Long before Atlanta Hip Hop legend Andre 3000 famously said the words, “the South got something to say” at the 1995 Source Awards, Atlanta had already made an impact on the world.

The hustler mentality of self-determination has been engraved in Atlanta since its Terminus roots, even before this capital city became the home to Coca-Cola in the late 1800s.

To the self-governed Snake Nation—now known as Castleberry Hill—where the railroad worker, ex-cons, and “degenerates” governed themselves as the Free and Rowdy Party against the Moral Party that eventually wiped it out with fire. In the ashes, that spirit of rebellion lingered.

Through the Civil Rights Movement that has been internationally recognized to the expansion of the busiest airport of the entire world where Maynard Jackson stopped construction to force that people of color be allowed to have a stake in the process, the Black Mecca has proven influential without a need to boast about it.

To its founders, Atlanta Influences Everything represents more than a dope t-shirt or hoodie; it also represents “a movement, initiative, and declaration of a truth that runs deep.”

Moving beyond the siloes

Four creatives—Bem Joiner, Ian Ford, Yami Jaramillo, and Tory Edwards—have teamed up to showcase their commitment to that truth, recognizing that real Atlanta culture comprises far more than the sound, the dances, the films and the lingo that has made its way all over the world.

Joiner has been an advocate for Atlanta and Hip-Hop culture speaking on its influence for years while working alongside civic leaders and major brands to ensure they remained authentic to the city.

Ford, the team’s in-house designer and longtime partner of Joiner, has sparked many ongoing initiatives and cultural events in Atlanta since back before Atlanta was a trending topic.

Jaramillo, who was initially brought on as a writer, has emerged as the team’s advocate for the younger generation of creatives among her mentors.

Finally, Edwards elevated the movement through his contribution to expanding the brand past the apparel line and into content creation with his long rap sheet in production.

Together, the four are using Atlanta Influences Everything as a tool for connecting siloed areas of Atlanta culture through storytelling, civic consulting and cultural curation.

“Urban Atlanta is separated into three siloes: Hollywood, Holly-Hood and Holly-Weird,” Ford explained. “Atlanta Influences Everything is here to connect all of them.”

As a team, Atlanta Influences Everything has consulted outside organizations and Atlanta’s own on how to connect with the city’s talent authentically and offer opportunities to those that are aiming to stay here and create freely in a city that allows them to be themselves.

Many people have left to New York or L.A. to be able to make a living because up until recently, many weren’t sure how to capitalize on the “sauce” they’ve created from this unique conglomerate in the South.

“We kept losing so much talent to other cities because all the industries are coming here and we are just now acknowledging it,” Edwards said.

When sparks fly

In a meeting between Joiner, Ford and executives from the City of Atlanta’s Office of Film and Entertainment, a discussion ensued that brought forth the idea that the city needed a tagline similar to New York City’s “I Heart NY” campaign.

Though the two walked away unsure of what to propose, shortly thereafter, Ford listened to Joiner speak about Atlanta’s creative economy, as he discussed building that brand, he mentioned in a very lackadaisical manner that “Atlanta influences everything,” and sparks flew.

The phrase “Atlanta Influences Everything” just seemed to stick. Ford then put it on a t-shirt and, before he knew it, the shirt grew into a viable branding stamp the city had been missing. A movement that grew with light-hearted intentions has now sparked a conversation that they’re ready to share with the world.

According to Edwards, the movement started picking up in popularity during the 2018 NBA Finals when Jaylen Brown wore the shirt during press interviews on ESPN.

Charles Williams, product line manager for Nike’s Mens Sportswear, and his team met with the Atlanta Influences Everything team to get an understanding of authentic Atlanta creative culture as they prepared for their activation for Super Bowl 53.

The Atlanta Influences Everything banner led the MLS Cup Victory Parade for Atlanta United. The banner company reached out to the team to create it because they felt that there was no stronger statement to lead the parade.

To close the enormous gap of wealth inequality, Jaramillo said the Atlanta Influences Everything team sees the creative class as the saving grace the city has been calling for.

For the betterment of Atlanta

Atlanta Influences Everything has partnered with Fulton County Arts and Culture to comprise a series called “Storyboard.” In each installment of the art program, Atlanta Influences Everything has highlighted an influential ATLien while a local visual artist storyboards the tale into a piece of art.

Another program, “Pop Up Docs,” has been an ongoing project in which Atlanta Influences Everything features the stories of several Atlantans of all backgrounds, offering ATLiens, transplants and natives alike, a platform to share their piece of Atlanta and showcase how they’ve borne witness to its influence and contributed to it.

“There has been no connection between the civic and creative scene,” Joiner said. “There should be a cohesive creative class. That’s the missing piece of the ecosystem to how the city is run.”

The group’s aim is to connect civic engagement with the creative class so that the city’s own get a stake in the growing creative economy. Additionally, the group aims to connect civic innovation with creative culture to where it works together cohesively for the betterment of Atlanta.

“What’s driving us is that cultural impact was undervalued and hard to quantify,” Edwards said. “Historically creatives have always been robbed by corporate entities. It won’t change until we band together and demand what we’re worth.”

Apparently, the tide has started to shift. The Blue city in a traditionally Red state where urban culture has been largely undervalued up until recently has now counted on that same culture to be a catalyst to government change, including as recently as the Keisha Lance Bottoms’ campaign for mayor.

“Yes, pop culture is now Atlanta culture in 2019, but Atlanta Influence Everything is what locals of this great city have come to notice long before the Migos renamed Gwinnett as the ‘Nawf’ and allowed our OTP brethren to feel included in the Atlanta conversation,” Jaramillo said.

The popularity of Atlanta’s creative class has continued to grow in worldwide mainstream media. Atlanta Influences Everything hopes to connect the entire city to better the conversations and encourage economic growth among its own residents.

(Photo: Reginald Duncan / The Atlanta Voice)

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