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Atlanta Voice

Author Mary B. Morrison continues to inspire female empowerment through literature

ATLANTA VOICE — With 20 books in 20 years serving as the foundation of her career, Mary B. Morrison has built a legacy of empowering women, especially Black women as a New York Times-bestselling author. Through her books, the New Orleans-native and Atlanta resident has made it her mission to either showcase Black women in powerful positions or warn them of the repercussions of their missteps.

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Author Mary B. Morrison has built a 20-year career of women’s empowerment through literature with 26 books under her belt. (Photo courtesy Mary B. Morrison)

By Martel Sharpe

With 20 books in 20 years serving as the foundation of her career, Mary B. Morrison has built a legacy of empowering women, especially Black women as a New York Times-bestselling author.

Through her books, the New Orleans-native and Atlanta resident has made it her mission to either showcase Black women in powerful positions or warn them of the repercussions of their missteps.

“What I’m most interested in is female empowerment,” said Morrison. “That’s my platform for every book no matter what the woman goes through, she’s going to overcome it.”

Regardless of what, she decides to write about, Morrison intentionally decides that her literary depictions will ultimately be of service to Black women. According to her, that’s been her mission since her first novel.

“From book one, Jada Diamond Tanner had her own everything,” Morrison said. “Her own business and her own money. She met a guy with money, but she was empowered and in control. I always try to put women in a position of power.”

The main character of her first novel “Soulmate Dissipate,” Jada Diamond Tanner is a fashion photographer who learns some tough lessons about commitment and trust through her relationship with a successful financial advisor. However, her biggest lesson was learning to love herself, whether she’s in a relationship or single.

It’s stories like “Soulmate Dissipate,” that resonates with Morison’s audience. She not only gives them love, drama, and sex, but also life lessons that can be applied outside of the bindings of a book.

“I knew right out the gate that I was going to write about relationships and sex,” Morrison said. “I’m not going to hold back, because sex causes a lot of problems in relationships. I try to address it in such a way that people have to draw their own conclusions.”

Morrison claims that she aims to address common problems and issues that many of her literary peers have shy away from; sex being one of them.

“I don’t sugar coat, I don’t dumb it down, I don’t tone down, I just write it,” Morrison said. “If you rewind 20 years ago a lot of authors weren’t writing sex scenes. They would kind of just graze over it.”

After living in Oakland, CA, for 20 years, Morrison relocated to Atlanta a couple of years ago where she discovered that the dating scene was very different from what she was used to.

“I find dating in Atlanta to be very interesting,” Morrison said. “I’ve met men everywhere but the men in Atlanta are by far the most interesting. A lot of the guys here pretend that they have things that they don’t. A lot of guys date up and women date down.

“California was just the opposite I was always dating up.”

In particular, Atlanta’s attitude towards sex was more appalling than Morrison has imagined.

“Guys here just want to have sex, and they want to have sex raw. Nobody wants to wrap it up. They’re running around acting like AIDS, HIV, and STDs are not real.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that Atlanta ranks fourth in the nation for new HIV diagnoses; pointing out that the AIDS/HIV epidemic in Atlanta is on par with some third-world African countries, according to Atlanta Daily World.

“Downtown Atlanta is as bad as Zimbabwe or Harare or Durban,” said Dr. Carlos del Rio, co-director of Emory University’s Center for AIDS Research.

Because not all problems can be solved through a great storyline and dynamic characters, Morrison recently decided to start dishing out her message, straight up.

In her latest book “Never Let a Man Come First,” Morrison provides women, especially young ladies, with information about sex and dating that their mothers may have neglected to tell them.

“‘Never Let A Man Come First’ is non-fiction and it’s the real deal,” Morrison said. “I’m talking with women about how you have to know yourself and know what you want. A lot of women don’t take the time to think about what they really want in a relationship. it’s either the ring or this and that.”

Morrison says that she also talks about the “baby doll syndrome”, which consists of the repercussions of giving a toddler or two-year-old girl a baby doll.

“When you give a two-year-old girl a baby doll, you teach her to love something outside of herself,” Morrison said. “She becomes the woman who thinks that it’s her role in life to become a mother and wife, and then to have kids.”

“A lot of my girls stay in relationships five, ten, and fifteen years with no ring on it. He leaves (them) and marries somebody else.”

In her article “The Barbie Doll Syndrome: Why Girls Are Becoming Obsessed With Unrealistic Curvy Bodies,” published on the online platform “Women’s,” Annie Akkam expressed that the “baby doll syndrome” is also partially responsible for women trying to obtain “unrealistic, unhealthy and a nonexistent” appearances.

