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John Eaves, running for Congress, talking COVID19, the economy and more [Podcast]

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John Eaves for Congress

In this episode of Peachtree Corners Life, Rico Figliolini has a chat with Congressional Candidate John Eaves to talk about his campaign. Listen in as they discuss John’s views on Immigration, Health-care, Education, and dealing with COVID-19.

Resources:
https://eavesforcongress.com

“I think that the district that I want to represent is a very special district. District 7…is one of the most diverse districts, jurisdictions in the entire country. I think that we have a potential of being a model of how we do it. And I think that diversity is wonderful, but I’m also thinking it’s important for us to have what I consider, what I call it, inclusion. So how can everybody be at the table in terms of really supporting and benefiting from all the services that are present within district seven.”

John Eaves

Timestamp:

[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:01:56] – About John
[00:03:39] – Campaigning during COVID-19
[00:07:36] – Online Campaigning
[00:08:02] – How to react to COVID-19
[00:11:36] – Economic Changes
[00:16:16] – Issues Coming to the Forefront
[00:19:17] – Education and Jobs
[00:21:16] – Immigration
[00:25:21] – Medicare for All
[00:30:18] – Election Details
[00:32:58] – Closing

Podcast Transcription

Rico: [00:00:30] Hi, this is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life. This is the Peachtree Corners Life show in the city of Peachtree Corners. I’m glad you can join us or if you’re viewing this on demand, that’s great too, and if you’re listening to this as a podcast on iHeartRadio, Spotify, or anything else, just leave us a review like that because we could go a little further up in those searches when you’re searching out for us. I have a special guest today. Before we get to him, I just want to say thank you to Hargray Fiber for being a sponsor of our family of podcasts. They’re a fiber company that works with a lot of businesses, small businesses and homes, but they are really involved in the small business community and midsize companies here in the city of Peachtree Corners and throughout the Southeast, actually providing fiber solutions to companies. And especially in this time, we’re COVID-19 and everything with dealing with people working from home and dealing with that, they’re doing a great outreach in our community to help everyone so you can find more information on them at HargrayFiber.com. Now let’s get to our guest, special guest tonight running for Congress. And if had one candidate before, he’s my second one to talk to to find out a little bit more about why he’s running for Congress. And this is John Eaves. Hey John.

John: [00:01:52] Hi Rico. Thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity to talk to you and your listening audience.

Rico: [00:01:56] Well, I appreciate you coming out to be able to do this, well coming out. We’re social media. We’re not quite on zoom, but I’m using something called switcher studio, which is letting us do all of this, and at a safe distance, I guess. So tell me, John with, what is it? Seven congressional candidates running in this race? And that’s just the democratic side. I can, this Republican. Yeah. Why do you want to do this? Tell them.

John: [00:02:27] Well, as you pointed out, it’s a, it’s a crowded field. It’s an open seat. The current Congressman in the office, the incumbent, is retiring. So there’s a lot of competition, a lot of people who want the position, but I think I’m pretty unique in that, number one, Rico, I want your listeners to know that service is just part of my DNA. I’ve been doing this, helping out people, a good part of my adult life. After I graduated from high school, went to Morehouse college. When I got to Morehouse, I rolled up my sleeves. I got in the community and doing that ever since got into political office 11 years ago as a chairman of Fulton County, after 11 years of service. I moved north to Gwinnett to live in Peachtree Corners and decided a year ago to run for Congress. And so to make a long story short, it’s about service, about leadership. It’s about making our communities better. And it’s about plotting for our future.

Rico: [00:03:24] Well, I’m glad you feel so good about it. I mean, you were born Floridian, born and raised in Florida. You moved to Jupiter in ‘95 you’ve, you’ve done a lot. I mean, you, you’ve been in the Peace Corps, I think, right?

John: [00:03:37] Yes, yes. Regional director, Peace Corps.

Rico: [00:03:39] And you’ve been chairman of the Fulton County board. So you feel the and all the things that you’ve done. I mean, that’s, I can go through a list. And you’re a poly PSI political science. The political junkie, just like, this is good. So, you know, I feel for you, there’s a lot of people running, and then normally this would be a tremendously hard race to run in a normal world. When you’re doing door to door, you’re doing meetings almost every night, maybe. Well that is gone now. How are you doing it now? How are you handling it in the, I can’t even say post COVID-19 world cause we’re still in it. So how are you handling that? How are you campaigning yet?

