What Atlanta is; What Atlanta ain’t

The ChurnSeptember 15, 2020

If someone were to ask you to define Atlanta in a brief summary, what would you say?

In general, trying to distill an entire metropolitan statistical area down to an elevator pitch or cute tagline is a good way to be proven wrong.

So maybe the best thing to say is “I don’t know.” Plus, these days it feels like everyone — native, resident and/or rando – has an expert opinion on what Atlanta is and is not. While appreciated, it’s not exactly necessary for one person to tell a whole city who it is.

But in fairness, we know that people will always attempt to define something anyway, so since we’re all here we might as well provide a bit of a blanket statement, by way of a few Is-es and Ain’ts.

While we feel strongly about our accuracy, we also know that we share this city with you and the rest of the world, so we’re totally fine if you write us saying you don’t know WTF we’re on but we’re totally off in our assertions. No, really, tell us if we’re wrong.

The Churn isn’t just people who talk and don’t listen. Issa feedback loop — we want to hear from you!

In the meantime, here are a few inarguable facts on what Atlanta Is and what Atlanta Ain’t.

Atlanta Is… America’s hip-hop capital.

We don’t have to debate this. New York is the birthplace of hip-hop. L.A. is where hip-hop found new life. The South and Midwest are where the culture was reborn. But no other city runs rap today like Atlanta.

Andre 3000 The South Got Something To Say

Atlanta Ain’t… Scared of any other form of music.

You may think Atlanta is all about snappin’ and trappin’ until you F around and ride by State Farm Arena when Garth Brooks is performing.

We can always bring John Mayer into it.

Hell, for that matter, have you been to the Atlanta Opera lately? Damn, sorry — of course not. Point is there’s a great deal of musical talent in this city, and we support all the good stuff.

Donald Glover and Teddy Perkins - AtlantaFX

Atlanta Is… A beautifully diverse city where people get along.

That’s just the truth.

We may have different politics, live in different neighborhoods, send our kids to different schools and disagree on whether the chicken wing or the Waffle House omelet comes first, but folks really do get along here.

One way to test this: Come to Atlanta, walk into the middle of Centennial Olympic Park, and yell out “F**k OutKast!”

You’ll get your ass whooped by a rainbow coalition of people across a wide spectrum of age, religious beliefs and even native languages. We come together over ‘Kast, and everything else that represents The Atlanta Way.

Good Trouble John Lewis Atlanta

Atlanta Ain’t… “The City Too Busy To Hate”.

Here in Atlanta, we honor the legacies of John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, Hosea Williams, Ralph David Abernathy, Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King, Ivan Allen Jr., Maynard Jackson and others who pushed for equality. And the work is far from done — in fact it may never be — yet we keep working on it.

But to be clear, this beautiful city is certainly not too busy to hate.

Atlanta has time.

With all its good intentions and positive energy, Atlanta sometimes falls short of the goal of being truly inclusive and equitable. If it was perfect, we wouldn’t be hustling so hard to get it right.

And all those heroes mentioned above didn’t walk as far as they did for us to sit down now. The work continues until it’s truly all love.

Atlanta is… A majority-Black city.

The U.S. Census says that as of 2019 the population of the city of Atlanta — not to be confused with Greater or Metro Atlanta and its surrounding suburbs — is 51.3 percent Black. Facts.

black population in Atlanta Georgia

Atlanta Ain’t… Immune to gentrification.

We’re like every other majority-Black city.

People have figured out that they really want to be here all of a sudden. And people who have lived in traditionally underserved communities are unfortunately being displaced rather rapidly these days.

See the historic West End, where the HBCUs of the Atlanta University Center went from being surrounded by housing projects around the Olympics to being bought up by people who may mean well but probably aren’t sending their kids to Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse or Spelman College.

And that was before news broke that Microsoft is coming to Bankhead.

Atlanta Is… The chicken wing capital of America.

Yeah, we’ve heard of Buffalo (shout out to Atlanta resident Westside Gunn and Griselda!), but nah.

Just because they invented one admittedly delicious wing sauce doesn’t mean they get to own the entire chicken body part. Just like with hip-hop, Atlanta has taken the crown, and tossed it in a sauce that is both lemony and peppery.

magic city Atlanta chicken wings

Atlanta Ain’t… Afraid of eating wings in strip clubs.

We eat and drink everywhere in Atlanta. Why wouldn’t we want food where shoe-models dance? And why wouldn’t that food be way better than it’s probably supposed to be? Don’t judge Lou Williams — judge ol’ muscle-head-ass Terry Crews.

Atlanta Is… Where every celebrity secretly owns a home.

