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Reporter’s Notebook: South River public engagement, Black History Month films and more

The Jackson Street Bridge at night by Kemet Alston

The Jackson Street Bridge at night. (Credit: Kemet Alston)

The 404 is getting crowded — with 943s.  Verizon just announced that it will start assigning phone numbers with metro Atlanta’s newest area code next month. Georgia’s utility regulator authorized the 943 last year because 404, 770, 678, and 470 are expected to be used up by 2023.

On to other notebook items:

South River Forest public engagement to start in spring

Public engagement for the South River Forest green space concept will kick off this spring, organizers have confirmed.

The South River Forest is a vision for creating and connecting 3,500 acres of parks and other green space in Southeast Atlanta and DeKalb County. The process is led by the Georgia chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), a nonprofit organization, with planning and technical assistance from the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC). TNC is coordinating and building on the longtime work of other local organizations.

A river seen at a distance between tall green trees. Photo: John Ruch

The South River as seen at Constitution Lakes Park in DeKalb County. Photo: John Ruch

When the process begins, it will include a website, an online survey and group tours of green spaces in the area, according to the ARC.

“The South River Forest is one of the largest unspoiled forested areas left in the Atlanta metro area,” said TNC Executive Director Deron Davis in a press release. “It’s critically important that we hear from a diverse group of residents, government officials and other stakeholders as we develop a vision for South River’s future.”

The City of Atlanta recently opened a cornerstone park that is part of the concept, the Lake Charlotte Nature Preserve. The City also has a political stumbling block at another key site, the former Atlanta Prison Farm, where the Atlanta Police Foundation is planning a public safety training center on part of the property.

The general outline of the South River Forest process was already known, but was confirmed by TNC and ARC following Mayor Andre Dickens’ announcement of a new Greenspace Advisory Council that will oversee the executive of a strategic park plan. The council was self-created by 13 environmental nonprofits last year as a way to vet mayoral candidates and proposed itself as a “Green Cabinet,” which Dickens is taking up. TNC is among the council’s members.

–John Ruch

Film Festival gives free screenings for Black History Month

In celebration of Black History Month, the Morehouse College Human Rights Film Festival is having screenings of past winners free of charge and open to the public.

From Feb. 23-24 you can watch independent films that educate and expand awareness of social justice issues, both nationally and worldwide. The films selected generate conversation and dialogue around civil and human rights, as well as inspire innovative and creative new approaches to social change.

Past winners like “Eavesdropping on the Elders,” “Red Horizon” and “Ali’s Comeback: The Untold Story” will be showing at the Bank of America Auditorium at Morehouse College. To get a full schedule and how to reserve tickets, log onto their website.

—Allison Joyner

‘Phoenix Flies’ historic preservation celebration returns

The “Phoenix Flies” celebration of historic sites and programs returns this year for a three-week run in March.

Organized by the Atlanta Preservation Center (APC) with many partners, the annual celebration began in 2003 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of saving Midtown’s Fox Theatre from demolition.

This year’s edition runs March 5-27. But some events have limited space and require pre-registration, which opens at 10 a.m. on Feb. 18 on Eventbrite.

The lineup has over 65 events. There are tours of the Fox, the Plaza Theatre, the Paces Ferry United Methodist Church in Buckhead and The Works, the new repurposed warehouse complex in the Upper Westside. There are programs on how the Krog Street Tunnel’s ever-changing graffiti is archived, and advice from the Atlanta Black Archives Alliance on preserving your own family history. There are walking tours of many areas around the city and such topics as women’s life of the 1890s.

Full details can be seen in the Phoenix Flies online program. The cover image of this year’s program is St. Mark’s AME Church, which is one of the APC’s current major preservation efforts.

–John Ruch

As Buckhead cityhood stalls, so do Midtown and parody spin-offs

The Buckhead City Committee may not be calling it quits despite its legislative freeze-out, but two spin-off versions are – one that’s a parody and one that may be serious.

A group supposedly proposing a “Midtown City” posted a one-line update on its Instagram page declaring, “Movement now on hold and will be revisited in 2023.”

An anonymously registered website for a “Midtown City Exploratory Committee” popped up last year. The site said its backers hoped Buckhead would remain part of Atlanta, but claimed that if the secession succeeded, they would launch an effort for Midtown and other neighborhoods to do the same. There was no sign of actual political activity on its behalf.

Definitely not serious – except in the merciless nature of its comedy – was a parodic proposal for a “City of Peachtree Battle” to secede from Buckhead City itself. Named for a sub-neighborhood dubbed for a Civil War battle line, the parody played with the notion of southern Buckhead seceding from northern Buckhead. On a website and Twitter account launched earlier this month, it displayed a city logo featuring a cannon and the motto Non patimur stulti – “We do not suffer fools.”

“Some men [and women] see things as they are and ask why…I dream of a rump Buckhead City divided into at least 19 separate local governments and sovereign HOAs and ask why not,” said the anonymous president and CEO of the “City of Peachtree Battle Exploratory Committee” on Twitter.

But by Feb. 16, they had declared the mockery over – unless it’s needed again in 2023.

–John Ruch

Annual Hunger Walk & Run set for March 6

Time is running out to assemble teams and fundraising efforts for the annual Hunger Walk & Run, to benefit the Atlanta Community Food Bank and five other hunger organizations. More than $11.7 million has been raised in the previous 37 events, according to organizers.

The Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta participated in a past event. (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

The Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta participated in a past event. (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

This year’s event is a hybrid format slated for March 6. March 3 is the deadline to register and receive a $5 per person discount off the event-day registration fees of $30 for the walk and $40 for the run. All registered participants are to receive a T-shirt.

The in-person event is to be based at The Home Depot Backyard, at 1 Backyard Way, in Downtown Atlanta. The event opens at noon and the 5K fun walk and run begins at 2 p.m. The event is to end at 4 p.m.

The event benefits six organization in metro Atlanta that help feed the hungry through food panties, shelters, community kitchens, and senior and children’s shelters. The six organizations are the Atlanta Community Food Bank; Episcopal Community Foundation for Middle and North Georgia; Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta; Inspiritius (Formerly Lutheran Services of Georgia); Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, and St. Vincent de Paul Society, Inc.

Click here for information.

– David Pendered

Friendship Force hears from both sides

Atlanta’s own nonprofit Friendship Force International is amplifying an identical message from its chapters on both sides of the Russia-Ukraine border: Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin must seek a diplomatic solution, not war, in eastern Europe.

“In our more than four decades of promoting peace through personal interaction, Friendship Force has learned that through sincere and open communication, people who recognize and even appreciate their differences can reach the common ground of understanding, and even friendship,” wrote Ukrainian Friendship Force Member Tanya Zgodinskaya and Russian Friendship Force member Elena Parubochaya in a joint letter to the U.S. and Russian presidents.
The two are looking at Ukraine, where Vladimir Putin wants a promise that western treaty alliance NATO won’t expand — and has put Russian troops on the border as he makes the demand.

“You both know that although in war there are victors and vanquished, in fact everyone loses,” the citizen-diplomats and FFI President Jeremi Snook wrote this week.

Friendship Force International promotes understanding and education across borders via trips, homestays and friendships among people from different countries.

—Maggie Lee

‘To Immigrants with Love’ campaign sent Valentine’s Day message in Atlanta

Atlanta was part of the annual national campaign on Valentine’s Day to support immigrants, including artists, activists, and public figures.

This sign on the Westin Hotel on Peachtree Street was intended to send a message of love and support to immigrants on Valentine’s Day. (Photo provided by FWD.us)

This sign was intended to send a message of love and support to immigrants on Valentine’s Day. (Photo provided by FWD.us)

Sponsored by FWD.us, the “To Immigrants with Love” campaign displayed messages in some of the nation’s largest cities, and in cities with large immigrant communities. In addition to Atlanta, messages were displayed in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami and Washington.

The locations of signs were selected for their locations in high-traffic areas. In Downtown Atlanta, the message was displayed on a sign affixed to the Westin Peachtree Plaza, located at the intersection of Peachtree Street and Andrew Young International Boulevard.

According to a FWD.us statement, the “campaign honors each of our families’ sacrifices, struggles, and successes, because America’s strength is reflected in our diversity built over generations.”

– David Pendered

Federal Reserve: Spelman grad’s nomination derailed by GOP boycott

The U.S. Senate confirmation process for Spelman College graduate Lisa Cook to join the board that oversees the Federal Reserve has been delayed indefinitely.

Lisa Cook. (Photo from broad.msu.edu.)

Lisa Cook. (Photo from broad.msu.edu.)

Republican members of the Senate Banking Committee chose to not provide a quorum at Tuesday’s confirmation hearing. Cook’s confirmation was delayed, along with confirmations for nominees including Fed Chairman Jerome Powell.

Ranking Republican committee member Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said in a statement posted Wednesday that the GOP members could advance all nominees except one, Sarah Bloom Raskin. President Biden nominated Raskin to serve as vice chairman for bank supervision.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), committee chairman, issued a statement that observed: “Republicans Have Walked Out on the American People.” Brown released the comment Tuesday, after Toomey had announced his intentions to block a quorum.

– David Pendered

Lawyers, a foundation and money

Law firm Campbell & Brannon with the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, has opened a new charitable endeavor called the Campbell & Brannon Philanthropy Fund, according to an announcement from the foundation.

A round of $100,000 grants are going to nonprofits helping the residents of the Forest Cove apartments in southeast Atlanta.  The residents of the federally subsidized complex have faced various plagues over the years including mismanagement, gang predation, mold, undone repairs and uncollected garbage. It’s so bad, an Atlanta judge in December ordered the complex’ current owner to move the tenants out and demolish the place.

—Maggie Lee

History center leader joins outstanding list

Atlanta History Center President and CEO Sheffield Hale is one of the latest recipients of the annual Governor’s Awards for the Arts and Humanities, given to folks who make outstanding contributions to these cultural fields.

The history center is just now playing host to a Smithsonian Institute exhibit entitled American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith.  Atlanta items on display include Black Lives Matter signs from summer 2020 protests.

It’s part of the center’s new strategic plan, which focuses on connecting people, history and culture to strengthen community and democracy.

“We will hold democracy at the center of our research, scholarship and storytelling,” Hale said, in a press release announcing the award.

“As people across our city, state and country consider what it means to create a democracy functioning by and for everyone, Atlanta History Center will use its resources to explore the history of the components that make a healthy democratic system. We will be a home for meaningful conversations.”

Other Fulton honorees this year include Dad’s Garage Theatre, Out of Hand Theater and Synchronicity Theatre.

—Maggie Lee

 

 

 

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Maggie Lee

Maggie Lee is a freelance reporter who's been covering Georgia and metro Atlanta government and politics since 2008.

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