Like many others in our community, I was distressed to read about the antisemitic flyers that have recently been littered in and around our neighbors’ homes in Sandy Springs and Dunwoody. Unfortunately, Brookhaven has not been a stranger to these despicable acts of vandalism and hate. This past November, our city was subjected to antisemitic graffiti in the highly trafficked area of Dresden Drive and Apple Valley Road near the Brookhaven MARTA station and, perhaps not coincidentally, right near the billboard by JewBelong that reads, “Can a billboard stop antisemitism? No, but you’re not a billboard.”
While the messages conveyed in the graffiti were hateful, more importantly, they were erased.
I’m proud of our city staff and want to share the swift action they took to remove the graffiti and track down the vandal. Within an hour of Brookhaven Police being dispatched, our Parks & Recreation crew covered the vandalism with a tarp, and by mid-morning, the graffiti was painted over and no longer visible. Our Public Works department promptly replaced signs that had also been defaced.
After a careful investigation, including meticulous review of nearby video cameras, the suspect in this case was later arrested, thanks to the diligent work of our criminal investigations division. The City of Brookhaven did not hesitate to throw the full weight of its resources into pursuing justice and demonstrating its commitment to stamping out hate.
It is my hope that Brookhaven’s response can serve as a model for all cities to respond immediately and resolutely to acts of hate.
We sent a strong message that hate has no place in Brookhaven.
I’m reminded of the early days of the pandemic when I sponsored a virtual city singalong and art contest titled #BrookhavenStrong. Our community came together in a heartwarming display of unity. That slogan has lived on and even inspired a Facebook page with the same name. I will even go back to the city’s formation 10 years ago, which was based on a commitment to strengthen our community ties and resources.
This foundation of community has paved the way for Brookhaven to become a city of inclusion that also remembers its roots through a number of inclusive endeavors.
Every January, the city honors the Lynwood Trailblazers at our annual Martin Luther King Day dinner. These are a group of brave folks who once attended the segregated Lynwood School, now Brookhaven Parks & Recreation headquarters. They, bravely and at great cost, integrated into the DeKalb School System in 1968. We’re currently planning Black History Month and Juneteenth commemorations.
Brookhaven is also a proud member of the Welcoming America network, which means we seek to include everyone, and that of course includes immigrants. To that end, we’re always working to ensure the participation of our Hispanic population in our city. We translate most of our publications into Spanish, and we have a staff member whose job is outreach to the Hispanic community, which makes up about 25 percent of our population. We have bilingual police and code enforcement officers on staff.
In 2020, I sponsored a non-discrimination ordinance, enacted by our City Council, to protect our residents’ civil rights regarding employment and services. From nearly the beginning of cityhood, our annual Light Up Brookhaven event in December has included dreidel and menorah lightings, as well as booths and performances from our synagogue groups.
I truly believe these messages of love and inclusion are an integral part of the battle against hate and bigotry.
This is just the beginning – I consider these actions first steps. We are a young city. No doubt there is more we can do, and rest assured we are trying. We’d like to hear from you – let me listen to your ideas and suggestions for how we can do better.
We can only be #BrookhavenStrong with you. You can reach me at Linley.Jones@BrookhavenGA.gov.
Linley Jones is District 1 Councilmember and Mayor Pro Tem, City of Brookhaven