Atlanta: Don’t go there


This is my last in a series of posts about America's Black Mecca, Atlanta.

Don't go there.

Allow me to explain…

The Atlanta of urban legend exists no longer. Today, the great city is now gone. There is nothing left in Atlanta but the shadow of what once was.

First, no one who can afford to live elsewhere lives in Fulton County. Compare this to how things were 20 years ago when Maynard Jackson himself lived on North Ave and Peachtree and you go see him sitting on his balcony on cool summer nights. Compare this to how when the Paschal Brothers Hotel on Martin Luther King (then Hunter Street) was the gathering place for everyone who was anyone in Black Society. This neat mid-size hotel had a delightfully appointed bar, huge parking lot, and a wonderful soulfood restaurant where it was reputed the best fried chicken in Atlanta was served.

Once while eating a chicken dinner there Julian Bond slid into the booth in front of mine and ordered a chicken dinner for himself. He nodded and asked me how was the chicken. I mumbled something about it being as good as always.

It was that kind of place.

All year long black organizations like "The Black Social Workers," " Black Mayors Association," etc., held their conventions there. The Paschal Brothers hotel was located in the heart of the black community, walking distance from everything, and if you were poor, like I was, you could put on a suit, walk there, and sit in the lobby for hours watching the rich and famous walk through.

Today the Paschal Brothers hotel is long gone; black folk of means wouldn't be caught dead in the area. Today the same black conventions are now held in the Marriot and Hilton where the room rates are $175 a night instead of the $25 a night charged by the Paschal Brother's Hotel 25 years ago.

And as I wrote earlier, 25 years ago the neighborhood surrounding the Hotel was bristling with black businesses. This, in my opinion, is the Atlanta of legend. And it extended far beyond this one neighborhood. For example, Campbellton Road circa 1985 still takes my breath away. Never had I see so glorious collection of black bars as I saw the day I first drove onto Campbellton Road. The dazzling lights of these fantastic places seem to go on forever. And these where your typical fare of low-rent juke joints; these were dazzling places like Ciscos where the bartenders wore tuxedos and everyone came in suits and sharp dresses.

This was also a time when the "house party" ruled and on a Friday or Saturday night it seemed there were a million house parties going on, and, even more amazing, all opened to the public, or so it seemed. Back then(when everyone still lived in the city proper) these house parties were held in then mostly new housing complexes, lavish places where most of the refugees from New York, Baltimore, Detroit, Philly, lived which explains why their parties were generally open to the public — the transplants wanted to meet new people. The women were looking for husbands, the men, looking for new conquests, or maybe a new girlfriend to move in with.

Most of these people in time bought houses outside of the city proper. In fact, in time, everyone abandoned the Fulton County. The went to Dekalb County, Gwinnett County, East Point, some few even went back to Detroit, Baltimore, and New York.

Then the neighborhoods began to disintegrate. I would return to Atlanta about every five years and would began to see this. Businesses on Martin Luther King closed up, including the Paschal Brothers Hotel. The old people who had been fixtures in these black neighborhoods began dying off, and then, new-comers to the City simply stopped coming to them, most probably because no remained to tell them about these places.

Twenty-five years ago you could walk down Martin Luther King between the AU Center and Ashby Street (now Lowery) and feel the history and tradition. On a nice day you wanted to find a seat in the shade somewhere so you could watch the fantastic ebb and flow of the street life for hours. Just listening to the voices was a history listen in itself. A few yards a way a girl from Alabama was laughing a laugh straight from the cotton fields. Not far from her a jack-leg preacher was warning everyone how they would soon be going to hell if they didn't repent now. Then at the corner a gaggle of black conventioneers were trying to decide which restaurant they wanted to go to. Across the street a pimp was eyeing two Spelman cheer-leaders with a practiced eye.

Little Africa … let no place in America … gone ….

Atlanta no longer has a sense of community. The commonality blacks used to feel for each other is gone. Today it is a Southern city without soul — and worse: WITHOUT GRACE.

Finally it is a town deep in the throes of car culture. Years ago it was a great walking town. You'd park your car and walk and more often than not have a great adventure before you got to your destination. No more. Today, no one walks anywhere, for there is nothing to really see. The black community is gone … at least in spirit.

Gone … gone … gone with the wind.

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4 Comments on “Atlanta: Don’t go there”

  1. JEEZUS Says:

    The Atlanta of urban legend exists no longer.


    Uhhh…what legend. Atlanta has always sucked. Washington, DC is the really black mecca.

  2. backdoor Says:

    Uhhh…what legend. Atlanta has always sucked. Washington, DC is the really black mecca.

    — JEEZUS

    DC isn’t even on the radar sceen; Hasn’t been since everybody started smoking crack.

    Including the mayor …


  3. Josie Says:

    When are you gonna get it Ric? This Black elite you speak of all the time is why Black people are in the condition they are today.They dropped the ball decades ago.This is the same group of people who got all giddy when they got their foot in the door and said “to hell with the rest of y’all”.They didn’t think about the next generation.They didn’t prepare anything to pass on, they just got their fancy cars and big houses and smiled cause they were allowed to live next to the man.

    This is not what other struggling races have done.They get up and help their brotha man up.They create businesses to employ their people and benefit the next generation.

    Never forget ric, the last generation made this one.That is why this generation’s wealthy Blacks are so quiet and hush hush.Never willing to take a stand and fight for anything.They learned from the previous generation that was the same way.

    Peace Brotha Ric

  4. ricland Says:

    This is not what other struggling races have done.They get up and help their brotha man up.They create businesses to employ their people and benefit the next generation.

    == Josie

    Other ethnic groups have done the same thing, although differently. German Jews, for example, looked down on Eastern European Jews who came over 50 years later. American born Hispanics continue to distance themselves from the current crop of Hispanic immigrants. Second and third generation Italians have nothing to do with Italians right off the boat. And the Koreans got no help from anybody because there were no other Koreans here before they came.

    Sure, elite blacks abandoned the hood when opportunity opened elsewhere, but what happened afterwards in the hood cannot be blamed entirely on them. In addition, although they abandoned the hood — physically, == they supported it politically which translated into the billions of dollars spent on the many anti-poverty programs that followed in their wake.

    The problem is, once the elite and middle-class was gone so were role models. The people left behind could only look to pimps and whores for guidance and what happened is that we adopted pimp and whore culture. This was why today the kids on black college campuses talk and dress like ghetto gangsters.

    In other words, the people left behind are in the main responsible for what happened themselves. And it should be pointed out that these people don't give back either. Millionaire athletes, rap stars, and other blacks from the lower economic stratum don't give back spit once they make it.


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