In extreme cases, these issues show up as low self-esteem, unhealthy eating habits, abnormal weight loss and mental disorders such as Body Dysmorphic Disorder which is “characterized with the addition of changing their appearance as they are thought to be extremely defective.”

According to Morrison, the “baby doll syndrome” also results in a lot of teen pregnancies.

“(Girls) grow up to be that woman thinking about the little boy in high school, ‘oh, we’ll make a cute baby together,’” Morrison said. “The baby is going to cost $276,000 from birth to getting them out of the house. It’s going to cost you at least a quarter of a million dollars.”

“What you need to do is ask him for half. When a guy says let’s go half on a baby, half of what? (He) got $125,000? Put it on the table right now, then you can put it in perspective.”

It’s these types of upfront and in your face conversations that Morrison enjoys having with her audience. She even goes so far as to start a conversation about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

“I talk about STDs because we don’t talk about it enough,” Morrison said. “I tell girls, these what are the symptoms for gonorrhea, this is chlamydia, this is what trichomoniasis looks like.”

“They need to have an idea because sometimes they may be experiencing something but don’t know it because they don’t know what an STD really feels like.”

Though it seems as though Morrison’s method of getting her message across in books is effective, she says that one of the reasons she moved to Atlanta was to break into the city’s ever-growing film industry.

However, Morrison also desires to start promoting her message of Black women empowerment on college campuses across the country.

“I want to be on the HBCU college speaking circuit. I have to get to these girls before these guys do,” Morrison said. “I will always write, however, I feel like just being out in front of individuals will be great.”

This article originally appeared in the Atlanta Voice

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FunkJazz Kafé Arts & Music Festival celebrates 25 years at Atlanta’s historic Tabernacle

ATLANTA VOICE —

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Photo by: Electrick Baby Photography | FunkJazz Kafe)

By Martel Sharpe

With its 25th anniversary on the horizon, Atlanta’s FunkJazz Kafé Arts & Music Festival is celebrating a quarter-of-a-century of artistic Black culture on Saturday, August 10 at The Tabernacle.

Just as vibrate as its creator and curator, Jason Orr, FunkJazz Kafé has survived throughout the years with 49 events under its belt, making its 25th anniversary the 50th.

“Essentially, FunkJazz Kafé Arts & Music Festival is about cultural prevention, cultural sustainability, cultural education, and cultural innovation,” Orr said. “We focus on various artistic disciplines as opposed to music performances. We are not a concert.”

“We just happen to have a cache of exceptional talent.”

Though FunkJazz Kafé is more than just a typical music festival, the event procured a host of iconic artists over the years including Goodie Mob, Outkast, Janelle Monae, Arrested Development, Soul II Soul, Jill Scott, Cee Lo Green, Erykah Badu, India Arie, Public Enemy, and more.

“We want to preserve the legacy of Black excellence in every artform whether its culinary arts or fashion pattern designing. We want to sustain those cultures and not let people take it from us as they have in the past, and we want to innovate upon it. Innovate upon these cultural legacies and educate the generations behind us about it,” Orr said.

The 48-year-old Atlanta native started FunkJazz Kafé Arts & Music Festival back in 1994 with its inaugural event taking place at Atlanta’s historic Royal Peacock on Auburn Avenue.

“It was awesome,” Orr said. “We had multiple vendors. We had great performances from Arrested Development, who in 94’ was like Anderson Paak. Then there was also Bone Cusher and leaders of the New School.”

According to Orr, what he has turned into a 25-year legacy started with a typical day for him, while working for the City of Atlanta at the time and managing a band.

“I got into the Royal Peacock because the guy gave it to me for free,” Orr said. “I was a tax collector for the City of Atlanta and the guy came in to pay his taxes, and he said, ‘I own this club you should come check it out.’”

“I wanted to create something that highlights other artists and musician. I knew a lot of fashion designers, I knew a lot of visual artists. People who did sculptures, people who did water-based paintings, people who did acrylic paintings, people who did pottery and handcrafted jewelry.”

As FunkJazz Kafé continued to grow, the mission stayed the same even though the venues changed.

Orr says that, in the past, the festival set up shop in some of Atlanta’s most notable locations including The Science & Technology Museum of Atlanta (SciTrek) which closed in 2004, Atlanta Stage Works which is now Krog Street Market, Nexus Contemporary Art Gallery which is now Atlanta Contemporary Art Gallery, the Nike Pavilion and World Club which was on Marietta Street.

“I would make venues,” Orr said, “It didn’t even have to be a venue, long as they had bathrooms and were approved for food and beverage, and fire permits, we were good.”

