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Atlanta Black Theatre Festival promises 40 plays in 4 days

With comedies and classics, musicals and dramas, kids’ shows and one-man performances, the sixth annual Atlanta Black Theatre Festival will seek to deliver on its catchphrase promise of “40 plays in four days.”

Producing director Toni Simmons Henson founded the festival in 2012 because she believed there was an under-served market in Atlanta. The festival has grown steadily over the past six years, attracting 3,500 theater-goers in 2016. organizers hope to top 4,000 this year.

“It’s getting easier and it’s also getting a lot harder,” says Henson of the play selection process. “The reputation around the country is growing and people know about us, so we get a lot of submissions. Each year they’re better quality. We’re attracting folks that are really good at what they do.”

A new production of Charles Fuller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “A Soldier’s Play” starring T.C. Carson, who played Kyle Barker in the hit 1990s sitcom “Living Single,” will occupy the festival’s prime spot on the mainstage Friday night. The play dramatizes an investigation into the murder of a black soldier killed while returning to his base in the Deep South during World War II.

“It’s a perfect time for the play,” says director Chris Scott. “We are debuting it at the Atlanta Black Theatre Festival because it’s a time when we’re able to honor the contributions of black writers, producers and performers. Charles Fuller wrote a beautiful piece of literature, and we just want a new generation to experience his work.”

Another mainstage production is Danai Gurira’s “Eclipsed.” Produced by the Star Theater of Gainesville, Fla., it follows the stories of five women during the upheaval of civil war in Liberia. The original production made history in 2016 when it became the first play with an all-black, female cast and creative team to premiere on Broadway.

Atlanta’s New African Grove Theatre will present Gus Edwards’ classic romantic comedy focusing on the domestic ups and downs of an African-American couple living in New York, “Louie and Ophelia.” Other festival highlights include “Tongues That Move to Ears That Eat,” a compendium of monologues by Macon-based playwright Winisphere Jones; Atlanta-based playwright Nykieria Chaney’s production of her biographical drama about the life of writer Zora Neal Hurston, “Zora! Let The People Sing!”; the gospel musical “Daughters of the King” from She Reigns Ministries of Charlotte, N.C.,; and the children’s play “Black Girls (Can) Fly” from Chicago’s Sydney Chatman about a 10-year-old girl dealing with violence in her Chicago neighborhood.

The festival culminates with an award ceremony honoring Doris Derby, Atlanta-based documentary photographer and retired Georgia State University professor. The ceremony honors Derby’s work as the founder of the New Freedom Theatre, an advocacy troupe that traveled the South in the 1960s to help inform people about their voting rights. The event will include a video montage of Derby’s life and a celebratory reception afterwards.

There are currently three major festivals in the country focused on African-American theater. The largest and oldest, the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C., was created in the 1980s and takes place every two years. The D.C. Black Theatre Festival of Washington, D.C., is an annual, 10-day event.

Henson says that in its six-year history, the Atlanta Black Theatre Festival has spotlighted the work of more than 100 emerging playwrights and 1,300 performing artists.

“There’s just so much great work out there that’s not getting produced,” she says. “To be able to open this platform for emerging playwrights is just a joy.

“Theatre gives people an opportunity to process,” says Henson. ”The beautiful thing about art is that it always reflects society. It comes from the pain or pleasure of people who have lived it and experienced it.”


Cirque takes ‘Luzia’ to a new level with water

Fall arts in Atlanta: 12 don’t miss events


Atlanta Black Theatre Festival. Oct.4-7. Free-$35; free events and festival passes available. Porter Sanford III Performing Arts and Community Center, 3181 Rainbow Drive, Decatur. 404-687-2731,

Quiz: How well do you know these ‘A Different World’ characters?

The show that brought historically black colleges and its students to primetime television and, subsequently, inspired generations of black youth to attend college has reached a milestone.

RELATED: 'A Different World' reunion to hit Disney Channel

“A Different World” turns 30 on Sept. 24. The first episode of  the coming-of-age “The Cosby Show” spin-off aired on Sept. 24, 1987, on NBC. The groundbreaking show lasted six seasons, spawning the career of such stars as Sinbad, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Jasmine Guy. The show featured a group of sophisticated, hip college coeds, who opened up candid conversations about HIV/AIDS, police brutality and women’s rights.

