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Slain Conyers mother remembered as loving, dedicated church volunteer 3

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Serving DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry and Rockdale Counties

Volume 19 Number 48

We Worship


St. Paul A.M.E. to host second annual hat show and 10

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DeKalb NAACP blasts bill to shrink School Board

Photo by Glenn L. Morgan/OCG News

DeKalb NAACP President John Evans said the civil rights organization may take legal action concerning HB 979, which reduces the number of school board members from nine to seven.


By Valerie J. Morgan

he DeKalb NAACP blasted state lawmakers for passing a bill that will reduce the number of DeKalb School Board members from nine to seven, saying the measure is another attempt to disenfranchise African Americans. “We just think it is a clear-cut case of racism perpetrated on us by those who seem to specialize in drawing lines to mess us up and making decisions to tell the world that they’re in power,” said DeKalb NAACP President John Evans. HB 979, sponsored by State Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Brookhaven, passed the Senate and now goes to the governor for his signature. The bill abolishes the two at-large

(Super District) seats on the Board of Education. By eliminating the two seats, lawmakers avoided redrawing the boundaries, which likely would have been confusing for voters, who will go to the polls in three months. The elections will be held on May 20 and all of the seats–seven now–for school board are up for grabs. State lawmakers have been discussing redrawing the school boundaries for years, but could not come up with a satisfactory planned. A law that was passed in 2011 was supposed to change the number of seats, but new boundaries were never approved. Dr. Melvin Johnson, who chairs the DeKalb School Board, said board See Proposal, page 7

This is the map attached to HB 979. It is the current district map with the removal of super districts 8 and 9.

Drought finally over DeKalb employees to get 3 percent raise

By Valerie J. Morgan

All DeKalb County employees will get an acrossthe-board 3 percent raise come July as part of a $584 million operating budget approved by the DeKalb Board of Commissioners on Feb. 27. The news is welcome relief to workers. County workers haven’t had a raise in 7 years. “We appreciate the 3 percent. After seven years we really do need it,” said D. Gaither, one of several sanitation workers who urged commissioners to approve the increase. Sanitation worker Sharlene Daniels echoed Gaither’s sentiments. “We’ve worked real hard for it,” said Daniels. DeKalb County unanimously approved the 2014 operating budget, which reflects no millage rate increase and restored the budgetary reserve to $47 million. The operating budget emphasizes enhancements in public safety, economic development, community improvement and government efficiency. “I am proud that we have been able to work collaboratively with the Board of Commissioners to effectively address all of the key areas of need for DeKalb County residents without a tax increase, this

Other budget highlights include: • Year end fund balance of $47 million

• Elimination of 75 positions from the CEO’s recommended budget • Increased funding for libraries to for books and materials ($400,000) year or next,” said Interim CEO Lee May. Presiding Officer Larry Johnson said the board worked closely with Lee and his staff to make adjustments that were beneficial. “In partnership with the Interim CEO, we have made several adjustments which benefit the taxpayers of DeKalb County,” said Presiding Officer Larry Johnson. “We reached our goal of a prudent reserve; we reduced headcount and we cut an additional $16 million in spending.” Deputy Presiding Officer Stan Watson said the budget reflects not only prudent cuts but a continuation of services without a tax increase to

citizens. “We observed an awesome collaboration between the legislative and executive branches of government. The 2014 budget addresses continued delivery of services to DeKalb citizens without a tax increase,” said Deputy Presiding Officer Stan Watson. Since 2008, due to declining revenues from the collapse of the real estate market, DeKalb has balanced the budget by reducing employees (including police officers and firefighters), paving fewer roads, deferring maintenance on government buildings and county parks; and furloughing employees as well as eliminating employee cost-ofliving raises. The 2014 budget provides funding for 160 new police officers and 100 new firefighters, and restores promotional pay increases for officers that assumed additional responsibilities over the years. It includes funding for a take home car initiative for police officers. For the first time in DeKalb’s history, a tuition reimbursement program for fire and police is being introduced. These changes are expected to improve morale and mitigate attrition rates in this division, officials said. See DeKalb budget, page 6


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Community News

march  1, 2014  Volume 19, NO. 48 EDITOR/Publisher Valerie J. Morgan GENERAL MANAGER Glenn L. Morgan Staff Writer  Joshua Smith Advertising Manager  Richard S. Hill About Us 

On Common Ground News is published weekly by On Common Ground, Inc. The newspaper serves DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett, Rockdale and Henry counties. The opinions expressed by writers and contributors are not necessarily those of the publisher or the newspaper’s advertisers. No portion of this newspaper may be reproduced in any form without the written permission of the publisher. We reserve the right to reject material and advertisements we deem inappropriate.

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Slain Conyers mother remembered as loving, dedicated church volunteer


By Valerie J. Morgan

here were tears and laughter as family and friends remembered Haneefah NaTasha Williams Harris on Tuesday, Feb. 25. The funeral service for the 44-year-old mother of four was held at Voices of Faith Ministries’ Stone Mountain campus where a crowd gathered to celebrate a woman who had a contagious smile and a big heart. The Conyers resident was a victim of domestic violence. She was fatally shot on Sunday, Feb. 16, by her husband, Stanley Jerome Harris, 53. The couple was going through a divorce, those close to the family said. An argument between the couple escalated after Haneefah arrived at her husband’s home on John Wesley Drive in Decatur to give him medicine for their 12-year-old son, Stanley Harris, Jr., who, along with his siblings, were visiting their father. Haneefah, friends said, always made sure her son received the medicine he needed. She gave her son one of her kidneys when he was a toddler and the medicine was essential to his well-being. Stanley Harris surrendered peacefully to police after the shooting, which took place around 8:30 p.m. Dressed in a black hoodie and brown pants, he stood on the front porch with his hands held up. Police ordered him to walk backwards toward them and he complied, according to the police report. He was arrested and booked into the DeKalb County jail. Although Stanley Harris did not attend his wife’s funeral, he apparently

