There Is No Cop City in the Beloved Community:

An Open Letter from Members of the Morehouse College Faculty


February 2, 2023


As members of the Morehouse College faculty, we have grown accustomed to consoling and counseling our students as they attempt to grapple with cycles of police brutality. Year after year, as Black people continue to be abused and killed at the hands of the police, jailed and surveilled in barbaric ways, we struggle to make sense of it all. We struggle to help our students determine where we go from here.


But events that have transpired in Atlanta in recent months—specifically, the City’s initiative to build a $90 million police training facility, commonly known as “Cop City”—give us a clear indication of where we need to direct our energies. Atlanta, our home town, has become the epicenter of the struggle over the future of policing in America. Now is the time to STOP COP CITY.


The proposal for a new police training facility was publicly announced in 2021, at a time when the nation was still reeling from the killing of George Floyd and a broad coalition of concerned citizens demanded that cities and states defund the police. Last fall, the Atlanta City Council formally approved the project, what amounts to a massive new investment in the police, despite widespread public opposition. In a city that is rapidly losing its famed tree canopy, the project is also environmentally disastrous; it would require the clearing of 85 acres of Atlanta’s lush South River Forest. Plans call for shooting ranges, spaces for militarized drills, a Blackhawk helicopter landing pad, and a mock city complete with buildings and roads to allow the Atlanta Police Department—as well as other police agencies drawn from all over the region—to practice urban warfare tactics along the lines of the SCORPION unit in Memphis or the TITAN squads in Atlanta. There is an undeniable and direct relationship between the fate of Michael Brown and George Floyd as well as Tyre Nichols and the pending plan to build Cop City.


Let us not delude ourselves: Cop City, if built, will result in more death and destruction at the hands of the police. Indeed, the Cop City project already has blood on its proverbial hands. On January 18, 2023, as authorities conducted a sweep of the forest site, police shot and killed protestor Manuel Terán, known among friends as “Tortuguita,” under very suspicious circumstances. Details of the tragedy remain sparse. As we mourn Tortuguita’s death, we call for an independent and transparent investigation of the incident.


In times like these, the name of Morehouse’s most famous alumnus is often bandied about, typically in an effort to tame a groundswell of rage, to channel the righteous frustration of Black and working-class people into nonviolent modes of protest. But we must not sanitize the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who sought to expose and challenge the “triple evils'' of racism, militarism, and materialism; taken together, King opposed the commodification of Black bodies and he understood that police violence was a pernicious because systemic problem. “Armies of officials are clothed in uniform,” he said in 1964, “invested with authority, armed with the instruments of violence and death and conditioned to believe that they can intimidate, maim or kill Negroes with the same recklessness that once motivated the slave owner.”


It is telling that Cop City is slated to be developed on the site of the Old Atlanta Prison Farm. Before the site was sold to the City of Atlanta after the Civil War, it was a slave labor camp. And before that, the Weelaunee Forest of the Muscogee Creek people. The trail of tears is not a thing of the past.


We must listen to and learn from this history. We must study how state violence directed against Black, Indigenous, People of Color [BIPOC]—as well as working-class people of all colors—reproduces itself in different ways over generations. We must listen to the voices of those most affected by police violence and abuse. Our civic leaders have not done this. On the contrary.


Georgia has the highest rates of correctional control of any state in the nation by far, twice as many as almost every state, at 5,143 per 100,000. Only New York City’s police foundation raised more money in 2020—and that was before Atlanta’s fundraising roughly tripled in 2021. Atlanta is the most surveilled city in America. It is the most economically unequal major city in America. King said in 1967 that “a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” Today, we say that a city that continues year after year to spend more money on policing and urban warfare than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.


King claimed in 1966 that “only a refusal to hate and kill can put an end to the chain of violence in the world and lead us toward a community where men [and women] can live together without fear. Our goal is to create a beloved community, and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.”


