One Square Mile: Hunter Park Community Center

Photograph by Dustin Chambers
Photograph by Dustin Chambers

Hunter Park Community Center | Douglasville | 24 miles west of Atlanta

Angelica Blackwell was seven on the night of the dance, old enough to know about looking good. She wanted the red stockings—not the black—and red bows in her hair, with the puffs done just right. And because this was a mother-daughter dance, and because daughters of a certain age hold themselves responsible for their mothers’ appearance, she had to inspect her mother’s dress. “Mommy,” she had been known to say, “maybe you should consider something else.” About 30 daughters and their mothers stood on the floor of a rented ballroom on a cold Friday night and danced to John Legend and celebrated nature’s most complex parent-child relationship. “Your mother is a guide and a protector,” said guest speaker Chaunnie Dodds, a senior at Alpharetta High School. “Savor every moment.” But this was easier said than done. Event co-organizer Alana Gillespie and her 14-year-old daughter, Milan, had been clashing lately—over the dishes, homework, and so on—which made it all the more surprising when Milan took the microphone for an unscheduled announcement. “I just wanted to recognize my mom,” she said, voice cracking. “I just wanted to say sorry to her.” Then DJ Muzic Warfare cranked the tunes back up, and Alana took Milan in her arms, and a moment later Alana was in the hallway, tears in her eyes, fanning herself with a tissue. “Unexpected,” she said, because 14-year-old girls are never wrong. Back on the floor, in a room scented with perfume, Angelica looked up at her mother, Lynita Mitchell-Blackwell. For a moment, everything was simple. Lynita wore hoop earrings and a green sleeveless dress and open-toed gold shoes. They had all passed inspection. “Mommy,” Angelica said, “this is perfect.”

This article originally appeared in our February 2015 issue.