Photo by Glenn L. Morgan/OCG News

An anguished Eunice Williams, mother of Haneefah NaTasha Williams Harris, called for the congregation to pray for her son-in-law.

was on the minds of relatives as they grieved. “I’m going to be praying for my sonin-law,” said Haneefah’s mother, Eunice Williams. “I don’t know what I’m going to be praying for, but I will be praying and I’m asking you all to pray, too,” she said to the congregation. Williams also said her daughter would not be buried with the Harris name because of what her son-in-law did. Instead, the family buried Haneefah as Williams, her maiden name. Family, friends and community leaders recalled Haneefah as a fun-

loving person who was always smiling and willing to help anyone. Allison Barbour, principal of Sims Elementary School in Conyers, said Haneefah was a wonderful mother. “She had such an amazing love for her children,” Barbour said. Haneefah encouraged others and she was very goal driven, exclaiming Whoop! Whoop! when she was excited or to express her agreement. Haneefah was striving to earn a Pink Cadillac as a sales associate for Mary Kay, the multiSee Slain mother, page 9

An Open Letter to the DeKalb County Citizens:


y career in public service began in DeKalb County in 1985 and it has been my honor and privilege to serve as your Fire Chief, Public Safety Director and for the last 13 years as your elected Sheriff.

and Legal Affairs. In 2004 he was elevated to Chief Deputy the number two position on my staff, managing the day to day operations of the entire Sheriff’s Office. During my tenure as Sheriff, Chief Deputy Jeff Mann has guided our agency through all three national accreditation processes and there has never been a hint of scandal in how we handle our 78 million dollar budget or the hundreds of thousands of dollars we manage through inmate welfare funds or cash bond accounts. I am proud to say to the people of DeKalb County that in my opinion the only person who is day one ready to be the next Sheriff of DeKalb County and the person I will be voting for is Jeff Mann.

During this time, I have met thousands of you at various community and school events. We have worshiped together. Yet, fulfillment comes in so many ways and at this juncture in my life I am seeking to serve you at a higher level. On Friday, Feb 28, 2014, I will change gears as your public servant. It is my desire to transition from your Sheriff to your Congressman, serving many of you at the federal level.

Rest assured Jeff will continue the methodologies we have in place- those measurable and proven to be effective. Jeff will ensure that taxpayer dollars are properly spent and that contracting opportunities are fairly awarded. Jeff will make certain those persons wanted for criminal and domestic violence offenses are aggressively pursued, and that registered sex offenders are appropriately monitored.

There are many whom I want to thank for the support during my local government career and I have begun the process of reaching out to those whom I am grateful to have crossed paths with over the years. As I travel across this great County, I am asked who can continue the excellent work we have done. Who will ensure that there is professionalism and integrity of the Sheriff’s Office; ensuring that DeKalb County has one of the safest courthouses in the nation; that the jail will continue to be operated in an efficient manner, and that persons entrusted to its care are treated with respect and dignity. The DeKalb County Jail currently holds all three major national accreditations. We are one of only 38 Sheriffs Offices out of 3,900 to hold such an honor; so the concern in maintaining this achievement is a valid one. Who CAN continue the great work and accomplishments of the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office?

Jeff Mann! A man who has contributed abundantly to all of our accomplishments for the last 10 years. Jeff Mann is my Chief Deputy and on Friday, February 28th at noon at the DeKalb County Courthouse, Chief Mann will be sworn in as DeKalb County’s 49th Sheriff. Jeff Mann has a history of his own in DeKalb County. I met him in the 1990’s where as a young attorney in the County’s Law Department; he was assigned to the Public Safety Department to handle all legal matters. In 2001, I was elected as your Sheriff for the first term and Jeff Mann joined me in the Sheriff’s Office as my Director of Labor Relations PAID FOR BY “FRIENDS OF THOMAS BROWN”

I enjoy a sense of real comfort, knowing that I leave this agency in better shape than in January of 2001. I am also at ease with the person who has been my Chief Deputy for the last ten years and who will hold the position of Sheriff beginning March 1, 2014. I have complete confidence in Chief Mann’s ability to not only continue on but to move the County forward. Please join me in supporting Jeff Mann in the special election on May 20th.

Yours for a safer DeKalb,

Sheriff Thomas Brown


march 1, 2014

Coming Up

Pitch, hit and run is open to all Major League Baseball(MLB) will come to Gwinnett to host a free event, “Pitch, Hit and Run,” on Saturday, March 8, 9 a.m. at Gwinnett’s Lions Club Park, 5500 Rockbridge Road Circle, Lilburn. Organizers say this is an exciting skills event for boys and girls ages 7 to 14. Winners will be entered in for the chance to compete at Major League ballparks and at the MLB All-Star Game on July 15 in Minnesota. The pitch portion of the program will test how accurately a competitor can throw strikes to a designated “Strike Zone.” Any method of underhand/overhand pitching or throwing is accepted. The hit portion of the program will test a competitor’s ability to hit from a stationary batting tee, along a tape measure from home plate, toward straightaway centerfield. The run portion of the program will measure a competitor’s speed in a sprint from the start line, touching third base, and touching home plate. You do not have to live in Gwinnett to participate. The competition is open to youths in all Georgia counties. The MLB suggests you register in advance at Children participating must show a copy of their birth certificate to show proof of age. Call 678-277-0860 for more information.


