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Serving DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry and Rockdale Counties

Volume 19 Number 3

may 1, 2013


Crush of DeKalb cityhood proposals include ‘City of Stonecrest’


By Valerie J. Morgan

ason Lary is leading the way to create a new city in DeKalb County’s far Southeast. He envisions a City Hall there, a civic center where cultural arts and conferences can be held, communities where property values are solid and a place where commerce is king. The new city of Stonecrest is on the horizon, says Lary, who has gotten the support of Sen. Ronald Ramsey, Sr., whose District 43 includes the Stonecrest area. Ramsey has filed a bill— Senate Bill 278—to start what he calls meaningful discussions about

the possibility of cityhood for the Stonecrest area. Sen. Jason Carter, District 42, and Sen. Gail Davenport, District 44, are co-sponsors of the bill. “I’m doing what my constituents asked me to do. It is something that we will look at during next year’s Legislature, but we will start discussions on it this summer,” Ramsey said. Lary, who lives in the Stonecrest area, says he became interested in the creation of Stonecrest as a city, as he waited for a civic center that never came and as he saw his property values plummet. “I can’t get a loan against my

house to send my son to college. It’s underwater,” said Lary. “We’ve got to bring the property values back up. We’ve got to have people who are focused on our area. We need that civic center.” Lary says three meetings are scheduled this summer, starting June 10, for residents to learn more about the city of Stonecrest and to give their input. Stonecrest is not the only new city that could be created in DeKalb. This month, State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) is leading a town hall meeting where

See Cityhood, page 6

Photo by Glenn L. Morgan/OCG News

Jason Lary has designed a city seal for the City of Stonecrest as a way to promote community meetings that are scheduled in June, July and August.

Turning 109

Rockdale’s Mary Lee Sharp surfs the internet, sends emails, watches YouTube By Mackenzie N. Morgan

CONYERS—At 109, Mary Lee Sharp wears a hearing aid and uses a walker to get around now. But she hasn’t let that slow her down. Sharp is a New Age centenarian who plays online games and communicates through e-mails. She even loves watching funny videos on YouTube. “We email each other just about everyday,” her son, John, who is 75, said matter factly.

Recently, the Garden House, the assisted living facility where Sharp lives in Conyers, hosted a surprise party to honor the centenarian on her 109th birthday. Escorted by her son, Sharp posed for pictures as her guests arrived one by one, some steadying themselves on canes, while others rolled in a squeaky symphony of wheelchairs and walkers. “Ma Sharp,” as she is affectionately called, greeted family, friends, elected officials, and the media in the cozy dining hall while a CD of classical artist Vivaldi’s “Summer” played softly in the background. “She was totally surprised. She didn’t realize we were having a party for her until she walked in,” said Mike Meyers, executive director of the Garden House.

See Sharp, page 6

Ma Sharp enjoys good conversation, classical music and getting dolled up.

Photo by Mackenzie N. Morgan/OCG News

DeKalb’s AJ Hawkins headed to Kansas City Chiefs

AJ Hawkins and mother, Mia, stop for a quick pose before the beginning of church service.

Bishop Gary Hawkins recognizes his nephew, AJ Hawkins, for being chosen by the Kansas City Chiefs at an April 28 church service.

By Joshua Smith

AJ Hawkins tried to spend April 27 as if it was just any other Saturday. While the rest of his family watched the 2013 National Football League Draft at their DeKalb County home, Hawkins played video games alone in his bedroom, not knowing that he would receive a call that would change his life forever. The call from the Kansas City

Chiefs came around 8:30 p.m. and Hawkins stepped outside on the front porch to answer his cell phone. When he walked back inside, his mom, Mia, erupted into shouts of praise as he broke the good news. “Bless the Lord!” exclaimed Mia Hawkins, who had been anxiously waiting and praying for her son. Hawkins, usually quiet, couldn’t contain himself. Signed as a free agent to the Kansas City Chiefs, Hawkins

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took to social media to express his excitement. “Blessed…Kansas City let’s get it!!!” Hawkins wrote on his Twitter account. “I look forward to putting in more work, training hard and officially becoming a Kansas City Chief.” A product of DeKalb County’s Martin Luther King High School, Hawkins graduated from the University of Mississippi in Oxford. On the Chiefs, he will join fellow Ole Miss Rebels defensive back Kendrick Lewis, wide receiver Dexter McCluster and nose tackle Jerell Powell. “It feels good to not be in suspense, in the dark about it anymore. I should be getting a call soon from the team about working out and coming to the facilities in Kansas City,” said Hawkins.

Hawkins’ dad, Aaron, said he is excited about the next chapter in his son’s life. “We’re all so proud of him. We went to all his college games, no matter where they were in the country. I haven’t missed a game, home or away, since A.J. started playing at the age of 3,” said Aaron Hawkins. “We’ve got some major traveling to do now, but we plan on attending several games and rooting him on as much as we can, no matter where we are.” Hawkins, who is 6’3 and 311 pounds, ran a 4.9 in the 40-yard dash at his March 7 Pro Day in Mississippi. He plays numerous positions on the offensive line and started every game at right guard for the Rebels during the 2012 season. AJ’s uncle, Bishop Gary Hawkins, Sr., founder of Voices of Faith Ministries, called AJ to the pulpit on Sunday morning so that the congregation could uplift him and offer words of encouragement and support. “We know AJ is a little shy, so he won’t brag or boast, but we are just so proud of him,” said Bishop Hawkins, who oversees five Voices of Faith locations. “I know that the Lord will use AJ’s talents and maximize his strengths as he continues on his path to play at the next level.”

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Community News

may 1, 2013  Volume 19, NO. 3 EDITOR/Publisher Valerie J. Morgan GENERAL MANAGER Glenn L. Morgan Staff Writer  Joshua Smith Advertising Manager  Richard S. Hill About Us 

On Common Ground News is published twice a month on the 1st and 15th by On Common Ground, Inc. The newspaper serves DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett, Rockdale and Henry counties. The opinions expressed by writers and contributors are not necessarily those of the publisher or the newspaper’s advertisers. No portion of this newspaper may be reproduced in any form without the written permission of the publisher. We reserve the right to reject material and advertisements we deem inappropriate.

