Historic Oakland Foundation has partnered with Sweet Auburn Work’s Heroes Walk for Illumine. In this interview, Executive Director and Main Street Manager LeJuano Varnell talks about his work in the historic district and his vision for its future.
Tell us about the origins of the Heroes Walk.
Just over three years ago, Sweet Auburn Works (SAW), a preservation-based economic development organization for the Sweet Auburn Historic District, realized that residents and visitors of any neighborhood experience it best while being outdoors. As a result, SAW launched the creation of a placemaking initiative called the Heroes’ Walk, a 1.1-mile curated pedestrian experience designed to ensure that a walk in Sweet Auburn will be one of your favorites in Atlanta.
What is your vision for the Heroes Walk?
In addition to adding new public art, playscapes, canopy, and wayfinding, the Heroes’ Walk will highlight well over 100 years of remarkable African American commercial and civic success that arose as a response to the restrictions of the Jim Crow south. For example, that “separate but equal” environment helped birth the country’s first African American-owned radio station in Sweet Auburn, WERD Radio. It was the ethos of these successes that blazed the path for a young Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., also born in Sweet Auburn, to help change the world.
Where should someone go to learn more and get involved in the project?
If you are interested in learning more, please sign up for updates from SAW at www.sweetauburnworks.com.