Monday, July 11, 2016

ATL loves Harry

Posted By on Mon, Jul 11, 2016 at 4:08 PM

A photo posted by Harrison Keys (@snarkeys) on

Atlanta is heavy hearted after losing friend, brother, son, and talented artist Harrison Keys Thurs., July 7. Harrison’s creative and playful spirit lives on in his art. His colorful and insightful images can make even the biggest cynic crack a smile. From the walls of the High Museum, to the cover of CL, to the bathrooms of Elmyr, Harrison’s art runs deep within the Atlanta community. Harrison left us the beautiful gifts of his artwork all over the city to remind us that he’s still here with us, and he wants us to smile.

Harrison’s recent artwork can be seen on his blog. Funeral services for Harrison will be held 11 a.m. on Tues., July 12, at the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, 2089 Ponce De Leon Ave. Donations may be made to the WDC Whale and Dolphin Conservancy, a cause Harrison was passionate about.

Creative Loafing sends our condolences to Harrison’s family, friends, and the Atlanta community.

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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Muhammad Ali and Atlanta

Posted By on Sat, Jun 4, 2016 at 3:04 PM

Muhammad Ali, photographed in 1966 - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

For Muhammad Ali, the larger-than-life boxer whose way with words matched his talents in the ring and who died last night, Atlanta was the setting for several memorable moments in the fighter's life.

After being convicted of draft evasion in 1967 and protesting the Vietnam War, Ali was stripped of his title and banned from boxing. He appealed and was free to fight while the case worked its way through the courts. However, Ali had trouble finding places that would allow him to box. In 1970, with the help of Georgia Sen. Leroy Johnson and businessman Jesse Hill,  Ali returned to the ring for the first time in an exhibition match against Jerry Quarry at Downtown's Atlanta Municipal Auditorium, today the home of Georgia State University's Dahlberg Hall.

In 2004, CL published "'Chicken Man' and the Cop," a story by Blake Guthrie about a young police officer who worked security that night, a post-fight crime, and a street hustler who later found God. Guthrie writes about the night of the bout:  

The auditorium only housed 5,000 people, but millions around the world were paying attention. The New York Times reported that almost 19,500 frenzied fans paid top dollar to watch on closed-circuit TV in Madison Square Garden. Similar reports came from Italy, Spain, London, Beirut and even the Soviet Union, where the broadcast was in one sense a surprise, because professional sports were criticized there as "decadent" capitalism, and in another sense quite natural, because the Soviets lionized Ali for refusing to fight in Vietnam.

It's impossible to quantify the cultural impact of the night on Atlanta. A quarter-century before Ali lit the cauldron to inaugurate the 1996 Olympics, it was he who placed the city in the global sports spotlight by returning to the ring here. And his presence in particular spotlighted the emerging capital of the New South in its new role as a black Mecca.

The Times reported that the bout was like "a page out of the roaring twenties. ... The ladies had beads down to the hem of their maxi-skirts. One man wore an ankle length mink coat, with a high hat of mink to match. ... Diana Ross sat in the forth row, ringside, with a bouffant, Afro-American hair-do that stretched out 10 inches on each side."

Boxing historian Bert Sugar said the fight "marked the greatest collection of black money and black power ever assembled up until that time. Right in the heart of the old Confederacy, it was 'Gone with the Wind' turned upside down."

Many years later, longtime Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Furman Bisher wrote: "It was more than a prize fight. It was an event. It made a statement. There has been nothing like it in Atlanta before or since."

Even Ali himself was astounded at the show. Hours before the bell rang, in the lobby of the Regency Hyatt, he quipped in his usual cocksure fashion: "There are so many of my people around, they think we own the hotel."
Here's a German TV recounting of the fight. Several recordings of the comeback bout, such as this one, are available on YouTube:

In 1975, Ali faced off against then-Mayor Maynard Jackson in a three-round bout for a local charity, with civil rights activist Julian Bond serving as referee. Jackson managed to land a blow, knocking down the former champion. (Here's an undated photo posted by the Atlanta City Council of Ali leaving Atlanta City Hall. Atlanta City Councilimembers have shared their thoughts on Facebook and Mayor Kasim Reed, who has called Ali one of his heroes, has also paid tribute.) 

