The year 2020 has seen the footprint of Atlanta all over it. To say the least, this year has been quite “turbulent,” or as Webster’s defines it, “characterized by conflict, disorder, or confusion.” From a global pandemic that is receiving a host of guidance from the Atlanta-headquartered US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the role that Atlanta voters played in affecting the turnout of one of the most contested Presidential elections in modern history, it’s quite appropriate and befitting that Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has publicly rifted on a quote by Outkast’s Andre 3000, “The South has something to say.”
On a high
Fortunately, the year started on a series of high notes. In early January, Bottoms, along with leadership from Atlanta Beltline Inc. (ABI), the City of Atlanta, and other community leaders, broke ground for permanent construction on the first segment of the Atlanta Beltline’s Southside Trail, known as Southside Trail-West.
Then, in celebration of baseball legend, humanitarian, and Black historical icon Hank Aaron, Atlanta Technical College unveiled the renaming of its academic complex building to the Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron Academic Complex on Feb. 5, Aaron’s 86th birthday. According to Atlanta Technical College officials, Aaron has supported Atlanta Technical College for more than 20 years through his service on its board of directors as well as financial contributions made through his Hank and Billye Aaron Chasing the Dream Foundation.
A week later, “Building Atlanta: The Story of Herman J. Russell,” a documentary about the inspiring life and legacy of Atlanta businessman Herman J. Russell, founder of one of the country’s largest black-owned commercial real estate development and construction firms, premiered on ATL PBA (WPBA-TV) on Feb. 16.
A ‘virtual’ reality
In mid-March, a wave of stay-at-home, shelter-in-place, and quarantine orders forced Americans inside. Schools closed their doors, commuters began working from home and a new class of workers, deemed “essential,” changed the way life for many Atlantans as we know it. What has emerged even as some businesses have reopened as restrictions continue to lighten, is a new virtual way of conducting life — including school, meetings, conferences, and even formal events like press conferences and galas.
Under the direction of its new Superintendent Lisa Herring, Atlanta Public Schools began the school year with the 55,000 students it serves in a completely virtual environment. Groceries can now be purchased and delivered through virtual and “contactless” interaction, including retail services like Shipt, Amazon Prime, and Instacart. For the first time in its 37-year history, the UNCF Mayor’s Masked Ball was hosted virtually on Dec. 19.
Unfortunately, a string of violent incidents in and around Atlanta-area shopping malls become hallmarks of a deadlier year for homicides in Atlanta. From a deadly shooting of a Nashville man over a parking spot at a parking deck near the Cheesecake Factory at Lenox Mall in March to the tragic, untimely holiday death of 7-year-old Kennedy Maxie, who succumbed to injuries from a stray bullet that entered her family’s vehicle near Phipps Plaza on Dec. 21, Atlanta’s homicides are now around 155, well over the 99 deaths investigated in 2019.
A number of city leaders have weighed in on the uptick in violence, which is on trend with rises in violent crimes nationwide, including City Council President Felecia Moore, Bottoms, and interim Police Chief Rodney Bryant, who said, “Once again we’re addressing a situation of a senseless shooting that we believe arose from individuals unable to resolve a situation civilly.”
After becoming an early surrogate for President-elect Joe Biden in early 2019, Bottoms’ profile in the Democratic Party began to soar. From whispers that she was high atop a shortlist of Black women to become the Democratic nominee’s running mate to a well-received keynote speech closing out this year Democratic National Convention in August, the Mayor easily emerged as one of the hardest working women on cable news.
Week after week of appearances on CNN and MSNBC seemed to pay off for Atlanta’s 60th mayor, who confirmed just last week that she was offered a Cabinet position in Biden’s administration but turned it down. As Bottoms’s third year in office draws to a close, all eyes are on her once again to see if she will run for mayor again.