Saturday, January 25, 2014

MLK Day: A Holiday for Caring and Community Service

Posted by Debby Yoder, DECATUR, GA -- The Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday was designated as a day of service, "A Day On, Not a Day Off!" to honor his life and continue the work he began in the Poor People’s Campaign. Dr. King once declared, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'" The City of Decatur answers by coordinating a huge project to help local seniors with repairs of all sizes. They work year-round meeting with homeowners to assess their needs, purchase materials, secure donations and fund-raise. Projects range from yard maintenance and gutter cleaning to major plumbing, furnace and roof work, installing attic stairs, bracing floors and replacing porches and railings. And on MLK day volunteers flock to the city to take on many of these projects.

This MLK community service event draws individuals from a variety of  organizations -- boy and girl scouts, city workers, churches, and even the Three Piece Suit Football League. I had the privilege of riding with project coordinator Paul Mitchell as he traveled from one job site to the next, overseeing 24 different groups and their work. At each location, the volunteers were having great fun working together, and one group even did shots (of water) to keep the playful atmosphere going.

At one site the volunteers were helping a retired homeowner who. four years ago, adopted a two-day old baby girl born to an alcoholic mother unable to care for her. Now at age four, the little girl still requires multiple types of weekly therapy.  But you’d never know it. She was happy and energetic as she watched volunteers remove an old shed from the backyard to expand her play area. She proudly helped deliver homemade lasagna to the group and joyfully bounced around entertaining everyone as they ate lunch. I felt I was witnessing the true meaning of community as she shared her joy and cared for the volunteers who were helping take care of her adoptive mother so she can continue taking the best care of her. I think Dr. King would be proud of the work being done in his honor.

Debby Yoder is a contributor to Social Shutter and a Sociology major at Georgia State University. She can be contacted at

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Affordable Homegrown Food and Sustainability

Posted by Ceylan Odunkesenter, ATLANTA, GA --The rising cost of food – up almost 300 percent since 1978 – stagnant wages; rising housing costs; and most recently, Congressional threats to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps) has created a growing disconnect between Americans and healthy food. Why? Well for one thing processed and fast foods are inexpensive and quick. But while these foods may be cheap they are not healthy. They are a major contributing factor to increasing obesity, even among people who go hungry for days on end.


Atlanta has a relatively high poverty rate but this city is reclaiming healthy affordable eating through urban farming. The establishment of community gardens and local farmers' markets are creating a heightened awareness of the affordable healthy food crisis occurring in urban communities. Gardenhood is a local nursery that offers workshops and inexpensive supplies for urban food growers. They raise their own chickens for fertilizer and fresh eggs, as well as sell constructed chicken coops, which are allowed within the city limits.

The Reynoldstown Community Garden rents out garden plots for only $15 a year. Daniel, an Atlanta resident, has a plot there growing broccoli, mustard, arugula, cilantro, and kale. “I think people need to decide on doing what's worth their time. I don't have a lot of time, but I can come here and work on my plot whenever I want and I would say I eat pretty well,” said Daniel. Amanda, another Atlanta resident working for National Public Radio, also invests time in growing her own food. She has a modest garden bed for a herbs and some vegetables in her front yard and keeps three hens in her backyard where they can roam freely outside their coop. She also has a large compost barrel and a rain barrel next to the house that collects rain water for reuse.


But even if you don't engage in food growing, Atlanta has weekly farmers' markets in already every neighborhood -- from affluent to poor. Some even accept food stamps. I know that Atlanta is only one of the many urban communities striving for better and more affordable food through homegrown means. I mean, look at Detroit. When we eat better, we feel better and live better. Growing locally means growing as a community, and an affordable one at that!

Ceylan Odunkesenter is a Sociology Major at Georgia State University interested in urban issues. She can be contacted at

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Police Protection?

Posted by Debby Yoder, AROUND METRO ATLANTA -- The face of America’s police departments has changed considerably in recent years. Gone are the police cars with the bubble light atop and “to protect and serve” emblazoned on the doors. Many of today’s police wear military style uniforms and drive re-purposed military vehicles. And yet the crime rate has been steadily falling for decades. Do police really need these imposing, bullet-proof, fuel inefficient forms of transport?

The police have an economic incentive to continue to build their arsenals and deploy their SWAT teams for everyday events. When they seize property that may have been obtained through illegal activity, they are allowed to keep the assets in the same way invading armies claim the treasures of the conquered as their own. This provides an incentive for police to aggressively pursue crimes which include drugs and cash, some rather petty. One the other hand white collar crimes involving far larger sums of money, technically eligible for the same types of asset forfeiture, are addressed much less aggressively. When was last time you’ve heard of a SWAT teams storming a bank engaged in illegal and discriminatory lending practices?

Debby Yoder is a contributor to Social Shutter and a Sociology major at Georgia State University. She can be contacted at

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Atlanta, the New Hollywood

 Posted by April May, ATLANTA, GA – When people think of Atlanta they typically don’t think about film-making and yet it’s become a hub for it. Yes, Atlanta is a hot spot for filming. Films made here include “Identity Thief” with Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy, “Flight” featuring Denzel Washington, “Trouble with the Curve” featuring Clint Eastwood, and “Madea’s Witness Protection” produced by Tyler Perry. Tyler Perry, an Atlanta native, also has a film studio here.

Despite Paul Walker’s tragic death, “Fast and Furious” was recently filming downtown, with props and crew members descending on Georgia State University’s campus. Although it’s exciting, it also creates traffic jams and other inconveniences. For students and workers commuting downtown, roads and parking lots are closed, intersections blocked, and buses re-routed. And when classes let out at Georgia State the scene becomes chaotic. But films bring publicity to the city and also revenue. With more revenue, the city prospers – so maybe the sewer system can get fixed.

April May is a Sociology major at Georgia State University. She can be contacted at