For the past two years, Fernbank Forest in DeKalb County has denied visitors regular entry into its 65 acres of undisturbed, hardwood forest. With warning signs and chain-link fences put into place by Fernbank Museum of Natural History to promote "safety" and "conservation work," the lockout was not as temporary as initially promised. These barriers that have separated the public from the old-growth habitat, however, are about to be taken down.
Today, the Museum announced its ambitious plans of not only re-opening the forest, but expanding it to bring an all new outdoor experience to Fernbank guests for its unveiling in the summer of 2016. The expansion will include the 10 acres behind the Museum's terrace that connects with the entirety of Fernbank Forest, giving the Museum plenty of space to work with in the design of footpaths and floating walkways.
"We are thrilled to expand our offerings with this new outdoor attraction," said Susan Neugent, Fernbank's president and CEO said in a statement. "This is a rare opportunity to connect our visitors with a truly authentic nature experience, right here inside the city."
This announcement seems to have been made at the right moment, after disgruntled forest fans circulated a petition in April that demanded the public be allowed access to the wooded area. The petition garnered upward of 300 signatures, but the re-opening of the forest will require something else: the cooperation between the two institutions at either end of the grounds.
Though the Fernbank Science Center originally managed the forest, the Fernbank Museum stepped in when the lease was up in an attempt to properly restore it and give it a fresh feel. Now, with the Museum's declaration of re-opening one of Atlanta's largest urban forests, the Fernbank Science Center remains open to the idea of collaborating with the Museum on the expansion project.
All that the Museum asks is that the public stay patient for a little while longer as the plans are brought from paper to reality in 2016. "This is the most significant development at Fernbank since the Museum opened," Nugent said. "We can’t wait for our visitors to experience this fun and invigorating encounter with nature."
A cemetery, public park, sculpture garden, and wildlife habitat, the City of Atlanta's Historic Oakland Cemetery has been an intricate part of the area's identity since 1850 and has recently been honored as being the community icon that it is.
At a breakfast on Fri., Nov. 8, the Atlanta Regional Commission hosted its 16th annual Developments of Excellence Awards ceremony where the Victorian garden cemetery was given the Great Place award for 2014.
"I am thrilled that for the third straight year, a City of Atlanta park has been honored by the Atlanta Regional Commission with a Development of Excellence Award," said Amy Phuong, Commissioner, Department of Parks and Recreation.
With Piedmont Park having won the award last year, the Great Place category accepts nominations for streets, neighborhoods, and civic spaces that contribute to the Atlanta region's character.
Oakland Cemetery was declared the winner for having fulfilled the award's criteria of representing livability and sustainability as well as serving as a regional model for future growth.
"The Historic Oakland Foundation is grateful for the support it receives from so many individuals, foundations, and corporations as we continue to care for this irreplaceable Atlanta landmark," said David S. Moore, executive director of the Historic Oakland Foundation.
"We are so appreciative of this award and assure the Atlanta Regional Commission that we will continue to work hard, in partnership with the City of Atlanta, to preserve one of Atlanta's greatest places."
The day when metro Atlantans can come together on one accord may not be as far off as it seems. In fact, how's next week sound?
On Sat., April 26, 2014, the ambitious One Day in Atlanta campaign intends to harness a range of citizens, nonprofits, hometown celebrities and civic leaders in a metro-wide effort to document Atlanta and help shape the city's future.
"I'm trying to get as many people as I can engaged to go out and film something important to them about their city," says Jacob Marmer, the producer of the Atlanta arm of the project, which will also involve simultaneous 24-hour campaigns in 11 cities across the country. It's a U.S.-focused spinoff of the global filming events sponsored by the nonprofit, One Day on Earth, for three years in a row (10.10.10, 11.11.11, 12.12.12).
The national trailer (above) opens with a voiceover from Douglas Dean, the former state representative and longtime Summerhill community activist who's earned both kudos and condemnation over the years. "I have decided that my mission on this earth, from now on, is to revitalize this neighborhood," Dean says as visuals highlight the dilapidated state of the nearby Pittsburgh neighborhood. (More footage of his interview is embedded below.)
