By Ben Abrams Westside Atlanta residents crowded into shaded areas with elected officials and leaders from Equifax to watch the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the On the Rise Financial Center and Quest Westside Impact Center on ...
Artwork Part of Second Installation of Black Artists Matter Series MARTA’s public art program Artbound has unveiled a new mural by artist Kevin Bongang at Kensington rail station on the East/West Line. The piece titled Boundless is featured on the north side of the station. Bongang was selected as part of phase two of Artbound’s Black Artists Matter series inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and the call for racial justice and equity. Phase two also included artwork at Indian Creek Station that was completed in January. Phase one was done in partnership with Decatur Arts Alliance and featured artwork at East Lake and Avondale rail stations last fall. One percent of MARTA’s annual budget is allocated to enhance the ridership experience through visual and performance art. MARTA Artbound provides opportunities for artists year-round with a range of projects encompassing many modes of art. To learn more visit https://itsmarta.com/artbound.aspx. To learn more about artist Kevin Bongang and view his work visit Artist Gallery (bongang.com). This is sponsored content.
With the 2021 school year around the corner, it is vital that families in the Greater Atlanta area have essential resources available to them so that they can return to school as safely and healthy as possible. Thanks to Families First’s partnership with Starbucks, Target, and Kroger for the Back-to-School Bash on July 24, many of our families will be provided many of those essential resources such as school supplies, groceries, and COVID-19 vaccinations. This community celebration is focused on building community resilience, promoting family health and education resources, and food accessibility for all families in the Atlanta community and will highlight a variety of Families First’s nonprofit partners including: Raising Expectations, Moving in the Spirit, Partners in Change, Career RISE and TechBridge. Creating healthy habits is one of the pillars of building resilience in youth and families and The Junior League of Atlanta, Inc.’s (JLA), Kids in the Kitchen (KITK) and Atlanta Youth Rugby will bring healthy experiences to the Back-to-School Bash attendees. In addition, in partnership with Community Organized Relief Effort (CORE), Families First is providing free COVID-19 vaccines for event attendees. KITK, one of the JLA’s signature programs, encourages healthy lifestyle choices among youth to help fight childhood obesity and associated adverse health outcomes. Traditionally, KITK conducts in-person instructional and interactive cooking activities to teach children about healthy eating. During COVID, the KITK committee addressed the challenge of in-person activities restriction due to the pandemic through reimagining its programming with new and creative approaches to reach children in the new normal. Kimberly Houston-Bryant, KITK chair, said, “The goal is to expose children to different cooking techniques, methods and use of tools, to create an overall comfortability navigating the kitchen.” The cooking activities needed to be fun while teaching children and parents safety tips in the kitchen, such as proper use of safety scissors or gloves. A chef by training, Ms. Houston-Bryant, or Chef Kim, also wanted to teach kids the joy in cooking and understanding its value. To achieve this goal, the committee created a hybrid model that utilized a virtual platform to conduct online demonstrations and distribute cooking kits to participants. This approach allowed for real-time interaction from safe distances and the hands-on learning children enjoy. At the Back-to-School Bash KITK will share with kids a cool treat and recipe to help them stay cool during the hot Atlanta summer days. Families will also get a chance to learn about rugby from Atlanta Youth Rugby, which aims to build community through sport and is involved in Atlanta and the surrounding communities in a variety of ways. Rugby – unlike soccer, football, or almost every other team sport, requires constant reliance on your teammates (and constant movement) to succeed. Rugby is the fastest growing sport in the US and one of the fastest growing scholarship sports. Key nonprofit partners of AYR include The Ascent Project, WINGS for Kids, CAMP Best Friends, Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCA, and Atlanta Public Schools. Through community partners AYR provides Atlanta’s youth in under resourced communities with access to qualified and trained coaches with the resources to engage and excel in rugby. This provides a holistic approach to health solutions to develop overall positive youth outcomes including both physical and mental wellness. Serving over 3,000 kids annually, over 45% of AYR’s rugby players identify as female, more than 85% of the athletes identify from racial or ethnic minority groups, and 80% of their ruggers come from neighborhoods with low household income. The hand-on clinic at the Back-to-School Bash will bring to life AYR’s goal to build character and athleticism through rugby while fostering sportsmanship and community in a fun, safe, and inclusive environment. The hands-on clinic will include fun and engaging ways for kids and families to experience AYR and rugby. We look forward to joining with Starbucks Kroger and Target on July 24 from 11:00 am – 2:00 pm, at our Westside headquarters at 80 Joseph E. Lowery Blvd. for what will be an amazing event for our community. FREE backpacks, groceries and other essentials will be distributed to get our families ready to thrive this school year. This is sponsored content.
