The Intersection of Discrete Realities

By Coley Chapman – 9:30 class

I arrived at Georgia Tech with only one parent, my mask on, and experiencing a totally different city than the class of 2019 did. The looming presence of Covid-19 has changed the way that we interact with each other and how we interact with Atlanta, but beyond that, it has changed the city of Atlanta. The culture and personality of Atlanta is not based on the buildings or landscapes around us, but instead, the city is defined by the complex web of people, interactions, and how they all intersect.

What is Interaction? 

Interaction is how everyone affects everyone else. Interactions in Atlanta are the definition of the city, the day-to-day fabric that makes up our perception of our community. The only way to interact with Atlanta is through the people of Atlanta. Even now when people are sparse, we look to identify traces of community wherever we go. The city is empty without the stories of those that interact with it.

Walker Evans. Barber Shop, Atlanta. 1936, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA.

Walker Evans is able to depict the connection between a barber and the others in the shop without including any models in his photograph. The building has been lived in and shows the personality of the barber. The newspaper on the wall and the whiskey advertisement remind us that people live and work in this space. When viewing, you feel as though the barber has just left the frame. The haphazardly draped towels from the most recent client or the temporarily placed hat waiting to be picked back up by its owner make it impossible to see this as an empty room. He brings the barber’s chairs into the foreground and includes both of them to convey a sense of companionship between customers. These thrones of conversation remind the viewer of the last time they had a haircut, and the conversation they had with the barber or another patron. You can almost hear the chatter of the imagined clients. The most important part of this photograph is not what is in it, but what you know should be in it. The spaces around Atlanta only develop personality when they are populated. 

Chapman, Coley. A Classless Room. 2021, Atlanta,GA.

When Walker Evans took his photo of an Atlanta barbershop, it would have been difficult to get people into the photo because of the photography technology of the time. When I looked to capture the same idea in 2021, I struggled to find subjects for my photo due to Covid-19. The collage above was taken in an empty lecture hall on campus and evokes the same feelings of missing interaction. Each of the photos was taken at a wide aperture in order to create an extremely shallow depth of field and force the audience to focus on the empty chair. By including multiple chairs in each shot, the viewer’s eye follows the paths radiating from the focus point of the photo. As they look away, they realize how many empty chairs are present today and the combination of 3 photos in the collage serves the same purpose. The photos are still, but any student’s immediate reaction is filled with action and excitement, reminiscent of the people they knew. The life of this photo is in contrast to its literal appearance. The room is quite sterile, but you allow yourself to imagine conversation and interaction that fills the space. The focus of this photo is not on the structure, but instead the purpose of these structures – a location to interact and communicate with varied peoples and personalities united by a common goal. 

How does Covid – 19 Change Atlanta and Challenge the Modernist City?

Whether they are conversations in the confined space of a barbershop or a large scale gathering in a lecture hall, Covid-19 has limited the capacity or completely eliminated the in person interaction that defines the city as we know it. The mass daily migration of people to the office is no more, and many find themselves limited to their homes. People are still interesting and Atlanta still has culture, but it is near impossible to interact with the city like you once could. What was once a river of people and ideas, intertwined by communication is now segmented into isolated units. The modernist city is built on constant interaction, to the point of anonymity, but now cities face an inability to blend into one. We can however get a sense of oneness in the sum of each independent story and personality within the city. In each unit, there is still a sense of community, even if it is only a part of the larger Atlanta story.

Chapman, Coley. Compartments . 2021, Atlanta, Ga.

In this photo, I try to capture the community that is omnipresent even in a global pandemic. I used a 200mm lens I borrowed from my dad to get an extremely tight image of a local apartment. Each one of these apartments is filled with its own tenants each with their own lives, but together they still create a homogeneous building facade. People are still communicating with their families and loved ones, but each group is now isolated. Atlanta’s broad culture still exists but is unreachable for the majority of us. Confined to our homes, our reach is shortened to only those next to us, and it becomes impossible to experience a grand city. Unlike the modernist city, Atlanta does not have a homogenizing flow of people anymore, and instead, we are confined to our own vignettes. 

Souza Cardoso, Amadeo de. Windows of a Fisherman. 1915, Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon, Portugal.

Amadeo de Souza Cardoso captures this idea of independent ideas that are proximate yet discrete, utilizing form and color to create two independent emotions in “Windows of a Fisherman”. The left side of the image features a bulbous window and curving strokes, along with a purple tone. The left side feels luxurious and comfortable. In contrast, the right window is jagged and duplicated, indicative of a much different experience than its nearby counterpart. Like Atlanta today, these two ideas are simply existing close to but separate from one another, incapable of blending or bending to create anything new. 

How will Atlanta live on?

Because of the decreased frequency of interaction, each intersection of ideas and people has so much more importance. Unlike the modernist city, where every interaction is forgettable, Atlantians in the current climate need to make each intersection mean something more.

Chapman, Coley. A Busy Intersection. 2021, Atlanta, Ga.

These photos were taken at night on 10th Street using a tripod and a 2 second long shutter speed as the cars drove by. I then compiled them on my computer and created this image. With this image, I want to focus the audience’s eye on the middle of the image where all the lines intersect. Even in Covid-19, we see the passing of cars each containing their own tiny community with its own unique story, each intersecting and intertwining together on their journey. The ideal way to view this image is to be taken to the middle but then follow the path back to each of the corners of the image. Much like when we interact with people, we need to focus on who they are and what they come from. Just as important as the interaction and intersection of our lives is the interaction and intersection of their lives. 

Mondrian, Piet. Composition with Grid #1. 1918, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX

In the above image, Piet Mondrian creates a grid pattern of independent boxes that intersect uniquely throughout the piece just as the cars’ trajectories intersect on 10th street. As you look from top to bottom, you can see the grays slowly change in minute ways, and see the density of intersections change in different locations. Like how ideas change, the pieces transition in color and form through intersections shared by different boxes. In our lives and in the city, these intersections are the force that transitions our individual experiences into a culture. 

What Now?

Going forward, Atlanta will revert back to its pre-2020 sense of community and culture. Covid-19 is only a temporary roadblock for the modernist city. Restaurants are opening back up. You can now go get your haircut. Groups are finding ways to interact online in the meantime. The massive decrease in interaction and intersection we saw last March is slowly dissolving and allowing us to see the city once more.

Until we are back to meaningless and abundant interaction, however, we need to remember that every intersection of our lives with the lives of others is important and valuable. Even in our limited environment, we bear witness to the occasional intersection of discrete lives and stories. Unlike the modernist city, each of these limited crossings of our lives are not anonymous and will be memorable. You are part of what makes Atlanta, Atlanta.

Works Cited

Walker Evans. Barber Shop, Atlanta. 1936, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA.

Souza Cardoso, Amadeo de. Windows of a Fisherman. 1915, Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon, Portugal.

Mondrian, Piet. Composition with Grid #1. 1918, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX

Beirut: A Modernist Poem

my government did this sign ap beirut - CityNews Edmonton
View of the Beirut Port after the blast of August 4th 2020. 2750 tons of improperly stored ammonium nitrate explode after catching fire, destroying the capital. The highly explosive chemical, also used as fertilizer, had been in the port warehouse for 6 years.

As the shockwave evolves, I watch destruction reign over the city. Instantaneous chaos. Hundreds of deaths, thousands of injured and three hundred thousand homeless. The city that raised me, I now watch it burn through millions of OLED pixels on a flatscreen TV in the heart of Atlanta. Paralyzed, helpless, desperate, I read it burn through the uncontrollable flow of messages on my phone. Destruction… Always precedes creation. For the fallen martyrs, we need to rebuild Beirut, the Switzerland of the Middle East. Beirut, a capital of art, innovation, culture and history. In this article, I will take you on a journey to discover the capital of Lebanon under a new perspective; that of a modernist poem.

We can define modernism as the transformation or metamorphosis associated with the creation of new forms of art, philosophy and social organization from the 1890s until the 1930s. Particularly, a modernist poem should embody this revolution while also taking the past into consideration. In fact, according to T.S. Eliot in Tradition and the Individual Talent (1919), “not only the best, but the most individual parts of [a poet’s work] may be those in which the dead poets, his ancestors, assert their immortality most vigorously.“ Through our three stops in our journey: history, demographics and revolution, we will be discovering the modernist poem that is Beirut.

First and foremost, the Lebanese capital bears witness to a dual modernist imprint engraved in each street, alley and wall. This dual imprint, as its name suggests, can be broken down to two main components:  the history of the city and its cultural modernist heritage.

Mamluk building in Beirut Souks, downtown Beirut

During its five-thousand-year history, Beirut was destroyed and rebuilt a total of seven times – neither counting the August 2020 blast nor the 1975-1990 civil war! From the Phoenician, Hellenistic and Roman periods, to the Middle Ages, Ottoman Rule and French Mandate, if Beirut has been able to survive, it is by adapting to each period and preserving important aspects of the past.

