City of Peachtree Corners, Georgia residents, and leaders speak out about change and actively becoming a more anti-racist community.
This first episode of this mini-part series includes a candidate for Gwinnett Sherriff, and former police officer Keybo Taylor; Director of Redemptive Unity at Periment Church, Jimmy Kim, and teacher and community leader Julie Morgan. Join them along with Peachtree Corners Life podcast host Rico Figliolini and series co-host Karl Barham in this intensive discussion to try and solve these issues.
[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:05:54] – Feelings on These Issues
[00:20:13] – Personal Experiences with Injustice
[00:32:34] – Participating in the Community
[00:42:42] – Leaning on our Leaders
[00:45:36] – Bringing New Voices to the Table
[00:52:25] – Desires for Change
[01:08:28] – Closing
Recorded socially safe online and in the City of Peachtree Corners, Georgia
“We curate our narratives quite a bit right? We think about the stories that we want to live, or the lifestyle that we want to live and then we curate it…. But, one way or another to one degree or another, I really do feel that every individual, they curate their own narrative. And one of the things I’ve been challenging our people here at Perimeter, and just anyone that will have this conversation with me is to stop and take inventory of your narrative. And that’s not some kind of like big psychological or philosophical thing. It’s just simply, take stock of where you are. Where do you live? Who your friends are, who are your closest associates? You know, when do you ever interact with people that are not like you?”JIMMY KIM
Rico: [00:00:30] Hi, this is Rico Figliolini host of Peachtree Corners Life in the city of Peachtree Corners. We have a special show today. Part of a series of episodes that we’re going to be doing over the next two weeks. And my cohost in this is my cohost from Capitalist Sage, Karl Barham. So, and we have a great panel here to be able to discuss our issues today. So Karl, why don’t you lead it off?
Karl: [00:00:54] Sure. On may 26, 2020. there there’ve been a series of protests that started after an African-American male named George Floyd was killed during police arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Then a couple of weeks later on June 12th a 27 year old African American father was shot and killed by Atlanta police after responding to a complaint that he was asleep in his car. If you look at today, June 25th, March, about a month that there have been protests around the country, involving, Social and racial justice, in the communities. Today on Peachtree Corners Life, we wanted to invite some local residents and leaders to start a discussion on community leadership in social and racial justice so that people could find ways at the local level right here in Peachtree Corners and others to impact, change as, as necessary to keep their communities safe for all citizens during encounters with law enforcement, but also find ways that individuals and community leaders can improve and address social injustice in its many forms. What can a citizen do? Let’s have that discussion. I’d like to start off by introducing our guests today and I’m going to go around and have each one of them introduce themselves, starting with, Julie Morgan, a resident here in Peachtree Corners. Why don’t you introduce yourself?
Julie: [00:02:19] Sure. My name is Julie, my husband and I have lived in Peachtree Corners for eight years now. He works in the film industry in, you know, all over Atlanta. We have three small children. When I moved to Peachtree Corners, I was a teacher in a charter school in DeKalb County. Once we had our daughter, our eldest daughter, I quit my job in order to stay home. We attend victory church in Norcross, which is one of the most diverse churches in the area. We live in the Greenleaf neighborhood, which is fairly diverse. And we love living here. I’ve been, I don’t know, Karl pegged me as a community leader. I don’t know if that’s accurate or not, but we host a lot of community events at our home. We just love being involved with people in Peachtree Corners.
Karl: [00:03:14] Thank you very much. Jimmy, why don’t you introduce yourself?
Jimmy: [00:03:16] Sure. Good afternoon, my name is Jimmy Kim. I am a Peachtree Corners resident, myself. We’ve been in, my wife and I and our family have been in Peachtree corners since wow, 2011. So a good amount of time. Actually it goes further back than that, but a long time in Peachtree Corners. We live, I guess, in the North Manner, subdivision or area. And my wife works as a scientist, a public health scientist. We have two kids that go to Simpson elementary. And for me, my job, I work at Perimeter Church as the director of redemptive unity perimeters, just up the street, 141, in Fulton County in Johns Creek, but a director of redemptive unity previous to that, or prior to that, I was working with high school students. So, and we had a pretty big reach with our high school ministry, including Norcross, Paul Duke, which is of course
a very, I have a vested interest in doing ministry and doing work in our community, both as a resident, but then also as a minister.
Karl: [00:04:16] Oh, excellent. Thank you. Keybo, love for you to introduce yourself. Many people might already know you. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you’re up to.
Keybo: [00:04:27] Thank you very much. My name is Keybo Taylor. I am originally from Lawrenceville, Georgia. Born and raised here in Gwinnett County. I think I’m one of the few original people that we meet from time to time. I have lived here practically my whole life. I’ve raised my family here, my kids, and now we’re currently raising our grandkids here. I’m a retired law enforcement professional. I spent 26 years with the Gwinnett County police department, where I retired at the rank of major. My connections to Peachtree Corners circle is, when I first got out of the Academy, I was assigned to the West side precinct and I spent a great deal of time during that time, working in the Peachtree Corners circle area. Came back to the West side precinct as a Lieutenant, as the daywatch commander, spent some more time there. And then a majority of my time in the police department was spent working in the criminal investigation division. So, you know, I’m fairly full manual with a lot of things that was going on in the Peachtree Corners circle area. As I said before, I am retired. I spent some time working in the school system, some time working in mental health, in the mental health field. And currently I’m a, a candidate democratic candidate for, the sheriff, the Sheriff’s position, here in the Sheriff’s office here in Gwinnett County.
Karl: [00:05:54] Fabulous. I’ll introduce myself for folks that may not have heard of, or heard from me before. I’m a local resident here at Peachtree Corner as well. I own and operate a business here. My family lives here and we’ve had the pleasure of living here for the past five plus years, in Peachtree Corners. And, I just really love the community and find different ways to be involved in the community in different ways. And, I met Rico, just reaching out, one day and, we met for coffee and started talking about, you know, we would have coffees every week. and just talk about things that are impacting the community. I love the work that Rico does in helping with communication and the publication within the community. And, and we’ve started to continue these dialogues and invite some guests along with us to talk about things that are happening in the community that are impacting the community. So, I’m just looking forward to, to this discussion on, community leadership, in, in the community. The community leadership, when it comes to topics of social and racial justice, I want to start off with, if I could throw out a question for discussion with the group, just, you know, as things have been happening, over the past month, how are, how have you been feeling about the protests and some of the issues around racial injustice that’s been happening in the country as a whole? And just curious how, how that’s been, that’s been received, your thoughts about that to begin with. Jimmy, do you mind if I start with you?
Jimmy: [00:07:29] Sure. I don’t mind at all. Yeah, as a minister and myself as a Korean American, my parents immigrated to the States in 1971. And so I’ve, I’ve only known America. A
US citizen and my parents were always very proud to talk about their experience as, as immigrants coming to the United States, being able to start small businesses and it’s a varying degrees of success. And, you know, they did their best to teach me about, you know, knowing my Korean heritage and culture and history. Ingraining those things in me, but then also pushing and challenging me to, to really, to become American. And that really has been a quest of mine, ever since young childhood, even into, into my forties. You know, for someone that’s an Asian American, who is often, for my Korean family and friends, hardly Korean enough. And then for my American friends, just because of the way that I look in my, my ethnic heritage, never American enough. You know, and that’s depends and varies between the different groups of people that I hang out with. But that can put you in a very interesting spot in terms of your own identity. And, so I say all that, because I do think that’s a, at the heart of it, a big part of where we find our country today, is this. An identity issue, right? It’s an identity issue. If you want to go all the way to the top, just about well, where is America now? What does America look like now? And, and then ultimately asking the question, should these things be happening? And for again, for me as a minister and as an Asian American, no, I don’t believe these things should be happening. I don’t think anyone’s intent in all of this was for things to unravel. That may be the intent of a very, very, very small select few, anarchists, if you will. But I think that is more the rarity than the norm. I think there is a lot of frustration. I think there is a lot of, of anger even, and a lot of misguided information that’s coming out and, really you see it out in the public sphere, the dialogue or the rhetoric is if you’re not for me, then you’re against me. And I think that can be very, very problematic when it comes to just having a civil discourse. I think we have lost our way in a lot of senses in having the, or having the ability to listen to someone, empathize with someone, and even with people that we may disagree with. And so, I feel uneasy for sure. I’m, I’m worried or concerned for my family and for my kids and for their safety. And I’ll end with this or this little part with this, you know, We, I participated in a march not too long ago, and a protest. And my son who is six years old, who had learned about Martin Luther King Jr. In school, was telling me, dad, I don’t want you to go on this protest or to this march. And I was telling him, you know what, this is what dad does. And this is why I believe I need to go. And he said, well, Martin Luther King Jr., he was fighting against those types of things about people being treated unfairly or unjustly because of their skin color and their heritage. And he died for that. Daddy, I don’t want you to go and be a part of something where you might put your life at risk. And we had a sobering conversation as sobering, as you can have with a six year old, right. About the realities of the world that we live in. But then also know we’ve got a lot of work to do, and that means we’ve got to listen. We have to build relationships with people. I really believe that.
Karl: [00:11:04] Thank you. Julie, maybe, maybe you could, you know, build on, I know you have young children and so you probably are having similar discussions.
Julie: [00:11:15] Yeah. You know, just kind of echoing what Jimmy said. We’re very people in America are just, there’s no in between, right? You’re, you’re either this side or that side. One thing that we talk a lot with our kids about is that, you know, you treat people the way you want to be treated regardless of what they look like. We have, I think we probably participated in the
same march, the one race march on Atlanta, last week. And, you know, we told our kids why we were going and what we were doing. And my seven year old said, cause she, there was one race march on stone mountain a couple of years ago, she said, well, mommy, didn’t, didn’t we solve that already? Like didn’t we solve racism? And you know, to her, when you, when you explain racism to a kid that somebody would treat somebody differently because their skin color is different. That actually makes no sense. Right? Like they just, they see it for how silly it is. And so in her mind, she was like, Oh, we already, we solved that problem right? Like now we’re all back to being kind to each other. And you know, that was heartbreaking because we had to say, no honey, there’s, you know, this keeps happening. People keep getting killed simply because they don’t look like someone else. And so we, you know, we have a lot of honest conversations with our kids. I feel like as, as white parents, we have to be having those conversations with our kids. I think a lot of white culture has not had those conversations, which is why we’re still dealing with this today.
Karl: [00:12:56] It’s interesting as, as, as you’re describing, what the conversation with your kids are dealing with. I’m curious, Keybo, when you look at this from your experience with law enforcement and what you’re hearing in the community, how do these protests strike you?
Keybo: [00:13:16] Well, being old enough to remember, I grew up in the sixties, I can remember the protests. I remember, Dr. King and a lot of his work. You see some stark similarities, but then again, there’s some strong, differences now than what we saw back then. And then also, you know, looking at it from a law enforcement perspective as something that I did. And it just gives me a little bit more insight, I would say to have more things to think about. Back in the sixties, protesting was really, one of the only remedies that we actually had, as African Americans to to bring the light on to, you know, the racial injustice, social injustice, and all the things that was going on at that time. Today, what you see is that we have so many other more platforms that we can use to get our, get the message out. Protesting is just one of it, one thing that we could do, but we have others. Also, another difference that you see now is, from then. Even though there were white people that was out there on the lines that was marching with King and doing things, on the scenes and behind the scenes to help advance, you know, social and racial justice for, the people here in America. What I see now is, is, is I’m so glad to see the number of diversity out there. I look at some of the marches and, you know, whites and others are just, they’re highly represented out there. So that brings a different set of awareness to what we’re dealing with. From a law enforcement perspective, you know, it’s, it’s unfortunate that you know, a lot of these things that is going on that we’re actually talking about and we’re addressing now has only come to light because you’ve seen the systematic racism that’s in law enforcement, along with the unchecked, excessive violence that you see, you know, coming from law enforcement. And I think when you see the, the assessive use of force, the violence toward people, and you marry that with the racism that you see this happening toward, African Americans, you know, it’s just, it’s, it’s so much more profound. You know, this, it’s what we used to say. It’s something that actually shocks the conscious that, you know, and it’s called, more people outside of African Americans, to take a look and say, Hey, wait a minute, hold on. This is not right. This is something that needs to change. And we need to go ahead and start
addressing these issues. And so when you see that and you see that they get started addressing these issues, then it brings to light other issues. You know, there’s so many other different social injustices that’s going on out here. Things that are, you know, that has been symbolic of racism that has gone on, in this country, practically throughout the history of this country, even, you know, back after the civil war. So we recognize, or I recognize that, you know, there’s some needs for some serious reform. Some serious change out here and not just on criminal justice, but on so many. I mean, there’s a lot of different other areas that we need to start looking at and taking steps toward reforming.
Karl: [00:16:57] I’m curious to get your perspective, you know, you know, over a year from, you know, your background in politics to today in the community, how did the protest and, and, and a lot of the discussion, appears to you.
Rico: [00:17:13] You know, it’s interesting. The, Jimmy brought this up, Keybo, and even Julie, the breadth of the diversity within the people that are protesting was something that, was, it was really apparent. I mean, then over, I’m 61 years old. And I don’t know how old Keybo is, but we’re, I go back a while. You know, when you see protests, you know, it’s, it’s almost tribal in a way, right. When I go back to my days in college, Italians hung out with Italians. We had the Italian American student union, you know, and they, you know, there were a couple of, African-American clubs. There were several, Jewish American clubs and stuff, a variety of clubs, but everyone had their own places it seemed. And, when I got to city college, it was, you know, my background from there was like, why are we all separated a little bit? And, you know, it mirrors society because even the government, the student government within a college system, whoever was in power was giving money to those that were their friends that shared the same maybe look or culture. You know, so, you know, when I got there, it was like, well, how come the Italian American student union is getting like $5 compared to these other clubs, getting thousands of dollars. An exaggeration, but you know, I’m a white guy, but still Italian Americans were, looked the same way it seemed. And that’s just a cultural thing. So imagine when it’s on your face, if you will. So I can’t be where you are like that. But I do see, you know, I’ve had friends in law enforcement that I wonder why they’re in law enforcement. You know, the, the way they would look at things and, you know, hearing them code words and stuff like that, that they would use in like, what are you guys talking about? And it’s just like the ridiculousness of it, because like Julie said, when you’re young and you have kids, kids don’t know anything, kids know whats there and it’s so innocent of, they’re not, they don’t have any parameters. Unfortunately they grow up through the school system and through their neighborhoods and where they are, and they don’t know any different and they learn from the people around them. So it really is a cultural change that has to happen. I forget which judge on the Supreme court said it best. I think where she said, you know, you can’t change just the laws. That won’t do it. We’ve done that. Right? The, the, the, civil war was fought, but there were slaves that until two years later still didn’t know they were free. So, I mean, if we don’t culturally change and accept and absorb other cultures and be tolerant, I think, I think this will just keep coming on.
Karl: [00:20:13] I think as you mentioned that, as you say that Rico, I think about, here locally in Gwinnett County or Metro Atlanta and the diversity that’s represented here in our community of Peachtree Corners. If you get down to the micro level, I see there’s an opportunity as we get closer to learn more about the different types of injustices that might be present, but not obvious to everyone. So I’m curious, you know, have you seen or experienced, injustices in whatever form, whether larger or smaller in, in your day to day life here in our community? I’d just be curious if anyone could share any experiences they might have had in this safe environment that we’re, we’re having, with our discussion. Maybe Keybo, I’ll start off with you.
Keybo: [00:21:06] Yes, when you look at it, the biggest thing, one of the, one of the, the issues that comes to mind with me right now is education. You know, and that is definitely a form of social injustice. I have a godson, he goes to, and I’m not going to call out the school’s name right now, but I can remember sitting in on some of the meetings with him, some of his IEP meetings and just watching how the stance that the school system took, toward not wanting to give this kid services that he needed and services that he deserved. And it took the parents having to have to go in and file complaints with the federal government and the state government to force the school system to come in and actually provide services under the law that this kid was entitled to. You know, that’s just one form of it. And then when you see, you know, if we talk about racial injustice, you know, there’s social, excuse me, sexual discrimination, you know, right now, based upon gender, you know, gender identity. You know, there’s, you know, a lot of people, you know, you see it and you see it almost every day, you know, as to what it looked like. But one of the biggest issues that I see is in healthcare. You know, and if we didn’t believe that there’s social injustice as far as health care goes, if we didn’t see that before this VOCID virus is really bringing it out to light now. When you see the racial breakup of people who are effected by it and what type of care that they’re getting. The lack of insurance, lack of coverage. You know, these are the things man that, you know, they just, you know, it’s right here in our face as we go along. So, that’s just a few things, man, and then from a police perspective, you know, when you look at it, if you look at the numbers, you know, when we’re talking about domestic violence, domestic violence toward women, you know, black, black women, you know, or, you know, they’re more or less, more so to be a victim of social, excuse me, domestic violence than any other, any other race or class or gender out here. So those are just a few things, man, that comes to mind for me.
Karl: [00:23:37] How about you, Julie? Have you, you know, as you’ve lived, have you seen, or what have you observed or experienced?
Julie: [00:23:46] So I crowdsourced this question a little bit with some of my friends last night. I have not personally felt discriminated against, or, you know, any injustices against me personally, but I was curious as to what some of my friends would say. And so the thing that kept, several people mentioned was just the wealth distribution in Peachtree Corners, you know, and then the representation on our city council and our other layers of government. It’s very much the wealthy white as the representation. You know, the money is in the Northern side of the County, whether you look at Simpson elementary versus Peachtree elementary, things like
sidewalks, you know, so that’s, that’s what people kept pointing to. This is a fairly controversial topic, so I’m a little bit hesitant to bring it up, but even the pedestrian bridge that’s going across Peachtree Parkway. Several years ago, the mayor asked for a pedestrian safety commission to be formed. And I was on that task force and we spent nine months studying pedestrian safety. Studying our area, looking at data from the Gwinnett County police as to where, you know, incidents were with traffic and pedestrians and things like that. And what we found was that the people in the Southern part of the city, they have to walk. It’s often a one-car family. They often walk to the grocery store to the bus stops, things like that to get to work. And so people who need to walk need a safe way to cross Peachtree Parkway, right? So we presented this information to the city council and to the Mayor and where does the bridge go? It goes on the Northern part of the city, you know, where people want to walk. They want to go from the forum to the town center and things like that. I know that there were other issues involved with the bridge and with development and things like that. But I feel like it’s a perfect example of we’re putting resources and money where it’s nice instead of where it’s needed, you know? And so I would love to see Peachtree Corners just as a community, we come together and we say, Hey, how can we help? You know, are you guys safely crossing the road? The data is showing that that’s not true. Would a bridge help? You know, would this money be better spent on better bus systems? Things like that.
Karl: [00:26:23] Jimmy, I wonder if, if you could comment as you see it, through the church at perimeter and others in the community. Have you seen it manifest itself in that, or, or even as you’re saying, just living in, in the community?
