Ever wanted to see cooperative economics in practice?

Atlantans Ashley Scott and Renee Walters, along with 17 of their close friends and family, pooled their resources together in an exciting display of cooperative economics in the midst of immense racial trauma, a global health pandemic, and considerable economic instability with the purchase of 96.71 acres of land in Wilkinson County, Georgia, about 120 miles southwest of Atlanta.

With hopes of building generational wealth, establishing homesteads, and planned neighborhoods with vacation homes and other outdoor amenities, Scott and Walters’ Freedom Georgia Initiative is looking to use the vast resource-rich 96.71 acres that border Toomsboro, Georgia, to create a safe haven for black families and their allies.

While timing played a huge role in the acquisition of the land, it was the ongoing viral acts of trauma that forced the two to consider this option over others.

“Ahmaud Aubrey’s lynching in the streets of Brunswick, Georgia, was the first time I’d ever seen something like that on video,” recalled Scott, who’d typically avoided videos of police brutality like Eric Garner or Philando Castillo. “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,” she added. “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.”

After consulting with her therapist and conducting a lot of her own research, Scott said eventually a phone call with Walters yielded the right solution.

Walters had heard about an upcoming open house to purchase 36 parcels of land that had been packaged as the City of Toomsboro. With Scott’s background as in real estate, the duo knew they should check out the open house.

While they didn’t purchase the land the stretch of commercial properties that were for sale, they knew that land in the area would be ripe for development. So they began scouting out other tracts of land and came across the 96.71 acres of land they have in their portfolio today. For scale, 96.71 acres is approximately the size of 73 football fields.

“Once we found that 96.71 acres of land, it spoke to our spirit,” Scott said. “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!”

Altogether the process of gathering investors, making the offer, and closing on the property took around 45 days, Walters said. The purchase was completed in late July.

“At first this was something (Scott) and I were going to do ourselves,” she explained. “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,” she added. “Gladly, they all jumped on board and that was how Freedom Georgia Inititvative came together.”

In addition to seeking out additional investors, the pair are also turning to crowdsourcing platforms and other fundraising initiatives to raise the funds that will go toward developing the land.

Scott and Walters have set up a Go Fund Me account asking for all people and aligned supporters who believe in “social and economic systems, togetherness, solidarity, leveraging assets,” to make a donation of $8 or $88 to help Freedom Georgia Initiative reach their goal of $88,000. 

The proceeds will go to the development of the 96.71 acres of land in Toomsboro,GA for the establishment of an innovative community for environmentally sustainable living, health & wellness, self-sufficiency, and cooperative economics that hopes to be a model among BIPOC communities across the African Diaspora globally, the page’s Go Fund me profile stated.

Also, this weekend from Sept. 4-6, the Freedom Georgia Initiative, will host the Big Black Campout — a new initiative they hope will become an annual event to bring families,1st-time campers, and RVers from all over the world together on private black-owned land. 

Families, friends, and parties up to 10 have the opportunity to fellowship, enjoy the beautiful outdoors and connect with nature, reflect, and go fishing, all while social distancing 6 minutes away from the Oconee River.

Scott said the Freedom Georgia Initiative is paving a way for Black America to collaboratively cultivate and own communities. The process will also create a number of jobs. Already, the Freedom Georgia Initiative has committed to prioritizing black-owned, women-owned, and veteran-owned contractors and vendors to complete development.

For more information regarding the FGI, its mission and agenda, visit their site to learn their vision.

(Photo: Freedom Georgia Initiative)

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