JULY 2020 - Brookhaven Reporter

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JULY 2020 • VOL. 12 — NO. 7

Brookhaven Reporter ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

K-pop fans cheer musicians’ Black Lives Matter activism

► Worth Knowing: A salute to 4th of July horses p18

Buford Highway talks show challenge of dialogue on race

Celebrating the Class of 2020





A neighborhood advocate steps aside, but not out P6 COMMUNITY

An Air & Space Museum at PDK? P20


About 40 vehicles join a parade on Buford Highway June 20 to celebrate the community’s Class of 2020. Organized by the community organization Los Vecinos de Buford Highway, the event based at the Northeast Plaza shopping center drew graduates and their families from Chamblee, Cross Keys, Dunwoody and Lakeside high schools. Car parades have become a popular way to celebrate in the COVID-19 pandemic’s social distancing time.

Bill could lift mayoral term limits after referendum Check out our podcasts at ReporterNewspapers.net

The Brookhaven Reporter is mail delivered to homes on selected carrier routes in ZIP 30319 For information: delivery@reporternewspapers.net

BY ERIN SCHILLING erinschilling@reporternewspapers.net

A bill that would allow Brookhaven residents to vote on unlimited terms for the mayor passed the Georgia Legislature on the last day of the session. If signed by the governor, a referendum vote to eliminate mayoral term lim-

its will be on the ballot during the November general election this year. If a majority votes to remove the term limits, it would go into effect Jan. 1, 2021. The unlimited terms, if approved, would apply to incumbent Mayor John Ernst. The bill has the support of three of four City Council members, whose officSee BILL on page 22

As the city goes into an “active listening” phase, as Mayor John Ernst calls it, amid nationwide protests against racism and police brutality that came to Brookhaven last month, it continues with redevelopment plans along Buford Highway, where input from the renowned immigrant community is a longstanding challenge. The risk of displacing that community with skyscrapers and other higher-end uses is one of the city’s biggest policy puzzles -- and, experts say, part of a pattern of metro Atlanta’s systemic racism. Some activists said the inFor more about clusionary efrace and local forts by the city policing, have improved see p. 15-16. in the past couple years, citing more pamphlets available in English and Spanish and the hiring of a Spanish-speakig community liaison. But they question the effect on meaningful input and final plans. Ernst said the city does systematic outreach to “meet residents where they’re See BUFORD on page 14


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2 | Community

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For Murphey Candler Baseball families, even a pandemic-shortened season was special BY ERIN SCHILLING erinschilling@reporternewspapers.net

The Lewis family can’t imagine a life without baseball. When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the Murphey Candler Baseball spring season on March 13, it was a blow that devastated Kelli Lewis, her husband John and their three children. “This is all he’s been looking forward to,” Lewis said about her 12-year-old son Cooper, who was playing on the youth baseball league’s Rockies team against the Cardinals on the morning of June 13. “It was truthfully like a mourning in our home when the park called it off.” Murphey Candler Baseball reopened its program for a reduced, month-long summer season that started June 1 and included COVID-19 safety adjustments, such as wearing masks and social distancing in the stands. The nonprofit, allvolunteer baseball program also only opened to the upper leagues, ages 9-12, instead of the typical 4-12 ages to better control crowds and COVID-19 safety measures. But Lewis didn’t mind the adjustments, as long as her son got to play ball. “Baseball is what he gets up for in the morning,” Lewis said about Cooper as she watched the end of his game. “We are just so grateful and happy to have it back. I think the park has done a really good job of setting expectations.”

Baseball’s ‘new normal’

The Lewis family’s Saturday pastime started back up again after a May 26 Brookhaven City Council vote allowed outdoor athletic leagues to reopen in city parks on June 1 with precautions. The season was scheduled to end July 2. Murphey Candler Baseball President Jim Montembeau presented a reopening plan to the city council that outlined the “new normal” for the baseball season, which included wearing masks, social distancing in the stands and controlling the flow of walking traffic. Families watching the two morning games at the park June 13 seemed to follow all the guidelines. All adults, including umpires and coaches, wore masks, which was required and would have been provided if they didn’t have one. Spectators also social-distanced themselves in the stands. The park has signs and roped off areas to create one-way traffic, allowing only one entrance and a separate exit into the baseball fields. Upon entrance, everyone had their temperature checked by a volunteer. With two games underway at 9 a.m. Saturday morning, those precautions were in full effect, and families respect-

A coach on the Rockies team watches his players bat during a Murphey Candler Baseball game on June 13. He and the other coach wore masks on the field and in the dugout.

ed the guidelines. No separate official monitored whether people followed the guidelines, but coaches and other volunteers were responsible for talking to anyone who may be in violation, according to the reopening presentation. Montembeau gave an update to the city council during the June 23 meeting and said the guidelines were successfully followed and enforced by families, players and coaches throughout the season. “Your trust in Murphey Candler Baseball has made a lot of families very, very happy,” Montembeau told the council. Montembeau said other sport organizations have called to use the similar guidelines to safely reopen their facilities during the pandemic.

Following the rules

At the June 13 morning games, spectators sat in small household groups away from each other in the stands on Saturday morning, sometimes taking off masks when no other families were within 6 feet. Fans at the White Sox and Rangers game at the other field were similarly distanced with face masks. The umpire that usually stands behind the catcher instead stood about 6 feet away from the pitcher to minimize contact. The players did not wear masks on the field or in the dugout, which was not expected due to their physical activity and the heat, according to the reopening presentation.

All the spectators at the Cardinals and Rockies game had a mask with them. Lewis called after her younger son when he wandered off, telling him to put on his mask whenever he leaves their spot in the stands. For Rockies mother Ashley Feldman, she said these measures are small inconveniences for the ability of her 12-yearold son to play ball. “We’re so happy to be back playing,” Feldman said. “We’ll take it however we can.” Feldman sat with a few of her friends in the shade watching their boys play baseball. All four women, who wore masks, applauded the efforts of Murphey Candler to restart the season. “They really needed this for their mental health,” Cardinals baseball mom Colleen Daniels said. “They were going stir crazy.” Lewis said she used to spend her entire Saturdays at Murphey Candler Park watching baseball, socializing with friends and frequenting the concessions stand with her children. However, the new guidelines also recommended families to limit the amount of spectators per child and required them to leave immediately after the game, meaning long days happily braving the Georgia heat for a bit of baseball weren’t a reality this summer. While the players usually high-five the other team, they opted to wave to each


other instead after the game was over before meeting with their respective coaches then leaving the park.

A tough decision

The council did not take the reopening of outdoor athletic leagues lightly. For about three hours during the May 26 meeting, councilmembers debated on whether allowing the children to play baseball and other outdoor, recreational sports would be safe, eliciting heated Facebook live comments from the community hoping that a “yes” vote would reopen play at the city park. Neither Lewis nor board members gave up hope that the baseball season could return. Her son Cooper continued to practice with his dad in the backyard and garage, gearing up for a chance at the bat when games resumed. The board spent weeks preparing safety guidelines before presenting them to the council. During a June council meeting, Mayor John Ernst said he visited the baseball fields and felt impressed by the dedication to the COVID-19 safety guidelines. Lewis said her children have made lifelong friends at the field and consider the Murphey Candler baseball community a family. Her oldest son Cooper has played with Murphey Candler Baseball since he was 4 years old, with this season being his last. She’s happy he had this opportunity to play ball after the months without school or other activities. BK

JULY 2020

Community | 3


Incumbent DeKalb sheriff, school board candidate win races; commission seats go to runoff BY ERIN SCHILLING erinschilling@reporternewspapers.net

DeKalb County incumbent Sheriff Melody Maddox barely clinched the majority to become the Democratic nominee for DeKalb County sheriff, while the District 1 and 6 commission races are headed to runoffs. Anna Hill won the vote for the District 1 Board of Education seat. Runoffs for will be Aug. 11, and the general election will be Nov. 3. The results from the primary elections slowly trickled in from the precincts after long lines and machine malfunctions made June 9 a voting nightmare in metro Atlanta. Despite trouble on election day and the postponement of the primary due to the COVID-19 pandemic, voter turnout in DeKalb doubled from 2016, the last year with a presidential primary on the ballot. About 37% of DeKalb County’s 529,175 registered voters completed their ballots this year, according to the county’s official election results. In 2016, 18% of the 378,798 registered voters cast their ballots.