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MARTA plan: Gradual fares slated, public restrooms to reopen Policy to ban ‘knuckleheads’ effective 2014 By Valerie J. Morgan

ATLANTA— MARTA customers would get fare increases in small injections, more station restrooms would reopen and a zero tolerance policy would ban nuisance “knuckleheads” from the transit system Keith T. Parker under a proposal MARTA’s new general manager, Keith T. Parker, is pitching. The proposals are part of a draft budget and five-year outlook allocating $426.9 million for operations and $430.5 million for capital programs, including $141.1 million for debt service. “There is very good news in this budget,” said Parker. “We are moving forward with initiatives that will put our financial house in order with no new sources of funding. At the same time, our goal is to make people feel safer when they’re riding MARTA and offer them great customer service from employees who are proud to work here.” Instead of a 25 cents fare hike next year, MARTA is considering raising fares incrementally starting with a 15 cents hike in 2015, followed by two 10 cents in 2016 and 2018 respectively. That would mean the base fare would increase from $2.50 to $2.85 by 2018. MARTA says the hikes would occur only if needed, however. MARTA also wants to re-open rail

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station restrooms by 2015. Currently, only nine stations are open. MARTA spokesman Lyle V. Harris said restroom service was first established strictly for MARTA employees, but opened to the public when the 1996 Olympics were held in Atlanta to accommodate the crowds riding MARTA. Budget cuts in 2010, however, forced the removal of station agents operating all but nine of the 38 rail station restrooms, he said. The facilities also were closed because the authority could not afford to maintain them, Harris said. “We know that the public wants to see the restrooms re-opened and we’re working on that,” Harris said. “We have to figure out a way to operate and provide security for them and keep them clean.” The agency also wants to make riding MARTA safer for customers and is implementing a zero tolerance policy for “knucklehead behavior” effective next year. Anyone who is a nuisance—those

playing loud music, panhandling or other displaying other disruptive behavior— will be banned for a period of time from MARTA stations, Harris said. MARTA is launching an app for customers to use on their smart phones or other smart devices to snap photos or text a message about “knucklehead behavior.” MARTA customer service or MARTA police will respond to the alerts. “Our ultimate goal is for passengers to have a good experience when they ride MARTA. We’re not going to tolerate disruptive behavior,” Harris said. The draft proposal also calls for outsourcing accounting and para-transit services for special needs and elderly customers as recommended by the consulting firm KPMG. Auditors found MARTA could save money by privatizing some of its functions. Auditors also See MARTA, page 6

Commissioner Stan Watson sets community breakfast Keith Parker, MARTA’s new general manager and CEO, will be a guest speaker at the May community breakfast meeting hosted by DeKalb County Commissioner Stan Watson. The meeting will be held on Saturday, May 4, 9 to 11 a.m., Chapel Hill Stan Watson Cedric Alexander Delores Crowell Middle School, 3535 Dogwood Farms Road, Decatur. The other speakers on the program include Chief Cedric Alexander, DeKalb County’s new police chief; Delores Crowell, AT&T External Affairs regional director; and Debra Moss, customer relations manager Atlanta Gas Light. The community is invited to enjoy a free breakfast and get updates on important issues concerning the community.

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DEKALB Columbia High students present ‘The Temptations’ musical DECATUR—Columbia High School’s Drama Club, under the direction of Carolyn King-Stephens, will present “The Temptations—The Musical,” on Thursday, May 9, 4 p.m., and Friday, May 10, 7 p.m. The musical, based on the book by Otis Williams with Patricia Romanowski, chronicles the lives of The Temptations from their humble beginnings as Otis Williams and the Distants and The Primes in the 1960s, to their successes and pitfalls as Motown’s most iconic vocal group in the history of American R&B/pop music. The cast is comprised of 9th to 12th graders who will perform The Temptations’ famous choreographed moves and distinct harmonies, while wearing their well-known coordinating costumes. Tickets are $5 in advance and at the door. The musical will be hosted in the school’s auditorium, 2106 Columbia Drive, Decatur. For more information, contact Carolyn King-Stephens at 678-874-0802.

Piedmont Park to host 2013 ‘Dog Jog’ Piedmont Park, 400 Park Drive, N.E., Atlanta, will host the 2013 “Dog Jog” on May 4, 9 a.m. Presented by the Georgia Veterinary Medical Association Foundation, Atlanta Dog Jog is an event for dogs and their owners to enjoy. The jog features a one-mile and two-mile event. Both are optimal for participants of all athletic levels, from competitive runners to casual walkers. Strollers and wagons are permitted. The cost to run with your pet is $30. Proceeds will benefit the Georgia Veterinary Medical Association (GVMA) Foundation and Canine Assistants. For more information or to register, visit or call 678-309-9800.

Want to start a non-profit? The Atlanta Public Library System will offer a workshop series throughout May for those looking to start a non-profit. Classes include “Grant Seeking Basics,” on May 9, 6 – 8 p.m., at the Perry Homes branch; “How to Start a Nonprofit,” on May 14, 12 – 1:30 p.m., at the Bowen/Bankhead branch; and “Proposal Writing Basics,” on May 20, 6 – 7:30 p.m., at the Southwest branch. Stephen Sherman, reference librarian at the Foundation Center-Atlanta, will teach the classes. Registration is required. For more information, visit or call 404-730-1700.


Shoal Creek water plant opens doors for community tours Gwinnett County officials will conduct tours of the Shoal Creek Filter Plant on May 11, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., 1755 Buford Dam Road, Buford. To celebrate National Drinking Water Week, the plant is opening up its doors for a tour of the filter plant. Children’s activities and free refreshments also will be offered that day. Officials will set up informational displays and be on hand to answer questions. 678-376-4200.