Strangely, we tend to celebrate Atlanta—and the so-called “Atlanta way”—as a Black Mecca. As an alumnus of Morehouse and a luminary of Atlanta, Dr. King articulated an inspiring vision of the beloved community. The dream has become a nightmare: There is simply no place for Cop City in the beloved community.


We, the undersigned members of the Morehouse College faculty, call upon our civic leaders and fellow educators in Atlanta to denounce Cop City, to take immediate action to cancel the project, and to respond to the will of the people—and not merely the wealthy and well connected—in determining the character of our communities and the conduct of those who claim to serve and protect us.






Corrie Claiborne, PhD

Associate Professor of English


Andrew J. Douglas, PhD

Professor of Political Science


Kipton E. Jensen, PhD

Associate Professor of Philosophy & Religion


Nathaniel Norment, PhD

Professor of English


David Wall Rice, PhD

Professor of Psychology


Adrienne Jones, PhD

Assistant Professor of Political Science


Sinead Younge, PhD

Professor of Psychology


Melvin Foster, DMA

Associated Professor of Music


Cindy Lutenbacher, PhD

Professor of English


Elizabeth Topping, PhD

Visiting Assistant Professor of English


Nathan Nobis, PhD

Professor of Philosophy & Religion


Clarissa Myrick-Harris, PhD

Professor of Africana Studies


Stephane Dunn, PhD

Professor of Cinema and English


Samuel T. Livingston, PhD

Associate Professor of Africana Studies


Haile M. Larebo, PhD

Associate Professor of History


Taura Taylor, PhD

Assistant Professor of Sociology


Adria Welcher, PhD

Associate Professor of Sociology


Monique Earl-Lewis, PhD

Associate Professor of Africana Studies


Ruihua Shen, PhD

Professor of Chinese Language and Literature


Jann H. Adams, PhD

Professor of Psychology


Vicki Crawford, PhD

Professor of Africana Studies


Haakayoo Zoggyie, PhD

Associate Professor of Modern Foreign Languages


María Korol, MFA

Assistant Professor of Art


Nia Reed, PhD

Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology


Karcheik Sims-Alvarado, PhD

Assistant Professor of Africana Studies


Ida Rousseau Mukenge, PhD

Professor Emeritus of Sociology


Avery O Williams, MFA

Assistant Professor of Cinema, Television & Emerging Media Studies


Kinnis K. Gosha, PhD

Professor of Computer Science


Tina R. Chang, PhD

Associate Professor of Psychology


Ulrica Wilson, PhD

Associate Professor of Mathematics


Wallace Sharif, PhD

Assistant Professor of Biology


Alexandra Peister PhD

Associate Professor of Biology


Abdelkrim Brania, PhD

Professor of Mathematics


Kristin Moody, EdD

Education, Leadership


Yohance Murray, PhD

Assistant Professor of Psychology


Tuwaner Lamar, PhD

Assistant Professor of Mathematics


Nathan Alexander, PhD

Assistant Professor of Mathematics


Mikki Harris

Associate Professor of Journalism


Justin S McClinton, PhD

Visiting Assistant Professor of Leadership Studies


Ervin China, PhD

Adjunct Professor of Mathematics


Cynthia Hewitt, PhD

Professor of Sociology


Levar Smith, PhD

Assistant Professor of Political Science


Keisha Tassie, PhD

Associate Professor of Communication


Chuang Peng, PhD

Professor of Mathematics


Masilamani Sambandham, PhD

Professor of Mathematics


Felicia Stewart, PhD

Professor of Communication Studies


Natasha Howard PhD

Assistant Professor of Communication Studies


Dominique Thomas, PhD

Adjunct Professor of Psychology


Emily Leithauser, PhD

Visiting Assistant Professor of English


Michael Simanga, PhD

Visiting Assistant Professor Africana Studies and History


Jason Jones, PhD

Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology


Tanya Clark, PhD

Assistant Professor of English