Jimmy: [00:26:39] Yeah, sure. I can, I have a lot of thoughts swirling in my head and, I’ll start with this. There was a lunch that I had at the Jason’s deli in the Forum with my daughter who at the time, I think was maybe only three or four years old. It was just her and I. And we’re enjoying a, you know, a daddy daughter date during lunch. And, there was another family behind us in the booth and they had a couple of young kids, a little older than my daughter, you know, perceivably. And, every Asian knows this, but, and is never, it doesn’t ever cease to amaze me, but we’ve all had this, the shared experience of someone making the slanty eye gesture toward you. I grew up with that. You know, you let it roll off your back, but it was geared toward my daughter. And this was the first time I’ve ever seen that and experienced that as a father, I should say. And, like any father would, I got pretty upset. And I had to internally calm myself down and I turned to these young kids and I said, Hey, I don’t know where you learned that from, but we don’t do that. That is, You know, what you, what you are doing. I didn’t say it quite like this, and you can kind of relive those moments whenever you live through something like this. You’re like, Oh, I should’ve said this instead. But to the effect of, Hey, we don’t devalue someone’s existence and minimize their existence to a gesture or to a facial feature or to a skin tone. I hope that you will stop using that and know that that is a very disrespectful thing that you just did. We finished our lunch and we went along our way. And, but that has just, it stung, it stung. And, and I say that to kind of get to a point about how we live in our own narratives, right? We, and in fact, we probably curate our narratives quite a bit right? We think about the stories that we want to live, or the lifestyle that we want to live and then we curate it. And
whether it’s out of comfort, maybe it’s out of control. Maybe it’s out of, I want to earn someone’s approval. So I’m going to live this way. I’m going to have this kind of lifestyle. For some it’s, you know, it’s out of fear there you have no other options. And so this is just the life that you have. But, one way or another to one degree or another, I really do feel that every individual, they curate their own narrative. And one of the things I’ve been challenging our people here at perimeter, and just anyone that will have this conversation with me is to stop and take inventory of your narrative. And that’s not some kind of like big psychological or philosophical thing. It’s just simply, take stock of where you are. Where do you live? Who your friends are, who are your closest associates? You know, when do you ever interact with people that are not like you, you know, and for, for minority people, that’s easy, right? I’m often around people who aren’t like me. But, and so for me, kind of going in and out of minority, majority culture, I’m pretty fluid at it. But if, if you’ve never had that experience or you don’t have those opportunities, and you’ve curated such a neat narrative for yourself where everything’s comfortable and I’m not saying comfort’s a bad thing, don’t you know, don’t hear me wrong. But when everything is curated to your liking, of course, when you see something like this happen, there’s a temptation to say, well, I’m going to turn off the TV. I’m going to turn off social media. I’m going to get away from it. I’m going to opt out of the conversation. And because of COVID, because of just the, the, the, the weightiness of the current situation it’s harder and harder to opt out. It’s harder and harder to tune off or turn off the narrative that’s coming to us and making us aware of the narrative that we’re in. And so the ways that I see injustices or, just racial disparity, is, is, in a lot of ways it’s implicit, we’ve put ourselves in these situations, not even realizing where we are, because we’re, we’re looking for personal comfort and we’re looking for other things besides, what ultimately, I believe where we were going to find our true value in life and our true purpose in life, which I believe is in, in Christness and God. And I believe that all human beings, regardless of your ethnicity or your race, regardless of your, you know, your paycheck size or where you live or what kind of car you drive or don’t drive that you are still made in his image in God’s image. And because of that, every human being has got inherent dignity. But it’s just so easy to ignore that. And then we say, well, you’re less dignified than me because of, and you come up with the reasons, right. Because we’ve curated our own narratives. And, and Julia, you mentioned this, I think one of the biggest ways that we see that in Peachtree Corners is just in the three schools that service or three elementary schools that service our city, right? You go from Stripling to Peachtree, to Simpson. You could not have a more vast difference in terms of our schools. Now, granted, I know like the, the neighborhoods that these schools are in are vastly different. But with my kids at Simpson, I mentor over at Peachtree. Kids are kids, you know? And, but you notice that, even attitude, you know, my attitude is different when I walk into my kid’s school versus the attitude that I have when I go over and mentor at Peachtree. And in the past, when I’ve mentored and had relationship with administration of Stripling, it’s very, very eyeopening. And I don’t exclude myself from that introspection. And I want, I would love to see more people introspect before accusing other people. Now that’s assuming a lot, and assuming the best out of my neighbors, but I will, I will venture to do that for the sake of our, you know, for the sake of the health of our community and our church overall.
Karl: [00:32:34] I can remember, years ago I had a mentor who, did an interesting thing. At the time I didn’t understand why, he did it, but he would volunteer his time. At an inner city school, although his kids didn’t go to that school or didn’t do it. And he was teaching everyone that was on his staff about leadership, and he said it was convenient to serve where it’s comfortable, your neighborhood, your church, your school, it’s the easiest. It’s the closest, your friends, family, the country clubs that you might participate in. What’s more uncomfortable is going out of that comfort zone and serving where there might be a greater need. And he found more fulfillment over his life, serving people that might’ve been different than him in communities that were different than him and helping put his talents, his resources, his connections to work. Whether it’s helping people find jobs, preparing resumes, learning leadership skills, communication skills. And he challenged everyone on his staff to do something similar. It was literally required of us to do it. That’s how we evaluate it. And what he was doing was he was trying to stretch us to learn. And build a habit into seeking out those things. So you don’t get comfortable with what’s easy and you find ways. And he was, he was being very selfish in, in a manner that he was trying to teach us to be better leaders. Because one day he might need us to lead a business somewhere. That, in, in China or in India or in different parts of the country, and we are going to have to learn how to work and relate with people. So it was part of his development plan. I see today in our community, plenty of opportunity for people to put their talents at work, in different places that are needed. It’s just, I wonder, I’m always curious as to how to make that easier for people. How do, how do we encourage people. And I see a couple different lanes from, in the business community, if you’re a CEO or a leader, you can, you can help develop your people in that way, by encourage them to get involved in causes that might help drive social and racial justice. If you’re an individual in your family, you can do family things together where you participate in communities helping bring talents and resources available to them. I’m curious, you know, in your discussions with your, your, your networks and community, have you seen examples of people doing that well? Rico, why don’t I start with you?
Rico: [00:35:30] Sure. I mean, with the podcasts I’ve been doing over the last three years with Peachtree Corners magazine. And, and, you know, quite frankly, I try to dig these things out if you will, because it’s not always apparent and it’s not always out there, right? I come from New York from Brooklyn and I was, I grew up first generation American. Also, my parents were immigrants. And so when I moved South from, from New York where I was working, doing constituent work for Chuck Schumer’s office, Congressmen, did that for a year. So I got to really learn a lot along those lines. So I moved down here to the South South of the Mason Dixon line, kind of funny, very different. You know, I would see people waving their hands at me as we drove down the street and I’d say to my wife, do we know them? And it’d be like no it’s just people being nice. Not that they’re not nice in New York, but it’s a little different, you know, so what I, what I made my mission to, to do is find out a bit more. I mean, I, I became, went from being a Brooklyn Catholic boy to a baptist. I realized a lot of the churches in the areas give back a lot. That they create these programs that, you can be involved in as a resident. So you don’t have to be stuck in what you’re doing and they’re not just doing it for, you know, Thanksgiving, you know, let’s go do the soup kitchen. They’re doing it 365 days a year. The kids are going on mission trips. I don’t think you can find, at least in certain places, you know, not every family’s
the same way, but I don’t think you can find families where they’re not doing, especially if the middle class let’s call it right? Because they’re on a mission to try to get the kids maybe to be involved in the community because it’s a different level, I think. And maybe I’m not putting this the right way in the sense that there’s time and money. And time and money gives you certain things, right? We all try to work hard. My dad was, worked 18 hour shifts to make sure that we were educated. So he didn’t have the time to make sure that we were involved in the community it was different. I have that time. My wife has that time. We’ve all been involved. So I do see that, I see a lot of organizations like Joe Sawyer’s bridges that helps the Peachtree Corners community. I see Peachtree Corners Baptist church, Mary Our Queen, a variety of denominations and they, all within them, do things in the community. Food drives, blood drives, any kind of drives you can think they’re doing, they’re involving their kids in it. So there’s a lot of stories like that to be able to be told. And we’ve done that in the magazine, not just organizations or individuals going out of their way, doing things. But you go back home after that. And it’s what you’re doing in your home really that counts. I like what Jimmy did turning to the kids at that diner because, were their parents embarrassed by the way? Cause I would have been embarrassed if my kids did that.
Jimmy: [00:38:37] Well, the mom happened to be not at the table at the time. Maybe she had gotten up to the salad bar, to the restroom. And then I don’t know if it was all tied in. Maybe they were waiting for their opportunity. I don’t like to think that that was what they were doing. It just all happened that way. And the kids turned around and they didn’t say anything after that. And I didn’t say anything to the mom afterwards, so.
Rico: [00:38:58] And that’s fine, depending on how the kid, how old the kids were, kids are kids and they do stupid things sometimes, you know, they innocently think maybe it’s funny and they just don’t know better. But there’s a lot about, there’s a lot about, a lot of stories out there to be helped. I’m still trying, I’m still finding more and more. I will never run out of stories to tell in this magazine or on the podcast. And you know that Karl, I mean, we go through a lot of interviews. I’d like to hear what these guys have to say though in their lives. Where are they pulling things from?
Julie: [00:39:34] You’re right. There’s tons of opportunities to serve. I think, I think there’s a danger in saying, okay, you know, I’ve done my service. Check. Now I’m going to go back to my comfortable circle. Like Jimmy was saying with everyone who is my friend looks exactly like me and we all do the same things and, you know, whatever. So what my husband and I have been intentional about the last couple of years is yes, do the community service things for sure. But also diversify your circle, whether that’s. You know, you have people over for dinner who don’t look like you, or you listen to authors and, you know, podcasters and voices who don’t look like you, or don’t think the same things that you think. Because once you are connected with people in a real and meaningful way then stuff like George Floyd hits home way harder. You know, like when you are friends with black men and you are, you know, your kids play with black boys, then that kind of situation is, is much more heartbreaking right? Whereas if you’re only surrounded by white people, if you are only. You only go to church with white people, you only
work with white people. Then you could look at a situation like George Floyd or Shard Brooks or any of the, any of that. And just kind of say, Oh, that, that’s sad and move on. And so, you know, I think yes, service is important, but I think we also need to all start with getting out of our comfort zones and reaching across the street, you know, the city, wherever and inviting people into our lives who aren’t like us. Because, I don’t know if you look at the systemic nature of racial injustice, it can be really overwhelming, right? And it’s overwhelming for me and for my husband to think, okay, well, what can we do about this, right? And so that’s why we’re determined to never go back to living in a white bubble, because that’s what, that’s what I can do to change, right? I can make sure my kids know not to make slanty eyes at people, you know, and they know why. And if they see somebody doing that, then they will say, Hey, that’s not nice or, or that’s wrong. And I, you know, Jimmy, I applaud you so much for standing up for your daughter and having her hear you stand up for her, right? Because that’s, that’s how we’re going to change this country is, you know, I don’t think myself personally is going to be able to dismantle the system, but I can start by building a new system with my children and my community, that will hopefully create some change.
Karl: [00:42:42] Wondering Keybo. Yeah, I was going to ask you to comment on, if you think about it from a community leadership level, whether it’s in local government, it’s in law enforcement, what would you like to see? What can leaders in that to help lift up the community since they have a role in leading the community?
Keybo: [00:43:06] Well, first of all, just to piggyback a little bit off of what we’re talking about here, the key to we all want change. And what does that change look like? What is that change? And so, you know, if we want transformative change, you know, two things we have to have is. The understanding of diversity. And we have to understand that the inclusion of that diversity, you know, it’s one thing to have, have an organization, an agency or whatever it is, and you can come out and say, well, look and see, you know, I have a diverse, my, my, my agency is diverse. I got people in position, A, B, C, D, but you know, when you look at it and you still see problems in those agencies, you go back and you say, well, you might have the diversity, but do you really have the inclusion? Okay. Are you actually listening to, and allowing that diversity to have a voice in how you craft your policies? You know what you do, what you don’t do, how you serve. And I hear everybody talking about service. I look at service in just a little bit different way. I believe service comes natural. I believe we serve every day. Every day you get up, you walk out here. You know, when you encounter, you know, you, you encounter people, you know, how you help folks if you help make the decision to help anybody, but anything that comes out of your mouth that could be influential is a service. You know, what you do, how you conduct yourself, you know, if you’re the head of an agency, you know, what are you doing to make sure that you know, everybody has a voice at the table and you’re doing the right thing for everybody in that organization or everybody in the community. So, you know, from an agency standpoint, I think that, you know, we have to start looking at, you know, putting leaders in places that, you know, have the Bishop, not just looking at, you know, Hey, I’m going to have this level of diversity, but you know, you have to be willing to, to set up, you know, being so that these people can have a voice in what .they’re doing and what you’re doing. So I just see it just,
you know, I mean, we’re all, I think we’re all on the same, we’re all seeing the same thing, you know, just from different aspects of it is what does that actually look like?
Karl: [00:45:36] I’m also wondering if you look at how to bring new voices to the table when decisions are being made. I see it, whether it’s in, a church, you could look at the elder community and the leaders of the church. You could look at the schools, the school boards, the people that support school board, you can look at it at, at the agencies that might support local government, whether it’s police. I don’t know if in Gwinnett County we have a community, a community board that communicates or liaisons with the police. And, and in cities like Gwinnett or Counties like Gwinette and others. But bringing these very voices to the table where one policies are made, two holding people accountable for, for the change we’re trying to see, at, at, at local levels. How do we, how do we as citizens or in parts of communities start impacting what our leaders do?
Keybo: [00:46:41] I think from that perspective, when you look at, and I’m talking about from law enforcement standpoint. You know, law enforcement, how you know, we’ve conducted business in the past, it will fundamentally change. You know, society is going to make sure. You know that it changed, you know, especially when you go back and you look, and when I say, look at the passion that people have out here now, what are we seeing? The more inclusive folks out here that is pushing for these changes. you have to have, you know, some internal things is going to have to change. You’re going to have to have some external things it’s going to have to change. And, you know, you can’t, you know, good leaders are not going to be, you know, resistant to having, you know, like citizens review panels out here that, you know, they can come in and help review some of the things that’s going on in your agency. I think that that’s going to be something that’s going to be necessary going forward. And I think that that’s something that all of the law enforcement agencies here in Gwinnett County should be, you know, taking a look at to see what that actually looks like.
Karl: [00:47:57] No, it’s, should people keep asking, asking that, you know, there’s the eight, campaign zero, the eight can’t wait, which has eight different policies that, at least some of their data approves that has been able to reduce excessive use of force on people of color includes citizen review board. It includes, holding leaders accountable and having to speak up. There’s a whole bunch of different policies in there. How do we get that on the table for the leaders to discuss, make decisions that includes in the example, Julie gave with the bridge earlier on, how do you make sure that the people at the table making decision include all the stakeholders, all the people that are impacted by the decision. So at least wherever decision comes the debate has had, is had. And everyone has to agree to a course of action that serves everyone, not just a smaller group.
Keybo: [00:48:55] Well, you know, first of all, you know, the and I agree with the fact that those external panels do help to show a reduction in, certain areas, such as use of force and, and things such as that. But what I say is this, it starts with leadership at the top. You know, I go back and I say, you know, going in, you have to have a leader that has the vision. To know and
understand what diversity is and not just saying that I have that diversity, but you have inclusion also. So that means that your diversity is actually, they’re interacting with the citizens. Okay. In their cultures, whatever that culture may be, and that they’re bringing that information back in, and then you’re able to sit down and come up and communicate and organize plans to where, you know, you’re understanding the different cultures, the different races and everything else that makes up Gwinnett county. And I say Gwinnett county, because I’m in Gwinnett County, that’s where it actually starts. So then the second part of it is, is that, you know, you have your staff and you have the same mindset is, is that everything that we’re doing at the top, we’re going to make sure that, that trickles down to the remaining staff. Okay, we’re going to go in and we’re going to change policies. We’re going to look at use of force. We’re going to look at officer’s complaints. You know, we’re gonna look at, you know, all we doing the right thing when we’re applying force? You know, what was good yesterday obviously it’s not good today. So you have to have, you know, someone in leadership that has the visionary to see and project, Hey, this is what we’re moving to. And you, you know, you gotta be willing to adapt to what, you know, what we’re seeing now and, and make changes. This, everything that we talk about can happen. Okay. It’s not just the external things. Where it starts at is internally inside of those agencies or you bring it in, you know, what policies are you changing? What are you willing to do? You know, and, you know, and, and again too, you know, and to make a long story short, we have to be willing to listen to the public. You know, you have to be willing to listen to you know, diverse groups outside. And I say, you know, one thing that I look at is that, you know, and, Jimmy has alluded to, you know, the faith based community. That’s very important, but see, one thing that we’re not talking about is that we’ve gotten, you know, it’s almost like one of those Godzilla movies where we’re waking Godzilla up. We’re waking these youth up, out here. These youth are passionate. You know, we just have to make sure that we channel that passion in the right way so that they have a voice that is heard. And we have to listen to what they’re saying. We have to make sure that we’re including these people in, at the table, hearing what they have to say and coming up with plans to where, you know, they can feel safe in the future. And if they don’t feel safe, then we’re not doing our job out here, whether that’s law enforcement, whether that’s community leaders, whether that’s church leaders, you know, whether that’s parents, you know, whatever it is, we need to do more to make sure that everybody is being heard and everybody’s doing their part.
Karl: [00:52:25] Thank you and well said on that. I know we’re coming up to the top of the hour and I wanted to ask a last question to everybody. So to consider, you know, if, if there was a wish that you could have on, on something to impact change all around social and racial justice in our community here in Peachtree Corners, I’d be curious what your thoughts would be around that for, for people. So, Jimmy, maybe, maybe I could start with you.
Jimmy: [00:52:55] Sure. Yeah. Well, one, I do think, active engagement goes a long way. So whether that’s, at the school level, engaging with, your children’s classroom, getting to know your teachers, getting to know administration, you know, and actively seeking opportunities to serve and not just, you know, not only your specific school, but thinking about your cluster as well. So, you know, with a fifth grader, next year. And I’m already thinking about Pinckneyville
and thinking about what are some ways that I can get involved there and who are the people that, maybe I need to get in touch with about carrying on conversations, you know, teenage years, or just a difficult time to begin with. And so how can we support other parents? Because at that point it becomes less about what are the external issues. People are thinking about internal issues of my, my child is behaving in this manner and I need support and I need help. And so thinking about that, also, just being intentional with, when we go out. I’ve tried really hard, lately not to, not to judge my city. It sometimes it’s very hard to do that. And when I say judge my city, I mean, like as a Korean American, there are no Korean American restaurants in Peachtree Corners. Let’s just be honest, loosely Asian and hard pressed. and that’s just me. So I will go down to Buford highway and I’ll go to over to Duluth for those things. But, when I do dine in my city and I do want to support local businesses, I want to support the local economy. When I do I’m often just looking around if I’m there with my kids and my wife, I’ll ask my kids, Hey, do you recognize anyone from your school? Do you okay? I’m going to, as an introvert, this is really hard. I’m going to muster up the courage. I’m going to go over and say, Hey, I don’t know you, but my kids recognize your kids, you know, they go to the same school. Just wanted to introduce myself. And, and hopefully let that be kind of a, a conversation starter and perhaps I’ll see them at the school again for some events or maybe I’ll see them somewhere else in the community. This summer we didn’t have this, but you know, Gwinnett County, summer swim is a great, great opportunity. Get to know some of my own neighbors within my own swim team, but then also as I mingle with other parents and families, and for me again, as a minority person, I do think that there is a responsibility for me to reach out because I don’t know. And I don’t want to assume that people are going to reach out to me. Oh, there’s an Asian guy. Let’s go make him my friend. I know that, how that might feel. And I know how that might sound. It just sounds too tokenistic. It just feels like what’s, I think Keybo you’re getting at, it’s just more of the diversity for diversity’s sake, counting the noses in the crowd so to say. So knowing this myself, I have to take it upon myself to introduce myself to other people and get to know people within my community. I don’t know if I can speak as eloquently as Keybo did just in regards to like on the top down. But I’m thinking oftentimes bottom up. So for me, that’s my immediate neighborhood, my street, thinking about the kid, the other kids that are in my kids’ classrooms and their teachers thinking also obviously about my church and the faith community and what I can do to help foster some of those conversations, because let’s be honest, the indictment against the church is often that we have set up this enclave. and it’s not as missional and as now as outwardly focused, as I believe the gospel demands that Christians be. Because it’s comfortable, it’s easy to be around people like you. I’m guilty of this myself. And I want to challenge myself as well as my neighbors in Peachtree Corners more broadly, Hey, let’s get to know some other people. And when we disagree, can we stop and listen and try to learn a little bit about why they made us agree from our viewpoint and maybe just maybe that empathy and that amount of pateince can possibly lead to deeper friendships, deeper relationships, and to deeper lasting community change.