Since its run, between 1987-1993, the sitcom has been syndicated on various stations, allowing the show to become a favorite of viewers not even born when the show originally aired.

Whether a new or old fan, the following quiz will separate the casual viewer from the true Hillman crusader.

Find out just how much you recall about the “A Different World” characters.


BONUS: TV One will offer its own pop quiz on Sunday during its 14-hour “A Different World” marathon, which begins at 10 a.m. ET. The cable station will air a special “Pop up” edition of the show’s pilot episode, featuring show trivia. The marathon will run from 10:30 a.m. ET to 8:30 p.m. ET Sunday, Sept. 24.


QUIZ: How much do you know about Spelman College?

‘Black-ish’ creator talks humble roots, show’s origins and more

Crying Jordan meme was an answer on ‘Jeopardy’

The Crying Jordan meme made an appearance on “Jeopardy” Wednesday night.

One of the most popular memes on the Internet in 2016, the image of the Crying Jordan originated from Michael Jordan’s basketball Hall of Fame induction in 2009.

The answer on “Jeopardy” read (in your best Alex Trebek voice), “For some reason, a picture of this athlete crying after his NBA Hall of Fame induction in 2009 became meme-worthy in ’16.”

The full clip can be watched below:

The day Martin Luther King Jr. was almost killed

“Is this Martin Luther King?” 

That is the question, a simple one, that Izola Ware Curry asked Martin Luther King Jr. at a Sept. 20, 1958 book signing in Harlem. 

The 42-year-old Curry had a distinctive Southern accent and was neatly dressed in a suit with matching jewelry and sequined cat’s-eye glasses. 

King was signing copies of his first book “Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story,” at Blumstein’s Department Store. 

Only 29 at the time, King barely looked up when he replied, “Yes.” 

With that confirmation, Curry plunged a seven-inch steel letter opener into King’s chest. She was stopped before she could get her loaded .25-caliber automatic pistol out of her bra. 

She didn’t try to run.

“I’ve been after him for six years,” Curry cried as she was apprehended. “I’m glad I done it.” 

As the nation prepares for the 50th anniversary of the 1968 assassination of the civil rights icon, his 1958 stabbing has been largely forgotten, although he said on the eve of his death a decade later, that had he merely sneezed, it would have killed him. 

The tip of Curry’s blade, King said, was on the edge of his aorta, “And once that’s punctured, you’re drowned in your own blood — that’s the end of you.” 

RELATED: A little known side of Martin Luther King, Jr.: advice columnist

“The idea of killing him was unthinkable,” said the Rev. C.T. Vivian, who would go on to work with King in the 1960s. “We saw no reason for it to have happened. To have someone try to kill him was not expected.” 

Ambassador Andrew Young was living in New York City at the time working for the National Council of Churches. He knew King, but had not begun working with him. In fact, he was out of town at the time of the stabbing and can’t recall when he first heard about it. 

“News traveled differently then,” said Young, adding that had King died that fall day, the very fate of the  civil rights movement would have altered. “We wouldn’t have had it. It would have been something different.” 

Who was Izola Ware Curry?

While history has largely forgotten the assassination attempt, the would-be assassin’s story is also shrouded in mystery. 

And while they would meet that one time at a store on West 125th Street in Harlem, they were both born with Georgia clay on their feet. 

Izola Ware was born to sharecroppers in 1916 in Adrian, about 100 miles from Savannah. She dropped out of school in the seventh grade and in 1937, when she was 21, she married a man named James Curry. 

The marriage lasted only six months and Curry moved to New York City working on and off as a housekeeper, short-order cook and factory worker. But a series of personal misfortunes, coupled with deteriorating mental health, soon led to paranoia and delusions in Curry.

RELATED: Would-be King assassin dead at 98

In his 2002 book, “When Harlem Nearly Killed King: The 1958 Stabbing of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” Hugh Pearson wrote that Curry’s mental state had nearly incapacitated her before she reached 40. 

Unable to keep a job, she lived in New York; Cleveland; St. Louis; Charleston, W.Va.; Savannah; Miami, West Palm Beach and Daytona Beach, Fla.; Lexington, Ky.; and Columbia, S.C. 

