October 10, 2013
By Kenya King
Special to the NNPA from the Atlanta Daily World
A one-way ticket to anywhere in the U.S. after Hurricane Katrina brought a vast number of displaced New Orleanians to the hotbed of the South – Atlanta – where Black political power precipitates African-American entrepreneurship, and where a cultural melting pot begets the crux of artistic expression from Mozart to hip-hop.
Even since the 1970s, and still today, Atlanta has been Christened as the Black Mecca and for many and is a city where African Americans are believed to have the best opportunities for prosperity or for reinventing themselves. Fifty years after of the March on Washington and the “I Have a Dream” speech, what has Black Atlanta achieved, and is it still a place for African Americans to thrive?
“It’s no doubt about it,” said Herman J. Russell, chairman and founder of H.J. Russell and Company, which is a 50-year-old construction and real estate empire based in Atlanta. Russell started his construction business at 16 years old and is one of the living icons of Black business. “Atlanta is still the anchor for Black entrepreneurs,” said Russell. “Just for all phases of Black leadership. To be in education, to be in contract business, or to just be a doctor – whatever you may [want to] be. Atlanta is one of the greatest cities in the world to have your enterprise.”
For decades, educational and employment opportunities have historically drawn African Americans to the Bible Belt South. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of African Americans in the Southern region increased by 18 percent from 2000 to 2010, bringing in an additional 3 million, and in 2010, the State of Georgia ranked fourth for the highest number of African Americans in the United States.
President of Clark Atlanta University Carlton Brown agrees that education continues to play a key role in luring people to Atlanta. He also stated that Clark Atlanta, the only independent graduate institution in the entire Historically Black College and University network, frequently has Fortune 500 companies from all over the world visiting the institution looking for employees with a firm mindset toward diversity.
“We have them coming all the time,” he stated. “The range of talent that arrives here is very, very strong. Of course [Atlanta has] 100,000 college students in the city — that’s never a bad thing — and the proportion of them that are African Americans is increasing, particularly with the focus of the Atlanta University Center with Clark Atlanta, Spelman and Morehouse.”
Atlanta, the bedrock of the Civil Rights Movement and birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., also attracts African Americas who want to stay connected to the “Black experience.” Elder Bernice A. King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. and CEO of The King Center, which serves thousands of visitors each year, concurs that Atlanta’s unique history of African-American life and culture, especially related to civil rights, is a magnet for people color.
“I think when people come here they find progressive-minded people,” said King. “They find a hodgepodge of creative and gifted individuals who are doing substantial stuff. I think because I think it has a lot to do with the history and the spirit that emerged from Auburn Avenue in the ’20s, ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, and I believe it’s a carryover from all of that and the fact that there are a number of African Americans in important places in leadership, although we still have a great deal of work to do in terms of power, leveraging true power in Atlanta.”
None the less, more than 40 years after Dr. King made strides to improve the social, political and economic conditions for the poor in America, Atlanta seems to have experienced a seesaw effect in its seat among progressive cities as people moseyed in and out of the city when the recession came in its purview.
In 1996, the Olympic Games brought Atlanta unarguably its highest level of visibility on an international scale, and Atlanta was the place to be regardless of race. During this time and the years following, Atlanta’s business sector reached a solid financial footing and the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce reported that the Olympics made a $5 billion impact on the city.
Untouchable – Business Opportunities for African Americans
Businessman and entrepreneur Tommy Dortch, who is CEO of TWD Inc. and founder of the Black College Alumni Hall of Fame, said that in spite of Atlanta’s challenges, it is still one of the best a places for African Americans to reach success.
“I’ve traveled to every state in the U.S. except for two and I’ve been in all of the urban centers and I have worked with so many different people. It’s a city where people work together. There are many people who have a difference of opinion. Once you leave Atlanta, you know the difference. When you look at [Washington] D.C., when you look at New York, when you look at Chicago – they don’t have the kind of cohesive coming together that we have,” he stated.
Dortch also stated that based on the track record of entrepreneurial success among African Americans in Atlanta, one has to admit that Atlanta is likely the number one “Black Mecca” in the nation, not only in the South. In addition, Atlanta has had an African-American mayor for nearly 40 years, starting with Maynard Holbrook Jackson in 1974.