John: [00:04:30] Well Rico, that’s a fair question. I mean, you know, I used to love to play baseball and I was a great baseball player when I could hit the fastball. But when I got old enough and that curve ball started coming, it was hard for me to hit that one. And this is like a curveball. I mean it’s just a major adjustment and understandably so. People are struggling now trying to give, to come to grips with the new reality. Politics is not high on their priority. They’re worried about putting food on their table, whether the job is going to stay in place. The fact is, I’m in this race and you know, my asset is getting out there and knocking on doors and kissing babies and getting in front of people right now. I’ve got to transform and use the internet technology. Zoom, telephonic town hall meetings and use the virtual world to get my message out. That’s why this podcast is important because this is one of ways, many ways that I can get out and share my message and, and hopefully, for the voters to get a sense of my sincerity and my passion. So it’s, it’s tough. I mean, fundraising is challenging, particularly. I talked to a friend of mine last week who said, John, I’m going to stick to my promise to make a contribution to your campaign, but I lost a half a million dollars in the stock market. I have another friend who I talked to today and say she got furloughed. So it was very difficult for me to ask the potential donor or contribution when they’ve lost a lot of money in terms of their retirement savings or their day to day, and they didn’t. They live in, so it’s tough. You have to be sensitive. Well, you know, I just have to dig down deep and just keep plugging ahead.

Rico: [00:06:12] You know what’s interesting as you were saying that I’m thinking, I mean, I used to run, I used to be proud of campaigns in New York, in Brooklyn when I was younger. Did some stuff here early in late 1990s, early two thousands. Politics costs money. I mean, you, you have to spend the money in signage and all this stuff. Really it goes away. The only thing that doesn’t go away really is mailings. Maybe there are only two ways you can reach anyone is through a virtual world like zoom or the whole virtual world, right? Most of that doesn’t cost a lot of money to do in this room.

John: [00:06:47] Right.

Rico: [00:06:47] So at least that’s the saving grace, maybe.

John: [00:06:50] It is, it is. I saw the conventional wisdom marketing as well as running campaigns as you have to touch people so many times. And so that sort of, the magical number is seven times, believe it or not, you hit him with the, or you touch him with a mailer, you touch
him with a phone call, you touch him with a handshake. And after seven times, you remember the name. John, they remember the name Rico, right? But I think that yes, there’s a new reality that we have to adjust to. And so how can we really reach people through the virtual world? And it’s still this intimate and informative and personable. So to your point, there’s no cost to this. Which you also have to compete with. Everybody else is also using these platforms to get their message out.

Rico: [00:07:36] That’s right. So let’s get to that a little bit. Let’s talk a little bit about some of the things going on in this world. I mean, obviously, you know, president Trump who loves to do big mass meetings and convention centers, and he gets pumped up with that.He’s not doing it right. Biden is doing virtual town halls from Feinstein correctly, his basement in Maryland.

John: [00:08:01] In Delaware.

Rico: [00:08:02] In Delaware. There you go. And Bernie Sanders is the US Senator, so I mean, he has some availability there, although they’re changing the way they’re doing some of those things. So, you know, the economy’s changing for a lot of people. Not only politicians, obviously, but everyone else and I feel for them. I feel for the EMT, the fire, the police, but also feel for the grocer that has to pack the shelves with brand new paper, paper products. This morning at Ingles, by the way, went out, eight o’clock maybe six rolls, six packages of toilet paper and everything else was gone on those shelves. It’s a different world. How, how do you think Americans should react and behave in this, considering where we are right now, considering where Italy is right now, we’re China with, we’re with some of these other countries are like, especially with Italy, where it’s just so bad. There are so many hits in New York state with Governor Cuomo on the air every day. How can you know? What’s your perspective? What should we be doing? What can we think about where, where should we go, John?

