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Michelle Lockhart

 

"Resilience, and grace, no matter what you're going through, keep your head up. Fight fair, no matter what you're dealing with- fight fair, but fight."

 

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Michelle Lockhart

Ashby Combahee  

So my name is Ashby Combahee and I am here with Dartricia Rollins. Today we are interviewing Michelle Lockhart for the Telling Our Own Stories: Black Women’s Leadership Legacies event. Today is September 23rd, 2023. And Georgia Dusk, which is a southern liberation oral history project is conducting this oral history at 7 Stages Theatre and Little Five Points neighborhood in Atlanta. So you have been asked to participate in the storytelling project, to uplift the stories of Black women and their lineage of radical leadership in part of the film screening of Storming Caesar’s Palace. Storming Caesars Palace, the film uplifts the story of a band of ordinary Black mothers who launched one of the most extraordinary yet forgotten, feminist anti poverty movements in US history, providing a blueprint today for an equitable future. So this oral history collection is in partnership with The GRO Fund, filmmaker Hazel Gurland-Pooler, Red Owl Partners, Tender Foundation, Black Feminist Futures, the Center for Civic Innovation Atlanta, Represent Georgia, and WRFG Atlanta. So with all that being said, Michelle, can you please introduce yourself by saying your full name, your pronouns and your age? 

Michelle Lockhart  

My name is Michelle Lockhart, my pronouns are she/her? My age is 42.

Ashby Combahee   

So I’d like to start things off by asking. Who do you dedicate your oral history to?

Michelle Lockhart   

My mother?

Ashby Combahee   

What was your mother’s name?

Michelle Lockhart  

Annie Lockhart

Ashby Combahee  

And I said was she what is her name. 

Michelle Lockhart  

It is was. 

Ashby Combahee   

Okay. Where are you from Michelle?

Michelle Lockhart  

I’m from Atlanta, Georgia.

Ashby Combahee   

What neighborhood?

Michelle Lockhart   

I’m from East Point, but then I moved to Fourth Ward. Yeah.

Ashby Combahee   

So who are the key people in your life?

Michelle Lockhart   

My Aunt Judy Lockhart, Mabel Guys Willis. My Aunt, I call her aunt Smith, but my aunt Catherine. And those are like the the primary?

Ashby Combahee   

Yeah, yeah. Sounds like all Black woman. 

Michelle Lockhart   

Yeah, yeah. 

Ashby Combahee   

What are the values that they taught you and that you hold today?

Michelle Lockhart   

Resilience, resilience, and grace, no matter what you’re going through, keep your head up. Fight fair, no matter what you’re dealing with fight fair, but fight. Don’t just, you don’t have to fight every single battle. Don’t start fights. You don’t have to fight every fight. But if you don’t stand for anything. We all know that quote. We know the quote. You have to stand for something. My aunt when my mother passed. Well, first I was my mother’s caregiver for a long time. My mother was forced to raise me by herself because my dad was murdered. So when my dad was murdered, that took a toll on my mother mentally, then, inadvertently, physically. So I had to take care of her in my teen years up until my early 20s. And then so she passed. And so Mabel and my aunt stepped up. And they stepped up. And they’re the ones that kept the foundation, solid. I had them I’ve always had them around all my life but they became stronger, a stronger presence after my mom’s passing.

Ashby Combahee  

So part of the work that you do, which we don’t ask it directly, so I would like to ask can you talk about what is the work that you do and how did you get involved with this organization?

Michelle Lockhart

Okay, so I do a couple of different things. So I’m gonna speak quickly on two of the things that I do. So I work with women, because I am a woman. Okay. I work with children because I love children. So I got connected through the people over at the Old Fourth Ward was called the Old Fourth Ward Economic Security Task Force. I was working with a group of women through a grant that was designed to keep children out of foster care. So out of that, I was working with a lot of women and we were like mobilizing doing all kinds of stuff. And so that opportunity came up to build the In Her Hands. And so did that for about maybe three years. Then another opportunity came up with an all father hood organization, I say so wait a minute. We can’t have conversations about fixing foundations without including the men. Because as the film shows, the men were an integral part of what my father got killed. So my mother had to be my mother and my father, our father is supposed to protect the house. So without my father being there, and with my mother being sick, I had to step up. And not only be a caregiver, but also the protector, the provider, I was working two jobs when I was a teenager. So I had to do all of that. So for the men that are alive, and not, and they’re not a lot allowed to see their children. Those are the brothers who I help, too. So I help the women with whatever they need help with. And I have the brothers. And I oversee a project called legitimation process. It’s based here in Atlanta [redactedthrough Fathers Incorporated, so I help dads get in the lives of their children. So I help on both sides. And I help from because the inner child in me knows what it’s like to be unprotected out here without a father to protect you from all this stuff. Right? So if you’re alive, and you want to be in your children’s lives. I’m gonna make sure you’re in your children’s lives. So I partner with lawyers all over Georgia, I partner with community resources to connect these men who need help with anything, the fathers, that need help with anything, the same way I’ve traditionally have been helping women for the last 30 something years, because I used to work at the battered women’s shelters, and I did food distribution I’ve done so much for women. And to be honest, I’m a woman. So yes, I was like, I wasn’t really thinking about what the men were going through. But they’re going through a lot of stuff. So when we talk about repairing a community, and establishing a stronger foundation, you have to incorporate both, you need both, whether you like that parent, or you don’t like that parent, you need both just like the brothers demonstrated in the film, they have to show up and have our back. And the women have to have their backs to. 