By 1958 she had made her way back to New York City where she lived in a rented room in Harlem. 

In a psychiatric report, published in 2014 by The Smoking Gun and dated Oct. 22, 1958, two psychiatrists wrote that Curry had become convinced that civil rights leaders were Communists plotting against her, making it difficult for her to obtain and retain a job.  

“She believes she has been under constant surveillance and all her movements are known to the NAACP and Dr. King,” they wrote. “She has feared for her life and for the past year has been carrying a gun to protect herself against possible assault.”

Out of body experience

When Curry heard that King was just blocks from her rooming house, she seized her opportunity to get him. 

After he was stabbed, several newspapers printed a photo of King being tended to at the department store with the letter opener still protruding from his chest. 

“The blade, if somebody had tried to remove it, it would have killed him. He always said was he was glad that he got stabbed in Harlem,” Young recalled. “This is a routine procedure for them. People are getting stabbed in Harlem three-four times a week.” 

King was rushed to Harlem Hospital, the same place that Malcolm X would die seven years later, for emergency surgery. 

“He said later when he was in the hospital, he was asleep in a semi-coma, but aware of the preachers praying over him,” Young said. “For him, it was like an out of body experience, where he felt like he was up on the ceiling looking down at them praying. Most of them wanted him to go and he said, ‘don’t worry, you gotta put up with me a little while longer.’” 

Although she was charged with attempted first-degree murder and faced 25 years in prison, Curry was deemed unfit to stand trial. She had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia with an IQ of about 70 and in a “severe state of insanity.” 

Curry was committed to Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. She would spend the rest of her life in hospitals, mental institutions and nursing homes — virtually forgotten and “leaving behind only a single deed of mysterious, unfathomable horror,” wrote Taylor Branch in his King biography, “Parting the Waters.”

Branch devoted only two pages to the incident in his book. David Garrow, in his massive Pulitzer Prize-winning King biography, “Bearing the Cross,” gave it three pages.

“People have kind of forgotten about the stabbing because he lived,” said King biographer Clayborne Carson, the author of the "Papers of Martin Luther King Jr.," “That is the bottom line.” 

If King had sneezed

For his part, King said he “felt no ill will toward Mrs. Izola Curry,” and often referred to the stabbing, famously referencing it on the night of April 3, 1968 in his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” speech. 

King said with the tip of the blade resting on his main artery, his doctors told him that had he sneezed, he would have died. He said that as he recovered from his injuries, a white girl wrote him a letter concluding that she was glad he didn’t sneeze. 

Using “sneeze,” as a literary trope, King riffed on what that action would have done to history. 

“I want to say tonight — I want to say tonight that I, too, am happy that I didn’t sneeze,” King told the congregation at Mason Temple that night. “If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been around here in 1962, when Negroes in Albany, Georgia, decided to straighten their backs up. And whenever men and women straighten their backs up, they are going somewhere, because a man can't ride your back unless it is bent.” 

King continued that if he had sneezed, he would have not have seen the Freedom Rides of the early ’60s. He would not have given his “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington in 1963. Nor have seen the passage of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

“If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been in Memphis to see a community rally around those brothers and sisters who are suffering,” King said. “I'm so happy that I didn't sneeze.”

What ifs?

Echoing Young, Vivian agrees that the decade following the assassination attempt and King’s actual death was crucial.

“There were very few people who could celebrate and act upon nonviolence as a means to change society,” Vivian said. “Had it not been for Martin King, we would not have had a great movement.” 

Carson, the King biographer, says it might be a stretch to suggest that the movement would have stopped had King died in 1958. 

King was stabbed that year, in the middle of a period where he was still finding himself as a leader, said Carson, the director of Stanford University's Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute. 

»RELATED: That time King delivered his “Dream” In Rocky Mount, N.C.

King had successfully led the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which ended on Dec. 20, 1956. But between 1956 and the end of 1962, while King was still perhaps the most visible civil rights leader, the actions of others were eclipsing him. 

Little Rock happened without him in 1957. The Greensboro Sit-ins in 1960. The Freedom Riders in 1961. 

“It is hard for me to imagine that the students who launched the sit-ins were waiting for an okay from Martin Luther King,” Carson said. “King was trying to catch up with a movement that was going at a faster pace than he was able to provide.” 

