Hear Every Voice

Dear Friends,                                                                              


On August 20th, it will have been 400 years since slavery began in Jamestown. In addition to suffering other unspeakable cruelties, those enslaved men and women’s voices and their futures were stolen from them.  Three weeks ago, a group of religious, educational and community leaders came together in Atlanta. Then and now, the hope was to join others all over the country in considering what this bitterly painful milestone demands of us in shaping our nation’s future. We are inviting you to join us.

The conversation over the past three weeks has come together in a collective effort now identified as Hear Every Voice with audio and video resources to be as widely shared as you see fit. We continue to believe that a failure by adults to acknowledge the persistent legacy of inequality and listen to the voices of all of our children lets them down in a profound way and carries our nation’s history of inequity forward. The science is unequivocal.  The impact of stereotyping on children of color begins early and impacts societal expectations. Inflicting silence on children rather than teaching them to listen and guiding them to use their words to engage with others is devastating to their ability to read and learn – and so much more.  This moment calls for our collective resolve to hear and honor our children’s voices, across our schools and houses of worship, across our city, our state and our country. It is time to make and keep a new promise of freedom for all of our children in the 5th century that begins this week.

We hope these resources -- which include age-appropriate extension activities for children -- provide a useful framework, spark ideas and start conversations that matter all across the city. Of course, all schools, faith communities and other organizations will decide individually how they are used, if at all, over the next month and beyond:

  • Under the theme of “shine and share your light:” opera singer Tim Miller, who sings “God Bless America” at the Braves games, has arranged and recorded a special rendition of “This Little Light of Mine.” Please listen here: Timothy Miller Sings "This Little Light of Mine" We believe it forms the core of a meaningful and impactful experience for preschool through elementary age children and their teachers: celebrating each child’s “light.” One set of extension activities (see attachments) is designed for the younger children to enjoy at some point after hearing, singing and dancing to the song. Another set of activities is for older children – still to be used in response to the song. Lastly, and on perhaps the most important level, the intended audience is the adults who are responsible for charting our children’s courses. The more the children have the chance to “shine” and share their joy and their gifts, the more we hope that we, the adults in their lives, will finally get the message to see them in their full potential and hear them -- every one of them.  

  • Students of Grady High School have produced a set of thoughtful school-wide reflections on the meaning of this juncture in their lives: Hear Every Voice: Grady Students. We expect these spontaneous interviews – as well as Tim’s audio -- will be embraced widely by adults, in the days and weeks ahead. For example, Grady’s history teachers plan to use the video throughout their classes so that they can engage as many of their students as possible and extend the experience of the several dozen who created it. Our hope is that Grady will share it and the extension activities they design with middle and high schools acrossAtlanta and well beyond it.

  • Jerry Parker, principal of Usher Elementary School, has recorded a call to four minutes of silence and reflection for adults to act upon sometime during August of 2019 in remembrance and with resolve that our children will never be silenced again: Jerry Parker: Hear Every Voice.

Taken together, we hope all this work marks a beginning, as we embark on a new school year and a Fifth Century.


Rabbi Peter S. Berg, Senior Rabbi, The Temple      
Mindy Binderman, Executive Director, Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students
Stephanie Blank, CEO, the Naserian Foundation
Meria Carstarphen, Superintendent, Atlanta Public Schools
Greg Cole, Executive Director, Emmaus House
Dr. Walter Gilliam, PhD, Director, Yale University’s Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy
Nancy Flake Johnson, President & CEO, Urban League of Greater Atlanta
Soumaya Khalifa, Executive Director, Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta
Dr. Ami Klin, PhD, Director, Marcus Autism Center; Professor and Division Chief, Emory University School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics
Lauren Koontz, President & CEO, YMCA Metro Atlanta
Robin Kranz, Founding Partner, Brownieland Pictures
Milton Little, President, United Way of Greater Atlanta
Dennis Lockhart, President, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta (ret.)
Malcolm Mitchell, Super Bowl Champion and Children’s Book Author
Christopher Moses, Director of Education & Associate Artistic Director, Alliance Theatre
Daniel Pedersen, Chairman Emeritus, Alliance for Early Success
Blythe Keeler Robinson, CEO & President, Sheltering Arms Early Education and Family Centers
David Roemer, CEO, Ideas Unlimited
Mariela Romero, Regional Director, Community Empowerment, Univision Communications
Jill Savitt, President & CEO, National Center for Civil and Human Rights
Doug Shipman, President and CEO, Woodruff Arts Center
Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, PhD,  President Emerita, Spelman College
Dr. Julie Ann Washington, PhD,  Director, Communication Sciences and Disorders in the College of Health and Human Sciences, Georgia State University
Rev. Raphael Warnock, PhD, Senior Pastor, Ebenezer Baptist Church
Arianne B. Weldon, Get Georgia Reading Campaign Director, Georgia Family Connection Partnership
Comer Yates, Executive Director, Atlanta Speech School

Please click here to download the Hear Every Voice activities.