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A new documentary on East Lake Meadows aims to continue the national conversation on public housing

East Lake Meadows documentary PBS
East Lake Meadows residents Rilene and Chasity Dixon outside their apartment in 1992

Photograph courtesy of PBS

Award-winning documentarians Sarah Burns and David McMahon will debut their latest work, East Lake Meadows: A Public Housing Story, at 8 p.m. March 24 on PBS. The film chronicles the history of the East Lake Meadows public housing development, which built in East Lake in the 1970s and torn down and replaced with the Villages of East Lake apartments in the 1990s, and the gentrification of neighborhoods like it all over the country.

“I felt like for people of a certain age, or for black [people], or if you grew up in that part of Decatur, [this documentary] means a lot. There’s a human face to it,” says King Williams, and associate producer on East Lake Meadows and director of The Atlanta Way, a documentary on gentrification in Atlanta.

Today, residents of the Villages of East Lake reside on what is now known as Eva Davis Way, named after the late East Lake Meadows resident and tenant association president. Davis, a key character in the film, helped organize everything from voter registration drives to neighborhood clean-up efforts. Her grassroots actions would get her in touch with then-President Jimmy Carter, and that high-powered connection would later help spearhead a $33 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that was used to revitalize the community. The documentary includes commentary from several who were involved with Atlanta’s public housing during the 1970’s, 80’s, and beyond, including former Atlanta Housing Authority CEO Renee Glover, along with former residents of the development.

“The voices and stories of the former residents of East Lake Meadows are important and should be seen and heard,” says documentary subject Carol Naughton, the former general counsel for Atlanta Housing Authority and current president of Purpose Built Communities, an Atlanta-based nonprofit founded on improving communities. “This film is not just about how a neighborhood can fail its people. It is also about the incredible resilience and resourcefulness of people forced to live in extremely difficult circumstances and how that is all too common in our cities.”

A lot has changed since East Lake Meadows housed more than 1,000 mostly black residents—current East Lake residents have access to a charter school, a YMCA, and a community learning garden and urban farm. Burns (daughter of famed filmmaker Ken Burns) and McMahon try to illustrate in the documentary how changes in the neighborhood initially created more negative results than positive effects, both here in Atlanta and at public housing developments across the country. Poor construction and a lack of government support and funding contributed to rising violent crime and drugs in the community, ultimately leading to its demolition. But the documentary doesn’t solely focus on the negative.

“The East Lake Meadows homes were full of people, beautiful black people, and we have to do more to document the history of public housing,” says Williams.

A number of former residents share their personal stories about moving to East Lake Meadows and for the first time in their lives having enough room for each individual family member. For many, it allowed them to finally have something of their own. Former residents including Beverly Parks and Lawrence Lightfoot discuss in the film how moving to East Lake Meadows was a blessing that within a couple of years became a curse.

“Cities in the United States did not become racially segregated by accident,” says Naughton. “The history that we all must bear—but rarely talk about in public—is that of the explicitly racist public policies and private actions that systematically segregated neighborhoods and stripped opportunity from communities of color. Public housing is one example of failed policies that ultimately concentrated poverty and denied opportunity to generations of American families.

“I hope his film helps us reflect as a country on the structural racism embedded in our cities and what we can do to eradicate it and make the American dream available to all who live here, regardless of neighborhood or race,” Naughton says.

The film will stream for free on PBS after the March 24 premiere.

Morehouse, the only HBCU with a polo team, can now compete with the U.S. Polo Association

Morehouse polo team
The Morehouse polo club

Photograph courtesy of RTO

Morehouse College has always been a groundbreaker, and that legacy of shaking up the establishment continues as the school will now have the only polo team among Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The U.S. Polo Association, the governing body of the sport, has officially invited the Maroon Tigers polo club into the organization, immediately allowing Morehouse to be involved in Intercollegiate/Interscholastic (I/I) division competitions.

The idea of an HBCU, or any college, having a polo team may seem unusual; the sport isn’t one of the several sponsored by the NCAA, and athletically, Morehouse has historically had a reputation for its strong basketball, football, and track and field teams. But Amy Fraser, I/I Director of Polo for the U.S. Polo Association, says she’s confident the school’s alumni will embrace the new sport.

