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Atlanta to hold ‘Je suis Charlie’ walk in silence on Sunday in honor of French journalists and free speech

By Maria Saporta

“Je suis Charlie”

Those three simple words now convey so much more. People all around the world have adopted that slogan as a sign of solidarity for freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of press.

In Atlanta, we will have our own “Je suis Charlie” gathering on Sunday, Jan. 11 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The Alliance Francaise d’Atlanta is getting the word out that “a silent walk” is being organized from Piedmont Park at the 12th Street entrance to the Alliance Francaise offices at Colony Square – 1197 Peachtree St. NE.

The “Je suis Charlie” slogan has gone viral on social media – prompting outpouring of support across the world following Wednesday’s massacre of 12 people (10 of them journalists) at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a weekly newspaper outside Paris.

Je Suis Charlie

Je Suis Charlie slogan has gone viral

The newspaper had run cartoons that had caricatured the Prophet Muhammad, and its editors had been threatened before. The newspaper, which also satirized other religions and political figures, had been firebombed in 2011.

But Wednesday’s attack outside of Paris has been called a massacre as masked gunmen entered the newspaper’s office – shooting the 10 journalists, including the editor, and two security guards – shouting “Allah is the greatest” before fleeing the scene.

Almost instantaneously, crowds of people supporting the newspaper and its rights of freedom of press gathered in the streets of Paris and in other major cities around the world – giving voice to the “Je suis Charlie” (translated to “I am Charlie”) movement.

Heléne Couralt-Touré, executive director of the Alliance Francaise, sent out an email board members, staff and teachers of the French school.

“This has been a sad week for France, a sad week for freedom of speech and a sad week for Democracy,” she wrote. “We stand with our global community, colleagues and artists in fighting for the values we share. We will always be at the forefront of the battle for tolerance and creative freedom.”

In full disclosure, I serve on the board of the Alliance Francaise as a co-vice president, and I wholeheartedly endorse Heléne’s statement.

So let us all get the word out to our friends and colleagues through our many channels of social media and old-time communications to show that “We are Charlie.”

Atlanta is a city where these issues hit home. We proudly carry the banner of being the cradle of the Civil Rights movement, of being a nurturing city for human rights.

And consider the timing of these events. This week we will be honoring the teachings of Atlanta’s spiritual father– Martin Luther King Jr.

The King Center is holding a series of events (see below) to keep reminding us of the all-important lessons of non-violence, tolerance, freedom of expression and love – to love everyone – even those filled with hate.

Whether it be the showing of “The Interview” or the printing of cartoons of our political, religious or business leaders, or whether it be journalists writing on websites, newspapers or appearing on radio or television – and whether we like what we see, hear or read – we must always appreciate and stand up for our rights – and other people’s rights – to express ourselves and themselves.

We will walk in silence on Sunday for our freedom to express ourselves every other day of the year.

King Week Activities:

The King Center has planned a number of events and activities to celebrate the 2015 MLK Holiday. This will be the 29th Holiday Celebration commemorating Dr. King 86th birthday. All events are open to the public. Details of activities are subject to change.

What:  A Beloved Community Talk

         The Race Factor: The Truth, The Lies and The Myths

 When: Saturday, January 10, 2015,10:00 am – 5:00 pm

Where: Ebenezer Baptist Church Assembly Room

101 Jackson Street, Atlanta, GA 30312


What: Discussion and Book Signing

         Leading with Courage: The “Friendship 9” and “Radical King”

When: Sunday, January 11, 2015, 2:45 – 6:00 pm

Where: The King Center

Featuring: Mrs. Kim Johnson and the Friendship 9, Dr. Cornel West,

                  Dr. Bernice A. King and other extended King family members.

What: Choose Nonviolence! No Other Way! Students with King

Interactive Dialogue between Students and King Family Members, as well as those who knew and worked with Dr. and Mrs. King. Moderated by various media personalities.


What: Birthday Celebration and Party

When: Thursday, January 15, 201, 11:00 am

Who: Students from K-12 Metro Atlanta Schools Invited

Where: Freedom Hall Atrium


What: Millennials Leading with Courage

When: Thursday, January 15, 2015, 6:00 pm-9:00 pm

Where:             Fire Station No. 6, Historic King District

Corner of Auburn Avenue and Boulevard.


What: State of Georgia Martin Luther King Jr. Advisory Council Program

When: Friday, January 16, 2015, 10:00 am

Where:             Georgia State Capitol


What: Annual “Salute to Greatness” Awards Dinner

Salute to Greatness Honorees: President Bill Clinton and Kaiser Permanente

A.N.G.E.L Award Recipients: Mr. Aidan Hornaday and Mr. Harris Rosen

The King Center Distinguished Legacy of Service Award Recipient: Dr. Christine King Farris

When: Saturday, January 17, 2015, Reception: 6:00 pm/Dinner 7:00 pm

Where:             Hyatt Regency Hotel—Downtown Atlanta


What: Annual Commemorative Service 

When: Monday, January 19, 2015, 10:00 am

Where:             Ebenezer Baptist Church—Horizon Sanctuary

Speaker: Keynote Speaker, Dr. Gwendolyn Boyd, President, Alabama State University

Special Tribute, Mr. David Oyelowo, Actor (plays Dr. King in Selma)

Special Musical Selection, Ms. Sandi Patty, Award Winning Gospel Artist

Special Greetings, Mathilde Mukantabana, Ambassador of the Republic of Rwanda to U.S.

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


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