Roman Baths in downtown Beirut

As the pictures above show it, a casual walk at downtown Beirut can turn into an archaeological expedition if you do not pay attention to where you are going! In fact, you could come across the Canaanite city wall, Crusader fortress walls, Iron Age shaft tombs, a Roman law school (oldest in the world!), Roman baths and many more archaeological sites. Each time Beirut was rebuilt, it was by using its past foundations.

This story alone is the epitome of what modernism represents: creating by using what has already been built in the past, always remembering our predecessors, but also always innovating. An osmosis between the past and the present can similarly be identified in both modernist poems and the city of Beirut. In art – and especially poetry –, the coexistence and synergy of different times was first introduced by T.S. Eliot in Tradition and the Individual Talent (1919) as a necessary element for innovation and creativity. Similarly, wouldn’t a city where skyscrapers and modern buildings rise over vestiges appeal to you?

At least it attracted models, billionaires and politicians from all around the world and served as a source of inspiration for many artists.

Mediterranean Landscape, Pablo Picasso (1953)

If in his painting Mediterranean Landscape (1953), Pablo Picasso did not specifically paint the shores of Beirut and Lebanon, this typical Mediterranean littoral, as much as any other Mediterranean city, depicts Beirut in all its diversity. At a first glance, the density of colors in the painting is striking, reminding us of the exotic, diverse, sometimes overwhelming Mediterranean lifestyle. We are also impressed, almost scared by the brutality of strokes, sharpness of angles and vibrance of colors characteristic of cubism, reminding us of the fierce History of this sea and Beirut. If international artists contribute to the cultural modernist heritage of Beirut, a blooming generation of local artists establish it. From Cesar Gemayel, Omar Onsi and Saloua Choucair, to Gibran Khalil Gibran, Fairuz and Mustafa Farroukh. Out of all the paintings by Lebanese modernists that I found, Daoud Corm’s Melons (1899) is the only one that truly affected me.

Melons, Daoud Corm (1899)

If you’ve never been to Lebanon, you need to know that we end every meal with a table of fruits. On the face of it, the painting appears relatively simple. However, the choice of colors alone triggered in me a complex mix of melancholy and peace: I could almost smell the usual Sunday lunch, feel the humidity of the atmosphere… And the knives! The cold silver knives typical of a Lebanese family, those centenary knives we still use and that those after us will also use, a symbol of how life is ephemeral. Maybe a symbol of how deep Lebanese are attached to their roots.

Demonstrating that Beirut is a capital of art during the modernist period is not sufficient to prove that this city is in itself a modernist piece of art. In order to do so, we need to dive deeper into the Lebanese demographics and lifestyle to verify if those factors truly embody modernism.

Detail of ‘A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte’, Georges Seurat (1884-1886). The difference in style is striking between post-impressionism and cubism, however those are both modernist movements.

As we defined it earlier, modernism is the collection of artistic currents that saw the light from the 1890s until the 1930s. No matter how different those currents might be, like cubism that we saw earlier and post-impressionism that focuses on extending the limitations of impressionism by using new stroke techniques, all those movements belong to one family: modernism.

The Divine World, Gibran Khalil Gibran (1923)

In parallel, Beirut is the collection of all different religions living in one city, a melting pot asserting the spirituality of the Lebanese. In the Divine World, what strikes us first is the Hamza at the center of the painting: an ancient Middle Eastern talisman, protective symbol in all religions. This symbol carries a powerful message of unity, setting all religions on an equal footing. If in Western modernism we witness a loss of God established by the rise of philosophical movements, notably the nihilism of Nietzsche: “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.”, Lebanese modernism distinguishes itself in its embrace and continued valuation of religion. Today, because religion brings back memories from the civil war, a horrendous period of Lebanese history, the unity of the people is stronger than ever regarding this matter.

St George Maronite Cathedral and Mohammed Al Amin Mosque in Beirut, collage by me

The spirituality of the Lebanese is also particularly reflected in their approach towards life in general: a lack of material concern when it comes to education, helping others or living and enjoying life. Incorporated in the doctrine of many modernist poets – as Francis Ponge in Le Parti Pris des Choses the Carpe Diem upon which the Lebanese live exhibits this deep spirituality they have. If the Carpe Diem urges us to make the most of the present time and give little thought to the future, enjoy life as we can, it is because memento mori, remember that you have to die. As the “collage” below manifests it, the Lebanese people do not fail at this task. The contrast in the variety of activities we can do in 24 hours may shock you, but as you can see, we do ski, waterski and party in the same day.

A typical March Saturday in Lebanon, photos by my friends.

I have introduced you to a utopic city and country. I wish this is how Beirut was. You have probably seen her real face on the news. Oppressed, perverted, abused by a mafia of corrupt politicians, the fetid Beirut. However, similarly to the diamond that only forms under pressure, it wasn’t until the Lebanese were truly pushed to their limits that their philosophy really crystallized.

Tired of following the same leaders who get richer by stealing from them, Thursday October 17th, 2019, the people decide that things need to change. Not only is this a political or economic revolution, but a total revolution, a revolution of culture and society, a revolution of thought that unveils a new modernist face of Beirut. If modernism witnesses the questioning of higher authorities and the power associated with them, as in the character of Stephen Dedalus in James Joyce’s Ulysses, Beirut can be considered part of this movement insofar as the revolution of thought it lives is in itself modernist. The unity of the people against power and corruption on one hand manifests their spiritual unity – Beirut is a melting pot, a collection of different religions coexisting – and on the other attests the revolution of thought they have initiated, characteristic of modernism.

My friends and I protesting at the “Students’ Revolution”. Photos by my friends.

In parallel to the revolution, the financial crisis that hit the country finished of poleaxing the people, and of course, the poorest were hit the hardest. Try to predict what happened next. If you base your reasoning on Hobbes’ theory on social contract, the Lebanese people, deprived of their most basic rights, therefore considered in their “natural state”, with no social contract (or society) to guarantee them safety and benefit, are fundamentally “bad”, and we should observe a chaotic deterioration of the situation. In fact, according to Hobbes, “L’Homme est un loup pour l’Homme” or Man is a wolf to Man, and society tames us. However, what we observe is completely different: as the people suffered on the streets, more and more Lebanese NGOs and initiatives rose to help those in need, which is closer to Rousseau’s view on the matter: “L’homme naît bon, c’est la société qui le corrompt” or Man is born good, society corrupts him. Shedding light on the true state of nature of Man, the Lebanese revolution is truly a total revolution embodying modernist concepts.

All in all, from its violent history as the command post of many civilizations, to its diverse demographics and the Revolution it is going through, we can say Beirut is built similarly to a modernist poem. However, on some aspects the city is still anchored in the past and it is clear that its roots are strangling it. Some people still believe in the politicians that have the power since the civil war (1975-1990) while others are starving on the streets. Will Beirut rise from the ashes an eighth time?

The Rise of The Phoenix, Ivan Debs (2019)


The Nature of Things, Francis Ponge (1942)

Ulysses, James Joyce (1922)

Tradition and the Individual Talent, T.S. Eliot (1919)

Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes (1651)

The Social Contract, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1762)

The Stolen Children of Atlanta

Gilded Atlanta

What do you say when someone asks, “How was your childhood? Your teenage years?” What would you say? Typically, childhood memories are filled with playgrounds-the smell of mulch swirling around running children, mixing with the stench of pre-deodorant must. Teenage years filled with teenage angst, school dances, classes, and graduation. For many, being a minor is invigorating, a faint happy memory. For others within the Atlanta Area, an opposite universe. Atlanta creates a gilded exterior: Ponce City Market, The Beltline, and the Georgia Aquarium, helping city dwellers to overlook underlying issues such as sex trafficking.

It is a pervasive issue throughout the city of Atlanta and Georgia, affecting as many as 400 adolescent females a month (“Men Who Buy Sex” 11). In 2005, the FBI determined Atlanta to be one of fourteen cities considered major sex trafficking hubs within the U.S. (Swecker 2). Though more awareness on sex trafficking has come about over recent years, the issue is continuously overlooked by the news, residents, and city officials. There is a lack of support and resources for victims in Atlanta from the government despite the fact that it is the 2nd most lucrative crime industry in the U.S. (Wright et al. 2).

Atlanta is a very convenient spot for traffickers due to Hartsfield International Airport, the multiple interstates, large conferences, and the adult entertainment venues allowing for easier entering and exiting (Tripp and McMahon 10). Traffickers will target vulnerable groups of minors, specifically runaways, homeless youth, and those in foster care or child protective services (Kotrla 3). The average age individuals are trafficked is between 11-14 years old. At that age, many kids are going to middle school but for these children, they are being used for the sexual pleasure of others. Some children are as young as 5 years old when initially sold. These children are forced to do a variety of sexual acts against their will not limited to prostitution, pornography, stripping, and escort services (Kotrla 2).

