Huckleberry Starnes with Atticus and Amelia

Huckleberry Starnes has pursued many creative endeavors in his lifetime. He was a sculptor, furniture maker, product designer, and even studied toy design. His creative inclinations and gifts prepared him handsomely for becoming a stay-at-home dad. Huckleberry had also grown up assisting his mother in running a Montessori-type school and enjoyed being around kids. “I love to play, have fun, and get down on the floor. The best part for me is being able to spend the time with my kids. Hands down. Being able to support my wife, Hester, who works tirelessly and travels extensively is really rewarding as well.”

Huckleberry and his family are known for erecting the most spectacular light display, inflatables, and props during all the holidays. “My kids have the same level of amazement and joy that I do. We really enjoy doing it together and love teasing Mommy about how ridiculous it’s going to get.”

Huckleberry and his family moved from the west side of Atlanta to Decatur three years ago. “The reason we came was for the schools, and we haven’t been disappointed. We also love the walkability and that it is a bike-friendly city. One of the things we like so much is the diversity, but it is changing. We’re conflicted about it. We obviously moved to Decatur because the city has great schools and is very safe. But what has come with this is gentrification and a lack of respect for what this neighborhood and city were and where it came from. I think it will probably level out at some point. It’ll be interesting to see how that works.”

 

Peter

Peter (left) on his 13th Birthday. Peter (center) the night before leaving for college standing with his buddies, Carson and Ryan.

This week I said goodbye to my 18-year-old son, Peter, as he left home for his first year of  college in Miami. When we moved to Atlanta 6 years ago Peter was just a boy, on the brink of adolescence. This week he walked out our door a man. He also walked out the door with his entire bedroom stuffed into his car. This came as a great surprise to me given that he had not packed any suitcases or boxes the night before his departure. He had neatly stacked about 15 shoeboxes (with shoes inside) outside his room along with a monopoly game, and a baseball bat and mitt.  A pile of shirts were draped over the sofa. When I turned in for the night, I said good-bye to my boy and reminded him to finish cleaning out his drawers and closet, something that I have been asking him to do for the last six months. Sadly, Peter left the next day while I was at work. When I returned home my husband informed me that Peter had invited friends over to help him pack his car and that he had left the upstairs, his man cave, pretty clean. I was suspicious since I have not seen his room clean in the last 5 years, but I was too emotional to check it out until today. When I peered into his room I was shocked. The top of his desk was visible and little was left on his shelves.  I was able to walk into his room without stepping on clothes. The real surprise was that his nightstand drawers were empty and his closet was almost bare. A small chest of drawers was missing and his rock collection was gone. I can’t imagine how he managed to load all his stuff into his little Audi.  I hope his roommate packed a small suitcase.

Elliot Poag

On Thanksgiving morning in November, 2000, Elliot Poag got into a car with friends, who unbeknownst to him had been drinking. Elliot recalls that the driver was driving erratically and running red lights. “The road came to an end and we ran into a brick wall.” The other passengers in the car walked away from the crash, but Elliot suffered a broken neck and lost the use of his legs.

Elliot endured surgery and a month of rehabilitation, and then was placed in a nursing home. “Golly, that place was terrible. I was just laying around waiting to die.” Finally, family members took him to Augusta, Georgia. There, he met a case manager from the Shepherd Center, a rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta. She was able to get Elliot in to a newly built independent living apartment complex in Decatur. He moved in on June 28, 2002, and has lived there ever since.

“I love Decatur and I love my neighbors. It has been a blessing. I have been independent and on my own for sixteen years. It’s like living in paradise.”

Elliot has not allowed the hardships caused by his accident to weigh him down. “I just keep a smile on my face and keep a positive attitude, no matter how bad things get. I live like the birds outside, free. In my heart, I’m always free. I believe I can fly.”

Clarence Scott-1

Clarence Scott’s passion for football began in elementary school, before he had even attended a game. On Saturday mornings he would listen to the older guys in his neighborhood talk, with great admiration, about the high school football players who had played the night before. This sparked a fire in him. “I developed within me something that I could reach for, and it turned out to be a real good life.”

