Column: CAP to honor one of Atlanta’s best known and least known leaders

By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on February 12, 2016

When Central Atlanta Progress holds its annual breakfast meeting on March 31, it will honor one of Atlanta’s best-known leaders and one of its least known.

The annual Dan Sweat Award will go to Bernie Marcus, who co-founded The Home Depot Inc. and who donated the Georgia Aquarium to the city and state — a gift of at least $250 million.

The annual Turner Community Leadership Award will go to Dr. Andrea Videlefsky, founder of the Daffodil Project, a worldwide project done in partnership with Am Yisrael Chai! to honor the 1.5 million children who died during the Holocaust in Nazi-occupied Europe. Downtown Atlanta has planted 175,000 daffodil bulbs — more than in any other city.

Arthur Blank reflects on cancer: ‘Live life to its fullest’

By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on February 12, 2016

Arthur Blank is approaching cancer the same way he has approached his business, sports and philanthropic career — methodically, strategically and heart-felt.

Blank is the high-profile owner of the Atlanta Falcons, a team he bought after leaving The Home Depot Inc., which he co-founded with Bernie Marcus and others.

In a deeply personal Feb. 9 interview given exclusively to Atlanta Business Chronicle, Blank spoke about being diagnosed with cancer and its prognosis; advice he would give other men; and how it has helped him adjust his priorities.

Hank Thomas: ‘I’m a Freedom Rider and Buffalo Soldier’

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.

Double Consciousness: A black history month exhibit titled “Unhealed Wounds” at the ZuCot Gallery

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.

Atlanta’s clock ticking to make peace for Nobel Peace Summit

Original Story by Maria Saporta on WABE

Play Audio

Atlanta has until May 9 to make peace for a peace summit set to take place this November.

The international body that selects cities to host the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates met in Rome over the weekend and issued a statement. All the parties in Atlanta must come together within one week, or the summit will be awarded to another city.

Atlanta was selected to host the 2015 World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates ─ a prestigious gathering of all the individuals and organizations who have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

It was supposed to be a kumbaya moment for Atlanta ─ an opportunity for us to reinforce our standing as a center for civil and human rights.

We had so much going for us. Former President Jimmy Carter, who had won the Peace Prize in 2002. Atlanta is the home of Martin Luther King Jr., who had won the prize in 1964. And Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladesh micro-lender who won in 2006, had adopted Atlanta as his second home.

So we had every reason to celebrate when we were awarded the event in 2013.

Planning groups were formed. Host committees were set. Announcements were made. Galas were held.

But then problems began brewing underneath the surface. Community leaders expressed concern that the governance of the Atlanta summit was being controlled by a nonprofit ─ Yunus Creative Lab ─ under the management of Mohammad Bhuiyan and his wife.

Attempts to have shared governance or planning of the event were rebuffed, and community leaders became increasingly concerned about how successful Atlanta would be in putting on such a global event under the existing management.

Mayor Kasim Reed has withdrawn the city of Atlanta’s involvement in organizing the Nobel Peace Prize Summit. Credit Patrick Semansky / Associated Press

Mayor Kasim Reed has withdrawn the city of Atlanta’s involvement in organizing the Nobel Peace Prize Summit.
Credit Patrick Semansky / Associated Press

Finally in March Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced that the city was withdrawing its support of the summit because it could not work with the organizers. Reed said that the only way the city would get re-engaged in the summit would be if Bhuiyan were no longer in charge.

The situation has continued to deteriorate, and even Nobel winner Yunus resigned as chairman from his own nonprofit ─ Yunus Creative Lab ─ saying he could not work with the management.

But Bhuiyan has had a hard time facing reality. Despite losing the support of the mayor, numerous civic and business leaders as well as his own chairman, Bhuiyan has been unwilling to step aside.

Now the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates has issued the ultimate challenge.

Come up with a solution to host the summit that includes the city of Atlanta, or it will move the summit to another city.

What a shame it would be if we were to lose this unique opportunity to showcase Atlanta and to reinforce our commitment to a peaceful world.

But first we need to make peace at home.


Photo of Tom Key as C.S. Lewis

Overcoming skeptics, C.S. Lewis lives again on the Atlanta stage

At age 63, C.S. Lewis had written his last book and was facing the end of his life, already one of the most influential writers of his era. Now 63, just as he has for nearly four decades, Atlanta actor Tom Key will bring the renowned British academic, novelist and theologian to life once again next week.

