For years, Atlanta has had a reputation for being a city where Black creatives can grow and thrive and in our May #blkcreatives Twitter chat, in partnership with Square and The Culture LP, we examined that heritage.
“Atlanta is the south’s major metropolitan area. It’s home to 30 Fortune 1000 companies & 16 Fortune 500 companies that generate $438 billion. Atlanta is also home to an international airport and dynamic film, music and creative industries. And it’s a burgeoning tech hub. Business is happening in Atlanta,” shared Kia. “Atlanta is also becoming the center of southern progressive politics with organizations like @NewGAProject, @fairfightaction and @BlackVotersMtr calling it home. Basically, if you want to do it, it can be done in Atlanta. AND it can be done in community with other Black folks.”
We welcomed special Atlanta based guests – some from the city, others who’ve relocated themselves – documentary filmmaker, journalist, King Williams; Marketing and Event Planning pro, Junae Brown; digital director, writer + creator of cultural experiences, Kia Smith; and journalist, editor, copywriter, and content specialist Mike Jordan (not THAT one!) to the discussion.
Here are a few things the good city of Atlanta taught us from our May #blkcreatives Twitter Chat – Building The Future: Black Business In Atlanta in partnership with Square + The Culture LP:
May these notes support you and add ease to your process if you’re relocating to Atlanta.
Atlanta is not just a place of innovation for big businesses, it’s a fruitful environment for small businesses and those looking to grow their businesses.
King Willams shared that ”Atlanta is still pretty affordable compared to the tier-1 cities of NYC/LA/DC/SF. As a Black entrepreneur & creative, #ATL offers a better chance to scale based on the existing networks here.”
“In my opinion, Atlanta is the perfect blend of high energy hustle, & practicality. It’s upbeat when I need it to be & I can step away when I must & still have a life,w/o either suffering. It’s also a very entrepreneurial city, so full of resources, like minds, big business, and creativity,” shared Juane Brown. “Ifi it’s new and innovative, it likely is coming out of Atlanta. Cost of living + quality of life combo is really great here. You get more for your $ and then some which doesn’t happen in an LA or NYC even if you’re making arguably great $ AND it’s super Black which I never get tired of. Black Hollywood meets Black Silicon Valley.”
“A scrappy hustler in ATL can be comfortably cash-poor longer than most major cities thanks to a comparatively low cost of living,” tweeted Mike Jordan. “And there are enough successful Black residents to sustain a solid Black professional network, as long as you do good business.”
Mike also gave us a great reminder to nurture our business and our everyday lives. “Know the local creatives. Find out who’s really making moves, and be in the orbit of doers, not talkers. Get out and walk a neighborhood you don’t live in. Buy local art. Follow @canopyatl. Follow @IamKingWilliams! Follow @butter_atlanta. And support live music!”“Atlanta is the perfect blend of high energy hustle, & practicality. It’s full of resources and creativity. If it’s new and innovative, it likely is coming out of Atlanta. ” – @junaebrown for #blkcreatives in partnership with @TheCultureLP +… Click To Tweet
Atlanta is powered by real people, prioritize connecting with them as you consider your move.
“Being friends with and in community with folks who were born and raised here has made my Atlanta experience so much richer!” tweeted Kia. “Go to the mom and pops spots. Go to the small places that have been around since forever. Go where the folks talk southern.
“I think that those who do it right will take time to actually learn about the ATL community, what is currently happening & what is needed. I think they will add to, help expand, & not take away from—so will impact the community positively,” shared Junae. “Everyone else is in for a rude awakening. Atlanta already has a lot of amazing things happening & has for a long time now. I think businesses that fail to acknowledge that serve more as a disruption & therefore don’t do well because they don’t have the support of the community & here that matters.”
“It could be amazing for the community living in Atlanta, offering them new opportunities, new industries to work in. But this requires the people & industries that are moving into the city to care about the people here and desire to be in community with them and not just commodifying or capitalizing off of them. If you’re coming to Atlanta, come with a desire to be in community with the people who were born here and the people who grew here,” Kia also shared.
“E.G. Big tech companies offer so much opportunity — to individuals and other businesses. However, if your presence raises housing costs to the point that the community who has been here is being displaced, are you really having a positive impact on the community?” she continued.