Over the years, the minors are forced to commit sexual acts and then transition into adult prostitution (Kotrla 1). This image is representative of the thought process of the children as they age. The only life they come to know is a life of forced prostitution. This is a main issue within sex trafficking because sometimes victims become comfortable within this cycle of manipulation and do not leave. Even as adults, the traffickers will typically control who the women meet and will take the money for themselves. The traffickers will spend years breaking down the minors until they have no strength to fight, tricking them into believing that this is the only way for them to survive. Like The Scream (1893), the victim’s emotions are suppressed. They are the only ones who understand the pain and manipulation. The world continues around them without others noticing. The beauty of the outside world is distorted in the eyes of these children because of the horrors they have experienced.  In the minds of the victims, it becomes their life: a life of pleasing others without consent.

Contrary to popular belief, many of the minors are not kidnapped from random places. The traffickers will groom the potential victims through love relationships–spoiling them with money, gifts, fake acts of romance to build trust with the children. For example, one major case, U.S. v. Pipkins et al (2001), had over 50 underage victims within a span of only 4 years. The traffickers used false promises of love, employment, and fame to lure the victims in (Tripp and McMahon 20). In other cases, loved one and family members will sell or traffic their children. Other traffickers will trick immigrant woman into thinking they are providing freedom in the U.S. This scenario happens most often with Hispanic victims due to the proximity of the United States to Mexico and other countries in South America.

Though many are found within Atlanta, most of the buyers live in the suburbs outside Atlanta (Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, Cobb, and Gwinnett counties) (Wright et al. 6). Most of the people buying these services could be living in proximity to many Georgia residents without anyone realizing. Each month, 12,400 men in Georgia pay for sex with a young woman and 7,200 of them end up exploiting an adolescent female (“Georgia Human Trafficking” 2). Social media and online websites such as Craigslist play an integral role in the selling of children for sexual services (Kotrla 3).

The Weight of Pain

The individuals subjected to sex trafficking are often seen as criminals/delinquents as they age (Kotrla 2). These people are victims to a physically, mentally, and psychologically abusive industry that breaks them down. Treatment should be focused on recovery and reversal of the years of manipulation. Another misconception is that a certain look is sought after. Traffickers will target all races: Asian, Black, White, Hispanic, etc. All that matters is if the potential individual can be controlled by any means necessary. Gender is not a limiting factor either. Males and females are trafficked although females are trafficked more often. Minors who identify as LGBTQ+ are considered a group vulnerable to sex trafficking as well, due to the increased risk of being kicked out of their homes by parents. As represented by the image, the victims want to escape but many factors hold them down: fear of being trafficked again, societal misconceptions, and drug addiction among other things.

In the past few decades, more legislation has been created to limit sex trafficking and protect victims especially in Georgia. Nationally, the main law is The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA) passed in 2000. It provides an official definition of sex trafficking as “a commercial sex act [induced] by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age.” (Kotrla 1). This was extremely important because there was ambiguity between states and nations regarding how to differentiate human trafficking between sex and labor trafficking. In Georgia, legislation has improved by providing harsher punishments for traffickers and better protecting victims.

In 2011, HB 200 was passed which increased the minimum punishment from one year to 10 years (“Human Trafficking” 1). Sex trafficking of minors now ranges in prison time from 25 years to life in prison. The maximum sentence used to be merely 20 years. It also broadened the definition of coercion to encompass more tactics used. Victims of trafficking are now eligible for victim compensation for the serious mental and emotional trauma they have experienced.

On June 29, 2020, Governor Brian Kemp signed SB 435 also known as The Survivors First Act. This created remedies for individuals to clean their Georgia criminal history if they are survivors of sex trafficking (“Human Trafficking” 2). The act was a huge step towards seeing the affected as victims, not criminals. It specifically vacated convictions that were direct results of the trafficking. By doing so, this increases access to employment, housing, and other opportunities for victims of sex trafficking. Before this, many victims would be arrested when asking police for help due to drug addiction.

I got upset when I realized what he was doing, but I kept doing it because he made me feel like I was special -Sacharay

Atlanta is a known sex trafficking hub and yet there is a lack of resources available to support victims who want to escape. In the last two years, more support has been provided to Georgia by the federal government. The U.S. Department of Justice allocated nearly $4.3 million to help prosecute traffickers and aid victims (“Department of Justice” 1). Though the funds are there, they are typically not allocated effectively due to a lack of pressure on legislators and officials.

State government and city officials should allocate aid for victims based on what they need to succeed outside trafficking. Many times, victims need safe housing away from traffickers, specialized mental health services, and medical care and substance abuse treatment (Swecker 2). New Social Security numbers are recommended by the FBI as well since traffickHers often keep birth certificates, drivers’ licenses, and other documents to track victims who flee (Swecker 2). Housing for young children coming out of trafficking is few and many are sent to juvenile detention centers or foster homes which makes them susceptible to being trafficked again.

Housing options for victims have increased since the early 2000s but are still small in numbers. Wellspring Living is a non-profit organization founded in 2001. They focus on domestic sex trafficking victims (DMST) and provide specialized recovery services for these cases in Atlanta. For minors 12-17 years old, Wellspring’s Girl’s Residential Program provides safe housing for up to 13 months (“About Us” 1). Another organization, Tabitha’s House focuses on awareness and mental health resources. They are currently planning a residential facility within metro Atlanta (“Our Story” 1).

These victims and survivors are some of the strongest people within Atlanta. They are the epitome of The Two Fridas (1939). In one area, they are destroyed, heartbroken, and beaten down, unable to escape. On the flipside, many can succeed with the proper guidance becoming independent, accomplished members of society. Individuals suffering from sex trafficking are not lost causes. All they need is a helping hand—a hand that is judgement-free, caring, and available to them. Like the Black Iris (1926), the victims are covered by years of abuse (the petals) which covers who they were before all the trauma of forced sex. Sex trafficking happens all around Atlanta every day, unbeknownst to people walking around the city. Though right under our noses, sex trafficking continues to be a major issue.

Now what can you do to help? One way is to research local Atlanta organizations working towards aiding victims trying to escape. Donating to these organizations help immensely with funding the mental health resources and housing facilities. Another way is to hold officials accountable about how they are addressing sex trafficking within Atlanta.  This can be done by emailing/contacting federal and state officials. If you believe someone may be a victim, call the 24-hour National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888) or 911.

Resources Used:

“About Us.” Wellspring Living. Wellspring Living, 2020. Web. 28 Feb. 2021.\

“Department of Justice Awards Nearly $153 Million to Reduce Crime and Improve Public Safety in Georgia.” The United States Department of Justice. 12 Nov. 2019. Web. 28 Feb. 2021.

“Human Trafficking.” Office of Attorney General of Georgia Chris Carr. Web. 28 Feb. 2021.

“Our Story: Who We Are.” Tabitha’s House. Tabitha’s House, 2017. Web. 28 Feb. 2021. <>.

Georgia Human Trafficking Fact Sheet. Center for Public Policy Studies, June 2013. PDF.

Kotrla, Kimberly. “Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking in the United States.” Social Work, vol. 55, no. 2, 2010, pp. 181–187. JSTOR, Accessed 22 Feb. 2021.

Men Who Buy Sex with Adolescent Girls: A Scientific Research Study. The Shapiro Group, 2010. Web. 27 Feb. 2021. <>.

Swecker, Chris. “Exploiting Americans on American Soil: Domestic Trafficking Exposed.” FBI. FBI, 07 June 2005. Web. 28 Feb. 2021.

Tripp, T.M., McMahon-Howard, J. Perception vs. Reality: The Relationship Between Organized Crime and Human Trafficking in Metropolitan Atlanta. Am J Crim Just 41, 732–764 (2016).

Wright, Eric R., Ana LaBoy, Kara Tsukerman, Nicholas Forge, Erin Ruel, Renee Shelby, Madison Higbee, Zoe Webb, Melanie Turner-Harper, Asantewaa Darkwa. 2021. The Prevalence and Correlates of Labor and Sex Trafficking in a Community Sample of Youth Experiencing Homelessness in Metro-Atlanta. Social Sciences 10: 32. 10020032

2021 Ashley Jhun Inc.

‘Make it New’: Gentrification in Atlanta’s Neighborhoods

By Evan Rodgers- 11:00 class

During the early modernist era, developments in technology and the expansion of industry fueled the rapid growth of cities across America. This turned cities into areas in which diverse cultures and new ideas flourished. In 1900, about 40 percent of Americans lived in Cities.1 Today, that number has grown to over 82 percent.2 As cities have grown, they have continuously changed, not only in size but also in character. Historically, many inner city neighborhoods have been considered less desirable, and were therefore populated by lower income, often minority residents due to affordability. With increased demand for space closer to cities, these areas have become more desirable, leading to pressure for them to become more appealing to wealthier residents. Gentrification, in general, occurs when a community undergoes rapid change or improvement, often as a result of an influx of wealthier residents. 

