‘Year of the Reveal’: Runoffs Follow Pandemic, Protests and a Test of Atlanta’s Promise

Each time somebody tries to knock Nikema Williams for not being a metropolis native, she replies that her story is intrinsically Atlantan. Ms. Williams, who was elected in November to Representative John Lewis’s former seat in Congress after his loss of life final 12 months, grew up in Smiths Station, simply over the Chattahoochee River in Alabama, raised in a home with out indoor plumbing.

As a pupil at Talladega School, a small traditionally Black college in Alabama, she and her buddies drove to Atlanta to buy and celebration. Ms. Williams, a Democrat who most just lately served within the State Senate, noticed Black elected officers, enterprise leaders, artists and civil rights leaders. “You noticed Black individuals residing the total promise of this nation,” she mentioned.

“I moved right here not figuring out a soul,” Ms. Williams mentioned, “however I used to be capable of become involved, get engaged and discover my manner.” However, she added, “we nonetheless have a methods to go.”

A gulf has at all times existed between the aspirations of the “Atlanta Approach” and the lived actuality of many residents.

“Atlanta is exclusive and does have this explicit manner,” Ms. Lee mentioned. “And but, let’s be clear after we take into consideration what it means: We now have this actuality, and a type of hype and P.R. marketing campaign — and people are separate issues.”

A collection of occasions this 12 months shined a contemporary gentle on the divide.

One night in Could, after George Floyd’s loss of life within the custody of the Minneapolis police set off protests throughout the nation, crowds in Atlanta smashed the home windows of downtown companies, vandalized the CNN Heart and set a police automotive ablaze. “What I see occurring on the streets of Atlanta isn’t Atlanta,” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in a raw news conference, replayed repeatedly on native tv and radio stations.

The demonstrations gained a brand new vigor after Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old Black man, was fatally shot by the Atlanta police. Officers had been called to a Wendy’s parking lot where, the authorities mentioned, Mr. Brooks had fallen asleep in his automotive within the drive-through lane. The town’s police chief, Erika Shields, resigned, and the officer who shot Mr. Brooks was fired and charged with murder.

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