The week in local news.

The pranking holiday is right around the corner! The origins of April Fools’ Day are relatively unknown, with potential links to festivals in ancient Rome or France’s 1582 switch to the Gregorian calendar which puts the new year at Jan. 1 instead of the spring equinox. 

Regardless of its beginnings, some April Fools’ jokes have gone down in history. In 1957, the BBC reported that Swiss farmers were having a record-high spaghetti crop and showed people harvesting noodles from trees. In 1996, Taco Bell announced that it was purchasing Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell and planned to rename it the Taco Liberty Bell. Start thinking about the prank you’ll pull this weekend, and happy April Fools’ Day!  

On to other recent news:

Emerita Johnnetta Cole with President Biden. (Photo courtesy of Spelman College.)

Former Spelman president receives National Humanities Medal from President Biden

Last week, Spelman College President Emerita Johnnetta Cole received the National Humanities Medal from President Joe Biden during a White House ceremony. 

The medal honors people or organizations whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of human experience, broadened citizens’ engagement with history or literature or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to cultural resources. 

The White House citation recognizes Cole for “being a celebrated leader of sanctuaries of higher learning and culture.” 

Cole became the school’s seventh president and the first Black woman to lead the all-female college. 

— Allison Joyner

Bernice King with State Rep. Billy Mitchell at “the Bank” for her 60th birthday celebration. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

Bernice King celebrates her 60th birthday at “the Bank”

The 60th birthday celebration for Dr. Bernice King, CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, had an unmistakable “bank” theme.

The birthday party was held at a unique Atlanta venue on Donald Lee Hollowell in the northwest part of the city called “The Bank” on March 25.

U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams with Mayor Andre Dickens at Bernice King’s 60th birthday celebration. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

And the lead sponsor of the event was Redemption Holding Co., a bank holding company that includes investors Ashley Bell — former regional director of the U.S. Small Business Administration — Bernice Kin and former NFL player Dhani Jones.

They acquired a Utah-based bank and renamed it Redemption Bank.

De’Leice Drake, longtime colleague of Bernice King, thanked her friend for all she has done for the King Center. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

The birthday celebration attracted top political, business and civic leaders as well as entertainers and close associates and friends, including Judge Glenda Hatchett, Mayor Andre Dickens, U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, retired Coca-Cola executive Ingrid Saunders Jones, Alexis Scott, performer Jennifer Holliday among hundreds of others.

— Maria Saporta

Little 5 Points April Fools’ Festival

Little 5 Points isn’t hosting an April Fools’ Festival this year. Gotcha! On Saturday, April 1, the Little 5 Points Business Association and Bizarre Bazaar are hosting a day of “ridiculousness and laughter.”

The festival will be held on Euclid Ave — blocked off from Colquitt to Moreland — with live entertainment at Findley Plaza and 40 local artist booths with quirky goods. There will also be a Hot Dog Eating Contest, a drag show with ​​Alt3r and an open mic. Comedians Gilbert Lawand, Alyx Libby, Shaunuk Ghodkindi, Sahima Ghodkindi and Dedrick Flynn will join for stand-up.

The festival will run from noon to 7 p.m. Click here for more information.

— Hannah E. Jones

Ken Zeff of Learn4Life.

Learn4Life leader Ken Zeff running for Atlanta school board

Ken Zeff, former interim superintendent of Fulton County Schools and a public education professional for two decades, is running for a seat on the Atlanta Board of Education.

Zeff currently is executive director of Learn4Life, the metro Atlanta regional education partnership seeking to improve outcomes in the five core counties in the region.

“I feel it is the right time and I can be helpful,” Zeff wrote in a text. “A lot of folks I trust and respect have encouraged me to step in and step up.”

Zeff is running for District 3, a seat currently held by Michelle Olympiadis, who is expected to run for re-election. As the father of three children in the Midtown, formerly Grady, High School cluster, Zeff said he felt compelled to run to help Atlanta students have access to a quality education.

— Maria Saporta

Greg Levine.

Trees Atlanta settles into new headquarters, appoints executive director

This is a season of change for Trees Atlanta. The nonprofit recently moved into its new headquarters in southwest Atlanta, an effort spearheaded by Co-Executive Directors Greg Levine and Connie Veates. After 12 years at the helm together, Vested is stepping away from her role and Levine has been named the sole executive director. This change is effective Saturday, April 1.

The two have been dedicated to Trees Atlanta’s mission and, under their leadership, the nonprofit has expanded significantly, now serving 14 cities in metro Atlanta and planting about 7,000 trees annually. Levine joined the team in 1995 when there were only four employees and Veates’ tenure with Trees Atlanta spans 22 years, starting on the Board of Directors before joining the leadership team.

“Greg and Connie have produced transformative growth for the organization: solidifying the Trees Atlanta brand, the development of the Kendeda TreeHouse, mentoring of countless staff, building and strengthening successful partnerships locally and nationally, and diversifying funding sources for long-term stability for planting, conservation, and education efforts,” wrote Taylor Baird, president of the Board.

