Of Atlantan Niches

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Rarely, for any reason, do I disclose the location of the nooks and crannies of the ever-changing Atlantan landscape where I find solitude, peace, and resolve – all invaluable assets in a time where everything is seemingly available at one’s fingertips. At the drop of a dime an email, phone call, Facebook message, any sort of notification can intrude on one’s conversation with oneself. For this project I offer, hopefully at not too costly an expense, one of the spaces I have found solitude in this city, Joe’s East Atlanta Coffee: located on the corner of Glenwood and Flat Shoals, nestled in an East Atlanta Village community that is rich, diverse – a term we will not examine too closely – and lastly, home. This is where I go on Saturday mornings to grab ‘White Gold,’ a subtle mix of milk and honey. The theology of a cup of coffee has been examined by Leonard Sweet, on a corporate level, yet there is nothing more organic and fulfilling than a home-like coffee niche. A place the community can truly ground in, as Walter Rodney would put it.

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“Touching home” may seem to be a warm phrase but for myself, and many others, this means that we are visitors in a place that was once home. A returning from exile, of sorts, with very little chance of re-orientation in an intimate sense. Before I left the city limits this area was my world. From my mother’s extra jobs during the East Atlanta Village strut, from timely haircuts at “In Tha Kut,” and sun fries from the Heaping Bowl, this was – is – home. Ask anyone who is a product of this neighborhood that may still be around, they can tell you that things have changed. In 1997 when my family moved further down Flat Shoals to Clifton Church, we noticed that things were a bit different. We noted that crime was down, and it was apparent that the bike lanes and pedestrians had become more prevalent. To what does this change owe itself? At age nine I had no clue, and today at twenty-seven I am still forming one.

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Regardless of the underlying reasons, the question for us is quite clear: was change for the better? Departing from the clarity of the question, we aren’t certain. We know the property value has risen, crime has gone down, the area is full of eclectic business, refreshed institutions. The uncertainty arises in the absence of those who were once there, and begs the question “where did we go?” as an interviewee put it. As a Black child of Atlanta, I understand that development within the perimeter – to say nothing of the much broader Southern and the American projects – is often synonymous with the eradication of Black life, Black industry, and Black reality. Now, this sense of reality for the most part, since reconstruction, has been rooted in alienation, social programs, and a solely aesthetic involvement in the cities’ development. To be homeless at home, to be solely a product of what is dictated through policy is not to be at home at all.

Now, it would be remiss to leave the inevitability of change unacknowledged. It would be even further remiss of me to leave the reality of our integration unacknowledged. Life, that which we hope for, is a gift and as people who believe in a higher power we do not take it for granted. However, what we know to be certain, perhaps as certain as change itself, is death. I believe that we may not be able to question the probability of life, death, and change, however, if we are following a Christian example – and thus engaging with other Abrahamic examples – then we know that we are deeply concerned with the quality of one’s life and death, and the dignity that ought to remain central in our public and private dealings with one another.

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The turning away from the aforementioned sort of engagement is present in the emergence of the American project on varying levels, especially if you are not White. In Howard Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited, for example, we find a dialogue between a Black Christian minister and a Hindu minister who is aware of Thurman’s introduction to the American project was through bill of sale and a Bible. Thurman cleverly sifts through this conundrum that a person of color in the Christian faith must – engaging with Jesus as a subject, way to live, not an object – but I mention this as an example of the differences of power, and the transgression from upholding the dignity of another we have practiced in this country.

Furthering our discussion, what does this mean to be at peace? To find solitude in Atlanta? The answer to this question is a matter of one’s perspective, or put another way, the city “Atlanta,” only monolithic in name, is in conversation with her citizens in different ways. In setting forth Joe’s as a space I find refuge, comfort, and sometimes quiet, it is this space I decided to use as a platform to find what it is that East Atlantans, and those who visit her, would find as refuge. My question of the people who agreed to participate was simple: In what ways has this area served you, and in what ways could this be improved?