“What impresses me most about Morehouse is the strong alumni base and how the alumni, whether polo playing or not, have embraced the polo team and have stepped up in numerous ways to support the program,” she said.

The dream of having a polo team at Morehouse was even more feasible to local entrepreneur and team cofounder Miguel Wilson. Along with four Morehouse students, Rian Toussaint, Justin Wynn, Jayson Palmer, and experienced equestrian Caleb Cherry—whose polo coach suggested he try and bring a team to Morehouse—Wilson used his Ride to the Olympics (RTO) nonprofit foundation to begin gathering funding for the team. RTO, established in 2017, is on a mission to make equestrian sports (polo, show jumping, dressage) more accessible to youth who might not normally be exposed to the sport. Morehouse’s polo team was established last year.

“First and foremost, [the team’s existence is] historic,” said Wilson, a Washington, D.C. native and horse enthusiast. “I think we as a people aren’t used to seeing ourselves playing this game. For a black institution to be involved with polo, it’s sure to inspire a whole lot more people.”

As a child, Wilson worked at local stables to earn riding lessons and spent summers as a riding instructor as a teen. “Those experiences led to a lot of jobs while I was in school,” said Wilson, who’s son, Miguel Jr., also played collegiately. “We have athletes around the city who could be phenomenal polo players, and the more we expose them to the game, the better. This can create a level of player that kids can look up to that look like them.”

Morehouse’s prestige is a boost for the U.S. Polo Association a boost as well. “The addition of Morehouse, with the strong backing and promise of growth of the program, will be a tremendous asset to the USPA I/I program,” Fraser says. “In general the men’s intercollegiate division is our smallest segment, and we are continually looking for ways to increase participation and membership in this sector.”

Wilson agrees. “We have an initiative at RTO to create 10 HBCU polo teams and to grow the sport.”

The team will play its games this spring at the Atlanta Regional Polo Center in Tyrone on the appropriately named Polo Lane.

Morris Brown College closer to re-accreditation after settling $4 million debt with AME Church

Morris Brown College
Morris Brown College

There’s light at the end of the tunnel for Morris Brown College after settling a $4 million debt with the African Methodist Episcopal Church on Monday night. The vote by the executive committee of the general board of the AME Church in favor of forgiving the debt, along with any interest owed, improves the HBCU’s chances of earning back their accreditation, which was revoked in the the early 2000s after financial mismanagement.

The relief comes as part of a deal that will have Morris Brown College create a $1.5 million scholarship program for AME church members. The scholarship criteria has not yet been finalized, but AME scholarship students are expected to begin enrolling in 2021.

“An integral part of the accreditation process is getting through our audits, and that debt was hindering the audits, so this forgiveness definitely affects the accreditation process in a positive way,” said Morris Brown College Interim President Kevin E. James.

The 139-year old college has continued to graduate students despite the loss of accreditation nearly two decades ago, but with students unable to receive federal financial aid, enrollment plummeted and the school struggled with debt, filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2011. James said the AME Church’s financial assistance is essential. “We would not be open if not for the church,” said James. “Erasing the debt is an instrumental part of the accreditation process.” The school began seeking accreditation with the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS), a national education accreditation agency based in Virginia, in early 2019.

Morris Brown College Dr. Kevin E. James
Dr. Kevin E. James

Photograph courtesy of Morris Brown College

“With the AME Church being one of the largest black denominations in the world, this will help us rebuild our enrollment. It’s a huge win for both parties,” says James, who has made restoring accreditation a priority since he took on his role in March of last year.

Morris Brown received more good news last fall when the National Park Service awarded the school a $500,000 grant toward the renovation of Fountain Hall, an on-campus tower that once housed the office of historian and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois.

The reestablishment of the school’s accreditation will enable the graduation of many more students according to James, who said there were currently 35 students taking classes on campus and online. The school recently put out a call for volunteer professors via Facebook, the sole criteria being advanced degrees, and have since received hundreds of emails and resumes from both alumni and non-alumni looking to help.

“I forsee once we are a candidate for accreditation and ultimately accredited, more students will come,” James says.