DeKalb County Sheriff

Maddox received 51.34% of the votes in the Democratic primary against seven challengers, according to DeKalb’s official election results. Runner up Ruth “The Truth” Stringer had 13% of the votes. Maddox will face Republican Harold Dennis, who ran unopposed in the primary, in the November general election. The winner will assume the sheriff’s position for the next four-year term starting in 2021. However, Maddox will still have her name on the ballot in the runoff because of a postponed special election. Maddox was appointed to the sheriff’s seat in November 2019 after former Sheriff Jeff Mann retired after pleading guilty to committing “prohibited conduct” in a park in 2017. The seat was scheduled for a March nonpartisan special election to determine who would finish Mann’s term, but the pandemic postponed the special election to coincide with the regular primary. In the special election, which includes candidates from both parties, Maddox received the most votes at 36% but did not hit a majority. Stringer and Antonio “Block” Johnson, the two runner ups who are also Democrats, had 15% and 11%, respectively. Dennis, Maddox’s challenger for the full term in November, received 6% of the votes in the special. The runoff for the special election will be Aug. 11. In the meantime, Maddox will continue to lead the office.

DeKalb County Commission District 1

The District 1 commission seat, currently held by Republican Nancy Jester, will go into a runoff to name a Democratic nominee. Cynthia Yaxon had 34% of the votes and Robert Patrick followed closely with 33%. The winner of the runoff will face Jester, who’s held the seat since 2014, in the general election for a chance to become the commissioner of the north DeKalb area, which includes Dunwoody, Brookhaven and Doraville.

DeKalb County Commission Super District 6

The commission election for super District 6, which makes up half of the county, will also go into a runoff for the Democratic nominee. Edward “Ted” Terry led the three primary candidates with 38% of votes followed by Maryam Ahmad with 35%. The District 6 seat has no Republican candidates and current commissioner Kathie Gannon decided not to run again, so whoever wins the runoff will assume the position in January.

DeKalb County Board of Education District 1

Hill won the District 1 seat on the DeKalb County Board of Education with 59% of the votes while her opponent Andrew Ziffer had 41%. Hill was endorsed by current District 1 member Stan Jester, who has held the position since 2014 but decided not to run again. District 1 represents parts of Dunwoody, Chamblee, Brookhaven and Doraville. BK

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4 | Education

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DeKalb County school board hires new superintendent BY ERIN SCHILLING erinschilling@reporternewspapers.net

The DeKalb County Board of Education hired a new superintendent June 18 after rejecting its first pick for the position a month earlier. Cheryl Watson-Harris, who had been serving as the second in command at the New York City Department of Education, was officially hired in a 6-1 vote during a virtual called meeting after a two-week public input period. The board offered Watson-Harris a three-year contract starting July 1 with a base salary of $325,000. “Her experience as both an innovator at the New York City Department of Education and a passionate champion for children is precisely what we need to continue positioning our students for success,” board chair Marshall Orson said in a press release. Watson-Harris was named the sole finalist after the board rejected its previous finalist, Rudolph “Rudy” Crew, because of public outcry regarding his past controversies in a split vote. District 7 board member Joyce Morley was the only vote against Watson-Harris and said in the meeting she was ashamed of the board for making a hasty decision. She said a new search was never reopened after the board picked Crew then voted against him. Morley said Watson-Harris is not qualified to run the district because she does not have prior superintendent experience. “Children have not been at the front or the forefront of what has been going on with this board,” Morley said. She suggested someone who knows the community may have been a better fit for the position.

New leadership for reopening district

Watson-Harris took over from Superintendent Ramona Tyson, who retired at the end of June. Bob Fiscella, chair of the Dunwoody High School Principal Advisory Council, said he would have rather seen Tyson stay in the position and hopes the school board made the right decision with this hire. “Maybe they lucked out and we’re going to have a good superintendent,” Fiscella said. During a June 11 virtual town hall, Watson-Harris said her first orders of business are to create a detailed return plan after COVID-19 school closures and fill vacant positions in district leadership. Watson-Harris said she’ll spend the first few months listening to stakeholders and learning about the district in order to improve equity. She said she prides herself on being dubbed an “equity warrior” by former coworkers and hopes to build on existing resources to better serve the district’s diverse group of students and families. The recent protests against racism and police brutality can open up a deeper community conversation and also has a place in the classroom, Watson-Harris said in the town hall. “It’s an opportunity for us to engage our students to help them develop the right language to talk about racism, to talk about how they’re feeling about the current events, and to give them the tools to — not only to talk about them — but to develop the skills and opportunity to lead in a new way,” Watson-Harris said. Fiscella said he hopes Watson-Harris considers redistricting because of the overcrowding in North DeKalb schools.

During the town hall, Watson-Harris said she would do an analysis of the problem and get the input of community members in the affected areas before she

Cheryl Watson-Harris

makes any decisions about plans or redistricting.

‘Got it right this time’

The school boards said Watson-Harris’s 26 years of experience in large, urban and diverse districts made her the perfect fit for DeKalb in a press release announcing her as a finalist. The New York City Department of Education is the largest school district in the country and serves 1.1 million students. Watson-Harris touted accomplishments such as an increase in graduation rates

and test scores during her time with NYC. “One of the reasons I’m so excited about coming to DeKalb is that it’s big enough and exciting enough and vibrant enough to be the challenge that keeps me engaged in the work while also allowing me to be closer to schools and closer to students,” Watson-Harris said. Dekalb school district’s diversity is also one of the reasons Watson-Harris said she wanted to take the superintendent position. She said she hopes to foster the different cultural identities of students and their families through teaching diversity in the classrooms and also providing multi-language resources. For Board of Education District 1 memberelect Anna Hill, the failed vote to hire Crew, first finalSPECIAL ist, shows that the district should have more transparency in its decisions. Crew drew criticism because of a rocky exit from Flordia’s Miami-Dade County schools amid budget shortfalls and racial discrimination accusations, allegations of misspending of public money at Medgar Evers College, and a 1990s dispute over the failure to secure a room in a school where a student was later raped. “I don’t understand why DeKalb County spent so much money on a search firm when the first contender had a series of issues that ultimately made the board decide not to hire this person,” Hill said.

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Art & Entertainment | 5


Local K-pop fans cheer artists’ support for Black Lives Matter movement BY ERIN SCHILLING erinschilling@reporternewspapers.net

Na’Kia Hammock loves K-pop. The 26-year-old Sandy Springs photographer has been a fan of Korean pop music for years and said she doesn’t find many other Black K-pop fans. So when K-pop artists and fans came together to support the Black Lives Matter movement, Hammock was pleasantly shocked. “It was so unexpected, and that’s what makes it so much more amazing,” Hammock said. “We’re over here with the Black Lives Movement — angry, sad and scared — and then all of the sudden, it’s just the amount of people who showed up out of nowhere from the K-pop community to support it was just amazing.” K-pop fans and idols have made international headlines as fans have banded together to fill with K-pop photos and memes the social media hashtags that counter the BLM movement such as “#WhiteLivesMatter.” Fans of global K-pop sensation BTS, who refer to themselves as ARMY, matched the boy band’s $1 million donation to the Black Lives Matter organization in early June. Hammock said her surprise at the artist and fan’s support for BLM also comes from a yearslong controversy about Korean artists appropriating black culture. “They sample or are inspired by Black culture,” Hammock SPECIAL said. “Some things Na’Kia Hammock sports her gear from the K-pop band BTS. are pretty offensive, and yet because their fan bases are so large, they get away with doing such weird and wild things, like hair in braids or dreads or things like that.” However, Hammock said more K-pop artists are acknowledging their influence from Black culture, such as Korean-American rapper Jay Park, who posted a lengthy Instagram post in support of BLM. “Me being inspired by Black culture aside, me having Black homies aside, just as a man and a human being ... to think how helpless he felt and how inhumane he was treated ... to think what if that was my dad, or uncle or homie makes me sick to my stomach,” Park wrote in the post about the killing of George Floyd. Park’s post made ATLocal media director Robbie Atkinson an even bigger fan of the artist because of his willingness to speak up. At ATLocal, a promotion company that brings K-pop events to Atlanta, Atkinson creates videos for K-pop artists to send to local media companies. In that role, she said, she has talked to artists who have acknowledged their inspiration from Black culture. “It’s one thing to be able to align with our culture, our music, our aesthetic,” Atkinson said. “But when you can stand behind us in the face of these problems as well — and racism doesn’t just affect the Black community, but it’s also a human rights issue — that feels amazing.” Atkinson said the silence of some artists feels even more noticeable now that others are voicing their support for Black Lives Matter, but when she pointed that out online, some K-pop fans became defensive.