King caught up in 1963 and solidified his place as the movement’s leader by leading the Birmingham Campaign. That was followed in quick succession by the March on Washington, the Nobel Prize, Selma and the Civil Rights Act. 

On April 4, 1968, a day after King preached about a world without him and almost 10 years to the day that Curry stabbed him, he was shot to death by James Earl Ray. 

“Everything that happened to him, happened to him to make him stronger. But he knew that any day could be his last,” Young said. “He said that you are going to die and you have nothing to say about when you die. But you can decide what you gave your life for. He used to preach that.” 

Curry meanwhile languished in obscurity. The Smoking Gun, in its 2014 profile, found Curry in a nursing home in Jamaica, Queens. Still alive, but “physically and mentally feeble.” 

“She met questions about King and the stabbing with a furrowed brow and a blank stare,” the profile said.

Like so many others, she had no recollection of the attack.

Curry died in 2015. She was 98.

Georgia is one of the most diverse states in the US, new report says

America spans several racial lines and backgrounds, but there are a few states that exemplify our differences the best. Georgia is one of them, because it has been named one of the most diverse states in the country, according to WalletHub

»RELATED: These three metro Atlanta cities are among the most diverse in America

The Peach State was No. 13, overall, on the annual report, while California placed first and Texas second. 

The personal finance website determined its results by analyzing the 50 states using 13 metrics across five diversity sections: socioeconomic, cultural, economic, household and religious. 

Some of the key dimensions included income, generational, linguistic and household size. 

»RELATED: These 4 Atlanta agencies are uniting to promote diversity in

Georgia was among the top 20 thanks to its high cultural and household diversity rankings. It was No. 13 and No. 10 on those lists, respectively. 

The state also fared well in other categories. It was No. 5 for most industry diversity, No. 7 for most household diversity, No. 10 for most racial and ethnic diversity and No. 12 for marital-status diversity. 

Georgia wasn’t the only southern state to rank high, overall. Florida was No. 9, Virginia was No. 12 and North Carolina was No. 20. 

Take a look at the map of findings below to see how other locations fared. 

»RELATED: RE: Race, an AJC conversation 

Ohio firefighter resigns after allegedly saying he'd save a dog before a black person

An Ohio firefighter who posted a racially charged comment on social media last week has resigned.

>> Read more trending news

Tyler Roysdon submitted his resignation as a volunteer firefighter in Franklin Township on Monday, according to township officials.

Trustees President Brian Morris confirmed Roysdon’s resignation.

Fire Chief Steve Bishop indefinitely suspended Roysdon on Sept. 12 after learning of the racially charged comment, which had been posted to Facebook.

Roysdon, 20, indicated in the post that if he had to choose between saving a dog or a black man from a burning building that he would save the dog first because “one dog is more important than a million (expletive),” he wrote, using a racial slur.

A disciplinary hearing before the township board of trustees, on a charge of conduct unbecoming a township employee, had been scheduled for Sept. 27. 

Morris said last week that he was unsure, given Roysdon’s comments, whether he was fit to continue as a firefighter.

“He blatantly said on social media that he wouldn’t do that,” Morris said. “Even if you take race out of it, it still would be wrong. I’m disgusted in what he said.

“I want people to realize this is only one man’s comment. We have a great group of men (firefighters) and disgusting comments from one individual does not represent the entire fire department.”

Over the past few days, the presidents of the NAACP branches in Dayton and in Middletown have called for Roysdon’s termination.

WHIO contributed to this report.

54 years after 16th Street Church bombing, Patterson’s column still resonates

“A Negro mother wept in the street Sunday morning in front of a Baptist Church in Birmingham. In her hand she held a shoe, one shoe, from the foot of her dead child. We hold that shoe with her.”

That is how former Atlanta Journal-Constitution executive editor Eugene Patterson begin his daily column that ran on Sept. 16, 1963.

It was the day after four little black girls became victims of America’s virulent racism, when Klansmen used dynamite to blow up the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham and murder them.

Patterson used the power of his pen to write “A Flower for the Graves” and challenge the white South to do better. To be better. “Every one of us in the white South holds that small shoe in his hand,” he wrote.