John: [00:09:17] Great question, Rico. I think there’s several things we can do. Number one is what makes the United States unique? For me, having traveled around the world, whether it’s in Europe or Africa, South America or Asia, people often remark that what they like about Americans is sort of this spirit that we have in terms of looking out for our brothers and our sisters. And I think that now the tendency is to support our home, protect our own, but also think that we also have to do a two way street in terms of making sure that we can support our brothers and our sisters who are neighbors and even people who are outside of our neighborhood. So I think that’s sort of a spree decor in terms of helping others is one of the things that we must hold on to. But I think that over and beyond that is, I think it would be sort of an assessment of how we operate as Americans in this society. If any other crisis like this comes about, how can we make sure that our healthcare system is a lot more robust and responsive? Because the way I see it right now, there was a fractionalization of our health care delivery system, and that’s why it’s so challenging right now to get the resources that are needed to help people out right now. So I think there’s going to be a reevaluation of our, of our healthcare system. I also think there’s an opportunity for us to really critically look at our society and the great inequities that are present between the haves and the have nots.
You pointed out the people who are working in Ingles or Publix or Wendy’s or Chick-fil-A. In the meantime, those are people who don’t have any other means of living, so they have to work these low paying jobs. Whereas other folks in our society, in our community, where there’s Peachtree Corners or Lawrenceville, some of them may have professional jobs. You can work at home and are not necessarily in harm’s way. So I think the healthcare delivery system will be reassessed how it can be better and more equitable. And then just society in general. How can we minimize this wealth gap that we have in our society? Because I think it’s very clear that people who do not have the means who have to work, they’re potentially putting themselves in harmful situations.

Rico: [00:11:36] Well, they are, and I totally agree with you. I mean, it’s, you know, the cashier that has to check you out. The waste management people that have to pick up the garbage. I mean, that’s such a job, right? They can’t get six utility workers. I mean, they’re housing some of these utility workers on site pretty much, cause God forbid they get sick. The special ops jobs, right? They can’t do the job. Sounded like they could just hire someone on the street. God forbid they’d lose that. Where would the power go? You know, where would the water come from? So we’re not apocalyptic yet, thank goodness. Hopefully things will work out and this goes away, but the economy has changed, right?

John: [00:12:20] It has, it has, you know, so Congress passed a $2 trillion stimulus package last Friday, I believe, signed by the president. Some money will be coming down in terms of, I think a $1,200 or $1,500 check for adults who make under $75,000, I believe. And then households. And small businesses. But I believe that to a certain degree, that money is, even though it was, you need it for the economy. For the person who is poor, they need more than that. But a person who may be managing a small business that $10,000, maybe just a drop in the bucket of what’s needed. I’m not questioning anything that’s given, I think that something should be given, but I think that an every size fit all type approach may not necessarily be the best thing in terms of this big gap between those who have and those who do not have.

Rico: [00:13:26] I think that, you know, I mean obviously I think most of the work is a little the, the basics, right? $1,200 for 75,000 and under. $2,400 for a family, a married couple. It’s a couple $500 per kid. It’s one time payments. This thing looks like it’s going to go into May, not just April. It may be right. So I heard one Senator that said, listen, this is all we could do. Now most people want it. Most of the Senate wants to wait until the end of April to figure out, do we need to do this again? Right? Okay. The waiting piecemeal, it’s like they can’t even, they’re trying to put everything I know munition initially. Right? You wanted to put the dollars in your pocket as fast as possible. This is why it’s so basic and why our deployment is so basic to right. What kind of climate they’ll just plop on another $600 on top of it, and expand it. But is there more they can do, I mean, should they be doing something in addition to this, they’re going to ultimately pass more legislation that’s going to happen. They’re getting more thinking that it’s not as naive. We’re going to spend another couple of, or $3 trillion more after this shortly within the next 60 days, I bet. What do you think should be in the house?

John: [00:14:51] Well, I think you, the way you described it, I think it’s right. I have heard that the house right now is thinking about the next stimulus package. So that whenever we make it through this initial period, hopefully the house, because of some of the homework they’re doing right now, and ultimately the Senate would get on board. The next stimulus package will come. About in a lot more seamless way. I think it’s, I think in terms of the Coronavirus, we will know within the next two weeks how worse this thing is going to get. Well, what are the social distancing practices and that personal hygiene and the testing is going to lead to sort of a stabilization or flattening of the numbers. So I think the next two weeks are crucial in terms of how long this thing will persist and what the continued impact will be on the economy. So hopefully they are discussing negotiating, crafting ups with some sort of next step, next phase, stimulus that will come in place. Maybe as early as May or June. So that this initial outlay that goes will carry us at least for the next few months.

