By Maria Saporta
Recently it has felt as though I’ve been spending too much of my energies complaining and worrying about the current state of affairs.
So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I began to count our blessings, and I realized there are so many that they won’t all fit in one column.
But let me highlight a few that have given reason to smile and feel hopeful for our town.
City of Atlanta representatives – joined by dozens of partners and community residents – attended a special ribbon-cutting of the Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park in the English Avenue neighborhood.
The park is a wonderful symbol of how our city should work. The vision came out of Park Pride’s Proctor-North Avenue Study of 2012. It was a community-led vision that called for new and expanded parks on Atlanta’s westside to help address repeated flooding issues.
Today that vision is being realized in several new parks in Vine City and English Avenue with the latest being Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park.
Resident Tony Torrence was so overcome with emotion that he couldn’t talk.
“I get very emotional,” said Torrence, who spoke of Kathryn Johnston, a community resident who was murdered by police in a botched drug raid in 2006, and of the late Councilmember Ivory Young. “This park was community-driven. You want to know that everybody is working together to make this a great place to be in.”
Park Pride’s Michael Halicki described the moment in a Facebook post.
I also want to give thanks to Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the board of Atlanta Housing for bringing Eugene Jones Jr. to head up the authority.
After only being in town for a few weeks, Jones pulled off an incredible feat. He settled a lawsuit with Renee Glover, the well-respected president and CEO of the Atlanta Housing Authority from 1994 to 2013.
The lawsuit had been masterminded by former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who had an inexplicable vendetta against Glover and Egbert Perry, president and CEO of the Integral Group.
Thank you, Gene Jones for heralding in a new day at Atlanta Housing. I’m told Jones is now interested in moving forward to settle outstanding legal issues with Perry in the near future. Let’s put this sordid chapter behind us and get to the business of building and developing more affordable homes for people with limited means.
I’m grateful we once again have an innovative leader at the housing authority who can help Atlanta reclaim its place as a leader in housing policies.
This may surprise people who have been reading my column for years.
I’m thankful for the friendship I’ve developed with filmmaker and studio owner Tyler Perry.
After I had written a series of critical columns about his purchase of most of Fort McPherson for Tyler Perry Studios, he graciously reached out to me. We met, and we listened to each other. While we still don’t agree on several key issues, we have come to respect each other.
My hope is that our connection will lead to Tyler Perry Studios becoming a greater asset for the southwest Atlanta community and that the studio will become an integral part of the community.
No matter what, I am thankful we have opened up a new line of communication.
I’m also thankful for the Westside Singing Ambassadors (several members who used to be with a group called “Testimony”).
My friend, Charlie Brown, introduced me to the group of singers in one of those amazing life coincidences. I had first met Charlie in 1981 when we were both in Macon. He was incarcerated for a total of 34 years (when we met in Macon he had just gotten out of Reidsville).
Reconnecting with Charlie Brown and meeting his singing partner – Idus “Fatz” Parks (who did 31 years) – helped restore my faith in the human spirit. A third singer, Eddie Leary, spent 25 years behind bars. Between the three of them, they have spent a total of 90 years in prison, yet they continue to have hope for the future..
What’s amazing about Westside Singing Ambassadors is their passion for life and for music – especially gospel and R&B. They want to steer young people away from making the mistakes that they have made.
The Westside Future Fund will be holding a benefit for the group on Friday, Nov. 28 – for only $20 a ticket. It promises to be a heartwarming night of music and fellowship – and our way to help people with a past have a future.
Please come. I can’t think of a better way to pass an evening after the Thanksgiving holiday.
Lastly, I am thankful for all those things we tend to take for granted: working in a profession I love; having two amazing adult children; getting a clean mammogram four years after being diagnosed with breast cancer; passing two required Spanish exams that hopefully will lead to becoming a dual citizen; and building so many rewarding relationships throughout my life – including my time at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution; the Atlanta Business Chronicle, SaportaReport, Leadership Atlanta to name a few.
Undoubtedly, I soon will go back to writing about the many challenges we face in our town – and urging our civic leaders to do better.
But during this Thanksgiving week, thank you readers for indulging me as I share a few of the many bright spots happening in Atlanta and beyond.