Reporter’s Notebook: Celebrating Little 5 Points, Morehouse College’s restored football and track fields, tour of Newnan’s historic buildings
Aug. 28 marks the 59th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legendary “I Have a Dream” speech. On that late August day in 1963, MLK gave his 17-minute speech during the March on Washington that changed history. Remarkably, the last six minutes of his speech — including the iconic “I Have a Dream” portion — were improvised.
On to other recent news from around town:
People make the place in Little 5 Points
For five decades, Little 5 Points has thrived with independent small businesses and a free spirit of inclusivity.
As a way to celebrate its resiliency, the Little 5 Points Alliance hosted a first-of-its-kind event on Aug. 21 called “People Make the Place,” which honored individuals and organizations that helped create and keep the special flavor of the commercial district and its surrounding residential areas.
“Little 5 Points is such a unique place because of the people who chose to invest here,” said Lauren Welsh, executive director of the Little 5 Points Alliance. “The goal is to preserve the identity. Tonight is a celebration of the individuals who have done so much to make this place.”
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, a guest speaker, described Little 5 Points as “a very special place in the City of Atlanta” and as a place that “has that quirkiness.” City Councilmembers Matt Westmoreland and Amir Farokhi also attended the event.
The district’s history was on full display during the event that was held at 7 Stages Theatre, an example of the many cultural offerings in Little 5 Points.
The Don Bender Legacy Award went to Don and Judy Bender, who were a driving force in the preservation and revitalization of Little 5 Points. They were introduced by Kelly Jordan, a longtime friend and former business partner (and yes, he is the same Kelly Jordan who is the SaportaReport’s photographer).
The revitalization of the district dates back to the mid-1970s when Bender, Jordan and partners purchased and saved many of the buildings in the five-pointed intersection – attracting independent small business owners to the area.
One such business leader was Ira Katz, who opened the independently-owned Little 5 Points Pharmacy in 1981. Katz and the pharmacy received the Uplift L5P Award along with the BOND Community Federal Credit Union.
“Ira saved people. In 2017, two people overdosed in front of the pharmacy,” said Jordan, adding that Katz gave them Narcan, an opioid overdose treatment. “We have been lucky to have him for the past four decades.”
The BOND Community Federal Credit Union was recognized for providing financing to borrowers in the Little 5 Points area when other financial institutions viewed loans in the area as too risky. It has been around since the early 1970s, and it has about 5,000 members with $54 million in assets.
Craig McDonald, CEO of the credit union, recalled moving to Little 5 after growing up in a small town in southwest Georgia.
“I saw things I never thought I’d see,” McDonald said. “Here I am 27 years later.”
Katz summed it up this way: “There is no other community or neighborhood like this in Atlanta. What excites me every day is the uniqueness. No two days are the same in Little 5 Points.”
— Maria Saporta
Georgia Trust’s Fall Ramble to tour Newnan’s historic buildings
Newnan’s private historic homes and buildings can be toured during the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2022 “Fall Ramble” Oct. 14 to 16.
The “rambles” held by the Atlanta-based Georgia Trust include self-guided tours and social events in historic properties that are not typically open to the public. Advance registration is required, with no walk-up attendance allowed.
The ramble in Newnan, located about 35 miles southwest of Atlanta in Coweta County, will include the city’s several historic districts as well as nearby rural areas and the Serenbe planned development. The city’s central Downtown Historic District dates to 1828.
The events include dinner and cocktails at the 1850s Newnan Historic Train Depot and the University of West Georgia Newnan campus, breakfast at the 1898 Central Baptist Church and brunch at Cherry Hollow Farm in Chattahoochee Hills.
A variety of ticket packages are available for each day or the entire weekend, with and without meal options. For details, see the Georgia Trust website.
— John Ruch
Edwin C. Moses Track and B.T. Harvey Stadium Football Field grand opening
At long last, Morehouse College held the grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony for the fully restored Edwin C. Moses Track and B.T. Harvey Stadium Football Field on Aug. 23.
For years, Morehouse alums, including Olympic record holder Edwin Moses himself have worked with Morehouse leaders to bring the football stadium and the track and field to a state that is worthy of the historically Black college’s stature.
