My Beloved Community Transformative Justice Initiative

A Tribute to Dr. Juanita Jones Abernathy

At Iyai+, we were honored and tremendously blessed to have the late Dr. Juanita Jones Abernathy as a Founding Iyai+ Board Member.

Affectionately known as our Mrs. A” -- beyond a force of nature – a life of courage, perseverance, and giving back. An educator, accomplished businesswoman, and long-time public transportation Board Member at MARTA, she understood the importance of going beyond the traditional STEM/STEAM classroom experience to reframe the narrative around infrastructure careers to one of “community-building” -- its impact on people, communities, and outcomes (particularly for historically under-represented youth). And, deepening the connection to important societal “values” and “outcomes” that matter. The true determinants of success -- environmental, economic, and social equity; and the development of lifetime “readiness” and success skills, i.e., continuous, meaningful civic participation; lifetime learning and sharing; and generational responsibility for community-building.

The Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s and 60’s popularized reference to “The Beloved Community” in several of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speeches… “a society based on justice, equal opportunity, and human dignity. A global vision in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth.”

Iyai+ Board member, Mrs. Juanita-Jones Abernathy (wife of the late Rev. Ralph David Abernathy, Sr., a leader of the Civil Rights movement, close friend and mentor of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.) personally lived every step of that momentous struggle and journey. A public servant-leader, public school teacher, a longstanding MARTA Board member and major contributor to advancing public transportation in the greater Atlanta region, successful businesswoman, devoted wife and mother– she has been our inspiration and driving force behind this transformative justice classroom initiative.

We are deeply honored to work on this Project in partnership with David Harris and his team at the Harvard Law School, Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice which was founded by Dr. Charles James Ogletree, Jr., an internationally-recognized legal scholar who has fought for decades for justice and civil rights.

The Purpose of the “My Beloved Community” Class Project is to interest and inspire students to be the future generation of Infrastructure Sector Leaders and Community-Builders, Innovators, Entrepreneurs, and Skilled Workforce. And, as importantly, make the commitment to civic participation that is necessary to “be the change that they want to see”.

Make the connection between the quality and availability of critical public infrastructure to impacats and outcomes on people, communities, and society overall through the lens of equity and inclusion i.e., safety, good jobs access, economic development, healthcare, housing, education, the environment, overall quality of life.

Demystify the public decision-making process; and become actively engaged in shaping the infrastructure they use every day.

“Tell Their Story”. Give voice to their personal “learned experience” re: the impact of public infrastructure on their personal household, community, and society. Identify positive trends and “pain points” in their community. And, as importantly – what they intend to do to make a positive difference.

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