STATE OF BLACK ATLANTA SUMMIT 2010
State of Black Atlanta: Greening Up While Cleaning Up for a Healthy and Sustainable Future
Robert D. Bullard, Glenn S. Johnson, and Angel O. Torres
Environmental Justice Resource Center
Clark Atlanta University
This Summit back ground paper explores the social, economic, and political changes that have taken place in Atlanta over the past decade. Our analysis is placed in a regional equity framework. Metro Atlanta leads all metropolitan regions in attracting African Americans. Today, more African Americans in the Atlanta region live outside of Atlanta in surrounding suburbs than within. Atlanta has undergone a dramatic demographic shift over the past four decades. Atlanta went from being 51.3 percent black in 1970 to 67.1 percent in 1990 to 61.4 percent black in 2000 to 55.7 percent black in 2006. Atlanta continues be viewed by many African Americans as the “Black Mecca,” and is consistently rated one of the “Best Cities” for African Americans by Black Enterprise each year. Atlanta is a city of paradoxes. It has the largest concentration of black millionaires and the city’s black child poverty rate is one of the highest in the country—exceeded only by Detroit, Cleveland, Miami, and New Orleans. Black Atlantans lag behind white Atlantans on nearly every social indicator of health and well being, including education, income, wealth, and home ownership. This gap exists in access to healthy foods, full service grocery stores, parks and green space.
Atlanta at a Crossroad Between Growth and Revitalization
Atlanta Jobs with Justice
Atlanta is at a crossroad. The city is reviving but for whom? Growth and change is happening but revitalization should be done in ways that promote our human rights to public health care, housing, education, and transportation. In the South, the public sector opened up to African Americans as a result of the struggle to end segregation. Advances began to level the playing field. U.S. capitalism then began to eat away at the public sector’s edges in the late 1970’s. In addition, as global markets became more and more saturated, neoliberalism turned its attention toward the public sector internationally as an untapped source of profit to exploit. And today, the results of this agenda have led to the continued impoverishment and exploitation of black working class communities. Through action and reflection, Atlanta Jobs with Justice has learned that in order to achieve justice for the “public good” in one area, we must organize and knit together coalitions of the most affected to fight for the public sphere as a whole. Public housing residents, public sector workers, people with disabilities, people of color, low income families, immigrant/migrant workers, students and faith organizations can only win their fights when they see that their struggles are connected. Our coalition seeks to protect and expand Atlanta’s public sector through the establishment of an Atlanta Human Rights Charter campaign. Based on principles of public participation, human rights, and government accountability, the Charter will form the basis of a people’s platform that leads to public policy focused on the government’s responsibility to the community and accountability for public goods.
The Economic Impact of Black Business in the Atlanta Region
Edward L. Davis
School of Business
Department of Decision Sciences
Clark Atlanta University
Small business is recognized as a major contributor to economic growth in the United States representing 99.7% of all employer firms and employing roughly half of all private sector employees. Black firms, in 2002, were 5% of all U.S. firms but generated about 4% of all revenues. In contrast, Black firms represent nearly 16% of all Metro Atlanta firms, generate $4.1 billion in sales and receipts, employ over 26,000 persons and have payrolls that total more than $675 million. Atlanta ranked tenth in the number of U. S. Black-owned firms in 1982 increasing its ranking to fourth in 2002. We will explore the economic impact that Black business offered the City of Atlanta and the Metro Atlanta region. The study examines minority entrepreneurship in the United States and profiles demographics of the City of Metro Atlanta. It also provides a summary of Black buying power, and uses the Regional Input-Output Modeling System (RIMS II) to develop economic impacts of Black businesses in the Atlanta Region.
Looking Beyond Black Mecca and the Failure of Black
Atlanta's Leadership Class
Bruce A. Dixon
The Black Agenda Report
Heirs to a generation of African American political and business ascendancy, the Atlanta's current cohort of black leadership is at an impasse. This leadership offers no policy alternatives to the major problems facing black Atlanta. They have no answers to black mass incarceration, no remedies for displacement and gentrification, and no economic development models that benefit the people already living in poor neighborhoods. Not only have Black Mecca's black leaders proved unable or unwilling to organize effective political resistance to public policies that are rapidly worsening the status of ordinary black residents like privatization, disinvestment in public transit, steeply rising unpayable consumer debt, and the dismantling of public education, many are political proponents and material beneficiaries of these policies. They seem to know neither how to stem the growth of poverty, nor to create wealth, except for each other. Furthermore, Atlanta's political environment is characterized by a near-absence of in-depth local news coverage, making the depth of the local crisis opaque to public discernment and the actions of political and business leadership all but impossible to follow. When most of Atlanta's black civic leadership won't stand up for the interests of the third of black Atlanta that is in poverty, and the other third who are not far from it, are they worth defending? We propose to draw upon census data, mayoral transition team and other reports and sources to discuss the prospects and problems faced by ordinary black Atlanta in its quest to organize to assert and defend its own interests, regardless of the choices of our local elite, for whom “Black Mecca” was always a place where their dreams came true, but not those of the majority.