Key will reprise his one-man show, “C.S. Lewis On Stage,” at the Theatrical Outfit starting June 19. The show will run until June 29. Lewis renounced his Christian faith and then reclaimed it. And through his radio broadcasts, writing and speeches, he inspired others to take a look at what they believed and why.

Local mandala expert advises: Wait to make resolutions

Let me guess. It’s barely two weeks into 2014 and you’re already wavering on your New Year’s resolutions. Maybe you’ve blown them altogether. Or if you’re like me, you haven’t even started them yet. What was supposed to be a fresh start is already a dead end.

Maybe we’ve got this all wrong. Susanne Fincher says the dead of winter is precisely the wrong time to setting out to change ourselves. She’s a Jungian psychotherapist, a licensed counselor, registered art therapist and a leading international expert on mandalas—sacred circles found throughout centuries and cultures. At the core of her work is the study and understanding of cycles and patterns that are universal.

photo of Steve Walton's nativity display

In Steve Walton’s lights, holidays on the edge

Steve Walton’s Christmas display around his Virginia Highland bungalow features a manger and baby Jesus without mom and dad, a monstrous snowman’s head and the effigy of an elderly woman who apparently got run over by a reindeer.

There are no flashing holiday lights, dime store decorations or blow up Santas. His displays are funny and edgy, sometimes quite dark and suggestive of a sense of longing for an artist who has experienced considerable loss in his life.

He moved on with his life by turning discarded stuff into elaborate, seasonal lawn displays. After the death of his partner in 1989, “I started to see the yard as a palette, not a chore,” said Walton, 59, last week.  “It was very therapeutic.”

Photo of crowd at Beatles vs. Stones

At Beatles v. Stones, the anchoring power of music and memory

Living in uncertain times, we’re all looking for anchors. Nostalgia is a powerful one, as is music and lending a helping hand.

Friday night, more than 800 people showed up in Midtown to hear 13 bands who tried to recreate the time of peace, love and understanding known as the 1960s through the songs of two iconic bands: The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

The music of these bands is now timeless, but in its day it was revolutionary, and the gray heads in the audience may have flashbacked like I did to a time when rock first moved us and when some of us sought to move others.

Beatles vs. Stones reminded me of my own altruistic early rocker roots in Staunton, Va. I played with a hastily assembled band called Ravenscroft in my first gig in a church basement.

Longtime Atlanta protester targets Walmart and more

Even though Walmart will likely take over Suburban Plaza shopping center in Decatur, Brian Sherman still isn’t giving up. Late last week, he stood among a couple of dozen placard-waving protesters from Good Growth DeKalb insisting Walmart can still be stopped.

Their unflagging commitment intrigued me. I stopped at their protest, feeling cynical in the wake of news that the Atlanta Braves will move to Cobb County. Why continue to fight Big Money, the Power, the Man, or whatever you call It when It always seems to get Its way? That was my question to Sherman, who at 70 has been fighting the fight since the 1960s.

“Because,” said Sherman rather defiantly, “We eventually win.”


Local artist injects dark humor into diabetes

Diagnosed with diabetes in her first year at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Leah Owenby felt anger, fear and other deep emotions. Those feelings now are channeled into whimsical, funky and jarring pieces of art in “My Creepy Diabetes Show” at Yay Studio in Avondale Estates. She assembles syringes, test strips and other found objects familiar to all of us with this disease to create darkly humorous statements about dealing with the hideous monster that never leaves our bodies. By putting eyes and Lego legs on her blood glucose meters, for instance, she converted them into “glucobots.”

There is a sobering enormity to her work that reminded me that she and I and millions of us with diabetes most likely will die of this disease. No matter how much we exercise and try to eat right, it is always stalking us.

Transformed by refugees, Clarkston takes stage in ‘Third Country’

“I just want to know one thing: How do we stop the refugees from coming here?” That faceless voice rings from a cast member planted in the audience at the Horizon Theatre.

The play is“Third Country,” a drama based on the seismic change in Clarkston, which in the past 20 years has transformed from a predominantly white Atlanta suburb into what Time magazine called the most diverse square mile in America.

In this play by first-generation Egyptian-American Suehyla El-Attar, Clarkston is called Sidington, and the plot captures the intense emotions and misperceptions across our country about newcomers and the meaning of home, between ourselves and our shared space.


Jay Smith was at his desk, absorbing bad news about his father, when a boss defined his Moment

While Jay Smith, retired president of Cox Newspapers, Inc., was in his early twenties working as a reporter for the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News, he drove 50 miles south to his hometown of Cincinnati one weekend to visit his family. His trip home took a turn for the worse when he heard the devastating news that his father had been diagnosed with terminal malignant lung cancer.