Talk of the Town: Atlanta Tackles Gentrification
Contributed by: Ebony Hillsman, Mark Taylor II
Some would say Atlanta is bleeding and rumored to have the largest economic disparity in the nation. The cause? Rumor is: lack of diversity and inclusion in business development and access to resources. So we gathered a few friends, innocent bystanders and key players in the game of life known as gentrification. A disparity that often occurs in Atlanta and other large urban cities in the nation. This subject was at the focal point of dialogue among participants and panelists of Goodie Nation’s first Challenge Insight Panel on Tuesday, August 16th at General Assembly Atlanta. Defining gentrification and how it impacts communities use conversation if, we ever hope to improve its affect on the community.
Aside from having conversation, we tried to figure out the key ingredients to solve the problem. The powers that be put out the call to assemble an audience of heroes and heroines that would inspire collaborations and determine stakeholders around gentrification and inclusion. The esteemed panel included non-profit community leaders, educators and tastemakers. Attendees in the room ranged from professionals, professors and politicians.
The Insight Panel consisted of the following subject-matter experts:
Elise Blasingame: Executive Director at Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies
Rob Brawner: Executive Director @ Atlanta Beltline Partnership
Lisa Gordon: President/CEO at Atlanta Habitat for Humanity
Nathaniel Smith: Founder at Partnership for Southern Equity
King Williams: Creator of “The Atlanta Way” documentary
Defining & Defying Gentrification
Though familiar in experience as victims or profiteers, many aren’t aware of what gentrification is. If you don’t know what you’re up against, how can you fight it?
The buying and renovation of houses and stores in deteriorated urban neighborhoods by upper- or middle-income families or individuals, thus improving property values but often displacing low-income families and small businesses. -As defined by dictionary.com
What does this definition mean for the Present and Future of Atlanta? Filmmaker and activist King Williams shared how the real life impact of this definition is the source and inspiration for his documentary, The Atlanta Way. “Gentrification comes from the word Gentry: which means “of noble birth.” The Atlanta Way is about what are the Gentrys doing, and what are the serfs doing, and how we can get them to work together,” Williams explained.
In the Annual Review of Sociology of 1987 [Vol. 13: 129-147], it speaks of converting “socially marginal and working-class areas of the central city to middle-class residential use” as a movement that started way back in the 1960s.
The Here and Now
If anyone present was concerned with the change in local culture and/or displacement of residency, Georgia Tech PhD Candidate Eric Corbett, believed the solutions would likely come from data. Data collected from social media platforms, Yelp, and real estate valuations from Zillow are tools that can be used to establish the relationship between social media and the cultural influences that change the atmosphere of urban blight. “We have to determine how ‘counter data’ is being used to harness data used by all people and how that impacts real estate demand and value.”
Elise Blasingame, Executive Director at Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies says we can make moves today that impact future legislation. “Talk to every one of the candidates. Focus beyond your immediate district, be sure to include the city as a whole. Make sure it becomes part of their agenda.” Elected officials joined the conversation for the Insight Panel – look for more video interviews from these stakeholders soon.
With so many professionals of diverse and innovative backgrounds facing a complex issue, it’s no wonder the event concluded with several questions and varying solutions for the progress of Atlanta. One set of solutions discussed by City Councilman Kwanza Hall was on hand to discuss the importance of growth in affordable housing for all ages and income levels.
“Genesis…” City Councilman Kwanza Hall noted, that the conversations and collaborations of the event would be the start of many new ventures in Atlanta. Leaders, community stakeholders, citizens in general become far more engaged in creating the right type of environments where there’s a non-displacement strategy around any community that’s received an investment. Any community that develops a plan that has new transportation options, that has new happening developments in it.
“All in all what we have to ensure is that all people enjoy the same level of inclusion and equity, regardless of their income level, education, background, skin
color or sexual orientation and that’s what society should be about,” City Councilman Kwanza Hall said. Other politicians were present, but were not available to comment during interviews.
To give another twist on seeing things, according to an abstract in the annual review, after a decade of research to try analyzing the framework of this trend beyond demographic factors and general land use was considered problematic because of methodological disagreements that different people have on the matter.
Nathaniel Smith, founder of Partnership for Southern Equity, notes that change must come from within the community. “People need to realize is that they are a part of the change they are looking for.”
Discuss Problems + Create Ideas = Develop Solutions
Here at Goodie Nation, we also realize what Nathaniel said. Not surprisingly, after the event wrapped up, Goodie Nation Co-founder Joey Womack called on attendees to walk away with more than ideas and conversation.
Interested in launching solutions in your community? Sign up for one of our Atlanta upcoming events during September by Friday 9, 2016. We have two themed series of Goodie Ideation sessions on September 10th and 17th along with other regional events coming up. We’re looking for everyday passionate people, developers, creatives, marketing, communication, salespeople and more! Lend a hand, brain or whatever skills you have and join other change-makers to help save the world.
We want to know: What are your thoughts on gentrification in Atlanta or elsewhere? Comment with your thoughts or questions below. Don’t miss out on the next Goodie Nation event! Connect with us [Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn] to stay updated and for the opportunity to participate!