Karl: [00:56:59] I love that Jimmy, and sign me up. You and I, we’ll get together with the families and let’s lead by example and get that started. Julie, what would your wish be? If, if, if there could be a change implemented.
Julie: [00:57:16] I’m, I echo what Jimmy said, as you were thinking, as you were talking, I was thinking about something that Decatur did. I don’t know, maybe a year ago they had, they just signed people up to have dinners at different people’s houses, you know, and I would love if we could figure out a social distancing way to bring people together and, you know, maybe have a picnic in the yard or something, just to seek to understand each other, I think that would be, you know, I’m all about that. I’m all about gathering people over food. But secondly, you know, going back to what Keybo was saying, I would love to have confidence in our system top down, you know, and I would love to have some transparency from Gwinnett County police and from, you know, our local law officials and elected officials, like what, what is happening? You know, and, and how can we support, both support the police and law enforcement so that they can do their jobs well. But also, how can we trust that they are doing their job to protect and serve all of the people? So I, you know, I would just love some transparency. I would love to be on a citizen board or, you know, have that be organized. I think that sounds fantastic. And yeah, I’m all about it.
Karl: [00:58:39] I’m going to throw it to you Rico. What change would you like to see?
Rico: [00:58:47] Keybo hit it right though, right? If you don’t have, I don’t want to distill it down to a Chick-fil-A, but if you go to Chick-fil-A, right? The leadership down, everyone knows what is expected. What’s coming out of that window. It’s service. There’s a certain attitude of service. I think government needs to be that way. It needs to not just trickle down that needs that waterfall coming down from the top. If you don’t have the leadership, that’s going to provide that. It’s difficult for the rest of it to sort of fall in place. So I, I agree with Keybo that it needs to start there. Certain things I, listen, I think it was, Andrew Cuomo, that just accepted the, just with executive order put in the, eight, rules that we were just talking about.
Karl: [00:59:35] Eight Can’t Wait.
Rico: [00:59:36] Yeah, eight can’t wait. So he just did, he just put that in through executive order. Leadership like that can, can help right? So I, you know, there’s that, there’s also involvement. I mean, you’re right. You can’t stop at a you know, just an organizational department involvement. You need it to do it in a personal involvement. And it shouldn’t stop at your door, but you know, it’s difficult, people are paying the bills, they’re working, life goes on. So it’s a difficult proposition, I think, for people to do that. You know, I mean, but it needs to start with the boss, with the leader within the head going down, but people have to have that buy-in also right. They have to realize it’s good for them too, because if it’s not, it’s not going to go anywhere. And if it’s good for them, listen, Jimmy, we talk about Korean restaurants in Peachtree Corners all right. You can do soul train, which is something that Gwinnett County does, right. I love Korean food. I love Italian food. I love food, Julia right? Food will bring people together, you know, but all of us, there’s always something that’s gonna affect us. I mean, I won’t tell you what company it was, what organization, but someone when it first came down, decided they needed to put my picture on the mugshots of most wanted. And I don’t know, it
was done for funny or not, but I’m Italian and I guess they thought it was funny, like a mobster type thing. I didn’t think it was funny, but things happen. Sometimes you do have to let it roll off you. And sometimes you just, just set them straight, you know, just talk about it and, and people get to understand you. So you do have to be open and sometimes it’s past your comfort zone. So we all have to work on this. It doesn’t, you can’t just let one, expect that one group is going to do it. We all have to do it. Otherwise it’s just not going anywhere.
Keybo: [01:01:34] I was just gonna say, you know, Jimmy, I just learned a Korean barbecue and part of my, you know, if you ever see me, you know, I love to eat. Okay. So I’m searching. But, one thing that Julie had brought up and we started laughing because Karl and I when we spoke yesterday, we talked about the dinners that you’re talking about and they’re called Chicago dinners, and that’s exactly what it’s called. And I was telling Karl yesterday that I think it would be good for him to reach out to those, to the people that actually set those up. And maybe look at hosting one. Julie, I’m also putting that challenge, I’m going to put that to you also. I think that that’s great. You know, when we look at and what we talk about changes and what that looks like, what it should look like. You know, we also got to look at including an advocacies in there too, because that’s a very important part that is actually missing. You know, so that participation has to be, you know, they have to be, you know, we have to talk about being culturally competent and, and, and then close up in our policy changes. So learning the different cultures and making sure that we include them in on. What, what is going on and what’s being said. And, you know, just the last thing is, is when, you know, you gotta have, you know, this is something else to call them. I talked about, you know, when do you have the courage to step up and say, or intervene when you see things that are not, you know, that it’s being done that’s not right. It was, it was good to hear you, Julie, say that you wanted transparency. You know, and one thing that I talk about all the time is, is trust and transparency. And, you know, you recognize it. But if you go into, you know, communities, especially communities of color, Asian communities there, you know, Hispanic communities, Latino Hispanic communities, the first thing you hear about is the lack of trust. And when you’re not transparent that doesn’t break the trust. And somewhere along the line, You know, we have to, again, break those cycles so that, you know, we go into these communities. Especially, especially from a law enforcement standpoint, you know, everybody has to, you know, trust what is going on and that’s 90% of what you see. Let me rephrase that 99% of what you see right now is the lack of trust and, you know, from the law enforcement community, you know, we have fostered that system to where there is no trust. Nobody trusts whether you’re right or wrong. It’s just the lack of trust there. So, you know, we’re going to have to go back in and figure out, you know, what do we do? How do we reestablish trust? And Julie, you know, more people like you are going to have to be the ones that are stepping up to saying that, Hey, you know, issuing that challenge, not just for people of color, but you know, we have to have that voice from you also saying, Hey, you know what? We have to have a department, you know, or an agency here that, you know, that is transparent and that we can trust is going to do the right thing.
Karl: [01:04:54] Oh, I love, I love, I love that, that you highlight that, that issue of trust. And if I could wrap up with, with what my wish would be. I pray for a day when leaders emerge that
bring both their heart and their minds together to lead the people in the community from whether you’re leading in your house, whether you’re leading in your business or your church or your school, or you’re leading in government, look at the information that’s out there. Understand different points of view, formulate policies and communicate them to drive. But also listen with your heart and, and understand a different point of a, step out and there’s a couple of ways to do that. I’d love to see people in the community that have these traits step up and lead. Run for elected office. Get involved in, in, in community, take your talents that you have that made you successful in life and work and business and bring it to address some of these social justice, whether it’s around ageism, whether it’s around sexism, whether it’s around racism, take the talents that you have. And bring it to a higher cause where the whole community benefits. There are some leaders that might already be in place and they can go through that transition themselves and challenge themselves to learn and grow. I know that sounds broad and wide, but I think if individuals, look in themselves and make a choice to do this, it can transform communities where the things that are happening in Minneapolis. The thing that happened in Atlanta, it’s harder. It insulates us from that here because we are working together to arm the police with the right training tools, information so they can make good choices. And the residents to work with the police so that, they’re able to do their job effectively, yet people in the community can do something as simple as Jimmy did and just say, you know, kids, that’s not the right way to behave. That’s not acceptable. And maybe we should bring your parents into this conversation about how you’ve chosen to treat other people that are different and maybe bring them, bring them to some calming understanding or holding their own kids accountable. But I think it takes, I think leadership starts with building trust and the more we could do that in this community, the more we could avoid some of the challenges that other cities have been facing. So I want to thank you all. This was, this was brave for folks to step out and have this conversation. We would be having over dinner or over lunch or over coffee, and we’re doing it in a public way. And we encourage other people in their small groups, in church, in their, in their work groups, in their families, sit down, have these discussions, explore their hearts and their minds. And get involved, whether it’s challenging the leader for accountability. Whether it’s getting involved in the local school, your school or other schools that might need your talent. But I think we could all pull together and do something. I like that idea of this grassroot and let’s not wait for top down. Start at the grassroots. And folks like Keybo and others may start at the top down. Let’s meet in the middle somewhere. Thank you guys. Rico wrap up Peachtree Corners?
Rico: [01:08:28] I’d like to say that we had a lot of commentary by the way in the comments. So I want to say thank you to, to the people that showed up that put some great comments online during the discussion. TeKesha Wideman-Smith, if I’m pronouncing that right. Josiah Morgan, a bunch of people on here that, Mo Reilley that participated in commentary. So there was good stuff going on online while we were also discussing here. So I, I, I appreciate you guys coming out. This is a tough discussion to have, and, I’m glad that we had you on the first show. And having Keybo, you know, who I’ve interviewed before. I love Keybo. I hope you win your runoff that you’re in, right? Jimmy it’s good having you and Julie, thank you for coming on too. Karl it’s always a pleasure working with you on these podcasts.
Karl: [01:09:18] My pleasure. You taught me so much. So, you make me, got me out of my comfort. I am an introvert as well Jimmy. And, sometimes you got to step out of your comfort and do what your heart tells you is right. So look forward for more. We have more guests that are coming on and we invite citizens. If you’re, if you’re interested in being part of a discussion, please feel free to reach out to me, Karl Barham. You could find me on Facebook. You could post on Peachtree Corners Life, and, or, you can reach me at, KBarham@tworld.com and love to have a discussion and continue this and just show lead by example, we could have these discussions and try to make a change. Thanks.
Keybo: [01:10:00] Hey Karl, can I say one last thing? I don’t want to turn this into a political pitch, but I just want the people out there to know. I am running to be your next Sheriff of Gwinnett County. And if you believe in what I’m saying, please go out and vote for me and give me this opportunity to try to affect this change.
Karl: [01:10:20] Thank you. Good luck.
Keybo: [01:10:23] Thank you.
How will State Senate Candidate Matt Reeves Help Peachtree Corners
Republican State Senate District 48 candidate Matt Reeves joins host Rico Figliolini on Peachtree Corners Life podcast to discuss COVID-19, the Governor’s response, mask-wearing, social justice, police reforms, Black Lives Matters, kids going back to school, education funding, state ethics and why he’s running for the State Senate.
[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:02:16] – About Matt
[00:07:01] – Thoughts on COVID
[00:13:26] – Education Issues
[00:16:31] – Budget Cuts
[00:18:55] – Black Lives Matter, Immigrants, and Minorities
[00:26:55] – Police Force
[00:32:47] – Term Limits
[00:34:55] – Ethics in Government
[00:38:38] – Closing
Social Media: @MattReevesGA
“We all chose this area because of the strong schools, jobs, safe communities, good health care. And I want to make sure that all those quality of life pillars of our community are strong going forward.”Matt Reeves
Recorded socially safe online and in the City of Peachtree Corners, Georgia
Rico: [00:00:30] Hi everyone. This is Rico Figliolini host of Peachtree Corners Life. And, I appreciate you coming to the show. We’re doing this socially safe in the city of Peachtree Corners. And before we get to our guest, who’s on screen. Matt Reeves. Hey Matt, how are you?
Matt: [00:00:45] Hello.
Rico: [00:00:46] I’ll introduce him and go in to introduce himself. But first, before we get into that, I want to just talk about our lead sponsor, Hargray Fiber. They’re a Southeastern company that does fiber optics for the business community and for consumers. But the fiber side of it is delivering the type of speed and services necessary for small businesses and large businesses, enterprise businesses, to do their work in this teleworking environment, during the COVID-19. And hopefully, and providing services, unlike the cable companies. Really they’re right there community and they’re providing a lot of things in the community. They are very involved in every community they’re in, whether it’s Savannah, Peachtree Corners, Macon Georgia all over the Southeast, Tallahassee, Florida, they are there. So visit HargrayFiber.com or Hargray.com/business to find out how you can work your smart office and work with them. So now that we’ve done that, I want to tell you that we’re going to be discussing a lot of issues over the next 30 to 40 minutes with Republican State Senate candidate, Matt Reeves. We’re going to be discussing issues of the day; COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, state ethics, term limits, all sorts of things. We’re going to be going back and forth on this, but before we get into all that, I’d like to have Matt introduce himself and tell us why we should be listening to him as a candidate for State Senate.
Matt: [00:02:16] Thanks Rico and great to connect with folks in the audience from Peachtree Corners. Definitely want to be a great advocate for Peachtree Corners in Gwinnett County, in North Bolton, in the States Senate. My name is Matt Reeves. I’m a resident of Duluth for the last 17 years. So I live right next door in Gwinnett County. I have practiced law business and real estate litigation at Anderson St. Cornwall firm for about 17 years. I went to university of Georgia law school before that, and then Mercer undergrad to college before that. My wife Suzette and I, and our three kids who are eleventh grade, eighth grade and fifth grade. Live in the Duluth, we’re active in the community. And I just want to serve our community and keep the quality of life strong in Peachtree Corners, Duluth, Swanee, Lawrenceville, Johns Creek, part of Alpharetta, part of Norcross, for the next generation. We all chose this area because of the strong schools, jobs, safe communities, good health care. And I want to make sure that all those quality of life pillars of our community are strong going forward. The State Senate has 35 Republicans and 21 Democrats. I’m reaching out to independents, to centrist Democrats as well as Republicans, to be a good advocate for our community, because I believe I can get more done for Peachtree Corners in the State Senate on the Republican side of the aisle. I know there are a couple of issues, Rico that you’ve selected, but just, you know, one thing to know is, I spent some time at the Capitol years ago, was a lawyer for the house judiciary committee in 2008. I worked with Wendell Willer, who was the, one of the leaders on the new cities movement, which Peachtree corners benefited greatly from. Chairman Tom Rice was laying the
groundwork for the work in the legislature for Peachtree Corners as was Senator David Schaefer in 2008, when I was down there. Dunwoody was the city that was spearheaded during the session that I was down there. But, I got to see the early stages of Peachtree Corners. And over the last eight years, Peachtree Corners definitely has been a leader in our region, as a new city and I look forward to being an effective advocate and a bipartisan problem-solver on behalf of Peachtree Corners in the state Senate. And I hope to earn people’s support, in the community for this, competitive State Senate seat.
Rico: [00:04:32] Yeah, I’m glad you, you came on with me. I remember doing this from home. I think about two, two and a half years ago during the campaign in 2018, when you ran the first time. And that was, you know, during the, was it the blue wave, we shall say. Democrats coming into, house seats in positions. 2020 is a little different. You know, I don’t know if that, if that still will go on. So this is a proven, this is going to be a test, right. To some degree to see what the voters want. And so this is good way to be able to talk to you and, and see if, if your points of view is what the voters here want in 2020.
Matt: [00:05:12] And I, politics, and partisan politics, changes like the weather. I think what, folks in Peachtree Corners and Gwinnett County, what they ask is who can do the best job for them in this particular office. And, that’s what I’m focusing on in the States Senate race. Who can do the best job for Peachtree Corners in the State Senate seat for the benefit of our schools. The safety of our communities, transportation solutions, health care, the things that are important to us and make our communities strong. Who can be a better advocate in the State Senate. And, you know, David Shaffer was the president pro-tem of the Senate. He was number one out of 50 senators. The, the Democrat who won in 2018 got put on the agriculture committee, which is not exactly the kind of position Peachtree Corners wants to have down there in the Senate and then wait for higher office. And it’s an open seat again. So we get to make a choice about for the next two years, who can serve Peachtree Corners and tackle the issues that face our homeowners and, and, voters, families, and small businesses in Peachtree Corners and be a good advocate in this turbulent time where you’ve got, you know, COVID-19, you’ve got civil unrest. Who can lead the way and make sure Georgia remains number one in jobs, has increasing number of jobs with health insurance coverage. You know, there’s no government program any better for an adult then a job is. There’s no government program, any better for a child than a family is. I think state government ought to do a few things and do them well and keep a climate where we have, where we continue to be, attractive for employers and jobs so that, families can meet their, their needs and have their kids, getting educated and going to college and have a bright future in the job market. That’s my goal, in the State Senate.
Rico: [00:07:01] Yeah. And it’s interesting cause it’s, it is certainly a different look at it. More conservative, look at it. I do believe in personal responsibilities, but I also believe government is there to do certain things. Certainly I believe the federal government you’re spearheaded more than they have during the COVID-19 time. But you know, different points of views. And this is what this is about. An election in 2020, different than any other election in our history for a simple matter that lot of people may not be going to the polls in person, right? They’re going to
be mailed ballots. I mean, Georgia put out over 6 million absentee ballot requests forms, and over a million responded, more than any, you know, I think it was 10 to 12 times more than any other year in fact. So that may still happen November third. We may still end up doing that, seeing that happen because of COVID-19. So staying on the issue of COVID-19, do you think Governor Kemp has done the right job in, in, in the approach that he has done? Would you do anything different? Do you see the State Senate providing any other leadership in this from your point of view?
Matt: [00:08:09] Going forward, what, what I would do, as a State Senator is to make sure that the 95% or more of the population that has not directly encountered COVID, that they have their healthcare needs attended to without disruption. This has been an unexpected, invisible enemy that has attacked us. We’ve handled things on an urgent basis, but, it troubles me to see that a hundred percent of the resources in health care and in, you know, the government part of the government that deals with healthcare is devoted to COVID, when we got folks with diabetes, heart conditions, cancer, many other elective surgery. I talked to somebody this week who has had a thyroid procedure delayed since March, due to COVID issues. And I want to make sure that we definitely attack COVID to preserve lives and livelihoods, but also, make sure that healthcare needs for the other 95% of the population are attended to. And, you know, part of that is, making sure that we’re smart about how we open back up. You know, it sounds like right now, the thing that has gotten us up at the top in Gwinnett County, and then you look in Texas and Houston, we have a very, strong young population and, people like my mother-in-law and people, my age and older have heeded, the warnings. I’ve got my, I’ve got my UGA mask and you know, if I’m out in doors in public, I’ve got that mask on. My office has adopted a protocol from a local engineering firm that is working well here. We get the memo and the middle age and up here in Gwinnett County, but young people have, I think, too rapidly, disregarded social distancing and other health cautions for COVID. And also translating into multigenerational families, who, with English as a second language, I think that we need to do a better job of reaching out. Because both in Atlanta, as well as Houston and some other major Metro areas. Those are two areas, I heard Dr. Arona, the Gwinnett County and Rockdale and Newton health director, this, this week, mentioned that. That Wilburn and Norcross, the testing centers there, you see a lot of multigenerational families, with English as second language, getting hit hard by COVID. So we need to literally communicate in a credible and strong way, that’s easy to understand for our diverse population. I think that will turn the curve. You know, back in March and April the focus nationally and in Georgia was bending the curve. And we did that for a large portion of the population, but we are now a top 15 Metro area in the country. And Gwinnett County is leading Atlanta in cases because I think in large part of young people, as well as they…
Rico: [00:11:02] We’re a larger population. We’re a larger population too, right? The biggest County in the state. I mean, when I drive by CVS that’s right near here on certain days, there will be 15 cars wrapped around that building. So people doing the testing. We’re still some of the, some of the testing. It has to be referred testing it seems. So you have to be symptomatic to a degree. The doctor has to send you there. In some places you don’t have to be symptomatic.