In 1965, Clarence and his teammates at Trinity High, Decatur’s all-black high school, made football history. They played an undefeated season and won their first-ever state championship for the school. “It was a tremendous accomplishment. Our school gave us jackets that had our names and State Championship emblem on it. In fact, my father wore my jacket until he wore it out.”

Clarence would go on to have an illustrious career in football, playing four years at Kansas State University and 13 years in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns. Despite his fame, Clarence has never forgotten where the seeds for his success were planted. “Everything comes back to the community. I was born and raised in Decatur. I am most proud of the community that brought me up and taught me how to live life in a meaningful way.”

In 1968, as a result of integration, Trinity merged with Decatur High School. In 2013, Carter Wilson, the Decatur High School Athletic Director, and the Booster Club, presented Clarence and his Trinity teammates with the championship rings they had earned 48 years before. Clarence recalls, “It was exciting. It was something that we previously had not been able to do. It happened, and I know it was in God’s timing. We’re just thankful and grateful that it did occur.”

Noah Grigni

“In “Twin Planets,” I used symbolic colors and shapes, gendered poses, and written narratives to communicate the feeling of gender dysphoria. I chose to work in the format of a diptych because I wanted to illustrate the duality of trans-masculine and trans-feminine experiences, without equivocating the two experiences or emphasizing either above the other.”

Noah Grigni has a clear vision of what he wants to accomplish with his life. He is focused, tenacious, and passionate. He is also an individual who speaks eloquently from the heart and with the wisdom of someone who has lived far beyond his 20 years. Noah is an illustrator, designer, and writer. Noah grew up in Decatur, but is now living in Boston where he is studying visual narratives, a major which combines illustration and creative writing, at Lesley University.

“I’ve been drawing and writing for as long as I can remember. As I was growing up, art was a way for me to channel the gender dysphoria I felt into something tangible that I could control. I am a trans man, and I transitioned from female to male when I was at Decatur High School. As I hit puberty and became increasingly uncomfortable with my female body, I retreated from my social life and became extremely invested in my art. As I transitioned and my life stabilized, I began viewing art as a discipline rather than a crutch. That is when I decided to become a professional artist.”

“My goal as an artist is to amplify the voices of underrepresented communities and to become a role model for trans kids. My hope is that my art will reach an audience of trans kids and show them that there is beauty in being trans. You can transition and still live a happy life full of creativity and love. Coming out was hard, but it freed me in so many ways. As someone who’s had the privilege to transition at a young age, I feel it’s my responsibility to give back to the trans community, because my gender identity is what got me into art in the first place. I am currently illustrating Gender Identity Workbook for Kids by Kelly Storck, a book for trans kids who come out before the age of 12. It has been inspiring to work with people who share my values, and I am so grateful for this opportunity to create art which is relevant to my community.”

http://instagram.com/ngrigni

 

 

 

Veronica, Cassie, and WIllie Mae

Veronica Edwards moved to Decatur in 1966 when she was five-years-old. She has seen her community in Oakhurst undergo several transformations. As a young girl she witnessed white flight when a large percentage of white neighbors left the city for the suburbs. “During this transition period, we knew as a community that we had to stick together and make sure that everyone in the neighborhood was taken care of. Whatever the need was, we made sure they had it. The village raised the kids and I learned to be an advocate and caretaker at a young age.”

“In 2014, I moved back into my childhood home to care for my mother who is now 92 and my grandmother who is 109-years-old. They really needed someone to assist them since my sister, who had been caring for them, was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. I saw the need and had the desire. In my heart, I felt I was the chosen one. The joy comes from being around them, getting their wisdom, and hearing the stories they share with me.” The challenges come from working a full-time job and being the primary caregiver for two aged individuals in a house that is not handicap accessible. In addition, Veronica has had to manage grief of her own.

“I lost my son and only child to a homicide in 2014. The person who pulled the trigger took my son and his best friend. That was the most difficult time in my life. People told me I never had a chance to grieve. I couldn’t sit down and grieve because the needs of my mother and grandmother did not stop. It has to be the grace of God that gives me the strength and endurance to continue to care for them. They did that for me. I’m just giving back.”