“I think education is a form of activism, maybe not the same as what other groups of K-pop fans are doing,” Atkinson said. “Showing them the perspective of a Black fan of K-pop. You don’t have a right to invalidate our perspective or experience just because you don’t have that same experience.” Atkinson made a video a few years ago pointing out the problems with K-pop artists appropriating Black culture, which she also said caused backlash from some fans. She said other K-pop fans sometimes dismiss concerns from Black fans, which she hopes is starting to change as artists stand with the BLM movement. ATLocal director Ashlee Rackthai said the company has turned to social media to educate its followers and employees about the BLM movement. Social media is the main way K-pop fans connect because they’re so scattered around the world, local K-pop fans said. Since K-pop fans also tend to be young people, social media platforms such as TikTok become a major connector. K-pop fans and TikTokers said they registered tickets to President Donald Trump’s recent campaign rally in Oklahoma and did not show as a prank to empty the arena, The New York Times reported. Kaylee Bolson, a 21-year-old Woodstock resident, said K-pop artists tend to do a lot of activism, such as for the LGBTQ community or during the international women’s march in January 2017. She said she’s proud of her favorite artists who have become so vocal about BLM. Bolson said the Atlanta K-pop scene is bigger than in other U.S. cities. There are speciality stores like K-Pop in USA on Buford Highway in Doraville. But fans still connect mostly through social media, such as Facebook groups and Twitter. When there are conventions or concerts in the city, Bolson said, she’ll use the platforms to meet up with fans and go together. Though Bolson said she misses concerts and seeing fellow fans in person at events, she hopes fans continue to use their voices on social media to support the BLM movement.

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6 | Commentary

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Around Town

Joe Earle is editorat-large at Reporter Newspapers and has lived in metro Atlanta for over 30 years. He can be reached at joeearle@ reporternewspapers.net

Neighborhood advocate steps aside

of life.” Mary Norwood, a Buckhead activist, former Atlanta City Councilmember and former mayoral candidate, described Certain as “one of the most accomplished neighborhood advocates I have ever known.” Debra Wathen has worked with Certain for a decade on the Buckhead Council of NeighSigns of change show up all around Gordon Certain’s north Buckhead home. Newer, borhoods, an organization that brings together representatives of neighborhood associations bigger houses have replaced older, smaller ones. New tall buildings loom nearby. There are from across Buckhead. Certain has served as BCN’s secretary and plans to continue in that more people, more cars, more of just about everything else, except maybe trees. “Everything role. has just mushroomed,” Certain said. “I think the world of Gordon because he works from the heart,” Wathen wrote in an email. When Certain moved into his ranch home on North Ivy Road in 1975, there was a dance “He is passionate about what he does and does an amazing job. He educates himself on ishall across the street. It was surrounded by acres of forest containing more than 500 mature sues that concern his neighborhood, as well as those that concern the Buckhead Council. If he trees. A developer bought the place and now suburban homes cover that land. These days, doesn’t know something, he asks questions until he gets a full understanding before he forms the view from Certain’s steep driveway is no longer of woods, but of side-by-side houses and opinions. For that reason, I truly respect him and what he has to say. He is also a machine! I do front yards. not know how he accomplishes all that he does.” Not all change is bad, of course. Certain expanded his house, adding Certain, who’s now 77, grew up in Florida and came to Atlanta to study space as his family grew. As north Buckhead has developed, residents have engineering at Georgia Tech. That led to a job at Lockheed-Martin, where he seen parks and playgrounds sprout throughout their neighborhood. Not worked for 31 years. Upon retirement, he decided to get involved in what was long ago, it had no public green spaces. going on around him so he became active with his neighborhood associaThere are other, perhaps less obvious, signs of change, too. The state Sution, the NBCA. “I thought I could use what I learned in business to help the preme Court sided with the neighborhood and the city to keep commercial neighborhood,” the soft-spoken Certain said. “And I did.” development from encroaching into certain residential areas. And Atlanta The BCN, an “association of associations,” got its start in 2008 as a way adopted a master plan for the area that was developed by the area’s homefor Buckhead’s neighborhoods to play a larger role in debates over developowners’ association, the North Buckhead Civic Association. ment as the community grew. When it formed, the organizations representCertain, who headed the North Buckhead association for two decades, ing Buckhead were dominated by businesses. “We just needed a voice,” Cerplayed a big part in making those good things happen. He attended city tain said. meetings, called public meetings, conducted surveys of residents and lobIn public meetings and as the editor of his neighborhood’s newsletter, bied city officials to push the homeowners’ point of view on everything Certain often provided that voice or a way for that voice to be heard. At times, from street widenings to the need for playgrounds to community planning. JOE EARLE his engineering background would show through. He regularly drew maps He regularly put in a full work week on neighborhood business, said his and built charts for the NBCA newsletter. He comes off as a numbers guy. Gordon Certain chats on the wife, Sue Certain, who says he once suggested the couple celebrate their A decade ago, for instance, after complaints about crime in Buckhead porch at his Buckhead home. wedding anniversary by going to a Buckhead community meeting. “He does flared up, Certain mapped every reported major crime in Atlanta on poster this all day long, every day, including weekends, for 20 years. It’s just who he board to show people attending the NBCA’s annual meeting that there were is. He’s just made that way,” she said one recent morning as she and Gordon sat in a sunroom more crimes elsewhere in the city. “I just thought it was inappropriate for folks to focus up at their home and listened to bird calls from the surrounding trees. here [in Buckhead] on crime,” he said. Certain joined the NBCA board in 1998, after retiring from a career as an engineer. He He still has the map, which is covered with red dots showing concentrations of crime. “I served as the group’s treasurer in 1999 and took over as its president in 2000. He held the said we’re here,” he said, pointing out the less-spotted north end of the city, then gesturing neighborhood association’s top job until May. He plans to remain on the organization’s to areas with a greater density of reported crimes. “This is hell down here. We’re in heaven.” board. He plans on staying. If he and Sue ever need to move from the house on Ivy Road, he said, Atlanta City Councilmember Howard Shook calls Certain “an unflagging supporter of they’ve reserved a spot in a condo tower on Peachtree Street. “We might end up in high-rise the neighborhood” who worked “ceaselessly to improve its safety, infrastructure and quality heaven,” he said. He paused and grinned at the thought. “Or hell.”

We aren’t perfect, but

WE ARE ONE. One world, one country, one community, one family. When one man hurts, we all hurt. When one woman loves, we all love. When one child laughs, we all laugh. We all carry a heavier burden when we divide and separate, but we thrive when we lift each other up and celebrate. Celebrate our differences. Celebrate life. Celebrate love. Celebrate best friends, old friends, new friends. Celebrate little victories right along side the big. Celebrate the opportunity to stretch

One World One Country One Community One Family

our minds and open our hearts until they hurt. We celebrate this collective we call humanity, where you don’t have to fit in to belong, where being your own true self is the most precious gift of all. WE CELEBRATE YOU.

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JULY 2020

Perimeter Business | 11


Healthcare leaders say lessons learned in pandemic create opportunity BY BOB PEPALIS

COVID-19 safety measures increased

Healthcare leaders said in a Perimeter Center discussion that they expect the disparity of care for minority and rural residents to get worse, but they see an opportunity to use what they have learned during the COVID-19 pandemic to make positive changes. Dr. Kathleen Funk of Northside Hospital; Heather Dexter, CEO of Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital; and Brian M. Rivers, director of the Cancer Health Equity Institute at Morehouse College took part in the Dunwoody Perimeter Chamber of Commerce’s “Return to the Perimeter” virtual panel on June 9.

costs, cut revenue

tinued through August, Emory would

“We couldn’t find PPE so we had to

have suffered a $660 million loss of rev-

start looking for alternatives. Then we

All three of the panelists said the

enue, she said. In May, Emory Health-

asked our staff to reuse items not de-

additional health safety measures re-

care announced furloughs or hour cuts

signed for reuse,” Dexter said.

quired because of the coronavirus have

for many employees. Reopening plans

Testing capacity wasn’t available for

increased the cost of providing the

didn’t change based on projected and

a long time. Once testing was available,

same care.

realized losses, said Dexter.

results took a long time to come back.

