ATL Identity: Business, Trade, and Transportation

On a recent trip to Charlotte, North Carolina, I had the opportunity to take in the city’s art and restaurant scene, which I would HIGHLY recommend to anyone for a weekend.  More than just giving me loads of inspiration, the visit called me to reflect/question how a city’s identity is constructed.  Does the run of the mill Jane Smith typically reflect more on the history of a city or the trends of the present before she visits?  And what draws people to each city?  What makes them move there?  What makes them stay?  What drives them away?  Me?  I like low taxes and a great art scene.  I like walkability and commerce.  Others like quiet and quaint, picturesque views and still more love the hustle and bustle of of big city life.  As I focused my lens on Charlotte, I tried to think how my own city projects itself to the world.

Atlanta-rolling-1871Atlanta has a rich history, long before rising from the ashes of the Civil War.  My city, named Terminus, for its rail identity was one that sprang up from necessity of business, trade, and transportation.  Long before she ever became the Gateway to the South, Atlanta was buzzing with people moving to and fro, selling their wares and has always had a more transient population as a result.  Locals here know there are few true “native” Atlantans, as most Georgians coming from small towns move here to either try their hand at making it “big” in the “big city” or to escape the narrowness of living in a small town straight out of Faulkner.  My story was similar: farm girl grows up in Social Circle.  Studies hard in small town and attends the women’s’ college (Agnes Scott College) in small town close to bigger city.

I always like to ask people I meet why they moved here.  I know why I did, but I assume different strokes for different folks.  The resounding answer I tend to get is for “jobs” and the opportunity for upward mobility.  Is this legacy of a business oriented city still true?  Are we really a city that allows outsiders to come in and pull themselves up by the bootstraps to “make it”?  If so, how are we continuing to foster that image and promote growing business?

Atlanta has done a great job of promoting itself as a city “too busy to hate” and a place whose Mayor tries to be responsive to his business community.  Most recently, Mayor Reed had his Bobby Kennedy moment in the spot light as he tried to calm the #BlackLivesMatter movement protests in the streets.  In many ways, he navigated the storm well, with respect for the protestors and the blue line.  The moment Reed welcomed peaceful protests in the streets of Atlanta while asking them to stay out of the expressway was a moment I was truly proud of him!  I wish more people in the nation had the opportunity to see that side of our city.  In a city with a black mayor, a black city council, county commission and school board, we know from the bottom to the top that #blacklivesmatter here.

Mountaintop moments did not end in Atlanta with MLK, Jr. Continue reading “ATL Identity: Business, Trade, and Transportation”

Superbowl 50: The Ladies’ Political Platform

Super_Bowl_50_Logo.svgSo there was a little football game this past weekend.  Not sure if you caught it, but in the midst of the pigskin throwing, the millions of dollars in ad buys and the simple joy of watching Peyton Manning win again, there was a little political statement made by a couple of ladies in unexpected ways.

For beginners, Lady Gaga, who is known for her outlandish costumes, audacious lyrics, and unwavering support of the LGBT community gave an outstanding rendition of our nation’s anthem.  She stood (all 5’1”) in a simple yet sparkly pantsuit and sang her heart out in a performance that brought many unexpectedly to tears.  She was the picture of modern grace and patriotic pride in her red pantsuit (reminiscent of a certain female Presidential candidate) and simple stud earrings.  Her eye makeup, nail color and shoes were the only hints of stepping out of line with the outfit otherwise à la Jackie O with a modern twist.  The element of surprise here was not then what she was wearing, but how powerful her voice and presence is without adornment.  Implicitly, this nation building moment also highlights the changes in the country since we last gathered for this game- the SCOTUS ruling of marriage equality.

Maybe it was just a song, or maybe this was a platform for a much larger statement on how we define ourselves as Americans. Continue reading “Superbowl 50: The Ladies’ Political Platform”

Red Clay and the Challenge of Equality: To Be Mired In or Molded

georgiaredclayThe holiday season is drawing to a close, and soon the legislative session for the Georgia General Assembly will be upon us.  As the state closes out its year, we look to the future and what promise or plague our policy makers will bestow upon us.  I have spent an unhealthy amount of time this season pondering the fate of Georgia, as if I have any real means of addressing it.  I have not blogged in some time, as I have had little hope that the politics of the day are bearing anything other than strange fruit.  It is hard, even for an eternal optimist in these days of constant rain to see the silver lining.  Across the red hills, I see a lot of barriers that not only exist, but are perpetuated without real cognizance of their consequence.

