|Community Activist Josie Dean|
|Friday, 01 February 2013 09:46 | Written by Joshua Smith|
‘There’s always something to fight for’
CONYERS—Speaking out at forums, conducting voter registration drives and serving as a community watchdog on a host of issues are just a few things that keep Josie Dean on the go.
“There’s always something to fight for,” said Dean, who serves on Rockdale’s Fire and Rescue Board of Directors, 9-1-1 Board of Directors and the Rockdale Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) committee.
Dean, 53, devotes time not only to serving on various county boards, but growing her own non-partisan, grassroots organization, Think Tank, Inc., to keep residents informed on important local issues. This month, Think Tank is celebrating its one-year anniversary in Rockdale. The organization grew from a handful of people to one that now has about 50 members who meet monthly.
Dean says she first formed Think Tank as a non-partisan group to introduce local candidates who were running for offices in Rockdale. The county was a hotbed of activity during last year’s elections, which ended with the historic victories of eight African American Democrats taking the county’s top offices.
Through Think Tank, Dean pushed for voters to decide based on candidates’ qualifications—not race or party.
“I started Think Tank because I wanted to find a way to unite blacks and whites, Democrats and Republicans, to discuss mutual concerns and work on those issues together,” Dean said. “I wanted to make sure that voters would no longer make uneducated choices about their candidates. You don’t have to vote Democrat or Republican just because that’s what your parents did.”
Dean moved from DeKalb County to Rockdale in 2007. She was among Rockdale’s burgeoning African American population, which mushroomed from 19,006 to 50,389. As more African Americans flocked to Rockdale for more affordable housing and better schools, the white population shrank from 51,105 to 34,826, according to the U.S. Census, and the county turned from red to blue.
Dean says the shifting demographics have forced organizations like hers to work harder to be more inclusive and for her to personally lead by example. Recently, during a meeting, Dean gave inauguration souvenirs to each member of the Board of Commissioners to show goodwill.
“I gave the two Democrats on the board (Oden and Commissioner Oz Nesbitt) keychains with the White House on them because they helped President Obama get there by voting for him,” said Dean. “I gave Republican Commissioner JaNice Van Ness a keychain with the Capitol on it because everyone in politics respects and has admiration for our nation’s Capitol.”
Despite displaying diplomacy, Dean has never been one to bite her tongue on issues that impact the community. At a Jan. 17 Rockdale County Board of Elections meeting, she blasted GOP board member Jonny Brown for a blog he posted entitled “The Little White Plane.” Brown used a metaphor to criticize Rockdale’s historic recent election of eight black Democrats, describing the little white plane that eventually was covered with so much black paint that it became “slow and sluggish.” The blog drew a barrage of criticism from blacks and whites, despite the GOP standing by
Brown to say that he had a right to express his opinion.
Brown wrote in part: “The other planes were having their white paint slowly removed, a little at the time, and being replaced with shiny black paint. The shiny black paint seemed to be the new trend but once it covered the majority of the plane, the plane became slow and sluggish. They were rarely on time and were never under budget, the black paint didn’t do a good job of protecting the plane. It was like it almost encouraged rust.”
“Mr. Brown can’t say that all black people are sorry and lazy and when black people get power, everything goes to hell. I have a problem with that,” Dean said. “We don’t need this kind of stuff coming up. It’s a distraction.”
Dean says now that the elections are over, Think Tank will focus on relevant community issues such as the county’s expected water rate hikes. This month, Dean plans to host newly-elected Rockdale County Sheriff Eric Levett, who will share his vision and his new procedures for county law enforcement. That meeting is set for Feb. 16, 2 to 4 p.m., at Johnson Park, 1781 Ebenezer Road, Conyers.
Dean says the meeting will also serve as a forum to celebrate Black History Month and African American elected officials, including Rockdale County CEO Richard Oden.