Two neighborhoods in Atlanta that are currently experiencing the early stages of gentrification are Vine City and English Avenue. These two neighborhoods are located directly next to each other just southwest of Georgia Tech. Vine City has a population of 24,974 people, and English Avenue has a population of 2,466 people. Both neighborhoods are relatively poor, with about one quarter of residents of English Avenue and over one third of residents of Vine City living below the poverty line.3,4

A defining characteristic of gentrification is that it raises property values in an area. One of the main catalysts behind the gentrification of many areas of Atlanta is the Beltline, a new trail being built around the entire city of Atlanta. A study conducted by Dan Immergluck, a professor at Georgia Tech, found that “prices one-quarter to one-half a mile away [from the Beltline] increased by 14.7% annually” between 2000 and 2006.5 Interestingly, this increase occurred before the Beltline was even built, and was the result of the release of plans to build it. This shows that anticipated development in an area can cause price changes even before anything is actually implemented. 

Although the beltline does not go directly through the neighborhoods of English Avenue and Vine City, connector trails are being built to meet up with the beltline, creating similar effects. Property values are already rising in many parts of the neighborhoods, and will only continue upwards in the future. Recent plans to further develop some areas, such as a new multi-use development being constructed at the intersection of Echo Street and Hollowell (see image below), will (and have already) lead to further increases in property values. Interestingly, even members of a community can contribute to gentrification. Any project that makes an area more desirable will to some extent increase the value of surrounding properties. Therefore, even community led projects such as creating small gardens and parks throughout the neighborhoods, as shown in the image below, have also probably had an impact. 

Images of the construction at the Echo Street Hollowell intersection. The bottom left image shows the plans for the area, and the other three show the current construction site.
The Westside Connector Trail travels through English Avenue, and will eventually connect up with the Beltline. This particular section is currently closed due to the construction occurring by Echo Street, which it passes through. 
Residents of English Avenue transformed this gravel parking lot into a community garden. The garden is also accompanied by a park just down the street, and these areas are used for many community events and gatherings.

At its core, gentrification is not necessarily a negative thing: it increases revenue for the city, and can make neighborhoods nicer places to live. However, it can also have some negative consequences. Improving an area will obviously make it more desirable, and as a result causes property values to rise. This heightens property taxes and rents for people living in the area. In most cases (such as in English Avenue and Vine City), the existing residents of gentrifying areas are poorer, so they may not be able to afford these added costs. While discussing this topic, it is important to note that increased property values are not always a bad thing. In fact, many existing residents may be excited about the prospect of their home rising in value, as they would have the opportunity to sell it at a profit. However, only about 30% of houses in these two neighborhoods are owned by the people or families living in them, meaning that about 70% of residents are renters. These individuals, many of them long time residents of the community, could see drastic increases in their rent, and as a result will not be able to afford to stay around and see the benefits of gentrification. Homeowners who cannot afford rapidly increasing property taxes could also be forced to move. As other areas of the inner city gentrify as well, both renters and homeowners will be forced further and further away from the city, making it harder for them to find jobs. They will also be forced away from the community that they may have had for their entire lives. As residents begin to see small changes in their community, they may feel like their ability to stay in their long term community is threatened, creating stress.6

Edvard Munch
The Scream, 1893
This painting from Norwegian artist Edvard Munch depicts his feelings of “mental and physical unease” as he walked through the city.7 Long term residents of gentrifying areas may be able to resonate with this piece, as they experience their lifelong community changing and wonder if they will have the financial resources to stay in their homes. For them, a simple walk around the city may also bring feelings of anxiety. 

The gentrification of English Avenue and Vine City is essentially unpreventable. With developments already in construction, it would not be feasible to argue that gentrification should be halted, nor would it necessarily be a good idea, as gentrification does bring some nice benefits with it. However, given that the area is gentrifying, and will continue to gentrify, steps need to be taken to ensure that long-time residents of these areas are not forced out of their communities. We must figure out a way to not halt progress in the area, while also allowing those who do not want to leave the chance to stay. Historically, progress has often been at the expense of poorer Americans, but that does not need to be the case. We can simultaneously make an area nicer, while also allowing those who have lived there and worked there all their lives to enjoy the improvements. Admittedly, doing this would take some sacrifices, but it is more than worth it to protect the individuals and sense of community in these neighborhoods. 

Alphonse Legros
Abandoned Village, 19118
Alphonse Legros was a modernist painter who was known for painting normal people in natural, everyday scenarios. This was very different, as artists previously focused on more glamorous and exciting aspects of life. This piece, titled “Abandoned Village” goes even further than just an everyday scenario, and depicts a village in ruin. Many people within the city might see this image as depicting the current state of poorer communities that need to be fixed. However, these communities have unique histories and cultures. The residents of them may see this image as representative of the potential destruction of their communities, rather than the current state of them. Although gentrification does bring in many new exciting things, we must also remember to consider the rich cultures that have existed in these areas for many years. Otherwise, we risk destroying valuable parts of our city’s culture. 

One measure that has already been taken to lessen the impacts of gentrification on residents of the English Avenue and Vine CIty communities is a property tax freeze. This gives lower income residents the option to freeze their property taxes at the pre-gentrification price. This means that they will still pay taxes, but will not be pressured to leave the area due to a rapidly increasing cost of living. This measure should also be applied to apartment owners who commit to providing affordable housing. Affordable housing is defined as housing that can be rented for 30 percent or less of the average yearly income of a person in an area. Apartment owners must still pay property taxes, so freezing their taxes as well, with the requirement that they provide affordable housing, would provide places in which former residents could still live in the neighborhood. Laws could also be implemented to limit the extent to which an individual’s rent could increase in a given time span, and make it more difficult to evict people from apartments or rented housing. However, this would have to be coupled with subsidies or policies to assist landlords, who may reasonably complain that they should be able to set their own prices.9

Another important step for reducing the negative impacts of gentrification is limiting the extent to which an area can be developed. In many cases, gentrifying inner city neighborhoods lose houses or small apartment complexes in favor of large-scale multi-use developments, usually with a combination of office space, apartments or condos, and stores. While these do improve the economy of an area, they are mainly oriented towards higher-income residents. Some of these developments are fine, but too many can lead to a loss of the sense of community in an area, especially as many of the existing residents are poorer. To maintain the existing community in these neighborhoods, areas should be set aside for individual housing or smaller-scale projects oriented towards the people who have lived in the neighborhood for many years. This includes affordable housing, but could also include parks, community centers, and other places in which the previously existing community can come together, ensuring that the unique culture and feel of these neighborhoods is at least somewhat maintained. 

Salvador Dali
Metamorphosis of Narcissus, 1937
Salvador Dali was a surrealist painter who attempted to “reveal the unconscious and reconcile it with rational life.”10 This image contains feelings of change and refinement through time. Gentrification has a very similar feeling, with many people seeing lower income areas only as places to be improved. However, we need to find a way to refine these neighborhoods while also acknowledging their value and preserving some aspects of what makes them special. 


1 Boundless. (n.d.). Boundless US History. Retrieved February 28, 2021, from,of%20Americans%20lived%20in%20cities

2 Plecher, P., & 4, N. (2020, November 04). United States – URBANIZATION 2019. Retrieved February 28, 2021, from

3 English Avenue DEMOGRAPHICS. (n.d.). Retrieved February 28, 2021, from

4 Vine city demographics. (n.d.). Retrieved February 28, 2021, from

5 Camrud, Natalie, “Race, Class, and Gentrification Along the Atlanta BeltLine” (2017). Scripps Senior Theses. 947.

6 Lartey, J. (2018, October 23). Nowhere for people to go: Who will survive the gentrification of Atlanta? Retrieved February 28, 2021, from

7 The scream, 1893 by Edvard Munch. (n.d.). Retrieved February 28, 2021, from

8 Legros, A. (n.d.). The abandoned village. Retrieved February 28, 2021, from

9 Haffner, J. (2016, January 16). Is gentrification inevitable – and inevitably bad? Retrieved February 28, 2021, from

10 Tate. (1970, January 01). ‘Metamorphosis of NARCISSUS’, Salvador Dalí, 1937. Retrieved February 28, 2021, from

The Daily Grind: San Francisco

Austin Love – Class: 11:00 a.m.