Last week, the Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC) announced ATL Action for Racial Equity, a multi-year, multi-step action plan designed to help address the ongoing effects of systemic racism impacting the Black community. In just a few days since launch, 30 additional metro Atlanta-based companies ranging in size and industry joined the initiative – to-date totaling more than 180 participating organizations. These companies and leaders will leverage the size, scale and expertise of the region’s business community to advance racial equity. Invitations to the initiative remain open, and MAC is inviting all businesses across metro Atlanta to sign on. ATL Action for Racial Equity focuses on measurable actions across corporate policies, inclusive economic development, education and workforce development – critical areas in addressing the region’s immobility and inequity challenges. See quotes below from the region’s business leaders on why they chose to participate and why this initiative is important, now more than ever. Reach out to [email protected] to learn more. Ed Bastian, CEO Delta Air Lines and 2021 Board Chair, Metro Atlanta Chamber: “In metro Atlanta, our differences are our strength. We work together to make our community and the world better. We are not perfect, but we are committed to preserving and holding up this region’s legacy, especially now. As we tackle economic recovery, public health and the disproportionate impacts on our Black community, our business community must do its part. This is a moral and economic imperative as we work to grow our region’s competitiveness today and into the future.” Jimmy Etheredge, CEO North America, Accenture: “Accenture is proud to collaborate with the Metro Atlanta Chamber and business leaders across Atlanta to take action on building a more equitable future for our community. Together, we are acting, we are leading, and we are driving change.” Steve Koonin, CEO, Atlanta Hawks and State Farm Arena: “We proudly support ATL Action for Racial Equity and promise that our franchise will continue taking the steps and supporting the causes that lead to equity for all in our city.” Rohit Malhotra, Founder and Executive Director, Center for Civic Innovation: “The Center for Civic Innovation mission and day to day operations are designed to fight for an equity-centered Atlanta. The business community in Atlanta has a long and complicated history with equity in our city— we’re glad to see the Metro Atlanta Chamber call on companies and institutions to take measurable actions that align with their publicly stated values and sentiments. It is in this city’s best interest for this effort to succeed.” Jenna Kelly, President, Truist Northern Georgia Region, Truist Bank: “At Truist, we firmly believe in building more just, inclusive, and equitable communities by standing for social justice, denouncing racism in all forms, and partnering with people and organizations who are as committed to equity we are. As we continue to have intentional dialogue around the role we can play in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion, we’re excited to join the ATL Action for Racial Equity to do our part in making a positive difference throughout Atlanta.” Mary Schmidt Campbell, President, Spelman College: “If metro Atlanta is to close the region’s stark wealth gap, we all have to commit to bold innovative solutions. Spelman College, committed to the educational excellence of the 2000 Black women who attend the College, is also committed to the educational excellence of students in our neighborhood schools. For the past three years, our students have enjoyed major success in improving the reading scores of students in our neighborhood Washington Cluster Schools. We intend to launch a program that will accomplish improvements in math proficiency. This commitment to the improvement of K-12 education is aligned with the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce’s business and community imperative to advance racial inclusion. We are proud to partner with MAC in their strategic approach to advocating for equity.” Kyle Porter, CEO, SalesLoft: “The social justice and equity issues facing our companies, city, and nation are complex and intense. At SalesLoft we are committed to the necessary introspection, self-reflection, and action to be a more inclusive company because we believe it’s the right thing to do for our team, customers, and marketplace. SalesLoft is joining the ATL Action for Racial Equity because our internal efforts will be magnified and our progress accelerated through collaborative community work. Our community will become our ally and accountability partner providing the space to heed best practices, share wisdom, and generate ideas that will positively impact us all. Russ Torres, President, Kimberly-Clark Professional: “At Kimberly-Clark, we believe racial equity and justice are moral issues that must be addressed through comprehensive actions to enact meaningful and sustainable change. We are moving with urgency. Therefore, we are proud to partner with ATL Action for Racial Equity in this mission. Their disciplined, multi-year plan leverages the collective strength of metro Atlanta employers to support focused corporate policies that foster inclusive workforce and community development. With more than 1,500 Kimberly-Clark employees in the metro Atlanta area, this initiative is uniquely personal to us. We believe the success of our company depends on creating workplaces, communities, and experiences where inclusion and diversity are evident and thriving. Together with ATL Action for Racial Equity, we look forward to creating a vibrant and more inclusive region that offers opportunity, growth, and long-term value for all.” Elie Maalouf, CEO, Americas, InterContinental Hotel Group: “We applaud the Metro Atlanta Chamber on this initiative and stand with our peers in the Atlanta business community to advance diversity and inclusion. This commitment and collaboration reflect IHG’s values and inclusive culture, and builds on our own efforts to bring lasting, sustainable progress for the region and our colleagues.” Paul Bowers (Chairman and CEO) and Chris Womack (President), Georgia Power: “At Georgia Power, we deeply value the diversity of our team and the communities we serve. That’s why we are committed to creating an environment where employees and customers feel a sense of belonging and can be their true authentic selves. We’re proud to be a part of the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s ATL Action for Racial Equity efforts to do the same here in Atlanta. We believe businesses working together to ensure equality is how we can make a collective impact, and we’re …