The College Park Skyhawks are ready to become Atlanta’s new favorite team

College Park Skyhawks
Brandon Goodwin will play for both the College Park Skyhawks and the Atlanta Hawks.

Photograph courtesy of College Park Skyhawks

On October 7, during halftime of the first Atlanta Hawks preseason game against the New Orleans Pelicans, the College Park Skyhawks introduced their mascot, Colli Hawk. A facsimile of the Hawks famous dancing mascot Harry the Hawk, Colli Hawk came down from the rafters of State Farm Arena to roars of applause. That kind of positive energy will hopefully follow the Skyhawks to their new home, the Gateway Arena, in time for their home opener on November 21.

As the Hawks NBA G League affiliate, the Skyhawks will begin their inaugural season on November 8 in Erie, Pennsylvania, where the team previously played as the Erie BayHawks, an affiliate of the Pelicans. The G League can be considered the minors—it gives NBA teams a place to house drafted and undrafted players for development and in case they need them during the season. The Hawks first announced their G League franchise in late 2016, and Atlanta rapper 2 Chainz is among the team owners.

College Park Mayor Jack Longino thinks having the franchise will be a boost for the city just nine miles south of Atlanta. “I think this will set us apart from the rest of the region,” he says. “Having the Skyhawks here gives the citizens who love basketball an opportunity to see the next best thing to the Atlanta Hawks for a reasonable price.”

Skyhawks head coach Noah Gillespie agrees. “Our goal is to develop these players for the NBA, but as far as value, you will see guys on the cusp of the NBA. I tell our fans and basketball fans in general that as a father [Gillespie and his wife have two young children], I think Skyhawks games will be an affordable source of family entertainment.”

The Skyhawks don’t just share affiliation and a lookalike mascot with the Hawks, the freshly minted hoops franchise shares players like former Norcross High School star Brandon Goodwin and rookie Charlie Brown, Jr., both currently under two-way contracts with the Hawks. As two-way players, which assures them limited time with the big club during the simultaneous NBA and G League seasons, Brown, Jr. and Goodwin will also be the face of the Skyhawks. Gillespie knows having that level of talent on the team will also help bring fans in and keep them on board. “It is important for our fans to see that our players and our opponents are NBA players and that they will see a fast-paced, high-energy game,” said Gillespie, who has coached professional basketball for almost two decades. “Having the team here in the Atlanta area will be beneficial to both the Skyhawks and Hawks, and it’s a huge advantage for our players as well.”

College Park Skyhawks
Tahjere McCall, Marcus Derrickson, and Armoni Brooks

Photograph courtesy of College Park Skyhawks

There is also Gateway Center Arena, the state-of-the-art facility that the Skyhawks will play in this season, a $45-million building that has a capacity of 3,500 for basketball and another 1,500 seats available for concerts and other events. The G League season runs from November to March of next year. “There’s not a bad seat in the house, and we are going to pack the place,” says Gillespie. The Skyhawks players and coaches have already made public appearances around town, dropping by local businesses on Main Street to hand out schedules. “We wanted to let people know that instead of going to a movie or out to dinner, they can go to a Skyhawks game,” Gillespie says.

With just a few months worth of professional basketball games on the arena schedule, there was still plenty of room for a housemate. Enter: the Atlanta Dream, who recently announced a one-year contract to play their 2020 season (17 home games) at Gateway Center Arena. “This arena is not just for the Skyhawks, they will only play 24 games here this season,” said Longino. “Because we are the fourth largest hospitality region in the state of Georgia, [the arena] will host high school graduations, probably college graduations, and concerts.” And now, the top women’s professional basketball in the country.

For the Atlanta Hawks, the upcoming season signals “a fresh start”

Jabari Parker Atlanta Hawks Media Day
NBA vet Jabari Parker talks to the press at Atlanta Hawks media day.

Photograph by Donnell Suggs

With the Atlanta Hawks training camp set to open this week and the first preseason game just a week away—Atlanta will host the New Orleans Pelicans and No. 1 overall draft pick Zion Williamson at State Farm Arena on October 7—there was still the business of hosting local reporters, television and radio personalities, bloggers, and photographers for the annual media day at the team’s Brookhaven practice facility, the Emory Sports Medicine Complex. As first-year Hawks forward and six-year NBA veteran Jabari Parker said to me at the start of Monday’s first interview session, “It’s a fresh start for me and the team.”