It was, of course, Ali's lighting of the Olympic cauldron during the 1996 Summer Olympics that is now the most remembered moment of the Atlanta games. The appearance by the champion, who by then was visibly battling Parkinson's Disease, was kept secret from the crowd. 

The moment almost didn't happen, the Washington Post says. Atlanta Magazine staff writer and former CL-er Max Blau spoke with Johnnie B. Hall, the now-retired Georgia State Trooper who was assigned to protect the boxer during his stay in Atlanta:

"I was about 10 feet away from him because, if something happened, I was on top of it to make sure it was lit. It took him a little bit longer to walk up there. But he knew what he had to do. He didn’t have any problems. He lit the Olympic torch. It was unbelievable."

The New York Times says Ali died in a Phoenix hospital after being admitted on Friday with what a family spokesman said was a respiratory problem. Ali was 74.

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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Afeni Shakur, mother of Tupac in life and legacy, dies at 69

Posted By on Tue, May 3, 2016 at 5:48 PM

Afeni Shakur in 2011 - DUSTIN CHAMBERS/CL FILE
  • Dustin Chambers/CL File
  • Afeni Shakur in 2011
Afeni Shakur, the political activist, former Black Panther, and mother of the most iconic rap artist of all time, has passed at the age of 69. Her death comes just four months shy of the 20-year anniversary of her son Tupac Shakur's tragic death. She died in Sausalito, Calif. on Monday night after reportedly suffering cardiac arrest, the New York Times has confirmed.

Before Tupac's anthemic 1995 song "Dear Mama" branded her as a "black queen," Afeni Shakur was a firebrand in her own right. As part of the Panther 21, she and 20 other prominent Black Panther members faced an extended trial in New York on bomb charges after being arrested in 1969. Shakur defended herself in the trial. She was jailed throughout the trial and eight months pregnant with Tupac when she was finally acquitted on 156 charges on May 13, 1971:

“I have chosen to defend myself, against the advice of co-counsel, the court, my husband, friends; as a matter of fact, against my own intellect, whatever that is. The District Attorney and his agents used a dash of truth and a cup of lies to concoct one of the most imaginative Hollywood scripts in the history of America. Let history record you as a jury who would not kneel to the outrageous bidding of the state. Justify our faith in you.”
Afeni Shakur lived in Atlanta and was a staple in the community for many years, particularly while Tupac's stepfather Mutulu Shakur served time for an unrelated conviction in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary. It was here in Stone Mountain that she chose to establish the former Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts in her son's honor after his death. 
Afeni Shakur, onstage at Atlanta's Woodruff Arts Center in 2011 for the celebration of Tupac's 40th birthday. - DUSTIN CHAMBERS/CL FILE
  • Dustin Chambers/CL File
  • Afeni Shakur, onstage at Atlanta's Woodruff Arts Center in 2011 for the celebration of Tupac's 40th birthday.

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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Woody Cornwell, Atlanta abstract painter and co-founder of Eyedrum, has died

Posted By on Thu, Apr 14, 2016 at 5:12 PM

Woody Cornwell, in 2009 - JOEFF DAVIS/CL FILE
  • Joeff Davis/CL File
  • Woody Cornwell, in 2009

Woody Cornwell, an Atlanta abstract painter and arts scene luminary who helped found Eyedrum, has died. According to the Chatham County Coroner’s office, the South Carolina native died on April 12 of natural causes at his home in Savannah, where he had been teaching artists. He was 48.

“Woody had an amazing combination of Mad Genius, Smooth-Talking Salesman and Roadside Prophet about him,” says Nikki Grote, a friend who met Cornwell while she modeled for figurative classes in Atlanta. “He could just as easily sell you a painting on a gum wrapper as he could a magazine ad. He always had the highest adoration for his family and friends and even through his most difficult times stayed true to his ideals."