Everybody lives here. They just don’t want you to know where, unless you get that pool party invite. It’s a running joke that every single professional athlete has a spot in The A, even though they don’t play for the Hawks, Braves or Falcons (this is because they’re playing a whole different game, but that’s for another story).

Atlanta Ain’t… “Y’allywood”.

Mane, nobody says “Y’allywood,” dammit. Stop saying that. This is Atlanta. Hollywood needs to get on Tyler Perry’s/our level. When’s the last time you saw a TV show or movie that didn’t have that Georgia logo in the credits?

We’re doing well enough to go by our own name; preshate it.

Think about it: Would people in L.A. like it if we started calling their city “Los Atlangeles?”

Atlanta Is… The home of Freaknik.

Oooweee, you had to be there. It was a glorious mess of anarchy. Interstates became parking lots because brave ATLiens answered the call to ghost-ride the whip — before it was a thing in Oakland — while beautiful ladies twerked on top of backseats in convertibles. It was the most lit thing Atlanta ever had, possibly excluding the sun. But even the sun goes down…

Freaknik Atlanta throwback

Atlanta Ain’t… Ever having a real Freaknik again.

Those days are over. Sure, we can reminisce or do something “inspired by,” but you will absolutely never see the Freaknik of the mid-90s again.

That was a different time.

Those young ladies and gentlemen acting a whole donkey back then? They are uncles and aunts now — today’s PTA presidents and church ushers. But oooh lawd they had that thyow… At least we’ll always have So So Def Bass All-Stars.

Atlanta Is… Not fun to drive in.

There was a brief moment of commuter glory — maybe two months — where Atlanta traffic was as clear as the skies, and both were results of the coronavirus.

But before and since then, these ATL streets, highways, backroads and even sidewalks (what up BeltLine!) have been hammered by Hemis, hovercrafts, ATVs, motorcycles and even e-scooters, operated by people who seem like they intentionally failed their driving tests.

People say they have worse traffic until they visit, and you’ve never seen nervousness until you’re on the Connector during rush hour, riding with someone from out of town who rented a car at the airport but declined the supplemental auto insurance.

Atlanta traffic sucks

Atlanta Ain’t… Really interested in making traffic better.

You know this is true because Gwinnett County refuses to let MARTA come in, which is just insane. Also, you may have noticed there’s no reliable form of public transportation getting to, fro and around in Cobb County.

Yes, that’s on purpose. Oh, and did you know Atlanta has a Streetcar?

Good, because nobody else does either.

What this means is that you have two choices: Live where you work, or experience emotional trauma every weekday. Or, you know, MARTA. Even park and ride is better than ride and park, knowm talmbout?

Atlanta Is… Weird when it comes to money.

It is well known that Atlanta has major income inequality issues, which is ridiculous.

There are lots of Fortune 500 companies here, including Coca-Cola, Delta, Home Depot and others, and even though we’re pushing six million in the metro area, the population of Atlanta proper is less than 600k.

The fact that there are residents of Atlanta who aren’t eating three meals a day is unacceptable. We’ve gotta change that.

That’s why you’ll see The Churn talking about that paper, how it’s moving and how you and your folks can get it. We know it’s not easy to share money these days, but we are asking you to share game, especially if you know something we don’t. Let us know!

if you're gonna be broke in Atlanta you'd better have money

Atlanta Ain’t… “Closed”.

Too many people keep saying stuff like we don’t need more people in Atlanta. Fine if that’s your opinion, but don’t expect it to become reality.

Folks are moving here, and fast. New Yorkers and Angelenos are escaping left and right on some Kurt Russell shit, and Chicago is great, but winter in The Go?

Hell no, we won’t. Where else are you gonna go?

All roads literally lead to Atlanta. You know you’re wrong if you’re being selfish and telling folks on social media they aren’t welcome here when there’s plenty of room for more smart, talented and cool-ass people. Boi stop!

Atlanta Is… Wait, this is getting long.

Look, Atlanta is everything.

And Atlanta isn’t finished becoming what it will be. So if you want to know what Atlanta really is, there’s really only one real answer: It’s undefined. That means no one has the right to tell you what Atlanta is to you.

But Atlanta ain’t all yours. You share it with your neighbors, visitors, people on the other side of the planet who love the culture but have never set foot in College Park other than the airport, and would likely mistake the SWATS for something you wave at one of those big-ass Georgia mosquitos.

Atlanta is a national city, a global city, and a galaxy of its own. It is the greatest place on Earth. It deserves a media company like Butter, and a newsletter like The Churn.

Tell somebody cool to sign up today.