Fairly simple to answer on the surface, I thought originally. However, as I began to approach persons to question I found that though the question was simple, it served as an entry point to diverse answers from the “congregants” of this neighborhood. I have chosen three narratives to highlight that best answer the questions at hand: Effective community based ministry, asset-mapping, and what one seeks in visiting and living in a space such as East Atlanta Village. While sitting in Joe’s, outside on a bench, or at Grant Central Pizza, I have taken these three narratives and sought to capture what I have in my notes based off of our conversations. I spent hours, happily reading, writing, doing my best not to appear awkward or assuming in my aims to interview folks. See below:

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“We’re bringing in a new world, in a new time
Youngblood, get yourself together…”

Anthony David

Jeff

“I’ve lived in the East Atlanta area for the past seven years, so far it has been a wonderful experience. My wife and I are somewhat local, we came from Gwinnett County where we met! I like it here because of the schools, and the close proximity of everything we need. Food, for example, there’s a Kroger just down the street, as well as a corner store in EAV should we need it. We decided to move in 2006 because of the pricing of the houses and the schools. So far we really like our neighborhood, everyone is pretty close-knit and our neighbors are friendly. We don’t go for walks too late, though, but for the most part it is safe to walk and enjoy the scenery. My wife has an old moped she uses to get to and from work, so far safety’s been good aside from crazy Atlanta drivers. Honestly there isn’t much to complain about, my commute is short, I love it here, and we should be expecting a family soon! I come to Joe’s quite a bit, it’s an easy commute on Saturday mornings and the same for Thursday evenings. One thing that irks me a bit about the area is how fast people drive on Moreland, and how much trash there is sometimes. I’m not sure if it’s the City of Atlanta, or whoever is responsible for it, but it gets to be somewhat of an eye-sore. That would be my one suggestion about the area, to pick up the trash and maybe find a way to make Moreland a bit safer for bikers/alternate transportation.”

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“When night falls on the City of a Hundred Hills, a wind gathers
itself from the seas and comes murmuring westward. And at its
bidding, the smoke of the drowsy factories sweeps down upon the
mighty city and covers it like a pall, while yonder at the University
the stars twinkle above Stone Hall. And they say that yon gray mist
is the tunic of Atalanta pausing over her golden apples. Fly, my
maiden, fly, for yonder comes Hippomenes!”

W.E.B. Du Bois

Greg

“I’m a mid 20’s tech consultant, so I like living in this area. It’s not cheap, but living with roommates helps. I like this area for, perhaps a strange reason, but parking is pretty reasonable. I usually have friends over so it’s important they have somewhere to park. Plus, parking in EAV (and L5P, if you know where its safe from Parking Enforcement) is really good. The brunch spots are great. Church? Now, when it comes to church, I float around in the area. I like Village Church because it’s close, and I’ve been to Eastside a few times. One weekend, my roommate and I went to First Iconium Baptist. Personally, I think its cool that my favorite bar is right down the street from a church, its just something you don’t see much. I like that I have several churches at my fingertips, and I’m glad there is a younger crowd in the area. My one wish though, is that we had more older members in some of these churches. We have a few who I see every now and then from the towers, but aside from them there aren’t many. Sometimes it’s great to have a wise voice every now and then. I come from Columbus, GA and I’m used to older members. It started out fun, but I kindof miss the wisdom. The only thing that gets annoying is when people ask me for tech advice. It’s good I can help, but I really would like some management.”

