With everyone becoming more reliant on teleworking and technology in general, we need more reliable security for ourselves and our companies. Smart Eye Technology and it’s CEO Dexter Caffey are at the cutting edge of security, providing companies and individuals the ability to protect their information. Join Peachtree Corners Life podcast hosts Rico Figliolini and Patrizia Winsper as they explore the eye-tracking technology that simplifies and predicts human intentions and actions.
[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:02:45] – About Smart Eye Technology
[00:06:16] – Sharing Documents
[00:07:23] – In the Professional World
[00:09:38] – Ways to Recognize Users
[00:11:14] – Smart Phone Capabilities
[00:14:17] – Research and Development
[00:15:40] – Dexter’s Background
[00:16:37] – Financing
[00:18:13] – Development Team
[00:19:37] – In the Peachtree Corners Community
[00:20:37] – Working in the COVID Environment
[00:22:04] – Expanding
[00:23:53] – Information
[00:26:14] – Competition
[00:29:34] – Closing
“I said, what if we could create an app called Smart Eye Technology that will shut off if Patricia or Rico look at my screen. And at first everybody thought it was the craziest thing ever. And so I actually reached out to a group of Israeli software developers and they helped us create this amazing technology now that we have called Smart Eye Technology.”Dexter Caffey
Rico: [00:00:30] Hi everyone, this is Rico Figliolini host of Peachtree Corners Life. Appreciate you coming out to watch this as a live stream if you’re doing this or if you’re listening to this as a podcast or on YouTube as a video as well. So and of course if you’re on Facebook on our Facebook page, you may be listening to this later, but appreciate you coming out. We have a special guest today, but before we get there, we want to introduce our sponsor Hargray Fiber. They’re a cable fiber company in the Southeast. Really big. They’ve been expanding even further into the Southeast area, especially in Southeast Georgia and Southern Georgia and the metropolitan area here in Atlanta. You can get the services for your business, business-to-business to be able to use their wifi, their fiber optics, they have cable and the support that they give to small businesses and large businesses through bundled services. So they’re not the cable guy. They’re right in the community, they’re so involved in the things going on in the towns and cities, they go into that you’d be surprised. So check them out HargrayFiber.com and you might be able to even get 90 days worth of your internet service for free. Certainly you’ll be able to get some of their expertise. So check them out. Now to get to our show, today’s special guest, this is a followup to an article we had in our vibrant technology issue, and so we had that an issue or two ago, and now today we have a special guest. I’m going to let Patrizia introduce our guest. Go for it
Patrizia: [00:02:09] Good afternoon everyone. So nice to see you again. Dexter Coffey is joining us today from Smart Eye Technology and he is the founder and chief as he self-describes of this company. Hi Dexter.
Dexter: [00:02:26] Hey how are you Patrizia?
Patrizia: [00:02:28] I’m doing so well. Thank you. How are you?
Dexter: [00:02:30] Good. Thank you for having me on today.
Patrizia: [00:02:31] It’s our pleasure. It seems like a lifetime ago when we spoke last just a few months ago before this whole pandemic broke out.
Dexter: [00:02:38] Last time, I think I was in Israel when you spoke to me last.
Patrizia: [00:02:41] That’s right. We’ll have to meet in person at some point.
Dexter: [00:02:44] Exactly.
Patrizia: [00:02:45] Alright Dexter. So today we’re going to regale our listeners and viewers with screen privacy concerns for all of across all of their electronic devices. And that’s because of what you came up with and you had a brilliant idea. And I’d like you to take us through it because it actually really did happen for you organically. Why don’t you tell us how you started the whole idea of Smart Eye Technology.
Dexter: [00:03:10] Absolutely. Thank you so much Patrizia. So what happened, that was actually, in Israel about two and a half years ago, and I was at a cybersecurity event. And so I was sitting next to this speaker who was getting ready to speak. And he and I were just talking just like you and I are talking right now. And what happened, I noticed when I looked at his laptop, I could see documents, I saw word documents, I saw PDF documents, and I just said to myself, so why should I be able to see any document that’s on this cyber security experts laptop? It’s none of my business. I said, what if we could create an app called Smart Eye Technology that will shut off. If Patricia or Rico look at my screen. And at first everybody thought it was the craziest thing ever. And so I actually reached out to a group of Israeli software developers and they actually helped us create this amazing technology now that we have called Smart Eye Technology.
Patrizia: [00:04:03] And here we are. It feels like we’re living in an episode of the Jetsons the future is certainly here. And learning about these technology companies in the greater Atlanta area was such a joy and so exciting for me. So, Dexter, in order to protect our screen, so Rico, if you’re planning your next, birthday for your wife and you want to keep it secret. You don’t want her to come behind your back and look at your screen and see what all you’ve been planning, right? So Dexter, how is it that you protect our screens and how is it that they recognize only us.
Dexter: [00:04:38] Okay. What did you guys, it’s actually when you open up the Smart Eye Technology app, which will be out at the end of May this year, well that’s in 30 days from now, what happens is that when you actually open up Smart Eye Technology app and you upload, let’s say those secret documents, that Rico was planning for this amazing event, he’s going to put on for everyone in the family.
Patrizia: [00:04:57] No pressure Rico.
Dexter: [00:05:00] So once that document is actually inside the smart technology app. At that point, if his wife or his friends or whoever else walks in the room, that document when it’s open, only Rico’s face is recognized by the document, but then he put his facial recognition inside of smart technology app. As soon as another face comes in and looks at that document while he’s looking at it, it’ll shut it down, immediately, and block the screen and say warning multiple viewers.
Patrizia: [00:05:25] Isn’t that perfect? You get a warning message for multiple viewers. So your computer screen now recognizes both your irises, your face with a continual camera.
Dexter: [00:05:39] Yeah,absolutely. So, so what happens is that right now it’s facial recognition. So it recognizes just your face. You would have to actually register your face facial recognition by simply taking the picture inside of smart technology app. We also have voice recognition and we have fingerprint recognition. And so if you wanted to send, let’s say Rico, let’s just say Rico wanted to show you that document inside of Smart Eye Technology. You would download smart technology app and then he would send it to you cause you’re one of his contacts. And as
a result of that, then when he shares it with you, all you have to do is your face could be recognized, your fingerprint, or your voice before that document opens up to you.
Rico: [00:06:16] Does that document need to be shared through the same app? Like I would send it from my app to her app?
Dexter: [00:06:21] Absolutely. Everything stays with inside the technology app. So let’s say it goes from your app to her app, her Smart Eye Technology app.
Patrizia: [00:06:28] So both parties involved have to be signed on with Smart Eye Technology.
Dexter: [00:06:32] Exactly. Because we keep everything inside of the app for the security, for the sake of security. And so again, when Rico sent you that he can do two things, he could allow you to download that. Or he could allow you just to have the actual document and allow you to share it with somebody if he chose. So you can download it or you can share it with somebody if he chose. However if you download that document, if he gave you permission to download the document, security is off of it. It’s over, security is off.
Patrizia: [00:07:00] He also has the ability to choose for how long I would have access to that document, isn’t that right?
