Ashley Scott and Renee Walters realized that they would have to do more to ensure the safety of their Black sons and husbands.
As night after night of anti-racist protests across America were met with more police brutality and severe pushback from the Trump administration, Ashley Scott and Renee Walters realized that they would have to do more to ensure the safety of their Black sons and husbands. The duo got together with 17 of their closest friends and family who all shared one common dream: create a safe haven for Black families and their allies. To make this dream come true, they pooled all their resources together and purchased 96.71 acres of land in Wilkinson County, Georgia, about 120 miles southwest of Atlanta.
"Ahmaud Aubrey's lynching in the streets of Brunswick, Georgia, was the first time I'd ever seen something like that on video," Scott told The Atlanta Voice. "Seeing it shook me to my core. And then George Floyd was murdered. That further made me realize that there's something really wrong in our country. Then right after that, Rayshard Brooks was gunned down here in Atlanta. So we were hit back to back to back. I watched these videos and they made me feel disempowered because I'm a problem solver, I'm solution-oriented. I just couldn't fathom a solution."
In an op-ed for Blavity, Scott explained that she then turned to her therapist—who is also Black—to make sense of her feelings. "It helped me to realize that what we as Black people are suffering from is racial trauma. We are dealing with systemic racism. We are dealing with deep-rooted issues that will require more than protesting in the streets. It will take for us as a people, as Atlanta rapper and activist Killer Mike so eloquently put, 'To plot, plan, strategize, organize and mobilize.' So that's what I and my good friend Renee Walters, an entrepreneur and investor, did," she wrote.
A phone call with Walters yielded the solution Scott was seeking. Walters had heard about an upcoming open house to purchase 36 parcels of land and the duo decided to check out the open house. Although they didn't purchase the stretch of commercial properties that were for sale, they realized that land in the area would be ripe for development and began scouting out other tracts of land. Eventually, they came across the 96.71 acres of land they have in their name today. "Once we found that 96.71 acres of land, it spoke to our spirit," Scott explained. "We were sitting there in the car looking over the land and we just came to the conclusion, 'If we're going to invest, this is the move!'"
"At first this was something (Scott) and I were going to do ourselves," revealed Walters. "But then we thought, 'Let's get our families and friends involved.' This is something that we all talk about—when we're at gatherings and when we're out and about, and when we're just congregating—we're always talking about owning a piece of land and building our own. So this was a perfect opportunity to get our friends and family together and present them with this opportunity. Gladly, they all jumped on board and that was how Freedom Georgia Initiative came together."
The process of gathering investors, making the offer, and closing on the property took around 45 days and the purchase was completed in late July, said Walters. The pair have now set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for developing the land. "Our vision is to develop our vast resource-rich 96.71 acres of land in Toomsboro, GA for the establishment of an innovative community for environmentally sustainable-living, health & wellness, agricultural & economic development, arts & culture for generations to come. Our aim is to be a premier recreational, educational, and cultural destination for Black families across the African diaspora," the Freedom Georgia Initiative website states.