TIME society

Growing Up in Atlanta, Every Day Was MLK Day

martin-luther-king-jr
Getty Images Martin Luther King, Jr.

Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

"If you grow up black in King's hometown, you can't help but see his story intertwine with your own"

To grow up in Atlanta is to be always aware of the story of Martin Luther King, Jr., and to see it intertwine with your own fate.

I was born there in 1978, less than a mile from the house where King grew up. As a schoolchild, I like others, visited Atlanta’s Auburn Avenue—the street where King was born, worked, died, and is honored. To see King’s neighborhood, and the home he was born in, humanized him for us children, letting us know that he was once young like us, wrestling with classes and playing with siblings. We went to the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King declared, “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice,” and to the headquarters of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the organization he led until his death in 1968. We visited the King Center built by his widow to spread King’s nonviolent doctrine, and saw the eternal flame that burns near his tomb and reminds us that his work endures.

My grandparents—native Floridians who first came to Atlanta as college students in the late 1930s—and my mother tried to shield my brother and me from the indignities they suffered during the era of Jim Crow. They did this mostly by trying to give us a better life; I seldom spoke to them about the racism they endured. But the living history was everywhere in Atlanta, and the frequency with which I saw King’s lieutenants and associates on television reminded me of both the progress we’d achieved and the work still left to be done. John Lewis, for example, was leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee when he was gassed and beaten badly on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, in 1965, during the start of a march to the state capitol that came to be known as “Bloody Sunday.” But he went on to represent Atlanta as a U.S. congressman and has fought for decades to preserve the Voting Rights Act he, King, and hundreds of foot soldiers helped usher into law.

When I became a journalist, I found myself gravitating toward telling the stories of black people, and focusing specifically on the legacy of the civil rights movement. As a college student, I got my first reporting job at the Atlanta Daily World, a black newspaper first published in 1928. The office was on Auburn Avenue—the same street I’d first visited as a child. I was working blocks away from where King worked.

By taking on civil rights as a beat in Atlanta, I not only had a front row seat to history, but the ability to ask those who lived it how they felt about current-day racial struggles. It was an extraordinary opportunity.

Even though I have left Atlanta, I carry all this history with me. This fall, almost a half-century after the enactment of the federal Civil Rights Act that King supported, I spent a few weeks in Ferguson, Missouri, as a reporter for Fusion covering the Michael Brown shooting and the ensuing protests.

From the day I arrived, the parallels between the Ferguson context and that of King’s struggles were everywhere.

Even though segregation is no longer legal and discussion of the civil rights movement has appeared in textbooks for decades, I still found neighborhoods in Ferguson so divided along color lines that I thought I had stepped into those black-and-white TV images of the 1960s I had seen. In the same way Bull Connor referred to King and other protesters as “outside agitators” in Birmingham, authorities and some residents in Ferguson referred to “outsiders” and the “negative influence of the media” on the African-American community—as if this community had no grounds to be unhappy of their own volition with the status quo before August 9, 2014. I talked to people on both sides of the racial divide who did not know each other’s daily lives.

The way the police deployed tear gas, dogs, smoke bombs, and riot gear certainly reminded me of stories I’d been told by people like Lewis. Images of clashing police and protesters in Ferguson—and the real-time reactions on social media—reminded me of the nation’s horror at the sight of water hoses, clubs, and snarling dogs 50 years before.

The Ferguson rallies, both there and elsewhere in the country, were full of young people—much like those during the civil rights movement. But there were important differences, too. Unlike the masses who rallied around King in Alabama, there was no single leader of the protests I covered in Ferguson night after night. The shooting of Michael Brown had been the catalyst, but inequality—and specifically unequal treatment of black people in the criminal justice system—was the real subject, one with many stories to tell.

During the 1960s, the black church had a central role, serving as the moral foundation of the movement. In Ferguson, churches served as the site of several rallies and meetings, and preachers could regularly be seen keeping the peace on the front lines during protests. But the burgeoning movement was neither started nor maintained through the church.