Dexter: [00:07:06] That’s a great point too. What happens Patrizia is that when, when Rico sends you that document. He can set the amount of days, like seven days or the amount of hours, let’s say 24 hours, 40 hours for you to have access to those secrets vacation documents that he has.
Patrizia: [00:07:23] It’s just perfection for those of us who value our privacy. Of course, taking it out of the personal context. This has tons of applications in the professional world where you have to maintain privacy within your company and within whatever organization you’re working for.
Dexter: [00:07:40] And you’re right. One of the big problems right now that’s going on is, let’s just say for example if you sent me an invoice for let’s just say $20,000.You say Dexter, here’s our service for $20,000. What would happen if you sent that by email, a hacker with, let’s say, is in your email, and so that hacker would then email me right back. Say, Hey Dexter, this is Patrizia you know that $20,000 it didn’t go through yet. Keep that the same, but just change our banking our wiring .banking instructions because we had a problem with our old bank, so go ahead and make those changes today and email me when you’ve wired the money. That was the hacker, that wasn’t you that said that, that was the hacker.
Patrizia: [00:08:19] No, that happens a lot in the real estate realm.
Dexter: [00:08:21] This happens in real estate, because a lot of those closing attorneys, they have the wiring instructions so that they are a target for hackers. So whenever a closing attorney sends those wiring instructions through emails hackers say. Yes, we love it. Let’s go and change it up and email that person. Hey, listen, this is the wiring attorney. Don’t use my email that just sent to you first, use the new wiring instructions because we’re no longer using that old bank anymore.
Rico: [00:08:47] Does the system allow for, let’s say I want to keep my documents up on the cloud with you. Can I continue adding to that account?
Dexter: [00:08:56] Absolutely. You can continue to add it to that account that will never, we’re not a storage facility, so you really don’t want to store things in Smart Eye. It’s more like really just we’re sending it off or, let’s say if you want to choose, you have to sign a document. You will send it to her to sign a document so she could sign with her finger inside of Smart Eye Technology. She does not have to download the app to print anything out, she would just simply sign with her finger and then you can now verify it was Patrizia because that document only opened up to her face. She’s the only person who could see that document. So you can verify now that she’s the only person who signed that document. Right now, when somebody sends you a document through one of those companies that allow you to sign online, what happens is that you can’t verify that person who actually signed it. I don’t know, somebody else could’ve signed it.
Patrizia: [00:09:38] Right. I wanted to walk it up just a little bit here, because it’s easy enough to understand the facial recognition and the fingerprint and even the voice, but how is it that your computer now can recognize your handwriting? I understand handwriting is also one of the ways in which you can make sure it’s the person you want to receive the document and no one else.
Dexter: [00:10:00] Absolutely. We have something called print behavior, and so what print behavior is, it analyzes exactly how you hold your physical cell phone. It analyzes how you move your hands in order to write the letters that we asked you to give. If we ask you to write letters, A, L, and P. Then it’ll analyze how you write it, and physically move your hands around. It’ll also analyze how much pressure you put on the screen to even write those letters with to understand, is this Patricia or is this Rico trying to access a document.
Patrizia: [00:10:29] Isn’t that something
Rico: [00:10:31] That is, can that be legally accepted also then I’m assuming?
Dexter: [00:10:35] Well that there’s not a signature, that’s just allowing you to actually access the document so that’s like your face or your fingerprint. And also print behavior is another access point so that you access the document through Smart Eye.
Rico: [00:10:49] But before you said, I can, if I send something for a signature. Can someone sign that form?
Dexter: [00:10:55] Absolutely. It’s just electronic signature. Absolutely.
Rico: [00:10:58] And send it back and then I’d have it.
Dexter: [00:11:01] Exactly, exactly. So you have a signature just like that. So it goes directly to the app. So again, you never have to worry about putting anything out and you can verify that Patrizia actually signed that document because that document only opens to just her face.
Rico: [00:11:14] So let me ask you something, because obviously there’s so many, there’s so many avenues here, because an iPhone has a GPS, has certain accesses that you have. You, can you verify if it’s allowed, I guess through terms and agreement. Can I verify then that number one I have a picture of Patrizia, can that be part of that evidence, if you will?
Dexter: [00:11:38] That’s a very good, very good point Rico, because what you just said, your profile picture is your facial recognition picture. So in our version one that’s coming out in about 30 days, your profile picture will be your facial recognition picture. So you can’t put another face in there let’s say of you and a friend it’s not going to work, it has to be your physical face.
Rico: [00:12:01] Okay. And what about GPS location?
Dexter: [00:12:05] We actually have inside a smart eye where we can, we can actually require, we can say, okay, I can set a physical location. Let’s say you’re located in Peachtree Corners. I can say only in Peachtree Corners can Rico open up my document? If you go to the city of Atlanta, the document will not open for you.
Rico: [00:12:22] Really? I could see so many things that could be done with. Actually fun things that the travel industry would love to have. For example, you are going to Atlanta? Well, let me send you this document and you’re not going to be able to open this up until you get to Atlanta and then you’ll know where you’re going to be.
Dexter: [00:12:42] Exactly. So then you can see exactly when they opened it up. So every time they touched that document, to open it up, you’ll see exactly that they opened it up in Atlanta. You’ll be able to see, you can actually even specify which wifi a person is using. So let’s say your home’s wifi or your office’s wifi by getting the IP address and saying only on that wifi. Can you open up my document.
Rico: [00:13:03] Wow.
Dexter: [00:13:04] If I chose, well actually it doesn’t matter, you could be on any wifi. It’s my choice, it’s my document.
Rico: [00:13:10] As many restrictions, or leave it loose if you want.
Patrizia: [00:13:15] It could be as specific as you like,
Rico: [00:13:17] Yes. So I can see bond services, I can see certain types of services wanting to use this because they have the ability to lock it around to where they want it.
Dexter: [00:13:28] Exactly. That person’s documents they control. What we’ve done was it really put control back into the hands of individuals and privacy. So it’s about control and privacy, and that’s what smart eye technology is really all about. Even inside of our B to B side, if you want to send somebody a document, we have it to where if Patrizia’s company wanted to send it to your company you could actually request to collaborate with Patrizia and she has to accept you or deny your organization. If she accepts your organization, you can communicate with everybody in her organization. If she denies you, no one in your organization can send anything through Smart Eye. So now we’ve created a private pond for you to be in. So you decide who you want to play in your private pond.
Patrizia: [00:14:17] I love it. Dexter you are the brain child behind this brilliant idea, which I know is going to be important to many people, even if they haven’t heard of you yet. It will be important to them at some point, but every startup technology company is only as good as its research and development. So please tell us why you chose to locate your research and development center in Israel.
Dexter: [00:14:42] Okay. Well, as you know, Israel was one of the most advanced cyber security locations of the world. And so we, I, I created the team that I have in Israel to give us an edge because a lot of the people that we work with were, worked in security in government when they were in Israel, as they were the Israeli army and things like that. So we have a very specific team who we brought together to help us to create Smart Eye Technology. So our research and development took us initially, our research took us about 90 to a hundred days actually to create so that we could see exactly how smart eye would be created. So we’re very intense. When we created the actual software, as far as the process of it, there’s a big huge research paper that we have created that they created for us to show exactly how it works. So this is very detailed information.