Rico: [00:16:16] The world has changed, right? They’re going to be changing the way we’re working. You can tell working is changing, right? The way most people are working from home now, I think there are companies that are figuring out at this point, wow, we don’t need these big offices. We can really do this work from home with Zoom and all these, well, the rest of the technology. I know my local boss at a small paper, he’s like, we don’t need that 2000 square foot office. We could go get a small office. Everyone can be working from home, right? The world is changing that way. We’re going from the gig economy. We’re doing this now. So how do some of these other issues that you’re, that’s near and dear to your heart? Like immigration, like I’m halfway to citizenship. Education. Maybe daycare for all, Medicare for all. I know there was a segment may, well Italy had Medicare for all and see what happened. I think once it’s apples to oranges when you’re talking, when someone talks. What issues do you see coming to the forefront in this type of world that you would like to attend to and your positions on those?

John: [00:17:29] You know, I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but I think, I think the thing that really struck me most about this is, and I’m an educator, but how folks who are struggling paycheck to paycheck. Their lives tremendously impacted as a result of this virus and the impact on the jobs that they have. And I believe that the American society will benefit better or best when there is more parity in terms of income distribution in our society. And I think that there’s gotta be some series of strategies that are going on right? The ship in terms of this imbalance, whether it’s in the more robust public education system, whether it is, pay wages, minimum pay wages, or raising up the minimum wage, or whether it’s job readiness training and more specialized areas that are better paying than they currently are. And you mentioned about how the workforce or the workplace may change. I think that there will be a more of a demand for specialized skills. And how can we diversify that workforce, so that people who are right now, perhaps the lot, the bottom third, can have those skills to be able to have middle class jobs. So I think that there will be a forcing of how can we stabilize the bottom third or the bottom two thirds of our society so that it can be a lot more equitable than it is right now.

Rico: [00:19:17] Yeah, I think I agree with you. I think education has to be certainly a big part of that. Whether it’s college free. Although not everyone needs college, right? Some of the stuff that, that’s in need, electricians, plumbers, Hvac, people that work power plants and such. Some of it’s just certification. Some of it’s good, just knowledge, right? Apprenticeship was big in Europe and Germany. And I’m beginning to see some of that here, beginning to see, what used to be called the vocational high school when I was younger. They’re not calling that anymore. They’re calling it may be blended education or a different way of a different phrase, but it’s all the same thing right. It’s teaching a kid coming out of high school to be able to do a job. Do you, do you see more of that?

John: [00:20:12] Rico without question. So you mentioned about German education. So I’ve visited Germany several times, and they, so they have, I think it’s called Polytechnic institutes. I’ve been to Finland and technical training is a lot more sexier in many parts of Europe than it is over here. There’s a stigma attached to vocational or technical training, right? The reality is these individuals who are trained have a skill and they’re paid very well. I’m a college professor. I love a college education, university education, but you can also have an alternative type of education that is the training of the hands, and I think that it has to be more of an acceptance, more of a celebration of those people who go to that track because they too are valuable people in our societies. So I think that, whatever you call it, absent of vocational, which may have had a negative stigma, we have to really begin to think in terms of how we can provide a better and more specialized workforce.

Rico: [00:21:16] Right. Yeah, I totally agree with you there. There are high paying jobs in many of them too. They just need the skill to be able to attend to them. What about immigration? What about the 12 million plus illegal immigrants or undocumented immigrants that are in the United States? I’m firstborn American generation in my family. My parents came from Italy. They were sponsored. He had a job when he came here. Not much money, a few dollars in his pocket, but at least he had a job and a place to stay. And he worked his way up. So what do you think about the, you know, and there and the immigrant population here? Not only, well, they are hidden in a way. And I prayed vice possibly, and that with COVID-19, having to deal with that. Where do you think that should, do you think that should change where we are right now?

John: [00:22:15] I do. So like you, I’m a product of the immigrant community. My grandfather immigrated here from Jamaica in 1913. He was an honorable man, hardworking man, and raised 13 children. Most of them went to college. And so I have a passion and I have a sensitivity towards the immigration or the immigrant community. My grandfather, he lived here. He lived to be 99 years old.

Rico: [00:22:39] Wow, God bless him.

