Black residents of a planned community in Fayetteville, affiliated with a studio involved in various Marvel productions, are filing a discrimination lawsuit against their community. They say previous efforts to address problems over the past four years have failed. GPB’s Amanda Andrews explains.

Residents of a new residential community in Fayetteville, Ga., are pursuing legal action against leadership for racial discrimination. The lawsuit filed this week against the Town of Trilith and Trilith Studios claims the community failed to uphold its promise for residents to “feel at home” and be able to “live work, and find fulfillment in every way.”

The Town of Trilith is a development of about 300 homes and 1,000 residents, developed and managed with Trilith Studios to service the entertainment industry. Both organizations are jointly owned by the family trust of Dan Cathy, former CEO of Chick-Fil-A.

The plaintiffs include five current and former residents. In the lawsuit, they claim they faced assault, racial slurs, and had police called when they use community amenities. The Homeowners Association is also alleged to reject design choices from Black owners and ignore requests to repair damage to their home.

Aubrey and Pamela Williams were among the first groups of people to move to Trilith in July 2018, but they moved away in July 2022. Aubrey Williams said the discrimination he faced felt like betrayal after the couple had done promotional videos for the Town at Trilith neighborhood.

“As a result of those things, people actually moved there,” he said, “you know, based on what we were saying and our recommendation. And so, you felt used. You felt like they used you as bait, you know?”

The plaintiffs are being represented by attorneys Michael Smith and Daniel Beer of Atlanta law firm Sinton Scott Minock & Kerew.  Smith said he’s grateful to help intervene before the alleged racism could escalate.

“A lot of times I'm brought in once the worst has happened," Smith said. "So, once somebody's been killed, somebody has had a bad injury. And so, I don't think we should have to wait.”

Keyania Otobor is a plaintiff who moved to Trilith after she saw the Williams' videos. In March, Otober was called a racial slur and assaulted by a community member who's alleged to have a history of discriminatory behavior.

The following week, a community meeting was held to discuss the incident with other Trilith residents. The plaintiffs also reached out to the Trilith Studios leadership and Dan Cathy, but no action was taken.

After that, Otobor said she had no choice but to take legal action because, she said, ignoring racism is dangerous.

“You're asking for something to take place because you're emboldening people who could do whatever they want to do and say whatever they want to say," Otober said. "Because what are the repercussions? Management is not doing anything, and everyone sees that.”

Trilith Studios has a partnership with Disney, Marvel and Netflix and the Fayetteville studio was used to film the Marvel Studios movie Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and its 2021 TV show The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, among others. Attorney Micheal Smith said there’s a disconnect between the entertainment produced — both those productions feature Black leading and supporting characters — and the experience of residents.

“You cannot profit off Black stories in entertainment but not care about Black lives that are in your backyard, living there with you every day,” he said.

Plaintiffs are seeking financial damages and looking for improvements in management to make the community more safe.


Trilith Development said in a Nov. 17, 2022 statement that the March 2022 incident involving Otober went against what the organization stands for. “We condemned it immediately when it occurred, including in communications to our community and directly with the Trilith resident.“ Trilith created a Resident Advisory Council with a 24-hour phone line for residents to report concerns.

Trilith Studios said the plaintiffs in the lawsuit had no relationship with the studio, and that the studio tries to provide resources to creators of all backgrounds.