Blue Sky series returns to Decatur square The City of Decatur and the Decatur Business Association will kick off the free Blue Sky concert series. The lunchtime series is from noon – 1 p.m. on Wednesdays throughout May on the square in downtown Decatur. The free concerts begin on May 1 with guitarist Jameson Elder and “Roots Rock.” Bring your lunch or buy a to-go lunch from a nearby restaurant and enjoy live performances from a variety of artists. The acts will include soulful rock artists, bluegrass, country and “acoustic encouragement.” The concert series ends on May 29 with acoustic pop artist Jason Pomar. The concert’s gazebo is located at 509 N. McDonough St., Decatur. 404-370-4100.

Water wise landscaping workshop set Learn how to water your lawn and garden wisely from the pros. Gwinnett County is offering a free Water Wise Landscaping Workshop on May 16, 7 – 8:30 p.m., at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, 75 Langley Drive, Lawrenceville. A water wise landscape is one that has been carefully designed, installed, and managed to maximize water efficiency. Any landscape, whether newly installed or well established, can be made more water efficient by carrying out a few simple steps. This workshop will present methods and tips to help you transform your yard into a water wise landscape, saving you money and maintenance time. All participants will receive a free outdoor water efficiency kit. Pre-registration is requested. To register, email your name, address, and phone number to or call 678376-6722.

ROCKDALE Olde Town prepares for yard sale Olde Town Conyers will host the “Old Fashioned Community Yard Sale” on May 4, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m., at the Conyers Welcome Center, 901 Railroad St. The merchants throughout Olde Town will host a community yard sale. Community groups and residents will also contribute their treasures—from toys and household items to clothes and furniture. Organizers say you will find several gently-used items and a variety of unique trinkets at bargain prices. If you haven’t started your spring cleaning or you are running out of room in your house, you can donate to the sale as well. For more information or to donate items, call 770602-2606.

Insectival to feature bugs galore The Eighth Annual Insectival will be held on Saturday, May 11, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Rockdale Cooperative extension, 1400 Parker Road, Lobby A, Conyers. The Insectival, sponsored by the Rockdale Cooperative Extension and the Rockdale 4-H Creepy Crawly Bug Club, is an insect festival for the whole family to enjoy. Activities include face painting, mealworm races, insect collections, honeybees, “See Like an Insect” Booth, and cricket spitting contest and more. Learn about the good, bad and the ugly of the insect world. Admission is $4 per person. For more information, call 770-278-7373.  

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may 1, 2013


Protestors condemn Piggly Wiggly’s ‘poor customer service’

Photo by Mackenzie N. Morgan/OCG News

John Evans says community will not tolerate inferior service or food.


Rockdale Touch-A-Truck opens world of imagination for kids


ou could be a fireman, police officer, construction worker, detective or even a pilot, at Rockdale County’s first Touch-A-Truck event, held in Conyers. “It is truly a joy to have this kind of event in our community,” said Rockdale County Sheriff Eric Levett, who was on hand at the event with his wife, Lavette, and their two sons, Christian and Colin. “Today, we enjoy their vehicles, but we also thank the truck drivers and operators who perform crucial public services every day.” Rockdale servicemen and other government officials brought out their shiniest, biggest and brightest vehicles for children and families to enjoy. Children of all ages got to play with the controls on emergency helicopters, honk the horn on bulldozer trucks, speak on Sheriff vehicle megaphones, play video games in the U.S. Air Force truck and just for fun, get their face painted. County officials say they plan to make Touch-A-Truck an annual event. – Photos and text by Joshua Smith

American Legion to honor Tuskegee Airman The American Legion Post 77, 674 American Legion Road, N.E., Conyers, will host a reception to honor the life of Tuskegee Airmen Val Archer on May 18, 1 – 3 p.m. Archer, 84, was born April 13, 1929. Enlisting at the age of 15, Archer joined the Army Air Corps and served with the Tuskegee Airmen. Family, friends and government officials will honor Archer as he discusses his service as an instrument specialist on P-47s and C-47s, what being a Tuskegee Airman means to him, and his feelings about receiving the Congressional Gold Medal. Archer lives in Stockbridge and had input on Rockdale County’s “Walk of Heroes” Veterans War Memorial in Conyers. Val Archer Refreshments will be served. For more information or to reserve your seat, call 770-602-1333 or email MSRABWJ@GMAIL.COM.

Main Street program to offer free history tours The City of Conyers’ Main Street Program will host free history tours on May 18 and 19 throughout Rockdale. The May 18 tours will be held at 1 and 3 p.m. Learn about the citizens of Conyers including famous and infamous authors, the doctor who sold whiskey in a stand beside the courthouse, and a story of “grave robbers.” The May 19 tour will be held at 12:30 and 2 p.m. Learn about the fire of 1884, the circus that came to town, and hear from citizens who lived and worked in early Olde Town. Each tour is limited to a first-come, first-served basis. Registration is required. Register by calling 770-602-2606.

By Mackenzie N. Morgan

rotesters took their fight to the streets against Piggly Wiggly grocery store on Candler Road in South DeKalb. About 30 people marched outside the store just before the afternoon rush hour on April 30, demanding that Piggly Wiggly leave the community or provide better customer service. “They have been disrespectful to a lot of people in this community and we’re not going to stand for it any longer,” said community activist John Evans. “They are selling inferior products like unrefrigerated meat and moldy vegetables to the people in this community. Enough is enough.” In April, county health inspectors cited the grocery store with four health violations. Two of the citations were for “products stored in contact with the floor” and “excessive buildup in the coolers.” The county will return in a couple of weeks to re-check the store, officials said. DeKalb County Commissioner Larry Johnson said he and others from the community plan to take their complaints beyond the local store. “We’re going to corporate. We’re going to set up a meeting with them,” said Johnson. “Not everyone wants to see them leave because we need a grocery store in this area. But we want one that is clean and provides quality food and services.” The battle at Piggly Wiggly was the second grocery store war in the area in April. Kroger, located a mile away, is closing May 3 because management could not come to an agreement with the building’s owner over a lease. Demonstrators gathered there recently to try and talk management into staying in the community to no avail. Kroger has been in the community for 38 years. The community lost another grocery store just three years ago. A Wayfield store closed in 2010 after 20 years in the area.

