of Georgia. She refers to them as slave wages. Lloyd has worked to raise these wages to living wages for employees in Athens and on the University of Georgia’s campus.
“It’s sad to see these workers come in frustrated with the amount of money they make and still see no progress on the issue when new buildings are always being built on campus,” Lloyd said. “The money is there but the activism is missing.”
Lloyd explained that workers are held back from receiving their full wages because the university found ways to get around their own policies. The university is required to pay workers full-time after six months of consecutive work.
The university has around 2,500 employees that are considered part time part-time temporary workers when they are working full- time permanent hours. To get around that workers are paid part time for six months, terminated and then rehired according to various employees of the university. The Economic Justice Coalition views this treatment as unjust.
To fight against it, they work with lawyers who analyze the employee’s cases on an ad hoc basis then provide legal services if need be for the employees. Lloyd believes the Living Wages movement is on a good start to helping these workers move away from slave wages.
When Lloyd finds time to wind down she enjoys staying home.
She kicks off her shoes after work but carries her concerns in her mind one she arrives home. Her husband is the only person in the house now that her daughter ahs moved off to Nashville, Tennessee to teach. Lloyd admits to a new interest in watching soap operas for entertainment and speaking with family on the phone when she can.
“I do too much, I know I do,” Lloyd said. “But people realize that I have passion and a purpose even when I go to Dooly county I’m doing work there.”
Her ultimate getaway is back home to Dooly County but the work doe snot stop there. During her last spring break period, Lloyd traveled home to visit her mother for her birthday but her break was far from a vacation.
Lloyd opened a summer enrichment program and after school program in her hometown of Dooly County in 2004. Both initiatives grew from the basement of her home church building and have had a large impact on her community’s high school graduation rates.
At the programs inception Dooly County only had 30 graduates from public high schools that most of the black community attended. Yet students from private schools in the county graduated in normal ranks. Lloyd determined that something had to be done. She applied for a grant to start both programs and results were quick to follow.
“You know I’m a grant writer, and I encourage others to work on a volunteer basis, “Lloyd said. “ Over those years we got over $250,000 and doubled the high school graduation rates in Dooly.”
Lloyd also created the Families First Empowerment Center to help local families understand their rights as workers and how our economy works.
When asked why she continues to work for the benefit of other her answer was simple.
“I was driving down 316 the other day and saw a billboard that said ‘ Happiness is Helping Others’ I think that pretty much sums up why I’ll always fight for the rights of others, “ Lloyd said.
To learn more about the Economic Justice Coalition, make a donation or contact Linda Lloyd follow this link.
Protestors chanted “Undocumented! Unafraid!” on March 6 against the Board of Regents’ 2010 decision to ban undocumented students from enrolling in the top five research institutions in Georgia.
The Economic Justice Coalition and Freedom University both housed in Athens joined forces after the rally for the Lift the Ban movement addressing undocumented students banned from applying to the top five higher education institutions in Georgia.
The Economic Justice Coalition met to discuss joining forces with Freedom University on the Lift the Ban and Raise the Wages movements in Athens on March 21. Both groups anticipate that joining forces will create a bigger buzz on the two issues affecting Athens. The Executive Director of the Economic Justice Coalition Linda Lloyd plans to use grant money to fund both of the projects.
Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama ban students who cannot prove lawful United States citizenship from enrolling into certain universities within the states. Georgia’s ban prevents undocumented students from enrolling in the state’s top five research colleges that are the University of Georgia, Georgia College and State University, Georgia Institution of Technology, Georgia State University and Georgia Regents University.
Athens Technical College allows undocumented students to enroll. But state laws require undocumented students to pay international tuition fees according to the Vice President of Student Affairs at Athens Technical College, Andrea Daniel.
“If an international student does not provide proof of residency and lawful presence then they must pay four times the tuition rate,” Daniel said.
Representatives from Freedom University and the Economic Justice Coalition hope that the conjunction will create a large enough out cry to persuade the Board of Regents to lift the ban against undocumented students.
The issue of undocumented students ignited with the Jessica Colotl case. Colotl enrolled at Kennesaw State University in 2010 but sparked controversy after a traffic violation arrest. She was arrested for traffic violations and later for making false statements regarding her citizenship status and denied from attending classes during the case. The Economic Justice Coalition worked since 2006 to address local issues of immigrant rights.
The Economic Justice Coalition appointed a Latino Outreach coordinator. They organized an Immigration Rights march with 1,500 people in Athens, Georgia in the spring of 2006 and have worked with the local Latino community ever since.
The coalition organized English as Second Language training classes for day laborers in 2008. The classes helped Latino workers communicate with employers and opened up new job opportunities. The coalition developed a nonprofit business to give African-American and Latino day laborers employment.