Rico: [00:15:40] So let me ask you the, you know, what’s your background Dexter? Where’d you come from before Smart Eye Technology?
Dexter: [00:15:47] It’s funny that you asked me that question because my background is actually financial services. So I’ve done what’s called teching for major companies as an a Dowel Jones industrial laboratory owning my own business. And I’ve done that for 20 years. And so I’ve always loved technology like crazy. And when I just happened to see that opportunity that came up in my mind, it was just like I wanted to avoid it because I didn’t want to start another
business. I didn’t. And I tried to avoid the thought of Smart Eye Technology, but have you ever had something that was just nudging you day and night? Day and night and you couldn’t get it out of mind? Your talking with people and it’s coming out through your mouth. You go to sleep, you’re thinking about it. Well, that was Smart Eye Technology to me. It was something that just couldn’t get out of my mind. It was like, if I die, God would say, you know what you were supposed to do but you didn’t do it.
Rico: [00:16:37] How did you get your first initial financing to be able to do this?
Dexter: [00:16:40] That was great. I actually, I had an investor who was already a client of mine and I told him about my crazy idea. That’s a very good question. And I said, and I asked him. His name was Peter, and I said, Peter, I said, you know, I need to have lunch with you because I want to talk to you about some new things I think I want to step into. He said, okay. So we got together for lunch, and I told him exactly what I wanted to do as far as starting Smart Eye Technology. He said, okay, so what do you want from me? And I said, I need $50,000 today. And he said, so you want me to be the first sucker? And I said, absolutely. I mean, investor. So that’s how it all started from there. And we were able to raise substantially millions of dollars from investors who we work with now to bring this vision to life. And so, like I said, the app will be out at the end of may. And people will be able to download it on the app store originally, and it will be available for download in Android store probably in mid-July, in the Android store.
Rico: [00:17:46] Are you going to be looking for another round of financing at some point?
Dexter: [00:17:49] We are but not actively seeking a large amount. Right now we still have some available, but not actively seeking a large amount, we already have a proof of concept major. A company that does over $20 billion a year. That’s looking to be our first proof of concept company when we start in June. So we’re off to the races already.
Rico: [00:18:12] Wow.
Patrizia: [00:18:13] Dexter, I’ve heard your company referred to as a team of Avengers because you’re all so diverse from diverse backgrounds. Someone looking at you working together would have no clue how you all wound up together and what on earth you have in common. Why don’t you talk to us a little bit about the climate of your company, Smart Eye Technology.
Dexter: [00:18:33] Absolutely. We have many different, we’re a diverse company from the very beginning. We have individuals who are different. We have several types of minorities with inside the organization. I think we’re probably about 50, 60% women, and it’ll probably climb higher over the next couple of months. As far as Women is concerned. So we’re very different when it comes to a technology startup. We’re not a traditional startup where it’s predominantly men. And so we’re really taking a completely different approach to how people view, the screens that they actually have. So, and the individuals that we have working with us are passionate about the things that we’re doing, and they come from different backgrounds. So
therefore, they’re able to give us different opinions, which makes an amazing group of people to be associated with because they have their own opinions because of the different backgrounds that they come from. And everybody looks at the world a different way. And so that’s what’s really unique about it. And it’s something that I didn’t realize initially, but now I see extreme value in that.
Patrizia: [00:19:37] Absolutely. And I know you’re located in the city of Atlanta, your company is, but you do have ties to Peachtree Corners, so why don’t you tell us about how you came to be part of the Peachtree Corners community as well?
Dexter: [00:19:49] Absolutely. Smart Eye Technology is a member of the Atlanta Tech Park. And actually the Atlanta Tech Park is one of the most special places I’ve had the pleasure of being in because actually that’s where we did our first launch of our prototype. May 7th of last year showing our prototype for the very first time to the public. So, Robin and Ashley at the Atlanta Tech Park have been amazing partners with us. They helped us out in many ways that I can’t even explain. And so, they have a very special place in my heart, Atlanta Tech Park.
Rico: [00:20:26] Cool. How’s it been working? Obviously you may be, are you at Atlanta Tech Park now, I’m assuming?
Dexter: [00:20:32] No right now we’re in Buckhead, right now as we speak. We’re at our location in Buckhead.
Rico: [00:20:37] Okay. So how has working in this COVID-19 environment then?
Dexter: [00:20:42] Actually, you know, one of the surprising things is, actually, this has been one of the, I’ve been busier than I’ve ever been in my life. I’m getting Emails and phone calls from people who want to secure their screens for their employees, because they say we’re sending very delicate and very specific information, very highly sensitive information. And we’re trying to figure out a way, how do we gain control over that, over those pins that we’re sending out? So this is why it’s been, I’ve been talking to companies in Thailand, I’ve been talking to companies in Canada, I’ve been talking to companies here in the US. Companies in Portugal, we’re talking to. So it’s been extremely busy. I mean, it’s, it’s been a very busy period because people are trying to figure out how do I secure when I send Rico a document, I don’t want Rico, since it’s outside of our work environment, I don’t want them having access and doing whatever he wants with this. How do I control that? So we’re getting phone calls, emails coming in and it, it’s really amazing to see how many people are actually looking at this right now. It’s amazing.
Patrizia: [00:21:46] Yeah, it does make sense now that everyone’s leaving their companies in droves to resort to tele-working. More and more people are at home with this secure and private information that really should be protected.
Dexter: [00:21:59] Absolutely. And that’s why we’re getting the phone calls that are coming in right now. This is, I wasn’t expecting this, but I’m happy.
Rico: [00:22:04] As you’re getting more people involved, more companies coming on board, are you, obviously you’re going to be looking at expanding maybe the programming and doing some additional programming engineering into the app as well?
Dexter: [00:22:20] Yeah. Actually on our, on our first version, actually on our first version Rico, we’ll have the app on the App store, iOS version and we’ll have the web app version where you can actually use Smart Eye on your computer in the middle of July for a second version that comes out. So we’ll have a lot of new features that we’ll roll out every single month. There’ll be new features that we already have planned to roll out as we go every month.
Rico: [00:22:45] So as far as income goes then, revenue, that’s, it’s really based on corporate revenue, let’s say? Subscribers to this in a corporate environment?
Dexter: [00:22:54] Yeah, initially. But actually we have a huge demand from individuals, from individuals. We’re going to roll this out at the end of May. But everything that I’m hearing from individuals, people said, I’d love to have it for my personal information, because I don’t want the people seeing certain maybe pictures that they don’t want people to see, but just the person that you’re sending it to, their documents that they don’t want other people to see they’re sending it to. So initially, it’ll be on a per user basis, so in a way, anywhere from as low as $9 a month to $19.99 a month when it comes to the actual price of Smart Eye for use.
Rico: [00:23:31] Are you going to allow like a free download and then an upscale or premium step up?
Dexter: [00:23:37] That’s a great question. We’re going to have actually a two weeks free. So you’ll be having the full engine for two weeks free. And actually it will be anywhere between $9.99 to you know, probably less than $15 per person for the individuals per month.
Rico: [00:23:53] So my other question, that could be a little bit more sensitive maybe because you know, apps tend to collect information, right? Sometimes it’s, it’s not specific, right? It’s anonymous? Anonymized. Will, you know, are you able, or what do you even think about accumulating some data as far as the types of documents going out or, you know and accumulate some data like that that maybe over a period of time where you can address?