“He was brilliant,” says Pam Longobardi, who advised Cornwell as a MFA candidate at Georgia State University. “Smart as hell, funny, and… polite. His MFA thesis paper was so good someone accused him of plagiarizing it because they couldn't keep up with Woody's abstract mind.”

In 1997, Cornwell and roommate Marshall Avett started throwing free jazz shows in the Trinity Avenue Loft they dubbed Silver Ceiling — friend Clayton Felker says they used tin foil to keep the ceiling in place. The following year he and other artists rented out the space below and launched Eyedrum, a gallery and music space that filled a void in Atlanta’s arts scene with underground and avant-garde acts.

Cornwell’s abstract paintings — friend Unisa Asokan has photos of some of his work on her Flickr album titled "Woody Cornwell Life on Hapeville" and Woody on Nelson Street — have been exhibited in Atlanta, Paris, New York, Miami, Austin, and Los Angeles, and proudly hang on the walls of friends who have been posting memories and photos of him and his work on a memorial Facebook site.

Cornwell, who in 2009 spoke with Creative Loafing about the financial hardships facing artists, also taught at major arts centers and schools, including Chastain Arts Center, the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center, the Savannah College of Art and Design, and the Atlanta College of Arts. He was also a board member of Art Papers Magazine, where he also sold advertising on commission, and the Forward Arts Foundation Emerging Artist Committee, among others. 

Services have not yet been arranged. Look for an extended piece on Cornwell's life in next week's Creative Loafing.

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Monday, November 9, 2015

Cliff Kuhn, local historian who gathered Atlantans' tales and stories, has died

Posted By on Mon, Nov 9, 2015 at 4:12 PM

Cliff Kuhn, the well-known Atlanta historian who was a living encyclopedia in a city quick to forget its past, died on Sunday. He was 63. Kuhn, an avid bicyclist who pedaled nearly every day to Georgia State University, where he worked as an associate professor, died of a heart attack. 

WABE listeners might know Kuhn's name, voice, and insight from his regular appearances on "Morning Edition," where he discussed important events and overlooked episodes in the city's and state's history. A dedicated and passionate lover of history, Kuhn would lead regular tours through Downtown to revisit Atlanta's 1906 Race Riots. He also played a substantial role in helping plan the National Center for Civil and Human Rights as co-chair of the content committee.

"Cliff Kuhn was truly a historian for the people," Michelle Brattain, chair of the Department of History, said in a statement. "He possessed an incredible wealth of knowledge, a boundless intellectual curiosity, and a gift for communicating the wonder and complexity of history to all audiences, from university students, to his listeners on WABE, to elementary school students. At Georgia State, he was a popular teacher, dedicated graduate mentor, and generous colleague, who was uniquely committed to scholarship and public service."

Doug Shipman, the executive director who launched NCCHR, says Kuhn joined the effort early in its inception. In addition to helping center supporters decide its message and story, he helped identify key individuals and gather oral histories.   

"Literally, his words are on the wall," Shipman says. "He helped craft the script that is on panels as you walk through. From the broader ideas to the very words on the wall, he infuses the place."

Kuhn, who helped coordinate the centennial commemoration of the race riots, earned his Ph.D in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1993. He started as an assistant professor at Georgia State the following year. Kuhn's speciality was in oral history and 20th Century Southern history, and he was actively involved in the Oral History Association. The professor served as its first executive director when the organization moved its executive offices to GSU in 2013. 

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Kuhn worked as a producer with E. Bernard West and Harlon Joye on WRFG's "Living Atlanta," a celebrated oral history series that compiled memories about life in the city from 1914 to 1948 from famous (Martin Luther King, Sr. and educator Benjamin Mays) and everyday (M.Y. "Pete Rutherford, a streetcar operator turned Atlanta police officer) residents. He also played a role in the award-winning "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" radio series. 