“Everybody’s 0-0, so we should take advantage of that and start off the right way,” Parker said.

Chandler Parsons Atlanta Hawks Media Day
Hawks newcomer Chandler Parsons poses for a photo at media day.

Photograph by Donnell Suggs

Like many of the 30 teams in the NBA, the Hawks will start the 2019-20 season with two young superstars: third-year power forward John Collins and second-year point guard Trae Young. Alongside them is starting center Alex Len, who an hour before the start of media day was seen going through shooting drills with team trainers. In his first year with the Hawks, Len averaged a career-high 11 points per game and shot a career-high .363 percent from three-point range. There’s also second-year shooting guard Kevin Huerter, whose 9.7 points per game and .385 three-point percentage helped make the upstate New York native a fan favorite. Huerter even exchanged jerseys with now retired Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade following a game late last season.

But what might be most interesting thing about the Hawks this season is the new faces on the roster. A mix of veterans and rookies, a strong performance from these new players will be necessary for the team to make it to the playoffs for the first time in three years.

“We have a young team and a lot of new guys,” said Huerter. “We have a lot of talent that came into the building this summer. Everyone we have gotten over the off-season has been great for us.”

Specifically, that lineup includes NBA vet Parker; highly-touted rookies DeAndre Hunter and Cam Reddish; second-round draft pick Bruno Fernando; veteran guard Allen Crabbe, who came to Atlanta by way of Brooklyn; and veteran guard Evan Turner, Crabbe’s former Portland teammate. All will have fresh-start stories of their own.

Cam Reddish Atlanta Hawks Media Day
Rookie Cam Reddish sits for an interview at media day.

Photograph by Donnell Suggs

“I can’t believe it’s going that quick; I remember my first media day and now I’m over here talking about year seven,” said Crabbe, who will be playing for his third NBA team this year and is looking to get back to form after playing just 43 games for the Nets last season. “It’s been a good month and a half that I’ve been here [in Atlanta], and you can tell there’s going to be good energy this year.”

“The transition has been real nice,” Parker said of his move to Atlanta this summer. “Hopefully I can fit in here and add on to the program.” He mentioned “staying healthy and keeping my body in tact” as a goal for this coming season. Parker has suffered a number of injuries throughout his career and played with both the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards last season before signing with the Hawks as a free agent. “This team kind of overachieved everyone’s expectations [last year], and I want to use my experience and hopefully grow with this team,” he said.

Bruno Fernando Atlanta Hawks Media Day
Rookie Bruno Fernando at the Atlanta Hawks media day

Photograph by Donnell Suggs

Meanwhile, the Hawks rookies—Reddish, Hunter, and Fernando—are preparing for the start of their careers. “This is a dream come true, of course,” said Fernando, a native of Angola who played at the University of Maryland. “I can’t even put it into words. Even the preseason, just knowing that I’m about to get on the court for the first time as an NBA player, it’s exciting, and I’m trying to take it all in.”

Reddish, who was selected 10th overall, may have a bigger role to fill for the team but is equally excited to get his NBA career started. “I’m looking forward to these upcoming years. Watching these guys develop over the past few years has been exciting for me, and having the fans allow us to develop and improve will help us with our everyday stuff.”

Some are still hoping for their big moment. Former Louisville player and second-year forward Ray Spalding sat at his assigned table to the far left of the gym with a slight smile on his face and cellphone in his hand. Drafted in the second round by Philadelphia and traded to Dallas shortly after in 2018, Spalding was moved again to Phoenix after playing just one game with the Mavericks. 13 games (three starts) was all the time he spent with the Suns, but it was enough to show Hawks brass that it was worth inviting to training camp this week. “I’m just here at the gym, and I go back home on the weekends,” said Spalding, 22, 6-10 and wiry. “This being my second year, I’m looking forward to keeping my foot in the door by really showing the coaches how dependable I am as a player.”

Before UGA and Notre Dame face off, two Georgia legends came to commemorate in Atlanta

UGA Notre Dame
Herschel Walker speaks at the “Return the Favor” event at the College Football Hall of Fame.

