Sapelo Island midwife among those honored at annual Georgia Women of Achievement induction ceremony

This week, guest columnist BETTY HOLLAN, executive director of Georgia Women of Achievement, recognizes the achievements of Sapelo Island midwife Katie Hall Underwood.

If you visited Sapelo Island from 1920 until 1968, you may have seen a strong, lean woman briskly walking from one end of the island to the other, a long seven-mile stretch, her mind set on delivering another baby into this world. Born into a family of freed slaves in 1884, Katie Hall Underwood was the last of a long line of Sapelo midwives. Her skilled hands and soothing demeanor brought generations of proud Gullah-Geechee people into the world.

Ponce sidewalk

City of Atlanta has opportunity to invest in sidewalks and bicycle paths

It’s a given. The City of Atlanta will go to voters in November to propose an additional half-penny in taxes over the next 40 years for MARTA. That tax alone initially is expected to generate more than $50 million a year.

But the City of Atlanta also has the option to ask voters whether they want to approve another half penny for five years for general transportation projects.

Commentary: Atlanta must keep New Year’s Eve tradition alive

Original Story on WABE by Maria Saporta

The Peach Drop – the New Year’s Eve celebration at Underground Atlanta – almost didn’t happen this year because the property is being sold.

Peach Drop celebration (Photo by Amy Wenk)

Maria believes Atlanta needs to keep an annual New Year’s celebration for the public. (Photo by Amy Wenk)

It was not clear who should put on the Peach Drop – the city or the developer who is buying the property. At the 11th hour, the city decided to take it on, and thousands of people showed up, as they have for years.

Over the years, Atlanta has held a variety of public New Year’s Eve celebrations. We used to welcome the New Year at the Coca-Cola sign next to what is now the Georgia Pacific Building, until the sign came down in the early 1980s.

In the 90s, the Midtown Alliance organized the family-oriented First Night with a number of arts and cultural events along with a fireworks display at midnight.

Then came the Peach Drop – a gathering place where Atlanta’s diverse population could enjoy the uplifting feeling of starting a new year.

With redevelopment plans for Underground, it’s unclear if the Peach Drop will continue.

But Atlanta needs to keep an annual celebration for the public.

We could ring in the new year at the new neon Coca-Cola sign, overlooking Woodruff Park.

Centennial Olympic Park would be a good place to bid farewell to one year, while ushering in a new one.

Or we could recreate First Night in downtown or Midtown – closing off Peachtree – and creating an Atlanta Streets Alive experience.

A New Year’s Eve celebration is important, because it’s the one day of the year when we can remove our fears and reach out to people we do not know – to simply wish them well.

We also can show off our hospitality to out-of-town football fans here for the Chick-fil-A bowl.

It’s moments like these that bring out the best in us.

Happy New Year Atlanta.

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

Original Story by Maria Saporta on WABE

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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.


City Of Atlanta pulls support for Nobel Peace Prize Summit

Original Story on WABE

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

Maria Saporta speaks with WABE’s Amy Kiley about the city’s pullout from summit preparations.

More than 20 Nobel Peace Prize laureates are scheduled to meet in Atlanta this November, but it looks like city leaders won’t be in the welcome party.

Mayor Kasim Reed has withdrawn the city of Atlanta’s involvement in organizing the summit. To find out why and what it means for the city’s reputation, Amy Kiley spoke with commentator Maria Saporta.

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Update: Maria published the below story 4/1/15

Mayor Kasim Reed Willing To Support 2015 Nobel Peace Summit in Atlanta if Mohammad Bhuiyan Is Not In Charge

Same-sex wedding planning tricky now in Georgia

Wedding planning is never easy, and picking a date and location is particularly tricky right now for same-sex couples in Georgia, one of 14 states where gay marriage remains illegal. The closest possibility is Florida or one of the Carolinas. Alabama may be the next state to legalize. On this cusp of historic change are stakeholders like Kristen Ott Palladino, who with her wife Maria Palladino publishes Equally Wed magazine from Atlanta, and local couples like Dan Treadaway and Eric Still, who married in 2014 for romantic and legal reasons, not wanting to stay unwed any longer.

Color Runs: The Peachtree Road Race’s millennial offspring

The Peachtree Road Race on July 4 is rooted in a time when running wasn’t popular. Out on the multicolored, millennial fringes of outdoor recreation for young adults, the clenched-teeth grind is passé.

By turning up the party, color runs have become a popular mixing zone for socializing, sweating, and social media. If anything was tailor made for the selfie and the “unique shareable experiences” craved by the millennial generation, it’s a color run.

Gay marriage in Georgia? Not if, but when, forum participants say

Ten years ago, banning same-sex marriage was so in vogue that 3 of every 4 Georgia voters approved amending the state constitution so only men and women could marry each other. Last weekend, several prominent gays and lesbians spoke of how lives and society will transform when—not if—the marriage ban is overturned.

They spoke the same week that Lambda Legal, a gay rights group, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Atlanta seeking to overturn the state of Georgia’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriages. The promise of “marriage equality” drew more than 100 people to the “Beloved Community Dialogue” Saturday night at The Friends School of Atlanta, a moment that showed how far the issue has moved away from moral debate to a question of timing and expectations.

Atlanta’s inaugural ceremony raises hopes for 2014 and beyond

Atlanta will continue to serve humanity as a “city on a hill,” one that nurtures prosperity as it cares for the humble.

This is the aspiration for the coming four years as proclaimed by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell in their separate inaugural addresses Monday.

Reed vowed specific programs regarding public education, and college funding for all deserving students; construction of affordable housing at Turner Field and Fort McPherson; stronger criminal justice for repeat offenders and a jail-to-freedom transition. Mitchell cited some of the same goals and said they could be achieved through better collaboration among local governments.

Unlike New York, Atlanta’s mayoral inauguration expected to be mild

Unlike New York City’s mayoral inauguration last week, little controversy is expected to surround Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed as he takes the oath of office Monday.

Atlanta has a history of low-key mayoral inaugurations. It’s just not the Atlanta way for politicians to swing for the fences at these rites of passage. That wasn’t the case in New York on Jan. 1, when a pastor speaking from the inaugural podium referred to “the plantation called New York.”

Likewise, Gov. Nathan Deal and other politicians may offer new insights but probably won’t stir the hornet’s nest in speeches at the Eggs and Issues breakfast to be hosted Jan. 15 by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

Weekly potluck dinner turns Atlanta friends into family

The bonds of family and friendship can be created through the sacrament of a regular shared mealtime, and it  doesn’t have to be as seldom or elaborate as the big Thanksgiving event many of us will travel thousands of miles to celebrate this Thursday.

For several years, Owen Mathews has hosted what he calls Potluck Dinner every week at his Midtown studio. It has grown into a broad range of young to early-middle aged professionals of assorted ethnic backgrounds and experiences.

“It’s almost like we have family dinner once a week,” said Sara Le Meitour, who is engaged to another potluck regular.

Timing will be just right for Atlanta's Center for Civil and Human Rights

By Maria Saporta

In August, it will be the 50-year anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

And it is at the “50-year mark” when a major moment in history moves from being a memoriam to part of a legacy that can be connected to contemporary issues, according to Doug Shipman, president and CEO of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

If that’s the case, the Center’s timing is just about perfect. Construction on the Center, which will be located on the same block as the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola, began on March 4.