"He was a great champion of history from the common person’s contribution," says Shipman, who says Kuhn pushed NCCHR leaders to seek out the lesser-known men and women of the Civil Rights Movement. "I think it’s special and one of his great legacies."

"Cliff Kuhn served this university and the Atlanta community with passion and commitment for decades," said William Long, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. "He was simply irreplaceable, and all who knew him will miss him and cherish his legacy."

Kuhn's talks with Steve Goss on WABE are available on the station's website. Here's a touching remembrance of the professor by his friend and colleague Alex Sayf Cummings

The post will be updated as new information becomes available.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Cabral Franklin, political strategist and son of former Mayor Shirley Franklin, has died

Posted By on Tue, Sep 15, 2015 at 5:44 PM

Cabral Franklin - LINKEDIN
  • Linkedin
  • Cabral Franklin
Cabral Franklin, an experienced Atlanta political strategist and son of former Mayor Shirley Franklin, has died from complications of cancer. He was 41.

"My dear son passed away today surrounded by his family and friends," the former mayor said in a statement. "He was deeply loved. I want to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers."

"I have lost my best friend and the love of my life and the father of my daughters," his wife Candice Coleman Franklin said in a statement. "We will miss him and cherish his memory always. He will be in in our hearts each and every day of our lives."

Atlanta City Councilman Andre Dickens, a childhood friend and classmate of Franklin's at Benjamin E. Mays High School, says the Morehouse College grad was a "dear friend" who "loved his family and friends — and we loved him. He was an astute businessman and consultant and will be missed greatly."

Politics ran in Franklin's blood. According to his bio on Franklin Communications LLC, the strategy firm where he served as managing partner, Franklin's passion for politics came from hearing his mother, the future first woman mayor of Atlanta, and his father, David Franklin, an attorney and veteran political strategist who died in 2008, debate issues at home. Franklin's godfather was Maynard Jackson, Atlanta's first black mayor. His mother's historic mayoral bid marked his first foray into helping to manage political campaigns, Dickens says, kicking off a career that included key yet quiet roles in big-name state and local campaigns.  

"He didn't want to be in the front," says Dickens, who leaned on Franklin for guidance in his 2013 victory over incumbent H. Lamar Willis. "He could just do." 

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Friday, July 10, 2015

R.I.P. Dave Walker, citizen activist who raised the bar for City Hall rabble-rousing

Posted By on Fri, Jul 10, 2015 at 10:19 AM

PODIUM POET: Dave Walker raised the bar for City Hall rabble-rousing.
Dave Walker never shied away from speaking his mind. The 69-year-old activist, a longtime fixture of City Hall life, brought his fervent advocacy to public meetings for the past three decades.

Earlier this week Walker died after growing ill over the past couple of years. In his absence, he leaves behind a legacy that includes zealous participation, blunt remarks, and fierce criticism — all of which have slowly dwindled inside Atlanta City Council’s chambers in recent years.

“Nothing was beyond his scrutiny,” says Councilman Michael Julian Bond. “If he felt you were not being considerate of the public on a small issue, like the order of speakers in a meeting, he would call you out on that.”

In the mid-1980s, the Vietnam War vet first became a frequent face at 55 Trinity Avenue. During the height of his advocacy, the one-time Five Points vendor claimed to attend most public meetings. Often clad in hospital scrubs, he saw himself as a “doctor” of the political process, passionately fighting for the rights of veterans, vendors, and the greater public.

“He brought a combination of spiritual and philosophical [to meetings],” Councilman C.T. Martin says. “He could engage you in deep conversations. He was much brighter than a lot of people thought. Some people thought he had other motives. He was trying to be a teacher.”

Ron Shakir, a fellow citizen activist, didn’t always see eye-to-eye with Walker, who described himself as the "only black conservative Republican in Atlanta.” Walker was also known for his polarizing viewpoints, like the time he told CL that the Atlanta Beltline was a “noose around the necks of all of Atlanta.” But Shakir says Walker often helped City Hall newcomers uncertain of how to navigate the political process find their way.

