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Embracing Multiple Cultures: Hispanic Heritage Month



Present at the grand opening were GCPS teacher Ainsley Clarke, Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, President Veronica Maldonado Torres and many others.

Latina author, publisher, educator and entrepreneur encourages everyone to embrace Hispanic Heritage Month, no matter your race or ethnicity.

When Nury Castillo Crawford sought a publisher for her children’s book based on her life immigrating from Peru to the United States, she realized that her vision wasn’t met with open arms. Like many industries, publishing is dominated by White males.

Many book publishers utilize a formula or algorithm for predicting successful sales. Even though in the last few decades, books that didn’t necessarily fit the old standards have been huge blockbusters, many companies aren’t willing to take the risk.

“When I was ready to release my book, I had some interest because at that time there was a lot of chatter around immigration and immigrant status,” she said referring to then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s push for tougher immigration laws.

But there was no assurance that she’d have much control over the final product. “I couldn’t get any guarantees that the title would stay the same. And the title was actually personal for me,” she said. “The characters [might not stay] as I imagined them to be because the story was based on my journey as an immigrant, and they didn’t know why I needed the girl and the mom, etcetera, to be brown. I didn’t need them to be lightened up. Some of those things were very important to me. I needed the book to be bilingual and they told me that bilingual didn’t sell.”

Faith and conviction lead to a publishing business

It was a hard decision for Crawford to make — compromise her standards or take a chance that the book deal wouldn’t happen. After much soul-searching, she decided to step out on faith.

“I was like, well I’m not changing it because it doesn’t fit your box,” said Crawford. “And I pretty much resolved to myself that even if I sell not one copy, at least this will be a little bit of a biography for years to come. So when I die, my great-great-grandkids could still look at the book and be like, ‘Oh this is the journey of my family coming to this country.’”

1010 Publishing was founded as a result of her wanting to get a book published but being unwilling to sacrifice her values and her story.

That was more than five years ago and Crawford, who is also director of Academic Support for Gwinnett County Public Schools and the president of the Georgia Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents, has published several books since — those she’s written and those of other authors.

Her vision for the company is to focus on multilingualism. She started out with Spanish and branched out to other languages such as traditional Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and French.

Respecting and celebrating our variety of heritages

Crawford’s heritage is important to her, and she prides herself on being American as well as Peruvian. As Hispanic Heritage Month approaches, she encourages everyone to embrace their roots, but also be open to learning about others.

Asian populations are the fastest growing minority group in the United States, but Hispanics have been the largest minority group in the country for about 20 years — and the numbers continue to grow. There are census predictions that by 2025, 25% of children in this country will have Latinx roots. “Just like any other community, we need to be not only very diligent and committed to ensuring that we are being represented, but we need to hold onto our heritage,” Crawford said.

A friend who had immigrated from Venezuela had told a story of her daughter who was reluctant to speak Spanish at school. She didn’t want to be singled out as different, even though there is a pretty significant population of Hispanic children there. Pop singer Justin Bieber had released a Spanish-language version of his hit song, Despacito, and several students were trying to sing the lyrics. The girl’s family mainly spoke Spanish at home and her command of the language was perfect. She helped her friends with the lyrics, and they were amazed at how “smart” she was.

Although she shouldn’t need a popular song to boost her self-esteem about who she is, Crawford said those types of stories are commonplace. “We need our culture to be embraced by all of our leaders in every aspect, in every in every venue of our community, because research tells us that when people feel seen, heard and respected, you’re going to get the sense of community that you’re looking for,” she said. “Until people feel like they’re genuinely part of the [community], there is no real unity.”

Jordan House, K-12 Chapel Leader at Greater Atlanta Christian School agreed that it is important to highlight other cultures as part of education.

“God created humans in His image, and the fact that He created us with different characteristics represents His creativity and desire to have different aspects of His image shown,” he said. “Helping gain awareness of culture, appreciating it, celebrating it, pointing to God as the creator [is an important part of education]. In years past, we’ve done a tour of countries and highlighted many aspects that are unique and beautiful.”

He added that Hispanic Heritage Month is another way to teach God’s love. “From my viewpoint, the goal is to educate, gain awareness, gain appreciation, celebrate and honor specifically Hispanic culture. If we honor God by honoring His beautiful creation, then we’ve done our job!” he said.

Goals of equality and literacy

Crawford said the challenge of putting everyone — not just minorities — on a parity with the status quo isn’t unique to Gwinnett County but does seem to be slow to overcome. “I feel like the change that we desperately need to see is not going to come forward as fast as we need to see it,” she said. “And that makes a lot of sense, you know in comparison to how African Americans have been a significant part of the United States population for a long time, but it was just a year ago that Juneteenth was recognized as a national holiday.”

She pointed to states like California, Florida and Texas where many Latinx families have lived for several generations. They are business owners, government officials and citizens who are very active in how the community is run.