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By Joshua Smith

Metro schools make top US News list

he Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology (GSMST) ranked No. 3 in the nation on the U.S. News and World Report’s annual listing of top schools in the country. “This ranking is extremely complimentary and reflects the dedication and professionalism of GSMST’s students, faculty, staff, and partnerships within our Gwinnett community,” said Principal Jeff Mathews. “GSMST is unique in that our school’s accomplishments represent the

talent and preparation of all the school clusters within the Gwinnett County Public School System as students from each cluster are represented at GSMST.” Four other metro Atlanta Public Schools ranked among the top high schools in the state of Georgia. The U.S. News and World Report named the DeKalb School of the Arts (2); Chamblee Charter in Chamblee (6); Arabia Mountain in Lithonia (14); Gwinnett County’s Parkview High in Lilburn (10); and Rockdale County’s Heritage High in Conyers (35) to its listing of top schools in the nation. Arabia Mountain High School

Principal Rodney Swanson said he is proud his school has maintained top achievement. Arabia was the first public school in Georgia to receive the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification and it was named a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School. “This type of recognition is the kind of motivating factor that will push our staff and students to soar to new heights,” said Swanson of the U.S. News and World Report listing. Rockdale County’s Heritage High Principal Greg Fowler said he, too, is proud of his school.

“I am very proud of our staff and students for always striving to be the best they can be and to represent our school in county in the best light possible,” said Fowler. The report evaluates more than 21,000 public high schools in 49 states and the District of Columbia. The evaluations were based on results of state-mandated assessments, performance on AP and IB tests, and how effectively socio-economically disadvantaged and black and Hispanic students were educated. You can view the complete list of rankings at

Cityhood meetings get under way continued from page 1

the DeKalb County Legislative Delegation will discuss other cityhood or annexations bills that may be considered during the Georgia General Assembly’s 2014 legislative session, including House Bill 22, House Bill 619, House Bill 665, House Bill 677, House Bill 687, Senate Bill 270, and Senate Bill 275, and Senate Bill 277. These bills could lead to new areas being annexed into Chamblee and Decatur, as well as create new DeKalb cities of Druid Hills, LaVista Hills, Lakeside, Stonecrest, City of DeKalb, and Tucker. The discussion will include information on the costs of planning for new cities, possible tax implications, the legislative process of creating new cities, ongoing cityhood activities, and other alternative local governance options. Former DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones says he believes that DeKalb is headed for disaster with so many DeKalb cities in the works. Furthermore, he says, the new cities are just another way to erode economic power and “bleach government.”

“What I told them 10 years ago, now the roosters have come to roost. Unincorporated DeKalb needs to be incorporated into a city now. No more and no less,” said Jones. “To incorporate DeKalb with an existing footprint is a financial plus for the taxpayers of DeKalb. It prevents the cherry-picking of annexation and incorporation by those who want to separate themselves and bleach government.” Sen. Davenport says she, too, is concerned that DeKalb will indeed lose more commercial revenues if more cities are incorporated. Davenport said she cosigned SB 277, along with Sen. Ramsey, to create a city of DeKalb to protect what’s left. “It seems that every other day, there was a new bill being dropped with a new city. People in South DeKalb are concerned that there’s not going to be anything left of DeKalb if we don’t do something,” said Davenport. “Creating a city of DeKalb is really a way to protect what’s left and start conversations about where we’re

going.” DeKalb Commissioner Larry Johnson said the lawmakers’ move to file a bill to create a city of DeKalb has gotten the ball rolling. “I think it’s a good conversation piece. From an economic standpoint, we’re losing revenues, parks, police stations and fire stations to areas that are incorporating and buying them for $5,000 when all of the taxpayers have paid for them,” said Johnson, who said he has thought about creating the city of Prosperity. “We’ve got to have a discussion because we’re losing our wealth.” The DeKalb County Legislative Delegation will hold a town hall meeting on Monday, May 6, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., at Clairmont Hills Baptist Church, 1995 Clairmont Drive, Decatur. The various bills to create cities and annexation of some areas will be discussed. Meetings about the potential city of Stonecrest will be held June 10, July 8 and Aug. 12, at d at 6 p.m. at the Stonecrest Library, 3123 Klondike Road, Lithonia.

Sharp: A true testament of ‘living legacy’ continued from page 1

According to Meyers, Sharp is Rockdale County’s oldest centenarian and possibly the oldest living senior in the state of Georgia. “When I first arrived here last September, Ms. Sharp sent me an email welcoming me to the facility and told me to enjoy myself. If she’s watching a funny YouTube video she’ll stop me in the hallway and ask me to come watch it,” said Meyers. “She keeps her mind going and she remembers everything.” During Sharp’s April 22 birthday celebration, Rockdale Commissioner Oz Nesbitt presented a proclamation honoring Sharp’s life’s legacy. “Ms. Sharp is a true testament to living a life of legacy and accomplishment and she is as sharp as her last name. We celebrated with her last year and are glad to be here another year,” said Nesbitt. Commissioner Nesbitt said that seniors are one of Rockdale’s fastest-growing populations and he commended the Garden House as one of the facilities that is taking care of the county’s aging populace. The Board of Commissioners, including Chairman Richard Oden and Commissioner JaNice Van Ness, also paid tribute to Sharp. Sharp is a mother to three senior citizens: 82 year-old Mary Anne and 75 year-old fraternal twins, Jane and John, all of whom share their mother’s gift in music. Daughter Mary Anne plays piano and has served for the last 50 years as director for the Decatur Civic Chorus, the choir her mother helped charter in 1937. John made his debut as an opera singer in

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Rockdale Commissioner Oz Nesbitt presents a proclamation honoring Sharp’s life’s legacy.

