Women Power: African-American Females Are Playing Major Role in Preparing Atlanta for the Olympic Games

Ebony, July 1996 | Go to article overview

Women Power: African-American Females Are Playing Major Role in Preparing Atlanta for the Olympic Games


IN THE high-stakes, male-dominated world of preparing a city for the Olympic Games, where multimillion-dollar deals are cut on a daily basis and calamity lurks around every corner, there is no room for the faint of heart. On the front lines of Atlanta's Centennial Olympics--already being dubbed "the greatest international sporting event in the history of the world"--are several African-American women, heading some of the most critical departments responsible for preparing the city for the more than 2 million visitors expected to descend on the Georgia capital this summer.

Among the top women in the "Olympic loop" are airport general manager Angela Gittens, development experts Clara Hayley Axam and Hattie Dorsey, public housing director Renee Glover, city Olympic coordinator Susan Pease Langford, Sheriff Jacquelvn Barrett and Police Chief Beverly Harvard.

These women say that through the leadership of Atlanta's past three mayors--Andrew Young, Maynard Jackson and Bill Campbell--the city has been able to look past race and sex and judge Black women on their ability. "We've come to a point, particularly in government, where one's ability weighs more than gender and race. That's a testament to certain males in the city," Glover says. "The fact that there are a number of African-American women who are in leadership positions points to the fact that there is an appreciation for what we can contribute to society."

Other Black women heavily involved in Atlanta's Olympic effort are: Anita DeFrantz, a member of the International Olympic Committee; Shirley C. Franklin, Olympics senior policy advisor and managing director for local government, community relations and equal opportunity programming; Doris C. Isaacs Stallworth, city managing director for local government; and Kay Y. Wallace, deputy chief operating officer for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games. Top Black men include Dr. LeRoy T. Walker, president of the U.S. Olympic Committee; Byron Marshall, chief Operating officer for Atlanta; Morris J. Dillard, city managing director of operations, and Douglas Hooker, the cuty's commissioner of public works.

"We know that we're good," says Police Chief Harvard, who will head thousands of security personnel during the 17-day Olympic Games, which have been held in the United States only three times before. "We weren't put here to get political mileage for someone or to serve as figureheads. We're good. It's as simple as that."

Hattie Dorsey, who heads the Atlanta Neighborhood Development Corporation, says Black Atlantans, particularly women, have proven they are true leaders. "We speak up. We take risks," she says. "We see an opening and put our foot in it and push the agenda."

PUSHING the agenda is something Beverly Harvard is accustomed to doing as the first African-American woman to head a big-city police department. She will now have the awesome task of providing security for the millions of visitors to Atlanta during the Olympics. Harvard says security will be watched closely and perhaps will be the most challenging task of the Games. "Ever since the [terrorism] incident [during the Olympics] in Munich, security has taken on a life of its own," she says. "Security has become a major issue in the Olympics."

Harvard compares her Olympic security mission to that of providing security for the country. As a result, she has instituted 19 subcommittees responsible for areas such as intelligence, bombs, traffic, transit and aviation security. She is responsible for coordinating thousands of law enforcement personnel, from police officers and military personnel to FBI and U.S. Customs agents, while at the same time continuing police service to Atlanta residents. But with the Olympics only days away, she is confident that all has been done to make the Games safe.

SECURITY also will be the responsibility of Fulton County Sheriff Jacquelyn Barrett. To prepare for the Olympics, Barrett traveled to Israel to see firsthand what that country is doing to combat terrorism. …

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