However, returning to The Tabernacle for its 25th anniversary is special for FunkJazz Kafé since it was the first event that ever took place within that space.

“We opened The Tabernacle in 1996 as it was the House of Blues,” Orr said. “FunkJazz Kafé did a partnership with Dallas Austin’s Rowdy Records. And we did the first event in what is now called The Tabernacle.”

Since then, FunkJazz Kafe has expanded, further tackle its mission to preserve Black culture and innovation through its award-winning film, “FunkJazz Kafe’s” Diary of A Decade” and producing the FJK Documentary Film Festival & Music Conference.

Beyond celebrating the arts, Orr also mandated that the festival would have a civic service initiative, creating a positive impact in the community.

“At the first one, we started our civic service initiative,” Orr said. “We were taking food donations for the homeless for a reduced price. It was $12 to get and we would take $5 off if you brought a canned good.”

“We kept that tradition and all the way up to today we’ve donated almost a million plates of food, (approximately) 900,030.”

However, Orr says that he plans to top himself this year with the 25th anniversary featuring various suites to festival-goers to enjoy.

These suites will feature various art forms including poetry, health and wellness, fashion, and different genres of music.

He’s very excited about the “House Party” suite which will simulate a 1980s house party and will change its music every 15 minutes to all people to enjoy hip-hop, reggae, afrobeat, house music, and more.

Additionally, the festival will have a vegan food court and up to 40 vendors participating in its marketplace.

And though it’s FunkJazz Kafé’s tradition to keep its roster of musical guests a secret until the day of, Orr says that he has a lot of great performers lined up and ready to go.

“We’re going to introduce new people that some people don’t know and we’re going to celebrate with some of our musical icons,” Orr said.

This article originally appeared in The Atlanta Voice.

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“Iso Joe” still gets buckets as Big3 shines in Atlanta

ATLANTA VOICE — Lil Keed, Dominique Wilkins, Lil Scrappy, Clyde Drexler, and 12,000 diehard basketball fans packed State Farm Arena in downtown Atlanta to watch the Big3! Powered by founder and CEO Ice Cube, the Big3 features three-on-three basketball that has sharp shooters, physical play in the post and brings back a brand of play that most hoop heads fell in love with!

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Former Atlanta Hawk star “Iso” Joe Johnson of the Triplets scored 24 points in the second half as his team strolled past the Bivouac at State Farm Arena, Sunday, July 7, 2019. Photo by: D’Jehiah Smith/The Atlanta Voice
Former Atlanta Hawk star “Iso” Joe Johnson of the Triplets scored 24 points in the second half as his team strolled past the Bivouac at State Farm Arena, Sunday, July 7, 2019. Photo by: D’Jehiah Smith/The Atlanta Voice

By The Atlanta Voice

Lil Keed, Dominique Wilkins, Lil Scrappy, Clyde Drexler, and 12,000 diehard basketball fans packed State Farm Arena in downtown Atlanta to watch the Big3! Powered by founder and CEO Ice Cube, the Big3 features three-on-three basketball that has sharp shooters, physical play in the post and brings back a brand of play that most hoop heads fell in love with!

It was a homecoming for former Atlanta Hawks stars Joe Johnson and Josh Smith. “Iso” Joe came into Week 3 as the BIG3’s second leading scorer, averaging 23 points a game, but it was Smith who brought the early energy, scoring 19 in the first half to help Bivouac take a 25-14 lead at the break.

During the postgame press conference, Hall of Fame Legend Lisa Leslie said, “You learn the most about people during tough times and we were in a tough situation”. The Triplets clearly took their coach’s words to heart, steadily chipping away at a 12-point deficit, getting key contributions from Chris Johnson and Alan Anderson. Ultimately, Johnson’s explosive game would prove to be too much for Bivouac, as the former Atlanta Hawk added to his MVP-caliber campaign with 24 of his teams 37 points in the second half to keep the Triplet’s undefeated season alive.

Check out the gallery, provided by D’Jehiah Smith of The Atlanta Voice!

This article originally appeared in the Atlanta Voice

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Atlanta Voice

Georgia’s welfare rolls drop sharply in recent years

ATLANTA VOICE — State records show the number of Georgia families receiving welfare benefits has dropped by more than two-thirds in the past 14 years. The numbers have decreased as Georgia has applied constant pressure to drive down the rolls, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

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Georgia State Capitol (Photo by: Wikipedia)

By The Atlanta Voice

State records show the number of Georgia families receiving welfare benefits has dropped by more than two-thirds in the past 14 years.