John: [00:22:39] He was not officially an American system citizen. He was undocumented. But it’s still, Oh yeah. He came, he went to Panama, came to New York city, ultimately ended up in Jacksonville, Florida was not American citizen, but he was the most honorable man that I’ve
ever met and law abiding and a contributor to society. And so I believe that the 12 million or so that are here, who are undocumented, there should be a path towards citizenship. I think that they are already working well, contributing to society, paying taxes, working jobs, albeit maybe jobs as landscapers or working in people’s homes. Well, why not provide a pathway to citizenship for all immigrants who are coming in, in the future? Let’s be fair. People from Europe coming in freely and being reluctant about people who are coming from central America. I think we have to be consistent. We are a society or a country of immigrants, and so I think we need to be fair, consistent. I do think that there may be some sort of criteria so that there is a process. Well, let’s be sure. Let’s make sure we’re fair and consistent.

Rico: [00:23:57] Would you think of a process where, for sure the children of undocumented documented immigrants could become US citizens, whereas the parents that may be undocumented become permanent residents. I mean, there’s a difference, right?

John: [00:24:14] Yeah. There, there is a difference. So, I was in office when president Obama was president and came up with the dreamers act or the dreamers position. In terms of protecting those who are born here. And I’m supportive of that. I think that legislation or that policy sort of caught up in the court system right now, but I think that, the children who are, the products of those one documented should have a special status because they actually were born here in the United States.

Rico: [00:24:47] Yeah. You do respect them, because there’ll be people asking, I’m sure you do respect borders. You do believe that we, America should have borders and they should be strong borders too. Every sovereign nation has that link.

John: [00:25:01] I agree. I don’t think that we need to have a big wall to, you know, cross the Southern border. I’m just sort of philosophically against that because I think that the intention behind the current administration is more, it’s more negative than positive. But I do think we need to have a process for people to come into this country.

Rico: [00:25:21] Okay. As far as Medicare for all, which is something that Bernie Sanders talks about, and that not Biden, of course. And everyone has a variation of that, right? Where you keep your private insurance, but whoever doesn’t want to, maybe the rest of them go on Medicare for all that side. Or we eliminate private insurance and we have Medicare for all, it’s a whole different thing. The economy with which shift a little bit right? Jobs would be if there’s no private companies doing it, then in that industry, that would change. Right. Where do you fall on that? What do you, what would be the right way?

John: [00:26:00] So you asked earlier about the impact of COVID or the Coronavirus, right. I think that one of the things that’s gonna come out of this crisis is a reassessment of our healthcare delivery system. I think it’s apparent that it’s fractionalized. There’s a degree of consistencies in terms of whether you’re in an urban environment versus a suburban environment or rural environment. There’s an issue of, you know, the quality of care. There’s an
issue of the mobilization of resources that are needed, where people are. I think that if, if there’s anything that will come along with the reassessment of the healthcare delivery system. I think there may be a case where a Medicare for all type system might not be a bad idea after all. As a member of Congress, I’m going to commit myself to being a part of the conversation of how do we get there. So pre-covid, I was strongly Obamacare, let’s improve it. But now that I’m in the midst of COVID it’s like, you know what. That it made need to be something a little bit more stronger and consistent than what we have in place. And even if we try to tweak what we have in place, maybe the aspirational Medicare for all that Bernie Sanders and to a lesser degree Elizabeth Warren was saying, Warren was saying, might not be a bad idea. Let’s see how we can work towards that over a course of X number of years, because I think Germany has a nationalized system. I think France has a nationalized system. I’m not sure about Italy, but I know Germany does, and they’ve dealt with the coronavirus a lot more effectively than we have.

Rico: [00:27:48] Yeah. Well, yeah, I think culturally too, it’s a little different though.

John: [00:27:53] I agree. I mean, there’s some nuances. I mean, in terms of the culture and the lifestyle, whatever of the people. But I do think that there may be some degree of an answer that’s a little bit better than what we’ve been doing right now.

Rico: [00:28:10] And no one, no one’s saying that the government will be Socialist government. No one is saying we’re not going to have a capitalist system of free market system, we’re just talking about one segment. But what we do, and we do really well, that maybe we could do well for everyone else in this country now.

John: [00:28:27] Right, right. Yeah.

Rico: [00:28:30] Right. And I mean, the one thing that I keep looking at is. The one, one of the things is that, you know, with the undocumented immigrants, they’re number one, they can’t afford insurance. They don’t have insurance. They’re maybe afraid to go to the hospital or to get checked for Coronavirus. And, that’s not a good place to be as a country. Right.