And while the protesters on West Florissant Avenue were mostly peaceful demonstrators, there were some who would have disappointed King—looting, committing arson, firing guns.

There are some who think of the events in Ferguson as an isolated incident, simply a moment in time. But to me it seemed like part of the continuum in the struggle for progress in our country. When I interviewed King’s aides, they were always quick to mention that the civil rights movement didn’t die with King; it’s ongoing. While our nation has made racial progress, we still have far to go before we achieve full equality among America’s citizens. The reaction to what happened in Ferguson exposed that chasm anew.

Errin Whack is a journalist whose articles, essays, and interviews have appeared in numerous outlets, including Fusion News, The Guardian, The Associated Press, and The Washington Post. She currently serves as vice president of print for the National Association of Black Journalists and lives in Washington, D.C. She wrote this for What It Means to Be American, a national conversation hosted by the Smithsonian and Zocalo Public Square.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME animals

Watch a Mourning Dog Standing Guard Over Her Puppy’s Grave

A stray dog in Georgia refuses to leave her puppy's grave in Georgia

A stray dog in Georgia has taken residence in Savannah’s Laurel Grove North Cemetery after burying her deceased puppy among the headstones, reports The New York Daily News.

Aspiring photographer Hunter Cone, 15, first spotted the mother dog sitting beside her late pup while he was taking photos in the cemetery on Jan. 6. Cone returned with his mother to try and feed the mourning animal, but she ran off.

Cone came back again the following day, and found the dog standing guard in the same spot, but now with her puppy buried next to her.

“She wouldn’t let us get within seven feet of her,” Hunter told the Daily News. “She wasn’t aggressive. She didn’t bark at us or anything.”

Rescuers have been feeding the dog and working to safely remove the grieving mom from the cemetery and into a shelter, even bringing in another puppy to distract the canine. So far attempts to lure the dog away from her own puppy’s grave have not been fruitful.

“If this doesn’t prove that dogs have feelings, just like humans do, I don’t think anything else will,” said Cone.

Along with wanting to help the mourning stray, Cone hopes this story raises awareness about Georgia’s animal control laws, which prevent rescue groups from taking in strays unless the group is contracted by the government.

This article originally appeared on People.com.

TIME Crime

Vietnam Vet Loses Bid to Stop Execution on PTSD Claim

Andrew Brennan was convicted of shooting and murdering a 22-year-old cop

A decorated Vietnam veteran who argued he was suffering from post-traumatic stress when he killed a sheriff’s deputy in 1998 lost a bid for clemency on the eve of his scheduled execution. The Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole declined to commute the death sentence of Andrew Brannan to life in prison after hearing from prosecutors and defense lawyers at a Monday hearing.

Brannan was convicted of murdering Laurens County deputy Kyle Dinkheller, who had stopped him for driving 98 mph. Dash-cam video showed Brannan dancing in the street and saying “shoot me” before he pulled a rifle from his car and…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME weather

Four Killed by Tornadoes in Mississippi

Severe Weather Mississippi
Eli Baylis—AP Police inspect Kids' Kampus, a day-care facility after a tornado ripped the roof off of the building in Sumrall, Miss., on Dec. 23, 2014

The state and region are bracing for more bad weather ahead of Christmas

At least four people in Mississippi were killed by tornadoes on Tuesday, in what a Weather Channel meteorologist described as possibly the deadliest December tornado occurrence in Mississippi since 1953.

Two of the deaths were in Marion County, and the other two in a mobile home in Jones County, NBC News reports.

Meanwhile, tornadoes and hail are continuing to scuttle holiday travel plans across the southeastern U.S. At least two tornadoes were reported in Louisiana and Georgia, and a tornado watch was in effect on Tuesday for parts of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

More than 5,600 flights were delayed in the U.S. on Tuesday, as of 10:00 p.m., and almost 850 were canceled, according to FlightAware.com.

