TeMaya Eatmon has been chosen as the Think Tank Partner for the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) initiative the Welcoming Community Movement (WCM), overseen by Global Ubuntu. Eatmon joins other leaders who are coaching those participating in the WCM in the additional areas of inclusion, sustainability and restorative healing.
Currently nine counties in Georgia are home to WCM initiatives working in their communities to hold Welcoming Community Dialogues. These are formal and informal conversations with community members, local government, businesses and everyone willing to actively participate in creating a welcoming community for all who reside and/or work there, no matter their abilities, ethnicities and beliefs. WCM is working to build a movement where the community culture shifts from one of hate, unfairness and dehumanization to one of love and belonging, where the principle of morality is practiced as the norm.
Eatmon holds a health law degree from Emory University and has also done advocacy work in Washington, DC. In her role of Think Tank Partner, Eatmon will work to meld the advocacy efforts of the grassroots Welcoming Communities with the advocacy work being done by GCDD. “I believe you meet people where they are, so I did one-on-ones with the initiative organizations,” Eatmon explained. She is working to narrow down the issues the nine Welcoming Communities are currently tackling, finding common ground among them.
In listening to the goals of three Welcoming Community groups, Eatmon has helped them whittle down their issues to a single one that impacts all three of them. Peacebuilders Camp in Americus, Mixed Greens in Savannah, and Inspire Positivity in LaGrange are focusing on inclusion, race issues, poverty and empowerment. But Eatmon was able to help them dig down to a base issue of the need for healthy food and overcoming the food deserts within these communities.
As the three Welcoming Communities begin to research this basic human need for food and its impact on other issues the residents are facing, they can now join forces to work and advocate together. “My hope is they will galvanize, get with other clients and communities, and share this focus. That would be ideal,” Eatmon said. This food issue is also currently being discussed in a Georgia House of Representatives committee providing WCM groups with another avenue to advocate.
Eatmon added, “The thing about advocacy and policy work is that is the way you make change. We don’t look at Republicans or Democrats. It’s about the issues. That’s our main focus. I want to have an impact on the groups I serve. I want to help others think it through. Advocacy is telling your story, it’s not lobbying. Talking about yourself and those you love are what changes policy.”
Eatmon will also collaborate with GCDD’s public policy staff. GCDD promotes public policy that creates an integrated community life for persons with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD), their families, friends, neighbors and all who support them. As GCDD sets its legislative agenda for 2022, ways for the Welcoming Community members to connect will include GCDD’s Advocacy Days at the Capitol; individual outreach advocacy efforts to local, county and state legislators; as well as utilizing GCDD’s toolkit for grassroots advocacy efforts.
As the coaches work one-on-one with the Welcoming Communities, the entire nine organizations plan to gather September 15-19 for their annual WCM Retreat and Summit. “This is a place for the members of the Welcoming Communities to connect and bond, to reflect on how we are working, discuss the challenges we face, look at what to change for next year,” explained Sumaya Karimi, founder and co-director of Global Ubuntu.
“One of our goals will be to increase the involvement and leadership among people with I/DD and people of color within their community initiatives,” Karimi added.
GCDD’s Current Welcoming Community Movement Partners
- Abilities Discovered – Warner Robins, GA
- Compassionate Atlanta – Atlanta, GA
- ConnectAbility – Dahlonega, GA
- Filling in the GAPS – Hephzibah, GA
- Georgia Research Environment Economic Network (GREEN) – Savannah, GA
- Inspire Positivity – LaGrange, GA
- Mixed Greens – Savannah, GA
- New Neighbors Network – Comer, GA
- Peacebuilders Camp – Americus, GA