Carnegie Hall in 1977, while his twin, Jane, is an accomplished opera singer, choral director and taught voice at Wittenberg University. An accomplished musician and artist, Mary Lee Sharp was born on April 22, 1904 in Knoxville, Tennessee to Hugh and Pearl Smith. Sharp, who displayed musical genius at an early age, began playing piano at age 4. After attending the Cincinnati Music Conservatory, she married Lester C. Sharp and had three children. In 1937, the family moved from Miami, Florida to Decatur where Sharp became active in several music circles, teaching voice, piano and organ, as well as serving as organist, choir director and as the Decatur

MARTA continued from page 3

found that the transit agency spent $50 million annually over the national average in employee benefits and could realize savings with reforms to pensions, particularly in the area of healthcare. Reduced benefits, however, are not likely to be met favorably by union workers who have not received raises in eight years. MARTA is proposing giving employees a one-time 3 percent salary bonus in December and an average raise of 3 percent 18 months later based on merit and not on the increased cost of living. Savings would also come from eliminating 150 unfilled positions, reducing a $436 million operating budget deficit to just under $1 million. Public hearings on the spending plan will be held on May 14 and May 16. After getting public input, the MARTA Board will vote on the final budget before the 2014 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Civic Chorus’ accompanist for 11 years. In 1961, the family relocated to Jacksonville, Florida after her husband’s job was transferred. In Florida, Sharp joined the Jacksonville Opera Company and the Jacksonville Symphony. After her husband’s death in 1982, Sharp returned to Decatur and resumed singing in the Decatur Civic Chorus. The only living charter member of the chorus, Sharp has performed across the country and has gone overseas to Mexico, England, Scotland, Wales, Belgium, France, and Ireland. Sharp’s talents don’t stop at music, however, and have landed her in local art galleries, too. At age 81, Sharp began taking art lessons in oils and watercolors. For her 100th birthday, her art was displayed at the Temple Gallery in Decatur. Every day is historic when you’re 109 and Sharp makes every day count by treating each new day like a gift. Longevity, it seems, runs in Sharp’s family. Her mother lived to be 92 and she has several relatives that lived well into their 90s. “She’s a lovely woman. She loves everybody and is the nicest woman you’ll ever meet,” said Nancy Bridges, one of Sharp’s housemates. At the senior complex where she lives, Sharp still attends church services, and enjoys painting. “She tries to learn something new everyday. She does crosswords and puzzles. Bust most of all she has a realistic and positive attitude,” said Anne Sharp of her mother’s longevity.

MARTA Public Hearings The public can learn more about MARTA’s proposed spending plan at one of four hearings. A community exchange will be held before each public hearings from 6 – 7 p.m. Here is the schedule: Tuesday, May 14, 7 p.m. North Fulton Service Center 7741 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs Decatur Maloof Auditorium 1300 Commerce Drive, Decatur Thursday, May 16, 2013, 7 p.m. MARTA Headquarters Building 2424 Piedmont Road, Atlanta Adamsville Recreation Center 3201 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, S.W., Atlanta

may 1, 2013


Boyz to Men of Honor aims to keep kids off the streets By Joshua Smith

CONYERS—The thump, thump, thump of basketballs fill the J.P. Carr Gymn on Friday evenings. Here, dozen of kids—all males—come to shoot some hoops and learn some skills. One recent Friday, electrician Chester “Chuck” Lett brought his toolbox, a wooden plank and some other supplies to the Boyz To Men of Honor, Inc. “Friday Night Lights” workshop. Together, Lett and the group of young men made a light switch. Many of them had never used a power drill, let alone made a simple electrical circuit. “You need to learn to do something with your hands so that you can have something to fall back on in life,” said Lett, a Conyers native who grew up playing basketball in the same exact gym where the program meets. “Everybody won’t be in the NBA or the NFL, but people will always need a handy man. Even in a tough economy like we are living in now, you can find work repairing and doing fix-it jobs at someone’s home or business.” By the end of the April 5 workshop, the boys flipped a switch and a light bulb came on as a result of their teamwork. Founder of Boyz To Men of Honor, Gregory Vann, says it’s going to take teamwork on and off the court to make sure young men in the community do not turn to street life for satisfaction or financial gain. Black males ages 30 to 34 have the highest incarceration rate of any race or ethnicity, according to, an online research database. Of the total 2.1 million male inmates in jail or prison, black males represent the largest percentage at 35.4 percent. These are the dismal statistics Vann spends every day fighting. “It’s a revolving door, a cycle that must stop today. We want to get a hold of these boys, who mostly come from a single-parent home, before the streets do,” said Vann. “It hurts my heart deeply to see so many of my young brothers behind bars. It’s time for men to take a stand. I want to tell single mothers, you now have a secure place to bring your son to learn and grow.” About 60 young men, ages 10 to 18, attend the weekly Boyz To Men of Honor mentoring sessions to not only play basketball and socialize, but also

Photo by Joshua Smith/OCG News

Young men gather around local electrician Chester “Chuck” Lett to learn the basics of making an electric circuit and a few tips on manhood, too.

learn from men who come from a wide-range of professional fields, such as the Feb. 28 guest speaker Super Bowl XLVII referee Jerome Boger. “This program started about four years ago as a way to engage youths in the community and keep then off the streets, provide an outlet for them on Friday nights,” said Vann. “They come in as boys eager to play basketball and we have them participate in several enrichment workshops in hopes of building them into men and successful members of society.” Tonee Pestrue says Boyz To Men has been the shinning light her 12-year-old son, Quentyn, needed. “I like this program because the structure and supervision is provided by strong-minded men. I have noticed a change in my son’s demeanor and he’s more sociable now,” said Pesture. “This is a great program. Quentyn has been in the program for about a month and really enjoys it. These are wonderful mentors who are sharing their knowledge with the kids.”

