Hometown Country Cookout honors Kirkwood community, residents
According to East Atlanta natives Alleah and Ayansa Salone, leaving a legacy is about impacting your community one small act of kindness at a time.
“Legacy is generational—the food you eat has a recipe that has been brought down generation by generation and it still tastes wonderful,” Ayana said. “That’s legacy. When you’re put on this Earth, you have a legacy to put on. Your mother, father and grandparents try to build a legacy for you and it’s up to you to carry it on.”
“It’s the little things that happen day by day, week by week that can add to your character,” Alleah said. “
Alleah, 22, and Ayana, 19, are the founders of Mother’s Legacy, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that advocates for education, charity, financial literacy and the arts. The sisters founded Mother’s Legacy when they were 16 and 13 in honor of their grandmother, Leila Johnson, who began missionary work at the age of 12.
“She was very much a pillar of her community,” Alleah said. “She gave back in multiple ways, whether it was through church or a community organization.’
Alleah and Ayana decided to follow in their grandmother’s footsteps and become active community members in Kirkwood. The result is Mother’s Legacy.
Every other year, Mother’s Legacy hosts the Hometown Country Cookout—a celebration of community through food, fellowship and family. The cookout—set to take place this year on Sept. 3—provides school supplies to those in need, hosts a dance contest, a macaroni-n-cheese cook off, and other family-friendly entertainment in a block party setting.
“It started with my family wanting to get together and honor my grandmother, honor family and just have a good time,” Alleah said. “It has evolved. It now encompasses the entire community.”
“We don’t go to a lot of family reunions ourselves, so we thought about getting our friends and family to come together like we used to in older times,” Ayana said. “Then we started to celebrate people.”
Alleah and Ayana say the cookout is a chance to recognize past, present and future community members who have made a positive impact. In 2015, Mother’s Legacy honored longtime residents Thelma Faverand, Carrie Cook and Gussie Mae Lowe for being “legendary mothers, grandmothers, caretakers, providers, motivators, spiritual leaders and inspirational women.”
While Alleah and Ayana did not name who will be honored this year, the pair have a list of lifelong residents who have bettered the Kirkwood community through business ownership, charity work, anecdotes or church activity.
“These are people who have been in this neighborhood for so long who just give back,” Ayana said. “They have so much knowledge and we want to appreciate them for being there.”
The 2017 “Legends” include Willie Mae Hardy, Cassie Nell Edwards, Louise Hall Robinson, Henry Thomas Austin, Jesse Dixon, Rose Mitchell, John B Davis, Velma Speakman, Sarah Fitten, Rosa Holmes, Jasper Brooks and Thelma Virgil.
“They have so many awesome stories,” Alleah said. “We’re always intrigued by those who gave back to the community without being asked, whether it be through serving our country or serving people in the neighborhood—people who have made their mark here.”
Alleah and Ayana said they hope the honorees provide Cookout attendees with a perspective on communal progress and inspire neighborhood residents to do more for their community.
This also applies to young entrepreneurs at the Hometown Country Cookout, who will receive their own honor from Alleah and Ayana. Business majors themselves, the sisters consider young economic minds exceptional among their peers. One example, Courtney Gage, is a high school girl with her own dog-sitting business.
“What are kids doing in the community, like what we did when we were younger?” asked Ayana. “There are kids starting their own businesses. We’re celebrating kids while they’re young, but they didn’t get that drive and that push [from nowhere]. That came from their parents, which came from their grandparents. That’s legacy.”
“We’re always looking for young people who have a passion for something and have created a business for it, whether that’s making popsicles, bracelets or selling something else they’ve made,” Alleah said. “These are kids who go beyond the usual activities of students.”
Other young entrepreneurs being considered include Trinity Moreland, 5, who operates a cotton-candy business, and Jaida Elise Jackson, 8, who has a bracelet business.
Alleah and Ayana say everyone is invited to the 2017 Hometown Country Cookout. The sisters have been preparing since March for the largest event since its beginning in 2010, planning out the menu and developing partnerships with sponsors.
“This isn’t so much a gathering, but a celebration of people who deserve it,” Alleah said. “People are attracting to it, understanding what it is, and coming out in forces. We hope people take away a renewed sense of family and community.”
For more information on the 2017 Hometown Country Cookout, visit www.motherlegacy.org.
Alleah and Ayana Salone founded Mother’s Legacy and the The Hometown Country Cookout in 2010 when they were 16 and 13, respectively. Photo by R. Scott Belzer
Willie Mae Hardy
Willie Mae Hardy, 109, will be honored at this year’s Hometown Country Cookout as a local legend. Photo submitted.
Trinity Moreland, 5, will be honored at the Hometown Country Cookout for her business, Trinity’s Tasty Treats. Photo submitted.
Courtney Gage, 15, will be honored at the Hometown Country Cookout for her dog-walking business.
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