I don't know if we have any OC.net members from Atlanta, but I thought I'd share these thoughts I composed about the beloved city where I was born and raised:
What happened to my city, to my neighborhood, to my school and to the community where I grew up and spent so many joyous and tumultuous years? Does anyone remember Ray's Quick Mart, where I got caught stealing bubble gum as a kid? Or what about the Northside Pharmacy where you could get a Lime Aide and the best milkshake in town? And then there was Oz Records where I purchased “Kiss Alive II” for $8.00 when I was in the 5th grade.
Those wonderful places are long gone. Gone too is my beloved North Fulton High School where I played basketball, fell in love for the first time, and partied like there was no tomorrow. Gone too is Fulton County Stadium where I saw Hank Aaron, Pele, and Roger Staubach grace the sacred turf. And gone is the Omni Arena where I watched Dominique Wilkins, Dr. J, and Michael Jordan display their aerial prowess, and the venue where I once saw YES in concert. (And by the way, the Omni was much more aesthetically pleasing than the ridiculous tent-like structure of the Georgia Dome.)
It seems that the '96 Olypics was the beginning of the ATL's demise. Did our beloved city really need the Olympics? Did we need to sell our soul and corrupt our identity for the almighty dollar? Were the revenue generated and the jobs created worth the loss of community, the loss of dignity, the loss of our essential uniqueness and collective individuality?
What happened to the sanguine spirit of kindness, manners, and genuine friendship that we always had in Atlanta? We had a big city that resonated with small town southern charm. We were the city that was "too busy to hate." We produced Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who reflected our cooperative willingness to combat inhumanity and prejudice with love and tolerance. Dr. King, perhaps more than anyone, exhibited Atlanta’s spirit of humble resilience and dignified strength. But we spat on Dr. King’s grave by sacrificing the timeless values of humanity and decency for the financial expediency of the Olympics and the cheap manufactured thrill of the absurdity of “Freaknik.”
Today our beautiful city is renowned not for its southern hospitality, its civil rights history, or its iconic landmarks, but rather for its thriving adult entertainment industry. Of course, Atlanta was always content to have its Chesire Bridge Rd. and Clermont Lounge. Even our sleazy areas were unique and inherently reflective of the soul of our city. But now even our sleaziness has been co-opted, corrupted, and assimilated by the vultures of capitalism and the cold impersonality of international organized crime. Sure, we always had our own organized crime, but it was our organized crime. And we could reckon with it, because it was in our own backyard. But we no longer have our own backyard. We sold our backyard when we sacrificed our city to the predatory political wolves and their false promises of a pot of gold at the end of the Olympic-ringed rainbow.
Atlanta used to be a city where you could order sweet tea with Sole Meuniere. Now Atlanta is a city where you don’t even know who your neighbor is from one day to the next, and where it now costs you 10 dollars for a couple of hot dogs and an order of onion rings at The Varsity.
I live in Jackson, Mississippi now. My parents sold our house in Atlanta a few years ago. The house is still there, in the same neighborhood. But it’s not my home anymore. It is the abode of strangers. I no longer recognize it. I no longer recognize my city. Atlanta will always be in my blood, it will always be my home. Some things I guess will never change. I have close friends who are still holding down the fort, still living and maintaining the spirit of the Atlanta I know and love. God bless them.
I’m not sure if I left the city of Atlanta or if the city of Atlanta left me. But we have parted ways. I wish it well. I truly do. It was a great city once. Perhaps in some ways it still is. It's just so hard to tell now.
Selam, GEBRE MENFES KIDUS