The purpose of the trailer is to solicit people to pick up cameras and submit videos that will ultimately spur broader civic engagement. In particular, One Day in Atlanta is looking for footage that answers 10 questions:
1. Why are you in Atlanta?
2. What do you love about Atlanta?
3. What is the best thing happening in Atlanta today?
4. What are Atlanta's biggest challenges?
5. Who is your Atlanta not serving?
6. What is the worst thing that could happen to Atlanta?
7. What are the solutions that Atlanta needs to implement?
8. How are people changing the future of Atlanta?
9. What do you hope for Atlanta in the next 20 years?
10. Ask your own question about your city.
In it, Warnock, who inherited King's former pulpit as current senior pastor of Ebenezer, addresses the spiritual depletion of the black church, which he says has largely abandoned its mission of communal uplift and providing a voice for the voiceless in recent decades for an increased focus on personal prosperity.
During a recent interview with Michel Martin of NPR's "Tell Me More," he advocated for a return to the kind of values for which Dr. King stood, including speaking truth to power, even in the age of the first black president, and fighting for equal rights for members of the LGBT community:
MARTIN: Do you feel that that kind of challenge to authority has been quiet these recent years in part because there is an African-American president in the White House and many people of color, including African-American preachers like yourself, feel that it would be, you know, disloyal, unhelpful to criticize this president or this leadership in such a pointed fashion now?
WARNOCK: Oh, Michel, I think that there is a deafening and shameful silence on the part not only the black church, but of the community of faith in general in America. And that's been the case for a very long time. As we are debating issues that have to do with the soul of America - wealth, inequality, minimum wage. As we deal with the fact that 25 percent of the world's prisoners are housed in the United States of America. And so in the book I call the black church because it has been the conscience of America to rediscover its liberationist's roots. And speak truth to power no matter who's in the White House.
MARTIN: But, there are other ways that, though - in which African-American pastors have been very prominent in the recent era, some. I mean, we're obviously talking about, kind of, a big group of people with lots of different points of view. But a number of African-American pastors have become prominent in the fight against LGBT rights. For example, opposing same-sex marriage, you know, on the one hand. And also, another group of pastors who've become prominent around the so-called prosperity gospel - do you have an indictment of them - and who feel very strongly in encouraging people to seek material success? What's wrong with that?
WARNOCK: This is why we need a conversation between our pastors and the best of our theologians, specifically those in the black theology movement. The black church was born fighting for freedom. At our best, we've never fought against anybody's freedom. And so in this conversation about marriage equality, about the concerns raised by our gay and lesbian sisters and brothers, part of what the black church needs to be reminded of is the fact that those who supported slavery, those who argued vociferously for slavery, had every bit as much scripture, if not more, on their side of the argument as those who argued against slavery. So we really need an honest conversation about the nature of Christian faith. And I argue that at its best, the Christian faith is about freedom. It's about justice. It's about liberation. It certainly is about the formation of individual spirituality, but that spirituality ought to send one into the world fighting for something other than one's own personal prosperity.
Listen to the interview in its entirety below the jump:
Five main things correlate with economic immobility, said Harvard economics Professor Nathaniel Hendren, speaking at the quarterly meeting of the Atlanta Regional Housing Forum at St. Luke's Episcopal Church. They are: high racial segregation, high income inequality, low civic engagement, high numbers of broken families and poor school quality, according to the Equality of Opportunity Project's 2013 study on economic mobility in areas nationwide, which Hendren co-authored.
"On all five factors Atlanta falls below the national average," he said.
In Salt Lake City, kids from the lowest income bracket have an 11.5 percent chance of growing into the highest, according to an analysis of IRS data in the study. In metro Atlanta, that figure is four percent.
But if equality were perfect, every child born would have an equal chance - 20 percent - of growing into any one of the five income brackets that the study uses.