“Dave helped anybody who had the courage to speak in City Hall,” Shakir says. “Citizens have fainted at that podium. Dave made it easier. If he felt like someone was being bullied, he wouldn’t shy away from bullying back for them.”

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Frank Barham, Margaret Kargbo killed in accident during charity journey to Savannah

Posted By on Thu, May 21, 2015 at 4:00 PM

An Atlanta disability activist and musician and local arts advocate were both killed on Wednesday as they neared the end of a statewide journey to Savannah to raise awareness about disabilities.

Frank Barham, 60, was traveling from Atlanta to Savannah, charting 30 miles a day in his wheelchair, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, help more disabled people living in underserved communities gain access to wheelchairs, and to perform a concert. Atlanta arts supporter Margaret Kargbo was documenting the journey and escorting the Atlanta resident in a support van that followed behind.

According to the Savannah Morning News, a fully loaded tractor trailer struck the van from behind around 4 p.m. near the border of Screven and Effingham counties in southeast Georgia. The impact caused the van to hit Barham before catching fire in the median.

Carrie Johnson of Villa Rica, the driver of the van, was transported to a burn center in Augusta, the Morning News reports. The driver of the tractor trailer, who the newspaper identifies as Kenneth Richards of North Augusta, S.C., was uninjured. The Morning News says charges are pending.

Barham, who became a paraplegic in his mid-20s after a car accident, was traveling to Savannah as part of Wheel 2 Live. According to Barham's website, the route followed the path of Gen. William Sherman’s “March to the Sea” during the Civil War. He was scheduled to perform at Telfair Square in Savannah on Friday. The concert has been canceled.

Kargbo is a well-known and valued member of the local arts community who chaired the board of C4, the local arts nonprofit.

"The board and staff of C4 Atlanta would like to express our condolences to the families on the loss of Margaret Kargbo and Frank Barham," C4 said in a statement. "Our thoughts are also with Carrie Beth Johnson during this time. Our hearts are heavy with grief. The community lost two great heroes in the arts.
Margaret and Frank both carried a strong presence as widely admired advocates. Their loss will be felt throughout the community."

Before she died, the Howard University graduate served as the public affairs director at Women Engaged, a nonprofit aimed at involving more women in social and political movements. A GoFundMe page has been launched to help Kargbo's family and cover expenses.

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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Friends, community to celebrate life of Wilton Hugh 'Wolf' Thomas in Candler Park

Posted By on Thu, Apr 30, 2015 at 2:24 PM

Wilton Hugh Wolf Thomas
  • Calvin Kimbrough
  • Wilton Hugh 'Wolf' Thomas
Members of Gentle Spirit Christian Church and the Open Door Community will hold a memorial service at Candler Park on Sunday morning to celebrate the life of Atlanta musician and longtime street personality Wilton Hugh Thomas, better known as “Wolf.”

Thomas was beloved by many in Little Five Points, where he spent many years helping other homeless men and women find food and shelter, and elsewhere in Atlanta. Those who knew him recall Thomas as being gentle, wise, and a lover of bluegrass music.

The Winter Haven, Fla., native was a longtime member of Gentle Spirit Christian Church. He befriended Pastor Paul Turner who later told CL, “There was not a kinder, gentler man on the face of the Earth.”

Thomas, who moved to Atlanta in the 1960s, was a familiar face at the homeless outreach provider, The Open Door Community. A picture of him now hangs at the Ponce de Leon Avenue facility.

After many years sharing stories, playing his guitar, and relentlessly helping others, Thomas became ill with double pneumonia and died on Feb. 24 at Grady Memorial Hospital. According to Turner, he was 72.

Thomas’ memorial service is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m.