Dexter: [00:24:25] Well the good thing about Smart Eye Technology is that every single document that you said is encrypted, so we won’t be able to have access to that document because it’s encrypted. When you send it to somebody else? That document is encrypted, so it’s encrypted in transit, it’s encrypted when it sits on a cloud environment. So we can’t even look at any document that you send even if we wanted to, we have to, you know, we’d have to break it open and which would be hard to do because it’s encrypted. So absolutely.
Patrizia: [00:24:49] And how would you address people who are hyper sensitive about sharing their personal ID information, like their irises, their face, their fingerprints, how can you assure them that that will be kept safe?
Dexter: [00:25:01] Well, all of our biometrics are also encrypted as well. And one of the things that I tell people about, you’re probably more at risk to invoice fraud, and that’d be probably a little bit more worried about that because, like I said, there was over two billion dollars that was lost in 2019 to invoice fraud. So there are more, companies are losing more money from invoice fraud than they are from, you know, other areas when it comes to cyber attacks.
Rico: [00:25:29] Cool. Do you have any, any upcoming announcements you’d like to share here? Like things that you’re working on?
Dexter: [00:25:38] Well, actually, yeah, we’re actually, like I said, we’ll be launching the app at the end of May and we’re also actually starting our first proof of concept with a major company that is over $20 billion a year. So you guys are the first to hear that. And we’re also working with a potential other company in Portugal that is looking to use smart technology for some of their things as well. So we’ve got a lot of, a lot of companies right now who are interested in this technology because of what it does as far as protecting documents inside of your screen.
Rico: [00:26:14] Cool. Let me ask you one other, one other question. I mean, I think we covered quite a bit here. It’s a great technology. Certainly, I think that, you know, competition is the problem, right? Do you see that being an issue in your, in your arena, the competition that’s out there, that you need to get this out fast and need to be able to adjust as you go? Are there competitors you’re worried about? I know you wouldn’t be worried about being acquired by someone that might want this, a bigger company. You know these, Google and all these other companies acquiring things right and left. Would you welcome that at this point even?
Dexter: [00:26:54] Well, right now, the thing that we’re focusing on right now is number one, getting users using the app. That’s our key focus right now. And so that’s where our energy is being spent right now. As far as competition, competition is always a good thing. You want competition because it keeps you sharp. It makes you, I used to run track when I was in high school. And I love it. And so it’s a good thing. And what was built inside of smart eye technology, we’re still at the very heavy engine. So when you want to compete, it will cost a lot of money and a lot of time, and again. Most major organizations have employees at the organization. So we’re not really worried about major organizations doing exactly what we’re doing because you know, you have a lot of competition when it comes to, you know, since seniority in different things inside an organization with that, they want to do things they don’t want to do. So, so, but yes, you always have to be concerned about it, but never worried. I think it’s a good thing. I think it’s a very good thing.
Patrizia: [00:27:54] Right? So let’s get users using Smart Eye Technology.
Dexter: [00:27:57] That’s all we’re looking for.
Patrizia: [00:27:59] You can find it.on the Android.
Dexter: [00:28:02] Yes, it will be in, in mid July. You’ll be able to access it on Android, but within 30 days you’ll be able to access it at the end of May, on the app store.
Patrizia: [00:28:10] On the app store. Okay. And if I’m an individual, I’m looking at two weeks free and then about $9.99 a month.
Dexter: [00:28:20] Right.
Patrizia: [00:28:20] It’ll
Dexter: [00:28:20] be between $9.99 a month, depending on your usage at $14.95 a month in that range.
Patrizia: [00:28:25] And how do you determine the pricing for packages? Say for you personally to a company using it.
Dexter: [00:28:32] Yeah. We actually have, when you get it, when you first get inside the app we’ll ask you, are you an individual user or are you a business user? So business users will pay about $9.99 a month because they received that, what’s called a control panel. So they can add all the employees on that control panel and add employees or delete employees. They got full access to see exactly which documents those employees set. They’ll be able to see which companies that they’re interacting with as well. They’ll be able to see if they have a problem as far as trying to verify the biometrics because we have something called biometrics failure rate. So if you see an employee who’s failed a hundred percent of the time using all the biometrics, the employer can pick up the phone and say, Hey, listen, this may not be Patrizia trying to get into this app. Is this you or is this somebody else trying to access this. So we’ve got things in place, so it’ll give the system admin a early indication that, Hey, this is not that person trying to access the data because they’re failing 100% of the time. The access, this can’t be that person.
Rico: [00:29:34] You know I’ve been enjoying this Dexter. I think we want to possibly get back to you at some point a few months from now,to see how things are going.
Dexter: [00:29:44] That’d be great.
Rico: [00:29:45] Cool. Good. So, Patrizia do you have any more questions for Dexter? Otherwise, we’re going to be letting him go.
Patrizia: [00:29:52] I think we’re good to go. Rico, thank you so much, Dexter, for taking the time to speak with us today.
Dexter: [00:29:57] Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate this.
Rico: [00:29:59] Thank you, Dexter. Thank you everyone for listening. And again, this is Peachtree Corners Life with your host Rico Figliolini, Patrizia Winsper and CEO, disrupter, founder, Dexter Coffey from Smart Eye Technology. Thank you guys. Appreciate it.
Patrizia: [00:30:16] Have a good afternoon everyone.
The Colorful Woven Threads that Make Up the Fabric of Our City
Gwinnett County is getting more and more culturally and racially diverse. Remember the old adage ‘Variety is the spice of life’? In today’s climate of social unrest and world-wide protests for racial justice, we should move towards healing by getting to know our neighbors and broaching some delicate conversations. It can be scary and cathartic — and it can be a little heartbreaking, too.
The heartbeat of Peachtree Corners is strong because of the amazing people who live and work here. I reached out to some from a variety of backgrounds. Each of their accounts will have you shouting, Vive la différence!
Traditional Master Barber Jay Patton moved to Peachtree Corners two years ago from Minneapolis, Minnesota. He noted that his hometown is less diverse, primarily Caucasian, and he’s been enjoying the “good mix” of people here.
“In Minnesota, growing up, there was more racial tension,” Patton said. He felt a larger divide between the privileged and the underprivileged. “There’s less opportunity for certain people in certain states. You come down here and if you have a good credit score, you blend in as long as you’re putting out good vibrations,” he explained.
At your service
After working near Perimeter Mall for five years at Gino’s Classic Barbershop, he decided to venture out on his own. “One of my customers told me about Blaxican,” Patton said. The fusion restaurant serves food inspired by Southern soul cooking and Mexican classics. “Being biracial, I thought that concept was catchy. I came here, drove around a bit and I felt good energy,” he recounted.
Patton opened Traditional Shave Masters Barbershop at 5260 Peachtree Industrial Boulevard. “This area is blowing up. I think it’s going to be bigger than Sandy Springs,” he said. He likes the plans for the area.
The barbershop offers “male services — straight edge razor work, blades, steam towels, shaving beard work. With different packages to choose from — like The Distinguished Man, The Exquisite Man, The Classic Man — there’s something for everyone. Female clients with short hairstyles are welcome too,” Patton said. “We have competitive prices and talented, diverse barbers.”