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“Seeds don’t grow by the farms they are
Gentrified, sent alive to me, beliefs
The agnostic priests
Optimistical paths so predictable to rituals”

Blu

Elroy

“I’ve been here for 36 years. I moved here from Chicago in 1979 to go to Clark College. I graduated with a degree in psychology and started working as a mailman. I used to live over by Chosewood Park and it was a pretty decent neighborhood, I moved over to Gresham Avenue in ’84 and have been there ever since. I mostly keep to myself, I have a few friends who come by every now and then, mostly my grandkids and daughter. Honestly, it’s easy living and I can get exercise when I want. Walking is pretty safe. Church? I used to go to Ebenezer back in the day, and I was there when First Iconium opened up (which used to be Moreland Avenue Baptist), but I stopped going there in the past 10 years. I keep to myself, and you can find me on most days (if the weather is alright) outside of the T-Shirt Lady’s store on my perch! No problems for me really, the neighborhood is nice and it treats me well. I’m not much of a church-goer anymore, but maybe I will be some day. I usually just go grab something to eat at the regular noon hour when my buddies get out of church.”

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… These are three of seven people I interviewed. Again, these are quick synopses of conversations had while sitting in Joe’s – Jeff, and Greg, I mean – whereas I ran into Elroy on “his perch,” as he calls it, on my way back to my car walking up Flat Shoals. I was moved by these conversations given my narrative before the interviews were introduced. I am not certain if this caught my eye due to my being in seminary, but I was surprised (pleasantly? I’m not certain) to find that many of the interviewees had very little formal relationships with a church. Each seemed to be incredibly open to talk about food, bookstores, favorite places to go to, but when I brought up church there was more times than not an awkward pause. It was as if our conversation had begun to transition from a surface conversation to a more personal one and everyone wasn’t ready for it, honestly. At least the first time talking to a complete stranger.

 

So what was learned? On the outset, one ought to be careful when bringing their experience to any location and assuming that, in any way, it is the totality of the experience for everyone else. This is my sin, essentially, and I was happily tempered in my understanding of what a “gentrifier” is, and what brings the need for a new church, with new focus, in a changed neighborhood. Second, I was perplexed to find that there was very little involvement in organized religion. This isn’t to say that community isn’t present, because it is, but there are more ways than one that people gather in community. This can include church, but I think in this area what happens outside of the four walls of the churches that are present make the community that much richer. Lastly, and most importantly I argue, is that as easy as it may seem for one to do so, painting a neighborhood as a monolithic entity does the community no good. This is an offshoot of the first point of assuming one’s experience is everyone’s experience, and under this umbrella one affords themselves the opportunity to see the assets present in the area. Finding how businesses served EAV was easy, and out of this ease I found that a great way to build bridges between persons and examine who has what skill (Greg the tech consultant or Jeff’s wife, on moped maintenance) and how they can be put to use. I’m still not sold on church planting, where in Atlantan history I can’t help but tie it to gentrification and development at the expense of the other, however I am a fan of what is taking place in EAV, and usually you can catch me at Joe’s on a Saturday, having a White Gold, and trying to make sense of solitude in the city.

Tuesday December 4th, 1906.

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To a few, I am the castle of dreams – ambitious, successful, hopeful dreams.
To many I am the poetic palace where human feeling is rhymed to celestial motives;
To the great majority I am the treasury of good fellowship.
In fact, I am the college of friendship, the university of brotherly love,
the school for the better making of men.

I AM ALPHA PHI ALPHA!

– Brother Sydney P. Brown, “House of Alpha”

 

Six years,
Four probates,
Numerous conversations,
Persistence,
A lot of waiting
Working, while waiting.
On March 15th, 2014 at 8:56pm I saw the light of Alpha

I arrived on the campus of Clemson University to enroll in the Fall of 2007 with wet eyes, local support, and a seemingly mountable task in front of me. It was the day I moved in when I met a youthful low country South Carolina gentleman, my roommate, Antwan Eady. Over the years he’s grown to become a great friend and I consider family. The same day, a gentleman I now call a brother named Arthur Doctor saw in Antwan and I something important. So much so to say that he would adopt us as his little brothers This turned out to be a much appreciated gesture in retrospect as I was to struggle in the coming months with culture-shock, financial stress, poor grades, and a devastating knee injury. I spent a lot of time in Clemson South Carolina

I left Clemson with a heavy heart, especially having felt as if I had let myself down, my folks, my coaches, and my friends. Upon arriving at Kennesaw State University, I reached out the summer before I was to begin and met with a person I now consider a family, Brent Obleton. Within an hour I was inspired to become active and engaged on KSU’s campus. Though initially I was not (AT ALL) due to Track and Field, further financial, academic, and maturity transgressions. I came around though, and I still am, really.

