The Atlanta Way: A Documentary on Gentrification

I woke up this morning to an email from my friend Bradley w/ the subject line “Check This Out”.

At first I was sure it was going to be some Wiz Khalifa remix, but no. It was actually the exact opposite of all things Wiz Khalifa.

The email contained a link to a rough cut to the upcoming documentary “The (Atlanta) Way: A Documentary on Gentrification”

It’s a rough cut (about 35 minutes), meaning it’s 1) not the entire movie and 2) hopefully still requesting feedback about certain aspects of the film.

The film centers on gentrification in Atlanta, the public housing transformation that the city has undergone, and the pros and cons of “cleaning up” the projects.

Atlanta was home to the first federally-funded housing project in the United States (Techwood Homes). Now, it is the first city in the WORLD to deliberately remove all of it’s public housing projects.

Not the South. Not the US of A. Earth.

As someone that knows a great deal about Atlanta, there were many things that jumped out at me as new information:
– “The Atlanta Way” was the name of a document drafted by Black and White elites after the 1906 Atlanta race riots about how to govern race relations in the city.

– Atlanta is repeatedly rated as one of the meanest cities to the homeless.

– (With regards to housing) Atlanta, in 2008, was the 3rd most vacant city in America.

– Centennial Place (the replacement to Techwood Homes) was the country’s first deliberately planned mixed-income housing community.

– In 1993, 70% of the NYC prisoners came from 8 neighborhoods. Apparently in Atlanta during the same time, that percentage held true for even fewer neighborhoods in Atlanta.

– The employment rate in the old East Lake housing projects in the mid-90s was 14%. (Employment, not Unemployment).

– The net benefit of the city tearing down all the projects = 1.5 Billion

A significant part of the documentary were interviews of people throughout the community (stakeholders, if you will). They ranged from business owners to city planners to residents to historians to researchers to journalists.  Here are some of the better and more poignant quotes that I could quickly jot down:

“Only way to clean up an area is to start over. A city isn’t going to grow if you have projects” – Brian Jordan, former Atlanta Brave/real estate developer

“The reason why the shit is so bad is because we don’t have shit” – Jonathan Murray, resident

“It’s gonna stay hood. If it looks like the hood, we’re gonna keep it hood. If you give us nice shit, we take care of our shit that’s nice.” – Jonathan Murray

“That’s just Economics 101. If you’re gonna grow a city, you must get rid of the old and bring in the new. That’s the philosophy. That’s Economics 101.” – Brian Jordan

“But I made a choice to live intown, as a planner, because I love the city. Am I a gentrifier because I didn’t always live there?” – Jennifer Ball, Central Atlanta Progress

“If BET could design a city, it would be Atlanta” – Jelani Cobb, history professor, Spelman College

“They think because we live in the projects, we are the projects” – Resident
Overall, I think this documentary is wonderful. I thought it was great that they showed highly articulate housing project residents giving their take on what the city was doing to them.  That’s something that doesn’t happen enough.

With that said, there were a few things about the documentary that bugged me (only 2). Figured I throw them out there, in case anyone involved with the film happened to come across this.

1) The music. The opening song was a little too literal for the images being shown. There would be a picture of disinvestment on Edgewood, and then whoever was singing would croon “disinvestment on Edgewooooooooooood”. Or something like that. It was pretty wack.

And then there’s the end credits song.

Don’t insult me by playing “Morning Bell” by Radiohead to close out a documentary about
gentrification in Atlanta. I love Radiohead and especially love “Morning Bell”, but play “Git Up, Git Out” by Outkast and call it a day… don’t gentrify my soundtrack.

2) Subtitles. One of my biggest pet peeves are when subtitles are applied to someone who truly doesn’t need them. It only happens once in the film, but it just feels so rude to the lady. It’s like you’re saying she can’t speak, which is false cause I clearly understood everything she had to say.

If you are interested in Atlanta, urban planning, race relations, sociology, or cities in general, it’s a good watch. I’m very excited to see the completed product in the Fall of 2011.

To keep up with the makers of this film (Psyentific Films/Casclayde Media) and the progress of the documentary:


About Rembert Browne

NYC via ATL ////
This entry was posted in ATL, Cities. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Atlanta Way: A Documentary on Gentrification

  1. Tiffanie says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this documentary. When we hear about tearing down the projects, we think less crime and nicer buildings, but we tend to forget about the displaced families and individuals as a result. This was a real eye-opener for me. I will definitely pass this link along. 🙂

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