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When you do a quick google search of the Atlanta Water Boys, you would assume a new form a street thuggery was plaguing the city streets of Atlanta. Penned articles from reputable new sources in the city tell stories of death and destruction, perpetrated by black boys with water bottles. Yes I said water bottles, and that is not slang for some new strain of marijuana; actual water in bottles.

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If you’ve spent anytime in the A, you know it’s a city full of hustlers. Folks putting their feet to some side hustle or grind in hopes of making their dreams a reality. Things are no different for Atlanta’s Water Boys, except the life comes with heavy scrutiny and foul perceptions. Young black men hit the streets and corners with coolers full of water, selling them to pedestrians waiting at red lights. Sounds harmless right? Well not according to many.

According to an article by Gavin Godfrey in Atlanta Magazine, from January to July of 2020, Atlanta Police received nearly 700 calls related to youth selling water.

The calls ranged from harassment, to violence, and even the occasional car accident. Since then, reports have flooded the internet with stories of violence related to black boys selling water. As trivial as this may seem, many of the stories were warranted.

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In July of 2020 Atlanta Police arrested young men for assaulting or threatening drivers and/or passengers in Buckhead. They were selling water on a busy intersection near one of the busiest malls in the city.

A November report on Fox 5 showed horrifying videos of kids jumping on a Jeep and harassing a young woman who was driving. These kids were also selling waters. The pandemic has also added to the communities fears. Four young boys approaching your car windows maskless while COVID still rages on should scare anyone reading this. But, does that ultimately make these kids bad apples?

Are the Atlanta Water Boys actually more of a determinant to the city or are they just getting a bad rap from media outlets? This question plagued me?  Personally, I’ve never had any issues with the Atlanta water boys. They have always been respectful and when I didn’t have any cash for their refreshments, they never gave me any trouble. I’ve even seen them in the Publix buying water to restock their product and they were also respectful to the cashiers.

Quinton Hosch, a local boy who sells water in southwest Atlanta, told WSBTV, that he wants to be a lawyer and a football player and doesn’t want to be lumped in with the bad stigma of the Atlanta Water Boys. Honestly, that stigma is really just manufactured drama. Yes, there are a few kids selling water in Atlanta that cause some problems, but does that mean we demonize young black entrepreneurship, by creating a false narrative that these boys are akin to a street gang?

If you want to read about Quinton Hosch and his twin brother click here.

Some of the most inspirational stories in Atlanta come from the Atlanta Water Boys, and these stories need to be highlighted just as the negative stories do. Meet Benard, Cam, & Tae, three brothers who sell water in Atlanta. Benard, the oldest said he made $17,000 in one summer selling water and that his two younger bothers made $5000. After seeing his sons hustle, Benard’s father helped them invest in a gaming truck to continue their in entrepreneurial spirit.

The boys were full blown business owners and the oldest hadn’t even finished high school yet.

These are the stories young people need to hear when they see, “Atlanta Water Boys ‘in the headline.

Check out Benard and his brother’s full story below:

I admit, selling water on the side of a busy intersection or highway is very dangerous and safety for all citizens should be the city’s highest priority. But stifling a young black mind with demonizing stereotypes is just as bad, if not worst. Some city officials agree and have already proposed solutions to stop the arrests of these young boys and give them resources instead of handcuffs. Devin Barrington-Ward, a community organizer in the city of Atlanta and a member of Mayor Keisha Lance Bottom’s Taskforce to Reimagine the Atlanta City Detention Center, wants the city to protect these future business leaders by creating a youth vendor program. His program would:

  • Create youth vendor permits with a discounted fee.
  • Provide free youth vendor permits to young people who sign-up to participate in a youth focused vendor training. Youth would be paid by the city for participating in the training and the training would focus on the essentials of entrepreneurship, motorway safety, and how to do business with the city.
  • Scout potential high traffic, high visibility locations outside of highway exit ramps that can serve as new and safer locations for youth to sell goods.
  • Provide signage on highway exit ramps that direct motorists to where they can buy goods from local youth vendors
  • Issue new guidance and directives to the Atlanta Police Department for how they can prevent arrest and redirect non-compliant youth to the youth vendor program with support from the Atlanta-Fulton Pre-Arrest Diversion Initiative.

Click here to read more about the youth vender program.

If Ward’s program is enacted, the Atlanta Water Boys could finally see a positive turn in their public perception and maybe even learn a thing or two about good business. Supporting these young entrepreneurs is the best way to help Atlanta continue to grow into a blossoming black Mecca of opportunity for young black boys. If you are ever in Atlanta and see a the Atlanta Water Boys, give them a $1 and buy a water. And when you do, know you had a hand in growing the next great business leader in America.