[NBC]

TIME justice

Execution Set for Man Whose Drunk Lawyer Botched His Defense

Robert Wayne Holsey
Georgia Department of Corrections/AP Convicted murderer Robert Wayne Holsey who is scheduled to be executed on Dec. 9, 2014.

His attorney drank a quart of vodka a night

In 1997, Andy Prince’s life was in a downward spiral. The Georgia attorney was drinking a quart of vodka a night. He stole $100,000 from a client. He was arrested for disorderly conduct after threatening to shoot his neighbors. But none of that prevented him from representing Robert Wayne Holsey, a Georgia man convicted of shooting a deputy sheriff and scheduled to die this week thanks to what Holsey’s current lawyers describe as unthinkable and almost criminally poor legal representation.

On Dec. 17, 1995, Holsey shot and killed Baldwin County Sheriff’s Deputy Will Robinson in Milledgeville, Ga., after the officer pulled Holsey over for a suspected robbery. At the time, Georgia had no public defender office, leaving it up to judges to appoint a lawyer, often resorting to attorneys they knew personally. In this case, Prince was chosen to defend Holsey.

MORE: Ohio looks to shield lethal injection drugmakers

“When [Prince] took on Holsey’s case, he was in a lot of trouble,” said attorney Brian Kammer, the director of the Georgia Resource Center who is currently representing Holsey. “He was barely able to represent him. He was a chronic heavy drinker, an alcoholic. And it impacted his performance.”

Kammer says that in Holsey’s sentencing phase, Prince barely prepared the basis for why his client should be spared the death sentence. At the time, Holsey’s IQ was about 70, meaning by some standards he was intellectually disabled. Prince provided little evidence in court to bolster that defense and largely failed to provide the jury with information about Holsey’s childhood, which was rife with abuse and could have persuaded jurors to spare his life. A jury sentenced Holsey to death in 1997.

In the months and years following the trial, Prince was disbarred, sentenced to 10 years for stealing client money and later testified that he shouldn’t have been representing Holsey in the first place.

MORE: Missouri just tied its lethal injection record)

Yet the death sentence remains. While Holsey is set to die by lethal injection on Tuesday, his lawyers are working to halt his execution. On Monday, Kammer presented Holsey’s case to Georgia’s five-member clemency board, arguing that Georgia’s standard for determining intellectual disability is unconstitutional, a strict standard that requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled in Hall v. Florida that it was unconstitutional to automatically prohibit anyone with an IQ of 70 or above from being considered mentally disabled. The Florida law initially had a strict cutoff that made those with an IQ of 70 or above eligible for the death penalty.

The parole panel, however, denied clemency on Monday, and the Georgia Supreme Court decided against a stay of execution in a 5-2 vote on Tuesday. Holsey’s lawyers have presented a last-minute appeal to the Supreme Court to halt the execution, scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday.

TIME Parenting

Georgia School Slaps Handcuffs on 6-Year-Old Student

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Getty Images

School said first grader's son posed a risk to himself and others

The mother of a first grade student has expressed outrage at a Georgia school’s decision last week to place her 6-year-old son in handcuffs.

Lakaisha Reid said she found her son, a special needs student at Pine Ridge Elementary school, kneeling on the floor with his hands cuffed behind his back, Yahoo! News reports.

“The first thing I said was ‘Get those handcuffs off my kid,’ Reid said. She said the handcuffs appeared to have bruised her son’s wrists.

(Read more: Why Are 40,000 Children So Harshly Disciplined in Public Schools?)

The school defended its decision to restrain her son, arguing that his behavior posed a risk to himself and other students.

“For approximately one hour, the student was scratching, kicking and hitting school personnel and continued to exhibit violent behavior, running into walls, banging his head on tables and placing his health at risk,” read a statement from Dekalb County School District.

[Yahoo!]