Like Georgia Tech, Walgreens, I think will accept and do testing for you if you’re asymptomatic. You know, there’s that, but for a long time too, I know some of the cities that, it’s difficult to mandate a mask, I guess, right to some degree? Cause if you’ve mandated, you have to penalize it. If you’re not wearing it, right? Cause otherwise does that work or not? Now I’ve had the discussion with my son about this and he brings up a good point. He says, well, Yes. Sure. Do you cite people $50 or $75 for that ticket? Or does the governor mandate it and even if no one gets cited for it, right? There’s a different feel about being, saying that the mask is mandated and people will understand then maybe that they really do need to wear that mask. You know, so sometimes it’s perception, right? It’s the, the lens that you look through it. But we need to do something because it’s just not, I mean, I go out with the mask all the time, I guess I’m part of that demo.
Matt: [00:12:28] Well, and also COVID is an international crisis. And so not only do we have 50 States that we can learn healthcare and medical lessons from, but we have literally hundreds of countries who have approached the situation differently. And there are some success stories in Asia and other countries, South Korea, Japan. Also the US is one of the few countries that takes the summer off of school. And so, hitting in January and, and, ramping up and really reaching us in mass and March, now, and having six and seven months of experience internationally with COVID. I, you know, 95% of the parents locally want to get their kids back in school in person, but I think we can look around the world and see best practices on, getting kids and teachers safely returned to school.
Rico: [00:13:26] So what would, what would you do to do that? I know there’s a, you know, I have a 16 year old that wants, he wants to go back to school. He’s, he wants to be able to do an AP Calculus in person versus online, right? So there are kids that want to go back for social reasons also. How can we keep them safe then? Is there anything, how would your leadership change on that? You know, how do we put them back to school?
Matt: [00:13:51] Number one, I trust the locals. I think the local school boards and local school superintendents, can make decisions for the best interest of their teachers and students better than somebody in downtown Atlanta or Washington, DC can. And I think that North Fulton, which their biggest schools in North Fulton are, you know, 1,500 to 2,000 students. Where in Gwinnett we have the jumbo size high schools with closer to 3,000 or more students a lot of times. So every school system is different. I think that, we all listen closely to parents and, and in large numbers of students also, saying they want to get back in person. But there are some outliers where people want to do digital learning for health reasons or other reasons, or personal precaution reasons. So I think that we ought to give people choices whenever possible in this uncharted waters of COVID. But I think we need to do everything we can to get kids back to school safely, as well as teachers. And we need to look around the country. We need to look around the world about how other countries and other States have safely, had had, students returned to school. The toll on these young people’s education is high. And, we need to make sure that, the ground that was lost in March and April and May, that we make up for that and the kids don’t get behind. Because you know, there’s a digital divide in Gwinnett it’s discernible. A
lot of kids didn’t have the technology readily available when they got sent home, kids never logged in. Some of that is, support at home priority on education. Other, other, situation is it’s resources. But getting those kids’ attention back on their education is critical.
Rico: [00:15:33] So, so let me ask you this and then we’ll, and then I want to move on to another subject. But just to close this out a little bit, the budget, the state budget cut education. They cut a lot of things across the board, but it did cut education as part of it. Gwinnett County’s remaining, with its budget, I believe they’re not going to furlough people. They are mandating masks, so obviously they need to buy PPE stuff to be able to do that. Because some people may not have masks and some kids and families and stuff. They’re going to need those masks, right? So they’re mandating that for the Fall, if they actually open up. And they’re giving two choices, either you do online learning or you do in person learning. So it depends on how people want to choose that, or where they want to go. And if they can afford to do that. Like you said, people are going back to work to some degree, unless things get rolled back. So where do they send their kids while they working, right? Because the school works almost as a daycare in a way.
Matt: [00:16:31] Yeah.
Rico: [00:16:31] Kids in school during the time that adults are working and stuff. So, you know, the State cut that budget. I mean, would you have voted for that cut? Would you, what would you have done? How would you have affected that? How would you want to help school systems throughout the state because Gwinnett County is one that probably can afford to do some of this stuff, but there are other counties and other parts that might not be to do that same thing. So how would you, how would a Matt Reeves position be on some or something like that?
Matt: [00:17:02] Rico when times are tough and the revenue decreases in state government, it becomes all the more critical to have a strong advocate for your area down in the State Senate, because I was there in 2008 when revenue started to decline, as the great recession hit. And I saw what happens when you have limited resources, the ones who were effective advocates for their districts, or the areas of Georgia that are looked after well, at that point, that was towards the tail end of Governor Perdue’s time in office. So folks in middle Georgia, were well looked after. That’s where, Larry O’Neil was chairman of ways and means. He was literally Governor Perdue’s lawyer back, back home on personal matters. And so, in a competitive political landscape where we have, very strongly held feelings on national issues. I would ask folks in Peachtree Corners in Gwinnett County and North Fulton for this critical State Senate seat ask who can help our area the best in the State Senate, where it’s 35 Republicans, 21 Democrats. I want education money at a time when times are tough financially to go to Gwinnett County schools. If we have somebody who’s on the short end of a 35 to 21 vote, you’re going to have funds go to Cobb County, Forsyth County, Cherokee County, where folks are in the majority. I want to be a strong and effective advocate for North Fulton schools and Gwinnett schools in the State Senate. When, you know, there’s a saying, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the table. And, you know, we’re talking a lot about healthcare and, and, I want to be in the position of
getting resources and decisions and public policy made in favor of our Gwinnett and North Fulton schools, rather than having others make those decisions for the benefit of their own districts elsewhere.
Rico: [00:18:55] How do you, so, so let’s, and I appreciate that. And I think that the citizens of Peachtree Corners appreciates that point of view. They want their representatives to, you know, think big, broad, but they’re also local, right? Because we all, that’s why we have a representative there to be able to talk local and be able to help a city like ours or the area that you represent, Swanee and the other areas as well. But let’s change directions a little bit. Let’s talk about the other news because 2020 is just unusual for all sorts of reasons. So COVID-19 is one, but also the social unrest. Black lives matter, the, whole social justice, police violence against black community, people of black and brown color. It’s just been a tough situation, it’s been also a tough situation to speak honestly, a little bit about these things, because sometimes people can get shut down on both sides of it. Rather than being, allowed to be transparent and talk about issues, because it’s a sensitive issue. And, so I know people are out there saying, well, some people shouldn’t even talk about this issue because maybe they don’t have a, an experience in it. But I think we all need to talk about it right, culturally and for a variety of reasons. How do you feel about this issue? Where would, you know, what do you think the state Senate should do? What do you think your position on, on this should be? And where are you on the speed?
Matt: [00:20:24] Well, I learned a lot and I listened in the peaceful protest in Duluth. My wife Suzette and I went to that along with friends from a group of, city ministry team friends that we had through Perimeter church. There’s a group of pastors in Duluth called the Unite Churches, which is a culturally diverse group of pastors, African American, Asian, Latino, perimeter church, which is, you know, a growingly diverse church, but a lot of Caucasian people, there. But, we went to that peaceful protest, listened and learned a lot, and cared and expressed attention and concern, with this issue. Obviously what happened with George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, and others, it’s wrong. It’s tragic. It showed us that sometimes you can have a fatal and, and murder, actions by folks who wear a uniform. You know, the bill of rights, going back to our founding documents, half of the bill of rights dealt with the criminal justice and keeping government in check and serving the people. 99% of folks with a badge and law enforcement are good people who are serving the public. But there’s always a danger of disastrous consequences of folks in, in, with government power abusing that, particularly, with minorities and other people who are, you know, are helpless, and in custody and, you know, can’t breathe. And so, that hurts my heart. It’s something I want to do something about, but I would like to acknowledge the fact that Georgia has been a leader in what people are asking for now, criminal justice reform. Over the last decade, Georgia has been a leader in the nation in that area. We have, put a priority on getting people rehabilitated and back into the workforce and not having a Scarlet letter for life if you make a mistake. We’ve, we’ve said in Georgia, we want to get people off of drugs and out of a life of crime, and we want to get people educated and employed. I think that’s a good thing. And, you know, we don’t want to warehouse people in jail and throw away the key. We want to get people rehabilitated. Now, folks, who’ve made a decision to live a life of armed robbery and
home invasion, and rape and murder and gun crimes. Yeah, they need to be locked up . But yeah, there are many, first time offenders, sadly people who’ve come, back and are young veterans who, you know, were suffering from a disruption in their life. We have a veterans court in Gwinnett, as a result of that criminal justice reform that we’re helping young veterans who’ve come back and kind of lost their way in addiction and, and other pain, and made some bad choices. So DUI court, veterans court, mental health court, intervention in a way that turns around, people. That’s been, something that’s been good, you know Georgia started as a debtor’s colony. We’ve always believed in a second chance and I think we need to realize our…
Rico: [00:23:19] Also Georgia has a lot of history and other things as well.
Matt: [00:23:24] Well, Martin Luther King. Martin Luther King is from here, the black community and the Christian community in Georgia produced Martin Luther King. And so Georgia has some very special things. We’re now a leader in population and economy. We need to step up to the plate and lead the way in the country on criminal justice reform and other things.
Rico: [00:23:44] So what would you? So then Matt I, listen, I come from New York. So moving down here in ’95, South of the Mason Dixon line, if you will. It’s an old term right, now most people won’t know that I guess. But you know, it is different. If I go out into, and good people, I’m not saying bad people, good people, good ways. But there’s certainly different points of views depending where you go in the state. So not everything is, as good as, as it needs to be, right? That’s all be honest about that.
Matt: [00:24:13] Right, and Rico, let me say on that, my metric, whether you’re in Americus Georgia, or Albany Georgia, or Macon, or here in Gwinnett County. I think every black parent and grandparent, they want their young people to have a diploma, to have career opportunities, to have money in the bank, to be treated fairly. Those are things I think that we can agree on across racial lines, and make sure that the American dream is alive and well in Georgia. But my metric is those. Let’s get our young people educated, have bright employment opportunity, and make sure that they have access to the American dream and they’re not barriers there. Look around Atlanta, we even have more community banks with black entrepreneurs leading the way and, and, if you look at Metro city bank at Verse Intercontinental bank you have some Asian and Indian banks, we even got a Chinese, a new bank and John’s Creek. We need to have a black…
Rico: [00:25:11] There’s Loyal Trust Bank, yeah.
Matt: [00:25:12] That’s right.
Rico: [00:25:13] Yeah. And I, and I agree with you. I mean, I think economically anyone that moves up into the middle class is always better. Because any, any group group of people that do that. I mean, it goes back, I could go back to, you know, we could do the history lesson or go back to the Irish, to Germany, the Italian. Go back to the Asians that came to this country from a
variety of countries, whether it was Laos, Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam. And how a lot of them moved up the ladder. The Latinos that came here that, hard workers, all of them. It seems to be immigrants are always hard workers. There’s a reason why they took the danger and the things to be able to come here because they want to succeed. So there’s a lot to be said about that, right?
Matt: [00:25:58] Here’s, here’s a good example about immigrants. The pharmacy in the neighborhood where that Wendy’s was where the shooting and then the ensuing civil unrest happened, the pharmacy in that neighborhood was started by an immigrant gentlemen from Swanee who invested his life work and life savings down there in that neighborhood, which is near where the brave stadium was where Georgia state has taken over. He had some confidence on that neighborhood, but there are a lot of senior citizens there who are homebound, they deliver a lot of those prescriptions, those senior citizens in need. There are schools there. It is tragic to have all hell breaking loose in that neighborhood that was on the upswing and revitalizing. That has a lot of people who’ve lived there their whole life, and now they’re senior citizens. You’ve got kids in school, George Washington Carver is the high school there. We need to restore safety to communities, ASAP.
Rico: [00:26:55] So then what would you do, Matt? As far as, and then let’s, let’s move on to some other issues too, but just to, because it’s, it’s the thing that’s out there. What would you do to reform police? What would be legislation that would be out there? You know, there’s the, there’s several proposals out there as far as, stopping choke holds and, and, limiting liability so that people can sue the police and stuff like that. What would you do? What would be the specific reforms that you’d like to see go in?
Matt: [00:27:24] Well, I would get to the basics first. I think that the, examining police training and make sure that the new officers who are coming in the Police Academy are getting best management practices of being effective law enforcement and also not having unnecessary escalation. I think that, community policing works. So I think having a recruitment effort of letting middle school and high school students in Clayton County and Dekalb County and Fulton County inside the perimeter know that you have a bright future, both on your, your education as well as employment. If you want to devote your career to being in law enforcement in your own community and making things better in your own community, everybody wants free college. You can go to technical school, do criminal justice there, or get a two year degree for a very low cost and then go to a four year college in Georgia for criminal justice, again at very low costs. And then graduate and be a community police officer in Atlanta and have a bright future. And I think letting kids know that in Georgia, we respect law enforcement and that we support law enforcement and young people in our diverse, young generation have a bright future in law enforcement and we ought to be on the same side. So I think the police training, recruitment. Also little things like, Bruce Lavelle reminded me of the CIB community improvement district. They had an idea about cops, cops in the neighborhood program where housing is an issue. You mentioned the salary of police officers, as we were talking earlier is low. And that pushes a lot of police officers to go moonlight in second or third jobs, which stresses them out when
they’re back on the job as a police officer. Housing, if we can get some affordable housing for law enforcement officers to live in the communities that they police and, be integral parts of the community. Many are already, but housing costs in Atlanta has really sort of disrupted. I, as I’m out in neighborhoods across the 48 Senate District, I see police cars for multiple jurisdictions. And if we could, make sure that, the law enforcement officers are in the community and visible and tied in with their own community where they’re policing. I think that’ll help a lot. But more than anything else, I think we need to have the message that America is a republic and a democracy. Things don’t work in America for people to be out of work and out of school. We need to get things back where our kids are learning and our businesses are functioning fully because bad things are happening. Some of them we needed to address. But when I, you mentioned, your background in New York, I was very disturbed to see what’s happening in New York this week, in terms of violence, gratuitous violence. That is not helping anything for people to be hitting police officers over the head with bats. And, and it raises the question, who’s giving out those bats? I’ve seen some pictures of people dropping pallets off of bricks during a protest.
Rico: [00:30:23] I don’t know about that part of it. Yeah, I mean, there’s all sorts of things on the web and stuff and social media that, are they real are they not. I mean, it’s just, it’s a variety of things. And I’m not saying, you know, violence, even if, if, if a group is angry because of what’s going on, there is no reason in the world. I don’t care. There’s no reason to throw a Molotov cocktail into an empty police car. There’s no reason to be burning a Wendy’s down. There’s just no reason for any of that violence. It’s just, it, it doesn’t help the cause. And it changes, it does change the narrative and to a bad way, right? Because everyone says, Oh, that changes the narrative when you discuss that. You don’t what, it has to be discussed because it’s wrong. How do we teach our kids? I teach my kids right and wrong. Now, you know, I don’t know about other people, but if it’s wrong to throw a Molotov cocktail into a car, it’s wrong. You just don’t drive by and throw one in there. Even if it’s empty. It’s just like, I can never understand that. But, I agree with you. I mean, we have to, it’s a cultural thing too, and we have to really observe all of that and really come, at least move down the road a little bit right? Everything you’ve said, it makes sense to, you know, to that. And we do need to way change the way some of the police are trained I guess. Let’s move on to some other issues we are getting towards the end of our time together. So I do want to make sure we hit a few things.
Matt: [00:31:52] Sure. And Rico, let me just say, Gwinnett schools. Gwinnett police that’s who polices Peachtree Corners? Gwinnett Police, Gwinnett Police, I’ve done ride alongs through leadership Gwinnett and pay attention to what’s going on in my local. Who’s gonna fight for the budget gaps that are needed when, we need funding as well as public policy changes, for Gwinnett Police and, and for our local police departments. I want to be an effective advocate. That’s the stakes in the State Senate race. Who can go down there and get things done for our local law enforcement, our local schools, transportation solutions, healthcare. Washington is not going to solve our healthcare. We can’t just punt and say Medicaid is going to take it over. We need to make sure that we have jobs and insurance and good health care networks here in Georgia. No one’s gonna do it for us. We’ve got to go, send an advocate from our community down there to get good things done on those basic needs.
Rico: [00:32:47] Okay. Good to hear. The other issues you’ve been talking about, I think on the campaign trail has been, nonpartisan, County officer’s nonpartisan term limits. Do you think State Senate should be term limited?
Matt: [00:33:02] Yes. I think if you can’t go get good things done in eight years, pass the baton to somebody else who could do it. Now, when you get elected, I think you oughta serve out your term, and, you know, not be looking at some other higher office. You need to be focused on doing a good job in a short amount of time and then go live under the laws that you make. That’s the principle of having nonpartisan and term limited elections. All of the cities in the 48 Senate district have nonpartisan municipal elections and it works great. Gwinnett County, we now have a multi billion dollar County budget, a multibillion dollar school budget, and of course in Fulton County, they have an equally large school and County budget. Their population is over a million we’re right at a million in Gwinnett. I think having more people having a seat at the table with this high population and budget is a good thing. I think, having citizen legislators and not partisan career politicians, I think that would be a good improvement. Our cities are already doing it and let’s pass it on to our counties. Now this is not a new issue for me. I’ve been an advocate for this in the past, I was the Republican party lawyer, as well as, the Gwinnett County bar association president. And I got called upon, from having served in those two roles to advocate for the master court and the probate court, in Gwinnett to go nonpartisan, six or seven years ago, representative Chuck F Thracian, was a leader in that initiative. Those offices went nonpartisan years ago. I got to go to the bill signing. I’ve got the, the bill signing pen from Governor Deal and those nonpartisan offices have worked well since then, as well as our cities being nonpartisan. And listen, I’m a bipartisan problem solver. I’m a fiscal conservative and, and proud to be a Republican, but I want to reach out to Democrats and Independents and get some good public policy that will serve our community in our state. That’s what I’m all about.
Rico: [00:34:55] Cool. The, let’s get back, okay. And by the way, if anyone notices, there has been some interruption of our Facebook live stream, so you’ll get this full version, after, after the show. So what, you know, let’s. Let’s talk a bit about, you know, term limits is one thing. Yes, we want to make sure that, we have new, new, fresh people in place instead of someone in there 20 years, let’s say. Cause that’s having people in a position too long. There’s something to be said about experience, but there’s also something to be said about, the power structure. When you have people in place for 20 or 30 years in the same seat, right. It becomes a bit of a, contrary to growth if you will. But ethics, ethics is the other issue, that you discuss. Ethics is very tough issue. It’s tough to be self regulated. It’s tough for a body, a State Senator, a state house to have their own ethics committee. And they’re going to self regulate themselves. That’s a bit of an issue. I don’t know how well that can be done. And it seems like it almost never can be done well, I’ve never seen it yet that way. How, how do you think you can do it differently?