Elective procedures at Emory St. Jo-

By the end of May and June some

Rivers said Morehouse School of

seph’s and Northside were stopped at

procedures resumed and for the past

Medicine made the decision to transi-

the start of the pandemic to keep per-

few weeks Emory St. Joseph’s was at

tion the platform of classroom work

sonal protective equipment available

75% of its normal volume.

more toward a virtual setting early in

for working with coronavirus patients.

For inpatient care, Dexter said the


“We went from our normal volume

hospital had to “assure the safety of our

Research came with other difficul-

down to about 20% of normal,” Dexter

patients but also assure the supplies

ties. If a researcher is not at the bench,


were available for the personal protec-

most research can’t continue. They had

tive equipment necessary for our staff.”

to create novel pathways and approach-

Emergency Department and inpa-

Times became difficult right away.

tient visits dropped 50%. If it had con-

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12 | Commentary

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Commentary: A note to Atlanta on race and inclusion Editor’s note: This commentary on recent calls for dialogue about race and racism is signed by founders of several organizations that have performed prominent work in such local communities as Buford Highway, as well as groups that serve various parts of metro Atlanta. As we consider and enter into conversations about race in every facet of our lives, let us center the Black women and nonBlack women of color who have been having these conversations for years, for whom this work is not something we picked up in the last three weeks, but lifelong. These conversations with one another have been survival mechanism, sustenance and sanctuary. We urge leaders everywhere to center, amplify and value us, our work and our stories, because much of what we have experienced and the treatment we have endured can serve as cautionary lessons for what not to do. Much of what we have learned and achieved can serve as a beginning point for reimagining how we think about and approach our communities and cities. While not elected or appointed to serve our communities, we have been at the forefront of addressing the entrenched inequities and disparities of metro Atlanta resulting from its repeated failures to care for its Black residents and residents of color. We have organized and built movements, and designed and implemented solutions that are based in care and rooted in community rather than relying time and again on policing as the predominant, daily and often only mechanism of community engagement with minoritized and racialized communities. Each of us has dedicated our lives to this effort, and we do this work daily, because we must. There are no days off. Especially in Atlanta, it is our responsibility and our salvation to contend with our history, to wrestle with the legacy of the Spirit of Atlanta and the Atlanta Way, to take leave of the systems, beliefs and habits that no longer serve us well or at all, and to make a new way by making it as we go. Because we do this work daily, we are a true barometer of the state of the city and the region. We are a compass informing Atlanta where we are and guiding where we must go. We are the best prescription and pathways for healing. Individually, and occasionally together, we have seen a lot. We have been in countless rooms and at countless tables where we have been the only women, the only people of color, the only women of color. We are constantly asked to have our brains “picked,” only to have our ideas dismissed and criticized, or “borrowed” and co-opted by, and credited and well-compensated for, others. We’ve been tone-policed, gaslit and silenced. We’ve been asked to “share” our expertise for free, sign on to letters of support for grants that will go to White-led organizations or White consultants, and to serve on task forces and committees that do not listen to what we have to say, while seeing men and White women consistently lauded and compensated handsomely. We’ve been asked by “allies,” in return for the token gesture of coffee or lunch, to facilitate introductions so that they can diversify their boards, recruit donors from our communities, or create programming to make their own organizations relevant to communities of color. We’ve been asked by Atlanta’s private institutions to teach their students and provide tours of our communities for free. We’ve had to parade and perform our trauma for the mere chance of support and funding. We’ve had White women’s tears weaponized against us. And we are tired. This is what it’s like to be “welcomed” and “included” in Atlanta. Yet we persevere. Each of us, as a founder, as a creative, as an organizer, is rediscovering and reclaiming our selves through our work in ways that are personal, transformative and liberatory. We’ve all leaned hard into our own trauma, grief, anger, fear, imposter syndrome and burnout, interrogating every intention, holding ourselves accountable for every mistake and misstep. This is what doing the work means. And we persevere in doing it because we love this place, we love who we are and are becoming in this city and region, and we love the women coming along with us and after us and every day coming more into their own.

We persevere because the Band-Aids are no longer enough, Atlanta. Ask us what an Atlanta that no longer desperately needs the organizations we founded might look like. Ask us what an Atlanta without homelessness might look like, an Atlanta where Black spaces are preserved and alive with joy might look like, an Atlanta whose public spaces welcome and reflect with love, compassion and healing every person who has felt left out, unseen or wounded. Ask yourselves what an Atlanta looks like that makes the most marginalized among us, the least of these, whole. Ask us, and, because these requests require our labor and the expertise acquired through experience and refined through our work, pay us when seeking our time, our advice, our intellectual property, our insight and instruction, and our endorsement. We must hold fast to our calling and fight for one another, step by step. Not merely to listen, not to become better individuals, not to make friends with people of a different race or ethnicity, not to increase diversity hiring. Atlanta is called in this moment to apprehend and excavate White supremacy, antiBlackness, our own internalized oppression, from the roots, to dismantle systemic, institutionalized racism, to heal ourselves, to make ourselves and the places in which we live, just, at peace and whole. Neda Abghari Founder and Executive Director, The Creatives Project Liliana Bakhtiari Community Organizer and Consultant Monica Campana Co-Founder and Executive Director, Living Walls Rutu Chaudhari Founder and Executive Director, The Dharma Project Stephanie Cho Executive Director, Asian Americans Advancing Justice Atlanta Nedra Deadwyler Founder and CEO, Civil Bikes Yvonne Druyeh Dodd Founder, Evi D. Consulting Nikishka Iyengar Founder and CEO, The Guild T. Lang Artistic Director, T. Lang Dance Owner and Founder, The Movement Lab ATL Makeda Lewis Social Media Manager, MINT Gallery Marian Liou Founder, We Love BuHi Tracy Murrell Founder and Chief Creative, Tracy Murrell Studios Tiffany Ray Chief Strategic Officer, Generation Infocus Martice Sutton Founder and Executive Director, Girls Going Global Malika Whitley Founder and Executive Director, ChopArt Leatrice Ellzy Wright Executive Director, Hammonds House Museum To join our discussion, please email nowwatl2020@gmail.com. BK

JULY 2020

Commentary | 13


A call to serenity

washed-out glass jars and finding things to fill them with. I get little bursts of satisfaction when I can transfer slivered almonds from their plastic bag to an empty jar of spaghetti sauce.

This is a difficult time to write a column that I hope people turn to as a source of diversion and perhaps mild amusement. Even the spreading virus and ensuing lockdowns could be fodder for jokes about weight gain and quarantine beards and wine tours that took you from your kitchen to your bathroom to your living room. Creative types repurposed popular tunes and masterworks of art with coronavirus themes. (My favorite was “The Girl with the Purell Earring.”) I thought it was a tribute to the human spirit that in the face of a global pandemic, people found a way to laugh. Humor gets us through a lot. But there’s nothing entertaining about the current events of our nation, and I’ve been hard-pressed to find a topic of diversion. Then I came across this quote by the writer Annie Dillard: “A writer looking for subjects inquires not after what he loves best, but after what he alone loves at all.” So I thought I’d start there, first focusing on what I love, which is a lot of things, then trying to identify that

Robin’s Nest

Robin Conte lives with her husband in an empty nest in Dunwoody. To contact her or to buy her column collection, “The Best of the Nest,” see robinconte.com.

thing that I, uniquely, love. Chocolate and coffee are easy to cancel out, as they are items of universal adulation. Mountains and beaches, sunsets and waterfalls — they also garner widespread admiration, being the subject of everything from screensavers to dream vacations. I am developing increasing appreciation for Mason jars, versatile little things that can be used as drinking vessels, rustic vases and storage containers and are handily equipped with imprinted lines that render them

useful as a measuring utensils to boot, but they’re making a comeback, so I’m not alone there, either. In truth, I could focus purely on glass jars, since, like the cra-

