By Joel Hall
For a second year in a row, Hearts to Nourish Hope, a Riverdale-based non-profit group dedicated to educating youth, will symbolically bury Clayton County's negativity.
The annual Peace and Unity Walk will take place in Riverdale this Saturday, from 9 a.m., to 4 p.m. As with last year's march, the event will give young people a chance to confront Clayton County's negative-image problem.
Deborah Anglin, executive director of Hearts to Nourish Hope, said the organization's mission is to help youths develop life-and-career skills, and the march teaches students how to express themselves in a constructive manor.
"We encourage our students to speak out in their community," said Anglin. "They want to reach out to the community and say that they want the violence to stop and the unity in our community to be brought back. I think it's important that we demonstrate to students how they can positively make a statement to their community and demonstrate their wants and needs and views."
Anglin said the county is in the headlines for such topics as the loss of Clayton County Public School's accreditation, crime, and high foreclosure rates, but it has also produced socially conscious youth.
"There is a lot of frustration [among] our youth today, because they are involved in something positive, but that doesn't get the attention of the media," said Anglin. "[The march] is not only a platform to speak, but it is also a way to get their message in the media."
Starting at 9 a.m., on Saturday, marchers will gather at Riverdale City Hall, located at 6690 Church St. From there, participants will fill a casket with negative words and thoughts associated with Clayton County, written on sheets of paper.
The casket will then be marched to the office of Hearts to Nourish Hope, located on 345 Scott Road. From there, 250 white balloons with positive things to say about the county will be released into the air, completing the ceremony's motto, "bury negativity and release positivity."
From 10:30 a.m., onward, the ceremony will become a celebration with games, food, face painting, music, a free throw competition, as well as a "Battle of the Bands" competition. Drumline teams from North Clayton, Mundy's Mill, and Mt. Zion high schools will compete for a chance to win $250 for their school.
Matthew Medlock, a senior at Lovejoy High School, participated in last year's Peace and Unity Walk. He believes the event will have a "big impact" on the community.
"I think lots of things need to change for the better," said Medlock. "In my neighborhood alone, the crime rate is going up. A lot of people are stealing stuff.
"If we all get together, this problem can be squashed," said Medlock.
For more information about the Peace and Unity Walk, call Hearts to Nourish Hope at (770) 997-4517.