Decatur dad’s ‘ghetto rats’ remark draws rebukes

Okeeba Jubalo said his daughter, Sol Brown, was beat up at school. He is insisting that the Decatur public school system do something to change the culture of bullying. Photo courtesy of NobleSol Art Group.
Okeeba Jubalo said his daughter, Sol Brown, was beat up at school. He is insisting that the Decatur public school system do something to change the culture of bullying. Photo courtesy of NobleSol Art Group.

After a 16-year-old Decatur High School student said she was attacked near the school Nov. 10, her father railed on the city school district’s Facebook page about “those ghetto kids across the tracks” and questioned whether superintendent David Dude protects black students. His comments have brought some backlash.

Elizabeth Wilson, now 85, who was Decatur’s only African-American mayor, said: “The parents of those kids he’s calling ‘ghetto rats’ want the same thing he wants. He chose to move here because of the school system, just like other parents have. Rather than attack the community he should strengthen it.”

Okeeba Jubalo Brown, the black artist who wrote the posts, says that’s what he’s trying to do. “They should be upset,” he said. “If I hadn’t of used that language nobody would pay attention to the problem we have here. If I hadn’t used that language, maybe they would’ve gotten mad for four or five minutes, then they’d go back to watching LeBron James run up and down the court.”

Accounts of the fight his daughter was involved in differ, and the AJC has not received an incident report from Decatur police a week after filing an open-records request for it.

Brown wrote he wished the city would bulldoze buildings of the public housing project and send the students who live in them to DeKalb County or Atlanta Public Schools. He apparently referred to Allen Wilson Terrace, a public housing development built in 1941 and renovated by the Decatur Housing Authority from 2008 to 2014.

DHA Executive Director Doug Faust wouldn’t speak on the record, and wrote in statement to the AJC, “We are not in agreement with these inaccurate and inappropriate statements.”

Brown’s post continued, “As a father who spends good money for his children to be in a safe space while at school I am (angry) about their inability to manage that campus. Do we really want this guy from Iowa, protecting our BLACK children?!”

Dude, who came from Iowa, has been Decatur superintendent 13 months. “Any concerns brought to me I take seriously,” he said. “I try to look beyond any hate speech and evaluate where we are. But [Brown’s language] is not acceptable. Several times he’s reiterated the deliberate use of this phrasing.”

Brown has said he believes Decatur High has a gang problem, which is a symptom of a larger problem in Decatur schools, the gap between white and black students in reading, writing, math, attendance and discipline.

Dude and Decatur police deny a gang problem, but the superintendent acknowledges disproportionality in Decatur students’ achievement.

During the Oct. 11 school board meeting — nearly a month before the incident involving Brown’s daughter — Dude gave an hour presentation including one chart showing that, while Decatur enrollment is 23.2 percent African-American, black students are eight times as likely to be disciplined.

Dude said Decatur’s statistics are similar to the nation’s and he’s emphasized his interest in closing the gaps.

Last May Civil rights and defense attorney Mawuli Davis helped create a Decatur branch of the NAACP in part, he said, to address disproportionality.

Meantime, Brown, who does not use his last name on his blog, has begun calling for the schools to institute a Pan African studies program teaching the spectrum of black achievement.

“I do believe,” Brown said, that Decatur “is the only place in Georgia where blacks, whites, gays and everybody else can be on a level field. You’ve got all the culture in this place. We just need to get together.”

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