The pair will host their final joint duty this week at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Trees Atlanta Kendeda TreeHouse at 825 Warner Street SW. Folks are invited to check out the new space on Earth Day — Saturday, April 22.

— Hannah E. Jones

Kalia Qawiy. (Photo courtesy of Albany State University.)

Albany State student selected to attend White House event for HBCU journalists

Last month, Albany State University senior and mass communications student Kalia Qawiy was selected to attend the 2023 White House Historically Black College and Universities (HBCU) Journalist Briefing.

Students from over 40 HBCUs attended the press briefing in an attempt to bridge the gap between the White House and HBCUs. Students had the opportunity to ask questions to Vice President Kamala Harris, former Senior Advisor for Public Engagement, and former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. 

“It was important for me to highlight the conflicts concerning HBCUs and better understand how the White House plans to resolve problems that have a direct impact on students such as underfunding, access to local and regional internships, mental health and resources provided for students to better themselves while pursuing their degrees,” Qawiy said.  

— Allison Joyner

Coca-Cola’s Bea Perez and James Quincey sit with Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens at the “State of the City” breakfast on March 28 at the Marriott Marquis. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

State of the City: an Atlanta–Coca-Cola event 

The 2023 State of the City showcased the partnership between the City of Atlanta and the Coca-Cola Co., which has sponsored the annual breakfast for decades.

The breakfast was an opportunity for Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens to summarize the success of his first year in office and his goals for 2023.

James Quincey, Coca-Cola CEO, began by declaring Atlanta as the company’s hometown and the place where the soft drink was invented. 

“As Atlanta has evolved, Coke has evolved,” said Quincey, who added that he’s excited about how Dickens is moving Atlanta forward. “Over the past year, he and his administration have taken action.”

Then Quincey announced that the Coca-Cola Foundation was awarding $1.7 million in grants to Atlanta organizations “serving Atlanta’s youth,” endorsing the mayor’s “Year of the Youth” initiative.

The grants will serve the spectrum of youth — from early learning to college scholarships. The entities include the Atlanta Public Schools, Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta, United Way of Greater Atlanta and Morris Brown College.

Co-hosting the breakfast this year was the Atlanta Committee for Progress, an entity launched in 2003 to build a closer relationship between the city and influential business and civic leaders.

— Maria Saporta

Chattahoochee Nature Center’s new mural with local flora and fauna

The Chattahoochee Nature Center is working on a new nature-based mural that will follow a multi-tier hillside staircase on its 127-acre campus. The mural will depict and celebrate the Center’s history, native habitats and riverways.

The Center tapped Atlanta muralist Thomas Turner to create the piece. With over a decade of experience with murals and illustrations, many of his surrealist works depict the connectedness of nature, animals and ourselves.

The public is invited to check out the mural on April 23 from noon to 4 pm. In addition to the grand reveal, Community Day will also include guided hikes, live animal encounters and a celebration of one year of the new River Boardwalk Trail. The event is free but reservations are required, click here for additional information. 

— Hannah E. Jones

Decatur partners with SCADpro on Bicentennial Celebration

The city of Decatur and the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) announced a new partnership in support of the city’s bicentennial celebration in December. 

The partnership will be held through the school’s SCADpro innovative collaborative design studio which will have students collect stories and develop creative materials to promote the city’s anniversary. 

“It is important when celebrating the City of Decatur’s bicentennial that we focus on what makes the city special — its rich history and people,” said Maken Payne, executive director for SCADpro. 

The students will collect and record 200 stories from Decatur residents and use them to create a visual record through film and animation.

“Every individual in the Decatur community is what makes it so special and unique,” said Renae Jackson, Decatur’s equity and engagement director.

 The project will also include presenting creative design assets to city leadership to promote the bicentennial. 

“As we celebrate the city’s bicentennial, it is the perfect time to elevate and uplift the stories and perspectives of the people who have continued to contribute to making this place what it is today and what it will be in the future,” Jackson said. 

— Allison Joyner

YouTube video

Georgia Audubon receives grant for habitat restoration on Jekyll Island

Georgia Audubon recently received a $42,049 grant to restore maritime grassland on Jekyll Island. With this funding, the team will restore at least three acres of the habitat with native grasses and perennials that will support resident and migratory birds.

These three acres are an addition to a nine-acre restoration project that is currently underway with efforts to reduce non-native invasive plants while also protecting the dunes on Jekyll Island, making them more ecologically rich and resilient. Jekyll Island is an important place for wildlife, providing space for endangered sea turtles to nest and serving as a critical stopover for migrating shorebirds. 

The funding comes from the Georgia Ornithological Society’s Bill Terrell Avian Conservation Grant. Georgia Audubon is partnering with the Jekyll Island Authority, UGA Marine Extension & Sea Grant Program and Coastal Georgia Audubon Society.

— Hannah E. Jones

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Hannah E. Jones

Hannah Jones is a Georgia State University graduate, with a major in journalism and minor in public policy. She began studying journalism in high school and has since served as a reporter and editor for...

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