Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Growing Mosaic Mecca? I Hope So

Posted by Mercedes Garcia-Rivas, ATLANTA, GA – Atlanta is commonly known as the heart of the Civil Rights Movement and the modern-day “Black Mecca”. While the Black population of the city proper remains just over 50 percent, in my time spent in college here I’ve noticed that the city has become increasingly diverse. It’s not just “Black and White” anymore. I've noticed this at public events around the city. But it still depends on where in the city you happen upon. For example, chess playing in Woodruff Park right near Georgia State University continues to be mostly among Black males. But at the Annual Color Run you see people from all racial and ethnic backgrounds.

At another public park in the center of Atlanta an event offering assistance and information to people from other countries just arriving in the city, you see how the city has a growing Latino population.  

And like the Color Run, at Atlanta’s Annual Street Food Festival  you see food and people from all over. Everybody mingles and has fun together. These are the scenes I like the best. I'm hopeful that such scenes are harbingers for better ethnic and racial relations as well as growing equality as our entire society continues to grow more diverse. Perhaps because Atlanta was the heart of the Civil Rights Movement back in the 1960s, it’s culture makes it more welcome for increasing diversity. 

Mercedes Garcia-Rivas is a major in Political Science and a minor in Sociology at Georgia State University.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Separate and Unequal Liquor Stores

Posted by Dardi Norwood, ATLANTA, GA – Liquor stores can tell you a lot about the racial and socio-economic composition of a neighborhood. I live in a middle class suburb of Atlanta where the Eagles Landing Bottle Shop is located. The landscaping is immaculate and it’s in a new two story brick building. The inside is filled with a wide variety of alcoholic beverages including fine wines. The staff is friendly and courteous and the owner is frequently there. They sell chips, soda drinks, and snack type foods as well. The floors are clean and shiny and the aisles are large. There is only one other liquor store in the area.

The liquor stores on the southwest side of Atlanta tell a different story. They are almost on every corner. They are run down, dirty, small, cramped and some have drive-thru windows. The actual names have “liquor” or “package” in them unlike the Eagles Landing Bottle Shop. They have bullet proof glass dividers on the inside to separate the patron from the cashiers. They sell lottery tickets, blunt cigars, cigarettes, and rolling papers. They do not have a vast selection of wines but they do have an enormous selection of hard liquor.

One cannot help but think that this stark contrast has something to do with the racial and socioeconomic composition of these places – one more middle class and more white, the other more poor and mostly Black. Unfortunately, this is one aspect of race and ethnicity in our society that reveals the structural inequalities perpetuated by racism, greed and capitalism.

Dardi Norwood is an undergraduate student at Georgia State University who is majoring in Speech.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Place Where Everybody Still Knows Your Name

Posted by Deirdre Oakley, WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – when I was growing up in Williamstown everybody went to B&L Service Station at the bottom of Spring Street to get their car fueled and serviced. The beloved Station, opened in 1967, was run by Arthur Lafave and his father-in-law, Alvin Brassard

In 2000, Lafave sold the station to Williams College Alum Herbert Allen who then donated the property to the College. Four years later the B&L Building was opened as a mixed-used space where you could get a different kind of fuel: Coffee.

Like the B&L Service Station, Tunnel City Coffee isn’t just any fueling station. For people who grew up in Williamstown, a visit to the Tunnel is like a reunion because inevitably you’ll run into someone you know, because everybody frequents the place. Sometimes it’s like a time warp: bumping into your parents’ friends, your friends’ kids, high school teachers, and post-college roommates from New York City all in the same visit. I don’t know if Arthur Lafave gets his coffee at the Tunnel, but his legacy lives on there and the coffee is really good.

Deirdre Oakley is the Editor of Social Shutter and an Associate Professor of Sociology at Georgia State University. She can be contacted at

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Missing the Cabrini Green High-Rises This Holiday Weekend

Editor's Note: Good Times poster image source is Sony Pictures.

Posted by Deirdre Oakley, CHICAGO, IL – Cabrini Green's high-rises are no more. But many people living in Chicago -- at least since 2011 --probably know about Cabrini Green, a public housing community on the near northside of the city butting up against affluent neighborhoods like the Gold Coast and Lincoln Park. You can even walk to the famous Loop from Cabrini.  Even if you haven’t heard of it, if you were a kid during the 1970s or currently enjoy watching old TV shows in syndication, you would remember, or know of  Good Times, a sitcom about a loving and hard-working family living in “the projects” (aka a fictitious Cabrini). In the show, originally airing from 1974 to 1979, the family and their neighbors are always facing challenges, many times stigmatized ones about people living in poverty, but they always meet them head on.  Perhaps most important, is the strong sense of community Good Times portrays.

But despite the sitcom's portrayal, and Cabrini’s promising early decades of the 1940s and 1950s, by the late 1960s and beyond, the community became synonymous with crimes, gangs, insurmountable poverty, and disrepair. This has been a very common story for inner-city public housing communities throughout the country and it seems – at least from many mainstream media accounts – that most put blame on the residents themselves. Such stereo-typical portrayals of public housing "ghettos" are completely absent of all the resident and church-based grassroots organizations that not only fought against crime but pushed housing authorities to maintain their homes. 

Unfortunately, authorities gave empty promises in the wake of massive suburbanization that sucked city revenues dry at the same time that federal funding for public housing was decreasing. In other words, it’s important for the general public to understand that traditional public housing communities like Cabrini Green did not become what they would become in a vacuum: federal government policies and neglect; as well as local government corruption, played key roles. 

The Cabrini Green high-rises were demolished by the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) as part of its Plan for Transformation, which has been ‘revised' several times over the last 19 years. The last Cabrini high-rise came down in the spring of 2011, about a year after I took the pictures featured in this essay. Although the CHA initially committed to plans to renovate the remaining row houses, it’s unclear if this will actually happen, so the remaining residents keep fighting.  In the meantime, luxury condos are for sale where some of Cabrini’s original buildings stood. Apparently there are affordable units as well, but how affordable – and if affordable to former Cabrini residents – is unclear. 

Former Cabrini Green residents have been relocated with the help of subsidies to the private rental market in the form of Housing Choice Vouchers (formerly Section 8). But unlike the very last original episode of Good Times, where everybody finally had enough income to move "up" to the northside, those who were forced to move out of Cabrini in the latter-day reality, moved either along the city's westside or down to the southside. I’ll let you all figure these "choices" out for yourselves.

Deirdre Oakley is the Editor of Social Shutter and an Associate Professor of Sociology at Georgia State University. She can be contacted at