Today, on the 54th anniversary of Patterson’s column and the deaths of Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Carol Denise McNair, the AJC is re-running it in its entirety.

Log on to to read “A Flower for the Graves.”

A Flower for the Graves

It was 54 years ago today, Sept. 15, 1963, that a bomb ripped through a church in Birmingham, killing four little girls and wounding the heart of America.

It was a Sunday morning and Eugene Patterson, the executive editor of both the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was cutting his grass. 

Between 1960 and 1968, Patterson wrote a signed column every day. His column for that Monday’s paper was already written. But he rushed to the office and ripped it off the page. 

Then he sat down and wrote, “A Flower for the Graves,” for Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Carol Denise McNair. 

In the column, Patterson – who would win a Pulitzer Prize for his 1967 editorials for the AJC -- writes about a mourning mother who holds a small shoe dug from the smoldering rubble that belonged to her daughter. 

Most significantly, he asks the people of the South – the white people – to take responsibility for the deaths of the girls. 

“Only we can trace the truth, Southerner -- you and I,” Patterson wrote. “We broke those children’s bodies.” 

Martin Luther King Jr., in his eulogy for the girls on Sept. 18, said of them: “These children—unoffending, innocent, and beautiful—were the victims of one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity.”

Howell Raines was a senior at Birmingham Southern University at the time of the bombing. Two miles away from the 16th Street Baptist Church where the bodies were recovered from the ruins of the then 90-year-old church. 

He didn’t read Patterson’s column, because it wasn’t syndicated in Birmingham. 

“To use Gene Patterson’s phrase, the white south was frozen in silence,” Raines said. “What his column did was to bring the conscience of the white South to bear on an event of such horror, such flagrant horror, that it couldn’t be ignored.” 

Raines, a former AJC political editor and former executive editor at the New York Times,  said the bombing became a watershed moment for white people, “who could no longer deny that they were part of the problem. 

“And what that column did, was posed the question, who killed those children?” Raines said. “All of us who tolerated this system killed them.” 

Raines was one of the featured speakers on a panel about Patterson’s journalism legacy at this month’s AJC Decatur Book Festival, along with civil rights leader Andrew Young; Hank Klibanoff, former AJC managing editor and co-author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning book on press coverage of the civil rights movement; and journalism scholar Roy Peter Clark. 

In 2016, Emory University’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library acquired Patterson’s papers. 

“One of the things that stories allow us to do is to experience life through the eyes of the heart and soul of others,” said Clark vice president of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. “Gene understood that. Stories teach us who the villains are. But they also teach us how to love each other.”

Below is the full text of Patterson’s “A Flower for the Graves,” which originally ran in the Atlanta Constitution on Sept. 16, 1963.


A Negro mother wept in the street Sunday morning in front of a Baptist Church in Birmingham. In her hand she held a shoe, one shoe, from the foot of her dead child. We hold that shoe with her.  

Every one of us in the white South holds that small shoe in his hand.  

It is too late to blame the sick criminals who handled the dynamite. The FBI and the police can deal with that kind. The charge against them is simple. They killed four children.  

Only we can trace the truth, Southerner -- you and I. We broke those children’s bodies.  

We watched the stage set without staying it. We listened to the prologue unbestirred. We saw the curtain opening with disinterest. We have heard the play.  

* * *  

We -- who go on electing politicians who heat the kettles of hate.  

We -- who raise no hand to silence the mean and little men who have their nigger jokes.  

We -- who stand aside in imagined rectitude and let the mad dogs that run in every society slide their leashes from our hand, and spring.  

We -- the heirs of a proud South, who protest its worth and demand it recognition -- we are the ones who have ducked the difficult, skirted the uncomfortable, caviled at the challenge, resented the necessary, rationalized the unacceptable, and created the day surely when these children would die.  

This is no time to load our anguish onto the murderous scapegoat who set the cap in dynamite of our own manufacture.  

He didn't know any better.  

Somewhere in the dim and fevered recess of an evil mind he feels right now that he has been a hero. He is only guilty of murder. He thinks he has pleased us.  

* * *  

We of the white South who know better are the ones who must take a harsher judgment.  

We, who know better, created a climate for child-killing by those who don't.  