John: [00:28:51] Not a good place to be. Especially with all the resources.

Rico: [00:28:54] Yeah. Excuse my cat

John: [00:28:58] You have company. Rico: [00:29:00] He’s going off on me. So, you know, we’ve, we’ve discussed, we’ve talked about a lot of different issues. Is there another issue, John, that you would like to talk now and I can get into this as well?

John: [00:29:14] Yeah. I think that the district that I am, that I want to represent is a very special district. District 7 has a population of 730,000-740,000 people and is one of the most diverse districts, jurisdictions in the entire country. I think that we have a potential of being a model of
how we do it, and I think that diversity is wonderful, but I’m also thinking it’s important for us to have what I consider, what I call it, inclusion. So how can everybody be at the table in terms of really supporting and benefiting from all the services that are present within district seven when I have a history of bringing people together and working towards a common goal. And I do believe that the leadership that I can provide along with the representation that I can provide, can really work towards making district seven, which is 80% of Gwinnett County, and about 20% of Four South County, a model district for the entire nation. In terms of being a model, not just diversity, but also inclusion.

Rico: [00:30:18] What do you think about the fact that we’ve had the state had to move, obviously because of the situation, the primary to May 19th? And now with mailing a six point something million absentee ballots. Now some people are getting confused. They might think that’s the ballot, but that’s actually requesting what you think that’s going to be complicated. How do you think you, do have confidence in the system at this point?

John: [00:30:49] That’s a fair question. I’m a little conflicted, you know, for me, having served as a chairman of a County government, and I have experience where you change a precinct from a library to a school, and the confusion that comes with the changing of our precinct, where a person goes, if that is confusing to some of our electorate, this whole process that we’re doing right now can be confusing. And so I think it’s an effort to try to mitigate a tough situation, but I’m not sure if this is a perfect solution to the situation. I think that we’d have to almost consider, instead of potentially pushing this whole election date back into June, perhaps just seeing how the coronavirus unfolds and ideally there’s a degree of stability in our society. Maybe even a little bit more freedom of movement, and the law with the, mailing of the ballots in some sort of controlled way. Still providing the opportunity for people to go onto a precinct. Because I just think that at this point, solely relying on mailing is gonna, it may not be successful.

Rico: [00:32:18] I think there is, the ability to, I think Georgia will still keep the ability, the ability for, voting in person, starting April 27th. I don’t know how that would work.

John: [00:32:34] Yeah.

Rico: [00:32:35] You gotta be six feet apart. You get it. You can’t have more than 10 people in a location unless they change that by, by that point.

John: [00:32:43] Yeah, that’s the issue, Rico. I think, I’m not a betting person and an amount of odds person, but I think that there, from where I sit, there may be a strong possibility to pushing this thing off a little bit further.

Rico: [00:32:58] Yeah, it seems today it’s just, it’s changing every day, so who knows where we’re going to be. Certainly, it’s tough for you, tough for every candidate to get out the message, especially when it’s such a crowded field too. That’s not easy to begin with in a normal election. So I feel for you, I hope that you can get your message out. We’re at the end of our time
together. So what I want to ask you is this, I want you to be up to what, what I always say you should ask for the vote. So if you want a two minute elevator speech, if you will ask for that vote and tell people where they can find more information about you.

John: [00:33:41] Well, first of all, again, thank you for the opportunity to speak to your audience. Give me an opportunity to let people know who I am. So, once again, John Eaves and I’m running to be the next representative of District 7 Gwinnett County or South County and Congress, and this is an opportunity for the citizens of the district to vote and elect a leader. I think that leadership matters and I certainly have the background. 11 years of running a major local government and the state of Georgia and the metropolitan Atlanta area. Strong track record, strong professional and personal and academic credentials. But more importantly, I certainly have a desire to, to just serve and lead and to represent. And so friends, I’m going to be running on a platform of a stronger healthcare delivery system. Accessibility and affordability of healthcare for all citizens of our, of our district as well as the entire country. Smart immigration policy, smart, fair and gun control policy, transit. Even though we talked a little bit about the workforce changing. To me, transit is still important. We are part of a region. And for Gwinnett County to not be connected by way of a regional transit system, I think is a mistake. So I’ll be a proponent of that, but I’m also gonna to be a strong proponent of, of small and medium sized businesses to do all that I can to support them, to make them more vibrant in district seven but also position them to do procurement with a state and local government as well as federal government. So I’m very excited about my candidacy. I’ve been running for the past year. I’ve had a chance to go to constituencies and neighborhoods. The district was truly, we have a very special district, and I think that most citizens right now are hungry for somebody who is a leader and can provide strong leadership and be a great representative. So again, my name is John Eaves. Check me out by going to my website, which is EavesforCongress.com. So Rico, thank you so much for the opportunity and I look forward to hearing from your listening audience.