Housing and Residence-Related Disparities among Racial Groups in Atlanta:
Shrinking or Widening?
Charles Jaret and Jeremy Bennett
Department of Sociology
Georgia State University
A great deal of research has examined patterns of residential segregation in Atlanta and other U.S. cities, and more, no doubt, will be forthcoming when results from the 2010 Census are available. However, less attention has been paid to racial disparities found in the quality, cost, and other aspects of housing in Atlanta. This paper looks at residential issues other than how separate or together Blacks and Whites are living; specifically it evaluates how similar or unequal Blacks, Whites, and Latinos are, at three points in time (1990, 2000, and at present) on such residence-related matters as: homeowner or renter status; size of residence, over-crowding; age, value, and cost of housing; percentage of income devoted to housing costs; vehicle availability and time required to travel to work. Data on these variables will compare Blacks, Whites, and Latinos in the City of Atlanta, as well as in selected Atlanta suburban counties. The central research questions ask how large the differences among racial categories are, and have the gaps widened or narrowed since 1990. Finally, since Atlanta is often perceived as a place where Blacks have done “better than” Blacks elsewhere in the nation, we go outside the South and compare Atlanta with another city with a prominent Black community: Chicago. The primary data source for this research is the U.S. Census of 1990 and 2000, and the American Community Survey’s combined sample for 2006-2008.
Green Buildings and Black Atlanta
Tamara Jones and Dennis Creech
For over 10 years, Atlanta has been at the forefront of the green building movement. Atlanta has more LEED-certified buildings than almost any other city in the United States, and easily ranks in the top ten for the number of buildings designated as “green” (as defined by energy efficiency, environmentally sustainable materials, and operating practices). This paper considers some of the impacts of this development on Black communities in metro Atlanta with a primary focus on the local housing market. Findings and implications are derived from qualitative data provided through interviews with key builders/developers, housing providers, and policymakers. This paper offers a general survey rather than a comprehensive mapping of the racial politics of the local green building landscape. As such, our findings and conclusions are suggestive and point to areas for further research. We consider i) the primary factors shaping both the production and demand for green buildings in local Black communities; ii) meaningful differences in the ways in which green buildings are produced for and marketed to Black communities versus other communities; and iii) the challenges and opportunities for Black builders and developers in the green building market.
Public Housing Relocation and Residential Segregation in Atlanta:
Where are Families Going?
Deirdre Oakley, Erin Ruel, Lesley Reid and Christina Sims
Department of Sociology
Georgia State University
By early 2010 Atlanta is poised to become the first city in the Nation to eliminate all of its traditional public housing stock. There are currently no plans to build replacement housing. Instead, qualified public housing residents are relocated with a voucher (formerly Section 8) subsidy to private market rental housing. This current initiative reflects on-going national housing policies focused on deconcentrating the poverty and residential segregation long associated with public housing -- policies for which Atlanta has been at the forefront for more than a decade. However, hidden behind the national awards and accolades Atlanta has received for these efforts are issues concerning race. Almost all of the 3,000 families being relocated are Black and represent some of the poorest and most vulnerable families in the city. Do these families end up in less segregated, lower poverty neighborhoods? This paper reports preliminary relocation findings from an ongoing study being conducted by the Georgia State University Urban Health Initiative of more than 200 public housing families. Findings suggest that the families are moving to other poor, predominantly Black neighborhoods, but that these neighborhoods are not as poor as the public housing communities. Our findings also show a clear pattern of geographic clustering which is suggestive of resegregation. This raises questions about whether public housing elimination is meeting its stated goals and what the implications are -- not only for the families – but for a city noted for its civil rights legacy.
Vacant Properties: An Opportunity for the Equitable Development of the City of Atlanta
Yanique Redwood, Lee Evans, Ronnie Galvin, Margaret Hooker, Catherine Prather,
Columbus Ward, and Robert Welsh
The 303 Community Coalition/Dirty Truth Campaign
Atlanta was the third emptiest city in the country in 2009 according to Forbes Magazine. Poor black communities bear the burden of this vacancy, with implications for disparate health and social outcomes. In 2006, residents in Neighborhood Planning Unit V (the neighborhoods near Turner Field) conducted a community-based data collection project that revealed the presence of 1296 vacant properties, accounting for 42% of all properties in the NPU. In fact, research has shown that blocks with vacant unsecured buildings are more likely to pose a public safety threat to its residents. Several studies have also documented a significant relationship between the built environment and negative health and mental health outcomes. The authors used photographs and narratives in a participatory research process called Photovoice. NPU-V residents documented poor physical conditions such as the proliferation of vacant and abandoned properties, trash, disrepair and vandalism. NPU-V residents launched the Dirty Truth Campaign in 2007 to raise awareness of the issue of vacant properties and to advocate for public policy solutions that would eradicate the built environment challenges in NPU-V and create affordable housing options for residents. The Dirty Truth Campaign offer several policy solutions and recommendations. Resolving Atlanta’s built environment challenges and associated health and social disparities will require close attention to the social, political, and economic processes that produce race- and class-based inequities.