And then, suddenly, I thought of the whippoorwill. I know I’m not the only one to be enchanted by the song of a whippoorwill, yet for me it is singular in that it is the song of my own memories. The very sound carries me back to my childhood and nestles me softly down onto the old couch on the front porch of my grandparents’ house in rural New Hampshire. It was there that I learned of this bird as a herald of the night and heard its call, a piercing sound that begins at the first dusky moment of twilight when the sky melts into mystical shades of bluish gray (shades which I’m sure Benjamin Moore has a found a way to can and number). It was there that my Nono told my siblings and me a legend of a pair of starcrossed lovers who became separated, as lovers of legends are wont to become, and whose nightly calls to each other were immortalized in the whippoorwill’s repetitive trill. It was there that I would sit as the evening deepened and cooled, by then just with my siblings and our Nana, because Nono always retired early. We would sit in the comfort of her presence, watching and listening, and use the time to rest and reflect on the day that just faded and how it was spent and the promise of not much more to come but sleep and rejuvenation and the prospect of rising again. I think of the song as mine alone because it is the call of my wise and loving grandmother, as well as my own naive youth. And with it I remember the words I spoke at her funeral almost 20 years ago, when I struggled to describe her to the congregation. I admitted that my words were flat, like snapshots, and that to truly reveal the person that she was, I would have to take you with me, to her house on the hill, where you would feel serene just to be in her presence … the presence of a woman whose soul was as pure and clear as the call of a whippoorwill. Perhaps that’s why I love that bird’s call, because in reminding me of her, it calls for me to be the same.

zy lady who collects feral cats, I’ve begun inexplicably surrounding myself with

Healthcare leaders say lessons learned in pandemic create opportunity continued from page 11 es to continue their research. A lot of the patient population has been clinical based, Rivers said. Many processes could be converted to a virtual platform. He said it took some adjustment to move from the clinical setting while offering the same level of integrity. From a clinical point of view, Funk said COVID-19 is nothing like any other virus they’ve seen in their lifetimes — not only for its mortality, but also in the challenge in finding the different ways the illness can present. Northside’s staff canvassed across the nation and the world, reaching out to colleagues to learn more about the coronavirus. One board member had a contact that provided the hospital system with an early copy of the manual written by Chinese scientists on how they were managing things. In addition to postponing elective cases, the panelists’ institutions took many other steps to try to control the spread of the coronavirus at their faBK

cilities. Visitors were limited and only

is less so than being put on a ventilator

for specialists to visit these communi-

in special situations were allowed. Ev-

for COVID-19 treatment.

ties to increase the availability of care.

eryone coming into the hospitals gets screened.

Opportunity to change healthcare model

“Telehealth can inexpensively bring quality care to those communities,” she

“I think unique for Morehouse

The healthcare leaders said with

School of Medicine is that we have re-

the practices that became necessary

Northside completed more than

turned to campus,” Rivers said.

with the coronavirus, an opportunity

70,000 telehealth sessions. Those in-

has been created to change the face of

cluded follow-ups from the emergency


department and surgery. The primary

It took a lot of preventive measures to realize that, he said. “Everyone has to be tested. We tested our entire workforce.” Fear has people waiting too long to come to the emergency department, Funk said.


“Even in the midst of this pandem-

care clinic took the lead, calling COV-

ic we realized that some individuals or

ID-19 patients who were discharged

families have it much worse than oth-

from the emergency department.

ers,” Rivers said. African American, Hispanic and

Emory St. Joseph’s has been working with telehealth for about 10 years, Dex-

“We worked really, really hard to

rural communities suffered more for

ter said.

make people safe when coming into our

various reasons, he said. Poverty and

“We feel like we made more progress

hospital,” she said.

densely populated areas make social

in 10 weeks than in the 10 years previous,” she said.

Funk and Dexter both said the clean-

distancing ineffective. The pandem-

ing and disinfecting process makes it

ic helped magnify the healthcare dis-

Rivers said Morehouse found some

almost an hour to turn over a room be-

parity on a national level, Rivers said.

people were having a difficult time un-

tween patients. Employees and patients

He said we can’t go back to business as

derstanding the health guidelines be-

must wear face masks. Dexter said fur-

usual with how we structure health-

ing issued. People were gathering in

niture has been removed to help assure



social distancing. Outside of the hospitals, Funk said not a lot of people are wearing masks.

“But we have to make change to be sure we are… meeting the needs of all,” he said.

To those people who find wearing a

Funk said they continue to seek part-

face mask uncomfortable, she said, it

ners in rural communities to arrange




when they needed social distancing. “But we knew that message needed to be clarified,” he said.

14 | Community

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Buford Highway talks show challenge of dialogue on race continued from page 1 at” to include diverse voices in planning. However, he has struggled for years to balance gentrification and redevelopment with the needs of the Buford Highway’s diverse immigrant community. The city is considering a multiuse complex on Buford Highway near North Druid Hills Road to complement the already underway construction of multibillion-dollar Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory Executive Park healthcare complexes. The concept plans, presented during the May 26 council meeting, show skyscrapers built where a popular Cuban cafe, the Havana Sandwich Shop, now serves customers. Ernst said the plan is based on an affordable housing zoning rewrite and the 2014 Buford Highway Improvement Plan, both of which were driven by resident input. Brookhaven’s population is 27% Latino, according to city statistics, with much of that community living on Buford Highway. Marco Palma, the president of Los Vecinos de Buford Highway, a nonprofit advocating for tenant rights, said he appreciates Brookhaven’s inclusionary efforts but doesn’t think it’s enough. “As new development happens, a lot of the working class people here won’t be able to afford the rent,” said Palma, who worries about residents who don’t get input in development plans.

Efforts for affordable housing Brookhaven pioneered a citywide inclusionary zoning ordinance to make affordable housing a requirement. The zoning code, adopted in November 2018, requires any approved special land use permit or rezoning for a multi-unit residential housing project to make 10% of the residential units priced at “workforce housing” rates. This solution was decided on after the Affordable Housing Task Force studied the issue for several months. However, Palma said he hasn’t noticed any benefits from the task force or the new zoning. For the zoning ordinance, the city used federal income data collected in the Census to determine the area’s median income. Ernst said the city used the median income from the Census block, which are small geographical areas used to understand a population’s demographics, instead of using the median income for the entire city or metro Atlanta area. Ernst said that allows the city to more

accurately portray the income levels. “You put in policies now that affect the next 20 or 30 years,” said Ernst, who said the city hasn’t seen many people coming or up-zoning in the last couple years. “These things aren’t immediate.” Palma said the median income number does not accurately portray the income of a lot of Buford Highway residents because people in the area do not fill out the Census, either because they are undocumented immigrants, there is a language barrier, or there is no outreach. Therefore, Palma said, the city’s evaluation of the median income of the area is much higher than what residents actually make. The city could work on being more specific in where they allocate their resources and asking residents what they need or want, Palma said. For example, he said it would be helpful to have a Spanish-speaking code enforcement officer so people can complain more easily if their landlords do not do upkeep on the complex. He also said addressing or facilitating apartment maintenance would help residents. However, Palma said the city has not done active outreach to listen to Buford Highway residents and could include their voices from the beginning of city planning projects.

Getting diverse input When the Peachtree Creek Greenway, which just opened its first mile in late 2019, was still in its planning phases in 2015, there were no Spanish-language materials about the multiuse trail, despite its position along Buford Highway. The city hired a bilingual communications specialist in 2017 as part of more systematic outreach to residents to include more voices in city planning. Ernst said the city actively reaches out to residents by hosting meetings at popup locations and now always provides multilingual information. “There are 365 days of community days of listening to the residents,” Ernst said. Activists worry the addition of the greenway, compared often to Atlanta’s Beltline, will gentrify the area and push out residents and do not feel planning conversations have included the community affected most. Palma, who works with people living near the greenway, said the city has not come to his organization to get resident input on the path. Palma also said he hasn’t seen announcements of commu-

nity meetings or information in Spanish regarding the greenway and feels like Spanish pamphlets come out after decisions about developments have already been made. After the trail opening, We Love BuHi executive director Lily Pabian said she hopes it helps small business owners by bringing foot traffic to their doors but the concern about displacing people looms beneath the new concrete. We Love BuHi is a nonprofit that advocates for the immigrant community along the corridor through arts and activism. The “model mile” is currently open to the public and located between North Druid Hills and Briarwood roads. Betsy Eggers, the founder of Peachtree Creek Greenway, which advocates for the trail, said she’s loved seeing the diversity of people exercising on the trail. Eggers said the greenway helps raise the standard of living for residents of Brookhaven’s District 4, which includes Buford Highway. The area previously didn’t have any parks. “It’s really wonderful to now see that such a diverse group of people are using the Peachtree Creek Greenway,” Eggers said. When asked whether greenway planning included these people, Eggers said it was a “big obstacle.” “People who are working two jobs and making ends meet don’t have the

People who are working two jobs and making ends meet don’t have the luxury of attending board meetings and being involved in civic activity. BETSY EGGERS FOUNDER OF PEACHTREE CREEK GREENWAY

luxury of attending board meetings and being involved in civic activity,” Eggers said. She said they were able to get input from a study conducted by Cross Keys High School students about what the students and their families would like to see as amenities at the park, which she said was a way to get around the language barrier with their parents. There’s a fine line between gentrification and raising the quality of life, Pabian said, but she thinks the city should be able to improve infrastructure without displacing people.

