Pearl Cleage is an author and holds the Cosby Chair in the Humanities at Spelman College. She is currently working on her sixth novel:
I came here in 1969, and the thing that struck me immediately about Atlanta was it had a very progressive African-American group. Maynard Jackson had just been elected vice-mayor and everyone knew that he had a good chance at mayor. There were also old movement people here.
The thing about Atlanta that has always been kind of surreal to me is that we, on the one hand, are a very progressive place, but on the other hand, were a place that clings to the idea that Atlanta is perfect. We are prepared to believe our own PR, and I think thats always dangerous. We will identify the problems and well try to work on the problems, but if were asked about the problems, well deny they exist.
One of the things that I think is very important about this place is that if you want to get involved in almost anything, you can do it. There has always been a place here and will always be a place here for bright, energetic people to get involved. Theres always that potential that you can be the one who changes it. I still feel like I make a difference here. That I havent felt anywhere else, which works against cynicism.