Things had started picking up well, “and now we’re going through this Corona stuff. It’s pretty challenging,” he shared.
Cutting through racial lines
Patton prides himself on being able to serve the whole community, no matter what race, background or ethnicity. “Most shops are racially separated. People are more comfortable coming in when they see people who look like them,” he said. “I want everyone to look in the window and feel like they can come in. I play jazz music. Everyone likes the smooth, mellow stuff.”
Men have different ways to describe how they want their hair and beards trimmed, depending on their ethnicity, where they’re from, race and even social status, according to Patton. “It’s up to the barber to ask the right questions to really understand what the client wants so you can hook him up,” he said.
He noted that since the rock and roll era, when men grew their hair out, the white barber shop kind of died off as they gravitated to salons. “But now the traditional barber is back. It’s becoming more appealing to all men, of all races,” Patton explained. “Around Atlanta, men want to look good. That’s a good thing!”
No barber school teaches how to cut across racial lines, he said. “My instructor was an old school Irish dude. It’s all hair, but the way you approach it is different. One might use different tools.”
Wherever he worked, he sought to cut hair he was unfamiliar with and learn to cut all types of hair. “I’ve been to a Russian shop, a Puerto Rican shop, a black shop. I made sure to get out of my comfort zone,” Patton said.
Patton could pass for either white or black. “The way I look, people don’t know. I’m chameleon-like. My father is Creole and my mother is Puerto Rican. That’s a loaded soup bowl,” he chuckled. “I had a mother who respected me and explained everything. She watered my seed and I had self-esteem. I love all people. We’re all connected. We’re all on this Earth together.”
He thinks a lot of people would be surprised if they did their 23andMe genetic reports. “I did it and I was mind-blown,” he reported. “I grew up Puerto Rican, but in actuality, I started off Indonesian! I have some Egyptian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, British, Irish, German, Apache Indian, Sanda Gambian — things I had to look up! It was surprising to me. It opened up my eyes.”
He added that people mistake him for Egyptian all the time, “so it was interesting to find out I have some Egyptian in me. I love telling the dudes in Duluth, I started out Asian!”
Still, Patton said, at the end of the day, it’s all the indoctrination and cultural stuff that gets in the way. “We’re all the same color on the inside,” he said. “When we’re little, we play and hang out together. Somewhere in the mix, we get taught all these differences.”
“As soon as we figure it out and start loving each other again, it’s going to be alright,” he continued. “The message has to be delivered differently to the different communities, but it’s the same. I have to empathize with their situation first, then I can flip it around to some other perspectives.”
Patton believes that having exposure to different kinds of people is good and makes things easier. “Because of where I’ve come from, I’m able to communicate with different races,” he said. “My struggles have shaped and humbled me. I’m able to be around a lot of diverse cultures, probably more so than most people. That’s always helped me; I can mingle through racial lines.”
“Asian, Mexican, white, black — I see more people living harmoniously here. Maybe it’s southern hospitality, but people tend to be more polite here. They smile and try to be nice to each other, and that means everything. Being courteous is an initial connection with people.”
“I feel like I have a broader truth, a natural perspective in the spiritual world,” Patton continued. “We are all connected, but some people like the divisions. They’re capitalizing off of us: the red, the blue, the white, the black, and all that junk. As soon as we figure it out and start loving each other again, it’s going to be alright.”
Dr. April Hang, PharmD
Dr. April Hang, PharmD, hails from Petersburg, Virginia and is of Filipino heritage. Her dad was in the Army, so her family traveled a lot. She spent a long time in Germany, where she learned to speak a little of the language, and she studied at Virginia Commonwealth University – Medical College of Virginia School of Pharmacy.
Dr. Hang is Catholic and attends St. Monica Church. Her husband is Buddhist and their three children have been baptized in the Catholic faith.
She opened Peachtree Pharmacy at 5270 Peachtree Parkway in 2012. It’s a compounding pharmacy were medications are customized.“Our clientele is diverse. We serve Hispanics, African Americans, white Americans, Asians. We have seniors all the way down to babies and pets that we take care of, ”Dr.Hang said.“We offer compliance packaging for convenience. It’s helpful for seniors. We put medications in labeled blister packs. They can be organized by day or sorted by morning, afternoon, and evening if necessary.”
And, she said, Peachtree Pharmacy delivers, which is especially important for high-risk patients.
“Compounding is an out-of-the box option for patients who have exhausted all their options and want to try something else. We do carry some traditional medications as well,” she explained. “It takes time to make everything. You have to make sure all the ingredients are included. You’re not just pouring pills out and counting them. You actually have to melt something down, make lollipops, gummies, lozenges or capsules. We have to do our math calculations carefully to make it the exact strength the physician wrote it for.”
“I’m first generation American, as well as the first person to start my own business in my family,” Dr. Hang said. She attributes her drive to her dad, who always endeavors to find a solution.
She said that she feels welcome here. “It’s like a small town. That’s why I love Peachtree Corners,” she said. “A lot of our patients are like family to us. This is a great city, a great place to have a small business, especially with Peachtree Corners expanding.”
THC and CBD advocate
One of the things Dr. Hang has gotten involved with is the effort in Georgia to make low THC oil (less than 5%) available to patients suffering from chronic pain, cancer, PTSD, HIV, autism, dementia, Alzheimer’s and other conditions. “I feel like [CBD/THC] oil can help several patients,” she said. “It’s yet another alternative for people.”
She said that doctors can help a patient get a medical card for it. “Everything has been passed in Georgia, and there is a THC oil registry here now, but there’s no access. I think there are over 14,000 patients registered. They have the card, but there is no place where they can go buy it yet,” Dr. Hang said. “We’re just waiting for the infrastructure so people can start applying for manufacture and distribution.”
Unfortunately, the process to get access has been delayed due to COVID-19. It’s likely to be another year or two before access is available for patients.
Diversity at the pharmacy
Dr. Hang welcomes students of diverse backgrounds, some from out of state, who do rotations at her pharmacy. “Most of the time, I say ‘yes,’ because the students are up-to-date on the new things. They keep you updated,” she said. “I try to make it practical for them. They work in the store. I take them to a marketing event. I like to do a couple of little health fairs. I mix it up for them so that they see what we actually do. I didn’t get that when I was in pharmacy school.”
There have been times when a staff member has had an unpleasant interaction and they feel that some racism was directed towards them. “I have one full-time pharmacist, three part-time pharmacists and three full-time pharmacy technicians. One is Asian and the others are African American,” she said.
“When COVID-19 had just started [appearing here], there was a client looking for N95 masks; she wasn’t a regular. She was upset we didn’t have any N95 masks. She told my pharmacist, who is black, “I don’t know what you have to say that is going to carry any value.”
As Dr. Hang was cleaning the store one day, an older lady came in, looked around and asked, “Why is everybody black in here?” She said, “I don’t see anything wrong with that. There are standards and testing that you have to pass in order to be in this position. Everyone here is qualified.” Dr. Hang added that she has never had issues with racial tensions personally. “It’s a little disheartening that it still occurs,” she said.
