Monday, December 23, 2013

We Can’t Live Without You?

Editor's Note: Happy Holidays! It would nice if we could all avoid hating, or being judgmental, or, for that matter; being arrogant in 2014.  What a great dream! We will see you in the new year! Peace and thanks for your support to all of our readers from all of us.

Posted by Crystal Norwood, DOWNTOWN ATLANTA, GA – With all the endless negative media coverage going on about Obamacare, it’s important to consider existing municipal hospitals that have been ‘accepting’ those without health insurance. Grady Hospital remains Georgia’s largest, and it's still considered to be the epi-center of free healthcare for metro Atlanta. 

You would think that the prospect of Obamacare would be welcomed by Grady officials because budgets have been tight since 2008. But this is not case because the hospital could potentially lose millions of dollars in state and federal aid. Some Grady official even stated that the Affordable Care Act could be the worst thing to happen to the hospital – and this was said some five years after Grady had already made drastic cuts to its ‘charity’ healthcare service provision because it was in dire times budget-wise.

So this brings up the question: Are you a liability or an asset? I suppose this question is proposed when an insurance company weighs the options of covering your healthcare expenses. Has Grady decided that the prospect of some kind of universal health insurance means that those with government subsidies are a liability?  Wouldn’t it be better for our society if the people were healthier because they had reliable healthcare insurance? 

As the two of my photographs show, Grady has large cloth posters conspicuously present all around the hospital stating: “Can’t Live Without You”. But, my question is, without whom? 

Crystal Norwood is Sociology major at Georgia State University (GSU) and can be contacted at Grady Hospital is located at the eastern terminus of the GSU campus.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Changing More than Just an Address for Refugees

Posted by Faris Mousa, CLARKSTON, GA -- Clarkston is located in the metro Atlanta area, approximately seven miles east of the city limits. Over the last two decades or so it has increasingly become a haven for refugees mostly from Southeast Asia, East Africa, and in and around the Middle East. During my junior year in college I interned for a mentorship program at the local high school and got to see the many challenges these hard working people and their children endure on a daily basis.  The schools are not very good, the housing conditions atrocious, and access to fresh food compromised. All of which has led increasingly poor health and social issues. 

My mentee was a student Clarkston High School who had immigrated to the United States with his family as a Kurdish refugee. The majority of the student there were foreign born, many of whom were refugees. During my first week I noticed how my mentee and many other refugee students were neglected by the teachers and staff. For instance, the ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) program consisted of only one teacher who, ironically, only spoke English. This did little to prepare the ESOL students for the regular school curriculum.  In fact, the ESOL teacher would prematurely place the refugee students in regular English curriculum courses for the sole purpose of making room for the influx of new refugee students. How can a student do well in an English curriculum track when they haven’t fully mastered the English language? In short, limited language-based educational resources combined with refugee student neglect minimized the chances of academic success.

The majority of refugees in Clarkston are assigned to some sort of subsidized private market housing by social workers during the relocation process. My mentee lived in what appeared to me to be a slum-lord-run project-based Section 8 apartment complex called Toby Grant. The heating and cooling systems in the apartment building didn’t work all the time; paint was peeling, mold common place as well as pests. My young mentee lived with his large family in a relatively small two bedroom and one bathroom apartment.  Since the housing units were in such close proximity to one another and had very thin walls, I could literally hear the conversations in the adjacent units. Imagine having to live with not only your own overcrowded place but your neighbors’ as well.

The nearest full service supper market was almost five miles away. Though the parking lot looked overcrowded with cars, most of the refugees did not have access to an automobile. In fact, part of the reason for the crowded parking was that there literally were few places to park. The car-less refugees typically purchased there food at the over-priced convenient stores that were within walking distance. Most of these stores do not sell fresh and healthy foods, which is contributing to the increasingly poor health of the refugees. 

This is all happening as the refugee population of Clarkston continues to increase without a matched expansion in needed services and amenities. But social intervention programs, such as the mentorship program I was lucky enough to be a part of are slowly defying the status quo in areas like Clarkston. Hopefully such programs will continue to make head way into improving the educational and social conditions. These refugees came to America in hopes of a brighter and less oppressive future for themselves and their families. Hopefully we can work to change more than just their addresses.

Faris Mousa is a graduating senior with a major in Sociology at Georgia State University. He will graduate with honors Tuesday, December 17, 2013. Good luck Faris! You can contact him at

Monday, December 9, 2013

Where Sidewalks Just End Even With Bus Stops

Posted by Rashard Smith, ATLANTA, GA – I’ve lived in a numbers of areas in and around Atlanta and it’s certainly not a pedestrian friendly place. But I don’t know if I’ve been in another urban area where sidewalks just end even where there are bus stops. So people waiting for buses have to stand by a bus stop sign that literally is less than a foot from ongoing traffic. In places where sidewalks abruptly end, pedestrians are forced to walk on the curves of sometimes very busy streets. In other words the city and metropolitan area of Atlanta is designed for people with cars, not for those who are dependent on walking, biking, or public transit. 

Like downtown and midtown Atlanta, nearby places like downtown Stone Mountain, East Point, College Park, Hapeville have sidewalks and are heavily posted with signs of caution for pedestrians such as yellow pedestrian signage, pedestrian crosswalks, bright orange markings on corners of the intersections, small pedestrian markers located on the double yellow lines in the middle of the street, and even flashing lights which hang above the street to warn drivers of pedestrian crossings.  There are even designated bike lanes to make the road momentarily friendly for bicyclists.  

Yet if you were to venture not too far away from these downtown areas the pedestrian-friendly amenities simply vanish; sidewalks suddenly stop and you’ll begin to see dirt paths alongside the roads where citizens trek either by foot or bicycle to get to a bus stop or store. It’s dangerous and not uncommon to hear about pedestrian accidents and fatalities provoked by careless drivers.  It’s particular bad in poor minority areas putting these residents at a complete disadvantage when it comes to the public safety.

Although the city will be getting a brand new stadium, a streetcar trolley, as well as continuing to develop the Beltline that consists of a series of pedestrian and biker-friendly paths circling around the city, what the city and metro area really need is more sidewalks that don't just end.

Rashard Smith is a Georgia State University undergraduate majoring in Sociology. He can be reached at

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Gold Rush

Posted by Marcie Hambrick, DAHLONEGA, GA -- On the third weekend of every October, when thousands of leaf watchers come through town to see the fall colors, Gold Rush Days are held in the town square next the Dahlonega Gold Museum. The festival celebrates Dahlonega’s 1828 discovery of gold and even features a gold panning competition.

Many of the activities are geared toward children, such as pony rides, bubble fun, and a climbing wall.  Additionally, the youngest competitor in the World Gold Panning Championship was only seven years old this year.  Musicians performed in both scheduled and impromptu concerts. The Appalachian traditional use of instruments such as banjo, guitar, and even Cherokee flute reflected the varied culture in the area.  Traditional Southern favorite foods, such as boiled peanuts and barbeque were everywhere. 

The celebration of small town culture and history provides a great opportunity for local people and travelers to share a day of fun.  It boosts the economy for local businesses and provides a greater sense of community for everybody.

Marcie Hambrick, MSW is a Doctoral student in Sociology at Georgia State University. She also teaches Sociology courses at Georgia Northwestern Technical College and is the Director of New Leaf Outreach Anger Management and Stress Solutions in Dalton, GA. She can be reached at