We hold that shoe in our hand, Southerner. Let us see it straight, and look at the blood on it. Let us compare it with the unworthy speeches of Southern public men who have traduced the Negro; match it with the spectacle of shrilling children whose parents and teachers turned them free to spit epithets at small huddles of Negro school children for a week before this Sunday in Birmingham; hold up the shoe and look beyond it to the state house in Montgomery where the official attitudes of Alabama have been spoken in heat and anger.  

Let us not lay the blame on some brutal fool who didn't know any better.  

We know better. We created the day. We bear the judgment. May God have mercy on the poor South that has so been led. May what has happened hasten the day when the good South, which does live and has great being, will rise to this challenge of racial understanding and common humanity, and in the full power of its unasserted courage, assert itself.  

The Sunday school play at Birmingham is ended. With a weeping Negro mother, we stand in the bitter smoke and hold a shoe. If our South is ever to be what we wish it to be, we will plant a flower of nobler resolve for the South now upon these four small graves that we dug.

Nicki Minaj, Nas fuel dating rumors at rapper’s birthday party

Are Nicki Minaj and Nas an item? It certainly looked that way Thursday night when the two were photographed with their arms around each other during Nas’ 44th birthday party, People reported.

>> Read more trending news

Nas celebrated his birthday during a private dinner at The Pool Lounge in New York. Minaj, 34, posted a picture of her and Nas on her Instagram account. She has her arm around Nas while they stand next to Alicia Keys and her husband, Swizz Beatz, People reported.

In a video from the event, a man Minaj identified as “Nasir” was spotted creeping up behind Minaj and kissing her on the cheek. Many fans have speculated the man was indeed Nas, whose given name is Nasir Bin Olu Dara Jones.

The Shade Room also posted a video of Minaj and Nas together that night. In the video, Nas had his arm wrapped around Minaj’s shoulder as Minaj had her hand placed on his chest while the rapper was presented with his birthday cake.

Rumors of the pair dating began to circulate when Manaj posted a picture of them cuddling to her Instagram account.

Then in May, Minaj told television host Ellen DeGeneres that she had plenty of respect for the rapper.

“He is the king of Queens, and I like to think I’m the queen of Queens,” Minaj said. “He’s a rap legend. Let’s just say that I have a lot of respect for him, and you know, he’s kind of cute, too.”

But Minaj stressed that the relationship with Nas was not intimate, People reported.

“I’m just chillin’ right now. I’m celibate. I wanted to go a year without dating any men. I hate men,” Minaj told DeGeneres. “I might make an exception to the rule for him, because he’s so dope.”

Poll reveals racial divide over whether college athletes should be paid

Should college athletes be paid beyond their full scholarship? The results of an August poll by the Washington Post and the University of Massachusetts Lowell show a racial divide in the answer to that question.

When coaches are being paid millions, and sports facilities cost tens of millions, some say athletes should also be compensated.

Although 52 percent of Americans believe a scholarship is enough, 54 percent of black Americans said they believe athletes should be paid based on the revenue they generate. 

"The schools are making an awful lot of money, and the coaches are making millions and millions of dollars, and they're (the players) the ones bringing in the money, really," one black respondent said.

But whites see things differently. 

"The whole reason they go to college is to get an education, and a scholarship should be enough," a white nurse said. "They shouldn't be paid to play football."

The majority of whites who took the poll agreed with her.

An in-depth look at what some economists and labor lawyers call a critical problem with college sports can be read on


» UGA approves $63 million renovation to Sanford Stadium

» UGA donors worry about athletics’ ‘master plan’

» Might Georgia Tech align with Nike?

Atlanta mayoral candidates pitch affordable housing plans at forum

Six of the major contenders in the race for Atlanta mayor vowed at a forum Wednesday to work with the development community to tackle key issues such as affordable housing and to find fixes to other challenges that will arise as the city’s population swells in the years ahead.

The forum, held by the Council for Quality Growth, an influential trade group for developers and related fields, focused on economic issues, such as growth, transportation and regionalism. The candidates’ answers to questions were largely in the spirit of finding common ground with business leaders.

