Some Spelman students upset Atlanta mayor is commencement speaker

Spelman College students are using social media to vent after Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms was announced as speaker for the school’s commencement ceremonies,  with many taking issue with her policies.

Bottoms will also receive the National Community Service Award, “recognition of her service as a lifelong public servant and commitment to addressing local, state and national issues,” according to a news release from the college.

Students, however, criticized Bottoms' legislation, particularly her silence on officer-involved shootings in Atlanta and her support for an ordinance that requires people to have a permit to pass out food to the homeless. The ordinance was passed when Bottoms was a councilwoman for District 11, which covers parts of southwest Atlanta.

"The mayor is honored to deliver the commencement address and equally proud that the legacy of student engagement and activism remains vibrant at Spelman College,” the mayor’s office said in a statement to Channel 2.

It is not known how many students oppose the mayor speaking at the graduation ceremony, but dozens expressed their displeasure on Twitter late Monday.

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"She's a very good role model, but that doesn't mean that she should be a commencement speaker," Spelman student Alexi Dickerson told Channel 2 Action News. Dickerson said Bottoms hasn’t supported the Atlanta University Center, which sits in the city’s westside. The area, comprised of poorer black communities, is undergoing a massive revitalization which includes the Atlanta Beltline’s Westside expansion.

Located near downtown Atlanta, The AUC is comprised of four historically black colleges and universities: Spelman, Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College and Morehouse School of Medicine.

Some students said Bottoms hasn't supported the Atlanta University Center and said she's in favor of gentrification, the process of revitalizing an area with the intentions of improving it, but often forces longtime residents out of the area.

"Gentrification isn't really a good thing for black areas because it doesn't help the black people rise up," Dickerson said.


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"There are a number of problems with Keisha," one student said on Twitter. "... She's been silent on the rise of police brutality murders in (the city and) supported (an) initiative (requiring) a permit to pass out food to the homeless."

In a news release announcing Bottoms as speaker, the school touts the mayor’s recent legislation and policies including affordable housing along the Atlanta Beltline and the elimination of cash bail bonds and closing off the Atlanta Detention Center to ICE detainees.

“Atlanta is fortunate to have such a dynamic leader as Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who has had a tremendous impact on the city, in particular on the Westside, where Spelman is located,” Spelman President Mary Schmidt Campbell said in a news release about the commencement. “She stands as an example for Spelman students of how to effectively lead the country’s bedrock for civil and human rights, while navigating complex issues, prioritizing civic engagement and advancing Atlanta’s progress in global commerce and equity.”

The commencement is scheduled for May 19, 3 p.m. at the Georgia International Convention Center. There are 474 students in this year’s graduating class, the college says.


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