‘Soul of DeKalb’ discussion rescheduled at Porter Sanford Center DeKalb County Commissioner Stan Watson will present the 4th Annual “Soul of DeKalb-Reflections of Our Progress” discussion on Thursday, March 6, 6;30 to 8:30 p.m., at the Porter Sanford Performing Arts Center, 3181 Rainbow Drive, Decatur. The date reflects a change from the originally scheduled program. The event will feature a panel of guests who will share their insights and perspectives on this year’s theme, “Advancing Freedom Further.” The community is invited. The event is free and RSVP is not required.

Shrove Tuesday offers piles of pancakes Columbia Presbyterian Church, 711 Columbia Drive, Decatur, will host a “Fat/ Shrove” Tuesday Pancake Supper in preparation of Ash Wednesday, on Tuesday, March 4, 5:30 p.m. Rev. Tom Hagood invites the community to the pancake supper. “Shrove Tuesday” is a day of celebration as well as penitence because it’s the last day before Lent. It is the last chance to indulge, and use up the foods that aren’t allowed during Lent.  The church’s Ash Wednesday service will be held a day later and marks the beginning of Lent. The Ash Wednesday service will be held on Wednesday, March 5, 6:30 p.m., at Columbia Presbyterian. For more information, call 404-2842441 or email

DeKalb County is working to create a brighter future for our residents We are taking steps to improve our economy WE NEED YOUR INPUT DeKalb County wants your input on its first economic development strategic plan. Working together, we can improve the economic landscape and foster capital investment and job creation.


Registration open for “Teens Talk Back” The DeKalb Lawyers Association will host “Teens Talk Back 2014” on Saturday, March 22, 8 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., at Berean Christian Church’s Family Life Center, 2201 Young Road, Stone Mountain. The program offers middle and high school students the opportunity to become acquainted with the various aspects of the criminal justice system and voice their questions and concerns through educational workshops and the adjoining youth rally. Prosecutors, defense attorneys and student leaders will conduct the workshops. Parents are encouraged to attend and participate. There will be small group settings, so parents can also address members of the criminal justice community and the school system. This event is free, but you must register in advance. Space is limited to the first 250 students. The deadline to register is Saturday, March 15. Register at www.


Library offers free gardening tips The Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System’s Perry Homes Branch, 2011 Bolton Road, N.W., Atlanta, will host a free series for gardeners, “It’s time for Spring Gardening!” on Thursdays, March 6, and March 20, 4:30 p.m. The March 6 workshop, “Seedlings,” will teach attendees how to start your own dream garden with seedlings. Learn the basics of working with seedlings including when and how to transplant. The March 20 workshop, “Ornamental Plants,” will teach attendees how to prune and care for ornamental garden design, including flowering plants and bulbs, and how to foliage plants, ornamental grasses, shrubs and trees. Adults only. Reservations are required for groups. 404-792-4994.


Community center offers free tax services Gwinnett County’s Centerville Community Center, 3025 Bethany Church Road, Snellville, will offer free tax services for low-income families on Fridays, March 7, 14, 21, 28, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program will provide services through IRS-certified volunteer tax preparers. To receive services, the annual household income limit for 2013 must be $52,000 or less. United Way, the Internal Revenue Service, and other community organizations sponsor the event. Service will be received by appointment only by calling the center. For information on required documentation to bring to appointment, call 211. For more information on the event, you can call the community center at 770-985-4713.

Park hosts free community day Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation will host a community day to celebrate families and community parks in Gwinnett on Saturday, March 8, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., at Lions Club Park, 5500 Rockbridge Circle, Lilburn. The free event will be hosted through a partnership with the Greater Lilburn Athletic Association. Kids can enjoy inflatables, crazy hair and face painting. Food trucks will be available for visitors to purchase food. The event will also be held to celebrate the county’s latest park, the Lions Club Park. The new park is the 46th in the county. 678-277-0179.


Extension office has plants for sale The Rockdale County Cooperative Extension Office, 1400 Parker Road, S.E., Lobby A, Conyers, is taking orders for its Second Annual Spring Plant Sale on Wednesday, March 19, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. The office will be selling self-pollinating patio blueberry, compact hydrangea, native azaleas, annuals, perennials, herbs, pomegranate and other fruit plants. Orders will be accepted until Friday, March 7. One-day pickup for all orders is on March 19th. Prices vary. To receive an order form, call 770-278-7373.

Friends group sets community book sale DeKalb County Interim CEO Lee May and the Board of Commissioners

The Rockdale County Public Library’s Friends group will host a community book sale on Saturday, March 8, 10:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. The book sale will be held in the downstairs Friends of the Library space at the library, 864 Green Street, Conyers. You are invited to browse among clean books in good condition for every age and interest. All sales benefit the library. Call 770388-5041, ext. 120 for more information.

march 1, 2014 PAGE 5

DeKalb schools chief: Extend school calendar to make up snow days DeKalb County Superintendent Michael Thurmond is recommending an extended school calendar to make up the instructional days students lost to recent winter Michael Thurmond weather. “Our primary responsibility is to help students improve, achieve and grow,” Thurmond said. “The revisions

proposed to the DeKalb Board of Education will maximize instruction time for our students prior to the administration of the Criterion Reference Competency Tests (CRCT) and the End of Course Tests (EOCT).” DeKalb County lost eight instructional days due to snow, sleet and ice storms in January and February 2014. The Georgia Board of Education voted recently to allow local school systems to decide whether to waive up to seven days lost to inclement weather.