“When you look at the legacy that Maynard Jackson left us, there is not another city in this nation that has a commitment to diversity and inclusion. For African Americans in this city to gain almost 38 to 40 percent of all the procurement opportunities in this city, there is not another place in this nation. When you consider this point, we’ve done almost $6 billion in the expansion of Hartsfield-Jackson [airport]. One billion [dollars] of that $6 [billion] has gone to African American-owned businesses. There is not another city that can touch that,” said Dortch.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s view parallels Dortch’s premise.
“Atlanta has an undeniable legacy and long-standing tradition of supporting urban entrepreneurs. Many of the world’s greatest business ideas and ventures started here in Atlanta, which was named by Forbes magazine as the No. 1 city in the United States for minority entrepreneurs,” said Reed. “That’s a sign that opportunities for emerging urban entrepreneurs and women and minority-owned businesses in Atlanta remain unparalleled. I don’t believe there is any place better than the city of Atlanta to help develop and nurture talented and innovative African-American business owners, and minority and women-owned businesses.”
James Bronner of the world-renown Bronner Brothers, who helps run the International Bronner Brothers Hair Show, recalls how his friends who moved to other places continue to view Atlanta as a great place for opportunities.
“It’s still true, but you still have to work hard and be excellent at what you do in order to make it in Atlanta,” he said. “It’s not just a shoe-in. You still have to be innovative and push the envelope to succeed because of the economy. No matter what city you’re in now, you really have to be doing something extraordinary to be at the level you used to be.” In 2012, Bronner Brothers celebrated its 65th anniversary in business with the second generation of Bronner brothers in charge.
Dortch contends that while people “love to hate” Atlanta and that at times, it’s a “tale of two cities,” when looking at the top five places for African Americans in the U.S., Atlanta far exceeds the others, especially when considering the level of generational success. “You look at the leaders like a Herman Russell, whose family now is a second generation, really almost a third generation,” said Dortch. “You look at the Bronner Brothers, you go down the line, and you look at what happens in this city. There’s nothing like it.”
October 03, 2013
By Jennifer Bihm
LAWT Staff Writer
“If this makes you angry, that’s because it should. This behavior from some Republicans in Congress is as irresponsible as it gets,” said Jon Carson, a spokesperson for President Barack Obama.
“These aren’t just games. Speaker Boehner is letting one faction of one party in one chamber of Congress sabotage our economy. They shut down the government, and now some of them are ready to push us past the brink by refusing to do something every American does — pay their bills…”
Carson’s statement echoes that of many politicians and community leaders weighing in on the government shutdown, which began October 1 over a disagreement between the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House over the recently passed Affordable Care Act.
“Today is a sad day not just for hundreds of thousands of government workers, many of whom live paycheck-to-paycheck, but for our veterans, senior citizens, and average hardworking Americans,” said Congresswoman Janice Hahn.
“The Republicans have decided that their obsession with the Affordable Care Act is more important than the rest of the government—more important than paying FBI agents, more important than keeping the Wall Street watchdogs on the job, more important than keeping the lights on at the Environmental Protection Agency, more important than researching a cure for cancer, and more important than indefinitely furloughing, without pay, 800,000 of our fellow Americans.
“I’d say I believe that the suffering caused by a shutdown will be enough to change my Republican friends’ minds, but this is the same group of people who proudly voted to slash food stamps by 40 billion dollars when nearly 47 million Americans are still struggling to feed themselves without help. I am deeply disappointed that our nation has been forced into a government shutdown. There’s no reason for us to be at this point. I hope the Republicans will listen to the American people and allow us to vote on a clean bill to end the shutdown immediately.”
About 800,000 government employees deemed “non essential” were furloughed as of October 1, being put on indefinite unpaid leave and according to news reports, the Capitol was a “ghost town, run by a skeleton crew.” Also, government entities like Centers for Disease Control and the Consumer Product Safety Commission could not function. However, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and Social Security Administration, which are funded by long-term or mandatory appropriations, were largely unaffected.
“The irresponsibility of the Republican Party cannot be overstated,” said Congresswoman Maxine Waters on Tuesday.
“As we slowly emerge from the worst economic crisis in over 70 years, I am saddened that ideological extremism has led to another self-inflicted wound that could have dire consequences for our fragile recovery. Even a short shutdown threatens job creation, harms small businesses, and leaves families with uncertainty and instability. Some agencies will be forced to drain reserve funds, while others will close entirely. The SBA will stop approving loans and loan guarantees for small businesses. Housing loans to low and middle income families in rural communities will be put on hold, as will start-up business loans for farmers and ranchers. This will not only harm those seeking these loans, but the small banks that offer them, slowing business and leading to potentially large backlogs.
“Republicans are gambling with the American economy to make an ideological point. Each day this shutdown continues risks further irreparable damage to our financial system, our economy and our middle class. It must end now.”
Meanwhile, Congresswoman Karen Bass was offering answers to frequently asked questions about the shutdown like, “how will my benefits be affected,” on her website.
October 03, 2013
By David Stokes
Special to the NNPA from The Atlanta Inquirer
Evelyn Gibson Lowery, a civil rights activist and wife of Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) co-founder Joseph E. Lowery, died in her southwest Atlanta home Thursday morning from complications from a stroke. She was 88 years old.
The founder and board chair of SCLC/WOMEN (Women’s Organizational Movement for Equality Now), Inc. was admitted to a local hospital Sept. 18. She was discharged Wednesday after physician concluded there was nothing else they could do to preserve her life. Joseph Lowery, who turns 92 on Oct. 6, said in a statement, “My beloved Evelyn was a special woman whose life was committed to service, especially around issues of empowering women. She was a wonderful mother and wife, and I thank God that she didn’t suffer any pain, and that I was blessed having her as my partner, my confidante and my best friend for close to 70 years.”
He continued, “I will miss her each and every day, but as a man of faith, I know that she is with her God. My entire family has been overwhelmed by the continuous outpourings of love, support and prayers that have come from across the country, and we ask for your continued prayers over the next few days.”
For more than 50 years, Mrs. Lowery assisted in advancing the cause of women, the African-American family unit, as well as people, in general. She was a regular fixture at the side of her husband during the Civil Rights Movement, beginning with the Montgomery, Ala. bus boycott.
But Mrs. Lowery carved out her niche in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s as she championed women’s rights within the movement as well as worked with her husband with the Atlanta-based Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
Among her signature achievements were creation of SCLC/WOMEN’s annual “Drum Major for Justice” awards dinner, held every April 4, the anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The awards, established in 1980, recognize individuals advancing justice, equality and peace.
Another landmark achievement was the Evelyn Gibson Lowery African-American Civil Rights Heritage Tour, held the first weekend in every March. Mrs. Lowery served as a guide to students touring major civil rights sites in Alabama.
Funeral arrangements were pending at press time. The family asks that contributions in Mrs. Lowery’s name be sent to SCLC/WOMEN, Inc., 328 Auburn Avenue, N.E. Atlanta, Ga., 30312.
Some of the donations will go toward the group’s upcoming event, Pampering For Peace, an activity to support women in local domestic violence shelters.
Although her husband, Joseph, retired in January 1998 as the longest serving president of SCLC, Mrs. Lowery wasn’t ready to retreat from public life.
“There is much more to be accomplished; so many successes have taken place over the years, yet, so many more are still coming,” she said 15 years ago. “We must remain on course, stand and work vigilantly, and witness the rewards of our labor for the cause of freedom, justice and peace.”
Mrs. Lowery was the mother of three daughters: Yvonne, Karen, Cheryl as well as a loving grandmother and great-grandmother — and friend to all who supported and worked for the cause of peace, justice and equality.
October 03, 2013
Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer
Lee Thornton, a former CNN and CBS correspondent and the interim dean for the University of Maryland’s journalism school, died Sept. 25 after a brief illness. She was 71.
Thorton had been battling pancreatic cancer, journalism website Mediabistro reported.
Thornton began with CBS in New York in 1974 before moving to Washington, where she worked with esteemed journalists Lesley Stahl and Ed Bradley. As the White House correspondent was the first African-American woman to regularly cover that beat for a major news network.
In 1982, she moved to NPR, becoming the first black woman to host the weekend edition of “All Things Considered.” She later returned to television, joining CNN in 1992.
Thornton joined the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland in 1997. She also produced several programs for the college, including “Front & Center,” an award-winning series of in-depth interviews with fellow journalists.