She suggested a city-wide cultural festival to help improve racial tensions. “If we can learn more about our neighbors, we’ll be able to understand them better. There are a variety of cultural backgrounds in Peachtree Corners, so let’s celebrate them!”
“When I’m at Peachtree Pharmacy, I post on Facebook, “Come by and see me. Come give me a hug!” Customers come in and tell me, “I miss you so much.” It’s nice to catch up with a lot of the regulars,” she said. “I always post: Free Hugs not Drugs!”
Maurie Ladson is a Program Director at Corners Outreach, an organization providing a multigenerational approach to helping underserved children with specialized tutoring. Parents are given assistance with career paths, workshops, unemployment and anything they may need to navigate in the education system. Their goal is to achieve a 100% high school graduation rate among the students they serve.
Ladson clarified underserved as “communities or people living amongst us who don’t have all the necessary resources.” She explained, “They may not be earning a living wage. A lot of them are immigrant families. There’s a challenge with education and the language.”
Elementary, my dear
By focusing on elementary school students, the intention is to prepare them for success in middle school and high school. “Then hopefully, to higher learning, either a four-year education or, sometimes, they prefer to do some kind of trade,” Ladson said.
“We’re not focused on one demographic,” she continued. “We welcome all the children who need assistance. The mix varies. In Norcross and on our DeKalb side, we have a high percentage of Latino children. At our Meadow Creek location, there’s a mix of children — Indian, American, Hispanic.”
The Corners Outreach offices are located in Peachtree Corners. Ladson said that Executive Director Larry Campbell liked the name, “as the goal is to touch “every corner” of the community.” The organization partners with Title 1 schools in DeKalb and Gwinnett counties, including Peachtree Corners and the surrounding areas, and helps 450 families/children.
“We work with them during the normal school year; we provide after-school tutoringfor two and a half to three hours. We’re supplementing and enhancing what the school is teaching,” Ladson said. “There’s a big focus on reading comprehension and math. We then provide nine weeks of summer camp which focus on reading, math, games and a craft.”
School principals identify the children in most need. There is also input from counselors, teachers, teacher liaisons, center coordinators and ESOL [English to speakers of other languages] coordinators. “We also have volunteers that play a key role in our success. We’re so thankful,” she said. “Schools like Wesleyan, GAC, Perimeter Church and individuals in our wonderful Peachtree Corners community come out and volunteer their time.”
Masks with a purpose
Due to COVID-19, Corners Outreach was unable to tutor or assist families in person for some time. “We began communication via Zoom, WhatsApp, video chat, telephone calls. There was a big need to assist in setting up Internet. Many of the families didn’t have it,” she continued.
“Our organization was able to place Chromebooks in the community for children to be able to do their homework. It was still challenging because in a lot of cases they’re sharing either a phone or a hot spot. With two to four children in the family of various ages, needing to do homework with one device, that was difficult.”
To help underemployed parents, the organization developed Masks with a Purpose. After surveying the parents, they found they had 101 mothers with sewing skills that could be used to provide much-needed masks in the community.
“They sew masks and earn a living wage, $4 per mask,” Ladson said. “We launched the Corners Store on June 22 so people can go online and purchase a mask to support our cause.” To purchase a mask, visit cornersoutreach.org. If you don’t need a mask, you can help by giving a donation.
“We’re looking to donate 1,000 masks to farmworkers and 10,000 masks to children in poverty, who can’t afford to buy three or four masks or have the throwaways,” she said. It’s a great cause,” she said. You can donate masks to the effort through their website.
Beauty in all colors
“I’m Mexican American,” Ladson said. “I’ve been in Peachtree Corners for 20 years. My husband is black, dark-skinned African American. People might look at us a little differently. I’m different and I’m good with it.” She and her husband Ron recently celebrated 20 years of marriage.
Having frequented several places of worship over the years, they most recently identify as Protestant and have been attending North End Collective.
Ladson said she witnessed some social injustice in the workplace during her career in banking. A Peruvian teller was the number one salesperson in the bank, exceeding her numbers, yet it was an under-performing white American teller who inexplicably was moved to another location and offered a raise.
“I think in Georgia, Atlanta and in Peachtree Corners, we still have room to grow,” she continued. “I’ve seen a different level of acceptance, if we’re going to call it improvement, absolutely.”
Miriam and Ed Carreras
By pure coincidence, Miriam and Ed Carreras shared a similar history predating their marriage of 48 years. They both left Cuba with their families at a young age, and within five to seven years, they became naturalized U.S. citizens.
After a 20-year career as a microbiologist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Miriam is now a Realtor with RE/MAX Prestige. “I guess, given my name and former clients, I get quite a few referrals from Spanish-speaking buyers. I would say most of my clients right now are Hispanic,” she said. Hispanics, who can identify as any race, make up 15.2% of the population in Peachtree Corners.
Miriam works in residential real estate, both on listings — people selling their homes — as well as helping buyers find their dream homes. Being bilingual, she is a huge asset to the community. She is able to help English and Spanish speakers navigate the sometimes-challenging waters of real estate.
A home is one of the biggest and most important investments a family will ever make, and Miriam is happy to provide her clients with excellent customer service, every step of the way.
Ed was an attorney with The Coca Cola Company for about 20 years. He retired from the company in 2003 and joined a law firm. He retired from the firm in February of this year. “We were supposed to travel, and now we’re homebound because of COVID-19,” he said.
As an attorney, much of his work was international. “I dealt with a number of countries, like Japan, countries in Europe, in Latin America, and so on,” Ed shared.
He served on the Board of Goodwill of North Georgia for a number of years and was Chair of the Board for two years. “Goodwill had a significant relationship with the Hispanic community. One of the things I got involved in was developing a robust system for their strategic plan,” Ed said.
In studying the projection of population changes, he and his fellow board members identified the important growth of the Hispanic community and the need for more Hispanic contacts and people with language skills in the organization.
A home in Peachtree Corners
The Carreras family built their home in Neely Farm in 1998. Both are happy with the amount of diversity in Peachtree Corners. “I think there is a good mix of people. You see a nice diversity of cultures represented here,” Ed said. “My experience is more in the restaurants since I like eating. We’ve gone to a lot of different types.”
“I think there’s pretty good diversity,” Miriam added. “Even in our subdivision, we’re diverse.”
They haven’t had any negative experiences because of their ethnicity in recent years. As a teenager, Ed recalled an incident at a restaurant in Miami. His family was speaking Spanish, and a man at a nearby table addressed them, saying, “Go back to Cuba!”
“My father was surprised. He turned around and in perfect English said, “I’m sorry, does it bother you if we speak Spanish?” The guy ended up apologizing,” Ed remembered. “I was 13 or 15 at the time. It stuck in my mind because my father handled it so perfectly. The guy said, “You speak English very well.” My father said, “Yes, I was educated in the United States. I went to an Ivy League school.” The guy just kept shrinking.”
Ed said that everyone carries prejudices based on faulty stereotypes. “From my own experience, the best way to eliminate prejudice is to be made aware that the stereotype supporting the prejudice is not correct,” he explained. “Anything that helps an individual realize that the stereotype is wrong should help in reducing prejudice.”
“Education highlighting non-stereotypical members of a group could help,” Ed suggested, “as well as the promotion of events that bring members of diverse groups together in a social setting.”