Rockdale high schools earn AP STEM honors Rockdale County High, Heritage High, Salem High and Rockdale Career Academy were all named AP STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Schools for the fourth consecutive year.  Rockdale High was also named to the AP STEM Achievement School, AP Merit School, and AP Access and Support school categories. “I congratulate our students, teachers and administrators for this outstanding recognition,” said Rockdale Superintendent Richard Autry. “Each year, we have increased our AP offerings throughout the district which our students have clearly embraced as part of their academic pathway to graduation and higher education. We have also focused on providing additional support to ensure students are successful in these high rigor courses and can take advantage of the college credit that may be obtained with high AP test scores.” The 2014 AP Honor Schools are named in five categories, based on the results of 2013 AP classes and exams: - AP Challenge Schools: Schools of 900 or fewer students with students testing in four of the core areas (English, math, science, and social studies). AP Access & Support Schools: Schools with at least 30% of their AP exams taken by students who identified themselves as African- American and/or Hispanic and 30% of all AP exams earning scores of 3 or higher. AP Merit Schools: Schools with at least 20% of the student population taking AP exams and at least 50% of all AP exams earning scores of 3 or higher. AP STEM Schools: Schools with students testing in at least two AP math courses and two AP science courses (AP Calculus AB, AP Calculus BC, AP Statistics, AP Biology, AP Chemistry, AP Environmental Science, AP Physics B, AP Physics C, AP Computer Science). AP STEM Achievement Schools: Schools with students testing in at least two AP math courses and two AP science courses and at least 40% of the exam scores on AP math and AP science exams earning scores of 3 or higher. Advanced Placement classes and exams are administered by the College Board, which also administers the SAT. AP classes offer rigorous college-level learning options to students in high school. Students who receive a 3, 4 or 5 on AP exams may receive college credit.

Thurgood Estates

Thurmond said he will recommend the following schedule changes at the March 3 School Board meeting: • Add five instruction days prior to the CRCT for students in grades 3-8 by moving the testing dates from April 15-24 to April 22-May 1. • Add three instructional and remediation days to the end of the school year - May 21-23 • Move the CRCT re-test window to May 20-22 to recoup remediation days prior to the CRCT reassessment

• The original schedule for the EOCT testing is unchanged for May 5-12 for students in grades 9-12 In addition to the calendar revisions, the district will provide enhanced support and resources designed to improve academic growth and achievement for teachers, students and administrators. Teachers will receive in-service professional learning including Saturday sessions, on March 15. Also, workshops for parents and families to support and strengthen homeschool learning will be scheduled.

Rockdale Coalition awards reception set

Three students who have demonstrated outstanding community service are finalists for the Rockdale Coalition for Children and Families’ 2014 John K. Morgan Scholarship. The scholarship winner will be announced at the Rockdale Coalition for Children and Families Annual Awards Reception on March 8, 5:30 p.m., at the Rockdale Career Academy. This is the fourth year the Rockdale Coalition has offered the $4,000 scholarship for a student who has demonstrated outstanding community service in Rockdale County and plans to continue that level of commitment while pursuing post-secondary education. The scholarship is named for John K. Morgan, former president and chief executive officer of Acuity Brands Lighting and community advocate. Finalists for the 2014 John K. Morgan Scholarship include: Declan Keating-Broyles (TNT Academy); Sophia Moll (Heritage High School); and Donovan Norfleet (Heritage High School). “We were once again overwhelmed by the talent and commitment these

students have shown throughout their careers by giving so much of their time and talents to help others in need,” said Michael Hutcheson, director of Rockdale Coalition for Children and Families. The program also will honor the Rev. Aldren Sadler as the 2014 recipient of the F. William Hughey Community Service Award. Rev. Sadler, founder and senior pastor of the Church of New Beginnings in Conyers, has served on several volunteer committees and is an active participant in the community. A $500 cash donation will also be given to the local community service organization of the recipient’s choice. The awards program is open to the public and tickets are available at the Rockdale Coalition office for $15. The event includes food catered by students in the Rockdale Career Academy culinary arts program, entertainment by the Memorial Middle School Jazz Band and a silent auction. For more information or tickets, call 770-761-9244 or email Michael Hutcheson atmichael.hutcheson@


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Tracy Martin discusses, Stand Your Ground at DeKalb 100 Black Men’s youth summit


By Valerie J. Morgan

rayvon Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, said he is working hard to change the Stand Your Ground law, traveling across the country to get his message out. Martin was a guest at the Ninth Youth Summit hosted on Feb. 22 by the 100 Black Men of DeKalb at Arabia Mountain High School. “We are looking at turning a tragedy into a triumph,” Martin said in an exclusive interview with On Common Ground News during his visit to Atlanta. “We are working hard to try to change that law because this is a law that really doesn’t benefit our community.” Martin pointed not only to his son’s death, but the recent case involving 17-year-old Jordan Davis of Marietta. Daviswas shot to death by Michael Dunn after Dunn complained that the teen and his friends were playing their music too loudly in their vehicle. Dunn, who said he feared for his life, beat the murder charge but he was convicted of attempted murder for firing in the vehicle at Davis’ friends. “I was really surprised by the verdict in his case,” said Martin. “How do you convict someone of attempted murder but not the murder itself? That is amazing.” Cornelius Stafford, president of the DeKalb 100, said he invited Martin to the Youth Summit because he wanted to inspire students and give them a chance to hear who Trayvon Martin was--an ordinary student like many of them. Stafford and Martin are both from East St. Louis. “It was a powerful symposium,” said Stafford. “Our students had the opportunity to listen to Tracy Martin reflect upon the situation that cost him his son.” The summit drew a packed house of

Photos by Glenn L. Morgan/OCG News

Cornelius Stafford (left), president of the DeKalb 100 Black Men, kicked off the summit with a one-on-one interview with Tracy Martin on stage before a packed audience in the auditorium at DeKalb County’s Arabia Mountain High School.

