Abandoned Atlanta: Teens Portray the Forgotten, the Unheard of, and the Remnants of a Complicated City

The sight of decrepit, abandoned buildings can evoke many different reactions. They can inspire or disgust, educate or anger, thrill or frighten. Abandoned buildings serve as a reminder of our history---as well as our disappointments---and the art created of them can paint a vivid picture of urban decay. Being the oddball out of capital cities, Atlanta was not built on a major body of water. Instead, it grew as a central railroad hub of ill repute.  It was a city of prostitution, gambling, and violence for a long time.

Westside Norteno 14 in Cobb County. Picture Confiscated during arrest, Sept. 20, 2003.

The Myth of Suburban Gangs: A Changing Demographic

When most people think of gangs and the criminal activity often associated with them problems of the inner-city may come to mind -– issues that are far from their manicured suburban lawns, something that could never touch their lives directly. But the demographic makeup and geographic location of gangs are changing, according to Rebecca Petersen, author of Understanding Contemporary Gangs in America and a Criminal Justice Professor at Kennesaw State University near Atlanta*. “We have seen this trend of gangs moving out of the city and into the suburbs for 20 years now,” Petersen said. “We don’t associate the suburbs with people being poor or homeless, but it’s one of the fastest growing populations [in the suburbs].”

While gangs are not exclusively comprised of low-income members, the correlation between harsh economic conditions and the proliferation of gang activity has been documented in communities around the country since at least the late 1980s. In the decade leading up to 2010, the suburban poor in major-metropolitan suburbs grew by 53 percent, compared to an increase of 23 percent within the cities, according to the Census Bureau.

Virginia Highlands, Atlanta. John Fleming/JJIE

From the Editor: Art and Vandalism, Under the Bridge

I was in Johannesburg in 1993, before the rise of the anti-apartheid government, when the streets throbbed with uncertainty about the future. The political leadership was trying to decide if the fall of apartheid would be peaceful or bloody. The ambiguity hanging in the air made it hard to get a bead on the general direction of things. But you could find clues. You just had to search for them among the people of that huge industrial city, in their voices, their writings and especially, in their art.

KAWS installation of 27 circular paintings at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta. March, 2012.

From Graffiti to Fine Art: KAWS at the High

When a Jersey City teenager started tagging and defacing public advertisements back in the early 1990’s, he had no clue it would turn into a lucrative art career. But that’s the story of Brian Donnelly, better known as “KAWS,” that has led him to a multi-sight exhibition at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art. Perched on the top floor above the High’s Picasso to Warhol exhibit, KAWS’ installment “DOWN TIME” seems to bring the Modernism housed in the levels below into the modern times they helped create. His work is strange, yet strikingly familiar, and why wouldn’t it be? It’s essentially a commentary on pop-culture, drawn from pop culture and stamped on pop culture -– it has become pop culture.

Trayvon Martin Rally Atlanta March 26 2012

Students, Community Members Gather in Atlanta to Protest Trayvon Martin Shooting

ATLANTA -- Hundreds of Trayvon Martin supporters gathered to chants of “I am Trayvon” in Downtown Atlanta on Monday, exactly one month after the Florida teen was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer in an Orlando suburb. Bands of student demonstrators, mainly organized by student groups from nearby universities, joined activists, community members and a long list of organizers on the steps of the state capital to call for the arrest of George Zimmerman – the self-appointed neighborhood watch captain who claimed to have shot the 17-year-old in self-defense. “It’s a general issue of justice,” said Richard Hunter, 42, who attended the rally with his nine-year-old son, Matt. “I think we’ve seen that when we get involved things can change,” Hunter said about the importance of getting young people involved in justice issues. “A lot of people sit back and act like nothing is going to happen instead of showing up.

Of Organ Donors and Social Media

No one really questions how effective social media can be these days. Just look back across the wreckage of any number of despotic regimes in the Arab World or the 70 million plus views of a YouTube posting that may help lead to the downfall of a particularly brutal madman in central Africa and the Invisible Children at his mercy. Nor do you have to look afar for the good it can do, and in rapid fashion. For the several hundred friends and acquaintances of 19-year-old Richard Bland, a scheduled visit by a gang of four young men from the now-cancelled MTV series The Buried Life was used to jazz up a little interest in the importance of organ donations and specifically young Richard’s need for a kidney. The idea to engineer the mash up of social media and the visit by the Buried Life crew to Kennesaw State University north of Atlanta, sprang to life in the minds of some fraternity boys on a recent evening.

No Remorse? One Law Professor Studies the Impact of Emotion in the Juvenile Justice System

Sitting behind her strikingly barren desk, with the bright, mid-winter sunlight breaking through the trees and streaming through her office windows, Martha Grace Duncan, a professor at the Emory University School of Law, in Atlanta recounts the case of nine-year-old Cameron Kocher. As she speaks her small, compact frame remains nearly motionless, betraying no emotion. But her eyes tell the story, portraying the internal mix-up of sadness, passion and nerdy intensity that she feels about the topic. Duncan may not wear her heart on her sleeve, but if you pay attention it’s not hard to find. In March 1989, on a cold, snowy day in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania, Kocher fatally shot a seven-year-old playmate with a high-powered hunting rifle.

Voices from the King Center

On a day of celebration and remembrance, young visitors to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center in Atlanta told the JJIE what the man and his work from four decades ago mean to them and the world today. We asked: "Why do you think the work of Martin Luther King is important to us today?" These are their responses. Photographs by Jenni Girtman.  

In King’s Hometown, the Sights, the Sounds and the Mood on his Day

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, a blossoming movement rose forth to recognize the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. as a federally observed holiday, culminating with more than six million people signing a petition to Congress. In 1986, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was first celebrated, three years after President Ronald Reagan signed a bill authorizing the third Monday in January as a federal holiday. According to 2007 statistics, however, only a third of the nation’s employers give their employees the day off for the federal holiday, and it wasn’t until 2000 that every state in the union recognized the date as an official state holiday. Nor is the official terminology consistent throughout the country, with Arizona and New Hampshire celebrating the date as “Martin Luther King. Jr. Civil Rights Day” and Mississippi recognizing the day as a co-celebration of the lives of both King and Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

police-car-siren-stock-photo-2 Clay Duda/JJIE.org

Study: Curfew Laws Reduce Juvenile Arrests

A recently published study found youth curfews reduce juvenile arrests. The study, published in The American Law and Economics Review by the University of California, Berkeley, showed arrests of youths were directly impacted by curfews, dropping almost 15 percent in the curfew’s first year and 10 percent in the following years. The report analyzed data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Unified Criminal Reporting files from 1980 to 2004 for 54 large U.S. cities (with populations more than 180,000) that enacted youth curfews between 1985 and 2002. Arrests of young adults outside the curfew restriction also dropped suggesting fewer cross-age interactions, according to the study. A survey in 1996, found 146 of the largest 200 U.S. cities had curfew laws on the books.