RELATED: Atlanta mayoral candidates wrestle over what it means to be a regional leader

On the topic of the city’s notoriously frustrating permitting process, for instance, candidates Peter Aman, Keisha Lance Bottoms, John Eaves, Kwanza Hall, Ceasar Mitchell and Mary Norwood all said the process was overdue for an overhaul.

The Council for Quality Growth helped develop an affordable housing ordinance in Atlanta and the topic of affordability loomed large in the forum. Here’s what the candidates, in alphabetical order, had to say on affordable housing:

Peter Aman, former Atlanta chief operating officer:

Aman called affordability “a critical need of the city,” and one that if the city gets right will help traffic congestion. Working-class people have had to move away to afford their rents and mortgages, but their jobs remain in the city, meaning more workers drive into Atlanta.

“We have people who built Atlanta being forced out of Atlanta,” he said. Aman said he’d create a committee on the subject of inclusionary zoning, and said the city needs to set objectives and create predictable development rules. He also said the city will use land trusts, tax incentives and other tools.

“We’re only 8 percent of the metro Atlanta population, and capital will flee if we get this wrong,” he said of business investment.

City Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms:

Bottoms said the city needs to get creative, and she touted her effort to create displacement-free zones in neighborhoods where residents fear displacement from redevelopment.

Out of that effort, city leaders, the Westside Future Fund and corporations created an Anti-Displacement Fund, designed to protect homeowners near the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium from rising property tax rates, she said. The fund is backed by private dollars and will help cushion longtime residents in the shadow of the new stadium from the shock of rising taxes.

“It will be most important to look at expansion of displacement-free zones throughout the city and make sure they’re neighborhood-specific.”

Former Fulton County Chairman John Eaves:

Eaves focused his comments on the issue of taxes, including a property tax freeze approved by the Fulton County commission that Eaves championed after residents got sticker shock from soaring property tax assessments.

“I think there’s tremendous opportunity to work with the state Legislature to provide creative ways to provide relief to seniors,” Eaves said, including exempting or reducing the burden of school taxes.

In hot neighborhoods such as the Old Fourth Ward, where rising property values have displaced many longtime residents, Eaves said the city could look at freeze taxes in those specific areas.

City Councilman Kwanza Hall:

Hall said he would leverage 11 Atlanta Housing Authority properties totaling 400 or so acres to develop new units and said as mayor he believed 20,000 new units is an achievable goal.

“But we need to bring partners to table,” he said.

The city also must build more density, including affordable units, at MARTA stations. Building near MARTA reduces the need for a car, cutting residents’ monthly costs, he said. If you remove the need for a car, he said, “you change the game.”

City Council President Ceasar Mitchell:

“Affordable housing is probably the most important issue in our city,” Mitchell said. He said a city without affordable housing loses its diversity.

Mitchell pitched what he called a “blight to light” program, to turn vacant houses and lots into homes for cops, firefighters and teachers, and said he would incentivize affordable housing development through Invest Atlanta. He said his goal would be to create 30,000 new affordable units as mayor.

He also said the city should look at increasing the homestead exemption to help prevent displacement of seniors and make ease the burden of property taxes on working families.

City Councilwoman Mary Norwood:

“We need to ensure every part of the city has affordable housing,” Norwood said.

She said the issue will require a number of tools, including federal housing assistance, the Atlanta Housing Authority, Invest Atlanta and the development community. She also said she’d like to see an enhanced lease-to-own purchasing model to turn more renters into buyers, and tax abatements to encourage landlords to rehab older affordable properties.

Norwood also said the city needs to do more to ensure seniors aren’t displaced by rising property taxes, and wants to explore an employer-assisted workforce housing model.


AJC Business reporter J. Scott Trubey keeps you updated on the latest news about economic development and commercial real estate in metro Atlanta and beyond. You'll find more on, including these stories:

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In other City Hall news:

Meet Serena Williams’ daughter: Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.

Meet Serena Williams’ daughter: Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.

Photo from Serena Williams Instagram story on Sept. 13, 2017 about her journey with her daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.
Meet Serena Williams’ daughter: Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.

Meet Serena Williams’ daughter: Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.

Serena Williams Instagram baby story

Serena Williams Instagram baby story

Photo from Serena Williams Instagram story on Sept. 13, 2017 about her journey with her daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.

Meet Serena Williams’ daughter: Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.