Matt: [00:36:06] Sure. And I put this in there just to let folks know in the Senate district, that I think that, state government and the State Senate ought to serve the people and that ought to be the focus and we ought to have transparency in government. And, we need to have, you
know, a vibrant system where everybody knows what’s going on at the Capitol. Now, the state ethics commissioner is across the street from the Capitol, the house and Senate have their own ethics committees. But what I’m talking about is the state ethics commission, I want to make sure they have the resources and the infrastructure to handle their matters promptly. There was just so much, so much turnover over the course of a decade in that office. So we’ve now got a good former prosecutor in there. We’ve got some great lawyers and personnel in the office, and I want to make sure that they can process their cases efficiently. Just like a good district attorney’s office would. You look at Danny Porter and how well he runs things in Gwinnett. And I, I, I don’t think that their focus should be prosecuting people, but I think that they, they should have a good efficient system where they process their cases from beginning to end a lot more quickly and efficiently. And there’s a procedure to weed out the overtly political matters that get opened up versus ones where there’s an actual problem with disclosure and transparency. I’ve raised my money locally from people primarily in the Senate district, or sometimes at the Senate district. I look at races around Metro Atlanta, and you have this flood of outside money coming in and you don’t really know where it’s coming from or why it’s, you know, being spent here in Georgia. But I want to make sure that the State Senate has its focus on serving the people in their districts and there’s transparency and ethics in government public service and citizen, legislators. That’s what we need down there at the Capitol and transparency and I believe strongly in that. My dad retired a couple years ago from being a DA in the Southwestern circuit. I worked at the DA’s office in law school. I drove up to Madison County every Friday in my last year in law school and did prosecution there so I’m familiar with that whole process of how a prosecutor’s office works. And although they’re not, I don’t want them to be criminal, I do want them to have the resources, the personnel, the procedures in place to be efficient and effective and make sure that we match up with our population. Georgia is going to be almost a top five state after the census. We’ve been number one in jobs. We’re almost the top five state. We need to overhaul everything in state government and make sure that we’re delivering that kind of excellence to our citizens.
Rico: [00:38:38] Excellent. We are at the end of our time together. So usually what I do, Matt and we’ve done this before, is that I’ll have the candidate ask for the vote. So you have about two minutes. Give us why Matt Reeves should be the State Senate rep for district 48.
Matt: [00:38:58] Peachtree Corners, you are blessed to have some great elected officials. Mayor Mason, the city council, first lady mrs. Mayor, Debbie Mason, Mary Kay Murphy school board representative, Ben Coux, formally, Linette Howard. You’ve got a great bunch of local elected officials. I want to, augment that excellence down at the State Capitol and effectively be an advocate for Peachtree Corners down there. Bi-partisan problem solving, you look at the Simpsonwood matter where I represented the church. I worked closely with UPCCA that’s how I met Scott Hilton years ago. I worked with the elected officials at the city and the County went to probate court, superior court, appellate court. But problem solved along the way in a way that, that property is now a park rather than not a controversy that worries everybody. So, that’s a good example of what I’ve done out here and the history of the last 17 years as a business and real estate litigation lawyer. And I’ve also cared about the community. I’ve been actively involved
in things like the Duluth parks board, the Gwinnett County education, SPLOST renewal campaign, rotary and other civic matters. I care about the future of our community, just like you do. I want to be an effective advocate for Peachtree Corners, Berkeley Lake, Duluth, and other communities down in the State Senate. I’d be honored to earn your support. Matt Reeves for Senate is my website. Matt Reeves for State Senate on Facebook and, @MattReevesGA on Twitter. Let me hear from you (770) 236-9768 is my number. Call me anytime. I’d love to get to hear about you and your perspective on how Peachtree Corners can be an excellent community through advocacy in the state Senate over the next two years. Thank you.
Rico: [00:40:40] Excellent, Matt. Thank you. I appreciate you coming on. Stay with me while we log off, but everyone, thank you for listening in. Matt Reeves candidate, Republican candidate for State Senate district 48. That represents, that represent Peachtree corners among other cities within that State Senate district. So that’s coming up, November 3rd is the election. There’s early voting. That’s going to be happening obviously for that, I believe
Matt: [00:41:03] October 12th
Rico: [00:41:05] October 12th.
Matt: [00:41:06] That’s early voting
Rico: [00:41:08] Well, okay. Right. The election if you deemed to go in the, November third is, is the it’s but yeah. October 12th. So check out the, go to, you know, make sure you, you’re actually, can people register to vote yet?
Matt: [00:41:23] Absolutely. Gwinnett County board of elections, as well as secretary of state, if you’ve moved or you’re new, get registered now. Make sure there’s no surprises as you get close to the election and be prepared to either absentee vote, early vote, starting October 12th or vote in person November the third.
Rico: [00:41:43] Excellent. Thanks, Matt. I appreciate you being with us. Thank you everyone
Matt: [00:41:46] Thank you for your time.
Moreno Aguiari on Preserving History and Fulfilling a Passion
Moreno Aguiari is looking to preserve some history and along the way maybe establish the Atlanta Air & Space Museum.
On this episode of Peachtree Corners Life podcast, Rico Figliolini talks with Moreno Aguiari, founder of the Inspire Aviation Foundation. Listen as Moreno shares the upcoming plans to build an immersive and educational Air and Space Museum in the Peachtree-DeKalb airport, along with his wonderful stories of the history of Georgian aviation.
Inspire Aviation Foundation: https://www.facebook.com/InspireAviationFoundation/
Warbird Digest: https://warbirddigest.com/
Recorded socially safe online and in the City of Peachtree Corners, Georgia
[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:01:24] – About Moreno and the Foundation
[00:08:00] – Putting the Museum in PDK
[00:10:54] – Inspiring the Next Generation
[00:19:50] – Digitizing Historic Pictures
[00:27:09] – Warbird Digest
[00:32:03] – Closing
“The goal is very simple… We would like to get a little Johnny [and Jane] who, you know, loves airplanes or he doesn’t know anything about airplanes and he comes to our doors, gets inspired and then, you know, he becomes the next Mars explorer.”Moreno Aguiari
Rico: [00:00:30] Hi everyone. This is Rico Figliolini host of Peachtree Corners Life. I apologize for the interruption of the broadcast that we just, had. I don’t know if that has to do with the local thunderstorm that’s going on in the connections that we have today, through Comcast, believe it or not. So we won’t get there, but, but let’s, let’s start. Well, we’re not going to start over again. The, the feed is there. So we’re just going to pick up from where we were actually, with our introductions of, let me just give an introduction again to Moreno Aguiari, who is, founder of foundation, Inspired Aviation Foundation. He’s moved here 20 years ago from Milan Italy and has found a passion in flying certainly in the World War II veterans, even, area. So, why don’t you let’s start with you telling us a little bit more again about yourself, not to repeat things, but give us a little bit more explanation.
Moreno: [00:01:24] As Rico was mentioning I came to the US to become a pilot. And then the goal was to go back in Italy and things didn’t go as planned. I’ve been here for 20 years now and, as far as my passion for aviation, it comes from both my uncle and my dad who were in the Air Force. And my passion for World War II came from, you know, talking to my both of my grandfathers, who both fought in World War II and always been a history buff in general. And obviously combining World War II aviation and my passion for history, naturally I fell into following a research in World War II aviation. Although I really like any, any, any era of aviation, but World War II, it’s very, very fascinating as a lot of great stories and we are still able to meet veterans for World War II. So, you were asking me about the NAS Atlanta archives, but the NAS Atlanta archives are a project of Inspire Aviation Foundation. So you don’t mind allow me to explain what Inspired Aviation Foundation is? Essentially, we are a five, 501c3 nonprofit, dedicated to the goal of bringing up a world-class air and space museum and educational campus at the Peachtree-DeKalb airport or as we call it PDK, you know, not that far from here. So we set up this foundation to, you know, to essentially build an aerospace museum and an educational camp at PDK. Because of COVID-19 things obviously slowed down a little bit, so we, we wanted to act quick in order to not, avoid to go unnoticed and to keep the momentum going. So, I had a previous relationship with this group called NAS Atlanta Union, which is a group of, veterans who served at NAS Atlanta. NAS Atlanta for some of your listeners, might know or might not know. We know the last base being in Marietta at Dobbins air force base that’s the last location. NAS Atlanta, which I believe was closed down in 2009, but NAS Atlanta started here at PDK Peachtree-Dekalb airport, 1941. Essentially, NAS of PDK was a NAS Atlanta Naval air station training pilots, essentially to go to combat. And, this group has been meeting, essentially this veteran group has been meeting since 1960 and has been collecting artifacts, photos, log books, newspapers, all kinds of material from 1960, you know, until recent years. And, it was about five years ago that I met, I met a gentleman named Will Tate. I organized an event called The Atlanta Warbird Weekend at PDK, it was held in September. We brought in a bunch of World War II airplanes for rides to the public and we had an educational programs, educational displays. And these gentlemen came up to me and, and we had an airplane called Corsair, with the bent wings and there was a famous TV show called Baa Baa Black Sheep back in the days.
Rico: [00:04:39] Right.
Moreno: [00:04:41] And he goes, you know, this airplane was based here at, in Chamblee, 1960. I said really Sir, how did you know? And he goes, well, you know, I grew up here in Chamblee. I was a kid, that was jumping the fence and was going to play with the airplane. So when I was a little younger than, my son was next to me, little younger than your son. So we started talking, we went back and forth and found out, he was the president of th NAS Altanta the union group. We became good friends. And he lives in Pensacola we went back and forth until essentially he knew, I told him about the museum, the goal of the museum. And, until, you know, these guys are getting very old. They don’t have the energy really to do those reunions again. So I help them out put up a reunion, three years ago. And I’m actually going to help them again this year. And in return they asked, essentially asked me, look, we are getting old, we’re getting tired. We need, we want this history of NAS Atlanta to continue. Would you guys be interested in taking over the archives? And for me it was like, absolutely. I mean, this is great. So essentially, they donated the archives to the foundation. And as obviously as part of the museum, our job is to preserve history in the best ways as possible. All these pictures were essentially, they are 70, 75 years old. Things like the original drawings, of the blueprint of the base. It’s paper and obviously very fragile. So what we did in order to start moving the first steps towards our educational mission with the foundation and the museum, we decided to start a small fund raising campaign to preserve the archives. And we do that, because all of these photos are paper, paper and printed material and they’re a very large format. We decided to essentially hire a photographer with a high resolution camera and he essentially photographed all the archives with a vertical, he’s got a beautiful vertical rig. That camera is mounted vertically. And shots picture at, 74, 80, megabyte, or, or gigabyte resolution. I mean, huge files. So the goal is to preserve the archives digitally, but then the digital material will be turned into an exhibit. Once we have the museum built. And, we stopped about a month ago and I was very surprised with the positive feedback. We were able to reach our fundraising goal. And, in fact, the photos now are digitized and next week I’m going to pick them up and organize them again. So the next step would be, possibly creating a book, with, with this, this material. A book about NAS Atlanta. And the other interesting fact of Peachtree-Dekalb airport before World War II, it used to be, World War I it used to be called Camp Corbyn. So, soldiers who fought in World War I trained in PDK. So there is a lot of history in Chamblee and PDK in particular. So, yes.
Rico: [00:08:00] So that sounds like that’d be a great place for the museum actually.
Moreno: [00:08:04] Yeah. Yeah. I mean, the museum is set to be on a runway 27, which is now not open, it’s been closed for about 10 years. And so we already have the land. We already have, you know, we know where it’s going to be, which is, that was the most important thing. Making sure to have a land to build a museum because you can have the best project, a great, best ideas, but if you don’t have a place to put it, it’s never going to happen. The good thing is that the airport director Mario Evans. He’s a, one of our board of directors. He loves the idea. He has a vision for PDK to be more than just an airport, more than just a place for people to really land and take off with airplanes, and the museum fits in his master plan, really creating a place for economic development and for the community. So the museum fits perfectly.
Rico: [00:08:54] Yeah. I personally liked the idea of having a, air and space museum. I mean, because it’s not just airplanes then, right? I mean, is the mission to also handle anything that flies?
Moreno: [00:09:05] Absolutely. Absolutely. We want to tell the story of, you know flying, flight from you know, the Wright Brothers. It happens that at PDK, we have a company, the company I worked for actually, and Ben T Epps was the first man who flew in, in Georgia. So, and there is actually a replica of his plane in the hangar where I, where we work. So it happens that Mr. Epps, his son is still alive and big supporter of, of the museum, he’s 86 years old. And his father was the first man who flew in Georgia. So there is a lot of history, definitely at PDK. So it’s, and it’s centrally located. you know, the, the goal is really to build an experience with visitors, that is as dynamic and inspirational in the fields of aviation and space travel. So, we are not envisioning, I guess your old school aviation museum, where you have your airplane and a sign. Read the sign. This is an F16 or whatever. That’s, that’s not, that’s not, making that sound inspirational. So we’re really, we’re really thinking outside the box here. We are talking to Disney Imagineers. Disney imagineers are actually, those guys who build the theme parks for Disney. So we really want to provide an experience that, that goes beyond your box full of airplanes and yes.
Rico: [00:10:30] Yeah, I’m, I’m, I’m personally excited by it. I’m a, I’m a SpaceX Elon Musk fan. Most people don’t even know that in the state of Georgia, we have a spaceport in Camden County, on the coast. And they’re trying to be, and I don’t know if, if it was Bizos or one of these private companies actually, has leased out that spaceport, I think for part of it.
Moreno: [00:10:54] Well, you know, one thing that people don’t know that Georgia is number one state in business for, has been the number one state in business for the past five years, but it’s number three in aerospace. So people think of, we have Delta, we have UPS. Absolutely. But Georgia is a big player in the aerospace industry, which includes general aviation space and everything else. So our state is definitely a big player in, in aerospace. So that’s, that’s why, you know, we think that what we are going to do, will make, will make a difference and an impact too. The goal, is very simple Rico. We, we would like to get a little Johnny who’s, you know, loves airplanes or, or he doesn’t know anything about airplanes and he comes to our doors, gets inspired and then, you know, he becomes the next Mars explorer. And that’s why we are, you know, the project title, it’s Atlanta Air and Space museum, which might change to Georgia Air and Space museum, but there is another important component attached to it, which is the educational campus. In fact when we mean educational, we are not just meaning, come to the museum we’ll tell you a story about an airplane. Absolutely. They’re really talking about tangible education. In fact, the, DeKalb County school district is our partner and we are developing a master plan of classrooms within the museum premises. So students can come in and learn the STEM subjects related to aviation. And we are starting, going back to what I was saying earlier that we don’t want to really lose the momentum because of COVID, that we want to be acting now, well we have developing with DeKalb County, a syllabus for K-12 grades, based on STEM
aviation. And hopefully everything goes well, we’re going to deploy it with the next school year, whatever happens to it, obviously it’s going to be all digital. So we, we didn’t plan for that. So we are actually now kind of adjusting as well, but the point is that, yes, it’s an aerospace museum, but we really want to focus on the educational side of things. And not just saying education because it sounds good. But because we want to really bring these little Johnny to the museum as a little child and, you know, with the partnership with DeKalb County school district and hopefully Georgia Tech. We’re going to accompany this little Johnny museum, high school, college. And we’re already talking to companies that are interested in having an RD facility, research and development facility within our campus. So all of a sudden than you have, you know, a path. You know, you go from the museum all the way to hopefully get into the job market because of our work and our influence of being around our facility.
Rico: [00:13:44] And I know that you’re not doing it on purpose, but we want to make sure that people understand. It’s obviously not only John, but Jane.
Moreno: [00:13:54] Oh absolutely, yeah.
Rico: [00:13:55] We’re talking about women in coding, we’re talking about, the history that, the history of women in NASA that have done terrific work. So being able to, to put that enthusiasm out there, especially in a time like now, when people can learn online. Where there are apps, where there’s virtual reality, VR systems that can be used to a degree right? My kids fly, you know, they’re playing games like War Thunder on Steam or on a PC. And it’s literally what you will see on a dashboard of a plane and you’re literally doing the same thing. So…
Moreno: [00:14:31] No you’re right, it’s Jim and Jane, absolutely no question about it. And, in fact, one of our board members, she’s, you know, I’m a fan of, of this woman because she’s super, really. She’s a pilot. Used to be a transport plane. She flies, at Dobbins. She used to be a, 130 mechanic then started working for Vail as a mechanic, decided to become a pilot. And now she’s flying C130s. She’s a math teacher and she has a degree in aerospace and she just applied for the NASA astronaut program. And she’s, I think she’s a 37, Latesa and she, so absolutely it’s not only James, it’s Jane as well. And I have two daughters, so I hope that what I’m doing will in a way, influence them as well.
Rico: [00:15:25] Sure. How old are your kids?
Moreno: [00:15:27] I have a 11, Rebecca is 11 will be 12 in November. Jada is eight will be nine in September. Our little guy. Morgan will be six tomorrow, in fact.
Rico: [00:15:41] Wow. Alright, cool. Three kids. That’s right. I have three kids also. They’re all 16 and above actually. So, but a great, great age, great time to be inspired to get inspiration, right? Because they’re all learning what they want to become at some point. It’s still young, right. But it’s good to be inspired by the right people. And sometimes it’s a matter of showing and experiencing rather than telling.
Moreno: [00:16:06] Yes, there’s no question about it that, you know, by, by living an experience, you learn more. And this idea comes from an experience I had about eight, nine years ago. I went to, I was in California and I was visiting the mecca of World War II aviation called Planes of Fame in Chino, California. And I met a friend of mine with kids, I guess like your age kids, 14, 15, two boys. And we walk inside the museum and I was in awe. I mean, World War II planes, I always wanted to see. They actually are flying, so it’s even better. And after 10 minutes I heard these two kids telling their dad, this is boring, nothing moves. You know, they’re only, there are just signs, there’s nothing interactive. I said, what are you talking about kids, this is awesome. And then of course, it’s different generations. Now you’ve got to immerse them. But even for us adults, if you think about it, cognitive process works the same at different speeds, depending on the age. But the process is the same. So if we are immersed into an experience, you really learn it at a different, different level. So that’s really what we’re trying to do. And that’s why I mentioned the Disney Imagineers, because when you go to Disney, you have an experience. So the way we envision the museum is yes, we want to have airplanes, but we are not going to focus necessarily or we need that specific airplane because it broke the war break or blah, blah, blah. We want to be able to use that airplane to tell a story and to bring an experience, an immersive experience. So, I mean, they’re not going to be the old school box of airplanes.
Rico: [00:17:47] Well, this is, like I said, it’s an exciting time because you have the ability to do that in a very interactive way. I mean, virtual reality allows for that, where you can actually, instead of you know, building something that has to stay that way for 10 years before you do another buildout or something, you actually can adjust and do things on a quicker basis right. And give an experience a little different. You know, exhibition museum stuff, you know, it’s, it’s an interesting, proposition because you know, kids, kids are interested at a different level like you said. They want that interactiveness. Whereas adults like you and me maybe, we’re cool with seeing the airplanes hanging or maybe flying or, you know, whatever, it might be a little different. Although I got to tell you, watching my son play War Thunder on the PC big screen in front of me. And I’m like, man, can I sit down and do that too? He’s like, no, no, get away from me. But you know.
