HUNGRY CLUB FORUM AT THE BUTLER YMCA Many top local, state and national businessleaders, political activists, educators, community leaders and Sweet Auburnresidents informally gathered for many years on Wednesdays at 12 Noon for lunchat the now-closed Butler Street YMCA, located in the Auburn Avenue Historic District.The lunch was called the Hungry Club Forum and gave an opportunity for a previouslyselected lecturer to inform and update the mainly eager African Americanaudience. The speakers generally gave a speech on their topic of concern to thecrowd who poured into the gym to hear ramblings, protests, and serious talksagainst injustice and oppression or a new community program to help nearbyresidents or the Atlanta community. Many new, veteran politicians and civilrights leaders eagerly awaited an opportunity to speak at the forum. Inaddition, the YMCA was important to the Sweet Auburn community because itoffered room and board to mostly homeless African American men and providedlow-cost organized summer youth and sports programs. CONCLUSION In the 21st century Atlanta is promoted as a “city not toobusy to care.
” Ironically, about 1.5 miles away from the Sweet Auburn AvenueHistoric District is Woodruff Park, near the Georgia State University maincampus downtown where there are people sitting around who are down on their luck– the oppressed, hungry and marginalized. At the park about 40, mainly AfricanAmerican homeless men, gather daily to play checkers, use the bathroom and methodicallysit with a melancholy stare on benches and a downward glance at the sidewalkbecause they lack hope.
The park wasrecently used for the city’s New Year’s Eve celebration ushering in 2018 whichmeans the men will undoubtedly have to move from that temporary housing orsitting location to another place soon. The popular homeless shelter at Peachtreeand Pine, near the Atlanta downtown area and somewhat within walking distanceof the park, was a regular shelter for many without housing but was closed summer2017. But city officials believe “continuum of care” programs which work to tacklehomelessness, by employing back to work programs, healthcare, drug treatmentprograms and transitional housing with coordination and assistance fromnon-profits and several millions in grant funds can better assist Atlanta’shomeless population. City of Atlanta officials want to phase in new careprograms for the homeless. It was segregation which caused many African Americans to live and workonly in certain areas of the city of Atlanta mainly on Auburn Avenue.
However,the demise of the Auburn district is mainly due to integration, building of interstatehighways nearby, abandonment, crime, vagrancy, and gentrification according tosome leaders. Preservationists and an Auburn Avenue housing non-profit areworking to reserve and continue upkeep of the district with assistance from theNational Park Service. More than 20 years ago, former Georgia State University (GSU) presidentDr. Carl V. Patton and his advisors envisioned and began planning for GeorgiaState to expand its campus into the Auburn Avenue historic district. Theirexpansion plans for the area are being realized. There are new shops designedto attract visitors including millennials and other youth and the Georgia StateUniversity logo can be seen emblazoned on the corner of Auburn Avenue andCourtland on the former African American owned Atlanta Life Insurance Companybuilding.
There are small White businesses and restaurants which dot the areaushering in more diversity and the once popular African American tourist andwalking attraction on Auburn Avenue is now reduced to only a shell of itself.However, the Sweet Auburn Historic District can probably survive and eventuallythrive with help from business leaders, politicians, preservationists,librarians, and Educatorsassociated with the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Cultureand History. The library is across the street from theformer Atlanta Life building on Courtland and Auburn Avenue. The APEX Museum isa parking lot away from the nearby research library. The research libraryhosts weekly and monthly events on local and national African American life. Anupcoming event, to be held at the Auburn Avenue Research Library features GSU Assistant History ProfessorDr. Maurice J.
Hobson, author of The Legend of the Black Mecca: Politics andClass in the Making of Modern Atlanta, University of North Carolina Press, the last day of this month. Hobson’s free community book signing,and lecture are part of the library’s launch of “Sweet Auburn Reads,” a newcommunity book reading group. Hobson previously was scheduled to make anappearance at the library with his book, Fall 2017. Hobson conducts his research looking through a New South lens and hedeparts from the widely reported viewpoint that the city of Atlanta is a Black mecca.
He argues that privilege, class and previous family wealth and access to topcolleges and universities have allowed certain Atlanta born and bred Blackelites to succeed since Reconstruction. Whether an individual agrees withHobson’s viewpoint or not, the city of Atlanta’s Auburn Avenue has a rich andvaried historical background. The city of Atlanta allows anyone to dream? Dreamsdo and can come true… FOOTNOTES 1Michael Omi and HowardWinant, Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the1990s (New York: Routledge, 1994), 7.
2Omi and Winant, Racial Formation, 8. 3Omi and Winant, Racial Formation, 9. 4Juguo Zhang, W.E.
B. Du Bois: The Quest for the Abolitionof the Color Line (London: Routledge, 2014), xi. 5Zhang, The Quest, xiv. 6RonaldL.
Johnstone, Religionin Society: A Sociology of Religion (Upper Saddle River, NJ,Prentice-Hall, 2001), 285. 7Johnstone,Religionin Society, 286. 8Johnstone,Religionin Society, 30. 9Johnstone,Religionin Society, 30.
10Dan Moore, Sweet Auburn Street of Pride: A PictorialHistory (Atlanta: CreateSpace Publishing, 2010).