TIME 2014 Election

History Favors Republicans if Georgia Senate Race Goes to Runoff

David Perdue Georgia Senate Race
John Bazemore—AP David Perdue waves to supporters after declaring victory in the Republican primary runoff for nomination to the U.S. Senate from Georgia, at his election-night party in Atlanta, July 22, 2014.

The GOP has won the last five statewide runoffs in the Peach State

If Georgia’s Senate race goes into overtime, the safe bet is on the Republicans. But if that runoff election will determine control of the Senate, it’s anyone’s game.

Elections handicappers are increasingly confident that the contest between Republican businessman David Perdue and Democratic philanthropist Michelle Nunn won’t be decided on November 4. History favors Republicans in a rematch, which would be held on January 6, three days after lawmakers take their oaths of office.

Republicans have won the past five statewide runoff contests by doing a better job turning out their base in the conservative-leaning state.

In 2008—the last Senate runoff in the state—Republican Saxby Chambliss won the first ballot by three percent of the vote, and then a month later trounced his Democratic opponent Jim Martin in the runoff by 15 points. Republicans were boosted in part by the lower turnout, which was around 57 percent of the number of voters who cast ballots in the same Senate race a month earlier.

“I think Michelle needs to win on November 4,” says University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock. “I think it’s going to be really difficult for her afterwards.”

To win, Bullock says that Nunn would have to have “strong mobilization” from the African-American community and improve her support from white women, who are much more likely to vote for a Democrat than white men. Bullock sees white voters as the group that could doom Nunn.

“Overall from all the projections I’m seeing from the polls, none of that show her getting 30% of the white vote,” says Bullock. “So if she can’t do that I don’t think there’s any way she can pull it out.”

Another reason Nunn would fare worse in a runoff is Libertarian Amanda Swafford, who recently has been polling between one and six percent. Swafford’s support has been strong enough to keep Nunn and Perdue below the majority threshold needed to win outright on the first ballot. Andra Gillespie, a political science professor at Emory University says that Republicans would likely benefit from Libertarians coming to their side in a runoff, on top of the “party ID advantage” they already have in the state.

But both Gillespie and Bullock see a path forward for Nunn, as the media spotlight could turn to Georgia if it turns out to hold the key to a Senate majority. A recent CNN poll even showed Nunn with a 51% to 47% edge over Perdue in a hypothetical runoff, although the polling model took into account a November electorate instead of a likely smaller one.

“Both parties will pull out all the stops to win Georgia, and the outcome would be anyone’s guess,” says Gillespie of a runoff race for the Senate majority.

Democrats remain hopeful that Nunn—a political neophyte with the backing of her father, former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn—will win in November despite the state’s reddish cast.

“Her best chance is to win it outright,” says the former Senate Democratic candidate Martin, who now works as an adjunct faculty member at Georgia State University College of Law. “[But] Georgia’s changed and the political environment has changed … A young, energetic, new leader both in the gubernatorial race [Democratic candidate Jason Carter] and in the Senate race attracts people no matter what their age. People like youth and enthusiasm and optimism.”

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 24

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Iran’s insidious control of Hezbollah and Russia’s operations inside Ukraine call for a new U.S. strategy to counter unconventional warfare.

By Robert A. Newson in Defense One

2. Criminalizing organ donor compensation endangers lives and fuels an unregulated black market.

By Sigrid Fry-Revere and David Donadio in the New Republic

3. Utility rights-of-way — think power lines and pipelines — can become flourishing wildlife habitats.

By Richard Conniff in Yale Environment 360

4. A unique combination of government support and a strong entrepreneur culture has made D.C. a hub for startups.

By Dena Levitz in 1776 DC

5. For the nations of the South Caucasus, the fate of Ukraine means choosing between Russia and the west comes at a high price.

By Maxim Suchkov in Carnegie Moscow Center Eurasia Outlook

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME College Sports

Yet Another Heisman Hopeful Runs Afoul of the NCAA’s Unfair System

Vanderbilt v Georgia
Mike Zarrilli—Getty Images Georgia running back Todd Gurley (right) stiff-arms Torren McGaster of Vanderbilt on October 4, 2014 in Athens, Georgia.

