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Reporter’s Notebook: MLK Day in Atlanta

The Atlanta skyline as seen from Midtown. (Photo by Emilia Weinrobe)

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will visit Atlanta next Tuesday, Jan. 11. The pair will focus on the “urgent need” to pass voting rights legislation to protect “the integrity of our elections from corrupt attempts to strip law-abiding citizens of their fundamental freedoms and allow partisan state officials to undermine vote counting processes,” according to a White House statement. 

The Biden administration’s push for voting rights protection intensifies as the 2022 midterms near.

On to other local news:

“Hope Moving Forward,” the newest statue of MLK in Atlanta. (Credit: Hannah E. Jones)

MLK Day in Atlanta

For many, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a time to celebrate an incredible leader and serve your community. And in his hometown of Atlanta, that is especially true.

If you’d like to honor MLK and his teachings, here are a few local initiatives:

  • The King Center’s King Holiday Observance 2022 — a weeklong program that includes educational seminars, celebrations honoring changemakers and discussions on building the “Beloved Community.” (Jan. 10 to 17.)
  • MLK Day 2022 at the Atlanta History Center — A combination of virtual and in-person programming that includes author talks and family-friendly educational seminars. (Jan. 16 and 17.)
  • 100+ volunteer opportunities are available through Hands On Atlanta. (Jan. 13 to 17.)
  • Visit MLK’s childhood home or the King Center for free. (Jan. 17.)

— Hannah E. Jones

Only eight percent of people keep their New Year’s resolutions, according to a study by the University of Scranton. (Photo by Elisha Terada, Unsplash)

New Year’s resolution: Keep my resolution

Plans to change your habits or pick up a new hobby are mainstays of the new year, but one study found that most folks ditch their resolutions by mid-March. 

That shouldn’t dissuade any resolution-makers, though, because the start of the new year can encourage folks to get started on their goals sooner rather than later, according to a post by Piedmont Healthcare.

So whether you want to give up soda or learn to play the guitar — how do you make a plan that sticks?

  • Make a sustainable change. While you might be tempted to start fresh, The American Psychological Association cautions against making too many changes at once. Instead, focus on one healthy change until it becomes a habit, then you can move on to another goal.
  • Tell your friends about your goal. Research shows that cluing people in on your aspirations will make you more likely to achieve them. For example, one study showed that sedentary patients who had a health contract were more likely to reach their exercise goals.

Happy New Year, and best of luck reaching those 2022 goals! 

— Hannah E. Jones

Historical markers to recognize enslaved people’s rebellion, Civil Rights author and more

Six new official historical markers will be installed at sites around the state this year after approval by the Georgia Historical Society (GHS) in 2021. 

Half of them will be within Atlanta. As we’ve previously reported, they will include the site of an arrest that led to an infamous U.S. Supreme Court case about LGBTQ rights, and the surviving buildings of the pioneering Techwood Homes and University Homes public housing complexes.

The other three have intriguing tales to tell, too, as they join over 2,100 existing markers around the state. According to GHS, those new markers will include the following:

Camp Will-A-Way, in Fort Yargo State Park in Winder, roughly between Lawrenceville and Athens. Founded in 1970, this camp was the first in Georgia and one of the first in the U.S. designed specifically to serve children with disabilities and special needs. Its service continues on part of Camp Twin Lakes.

Ebo Landing, Glynn County and St. Simons Island on the coast. Also known various as Igbo, Ebos and Ibo Landing, this is the site where a group of Igbo people, an ethnic group in Western Africa, in 1803 rebelled against being sold into slavery. They overcome their captors on a ship crossing the Atlantic, which came ashore on the island. At least some of the people reportedly committed suicide by drowning rather than remain enslaved. Their story became part of African American folklore and later in literature and film, with references in such novels as Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon.

Lillian E. Smith, Habersham County in Northeast Georgia. Smith (1897-1966) was an author and Civil Rights activist who was a fierce and early white critic of the Jim Crow South. She stirred intense controversy with her 1944 debut novel Strange Fruit, which centered on a then-taboo interracial romance. She also ran her family’s Laurel Falls Camp for Girls, where she shared her progressive ideals with new generations. The marker will go near the camp, according to GHS.

— John Ruch

Nominations open for Atlanta’s 2022 Design Awards

Nominations are open for the City’s 2022 Design Awards, which honor improvements to Atlanta’s “physical character” and community life.

There are two categories of awards whose nominees are voted on by different groups, as described by the City Office of Design:

The Awards of Excellence, chosen by the Atlanta Urban Design Commission. This awards honor “projects, programs, individuals and organizations that have significantly contributed toward the enhancement of the city of Atlanta’s built environment, the preservation of its physical heritage, and the compatible balance between the old and the new.” This is the 44th edition of the Awards of Excellence.