It’s important for businesses, politicians, and leaders to consider the impact of business growth past the dollars made here. How is the business presence affecting individuals in these communities? Are people being pushed out and left behind? Housing costs, wage, education and wealth gaps, political and social structures, transportation — these are important considerations that often get treated as an afterthought.”
“Get involved w/ your local Neighborhood Planning Unit in the city – if possible, walk and talk to neighbors – online groups like FB/Nextdoor are okay but mostly for new residents and not old Atlanta who isn’t on those platforms or subgroups -get involved w/ local churches & schools,” shared King.
‘Old Atlanta’ exists everywhere BUT often doesn’t frequent the same social spaces or social media account of ‘New Atlanta’,” King added. “It’s best to get out IRL and talk to them as well as visit spots that they occupy. Skip Mason’s Vanishing Black Atlanta is a good place to see where ACTUAL ‘Old Atlanta’ congregates & you can venture out to the sub groups from there.”
“Anyone moving here should know they are beneficiaries of Black leadership, and be cool with that. The brilliance + forward-thinking vision of folks like Maynard Jackson made this city what it is today. We share the city, but it’s important to know its history,” Mike tweeted.“If you’re coming to Atlanta, come with a desire to be in community with the people who were born here and the people who grew here.” – @kiaspeaks for for #blkcreatives in partnership with @TheCultureLP + @Square Click To Tweet "Anyone moving here should know they are beneficiaries of Black leadership, forward-thinking folks like Maynard Jackson. It's important to know its history." – @michaelbjordan for #blkcreatives in partnership with @TheCultureLP + @Square Click To Tweet “‘Old Atlanta’ exists everywhere BUT often doesn’t frequent the same social spaces or social media accounts of ‘New Atlanta’ – it’s best to get out IRL.” – @iamkingwilliams for #blkcreatives in partnership with @TheCultureLP + @Square Click To Tweet
Atlanta is not an all day party, a quick come up, or a small player on the cultural board, it’s an influential community with many, diverse layers and stories. You have to be honest about doing the work, the realities of the community, and being responsible about your contributions to it.
“The median household income for a white family in the city is $83,722, compared to $28,105 for a Black family, according to a report from the AWBI. That’s nearly a 3-to-1 ratio. [source for stats] There’s just a 4% chance that folks who are born into poverty in Atlanta will escape it according to the Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative. Any business in Atlanta or moving to Atlanta should be offering solutions to the income inequality and wealth gaps.”
“A common falsehood is that ATL is a 2nd-tier city, under NYC, LA, CHI, etc,” shared Mike Jordan. “But ATL leads all of these places thanks to cultural exportation. People want to be in Atlanta. They want to be part of a culture that has influenced the world.”
“Atlanta isn’t a ‘city’, the highway purposely cut through the Black neighborhoods and a slew of bad development deals has ATL as a large series of parking lots and non-walkable areas that a “real city” would – most ppl don’t live in the city proper because of that reason,” revealed King. “The ‘culture’ of Atlanta is Black but because of the highway, you have no easily accessible physical space to experience it. Atlanta region is somewhat different from Atlanta the city. Opportunities here come from social clubs and activities but those are hard to access.
Where you live and where your biz is matters A LOT If in white collar/tech/finance/creative BE INSIDE I-285 The economic growth, human capital, colleges, hotels/venues, and high profile ‘third spaces’ are in the city If restaurant/retail/some hotels outside 285 is possible.”
“Make sure to really learn about the history and current politics here and what’s going in terms of government regulations etc,” Junae tweeted. “If you’re from ‘up north’ do remember that this is still the SOUTH; If you’re moving and not familiar with the city utilize platforms like promove to help find the perfect place & area to live in (it’s free!).”
“Many think that it’s easy for Black businesses to be successful in Atlanta because Atlanta has a lot of Black folks. Atlanta is not now, nor has it ever been, the cheat code for success. It takes hard work, relationships and capital to be successful here like everyone else,” Kia advised.
“Getting it out the mud does not become easier just because you flew south. But the weather is nice and the people are friendly.”
The history, culture, and soul of America was built by Black people. Our future will be no different. It’s happening in places like Atlanta, and all over, with businesses like the ones featured in Square’s ‘The Future Is Built’ campaign.