“Many of the Hispanic and Latino families in Georgia are first or second generation,” Crawford said. “And most of them are not proficient in English. The majority of them are learning and there are different levels of acquisition of language.”

That’s kind of where Crawford’s latest endeavor comes in. Earlier this year, she opened THE little BOOK SPOT, a multilingual bookstore with a focus on diversity — diversity in ability, language, culture, ethnicity and race — in the Plaza Las Americas, perhaps the largest Hispanic-focused mall in the area. Currently the hours of operation are noon to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Find out more at thelittlebookspot.godaddysites.com.

“One of the things that popped in my brain as I was talking to other Latino leaders was that when you go to a regular American mall… there’s always a bookstore inside it or nearby. It’s the opposite for our malls where mostly Latino people frequent,” she said.

So Crawford made it a goal to increase literacy, especially in the Latino community. Although she mainly writes children’s books, the store has something for everyone.

“I think we all need to be engaged and involved in learning and not leaving it up to somebody else. We should all try to be inclusive within our own lives,” she said.

The titles in her store run the gamut and don’t just focus on Latino and Hispanic cultures.

GCPS teacher and author reading to the kids on a Saturday.

“If you can’t name one friend from another culture, that’s a problem to me,” she said. “We should all do our best to try to learn about other people.”

And one of the best places to start is inside a book.

Books by Nury Castillo Crawford

Arlinda Smith Broady is part of the Boomerang Generation of Blacks that moved back to the South after their ancestors moved North. With approximately three decades of journalism experience (she doesn't look it), she's worked in tiny, minority-based newsrooms to major metropolitans. At every endeavor she brings professionalism, passion, pluck, and the desire to spread the news to the people.

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Twin Authors Chronicle Antics of ‘Four-Legged Brother’



On Feb. 1, the young authors Megan and Mackenzie Grant released the children’s book, “How We Love Our Four-Legged Brother.”
Megan and Mackenzie Grant

Berkeley Lake second graders make fans across the globe with sweet children’s story.

When rescue dog Apollo found his forever home with Megan and Mackenzie Grant, the Berkeley Lake twins knew they had added a special member to the family. He’s so beloved that he’s considered their “four-legged brother.”

Apollo is a Boston terrier. The breed is known for its friendliness and love of people and children. According to the Purina Company, makers of all kinds of pet food, Boston terriers  make affectionate pets and are outgoing and social. 

While they are called ‘terriers,’ they are not in the terrier group, nor do they behave like them. They are far happier at home with their owner than getting into the usual mischief. 

But Megan and Mackenzie see him as a silly addition to the family.

“He’s super cool because he’s always up for fun and loves us a whole bunch. And guess what? We love him back even more! He’s like the best friend ever, wagging his tail and making everything awesome!” they said in a press release.

Apollo’s birthday inspiration

As his first birthday approached, the girls, six years old at the time, wanted his day to be special.

“I said, ‘Well if you want to come up with something to do, let’s write it out,’” said mom Tameka Womack.  “So they started writing out all these different adventures, and it was so cute.”

Megan recalled that their teacher had told them about someone who had published a book, and she asked if they could, too.

“When I read through it, they had all the different things, like playing dress up because we had bought some clothes for him. And we take them out for long walks around the lake and stuff,”  Womack added.

Although their favorite subjects in school are PE and art, they did such a good job with the tale that Tameka worked with them to get it published. On Feb. 1, the young authors released the children’s book, “How We Love Our Four-Legged Brother.”

Publishing success

The 30-page book took off almost immediately. Available for print and digital through Amazon and print editions through Barnes & Noble, the book has reached customers in the U.K., Germany, France, Japan, Canada, Australia, Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy,  Poland and throughout the U.S.

The girls and their mom were so pleased and surprised to find out the book was No. 1 in its category on Amazon.

“They were just so excited that people actually bought the book,” said Womack. “They were just like, ‘Wow, who is buying this?’”

Feedback from fellow twins, animal lovers and teachers showed that the story resonated on many levels.

“As an educator, I am always on the lookout for diverse and inclusive literature for my students. ‘How We Love Our Four-Legged Brother’ not only captivated the imaginations of the children in my class but also served as a wonderful conversation starter about friendship, empathy and the beauty of diversity,” wrote Ashleigh Darby.

The royalties from book sales are tucked away, with a percentage going to Apollo’s wardrobe.

“He won’t go out in the rain without his raincoat … or out in the winter without his sweater,” said Womack. “We have a little budget for his clothes because every time the girls see something, they’re like, ‘Oh, I think Apollo will like it.’  I’m like, I think he would too, but let’s let it stay in the store.”

Nurturing creativity

Although both mom and dad are engineers and kind of hoped that the twins would follow in their footsteps, Womack said she’s okay with them being artistic and creative.

