By King Williams
The following is a continuation of the 18 best, worst, and most important trends and developments emanating from within and throughout metro Atlanta and the state of Georgia for 2018. This list was compiled by me with input from people within SaportaReport and beyond.
The list comes from a combination of hard news stories, various media, individuals, organizations, business highlights, controversies, and cultural events.
GoodrCo officially got started through social impact and innovation hub goody nation led by Justin Dawkins and Joey Womack.
A few years ago, Jasmine Crowe started simply cooking food for the homeless using her own money and feeding the homeless them from her car throughout Atlanta. She founded her social enterprise, blockchain-enabled startup GoodrCo to collect restaurant food waste and feed it to Atlanta’s homeless.
GoodrCo was birthed from Goodie Nation, a self-funded Atlanta based social impact tech hub aimed at creating tech inventors with no prior tech experience. What’s most impressive is that GoodrCo did not come out of the Georgia Tech/Atlanta Tech Village ecosystem. It shows that more capital is needed to fund entrepreneurs outside of that bubble.
Crowe became one of the few (35, now including Crowe) Black female entrepreneurs to raise $1 million-plus for a startup since 2009, according to Project Diane. Black women have only raised 0.0006 percent –$289 million – of the $424.7 billion total tech venture funding raised since 2009.
History is being made in Atlanta, and it is being made by people outside of the system. This is the future of technology, and we need more people like Crowe.
2018, was the year of “Black Panther” – the film was shot in Atlanta at Tyler Perry Studios at the now converted Ft. McPherson Army base.
“Black Panther’s” dominance of internet searches, music streaming, traditional media impact and social media was on par with the 2016 presidential election.
“Black Panther” is now the third highest-grossing film in U.S. history and second highest-grossing film of the year worldwide, behind the “The Avengers: Infinity War,” which was filmed at Pinewood Studios in Fayetteville, Ga.
“Black Panther” prompted hundreds sold-out shows across the globe and events including one held by H.J. Russell & Co.’s Jay Bailey, who put on a Wakanda-themed screening in DeKalb. The film also led to an increase in voter registration drives and local clothing vendor sales across Atlanta.
Throughout 2018, ThreadATL has been an online force galvanizing action at City Hall and community meetings. Led by Matt Garbett, Darin Givens and Lauren Welsh, ThreadATL provided a combination of breaking news, investigative citizen journalism and good urbanism practices.
ThreadAtL has led a war on parking, fought public subsidies, pushed for safe sidewalks and criticized the $23 million-plus pedestrian bridge over Northside Drive. ThreadATL also can be credited for being a watchdog of city spending on urban planning-related initiatives and being one of the strongest advocates for historic preservation in Atlanta.
6. ICE Immigration raids
2018 was a significant and disturbing year for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in metro Atlanta. The Atlanta region had been a national leader in incarceration and unwarranted arrests against undocumented immigrants. The 2018 Republican primary race featured race-baiting television ads by several candidates, including Georgia Gov.-elect Brian Kemp.
Between 2016-2017 alone, non-criminal arrests in Atlanta increased by 323 percent. The privately-owned Stewart Detention Center in Southwest Georgia is one of the largest deportation centers in the country.
Gwinnett County is now a national leader in undocumented arrests and deportations. This has led to a large increase in arrests in workplaces, homes, immigration offices and even courthouses as undocumented residents are turning themselves in. This led to counter protests at the state capital, and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms ending the city’s relationship with I.C.E. (see#10) as well as numerous court challenges, led by #11 on the list, immigration lawyer Phi Nguyen.
But these unlawful arrests and raids did not go unnoticed. The TBS show – “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” – donated a five-bedroom home in Lumpkin to Decatur-based charity El Refugio Ministry.
5. The ATL regional transit system takes flight
The ATL is poised to be the connective tissue between MARTA, serving DeKalb, Fulton and Clayton counties to other metro area transit agencies. The 16 member board just held its first meeting this December and has a monumental task ahead.
“The ATL” now is being tasked to plan a regional transit system with no dedicated source of funding. Gwinnett County will hold a critical vote in March 2019 on whether to join MARTA. It is not yet known whether road builders and Koch Industries will launch an anti-transit campaign before the March vote as similar to what happened in Nashville earlier this year.
