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Wicked plans to close L.H. Williams and other black neighbohood schools

L.H. Williams Elementary School is one of the schools being considered for closure because the number of students is lower than the school board has deemed optimum.
L.H. Williams Elementary School is one of the schools being considered for closure because the number of students is lower than the school board has deemed optimum. Special to The Telegraph

Was it a lie when the Bibb School District’s officials claimed closing L.H. Williams Elementary School was just a rumor? Had closing it long been their intention? Why the dubious talk and confusion inferring desires by the Dream Foundation to purchase the school, and creating insult to the Redding Family?

What truly is a lie, is that these same Bibb school officials are acting in the people’s best interest by closing Riley Elementary and L.H. Williams, forcing Pleasant Hill children to go to Bellevue’s Brookdale Elementary, laying off whole staffs of teachers and administrators. It’s a wicked move; meaning troublesome, dangerous, distressingly severe, morally bad in principle, ill-natured, unjustifiable and vicious against the students’ families and community’s needs and desires.

On the L.H. Williams School Cafetorium walls are large mural images of Pleasant Hill neighborhood ultra-achievers. The world renowned Little Richard Penniman, Vietnam War hero Rodney Davis, legendary education pioneer L.H. Williams himself, the school’s first principal Zella Benton Williams, soul music giant Otis Redding of Tindall Heights, and the historic Douglass Theatre; surround children daily with inspiring images that evoke the 138-year old neighborhood’s historical legacy.

The school has been in the neighborhood for 112 years. The quality of learning, the spectrum of beneficial community activities still occurring daily in the building is more important than whether the school is at optimal usage. With time, diligence, and collaboration, numbers will increase.

In recent years L.H. Williams student numbers and scores have increased. These leaders who’ve determined to close L.H. Williams are tragically indifferent to the well-being of the community. There is no excuse for such reckless decision making. It emanates from hidden hands of greed and racism, determined to gentrify and destroy Macon’s cornerstone black neighborhood Pleasant Hill, a historic jewel.

Bibb Board President Lester Miller is wrong to label the community’s people as only caring about keeping schools open for the children in their own neighborhood. We don’t want any of them closed. What good is it to pay taxes for funding the schools and the SPLOST if our own families can’t benefit; if children in our own neighborhoods cannot be invested in where they live? Why can’t some of these hundreds of millions of dollars preserve historic black schools too and allow black families to have the comfort and benefit of neighborhood school identity too?

President Miller reflects contempt for the black community whom he claims to be an advocate for. He has sought to defend the Bibb School District’s shameful racial disparity in contracting, gloated over the downfall of Romain Dallemand and Cliffard Whitby as if regardless of whatever alleged wrongs occurred, these prominent black men never did any good for Macon. Now he’s calling to eliminate historic L.H. Williams Elementary School regardless of the adverse impact upon the Pleasant Hill community.

The Bibb County School District has made horrible decisions uprooting the lives of a majority black population for decades, redistricting children and families like a tossed salad. Invariably, black institution schools are destroyed, consolidated, amalgamated so their identities and legacies are lost. Alexander II and Vineville Academy cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars to renovate and preserve. They do not have a large attendance from the surrounding area, but students are bused in and others are driven in by parents.

We appreciate the successful value of legacy, history, pride, excellence, purpose in those old white institutions. L.H. Williams is a great institution of heritage and history, too, and it deserves preservation. It is the only Bibb school sharing a gym with the Macon-Bibb Parks and Recreation Department, which would additionally make its closing a devastating loss to the community. We all must demand and have better than this oppression and robbery from our community’s “leaders.”

George Fadil Muhammad is a resident of Macon.

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