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Jon Abercrombie

Jon Abercrombie grew up in the segregated South during the turmoil of the civil rights era. His experiences led to a career devoted to social justice and community building. “These are the things that have shaped me, these experiences with people and their voices.”

Jon Abercrombie’s life work has revolved around building community. His experiences growing up in a segregated South and the turmoil of the civil rights movement deeply influenced his vocation. As a young college graduate, Jon worked with delinquent youth in Memphis, Tennessee. “I remember sitting on the front steps of a public housing project with an African-American mother, giving her advice about how to raise her children and to recruit her support for sending them to camp. I was talking, and suddenly I was looking at myself, and at her, and I realized there was something absurd about a white man from far away telling a black mother how to raise her children, not knowing any of the things that she faced.”

That realization began a lifetime of work focused on building community. “I wanted to live in a world where black mothers came together and decided how to raise their own children, had ownership of their community and the housing they lived in. That was when I came back to Atlanta and got involved with building housing to give people equity, a chance of building separate lives from government dependency.”

“In Decatur, my life has focused heavily on engaging people and giving them a voice. In the late 1990s we started the Decatur Round Tables. These round tables were a way to engage people in changing their community and ensuring that people who had been left out would no longer be left out.”

Jon also began facilitating group discussions with the refugee community in Clarkston about early childhood education. “To be in that space and listen to all of these conversations and deliberations was amazing. In spite of their tragic histories they practiced the best of democracy. That picture sticks with me. These are the things that have shaped me, these experiences with people and their voices.”

At 69-years-old, Jon is in the process of moving into a new phase of his life as he learns to live with Parkinson’s. “With time and love being most valuable to me, I will paint deep from my heart. I will paint to overcome the black and white palette of fear of those we do not know. I will paint with a multi-colored palette to capture the love of the God we do know.”

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