Metro Atlanta could have avoided this regional gridlock if MARTA had not been rejected by Cobb, Gwinnett and Clayton nearly 50 years ago.
4. Atlanta: Robbin’ Season/This is America music video
Atlanta: Robbin’ Season
2018 brought the return of Stone Mountain’s own Donald Glover. Season 2, Robbin’ Season of the critically-acclaimed and groundbreaking series “Atlanta.” The second season, entitled “Robbin’ Season,” focuses on the Thanksgiving to New Year holiday season in Atlanta, where there’s usually an increase in crime.
In season two, “Atlanta” took a tonal u-turn from the weirdly colorful oddball optimism of season one, and entered a slow descent into nihilism with themes of depression, jealousy and hopelessness.
“Robbin’ Season” would garner more awards nominations, and it was tied as the highest-rated show on TV in 2018. It also led to the revamp of comedian of Katt Williams, who won an Emmy for his performance.
This is America
“This is America” music video was released concurrently on YouTube during Williams’ May 5th Saturday Night Live appearance in support of Atlanta: Robbin’ Season. Stone Mountain-raised Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino as a musical artist, released arguably the most important and culturally relevant music video of this century.
Interspersed with ad libs from famous and up-and-coming Atlanta rappers with implicit/explicit symbolism, the video shows the best of what rap music can do. The video changed the trajectory of the music business as the song debuted at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, being the first and only music video in history to do so. As This is America’s virality grew it evolved into national conversation over its words and imagery.
3. Atlanta United breaks the Atlanta sports curse
It finally happened.
On Dec. 8th, 2018, Georgia sports fans finally could breathe sigh of relief as the Atlanta United championship game ended in victory.
In the nearly 60 years of professional sports in Atlanta, the city has only produced three championships, the 1968 Atlanta Chiefs NASL title, the Atlanta Braves 1995 World Series title and now the 2018 Atlanta United MLS title.
In only their second year of existence Atlanta United is now quickly becoming the team for the entire Atlanta region as well as the most valuable team in Major League Soccer. Atlanta teams have a reputation of causing their fans continual anguish, and that has now been somewhat alleviated.
2. The People versus Public Subsidies and Economic Development
In 2018, the public subsidy, Georgia’s modus operandi for the better part of this century faced an abrupt brick wall of public opposition.
Those debates included the widely divisive Gulch deal, Amazon HQ2, MARTA’s in-town expansion versus Emory, ongoing debates about Cobb County Braves and Mercedes Benz Stadium’s $23 million-plus pedestrian bridge, to name a few.
And now economic development is threatening to destroy the home of the first recorded country music song to build a Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Hotel...Really?
Ongoing skepticism of such large projects has met a growing tide of online criticism and activism, such as Redlight the Gulch, the counter to the developer-sponsored Greenlight the Gulch media campaign. Economic development projects now are facing more scrutiny. And big economic development projects outside of the city limits are becoming more urban (see #15).
1. Stacey Abrams and the battles against voter suppression
The most googled politician in 2018 was Georgia’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, who faced good-ole-boy opposition from Republicans. Stacey Abrams elevated all of Georgia politics to a national level by bringing together diverse coalitions throughout the state.
Abrams drew more votes than every Democratic and Republican nominee ever except for Brian Kemp, who won by less than 55,000 votes.
As Georgia’s Secretary of State, Brian Kemp purged thousands of Georgia voters from the rolls, and there were charges that the state purposefully did not supply enough voting machines in heavily-Democratic and minority polling stations. Kemp’s campaign got a last minute boost when President Donald Trump came to Macon for a rally two days before the election.
Stacey Abrams countered the myth of a non-white candidate ability to be a statewide candidate by winning many rural Georgia counties. There also is a growing awareness on the decrepit state of our voting system. The Abrams campaign gave rise to the Fair Fight Lawsuit as well as an increase in young, first-time and minority voters statewide. Stacey Abrams ran a national campaign for a statewide election and the voting totals despite the adversity confirm this. The future of effective campaigns was on display in the state of Georgia, it would behoove other state-wide campaigns to follow suit.