A blurry sea of headlights and colors swell the roads as schools of people walk along the sidewalk along-side on their way to work. After pushing through the swivel door to their office, workers are greeted with the familiar sight of foosball tables, napping pods, and relaxation areas as they prepare to sit down at their open desks where everything they do is free for all to see and scrutinize. This is the work environment of numerous tech companies in San Francisco, specifically in Silicon Valley, a world-renowned tech hub. While these commodities or office perks seem inviting and to some even luxurious, they are more than just a welcoming gesture of companies’ displaying their willingness to innovate and make their workspaces more comfortable to employees. In reality, these perks are symptoms of a large problem with American work culture prevalent in the San Francisco workforce. This issue is known as “hustle culture” or the “grind”. These words are slang for overworking which as described in the article, “The Dark Side of the Overwork: An Empirical Evidence of Social Harm of Work from a Sustainable HRM Perspective” as “working hours beyond the required average” (Sugumar Mariappanadar and Ina Aust). Overworking takes priority over other aspects of employees’ lives regardless of their own personal interests and even health. The city of San Francisco is infamous for this toxic culture of overworking and the reason for this is namely attributed to the city hosting Silicon Valley.

San Francisco celebrates the idea of perpetual movement. From having thousands rush in and out of the city over Golden Gate Bridge to the various tech companies and startups present in the city also known as Silicon Valley. Hustle culture is promoted by companies to citizens to motivate them to always be working and to limit breaks as the key to success is a result of the amount of time put in, or at least that is what is suggested. Workers’ identities and respect from others seem to revolve around how hard and long they are able to mindlessly grind away at work-related tasks. This ironically resembles the process of producing a drug prominent in hustle culture, coffee. Just as beans are grounded into a fine powder only to have blistering hot water poured over them to produce a drink. Employees are all but being coerced into working tirelessly at their jobs while being drowned under an endless assortment of tasks. To corporations, employees are reminiscent of coffee, they are a resource to be used until nothing left can be extracted from them before they are disposed of. This apparent lack of compassion only fuels employees’ drive to hustle to avoid being considered used up and dropped since job security is practically a thing of the past. In spite of this morally bankrupt practice, companies still manage to rake in thousands of workers through the use of office perks that until somewhat recently were hard to find outside of the Silicon Valley area.

I created this picture to serve as an amalgam of the incentives companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter offer that up until a few years ago were exclusive perks possessed by these tech giants and a handful of startups. Providing breakfast, lunch, dinner, exercise equipment, and even places to nap are not only commodities to encourage people to work for them but provides an excuse for employers to maximize the time their employees spend working since most of their needs such as food, exercise and to a certain extent, even sleep, are provided for them. This obsession with keeping employees at the office as long as possible is a dehumanizing aspect of the hustle work culture.  It not only stunts the personal development of employees by having them funnel the majority of their time into the company, but the stress of working can be physically detrimental as well due to the near-constant source of stress.                                     

The Scream by Evard Munch in 1893

One of the popular art styles created during the Modernist movement was Expressionism. Expression was strongly intertwined with Modernism due to its embracement of emotional honesty to the point of vulgarity. This is well depicted in the work known as The Scream made by Edvard Munch in 1893. The man in the center is depicting someone undergoing an intense amount of anguish about something while people in the back walk past him as if they are oblivious to his obvious distress. This striking image captures the stress of a person in a deep struggle. Regarding San Francisco’s hustle culture, this image would be symbolic of a person crying out as they attempt to keep up with the demands of work in San Francisco’s voracious appetite for productivity. The gaunt appearance of the figure resembles some of the physical characteristics synonymous with the effects of people undergoing extreme stress with physical symptoms that manifest as sleep deprivation, baggy eyes, and excessive weight loss. This hustle culture celebrates the toxic lifestyle of treating a job as the core determining factor of one’s worth to society. Consequently, observers to the victims of hustling either outright ignore the suffering of people afflicted with this self-destructive mindset or treat their pain as part of the process to becoming successful and call no attention to it just as they have been conditioned to do by the widespread glamorization of overworking.

Eiffel Tower by Robert Launay in 1911

Another art style developed as part of Modernism was Cubism. While the cubist painting here is a depiction of the Eiffel Tower in France and its host city of Paris, it shares a sense of symbolism with the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California. These are both iconic cities with well-known cultures and identities, however, the inhabitants do not experience the idealized version of their respective cities, rather they are almost suffocated or crushed by the sheer number of issues and responsibilities they must deal with in these cities. This is represented by the cluster of buildings surrounding the Eiffel Tower that almost seem to be compressing and twisting it as if to demonstrate how the reality of the harshness of these cities puts so much pressure onto people that it warps the idealization of living in these cities. This leads to the painting inciting an almost claustrophobic feeling which works well considering the frantic atmosphere of San Francisco where people feel boxed inside of the city since they always have something to take care of being swarmed with work and the societal expectation that they should always be productive otherwise they are wasting their time.

The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali in 1931

Surrealism was another fundamental art style of the Modernist movement. The clock has always been a symbol of structure and time. In this surrealist painting, the distorted clocks demonstrate the deterioration of time and how the time people spend working and the time they spend on themselves start to meltdown and become less stable. The drooping clocks could be seen as symbolizing how in a hustle-focused work environment clocking out or leaving the office is no longer a concrete way of someone knowing they are done spending their time working instead they most likely will be spending time on their job even while at home. The warped appearance of the clocks is a strong component of modernism which often ignores the conventional appearance or structure of both literature and art in favor of more experimental styles. Likewise, San Francisco seems to have rejected the typical nine to five work cycle in exchange for a more all-encompassing approach where people work as much as companies believe to be sustainable.

I created this picture to represent the effect on mental health that San Francisco’s hustle culture has on workers. This constant need to work whittles down their ability to focus and be productive despite the entire point of spending more time working to raise productivity. Outside of the more superficial commodities like entertainment centers and napping pods, open offices are a large part of the hustle culture since they supposedly establish more opportunities for collaboration. In reality, they just mentally drain workers even faster than before due to a lack of privacy. The longer hours spent working at the office in conjunction with the forcibly increased amount of social interaction is putting a large strain on workers mentally. This leaves them mentally exhausted by the time they finish working and leaves them with little energy left to do things that would allow them to unwind and recover from the day continuing the self-destructive cycle of overworking.

As depicted in the image I customized, San Francisco’s obsession with productivity and constant motion not only incites a toxic work environment that is mentally damaging to employees but physically detrimental as well. As it was briefly mentioned, when discussing The Scream, there are mental and physical consequences for people being overworked since being overworked means someone is under work-related stress for longer stretches of time than normal. As a result, the mental health of employees falls as their time to rest and recover is greatly reduced which leads to insomnia and higher blood pressure. These two symptoms begin to cause worse problems such as sleep deprivation and an increased risk of developing a disease or illness as a consequence of a severely weakened immune system stemming from the sleep deprivation as described in the article “Sleep, Immunity, and Circadian Clocks: a Mechanistic Model”, (Thomas Bollinger). The stress of overworking on the mind and body results in a feedback loop of negative effects.

The city of San Francisco has a major issue with overworking and must resolve its hustle culture before it starts to have long-term effects on the workforce. Actively discouraging overtime and pushing unfinished work to the next workday rather than having employees take it home would be extremely beneficial to the physical and mental welfare of employees. Additionally, substituting superficial benefits such as game consoles and sports equipment in exchange for better pay, job security, and health insurance would be a better trade-off than what is currently being offered. San Francisco is a city well aligned with the theme of Modernism, it is a city consumed with the idea of growth and change and is completely upfront with what it is regardless of whether or not it is positive. San Francisco’s work culture represents the shift from traditional practices to more modern ones but that does not mean it still cannot be improved upon.

Works Cited:

Bernstein, Ethan S., and Stephen Turban. “The Impact of the ‘Open’ Workspace on Human Collaboration.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol. 373, no. 1753, 2018, p. 20170239., doi:10.1098/rstb.2017.0239.

Cramer, Dr. Charles, and Dr. Kim Grant. “The Cubist City – Robert Delaunay and Fernand Léger.” Smarthistory,, 23 Mar. 2023,

Dali, Salvador. The Memory of Persistence of Memory. Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1931, Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Delaunay, Robert. Eiffel Tour. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1911, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City.

Farris, Dale. “Lab Rats: How Silicon Valley Made Work Miserable for the Rest of Us.” Library Journal, vol. 144, no. 1, Feb. 2019, pp. 50–51. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost,,shib&db=a9h&AN=134419240&site=ehost-live&custid=git1. Accessed 27 Feb. 2021.

Gossett, Eric. “DISRUPTED: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble DISRUPTED: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble.” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, vol. 69, no. 4, Dec. 2017, p. 252. Gale Academic OneFile, Accessed 27 Feb. 2021.