nearly 1,000 people for a day of guest speakers, entertainment and breakout sessions for students and parents. Martin said that he and his son’s mother have set up the Trayvon Martin Foundation to promote educational programs that deal with conflict resolution as a way to keep Trayvon’s memory alive. The Florida teen was shot down by Neighborhood Watch member George Zimmerman two years ago as he walked home in the rain, wearing a hoodie. He was unarmed and had bought a pack of Skittles and ice tea from a convenience store when Zimmerman approached him on the way home. He was 17 at the time he was killed. “We absolutely have to instill in them to be cautious of their surroundings, to stay safe. But in reality, we can’t protect them from bad laws. We have to change the Stand Your Ground

law,” said Martin. Martin said he continues to receive overwhelming support from the public. “When he was killed, no one would cover the story in the beginning.

Then Rev. Al Sharpton got involved and Jesse Jackson. That changed everything,” Martin said. For more pictures of the summit, visit

Real Talk with high school students: Lessons learned from Trayvon


By Joshua Smith

earing a hoodie, 15-year-old Tavies Butts sat quietly as he listened to DeKalb County prosecutors and SWAT team members reflected on the death of Trayvon Martin and shared with them the consequences of breaking the law. “What happened to Trayvon was not fair. George Zimmerman basically got a whole bunch of money from supporters for killing somebody like us,” said Butts, a freshman at Stephenson High School in Stone Mountain. Butts was joined by about 600 of his freshmen classmates at the Feb. 27 school assembly. “I didn’t know you could be charged as an adult at the age of 13 for certain crimes. I don’t think any of us want to see the inside of a prison for 30 years.” That’s exactly the kind of message panelist such as DeKalb County Sergeant Tad Golden wanted to get across. “Right now, you have the potential to be a lawyer, a doctor, the chief of police, anything you want to be but once you have to go through us, you are nothing but two pieces of paper: A jail document and a ticket,” said Golden. “In the game of life, we are the referees. We want you to win the game. That’s why we are here today, to teach you the rules.” The students were all ears at the Greater Atlanta Chapter of the National Black Prosecutors Association’s (NBPA) “Real Talk about the Law: Lessons Learned from Trayvon Martin.”

The event was the fifth in a six-part series where young African American students were encouraged to join members of law enforcement and street gang experts in examining the realities of AfricanAmerican boys in the country and young people’s interactions with law enforcement. “This is the chapter’s very first community service project of this kind and we want our kids to realize that they have two roads they can travel down. One is negative and one is very positive,” said presiding NBPA Atlanta Chapter President Lyn Armstrong. “We know they hear and see the

quick ways to get to what they think success is but hopefully, we can get through to them that true success comes from living right, getting a good job and making good decisions--not hustling for a quick dollar or stealing money from someone else who worked hard for it.” The messages were not only heard at Stephenson High School in DeKalb County, but in Fulton County and City of Atlanta high schools as well. The panel discussions coincide with the anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s death. Martin was born in Florida on Feb. 5, 1995. Martin, 17, had no criminal record when he was shot and killed by Neighborhood Watch member George Zimmerman on Feb. 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman’s arrest sparked a national debate over racial profiling and the role of armed Neighborhood Watch members. On July 13, 2013, a jury acquitted Zimmerman of murder. The discussion at Stephenson High School offered some answers to the students’ very real questions. “We heard some real-life stories about stuff like these two girls who got charged for murder and they didn’t have a gun or nothing but they helped set somebody up for a robbery and the person was killed. That’s crazy,” said Antonio Rucker, a 15-year-old at Stephenson. “I don’t get nervous around the police or anything, but a lot of people do and maybe someday that attitude will change.”

major roads, including street sweeping and mowing schedules on right of ways and parks. The funds also will address potholes and street patching, as well as provide seven additional Code Enforcement officers. District 4 Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton said she is pleased that the budget includes resources for youths through the county’s Parks and Recreation Department. “I am elated that we have budgeted $750,000 in our Recreation and Parks Department specifically for youth services,” said Barnes Sutton. “I have been at the forefront of advocating for youth programs,

to give our most precious resource, our children, something positive to aspire to as an alternative to the trouble young people get into by happenstance.” The 2014 budget addresses economic development by funding improvements for the implementation of a new permitting process, fulfilling the promise for DeKalb to be a more business friendly county. This budget also provides funding for a new partnership with the Development Authority of DeKalb County to spur economic development and create jobs, as well as fund an economic development strategic plan.

DeKalb County Sgt. Tad Golden shares some real life scenarios with students at Stpehenson High School on Feb. 27 in Stone Mountain.

DeKalb budget continued from page 1

“I am most pleased with the fact that this budget allocates the resources to analyze our current government operations. We will finally get an independent assessment of the workforce and departments to determine the appropriate size of our workforce and how we can become more efficient in our operations,” said District 1 Commissioner Elaine Boyer. The 2014 budget also provides funding for beautification initiatives which include: beautification of gateways to communities and interchanges in commercial districts as well as increased cleanups on

march 1, 2014 PAGE 7

DeKalb commissioners’ send-off for Brown filled with tears, accolades Feb. 28 is Sheriff Thomas Brown Day DeKalb County Sheriff Thomas Brown said his farewells to the DeKalb Board of Commissioners, who lauded and thanked him for his long-time service with the county as he prepared for a new course. Brown is running for Congressman in the race with incumbent Hank Johnson and plans to make his bid official during the March 3-7 qualifying period. Brown attended the county sendoff with relatives and what he called his “extended family,” which included several of the men and women from his office. “My whole career has been all about just being a public servant. I’ve always served in some capacity to make things better,” said Brown, who grew emotional as he talked about going to work for the county under then CEO Manuel Maloof. Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May called Brown a mentor and a stabilizing force in the county. He said Brown’s departure was “bittersweet.” “I just want to thank you for your leadership and doing what you believe God has called you to do,” May said. Larry Johnson, presiding officer of the Board of Commissioners, applauded Sheriff Brown for always contributing to the betterment of the county. “He has been a great public servant who has done so much. He has truly given his heart. We will miss him,” said

