Ronda Racha Penrice is a freelance writer living in Atlanta. She is the author of African American History for Dummies.
Definitely more than a strip club, Magic City is an institution of sorts. Some would even say a “welcome center.” Usher, Kanye, Michael Jordan, Deion Sanders, Rihanna and practically every rapper with a rap song has dipped in. GQ even profiled the urban landmark last year. Spectacle? Yes. Pearl-clutching? Most definitely. Boring? Impossible.
2. You went to New Birth Missionary Baptist Church as a guest or date before Bishop Eddie Long’s sex scandal.
Before the married Bishop Eddie Long’s inappropriate relationships with young men made international headlines, church and New Birth were synonymous in the A. It was simply hard to find anyone who had never been invited to worship there. The New Year’s Eve service was so popular, making it off the exit was a feat. New Birth even hosted Coretta Scott King’s homegoing service.
From the early 1990s to the early 2000s, brothers from all walks of the ATL—real pro players à la Joe Johnson, streetballers like Hot Sauce and just working-class dudes—checked into Run N’ Shoot off rough Metropolitan to get a game in to end the day or after the club. It should have gone on forever because the only thing more perfect than an indoor fitness club with multiple basketball courts is its being open 24 hours.
Yes all-white parties are popular among the affluent black set in every major city, but it takes on Guinness World Records proportions in Atlanta. Let’s just say Lisa Raye is always ready whenever she chooses to fly into the ATL any given summer day. Diner En Blanc’s arrival just three years ago to phenomenal success only proves that the ATL always has room for yet another all-white party.
Some Atlantans called into work sick, former Atlantans flew into town, native Atlantans smiled for weeks. That’s just how serious the Dungeon Family Reunion was. Those who didn’t feel the glee were shamed. In Atlanta, the Dungeon Family is royalty and a full crew reunion–OutKast, Goodie Mob, production geniuses Organized Noize, Big Rube, Witchdoctor, Backbone, Slimm Calhoun, Cool Breeze and Killer Mike, a later edition—was City of Atlanta Proclamation-worthy.
Outside the A, Spelman and Morehouse may get all the HBCU love, but inside, Clark Atlanta gets its due. Black-ish creator Kenya Barris’ alma mater and the school where Spike Lee actually studied film has a pedigree all its own, with the combination of two schools, Clark College and Atlanta University, that date to 1869 and 1865, respectively. Those who’ve spent time on CAU’s yard or hit a RUNCAU Homecoming event know just how HBCU it gets.
7. You’ve patronized a black-owned restaurant featured on Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta or The Real Housewives of Atlanta.
Eating might be as real as these highly rated TV “shows” get and there aren’t many restaurants the Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta and Real Housewives of Atlanta crews hit that their fellow ATLiens don’t as well, especially the black-owned ones. Hair-pulling and shouting matches aren’t always on the menu, either. RHOA’s Claudia Jordan and Porsha Williams dined somewhat peacefully at Negril Village ATL and both LHHATL and RHOA castmates Mimi and Tiffany Foxx and Todd and Kandi with Peter and Cynthia behaved civilly at Sweet Auburn Seafood.
Every city has that club owner-promoter who has it all on lock, from celebrities to the fly spots and, of course, party people. In the ATL, Alex Gidewon is he and AG Entertainment is his movement. His opening of Vision during the 2003 All-Star Weekend raised the bar on just how posh an urban club could be, and he’s steadily come with the heat with the Velvet Room, Vanquish, Reign, the Gold Room and Compound, which Empire shouted out this season. While this empire might not sizzle as loud as it once did, no other nightlife impresario comes close.
Atlanta might just be the capital of the faux restaurants. Perhaps Diddy’s now-closed Justin’s did this best. One night, you might be seated, fork to mouth, and just like that, people are dancing all around you, reservations not required. Instead, there’s a cover charge at the door and lots of loud music, hip-hop especially. Apparently, people in other cities go out to eat, but in the ATL, they turned up back in the day at spots like Twist and popular radio personality Frank Ski’s, which are now gone. No worries; Suite Lounge and the relocated M Bar are keeping it going.
Grant Park, Midtown and Old 4th Ward, which encompasses Martin Luther King Jr.’s childhood nabe Sweet Auburn, may be lost causes, but gentrification has been slow to dilute Southwest Atlanta. Ben Hill, Campbellton Road and Cascade are especially holding up strong. While West End may pose a more immediate threat, the SWATS, home to current Mayor Kasim Reed and former Mayor Shirley Franklin, aren’t going down easy.