By Ginny Kennedy, Director of Urban Design at Midtown Alliance A Fiat Panda half-devoured by translucent stone has anchored the corner of 10th and Peachtree Streets for nearly four years. The giant sculpture known as Autoeater will soon be revving its way out of the city. Some will be sad to see it go, while others may welcome its departure. The sculpture has been polarizing, as well as a defining work in Midtown’s growing art program. By activating this bustling corner with a striking focal point, Autoeater demonstrates the vital role that art plays in fostering dialogue about important issues. Gallery owner Marcia Wood introduced the artists Julia Venske and Gregor Spänle to Midtown and was instrumental in facilitating the trans-Atlantic crossing of their sculpture, which traveled almost 5,000 miles to get here from Italy. For the last 6 years, Midtown Alliance has focused on transforming public spaces with art. We rely on help from partners all over the district to make this happen. A recent partnership with the Atlanta Botanical Garden brought a living sculpture in the form of a bright green frog to greet people on 10th Street as they enter Midtown from the west. Working with MARTA, we made enhancements at the Arts Center and Midtown MARTA Stations, bringing the station areas to life with new seating, lighting and murals. At 10th Street Park, which Midtown Alliance leases from Dewberry Corp. for $1 a year, Autoeater was preceded by Rockspinner, a 22,000 lb. granite boulder mounted on a rotating base. Currently, public space enhancements are underway at 15th and Peachtree Streets to provide new seating, lighting, landscaping and public art in Midtown’s cultural and creative epicenter. We are thrilled to reintroduce Dorothy Berge’s 1968 sculpture, Sabine Woman, to the southwest corner of the intersection, where it will anchor Arts District Plaza. The project is on track to be complete around Labor Day. Also, beginning this month, we are welcoming six artists to Midtown through our Heart of the Arts Residency Program. This program is made possible by the generous partnership of commercial property owners such as Portman Holdings, Dewberry Foundation, and the Atlanta History Center, who are providing free studio space for 12 months. By donating studio space, our founding partners enable these talented artists to bring their creative practices to Midtown where they can engage with new audiences and thrive. This is another step towards achieving our ambitious vision for Midtown as a place in which creativity and artistic expression are defining characteristics of an exceptional urban experience. We believe art is an essential part of daily life. It contributes to the diversity we seek and raises topics that are important to civic life. Art should be accessible to all, even without the purchase of a ticket. While art is for everyone, the beauty of individual pieces is in the eye of the beholder, and we are not shy about taking risks. With Autoeater, Venske & Spänle carved Carrara marble into a sensuous shape that melts, folds, dissolves, flows and wiggles. It was created to subvert the expectation of the viewer by suggesting that heavy objects are light, soft and malleable, while concealing their origins of weight and mass. By intentionally placing Autoeater within view of a busy intersection, Midtown Alliance invited dialogue about Atlanta’s relationship with the automobile in the context of one of the city’s most walkable urban districts. Some people loved the sculpture, while others found it uncomfortable. Simply put, it was controversial. It empowered citizens to take a point of view and challenged us to reflect on issues that are critical to the long-term sustainability of our city. Midtown Alliance’s public art strategy focuses on ephemeral, temporary installations, for this reason: it grants us the opportunity to introduce bold, dynamic work that sparks public conversation, while also allowing us the freedom to change pieces as the district continues to evolve. As we prepare for Autoeater‘s return to Italy in a few weeks, we are actively searching for a new piece to take its place. Be on the lookout for the debut of our next conversation starter. This is sponsored content.
By Tim Block, Sr. Program Director, Enterprise Community Partners When you think of faith-based organizations (FBOs) like churches, synagogues, or temples, you probably think of how they provide spiritual connection and a sense of community for attendees. Many also provide a variety of services such as food pantries, childcare and other community resources. Houses of faith have a role to play in the stability and prosperity of the communities they serve—and there is more we can do to maximize the benefits they bring. Many faith-based organizations own large tracts of underutilized or vacant property. In Fulton County alone, Enterprise found that 1,164 different FBOs own a combined 6,278 total acres of unutilized land. At the same time, we know that more than 1,500 affordable homes in Atlanta are lost every year to market pressures, and thousands of families pay more than they can afford in rent each month. The pieces are there: with the right mix of public and private support, houses of faith can serve their communities in a new way—developing real estate. Zion Hill Community Development Corporation (ZHCDC) is a faith-based developer, located in East Point and serving South Fulton, that serves as a great example of this potential. Formed by Zion Hill Baptist Church nearly two decades ago, ZHCDC has provided mortgage, rent, utilities and other types of emergency assistance to individuals and families experiencing housing insecurity in the area. Aware of the growing demand for affordable housing, ZHCDC has recently entered the development business as well. Zion Hill Baptist Church is providing land to ZHCDC to build a new mixed-use, mixed-income, 100% affordable apartment complex that will house approximately 50 families. In addition to homes, the facility will include structured parking and community amenities, as well as office space for ZHCDC and other supportive services partners. Enterprise is providing technical assistance and grant funding to ZHCDC for this project to help move it through the development stages. ZHCDC sees this project as the first in a long-term strategy to build additional affordable housing properties. For many congregation leaders, the idea of getting into real estate development is daunting. They have not been trained or don’t feel comfortable leading their congregation through the development process, from deciding where to build to whom they will partner with for the project. They are not connected to public and private funders with experience investing in affordable homes. To address this concern, Enterprise operates the Faith-Based Development Initiative (FBDI), which provides real estate development assistance, legal resources, capital and training to faith organizations. The program, which is generously supported by JPMorgan Chase, Capital One, American Heart Association and others, walks congregations and their leaders through a step-by-step process for developing underutilized real estate assets into affordable homes and community facilities. “We work with houses of worship to help them make an informed decision regarding development,” said Meaghan Shannon Vlkovic, vice president and Southeast market leader, Enterprise Community Partners. “We help them move from grand vision to grand opening.” Since 2006, Enterprise has directly invested more than $155 million in grants, loans and tax credit equity in support of FBDI developments nationwide. In total, FBDI partners have developed over 1,500 new affordable housing units, community facilities, and even a health clinic. Over the next five years in Atlanta, Enterprise aims to create a support network for Houses of Worship helping to catalyze the planning and production of more than 1,000 affordable homes. There is a dire need in Atlanta to create more affordable housing and protect struggling residents from being forced from their homes and communities. Faith-based organizations are in a unique position to help address that need, and they should explore this opportunity to support their communities in new ways. Enterprise can help explain what’s involved and shepherd faith leaders through a well-defined development process. As the process unfolds, Enterprise can help build connections to partners, navigate legal complexities and identify financial resources that take projects from concept to reality. For more information, please contact Tim Block, Sr. Program Director, Enterprise Community Partners at [email protected] This is sponsored content.