Johnson. Stan Watson, deputy presiding officer, recalled working with Brown on his first election campaign, and credited him with doing a great job during his tenure. “I think I even held the Bible for you when you were sworn in,” Watson said. “You came to DeKalb County at a time when we were facing tragedy in our Sheriff’s department.” Brown served 13 years as Sheriff,

taking over after Sherif-Elect Derwin Brown was assassinated just days before Derwin Brown, who was unrelated, was to be sworn into office. Commissioner Sharon Sutton Barnes said she appreciated Brown’s fairness and honesty, which goes a long way. Commissioner Kathie Ganon said Brown’s name would be synonymous with DeKalb for years to come. Commissioner Jeff Rader said

he believed that Sheriff Brown is perceived to be the most credible elected official in DeKalb. “It is going to be big shoes for any successor to fill,” Rader said. Commissioner Elaine Boyer fought back tears as she bid Brown farewell. “He has taken calamity and made it calm,” Boyer said. “It It’s a great loss to us here in DeKalb County, but we know he’ll still be in our future, and it is with regret that I see you go.”

VFW Post 4706 honors students essay winners, community leaders


By Valerie J. Morgan

he Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4706 and Ladies Auxillary in Decatur respectively marked its 53rd and 52nd anniversaries by honoring five student essay winners, two community leaders and Tuskeegee Airman Val Archer, the program’s guest speaker. Congressman Hank Johnson and his wife, Attorney Mereda Davis Johnson also were recognized for attending the Feb. 22 event. “We are delighted that they (Congressman Johnson and his wife) took time out of their busy schedule to attend,” said Post 4706 Commander Harold Roberts said. “We appreciate the support the Congressman gives to veterans.” Roberts also said he was proud of this year’s participants in the VFW’s essay contest, all of whom worked hard on their submissions, which had to be typed and audio taped. “I was very pleased with the number of participants that we had and the winners that we ended up

with were outstanding,” Roberts said. Each year, nearly 40,000 high school students from across the country enter to compete for a share of the $2.2 million in educational scholarships awarded through the VFW’s Voice of Democracy program. At the local level, students in grades 9-12 submit essays that express democratic ideas and principles and then advance to state and national levels. The national first-place winner receives a $30,000 scholarship paid directly to the recipient’s American university, college or vocational/technical school. Other national scholarships range from $1,000-$16,000, and the first-place winner from each (State) VFW Department wins an all-expensepaid trip to Washington, D.C. Middle school students in grades 6-8 also have the chance to compete for awards and prizes at the local, district and state level in the Patriot’s Pen essay contest. All of the VFW scholarship programs are open to students in public, private and home schools.

VFW Post 4706 Winners: Voice of Democracy 1st Place Winner ($1250)

Jamyah Cooper, New Life Academy of Achievers

2nd Place Winner ($75)

2nd Place Winner ($100)

Jeron Spetseris, Henderson Middle School

Patriots Pen 1st Place Winner ($125)

DeKalb County Deputy Ja’rad Hunt

Julianne Lang, The Galloway School Atlanta Faith Roberts, Arabia Mountain High School

Megan Moore-Crane, Henderson Middle School

3rd Place Winner ($50)

Police Officer of the Year Teacher of the Year

Emily Gardner The Museum School of Avondale Estates

Proposed school district map continued from page 1

members had agreed recently to keep the number of seats to 9 to avoid any disruption or confusion. “We have been very successful in working together to accomplish what we have with SACS(the district’s accrediting agency) and other goals in the community. We wanted to stay on track. That was our main rationale,” Johnson said. Although the School Board made its recommendation, state lawmakers had the final say. Evans said the NAACP might consider legal action, if the governor does in fact sign HB 979 and the elections have a lopsided impact. Evans said he believes that the board should be comprised of at least five African Americans to reflect the school district, which is predominately African American.

Evans criticized the DeKalb legislators for the bill being passed. “The one flaw in this is they knew about this a year ago. They waited too late. They were not aggressive and did not consider the wishes of the DeKalb Board of Education,” Evans said. “We have to depend on those who are in the Legislature--those close to the vest--to make decisions that represent constituents that they serve. I think we’re going to have really deal with some of them on what they offer for office based on the facts of the matter and based on what they have not done for their constituents.” Lance Hammonds, first vice president of the DeKalb NAACP, says it is not so much the number of school board seats that matter as it is getting

board members who will support education and resources for children throughout the county. “First and foremost, we are concerned with the education of the children in our county. We want a quality education for all of our kids. To get that, we need adequate representation on the School Board. We need people who will act in the best interest of our children,” Hammonds said. Candidates who plan to run for the DeKalb School Board will qualify March 3-7. Hammonds said the NAACP plans to have an educational forum featuring the candidates on March 15, 10 a.m., at the DeKalb NAACP on Rainbow Drive. He said the NAACP is working on finalizing details and will update the community.