“Today is a moment I’ve been looking forward to for four years,” said David Thomas, president of Morehouse. Shortly after he became president, Thomas said he was out on a morning walk and saw one of the college’s “scholar-athletes on crutches.” He learned that the athlete had twisted his ankle because of the field’s state of disrepair.
Then he was approached by a group of key Morehouse alum, including Edwin Moses of the Class of 1978, who urged that upgrading the stadium and its track become a top priority of the school.
Moses also had a fortuitous encounter on a cruise ship with civic leader Billye Aaron, when he told her and her husband, Hank Aaron, of the need to refurbish the athletic facility. Her husband passed away in January 2021.
“I’m delighted to see this beautiful track and field,” Billye Aaron, who was the lead donor of the renovated stadium, said at the ceremony. Then she teased the Morehouse crowd about her plans for the future. “I have plans for you, and I will let you know what those are,” she said. “I love you dearly.”
President Thomas then introduced Moses, a perennial gold medalist who was able to break the Olympic record while he was a student at Morehouse. “He is one of the most iconic athletes of our time,” said Thomas, who added that Morehouse didn’t even have a track when Moses was a student.
Moses thanked Thomas for being a catalyst in the renovation of the stadium. Moses also paid tribute to Dr. Hugh Gloster, who was president of Morehouse when he was training for the Olympics. Gloster wrote him a $3,000 check so Moses could travel and train for the Olympics.
Because of the new track, Moses said Morehouse will be able to attract strong student-athletes to come to the college, where they will be able to succeed academically and athletically.
— Maria Saporta
September marks annual Georgia Grows Native for Birds month
The folks at Georgia Audubon are gearing up for September’s fifth annual Georgia Grows Native for Birds month — a month-long celebration of Georgia’s native plants to raise awareness about the crucial role they play for birds and other wildlife.
Georgia Grows Native for Birds Month is a collaborative effort with Georgia Audubon, the Georgia Native Plant Society and other state Audubon chapters. Last year, Governor Brian Kemp signed a proclamation officially designating September as such
This year’s celebration includes a variety of in-person and virtual events, including a native plant sale, a Georgia Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary Tour and a workshop on creating a Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary.
Including native plants in your home garden is essential for the local ecosystem because, as Habitat Conservation Program Manager Gabe Andrle puts it, “Ornamental plants can’t support the same insect life that native plants can.”
He continued: “Insects are the bridge between plants and birds in many ways. Many insects need specific plant species and [otherwise,] they might not be able to survive. And what do over 95 percent of our bird species rely on to feed their young? Insects. If the insects are declining, our birds are not able to reproduce successfully.”
If you want to learn more about Georgia’s native plants and their role in our local ecosystem and backyard habitats, click here for more information about next month’s lineup.
— Hannah E. Jones
Ossoff, AUC celebrates the bipartisan cybersecurity opportunity act becoming law
On Monday, Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff and other lawmakers gathered at Morehouse College’s King International Chapel to celebrate the Cybersecurity Opportunity Act becoming law.
Ossoff, along with Rep. Lucy McBath (GA-06) and Rep. Hank Johnson (GA-04), attended the event and met with the presidents of the institutions within the Atlanta University Center and students to recognize the bipartisan Dr. David Satcher Cybersecurity Education Grant Program.
The law signed into law earlier this month requires that 50 percent of the grant funds from the law go to Historically Black Colleges and Universities and minority-serving institutions to support greater diversity and equality of opportunity in the cybersecurity field.
Satcher, a former U.S. Surgeon General and past president of Morehouse School of Medicine, was in attendance to celebrate this occasion.
— Allison Joyner
Georgia Legal Services awarded $300,000 for pro-bono services
GLSP provides free civil legal services to Georgians with low incomes in 154 of the state’s 159 counties — offering services about family law, housing, eviction prevention, farmworkers’ rights and access to education.
GLSP will use the funds to improve its pro bono program, including the standardization of policies and improved communications among pro bono staff to better provide consistent, high-quality legal services for low-income clients in Georgia.
As part of the Pro Bono Innovation Fund grant, LSC is distributing $4.75 million to 15 legal aid organizations to support the growth of free legal services for low-income Americans.