Colotl’s case initiated the Georgia legislature to draft House Bill 59 and Senate Bill 458. The bills banned undocumented students from receiving post secondary institutions in the state of Georgia in 2011. The bill required students to pay out-of-state or international tuition rates for schools in the state. The March 6 rally held around the arch fell on the 30th day of Georgia’s legislature session. However, the topic of undocumented students was not considered during this year’s session.
Local school efforts ease the burden some undocumented students face. Athens Technical College supports international students in other ways besides financial hardships attendees face.
“International students have access to a host of support programs that all students use,” Daniel said. “ATC [Athens Technical College] offers free tutoring services, a host of student organizations are available for students to become involved with and Career Services are also available. There is an International Club on campus and this organization often works with Rotaract here at the College on International projects.”
However, the largest problem that enrolled undocumented students face is financial aid. The in-state full-time tuition rate at Athens Technical College is $1,455 compared to the international full-time rate of $5,820. The college addresses issues outside of financial ones due to strict limitations of state laws and the demographics they tend to recruit.
“We really aren’t aware of any issues on campus other than when students state they can’t qualify for financial aid,” Daniel said. “Athens Technical College exists primarily to serve Georgia citizens; therefore, non-resident students may enroll in classes on a space-available basis. They shall not displace students desiring to enroll who are legal, permanent residents of the state.”
The demographics of the college’s students are around three percent Asian and four percent Hispanic-Latino. However, Freedom University’s demographics are 100-percent undocumented students with most students coming from Latina and Hispanic backgrounds.
Freedom University began in 2011 to provide college-leveled classes to students regardless of citizenship status. Some UGA faculty agreed to volunteer teaching classes in undisclosed basements around Athens. Pam Voekel is one faculty volunteer. She spoke with an Athens-Banner Herald reporter about why she wanted to join the cause.
“We asked them as professors what we could do to help as part of that fight and they said well what you can do is teach a class,” Voekel said. “So what we decided to do is open something called Freedom University here in Athens and Freedom University is open to all students regardless of their immigration status or ability to pay.”
Freedom University provides more than education opportunities for the students that face issues outside of the classroom.
Freedom University officials assist students with filling out deferral forms allowed under the Obama administration in 2012. These deferrals allow students to attend schools under a two-year work visa at affordable cost. States like Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina are still hesitant to approve of these deferrals.
Linda Lloyd jumpstarted a partnership with Freedom University on March 21. Lloyd witnessed a movement to fight for undocumented students higher education access rights. She was inspired to help.
“I was so excited about Freedom University and that rally,” Lloyd said. “At least 200 students, they came and I was just impressed with the level of community organizing.”
The partnership between The Economic Justice Coalition and Freedom University centers around a grant the Economic Justice Coalition receives to fund movements like Lift the Ban.
“Right now we are working on the Resist Grant and Resist is a grant we have received since 2003 it was $3,000 but now it’s moving to $4,000 a year and we want to go ahead and do that grant around the UGA Living Wage and Lift the Ban,” Lloyd said.
Undocumented students attend classes today in the basements of Athens, Georgia. The Economic Justice Coalition, Freedom University and other activist groups are determined to see these students attend classes in the classrooms of schools like UGA one day.
Footage of some of the Economic Justice Coalition’s community board meeting on March 21 can be viewed on the video link below.
Anthony Lonon locked the doors of his two popular Athens nightclubs for one last time, which changed the nightclub scene for both students and Athenians. Unlike other clubs that graced Athens’ buildings in the past, this club closed for in-house reasons and not because of what people believed to be a showcase of racial biases from enforcement.
For years, speculations of racial prejudices against African-American owned clubs circled around in the classic city. Now documentation of liquor license violations and statements from club owners and students disprove this myth. Police units and government officials enforce strict adherence to liquor license violations.
“When I went to Clarke County and told them what I wanted to do, they were very helpful and everybody seemed to have good attitudes about it,” Lonon said.
Former clubs that closed include Top Dawg, Bulldog Café, Sky City and Aftermath. All have closed down because of liquor license violations with the exception of Sky City and Bulldog Café. The problems that these clubs face however are self-inflicted by the owners of the businesses.
Former club owners and students agreed that certain clubs with poor management face permanent or temporary shutdowns from liquor license violations.
“A lot of the downtown clubs like to make excuses and say we got shutdown because the police did this and people didn’t do this but most of the time it was because they didn’t do what they were supposed to do and they’re looking for an excuse to overcome their short comings,” Lonon said.
Jarred Moore visited all of these clubs during his undergraduate years. He agreed that poor management threatens black-owned clubs and the safety of visitors.