march 1, 2014

DeKalb joins ‘Smart911’ to enhance emergency response

DeKalb County Public Safety officials are encouraging residents to create their “Smart911” profiles to help provide more effective emergency response to calls. Public Safety Deputy Chief Operating Officer Dr. Cedric Alexander, Interim Police Chief James Conroy and Fire Chief Darnell Fullum announced the County’s implementation of Smart911. Smart911 is a national public safety service that provides more effective emergency response. Once a citizen creates a Safety Profile, and dials 9-1-1 anywhere in the country where Smart911 service has been activated, their Safety Profile will be available to 9-1-1 call takers.   “Smart911 offers a greater sense of security to the community by providing first responders with the information they need to help residents and visitors during an emergency,” said Interim CEO Lee May.  In Georgia, Smart911 is already available in several municipalities, providing an additional benefit for any citizens who may live in one location but work in another.   Smart911 allows citizens to create a Safety Profile at < for their household that includes any information they want 9-1-1 and response teams to have in the event of an emergency. When a citizen makes an emergency call, their Safety Profile is automatically displayed to the 9-1-1 call taker.  Responders can be aware of many details they would not have known previously: fire crews can arrive at a house fire knowing how many people live in the home and the location of bedrooms, EMS can be advised of allergies or specific medical conditions, and police can have the photo of a missing child in seconds rather than minutes or hours.  

Pictured Left to Right: Vivian Stone, Darlene Smith, Zenobia Mitchell-Jones, Debbie Hillman, Ebony Cobb, State Sen. Jason Carter, Joy Jackson-Guilford, Haroldeen Swearingen, Cynthia Brown and Dorothy Moore.

Chi Tau Omega celebrates ‘AKA Day At The Capitol,’ Founders Day Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority’s Chi Tau Omega Chapter, which serves Covington and Conyers, was honored with the First Place Chapter Connection CARES Award and the Attendance Award during AKA Day at the Georgia State Capitol. AKA Day at the Georgia State Capitol was held on Monday, Feb. 17, with 181 members from throughout Georgia. Seventeen members were from Chi Tau Omega. The event, held annually, provides sorority members with the chance e to meet state legislators and discuss issues of concern. This year, participants attended three empowering workshops that focused on various aspects of the organization’s core values: Collaboration, Advocacy, Registration (Voter), Education, and Stimulation (CARES). During the sessions, state legislators greeted participants and encouraged them to participate in the electoral process. State Rep. Dee DawkinsHaigler, Chairman of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus, encouraged participants to consider running for public office. At the awards luncheon, Chi Tau Omega was honored with the CARES award and for having the

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most chapter members in attendance at AKA Day at the Capitol. Sen. Jason Carter was recognized as the Legislator of the Year, and Civil Rights Legend, CT Vivian, received the Trailblazer Award. February also marked the metro Atlanta AKAs’ Founders Day celebration. The Chi Tau Omega chapter hosted the celebration luncheon at the Atlanta Marriott Marqui in downtown Atlanta. The metro-Atlanta chapters, which includes 14 graduate and 10 undergraduate chapters that serve the counties of Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry, Newton, and Rockdale, attended the the event. Special guests included Marsha Lewis Brown, South Atlantic regional director; Ella Springs-Jones, 16th South Atlantic regional director; and Lucretia Peyton-Stewart, 13th South Atlantic regional director. During an event prior to the luncheon, the Metro Atlanta AKAs presented three monetary donations to local organizations--Families First, Carrie Steele Pitts Home, and International Women’s House-for their outstanding service and commitment to helping others.

VOF seeking qualified workers in a wide range of positions Voices of Faith Academy is looking to beef up its curriculum by adding Spanish classes for its students. The private Christian Academy, which has campuses in Stone Mountain and Conyers, also is looking to fill other positions and is hosting a job fair on Saturday, March 8. “It’s about offering our young minds more, to give them more complex teaching and enhance their skills. We hope to offer Spanish to students as young as 3 years old,” said Zenda Duren, executive director of VOF daycare. “We currently have one Spanish language teacher, but we need more because it is getting difficult for her to travel back and forth from both locations.” The Voices of Faith Daycare and Academy is hosting the job fair from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., at its central location, 2500 Rockbridge Road, Building B, Stone Mountain. “We are looking for qualified, motivated people. You must come dressed for success and have your resume ready because we will be conducting interviews on the spot,” said Duren. “Rockdale has the most immediate need. Classes are growing rapidly there, so we will start with positions in Rockdale.” Positions available include: Daycare teachers for infants to 5th grades, an after-school coordinator, bus drivers (CDL with passenger endorsement required),
kitchen staff, Spanish language teachers,
a summer camp coordinator and
summer camp instructors. “Job pay will be based on experience and criteria of the position,” said Duren. In addition to providing interviews for job seekers, free resume writing and interview tips will be offered by Voices of Faith’s Employment Ministry. Potential daycare workers must have CDA credentials. Potential academy teachers must have the proper degrees. For more information on the job fair, call 770-465-4172.


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march 1, 2014 PAGE 9

HAR seeks volunteers, service projects


ands Across Rockdale (HAR) is gearing up for the second annual “Day of Service” on Saturday, April 19, 8 a.m. – noon, throughout the county. The initiative, which celebrates community-wide service, will open up registration for volunteers, service project ideas and donations on March 1 at “The goal of Hands Across Rockdale is to promote the spirit of volunteerism within the Conyers-Rockdale community, while providing service to those in need,” said Marcie Howington, HAR co-chair. “Every donated dollar will go toward making this day a success. Sponsor funds are specifically used for project supplies and for the T-shirts, which are awarded to volunteers upon project completion.” Along with volunteers and service project ideas, HAR is seeking sponsorship funds to help pay for needed materials and repair costs. Last year, more than 450 volunteers pitched in for about 35 community-based projects. Projects benefit schools, nonprofit organizations and government agencies. Projects should be able to be completed during the four-hour service period and

cannot take place on private property or involve indoor painting. “The Hands Across Rockdale day of service was born out of a desire to channel the tremendous volunteer spirit in Rockdale,” said Howington. “Whether it’s picking up a paint brush, spreading mulch, or helping abandoned dogs and cats find a home, all it takes is a couple hours of your time and your sweat. In return, you know you’re making your community a better place.”