HBCU becomes first to officially commit to $130M initiative funded by Shopify Clark Atlanta University (CAU) today announced a groundbreaking partnership as the first Historically Black College and University (HBCU) to officially partner with Operation HOPE’s national One Million Black Business Initiative (1MBB). CAU’s commitment includes impacting the creation of 1000 Black entrepreneurs and business owners by 2030. Through 1MBB, CAU will engage students, alumni, faculty and staff to ensure they have access to resources and capital to successfully start and sustain their entrepreneurial endeavors. 1MBB launched in February 2021 and is largely funded through Shopify, the world’s second largest e-commerce platform. The movement is part of Operation HOPE’s broader mission to promote financial inclusion and dignity, aimed at empowering the underserved of America. CAU’s 1MBB partnership with Operation HOPE is a natural extension of the entrepreneurial spirit being cultivated among Black students. The Atlanta-based HBCU was among the first to establish an entrepreneurial-driven curriculum and boasts a distinguished list of alumni across multiple industries. Recently, the CAU School of Business Administration’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurial Development (CIED) was recognized for nurturing Black-owned businesses in the Atlanta Startup Ecosystem Guide. “CAU students—and alumni— are ambitious, creative and filled with innovative ideas. It is the CAU way,” said president George T. French Jr., Ph.D. “We are proud to be the first university to join in this partnership formed to make a difference in the world of business for African-American entrepreneurs.” French added, “Joining this effort to create one million black businesses while helping entrepreneurs in the CAU community aligns with our business school’s mission to produce alumni and entrepreneurs who are competitive in the business world. The 1MBB program provides opportunities for Black entrepreneurs to thrive.” According to the US Census Bureau, there are over 2.6 Million Black-owned businesses in the US, with Atlanta landing in the top 5 cities for Black entrepreneurs. This initiative will continue to amplify the work of aspiring Black business-owners, providing them with top-of-the-line coaching and educational resources and a 120-day free trial, courtesy of Shopify. iHeartMedia Atlanta will also provide social media support and advertising to a select group of entrepreneurs in the future, with additional activations to come. “HBCU’s matter and the future of Black entrepreneurship matters. This is why we started 1MBB,” said John Hope Bryant, Founder and CEO of Operation HOPE. “Through this partnership with CAU, we are accelerating the success of our future leaders. I’m looking forward to ringing the bell at NASDAQ for the first Clark Atlanta graduate who has benefited from 1MBB.” CAU is encouraging students, alumni, faculty and staff to take advantage of the program. Interested participants can sign up on the 1MBB website using “Clark Atlanta” as the registration code. There is no fee to register. About Clark Atlanta University Established in 1988 by the historic consolidation of Atlanta University (1865) and Clark College (1869). Clark Atlanta University continues a more than 150-year legacy rooted in African-American tradition and focused on the future. Through global innovation, transformative educational experiences, and high-value engagement. CAU cultivates lifted lives that transform the world. Notable alumni include: James Weldon Johnson; American civil rights activist, poet, and songwriter (Lift Every Voice and Sing “The Black National Anthem”; Ralph David Abernathy Sr., American civil rights activist; Congressman Hank Johnson, Georgia District 4; Kenya Barris, American award-winning television and movie producer; Kenny Leon, Tony Award-winning Broadway Director; Jacque Reid, Emmy Award-winning Television Personality and Journalist; Brandon Thompson, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion for NASCAR; Valeisha Butterfield Jones, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at the Recording Academy. To learn more about Clark Atlanta University, visit www.cau.edu. About 1MBB Launched in October 2020 with founding partner Shopify, 1MBB aims to remove traditional hurdles to Black entrepreneurship and encourage more aspiring Black business owners to start – and scale – by providing them with the tools, resources, and education needed to succeed. To level the playing field, 1MBB will focus on critical tools for business growth such as technology and resources, educational programs, and the opportunity to access capital. Through this program, Black business owners can sign up for Operation HOPE’s award-winning model of community uplift, financial literacy and education, with access to tailored tools and resources upon graduation. To learn more about 1MBB or to get your business started, visit, https://operationhope.org/1mbb/ or buildingblackbizATL.com. About Operation HOPE, Inc. Since 1992, Operation HOPE has been moving America from civil rights to “silver rights” with the mission of making free enterprise and capitalism work for the underserved—disrupting poverty for millions of low and moderate-income youth and adults across the nation. Through our community uplift model, HOPE Inside, which received the 2016 Innovator of the Year recognition by American Banker magazine, Operation HOPE has served more than 4 million individuals and directed more than $3.2 billion in economic activity into disenfranchised communities—turning check-cashing customers into banking customers, renters into homeowners, small business dreamers into small business owners, minimum wage workers into living wage consumers, and uncertain disaster victims into financially empowered disaster survivors. For more information: www.OperationHOPE.org. Follow the HOPE conversation on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Media Contacts Jolene Butts Freeman, for CAU Lalohni Campbell, for Operation HOPE [email protected] [email protected] (404) 456-8371 (404) 593-7145