Moreno: [00:18:43] I think also for us adults Rico, you never know when you’re going to fall in love with a new passion, you know. So we definitely, definitely, we want the kids, we are, are building this for the younger generation of the kids, but we also want the adults that, you know, had a dream of flying or had a dream of being around airplanes. But because of life, work, whatever happened was never able to get around it. So, you know that’s the beauty of flying. It’s really, a really passionate thing. And some people have it since the beginnings since young children, or young child like me and people, other people discover it later in life. So that’s why we think that really what we are trying to build here that really will allow to, attract and inspire different generations.
Rico: [00:19:36] I think that’s exciting, but obviously the first step, so the baby steps, right? So the first step is to take care of the NSA archives that you have. And you need some money to be able to preserve that and take care of that.
Moreno: [00:19:50] We did. We did. And, again, that’s something that we had, we had there, but because of COVID we had to, we were really preparing to, put together a, feasibility fundraising campaign starting really to get out in the public. But obviously this climate right now, it’s not ideal. So we said, look, we have the archives. What if we do something with it. And we all, I always deep inside, I always knew that I wanted to digitize them and I called to the board, and I, you know, convinced them to, let me try this campaign and sure enough, it was well received. We had a couple of articles in the media and the donations came in and everyone told me, Oh, nobody is going to give you money. It’s tough times. Actually, we reached more than, we raised more than what we expected because I think people understand what we’re trying to do. So people might not have, you know, money for, for, you know, silly things. But I think they still have money to donate for important things. And then these archives are really, really awesome. And you really the, I know you have some pictures, so if you want, we can.
Rico: [00:20:58] As we were talking before, it was a expanding some pictures, yeah.
Moreno: [00:21:05] Yeah. This is, this is a 1945. This is again, Peachtree-Dekalb airport as it looked like, looked like in 1945. Believe it or not without believe it or not, what’s interesting, there are still buildings that I can see. It’s hard, it’s really hard for me to describe in these pictures, but there are new buildings that are still existing, right now, and that are still being used as hangers. And it’s really fascinating because the history buff that I am, I walk around the airport and I always find things that I recognize that are still existing since World War II. So that’s how the airport looked like in, in 1945, on the lower part of the picture. Okay this is no, this is good. It’s good. This is actually for those who are listening, who go to PDK, there is a great kid’s park, with the Magnolia tree and more control tower. And next to it, there is a restaurant called the Downwind restaurant of the building, building right behind those Corsairs, that’s where the Downwind restaurant is. On the upper level, upper level right now you have the administration offices of the airport. Right below there are flight schools and those white doors are still there, although they’re not white anymore. They’re obviously aluminum and glass, the control tower is still there, although there not shaped as, as it looks like in this photo. This photo is posed for about 1950. On the far right, you see the doors of the main hanger and that hanger right now it’s aviation. That, those doors are still there, still move by hand or with a tug actually, like back in the days. Those two, those airplanes, are FG1D Corsairs. FG means that they were built by Good Year. During the war chance bought, produced the Corsair but because of the demand, they outsourced the production. So Good Year actually manufacturing in Akron, Ohio, those, those aircraft. And, this is when the base was a reserve base was after the war. So there is service used to, you know, service, I don’t know, a week in a month, do weeks in a month. So those planes, are, you know, very iconic. They serve in the war and they flew all the way to the late fifties in South American countries. There is, down in Peachtree city. One of the museums I belong to called Commemorative Air Force has a Corsair then was actually based at NSF
Atlanta in 1950. In 1950, 1952. So it might be very likely one of the airplanes in that picture. It’s very cool.
Rico: [00:23:57] What about this one? This was another one.
Moreno: [00:24:01] Yeah, that’s a 1942. I remember the date because it’s actually printed on the bottom, corner, right corner of the original photo. That’s just, just essentially all the officers and enlisted personnel of the base, on the far right side, you see, the doors of the, essentially this is the back of the previous picture. That’s the ramp behind the hanger shown in the previous picture. Everything you see in the background, it’s gone, no longer exists that are only hangers back there. But that the ramp where those folks are sitting on, it still exists to this day. And it’s still being used as an airplane ramp. Yeah.
Rico: [00:24:43] Yeah. We got also this, this one that.
Moreno: [00:24:45] Yeah, these were the first airplanes that were assigned to, they’re called end to ends, or yellow perils and, or as more popularly known Stearman biplane. And, they were all yellows and those were the first biplanes, assigned to the base in 1941. Those were trainers. Trainers for Naval aviators, and, well, On the, essentially in front of the, in front of the airplanes, that’s where the current hanger is. In fact, in the full picture, you can see it, you still see a piece of the hanger. What’s interesting that maybe the viewers cannot see it, but on the side of the airport and there is actually a Donald duck, running with a parachute and that, interestingly enough was the first time in the Walt Disney designed anything for the military. It was actually the mascot of NAS Atlanta Chamblee. It’s probably too old to see and some airplanes had it, some didn’t. But, that, that the interesting fact is that Walt Disney, first time to design anything for the military was for NAS Atlanta Chamblee, which I thought was pretty unique.
Rico: [00:26:02] Cool. Well, we, went through the picture archives that we had. I only had like four or five samples of those. So, but if, so when, you know, I mean, even if the, museum is not set up, I know there’s a website that you all have that you set up. It’s called the AtlantaAirandSpaceMuseum.org. These digitized versions appear somewhere on that website.
Moreno: [00:26:27] Yeah. Yeah. I think, originally I was not planning to put up a dedicated website, but the turnout of the job is so phenomenal that I’m thinking to, put up a website, just for the archives. In the meantime, very likely I will post some pictures on the website, which they’re already available on the Atlantic Air and Space museums that’s our website. But, I’m inclined towards building a dedicated website just for DNS Atlanta Archives. Because it’s really cool the stuff that, that, we have been digitizing. I’m not sure when, but yeah, definitely in the upcoming months, along with that book project that I was, I was mentioning to you.
Rico: [00:27:09] Excellent. You’re also a publisher of Warbird news, right?
Moreno: [00:27:14] Yeah. We, it’s a magazine called Warbird Digest. Warbirds news is, is our news outlet and, that’s something I started back in 2013, as a hobby. I came from a digital marketing background and I just wanted to have my own blog and from a blog, you know, it became more than a blog and from a blog became a magazine. So it’s a, it’s a labor of love and, frustration too, because you know, you’re a publisher, you know this. But it takes work. And sometimes the contributors, you know, are not running on time. They don’t deliver the material when they have to, right? And the photos are not really good. So…
Rico: [00:27:57] There’s always a problem. It’s not going to print right.
Moreno: [00:28:01] But in a way we published this magazine for the same reason. We are all of us in this vintage aviation community, ready to preserve the history of aviation to tell stories of veterans and to honor for their service and the magazine. And warbirds news is that, does essentially that. I, you know, again, I, I was born in Italy obviously, but I’ve always been grateful for, well, one, I going to mention these real quick. I know you probably are running out of time, but, I always, everyone asks me, why do you do that? You know, you grew up in Italy and blah blah. I said, well, I grew up in Italy but you know my, what my grandparents always told me, if it weren’t for the American soldiers that came over and liberated Europe. We probably would be speaking German. And I have very sad stories of my grandparents, you know, being in prison camps. And, one of my grandfather was, my grandfather was what’s called a partisan or under war underground warrior that actually fought against the Nazi and risked his life because he never really approved of the facist regime. So when I came in the US I really, I was looking for a way to kind of pay my, you know, my tribute and do my part to honor this is young Americans that came over and liberated us. And last year I was fortunate to be a part of the D-day 75th anniversary. And that was, that was the experience really of my life. I was actually hired, two years prior to that, by a foundation called twenties on foundation to put together this mission. And at the end of the day, we left on May 18 from Oxford, Connecticut, and we flew with 15, C47 World War II cargo transport from Connecticut all the way to Normandy, including Greenland, including Iceland. We essentially did the same route that the C47s did 75 years ago. And then in June, it was phenomenal on June the sixth we flew, Omar beach over the cemetery, in front of president Trump, president Macron and the presidents, all of the other allied nations it was phenomenal. That was kind of like the apex of my, you know, volunteer career. It’s really rewarding when, you know, you get to meet some of these guys and I still do know, World War II veterans are still with us and a couple I’m very close with. I call them every week and we have great chats. And so it’s really, really, really rewarding.
Rico: [00:30:44] It’s, so anyone listening to this, you were, I’m going to in the show notes on the website, you will find a link to the Vimeo video, which is a promo of the documentary. If I understand correctly of the Normandy flights of those, that flight. To find out more about the foundation or the museum itself, how can people get involved if they want to reach you, to be able to either help in whatever the way they want.
Moreno: [00:31:12] Yeah, absolutely, you know, AtlantaAirandSpaceMuseum.org there’s a contact, a contact us page so they can send it there. Or we just yesterday, actually, we finally opened up all our social media channels on the Inspire Aviation foundation. So Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and, well, I don’t have YouTube because I don’t have any, maybe this video will be our first YouTube Videos. But find the Inspired Aviation foundation on social media and on the web or at AtlantaAirandSpaceMuseum.org. I’m the one managing all that. So I’ll be getting all the messages.
Rico: [00:31:52] Excellent. So for those people that want to get involved, certainly reach out, to Mareno. And, do you want to say anything else before we end the show?
Moreno: [00:32:03] No, I want to really thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about this project. It’s very, it’s a passion of mine and, and that’s what I want to do when I grow up. I just, be around the museum or, or work at the museum and, They’re doing a phenomenal, phenomenal work. We’re still not there, but, if anyone wants to get involved, this is very much a grassroots effort. A lot of people get together business professionals of different backgrounds and really trying to build something, something unique for the city of Atlanta. But we think for the state of Georgia and the Southeast. So anyone who wants to help you’re more than welcome.
Rico: [00:32:39] Excellent where, if you want to find out more information, once this is posted on our website, it’ll be LivinginPeachtreeCorners.com that you can visit. Be aware of the next issue coming up, the issue after this one, let’s pick that up. So this is our last issue that we have, but we’re working on, the latest issue. That’ll be August, September, and the article one of the articles in there is about Mareno, about the foundation, about what’s going on there as well as SOAR, which is an organization, a rocketry organization. That meets once a month to shoot rockets. I mean, everything from one footers to five footers. So it’s, it’s a cool thing. So we’re going to be covering them as well because the second week of August is the national aviation week. And so we thought this would be a great time to be able to share some of these stories. So, Marino Aguiari, I appreciate you coming out on this interview. Hang in there with me as we sign off. Everyone if you’ve been listening to the live stream originally, there was some interruption of it. I’m going to be uploading this as the full video on Facebook shortly after the show ends. But thank you for being with us and look forward to the next podcast. Thanks.
Community Leadership in Social and Racial Justice, Part Three
City of Peachtree Corners, Georgia residents, and leaders speak out about change and actively becoming a more anti-racist community.
This third episode of this mini-part series includes community activist and multimedia consultant Mo Reilley and activist Michael Murphy-McCarthy (Director of Information Technology and Information Management Systems at The North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church.) Join them along with Peachtree Corners Life podcast host Rico Figliolini and series co-host Karl Barham in this intensive discussion to try and solve these issues. Recorded socially safe online and in the City of Peachtree Corners, Georgia
[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:05:29] – Thoughts on the Protests
[00:09:57] – Why Now?
[00:12:07] – Can this Happen Everywhere?
[00:23:38] – Defunding
[00:34:59] – Racism in Schools
[00:43:25] – Zoning Issues
[00:53:34] – Having More Voices at the Table
[00:59:07] – Actionable Steps
[01:10:13] – Closing
“I don’t know what the ask is, but I believe that out of giving that, we can coalesce and come up with some specific actions that we want to ask the city to do. And this isn’t just about standing on the street. This is about affirming people, gathering voices, gathering more voices, starting to work together, trying to create some change.”Michael Murphy-McCarthy
Rico: [00:00:30] The serious issue that over the last month, two months almost, has taken to the streets of every city in the country. So, you know, we, Karl Barham and I have put together this series. Karl did a lot of the heavy lifting and all the work on this really, I’ve got to say of bringing the guests together. And, so Karl take it from here, introduce who we have today.
Karl: [00:00:56] Oh, absolutely. Well, this is our third installment of a discussion we thought was important to just show the people in local communities like Peachtree Corners here in Georgia can have conversations about social justice, racial justice. Talk about their experiences, talk about things they’ve seen in the community. Talk about ways that we can learn from each other, ways that we can improve the community, not just for ourselves, but for our children. As we go forward, back in May on the 26th of May, everyone has probably seen the video. George Floyd being killed by a police officer during an arrest. A couple of weeks later in June 12th, another 27 year old African American father was shot and killed by Atlanta police officer while he was responding to a complaint of a man being asleep in his car. Anyone could watch that and would agree, including the officer that that’s not the outcome we wanted to see, or they would hope that would happen. But if you think about it, we’re 30 days past the beginning of the black lives matters movement protests and various protests around the country. And we’re, the conversation has opened up, it’s hitting corporate America and businesses. It’s happening in churches. It’s happening in schools, it’s happening in households. And so today on Peachtree Corners Life, we invited some local residents and leaders in the community to start this discussion here. And if you’ve seen any of the first two episodes, you can go to Peachtree Corners Life to see some of those conversations. And today, I am honored and privileged to have two more local residents leaders, and members of the community just to continue that conversation. So people could see that we can talk about this. We can maybe offer some suggestions and opinions on how we feel about, how it impacts systemic racism and some of these things that help allow things like what’s happening in the police, in law enforcement, what’s happening with black people, how it’s impacting different areas. So I’m going to ask our guests, Mo Reilley, who is a resident and entrepreneur and a mother of several wonderful children to introduce herself first. And then I’ll introduce Michael.
Mo: [00:03:27] Hey everybody I’m Mo Reilley. You pretty much did my introduction for me. I’m from the Midwest originally. But we have been in Peachtree corners for over seven years. I guess we came shortly after it actually became a city, which is kind of cool. I have three boys. I have twin ten-year-olds and a four year old. I guess for the sake of this discussion, we could also mention that they are biracial. My fiance is black. He works in Tech Park, Atlanta Tech Park, even though this is Peachtree Corners. And, yeah, I’m excited to join the conversation with you guys.
Karl: [00:04:08] Excellent. Next up Michael Murphy-McCarthy, is also a resident. He is a local leader active in many civic pursuits. And I’d love for you to tell a little bit about yourself, Michael.
Michael: [00:04:24] I moved to Georgia in 1995 to go to grad school. And bought a house in the city and had a job downtown and was living the, the city life. And then my job moved out here to
Peachtree corners and my wife and I were debating what to do and we had a three year old. So we decided to just move up here to Peachtree Corners and had a nice short commute for a long time about, 14 years. And then my, employer decided to mess up my life and move the office back inside the Perimeter. But I’ve stayed here in Peachtree Corners and expect to stay here. So I’ve been here in Peachtree Corners now for, almost 18 years. So my son who’s 21, went up through the schools, graduated Norcross high school. And, so I’ve seen quite a bit of change in this area. I remember when the BP gas station, on 141, which is no longer there was like a major landmark. It was across from the CVS. Seems like a far distant past.
Karl: [00:05:29] Well, the city’s evolved quite a bit, since then, and it’s continuing to evolve. For one of the things that’s impacting all of our communities around the country is what’s happening with black lives matters and the protest. So I’m curious if I, if I wanted to start off with as we were in the middle of COVID-19 and all of the, the social distancing, what was your reaction when you saw George Floyd and the protest that came out of that that’s been going on for 10 years, but as that started to come alive again, what’s your reaction to what’s been going on, around both the racial injustice that’s being displayed and, and the protest. Maybe Michael, you could start?
Michael: [00:06:24] Well, since you brought up COVID, I’ve been social isolating since March. Haven’t actually worked out of my office since then. And, you know, has been a bit of adjustment since then. When George Floyd was killed. My reaction was not again. Because you know, there’s been Ahmaud Arbery, there’s just, you know, obviously a long list of black men who have been killed by the police, in the streets. And I usually don’t watch a lot of online video, but I watched the video of George Floyd and, I guess actually watching a video of it impacted me, pretty strongly. And I’ve in response I decided to break isolation for protests. It’s funny. I haven’t been to a grocery store or a restaurant anywhere, but I’m out on the streets regularly protesting now. Because I’m just angered and fed up by how people are being treated and that we have sanctioned killing of black men in the streets of America. And I find it completely unacceptable.
Karl: [00:07:41] Mo I’m wondering, you’ve got young black men you’re raising and I can imagine the impact that you might’ve felt.
Mo: [00:07:55] Yeah to Michael’s point, we hadn’t really been doing anything either. We’d been in the house. And of course, immediate rage took over myself and you know, basically all of my friends and anybody who saw the video that I’m connected with, it immediately took me back to what is that six years ago to Michael Brown in Ferguson. And when that happened, I just remember being like, we have to go there. I was just trying to figure out anyway to get involved. Can we go there? How do we, how do we help? How do we get involved? So with this, we did not go down to the protest the very first day. I remember it just like turning up and feeling that I wanted to go, okay, we have to go. We have to go. But on top of the COVID you could kind of see with everything that was already happening in Missouri and kind of in other big cities that everything was going to reach a fever pitch very quickly. So I made the personal decision. Okay,
we’re not going to go. We’re not going to take the boys. And they have gone to protests with me. We went to the abolish ice protest. They’ve been actively involved in things before. I knew this one was going to be just a little bit different. So I stayed home, but I immediately got involved the best way I could from the house. Making phone calls, watching the live streams, sending out resources, donating, connecting people with Atlanta solidarity in case there were arrests that were made. I did everything and have been doing everything I could from the house while also communicating why mommy is glued to her phone and why she’s on the computer so much and, you know, sharing a little bit with the boys what we feel is okay to share with them, and just navigating it that way on top of COVID. And that’s, that’s the other reason why, we chose not to go out as a family, you know, it was kind of multi-tiered.
Karl: [00:09:57] I’m wondering in your conversations with, you know, friends, family, what is it about this that triggered this, this wider spread awareness? we know that it’s happened before there over the last 10 years. But something hit, With people on this one, I’m wondering, what is it, do you think you’re hearing from people that you talk to that makes, makes them more aware and more angered by what they’re seeing?
Mo: [00:10:32] I think, you know, to Michael’s point really enough is enough. Because news and I’m not talking about mainstream media, but actual live news comes at you so quickly with Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. And with everybody being able to go live and catching it in real time. You’re not faced with the delay of it being shown on the news or the recap at 6:00 PM or 11:00 PM and oh, this happened earlier. You know, it was literally like this happened, there was already a crowd of people that crowd is growing. Boom. And there is nothing good about what happened, but to just use the phrase of a perfect storm. You know, with COVID more people were at home, more people, it was like a pause. Everybody’s awareness is already heightened and we’re kind of already tuned into what’s going on. We’re already looking at the news. We’re already checking social media and then bam. It was there. And to that point, you know, a lot of people are not at work right now. So there’s more people available to get involved, whether it be at the protests or online, or going to, you know, the meetings or being part of these zoom meetings and conversations. So I just think, you know, good, bad and indifferent in such a time as this and why not now? And now that it’s here, there’s no letting up.
