…And The Band Played On

Folks around the state convey to me often that they do not understand why I choose to live in Atlanta and identify with a zeal that they have zero interest in living here. I get that. It seems bewildering why our Capital city is so bereft of basic functioning governments, road maintenance, and public transit. Schools are another issue. LOTS of negative opinions abound about APS, although I can honestly say I’m pleased with my child’s school. What I tell them and will tell you is, that while these things are all absolutely true, I wouldn’t trade my city of residence because of the people I’ve had the joy of meeting here. From the aging hippie cranks who write letters to the editor, to the Buckhead Betties whose generosity fueled many a Junior League of Atlanta, Inc. meeting I have attended, they’re all a part of the beautiful band of misfits I see. Yet I have found the band cannot play without a deep well of love for community, which is often fed, nurtured, fought for, and cared for by the hands of Black Atlanta women. 

Today, one shall be laid to rest that had a particular influence on me. 

Keona Lynn Jones-Green and I met through our service with the Atlanta Planning Advisory Board. And while I have many negative thoughts about APAB, I am forever indebted to the lessons Keona taught me there. She was the first to make me aware that the NPU Director and the City are not always genuine with us as citizens. Keona did not preach, she did not lecture, and she simply let me figure things out on my own. She welcomed everyone- didn’t matter your background or how you showed up. She saw the best in folks and encouraged them to contribute their talents.

Early on in APAB, she and I volunteered together on the Education Committee. In cities like Kennesaw, (led by another community-minded Councilwoman) there are Youth Councils. I thought a Youth Council and Youth APAB would be helpful to educate kids in Atlanta about how they could participate in their own backyards. Keona was supportive of the idea, and I made the mistake of bringing it to the NPU Director, who was not supportive. Keona encouraged me and said that whether or not the City of Atlanta was supportive, it was both a good idea and one we should endeavor to achieve. Unfortunately in my naivety, I wasn’t looking for conflict with the NPU Director and didn’t pursue it further. There seemed to be some challenge between the NPU Director and Keona, and generally, I try to stay out of personal issues when I can. 

It was only later, when I started asking about the composition of APAB, the processes, etc. and the APAB President and NPU Director ignored my questions, that I realized what Keona had said rang true. The NPU DIrector is all smiles when you’re in agreement with her, but as I’ve learned from my personal experience in APAB, the NPU DIrector is quite happy to use her drama, chaos, and meddlesome nature to distract and derail from getting actual business done that serves citizens. 

I apologized to Keona for not heeding her words then, and like the lady she is- she graciously forgave me. I’ve never forgotten the lesson, and if you wonder where I get my inspiration for my questions regarding APAB, City of Atlanta, and my continued push for better, her name is Keona Lynn Jones-Green. 

We recently lost Keona and today she will be mourned by Atlanta, along with her husband, Derrick Green. I have referenced Mr. Green’s letter to the Mayor that called attention to the meddlesome nature of the NPU Director and the willful negligence/ pettiness of the APAB President that has reduced APAB’s numbers and the breadth of its influence within the City of Atlanta. Both Keona and Derrick have used their community voices to advocate for better and they continue to serve as examples to me as to what community advocacy can look like and what it can achieve. We’ve all held different titles through service work, but I think they would be the first to tell you that titles matter less than one’s heart in the community.

While Keona will be laid to rest today, her legacy lives on. Not just in me, but the Atlanta community she served. I am one of MANY folks she inspired to ask questions, push for more, and strive for better. While she is no longer here to lead, her memory has inspired enough that the band will continue to play on for far longer than her time here in Atlanta. If you’re in a community meeting somewhere in Atlanta and you hear someone ask for more in APS, pushing City Council to do better, or APAB to come together to help its citizens, you are hearing Keona’s voice. May it ring in our ears until we are called to join the band ourselves.

Leave a Reply