Photographs by Martha Williams
What power means in the ATL
I’m an Atlanta apologist without apology. I grasped my shapes and colors in kindergarten on Dodson Drive in Southwest Atlanta. Having mastered shapes, colors, and more, I knew I had been prepared to make my proverbial mark as I grasped my diploma on the stage at the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel at Morehouse College, where my high school graduation ceremony was held. I reveled through city streets during Freaknik as a carefree college student. I ran along local roads, logging miles in anticipation of the Peachtree Road Race, the world’s largest 10k, every summer for many years as an adult. And I could go on. Most of my milestones in life happened within the boundaries of I-285.
All of that aside, as of late, I’ve come across commentary in which Atlanta has been described as “overrated” and that our Southern hospitality isn’t all that hospitable after all. As an Atlanta apologist, I naturally want to list all of the accolades that make the city my adopted hometown and the almighty capital of the South and refute those who cannot perceive Atlanta to be the anomaly that it is. But the rational side of me knows that to reject criticism without consideration wouldn’t be fair.
To those whose assessment of Atlanta is that we don’t quite live up to our reputation, I offer this issue of Atlanta 500 as a resource and not just an accounting of who’s who. It’s an anthology of the power that resides in Atlanta. There are some who are naturally deemed powerful. Politicians. Executives. Celebrities. And the like. But power is not only ascribed to those who are typically powerful. As someone reminded me, there is power in simply improving the lives of the people around you, often without the resources of the aforementioned.
I challenge those who have fair criticisms of Atlanta to consult this collection as it is a portrait of the power in Atlanta in 2024. And to be fair, much of what Atlanta is today wouldn’t exist without those who challenged and continue to challenge power in every sector that comprises Atlanta 500 and the city at large. — Jacqueline J. Holness, Editor