Karl: [00:12:07] Is there an element of it that with Michael Brown and so many others, those were in you know, whether it’s New York, city, Baltimore, other places, cities where, you know, there’s going to be this intersection of law enforcement and others. And, and these things can happen because it’s not here. When you think of Minneapolis and Minneapolis, for those that have been there, has, an urban city area, but a lot of it is suburban. But if you’re not from there, you can think of the Midwest as pretty much laid back and seeing that this is repeating all over the country. Not just in the cities or in the coast, it’s happening in communities all over. Is there, is there an element of this that might be where, where people feel this could happen in their neighborhood? Can this happen in Gwinnett County and Fulton County and Alpharetta and Duluth in Peachtree corners. Is this something that, that you think can happen here? Not so
much because, the police force is a particular way, but just the systemic racism that allows that to happen, it can manifest itself anywhere in the country.
Mo: [00:13:24] Do you want to jump in Michael?
Michael: [00:13:27] You can talk again or I can jump in.
Mo: [00:13:34] Jump in.
Michael: [00:13:36] I, I’m not sure. You know, cause I’m thinking Minneapolis has a history of issues with the police. And so, you know, if you’ve been, yeah, so it’s on the one hand of all it’s, you know, nice thinking mid West. But on the other hand that you’ve been paying attention to Minneapolis, you know, that they’ve had a history of issues. I, I think in some ways it comes down to what Mo said about it being a perfect storm more than necessarily the incidents. But on the other hand, watching that video, I think there’s something about the fact that. There was just this kneeling for eight minutes and 46 seconds. That’s a long time to just very intentionally kneel on someone. It wasn’t a quick pull out the gun and shoot him three times in two seconds or, you know, as they’re running away. This was a very, very slow, deliberate act. And you know, he could’ve gotten up after four minutes. He could have gotten up after five minutes and he would have lived, but eight minutes and 46 seconds of slowly, deliberately killing him.
Karl: [00:14:53] With witnesses on camera and three other law enforcement officers present, that paints a very telling picture.
Mo: [00:15:04] Yeah. I just think, to your question about, you know, people wondering, can it happen here and is it possible, you know. Of course, because, there is a system in place where, as Michael said, you know, police brutality is sanctioned. We can’t act like law enforcement and the system of policing didn’t originate in slavery. All of the systems that are in place come from that time. And we’ve yet to address it. We’ve yet to disband it or abolish it or defund it or whatever words, you know, people are using whatever the mission is. So of course it can happen here because just a couple of weeks after George Floyd, it did happen here. Sure, it was over on university Avenue, but Rayshard Brooks was killed. Just you know, 20 minutes from where we live in Peachtree Corners. So it’s here. It might not be directly, you know, in this zip code and it might not be in Alpharetta, but you also have to think about, why is that? Well, you have to look at the demographics of the city. If your city is naturally segregated and it’s a higher white population, then is the possibility of police brutality or police killings less than, you know, in the inner city, the Metro city of Atlanta. Sure. Because that’s what statistics show us. You know, we, and we saw Major Kane come and give her presentation at the city council meeting. And I honestly was just left with more questions. So I have a list and you know, and I know you’ve reached out to some of them to have them on the show and, you know, she used there’s these buzz words, and she just kept saying, and we do this for transparency, and we do this for transparency and she kept saying it, and I’m thinking, so if you have an early identification review board, how many incidents involving use of four police officers happened
before the review? The example she gave, and I don’t know if it was actual statistic or if it was a flippant example, was that say if the, early identification review board is looking at everything annually. And this officer happens to have used force 10 times an alarm goes off or a bell rings and then, you know, that person is placed for review. So we’re waiting an entire 12 year period or whatever their reporting period is. And allowing this one officer to have 10 instances of use of force before we’re reviewing them. How does that work? What outside agency is reviewing the use of force reports, because Gwinnett County police department, Atlanta police department, wherever you are, they cannot police themselves. You simply can’t. And she kept talking about, you know, how these reports happen and how things are sent up the chain of command. How do I know your chain of command is not corrupt? And if it’s a bunch of white cops reviewing their buddies what’s, what’s being missed in between? And I’m just, so I have a lot of curiosity and questions about the use of force reports, how they’re reviewed when they’re made public, what action is taken with the officer after they’ve been pinged, you know, a multitude of times for use of force. What is happening? And she was saying there’s transparency. But I’ve Googled. I don’t and if I don’t know what to look for or where to look, that’s not transparent. You’re telling me the information is there, but if you’re not telling me, Hey, you can go on the Gwinnett County police department and click on this link. And this is going to show you, which of our officers were disciplined or fired or looked into for their use of force. You’re not being transparent. We have no idea who’s policing us.
Karl: [00:19:33] That’s very interesting. As you mentioned that specific event example, because that’s often how systemic racism, is sometimes not seen or addressed. Because if the system is set up in a way where, those reviews or, or third party accountability isn’t happening. It’s easy for folks and it’s a tough decision for many of my friends in law enforcement. There was a, a brotherhood that exists and they’re doing a very hard, dangerous job for protecting us. Their, their job very often they work late, they work hard. but if there are individuals that in a particular instance, Is doing something that doesn’t fit the values of the, of the police department stepping in, deescalating, helping, you know, my brother’s keeper, helping the other ones stay within the values that they’re, that they strive for. If there isn’t a culture that’s that’s okay. Say, look, you know what you got, you’re getting out of hand or if someone else is seeing something, they don’t say something to get the person, whether it’s mental health, counseling, coaching, retraining, all of these different tools that are available. Someone’s got to be there. That can be that objective person that’s looking at it. So I don’t know if there’s a citizen review board for our…
Rico: [00:21:09] Not in Gwinnett County. But you bring up a good point though, Karl. The, and it is a police culture because I mean, if you’re looking at the Atlanta police force, they could 58 or 60% black African Americans on the police force. It’s majority minority on the police force and yet they still have issues, right? So it is a cultural thing within the police force where they’re protecting themselves. This is what unions do. Also, if it’s union honest and protect themselves, we’ve been through this discussion where, you know, they’ll negotiate salaries and stuff, and maybe even bring back police officers that are not, that were suspended at one point let’s say. Or quite frankly I know, for example, Gwinnett County police trains quite a few police in their Academy, they have a great Academy. They train them well, I believe. But after a year or two,
these guys, they leave and they join other city police forces. And then you get, and I’ve seen it because I’ve had some friends from New York, New Jersey, the Northern States. Where they retire and then they come down and then become police officers in more rural towns. So, you know, and they’re used to doing things a certain way. Maybe that culture is, you know, coming here. I mean, it’s, I don’t think a police force does any different from, from one place to another as much, because, because of what you said too Karl, they face a lot of, there’s crime in the streets. I mean, there’s things that are bad. They can get killed. They’ve been targeted for assassination themselves even. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have, we shouldn’t have respect for each other, that the police force is not there as a violent tool of government, that it’s there to keep everyone safe and, you know, and we just have to, I think we have to see how we get past where we are. So then we can, we can, I don’t know. I don’t say personal dismantling. I don’t know. I don’t know how Mo and Michael feel about dismantling. I think changing and maybe actually dismantling is the word defunding, right? Dismantling it. I guess if we’re going to use words like that as what you want to do, you want to remove the parts that need to do the police duties way from the parts that don’t need police to be doing that, right? You don’t need it.
Karl: [00:23:38] There’s always rhetoric. Like Rico, you’re mentioning these terms of defunding, dismantling the police force. There’s an element of it that’s political rhetoric that folks will do and play in that arena. Well, let’s just keep it simple. What do you think is meant by changing the police force, whether it’s to defunding or dismantling. What do you, what do you think people are asking for there? I’m curious your opinion on that.
Rico: [00:24:07] My opinion? Or let’s go to Mo maybe.
Mo: [00:24:13] Well, it means what it says. I think, especially now with, policy budgets and everything being looked at in most of the major cities. There is no city right now that should be having an increase of funding going to their police force. I’m looking at the numbers last year, right? Gwinnett County police department responded to 516,570 calls. Over a half a million police calls. Do they have a tough job? Yes. We also have to look at what community issues are happening and what is happening in people’s brains, that they are calling the police 516,000 times instead of in many instances. Talking to your neighbor, talking to the person that you’re saying is acting suspicious or ignoring it. That’s an option too, depending on what it is that you’re seeing and what it is that you’re calling the police for. And so, you know, Major Kane, did say that they have, some nonprofits and some organizations on standby that they can call if somebody is having a mental break or having an episode. And the goal is not always necessarily to take people to jail. But I know that if you go very, very baseline and scale, we’re talking about way down, starting at like my kid’s age and start looking at, the inequality and inequity in the school system. That’s where things start. So you start going through these systems and it’s like, okay, well, where else could that money be going instead of shoveling it into the police systems. And allowing them to have more riot gear when we don’t have enough PPE for the hospitals and the facilities that are handling COVID. Things are not balanced. So the defunding conversation has to happen because I’m not understanding why medical
programs, community outreach programs, educational programs, and all of these things are being cut and people can understand what defund that means. But when we started talking about defund police, people are like, I don’t get it. I don’t understand. Yes, you do. But maybe it’s scary or maybe you don’t understand. And there are websites and there is literature out there to help people understand, but you have to take a huge chunk of this money and redistribute it over here so that we can start seeing a balance happen in our communities and in the systems that are in place.
Rico: [00:27:14] Wouldn’t it be better if, I remember there was a zero budget thing done there Reagan’s time. I’m not saying that that would be it, but you know, you start from a budget of zero. What do you need to accomplish the thing that you need to do? Right? Policing break-ins, murder, robberies, whatever it takes, money police force. Wouldn’t it be better. Because just, you know, I think it was a, was it the Blasio? I think, but just the other day I said, we’re going to take a billion dollars from the police. We’re going to move it somewhere else. That sounds easy. That’s a lot of money. What would the using a billion dollars for it to begin with then, that he could easily take that away. And still do what the police is supposed to be doing at least on a minimal basis, right? Because how does that work? I mean, I don’t know. I’m bringing up some more questions cause I don’t think it’s as easy as moving money around because if it was that easy. It’s definitely a cultural thing. It can’t just be that, but I do agree with you Mo and I’ve always felt that education from Pre-Kindergarten or from taking care of our kids because they all start innocent. No one is born a racist, they all start innocent. If we could just bring them up the right way with the right mentors, then I think we’d have a better world, but I agree with you there for sure. And it’s hard work. It’s not going to be easy. It’s really hard work doing that.
Michael: [00:28:52] One of the things that I think about when I hear defund police is it’s terrible marketing. People just have a viscerally bad reaction to defund the police. Yes, we, we defund education. We defund healthcare all the time, but we don’t even talk about it in that language because people wouldn’t, you know, that language to do those things would not be acceptable either. And I, I do think that we have, a priority issue here with what we do with our money. And that, you know, reevaluating how much we’re spending on policing and healthcare and all these things are a big piece of it. Cause we we’ve created. a society where we spend more money on militarizing the police and on sticks and on punishment and on the prison pipeline and, on weapons than we do on creating a caring community where we actually take care of each other. And, and if we created, if we put our money into education and health care and building better community, we wouldn’t be locking people up in the same way that we are.
Karl: [00:30:15] I think you’re, you’re that that’s a really good insight you’re sharing because I could see someone listening to the conversation and hearing defund police. And immediately I used to remember a description, the wall comes up and says, you’re saying make me less safe. And, and I don’t think that’s what you’re saying. So there’s a nuance to listening to, to this movement, to this statement around defund police. But let’s say there was a billion dollars out there that could be moved to other places. If you replace defund police with, address racial injustice, let’s take a billion dollars and put the smart people in government universities, elected
officials and give them a billion dollars and say, look, let’s start with one system at a time. Criminal justice. Let’s look at the data. Let’s look at who, who gets pulled over. What specific actions, different behaviors can drive different outcomes when you pull somebody over. If, if someone is sleeping in their car in a Wendy’s drive through and you get the call and whatever the circumstances are, there’s an awareness that the outcome of that should be someone get an Uber. So let’s take some of that billion dollars and let’s give everybody an Uber credit card where you could send people home that needs to be sent home when there’s no immediate threat to life and so on. If you look in the education system, there’s, there’s many statistics out there that show people of color get, higher disciplines. They get less access. So that’s happening and it’s, I don’t know that any single individual is intentionally doing that. Let’s take some of that billion dollars and let’s figure out why that’s happening and put systems and things in place to help decrease that. If you go to the healthcare system, COVID-19 exposed, who gets impacted? We can’t get the right people if you’re frontline workers, that’s giving us groceries, can’t have, family leave if they get sick, they can’t afford to get sick. Even though they’re providing the service, let’s take some of the billion dollars and do that. But I think there is the part of this where you look at the systemic nature of what’s going on and people’s response. And if you could, I think you said it right, Michael, market that make that sound interesting. Make that sound a more just society. Sound like something people would want to do. I think people could understand with a constraint budget that maybe some of those funds could be better used in these other areas, especially if it brings about a more just society where people can be more evenly or equitably, responded to, or their needs being met. Food for thought.
Rico: [00:33:17] In a, in a utopian society. We’d all be equal, right? We’d all have the same income. We’d all have the same pleasures, same life. We’d be enjoying life. We wouldn’t be worried about all these other things, right? Politicians keep coming back to us and they tell us, well, if we do universal basic income where everyone has at least a minimum income, we should be all firing. We’re in, you know, I’m Italian heritage, born first generation American. I saw my father work for 18 hour shifts and stuff to, to build a business, to do, do what you hear immigrants do all the time, right? But we’re all tribal too, in a way, right? We all like to be among ourselves sometimes. Now that’s been changing. I know from my generation, for example, I wanted to be Americanized. I learned the language, and became American right? My kids, second generation American don’t even know how to speak Italian. I know how to speak it a little bit. My cousin will slap me around a little bit because bad grammar maybe but, you know, but would be that they assimilate, right? My kids, you know, Mo. You’re married to an African American, right? My kid’s going out with an Asian American. You know, I went out with, Hispanic girls when I was in Brooklyn. I mean, we grew up different, right. We have different, but not everyone’s like that. So it’s a cultural thing. That’s going to take generations to change. Maybe this is the beginning. Cause that eight minute, eight plus minute is just, I mean, it’s wrong. I mean, anyone that looks at it that has got to be sad about it.
Karl: [00:34:59] Here’s an interesting thought around that line. And I, and I look at growing up watching and being taught about racism from, from my family, my dad, and so on. There was always, he would always talk about the individual racism. Someone comes up to you and treats
you badly and, you know, be aware of that, you know, it could be dangerous or these things, some people’s hearts are that way. Don’t know that we could change that rapidly. There’s only a few things that can change people’s hearts and they may be better served finding it through, through their pastors. And other means to do that. But, but this, this systemic one is the one that my dad would tell me about and that’s the one that I think, today people have an opportunity to impact that. So I would say I’m not terribly concerned of the individual racism, that people have in their hearts. That exists. It’s a problem. We want that to change. But it’s been interesting. if you take, education, if you apply to an Ivy league school like Harvard they’re there, everyone is not on a level playing field and getting into a school like Harvard, there’s going to be challenges and people talk about affirmative action and all these different things. But I know for a fact that most schools have legacy programs. That means if your parents went to the school, it gives you a leg up to get into school. That sounds like a form of affirmative action. If someone now, if everyone didn’t historically have the same opportunity to go to all these schools, that’s built in systemic racism, playing out in a way that’s hidden, but it’s commonly acceptable.
Rico: [00:36:44] Do you know where that came from though Karl? That came from the thirties and twenties, where there were too many Jewish people entering those colleges and they decided to create a legacy program to stemie that.
Karl: [00:36:57] So, right. So what if you break the chain? Right? So there’s a lot of things. I mean, monuments are coming down. Things are changing. But I don’t know, I’m not particularly focused on any particular one thing, I just know that if people want to impact change, They can look at and search for these evidence and examples of systemic racism in their workplace, in their church, in the schools, in any part of society and take the beautiful talents that people have. Leadership, business leaders out there, individual leaders get involved and pull together that coalition that could change it, if you see it’s unjust. You know, folks can influence and change policies if that’s what they want to do to help everybody. If you want to help people of color, you know, changing hearts is great, but I can tell you there’s a, there’s a very specific action that could be done to change systems. Break the chains that these systems have that could be holding people back.
Mo: [00:38:05] I think, just to your point about education, because things sometimes seem very grand or distant when we talk about colleges and, and things like that. So just to bring it back to Peachtree Corners, right. Gwinnett County is a bubble outside of Metro Atlanta, Forsyth down there. You know, you come up here sometimes you don’t even know what’s going on in the city. Peachtree Corners is its bubble. And then inside there, you have its own little bubbles. Because when you look at Simpson elementary and Peachtree elementary, you can very clearly see between them, Berkeley Lake and some of the other schools that we are still very much segregated in our community. Our community is segregated. There’s no way to get around that. And I don’t know if that we’re still falling victim to redlining that happened 60, 70, 80 years ago, or sooner than that. Or if it’s just been, yes, it started with redlining and segregationist policies, and then people just got comfortable. Simpson elementary is over 70% white. How, how is that even possible? And how are the parents who are sending their kids to Simpson oblivious to that,
or not aware or not cognizant of. What’s happening in our community. It’s 70% white and only 7% black. And speaking to the disciplinarian and the school to prison pipeline. As far as suspensions and disciplinary actions, the white students make up less than 1%. Black students it’s over 4%. So there’s less black kids in your school. And yet here we are seeing that they’re suspended and disciplined more then the white students who are the majority. My kids go to Peachtree before COVID, anyway, we don’t know what we’re doing now. Who knows? So Peachtree is 40% black, 40 ish percent Hispanic, Latinex, and then 10% white. So it’s still an issue, right? We’re still segregated. We’re just on the completely opposite side. Everybody feeds into Pinckneyville. All of these surrounding schools. That’s the middle school. That’s where all of our kids are going. When you get up to the middle school level, things start to balance out. You’re about 30, 32, 33% white. Same for black. Same for Hispanic, Latinex. White students equal 3% or lower of suspension and disciplinary actions and black students are suspended at a rate of 14% or higher. Are you telling me somehow that black kids are, they’re acting out more, they’re fighting more, something is happening? No, the system is built against them from the very beginning. And so when you talk about people being community leaders and making effective change and making a difference in what to do moving forward, you don’t have to be an elected official. You don’t have to be a business owner in the community. You don’t have to serve on the board. You have to just look outside your front door. Holcomb bridge is literally like the proverbial railroad tracks. It’s what it is. And it’s been that way. And it’s why my kids and most of their friends are over here. And you have all of these other kids that are in Amberfield and Simpsonwood and all these other neighborhoods. And we are not even really considering buying a house over there because one, if my kids have to transfer to Simpson, they’re going to be the only black kids in their class. Almost guaranteed. My fiance, who’s the big black guy with dreads, when he wears a hoodie or he’s out wanting to jog in one of those neighborhoods or he’s out hanging out, is he going to be able to be comfortable knowing that none of his neighbors are gonna call the police on him? No. Our community is segregated and people have to take that into consideration. It’s not a far off thing. It’s not happening just in Atlanta. It’s not happening just in Detroit where I moved here from, that’s not the case. It’s here, it’s at our front steps. So if people actually want to affect change, you literally have to look at your cul-de-sac. Why does it look like this? And how can we change it? And that’s where it starts.
