I met Artbee Wisdom in Little Five Points. His colorful canvases were propped up against an alley wall and an assortment of one-of-a-kind postcard pieces lay on top of a cloth on the ground. Artbee immigrated to America from Jamaica twenty years ago. He believed that in the US he would have opportunities that he did not have in Jamaica. Although Artbee has been drawing all his life he has been painting only since 2004. Artbee enjoys exhibiting his paintings on the streets because it gives him the chance to see how people respond to his creations. “I get the timidness out of my bones when people love it. It feeds back into my art.” You can find Artbee and his paintings on Euclid Avenue late Saturday afternoons in Little Five Points.
This past Sunday marked the first year anniversary of the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. In celebration, a percussion ensemble from Clark Atlanta University performed outside to the delight of many visitors. On the periphery I noticed an unassuming gentleman wearing a unique outfit. His shirt caught my attention but I couldn’t read the inscription in its entirety. As I approached him he smiled and his eyes lit up. When I asked him what the message said he stretched out the front of his shirt to reveal all the lettering and remarked,” D. Swann, would be gold in the pros. Thanks Coach Richt and Staff.” The back of his shirt said the same thing with the exception of “...is gold in the pros…” Given that my knowledge about football is nearly zero, I asked him who D. Swann was and apologized for my ignorance. He proudly stated, “My grandson.” I learned that Dameon Swann was a graduate of Grady High School in Atlanta and went on to play football at the University of Georgia. He was drafted by the New Orlean Saints this past Spring. Dameon played his first game with the Saints last Saturday evening and Charles Doyle, Dameon’s grandfather, watched the game on TV. When I asked Charles how he felt watching his grandson play his first game with the Saints he replied,”Like a little kid with his first red wagon.” Charles was compelled to create the shirt to honor his grandson and to express his gratitude to Coach Richt and staff at the University of Georgia for their commitment. I was drawn to Charles, his brilliant blue-green eyes, his quiet presence and gentle manner. As we parted ways he shared some inspirational words which spoke volumes about the strength of his character. He said, “Every day I pray that I will be a better person today than I was yesterday.”
When I venture out to photograph it is thrilling to return with a wonderful image. Ultimately though, it is the connections I make with people that are most gratifying. Sometimes an interaction is just a few seconds and other times much longer. When I came upon Mosaiah (on right) and Jerome (on left) playing the African drums at Piedmont Park I stopped to listen. They were beautiful to watch. Their hands coaxed a soothing yet compelling beat out of their drums as their bodies moved in response. When Mosaiah and Jerome paused to acknowledge my presence we began with general introductions and quickly moved beyond mere pleasantries. I learned that Mosaiah and Jerome are passionate about their music and have a desire to reach out to others. They are starting a drumming workshop to enhance the lives of “children” ages 14-40. They were absolutely lovely people and I wished I could have spent more time getting to know them. As I started to leave I hesitated and asked if I might play something with them before I departed. Mosaiah looked up at me and said, “Well I usually don’t let anyone play my drums but today is your lucky day. Move over Jerome.” I sat down between my two new friends and after Mosaiah took a few minutes to instruct me in a beat I began to play the African drum. For the first few minutes Mosaiah verbally instructed me as we played and all of a sudden we were drumming as one. Pure joy. When I bid farewell to Jerome and Mosaiah I knew that it indeed had been my lucky day.
Click on the link below to listen to a short clip of Jerome and Mosaiah drumming.
This past weekend our family traveled to the small, rural town of Euharlee for my son’s baseball game. This was my first visit to Euharlee which is located 56 miles northeast of Atlanta. As we approached Euharlee it was impossible to ignore the imposing structure in the distance which I later discovered was Plant Bowan. Plant Bowan is the ninth largest coal-fired power plant in the nation and can supply enough energy to power 1.9 million homes or enough electricity in 15 seconds to power an average sized home for a year. I found the juxtaposition of the power plant and baseball field, where young, healthy athletes were playing a rigorous game, to be disturbing. After doing some research I discovered that Plant Bowan has been ranked as high as 13th on the national list of dirtiest coal plants. In 2010, exposure to fine particles emissions from Plant Bowan were responsible for 149 deaths, 107 hospital admissions and 210 heart attacks according to the Clean Air Task Force (http://www.catf.us/resources/publications/files/The_Toll_from_Coal.pdf). People living in communities near or downwind from coal plants are at the highest risk for health problems and early mortality. Minority and low income populations are impacted the most due to the fact that companies avoid locating power plants upwind from affluent communities. I had a difficult time focusing on the game. Although a local at the park assured me that the plant was one of the cleanest in the nation I could not divert my gaze from the emissions spewing out of the plant towers as the ball players ran the bases filling their lungs with the Euharlee air.
Our family was traveling south on I-75 yesterday when ahead of us an old jalopy was zooming along. I had to laugh because it appeared to me as if it could have fallen apart at any minute. Segments of the car were jiggling and it had a list about it as if it was injured on one side. I visualized the car dropping random parts along the way. As we passed, I noticed that the front of the car was in no better shape than the back.