As a young lawyer, Dr. Morris Dees was once known as the second most hated man in Alabama. Now 48 years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the 80 year old Dees, the co-founder of The Southern Poverty Law Center, is the latest recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize. It is the highest award given by The King Center.
Ricci de Forest is a Madam C.J. Walker devotee and curator of a small Atlanta museum that honors her legacy. That’s why he so pleased that the name and history of the woman who “is credited with being the grand dame of the Black beauty industry” is being revived with the launch of a new line of hair products in her honor.
Ralph David Abernathy III had been suffering severely for more than year, battling Stage 4 colon cancer while also valiantly fighting to honor and refresh his late father’s legacy. Yesterday, the son of civil rights icon and Martin King Jr’s best friend, Ralph Abernathy Jr., was eulogized and buried. Abernathy III died two days short of his 57th birthday.
For Rita Williams this was the American dream come true. The Decatur attorney, who grew up on the West Side of Atlanta and was the first in her family to attend college, was rubbing shoulders with some 250 doctors, lawyers, business executives and politicians who had shelled out up to $2,700 each to meet, hear and be photographed with Hillary Rodham Clinton at a private fundraiser recently.
Joseph Arrington has never been a politician, although his brother Marvin Arrington is a former Atlanta City Council president and mayoral candidate, and his nephew, Marvin Jr., is a current Fulton County commissioner. Now, however, at age 78, Joe Arrington is in a hotly contested campaign to be elected president of the Morehouse College National Alumni Association.
I now call them the “Furious Five” – an eclectic crew of friends and political knowers - who were invited to participate in the first of a month long series of "unbridled" conversations about the political issues of the day. And, they put on a dazzling, dynamic show; their debate was robust, riveting and revealing.
Bloody Sunday is surreal. It was an uncanny experience even for this seasoned journalist to encounter civil rights icon, Atlanta Congressman John Lewis, holding court and counseling youngsters at the apex of the Edmund Pettis Bridge on Sunday March 6th about the significance and substance of this memorable day in Black history.
Hank Thomas is a legendary civil rights activist and a pioneer Black fast food franchisee multi-millionaire, but few people know he is also among Black America’s foremost African American art collectors. The 74 year-old Thomas is the only surviving Freedom Rider aboard the infamous Greyhound bus that was set on fire on Mother’s Day in 1961, and he may be the only Atlanta art aficionado who owns so many Black art paintings he can’t count them all.
On September 24th President Barack Obama will cut the ribbon to open the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African American History and Culture. Joining him that historic day will be Atlanta artist Steve R. Allen because four of his paintings have been acquired as part of the museum’s Founding and Permanent Collection.
For Aaron Henderson, along with his sons Omari and Onaje, African American fine art is the family business. He has been painting and “just trying to tell our story” since he was an 11-year-old Birmingham boy, while his sons support him and the Black aesthetic by owning and operating Atlanta’s ZuCot Gallery in the Castleberry Hill community neighboring the new Mercedes Benz Stadium.
Maria 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.