At any time when somebody tries to knock Nikema Williams for not being a metropolis native, she replies that her story is intrinsically Atlantan. Ms. Williams, who was elected in November to Consultant John Lewis’s former seat in Congress after his dying final yr, grew up in Smiths Station, simply over the Chattahoochee River in Alabama, raised in a home with out indoor plumbing.
As a scholar at Talladega Faculty, a small traditionally Black college in Alabama, she and her buddies drove to Atlanta to buy and celebration. Ms. Williams, a Democrat who most lately served within the State Senate, noticed Black elected officers, enterprise leaders, artists and civil rights leaders. “You noticed Black individuals dwelling the total promise of this nation,” she mentioned.
“I moved right here not realizing a soul,” Ms. Williams mentioned, “however I used to be in a position to get entangled, get engaged and discover my method.” However, she added, “we nonetheless have a methods to go.”
A gulf has all the time existed between the aspirations of the “Atlanta Means” and the lived actuality of many residents.
“Atlanta is exclusive and does have this specific method,” Ms. Lee mentioned. “And but, let’s be clear after we take into consideration what it means: We now have this actuality, and a type of hype and P.R. marketing campaign — and people are separate issues.”
A sequence of occasions this yr shined a contemporary mild on the divide.
One night in Might, after George Floyd’s dying within the custody of the Minneapolis police set off protests throughout the nation, crowds in Atlanta smashed the home windows of downtown companies, vandalized the CNN Heart and set a police automotive ablaze. “What I see taking place on the streets of Atlanta is just not Atlanta,” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms mentioned in a uncooked information convention, replayed repeatedly on native tv and radio stations.
The demonstrations gained a brand new vigor after Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old Black man, was fatally shot by the Atlanta police. Officers had been referred to as to a Wendy’s parking zone the place, the authorities mentioned, Mr. Brooks had fallen asleep in his automotive within the drive-through lane. The town’s police chief, Erika Shields, resigned, and the officer who shot Mr. Brooks was fired and charged with homicide.