Photograph by Kat Goduco Photo

On Thursday night, a long blue carpet that ran from the atrium doors of Atlanta’s College Football Hall of Fame into the facility’s event space—a replica football field—was star-studded with University of Georgia and Notre Dame luminaries, who gave predictions for the upcoming game in Athens and waxed poetic on all things college football.

Two Georgia football greats—Herschel Walker, the most decorated player in Bulldogs history, and Vince Dooley, the only national championship-winning coach in program history—joined former Heisman trophy winner, NFL star, and Notre Dame legend Tim Brown to take turns speaking to the media during the “Return the Favor” event. The invitation-only gathering was organized by several Georgia legislators and Coca-Cola executives in appreciation of how Notre Dame treated the Bulldogs faithful when the two teams played in South Bend in September 2017. Georgia left town after that game with a 20-19 victory during then-freshman quarterback Jake Fromm’s first career start.

UGA Notre Dame
Former Notre Dame player Tim Brown speaks during the “Return the Favor” event.

Photograph by Kat Goduco Photo

The 2017 game was only the second time the two storied programs have met. The first was the 1981 Sugar Bowl for the national championship, in which the undefeated Bulldogs, coached by Dooley, won 17-10 thanks in part to running back Walker, the game’s MVP. Saturday’s will be the just third meeting in the 150 year history of college football, and a lot is at stake as the 7th-ranked Fighting Irish make their very first visit to Sanford Stadium to face the 3rd-ranked Georgia.

“Notre Dame’s brand is just magical, so having them coming between the hedges is really something you dream about,” said Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity. “To be able to get a team of this caliber and this brand [playing on our home field] just speaks volumes.”

Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium will be just one of historic stadiums where Notre Dame has competed. “We’ve been to Yankee Stadium, to Fenway Park, and we’re going to Lambeau [Field] next year,” said Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick. “This is the sort of venue where we love to come in to play. We are really excited about it.”

And thanks to the addition of 500 temporary seats, part of an agreement Georgia made when the two teams established the home-and-home series in 2014, this game is expected to draw the largest crowd in Georgia football history—more than 93,000 fans.

UGA Notre Dame
Vince Dooley

Photograph by Kat Goduco Photo

Dooley, who wore his signature red tie and a lapel pin that combines the U.S. flag, Georgia state flag, and the iconic Georgia “G” logo, spoke about the recent re-naming of the stadium’s field. “It was an honor to have the field named after me,” he said, “but what was really special about that is sharing it with the ones that are responsible for it, my football players.”

Walker, one of those said players, emphasized the importance of Saturday’s match-up by reminding that the winner “[has] a good chance to be in the College Football Playoff.” Neither the Bulldogs nor the Fighting Irish have won a national title in more than three decades.

But Walker knows a rare occasion when he sees one. “As far as being a football game it’s exciting, but you’re going to see two good programs and two well coached teams,” he said. “You’re going to see two teams that are big, fast, and can run.”

109 straight wins: Georgia Gwinnett coach Chase Hodges is one of the best-kept secrets in college tennis

Georgia Gwinnett College Tennis Chase Hodges
Georgia Gwinnett College coach Chase Hodges

Photograph courtesy of Georgia Gwinnett College Athletics

Chase Hodges, the first tennis coach Georgia Gwinnett College has ever had, is clearly comfortable in the environment he helped build. “We’ll play anybody, anytime, anywhere!” he yells as we began a tour of the facility, a former country club less than a mile away from the main buildings of the Lawrenceville campus that boasts 12 courts, three of which are clay. A former player at North Carolina State and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Hodges left coaching at Georgia State seven years ago to start Georgia Gwinnett’s tennis program.

“Seven years, that’s kind of a sleeping giant in regards to what we have done here,” he says. “I honestly feel like we are one of the best programs in all of college tennis, regardless the division.”

He’s not wrong. The Grizzlies’s record is nothing short of impressive, particularly for such a young program: 11 NAIA national titles—five for the women’s team and six for the men’s. The men’s program has only lost three matches in its history and is currently on a 109-match win streak, the longest active streak in collegiate men’s tennis. That means Hodges is currently a remarkable 272-22 (151-3 in men’s matches) as a coach.

