redefinED Atlanta Announces Ayana Gabriel as It’s New Board of Directors Chair-Elect

redefinED atlanta, an education nonprofit dedicated to ensuring that every student in Atlanta has the opportunity to attend a great public school, today announced Ayana Gabriel has been selected as its new Board Chair-elect, effective January 2022, and that it has added Denesha Thompson to its staff as the Director of Public Engagement and Advocacy. 
“We are excited to welcome Denesha to our team, as she brings many talents gleaned from her years in the classroom, as a teacher-leader and family liaison, and a social justice activist that will help us continue our community outreach and advocacy,” said Ed Chang, executive director of redefinED atlanta. “We are also very thankful to the continued support of our Board of Directors and look forward to working even more closely with Ayana and the other members as we enter this next phase of our growth.”


Academy tackles tough issues with shared reading


Wesley International Academy’s Melanie Dillett-Dukes was looking for a way to start a meaningful conversation about events in the news. And she wanted to have that discussion with her colleagues first.

“After the trauma of black and brown people was broadcast to the world, I proposed to my executive director that we have a serious conversation,” she said. “We have a mixed staff, and we’re a predominantly black school with about 750 students in kindergarten through eighth, but we didn’t have strong, meaningful conversations on racism, inequities and oppression. We needed to start talking about racism and how it impacts students, teachers and parents.”

Dillett-Dukes suggested the staff read “Stamped,” a book by Jason Reynolds that was published last summer to tackle just such complex topics.

“We started off as a staff book club,” she said. “But we also saw how the next generation was ready for change. This was a book that both staff and middle schoolers could dive into.”

Last fall, the academy began hosting “equity journey gatherings” for the 80-plus teachers, staff and administrators.

“Initially we thought we’d have more pushback, but everyone was open and willing and ready to dig into these conversations,” said Dillett-Dukes. “Once a month we had activities to get people going deeper into identity and privilege, and how they intersect with relationships across races.”

By March, the teachers began sharing the book with middle-schoolers.

“A team planned a unit to flesh out what we wanted the book to be in the classroom,” said Dillett-Dukes. “They used poetry, creative design, whatever students wanted to connect to the book.”

Chloe Jones, 14, was an eighth grader when the book was introduced and was happy to read it.

“In light of all the protests that happened prior to the school year, I felt it needed to be discussed in our classroom, and I really wanted to see how my classmates felt about it,” she said. “I didn’t know exactly how the book was going to talk about things, but I was excited to learn more.”

Jones said she learned a good bit about how history and leaders relate to race issues. “It talked about things that aren’t often taught, but it’s important for my generation to be aware of these issues to hopefully change the future for the better.”

Ainsley Odle, 13, had read “Stamped” before it was introduced in class. “But this time it gave me a different take, and I was able to go more in depth about the topics with my friends,” she said. “We even talked about it outside of school. It really forced me to look at myself and my views.”

The students’ connections surprised even the teachers. A survey of the young readers revealed they had stronger feelings about treating others better and understanding where people come from. They also were keen on sharing the book with their parents who then engaged faculty and staff in conversations, too.

“Sometimes you don’t always get that ‘aha’ when you know they get it,” said Dillett-Dukes. “But that was my joy in leading this conversation.”

Information about Wesley International Academy is online at


Atlanta Bicycle Coalition fights to make Atlanta travel safer


“The pandemic exacerbated inequities of place and resource that many Atlantans already experienced before March 2020,” said Margaret Mullins, the admin and communications coordinator of Atlanta Bicycle Coalition.

The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition is a nonprofit that works for equitable and sustainable transportation in Atlanta through programs like Bike Family which provides bike safety education and resources to second graders and their families in school communities located along Atlanta’s high-injury network, the area of the city where planning and policy make it significantly more dangerous to travel.

“One’s ZIP code, race or income should not impact the likelihood of getting hurt or killed while trying to get somewhere. Atlanta’s high-injury network findings show that our least safe streets are not evenly distributed — around 88% of Atlanta’s traffic fatalities occur on less than 8% of Atlanta’s streets — disproportionately affecting neighborhoods with higher shares of Black residents, lower median incomes and more families without access to a car,” said Mullins.

By working to affect policy change like its Vision Zero plan — a safe systems approach that sets a goal of zero traffic deaths — and providing bikes, bike safety classes and bike safety equipment, the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition is working to close the safety gaps in the Atlanta community, which gape even wider in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We really miss connecting in-person with the community through classes and group rides, but we’re also grateful that virtual platforms made it possible for us to safely continue providing resources to help Atlantans move safely, easily and sustainably throughout the pandemic,” said Mullins. “It is important to us that all Atlantans have access to livable lifestyles that safe, sustainable transportation affords.”

Who’s helping?

The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition

Services: The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition works to provide bikes and bike safety training and equipment to people along Atlanta’s high-injury network, the areas of the city where planning and policy make it more dangerous to travel.

Where to donate: Make a monetary donation at, or visit the Ways to Give page.

How to get help: Learn more and sign up at

This Father’s Day, Celebrating the Dads of Fathers Incorporated

Fathers Incorporated launched in 2004 to show how dads positively affect children’s personal development including educational outcomes. In 2016, the nonprofit group kicked off a new aspect of its programming, Real Dads Read, in a creative and effective setting: barbershops.

“Our program is a two-generation approach to engaging and improving outcomes for both men and children where they are bonding and spending time through literacy,” said Fathers Incorporated founder and CEO Kenneth Braswell.

The program enables fathers to share books in the barbershop that are intentionally chosen to be culturally relevant for African-American families. The children can also take the books home for free. 

“At the time, people were not ready to hear and talk about fathers in the endearing way that they talk about moms and children,” Braswell told the Atlanta Business Chronicle last year. “But that has changed in recent years, as has the perception of what it means to be a father today.”

Fathers Incorporated’s core values emphasize the role of father figures in supporting their children holistically through the promotion of Responsible Fatherhood.

“Masculinity is not what it was 30 years ago. Now, not only can fathers be protectors and providers,” Braswell told the Chronicle, “but we can also be nurturers, and being nurturers is just as important to us as the other things are.”

Building on its early success, Real Dads Read grew from 20 barber shops to nearly 100 barbershops and Atlanta Public Schools throughout Metro Atlanta and Columbus Georgia. 

Then COVID hit. People were not coming to barbershops anymore, and Fathers Incorporated had to figure out how to reach families. With the support of a grant from the redefinED atlanta Innovation Fund, Fathers Incorporated was able to adapt by offering an adaptation of our Real Dads Read Curriculum guided from a parent’s position.

Teaming up with the Atlanta Public Schools Police Department and the creation of the Real Dads Read Mobile Units, officers helped deliver more than 1,400 books to families in underserved neighborhoods. The mobile units focus on reaching African-American children during the summer months when schools are not open. They’ll head back out later this month. 

The mobile units expanded the reach of Real Dads Read while tapping into and strengthening the relationships APS police officers have built within communities.

“Our community deeply values the role dads play in our children’s lives. Black fathers in Atlanta and Columbus are breaking stereotypes and redefining their roles as parent figures, which is inspiring and empowering,” said Braswell. “There’s nothing they can’t do, and the success and wellbeing of their children proves it. I’m proud that Fathers Incorporated has been able to support them.” 

Learn more about Fathers Incorporated and Real Dads Read at

Photos courtesy of Fathers Incorporated.