Development ahead Despite continued concerns about gentrification, new developments are planned for Buford Highway, including two multibillion-dollar hospital complexes, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University, which plan to connect to the greenway. City officials also hosted Brookhaven’s inaugural “Developer’s Day” in September 2019, which was a sales pitch of the city to potential developers and business owners. Ernst said it was a day for developers to learn about potential projects the community already said it would accept. Palma said he never heard about a similar community meeting. “Generally speaking, if an event was made like that, I think that would be very good for city morale and the morale of people here,” Palma said. “People want to be included in city affairs.” The diversity of Brookhaven was a “selling point” when the city bid to be the new home for the Amazon headquarters, Ernst said in 2017 during a discussion about gentrification. Though it lost the bid, architectural drawings of the potential headquarters revealed the city planned a much larger campus than shown to the public. It also encompassed Northeast Plaza on Buford Highway, which the owners declined for the city to use in the proposal. Palma said the bid created a lot of anxiety with residents, who felt like the city wasn’t acting in their best interest. Both Palma and Pabian would like to see more effort to include residents from the beginning of city planning projects. “And any sort of communication plan or strategy, what does your ‘at the gate’ look like?” Pabian said. Is it inclusive at the very beginning when you’re rolling out, or is it inclusive later? Is it an afterthought?” BK

JULY 2020

Community | 15


How race and racism shaped growth and cityhood in north metro Atlanta BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

In Buckhead and Brookhaven, in Dunwoody and Sandy Springs, mayors and other prominent elected officials have responded to the George Floyd protests by decrying systemic racism and calling for civic dialogues on race. According to some Atlanta historians, they won’t have far to look for subject matter. Racism, the historians say, was a driving force in making the communities majority-White and affluent, in the annexation and cityhood movements that raised them to prominence, and in the lingering segregation that they help to embody in the metro area’s housing patterns, schools and economic development. “I don’t think anything’s changed for the suburban areas. They resisted integration back then… The whole area’s still segregated,” said Ronald Bayor, a retired professor of history and sociology at Georgia Tech and author of “Race and the Shaping of Twentieth-Century Atlanta.” Race is one of many factors in Atlanta’s political and social history, he and other experts note, but early overt racism remains an enduring, underlying, systemic force that shapes where people live and work, whether intentionally or not. Bayor and others say old racist patterns continue to play out in redevelopments of places like Buford Highway and Sandy Springs’ North End, where mostly or all-White groups seek higherend remakes of minority areas for their own aspirations, or in separatist urges like rumblings about Buckhead leaving Atlanta. Two of the leaders involved in the political debates that led to the landmark 2005 incorporation of Sandy Springs -the inspiration for other local city formations -- agree that race was a factor, though not on whether it came predominantly from White Republican proponents or Black Democrat opponents. “It was much more complex and complicated than just race, but race was a factor.” said Rusty Paul, who fought for cityhood as a state senator and is now the city’s mayor. “...By the time cityhood really got critical mass, racism was much more subtle but still just as effective. I would not be fair [or] accurate if I didn’t acknowledge that there were issues on both sides that had racial overtones. It wasn’t everyone.” Paul added that “for reasons that I tru-


ly never understood,” race became an opposition issue, along with class and partisanship, as the cityhood was led by “very affluent, White [and] Republican” community advocates. “I think it’s going to be difficult for them to have a quote-unquote dialogue on race until they come to admit that the city was birthed in racism,” said former state Sen. Vincent Fort, who opposed Sandy Springs cityhood. He said he sympathized with arguments for more local control, but that achieving it through separatism was unnecessary and a form of coded racism based in “resentment that you had a majority-African American board [on the Fulton County Commission] making deci-

It’s always been a facade. First of all, Atlanta was never ‘the city too busy to hate...There’s always been problems over race and I think that continues. Obviously in the [Atlanta] police department it continues. RONALD BAYOR AUTHOR OF “RACE AND THE SHAPING OF TWENTIETH-CENTURY ATLANTA.”

sions.” Paul’s recent moves to establish a series of virtual dinners to discuss race and racism is a major development in local politics. Yet racial dialogue is also not new to metro Atlanta and itself can be part of the pattern of racial hierarchy. The classic form is the “Atlanta Way,” a term recently used by J.P. Matzigkeit and Howard Shook, members of the Atlanta City Council representing Buckhead, in praising or calling for peaceful protests.

As described by former Georgia Tech urban planning professor Larry Keating in his book “Atlanta: Race, Class and Urban Development,” the Atlanta Way was a political tactic established by Mayor William Hartsfield for dealing with the burgeoning Civil Rights movement of the 1950s. It involved White business and political leaders teaming with Black community leaders to negotiate gradual desegregation in exchange for avoiding direct confrontations or more radical demands. The Atlanta Way is credited for making the city relatively progressive in its time and for avoiding more severe versions of racist backlash violence that gripped other Southern cities. “But beneath this surface civility harsh facts prevail,” wrote Keating. The effect, he said, was to ensure White business elites controlled the city, with some concessions for the Black middle class, and little interest in the needs of the White middle class and the poor of either race. Continued segregation and widening income inequality are among its results, he writes. It’s a political dynamic that has continued even after decades of Black mayors leading Atlanta, according to Keating and Bayor. “It’s always been a facade. First of all, Atlanta was never ‘the city too busy to hate,’” said Bayor, using another Hartsfield-era term. “... There’s always been problems over race and I think that continues. Obviously in the [Atlanta] police department it continues.” “Taking down statues -- and I have no objections to taking down Confederate statues -- but that’s facade also. That’s how they’re covering,” Bayor said. “Things have to go on that will change the systemic racism that goes on in our society. And that’s so inbred into the system it’s going to take a while.”

Race and northern expansion “White fear of a black-run city” dominated Atlanta politics for a hundred years after the end of the Civil War, when Black citizens got the right to vote, Bayor wrote in his book. Along with “Jim Crow” laws enforcing racial segregation, those politics shaped the development of the northside suburbs. Segregation of Black residents in less desirable areas helped to send more White residents into then largely rural northern communities. Brookhaven’s Lynwood Park neighborhood was cre-

ated in 1930 by Black residents forced out of Buckhead, where many continued to work as personal servants, according to the book “Race and Ethnicity: Across Time, Space, and Discipline.” At least 15 African American communities were wiped out for White redevelopment by governments in the area in 1940-1960, according to Keating. They include Macedonia Park, razed in the 1940s and ’50s so the White Garden Hills community could have amenities at what is now Frankie Allen Park. Expansion of the northern suburbs came in the Civil Rights era and “was overtly racial at first,” writes Keating. “Affluent Whites moved to the northern suburbs to live at a distance from the city’s Blacks, whom segregation had concentrated in the near south side.” After Jim Crow, a degree of that segregation in real estate is maintained, Keating and Bayor say, through such mechanisms as restrictive zoning that inflates home prices and agents steering Black clients away from White communities. Jobs shifted north as well, with Buckhead becoming Atlanta’s financial core and Perimeter Center a Fortune 500 hub. When integration exists, it is often just a temporary side effect of gentrification, according to Keating. That process is a recent dynamic in Atlanta, as White populations both return to the inner city and move to even farther suburbs, while Perimeter cities grow increasingly diverse. In the 1940s, Hartsfield attempted to annex Buckhead and some other White suburbs into Atlanta. Revenue was the public rationale, but privately he acknowledged it was also about maintaining a White majority. “Our Negro population is growing by leaps and bounds… [Black citizens] “will become a potent political force in Atlanta if our white citizens are just going to move out and give it to them,” he wrote privately to community leaders in Buckhead and Druid Hills, according to Bayor’s book. Buckhead’s annexation was accomplished in 1952, and in the 1960s, Hartsfield set his sights on Sandy Springs for the same reasons. Local residents rejected annexation out of fears of higher taxes and that the White-majority tactic would fail. In one response, Sandy Springs activists wrote that they would “build up a city separate from Atlanta and your Negroes and forbid any Negroes to buy, or own, or live within our limits,” according to Princeton Universicontinued on page 16