By Dr. Kashef Ijaz, Vice President-Health, and Barbara J. Smith, Vice President-Peace, The Carter Center Back in the turbulent 1960s, there was a popular poster — today it would be a meme on social media — that said, “War is not healthy for children and other living things.” More than 50 years and uncounted conflicts later, that poster’s message holds up. War and regional or factional clashes catastrophically disrupt everything from commerce to education to food and medical supply chains. And many countries have shown how public grievances around social services, particularly health care, can drive a society to conflict either through competition for resources or in protest against their government. A reliable health care system can function as a bulwark against conflict driven by these grievances as well as ensure that citizens living with conflict have their most basic needs met. Integrating peace and health work is not a new concept for The Carter Center. In 1995, former President Jimmy Carter brokered a cease-fire in Sudan’s long-running civil war, allowing health workers to enter the conflict zone to administer vaccines and treatments for a variety of serious diseases and conditions that were compounding the suffering of innocents. The Guinea Worm Cease-Fire has gone down in history as the longest humanitarian truce ever carried out. Today, The Carter Center is engaged in what we call the Peace-Health Nexus . We are actively working in volatile places — the South Darfur region of Sudan and the Mopti region of Mali, to name two — to promote health system enhancements in the interest of fostering peace and vice versa. The Center’s Conflict Resolution Program promotes a community-based approach to conflict mitigation and resilience-building to both reduce violence and increase access to regions in dire need of basic health services. By providing the tools and the common platform of health for dialogue between health workers, local communities, and conflicting parties, the Center has brought people together and opened access for people to get the health services and treatment they need. In Mali, the Center is advancing local communities’ ability to reduce violence and create conditions for health interventions in difficult-to-access zones, especially important for the Center’s Guinea Worm Eradication Program. In South Darfur, where Guinea worm hasn’t been seen in decades but blinding trachoma remains a threat, the Center is doing similar work. Leaders and diplomates must pursue both peace and health, because they are inextricably entwined. The Carter Center acknowledges as much in its motto: Waging Peace, Fighting Disease, Building Hope. We will continue to pursue all three with all the energy we have and every resource at our disposal. This is sponsored content.
Peachtree Demonstration Project Creates Shared Space on Atlanta’s Signature Street By Kate Sweeney In this 9-minute listen, the What’s Next ATL podcast spent a morning out at the Peachtree Street Demonstration Project, which is testing how a three-block span of shared space for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists works for all those groups. Listen here or wherever you get podcasts. __________________________________________________________________________________________ A quiet murmur ripples through the crowd when the paint rollers first hit ground — and begin to define the long, white stripes that will make up the brand-new crosswalk on Peachtree Street between Harris and International. “Yeah, this is the jaywalk zone,” says Glenn Alexander, who works at Hotel Indigo. “Everybody jaywalks here because nobody wants to walk up to either corner to use the crosswalk.” Alexander says that the new mid-block crosswalk is probably his favorite thing about the Peachtree Street Demonstration Project, which, this summer and fall, transforms this stretch of Atlanta’s signature street from four vehicular lanes, to two. Planters and wheel stops also mark the new boundary — and the new space created by these boundaries is dotted with small, colorful tables. Read more at What’s Next ATL from the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC). This is sponsored content.
On July 1, 2021 the Supreme Court handed down its decision in a highly anticipated voting rights case, Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, on appeal from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The case arrived at the Court as a result of past litigation filed by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and certain affiliates challenging the validity of two provisions in the State of Arizona’s voting framework under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA). While VRA Section 2 cases have previously come before the Court for consideration in matters involving redistricting challenges and vote-dilution claims, Brnovich represents the Court’s attempt at answering the important question of how to answer a Section 2 challenge to state laws governing the time, place and manner of an election. As summarized below, the impact of the Court’s ruling will have a profound effect on how courts interpret VRA Section 2 challenges going forward, and the ability of plaintiffs to challenge facially-neutral state election laws based purely upon allegations of disparate impact on certain groups of voters. The first election regulation under review in the Brnovich case requires that Arizona state residents who live in counties using an electoral precinct system vote in their assigned registration precinct if they choose to vote in person on Election Day. The second state regulation under review in the case makes it a felony for anyone other than an election official, postal worker, or designated caregiver, family, or household member to collect another voter’s early ballot prior to or after completion. In the underlying litigation associated with the case, the DNC and its affiliates challenged both regulations as in violation of VRA Section 2 under the theory that they caused a purported “adverse and disparate effect” on Arizona’s American Indian, Hispanic, and African-American voters. The District Court in the case rejected these claims, as did a divided panel of the Ninth Circuit. Those findings were reversed, however, in an en banc decision by the Ninth Circuit, which was subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court. Following review and oral argument earlier this spring, a 6-3 majority of the Supreme Court reversed the en banc decision of the Ninth Circuit and upheld the legality of both Arizona regulations. In its decision, the Court held that neither regulation violated the VRA’s requirement that the voting process be “equally open” to all voters based upon a review of the challenged regulations under the totality of circumstances required by Section 2. Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, noted that Brnovich was a case of first impression as it relates to the Court analysis of state laws governing the time, place, and manner of voting under VRA Section 2. While the Court refused to announce a formal rubric for analyzing Section 2 challenges to time, place, and manner voting rules going forward, the majority did compile a list of guideposts by which to conduct the mandated totality of circumstances analysis. Factors identified by the Court for this analysis included: the size of the burden imposed by a challenged voting rule; the degree to which a voting rule departs from what was standard practice when Section 2 was last amended by Congress in 1982; the size of any disparities in a rule’s impact on members of different racial or ethnic groups; the opportunities provided by a state’s entire system of voting; and the strength of a state’s interests served by a challenged voting rule. Since Arizona’s system generally makes it easy to vote (through a combination of early voting, permanent no-excuse mail voting, and vote centers), and because Arizona has a “strong and entirely legitimate state interest in preventing election fraud,” the Court found that the challenged regulations did not burden voters in a manner that kept the state’s voting process from being equally open to all. According to the majority, both requiring Election Day voters to cast their ballots at their assigned precincts, and requiring voters to cast their own paper ballots or use statutorily authorized proxies for such activities, were examples of “the usual burdens of voting.” The Court also rejected the DNC’s argument that Arizona’s second regulation was racially-motivated, finding no evidence that the legislature’s restriction on early ballot collection was “imbued with racial motives”. Writing for the dissent, Justice Elena Kagan argued that the majority interpreted Section 2 of the VRA too narrowly, and created a set of extra-textual factors by which to apply the totality of circumstances analysis mandated by the statute. Rejecting this approach, the dissent noted that following a Supreme Court decision in 1980 requiring a showing of discriminatory purpose to support a Section 2 claim, Congress amended the law in 1982 to “make clear that ‘results’ alone” could establish a violation of the VRA. The majority, however, took issue with this analysis, highlighting Justice Kagan’s focus on adopting a disparate-impact standard for legality under Section 2 and placing a least-restrictive means requirement on the facially-neutral regulation of voting by state legislatures. Given the substantial number of states that have enacted new voting legislation in the wake of the 2020 election and the assortment of legal challenges pending across the country regarding these nascent laws, the legal standards announced in the Brnovich decision will undoubtedly have a huge impact on the implementation and interpretation of state election law in many jurisdictions leading up to the 2022 midterm elections. Much remains to be seen in the wake of this consequential decision, but at the very least the Court’s opinion signals that neutral time, place, and manner rules governing voting will likely withstand Section 2 scrutiny provided that a state’s election processes remain equally open to all voters. The Court’s ruling also likely strengthens the viability of efforts around the country to implement and strengthen state laws restricting third-party ballot collection, sometimes referred to as “ballot harvesting” activities. Looking ahead to the important 2022 election cycle, Dentons Political Law team will continue to monitor key election litigation, legislation and policy developments nationwide and provide updates as appropriate. This is sponsored content.
By United Way of Greater Atlanta Jennifer Swain and the staff at youthSpark saw what could only be described as a “gap in the juvenile court system.” It needed to be addressed. “We have historically worked in the area of child sex trafficking since our beginning in 2000,” Swain, who is Executive Director of youthSpark, says. “Since Georgia’s sex trafficking movement has grown and expanded under the [Statewide] Human Trafficking Task Force, we’ve begun to intervene with the juvenile court as soon as possible. So, we’ve built out a space for youth services for girls who have experienced exploitation, and then we began serving boys and LGBTQ+ youth.” The programs were non-gender specific, Swain says. They created programs geared toward LGBTQ+ youth to provide a safety net to support them in school and “increase their voice around sexual identity and gender.” But Swain says there were still problems with how data around LGBTQ+ youth was being collected in the court system. She said the Fulton County Juvenile Court system didn’t collect sexual orientation data “nor did they identify and report that data in young people.” So, youthSpark, a longtime partner of United Way of Greater Atlanta, joined with Georgetown University’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform in a project that would enhance youthSpark’s capacity and the juvenile court’s system to become a national leader in creating a fair, inclusive and respectful culture. This Capstone Project is called “Intentional Culture Change to Reduce LGBTQ+ Youth Discrimination, Victimization, & Overcriminalization,” according to a press release from youthSpark. The project focuses on eight primary goals and objectives developed from an intensive review of youth experiences, quantitative data on the challenges LGBTQ+ young people face in Fulton County and a review of recommended best practices in serving this vulnerable population. “We don’t know a lot about the LGBTQ+ population in the Fulton juvenile system, but the Atlanta homelessness study, or the Atlanta homelessness study we worked on with Dr. Eric Wright at Georgia State University, was the launching pad to see how to serve this population,” Swain says. “The way to do that was to find out how many of these kids identify in ways we don’t know.” LGBTQ+ youth are at a much greater risk of becoming homeless. You can help United Way today provide more resources for LGBTQ+ youth and families. The Capstone Project has potential to improve the well-being of LGBTQ+ youth and their families in communities across Greater Atlanta. youthSpark’s Youth Services Center is at the heart