The "American narrative" since at least the Second World War is that people move up through hard work and that each generation can do better than the last, said Bill Bolling, founder and Executive Director of the Atlanta Community Food Bank, who emceed the event.
But when "folks get stuck in place," that affects the work of people like him who are trying to fight poverty, he said.
It's not enough to boast of a new factory that employees a few hundred people, Bolling said, if folks don't have the education to fill the job or a means to get there.
What he called the "long view" that would include education and transportation infrastructure is "tough" for political leaders.
Hendren's study suggested that segregation correlates with sticky poverty, perhaps because the poorest people are isolated by long commutes from good jobs.
In Georgia public policy, "there's a disdain for poor people. Let's just say it," said Deborah Scott, executive director of Georgia Stand-Up, which aims to more broadly spread the gains from economic growth.
The forum came a day after a much grander affair, the Metro Atlanta Chamber's annual meeting, where Reed was among the speakers praising the city's business climate. Separately, a month ago, Gov. Nathan Deal touted Site Selection magazine's choice of Georgia as the number one place to do business.
Economic strength and personal immobility make a tale of two cities, maybe?
MAC Vice President of Economic Development Policy Chuck Meadows was also at the housing forum. He put it this way: "We are a good place to do business. We do well on the economic indicators as far as entrepreneurism and investment and job creation but I think the answer is in that social capital index."
That is, Hendren's measure of things such as church-going, PTA membership, and other ways of connecting with people outside family and work.
A sense of community, a sense of civic engagement, and community building "is where Atlanta's lagging," said Meadows.
The Grant Park zoo has announced that Lun Lun, its 15-year-old giant panda, is expected to have her fourth cub sometime during the next few weeks. According to Atlanta's panda experts, it would the first giant panda born in the United States in 2013.
Here's some background about the pregnancy:
Over the past several days, Lun Lun has been exhibiting behavioral signs indicative of either pregnancy or pseudopregnancy. Hormone assays conducted by Dr. Dave Kersey, an expert in giant panda endocrinology from Western University of Health Sciences, will continue to shed light on her condition.
"We're thrilled about the possibility of a fourth cub for Lun Lun, but we remain cautiously optimistic at this point. Giant panda cubs are extremely fragile, and the chance remains that the fetus does not go to term," said Raymond B. King, President and CEO. "A birth would be another success for our giant panda program, and we share our optimism with our fellow U.S. zoos housing this iconic species and with our colleagues at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China."
Lun Lun was artificially inseminated in March 2013 with the assistance of Dr. Copper Aitken-Palmer, an expert in giant panda reproductive physiology from Smithsonian's Conservation Biology Institute. Lun Lun and 15-year-old male Yang Yang have three previous offspring: male Mei Lan, 6 and now a resident of the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding; male Xi Lan, 4; and male Po, 2. All three were the products of artificial insemination, and all three were the only giant pandas born in the U.S. in their respective birth years.
In case you were wondering, Zoo Atlanta does have Lun Lun's ultrasound. You can see the tiny little cub right here.
Last month, the Fuse network caught footage of Wiz Khalifa challenging Atlanta-based rapper Trinidad James to a pick-up game of hoops. At which point, James proceeds to tell Khalifa (aka Amber Rose's baby daddy) to come with his A-game or don't come at all.
Turns out, James has been backing up his slick talk on the court, fronting his own five-man Gold Gang team in the Atlanta Entertainment Basketball League. The newly formed competitive summer league composed of celebs, street ballers, NBA, and top-ranked college players is the brainchild of organizer Jahi Rawlings, who won a 2009 World Basketball Association championship with the Buford Majic.
As you can see from the footage above, this is no vanity league. These cats are actually breaking a sweat. James doesn't have a bad jumper; he sinks two near the two-minute mark. Last weekend, he scored 18 points, and his team has won two in a row. Other notable players have included J.J. Hickson of the Portland Trailblazers, music industry exec. Coach K, retired NBA champ Derrick Anderson, and up-and-coming Atlanta rap group Migos.
