By Itoro Umontuen
February 23, 2022 was declared Ahmaud Arbery Day in the state of Georgia, and on that very day, inside the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones announced the formation of a scholarship in her late son’s honor.
The Ahmaud Arbery Foundation will give out six scholarships to a select group of seniors at Brunswick High — the same school her son graduated from in 2012. The scholarships will be worth $3,000.
“The Ahmaud Arbery Foundation is a nonprofit organization centered around the mental wellness of Black boys,” Cooper-Jones said. “The foundation is designed to raise awareness and educate an advocate for the mental wellness and wellness of Black boys, and we believe in helping to create opportunities for young Black men to further their education, to start a business, to simply build your life… Something I’m honored to have the chance to do.”
During the first year, The Ahmaud Arbery Foundation will give out six scholarships. Cooper-Jones said they are hoping to expand the program to more recipients in the future.
“When we hear the name of Ahmaud Arbery, we will now hear and think of change,” she said.
Arbery was hunted down and slain by Travis McMichael and Greg McMichael on this date two years ago. Their friend, William “Roddie” Bryan, filmed the heinous act. Each man received life sentences in a state trial.
The McMichaels and Bryan were found guilty in federal court for their hate crimes.
Cooper-Jones railed against the Department of Justice for offering a plea deal. The father, 66, and son, 36, agreed to plead guilty to hate crimes charges and be sentenced to 30 years in prison in exchange for being moved to a federal prison.
“My son was killed because of someone else’s perception of Black men, my Black son,” she said. “The Ahmaud Arbery Foundation was established so what happened to Ahmaud won’t happen to another Black man.”
The legislation created in the Georgia House of Representatives has dedicated February 23rd as Ahmaud Arbery Day. It was sponsored by Representatives Sandra Scott of the 76th District and four others. The resolution also encourages individuals to jog 2.23 miles annually to advocate for racial equality.
“Mr. Arbery was a known athlete prior to the senseless loss of his life because of the color of his skin,” Scott said as she read the resolution. “Mr. Arbery was a loving son, brother of Jasmine Arbery, uncle, grandson, nephew, cousin, and friend who left an impact on countless Georgians and Americans; and a compassionate and generous man, Mr. Arbery will long be remembered for his love of family and community; and the State of Georgia overturned the citizen arrest law that was written in the 1800’s.”
Georgia’s hate crimes bill was signed into law on June 27, 2020. According to the bill, its purpose is defined as a crime involving bias or prejudice because of a victim’s perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability, or physical disability.
Prior to its passage, Georgia was one of four states (Arkansas, South Carolina and Wyoming) that did not have hate crime laws on their books.
“It is my honor to serve others in this way in recognition of my son’s life. Let us always remember Ahmaud Arbery,” Cooper-Jones said.
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