The numbers have decreased as Georgia has applied constant pressure to drive down the rolls, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

The number of households receiving aid from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program has consistently dropped. It even happened during the Great Recession.

State officials say the decreasing rolls are a sign that the program is working.

The trend in Georgia mirrors what has happened across the U.S., the newspaper reported.

After Congress made broad changes to the welfare program in 1996, the number of households receiving benefits has consistently dropped across nationwide. The changes in the 1990s gave states more control over how to run welfare. That resulted in fewer U.S. households receiving benefits.

In Georgia, the Legislature has consistently focused on getting people to work as opposed to providing cash aid, said Fred Brooks, a professor at Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies.

In June 2018, the average welfare recipient received $260 a month, according to Georgia’s Division of Family and Children Services. The amounts, set by the Legislature, haven’t increased with the rate of inflation in recent years, said Jon Anderson, the head of DFCS’ Office of Family Independence.

Georgia lawmakers for years have supported initiatives to limit the number of people receiving public assistance, including attempts to pass legislation that would have required drug testing for Georgians who receive food stamps.

This article originally appeared in the Atlanta Voice

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Atlanta Voice

Citations jump in 1st year of Georgia cellphone driving law

ATLANTA VOICE — Citations for distracted driving have jumped in the past year since Georgia made it illegal to drive while holding a cellphone. A state law that took effect July 1, 2018, prohibits drivers from holding a cellphone while they’re behind the wheel. They can only make calls using hands-free devices with their phones. Numbers compiled by the Georgia State Patrol show thousands failed to make the change.

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(Photo By: Ameesha Felton/Marine Corps)

By The Atlanta Voice

Citations for distracted driving have jumped in the past year since Georgia made it illegal to drive while holding a cellphone.

A state law that took effect July 1, 2018, prohibits drivers from holding a cellphone while they’re behind the wheel. They can only make calls using hands-free devices with their phones. Numbers compiled by the Georgia State Patrol show thousands failed to make the change.

A report by the State Patrol shows that state police wrote nearly 25,000 tickets for distracted driving in the law’s first year, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. That’s an average of 68 tickets per day, and the numbers don’t include tickets issued by local police departments.

“There are so many violations that we see, it’s hard to tell if it’s actually taking a toll yet,” Sgt. Henry Batts, a Georgia state trooper based in Albany, told WALB-TV. “We are getting people to comply with the law. It’s just going to take more tickets, I guess.”

Violating the hands-free law in Georgia is punishable by fines of $50 to $150 — depending on whether it’s a first or subsequent offense — as well as one to three points assessed against the driver’s license.

Tickets written by state police for distracted driving more than doubled within the law’s first six months. The State Patrol said fewer than 4,000 citations were written in the first half of 2018, the final months before the law took effect. That jumped to more than 8,000 distracted driving tickets during the last six months of 2018.

State Patrol officials say police didn’t really step up enforcement of the law until after Oct. 1. And the agency’s numbers show citations have continued to increase in 2019, with more than 16,000 tickets written since Jan. 1.

Thousands more tickets are being written by local police. For example, the Atlanta Police Department said its officers issued more than 17,000 distracted driving tickets in the past year.

Traffic fatalities and collision insurance claims have declined in Georgia since the cellphone law took effect, the Atlanta newspaper reported, and some safety experts say that indicates the law is working.

This article originally appeared in the Atlanta Voice

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Ebony, Jet fire remainder of staff, may close its doors for good

THE ATLANTA VOICE — Timeless editions of Ebony featured some of the biggest stars in Black America, including issues covered by Diana Ross, Sidney Poitier, as well as President & first lady Barack & Michelle Obama.

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(Photo: Ebony Magazine)

By Miana Massey, Chevrolet DTU Fellow | The Atlanta Voice

It’s official, Ebony Magazine—along with its sister publication Jet Magazine—has potentially closed its doors for good.

Former employees of the company took to Twitter last week using the hashtag #EbonyOwes to air out their frustrations with the company, as it has fired all of its employees with little to no notice.

According to USA Today, members of Ebony magazine’s digital team say they’ve been fired and haven’t received their final paychecks in the latest controversy to hit the struggling publication that has chronicled black life in America for decades.

Michael Gibson, co-chairman and founder of Austin, Texas-based Clear View Group, which owns Ebony, declined to comment to USA TODAY on the digital team’s dismissal, citing a “policy of not commenting on any employment practices or issues.”

The Chicago Tribune previously reported how Ebony was being pressed by the National Writers Union to pay more than $200,000 it alleged the magazine owed to freelance writers who contributed stories back in 2017. The drama sparked the hashtag #EbonyOwes on Twitter.