Tennis star Serena Williams introduced her daughter to the world on Wednesday in a post on her Instagram page.

Williams gave birth to her first child, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., on Sept. 1.

Williams posted on Instagram that her daughter with fianceé and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian weighed six pounds, 14 ounces.

“Meet Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. You have to check out link in bio for her amazing journey. Also check out my IG stories,” Williams wrote on her post.

Here are a few moments of Williams’ journey with her daughter so far on her Instagram story:

ESPN apologizes after Jemele Hill calls Trump a 'white supremacist'

ESPN anchor Jemele Hill may find herself in hot water with the network after she called President Donald Trump a "white supremacist" on Twitter.

"Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists," she wrote Monday. "The height of white privilege is being able to ignore his white supremacy, because it's of no threat to you. Well, it's a threat to me."

>> Read more trending news

She added: "Trump is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime. His rise is a direct result of white supremacy. Period."

Her tweets quickly went viral. Read her full remarks below:

The network released an apology, which was shared by ESPN PR on Twitter:

“The comments on Twitter from Jemele Hill regarding the President do not represent the position of ESPN,” the statement read. “We have addressed this with Jemele and she recognizes her actions were inappropriate.”

>> Read the statement here

Read more here. 

Beyonce returns to hometown of Houston to help Hurricane Harvey victims

Beyonce returned to her hometown of Houston Friday to sponsor a luncheon for Hurricane Harvey victims.

The singer, who announced on Aug. 28 that she and her BeyGOOD Foundation would partner with two local organizations to assist in relief efforts, visited with over 400 victims.

>> Read more trending news

Rappers Trae tha Truth and Bun B, who are also Houston natives, joined Beyonce, her daughter Blue Ivy Carter, Beyonce’s mother Tina Knowles Lawson and former Destiny’s Child member Michelle Williams in the city. They were there to serve lunch to residents and meet with survivors.

Beyonce also stopped by her home church, St. John’s United Methodist Church, with her mother, daughter and Williams, and helped with her pastor Rudy Rasmus’ Bread of Life organization. 

Related: Beyonce launches BeyGOOD Houston to assist in Harvey relief efforts

Bread of Life and the Greater Houston Community Foundation are two groups BeyGOOD has partnered with to assist Harvey victims.

Houston Chronicle reporter Joey Guerra shared video on Facebook of Beyonce speaking to survivors at St. John’s.

“Y’all are my family. Houston is my home. I thank God that y’all are safe -- that your children are safe. The the thing that really matters is your health and your children and your family and you’ve got it,” she said. “I just want to say I love you. I am so, so thankful to God that I’ve been blessed so that I can bless other people and I ask you guys to continue to do that for other people.”

KHOU reported that the singer and her mother posed for photos with survivors. The survivors were also given shoes from Nike.

Photos posted to the singer’s website show Beyonce and her family and friends serving lunch to victims and meeting with them for photos.

Some of the images posted on Instagram, can be seen below. Those who want to continue to donate can do so at the BeyGOOD Houston website.

Now casting: BET show seeking African-American extras

Are you ready to make your mark on Atlanta’s film and TV industry? Are you the next Tyler Perry? ATL is in need of young stars. Check out the Peach City’s latest casting call for your chance at fame.

»RELATED: 9 big movies filming in Georgia in 2017 

‘Tales: All I Need’ 

This is part of BET’s scripted anthology series based on classic hip-hop songs, which are reimagined to make “mini-movies.” 

What are they looking for? 

The following roles are available for people who appear to be African-American, and you can submit as an individual or as a family: 

Mom and dad – men and women age 30 to 40 (Subject MOM & DAD) 

Kids – between the ages of 6 and 12 (Subject: KIDS) 

Baby or twins – between the ages of 10 and 18 months (Subject: BABY) 

»RELATED: Get the scoop on what film and TV extras get paid in Atlanta 

When are they filming? 

Filming will be in Atlanta on Sept. 8. 

How much does it pay? 

Pay is $64 for eight hours of work, with overtime after that. 

How do I submit? 

Send an e-mail to with the correct subject line. Include your name, age, height, weight, phone number and three current photos of all family members who are submitting. 

»RELATED: Take these classes and workshops to break into Georgia's film and TV industry

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