Sunday, July 13, 2008

What Is Atlanta?

"If BET could design a city it would look a lot like this one."

I've been talking to a lot of people recently about the city of Atlanta, and the article caught my eye. Another interesting take on this southern metropolis that dominates the South.

Strange, how a place where I've never lived can have so much influence on my life, but that's just the way things are in my part of the world. I literally can't go three days without getting caught up in a conversation about the things Atlanta does right, the things that Atlanta does wrong and how in the world they've been able to pull off their tremendous growth.



S.A.W.B. said...

Interesting is one word you might use to describe that article. I can think of a few others, with 'slanted' being one of the more relevant and clean ones.

The author does get one thing right, Atlanta and 'The ATL' are two separate, distinct entities, with two separate, distinct agendas. Neither side seems real willing to integrate with the other, either. Rather, both sides conduct ongoing sorties into each other's territory (i.e. Grant Park the last 10 years versus Gwinnett County the last 10 years).

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, named partly for the late Mayor Maynard Jackson has been an exercise in graft and corruption since Jackson approved construction of the main terminal in 1977. Seriously, go google 'atlanta airport corruption', and lemme know when you get through the 72,000+ results.

The Grouchy Old Cripple has some words regarding Mayor Maynard and the rest of the crew, regarding the airport and some of Atlanta's other shining moments.

Neal Boortz, longtime Atlanta, and now national pundit, has had loads of material for years thanks to whomever was in charge of the airport, much less the city. Take a look here and scroll down to the 'Apologies to the Traveling Public' section. There should be plenty of google-able material there for days of reading.

Don't get me wrong, Atlanta is a great city, it's just poorly run from a bureaucratic standpoint. It consistently rates as one of the best places to do business, as far as large cities are concerned. However, if you look around as to where the large companies are locating, by and large, it's outside the confines of the City of Atlanta itself.

But, back to the article in question. It's not surprising in the least that there would be backlash at the Mayor of Atlanta commissioning a R&B/Rap song as the sole theme-song for the city. Atlanta, with it's long history of diversity, particularly within the music scene, shouldn't be perpetually defined as a 'black' city, as the author seems to infer. Indeed, as a rather incomplete wikipedia list shows there are at least as many relevant rock/pop acts that call Atlanta home, not to mention acts that used Atlanta as a launching pad for success, (i.e. The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Georgia Sattelites, The Dixie Dregs).

As far as the author's lament about the regentrification of Atlanta forcing blacks out at the expense of wealthy white residents, excuse me as I fail to shed a tear over private citizens, regardless of race, picking up the pieces of a broken infrastructure, cast aside by a city too busy to give a shit about anything other than lining the pockets of it and it's cronies with public funds.

I love Atlanta, as I was born and raised there, and it is still the standard-bearer for the New/Old South. I just wish that Atlanta could get along to the business of finally ditching racial politics, and then daring the rest of the South, (Chocolate City, I'm looking at you), to follow suit. But then, I'm not holding my breath for that either...

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Well, I think the article was slanted because it was such a short read, the phenomenon that is Atlanta is a rather large subject to get one's arm around. Add in audience and the more specific subject matter and it may appear more slanted than it actually is.

That's one reason I pointed it out.

To discuss the corruption, I'm sure there's been a good deal of it, but it cannot be questioned that however much money cronies got to line their pockets with, the economic impact of the airport and associated infrastructure has been huge. I mean, even though businesses have located outside the perimeter, they are still within the metro area, and that's a hell of a lot closer to 'Atlanta' that locating anywhere near Charlotte, Birmingham or Memphis.

And I didn't think the article lamented gentrification more than pointed out that the selling of 'black success' is attracting caucasians back into the perimeter. The author listed that as a "demise of the ATL" and noted that "progress is a two-way street." That interesting note of sociology is worth pointing out.

And you forgot the Black Crowes and Indigo Girls (and also Collective Soul, but I don't consider that a terrible omission, culturally speaking).

If commissioning an R&B theme song is the worst cultural faux-pas Ms. Franklin has committed, I'd have to say you were light years ahead of some...other...cities'...mayors.

S.A.W.B. said...

The Crowes and Indigo Girls were listed in the first 'incomplete list' of bands from Atlanta, hence why I didn't mention them separately.

Regarding the corruption, and the airport specifically, I personally found it laughable that there was even a discussion to add Maynard Jackson's name to the airport, being that he set the standard for all the subsequent mayors, save Shirley Franklin so far, on how to use airport contracts as a vote-buying and patronage scheme.

Dante said...

I think my favorite part of the article was the author's sheer disbelief that even black politicians will get rid of the panhandlers and encourage new growth by tearing down old construction when given the opportunity. Yes, those really were economically-driven decisions.

I also find it extremely ironic that author is lamenting the loss of "the ATL" due primarily to black flight. The black population of metro Atlanta is going up. It's just the black population of the city proper that's declining. Urban flight no longer has the racial makeup of ice hockey or lacrosse. It now resembles Canadian football or maybe even college baseball.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Again, I didn't read the pan-handler ban and the gentrification quotes as lamentations. I read them as the author pointing out ironies and dualities of the cultural "ATL."

You can point out irony without lamenting the situation.

I also wonder what a similar article - discussing white culture in Atlanta - would look like. What would the flip side of this article's focus on "the ATL" entail?

Dante said...

"Again, I didn't read the pan-handler ban and the gentrification quotes as lamentations."

I didn't either. That's why my point on lamentations is in a separate paragraph and why I used the word "also" where I did. The panhandling and construction angles were worth mentioning merely because they shouldn't seem too ironic. Yet they are to the author of the piece. And the reasons why they would seem ironic border on conspiratorial lines of thought. And that amuses me greatly.

I got to hear the white version of this article weekly during my stint as an Atlanta Falcons season ticket holder. Trust me, it's just as rambling and incoherent. It also seems to shoehorn politicians in just to talk about them. The Fox Theater does get mentioned a lot though in the white version.