I list ‘Twan, Doc, and Brent here for a reason. These three men, along with many others from Tau Zeta, Psi, and Omicron Mu Lambda chapters have shown me the impact of the kind of work that can be done in the changing the trajectory of brothers in brown bodies through Alpha Phi Alpha. My own personal development in EVERY arena has been expected, encouraged, and supported by brothers of Alpha… consistently, both from outside of the House of Alpha, and in the future within it. I can say this of no other Black Greek Lettered organization. I welcome any challenges, but look to a community that needs assistance and is being tended to/developed, there you will find us.

It has been a very long road, there’s no way anyone could ever know how much, for how long, I’ve put into this. Fitting, because noone may ever see how much I plan to put into Alpha as the years go by. I couldn’t be grateful for this gift, I’m excited for the work to come.

 

 

Cut Dead, But Still Alive

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Kerry James Marshall – “Lost Boys”

It is a strange freedom to be adrift in the world of men without a sense of anchor anywhere. Always there will be the need of mooring, the need for the firm grip on something that is rooted and will not give. The urge to be accountable to someone, to know that beyond the individual himself there is an answer that must be given, cannot be denied. The deed a man performs must be weighed in a balance held by another’s hand. The very spirit of a man tends to panic from the desolation of going nameless up and down the streets of other minds where no salutation greets and no friendly recognition makes secure. It is a strange freedom to be adrift in the world of men.

– Howard Washington Thurman
A Strange Freedom: The Best of Howard Thurman on Religious Experience and Public Life, 1999 pg. vii

I my quest to find the most constructive ways to make the most of my time here, I’ve come across two distinct – yet, intimately related – experiences that have led to this musing.

In early December 2013 I attended a life changing lecture by Dr. Gregory Ellison of Candler School of Theology at Emory University. The lecture was titled “Cut Dead, But Still Alive: Caring for Marginalized Populations,” and the goal of this lecture was to set forth the sort of lecture that one might experience as a student at Candler. The primary goal of this lecture was to highlight the key issues one may face in looking to serve those who are essentially “Cut Dead, But Alive,” moving in a world that yields them no true means of consciousness and a means to identify who they are and actualize who they aspire to become. Now, I’ve been in conversation with several admissions officers from Candler, and as my name is – Khalfani – is Swahili meaning destined to rule, therefore foreign insofar as the normative naming practices in the Western world are concerned, it managed to ring a bell loud enough for one admissions officer to mention to Dr. Ellison that a gentleman by the name of Khalfani, a brother in a brown body, hair that stands out, possibly with a pick in it, is planning to be in attendance.

As I greeted the two graduate assistants at the door I took up my name tag, greeted a few familiar faces, and immediately I was pulled aside by a gentleman who I correctly assumed was Dr. Ellison. “Young brother, I need a favor of you” he asks. Well, “Of course,” I say prematurely. The following request that Dr. Ellison made of me was to play the role of a young black male, working on his G.E.D., looking to make something better of himself, but is constantly disengaged with the world due to the World’s proven track record of nullifying his voice having acted out it’s presuppositions and preconceived notions about this young gentleman. I was to remain closed, sitting in the corner of the room, disinterested in what was to be said that evening, and unresponsive to anyone until I received word from Dr. Ellison.

This task was both easy and difficult, a binary relationship that is easy to understand if one can wrap their heads around what it means to be a brother in a brown body in the American project. Easy, insofar as all that had to be done on my end was to revert to the practices I’ve adopted and since abandoned as a product of East Atlanta, the predominantly African-American environment from which I derive that the world knows little, if anything of. This task was difficult, insofar as what Dr. Ellison requested of me forced me to set aside the useful – almost necessary if one is to function in a world as “the other” – skill of code switching and show the disdain that a great majority of the “other” world engages with the liberal, wet eyed, sentimentalist’s efforts of looking to fix and instruct without listening, if even for a moment, to the objects of their missionary charity.