Graaf, John De. Take Back Your Time: Fighting Overwork and Time Poverty in America. Ltd, 2011.

Lock, A M, et al. “The Psychological and Physiological Health Effects of Fatigue.” Occupational Medicine, vol. 68, no. 8, Nov. 2018, pp. 502–511. Environment Complete, EBSCOhost, doi:10.1093/occmed/kqy109. Accessed 27 Feb. 2021.

Lock, A M, et al. “The Psychological and Physiological Health Effects of Fatigue.” Occupational Medicine, vol. 68, no. 8, Nov. 2018, pp. 502–511. Environment Complete, EBSCOhost, doi:10.1093/occmed/kqy109. Accessed 28 Feb. 2021.

Mariappanadar, Sugumar, and Ina Aust. “The Dark Side of Overwork: An Empirical Evidence of Social Harm of Work from a Sustainable HRM Perspective.” International Studies of Management & Organization, vol. 47, no. 4, 2017, pp. 372–387. Advanced Placement Source, EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/00208825.2017.1382272. Accessed 27 Feb. 2021.

Munch, Edvard. The Scream. The National Museum, Norway, 1893, The National Museum, Oslo, Norway.

Roper, Kathy O., and Parminder Juneja. “Distractions in the Workplace Revisited.” Journal of Facilities Management, vol. 6, no. 2, 2008, pp. 91–109., doi:10.1108/14725960810872622.

Atlanta: The ATL

Atlanta is unlike any other city in the south because of the amount of history it has compared to other cities. In the 1800’s, it was a major city for the confederate states of America which was later burned to the ground and just a few years later the most widely recognized drink in the world was invented named Coca Cola. Later in the 1900’s, a man by the name of Martin Luther King Jr was born in this city and became an activist for civil right for African Americans. Today the city is known for being the home of rap music often referenced at The A or The Atl. But how did the music industry in Atlanta evolve to what it is today? Music in Atlanta has diversified itself throughout the decades starting with the turn of the century when music began to become more mainstream or available to the public through the radio and vinyl records. country and jazz were among the most popular genres of music during the early 20th century.

Although Atlanta never claimed the title of “Music city”, which belongs to Nashville, it briefly became the recording center of country music and blues. It all began when WSB radio station debuted itself at the “Voice of the South” in May of 1922. This was a well-deserved title at the time since it was the first radio station in the south and within a year of its existence was able to rake in an audience of over two million people nightly. Unlike radio today which plays songs that are already recorded and can be replayed over and over, all the music that was played in this station was by live performers and bands since that kind of technology was not widely available at the time. This meant that the station had to have someone always performing and this was a challenge, but it was also an opportunity for the WSB station to diversify the genres that it played to its listeners. The artists that played in the station varied from country bands to a smooth jazz trumpeter. It was a great time for many African Americans to put their names out there on a national stage. For the first time it seemed like the city of Atlanta was finally becoming a city that could produce culture.

Pablo Picasso. Three Musicians. Fontainebleau, summer 1921 | MoMA
Three musicians by Pablo Picasso

This painting by Pablo Picasso, perfectly describes how the atmosphere of Atlanta in terms of music was viewed by other people it because it’s music didn’t promote change rather it attempted to focus on the past and of simpler times.

Country artist Fiddlin’ John Carson was one of the biggest names in this genre of music, his music was able to do what most singers could only dream of at the time. He was nothing more than a poor southerner who basically had any job that you could imagine but he was also a street musician trying to make some extra cash. His talent made him a local sensation and his lyrics were able to evoke so much feeling to his audience. He became a symbol in the south that remined people of the agrarian past, which often made his listeners feel nostalgic. His music was later recorded along with other artists such as Riley Puckett and Gid Tanner, the future was looking very bright for the genre of country music with a station such as WSB and plenty of local talent. Unfortunately, the overall population of Atlanta along with the city leaders had other plans in mind because they did not consider the music of these apparent hillbillies as part of the cities culture rather it was parts of a simpler past.

Vincent van Gogh. The Starry Night. Saint Rémy, June 1889 | MoMA
Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh
Music In The Country Artwork By Georges D'espagnat Oil Painting & Art  Prints On Canvas For Sale - Art Online Store
Music in the Country by Georges D’espagnat

In the eyes of southern folks the image of listening to country music at night by a live performer could be rather relaxing and heartwarming, as depicted there, especially in a time where one’s ideals are being threatened by more modernist ideas. The painting following that one evokes also feelings of a relaxed and simpler life, one can imagine that the young boy is practicing with his instrument with dreams on one day becoming a famous musician like a lot of these other real life artist once did.

This era of prospering Country music would not last very long but there is no denying that these musicians regardless of their genre and race were able to shift Atlanta’s cultural role. For the many years after, a lot of the recording studios would fall victims of the Great Depression and completely die out, leaving only the thoughts of how much this city could have become if it encouraged the rise of these local talents. This would only be the start though, of a modernist movement in the art of the music industry. Over the next couple of decades many genres would come and go in the city of Atlanta but in recent history there is one genre that has become synonymous to this city. What is that genre? hip-hop/rap.

A Rivalry by Jesus Rojas

In a time where the two main cities that produced hip hop were Los Angeles and New York City, Atlanta managed a way to put its local talent into the spotlight. At first many of the Atlanta artists were not socially accepted by most consumers of hip hop at the time. Unique styles that were created in this city were a major catalyst for the popularity and success that is being shown by the many artists and music producers coming out of Atlanta today. The mix between hip-hop, R&B, and pop were a major hit during the 1990’s leading to the wide recognition of artists such as Usher and Ciara. This was only the beginning though over the next decade a style of music called crunk which can be best described as a heavy bass music with tones of heavy partying paved the path for the fame of Lil Jon and other artists of that decade. By this time Atlanta was put on the face of the map on a national level in the music industry, Atlanta was finally being recognized for their young and new talent. It took many generations and several genres but that cultural impact that Atlanta desired so much to have was becoming a reality. Atlanta was just a step away from becoming a global influence in the music industry as the capital of Hip-Hop/Rap. Usher, Ludacris, and Lil Jon would be the ones to produce a song that not only landed in Billboard’s Hot 100 decades chart and even landed on the top charts in 14 different countries. Thanks to all of the young artists that the city of Atlanta was able to produce in the late 2000’s, even the New York Times had to admit that Atlanta was becoming the capital of Hip-Hop/Rap.

With the evolution of hip-hop the way it is listened to and produced have also changed which have made these two a pair because really without one of them the other cannot coexist, with newer technology hip-hop has been able to be produced in more varying styles and the amount of music released has also increased which what was the purpose of this artwork.

A new generation of Hip-Hop/Rap artists and the rise of social media were the best thing that could have to continue to keep Atlanta on the map. The creation of YouTube is a prime example of this occurring, in 2007 an artist by the name of Soulja Boy released “Crank That” which became an instant success on Billboard’s Top 100 and received millions of views on his music video uploaded on that site. In the following years, almost every popular Hip-Hop/Rap that made the top charts was either performed by an Atlanta artist and/or produced by an Atlanta record label. Atlanta managed to create such a cultural impact that even artists such as Drake and Bobby Shmurda who are not even from Atlanta began to copy the style that was being used there, and to no surprise they gained plenty of success. Atlanta has no signs of slowing down its pace, year after year the number of Atlanta born rappers, as they are referred to this today, has increased almost exponentially. If Atlanta keeps producing artists with a fresh new style and people continue to listen to this music the south specifically Atlanta will remain a national and global cultural influence on the music industry.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is The-Atl-1024x1024.jpg
The Atl by Jesus Rojas

The picture above is a representation of the cultural change that Atlanta has produced. I attempted to create a record label/ album cover that is able to describe the kind of atmosphere that was produced by this music and what it continues to do even today.

Atlanta has had a rollercoaster of a ride when it has come to popularizing certain genres of music starting at the early 20th century began to popularize country and jazz which although was short lived showed potential of what city of Atlanta could accomplish. In the following decades other genres would come and go such as Pop and Rock but none would stick around much less create a cultural shift quite like Hip-Hop/Rap. Starting with the 90’s where Atlanta became relevant in the Hip-Hop/Rap community, and later in the 2000’s became a birthplace of many Atlanta artists that made a name for themselves not just nationally but even internationally. In the present-day era of the late 2010’s and early 2020’s, if you ever mention the city of Atlanta the “rap game”, as people mention it there, has to be mentioned along with it because of the amount of song hits that this city has been able to make. All that can be said now is, as people say in Atlanta, “That’s how it’s done in the ATL!”.

Cairo: A City Losing Its Identity and Its People Losing their Voice.

