Posted inATL Business Chronicle

Column: American Heart Association’s Atlanta director gets national role

By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on April 22, 2016

Michael Privette, who has served as the executive director of the American Heart Association’s Atlanta division for the past five years, is being promoted to a national role – as AHA’s nation director of the Go Red for Women Campaign – beginning July 1.

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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.

Posted inLatest News

Mayor Kasim Reed talks about being a family man and his post mayoral plans

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, speaking to the Kiwanis Club of Atlanta Tuesday, got personal –talking about how becoming a family man had changed him.

In a moment of candor, the mayor admitted that at home he does not call the shots. For example, he said he wanted his daughter, Maria, to become a student in Atlanta’s public schools. But his wife was a student at the Pace Academy and went to the Suzuki school, a Montessori pre-school. So his daughter is going to the Suzuki School.

Posted inColumns, Michelle Hiskey & Ben Smith

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.

Posted inColumns, Michelle Hiskey & Ben Smith

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.”

Posted inColumns, Michelle Hiskey, Michelle Hiskey & Ben Smith

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.

Posted inColumns, Michelle Hiskey & Ben Smith

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.

Posted inMichelle Hiskey

DeKalb church helped anchor Antoinette Tuff through the pain

Nine miles due east of the school where she became a worldwide hero for talking down a gunman who had fired at police, Antoinette Tuff  showed up Sunday at the church where she has said her pastor’s voice urged her to be “anchored.” It felt strangely reassuring to be in her presence. I was there because I wanted to find out more about how she pulled off such courage in the face of impending evil.

I live six miles north of Tuff’s school, and was horrified momentarily last week at the possibility that another Newtown shooting might be unfolding. Pretty much all the news out of our schools and government in DeKalb County, Georgia, has been terrible lately.

I could see from Sunday’s service how this community teaches members to expect the unexpected. I could see how Antoinette Tuff might get used to behavior that would unsettle the rest of us. It was also clear that this is a community that values deep preparation to counter life’s surprises.

Posted inMoments, Moments Season 2

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.

Posted inMoments, Moments Season 2

Jennifer Johnson’s Moment prompted her to leave big law firm and open Westside cafe

Had Jennifer Johnson not spotted an advertisement seeking restaurant franchisees while sitting in a café with her weekly book club in the early 2000s, Atlanta may be missing out on two delicious dining establishments: West Egg Café and The General Muir. A six-year associate at King & Spalding law firm at the time, Jennifer had always dreamed of working in the hospitality industry. Seeing the flyer in the window reignited that flame of passion and ultimately propelled her to make a dramatic career transition.

“I started to think back to the dreams I had and the things that really fueled me creatively when I was younger,” Jennifer recalled in our accompanying HD Moments video.

Posted inMoments, Moments Season 2

David Geller’s Moment altered his wealth advisory firm to help clients invest for personal fulfillment

When David Geller went through a divorce from his first wife in 2004, he found himself in the middle of a difficult life transition, worried about what his clients and colleagues would think of him. So he did what he always does when he feels stuck—he began to read.

After cracking open a book about the Positive Psychology Movement, he stumbled across an interesting fact about people who hit the threshold of $75,000 of income: As they get richer beyond that point they don’t necessarily get happier. Confused by the lack of correlation between wealth and happiness, David made it his mission to bridge the gap.

“I remember feeling like I was punched in the stomach,” David recalled of when he read that fact about happiness and wealth, as seen in our accompanying HD Moments video. “That Moment was really the beginning of a process that really transformed my firm.”

Posted inMoments, Moments Season 2

Cynthia Jones Parks awoke to Moment, prompting her to borrow and invest in middle of recession

During late summer four years ago in the depths of the Great Recession, Cynthia Jones Parks was experiencing a significant drop in her business, Jones Worley Communications. She had prayed for months for God’s blessings and direction, but the downward spiral continued. However, that summer evening, she woke up in the middle of the night and sat straight up in bed when God’s voice whispered into her spirit: “I’ve already blessed you, go do something with it,” He said.

“We didn’t have very much business – many of our contracts had been cancelled or were on hold, waiting funding. I didn’t know what we were going to do,” she recalled in the filming of our accompanying HD Moments video.

Posted inMoments, Moments Season 2

Lee Katz’s Grant Field Moment selling peanuts as a teenager taught him lasting lessons in deal making

For most budding professionals trying to make their mark in any given industry, the word “peanuts” represents the measly amount of money they make when they begin working their first entry-level job. For Lee Katz, however, peanuts represent far more than a starting salary. They represent the Moment that ignited his interest in deal making and the Moment he began learning valuable skills that he carries into his current role as the chairman of GGG Partners, one of the leading turnaround firms in the country. Just like all of us, he had to start with peanuts (in his case literally) to get to where he is today.

In 1964, when Lee was 13 years old, he began selling peanuts to sports fans at Georgia Tech’s Grant Field. For every bag he sold for ten cents, he earned a penny in commission. As an added incentive, the seller who sold the most bags during the day received a $20 bonus. Watch our accompanying HD Moments video.

Posted inMoments, Moments Season 2

Keegan Federal’s Moment led him to focus on his daughter’s recovery and find a new legal expertise

On October 21, 1989, Keegan Federal received a call from Northside Hospital that would change not only his entire family’s life, but would ultimately lead him to add a new specialty to his law practice. His sixteen-year-old daughter, Megan, was in the emergency room, in a coma, with a severe brain injury she had sustained in a car accident. The doctor told him that the prognosis was grim.

After three days in the hospital, the doctors began to think she might survive, but told her father there was a 95% probability she would be in a “persistent vegetative state” for the remainder of her life.

Posted inMoments, Moments Season 2

Brandi Helvey’s Moment was her son’s tragic accident and the faith that kept her family together

Brandi Helvey was rushing around her house on Christmas Eve 2010, getting her family ready to go on a trip when tragedy struck – permanently altering not only the upcoming holidays, but the lives of her son, her husband Mike and herself.

While other family members were out shopping and preparing for the holiday trip, Brandi was preparing to move a load of laundry from the upstairs washing machine to the dryer while her three-year-old son Jacob was in the living room playing with his toy cars and watching his favorite TV show. The Helvey family lives in a multi-story home built into a hill in the Forsyth County community of Cumming. One of the home’s amenities is a home elevator.

“In a matter of five minutes, as I’m upstairs, he decides to call the elevator cause he wants to come see me.,” Brandi recalls in our HD Moments video. “He’s like ‘Mommy, mommy, I want to come see you.’ And I said, ‘Just a second, I’ll be right down.’ The elevator was on for a second and then there was silence. So, at that point I come running down the stairs. I’m tugging and I’m pulling on the elevator door.”

Posted inMichelle Hiskey, Michelle Hiskey & Ben Smith

After assassination, Brown family seeks peace and truth amid more loss

Brandy Brown Rhodes and her siblings lost their police captain father to a dramatic execution-style hit in the driveway of his home in a southeastern suburb of Atlanta. They lost their mom more privately, when she died of a stroke. There have been other losses, too.

Last week, as a new police precinct next to South DeKalb Mall was dedicated to their dad—sheriff-elect Derwin Brown—Rhodes and her siblings talked about weathering a series of emotional hits, after the violent one that claimed their dad. Unlike most adult children who have lost a parent, the Brown children have spent a dozen years sorting out their dad’s legacy amid lingering questions about how he died, while processing the deaths of other family members.

“I think the hard part about it is coming to peace that both of my parents are gone and I have to look at this world differently now,” Rhodes, 34, said.