The University of Georgia's Todd Gurley has been suspended after reportedly being accused of accepting money for autographs. What exactly did he do wrong here?

Another year, another Heisman contender’s season interrupted by stupidity.

In 2013, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel–then the defending Heisman trophy winner–became embroiled in a cash-for-autographs controversy. The National Collegiate Athletics Association and Texas A&M said “there was no evidence” that Manziel “received money in exchange for autographs,” but Manziel was still suspended, for the first half of A&M’s opener, for an “inadvertent violation regarding the signing of certain autographs.”

The Johnny Football contretemps was a flash point in the longstanding debate about whether college athletes deserve a fairer share of the expanding revenues flowing into college sports. Love him or hate him, why shouldn’t a player who was bringing in millions for Texas A&M be able to receive autograph money if someone wanted to give it to him? What Manziel was allegedly doing was hardly illegal, except in the weird world of college sports.

Turns out, Manziel didn’t get railroaded. After sitting out that first half, he had every opportunity to compete again for the Heisman (though he lost out to Florida State’s Jameis Winston, even after an excellent 2013 season). Looks like University of Georgia running back Todd Gurley won’t be as lucky. Georgia has suspended Gurley indefinitely; SI.com reported that “a person confirmed to Georgia’s compliance office this week he paid Gurley $400 to sign 80 items on campus in Athens, Ga., one day this spring. The person claimed to have a photo and video of Gurley signing the items, but neither the photo nor the video showed money changing hands.”

(MORE: TIME Cover – It’s Time To Pay College Athletes)

Gurley is a Heisman hopeful. Through Georgia’s first five games, the junior had rushed for 773 yards and averaged 8.2 yards per carry. Georgia is ranked 13th in the AP college football poll: the Bulldogs play at Missouri, ranked 23rd, tomorrow. Not only is Gurley a Heisman candidate, but the Bulldogs still have national championships hopes. So Gurley’s success, and the possible once-in-a-lifetime success of his teammates, are now in jeopardy because he may have received $400. Georgia’s football team generates $77.6 million in revenues, and $51.3 million in profit, according to federal data.

The whole system angers Chris Burnette, who finished his career as a Georgia offensive lineman last season and is now working as a financial planner in Atlanta while finishing his MBA. He vented his frustration on Twitter last night:

Burnette, a vocal supporter of compensation for athletes during his Georgia playing days, sounded exasperated when reached by phone. He says he’s not angry at Georgia, and has no firsthand knowledge of any violations Gurley may or may not have committed. “It’s just so frustrating,” says Burnette. “If a student creates an app, no one is telling him he can’t do something because he’s paid for his talents. For these rules to just apply to athletes, it’s almost un-American, really.” Burnette calls Gurley a “stand-up” guy who would “never do anything malicious.”

“I mean, something has to change,” Burnette said.

Luckily, momentum is shifting towards a fairer system. And cases like those of Gurley and Manziel—stars under fire for breaking rules that defy common fairness—can only help speed things up. Everyone involved deserves better.

(MORE: The Long And Winding Road To Paying College Players)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TIME 2014 Election

In Georgia, Perdue Counterpunches on Outsourcing

David Perdue, Michelle Nunn
David Goldman—AP Georgia Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Michelle Nunn, right, shakes hands with Republican candidate David Perdue following a debate, Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014, in Perry, Ga.

Facing a new and damaging attack on his jobs record a month before election day, Georgia GOP Senate candidate David Perdue and his allies have settled on a hard-knuckle strategy: accept the hit and strike back by talking about Obama.