of the organization’s work and serving LGBTQ+ youth is encompassed in that work. According to youthSpark’s 2019-20 annual report, since opening the Center in 2017, they have served more than 600 kids with 121 acts of crisis intervention, 2,200 instances of individual counseling, 565 group therapy sessions and more than 12,000 hours of intervention services. Those direct services have helped youthSpark reimagine how to serve students and provide training for school—to make sure they are college and career ready. The nonprofit’s goals align with United Way’s mission to improve the Child Well-Being of Greater Atlanta’s 13 counties and create an environment where all children can thrive. “We are looking for organizations who can change the trajectory for young people,” says Michele Jacobs, Director of Youth Development at United Way. “We are looking for programs that remove systemic barriers and increase access to College and Career Ready opportunities for youth and young adults in low and very-low Child Well-Being communities. youthSpark is a unique organization that offers real solutions for youth involved in the juvenile justice system. “All their programs have been designed to create systematic change for trauma-exposed youth and the communities in which they live.” Jacobs says grant managers and members of the Community Engagement team at United Way meet regularly to talk with organizations like youthSpark to find successes and challenges the organizations face. The goal is to help determine the level of support needed. “We are true thought and collaborative partners in ensuring young people are equipped with resources they need to obtain education and secure positions in high-growth careers,” Jacobs says. Swain has worked with youthSpark for 13 years and has been the executive director for over four years now. She says United Way’s support has been instrumental in allowing them to expand services. “United Way has always supported our work, and when we transitioned our work over to the community-based response, United Way was our very first funder,” Swain says. “We’re very grateful for our partnership with United Way.” When a community unites, lives can be changed. When we work together—pooling our resources, time and energy—our community impact grows exponentially to create and equitable future for all. Can children, families and Greater Atlanta communities count on you? This is sponsored content.
Emory University’s Office of Technology Transfer (OTT) recognized its faculty entrepreneurs and their discoveries at its 15th Annual Celebration of Technology and Innovation. The event was held virtually on June 30. The winners in the four categories were: Innovation of the year Serological test for SARS-COV-2 Mehul Suthar, PhD; Jens Wrammert, PhD; John Roback, PhD; Rafi Ahmed, PhD The impact of COVID-19 has been globally devastating, making it incredibly important to understand the immune response that provides protective immunity to SARS-CoV-2. The inventors of the serological test for SARS-CoV-2 investigated the dynamics of the antibody response to the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the spike protein and virus neutralization activity in acutely infected individuals. Using this information, they have developed an assay capable of detecting the immune response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus at the receptor-binding domain of the target sequences. The inventors have also found that serum collected from COVID-19 patients is capable of neutralizing the virus. The results of their research have implications in testing, therapeutics and vaccine development as it relates to the virus. Their findings illustrate that the RBD assay is highly specific and sensitive, which is important as COVID-19 serological tests are needed to assess immunity and predict patient outcomes. Deal of the year Phaeno, Inc.: A method for full-length RNA deep sequencing with existing next-generation technology William Agnew, PhD (School of Medicine); Mark Emerick, PhD (School of Medicine) In 2020, Emory University entered into a license agreement with Phaeno, Inc. for a method for full-length RNA deep sequencing with existing next-generation technology. As is now known, it is not just the DNA sequence that drives gene function and protein synthesis. Each gene has numerous splice variants, and some of these can have profound effects on the functions of the proteins they encode. This technology provides a method for rapidly identifying the parent gene of previously unknown splice variant or RNA product. Access and availability of a fast, affordable whole-transcriptome analysis is key for development of targeted medicine due to tissue-specific differences or mutations in protein expression due to cancer. Agnew and Emerick have developed a process that combines existing next-generation sequencing technology with unique molecular identification tags to track and identify RNA products back to their originating gene. Phaeno, Inc. has been accepted by the highly selective EvoNexus incubator program after a rigorous interview process. Start-up of the year IN8BIO – Series A financing Trent Spencer, PhD IN8bio (formerly Incysus Therapeutics, Inc.) is a clinical-stage biotechnology company whose mission is to develop new, innovative therapies for the treatment of cancer. The company utilizes gamma-delta T cells to create autologous, allogeneic and genetically modified therapies for liquid and solid tumors. IN8bio has received substantial financial backing since licensing the “Drug Resistant Immunotherapy for the Treatment of Cancer” technology from Emory University in 2016. Most recently in 2020, IN8bio raised $25.8 million in capital in a Series A Funding round. Significant event of the year Aligos Therapeutics, Inc. – Initial Public Offering Raymond F. Schinazi, PhD; Franck Amblard, PhD; Leda Bassit, PhD Aligos Therapeutics, Inc. is a clinical stage biotechnology company focused on developing targeted therapies for hepatologic diseases and viral infections. In October 2020, Aligos became publicly traded on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the ticker symbol “ALGS.” The company’s success as a public company comes after two successful financing rounds as a private company. In 2018, Aligos licensed from Emory an HBV capsid inhibitor technology that is currently being evaluated in Phase 1 trials. Interviews with the winners can be found here. This is sponsored content.