8:30 am, On a Typical Weekday:

It is a typical morning in a bustling and constantly evolving city. 8:30 am, everyone is heading to work while listening to the calming music in the background: a mixture of car beeps and honks that never tends to stop. Everyone is always stuck in traffic for hours, where it became like a daily routine. A woman would roll down the window and chat with the driver of a nearby car, a young man would have a falafel sandwich for breakfast while waiting, and soccer fans would debate who of the two most popular local teams, Al Ahly and El Zamalek, would win the league this season. They all know that it is going to be a long time before the traffic congestion eases. They roll down their windows and talk about all sort of topics, but no one would dare to talk about politics.

Figure 1: Traffic in Cairo (Taken by Me).

Cairo Pre-Modernism, Transforming the City into Paris (1867-1890):

On June 8, 1867, Isma’il Pasha was appointed as the Khedive, or ruler, of Egypt. After a visit to France later in the year, he dreamt of transforming Cairo to be just like Paris. “My country is no longer in Africa; we are now part of Europe”, a famous statement Isma’il Pasha said during his first years as the ruler of Egypt. In order to transform Cairo into “Paris”, Isma’il brought French and European architects to build a new area in Cairo: Downtown Cairo. He wanted modern European architecture, gridded streets, and European coffee shops and restaurants. He shifted all funding and attention to Downtown Cairo, and almost abandoned the existing part of Cairo, which was later named “Old Cairo”.

Due to Egypt’s limited financial funds and capital at the time, Isma’il took loans from England and France, which were estimated to be around £ 1 billion at the time, to build Downtown Cairo. However, in 1876, he forced Egypt into bankruptcy and had no option but to accept financial support and supervision from both England and France.

Modernism in Cairo (1890s to 1940s):

From 1882 to 1953, and after Egypt’s financial troubles, Britain occupied Egypt and influenced its politics, trade, and military. This occupation was due to several factors, including bankruptcy and Britain’s increased influence over India, where the British decided that one of the quickest ways to get to India is through Egypt. Britain continued Isma’il Pasha’s work, where it brought the colonial definition of development to Egypt: introducing the European lifestyle to other nations. On the other hand, many western countries were, in fact, building temples and various structures that were influenced by ancient Egyptians. For instance, the Foire du Caire building in Paris (1828), the Krasnoyarsk Regional Museum in Russia (1913-1929), and the Masonic Temple in Charlotte, North Carolina (1914-1987), are all examples of western countries adopting Egyptian architecture in their buildings, while Cairo was being transformed to be just like a European city at the same exact time. Here is a painting of Cairo’s French District, which was taken sometime between 1900-1910, where it clearly illustrates the introduction of the European lifestyle in Egypt.

Figure 2: A Painting of Downtown Cairo’s French District

Even though Cairo was being transformed to match typical European cities, main issues such as public transportation, green spaces, and living conditions were at a much better standing during the modernism era than nowadays. After being built, Downtown Cairo was a place with different public transportation means, plenty of green areas and spaces, as well as higher standards of living. Metros, buses, and trains existed and were all in great condition, where many people, rich or poor, would ride together every morning to go to work. Here is an image of the Muhammad Ali street in Cairo in 1920, which shows how walkable Cairo’s streets were in the past, followed by an image that was taken in the early twentieth century that shows a clear picture of Cairo’s different transportation means.

Figure 3: Cairo in 1920
Different Transportation Means in Cairo (1900s)

January 25, 2011: The Egyptian Revolution and Political Prisoners

Millions in the streets, specifically in Cairo’s Tahrir Square: a square that is home to many important government buildings, the national museum, and local TV headquarters. The country has been ruled by the same autocratic ruler for thirty years, and main issues like poverty and water scarcity were in no way improving. For thirty years, Egyptians have seen nothing but constantly deteriorating health care and education systems, and much more. They fought 18 days for their lives, some slept every day in the street, some were killed due to police violence, and many were detained within a large pool of political prisoners that until today have not even seen daylight, let alone see their children and families.

After around two years of unrest in Egypt, a new presidential administration began its first term on June 8, 2014, after a military coup led by the current Egyptian president and the former commander-in-chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces. People were optimistic about the future, many thought perhaps the country is on the way to recovery. However, since then, things have taken a different turn.

Since the Egyptian revolution, it is estimated that there are tens of thousands of political prisoners in Egypt’s prisons today (Stark, 2015). This number has been constantly increasing since the new administration has taken office. Today, anyone who speaks in any way or shares their opinion about the current president would be pulled from his or her home in the middle of the night and thrown into prison for expressing a basic human right that the government has taken away from all Egyptians (Whitehouse, 2021). These political prisoners have been denied healthcare and even visits from close family members (“Egypt’s Political Prisoners,” 2021). They have been tortured and strangled daily. No one dares to speak in today’s Egypt.

The Rapid Construction of Massive Infrastructure Projects that are Changing Cairo Forever (After June 8, 2014):

One would think that with massive infrastructure projects comes development and a better standard of living. But this is not the case in modern-day Egypt, where these projects are only benefiting the wealthy elite and the richest ten percent in the country. To avoid any future conflicts and rebellions near important governmental buildings, in 2015 the new government of Egypt announced the start of the construction of a large-scale $58 billion project to transfer the capital of Egypt to a new city thirty kilometers east of Cairo under the name of “New Administrative Capital” (NAC). This city is expected to be the home of almost all ministries, governmental entities, as well as many luxurious skyscrapers and towers that would ultimately benefit the richest ten percent of the country. A huge portion of the government’s total funding has been directed to this project, whereas streets and villages within Cairo are experiencing constant power outages, and poverty is estimated to be affecting around 30% of the population (“Egypt is reforming its economy, but poverty is rising,” 2019). Here is a photo that I have taken in a typical poor village twenty minutes south of Cairo, which shows the difficult living conditions residents in villages have been facing, while the government is building massive projects for the wealthy elite.

Figure 5: Village Conditions in Egypt (Taken by Me)

Some would argue that the construction of the New Administrative Capital is a way to tackle an extremely high level of population density that exists in Cairo, where according to the World Population Review, Cairo’s current population is about twenty-one million, which is about twenty percent of the total population of Egypt. However, the construction of the New Administrative Capital is not a solution to this issue, as the project is mainly going to be home to the richest 10% in Egypt, where according to the World Inequality Database, the national income of the top 10% in Egypt income constitutes of about 47% of Egypt’s total national income in 2019, which shows the already existing income inequality in Egypt. On the other hand, the remaining population and those who are most in need would not benefit in any way from the construction of this project.

Apart from the construction of the New Administrative Capital, comes the construction of dozens of bridges within the Cairo area in the last couple of years. The government’s solution to tackling the traffic congestions is by building many bridges; however, without considering in any way whether these bridges divide villages, pass right next to balconies, or destroy neighborhoods. In 2019, a bridge was constructed a couple of feet away from residents’ balconies. In fact, during a newspaper interview, an anonymous resident (who did not disclose his name for his safety), in one of the apartments being affected by the bridge construction said, “When a car goes by, perhaps we can invite them to join us for a cup of tea on our balcony” (AFP, 2020). This flyover is designed to shorten the distance of car-users, where it is estimated to be used by 750,000 drivers each day (AFP, 2020).

One could argue that the bridge could help ease the traffic congestion in Cairo, which could be to some extent true. However, was this the only solution the government had? To create a “wall” that divides a village, where children used to play in the streets and neighbors chatted and greeted each other every day? How about the residents who will never be able to sleep again, when they are always thinking about what would happen if a car crashes into their bedroom? The Egyptian Transport Minister replied to the issue by saying, “We can’t sacrifice the interests of the whole governorate just for one, two, or ten apartments” (AFP, 2020). He is not even sure how many apartments and families are being affected. How long did the ministry of transportation take to plan this project?

Then comes the Egyptian government’s ongoing plan to either reduce greenspaces or limit Cairo residents’ access to parks and gardens. In the past thirty years, and until now, many national parks in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, have been transformed into roads, bridges, or governmental and commercial buildings. Almost all parks that still exist today have been fenced due to a required admission fee to these parks, which leads to further segregation between the rich and the poor in Egypt. One of the largest parks in the country is Al-Azhar park, a thirty hectares park located around five kilometers away from Downtown Cairo, which was constructed in 2005. Even though this park has been a getaway for many Cairo residents, where they can escape the busy city life and enjoy what the park has to offer from nature and seclusion, the admission fee to this park is around $1 per person. According to a World Bank report, an average poor Egyptian makes around $3.8 a day. So this park is still considered expensive to the bottom thirty percent of Egyptians who would need to sacrifice basic needs in order to visit the park with their families.

