Kenneth Akbar was born and raised in Joyland, a historic black community in southeast Atlanta. By all accounts he loves his hometown and is working to restore it to its former glory.
“My earliest memory of Joyland is when my parents purchased a house [here] in 1958, Akbar said. “I remember taking my first steps in that house.”
Akbar remembers Joyland being a wonderful place to raise children at that time. A Black neighborhood, Joyland offered everything from recreational sports to swimming pools and parks. Joyland had it all.
“At that time the community had all sorts of programs for kids, Akbar remembered. “We competed against all the other communities, Mechanicsville, Pittsburg, or whoever you can think of. You didn’t have to leave the community for anything.”
He added, “This was a self-sustaining place at the time, a thriving middle-class community.”
Unfortunately, that is a far cry from what Akbar considers Joyland to be now.
Akbar has spent some time outside of Joyland, moving to Moreno Valley in southern California on a mission that many of us go on – the pursuit of love. Akbar pursued the woman, who would later become his wife and whom he would have 3 sons and a daughter with.
“Although I spent my childhood and young adulthood in this city, I moved to California and came back in 2016, upon returning home it was heart-wrenching when you return to your home city and it looked like somebody had dropped a nuclear bomb,” Akbar said.
“The people that remained here, many in my peer group, they look like they are suffering from nuclear fallout. Some of the houses were in disrepair and the lawns were un-kept.”
What he was witnessing lit a fire inside. Akbar saw the value of the community that he once called home and was on a mission to change what was happening to it. After fully moving back in 2017, Akbar quickly went to work on restoring the legacy of his home.
Pressing forward, he would become the president of the Joyland Civic League and begin making the change that he wanted to see. He has become so prominent in the Joyland community that he has been dubbed, “The Mayor of Joyland”. A title that he humbly refutes.
“Some call me that, but that title rightfully belongs to another man, Jared Billings, the vice president in our league,” Akbar said. “He is from one of the original families to settle in Joyland. I am proud to be the president of the civic league in Joyland.”
Akbar has high hopes for Joyland, but understands it’s going to take some work.
“We have every reason to be ecstatic about the future of Joyland- we have done a number of amazing tours in this community,” he said. “We have been inviting our community leaders to make this a better Joyland.”