While standing on stage at Douglass High School in casual clothes, looking off into the audience, Richard Dunn addresses a sold-out crowd at the inaugural TEDxCollier Heights, on Aug. 17.

Dunn’s speech touched on the legacy of Atlanta, as well as people in the community who have helped create, develop, and keep that legacy alive.

And who would know better than Dunn, an Atlanta native and serial entrepreneur, whose hands have touched many facets of Atlanta’s entertainment industry since the early 90s. Also, as the grandson of J. Lowell Ware, founding father of The Atlanta Voice Newspaper, Dunn is very aware of legacy and how it shows up in the tapestry that is Atlanta.

Though Dunn stood on the stage by himself, he surely wasn’t alone. His message was delivered to more than one hundred members of the community who came to see him.

He was also one of several other speakers to deliver speeches surrounding the theme “Atlanta Influences Everything,” an acknowledgment to the movement and an ever-present reality across multiple industries.

Hosted by Isaac Hayes III, festivities were kicked off by the sounds of Douglass High’s drumline, and Odie Donald, current city manager for the city of South Fulton and a Douglass High School alumni. As the first speaker, Donald set the tone for the entire event through his speech titled, “The Future of Work is a Job Enough.”

Dunn and Donald were just two of a line-up that included:

– Dr. Taj Anwar Baoll, sociologist, veteran community organizer and activist
– Dr. Joycelyn Wilson, anthropologist and professor of hip-hop studies
– Dr. Nicole Garner Scott, serial entrepreneur and financial consultant
– Bem Joiner, culture curator and owner of “Atlanta Influencers Everything”
– Zachary “Big Zak” Wallance, songwriter and owner of Local Greens
– Lisa Cunningham, producer/director and member of the inaugural LGBTQ for the city of Atlanta
– Dr. Rashad Richey, TV news commentator, radio personality and university professor

One-by-one, with only a brief intermission, each speaker delivered their talk while receiving positive feedback as they touched on relatable points that resonated with the audience.

All Atlanta natives, each individual had managed to build their own success through investing in the city, and the people who bring it alive, benefitting from the seeds that they’ve sowed.

One speaker, in particular, Dr. Nicole Garner Soctt, received quite a reaction from her speech, titled “If You’re Going to be Broke in Atlanta You Better Have Money,” which tied into the ever-growing problem that faces Atlantan’s today when it comes to money, cost of living, and stability.

“On Sundays, I would take time to go past the beautiful mansions of Buckhead, drive past the high skyraises of Midtown, go past the meticulously landscaped subdivisions, with their homeowner’s associations signs and their big Olympic-sized pools, and I thought to myself, ‘That’s going to be me,'” Scott said.

“I was 21-years-old, just graduated from Georgia State University at the top of my class. I had my nine-to-five and my five-to-nine. I had two incomes and I was ready to take on the world. I hoped in my car, I drove downtown and I started my apartment search. I realized very quickly, I could not afford to live in the city that I was born in. I was devastated.”

Scott went on to discuss the history of economic segregation and wealth gaps that still exist in Atlanta.

Fortunately, discussions like these further serve as proof that TEDxCollier Heights doesn’t just highlight the historic neighborhood in the title but was designed to encompass all of Atlanta.

And while each speaker addressed separate topics that affect Atlanta, in the end, they’re combined presence created an accurate depiction of Atlanta of her people.

(Photo Credit: Martel Sharpe)
Photo Credit: Martel Sharpe)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *