Center for Civic Innovation Hosts Interactive Mayoral Forum

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On Monday, October 30, 2017, the Center for Civic Innovation hosted an interactive forum with the Atlanta mayoral candidates. The sold-out forum, hosted at Dad's Garage, brought out more than 200 attendees and prompted watch parties across the city. The theme of the evening was community engagement and the forum was treated as a job interview for the office of mayor.

Candidates were asked questions around :

(1) Qualification - where they were asked for short answers ranging from the salary they were willing to take as mayor to which Neighborhood Planning Unit (NPU) they live in.

(2) Collaboration - where they played the famous improv “yes, and…” exercise, building on one another’s ideas to improve the NPU system.

(3) Courage - where they were asked to make a protest sign for an issue area that they were willing to lose reelection over.

(4) People-centered decision making - where each person talked about ways to engage people in the city decision-making and also commented on the commitment they would make to small businesses, in light of the city’s Amazon bid.

(5) Honesty/transparency - where they did a “failure bow” after saying something they wish they did better. The forum ended with each candidate choosing their ideal “vice mayor” and complementing what they have learned from one another.

“This forum was fun and brought a human element to what has been a stressful and exhausting election cycle,” Rohit Malhotra, founder and executive director of the Center for Civic Innovation, said. “We believe that if people are more informed about why these candidates are running and what they’re willing to fight for, they will be more likely to vote and remain engaged after the election cycle.” The Center for Civic Innovation plans to continue to strengthen civic engagement in 2018.

All 10 remaining candidates for mayor were confirmed to attend; however, only 9 showed up. All audience members were given a kazoo to show their appreciation of answers given by the candidates. Candidates were given pom-poms to wave if they supported the comments of another candidate.

This forum was a part of the Center for Civic Innovation’s #VoteLocal effort to engage and educate Atlantans around the 2017 municipal elec

foster attention, education, and engagement around the 2017 Atlanta elections. 8 of the 10 candidates filled out a “job application” questionnaire and all 10 candidates did a 90-minute breakfast interview with the Center for Civic Innovation. Audio from those interviews and the questionnaires can be found here: www.voteatl.org


Candidates that participated:

  • Peter Aman
  • Rohit Ammanamanchi
  • Keisha Lance Bottoms
  • John Eaves
  • Vincent Fort
  • Kwanza Hall
  • Ceasar Mitchell
  • Cathy Woolard
  • Glenn S. Wrightson

Candidates that did not participate:

  • Mary Norwood
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Center for Civic Innovation Announces 2018 Civic Innovation Fellows

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The Center for Civic Innovation is proud to announce the 2018 class of Civic Innovation Fellows. The Civic Innovation Fellowship is a leadership and business development program for social entrepreneurs in Atlanta. This fellowship brings together a cohort of individuals with innovative, outcome-driven ideas to tackle social challenges in Atlanta and provides them with business development workshops, free workspace, mentorship, advising, and leadership development training. More details can be found at www.civicatlanta.org/fellowship

The 2018 Civic Innovation Fellows are:

  • Charnette Trimble, Westmont Estates Community Action Group: Westmont Estates Community Action Group seeks to identify and educate seniors about resources that can improve their quality of life. 
  • Erika BlairYoung WallStreet Traders: Young WallStreet Traders is an education and mentorship program focused on financial literacy, investing, trading and coding for underrepresented youth in grades 9 - 12
  • Felicia EdwardsMindful Duty: Mindful Duty provides first responders with vital physical, emotional-wellness and mental-resiliency training via a mobile app, academy settings, in-service training, and community-based programs. 
  • Jenn GrahamCivic Dinners: Civic Dinners is the platform that brings people together to have conversations that matter. 
  • John KennebrewShowcase Group: Showcase Group strengthens and empowers families involved in the juvenile justice system through social and emotional interventions, and by using STEAM.
  • Mikala StreeterThe LIFE School: The LIFE School is a progressive high school where each student works through a custom, project-based learning plan designed around their learning styles, interests, and goals. 
  • Nedra DeadwylerCivil Bikes: Civil Bikes is a small business that uses storytelling for historic preservation, increasing cultural awareness and fostering a sense of community. 
  • Sam AleinikoffCollege AIM: College AIM supports students in Metro-Atlanta on their paths to and through college by building sustainable college-going cultures within school communities.
  • Samantha Watkins, Urban Perform: Urban Perform is a health and wellness center that will offer a variety of affordable, comfortable avenues for physical exercise and provide health education with a focus on obesity. 
  • Shon Storey, Seniors 2.0: Seniors 2.0 is a program that will introduce seniors to technology and tools that will help them function in their everyday life.
  • Terri BradleyBrown Toy Box: Brown Toy Box is an online shopping platform created to culturally affirm children of color through fun and play while creating economic development opportunities for Black and Brown creators, authors and makers.
  • Tiffany LatriceTILA Studios: TILA Studios is a visual arts incubator and shared gallery space for women that aims to promote the distribution and consumption of artwork by women. 
  • Trish Miller, Swem Kids: Swem Kids reduces barriers to swimming proficiency for economically disadvantaged elementary-aged youth who attend K-5 Title I public schools, by introducing them to the freedom of swimming and water safety.
  • Zahra Alabanza, Red Bike and Green: Red Bike and Green is an effort working to expand and mobilize an inclusive, intergenerational and diverse black bike community.

 We are also thrilled to announce our 2018 Food Innovation Fellows in partnership with the Food Well Alliance:

  • Carol HunterTruly Living Well: Truly Living Well grows better communities by connecting people with their food and the land through education, training and demonstrating success in urban agriculture. 
  • Erin CroomGeorgia Organics: Georgia Organics is a member-supported, nonprofit organization connecting organic food from Georgia farms to Georgia families. 
  • Jeffrey Hicks, Providence Missionary Baptist Church - Urban Farm Ministry: Urban Farm Ministry provides food to neighborhood residents, church food pantries, and classes. 
  • Josh DanielWylde Center: The Wylde Center educates and cultivates green spaces in the areas they serve by actively engaging youth, families, and individuals in their environment, health, and community.
  • Nobie MuhlGood Samaritan Health Clinic: Good Samaritan Health Clinic grows and sells affordable, quality produce for patients and community members. 
  • Reggie RamosGrow With the Flow: Grow With the Flow provides local and naturally grown produce, converts homeowners’ unused lawn space into productive market gardens, and works with the community to educate and raise awareness about sustainable food. 
  • Rosario HernandezHistoric Westside Gardens: Historic Westside Gardens fosters community self-determination through building equitable neighborhood networks around healthy, fresh and affordable food.

We’re so excited to see the impact that these fellows will have on our city! Stay tuned for updates from this cohort here on our blog.

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Thank you to:

Announcing the winners of A3C Action 2017!

This past weekend at the A3C Festival & Conference, five civic ventures from around the US took the stage for A3C Action, a pitch competition searching for the best ideas that use hip-hop culture and art to address social justice challenges. The five competing ventures were selected from more than 140 applicants from across the country.

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Atlanta's own, Marcus Blackwell, Jr. of Make Music Count won first place, with a grand prize of $10,000. However, because of the strong bonds the organizations built over the days prior to the pitch competition, the finalists collectively decided to divide the prize money, with Make Music Count opting to accept $5,000. 

The mission of Make Music Count is to increase elementary and secondary students’ mathematical skill development through piano playing and reducing their math anxiety. By incorporating music into each lesson, students become engaged through music while simultaneously learning mathematical concepts. 

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Breaking the Chains was awarded the second place prize of $2,000, followed by Media Rhythm Institute at $1,000 and $500 to both Real Life Poets and Girls Cut Films, Too. 

Congratulations to all of the 2017 A3C Action Pitch Competition finalists and the winner, Make Music Count. Through the exposure and mentorship provided by this competition, these five organizations will continue to use music and hip-hop culture to positively contribute to their communities.

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Judges of the A3C Action pitch competition included Liz Havistad, Hip Hop Caucus’ Chief Operating Officer and Executive Director, Dallas Austin, Grammy-award winning Superproducer & CEO of Rowdy Digital Media, Nora Rahimian, #CultureFix Co-founder and Lead Strategist, No Malice, Hip Hop Artist and Founder of REinvision, YoNasDa Lonewolf, Human Rights Activist/ National Organizer Public Speaker, and CCI's own Programs Director, Melonie Tharpe.

 

Meet the 2017 Finalists 

Make Music Count | Atlanta, GA

The mission of Make Music Count is to increase elementary and secondary students’ mathematical skill development through piano playing and reducing their math anxiety. By incorporating music into each lesson, students become engaged through music while simultaneously learning mathematical concepts. Each lesson is based on learning musical notes in a song. Each note is derived through a mathematical equation that varies from addition and subtraction to algebraic equations. Therefore, solving math equations leads directly to playing the piano, and a more positive attitude towards math.

Girls Cut Films Too | Atlanta, GA

Girls Cut Film too is an initiative to train and equip teen girls with the skills needed to be competitive in the film production industry. The program is a Summer Film Institute for Girls that will expose them to various fields within the film industry such as producer, director, scriptwriter, camera operator and more! The goal of the program is to give our girls a realistic dream of fulfilling a career in an industry that has been underrepresented by females in the past.

Real Life Poets | Birmingham, AL

We will implement the Teen Poetry Initiative within a minimum of two of the nineteen Birmingham Public library neighborhood branches and at Real Life Poets community arts hub in the East Lake community.  This allows direct access for middle and high school age youth in Birmingham City Schools, which is 95% African-American. Arts activist and teaching artist training will be facilitated at the Real Life Poets community arts hub which is directly situated in one of Birmingham’s most underserved communities.  The cycle of poverty, crime, and hopelessness that plagues many underserved communities in Birmingham is real and its consequences are often brutal and heartbreaking. We realize that, when compared to the impressive military-style hardware of police and tough-talking rhetoric of the political cycle, this program may look very small, but we will not give up on our city’s children. The effective moral imperative to offer a job-training, non-judging route for the city’s youth, and with that, hope for their future, does not have a shortcut.

Breaking The Chains | New York City, NY

This project would be implemented in New York City at Rikers Island jail. Rikers is the second most populated jail in the nation, while demographically 16-21-year-olds account for over 20 percent of its census. My past five years working with youth at Rikers as an art facilitator, youth counselor and Director of Programming for Friends of Island Academy has allowed me to tether relationships which will allow this project to be a success on the inside. The "Raise The Age" act which was recently passed states that all 16-17-year-olds will be removed from Rikers by October 2018 but still leaves a great number of 18-21-year-olds, some of whom are sentenced while the majority sit for years with open cases while awaiting an outcome. There is a huge amount of idle time during their incarceration which doesn't require meaningless programming but rather substantive interaction. Some of the most genius writers, poets, MCs, etc are incarcerated but lack outlets to express themselves while being refueled and supported by other artists. Creative mentorship and art advocacy not only allows space for expression but is also a springboard to guide young people into other needed discussions and decisions. This project will allow for youth within four facilities at Rikers to write around specific themes and be featured in monthly performances during their incarceration.

Media Rhythm Institute (MRI) | Baltimore, MD

The goals and mission of Media Rhythm Institute to encourage, promote entrepreneurial thinking and empower youth to expand their knowledge of the media industry through research and hands-on documentary projects.  Our goal is to inspire young people to pursue a career in the media profession and also improve their quality of life by offering encouragement and exposure to positive opportunities to learn about their history, network with community leaders, and learn about the music, media industry and the many career paths that exist within it. Media Rhythm Institute also provides mentorship opportunities and peer consulting in an effort to provide youth with the tools, skills, and support necessary as they matriculate through middle school, high school, college and on into adulthood.

#CCISpotlight: Jeffrey Martín, honorCode

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Please welcome Jeffrey Martín to the stage under the #CCIspotlight. Jeffrey is the founder, President & CEO of honorCode. He was a 2016 Civic Innovation Fellow and, most recently, was named as one of the first-ever recipients of Civic Impact Loans!  Check out Jeffrey's story. 

Tell us a little more about yourself. What was your source of inspiration for the work you do? How did you get to where you are today?

I am an Atlanta native and grew up in the Kirkwood/East Atlanta area. Although those areas are super nice now, when I was growing up, there was a lot of crime and violence there. With my parents dealing with trauma they inherited from their respective families, I grew up in a household and community where self-medication, violence, and untreated mental health conditions were the norm.

Despite my home life, I excelled in my academics. I’ve had a diverse academic experience, attending a public elementary school, a public charter school, a private high school, and two elite Ivy League institutions for my undergraduate and graduate studies. Each of these schools had its own way of empowering students in the classroom.

The summer before my senior year at Wharton, I interned at Goldman Sachs in New York and received a full-time offer. Though I learned a ton, I decided to turn down my offer and join Teach For America in Providence, RI in 2013 as a Corps Member. Those two years of being in the classroom and studying Urban Education Policy at Brown pushed me to really think about how the content I was teaching would be relevant to the Black and Latinx students I was responsible for.

Tell us about the venture you are working on. Where did the idea for your venture come from? How are you driving impact?

I wanted to channel my story into a solution our city could use to increase opportunities for Black, Latinx, and queer kids to be able to make a living for themselves and also have a chance at building wealth. And the way I believe we champion for this chance at building wealth intentionally is through our booming technology industry, which needs some serious accountability when it comes to ensuring more gender and racial diversity within its leadership.

At honorCode our mission is to build coalitions between educators and employers to develop sustainable local workforce pipelines within K12 schools. We achieve this mission through providing curriculum and training to schools to bring computer science and social-emotional learning to the general K12 classroom. We’re engaging our local K12 educators and business community through programming where we get to talk about workforce development and how both schools and our local industries play a key role; and ultimately down the road we’re trying to ensure 11th and 12th grade students are getting mentorship and internship opportunities at some of our local firms.

How we drive impact is through the teachers we train. We know we can’t shift this paradigm on our own. Whether you’re a teacher in Atlanta Public Schools, Dekalb Public Schools, Boys and Girls Club of Metro-Atlanta,  Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta , or any other in-school and after school place of learning we have in the city, we need to all be working together, and incorporating mentorship and investment from our technology workforce, to help us make the needed impact.

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Are there any recent developments that you would like to highlight?

honorCode is using this next phase of our growth to start building coalitions between K12 educators and Atlanta's business community to tackle the challenges of workforce development in K12 schools. Our first event will be Monday, October 16th, 2017 at Charles R. Drew Charter School, where we will be screening the documentary CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap, and hosting a panel discussion with some of the women and people of color in technology in the city. They will be talking about what Atlanta would look like if more women and minorities could code. We will be starting to do bi-weekly programming across the city going into 2018 and will be calling on Atlanta’s business community to join us in these conversations with educators.

Also, after the mayoral elections, on Thursday, November 9th we will be celebrating our 2YR Anniversary Fundraiser at Atlanta Tech Village, where we will be gathering all of our friends and supporters in the city to celebrate us impacting over 1400 students in our pilot year. We’re trying to raise a little over $50K to help us achieve our goal of impacting over 3,000 students in the 2017-2018 school year through our collaboration with Atlanta Public Schools.

Lastly, between our recent partnership with Invest Atlanta, recognition on the 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30 and Wharton 40 Under 40 (to be released in October) lists, and bringing on a new team member, we have quite a bit to celebrate as an organization that has been around for just two years.

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What do you think is the biggest challenge facing Atlanta today?

The biggest challenge we have is making sure that we are taking care of the culture that has made Atlanta what it is today. With all of the influx of investments coming to our city, we have to make sure folks truly have a chance at making a living here. We also have to make sure that as companies continue to make claims here in the city, that they also make commitments to the community members who often times get displaced due to development. Our city was built on so much civil rights history and activism, and we can’t just commodify it through a museum or through an award. We have to strive to be an egalitarian city that prioritizes marginalized communities. The incoming mayor, school board, city council, and CEO of MARTA will play a huge role in what this means for our city.

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What advice do you have for Atlanta’s newest social entrepreneurs?

Surround yourself with people who can make help you make your idea happen. This work is not for the faint of heart! You have to be audaciously bold and have a community to see it come to fruition.

Lastly, be sure to develop mental health and self-care routines for yourself. The work we do is very demanding and you have to make sure you are prioritizing your health first.


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Thank you to Jeffrey and the whole honorCode team! We're so inspired by you and the work you do. Atlanta is filled with incredible people and organizations doing meaningful work all throughout the city. Their efforts change the way our city designs solutions for the challenges we face in education, art and culture preservation, criminal justice and reform, workforce development, and food security.
 
The Center for Civic Innovation aims to be a place that supports and showcases these community leaders to the world. We hope their stories will inform and inspire.

#CCIspotlight: Malika Whitley, ChopArt

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Please welcome Malika Whitley to the stage under the #CCIspotlight. Malika is the founder and executive director of ChopArt. She's a 2017 Civic Women's Fellow and the 2015 (inaugural!) A3C Action winner. Malika's work stretches beyond Atlanta to, well.... we'll let you read about it yourself. Check out Malika's story!    

Tell us a little more about yourself. What was the source of inspiration for the work you do? How did you get to where you are today?

I am an ATLien, proudly bred by the SWATS and Eastside. My father was a revolutionary, my mother is hyper-adaptive, and my sisters are master nurturers. I hope to reflect the best parts of their characters in the process of being an example to the youth I have the honor of meeting through ChopArt. My inspiration for this work is the belief that no one has the right to take up space in this Universe without the intent of making it better. Sometimes the tools to make it better come from a deep empathy birthed from our own traumas. Homelessness and everything experienced through it has given me the responsibility to dedicate myself to the well being of the thousands of homeless youth in our city and millions around the world. The first hand discovery of how little people "see" homeless youth and how damaging that is absolutely requires thorough and dedicated attention. 

The passion for this work came from my experience, but the willingness to formalize it came from watching the brilliant women around me change the world every day. I've been blessed to have wonderful mentors who taught me how to make decisions, believe in myself, and be a leader. From that, an incredible team of people has believed in this vision and made it possible. They've stayed up late nights, called their friends, and poured into our teens. It's tough but necessary work that I'm so honored to be a part of. 

Tell us about the venture you are working on. Where did the idea for your venture come from? How are you driving impact? 

ChopArt is a multidisciplinary Arts organization specifically for homeless youth. We provide dignity, community, and opportunity to middle and high school aged youth experiencing homelessness through multidisciplinary arts immersion and mentorship. Our current and upcoming programs are in Atlanta, New Orleans, Accra, and Hyderabad. We've had the pleasure of serving over 7,000 youth around the world this year. This unfortunately doesn't make a dent in the 3,300 homeless youth in Atlanta each night or the 100 million homeless youth worldwide. We're doing everything we can to make sure the youth we have the capacity to serve feel seen and protected through the insulation of mentors and creativity. ChopArt does that by using the arts as a tool for risk intervention and trauma recovery. 

ChopArt meets our mission in two ways: in-shelter programming and summer camps. In-shelter programming is a year around service provided to homeless shelters around Atlanta. The service includes weekly sessions led by volunteers and dedicated shelter leads, art shows and presentations, field-trips, and impact assessment. The in-shelter service allows us to track impact over time and build the relationships with our teens necessary to make interventions for the risks associated with youth homelessness such as suicide, depression, drug abuse, gang violence, and sex trafficking. In-shelter programs provides ongoing Arts education with curated Arts projects designed for public display, and the opportunity for our teens to design their own Arts programming. That may include photography, poetry, painting, dance, music, theater, or other types of disciplines. 

Our summer camps are located in Georgia, USA; India; and Ghana. Camp Envision is located in Georgia and is a 7-day overnight performing arts summer camp for 100 homeless youth ages 10-18. This is the only Arts summer camp specifically for homeless minors in the nation. Our campers come from unaccompanied and accompanied homeless backgrounds from Atlanta, New Orleans, and sometimes Charlotte. Young Leaders Camp is located in Hyderabad, India and is a 15-day residential camp for up to 10,000 teens. In partnership with Kaarmic Education Services, Young Leaders' Camp acts as an arts leadership intensive purposed to provide an intervention for school drop out rates. Our youth in India are apart of the SWEARO community and rely on the Telangana government to access housing, food, and education. We were running into the problem of students dropping out during the summer months when they would go back to their villages and have to fill in for the financial burden on the family through child labor, marriage, or sex trafficking. This camp reduces the amount of time at home to lessen that burden on the families and increase retention rates in school. Young Achievers Ghana is an organization in Accra, Ghana started and run by teenage girls incorporating leadership into their everyday life to avoid child marriage. In partnership with Young Achievers Ghana, our upcoming summer camp is a day camp model providing arts leadership through the performing arts. 

We have seen this program make great impact on the teens we serve and the community around them. The community is able to gain more information on youth homelessness to empower them to participate in advocacy on behalf of our teens. They've also received the opportunity to be a guiding light for our teens through volunteerism. Our teens have been able to access consistent mentors dedicated to their well being and growth. Through this program we have found that a program like ChopArt increases the self efficacy of teens experiencing homelessness, makes them more goal oriented, increases their capacity to trust themselves and others, and reduces the recovery time for anger, insecurity, and depression.

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What do you think is the biggest challenge facing Atlanta today? 

Atlanta is a wonderful city full of creativity and potential. I think the city could make huge strides in ending homelessness if it was more of a priority for our leaders in policy, funding, and governance. We currently have no emergency shelters for homeless minors in the metro Atlanta area. That means there's no place a homeless minor can walk off the street and access a bed. With the heightened risks for homeless minors, it should be at the top of the list to create spaces to ensure their safety. We are able to make great strides with our programs in Hyderabad because of the support received from the government agencies that make the well being of our teens a top priority. I would love to see ChopArt and other youth homeless services providers in Atlanta make a dent in the problem with comparable financial and infrastructure support from our city.

How has the Center for Civic Innovation supported you in your work?

The Center has been amazing and a true right hand to our success over the last few years. We've received ongoing training from the leadership including pitch, business development, and access to self care. They've also put us in rooms with people able to support our work which has expanded our networks and capacity to sustain the programming. Most importantly, CCI has been a champion for our work, providing options and perspective that we would've been lost without. Trying to hold the world on your shoulders gets tiring and frustrating. Organizations like CCI don't lecture you to death, but come along side you on the journey to ease the burden and build stronger foundations. They are certainly playing a major part in making sure so many important organizations have what they need to be successful.  

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What advice do you have for Atlanta’s newest social entrepreneurs? 

I would advise new social entrepreneurs to ground themselves in their purpose. This is not simple work and also comes with criticism and a lack of outward appreciation. If you are not clear on why you are doing the work, you'll be bound to get swept up in the distractions around you. I would also say to surround themselves with people smarter than them and who they wouldn't mind working for. You won't know everything and that's completely fine. You shouldn't know it all or put the pressure on yourself to know it all. Get yourself a strong, sharp, and dependable team and run hard towards your goal together. The last thing I'd advise is to get used to failing and give yourself a break for it. Some days will just seem impossible...some weeks will feel impossible. You'll find the end of your rope at some point and you'll be disappointed by others. This all sucks, but is necessary to make you resilient enough to be the leader you need to be for success. 


Malika, you're a powerhouse and an inspiration. Thank you for sharing your story with us! 
 
Atlanta is filled with incredible people and organizations doing meaningful work all throughout the city. Their efforts change the way our city designs solutions for the challenges we face in education, art and culture preservation, criminal justice and reform, workforce development, and food security.
 
The Center for Civic Innovation aims to be a place that supports and showcases these community leaders to the world. This blog series will highlight one entrepreneur or organization from Atlanta every week from now until the end of the year. We hope their stories will inform and inspire.

 

#CCI Spotlight: Yasmeen Salaam, Carver's Produce

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This week's #CCIsuperstar is Yasmeen Salaam, founder of Carver's Produce. Carver’s Produce expands the tradition of Dr. George W. Carver by connecting small farmers to new distribution channels within food desert communities. This food hub gives small producers the space to expand production and increase Atlanta's food economy. This mission of Carver's Produce is to become a thriving food hub that provides local growers and food enterprises a space to store, preserve, and develop products for last-mile distribution in low access areas. 

Yasmeen is a graduate of the 2016 Food Innovation Fellowship and a current Civic Women's Fellow. We are in awe of her talent, drive, compassion, and passion for her work. Read her story here: 

Tell us a little more about yourself. What was the source of inspiration for the work youdo? How did you get to where you are today?

Growing up as a Black-American Muslim, I was always searching to find a way to liberate my soul’s expression; the unique identity that allowed me to operate from the core of my humanity and cultural excellence as a Black-American. I saw this demonstrated through my parents who were both entrepreneurs and prominent community organizers in San Diego. As far as I can remember, I’ve always liked to connect the dots which is why I received my dual degree in Sales and Marketing and Supply Chain Management. However, when my father passed away in 2011, I began to truly search for my purpose. I would often ask the Creator of the Universe to guide me to a path that would liberate my human and spiritual excellence.

It wasn’t too long after my father passed away that I received my answer through an agricultural research project given to me by my economics professor. This became an opportunity to have faith and trust my aspirations to find a solution for underserved communities through agriculture. While conducting research, I noticed that Tuskegee residents had to travel 30 miles to a nearby city if we wanted to access to high quality produce and food.

This alarmed me because we had several commercial farms within the same county as our school yet none of the grocery stores sold the best quality food. Although I had intentions on working for corporate America, I knew this project was a fusion between my two disciplines so I founded our company with the intention to build on the model I designed in school - a regional food hub. I immersed myself within the local food movement by working alongside multiple organizers and groups to build and sustain community gardens throughout East Atlanta. When I look back on our beginning I can truly say that Carver’s Produce was birthed from a soul that was searching to liberate not only her excellence but the excellence within the communities and people we would serve.

Tell us about the venture you are working on. Where did the idea for your venture come from? How are you driving impact?

The idea for Carver’s Produce came from the desire to continue a legacy that would decrease economic disparities that exist due to limited fresh food access. As I delved deeper into research, I noticed how G.W. Carver revolutionized southern agriculture through crop rotation and by creating multiple products from surplus produce grown by rural farmers. He not only created a solution, he assisted with product sales and distribution through his mobile produce cart, The Jesup Agricultural Wagon.

Carver’s Produce Food Hub provides a central space for local growers to store produce, process value added products, and secure last mile distribution to large buyers within food deserts; we’re essentially the Jesup Wagon 2.0. We are the first minority-women owned food distributor in Atlanta with an all-female truck driving team, creating diversity through our workforce and impact demographic is imperative. Carver’s Produce is transforming how fresh food and natural products are accessed in food deserts through our produce box deliveries and food preparation services. Carver’s Produce is committed to impacting our future change makers through what they consume at school, home, and at their local corner store. We understand providing access to healthy foods curb growing rates of obesity and diet related diseases.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing Atlanta today?

Atlanta’s biggest challenge is creating equity for those communities who are often marginalized due to their socio-economic condition. Many residents who reside in Atlanta’s food deserts will adopt diet-related diseases due to the lack of transportation, health, and food accessibility. For many families buying an affordable meal or food products come at a hefty cost – their health. More than 1 in every 7 Atlanta kids live in food insecure household, which means if the child is insecure so are the adults of the home.

However, as one of the fastest growing metropolitan cities in the South, Atlanta is in a unique position to drive change through public policy. We have the city’s first Urban Agriculture Director. His primary concern is working with community organizers to alleviate issues that prohibit urban growers and food entrepreneurs from collectively impacting our state’s farm economy. This is a start to transforming accessibility for all.

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How has the Center for Civic Innovation supported you in your work?

Before entering CCI’s Food Innovation Fellowship, I had a business model but after graduating - I left with a blueprint. Often when you’re doing social impact work you tend to keep your head and ears close to the ground with the workers. The Center for Civic Innovation has increased my aptitude for social impact by keeping me informed on how public policy shapes the future of economic development in our city and how we the changemakers can MAKE IT HAPPEN. Since joining the CCI family, our impact is receiving attention and financial support from outside organizations and agencies and it’s all due to our business training and development at CCI.

What advice do you have for Atlanta’s newest social entrepreneurs?

“Where there is no vision, there is no hope.” – George Washington Carver. Millennial entrepreneurs are constantly breaking down barriers while wanting to put our wealth to work for the greater good. According to Morgan Stanley’s Institute for Sustainable Investing, millennials are driving the nearly $9 trillion sustainable investing market. This means we hold the keys to a sustainable and more equitable future not only in Atlanta but throughout the world. As we move into electing a new mayor, my advice to new entrepreneurs would be to learn your market niche so that you can effectively impact your industry and their impact on underserved communities.


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We’d like to say a huge thank you to Yasmeen for sharing her passion and story with us. We're so inspired by you, Yasmeen! If you want to read more of Yasmeen's story, check out her story in Local Food News by the Food Well Alliance. 

Atlanta is filled with incredible people and organizations doing meaningful work all throughout the city. Their efforts change the way our city designs solutions for the challenges we face in education, art and culture preservation, criminal justice and reform, workforce development, and food security.
 
The Center for Civic Innovation aims to be a place that supports and showcases these community leaders to the world. This blog series will highlight one entrepreneur or organization from Atlanta every week from now until the end of the year. We hope their stories will inform and inspire.

#CCIspotlight: Wiled Co.

This week’s #CCIsuperstar is the team at Wiled Co.! Lindsay Trinkle, Candi Shelton, Mindy Fletcher, and Ashley Williams make up Wiled Co. -  a digital marketing & experience design company, fusing brand narratives with the human experience. Through cross-disciplines highlighted by design thinking, Wiled Co. partners with brave brands to help them tell the story that most resonates with their people, delivering cohesive, holistic experiences grounded in human connectivity. 

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The Wiled Co. team joined us as coworkers at the Center for Civic Innovation this year, and their influence has spread to fellow coworkers, fellows, and partners. We are so glad that they’re on board! Candi shared the story of Wiled Co. with us this week. Check it out! 

Tell us a little about yourself. What are you doing, how you got here, and what are the sources of inspiration that got you started?

Wiled Co. has been through several iterations, with Lindsay (Trinkle) and I (Candi Shelton) bringing different skill sets together to do digital marketing in a different way. Lindsay is from tech startup world, and my background is in production. But we kind of found a "magic sauce" when we brought our skills together to create a holistic approach to digital marketing and experience design.

Tell us about the venture you’re working on. What does Wiled Co. do?

What's different for us is that we're not a social or civic endeavor in the traditional sense. But what gets us most excited is working with clients who are doing important work, work that matters and needs to be elevated. Those are the stories worth telling, but often there's a barrier to entry for acquiring our kind of services. Wiled Co. is working to level the playing field for social entrepreneurs and civic organizations so that they can have access to excellent strategic support and creative messaging help in order for their digital brand to form a compelling human experience. This ultimately helps them to gain more interest, engagement and funding.

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What do you think is the biggest challenge facing Atlanta today? 

We think the biggest challenge facing Atlanta today isn't necessarily a lack of engagement; it's a lack of clear journeys for citizens to learn and become engaged in real change. The fact is that people want to do something but they don't know where to start (sometimes they don't even know where to start looking for a start!). That's why we believe in the work of human-centric marketing. It's not about advertising; it's about sharing a story and creating a journey for people to connect. We believe that's where change can truly begin.

How has CCI supported you in your work?

CCI has been crucial in helping us define a company culture that seeks to do work that matters. The people we've been able to meet and the relationships we've forged have not only served our business well, but it's helped keep us informed and engaged when it might be easier or more lucrative to move in another direction.

What advice do you have for Atlanta’s newest social entrepreneurs? 

Our advice is to stay curious, humble, and brave. Dreams are powerful and hope is a stronger force than you think.

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We’d like to say a huge thank you to the Wiled Co. team for sharing their passions, motivations, and advice with us and with our audience!  
 
Atlanta is filled with incredible people and organizations doing meaningful work all throughout the city. Their efforts change the way our city designs solutions for the challenges we face in education, art and culture preservation, criminal justice and reform, workforce development, and food security.
 
The Center for Civic Innovation aims to be a place that supports and showcases these community leaders to the world. This blog series will highlight one entrepreneur or organization from Atlanta every week from now until the end of the year. We hope their stories will inform and inspire.

#CCIspotlight: La’Teef Pyles, University Barbershop

This week on #CCIspotlight, we meet La’Teef Pyles, co-manager and unofficial community liaison of University Barbershop. La’Teef is a 2016 Westside Innovation Fellow and a current #VoteLocal ambassador with the Center for Civic Innovation. 

The intimate University Barbershop is more than a place to get a fresh fade from the self-proclaimed (though not disputed) Fade Doktor. It is a community hub, a training center, and a study hall. It is a place for concerned residents, young scholars, and new parents to come together and learn from each other so as to make their community stronger.
 
Tell us a little about yourself. What are you doing, how did you get here, and what are the sources of inspiration that got you started?
 
I moved here from Chicago in 1998 to go to school in Atlanta. I decided that staying here was the best decision. It was a fork in the road and I chose the right path obviously.  I've been working in the downtown area since roughly 2000. I opened my own barbershop in the Vine City area in 2006. Shortly after, a tornado came by and knocked the roof off my shop, and through that experience I met my business partner Terrance, who I run University Barbershop with. When I needed a place to work I chose University Barbershop. We’ve been here since December 2010. 

I think my favorite part is really learning what the people in the community need, what they're looking for, and being able to speak to them clearly in a manner that we can get some understanding from each other. I'll never say I'm teaching anybody...I'm really having these discussions so we can learn from each other. That's the best part about it, really, seeing and learning from all the people in the neighborhoods and what they know and don't know. The sharing experience is pretty awesome. 

Tell us about the venture you’re working on. What does the University Barbershop do?

Before going through the Westside Innovation Fellowship, we were doing some mentoring through the barbershop. We had a group of kids coming through here that I was directly responsible for. We offered a fatherhood class, which is basically a conversation with new dads - we shared different tips with one another that about raising kids from zero to five. Since I finished the Westside Innovation Fellowship, we’ve been offerring programming at a local middle school, away from the barbershop. 

From HIV awareness to a reading program, we've been doing so many different things in the community that connecting with CCI seemed like a way to get the story of the work we’re doing out to the public. 

Now I’ve become involved in the #VoteLocal campaign,  which is what I'm really interested in. I figure the candidates and the people that are running for office should probably come through the barbershop and talk to the people that are going to vote. We’ve had several candidates come through the barbershop. I would love to now use this platform to let people know more about the local elections. This is really important, especially when you look at the voting rates in Atlanta and the voting rates around here. 

What impact do you think you've had so far? 

I am the Vice Chair of my Neighborhood Planning Unit, and I've been the Youth Committee Chair. I’ve been involved with Vine City Civic Association. For anything that's going on with West Side Future Fund -I'm hanging out with those guys - anything that deals with 30314 or Vine City community, English Avenue community... I am at the table. If the YMCA is coming over to talk to us, I'm going to be at the table listening to them. I am the Nosy Neighbor. 

That's what I do...but I don't know what kind of impact it’s making. As far as my involvement in my community… I want to know about it. I don't know it all but I like to keep up with what's happening.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing Atlanta today? 

The biggest challenge, from what I see riding around, is that we have all of this economic growth without giving people a livable wage. So I'm trying to figure out how we’re building all of these things but this is the worst place in the country to rent. So, that's the biggest challenge I see for the city. The city is building all of this stuff but we don't have the wages to maintain it, and to live in it. 

Why did you decide to be a fellow at CCI? How has CCI supported you in your work?

Since I moved to Vine City in 2006, I have recognized the importance of the barbershop connecting to the community. We did a couple things from my former shop that we carried over to the new shop. I saw the opportunity that CCI offered through the fellowship - teaching social entrepreneurs. When I find out about that I said “Okay, let me learn as much is I can.” It's been a great experience so far. 

CCI has lent credibility to what we've got going on. The information that they shared with us about marketing your business to a social platform - that was pretty cool. I haven't gotten a handle on it yet because all the college kids want to get paid to do that. And I'm like "man I can't pay you to take pictures, man.” But yeah, outside of that, working with CCI has really opened up avenues to different resources. Being able to go down there and talk to the mayoral candidates- that's also pretty cool. 


What advice do you have for any other entrepreneurs in Atlanta?

I'm not an advice giving person but I would tell them about my experience of being new here with the service or product that I have. I would say to just be passionate 100 percent about what you do and your skills, and whatever your services are. 100 percent. Don't be saying things like "I've got to do this part time." I moved here from Chicago and didn't know anybody. I let people know what I do. I was passionate about what I do - I don’t have a part time job. I'm here all day. Eventually (a couple of years later) I'm able to take care of me and my family with my work. Don’t give up on what you do.  

Is there anything you want to say to everyone reading the CCI blog?

The barbershop and the barbershop industry, and this barbershop in particular, is a great place too if you have a targeted message for demographics, this is a great place to get that message out. So if there's a targeted message you want to share with black men, or college students, or fathers, men with prostate cancer, this (the barbershop) is a prime location to do it. Our demographic spans from kids all the way to seniors. So, if there's a message you need to get us, this is the place to do it. 

La’Teef wanted us to remind everyone to check out voteATL.org, the new platform launched by CCI late last month. Check out when your closest Civics 101 event is!


We’d like to send many thanks to La’Teef for discussing his experiences and motivations with us at University Barbershop. Get a haircut from the best barbers around (only $10 on Mondays and Wednesdays), on the corner of MLK and Brawley!
 
Atlanta is filled with incredible people and organizations doing meaningful work throughout this city. Their efforts change the way our city designs solutions for the challenges we face in education, art and culture preservation, criminal justice and reform, workforce development, and food security.
 
The Center for Civic Innovation aims to be a place that supports and showcases these community leaders to the world. This blog series will highlight one entrepreneur or organization from Atlanta every week from now until the end of the year. We hope their stories will inform and inspire.

 

#CCIspotlight: Kristen Daniel, Pentorship

Meet this week’s #CCIsuperstar, Kristen Daniel, founder and CEO of Pentorship. Pentorship designs customized products and services to facilitate quality learning experiences for returning citizens to compete in current labor markets. Pentorship helps agencies and organizations successfully implement 21st-century skills training programs in challenging settings where learners may vary in academic & career experience. Kristen is a current Fellow in the 2017 Civic Women's Fellowship. 

Tell us a little more about yourself. What was the source of inspiration for the work you do? How did you get to where you are today?

The idea began when I was living and teaching in South Korea--during this time, one of my friends from high school was arrested on a drug charge. By the time I returned to the United States and started graduate school, he was beginning with the prison system - these two experiences were so parallel.

During this time, he wrote me a letter and asked if I could look at his dorm mate’s business plan. His letter sparked a thought about how cool it could be to work with people who are incarcerated and help them prepare for their return home. I went to La Fonda on Ponce de Leon and on a paper napkin I kept writing, “pen pal business mentorship entrepreneurship” in different configurations, until I got the word Pentorship. That’s how it all started.

I’m originally from Lithonia, a city on the outskirts of Atlanta. My parents (the city mouse and the country mouse) are from Jersey City and Atlanta. I did my undergraduate studies at Florida A&M in business administration and Spanish, and went to grad school at Georgia Tech. Between undergraduate and graduate school I lived in Cincinnati, Ohio, Richmond, Virginia, Iquique, Chile and Seoul, South Korea.

What we do today at Pentorship is very different from how we started. The first half of my career focused on B2B Sales and teaching English as a second language (ESL). Journeying with the Pentorship led me and challenged me to develop skills in web design, project management, and instructional design.

Tell us about the venture you are working on. Where did the idea for your venture come from? How are you driving impact?

When I started Pentorship I had a very cause-based mindset. In the beginning, we focused only on reducing recidivism. Very soon after we started, I began traveling and teaching in prisons, working with volunteers and going to conferences. What I quickly learned is that recidivism is the end result of multiple systemic issues. Over time, we learned that we have to keep searching for solutions to systemic problems instead of focusing solely on the final step - recidivism.

We’re in the second pivot of Pentorship’s existence. I’ve learned over the past few years that education designed for people in prisons is not tailored to their needs. Companies and organizations haven’t thought critically about how to deliver education to this large, diverse group of adult learners.

Right now, we have a system where someone spends five years in prison and the first thing that is available to them when they’re released is job training.

The problem with this type of training is that it focuses only on the end game - employment, because this is supposedly what makes people valuable as adults… but it ignores personal development. Many low wage workers or individuals from the same economic background experience a similar phenomenon: even if they haven’t been to prison, they are from a population that have only received job training, but have not received social and emotional education… they haven’t been given the opportunity for personal development. Pentorship’s evolution happened because we learned that educational experiences aren’t being designed for an entire group of people in this country, including people who are formerly incarcerated.

While I think this is just a policy issue, it also has a lot to do with education. Pentorship doesn’t aim to serve individuals. Our services are targeted towards other organizations and businesses. This is our contribution to systemic change. We build for the system so that we can change the system’s behavior, rather than developing programs that have a minimal opportunity to help long term.

We are at the dawn of a new economic era. At this point in our history, what will keep people going back into the system (i.e. recidivism), or entering the system... is not being prepared for the new economy.

You can change drug sentencing laws, but there may be some other thing that becomes a crime. The business and education sectors need to create products or services that enhance a person’s potential to thrive outside of the prison system so they don’t have to enter the system in the first place. That is what Pentorship is all about.

How has CCI supported you in your work?

There is no other CCI in Atlanta. It’s a very special place and it’s interesting to watch it evolve. We will really know what CCI means to the city coming out of the mayoral race, which is going to be a turning point for the city and CCI, in terms of its role in history.

Any unexpected challenges you’ve faced or advice for Atlanta’s newest social entrepreneurs?

My advice for up and coming entrepreneurs: Don't be too distracted by the noise around social enterprise. Solve a problem. The most important tools you need are self-awareness and empathy.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing Atlanta today?

The housing crisis. And part B of that is transportation. I’ve been here a long time, and my family has been here even longer. Atlanta is a town-city. Townspeople have run this city traditionally. Atlanta was never intended to be what it is (the state capital) because Savannah was supposed to be the New York of Georgia. This is why we have a prison in Atlanta.

The townspeople mindset is that they try to model after other cities how they want to supply the support, which is typically needed in the inner city.

But the people who need help are spread all around the city. You can’t view the people living inside the perimeter as the only people who need help, because Atlanta is uniquely spread out geographically. There are so many people in the surrounding areas who are suffering and need support or training so their income can increase for them to afford housing.

Construction companies are building a lot of new housing, but they’re building to meet the demand from new residents relocating from other cities to work here. We’ve got to continue to help the existing residents develop into the talent pool to that aligns with those opportunities.

Thank you, Kristen, for sharing your story with us! We're honored that you're a part of the CCI family, and thrilled to watch your work continue. 

Atlanta is filled with incredible people and organizations doing meaningful work throughout this city. Their efforts change the way our city designs solutions for the challenges we face in education, art and culture preservation, criminal justice and reform, workforce development, and food security.

The Center for Civic Innovation aims to be a place that supports and showcases these community leaders to the world. This blog series will highlight one entrepreneur or organization from Atlanta every week from now until the end of the year. We hope their stories will inform and inspire.


 

#CCIspotlight: Alex Acosta, Soul Food Cypher

On the blog this week, meet #CCIsuperstar, Alex Acosta, co-founder and executive director of Soul Food Cypher and a 2016 Civic Innovation Fellow. Alex is a photographer, community leader, and arts advocate. While teaching media production to at-risk teens, Alex saw such brilliance and spontaneous ingenuity in his students and saw an opportunity for them to improve themselves and their communities through their words. Shortly after, Alex formed Soul Food Cypher and has taken it into classrooms, arts centers, and communities across the city. 

Tell us a little more about yourself. Where did the idea come from for the work you do? How did you get to where you are today?

I am a native Atlantan. I know I am a rare breed—one of the few actual ATLiens. I recently read an article about how black millennials are really interested in moving back to the South, and my roots are primarily in the South. Both of my parents are from Florida, and they were interested in moving to Atlanta because Atlanta represented a place of progress, a place with traditional black mayors. This is where they wanted to start and raise a family. 

I was born August 11, 1986, which interestingly coincides with the birthday of hip hop. Hip hop is said to have begun August 11, 1973, so I was born on the 13th birthday of hip hop culture.  I guess my stars aligned and I knew I had to do something related to hip hop culture. 