Michelle Lockhart  

Yeah, so I work with a federal, it’s called Healthy Marriages and Responsible Fatherhood it’s out of Washington DC, we work with a federal grant $150 million grant, we don’t have the actual 150. But that’s how much is dispersed to entities like the one I work for, to ensure that we’re encouraging healthy relationships, and responsible fatherhood. So we focus on co-parenting, legitimation. And just wraparound services around mental health and everything else. So once again, all those services that are laid out traditionally, for women at every corner, like a liquor store in the hood, or church in the hood somewhere. We provide that I provide that for the fathers in Atlanta.

Ashby Combahee  

Absolutely.  So you’ve already touched a good bit on the work that you do and meeting kind of immediate basic needs for people. 

Michelle Lockhart  

Yeah. 

Ashby Combahee  

And, you know, part of the focus of The GRO Fund in particular is guaranteed income. 

Michelle Lockhart  

Yeah. Yeah.

Ashby Combahee  

And so one of the questions that we asked that I want you to think about both like tangibly right now, but in the future, is what might a guaranteed income or direct cash support mean for you and your family or your community?

Michelle Lockhart  

I don’t think I would be eligible for it. To be honest with you. If now if the President say we’re going to give it to everybody, I will gladly take it. But for the community, from what I’ve seen thus far, and I actually did the focus group for one of the pilots. So I know that it may be there’s pros and cons to it. But let’s talk about the pros. The pros, you have more times to to be creative and get off that hamster wheel. Because we’re always going. So when you have a little extra cash to do something, you don’t have to work a second job. You can focus on your child’s PTA meetings, you can volunteer in the community, you can go up to the state capitol and knock on the legislators door. You know, you have more time to do stuff. Some people operate in chaos. I’m one of those people, no matter what’s going on. If I see something needs to be done, I’m about to hop out this hamster wheel. Now I gotta go do this. I’m gonna jump on another hamster wheel and make sure that gets done. I just prioritize all these hamster wheels. But some people can’t do anything while they’re on that hamster wheel. They’re depressed, they’re sick, and they eventually stay on it until they just die. And they can get they can’t get anything done. So what I think guaranteed income will do for the community. I think that it will and what I what I actually saw, it inspired people to start thinking about school, it inspired people to have new ideas as to how they can fix their communities. So I know for a fact it takes the burden off of the primary, the primary, the primary custodian, well the custodial parent, and the funny part is in other countries will guarantee income with two parents in the household, even if the male is selected for the transfer, he gives the transfer to the wife to manage. So even with the women receiving the transfers, that’s a more stablized house, period. Nobody’s stressing as much as they were stressing before. So just a little bit of help. And the reason I I’m an advocate of guaranteed income is because my mother while she was sick all those years, they would not approve her for Social Security, or I mean, disability, they will not approve her. She got denied twice. I had to fight for her. I was a jit. And I had to fight for her. I was writing letters to judges and everything. And they finally approved, they finally got her approved. But just before we got her approval, I was washing her clothes in the sink. You know, I was like, I mean struggle struggle, like third world country struggling because it was hard. I was a kid, right? So I think guaranteed income, especially for people who are disabled who can’t work. And for people who are working who still need extra because they don’t have the adequate training, certifications, or they just haven’t had the time to slow down and think and be available, that new business, they can start. That book they need to write that thing they need to do, their purpose. Right. And that’s what I see for a lot of people. They’re thinking now about what they can do. They’re thinking and it’s it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful. Yeah, I haven’t seen anybody doing anything crazy, like buy like a Mercedes Benz or anything crazy. Like people are really, they stay to themselves now. But if they know a few people, that may have gotten it because you know, it’s sort of dispersed and everybody can get it. But when the stimulus checks came out, and everybody knew everybody had it, it was like a family reunion. Like everybody had that money. So it makes a difference in the crime. It makes a difference in a whole lot of stuff when everybody has money in their pocket. Yeah.

Thank you, Michelle. I’ve answered most of my questions, is there anything you want to add Dartricia?

Dartricia Rollins  

Thank you.

Michelle Lockhart

Alright. 

 

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