Vann said the program is building character but as most programs are, it is in need of more support from the community. “We need more sponsors to help pay for the building rental fees and our activities,” said Vann. “We are leading boys to take actions that inspire greatness and to maintain confidence in their values in the face of peer pressure. It’s basically about developing a foundation for moral decision-making. We are always in need of your support, finances, donated items; or your time.” Boyz to Men of Honor, Inc. hosts the weekly mentoring program, Friday Night Lights, Fridays, 6 – 10 p.m. in the J.P. Carr Gymnasium, 1080 Hardin St., S.W., Conyers. Admission is $2 for young men to attend. For more information on the program, call 404749-6567 or visit More photos at

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Greater Lithonia Chamber welcomes Panola LA Fitness

Lithonia Chamber leaders, elected officials and LA Fitness staff join together to cut the ribbon on the new LA Fitness on Covington Highway in Lithonia.


By Joshua Smith

he Greater Lithonia Chamber welcomed LA Fitness to the community, recently hosting a ribbon cutting ceremony at the state-ofthe-art workout facility, located 6072 Covington Highway, Lithonia. The fitness facility joined the Chamber as a member in April. “We are always excited about getting new members, but we are very happy to have LA fitness in the community and in the Chamber,” said Chamber President Doreen Carter. “LA Fitness will offer us the healthy options and lifestyles that we need in our community. I’m so happy LA Fitness has joined the Chamber because with members like Kaiser Permanente, DeKalb Medical and Dr. Nailah Smith,

together; we are eliminating the excuse to be unhealthy.” “Personally, I’m really looking forward to the yoga classes. I’ve been intrigued with it for a while but I didn’t want to have to drive across town to do it.” The 38,000-square-foot facility features the latest technology in cardio equipment, locker room facilities, dry sauna, a 75-foot heated indoor pool and an indoor spa among other amenities. “This community truly needed fitness. This is a high-risk area for conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. We are giving the community a better shot at health,” said General Manager Timothy Kincaide. “We want to change people’s lives for the better by helping them reach fitness goals. With personal trainers and several

Photos by Joshua Smith/OCG News

LA Fitness trainers give members of the community a free workout at the grand opening of the new Lithonia facility.

features like a basketball court and pool, we will lead you to better fitness and a better sense of health.” At the grand opening event, the community enjoyed tours of the facility, complimentary workouts and fitness assessments, a Zumba class, a DJ, the Chick-fil-A cows, face painting and healthy snacks. “It was a beautiful day. The ribbon cutting was great. The community came out in great numbers to show support

and we really appreciate that,” said Kincaide. “We also had support from local business such as Chick-fil-A, Waffle House and some car dealerships. It was a great event all the way around because those companies were given the chance to market and advertise for free, while members of the community enjoyed our facilities free of charge.” For more photos of the grand opening, visit

BUSINESS Calendar Stonecrest Business Association sets panel discussion The Stonecrest Business Association will host a breakfast panel discussion on May 8, 7:30 to 9:30 a.m., at the Fairfield Inn at 7850 Stonecrest Square, Lithonia. Topics to be covered include the current economic state of Stonecrest, as well as future development challenges and opportunities for the area. The event will provide a chance to hear firsthand from area business owners, real estate professionals, developers and key individuals from DeKalb County leadership and economic development, as they discuss current economic conditions, strategies to promote the community and ways the County will support the successful and continued growth of Stonecrest. Speakers participating on the panel include: DeKalb County Economic Development Director Charles Whatley;DeKalb County Commissioner Lee May; Kathy Thirolf, associate broker Wheeler/Brand Management; and Jetha Wagner, Vice President– Commercial Development Euramex Management Group, LLC. Space is limited. To RSVP, contact the association at info@ or 770-484-9993.

Gwinnett Chamber: Collaborate and grow your business The Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce and Microsoft will team up to host “Communicate-Collaborate-Grow Your Business,” on May 7, 8 a.m. – 12 p.m., at the Chamber’s headquarters, 6500 Sugarloaf Parkway, Duluth. The hands-on workshop with include the latest hardware and mobile technology from the Microsoft Store. Topics include: Seamless communication that allows you to have more effective online meetings, instant messaging, and multiparty HD video conferencing, Collaborating effortlessly by sharing files and information, connecting through social tools, and searching for content and experts, working from anywhere with technologies that allow real-time communications and shared documents across multiple devices, and how to simplify IT—whether you are a small firm without IT or a larger company with IT resources. Participants will have chances to win a copy of Windows 8 Pro or Office 2013 Professional or an Xbox Kinect. The cost to attend is free. Registration is required. 770-232-3000.

Clayton County Chamber to host Spring Bash The Clayton County Chamber of Commerce will host the “Spring Bash,” a day of relaxed networking and socializing on May 9, 5 – 7 p.m., at Chamber member Toyota South, 6865 Jonesborro Road, Morrow. Organizers say the evening will feature business networking, great food and door prizes from Chamber members and other contributing sponsors. . The cost to attend is $15. For more information or to register, call 678-610-4021 or visit

GALEO sets 10th Annual power Breakfast The Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials(GALEO) will host the 10th Annual GALEO Power Breakfast on May 10, 8:30 – 11 a.m., at the Hilton Atlanta Northeast, 5993 Peachtree Industrial Boulevard, Norcross. Andres W. Lopez, founder of the American Latino Museum and national chairman of the Futurp Fund, will be the guest of honor. Located in Washington, D.C., the museum strives to create a museum in our nation’s capital to educate, inspire and encourage respect and understanding of the richness and diversity of the American

Latino experience within the U.S. The annual breakfast hosts many Georgia elected officials and representatives. Reservations will be made on a first-come, first-served basis. Tickets are $75 and $25 for students. For more information, visit or contact Jerry Gonzalez 404745-2580 and

Environmental Center to host sustainability summit The Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center, 2020 Clean Water Drive, Buford, will host the Partnership Gwinnett Sustainability Summit on May 10, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. The theme of the summit is “From Sustainability to Savings.” The summit will explore sustainability practices and methods and technologies that will help your business “go green.” Summit topics include: Sustainability as a recruitment and cost reduction strategy on a scale of 1-10; the future of sustainability ratings and certifications; and Getting to Zero: How companies profit from eliminating waste. The cost to attend is $45. 770-904-3500.

