The Freedom Georgia Initiative

After Ashley Scott, a realtor from Stonecrest, Georgia, and her friend Renee Walters found 96.71 acres of land for sale in rural Georgia, the two successfully lead 19 families through the collective purchase.

Scott told Insider that this tumultuous year had left her feeling “distraught” and “looking for ways and opportunities to make a change and to feel more empowered.”

When they found the land, Scott said they envisioned “a place where we can all be proud and have human dignity, honor, respect, and equity amongst our Black people because we have Black talent.”

The Freedom Georgia Initiative was then born and has since kicked off the land’s development, which will span the next three to five years to include everything from installing Wi-Fi and water before planning residential, retail, and recreation areas.

In less than a month, two women turned a viral news story about a small Georgia town for sale into the foundation for a new Black-centric community with the idea of freedom at its core.

Ashley Scott, a realtor from Stonecrest, Georgia, told Insider that events that rattled the US this year — George Floyd’s death in police custody in late May and the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic — had left her feeling “distraught” and “looking for ways and opportunities to make a change and to feel more empowered.”

“I had recently started going to a therapist at the time and we were actively trying to figure out a way, in the midst of protest and a pandemic, of how we could be the change we wanted to see,” Scott said.

In June, Scott’s friend Renee Walters spotted a news story advertising the 700-person town of Toomsboro, Georgia, for sale. Reports of the town being for sale have repeatedly popped up over the past several years and Toomsboro Mayor Joyce Denson clarified to local outlets that the town itself wasn’t for sale, but nearby land was.

As Scott described it, the pair saw the sale as an opportunity at a listing price of $1.7 million, for “the same amount for a small apartment in New York, you could own a whole city.” The two pitched some friends and family members for a collective purchase, and the Freedom Georgia Initiative was born after 19 Black families successfully purchased the 96.71 acres of rural land.

Scott wrote in an op-ed for Blavity in August about how the group saw the land as a chance to “start fresh” with “a city that could be a shining example of being the change you want to see” by supporting Black families and companies.

“We wanted to be more involved in creating the lives we really want for our Black families,” Scott wrote. “And maybe, just maybe, create some generational wealth for ourselves by investing in the land. Investing in creating a community that is built around our core values and beliefs.”