“Meeting the vast legal needs of low-income Americans is a tough job for legal aid providers with limited resources,” LSC President Ronald Flagg said in a press release. “Engaging pro bono attorneys and volunteers adds a powerful network that multiplies the impact of these organizations.”
Low-income individuals are in urgent need of affordable assistance, with 74 percent facing at least one civil legal problem, according to LSC’s recent Justice Gap report.
— Hannah E. Jones
Settlement reached in fatal plane crash at PDK, attorneys say
A confidential settlement has been reached in a wrongful-death lawsuit filed on behalf of one of the passengers killed last year in a plane crash at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport, according to the plaintiffs’ attorneys.
The Oct. 8, 2021 crash at the Chamblee airport, also known as PDK, killed pilot Jonathan Rosen, a Dunwoody business executive; his daughter Allison, 14; Rosen’s employee Lauren Harrington; and Julia Smith, 13, a friend of Allison Rosen.
Harrington’s parents and estate filed suit against Jonathan Rosen’s estate and two holding companies, including one that owned the plane. The lawsuit alleged that Rosen was at fault in the fiery crash and Harrington’s death because he had not completed flight training for the aircraft, which had recently been significantly modified, and improperly calculated its weight and center of gravity for safe flying. The National Transportation Safety Board has yet to issue a final report in its investigation of the crash.
The settlement does not yet appear in DeKalb County State Court records but was announced on Aug. 25 by Beasley Allen, a law firm that represented the plaintiffs in partnership with the firm Mason Carter. James Strawinski, the lead attorney for the defendants, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Built in the 1940s as a military airport in what was then a remote area, PDK is now a county-owned civilian airport popular with corporate travelers and surrounded by residential neighborhoods and commercial complexes. It has a long history of plane crashes, with some aircraft coming down on streets and homes. Less than a month after the Oct. 8 fatal crash, a plane out of PDK crash-landed on a street in Decatur. Lack of insurance or underinsurance are common problems in private plane crashes that cause fatalities or property damage.
— John Ruch
CHRIStal Ball raises $700,000-plus for youth, families
CHRIS 180 resumed its annual CHRIStal Ball fundraising on Aug. 20 at Puritan Mills by celebrating its work of healing families and youth, especially those who have suffered from trauma including those who have aged out of foster care.
Kathy Colbenson, president and CEO of CHRIS 180, said the event raised more than $700,000 to support its work, which includes therapy and mental illness support, GED and college prep as well as school supplies, crime prevention, clothes and other resources for young people in need. CHRIS 180’s mission is to heal children, strengthen families and build community.
The event spotlighted Susan O’Farrell, who received the CHRIStal Vision Award. O’Farrell, retired chief financial officer of BlueLinx, is the past board chair of CHRIS 180 and the past board chair of the Atlanta Children’s Shelter.
The dinner, which was free-flowing with food stations rather than a seated dinner, included “words of gratitude” with incredibly touching stories of adoptions and of emotional support for young people who were able to improve their lives because of CHRIS 180.
The event also demonstrated the strong corporate support the nonprofit has cultivated over the years, including its presenting sponsor, Delta Air Lines. Mona Harty with Delta also is a past CHRIS 180 board chair.
— Maria Saporta
Georgia State earns most research funding in university history
For eight years in a row, Georgia State University (GSU) faculty have earned over $100 million in research funding but this year, the university broke a personal record — receiving $164.2 million during the 2022 fiscal year. Over the last three years, according to GSU, externally funded research has increased by 9.5 percent.
Of the $164.2 million, $45.5 million came from the National Institutes of Health, $17.7 million from the U.S. Department of Education, $ 11.1 million from the National Science Foundation and $6.5 million from the Georgia Department of Health and Human Services. Among the university’s top 20 grant recipients, more than half are women.
“This level of research activity is certainly a testament to our outstanding researchers at Georgia State,” President M. Brian Blake said in a press release. “The transformative work going on here continues to address the most complex problems of our time, and we continue to make significant breakthroughs that promise to collectively improve the lives of people from all backgrounds.”
— Hannah E. Jones
St. Vincent de Paul Georgia offers hope
Hope was the operative theme Thursday morning.
