Civic leader says to look forward rather than back at history

By Justin Boron

While students take an extra look at the achievements of blacks this month, Charles Grant, who has been a Clayton County community advocate for 40 years, says young people need to be inculcated into the future of diversity in the county.

This month, which grew out of African Americans' absence from the history books, devotes extra educational hours and several memorials to broaden the spectrum of black's inclusion in history.

But Grant, 77, said history no longer needs to be the larger emphasis for inclusion.

"Things have changed. This is a new day," he said.

Grant worked tirelessly in the 1950s and 60s to ensure that people in Clayton County were registered to vote.

He said he saw too many people complaining without expressing themselves politically.

That day has irrevocably changed.

Clayton County has undergone a demographically-based political shift that has provided a new era for blacks in the community, he said.

"That's not something we should abuse," Grant said. "We can no longer use the color of our skin as a crutch."

He said blacks are obligated to use this empowerment to fulfill new destinies in their education and professions.

"We need to have more black males going to college than incarcerated," Grant said.

As an air conditioner salesmen and a substitute teacher in the 60s, he was leader in the civil rights movement and has carried his mission into the development of a community service organization aimed at helping the county's underprivileged.

His work as director and founder of Clayton County Community Services Authority has brightened the horizon of many disadvantaged and minority individuals by affording them a platform of social services from which to jump to self-reliance.

He has been honored for his work numerous times and was named after a future thoroughfare in the northern part of the county. Formerly Aviation Boulevard, the road will eventually wind from Interstate 75 to Interstate 675.

Black History month guides the general public through the numerous, historical achievements of blacks.

Grant said these outline the spirit behind the month, but should not become the focus.

Instead, they should be used as examples of the direction of the black community and all of society should take.

"In drawing attention and placing the spotlight on blacks, we have an opportunity," he said. "Instead of seeing what I can get out of society, ask what can I contribute to society," he said.

Like many of the county's black politicians such as Eldrin Bell, he urged unity, saying the month of education about blacks should bring about more interaction between the community's diverse population.