The Community Design Awards, voted on by Neighborhood Planning Units. This awards honor “the buildings, public spaces, events, art, organizations, etc., that make your community a better place to live.” This is the fifth edition of the Community Design Awards. 

The public can make nominations in both categories. The nomination deadline is 4 p.m. on Feb. 28. For details, see the awards website.

The awards ceremony will be held sometime in the spring.

— John Ruch

A consultant is to devise a framework plan to revitalize the Sweet Auburn Neighborhood. (Image from RFQ by CAP, HDDC, SAW)

Consultant sought to advise on Sweet Auburn neighborhood

A consultant is to be hired by mid-February to oversee the creation of a framework for the planned “Sweet Auburn Green and Equitable District,” which backers hope will offer housing and businesses due east of Downtown Atlanta. The final plan is due in March 2023.

The consultant’s fees are to be funded with taxes generated on recent developments in the Eastside Tax Allocation District. The bid that invites businesses to register their interest in the job describes the outcome in these terms:

“SAGE [the district] is envisioned as a coordinated and holistic strategy to guide desired investment outcomes and sustain Sweet Auburn’s re-emergence as an exceptionally diverse residential neighborhood and vibrant commercial center that demonstrates economic prosperity for all, is rooted in environmental sustainability and is built upon preserving its unique African American heritage.”

Three entities are overseeing the project: Central Atlanta Progress, a nonprofit that seeks to improve Downtown and will serve as fiscal agent; the Historic District Development Corp., a community development corporation focused on the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood; and Sweet Auburn Works, a nonprofit formed to revitalize the area.

The schedule includes a pre-bid conference Friday. Submittals are due Jan. 26. A consultant is to be selected in mid-February and a notice to proceed is to be issued on March 1, according to the RFQ.

— David Pendered

Atlanta’s Fire Station Fund receives largest donation in history

As 2021 came to a close, Atlanta’s firefighters and EMTs didn’t find coal in their stockings but a $120,000 donation.

In the last days of December, an anonymous citizen made the contribution to the Atlanta Fire Rescue Foundation’s Fire Station Fund, which supports the city’s 36 fire rescue stations. 

The donation will fund upgrades — ranging from furnishings to electrical needs — at four stations in Buckhead and Southwest Atlanta, along with washers and dryers specially designed to remove harmful materials from their gear.

“Our programs like the Fire Station Fund allow community partners to reinvest in their neighborhoods in the name of public safety,” Executive Director Shirley Anne Smith said in a press release. “This donation to the fund is the largest ever — including the first time a Southwest Atlanta fire rescue station is benefitting — and for that, we are particularly appreciative and proud.”

— Hannah E. Jones

A homeless camp on a sidewalk near Atlantic Station. (Photo by David Pendered)

Voting rights tips for homeless, providers

Information about voting rights for the homeless and providers who help the homeless was made available this week by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.

A permanent address isn’t a requirement to vote, according to one of the points emphasized on a page on the USICH’s website. Programs for the homeless, such as Housing First, were implemented by elected officials who heard the voices of the homeless, according to the page.

The agency provided step-by-step voting checklists for both persons experiencing homelessness and for service providers. Each list is available in five languages.

For more information click here.

— David Pendered

Organization helps folks get jobs, awarded $300,000 and three years of support 

Atlanta’s First Step Staffing has been selected for REDF’s 2022 Growth Portfolio program, which is available to “high-impact employment social enterprises.” 

First Step Staffing provides resources and employment opportunities to those experiencing homelessness. The program will provide a $300,000 grant and three years of support to help expand their services.

“This funding will help us reach more of the people who need us most and help them achieve economic opportunity, mobility, and sustainability,” said CEO Amelia Nickerson in a press release. “It gives First Step the opportunity to move the dial further and faster to end homelessness and poverty, for good.”

Only ten organizations are selected nationwide each year for the program.

— Hannah E. Jones

ACC Democracy Book Club

Wednesday, Jan. 12 at 7 p.m. 

Join Atlanta Civic Circle next week for a discussion on “Unrig: How to Fix Our Broken Democracy,” a graphic novel that analyzes fractures in our democratic system and ways to return power to the people. 

The group will be joined by author Daniel G. Newman, who will share his inspiration, why he chose to use a graphic novel to deliver his message, and ways we can all aid in fixing our democracy.

ACC can provide copies of the book to those who are unable to purchase one. 

Click here to sign up for ACC’s next book club meeting.

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Hannah E. Jones

Hannah Jones is an Atlanta native who recently graduated from Georgia State University, with a major in journalism and minor in public policy. She began studying journalism in high school and has since served as a reporter and editor for two newspapers. Hannah managed the Arts and Living section of The Signal, Georgia State’s independent award-winning newspaper. She has a passion for environmental issues, urban life and telling a good story. Hannah is excited about the opportunity to serve the City of Atlanta and its people. Hannah can be reached at hannah@atlantaciviccircle.org.

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