St. Vincent de Paul Georgia, a nonprofit that serves those in need, held its first annual “Morning of Hope” breakfast at the Westin Atlanta Perimeter North hotel as every speaker spoke about how hope helps uplift people out of poverty and challenges.
Chris Womack, CEO of Georgia Power, described hope as the feeling “that everything is going to be okay.” But he went on to say not everyone has hope, and he said we have a responsibility “to those people who don’t have hope, they have not found that shining star.”
For example, 85 percent of homeless people are African American men – some are veterans, and some are suffering from mental illness. “We are here this morning to commit and look beyond ourselves,” Womack said.
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, who received the 2022 Hope Builder Award presented by regional leader Doug Hooker, spoke of how we are connected as a region.
“In this room, we are filled with hope,” Dickens said. “It was my mother who instilled in me an incredible sense of hope.”
And the mayor shared his hope for the rest of the decade, implying he would be mayor for two terms. “Over the next eight years, Atlanta will be the best place in the United States to raise a child,” Dickens said.
Patrick McNulty, CEO of St. Vincent de Paul Georgia, said the Morning of Hope breakfast replaces the organization’s annual gala, which has been its major fundraising event. The breakfast also was a celebration of a successful capital campaign that raised $7.5 million to buy its headquarters and expand its services.
McNulty also shared his hope for St. Vincent de Paul. “We are trying to push more into housing,” he said, adding the nonprofit has been providing food, prescriptions and support services for its clients for decades.
— Maria Saporta
Spelman president appointed to Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation board
Earlier this month, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced the appointment of Dr. Helene Gayle, president of Spelman College, to its board of trustees.
Gayle, a Foundation alumn, has worked with the organization on saving lives and creating opportunities across health, education and economic prosperity.
“Over two decades as a foundation, we’ve learned that the best ideas emerge when we invite people with diverse perspectives to the table. Today’s announcement is another important step in strengthening the foundation’s governance and deepening our commitment to the work,” said Melinda French Gates, co-chair and board member of the foundation.
“Working at the foundation provided an important and pivotal career opportunity for me and I am pleased to be able to give back and contribute in this way,” Gayle said. “The life-changing work of the foundation is a constant inspiration for me and my colleagues doing work in the social impact arena.”
— Allison Joyner
APD Zones 5 and 6 assistant commanders to transfer
The assistant commanders of the Atlanta Police Department’s (APD) Zones 5 and 6 precincts are transferring next month.
Zone 5’s Capt. Antonio Clay and Zone 6’s Capt. Peter Malecki have been familiar faces to community organizations. They announced their transfers at the Aug. 22 meeting of Neighborhood Planning Unit M. APD could not immediately provide information on their replacements.
Clay said he will transfer to Zone 4, while Malecki said he is moving to the Major Crimes Section.
Zone 5 covers the heart of the city along the Downtown Connector. Zone 6 includes much of the city’s eastern side, including all of its DeKalb County territory.
— John Ruch
Atlanta Ronald McDonald House Charities’ upcoming Hearts and Hands Gala
Presented by The Coca-Cola Company, the annual Gala will feature silent and live auctions to benefit families served by Atlanta’s two Ronald McDonald Houses — Ronald McDonald Care Mobile and Ronald McDonald Family Room. Since its establishment, the Gala has raised over $4 million.
This year’s event will feature the ‘80s and ‘90s-themed decorations, dress code and popular hits played by Members Only. Tickets are on sale now.
Celebrated chef and restaurateur Chris Hall will also be honored for his longtime work on RMHC’s board of directors.
“We are thrilled to honor Chris Hall for his steadfast service and generosity to Atlanta RMHC over the years,” President and CEO Beth Howell wrote in a press release. “We are so grateful for the support of Chris and our entire community who help keep families with sick children close to each other and the care and resources they need during a difficult time.”
“I’m incredibly flattered and humbled to be this year’s honoree,” Chris Hall added. “The Ronald McDonald House helps to ease the financial and emotional burdens of families who are going through a difficult time. I’m so proud to be part of this Charity that does so much good for so many deserving people.”
For over 43 years, Atlanta RMHC has provided affordable housing for families with sick children who have traveled away from home to receive medical care.
— Hannah E. Jones