By Rebecca Parshall Do you remember your 8th grade math class? Was learning math easy for you, or did you struggle? Did that class prepare you for high school math? How did your parents and teachers make you feel about math? For too many adults, both the middle school years and math class evoke painful memories. Unfortunately, these challenges persist with today’s children – just 45% of metro Atlanta students demonstrate proficiency in math by the end of 8th grade, with unconscionable gaps across racial and socioeconomic groups. In search of strategies to support math learning across our region, L4L’s 8th Grade Math Network engaged in a rigorous process of data and factor analysis to identify “Bright Spots,” that are proving it’s possible to ensure all kids reach their potential. To understand what the best schools are doing, L4L’s Network visited middle schools with high percentages of economically disadvantaged students scoring proficiently in 8th grade math. One Bright Spot that emerged is the Georgia Department of Education’s process for a school to become STEM/STEAM certified. STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education is an integrated curriculum that is driven by exploratory project-based learning and student-centered development of ideas and solutions. Schools seeking state certification demonstrate implementation of project-based learning, curriculum integration, community partnerships and more. What happens to a middle school that undergoes this multi-year process to become STEM certified? Among other positive outcomes, STEM certified schools show significant gains in 8th grade math proficiency, with an average increase of 12% over three years. STEM certified schools are required to develop STEM partnerships to support school goals and improve student outcomes. Business, community, and higher education partners can take on a number of supporting roles, including hosting student and teacher internships, judging competitions, and co-developing STEM curriculum for teachers to use. While good partnerships can transform a school, these partnerships are not always easy to form; schools and businesses don’t interface often. L4L’s 8th Grade Math Network heard this challenge when it surveyed metro Atlanta middle schools seeking STEM certification, with many responding that they would benefit from help in forming partnerships. In response to this call, and with generous grant funding from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, L4L is partnering with to provide free coaching between identified middle schools and businesses to develop partnerships designed to close math equity gaps in metro Atlanta. This project will help schools form sustainable STEM business partnerships in alignment with school needs, goals, and STEM certification plans. If we want to transform the middle school math experience, we need to make it relevant and engaging. Partners do just that. They show how math applications shape our world: how statistics frame our health, social, and environmental outcomes; how geometry and trigonometry create the structures we live and move in; how number sense influences our understanding of money management. There is no better way to teach a 13 year old math than to tell her the story of where math knowledge can take her. If you’d like to learn more about how your business can support schools, we’d love to connect. Drop us a note at [email protected] If you’re a parent, or from a school, nonprofit, community organization, or business, and you’d like to join our collective impact work to support schools build math proficiency, let us know here. We’d love to have your voice at the table. This is sponsored content.
By Michael Williams, Small Business Banker Manager, Bank of America Atlanta Small business owners in Atlanta and across the country are slowly but surely regaining their footing after a uniquely challenging year. According to new research from Bank of America, business owners’ economic confidence and revenue expectations have bounced back significantly since last fall. We found that 70% of entrepreneurs in the Atlanta metro area expect their revenue to increase over the next 12 months, and 84% attribute this to the availability of COVID-19 vaccines. While these signs of progress are encouraging, we know that the journey to full recovery can be a long one. Below, I’m sharing some key insights from the Small Business Owner Report as well as tips to navigate the path forward as the economy safely reopens. Hiring New Talent Last year, unemployment rose sharply during the pandemic, forcing businesses to reevaluate their budgets and make tough decisions around talent. With 22% of Atlanta business owners planning to hire this year, it’s important to ensure your business is attractive for top talent. Create an application that is easy to navigate. As businesses begin to reopen more job opportunities are expected to become available. Create an application process that is quick and easy, but still screens for the experience level you’re looking for. Make your application mobile-friendly, too. Get everyone to recruit. Tapping into your current employee base can be one of the most powerful and cost-efficient strategies to find and recruit talent. Your current employees have familiarity with your company culture and the necessary skillset to thrive at your organization. Consider offering bonuses to staff who successfully refer new employees. Reevaluate Short and Long-term Goals Atlanta business owners took advantage of many resources and programs throughout the last year to navigate the pandemic, leaning on friends and family and seeking professional guidance. And while almost one-quarter (23%) applied for a business loan or line of credit over the past year, nearly an equal number (26%) say they will seek financing in 2021. To continue this positive momentum throughout 2021, consider these strategies: Prioritize your business plan. Sit down with your small business banker to take stock of your business’ current situation and business plan. Your small business banker can help you set realistic goals as your business’ recovery continues. Explore available resources to meet your goals. The Bank of America team wants to ensure small business owners have access to the tools and resources needed to secure funding. Bankers can also help connect business owners who may not qualify for traditional bank financing to our network of CDFI partners across the country. Consider the following questions: What new goals require additional financing? Are you looking to boost your headcount? Do you anticipate any structural or technological enhancements in the coming year? Operational Shifts Business owners adapted their business for the health and safety of their employees over the past year. As the economy begins to reopen, 78% of Atlanta business owners anticipate that the operational changes they made in response to the coronavirus will continue beyond the pandemic – specifically enhancing their sanitation practices and building a digital sales strategy. As digital proliferation continues, we expect to see more helpful tools come out for business owners. Consider a digital transition. Businesses across the country have adjusted aspects of their operations, changing primary revenue streams and shifting to online sales. As we continue to adjust, consider digital banking to limit in-person interactions and greater client convenience. Proceed with purpose. If you are a part of the 72% of Atlanta business owners who indicated they are committed to advocating for social change through their business, be sure to set clear and attainable goals. Consumers are sharp, and will be able to tell the difference between platitudes and substance. Overall, we’re seeing encouraging progress for the small business community in Atlanta and we’re looking forward to helping business owners thrive in 2021 and beyond. This is sponsored content.