Perdue defended recently unearthed comments he made during a 2005 court case that he spent “most” of his career outsourcing, saying this week that he was “proud” of his work as a businessman and politician. When his opponent, Democrat Michelle Nunn, bashed him in a new ad titled “In His Words” Tuesday, Perdue released one of his own soon thereafter saying that Nunn has been “hiding” her support of President Barack Obama’s “job-killing, big government policies.” That night in a rowdy debate, Perdue labeled Nunn’s moves on the outsourcing issue a “false attack” and said the government had “decimated entire industries.” On Thursday, the Nunn campaign created a new website and video dedicated to hammering Perdue over the outsourcing comments.

Georgia Republican strategists have provided Perdue cover, echoing the refrain that Nunn, if elected to the Senate, would be a proxy for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Barack Obama. In a race that could determine who controls the Senate majority, that just might work.

“David Perdue is focused on making this election a choice about what direction the Senate and thus the country is going,” says Georgia GOP strategist Joel McElhannon. “With a Perdue vote, one opposes Obama and Reid’s agenda. With a Nunn vote, one supports it. That’s a very simple, focused choice he is presenting to the voters. It’s powerful and it works.”

“President Obama is about as popular as Ebola in Georgia right now,” he adds.

“The whole campaign is not going to focus on this particular [outsourcing] issue; I think you have to look at the whole picture,” says Eric J. Tanenblatt, who has helped raise money for Perdue, but also worked for Hands on Atlanta, a volunteer service organization, with Nunn. “I did think that David really drove home [in Tuesday’s debate] what I believe is the key issue in this campaign—that we don’t need to continue down the path of Harry Reid and Barack Obama. Electing Michelle Nunn, while she claims to be independent…she is still a Democrat and will be a part of the Democratic caucus.”

Nunn’s campaign for its part sees that the tie-in to Reid and Obama is problematic. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney won Georgia by nearly 8 points in 2012; Nunn has been around 3 points behind Perdue for months, according to Real Clear Politics. (Although, as the New York Times‘ Nate Cohen pointed out Wednesday, those polls could be underestimating black Democrats.) Gordon Giffin, the Nunn campaign chairman, calls the tactic “arrogant and dismissive,” but still recognizes the threat.

“I think that the only argument that the Perdue campaign seems to present is the notion that somehow Michelle is associated with President Obama and Harry Reid,” says Giffin. “They don’t address what she has to say about her own views, and that is in some ways arrogant and dismissive. She’s her own person; she’s got her own mind and thoughts.”

“That’s got to be responded to because she, like her father [former Georgia Democratic Senator Sam Nunn] was, is an independent thinker on behalf of Georgia,” he adds. “So that is an issue that has to be dealt with because it is distracting. It really doesn’t go to who she is or what she stands for.”

To counter the Obama drag, the campaign is pushing Nunn as a bridge between the two major parties, someone who understands that the president’s eponymous health care law, for example, needs to be reformed. Of course, they’re willing to use Perdue’s outsourcing comment to help her win.

“Mr. Perdue has made his business record the central qualification that he argues he has to be elected to the Senate,” says Giffin. “The more he’s out there saying you should elect me because of my business record and because I know how to create jobs the more you’ve got to say, ‘Yeah, you know how to create jobs in China and Singapore but not in the United States.’”

Independent analysts and even some Republicans agree that the outsourcing comments could pose a problem for Perdue. Andra Gillespie, an associate political science professor at Emory, says that Nunn’s attacks, in addition to the fact that Nunn and Perdue are “novices” running for an open seat, are “helping to keep the race competitive,” even though the historic voting trends give Republicans “the edge.” Todd Rehm, a GOP Georgia-based consultant, says that Nunn’s populist message has challenged Perdue to “connect his policies with the day-to-day lives of voters.” In such a tight race, Jennifer Duffy, a Senate election expert at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, says Democrats “have to hope” the outsourcing comments make Perdue look like “Romney 2.0—elitist and out for himself” to help fire up the base.

“In 2012, voters in Georgia decided that they disliked President Obama’s policies more than Romney’s shortcomings,” says Duffy. “In 2014, their choice is between Nunn, who Republicans have worked to portray as a proxy for the President and a less-than-ideal alternative in Perdue.”

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