Atlanta's New Way: 60 voices on the city's past, present, and future

Sixty years, three generations, six decades—that’s how long we’ve covered the city. To celebrate, we talked with 60 of you about where we’ve been, where we are, and what’s next.

The editorial team immediately loved the idea of “60 Voices” for this May issue, which marks Atlanta magazine’s 60th year. Talking with people from all over the metro area seemed like a good way to take stock of our city. Needless to say, all of us Atlantans have done a lot of soul-searching over the last 12 months, whether we were holed up at home or suiting up for yet another 12-hour shift. However, as this issue went to press in March, Governor Brian Kemp just had announced that any adult over age 16 can be vaccinated. So, we may not have emerged from a year of malaise quite yet, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

Atlanta's new way: 60 voices on the city's past present and futureBefore things get back to “normal,” let’s take a moment to ask each other how we’re doing. Last May, just a week before we went to press, we decided to produce a new cover story that documented the early days of the pandemic. In one week, we interviewed dozens of Atlantans to chronicle what we knew would be a historic event. Now, 12 months later, we’re talking with y’all again. How have you survived? What did you learn? Where do we go from here? Mostly, we don’t want to pick up where we left off. Our first idea was to set up a series of conversations between generations. As the magazine has been around for 60 years, we’ve served three generations of readers. (Yes, that’s why this issue has three covers, too.) And we wanted to hear from every age group—not their thoughts about the magazine, but their outlook on the city. Then, we added some other groups who would have special insight into where we are today—entrepreneurs, creatives, new graduates, essential workers, and rising leaders.

When we do a project like this, our staff comes up with a game plan; then, we all go our different ways—talking with Atlantans of all ages, races, orientations, and locations around the metro. We don’t really know what we have until our design director, Matt Love, assembles it like a giant puzzle.

When we wove it all together, two words seemed to come up in almost every interview: “community” and “diversity.” From the mail carrier encouraged by her customers to the nonprofit leaders inspired by farmers to the movie producer who decided to raise his kids here, what people value about Atlanta is its people. On the neighborhood level or citywide, this is still a place where you can connect. And whether that’s the cause or the effect, this city is uniquely diverse—not just because of evolving demographics but because new voices are starting to be heard. Creatives, entrepreneurs, politicians, and leaders are emerging from every corner. The New Atlanta Way must embrace us all.

EDITED BY:

Heather Buckner, Felicia Feaster, Floyd Hall, Mike Jordan, Sean Keenan, Michele Cohen Marill, Betsy Riley, Thomas Wheatley, Kamille Whittaker, Jewel Wicker, DeMarco Williams, Sam Worley

PHOTOGRAPHS BY:

Alex Martinez and Audra Melton

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Atlanta essential workers Whitney Beauford-Morris
Whitney Beauford-Morris is a senior solid waste equipment operator for the City of Atlanta. “The biggest change during the pandemic has been the workload. With a lot of people working from home, and with their children being at home, a lot of people are buying their food in bulk. So, with boxes and such, overall, the weight of what we pick up has been substantially heavier. I’m much more tired at the end of the day.”

Photograph by Audra Melton

The essential workers | Essential workers kept us going in 2020. Eight of them tell us how they survived last year and what it taught them about our city.

Bill Bolling & Rhoit Malhorta & Latresa McLawhorn | Future of nonprofits

Dominique Wilkins & Trae Young | Leading the Atlanta Hawks

Maricela Vega Eddie Hernandez
Maricela Vega and Eddie Hernandez

Photographs by Alex Martinez

Eddie Hernandez & Maricela Vega | Restaurants revisited

Sam Massell & Andre Dickens | On city government

5 questions for the new guard | We asked young leaders in fields from business to transportation about the future of Atlanta

Helen Kim Ho & Daniela Rodriguez | Immigrants’ growing influence

Charles Black & Dr. Laura Emiko Soltis | The fight for civil rights

OkCello
Okorie “OkCello” Johnson: “I think the great tragedy would be if somehow the city became so expensive that it lost its creative class. Right now, Atlanta is the heartbeat, the pulse of the country, and that kind of life is fragile. And the lifeblood of that is affordability.”

Photograph by Audra Melton

The creative class | Atlanta’s rising creative community­—from film producers to choreographers to painters—is gaining new recognition on the national scene

Sean Bankhead & Jalaiah Harmon | Going viral

How Atlanta hip-hop is evolving
Brian ‘B High’ Hightower, Dr. Regina N. Bradley, and Christina Lee

Photographs by Alex Martinez

Dr. Regina N. Bradley & Christina Lee & Brian ‘B High’ Hightower | How hip-hop is evolving

Jim Galloway & Greg Bluestein | Covering politics

Susan Bridges & Monica Campana | Art in Atlanta

Bem Joiner
Bem Joiner, cofounder of Atlanta Influences Everything: “People from disparate sectors who may have never even met or collaborated before are saying the same, unifying rallying cry about this imperfect city they all find themselves living, working, and creating in.”

Photograph by Audra Melton

The entrepreneurs | Nothing demonstrates Atlanta’s potential like its thriving entrepreneurial scene, in sectors from technology to food service

The class of 2021 | We talked to graduates—from kindergarten to graduate school—to see what they think of the city now and their hopes for our future