16 | Community continued from page 15 ty history professor Kevin Kruse’s book “White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism.” When future founding mayor Eva Galambos got involved in the cityhood movement a decade later, such overt racism was gone. Like city founders who followed her in Brookhaven, Dunwoody and other metro areas, she and her allies talked about tax money going elsewhere rather than improving local streets and policing, and about corrupt or incompetent county governments that foisted unwanted developments on the community. In her 2011 autobiography “A Dream Come True,” Galambos presents Black leaders’ opposition as inexplicably mean or irrational and

Facebook.com/TheReporterNewspapers ■ twitter.com/Reporter_News hinted it was itself a form of racism, culminating in the moment cityhood supporters convinced Civil Rights icon U.S. Rep. John Lewis to endorse their right to vote on the plan. Fort says there was no mystery to the opposition: It was about maintaining revenue for less affluent Black communities in need. “I could sympathize with the zoning issue because I come out of that type of neighborhood protection background,” said Fort. But he believes the arguments about keeping money local and incompetent leaders were in part thinly veiled racist tropes, and that cityhood was a prelude to the “apartheid” proposal to break off north Fulton as a separate, majority-White county called Milton -- which was polit-

ically viable as recently as 2011. “It is just so ironic they would charge that they were quote-unquote the victims and that their fight for the incorporation of Sandy Springs and other incorporations was a Civil Rights issue. … It’s really kind of mind-boggling,” said Fort. “Sandy Springs is a lot more diverse than the concept of it,” said Paul, suggesting there was some stereotyping of the cityhood movement. He focused on the outcome, claiming the city today provides as much or more tax revenue to Fulton and that the recent incorporation of South Fulton shows the cityhood model is effective. “What we proved, I think, was that you can have your cake and eat it, too,” he said.

Paul said that back then, he never sat down with cityhood opponents to ask about the racial issues; now he is among the leaders making that call for racial dialogue that is new to the young cities. Fort said he wonders whether it will result in significant changes like redrawing City Council districts to allow for the election of minority candidates. Bayor says that, while there is plenty to discuss, there are few models for successful integration anywhere in the U.S. “They’re all talking the talk, but let’s see if they’re walking the walk,” he said. “... It’s certainly better to have that discussion. But it’s not like we haven’t had it before.”

Police release use of force and complaint reports; stats show a diverse staff BY ERIN SCHILLING erinschilling@reporternewspapers.net

After nationwide protests against racism and police brutality, the Brookhaven Police Department responded with a social-media “Transparency Project” promoting certain policies and procedures, though use of force and complaint reports were more challenging to obtain. Meanwhile, statistics show the city government staff and BPD are roughly representative of the community’s diversity. BPD said it already bans the neck restraints like the one used by Minnesota police in the killing of George Floyd, which triggered nationwide protests. Mayor John Ernst said the city is “actively listening” to residents during the protests and wants to take time before making any citywide initiatives toward inclusion. He said the biggest systemic racism problem in Brookhaven is other residents racial profiling people of color and calling the police. Ernst said racist suspicious-persons calls have always been a problem, though the city has never addressed it before and has no concrete plans to. “There’s not a public policy solution, which makes this whole problem very difficult,” said Ernst, who hopes community protests and more neighborly interactions because of the pandemic have helped alleviate some of the problem. BPD “Transparency Project” includes information about demographics, body cameras and some use of force policies and reports. However, the project did not include the release of primary documents on BPD use of force reports or complaints against officers. The city initially demanded an unwaivable fee of more than $500 for use of force reports through an open records request, but BPD later agreed to provide use of force and discrimination reports at no cost. Deputy Chief of Police Brandon Gurley said the department spent 10 to 15 hours of staff time creating the “Transparency Project” posts and videos. City Manager Christian Sigman said the city intends to eventually set up a system for making use of force reports, along with such other information as city financial transactions, available online.

Use of force All neck restraints, including knee-to-neck or chokeholds, are considered deadly force, said Brookhaven Police Department spokesperson David Snively. Those restraints are prohibited except in situations where the suspect is deemed to be an im-

Brookhaven police officers are obligated to intervene if another officer is using excessive force and must try to de-escalate a situation before using force. All use of force incidents, which include anytime an officer displays a weapon, are documented and evaluated by four supervisors before being completed, according to a BPD social media post. Officers reported 251 uses of force during 3,066 total arrests in 2019, according to an annual use of force report posted by BPD. They include one use of deadly force, 17 Taser deployments and 53 incidents of physical contact. About 180 of reports involved displaying a weapon. White people accounted for 61% of all arrests in 2019 but 19% of all use of force reports, whereas Black people accounted for 38% of arrests but 44% of all use of force reports, according to BPD’s social media graphics. BPD did not immediately respond to a comment request about that difference.

Complaints In the past 12 months, BPD had 36 complaints against officers, four of which alleged discrimination, according to documents obtained in an open records request. All four complaints were investigated and considered unsubstantiated. One of the complaints ruled as unsubstantiated alleged racial profiling when an officer stopped a man who was said to match the description of another person wanted in connection with a theft.

Demographics The Brookhaven police force is representative of the city’s population, though it slightly under-represents Latino and Asian people. Nineteen percent of the police force is Latino whereas 23% of the population is Latino. Three percent of officers are Asian, though 6% of the city is Asian. About 53% of the police force is White, compared to 58% of the city’s population. Black people are over-represented in the force, at 23% of officers compared to 10% of the population. Women are under-represented in the force compared to the city population, but above the national average for women officers. Those numbers include all 95 full-time staff members, not just sworn officers. Ernst also complimented the diversity of the city staff, which has similar diversity as the police department, though slightly under-representing the Latino and Asian population by about 9 and 3 percentage points, respectively.

mediate threat to killing or severely injuring another person.


JULY 2020

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September 25th – 27th

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Carol Niemi is a marketing consultant who lives on the Dunwoody-Sandy Springs line and writes about people whose lives inspire others. Contact her at worthknowingnow@gmail.com.

Thanks to COVID-19, the 2020 Dunwoody 4th of July parade was canceled. Based on past attendance, more than 2,500 participants and 32,000 spectators were left with a gaping hole in their Independence Day. Especially disappointed were the members of the Central Georgia Mounted Color Guard, the patriotic riders and horses Carol Niemi is a marketing consultant who lives on the Dunwoodythat carry the flags andSandy leadSprings the parade. line and writes about people whose lives inspire ContactPam her at worthknowingnow@gmail.com. According to parade others. Co-Chair Talmadge, when the pandemic caused participants to start pulling out even before the cancellation, the one group that was all in was the CGMCG. Though most parade-goers have a favorite float or band, the horses seem to rank high on everyone’s list. No surprise. Even people who don’t ride them like them. In fact, for more than 5,000 years we humans have not just liked them. We’ve farmed with them, worked with them, traveled with them, gone to war with them and built a country with them. Today, we mostly just love them, which is why the members of the CGMCG are passionate about sharing their equine partners with the public. The Central Georgia Mounted Color Guard was founded in 2012 as a nonprofit by two lifelong horsewomen, Ruth Wilson and Ann Harris, with the motto “Honoring Those Who Serve.” They led their first Dunwoody parade in 2014. “We love the Dunwoody parade,” said Wilson. “It was the first parade to seek us out, and we were honored and thrilled.”

4th of July Parade’s riders hold their horses for pandemic’s end


The Central Georgia Mounted Color Guard leading the 2019 Dunwoody 4th of July parade. Front to back: Lisa Stacholy on Joe, Jan Stacholy on Twister, Ruth Wilson on Major, Nick Stacholy on his patriotically decorated bike. Hidden behind Major is Serina Stacholy as safety walker.