Georgia Gwinnett College Tennis Chase Hodges
The men’s team celebrates after a NAIA win earlier this year.

Photograph courtesy of Georgia Gwinnett College Athletics

“We have a big target on our backs, but the expectations are really high here,” Hodges says, who’s never had a losing record during his 20-plus-year coaching career that took him from Longwood University in Virginia to the University of Asheville in North Carolina to Drake University in Des Moines before landing in Georgia. “We aren’t putting up banners for second place. We are playing to win the whole thing.”

The Grizzlies have several advantages not often seen in NAIA programs, among them, a budget that allows the coaches to recruit internationally. While there is no basketball team or football program, the college clearly invests in the programs it does have: the Grizzlies baseball, softball, and men’s and women’s soccer teams were all ranked among the top 10 last season.

“They players we recruit know that they are going to compete against the best and that they will be taken care of,” Hodges says. “And when they leave us, sometimes they pass the word on.”

That word-of-mouth has helped recruit players from Austria, Finland, Argentina, Germany, Italy, Paraguay, and Spain. “We have a very diverse roster,” Hodges says, “Tennis is a global sport. You have to be able to recruit overseas.”

Georgia Gwinnett College Tennis Chase Hodges
The women’s team celebrates their NAIA championship win earlier this year.

Photograph courtesy of Georgia Gwinnett College Athletics

And while the program may not pick up the headlines its Division I counterparts do, Hodges is confident in his team’s ability. “We have never lost to a Division I program on the men’s side,” he says. “I’d love to play the [men’s Division I] national champions in order to give us the opportunity to see where we stack up against the best.”

The Grizzlies upcoming season begins this Friday, and Hodges has signaled that he’s not leaving the program anytime soon. “From my standpoint, this is a place where I can win and win big,” he says. “We are a program that can compete with anyone in the country.”

The Atlanta Hawks doubled-down on strong draft picks and a better fan experience. The future is bright.

Atlanta Hawks 2019 Draft
The Atlanta Hawks hosted a Draft Night Party at State Farm Arena on Thursday evening.

Photograph by Kat Goduco Photo

Strobe lights illuminated what’s normally the playing floor at State Farm Arena on Thursday evening. The hardwood had been removed, replaced by red-and-white tables where roaming fans enjoyed finger foods and drinks. Season ticket holders wore lanyards around their necks identifying how long they’ve stuck with the team—financially and emotionally.  The lower bowl was full of fans gazing up to the screens live-broadcasting the NBA Draft on ESPN, eagerly waiting to see who would become the newest members of the Atlanta Hawks. If you closed your eyes and just listened, you would have thought it was a game night.

This wasn’t the small but dedicated NBA Draft gatherings of years’ past. Instead, Thursday’s free bash in the newly renovated arena shows off a savvier, forward-thinking direction for the $1.9 billion NBA franchise, showcasing a fan energy that Hawks legend Dominique Wilkins, who made a scheduled appearance at the party, described as “unbelievable” and “outstanding.”

“I think this is the largest crowd we have ever had on draft night,” said legendary broadcaster Bob Rathbun, who has been calling Hawks games since 1996. “I think what we see here is dovetailing on how the team ended last season. People are believing in the Hawks again.”

The amped-up feelings have a lot to do with the young talent up and down the Hawks lineup—John Collins, Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, Omari Spellman, and newly drafted rookies De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish—along with work the front office has put in over the past couple of years. The key leader is general manager Travis Schlenk, who since arriving in Atlanta in 2017 has helped draft franchise players in Collins and Young and solidified the franchise’s reputation for being a wheeler and dealer. The Hawks traded longtime forward and fan favorite Taurean Prince to Brooklyn for the 17th overall pick, which Schlenk packaged with the eighth pick in order to draft Hunter with the fourth overall.

“[Schlenk] understands what it takes, and he’s been making some strong moves,” Wilkins said. “The last three years have been outstanding.”

Atlanta Hawks 2019 Draft
Fans cheer at the Hawks Draft Night Party on June 20.