This discussion lasted for roughly an hour, and it was very (very) difficult to maintain. However, it was an eye-opening to listen to individuals who have gathered seeking to eradicate the issues of thingification, ostracizing, and ignoring those who are to be the objects of charity do precisely what they are speaking about not doing. This highlights a missionary and schizophrenic reality that bodies in need of help tend to engage with on both an institutional and individual level where assisting others is concerned.

Below is video of the whole affair, please view it at your convenience. The reaction of my colleagues is priceless:

Now, more recently, I’ve been working with a group of Kids for the past several months at Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church in Marietta, Georgia. These kids are precisely who Frantz Fanon had in mind as he penned in Les Damnes De La Terre, ‘the wretched of the earth’. They have dealt with some the most difficult events you can deal with in life, they come from the places that the privileged world has convinced itself goes ‘bump in the night.’ A struggle that makes them no less human than those of us who have had an ounce of luck in developing some sense of agency in our lives, in this case, every request that has been made of me by those who have the disadvantage of having never touched difficulty in life aside from choosing to do so has been to preach to the disinherited. No request has been made to listen, be patient, and give these kids a space to examine for themselves – with guidance – where it is they come from, develop an understanding of what that means (what it has meant) in a broader context than that which is in one’s immediate vicinity, and seek to reconcile their present reality with wherever it may be they would like to go in life. These are the important questions, if our project is a substantive one.

Upon the second request that I lead the discussion, we had this conversation on January 9th, beloved. No matter how necessary it was, it was awkward nonetheless. However, in a matter of five minutes the kids opened up and we began to have a dialogue around the very reason why we’ve congregated in the first place, finally – how can we begin to open up the floor for them to network, dialogue, and perhaps make the best use of the opportunities that they have.

I find an interesting connection in both experiences. Again, it highlights why I feel the need for brown bodies to begin filling the spaces of charitable work. If anyone knows what it is like to be marginalized, it is us. For centuries we have worked to place the African-American narrative in the much broader conversation of American history. What is of primary importance, If we are to truly assist those who are cut dead, but still alive, is that we invite the disinherited to the conversation and allow the guilt of privilege at the expense of others to remain silent long enough to listen.

From Foreign to Native.

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Perelman Quadrangle, University of Pennsylvania.

There is in every person something that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in herself…

There is in you something that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. Nobody like you has ever been born and no one like you will ever be born again – you are the only one. And if you miss the sound of the genuine in you, you will be a cripple all the rest of your life, because you will never be able to get a scent on who you are.

– Howard Washington Thurman
Baccalaureate Address – Spelman College, May 4, 1980

Observation, Obligation;

Returning from Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, the hub of the American project’s origins, and a current symbol of it’s trajectory, has left me in a place where the silence of introspection that has sought to find a place in my life post graduation has finally – after all this time – found itself realized.

Throughout the duration of my final year in undergraduate, involvement in multiple student organizations, multiple/simultaneous places of employment, rugby, academia – both in class and extracurricular,  working on my first publication, and traveling for conferences kept me very (very) busy. Though being busy is not a sure indicator of productivity, and I’m not sure enough of it’s merit to defend busyness as a prerequisite of productivity, I was surely busy. The primary reason being that I was playing “catch-up,” insofar as when it came to my younger years, the beginning of undergraduate, the time spent on introspection with the goal of tangible success was lacking, immensely.

