Decatur Justice Coalition hosts forum for Decatur candidates


Adrien Tirouvanziam

On Oct. 25, the Decatur Justice Coalition (DJC) hosted a forum for candidates running for election in Decatur. The forum featured Mayor Patti Garrett, as well as two City Commission and four School Board candidates, who answered questions from a variety of groups.


The forum focused on equity and justice initiatives that candidates might be willing to address and advocate for.


Koan Roy-Meighoo is one of the DJC’s co-founders and leaders alongside Julian Fortuna. Both Fortuna and Roy-Meighoo are former Decatur High School (DHS) students and freshmen in college.


“We wanted to hold a forum that was specifically devoted to principles of justice and equity and access because we thought that while certain candidates were kind of framing their campaigns on these principles, there were a lot of candidates who weren’t talking about it as much,” Roy-Meighoo said. 


Alongside these principles was a platform that the organization made for candidates, which only certain candidates signed.


“The Decatur Justice Coalition didn’t endorse any candidates, just because of our organization and the way we’re set up. We had candidates who signed onto our platform, so they kind of endorsed us, if that makes sense,” Roy-Meighoo said.


Though the DJC as a whole didn’t make any endorsements, Fortuna and Roy-Meighoo both personally endorsed School Board candidates Carmen Sulton and Hans Utz, in addition to City Commission candidate Katie Bell. Sulton and Utz won their respective districts while Bell lost to incumbent commissioner Kelly Walsh. 


However, Roy-Meighoo says that the election results do not have much of an impact on the organization’s future involvement.


“I don’t think the Decatur Justice Coalition’s plan is going to change all that much,” Roy-Meighoo said. “Equity is a constant battle, so we know that even if people told us that they would do certain things, it’s still going to be on us to kind of hold them accountable to that, and keep putting forward our proposals.”

The DJC’s main proposal is a two-step approach to equity in Decatur schools. One part is the Justice, Action, Diversity and Equity (JADE) program, which will be implemented in the middle school next school year as a “curricular approach to equity work”, according to Roy-Meighoo. The other is a proposed expansion of the school district’s Department of Equity. 


Currently, the Department of Equity is an initiative within City Schools of Decatur consolidating diversity, equity and inclusion principles. Roy-Meighoo describes the expansion as “a way of making sure our school system has the facilities it needs to see through whatever equity initiatives are coming.”


According to Roy-Meighoo, the organization is not meant to attract new membership, but rather to consolidate many already existing groups in Decatur, including the Student Coalition for Equity, the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights, the Black Parents Alliance and the Special Education PTA.


For that reason, although both Fortuna and Roy-Meighoo were a part of recent events such as the Art for the People project and removal of the cannon at the square, the DJC itself was not technically involved.


“What we see with a lot of these organizations is that it’s the same people, just kind of in different modes and different structures organizing, but of course there’s overlap,” Roy-Meighoo said.


All of this increased activism can be traced back to June 2020, according to Roy-Meighoo.


“It’s easy to see a natural progression of equity work and community consciousness raising since the summer of 2020, when the Confederate monument came down,” he said.


The DJC also wants to host future events with elected officials, where they will check in on the platform.


“[Our role is to] make sure that the dialogue is constant, and that the people are not being misrepresented and spoken for, and instead being listened to,” Roy-Meighoo said.