“When you go to certain clubs the way the crowd acts is generally a direct reflection of how lax the management is on regulating the atmosphere,” Moore said. “Of course going out is a way to let go of the stresses endured during the week but at what point do you consider safety?”
Lack of cooperation with government officials and enforcement attributed to harder crack downs harder on these clubs. Lonon had great business rapport with government officials and police officers. He believed this relationship benefited the livelihood of his two clubs Bulldog Café and Sky City.
“As far as businesses are concerned in Athens-Clarke County I think that no matter what kind of business you’re running here if you go to the right people and you go to them with the right attitude, I think they are willing to help,” Lonon said.
Capt. Melanie Rutledge contested Lonon’s statement and thinks all businesses cooperate in order to have a successful business.
“I don’t know that we have a bad relationship with any of them. The guys that work in the downtown unit, the lieutenant and sergeants, I think they know them and have a really good relationship with them,” Rutledge said. “They want their business to be respectful and not thought of as a dangerous place for people to go so they’re very compliant and work with us as far as I know.”
Competition created a loss of revenue between club owners who planned similar events at the same time as each other. Lonon recalled nights where he planned events geared toward college students and within hours other venues promoted similar events for the same time. Residents noticed when clubs would host similar events on the same night and they had to choose where to go.
“When clubs would have the same party on the same night it just came down to which club had the better crowd and reputation,” India Kimbro said. “At the end of the day it’s where your friends want to go and where you know you’ll have fun and be safe for the night.”
Chuck Moore agreed that club ownership in Athens is a tough business because of the stiff competition to attract more people. Moore works for the Financial Services Division of the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government. The Business and Tax Revenue department of this division reviews and issues alcohol license applications. If a business violates the license, the Municipal Court can order the department to revoke the license or the business faces a probationary period.
“It’s a dog eat dog business with owning a club in Athens,” Moore said. “I mean it’s got to be tough.”
Police officers created new methods to ensure that clubs complied with liquor license rules. If a club is found in violation of these rules they are cited on the spot and must appear in the Municipal Court before a judge.
“We have an alcohol unit and they go in and do undercover operations at bars and make sure they’re in compliance with checking ID’s and not selling underage,” Rutledge said. “When there is a violation they go in right then and write them a ticket and those are offenses that you can’t just go pay the citation. It’s a court only issue so they have to go before the judge.”
The Municipal Court judge determines a penalty for the violator to adhere to. These penalties range from fines and probationary periods to liquor license revocations.
Once a business completes their court order they fill out a new 16-page liquor license application that includes a comprehensive criminal background check of the owner, consideration of previous violations, and a schedule of fees they must pay in order to sell certain types of alcohol. The amount of money business pays varies on the way the alcohol is served or sold to customers.
“The idea is just that we don’t tax them to death and keep it fair so big bars pay more and little bars pay less,” Chuck Moore said. “ It’s all politics set by the Mayor and Commission.”
Aftermath closed before for liquor license violations, fire code violations and total interior renovations. In the most recent liquor license application, Aftermath reported three violations of fire code safety violations. To reopen they paid almost $6,000 for filing a late application and to serve alcohol beverages by the drink.
Top Dawg closed in the summer of 2010 after a liquor license revocation. This space is now occupied by the 9d’s and 8e’s bar in Downtown Athens.
Lonon’s clubs closed down last year because of a dispute with new building owners who did not agree with his lease renewal requests.
“We had our share of problems but ultimately, I decided I wasn’t going to sign a new lease for a company who wasn’t going to do anything so we moved out with intentions of building a new facility from the ground up,” Lonon said.
Most club owners tend to take their business elsewhere in hopes to have a more lucrative business. Lonon decided to keep his business within Athens just through other entertainment venues. He owns five other businesses but hopes to build a new nightclub from the ground up and start a local radio station.
Students remain skeptical of racism in downtown Athens but the problem seems to stem from local bars toward students and not from government officials against black-owned bars. A Red & Black article addressed the problem of discriminatory dress codes, event cancelations based on “the type of crowd attracted” and anti hip-hop acts by DJ’s.
“I remember the first time I got a text message and I was like OK what is this and how do I respond” Debra Little said.
That day Briana, Little’s mentee, taught her how to send text messages on a BlackBerry.
“One day we were sitting in the conference room, I don’t remember how it came about,” Little recalled. “Oh! We were talking about how young people text without looking at their phones.”
Briana revealed the secret to texting without looking that Little would never forget.
“I was like I have to look at my keys and she was showing me that there was a little key in the very middle that had a little incision go up. She told me ‘you can feel that middle key and it kind of lets you know where to go from there,” Little said. “I got pretty fast with texting on the BlackBerry.”
Graduation rates in Athens-Clarke County are among the lowest in the state of Georgia but mentoring has the potential to turn these statistics around. The Clarke County mentoring program emerged as the best alternative to improving graduation rates in Athens but faces obstacles that keeps mentoring from reaching its full potential.