“Writing is teaching them some responsibility and teaching them a little bit about money,” she said. “Now they want to write a book every day.”

Between raising three daughters (the twins have an older teenage sister), running a household with her husband and keeping up with her career at Georgia Tech, Womack said she’ll look for time to continue helping the girls with their dreams.

“With summer coming up, I would definitely encourage parents to help their children explore their creativity in any kind of way, from digging holes in the ground to … seeing the world … to creating books instead of being on the internet,” said Womack. I try to limit my kids’ screen time … and build real memories.”

Find “How We Love Our Four-Legged Brother” on Amazon.

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Local State Reps Give Roundup of Legislative Session



(left to right) Dale Russell, Rep. Ruwa Romman and Rep. Scott Hilton // Photos by George Hunter

Hilton, Romman trade friendly banter that reflects diverse views in Georgia government

Georgia State House District 97 Representative Ruwa Romman and District 48 Representative Scott Hilton, whose constituents include parts of Southwest Gwinnett County, including Peachtree Corners, sat down for a second time to share information about legislative action at the State Capital

Their discussion was part of the Southwest Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce First Friday Breakfast series at Atlanta Hilton Northeast.

Although they sit on opposite sides of the aisle, Hilton and Romman both seek to sponsor and pass legislation that improves and maintains a high quality of life in the Peach State and provides its residents with what they need. 

Elected in 2022, this was Romman’s sophomore year in the State House. She serves on the Georgia House Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Committee, Georgia House Information and Audits Committee and Georgia House Interstate Cooperation Committee. 

Hilton previously served in the State House from 2017 to 2019 but took a “sabbatical,” as he calls it, to serve as executive director for the Georgians First Commission under the Office of Governor Brian Kemp

He was re-elected to his current position in 2022. He is the vice chair of the Georgia House Creative Arts and Entertainment Committee and the Georgia House Education Committee, as well as a member of the Georgia House Public Health Committee and the Committee on Georgia House Urban Affairs.

Senate Bill 63

The moderator, Norcross resident and former WAGA political reporter Dale Russell started off with a topic making headlines: Senate Bill 63. This law, signed by Gov. Kemp shortly after the session ended, prohibits charities, individuals or groups from providing bail funds for more than three people per year unless they register as bonding agencies. It also expands mandatory cash bail to 30 new offenses.

“I think it’s going to bring home safety to the community,” said Hilton. “I ran on that issue because as I was knocking on doors, I’ve heard from folks who [want to] keep our community safe. And unfortunately, no community has been immune from the uptick in crime that we had seen post-COVID, so this was one of those bills in response to that.”

Hilton gave examples of crimes where individuals out on bail committed acts such as murder.

“That was our commitment back to our constituents to say, ‘Listen, we’re not going to let bad guys back out onto the streets again to do more crime.’ This bill was in response to this; it’s going to keep our community safe, hold those accountable and bring justice to those who break the law,” Hilton remarked. 

“Unfortunately, right now, we’ve got district attorneys and sheriffs across Georgia who are blatantly disregarding the law and letting folks back out on the streets who pose, you know, safety risks to law-abiding citizens like you and I and your businesses,” he continued.

Russel pointed out that there’s been a lot of criticism of this law. 

“The ACLU was totally against it. Some felt like it was imprisoning poor people in the sense, for minor crimes,” he said.

“I do agree with the criticism for a few reasons,” said Romman. 

“The problem with this bill is that of the 30 crimes that are listed as now requiring a cash bail, the majority of them don’t actually require jail time, even if you’re found guilty of them. So now, somebody who would not even have ever served time for those crimes that are listed could now serve jail time because they cannot afford their bail,” she explained.

She added that the law doesn’t address the crimes it’s supposed to protect citizens from.

“We see these headlines, but this bill doesn’t address those because what we see happening is that a lot of churches now will no longer be able to bail people out that cannot afford their bail because of this bill,” she said.

“And churches that have been trying to, for example, reunite a parent with their children for Christmas, or whatever the case may be, can no longer do that. There is actually an exception written into this bill for bail bondsmen. So, it’s not like being able to pay cash bail is completely out of the question. It just means that somebody can make money off of it now,” Romman continued.

Hilton said the state isn’t done with addressing public safety issues as they come up.

“I know that’s been a priority of the governor, and I think rightfully so; you know, there’s a reason we’ve got citizens flocking to Georgia over the last ten years; we’ve added a million Georgians to our state, and they are leaving states with policies that don’t have this. They’re coming to Georgia for economic prosperity, for safety and for good schools,” said Hilton.

House Bill 1105

Another controversial bill, HB 1105, is framed as a public safety bill that requires local enforcement to coordinate with federal immigration officials when someone in custody is suspected of being in the country illegally. 

Some say it’s an immigration bill.