BBA to welcome Galloway School head The Buckhead Business Association will welcome Suzanna Jemsby, head of The Galloway School in Atlanta, on May 16, 7:30 a.m. at the City Club of Buckhead, 3343 Peachtree Road, Suite 1850, Atlanta. Jemsby will share information about her 17-year career in education, the business of education, global education and information on The Galloway School. Prior to her arrival at Galloway, Jemsby was head of Upper School at Atlanta International School. Before moving to the United States, Jemsby served as a teacher, grade head, and acting head of secondary school at two international schools in Frankfurt, Germany. She is fluent in English, German, and French, and also speaks Italian and Swedish. The cost to attend is $20. Networking takes place at 7:30 a.m., with a call to order at 7:55 a.m. For more information or to purchase a ticket, contact Jenn Thomas at 404467-7607 or DEKALB COUNTY GOVERNMENT

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We Worship


Faith-Based News & Inspiration

Archbishop Ruth W. Smith Holmes assists with the consecration of her husband (kneeling). Bishop Rickie Holmes

Photos by Glenn L. Morgan/OCG News

Light of the World consecrates Dr. Rickie Holmes as bishop


ight of the World Christian Tabernacle in Stockbridge celebrated the consecration of Dr. Rickie Holmes to the office of Bishop on April 28. Holmes, who serves as Light of the World’s executive pastor, with his wife, Archbishop Ruth W. Smith Holmes, will be responsible for community services, chaplain services for military families and first responders in his new role as bishop. Holmes served as a captain and chaplain in the U.S. Army. Holmes also will be responsible for Light of the World’s evangelism work in Ghana, replacing his wife, who had previously been assigned to travel and preach there. A graduate of Morehouse School of Religion, interdenominational Theological Center and Andersonville Theological Seminary, Holmes has traveled extensively and gained firsthand knowledge about many of the places mentioned in the Bible. He has visited, studied and peached in Jerusalem, Israel; Rome, Italy; Paris, France; Germany; Austria; Ghana, Nigeria; London, England; Switzerland; and Mexico. Bishop Frederick T. Nah performed the consecration service.

Hattie Long, matriarch of Long family, dies New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia is mourning the loss of Bishop Eddie L. Long’s mother, Hattie A. Long. The matriarch of the Long family died April 26 at her home in Charlotte, N.C. after a long illness. She was 96 years old. “Our family recognizes how truly blessed we have been to have her live such a long and fruitful life,” said Bishop Long. “Although this is a very difficult time for our family, we rejoice in knowing that she is “fully” present with our Heavenly Father.” Mrs. Long’s homegoing celebration will be held Monday, May 6, in Charlotte. Long and Sons Funeral Home in Charlotte is handling the arrangements 704-394-111.

Peeks Chapel to celebrate Pastor James H. Battle’s 33rd anniversary Pastor James H. Battle of Peeks Chapel Baptist Church, 3185 Old Salem Road, S.E., Conyers is celebrating his 33rd pastoral anniversary this month. The church is hosting an anniversary banquet in Pastor Battle’s honor on May 3, 7:30 p.m. Pastor Aldren Sadler, Church of New Beginnings, will be the guest speaker. On Friday, May 17, there will be a pre-anniversary celebration program at 7 p.m. The guest pastor for the program will be the Rev. H. Earnest Loyal of Evergreen Baptist Church in Decatur. On Sunday, May 20, the guest minister for the 10:30 a.m. worship service will be Bishop Dante Smith of Bookers Chapel in Athens. At 3 p.m., the guest pastor for the worship celebration will be the Rev. Miles Fowler of Big Miller Grove Baptist Church in Lithonia. The community is welcomed to attend the celebrations.

Beulah Missionary Baptist offers academic coaches Beulah Missionary Baptist Church, 2340 Clifton Springs Road, Decatur, is offering highly qualified academic coaches to help students with SAT and college preparation, schoolwork. The coaches also are providing assistance to adults who need help with their resumes, writing skills and interviewing tips. The coaching classes are held Wednesdays, 6:30 – 8:15 p.m. in the church’s family life center. The church has academic coaches for all ages. Organizers say all coaches are highly qualified and have winning records. 404-2413307.


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Health & Wellness

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta launches new concussion web portal


tudent athletes and children in recreational leagues around the state will have better care for concussions, thanks to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. The hospital has launched a new online portal to provide effective care to student athletes who suffer concussions, ensuring that they do not return to play prematurely. Developed by the Children’s Concussion Program, the new web site,, is equipped with extensive videos and resources to help first-response caregivers, primary care physicians, nurses, coaches, athletic trainers and families to provide appropriate and effective care to children and teens impacted by concussions. The hospital announced the new portal after Gov. Nathan Deal in April signed an historic bill into law, “The Return-to-Play Act of 2013” to improve the management of concussions in school and recreational leagues around the state. A concussion can happen anytime,

anywhere—on the field, the playground or at home. Injuries in children and teens are inevitable, but with their brains still developing, head injuries can be especially serious.  Recognition and proper response to concussions when they first occur can help prevent further injury, long term consequences, or even death. The online portal guides visitors through various phases of concussion management, from symptom-tracking and diagnosis, to treatment and returnto-play guidelines.  It also offers useful examples of unique scenarios that may occur for each concussed patient and how best to treat them.  Additionally, the portal provides tips for preventing concussions and recommendations for follow-up care.  The website features detailed tutorial videos by Children’s concussion professionals, as well as additional resources and information to aid concussion management. The goal is to prevent serious, long-term injuries that could have been avoided through immediate proper care of a concussion.