I’ve had a wide range of experiences growing up in Atlanta. We came to Atlanta from Tampa, Florida when I was in kindergarten. We lived primarily in Eastside/Stone Mountain. Growing up in Atlanta, particularly in Decatur/Stone Mountain, compared to growing up in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance. In elementary school during Black History Month we would make huge banners of African American figures, so as a kid I learned about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and about Rosa Parks, XYZ, as well as the lesser-known black figures like Madam C.J. Walker. I learned so much history just growing up around the Eastside of Atlanta. 

When I was going into the sixth grade, we moved out to Conyers. This was my first time I lived in a community where I was considered a “minority.” In high school, my mom and I moved to Alpharetta, which I consider suburban. I was going to school with kids who were driving the latest models of cars, and here I am driving a little Honda Accord from 1989. I was going to school with kids whose parents either had money for generations or new money. Their parents were lawyers or senators, that kind of thing. It was a completely different socio-economic bracket, and I was exposed to a lot of new things.  

I went to Milton High School. One of the great things about my experience in Alpharetta was meeting two friends, Austin and Wahid, that introduced me to hip hop culture. I had seen hip hop; I heard about it, but I had not really experienced hip hop culture. Wahid is of Middle Eastern/Persian background, and Austin is Caucasian, but because of our shared appreciation of hip hop culture we came together as friends, and it was like we didn’t even see colors. And that’s when I really realized the power of hip hop culture. And then we would start going to hip hop events, we would go to B-boy shows, breakdancing events - Breaklanta in particular. I remember the first time I went to Breaklanta and I was like, “oh my god, this is what I’ve been missing in life!” 

Breaklanta was a huge event bringing together all of the elements of hip hop - including turntablism, emceeing, and graffiti art. Others consider a fifth element- knowledge. You’ve got to know about your history. History and knowledge is very important to hip hop culture, because you’ve got to know where you come from before you know where you’re going. And each of those informs the other elements of hip hop.  

Breaklanta was a huge inspiration. I knew I wanted to do something with hip hop culture when I attended – I saw all the people who were there and they were just vibing. In Atlanta, who you are matters – but what mattered at Breaklanta was your skills and what you could bring. I think hip hop culture is the embodiment of American culture — it’s an amalgamation of so many different cultures. That’s one of the common themes in my life and in my experiences with hip hop culture: bringing people together. 

Tell us about the venture you are working on. Where did the idea for your venture come from? How are you driving impact? 

In 2011, I was teaching media production and mentoring some at-risk kids at the Whitefoord Intel computer clubhouse in Edgewood. The space had a recording studio and equipment, and pretty quickly I realized I was able to connect to the students through hip hop. 

We all had a shared appreciation for music and hip hop culture. I started a cypher with the kids, and I saw that that was how I could hear their stories. These were not easy stories. These were stories of abandonment and hardship... but at the same time I heard stories of optimism. These kids had hope and positivity to get out of their circumstances. The schools that they went to—the statistics there were saying that these kids were going to end up in jail or become teenage parents. Their life trajectories were capped. 

The idea for the cypher came from bringing the community together and creating a space for people to gather through their shared appreciation for freestyle hip hop. Soul Food Cypher is a community arts organization that uses the power of speech, specifically freestyle rap, to transform individuals and communities. The way we do this is threefold—through our membership program, through our monthly cypher events, and through community engagement. Each cypher event has exercises where we test our emcees through wordplay. These are not simple words—rather these are historical figures or complex vocabulary terms. Our emcees must integrate these words into their rhymes, and kids or others watching then see these words being used for the first time, and have context on these words. We build community leaders and people that can move crowds, but we also have created spaces to bring communities together and grow the minds of individuals. The cypher is a way of centralizing communities in a way that church historically has. What is in the name? Soul Food. Cypher. Soul Food? Food for thought, for the soul. We have our cyphers on Sundays, continuing the tradition of bringing people together. We are rooted in storytelling as well, because and emcee is the modern-day storyteller in the same way that the griots of Africa carried a community’s oral tradition. 

A cypher is a circle where a bunch of people, taking turns, share who they are and where they are from and the essence of a community. It is also the purest form of democracy, where everyone takes time to listen to the power of each other’s message. The cypher is a place for sharing and listening, and we need these spaces and experiences now more than ever. 

We are building out our membership program and community outreach, training members to take these exercises into schools and other community spaces. The members help train emcees, stretching and growing them. In the classroom, the cypher helps educate and supplement the typical curriculum. These emcees can then take up the mantle, going into other classrooms and communities, raising test scores and nurturing leaders. 

How has CCI supported you in your work? 

I love CCI—I really do—because of the peers that I have here. It is led by millennials, young people that are energetic. But CCI has people that know Atlanta, know its history, and know where they came from to see where they want to go. CCI treats its fellows and residents as peers, and there is respect and dignity for the work that we do. If CCI sees us as equals and bets on us, then maybe myself and Soul Food Cycle are great as well. That is something that is really special about this place. It respects and values the people doing the work, and helps bring out the best in us. 

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing Atlanta today? 

One of the biggest issues in Atlanta currently is gentrification. I am working on a book right now that explores the relationship between hip hop and gentrification. My thesis is that parts of cities that hip hop artists have talked about in songs are now some of the most gentrified parts of those cities. Consider the Bay Area, or Williamsburg in New York City. These places are now the center of gentrification after being shouted out by artists. The cityscape that Biggie so vividly painted in his lyrics does not exist anymore. The projects and other centralized communities - those do not exist anymore.

I look at redlining as well, where the federal government and housing authorities marked off certain African American parts of cities and prevented investment from flowing into these areas. This was a big reason for the asymmetric nature of development during housing purchases and wealth generation from things like the G.I. Bill. Today, you can go on maps and see the redlined parts of cities, which is where gentrification has been occurring. These are things I have learned about in the book. There are echoes of these issues in hip hop music. Atlanta has some of the highest income inequality in the nation; these are issues we see coming to life here in our city. 


We’d like to send many thanks to Alex for discussing his experiences with wit and honesty. Check out Soul Food Cypher here. Be sure to be on the lookout for the next Cypher and other events.

Atlanta is filled with incredible people and organizations doing meaningful work throughout this city. Their efforts change the way our city designs solutions for the challenges we face in education, art and culture preservation, criminal justice and reform, workforce development, and food security. 

The Center for Civic Innovation aims to be a place that supports and showcases these community leaders to the world. This blog series will highlight one entrepreneur or organization from Atlanta every week. We hope their stories will inform and inspire.