According to a report on Ebony.com, the magazine’s previous owner, Johnson Publishing Co., filed for bankruptcy liquidation in April, which Ebony said would not affect its operations.

“EBONY Media Operations, LLC brands, which include EBONY magazine, EBONY.com, digital magazine JET and jetmag.com and its related businesses, have viably operated independently of Johnson Publishing Company dba/ Fashion Fair Cosmetics (JPC) since Black-owned Ebony Media Operations, LLC (EMO) purchased the media assets of JPC in 2016. Black-owned investment firm CVG Group LLC assisted in the formation of EMO,” a statement read. “EMO is unaffected by the Chapter 7 bankruptcy announcement regarding the dissolution of JPC. EMO is not able to comment further and is not familiar with the facts or events of the JPC business.”

The first issue of the iconic magazine hit stands 74 years ago and took the industry by storm. Founded by John H. Johnson in November 1945, the black-owned publication has striven always to address African-American issues, personalities and interests in a positive and self-affirming manner.

Timeless editions of Ebony featured some of the biggest stars in Black America, including issues covered by Diana Ross, Sidney Poitier, as well as President & first lady Barack & Michelle Obama.

Despite the possibility that the world may lose this national treasure, fans of Ebony Magazine and its lasting impact believe it will remain a staple of the black community and an ultimate expression of black excellence.

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Atlanta Voice

Supreme Court Shoots Down Trump’s Census Citizenship Question

ATLANTA VOICE — The U.S. Supreme Court’s sharp rebuke of the Trump Administration’s rationale for wanting the citizenship question in the 2020 census means the question is an artifact of the past, according to Southern Methodist University Professor Lolita Buckner Inniss.

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Photo by: Pixabay | Pexels.com

By Stacey M. Brown

The U.S. Supreme Court’s sharp rebuke of the Trump Administration’s rationale for wanting the citizenship question in the 2020 census means the question is an artifact of the past, according to Southern Methodist University Professor Lolita Buckner Inniss.

“Though ultimately the Trump administration may prevail in having the citizenship question added, the Trump administration has to adequately explain how eliciting the citizenship question data will help them better enforce the Voting Rights Act,” said Inniss, who joined many others in celebrating the decision by the high court to strike down Trump’s request to add the question of citizenship on the 2020 Census.

In writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts noted that the explanation for preferred federal policy must “not only be reasoned and genuine but also legible to both courts and interested public.”

The ruling marks a historic win for democracy, said Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA).

“In blocking Trump’s ability to add a citizenship question, the court has ensured that voting rights for people of color are protected, and that all communities – regardless of race, ethnicity, geographic location, religious views, political affiliation, and country of origin – are fairly represented,” Waters said.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC), said the future of the nation’s democracy was at the forefront of the ruling.

“The ruling in favor of partisan gerrymandering underscores the necessity of citizen participation in the electoral process. Stacking the deck for partisan gain is not ideal for democracy or the principle of one person, one vote,” Clyburn said in a statement. “Most Americans believe in fairness and due process, but not enough are able to participate in the electoral process.  This must change going forward or we will soon experience some backward lurches,” he said.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the decision clearly is a rebuke of Trump.

“When even the conservative court determines that the Trump administration’s argument is odious and dishonest, you know the administration’s motivation behind adding the citizenship question in the first place was an abhorrent one,” Schumer said in an email.
“The lower court must, for the sake of our democracy and fair representation for all communities, ensure the misguided citizenship question remains out of the census,” he said.

“Today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that prevents the government from asking U.S. residents on the 2020 census whether they are citizens,” Melanie Campbell, the president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP) and Convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable (BWR) said in a statement.

“For Civil Rights and Immigration Rights organizations, this is a major victory in an effort to ensure that all minorities in the nation are properly counted and represented in the 2020 Decennial Census,” Campbell said.

Trump has pledged to delay the 2020 Census and he said his administration still plans to include a question that inquiries about a person’s citizenship status.

“I have asked the lawyers if they can delay the Census, no matter how long, until the United States Supreme Court is given additional information from which it can make a final and decisive decision on this very critical matter,” Trump told Fox News.

However, NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson said justice must now be done and everyone must be counted. Johnson said the strength of America’s democracy depends on it.

“The court today rejected the Trump administration’s fraudulent justification for adding the citizenship question,” Johnson said.

“The highest court in the land – in an opinion authored by a Chief Justice appointed by a Republican President – has effectively ruled that the head of one federal government agency, the Department of Commerce, lied to the nation, aided and abetted by the head of another federal agency, the Department of Justice,” he said.

This article originally appeared in the Atlanta Voice. 

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