Fairfield Baptist sets health fair May 4 Fairfield Baptist Church is hosting a community health fair on Saturday, May 4, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The community is invited to visit the variety of vendors that will be on campus. Several health screenings, including blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol checks will be offered, as well as seminars throughout the day. “There will be healthy cooking demonstrations and a variety of activities for children such as a fire truck visit and various stations for them to do activities,” said Marla Benton, one of the organizers. Admission is free. Fairfield is located at 6133 Redan Road, Lithonia.

Davidson-Arabia to host ‘Spring into Wellness’ classes The Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve will host its Spring into Wellness series from May to June. The wellness programs will be held at Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Center, 3787 Klondike Road, Lithonia. Join fitness instructor DeQuanda Sanders for dynamic cardio and aerobic workouts in the nature center or by trail. Bring a water bottle and a mat. Participants will meet in the nature center classroom May 11 and June 8, 10 – 11 a.m. Participate in lively and enlightening discussions about diet, nourishing foods and disease prevention with DeKalb County Extension Coordinator Jessica Hill. Classes meet at the nature center on the following Saturdays: · June 8, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. – Gluten free: Is it for me? · June 22, 10 a.m. to noon – Preserving fruits and vegetables For more information or to register for classes, call 770-492-5220 or email

Senior agencies push preventive health screenings for older adults Coming soon: The Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), DeKalb County Office of Senior

Affairs, and Senior Connections are offering an array of preventive health services

and screenings for seniors ages 55 and older in May during Older Americans l 1, 2013 Month.

The various clinics are sponsored by SPARC (Sickness Prevention Achieved through Regional Collaboration). The goal is to improve access to preventive services and screenings and to encourage more and more people, particularly older adults, to get preventative care year round. The two SPARC events in DeKalb are being held: May 22, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Tucker Recreation Center, 4898, LaVista Road, Tucker. May 28, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Avondale Estates First Baptist Church, 47 Covington Road, Avondale Estates. For more information about SPARC and the preventive services offered at each location, contact Mary Groover or Susie Park at 404-488-7073 or visit www.


MAY 1, 2013

DeKalb Medical honored for stroke care LITHONIA—DeKalb Medical at Hillandale has been named one of four hospitals providing top stroke care in the state. The 100-bed Hillandale facility was awarded the “Georgia Coverdell Champion Hospital of the Year” award in the small-sized category (26-100 hospital beds) for 2013. The award, given annually by the Georgia Department of Health, is named in memory of the late Sen. Paul Coverdell, who died of a massive stroke in 2000. “This is a great honor. I am extremely proud of our staff and this hospital, especially the nurses who are caring for patients until a neurologist like myself can see the patient,” said Daniel Tesfaye, M.D., Neurology Specialists Daniel Tesfaye, M.D of Hillandale. “With the award being created from the memory of Senator Coverdell, that makes the award all the more prestigious.” The three other hospitals that received awards from the Georgia Coverdell Acute Stroke Registry (GCASR) program were Putnam General Hospital (25 beds); South Georgia Medical Center (101-300 beds); and Grady Health System (over 350 beds). “My philosophy is to provide comprehensive and compassionate care as if I were treating my own family members,” said Tesfaye, who has a little over 15 years of experience in neurology. “Many factors can contribute to strokes such as high cholesterol, sleep apnea, genetics or even smoking. Hypertension and obesity are at the core of many of strokes, especially in an African American community such as this one. This award means a lot to us and shows that our staff is working with the community for both, treatment and prevention.” The primary goal of the GCASR program is to improve the care of acute stroke patients, lower stroke morbidity in Georgia, prevent recurrent strokes, and develop protocols to guide physician care with effective stroke management. “We are located in what is known to many physicians as the Stroke Belt of the Nation. With African Americans suffering strokes at numbers that nearly double Caucasians, we’ve got work to do,” said Tesfaye. “We don’t have a cure for strokes. It’s so many contributing factors to strokes, especially when you consider a person whose genes are the cause. We must continue to work on educating the community and continue to offer great care.”

Ronald McNair area string orchestra to perform at Augusta charity walk Some young DeKalb County musicians will perform in Augusta on May 4 at the James Brown Family Children’s Foundation fourth annual “Get on the Good Foot” charity walk. The late R&B singer was from Augusta. DeKalb’s Ronald E. McNair Area String Orchestra will perform under the direction of David E. Robinson III, a 30-year veteran teacher of the DeKalb County School System. The elementary schools that comprise the area orchestra include R.E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy, Meadowview, Kelley Lake, and Flat Shoals.  Also joining them will be Wadsworth Elementary, also of DeKalb County.   One of the selections the group will perform is James Brown’s “We’re Gonna Have a Funky Good Time.”  The orchestra also will perform selections by Michael Jackson, Teddy Pendergrass, Diana Ross, and Ashford and Simpson.   The walk will start at the August Commons across from the James Brown statue in Augusta. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. and the walk begins at 9 a.m. Proceeds will benefit programs at the James Brown Academy of Music.  

AV200 bicycle ride to benefit AIDS vaccine research More than 200 bicycle riders are expected to participate in the annual two-day, 200-mile AIDS Vaccine 200 (AV200) to benefit AIDS vaccine research at the Emory Vaccine Center. The event on May 18-19 is sponsored by Action Cycling Atlanta, a volunteer organization. This year’s ride travels from Emory to Eatonton, GA in the Oconee National Forest and back to Emory. Participants will include individual riders and relay teams, with support from a volunteer crew. This marks the 11th year of the AV200, which has raised more than $1 million for AIDS vaccine research. Thanks to its generous sponsors, Action Cycling Atlanta is able to donate 100 percent of all funds raised by participants to AIDS vaccine research. These unrestricted funds fill funding gaps that cannot be met through grant dollars alone. Read more or register: bicycle_ride/index.html.

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The May 1 Issue, 2013  

The May 1 Issue of 2013

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