Along with the temperature, I see the passion of Georgia’s people heating up like a kiln.  Many of us in the political sphere refer to this time as “the calm before the storm” of legislative session.  We spend time with our families, count our blessings, and prepare ourselves for the battle of will in government.  Under the surface though, there is something simmering here and in the nation that Presidential candidate Donald Trump and the Black Lives Matter movement have accentuated and possibly exploited.

It is widely assumed that the upcoming session will be brief and not much policy other than education passed.  Incumbents need time to raise money and campaign in their districts.  This abbreviated session may be a mixed bag of course, addressing a big problem, yet not the only one the state faces.  I am grateful to see the QBE funding formula finally addressed (as the last time was almost before my birth), yet I cannot shake the very real feeling I have had for the last five years or so.

The General Assembly is thinking too small. Continue reading “Red Clay and the Challenge of Equality: To Be Mired In or Molded”

Baltimore Reflection

When I woke up this morning, I found myself trying to sort out the sequence of events that led to the riots last night in Baltimore. How did we get here? Who are we to blame? How do we fix this? In situations like this we often look for a villain. Who is at fault for the justice system shortcomings resulting another headline about a black man murdered by a police officer without justice? Who should be held accountable for the destruction of Baltimore neighborhoods?

Protests that started off as peaceful outcries for answers in the death of Freddie Gray shifted to images of anarchy. What we saw last night was the culmination of frustration, hopelessness and pain not necessarily over the loss of Freddie Grey but over a system of governing that is failing both the community and the justice system.

A few bad apples have spoiled the image of men and women who put their lives on the line to “protect and serve” the community but we cannot point the finger at the police alone. The failure I see in the police system is the systems inability to weed out the individuals who have tarnished the image of a profession that was once held sacred. Systemic corruption and lack of leadership has led to an abuse of power by individuals in authority resulting in mistrust and fear of the people who are trained to protect us from our fears.

On the flip side we also have the community to blame. On a night that should have been marked by candle light vigils in memory of Freddie Gray, members of the community were setting the streets of Baltimore ablaze. Masked as an outcry for justice, a few opportunists took advantage of the atmosphere and robbed the Grey family of the spot needed to bring justice for their lost loved one. As with the police system, a few bad apples have tainted the efforts of community leaders; feeding into all the negative images of black communities. The media perpetuates these negative images as cover stories for likes on social media and newspaper sales but we must keep in mind these are not the images of people seeking justice.

One image from last night I hope people do not forget is the image of leaders and protesters, not looters, standing in between the police and the crowds. These are the individuals the media should focus on as these are the images of what I believe is the solution.


Our communities, not just the black community, is suffering from a deficit in leadership. Young leaders go to college, equip themselves with the best education and abandon the neighbors they grew up in. Speaking from personal experience, I remember the leaders who helped raise me in the community and reinforce the lessons my parents taught me in the household. Those were the people who symbolically stood in the gap between me and poor choices on occasion. Those individuals were also elected officials who came to visit us in middle and high school during lunch on occasion outside of election season.

One of the solutions to the anarchy last night is more authentic leadership in our communities nationwide. Last night we saw a culmination a perfect storm: the abuse of power by a few bad police officers, youth angry by a system and not wanting to be the next Freddie Gray story mixed with leaders who have the understanding of how to fix a system by standing in the gap ignoring the two elements coming together.

My biggest fear is there are too many perfect storm scenarios waiting to explode across America and like other protests that have gotten out of hand, the events of last night will also be a forgotten thought by the leaders who are equipped to address it. The state of communities like Baltimore across the nation is too fragile to be ignored. We need leaders willing to stand in the gap like the ones we saw last night. Teach the youth how the system works and apply legal action to the justice system so that it works for the community again and honors the police who do their jobs effective. We need less talk by community leaders and more action. While we procrastinate on stepping up to the plate of leadership, more perfect storms of frustration are brewing in Jacksonville, Chicago, Los Angles, Milwaukee, Atlanta, etc. We need to take the steps to move our communities from frustration and anger to hope and action. Until we start teaching the youth that the system will not work unless we citizens educate ourselves, exercise our right to vote and hold elected officials accountable to doing the jobs we elect them to do we will continue seeing more outbursts of riots like we did last night.

Also, let us not forget the message that is being overshadowed by the events of last night. Freddy Grey, may he rest in peace, your life matters as do all black lives and every human life. Let us also be patient while the system works its course, demand transparency during the process, remain vigilant towards any misconduct during the process and take appropriate action to avoid more loss of life through the abuse of power in the justice system.