A City Losing Its Identity and Its People Losing their Voice:

It is very common for cities to evolve and change over time. But Cairo’s change is different. Its rulers have always focused on building a new city for a specific purpose, instead of developing the current cities where people live. Isma’il Pasha in 1867 thought about modernizing Cairo by building Downtown Cairo that would resemble Paris, and the current Egyptian president is building a new capital with his own definition of a modern city: skyscrapers and towers. What is never considered is the lives of poor families whose towns and villages are constantly suffering from power outages and water scarcity. The only thing being considered is what the ruler, who is just one individual, wants and thinks is right. The change that is happening in Cairo now is more dangerous than ever. In only a few years, Cairo will officially not be considered the capital of Egypt anymore due to the government’s decision to relocate the capital. Perhaps, the government wants Cairo to be the home of those who cannot afford luxurious skyscrapers and villas. A city where once the poor and the rich sat next to one another in the metro to commute to work is in the process of changing forever. Bridges are being built all over Cairo, limiting the movement of pedestrians in Cairo’s streets. Political prisoners are held in prisons to ensure no one else dares to speak. The city is losing its identity once again. This time, however, the government has also taken away the freedom of speech from every Egyptian. After all, what’s a city if its citizens cannot speak? I still love you Cairo, and I pray for you every day.

Figure 6: Cairo and the Nile River (Taken by Me)


  • “Investigating the impact of urban planning policies on urban division in Cairo, Egypt: The case of El-Maadi and Dar El-Salam”

  • “In Pictures: Cairo’s urban planning”

  • “Egypt’s political prisoners ‘denied healthcare and subject to reprisals’”

  • “Sisi’s Egypt: Mega-projects, scared citizens, no succession plan”

– “Egypt is reforming its economy, but poverty is rising.”



Living in a City in a Forest: Atlanta

When thinking about cities, what is the first image that pops into your head? Concrete buildings? Traffic for miles? The hustle and bustle of people living their daily lives? I’ll admit that these are the realities of most cities, but not mine. Here in Atlanta, we have the traffic, and we have the fast-paced movement, but what really makes Atlanta stand out from other cities is our trees. In a picture attached below taken from the Price Gilbert Memorial Library on Georgia Tech’s campus, one can easily see the beautiful canopy. Atlanta has long been dubbed “the city in a forest” due to its large amount of green space. Its skyline is marked with trees, as the canopy covers our lives. An estimated 48% or 40,524 acres of land is taken up by green spaces and nature. Not to mention that Atlanta has over 350 public parks which are also covered in trees. This is quite a stark difference to most other urban areas, where typically there isn’t a tree in sight other than the occasional park. Atlanta has the highest tree density of any of the major cities with Charlotte, North Carolina coming in second, and Chicago, Illinois in last. These cities have an obvious lack of trees, instead having scattered parks. Atlanta is lucky enough to have its large canopy in addition to its several parks.

 The reason that Atlanta has the privilege to be “the city in a forest” is due to the later industrialization Atlanta compared to other cities. The south was focused on agriculture well into the time period when the north began to industrialize. Because of this, the south had their industrialization period almost half a century after the north began. This is also why the south has fewer big cities than the north. Atlanta began its ascendance to being a big city in the 1820s, long after many other cities were settled and introduced. Then Atlanta’s industrialization came even later in the mid 1900s, while the rise of civil rights brought a lot of attention to the area. Because it was industrialized so late, Atlanta was able to keep our natural abundance of trees all over the city. Even more interesting is that most of Atlanta’s canopy is native to this region. Most other cities have to import their green spaces to keep them flourishing.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that almost 2/3 of the population in Europe lives in urban spaces now, highlighting the importance of having green spaces incorporated into urban development and planning. The pace of the city is captured perfectly in Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s painting entitled Street, Dresden (attached below). Due to its high population, urban areas run higher risk for air pollution, noise pollution, and light pollution. Because of this, the WHO have begun to promote and encourage local officials to work toward having more conversations about nature in their cities. Green spaces not only help combat pollutants of all sorts, but also have shown to reduce stress and increase resilience in city-goers, thereby improving the quality of life in the city. When people are less exposed to pollutants, they have healthier lives in general. These areas also encourage healthier lifestyle habits like frequent exercise. People are more likely to get out and exercise in green spaces like parks than in building-heavy areas. I see tons of people exercising in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park, pictured below. A study done at the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research showed that the number of green spaces within a person’s living radius had a significant impact on those people’s health.

In particular, green spaces are beneficial to underprivileged people in cities who are often the least likely to have access to these areas. There may be green, nature-rich areas in the higher-class neighborhoods, but no access to even a park in lower-class neighborhoods. Therefore, the lack of green places disproportionately affects the people in those neighborhoods. Sadly, this lack of access is applicable even to Atlanta despite its large acreage of trees. Continuing, if it’s bad even in “the city in a forest,” it is even worse in those without forestry. This exposes underprivileged communities to disproportionately large amounts of air, noise, and light pollution that can be combated with trees and green spaces. To fight this inequality, city officials and locals should fight to add green spaces not only to the city as a whole, but directly into poorer neighborhoods to decrease their exposure to these pollutants. Green spaces are often considered luxuries, but recent findings on their impact on health show that they should be considered necessities in all communities.

As a nation and all over the world, we lose thousands and thousands of acres of forest daily due to logging and general deforestation. This not only affects the biodiversity that lives in those area, but also us humans as we increase air pollution, while getting rid of our main source to solve air pollution. At the rate we are going, quality air is unsustainable. With forests only covering 30% of the Earth’s surface and dwindling fast, action needs to occur soon. Action can start in cities with less forestry with organization, such as the many in Atlanta, that fight for the planting of trees around cities.

In 2016, Atlanta passed an amendment called the “Tree Trust Fund” that allowed the city to buy up forested land around Atlanta, all while allowing free public access. This was done as an attempt to further protect Atlanta’s natural canopy. These nature-filled areas in Atlanta are being cared for by many non-profit organizations, allowing us to enjoy the break from the industrialized city. However, despite this, many trees around Atlanta are not protected by an ordinance, which could lead to a reduction of green spaces. The initiatives put in place protects land owned by the city, but not those in private hands. It is estimated that about 80% of the canopy actually lives in residential areas, which go unprotected. Atlanta is currently leading the nation in green spaces, but to stay that way, more measures must be put in place to protect and sustain the forestry we have. City in the forest, CITF, is a group of Atlanta residents concerned with creating new protections for the City’s canopy. With these groups in place, Atlanta’s canopy is hopefully in secure hands.

This all probably comes as no surprise if you have been to most big cities and then come to Atlanta. As a native Atlantian, I never realized how drastic the difference was until visiting Chicago. Chicago looks much like the painting by Charles Sheeler’s called Skyscrapers (attached below). I went from seeing trees all over my city to only seeing the occasional tree. Although Chicago is beautiful, I felt that the lack of trees really took away from the skyline and I missed my urban jungle. Then I began visiting college campuses around the United States and saw the difference more and more. I knew I wanted to go to school in a city, so I was vising cities like New York, Los Angeles, etc. I feared that being in a place without green spaces would hinder my motivation and harm my mental health, so I chose to stay in Atlanta and attend Georgia Tech. Even from my dorm room, I can see the beautiful green spaces provided. Here on our campus, we have tons of green space as well, which really makes it feel like our campus is separate from Atlanta as a whole. We have our own space. Georgia Tech puts huge emphasis on mental health which is why they attempt to provide so many green spaces for students. Our largest area being Tech Green which is a lovely area to have a picnic or swing in a hammock with friends. On the prettiest of days, Tech Green looks a lot like the painting in the park by Maurice Prendergast, People strolling, playing with animals, and enjoying the nice day. Even on this smaller scale of our campus within Atlanta’s borders, I have seen the beneficial results that the canopy has on students’ mental health. When students need a break from the academic rigor, you can often find them taking a walk through the green, playing soccer over at STAMPs field, or picnicking on the quad. My peers corroborate the idea that these green infrastructures reduce our stress overall. A good friend of mine decided to do most of her schoolwork outside on Tech Green because it helps her feel much calmer when working on her already stressful work. Personally, I have made the commitment to go outside to any of Tech’s campus’ green spaces to decompress during my harder weeks.

I have long wondered why other cities do not look to Atlanta as a role model in regard to our nature-based infrastructure, but it appears that many people do not see the benefits of having the green spaces that Atlanta does. However, if you were to leave your city, and enjoy a visit to Atlanta, I believe the difference would become quite apparent. On my college campus, there is something indescribable about the environment that Georgia Tech students create outside when the weather is nice. The sense of community is overwhelming as I watch students do work at the tables, play frisbee on the lawn, or nap in the sun.  It becomes more obvious to be me by the day that green spaces not only benefit mental health and productive, but they help to promote a sense of community and unity in cities.  

The Quad From my Dorm Room