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Monday, March 2, 2015

Former APS Superintendent Beverly Hall dies

Posted By on Mon, Mar 2, 2015 at 2:20 PM

Beverly Hall, the former Atlanta Public Schools superintendent who oversaw the school system during a test cheating scandal that attracted national headlines, has died following a lengthy battle with cancer. A member of her legal team confirmed her death to CL.

Hall, who resigned from office in late 2010 amid scrutiny about suspicious test scores, faced charges that included a violation of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, false statements and writings, false swearing, and theft by taking. Hall denied any wrongdoing.

The 68-year-old school system administrator's attorney said she had been unable to stand trial due to her fight against terminal breast cancer. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter had agreed multiple times to delay her trial. A number of other APS staffers, who did not agree to a plea deal, rested their defense last week in the massive trial that started last September.

Hall, who first came aboard with APS in 1999, played a crucial role in turning around test scores in a struggling public school system. In the process, she earned national acclaim and praise from local business and civic leaders. But those gains were found to be the result of edited test scores, pressure to improve school performance through cheating, and what state investigators called a "culture of fear" that discouraged school system employees from speaking out against the wrongdoing. Following an AJC investigation into the falsified test scores, state officials launched an investigation in early 2010 that eventually led to formal charges against her and 34 other APS employees in 2013.

UPDATE, 3:41 p.m. Hall's 8-member legal team released the following statement:

It is our sad duty to acknowledge that Dr. Beverly Hall has lost her long, difficult battle against breast cancer. Dr. Hall fought this disease with great courage and dignity. For the last year and a half, Dr. Hall's directions to her doctor have been simple: get me well enough to stand trial; and to her lawyers: see to it that I get a fair trial. She was never concerned about the outcome of such a trial, only that the process be fair. She never doubted that in a fair trial, with the jury hearing the state's contentions and her rebuttal, to include her own testimony, she would be acquitted. In the end, she was not strong enough to go to trial although that had been her earnest hope.

As the Superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, Dr. Hall fought, as she had throughout her career, for urban school children and their ability to learn. She believed to her death that all children, regardless of circumstance, could learn if provided with proper teachers, curricula and facilities. But we now know that there were some educators at APS who cheated in an effort to show improved learning. Dr. Hall long ago accepted responsibility, as the head of APS, for the unfortunate truth that some educators cheated on standardized tests. She was deeply sorry to learn that this cheating had occurred. At the same time, Dr. Hall continued to have deep faith in the thousands of dedicated APS educators and students who worked hard to achieve real learning and success. But one fact never wavered— to her dying breath she denied any role in directing, ordering, or participating in any cheating at APS. Even after millions of dollars, hundreds of witnesses and interviews, and a review of thousands upon thousands of emails, not a single witness has said, nor a single email demonstrated, that Dr. Hall ordered, directed, or participated in cheating. On the contrary, Dr. Hall's tireless efforts to raise standards of education at APS for every child under her care starkly contradict the notion that she somehow conspired to orchestrate widespread cheating. She rebuilt schools, prioritized literacy, improved teaching, developed leaders, and modernized support systems.

As we have in the past, we continue to maintain Dr. Hall's innocence of all charges brought against her. The lawyers of our firm and the other lawyers who worked to defend Dr. Hall donated thousands of hours of their time at no charge to Dr. Hall and her family because we believed in her. Our pro bono defense was intended to spare her and her family the crushing expense of her defense at a time when she was least able to afford it. We have been proud to serve as her counsel.

We express our heartfelt condolences to Dr. Hall's family and to her many friends and supporters.

UPDATE, 4:42 p.m. APS, in a statement pointing to Hall's achievements during her tenure as superintendent, sends along two statements. Says APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen:

“We offer our condolences to the family of Dr. Hall. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends during this difficult time."

Adds Atlanta Board of Education Chair Courtney D. English:

“On behalf of the Atlanta Board of Education, we offer our deepest sympathy to the family of Dr. Beverly Hall and encourage all to respect her family’s privacy in their moment of grief.”

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