As the city is building a physical pedestrian bridge over Peachtree Parkway, resident of 25 years and equity warrior, President and Cofounder of Bridges Peachtree Corners Joe Sawyer has been launching intensive volunteer efforts to build metaphorical bridges between races and social classes in the city. “I guess you can say it’s about black and white; we’re trying to bring equality up to where it needs to be,” he shared.
Bridges is a non-profit funded by grants and generous donations from the community. The board is made up of a diverse group who share Sawyer’s mission to close the gap between the affluent and the less affluent parts of town. They’ve been working on racial diversity and economic disparity since 2013.
Through school counselors, they identify needs at Peachtree Elementary and other area schools, assisting in any way they can — from electric pencil sharpeners in the classroom to Christmas dinners for families. They’re currently partnering with xfinity to provide internet access so children can do their schoolwork at home during the pandemic.
Affectionately known as Preacher Man, Sawyer would love to help more areas of the city reach their potential. He espouses the Holcomb Bridge Corridor Project , the city’s plan to revamp the area, and hopes it will get underway soon. “We’ve done the easy part, the Forum and Town Center area. Now let’s roll up our sleeves and do the hard part,” Sawyer said.
Sawyer comes clean
This is a man who will “tell it like it is.” He is refreshingly unafraid to level with you. Sawyer attends Life Center Apostolic Church in Dunwoody. His faith shines through in everything he touches, including his company name of 20 years, Alpha Omega Carpet Cleaning, inspired by the book of Revelation.
Since many are home with more time than usual on their hands, the pandemic has Sawyer busier than ever. “I build relationships with my customers. By the time I leave their house, I’m their friend,” he said. He also prides himself on his effective carpet cleaning services, which avoid harsh chemicals, as he is a cancer survivor.
The United Nations
Together with his wife Kimberly of 31 years (who is white), Sawyer has raised his two daughters, now 29 and 23. “She’s my backbone. She keeps me grounded,” he said. His daughters are now raising his five grandkids in Peachtree Corners.
The Sawyers have two blond, blue-eyed grandchildren and three who are light skinned black. “I’ve got everybody in my family — we have the United Nations over here,” Sawyer laughed.
In 1992 things were more challenging for biracial couples. Sawyer’s in-laws didn’t allow him into their home until two years after the marriage; now they’re the best of friends, despite many earlier battles. “They had to make sure I was going to take care of their daughter. I think that was one of the biggest issues,” he said. “Mixed marriages are more common now, and more likely to be accepted by both families, but you still have issues with certain people. I just try to keep it real and be myself.”
Sawyer shared a story from his senior year in high school (1982), when he was given an ultimatum: stop dating his white girlfriend or quit the football team. The young lady’s mom called the school because they had published a picture of them in the school magazine.
The girl’s mom had known about their relationship. In fact, they were among the few biracial couples at the time who did not hide it. But when other parents saw the photo, it became a problem. Sawyer elected to pass on what may have been a lucrative career and quit the team.
Sawyer noted that things have changed for the better. “It’s a new generation, we’re improving a whole lot,” he said. He’s unaware of any negative issues experienced by his daughters about being biracial.
While Peachtree Corners is very diverse, Sawyer said he still experiences some people who are prejudiced. During a recent job, a client had left the door open for him. It saddened him to learn that his client’s neighbor reached out to inform her, saying, “There’s a black man in your house.”
“[Racism] is still there, but overall, I think Peachtree Corners is a welcoming community. You might have some people stuck in their ways, but you just have to learn to overlook them. We stopped and we said a prayer for the lady,” Sawyer said.
He believes the cause of divisiveness is that some people don’t want to lose control of what they’ve got. “As long as we feel that one race is better than the other, we’re always going to have a problem. Both communities have work to do. Now is the perfect time for us to work on race relations in America,” Sawyer affirmed.
When he was little, Sawyer told his dad, “I want to be like you when I grow up.” His father replied, “You don’t want to be like me, son, you want to be like Jesus.”
“So that’s what I try to do. As soon as we realize that we’re all made in God’s image, we’re going to be OK,” he said. “I don’t hate anybody. I try to get along with everybody. Don’t let politicians divide us any more than we’re divided. That’s the biggest problem. We listen to what’s on TV. I don’t need anybody to tell me who I like and who I don’t like.”
“We have to come together,” he continued. “I’m thankful for the friends the Lord has put in my life. We have to change our perception of our neighbors. Not all people of a different race are bad. Be there for your friends.”
Sawyer added that everyone needs to work on racism as a society. “Both the white and black communities have work to do. Now is the perfect time for us to work on race relations in America. The whole world sees what’s going on, politicians fighting over this and that. We don’t have any togetherness,” he said. “Let’s take a stand and let’s be one. We claim to be one nation under God but how can we be under God if we’re at each other’s throats?”
Father Darragh Griffith
Rev. Darragh Griffith is originally from Dublin, Ireland and has been in the U.S. for 24 years. Following 10 years at Holy Family in Marietta, he’s been the pastor at Mary Our Queen (MOQ) — the only Catholic church in Peachtree Corners — for four years.
“We welcome the community to come see our new church. It’s a beautiful, traditional church based on Saint Gerard’s in Buffalo. If you’re exploring questions about the Catholic faith, we’re here,” Father Griffith offered.
Though the present church is just a year old, the parish has been here since 1998. The pews, stained-glass windows and altars were taken from the old church in Buffalo, New York.
Mass during the pandemic
“We’ve been live-streaming masses on YouTube and our website. But now we’re back,” Father Griffith said. The church has an outdoor mass on Sundays at 8:30 a.m. for people who feel more comfortable outside, and services in the church on Sundays at 11 a.m. and Saturdays at 5 p.m.
Masks and social distancing are expected at the indoor services. Seating is roped off to allow for every second pew to be occupied. “It’s working out for this time,” he said.
The makeup of the MOQ parish is quite diverse. “We’ve got people from every continent. We have a lot of Asian people from Vietnam, for example. People from the African continent, Nigeria and other countries, Hispanic and white Anglo, as well,” shared Father Griffith.
MOQ provides spiritual and financial outreach to Peachtree Corners families through The Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP). Volunteers make home visits with families and individuals who call the helpline seeking food or financial help.
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, MOQ SVDP has assisted over 150 individuals. The help line number is 678-892-6163.
The domestic church
For Father Griffith, what happens at home is as important as what happens at church. “In these times, I believe the home is crucial. Parents have a great and joyful responsibility. The family has never been as important, from where we stand, as it is now,” he said. “That’s where you can lead by witness to your children. Not so much by words, but by example. The family is crucial.”
He said that the church has always taught that the home is the domestic church. “The home is where parents hand on the faith to their children. I think that’s crucial,” Father Griffith said. “My work, the church’s work is not going to bear fruit if it’s not happening at home.”
Spreading God’s love
“It’s sad to see some of the things that we see on TV, some of the violence. It is kind of sad and disturbing, what’s happening,” Father Griffith said. “The church believes in treating everyone with respect and love. We’re a universal church. We love and accept everyone. In the Catholic faith, we’ve got people of all sorts of cultures, backgrounds, traditions.”