“I know that the federal administration is trying to tell us there’s not a crisis. But there is a humanitarian crisis going on right now on our southern border.  … But they’re not handling it the right way, and it’s starting to impact our communities,” said Hilton.

“We’ve got sheriffs who have folks in their custody, who [need] to be reported up to ICE. And essentially, they’re sort of ignoring what’s in the law right now that says you got to report these folks,” he explained.

Romman doesn’t see it that way.

“Again, when you read the contents of the bill, that is, unfortunately, not what it does,” she said. “I’m one of the few, if not the only, member of the legislature that’s done any border project work,” she remarked.

She talked about her work keeping unaccompanied immigrant minors safe.

“I want to remind people that when we talk about immigration, there’s an entire spectrum of people that we are talking about. And it’s not just at the border, it’s also people that fly into our country legally, that gets narrowed into a terrible immigration system,” Romman said.

“It forces our state and county and city police to do federal-level work without more funding. What we’re doing is we’re actually adding an increased burden, essentially onto their workload that we are not paying for. And in addition, within this bill, if they do not do this, they could lose more funding.”

She added that this will take the police away from focusing on local issues and trying to work with people who live in their communities.

“If a community member feels like if they reach out to police for help, and the police are going to deport them, they are less likely to report crimes and less likely to work with our local police department,” Romman said. “If we’re serious about immigration and its relationship to crime, immigrants are 30% less likely to commit crimes, and I don’t want to vilify an entire group of people.”

Romman said she supports a holistic, three-pronged approach that includes improving conditions on the border and pathways to citizenship.

Business-related legislation

When the smoke cleared, both Hilton and Romman joked that they had different opinions about many issues but agreed that’s a healthy part of how the government works. 

“The fact that we do disagree and the fact that you, the community, have varying choices and options out there. I think it’s a healthy part of the process,” said Hilton. “And we do have fun. I was telling somebody we play kickball about halfway through the session, and we do get along.”

The discussion moved on to topics such as the FTC ruling on non-compete clauses and tort reform, which just about everyone in the room agreed upon. Although employees could see the beauty of disallowing non-compete clauses, as business owners, they’d hate to see trade secrets put in jeopardy or valuable time and money put into training to benefit another company. 

And everyone wanted to see caps on personal injury claims for things like slip-and-falls and fleet vehicle accidents.

“One of the few regrets I have coming out of session is that we didn’t do more on tort reform,” said Hilton. “Right now, Georgia is the number one judicial hellhole in the nation, meaning that we have more lawsuits on businesses and payouts than anywhere else in the country.”

This was one area where both representatives had similar views.

“I don’t think this is a left or right issue,” said Romman. “I want to make sure that whatever tort reform we pursue does not let, for example, a bad-acting company off the hook. But on the flip side, if somebody is just going around and suing everybody all the time to try and make some money off of it, how do you protect corporations and businesses from those kinds of bad incidents litigation?”

“What I will continue to look for when it comes to tort reform is, how are we going about balancing that?” she added.

Looking ahead

As the session wrapped, Romman and Hilton pointed out legislation they’d like to see move forward next year.

“House Bill 971 creates a $300 tax credit for taxpayers who sign up for firearm safety training or purchase a safe storage device. It’s a bipartisan measure, viewed by some as a small but perhaps significant move for gun safety advocates, which was tabled in the Senate room,” said Romman. 

She said the bill wouldn’t even require someone to disclose that they owned a firearm, but it was meant to incentivize people to store their firearms properly.

“There wasn’t a lot of appetite if somebody didn’t properly store their gun to have consequences for that, so we thought it would just incentivize better behavior,” she said.

Hilton mentioned school safety. 

“Over the last three years, every single school in Georgia has gotten a one-time $100,000 grant for School Safety. That’s every school in Georgia; in this most recent budget, we included $45,000 in recurring money for every school in the state to do whatever they want to ensure their campuses are safe,” he said. This includes private schools as well.

At the end of the event, Hilton and Romman reminded the audience that they weren’t running against each other, and even though their views were different, their goals for a better Georgia were equally as passionate.

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City of Peachtree Corners Unveils Space-Inspired Tot Lot Playground



Last November, the city began constructing a new tot lot playground for children under six years old that is themed around space exploration. 
Photos by Dorie Liu

On Friday, May 10, 2024, the City of Peachtree Corners held a ribbon cutting and grand opening ceremony of its new space-themed Tot Lot Playground on Town Green.

Last November, the city began constructing a new tot lot playground for children under six years old that is themed around space exploration.  This new play area includes a rocket ship, a moon rover, a crashed UFO and other fun designs. It was also created to be fully accessible, ensuring all children can enjoy it.

During the ribbon-cutting, children and their guardians enjoyed fun activities, including an ice cream truck, bubble lady, balloon animals, face painting and even a visit from Buzz Lightyear.

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