The Clarke County mentoring program started unlike other programs based outside of school settings. This program operates within local public schools to combat the low graduation rates in Athens. The program started in 1991 as a joint effort of the Chamber of Commerce and Athens-Clarke County School District.
“I think it all gets back to the fact that our county has such a low graduation rate,” Paula Shilton, Director of the Clarke County Mentor Program, said. “The mentor program was one of many initiatives that have been done in our community to try to raise graduation rates.”
AUDIO SLIDE SHOW: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQQPibuj6Z0
Mentoring proved its effectiveness all over the country. Atlantic City, New Jersey school officials paired lower performing students with mentors at a young age that finished high school in the top 10 percent of their class. The students did not need tutoring just someone to listen to them and help guide them along the way.
Graduation rates in America hit an all time high in 2010 at 78.2 percent. Rates this high have not been seen since 1975 at 74.9 percent, according to the Wall Street Journal via the National Center of Educational Statistics. Georgia’s 67 percent graduation rate for the 2010-2011 school year ranked low at the 48th highest state according to an Online Athens report.
Since 2006, the percentage of students who passed the Georgia High School Graduation Test rose from 64.4 percent to 70.1 percent.
Two indicators studies suggest lead to lower graduation rates are high levels of absenteeism and behavioral problems. Schools that participate in mentoring programs reported that students anticipate a visit from their mentor and miss less school. Behavioral problems differ once they have someone to listen to them.
In Athens, the number of students who pass the GHSGT every year serve as a direct reflection of the need for mentors. Stark differences exist in the percentage of students passing this test in Clarke County and Oconee County despite the close proximity. In 2011, 92.1 percent of Oconee County seniors passed the test in comparison to the 57.9 percent of students in Clarke County.
“I think this difference comes from not necessarily the number of readily available mentors but the types of mentors available,” said Shelbie Foster, a recently trained mentor. “In Oconee, you have a lot of retirees who are more than willing to mentor but in Clarke County majority of the mentors I see are students at UGA.”
Foster touches on one aspect of why the mentoring hasn’t reached its potential in Clarke County. A large number of students mentor in this area.
“Eighty percent of our mentors are UGA students and we couldn’t run with the program without them we really appreciate them and love them and your enthusiasm but if you would just not graduate and move on, that’s the problem,” Shilton said.
Debra Little is amongst the 20 percent of Athenian mentors that saw the need for long-term mentors. In 2006, Little began working at Athens Technical College. That same year the college inspired middle school aged students to attend college with a mentoring and scholarships incentives through the BELIEVE program.
“I went to the meeting just to learn more about it and I was told just fill out the application and you can decide later, next thing I knew I was assigned as a mentor,” Little said.
Little keeps in contact with her mentee today as a friend and plans to continue the friendship.
“She’s now a freshman at Savannah State College and yesterday I mailed her a Valentine’s card so we still keep in touch, still text each other and the relationship has been really great,” Little said.
Little has devoted her time to long-term mentoring for an array of reasons but her main reason originated in her own home.
“The number one reason I became a mentor is because I had three sons and at one point in my life I was a single parent and trying to find a mentor for my sons was absolutely impossible,” Little said. “It was so difficult to find someone who would mentor young men and so I wanted to be for somebody else’s child what I could not find for my own,” Little said.
Consistent contact with a mentor for one year, at least an hour a week can instill characteristics of better behavior, inspiration and higher school attendance in students.
Regulated class meeting schedules increase school ratings but constricts the time mentors have with their students.
“It was very important for students to attend classes and have an active voice in the classroom but we understand that mentoring has a positive effect on the children’s success as well,” said Dr. Lucy Bush, a former ESOL counselor at Coile Middle School.
The Chamber of Commerce houses the program and provides office space for the two directors. Terry Baez, Assistant Director of the Clarke County mentoring program agreed that money and staffing serve as the real issues of why the program can’t fulfill its full potential.
“We just need more staffing, right now we do a background checks but what we also should do is we should do interviews of perspective members, we should do reference checks, but who would do them,” said Shilton. “I’m the fundraiser, I work with the board of directors, I write all the grants to get money, I do the newsletter, I do trouble shooting with mentors and I keep up relations with the school counselors. We just need another staff person and I need to work more than 30 hours a week.”
Mentoring can raise graduation rates in Athens if citizens take a closer look into volunteering for long-term periods.
With more individuals like Debra Little, high school graduation rates can continue to rise to the same levels found in Oconee County. The Clarke-County mentoring program is housed in the Chamber of Commerce on West Hancock Avenue and applications to become a mentor can be found at http://clarkecountymentorprogram.org/.