For a solution to today’s troubled climate, Father Griffith leads with the suggestion that we respect one another. “We’re all made in the image of God. Everyone is precious in God’s eyes. Every person is created through God’s love,” he said.
Father Griffith said that he knows it’s been hard during the pandemic for people to meet up, interact and socialize. “If we can get together and have that as a base, we’ll not be afraid of each other,” he said. “And love, that’s what Jesus spoke about, loving all people. That’s what our Catholic faith teaches us.”
Faith is critical for Father Griffith. “If we’re living our faith, that informs our decisions and our behavior. As it says in Scripture, our lives should be based on faith and our relationship with God,” he said. “Hopefully people will be open to God and to His Spirit at this time.”
Karl Barham, President of Transworld Business Advisors of Atlanta, Peachtree, started the business with his wife, Ann, two years ago. They own a local office of the franchise in Peachtree Corners.
“We relocated from New York City, got married and started a family here,” he said. “We found Peachtree Corners to be a fabulous place to live, work and raise a family.” They’re a Christian family and attend Close Perimeter Church.
Barham explained business brokers specialize in buying and selling businesses. “We do small, neighborhood businesses — any size, up to maybe about $25 million. We arrange to find the buyers and we help them get the deal done.”
Growing up black
“I’m first generation in the U.S. My family is from Jamaica, the third poorest county in the Caribbean. They came here, raised their kids and we’ve done well,” Barham said. “But I do see, for a lot of people who are very specifically black, they’re not looking for handouts or anything, they just want the proverbial knee off the neck.”
“When you’re in a minority, you always think about race,” he continued. “Jamaica is a mostly black country. When I spend time there, everyone looks like me. In the U.S., it’s the reverse, and as you move up in corporate America, it’s even more of the reverse. It’s always there to think about.”
Barham’s dream and hope for the future is that his kids don’t have to deal with the kind of discrimination that he’s seen in his lifetime. “Changes need to happen in this generation. Will it change in my lifetime? I don’t know. I thought it would,” he said. “When I was a young kid, my dad was saying the same things. I said, “Oh, by the time I’m your age, that stuff will all be solved.” I was wrong. It isn’t.”
Starting a conversation
When Barham received inquiries on what people could do in their companies about racial justice, he thought it would be a good topic for the Capitalist Sage podcasts that he regularly hosts with Peachtree Corners Magazine publisher Rico Figliolini. So, they began a series of podcasts about diversity and race.
“It’s been a topic discussed nationally, and we said, ‘what about here? Is there anything going on locally?’” he said. They produced three episodes, with two to three guests on each. “We talked about racial and social justice in leadership and in the local community,” Barham said. “We had stay-at-home moms, elected officials, church leaders and faith leaders, just talking about what it means and how they’ve been reacting to what’s happening with Black Lives Matter. We asked: what can citizens can do individually? What can local leaders do? We just wanted to start a dialogue.”
Barham said that one of the things that’s interesting about the South is that racism is part of the history that people don’t talk about because they’re trying to be polite, yet “there’s this undercurrent of race in a lot of conversations.”
“It wasn’t too long ago in the South that some [schools] had a black prom and a white prom,” he said. “Friends are so segregated; they get together sometimes for sports, school and some social activities, but they go home to dinner and they go to church in very separate worlds. They don’t get a chance to really learn about each other, so misunderstandings can happen more easily.”
Barham shared a little game he plays. “Whenever anyone talks about race — black, white — it’s hard; it’s too charged. I change “black” to “short”. If I were to say: What if short people, anybody under 5’10”, are not able to get all of the same opportunities as everyone else? A lot of people would be REALLY upset.”
“If I was sitting at a party and people were talking about, “Oh, those short people…”, I might say, “Hey, time out! Half my friends are short.”
A note of hope
Barham said he sees a lot of people coming together to help advance social justice, including racial justice. “I think we should lift those people up. We should elect them to office,” he said.
And he sees a lot of things to be hopeful for. “When I look at the community here, I see more people of color starting businesses,” Barham reported. “In the last 10 deals that we’ve done, more than 50% of them had a person of color on one side of the deal or the other. Things are changing in society — and things can and will continue to get better.”
Diverse perspectives, the same conclusion
It’s easy to see why niche.com gives Peachtree Corners an A+ for diversity. Let’s move forward holding hands (figuratively, of course), leaving injustice behind and making the fabric of Peachtree Corners stronger and more beautiful than ever before.
“We must continue to go forward as one people, as brothers and sisters.” ~ Rep. John Lewis
City of Peachtree Corners to celebrate safety-conscious businesses
The City of Peachtree Corners is preparing a list of all local businesses practicing the safety measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. Those businesses taking steps to keep citizens healthy will be published on the city website, in the Shop and Dine app, and in the monthly business newsletter as part of the city’s “Stay Healthy” campaign.
The Stay Healthy campaign is getting creative in its approach to public service announcements related to Covid19. The city is working to promote staying healthy through the use of comic book superheroes and popular TV show characters. In the coming weeks, expect to see banners, signs, posters and billboards, as well as social media posts spreading the message to wash hands frequently, wear face coverings, and practice social distancing.
Take part in the campaign! If you operate a safe business, let Jennifer Howard from the city office know so it can be added to the list of safety-conscious businesses in the city. Let the community know what steps you are taking to keep your business, patrons, and employees healthy.
Jennifer Howard, Economic Development Manager- City of Peachtree Corners
Email all entries to firstname.lastname@example.org
Peachtree Corners Assistant City Manager Chosen for 2021 Leadership Gwinnett Class
Peachtree Corners Assistant City Manager, Brandon Branham is among 42 local leaders chosen for the 2021 Leadership Gwinnett Class. He will begin the nine month program in August.
Established in 1985, Leadership Gwinnett was created to ensure that the community’s most influential leaders are knowledgeable about issues pertaining to the county and region. The class will take an in-depth look at the many sectors of Gwinnett – infrastructure, economics, education, health and human services, justice and regional relations.
“We’re very proud that Mr. Branham was selected for this year’s class,” said Mayor Mike Mason. “Leadership Gwinnett has a great track record of success in leadership development. Those chosen for the class learn a tremendous amount about the many aspects of leadership as well as about our county and region. Perhaps one real benefit is the life-time relationships participants develop. This can only help our city as we face the challenges of the future.”
The program includes an opening retreat, seven learning days, monthly study groups, tours and hands-on experiences within the county along with a closing retreat. The class will study topics such as leadership in a world class community, infrastructure, economics, education, health & human services, and will participate in study groups, exclusive tours and hands-on experiences.
To ensure a well-rounded class, Leadership Gwinnett uses a selection process based on occupation, qualifications and a representation that reflects a cross section of the county.
“It is an honor to be selected to be a part of the Leadership Gwinnett class,” said Branham. “I am looking forward to the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the people and issues that will shape our county’s future and the chance to network with some of Gwinnett’s top leaders.”
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- The Colorful Woven Threads that Make Up the Fabric of Our City: Part 1, Jay Patton
- The Colorful Woven Threads that Make Up the Fabric of Our City
- Gwinnett Schools May Transition to In-Person Instruction, over several weeks
- Harvest Gwinnett invites residents to be part of two new community gardens