Photograph by Kat Goduco Photo

When the Hawks drafted Reddish, a sharp-shooter out of Duke, with the 10th overall pick, the crowd inside State Farm roared so loud that it was hard to hear any of the screens broadcasting the draft live. “This is about as exciting as I have seen it here,” said Steve Holman, the team’s radio play-by-play broadcaster for the past 35 years.

During a post-draft press conference at the team’s practice facility in Brookhaven, Schlenk was clear about his confidence in the selections.

“We feel good about how the draft played out tonight, getting [Reddish] at 10. He was a guy we had pegged a little bit higher, so we are excited that he was there,” Schlenk said.

https://twitter.com/ATLHawks/status/1141907389731545089

With Atlanta United as the reigning MLS Champions, the Falcons seeing Super Bowl play in 2017, and the Braves winning the NL East title last year, there’s more pressure on the Hawks to be more competitive. Drafting strong franchise players that fans can get behind for the long haul is one piece of that equation. The draft party was a microcosm of how the franchise is striving to be more fan-forward. The team held a free lottery draft party at the arena in May and a media appreciation night not long after that. These type of events are few and far between among NBA franchises, and the additions made during the $192.5 million renovation of the two decades-old arena, too, shows an effort draw in sports fans who might otherwise find themselves more often next door at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Fans can not only stroll the typical team shops and eateries (with lower pricing inspired by neighbor MBS), but get a haircut at Killer Mike’s Swag Shop barbershop or sip drinks at a courtside bar shaped like the team logo. Going to a Hawks game is once again, as it was in the mid-80’s, the early 00’s, and the 60-win season of 2015, a hot ticket. Atlanta’s loveable losers are losers no more, at least in regards to fan experience.

“There’s a buzz in here, and it’s great to see,” Holman said. “I think everybody wants to be here to be a part of this. It’s a happening.”

A documentary explores the black pioneers of Atlanta’s broadcast past

Black and Reporting: The Struggle Behind the Lens

On a summer morning in 1967, Lorenzo “Lo” Jelks walked into the WSB-TV studios for his first day of work. That wouldn’t have been noteworthy, except that Jelks, an American descendant of enslaved Africans, would be the first black on-air reporter at what was then (and now) one of the largest television stations in the Southeast.

Jelks was 28, a graduate of Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University), and an Army veteran. He’d spent the previous decade working as a reporter at various radio stations on the East Coast, most recently at WIGO in Atlanta. It was the late Ray Moore, WSB-TV’s legendary news director, who sought Jelks out. “I believe that the station made a conscious decision to include people of color,” Jelks says now.

At the time, Jelks didn’t consider himself a pioneer, but in the provincial Atlanta of a half-century ago, he and other reporters of color that followed him represented a coming sea change. While the mainstream media covered the civil rights movement on the streets and in the halls of power, it rarely turned the focus on their own, leaving an essential part of the movement unexamined.

Jelks’s experience, along with that of other pioneering black broadcast journalists in Atlanta, has now been told in a 43-minute documentary called Black and Reporting: The Struggle Behind the Lens, produced by the Atlanta Association of Black Journalists with donated production services from AIB-TV.

“I thought it necessary to tell their stories because nobody else is,” says Carol Gantt, president of the AABJ and coproducer of the film. “These people paved the way for us to get our feet in the door. Working on the film really put a lot of things in perspective for me. What they had to go through makes the issues we deal with seem small in comparison.”

In the documentary, Monica Pearson recalls once touching the hand of her white co-anchor, Wes Sarginson, on air. Hate mail followed, reminding her of “her place.” Jocelyn Dorsey, who reported and anchored at WSB-TV, was covering the 1970 gubernatorial campaign kickoff of J.B. Stoner, an avowed racist who was later convicted in the 1958 bombing of Bethel Baptist Church in Birmingham, when someone spat at her. “I had no idea what I was walking into,” she recalls.

Collie Burnett, currently the president and CEO at AIB-TV, started at WSB Radio as a silent disc jockey in 1969 and became a news journalist three years later. He recalls interviewing Wernher von Braun in 1973, four years before the legendary aerospace engineer’s death. Von Braun, a native of Germany, helped build Nazi Germany’s V2 rocket program in World War II. “I asked him, ‘How could a German scientist get more freedom here than a black scientist in Alabama?’” recalls Burnett. “He never answered that question.”

