The “Beloved Community.” The term, and the vision it represents, was made popular by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the height of the civil rights movement. In many of his speeches, Dr. King spoke about its meaning - a world where poverty, hunger and homelessness would not exist and where racism, bigotry, prejudice and discrimination would be replaced by love and brotherhood.
The Beloved Benefit, held on March 21, was inspired by the Beloved Community and its possibility for Atlanta. Hosted by the Chick-fil-A Foundation and the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, it was created to unite Atlanta to support a historic but struggling part of Chick-fil-A’s hometown – Atlanta’s Westside.
Once a thriving part of the city, an important meeting place for the civil rights movement, and home to many of its leaders, this historic community has since suffered from disinterest and disinvestment.
But, change is happening.
A look back, and forward
Since 2012, the Chick-fil-A Foundation has invested heavily in the Westside. By developing partnerships with local nonprofits, investing in existing efforts and creating new programs, the Foundation is helping to strengthen and restore this community. As an extension of this work, in 2018, Chick-fil-A opened its first restaurant in the Vine City community, in the heart of the Westside. The Vine City Chick-fil-A is one signal of the company’s continued commitment to investing in this neighborhood and its residents. The Beloved Benefit is another.
One evening, lasting impact
Led by business and community leaders including Dan Cathy, chairman and CEO of Chick-fil-A, Inc., former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young and Arthur Blank, the goal of the Beloved Benefit was to celebrate the transformational work already being done to revitalize the Westside, raise funds for the organizations at work in the community, and to unite Atlanta around the Westside’s continued progress.
“The Beloved Benefit was born out of the mission to fulfill the vision of the Beloved Community, to celebrate the life-changing work already underway and to build a foundation for collaboration on the work still left to be done in Atlanta’s Westside,” says Rodney Bullard, vice president of corporate social responsibility for Chick-fil-A, Inc. and executive director of the Chick-fil-A Foundation. “After all, what affects one of us impacts all of us.”
Nearly 2,000 Atlantans from many walks of life gathered for the inaugural Beloved Benefit. Citizens and celebrities, leaders and Westside residents, clergy and professionals were united, seated side by side.
Rev. Bernice King kicked off the evening, sharing how her father’s vision for the Beloved Community is possible for the Westside. Other presenters throughout the night included Congressman John Lewis, T.I., CeeLo Green and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Special performances included a presentation by children from the Westside and featured entertainment by musical guests Emeli Sandé and Bruno Mars.
Even among the evening’s electric performances and compelling speeches, the most extraordinary part was its impact. With all event costs underwritten by the Chick-fil-A Foundation and Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the more than $5 million raised at the Beloved Benefit will directly benefit local nonprofits serving Atlanta’s Westside community.
Supporting those hard at work
Five local nonprofits were identified as “Beneficiaries” and will receive grants out of the funds raised through the event. The nonprofits recognized as Beneficiaries include:
These organizations are currently at-work in the Westside – City of Refuge for more than 20 years - providing support to the community through job training (Westside Works), specialized services and activities for youth (At-Promise Youth and Community Center) and much more.
Along with the five Beneficiaries, ten additional organizations were recognized as “Community Beacons.” These organizations are smaller nonprofit organizations that are also working to create opportunities across Atlanta’s Westside.
The Atlanta Music Project, which provides intensive, free music education to underserved youth, was named one of this year’s Community Beacons. The results of the program’s work in the community were evident as 50 students took the stage for an awe-inspiring performance at the event. The organization empowers underserved youth to realize their possibilities through music by providing intensive, tuition-free music education in their own neighborhood.
“Being a Community Beacon was one of the highlights of our existence as an organization,” says Dantes Rameau, co-founder and executive director of the Atlanta Music Project. “Our students understood that they not only were performing on this stage, but also were part of a show that would help to raise money for their own community.”
Another Beacon, the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation, was celebrated for its work in creating safe and stable homes and families by providing equal access to attorneys committed to fighting for justice.
“Beyond the needed funding, getting to be a part of the Beloved Benefit was an incredible opportunity to learn about and meet other partners committed to making a difference on the Westside,” says Michael Lucas, deputy director of the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation. “Impact comes from meaningful partnerships, so we really appreciate what an important opportunity this event represents.”
The full list of this year’s Community Beacons includes:
The Beloved Benefit is set to take place for the next two years as an annual gathering of Atlantans to catalyze continued support of the Westside community. To learn more about the Beloved Benefit, visit belovedbenefit.org