Young entrepreneurs, artists and activists are building on a Southern capital’s long, rich history.
By Gisela William
When Georgia went blue for Biden last month, some traced it to Stacey Abrams and her nonprofit Fair Fight, whose get-out-the-vote playbook electrified the state. Others cited more college-educated and older suburban voters.
And though the election (and the upcoming Senate runoffs on Jan. 5) have focused new eyes on the state, it has long been a force of tradition and change. Atlanta, the capital, has a storied civil rights legacy, an influential hip-hop scene and booming film studios. It is the birthplace, after all, of Martin Luther King Jr., the home of Tyler Perry Studios and where such as artists as Childish Gambino, Migos and Gucci Mane made their mark.
Nicknamed ”Hotlanta” or the ATL (after its bustling airport) by some, the city is also welcoming arrivals from New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere, drawn to not only to Atlanta’s history and culture, but also its affordable spaces, agreeable weather and fantastic food.
Here are six Georgians, newcomers and natives, who exemplify modern Atlanta. They are entrepreneurs, actors, artist and activists.
Occupation: co-founder and chief executive of the Gathering Spot, a members-only club for young professionals
Now Lives: in a single-family home in the artsy West Midtown section of the city, with his wife and daughter.
Why did you move back to Atlanta?
I’m from Atlanta, but attended undergrad and law school at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. I moved back to Atlanta in 2015 to open the Gathering Spot. I specifically chose to start the business here because I think Atlanta is the best city in the country right now for Black entrepreneurs to thrive.
What was the impetus for the Gathering Spot?
I started the Gathering Spot in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s murder with the belief that Black people should have a place to be more than tolerated, but celebrated. I also missed the access to community and thought leadership that I experienced during my university years and wondered why I couldn’t find a place where that continued to happen. The club has hosted everyone from Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to Drake. My partner TK Petersen and I are in the middle of opening a Gathering Spot in D.C.
What makes Atlanta unique?
In Atlanta, our biggest export is our culture. In this city, we know each other across traditional lines of difference and have successfully brought thriving start-up, big business, college and university, and creative communities together. Atlanta is also a city that is distinctly Black. This is one of the few cities where topics like diversity, representation and political power for Black people aren’t aspirational talking points, but our historic and present reality.
What did the 2020 elections reveal about Georgia?
Georgia is a true battleground state, and more diverse and more progressive than what we get credit for. This election cycle is also showing that Georgia, like our country, is deeply divided. I’m optimistic though that what is happening in Georgia will inspire other communities to see that they, too, can mobilize new voters, shift their politics and successfully navigate tough conversations about their collective future.