Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Road Leads Back to You

Georgia is my home.  My state.

Its peach-scented Augusts run in my very blood.

I have the great privilege of teaching this state's history to schoolchildren, and I love it.  Sometimes, when I get in a random kid from California - from South Carolina - from El Salvador - from Delaware - I get the privilege of explaining why Georgia matters.

Her history is often broken and devastating - fragmented and peppered with stories of heart-wrenching loss.  Georgia has her nightmares written in history books - stories of Leo Frank, stories of Native American removal, stories of slavery and blatant and terrible racism.  Stories of Tom Watson, Eugene Talmadge, and the 1906 Race Riots.  Our story is definitely far from perfect.

And yet, there is an alluring draw to the redemption in our state.  For a state full of racism, we are also the home to one of the world's greatest civil rights activists -  Martin Luther King.  For every story about our backwards refusal to grow, there is a Maynard Jackson, who made our airport world-class.  For every racist governor, I find a Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter willing to buck the status quo. 

See, what I explain to my students who come from other places is this:  when you come here, you are part of Georgia's story.  Her spirit.  Her resilience to overcome.

Atlanta recently went through a snowstorm that had epic ramifications.  While a few wily Northerners scoffed at Atlanta's two inches of snow, our roads turned into a sheet of ice.  Suddenly, a city full of urban sprawl (with only a few major ways in and out) became gridlocked in hours.

While I could use this platform to point fingers, throw blame, and give my ideas to make things better, I'd like to talk about what really matters.  People in Atlanta took each other in, helped each other, and even used facebook and social media to keep each other's spirits alive.  The stories coming out of the storm are full of hope and life.  Stores took in patrons to spend the night, good Samaritans fed stranded motorists, people brought snacks to bus-ridden school children, teachers turned a nightmare into the best lock-in ever - these are just a few examples of how Atlanta persevered.

When Atlanta's transportation heart froze, her people kept her love beating - and moved into action.

Atlanta's motto - Resurgens - means "from the ashes."  This was a city annihilated by Sherman.  This was a city that could have evaporated after a war nearly tore the nation apart.  But it survived, then thrived.  It endured a terrible racist time period, but then emerged as a hallmark city - a "city too busy to hate."

Atlanta, Georgia's great industrial center and life-giver, will learn from this and get better.  You see, I will forever ignore the remarks of those who scoff at her weakness, because I know her story.

There are few cities stronger than Atlanta, and she has overcome too much to let ice (and even traffic) overwhelm her.

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