Hands Across Rockdale is organized by volunteers from Leadership Rockdale and the the Conyers-Rockdale Chamber of Commerce. Volunteers can choose their service projects. Some of last year’s community service projects include minor construction work, yard work and window washing. Adults must supervise children who would like to volunteer. For more information of if you would like to sign up to volunteer over the phone, call 678-509-5227.

Slain Conyers mother continued from page 3

level-marketing company for which she sold beauty supplies and other products. A national sales director for the company said at the funeral: “When I think of Haneefah, I think of a woman with excellence. She was amazing.” During the eulogy, Bishop Gary Hawkins, Sr. remembered his faithful member as one who loved the Lord and showed compassion for others, especially for children. He said Haneefah adopted the four children she was raising: Naimah Harris, 17; Terry Reed, 16; Stanley Harris, Jr., 12; and Naideira Harris, 8. Haneefah, who sang soprano in the choir and served as an usher, was a member of the Voices of Faith Ministries’ campus in Rockdale County. In addition to her four children, Haneefah Williams is survived by her parents, John and Eunice Williams of Photo by Glenn L. Morgan/OCG News Anderson, S. C.; grandmother, Mrs. Ollie Williams; and Family and friends leave Voices of Faith Ministries where they said farewell to their loved one entrusted to the care of Willie Watkins several cousins and other relatives. Funeral Home.

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St. Paul A.M.E. to host second annual hat show and luncheon Tickets are on sale now for St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Worship Center’s “Parade of Hats Fashion Show and Luncheon” on Saturday, March 15, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. in Lithonia. St. Paul AME First Lady Charley Hercules and the Rev. Marc Grace will host the event, which will include entertainment from the church’s male chorus and an inspirational message from guest speaker Candace Ushery. The event celebrates a heritage of hats, dating back to the early 20th century when African American women would make their own hats with feathers and bows and wear them as crowns to church. After watching women of all ages display an array of hats, provided just in time for the latest spring hat fashion designs, attendees will enjoy a delicious lunch in the church’s fellowship hall. St. Paul AME is located at 1704 Stone Mountain Lithonia Road, Lithonia. The cost to attend is $10 per person. Women and their friends are invited to come and show off their favorite hats at the event. For more information or to buy tickers, call Joyce Reid at 770-482-1571.

Greater Travelers Rest welcomes James Fortune & FIYA

The spirit of the Lord filled the sanctuary at Greater Travelers Rest Baptist Church during the Feb. 25 the release of James Fortune & FIYA’s latest CD, “Live Through It.” More than 10,000 people took to the

gospel group’s Facebook page to “like” the free concert. Nearly 200 people left comments and words of encouragement on the page as well. “It was so amazing. I thank the Lord for allowing me to be in attendance to take part,” said Melody McDaiels of Decatur. “The glory of the Lord was magnified at a very high level.” The concert was part of a national tour in which the group is hosting to promote its current album, “James Fortune & FIYA: Live Through It.” The concert, which was also streaming on the website, Yes Lord Radio, included appearances from recording artists Tasha Cobbs, Isaac Carree, Zacardi Cortez and Alexis Spight. “My daughter and I had the best time. God’s presence was all over the place. When I first heard about the concert on the radio, I knew we had to get there,” said Taylor, who had the

opportunity to meet Fortune and some of the other performers. “James and his Cheryl are such loving people. My daughter was so excited about taking a picture with them. Everyone performing was just amazing. God had his way. To God be the glory.” After the concert, Fortune signed copies of CDs for attendees who made purchases. Other stops on the tour include performances in Houston, Chicago, and Philadelphia. The tour also includes a free concert with Yolanda Adams in Charlotte, a listening party in Washington D.C. and live appearances on “The Yolanda Adams Morning Show,” “The Rickey Smiley Morning Show,” and “The Tom Joyner Morning Show.” Fortune is a Grammy-nominated artist who is also a songwriter, producer and nationally-syndicated radio host.

Saint Philip A.M.E. celebrates Women’s Week Saint Philip A.M.E. Church, 240 Candler Road, S.E., Atlanta, will host several events to celebrate the ministry’s 2014 Women’s Week in March. With the theme: “Behold, God Does A New Thing, Now,” the church kicks off the celebration with a “Prayer WalkA-Thon” on Saturday, March 8, at Davidson-Arabia Mountain Park in Lithonia. Later in the week, the church says special worship services will be marked with guest speakers, starting on Tuesday, March 11, 7 p.m. with the Rev. Carolyn Showell and continuing on Friday, March 14, 7 p.m., with the Rev. Cynthia Hale of Ray of Hope Christian Church in Decatur. On Saturday, March 15, 11 a.m., St. Phillip will host a women’s luncheon and book study with Suzan Johnson Cook, the third Ambassador at Large for the International Religious Freedom for the United States of America and the author of “Becoming a Woman of Destiny.” Festivities will conclude on Sunday, March 16, when Saint Philip A.M.E. welcomes the Rev. Gina Stewart, senior pastor of Christ Missionary Baptist Church in Memphis, TN, to preach sermons during the church’s 7:30 and 10:45 am services. For more information, visit www. or call 404-3710749.

march 1, 2014 PAGE 11


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March 1, 2014  

The March 1 edition of On Common Ground Newspaper

March 1, 2014  

The March 1 edition of On Common Ground Newspaper