Nineteen black families pooled their resources to purchase 97 acres of land in eastern Georgia to create what they hope to be a “safe space” for black families.
Real Estate agent Ashley Scott purchased the land with the family, declaring to CNN “Welcome to Freedom” as she stood upon the land she co-owns. “I’m hoping that it will be a thriving safe haven for people of color, for Black families in particular,” she told the news outlet.
The land purchased by the families is east of Macon, Georgia, in Wilkinson County. Scott and her friend Renee Walters, an investor and entrepreneur, wanted to create a safe space for black families but weren’t planning to buy land to make that dream a reality.
“Being able to create a community that is thriving, that is safe, that has agriculture and commercial businesses that are supporting one another and that dollars circulating in our community, that is our vision,” Scott told CNN.
Scott said the idea came after protests and riots broke out across the United States following the police-involved deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville. Ahmaud Arbery’s death at the hands of residents in Brunswick, Georgia, also inspired their purchase.
George Floyd died after police officer Derek Chauvin held his knee to Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while Floyd said he couldn’t breathe. Breonna Taylor was killed when police executed a no-knock warrant to search her apartment for drugs. Taylor was not the subject of the search, but a man she had dated occasionally (but recently stopped seeing) was suspected of using her apartment to receive packages. Taylor and her new boyfriend were fearful the person trying to break in was her ex-boyfriend, so her boyfriend fired his gun, hitting a police sergeant. The police opened fire and Taylor was killed.
Ahmaud Arbery was killed by Gregory McMichael and his son Travis, who claim they thought Arbery was a robbery suspect. Arbery’s family said he was jogging when he was killed during a confrontation with the McMichael’s.
These and other instances of people of color dying at the hands of white people and police sparked outrage across the country, with protests popping up in major cities, many of which led to deadly riots that destroyed businesses.
“Watching our people protesting in the streets, while it is important, and I want people to stay out in the streets, bringing attention to the injustices of Black people. We needed to create a space and a place where we could be a village, again, a tribe, again,” Scott told CNN.
Walters saw an ad online offering to sell the town of Toomsboro for $1.7 million.
“It is one of the few places where you can buy a whole town with every kind of building including a historic inn, a syrup mill, an opera house, a school house, a railroad depot, a cotton warehouse, a restaurant, a barbershop, a water wheel, a grist mill, a work shop, a filling station, and several houses,” the ad read, according to CNN.
The town wasn’t actually up for sale, Toomsboro Mayor Joyce Denson said, but Scott and Walters found 90-plus acres for sale outside of town in unincorporated Wilkinson County, CNN reported.
“It was just such a beautiful piece of land. It was affordable, and it just made sense that we could create something that would be amazing for our families,” Scott told the outlet.
They purchased the land and are planning to develop it in phases:
At a ribbon-cutting ceremony, Scott said while they didn’t know the exact history of their plot of land, the symbolism of reclaiming this land gives them an opportunity to write their own story.
They hope to grow within a few years. By the end of their development plan, they hope to have a fully operational, self-sufficient city — putting Freedom, Georgia, on the map.
“To be able to pass this land down to my children and to the children that are represented by each of our 19 families. As a piece of legacy. We’re hoping to create legacy.”