The games are every Saturday and Sunday from 6 p.m.-9 p.m. at Central Park (on Linden Ave. between Parkway Dr. and Central Park Pl. in Old Fourth Ward). Though the inaugural season started June 15, the official kickoff is July 4 and runs through July 22. With free live entertainment and DJ.
Last Friday, the triangular plot of land on the corner of Auburn Avenue and Randolph Street in Atlanta's Old Fourth Ward got a new name. The campaign for Marie Cowser Memorial Park culminated in a dedication ceremony that brought together family, friends, and people from all walks of life, just as the late community activist was remembered for doing in life.
Among those in attendance who could recall Marie Cowser's influence stood ceremony host and Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall, who was encouraged to enter public life by Cowser. Others in attendance included Cowser's daughter Giovanni Daou, grandson River Daou, and sister Susan Cowser-Bailey.
In the spirit of Marie Cowser's leadership, it took an active coalition of citizen volunteers and community organizations to bring the project to fruition, including the partnership of Cowser's former employer, the nonprofit Historic District Development Coorporation (which donated the land for the park), the ongoing Year of Boulevard campaign led by Hall (which organized a community cleanup at the site), and Creative Loafing's Do Good fundraising campaign.
To see photos of the dedication ceremony, and the plaque that stands in testament to Marie Cowser's legacy of O4W preservation, click the link.
The land at the corner of Auburn Avenue and Randolph Street was donated by Cowser's former employer, the nonprofit Historic District Development Corporation, which has overseen the preservation of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic District since 1980.
Last Saturday morning, over 150 volunteers showed up at the site for Year of Boulevard's Spring Community Cleanup. In addition to sprucing up the park grounds in preparation for the dedication, Hall and the rest of the volunteers cleared and beautified several vacant lots in the neighborhood.
Marie Cowser Memorial Park was one of three community projects launched in March for Creative Loafing's inaugural Do Good Campaign, which oversaw a crowdsourced funding campaign that raised $2,550 for the park. The Home Depot Foundation matched that amount with its own contribution toward the project's completion.
Councilman Hall and other city dignitaries will be on hand for today's formal dedication ceremony, which begins at 5 p.m. and is open to the public. Refreshments and music will be in full supply:
The family-friendly festivities will include special treats from local bodega Lotta Frutta, freshly popped popcorn, and music. There will also be plenty of iced coffee on hand in honor of "Coffee on the Corner," a regular Saturday morning ritual that Cowser created to bring neighbors together in the years after the creation of the Martin Luther King Jr Historic District in 1989. The ceremony will conclude with the unveiling of a plaque in Cowser's honor.
Marie Cowser Memorial Park dedication. Fri., June 14. 5-7 p.m. Corner of Auburn Ave. and Randolph St.
Last year's inaugural Year of Boulevard campaign - shepherded by Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall to bring more community resources and comprehensive cleanup to the Boulevard corridor - didn't end with 2012. Hence, more Year of Boulevard. Or, MoBoulevard for short.
And next week's spring community cleanup project is looking for volunteers to pitch in and around Old Fourth Ward, but specifically at the future site of Marie Cowser Memorial Park, located on the corner of Auburn Avenue and Randolph Street. Of course, the park revitalization and dedication is one of three initial Creative Loafing Do Good projects recently funded via a successful IndieGoGo campaign which raised $2,550 and matching funds from the Home Depot Foundation.
But back to the tees. All one will cost you is three hours of your life next Saturday (9 a.m.-noon). If not for the T-shirt, do it for Old Fourth Ward and the memory of Marie Cowser. But seriously, we're talking instant vintage Atlanta streetwear as soon as these joints hit the street. Not to mention, it's guaranteed to age better than that Freaknik T-shirt you thought was the lick back in '96. And Lord only knows what you did to get that.
UPDATE: The Year of Boulevard Community Spring Cleanup, scheduled for 9 a.m.-12 noon today (Sat., May 18) at the site of the future Marie Cowser Memorial Park has been canceled due to weather. It will be rescheduled for a future date. We'll keep you posted.
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