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Commentary | 19


Unlike smaller parades, Dunwoody offers a small stipend. “We really depend on that stipend,” said Wilson, who adds that the group has some small sponsors, but the riders pay all their own expenses except for their official jacket and shirts, which they give back when they leave the group. Members pay for all of their own travel costs, which are significant when hauling a horse trailer, plus all their color-coordinated, parade-specific attire and tack (such as color-coordinated saddle pads, fly caps and hoof dressings). In the case of the Dunwoody parade, it’s red, white and blue down to the glitter on the horses’ hooves. The core group consists of four members, supported by children, grandchildren and spouses, who participate as riders, safety walkers and cleanup detail. Young riders don’t carry the colors. The safety walkers keep overly excited spectators from approaching and spooking the horses. According to Wilson, as proud as they are to carry the colors, their favorite part of the Dunwoody parade is the meet-and-greet after. “Parents can’t pull their kids away. A lot of them are as excited as the kids and buy watermelon for the horses,” she said. Two years ago, at the end of the 2018 parade, Dunwoody resident Lisa Stacholy visited the meet-and-greet and asked if she and Joe, her Appaloosa, could join the team. Normally, prospects must attend desensitizing clinics at Wilson’s farm, where horses are exposed to sights and sounds they might encounter at a parade. “We look for a confident rider with a confident horse,” said Wilson. “Our clinics expose them to people, noise, smoke, flags and a shooting range that sounds like motorcycle backfire.” Since Stacholy knew Joe was unflinchable and the team needed a rider for the upcoming Alpharetta Old Soldiers Parade in August, she skipped the trial. She and Joe rode in that parade but didn’t SPECIAL carry the colors. After the 2019 parade, Lisa Stacholy and Joe get ready for the meet-and-greet with the help of Jordan Fields. On July 4, 2019, they rode in Dunwoody, her hometown, and carried the colors of the U.S.A. “Dunwoody was an indescribable feeling,” she said. “We’ve lived here since 2002. To do something so huge was a proud moment.” Even more special, her whole family participated. Her husband Jan, who grew up with horses, rode Twister, one of Wilson’s horses. Her daughter Serina was a safety walker and her son Nick followed the horses on his bike along with a Dunwoody High School classmate doing clean-up. “Our vets give so much they deserve more than a wink and a nod,” said Stacholy. “I always get choked up when someone struggles to stand and salute the flag.” Like Wilson, Stacholy loves the meet-and-greet. “Joe understands the different levels of people,” she said. “When a family approached with their special needs son in a wheelchair, Joe patiently stood there, head lowered, as they lifted their son’s hand to pet his nose. It was a magical moment when the child made the connection.” Stacholy and her teammates all hope to ride in next year’s parade. Meanwhile, they are looking for riders, helpers and sponsors. For information, go to cgmcg.org or facebook.com/CentralGeorgiaMountedColorGuard.

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The Inspire Aviation Foundation hopes to eventually create an Atlanta Air & Space Museum at PDK, which once was the NAS Atlanta. For now, it seeks to raise $3,500 to help preserve the history of NAS Atlanta by digitizing materials assembled over the years by members of the Naval Air Station Reunion Group, according to the foundation’s website. The archives feature photos, base programs and directories, promotional literature, engineering and architectural drawings for construction of the original World War IIera Naval Air Station, the foundation says on its website. “It’s very rare material, very precious material,” said Moreno Aguiari, a member of the Atlanta Air & Space Museum’s board of directors, who worked on WWII-era airplane news publications from his PDK office. Before it became a public airport, the Chamblee airfield, located on Clairmont Road on the Brookhaven border, had a history of military uses. Camp Gordon, a World War I

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The reunion group started annual meetings in 1960, once the air station completed its move to Marietta, Aguiari said. The group’s archives were donated to the foundation. In addition to the archive, the foundation intends to develop a ground tour of PDK airport highlighting the facility’s history, according to Aguiari and the webpage. Eventually, the foundation wants to develop the Atlanta Air & Space Museum and Educational Campus at the county-owned airport and to use the archival material in a display about Naval Air Station Atlanta. Anyone interested in donating to the archives preservation project can find further details on the website at AtlantaAirAndSpaceMuseum.org.

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Bill could lift mayoral term limits after referendum continued from page 1 es currently have no term limits. Three years ago, a city charter review commission recommended term limits for the mayor and council members. House Bill 695 is a revived bill from last year that was amended this session to remove the mayor term limits completely instead of extending the limit to three terms. It also adds a referendum vote so residents could make the ultimate decision instead of the Legislature. State Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta), who made the last-minute change to include the referendum during the last session, made the motion to pass the new bill in the Senate on June 26. It passed both the Senate and House with no opposing votes. The Brookhaven City Council voted 3-1 to approve a resolution in support of the bill during a June 23 council meeting. In the council meeting, Ernst said the Legislature made the decision to add the referendum and remove mayoral term limits completely, but he did not give his

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opinion about the bill. Currently, the mayor can serve two consecutive four-year terms, while council members have unlimited terms. Ernst was elected in 2019 for his second term, meaning the change would allow him to serve as long as he kept getting the majority vote. Councilmember Joe Gebbia voted against allowing unlimited term limits, though all other members voiced their support of the bill. “I ran from Day One, back in 2012, on the grounds of term limits,” Gebbia said in the council meeting. “I’m living true to my commitment. I have self-imposed term limits. I understand the arguments for this, but I do not believe it is the proper action.” Councilmember Linley Jones said she supports the resolution because she does not think arbitrary term limits should prohibit voters from choosing their preferred representatives. For Councilmember John Park, the small voter base in Brookhaven caused his “yes” vote. “Term limits in certain situations may be relevant, but — particularly for the size and nature of Brookhaven — it’s hard enough to get people to run, which is why I support this,” Park said. A 2017 review of the city charter by a city-appointed commission suggested implementing three-term limits for both the mayor and council to encourage other residents to run for office. “The Commission found that the city has a wealth of well-educated, civic-minded and otherwise qualified residents available to serve elected office,” the 2017 report said. “Because of the advantages of incumbency, these talented people are reluctant to stand for office.” Councilmember Madeleine Simmons said she heard community concerns about allowing the Legislature to decide term limits while she ran for office, so she’s glad the bill includes a referendum. “This is consistent with allowing people to vote for what they want and who they want,” Simmons said. In addition to a referendum to eliminate mayoral term limits, the bill includes other changes that were recommended by the charter review, such as having the city appoint a new mayor or council member if the elected official is unable to finish the last year of their term. BK

JULY 2020

Community | 23


Urban tree canopy declines steadily, according to assessment BY ERIN SCHILLING erinschilling@reporterneewspapers.net

Brookhaven has seen a net loss of tree coverage in the past 10 years, according to an urban tree canopy assessment commissioned by the city. The 2019 tree canopy coverage is 44%, compared to 47% in 2009. Tree coverage has been on a steady decline for the past four years in Brookhaven, according to the PlainIT Geo study. Brookhaven commissioned the assessment because of the city’s recent approval to hire a tree canopy preservation program manager and plan to rewrite the tree ordinance. The report is intended to help the mayor and council make more informed decisions about tree preservation and future development. Tree coverage dropped 6 percentage points in the past two years, which is the largest single decrease in the city’s trees during the 10-year span. For Brookhaven resident Lori Gray, these numbers were concerning. “The pace of the loss is really quite alarming,” Gray said during the public com-


ments of the virtual city council meeting on June 9. District 2 Councilmember John Park shared her concerns. However, Ben Whittman, who presented the study, said the decrease may have been higher because of an overestimation of canopy coverage in 2017. The 2017 and 2019 studies had slightly different methodology, whereas the 2009 and 2019 studies are more accurate comparisons. Areas zoned as single-family residential saw the biggest percentage drop in tree canopy, according to the assessment. All zoning areas except for multifamily residential, which had a 1% increase, had decreases in canopy coverage. Whitman said the increase comes from young trees maturing to become a part of the canopy. Single-family residential areas have the highest percent of tree coverage as well as the highest acreage of tree canopy because it’s the largest zoning class in the city. Gray worried that the area with the highest acreage of trees also saw the highest decline of the canopy. The decline could be caused because of new developments as well as private homeowners removing trees, according to the presentation.

JULY 2020

| 24


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