Of the consortium of students that the school system deemed worthy of investing it’s limited resources in, most of us began to find ourselves fiscally, academically, and maturity-wise, lacking in the ability to function in a way that lends itself to sustainable success in the classroom. The good number of us that made it through undergraduate made it through just barely by the skin of our teeth. This can be said of a great number young adults, but, unlike those who have the space to recoup from mistakes they make in school and in life, most of which being the price to be paid for growing into adulthood, those of us who come from underserved communities tend to recede to the very environment and behaviors one was said to have been working to transcend. This sort of recidivism, the sort that intersects between the socio-economic and cultural realms, is to be unpacked another time. What is significant here for our purposes is the importance of a moment of reflection. From my small corner of East Atlanta, the inability for those who do not have the resources to take the time, our most valuable resource, to be still and reflect, is not easily found.

There is wealth in the time spent in examining the great wilderness of one’s inner-self in light of one’s responsibility to creating a more human dwelling place. By way of divine mathematics, life has led me to a space where this sort of introspection is possible, however foreign, due to the busyness of life. This has been no easy journey, beloved.

From the academic mill, it has been a very long time since I have been challenged, fundamentally. Yes, examining the lack of “horizontal” definitions, of epistemes of the work of Michel Foucault, sifting through with accuracy Walter Rodney’s perspectives on the underdevelopment of Africa and the development of the Western World, or producing an academic musing on the role of James Baldwin in the contemporary classroom are all challenging. Each of the aforementioned tasks are undoubtedly trying work, but they are, and should be, the sort of inquiries and productions that serve as the effect of ones examination rather than the cause. And for me, it is true that these challenges serve as the cause of a more fundamental challenge: that of examining why, how, and for whom the project of one’s life is of both personal and communal value. The danger in functioning otherwise is the potential placement of importance on work, with disregard to the vacuous work or not. What we do, the works that we are called to do, must be at all times tied to the deep well of introspection in the hopes that we can produce a substantive life project. In undergraduate, upon being blessed with the resources to flourish, I functioned in a space where I was afforded the opportunity to examine and expound on my interests without having to necessarily specialize.

But, as we know, there is much work to be done, and to be in tune with both what is and what one believes should be is to be in constant awareness that there must be progress from now to some point, seeable or unforeseeable, in the future. I know the world that I come from. I had to leave it to see it in a different light to begin contextualizing what I knew, somewhat akin to the way one must step back from a painting in order to view it in a different context from that which is native to the viewer.

The catalyst behind this musing is a conversation between Dr. Shaun Harper and myself at the graduate School of Education at University of Pennsylvania. Though he is on sabbatical, he agreed to meet with me for several hours, only taking a break to discuss the more tangible aspects of the programs I’m interested in, and It was one of the most fruitful academic experiences I’ve had in since my last day of my Major Figures in Philosophy course with Dr. Gabriel Soldatenko this past May. It was a well needed and lively discussion, because there are few people among those I have met who have the ability inquire in a way that evokes a critique in a way that makes space for constructive self-examination, Dr. Shaun Harper is one of the few. I’ve been charged to undertake that forever-necessary assignment of self examination. There is work to be done. I cannot wait to see what I come up with, but in the meantime, while I reflect, I’ll be working on my application. Penn feels as if it is the place that I should be, so what I plan to do is set forth the best bid and leave the rest in the hands of God. But, I must specialize, and this is the wealthy conundrum I look to examine over the next several weeks (that I’ve been fastened in for the past several months).

In closing, It is the genuine intrinsic nexus between one’s self-examination and the one’s self-actualization that give one’s work substantive meaning in life. With all of the work that must be done, especially in the field(s) which I have spent so much time watching, learning, and engaging with, It is time to do that which is most difficult, for me: find my niche within academia, the kind that is tied to my interests and the greater good of the people I wish to serve. There will always be the sound of the authentic whether or not one is able, or willing, to step down from the outer chaos to inspect the chaos. There must always be the understanding that we must actively pursue that which is genuine in us, and be genuine in our efforts to do so.

– Khalfani.

Jimmy Baldwin, on the Negro in Atlanta.