Rico: [00:43:25] Can I jump in a second? Because I agree to some extent for what you’re saying, racism is like Karl said individual, right. And Simpson is majority white and because of the way, just to play the other side of that, right. It’s majority white because the area is majority white, that, that feeds into. The homes are a certain price level because that’s the nature of these homes. You’re not going to make them any cheaper. This is the way the neighborhood is. If you can afford to live here. I haven’t seen in my, since 95, I’ve seen plenty of people come and go. I don’t see, and I’ve, I I’m familiar with red lightening and worked for Chuck Schumer for a year through a constituent work and I worked with the democratic party in Brooklyn, so I’m familiar with that. I don’t see that here. At least not now. Was it here 20 years ago? I have no idea. But I don’t see that now. I see, what I see is it’s an economic, it’s almost like a class thing versus racial thing on that aspect of it. Right? More expensive homes. You have to have the income to come here to buy. I mean, my son can’t move here. He’s going to have to buy a
condo somewhere where it’s cheaper because he can’t afford it. And that’s fine because he’s a younger guy, he’s twenty-four years old, right, so.
Karl: [00:44:48] But Rico, if I could, if I could build on that a little bit. So if you peel that back, we do, and you worked on the zoning and zoning when we make multi-year strategic plans and there’s a dynamic here that there are expensive homes here and others. The millennials and many of the folks that are looking at downsizing, retiring needs a place to live. Building, affordable housing and communities by design, by construct is a way to do that. Now this isn’t new other cities have done it. People are evolving it and you can look around the country and get best practices. But it takes will. It takes, this is important to us, so that in different community that have that dynamic historically, we can’t change the past. The next housing we build, they’re building townhouses across the street next to the town center. Those houses could be different. They could be a half million dollar town home. They could be more affordable townhomes, which would change the demographic that’s there that now are the only ones that are working in grocery stores. And so people could afford.
Rico: [00:46:00] Okay so.
Michael: [00:46:01] Can I jump in?
Rico: [00:46:02] Karl, I’m sorry, just to add one more, one more thing to that. Those townhouses are on inexpensive property. They’re going to be whatever the market value is there. You’re right. Unless it’s rezoned and you force a subsidy, there are ways to do that. I used to be on the planning commission too so I understand that. There’s 165 apartments that supposed to be built right on, right next to town center. You know that, right? So that’s affordable housing for sure to a degree. Now I wish they were condos and not apartments because that’s where at least it’s ownership, right? And reasonably priced condos, not like a ridiculous price. Those I can see, and they should have been something, that could have been a great way to do that. But it’s not.
Karl: [00:46:45] So Michael, you’ve got perspective here being here for awhile, please, please share.
Michael: [00:46:57] I’m very concerned about what’s happening in Peachtree Corners and like, Karl, I think one of the things you said when you reached out to me was that not a whole lot is being said here and, by the city leadership. And I’m going to get around to the housing and school thing. I got a slightly long story here. My, what, what struck me in the last few weeks is that, you know, frequently people after shootings and things say, you know, there’s lots of thoughts and prayers and stuff, but we’ve actually gone through a period of time where we’ve not even had that where our mayor said, it’s better not to say anything. And it’s better just to listen. If you want to be our mayor, you ought to speak up and say something. You ought to be talking to the people who are feeling oppressed. You ought to be educating yourself on why people are out on the streets protesting. That it’s not okay to just sit back and go, I’m a white guy, I’m not afraid of the police, I don’t know what you’re feeling. The, the opt, I got a slightly
different thing out of the police presentation at city council. I love those, review of it, but what I got out of it is okay, so, what do you do when you don’t know what to do? You bring in the police to talk about why they’re already doing things correctly? When a lot of us don’t, you know, have a lot of concerns and questions about how are things being done, but what does our city council do? Bring the police in to talk about, don’t worry, we’re already doing it okay. And then you follow that up with a presentation on why the South side of the city, where the minorities live, where the poor communities are, why they’re blighted and why we have to dissolve them so we can tax them because they’re blighted. We’re not going to tax the whole city. We’re not going to tax the white parts of the city. We’re not going to tax the wealthy parts of the city. We’re going to tax the blighted parts of the community through redevelopment zones. I don’t think that was good, wait, Rico, let me talk. I don’t think that was good optics for the meeting that their first public meeting, after all this hits is to have the police come in and to say, we’re doing it okay. And then to follow it up immediately with the presentation on the blighted south side? Give me a break. That ain’t right. To get around to Simpson and what’s going on on the North side, I happen to be living in that zone. I, as I mentioned, my job moved up here, I moved out here. I bought a house here, so I could have a really short commute, literally on a bad day to work I see 6 cars. That’s how short my commute was. I frequently saw more deer than cars on the way to work. And what struck me and disturbed me after I moved here was the fact that my neighbors were proud that nobody in apartments went to the same school that my son went to. They were proud that it was mostly white. They wanted to keep it white. They wanted to keep the townhomes and the apartments out of the area. When you go out to the forum to the new town center, why did the city buy that land? To keep apartments out of the Simpson elementary school. They could have bought, built their town center somewhere else. They build it across from the forum to protect the home values of the people who send their kids to Simpson elementary. Okay, that’s my rant.
Rico: [00:50:56] Alright. Can I, can I, do you mind? One is I ended the, just to clarify the facts, Michael, the CID or the tax Haven part, the taxing part, it’s a self taxing district to the businesses that are in the district that want to spend their money there.
Michael: [00:51:16] I’m not talking about the CID.
Rico: [00:51:19] Then what are you talking about? That’s the overlay that they were talking about. I think, if I remember correct.
Michael: [00:51:24] I’ve gone to some of the evening planning meetings and I’m not sure of all the exact details, but they are talking about creating redevelopment zones in blighted areas. That’s a completely separate issue than the CID.
Rico: [00:51:39] Right. But I believe it has, the component with self taxing district that they would allow them to be able to tax themselves, which is what, you know West Gwinnet or whatever, West village, whatever they do. But I, you know, there’s another facet of it. But the apartments across the way that was, that’s the town centers, I’ll tell you that there was a lawsuit at the very
beginning back when Charlie Roberts had that property. Way back when the people were saying, he actually said, actually the lawsuit was brought to say that they would try to block his rezoning there because of racism. So that goes back. I don’t know, 20 odd years ago or something.
Michael: [00:52:24] Rico, I understand you’re going over facts and a little history and maybe I mean slightly more nuanced interpretation, but I fundamentally believe that our city has structural racism in it. And what you are doing by talking about the facts in such a manner is to defend, possibly, that what I’m trying to point out is we have issues here that we need to deal with. And I thought that was the point of the conversation here.
Rico: [00:52:49] Yeah, that is. I’m not defending them what I’m trying to put out is facts. So I, at least, well, let’s deal with the facts. We want to deal with the facts of, of everything. So let’s deal with the facts though. That’s all I’m saying. There are 165 apartments that are going across there by the way, is my point. So they’re are apartments going there. There may not be the 300 apartments originally that was supposed to go. But when Charlie Roberts sold that to get there, to be able to put his 165, which by the way, he was zoned to do, he could have kept the property and done the 300 apartments there. He decided to sell part of it. That’s part of that issue by the way, just to keep things straight, but there will be apartments there that are about 160 units.
Karl: [00:53:34] I’m curious Rico though, as, if, if you stepped back from, from the particular actions that any city takes, bridges and town centers and apartments and more, the question is who are the stakeholders that are being impacted by those decisions? And we can, we can reasonably say there are people of all ethnicities, all socioeconomics and in a city the size of Peachtree Corners or any local city. But the people making the decisions, the people that are influencing those decisions, I’m just curious how diverse that is. Concerning, considering when a decision is made like that, are the voices being heard and being represented that could influence because if you bring in a different perspective, the same decision may be decided on. That, that’s not the question. The question is if only a few folks can make the decision and admittedly, whether the mayor or other people may have a particular point of view, that may differ from others, there’s a blind spot. So when you start talking about systemic community leadership, I’m curious, what, what is the role of community leaders, residents, in making sure that these big decisions that may impact the community that has systemic racism built into it, are they getting information? I think they are really smart people that run, that run the city and other places. My question is, are they getting the information they need to understand the impact of the decisions they’re making on various people. And if the answer is yes, if they’re getting counsel and guidance from all parts of Peachtree Corners, whatever side of Holcomb bridge, whatever school, the parents, if they’re getting that and you can’t just say, we asked for it and we didn’t get it. If folks are shut out from the system, at some point they stopped talking. But if you really want to pull those voices in, that’s part of what people can do. Stepping up, whether run for office, whether they’re get involved in, in local, in local matters or outreach on the other side. There, there, I remembered, a mentor of mine, he, he gave us a really interesting
challenge with leadership team. I, I worked for an organization that was in an industry that was mostly male dominated, aerospace. If you go and you look at any aerospace company, there’s going to be mostly men dominating in there. And I remembered, he challenged, everybody on his staff to improve the recruiting, onboarding development and promotion of women in the aerospace industry. And so we had a very specific task. We had to go out to organizations and build relationships so we can identify engineering talents and management talents, sales talents, and find ways to bring them in. That was literally on our goals. We got paid and compensated based on how we perform them in particular way. Now, I didn’t argue with it. If he said, that’s what you had to go do, but was it the right thing to do? He was thinking of something larger then just making a particular number, but here’s the funny thing. And I measured it. When we hired women in sales and in aerospace, they often outperform men. Who knew? You wouldn’t know that, but he had an insight. He challenged us to change. He challenged us to bring, make us uncomfortable and bring other people to the conversation. So in community leadership, it’s going to be uncomfortable for folks to start to engage in real ways, challenge themselves to get different voices. But if you’re a person that doesn’t feel you understand someone else, someone else’s culture, somebody else’s experience in life, and you have a title, self appointed or, or not. A leader or member of the community. The challenge to you is what are you going to do to change that? And that’s, I think, you know, the optics of, of, of a particular meeting. If you, one resident saw the meeting in that way. The question is, did others? And it happened, but do you learn from it or do we show up at a meeting two months from now and it’s the same thing? There’s no learning that happens. I don’t know the answer to that, but I think this is a time where folks are really starting to examine their biases and their blind spots. And I’m just curious to see, you know, does this continue beyond this moment in time? And it leads to action and change. That’s what’s going to be interesting to see. So I’m curious on, what, what advice would you give to folks and just taken from your perspective, people can do to get, more active, aware and involved whether individual or community leader. And Michael, I know you’ve been organizing some, some protests and activities, but, maybe you could share some of the things that, that people can get involved with locally.
Michael: [00:59:07] So we started, I mentioned I started going to protests, and I’ve actually avoided the big ones in the city. I’ve been more focused on local. I know it’s an old phrase, but all politics is local. So I’ve gone to the two Peachtree Corners ones that were organized by our youth. Great events. And, I’ve been, after chatting with some friends and deciding that we could go out and do this, decided to, just go out along Peachtree Parkway periodically in support of black lives matter and have been, slowly growing that event. We had our biggest turnout this morning. We’ve decided to do weeklies from 7:00 AM to 9:00 AM down just North of Holcomb bridge. And I’m hoping more people will turn out. We, we have a revolving group of people and in order to do a weekly, that’s what we need. So if you can come, great. Part of it is to show our support of black lives matter and show support for people who are coming and protesting with us and the people driving by. We’ve had people, you know, pull over, get out of the car and scream I love you to us, and get back in the car and take off. And we, we it’s been, it’s clearly affirmative to the people who are driving by. And I know that’s not gonna create the structural change that we need and necessarily deal with the structural racism here in Peachtree Corners.
But I think it’s important that we get our voice out there and we let people know that there are people, other people in the community who, support black lives matter and support creating change in the community. And another side thing that I’ve seen, that’s a huge benefit from this is that I believe that there’s a bunch of us who are in our own little grassroots gardens. Like there’s a group of us up here in North Peachtree Corners who are organizing around HD95 and helping to get, some political, we’re supposed to be nonpartisan here, so I’ll just say political candidates, elected or reelected. And, you know, we’re trying to organize. And one of the things we’re very clear is our garden is too small. We’re in a bubble. You know, Mo referenced bubbles, and the bubbles in the different part of the city need to connect for the garden, I’ve been using the garden analogy. We need to connect our gardens, and reach out so that we can become more effective. And, I don’t know what the ask is, but I believe that out of giving that we need to come to, we can coalesce and come up with some specific actions that we want to ask the city to do. And this isn’t just about standing on the street. This is about affirming people, gathering voices, gathering more voices, starting to work together, trying to create some change.
Karl: [01:02:01] Thank you. Mo, I’m curious to get your thoughts.
Mo: [01:02:09] On how to move forward and make the world a better place?
Karl: [01:02:14] If you got that one, I’d think you’d be quite wealthy. But we could start with what little small, innocent folks that live in their homes and in their communities can do.
Mo: [01:02:28] Well, I hope people in our community watch these conversations that you guys have been hosting. And then continue having the conversations. Recognize that there’s an issue and choose to take action. I think part of the reason why things have been the way they have for so long is because of the people that benefit from the system. So, you know, we’ve talked about why certain people have not agreed to come on the show and it’s either, if you support black lives or equity in education or any of these things say that. And if you don’t support it, say that, or I’ll be left to assume that your silence leans in that direction. So I think that’s first and foremost, recognizing that there are some serious issues in Peachtree Corners with diversity, inequality, inequity, and it starts from Pre-K up. It starts from the way the lines are drawn for the zoning, for the school boards, it starts with the fact that, you know yes, we have a beautiful town center and yes, there’s new townhouses, but when the townhouses costs 400, 500, 600, $700,000, certain people are being kept out of the community. Yes. Apartment buildings are being built, but are they affordable apartments or are they luxury apartments that start at 1200, 1500 for a one bedroom. And so the people who are serving our community, that work at Sprouts that work at Wendy’s that work at Cool Runnings, the Jamaican restaurant that work at J Alexander, they work at all these places, but they can not live in our community, right? All of these things, people have to open their eyes become aware and then take action to change that. It starts at home. You have to talk to your kids about why there’s no black kids in their school. And do you want that to change? Do you want them to have a diverse group of kids that they’re playing with on the playground? What are the actionable steps there? When we return to the school and you start ignoring COVID and the protests go away, you can’t just close
your eyes and become blind to the situation that’s happening. So beyond that, I’m part of a couple mom groups in the neighborhood, and I know folks love to do book clubs. So there’s plenty of literature on the subject. I would encourage white people to do anti-racism work. There are books, you can get. Me a White Supremacy, White Fragility, you can look up, Rachel Cargill, the Great Unlearn, Brittany Packnett Cunningham, Laila F. Sod. These are all people that you can Google. You can find them on social media. There’s tons of resources that go beyond us having this conversation. If you actually want to effect change within yourself first with your kids, with their school, and then out into the community.
Karl: [01:05:55] That’s really, really helpful to hear some of those, cause these things start individually, and people could build it and expand out from that. Rico, I’m curious if you’ve got any, any thoughts on, as you’ve heard this discussion, this is our third, our third one in this. And the purpose is to start the dialogue, but any takeaways and things that you think might really help folks as they go through their own journeys?
Rico: [01:06:25] Well, Mo, thank you for the list of reading. Number one that does help and some of those books are, are on my list as well, so to, to read. But you know, it’s a good way. And Michael, I didn’t mean to get on you, but it’s good to have this tough conversation, right? And it’s good to point out different things in it. And Karl and I had at one point said, why don’t we just get, you know, maybe you get, get three white people on to just talk about from their perspective that they used to think, and maybe that they changed their minds and their thinking different, you know, it’s hard to change people’s minds. I think, you know, And there’s different things that you can affect. I think. You know, listen, the Simpson elementary school being majority white, again, I think that’s just, you know, I don’t want to re-go through that, but some things are the way they are, because that’s the lines and stuff. That’s not necessarily, that school’s been there for so long that this Peachtree Corners has grown out and it’s, can’t even accommodate the kids at one point that it could accommodate. So from within this circle, if you want to call it a bubble of a Pinckneyville middle is right down the block and it’s majority minority. And yes, it feeds from three different elementary schools. The biggest thing, you know, and that’s just to set the playing field, but the biggest thing is involvement, right. But involvement has to come like Joe Sawyer when he ran for city council, involvement has to come to go to the planning commission. To you know, if you’re going to talk about, you know, rezoning and how do you affect lower-income rezoning? I’ve talked about that when we you know, when I was on the planning commission, how do we do that? Of course Gwinnett County at the time would tell me we can’t do those things, it would be illegal, we get lawsuits, we’d have to protect it. It’s like, I don’t see it. I just, I don’t see putting multi-units like 13, like apartments next to homes. Doesn’t work that way. You know, it just doesn’t. But if we’re all involved, if we all have a voice at the table and it’s hard when maybe two people work in a family and maybe they’re doing two jobs, three jobs and they can’t get there, we have to make it easier for them at least to participate. See the stuff online, be able to communicate online. We’re doing all our telework and online, there’s no reason in the world why we can’t communicate online to our representative. And if they’re not being responsive, throw them out. I mean, that’s, that’s politics. That’s the way this works. That’s the way it’s always worked. If we’re not, if we want to make the change, we need
to do it from the inside out. Unless you want a revolution that takes down a government, that’s a whole different story and I don’t want to go there. But the best way to do it and the way that people will accept it better is from inside out to do that work. And it has worked, but you know what? There are people that just don’t want to do that work. It’s easier to just talk about it. If you’re going to be there, you need to do the work, get your representatives and go to those meetings. I mean, really, it doesn’t take a lot of votes to put a city council person in or a state Senator or a house seat. Now, president, you know, can’t talk about that. But, and I don’t understand how 3 million people can vote for one person. Not that I was for her, but vote for the one that’s in their house now. I just don’t know how that goes, but you have to be involved and I don’t want to keep going on, but that’s, to me that’s a…
Karl: [01:10:13] Alright, I’ll wrap up by saying, first, thank you all for coming out. Let’s have this conversation. We would normally be doing this together. We’d be doing it while breaking bread and having coffee or drinks and talk. And we can’t do that now. But I think it was still important that we have this conversation and that more of these happen. My only tips to folks would be, fundamentally falls around three things. One, this weekend I hear that Hamilton will be streaming on Disney plus, so if you want to talk about getting involved, doing more with, with the talents that you have, take a watch at Hamilton. And you don’t have to do all the things he did, but you could do what you can in your own community and in your own house. The second thing, I would say for those folks that, you know, feel that there’s an injustice that they’re starting to realize, and they know something about it doesn’t feel right, and they want to do something. It’s really simple. If you want to tell people that you support social justice, more than words, where you put your time and where you put your resource, money tells people what’s important to you. So, whether it’s protesting, whether it’s supporting schools, whether it’s supporting things in the community. Think about where you spend your time, where you put your resources, if you want to help drive more, equity in the community you live, you live in. And the last thing I’d say for folks to think about, reach out. And if you haven’t talked to someone that’s different from you, it’s a great time to start doing that. Learn to understand different perspectives. And for those that are uncomfortable with it yet, that’s okay too. This may not be your time and moment, but I’ll tell you something, your kids are changing. And they’re going to follow. The millennials and the generation to follow are going to force us to change it regardless. So it’s a question when you want to jump on the bus, but I do think that that the next generation is going to dictate how and what this society is like. So thank you Mo. Thank you, Michael and Rico again for allowing us to have these conversations.I appreciate you for creating this platform to do that. Take care everybody have a good day and tune in to Peachtree Corners Life podcast. It’s streamed, this’ll be on Facebook live along with the other conversations. And, you know, start having your own. Thank you everyone.
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- The Colorful Woven Threads that Make Up the Fabric of Our City
- Gwinnett Schools May Transition to In-Person Instruction, over several weeks
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- What Going Back to School looks like in Gwinnett County and around Peachtree Corners
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Harvest Gwinnett invites residents to be part of two new community gardens
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