In 1992, two teenagers were killed in Eatonton on the same night. Soon after, a young woman from out of town was hit and killed by stray bullet. The murders were never solved, written off instead as an incident of “black on black crime,” says Georgia Smith, but for the resolute Eatonton woman and other local mothers, the violence was too much.
“We had a meeting the Sunday morning after that girl was killed, and we had about 40 people there,” Georgia recalls. “Then we had another meeting, and about half that number was there. Then another. Then another.”
Eventually, the number winnowed down to just a dozen women from the community who would form a local group dedicated to finding a way to steer Eatonton’s children in a better direction. A quarter-century later, Mothers Against Crime continues to reach out to young people in Eatonton, and Georgia Smith is still serving as the organization’s president.
“Still what I remember the most of all the things we’ve done over 25 years is the march we had down on the Strip,” Georgia says.
At the time, the Strip was an area in Eatonton’s black community known as a hangout for young people to buy and sell and use drugs.
“Not only young people, but older ones, too,” Georgia points out. “In 1992, we marched the Strip, and we made everybody aware of what was going on. Channel 13 and Channel 24 (both Macon television news stations) came out and televised it as we marched.”
That was the big moment – a march through the rough part of town when Georgia and the other women of Mothers Against Crime threw down the gauntlet and let folks know that they intended to establish a new influence in Eatonton’s poor neighborhoods.
Mothers Against Crime is a non-profit organization that doesn’t take government grants. Even so, over 25 years MAC has given 69 scholarships to area students to attend college.
“We’re so proud,” Georgia says. “The very first recipient of one of our scholarships went to college and then decided to come back here and teach in our school system. Felicia Waller Watkins, she was the first person to get a scholarship from us, and she’s the art teacher at the primary school.”
Between donating scholarships, Mothers Against Crime also tries to be a positive influence on younger children. In the summer, there’s a big cookout and swimming party at Oconee Springs Park. At Christmas, MAC hosts a Christmas party at the Putnam County Recreation Department, and every kid from age 4 to 18 who attends gets a Christmas present. There’s a back-to-school party at Montgomery Homes each year where MAC donates school supplies to the kids so they can go back to school with the supplies they need to be successful.
Over a quarter of a century, Mothers Against Crime has reached thousands of children, and one of the critical pieces, Georgia says, is that the kids know that the members of the organization always have an open-door policy.
“The door of communication is always open. I was raised by my grandmother, and I believe in the village concept,” Georgia says. “There were lots of people in my neighborhood who helped my grandmother raise me. And I know, that sometimes there are things you can talk about to somebody else that you can’t talk about to your mama or daddy. I know there were things I couldn’t talk about to my grandmother.”
Georgia is quick to point out that the Mothers Against Crime have not been alone in their mission.
“We have been so blessed because law enforcement supports us 100 percent,” she says. “The schools support us 100 percent. The churches do the same thing. Everywhere we go the firefighters go with us, and the ambulance service. They volunteer to come and help. And that’s so important to me because our main word, the word that means so much to me, is ‘unity.’”
Georgia points out, too, that the cause that Mothers Against Crime stands for transcends race and gender.
“We have white and black members, and we have men who are members, too,” Georgia says. “We try to teach young people to break this racial thing, and that’s part of what we talk about when we talk about unity.”
For 25 years, Mothers Against Crime has sought to bridge gaps between communities in Eatonton, has honored local law enforcement, and has tried to give young people a hope for a brighter future.
“We’re just plain, down-home folks, and what we’re trying to do is show young people a different life and be there for them if they need us.”
Mark your calendar:
Gospel Singing at Putnam County Middle School featuring Kindred Spirits and more regional musical groups. Tickets are $10 and proceeds benefit Mothers Against Crime.