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“Atlanta’s well-to-do Negroes never take buses, for they all have cars. The section in which they live is quite far away from the poor Negro section. They own, or at least are paying for, their own homes. They drive to work and back, and have cocktails and dinner with each other. They see very little of the white world; but they are cut off from the black world, too.

Now, of course, this last statement is not literally true. The teachers teach Negroes, the lawyers defend them. The ministers preach to them and bury them, and others insure their lives, pull their teeth, and cure their ailments. Some of the lawyers work with the NAACP and help push test cases through the courts. (If anything, by the way, disproves the charge of “extremism” which has so often been made against this organization, it is the fantastic care and patience such legal efforts demand.) Many of the teachers work very hard to bolster the morale of their students to prepare them for their new responsibilities; nor did those I met fool themselves about the hideous system under which they work. So when I say that they are cut off from the black world, I am not sneering, which, indeed, I scarcely have any right to do. I am talking about their position as a class – if they are a class – and their role in a very complex and shaky social structure.

The wealthier Negroes are, at the moment, very useful for the administration of the city of Atlanta, for they represent the potential, at least of interracial communication, That this phrase is a euphemism, in Atlanta as elsewhere, becomes clear when one considers how astonishingly little has been communicated in all these generations. What the phrase almost always has reference to is the fact that, in a given time and place, the Negro vote is sufficient value to force politicians to bargain for it. What interracial communication also refers to is that Atlanta is really growing and thriving, and because it wants to make even more money, it would like to prevent incidents that disturb the peace, discourage investments, and permit test cases, which the city of Atlanta would certainly lose, to come to the courts. Once this happens, as it certainly will one day, the state of Georgia will be up in arms and the present administration of the city will be out of power. I did not meet a soul in Atlanta (I naturally did not meet any members of the White Citizen’s Council, not, anyway, to talk to) who did not pray that the current mayor would be reelected. Not that they loved him particularly, but it is his administration which holds off the holocaust.

Now this places Atlanta’s wealthy Negroes in a really quite sinister position. Though both they and the mayor are devoted to keeping the peace, their aims and his are not, and cannot be, the same. Many of those lawyers are working day and night on test cases which the mayor is doing his best to keep out of court. The teachers spend their working day attempting to destroy in their students – and it is not too much to say, in themselves – those habits of inferiority which form one of the principal cornerstones of segregation as it is practiced in the South. Many of the parents listen to speeches by people like Senator Russell and find themselves unable to sleep at night. They are in the extraordinary position of being compelled to work for the deconstruction of all they have bought so dearly – their homes, their comfort, the safety of their children. But the safety of their children is merely comparative; it is all that their comparative strength as a class has bought them so far; and they are not really safe, really, as long as the bulk of Atlanta’s Negroes live in such darkness. On any night, in that other part of town, a policeman may beat up one Negro too many, or some Negro or some white man may simply go berserk. This is all it takes to drive so delicately balanced a city mad. And the island on which these Negroes have built their handsome houses will simply disappear.

This is not at all n the interests of Atlanta, and almost everyone there knows it. Left to itself, the city might grudgingly work out compromises designed to reduce the tension and raise the level of Negro life. But it is not left to itself; it belongs to the state of Georgia. The Negro vote has no power in the state, and the governor of Georgia – that “third-rate” man,” Atlantans call him – makes great political capital out of keeping the Negroes in their place. When six Negro ministers attempted to create a test case by ignoring the segregation ordinance on the buses, the governor was ready to declare martial law and hold the ministers incommunicado. It was the mayor who prevented this, who somehow squashed all publicity, treated the minsiters with every outward sign of respect, and it is his office which is preventing the case from coming into court. And remember it was the governor of Arkansas, in an insane bid for political power, who created the present crisis in Little Rock  – against the will of most of its citizens and against the will of the mayor.”

– James Baldwin
Nobody Knows My Name
“A Letter from the South”
Partisan Review, Winter 1959
pp. 90-94

This serves as inspiration for a later piece.
I don’t know how, up until this this point, I missed this essay.