At 80, Jelks is retired but remains editor of the AUC Digest, a print publication that he founded when he was a student in the late ’50s. “I always like trying to motivate people involved in the media,” says Jelks of the documentary. “It felt good to be included.”

Tamara Wilson, the film’s writer, director, and co–executive producer and a production manager and producer at CNN, notes, “After every interview, I made sure to say ‘thank you’ because I wouldn’t be here without them.”

The documentary can be purchased (download, $10; DVD, $20) via aibtv.com. Proceeds benefit AABJ’s Xernona Clayton Scholarship Fund for college students.

This article appears in our June 2019 issue.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly named Ray Moore as Roy Moore. This version has been updated.

Words of wisdom from 2019’s Atlanta University Center graduation speakers

Morehouse School of Medicine Graduation
Patrice A. Harris, the president-elect of the American Medical Association, addressed this year’s graduates of Morehouse School of Medicine.

Photograph by Julius Grimes/KreativTouch Group

This past weekend, the current mayor of Atlanta, the former mayor of Tallahassee, a billionaire technology investor, a Naismith Basketball Hall-of-Famer, and the first African American female president-elect of the American Medical Association each delivered commencement speeches at the five schools that make up the Atlanta University Center, discussing pride, family, the benefit of an education, never giving up, and taking joy in helping others.

Andrew Gillum, the former Florida mayor and gubernatorial candidate, received an honorary doctorate from Clark Atlanta University and served as the school’s commencement speaker, where he gave this year’s class of 781 graduates a solid piece of advice learned from his father, a construction worker with a fourth-grade education.

“My father taught me the five B’s of public speaking,” Gillum said. “Be brief brother, be brief.”

Morehouse speaker and Vista Equity Partners CEO Robert F. Smith was also awarded an honorary degree alongside actress Angela Bassett. And while he may not have had an old family proverb to share, he did break the internet and make national headlines when he announced that through an estimated $40 million grant, he will “eliminate” the student loan debt for all 396 members of the class of 2019.

Here are some other highlights from the five commencement speeches that helped send thousands of AUC graduates off to begin their next journeys.

Saturday, May 18

Morris Brown Graduation 2019 Dominique Wilkins
Dominique Wilkins was honored with an honorary degree and spoke at Morris Brown College’s commencement ceremony this past weekend.

Photograph courtesy of Morris Brown College

Morris Brown College
Dominique Wilkins, Atlanta Hawks legend, founder of TwoOneTechnology, and Fox Sports South analyst

“Nothing brings me more peace and a smile to my face than helping someone succeed.”

“This is a special moment in our lives because this is something no one can take from us.”

Morehouse School of Medicine
Patrice A. Harris, president-elect, American Medical Association

“As a first or only, our responsibility is to make sure we are not the last.”

“By standing in your authentic voice, you’re leading by example for all other medical schools.”

Sunday, May 19
Morehouse College
Robert F. Smith, CEO/chairman of Vista Equity Partners

“Between doubt and your destiny is action, between our community and the American dream is your leadership.”

“This degree you’ve earned is a social contract to devote your talents and energies to honoring those legends on whose shoulders you stand.”

Spelman College
Keisha Lance Bottoms, mayor of Atlanta

“Use your curiosity to uncover the truth, and use your strength to dismantle systems of oppression.”

“What we have seen on the campus of Spelman is that the spirit of activism lives on in the same way the courageous voices of Marian Wright Edelman, Pearl Cleage, Alice Walker, Tina McElroy Ansa, Bernice King, Rosalind Brewer, and Stacey Abrams abides in each of you.”

Monday, May 20
Clark Atlanta University
Andrew Gillum, former mayor of Tallahassee

“Be the best example you can be, not only to the people and children you know but to the folks you don’t know.”

“Ignore the haters. There are so many people who want to put limits on your life. They might have said you wouldn’t be here today. Let your haters be your motivators.”

Correction: This story originally incorrectly named the Morehouse School of Medicine speaker as Patricia A. Harris. Her name is Patrice A. Harris. The story has been updated.

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