Rico: [00:36:18] Sure. Hang in there with me for a sec. I’m just going to sign off with everyone and tell them where to find some information. I want to thank everyone for joining me. I just noticed that instead of Georgia, it’s just one of 4,000 coronavirus identifications. So be safe out there. I’ve been out there wearing surgical gloves, going shopping at Ingles and Publix, and there’s not a lot of people out there. They’re there early morning, so just be safe out there. Be thankful when you see the fire and the police and the empties out there, even the people manning the grocery stores, the supermarkets, they’re there for us. People putting out, putting on the lights at night and water that we drink. Just a lot of things that cascading effect of what’s going on. Even though we may be working from home, there are people working out in the streets to make sure that our world is still out there. So be safe, and be good and just be thankful.

John: [00:37:21] Thank you so much, Rico.

Rico: [00:37:24] Thank you. See you guys

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The Colorful Woven Threads that Make Up the Fabric of Our City: Part 1, Jay Patton

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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!

Jay Patton

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.”

All connected

“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.”

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The Colorful Woven Threads that Make Up the Fabric of Our City

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Jay Patton, Traditional Master Barber

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!

Jay Patton

Jay Patton

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.”

All connected

“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

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.”

Mom-preneur

“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

Maurie and Ron Ladson

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

Miriam and Eddie Carreras
Miriam and Eddie 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.”

Joe Sawyer

Joe and Kimberly Sawyer

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.

Preacher Man

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

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 parish

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

Karl Barnham

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

Vitals

From the United States Census Bureau’s QuickFacts about Peachtree Corners, it’s easy to glean some of the latest statistics about the elusive 16.23 square miles that constitute the largest city in Gwinnett county. I say“elusive” as many citizens might have trouble envisioning our city’s borders. In our defense, it was incorporated just eight years ago, on July 1, 2012.

What makes our community a Top 10 best suburb, and one of the best places to live in the State of Georgia—besides quality education, low crime rate, desirable cost of living, employment, access to amenities and general livability? The great diversity in housing options, places to worship, the cultures represented here, the businesses and the amazing residents we share our community with, of course.

Population: 43,905

Median Household Income: $67,949

Poverty Rate: 9.9%

Employment Rate: 71.7%

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Community

Harvest Gwinnett invites residents to be part of two new community gardens

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Here we grow again! Harvest Gwinnett invites gardeners of all skill levels to reserve a plot and be part of Live Healthy Gwinnett’s two newest community gardens.

Applications are now being accepted for 4-foot by 8–foot garden plots at Lenora Park in Snellville and Graves Park in Norcross. These raised beds are $35 each and are available for the 2020 fall and winter growing season.

Harvest Gwinnett, a program of Live Healthy Gwinnett, was launched in 2019 to connect community members with hands-on environmental education, to improve local access to fresh produce and to nurture engagement opportunities leading to improved health outcomes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, community gardens act as health promoters decreasing mental and physical stress levels in adults while enhancing mobility, socialization and community impact.

In response to a growing need for access to fresh food, Harvest Gwinnett works alongside community partners to close the meal gap by implementing community gardens, nutrition education, food distributions and more. Harvest Gwinnett’s first community garden in Lawrenceville opened in May 2020 and has already produced more than 400 pounds of fresh food alternatives that have been distributed to families served by local co-operative services, housing authorities and senior food distribution programs. Continued partnerships with Gwinnett Parks and Recreation and UGA Extension Gwinnett will provide important guidance for these two new community gardens. 

The Lenora Park Community Garden is located at 4515 Lenora Church Road in Snellville, and the Graves Park Community Garden is located at 1540 Graves Road in Norcross.

For more information, and guidelines, visit LiveHealthyGwinnett.com or contact HarvestGwinnett@GwinnettCounty.com

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