Annie Casey Foundation: Changing the Odds in Atlanta - Atlanta Tribune (2024)

Few agencies are as adept at developing strategies for social change as the Annie Casey Foundation and even fewer are as successful at bringing that change to fruition. AECF’s devotion to building a sense of community and strengthening family support to ensure better outcomes for young people is unmatched.

Recently the organization held a forum at Atlanta’s Loudermilk Center to announce the release of its 2024 Changing the Odds report for the city of Atlanta. Since 2015 this annual report has identified challenges and racial disparities that create barriers to success for Atlanta’s youth and families and lessen their opportunities for quality living.

Annie Casey Foundation: Changing the Odds in Atlanta - Atlanta Tribune (1)

Kweku Forstall, Director of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Atlanta Civic Site, speaks as the organization issues its 2024 Changing the Odds Report. The organization looks at the issue of racial inequality in Atlanta and proposes solutions.

The report’s authors noted that since the first Changing the Oddsin 2015, Atlanta has made significant strides in implementing recommendations and cementing its commitment to improve access to resources for citizens of color. The report emphasizes that barriers to education and economic opportunities remain a major problem for Black Atlantans and thwart the city’s efforts to fulfill its promise of a brighter future for its residents.

“We have leaders across all segments, public, private, nonprofit, philanthropic, government, and more. And so we need to think collectively about how we can change the odds so that our neighbors who lack access to opportunity don’t have to battle every day to beat the odds,” explained Kweku Forstall, Director of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Atlanta Civic Site. “We can ensure that our members have access to all of the opportunities that this thriving, vibrant city that we call Atlanta. … And I know we can do this because so many of you are already doing important work that spans progress in the city. But together, we can do more,” he added.

In Atlanta, 61 organizations are part of the Changing the Odds Network, helping to provide data on problems identified in the report and use it to find sustainable solutions.

Annie Casey Foundation: Changing the Odds in Atlanta - Atlanta Tribune (2)

Other speakers addressing the crowd at the Changing the Odds event emphasized the need for collective action to address these challenges, including comprehensive solutions, technical assistance, mentorship, and access to capital.

“This report is extremely personal to me. I grew up in Cascade Heights,” said Lisa Hamilton, President of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. “It was and still is an all-black middle-class neighborhood, home to many business owners and professionals like my parents, a lawyer and a teacher, and Maynard Jackson lived just down the street from me. But prior to the 1960s it was an all-white neighborhood and when the white families moved out so did the resources for our schools,” Hamilton recalled.

They also discussed the importance of creating a safe space for Black business owners to share their thoughts and experiences. In Atlanta, Black businesses and individuals face a number of systemic challenges that hinder their growth and success including access to capital.

Additionally, speakers highlighted the need for a systemic approach to address residential segregation, housing affordability, transportation, education, and health equity. They emphasized the importance of equity in addressing these issues and creating a more inclusive and equitable society.

The report’s findings focused on access to opportunity between white communities on the city’s north side and lower-income communities to the south and west, particularly the Mechanicsville and Pittsburgh neighborhoods.

The Changing the Odds event highlighted several of the report’s findings:

ADDRESSING EDUCATIONAL ACHIEVEMENT GAPS

While on the surface, graduation rates for Black and Latino students look promising, further inspection of third-grade reading and eighth-grade math outcomes points to a downward trend for the city’s younger students.

The data show wide racial disparities in education in Atlanta. Proficiency rates for both third-grade reading and eighth-grade math among Black students plunged by 12 and 16 percentage points, respectively, in the 2020–21 school year. In the 2022–23 school year, math and reading scores for white students exceeded those of Black students by nearly 60 percentage points in both subjects.

CLOSING ATLANTA’S PERSISTENT WEALTH AND OPPORTUNITY GAPS

While median incomes for Black households increased by more than $6,000 in inflation-adjusted dollars between 2013 and 2021, the difference in median earnings between Black ($38,854) and white ($114,195) households increased by $3,529 to reach a difference of $75,341 in 2021. Lower earnings translate into lower rates of savings and higher rates of delinquent debt (60 days or more past due). Financial experts recommend that households have savings and accessible assets sufficient to cover expenses for at least three months to weather a financial crisis. In 2020, more than half of Black Atlantans lacked this basic financial cushion, compared to 14% of white residents. In 2022, communities of color in Fulton County had nearly three times the level of delinquent debt as white communities, with the largest portion from medical expenses (19%) followed by student loans (11%).

SOLUTIONS HELPING CHANGE THE ODDS IN ATLANTA

INTERRUPTING VIOLENCE AND CREATING HEALTHY COMMUNITIES

In South Atlanta, an effort to address gun violence has mobilized local communities to implement a public health approach to safety. Discussions on rising gun violence in the Mechanicsville and Pittsburgh neighborhoods led to a partnership withCHRIS 180, an organization specializing in mental health and community services that employs “credible messengers” from the community to foster trust, collaboration and ways for residents to heal from trauma. These residents, who often have personal experience with violence, serve as violence interrupters and outreach workers, creating job opportunities while enhancing community well-being.

Recommendations to address racial disparities and support thriving communities, educational achievement and economic opportunity for all Atlantans are available in the 2024 Changing the Odds report from the Annie Casey Foundation.

Annie Casey Foundation: Changing the Odds in Atlanta - Atlanta Tribune (2024)
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