Carlton Fletcher’s Albany Herald column about two Albanys got me thinking about two Sylvesters, two Camillas, two DCs and two Bulldog nations. Fletcher is one of Albany State’s first non-minority football players which would actually make him a majority player at a minority school—look the dude came from Ocilla to Albany because he wanted an education and he loved playing sports.
This blog loves Fletcher because he keeps it real. The guy once wrote about the term “bus left” from our childhood. He is a bridge-builder and you know this blog has a metaphorical bridge as a logo. In a recent article, Fletcher talked about the Albany downtown where he works and the northwest Albany/part Lee County where others live and spend. This situation makes me think about the Police’s song “One World Is Enough For All of Us” in which Sting sang “we can’t sink while others float because we are all in the same big boat.”
People now make money in Albany then cross Ledo Road (literally Lee Dougherty line) to eat, shop and sleep away from….you know. It’s sometimes called White flight but there is a lot of Blacks doing the same. Hey, you can’t blame someone from running from rough stats about the inter-city but I happen to love downtown areas more than strips of national food chains with little character. The solution for downtown Albany will come when hundreds of college students, Marines and young professionals actually live in lofts downtown….high ceilings, exposed bricks, old wooden floors, walk home after partying. When I was an intern in the downtown development office, I told them that in 1988 but it never happened.
Small towns like Sylvester have been traditionally separated by a train track and if you came up on the wrong side of that track, you might want to catch a train heading anywhere else. In 1981, there was a movie called “The Night the Lights When out in Georgia” and at the end, Kristy McNichol’s character said, “I am not sure where I am going but I am in a hurry to get there.”
I was never in a hurry to get out of Sylvester, the town that turned the swimming pool into a tennis court to keep us from swimming. I have been playing tennis on those courts for 40 years…so there. With all the ugliness in the world, the calmness of the hometown sounds pretty good and with high speed internet, many professionals can do their jobs from anywhere. Forrest Gump brought his money home and so should others. Donald Trump is right in stating that we don’t make anything in America anymore and the Sylvester of my youth was about making crops and textiles. To me, current Sylvester is a bedroom community of Tifton and Albany and that’s fine.
The Mayor of Sylvester is Bill Yearta and he sat in my den (under the framed pictures of my daddy and President Obama) and politely listened to every gripe I had about Sylvester dating back to that swimming pool drama. Yearta took that heat for hours like current congressman Sanford Bishop and former congressman Jack Kingston like taking heat from people who they know aren’t going to vote for them.
I didn’t vote for Yearta but he gain tons of respect for listening to my explanation…hell, he should be a congressman. Elected officials and public servants execute their official duties but they have unofficial roles that some don’t understand. Does Bill Yearta do a good job on his official administrative oversight duties? Yes, he is likely the best mayor in this town’s history in that regard. Unofficially, you sometimes need a mayor who can encourage the citizens in aspects of life that aren’t directly about government i.e. pull up your pants, get off the corners, congrats on being a clean-cut kid, let’s not refight the Civil War.
Another old friend ran against Yearta twice and I jokingly called him the unofficial mayor of south Sylvester because he was a tireless advocate for this side of the tracks. I was wrong for that because there is one Sylvester and Bill Yearta is the properly elected mayor. There is one America and Obama is the president. Some folks don’t seem to know that.
When I was in DC, delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton pointed out that Washington policemen and firefighters were living in Virginia and Maryland. While they have a right to live where they want, having public safety personnel on your street is like having a police or fire sub station there. There are two DCs and the big DC is controlled by Blacks. One group making decisions without input from everyone is wrong.
While this blog post is too long, I want to finish by remembering the divide created when Hershel Walker left the University of Georgia for the USFL’s New Jersey Generals. How could Hershel do that to us? I had my room assignment in Creswell Hall and looked forward to being a junior transfer student about to experience winning a national championship as a sports fan. But, Bulldog Nation got so ugly when that young man decided that he wanted to secure his family’s financial future by turning pro. Black folks understood because Stanford stadium seems like a plantation and I looked side-eye when Walker said, “I can carry the ball a bunch of times a game….it ain’t heavy” Really?
We should remember that Walker’s exit was arranged by Donald Trump, the owner of the New Jersey Generals. Trump burnt Georgia like Sherman. While watching a recent PBS documentary on General William Tecumseh Sherman, I learned that the general who burned Atlanta became friends with several Confederate generals. Southern General Joseph E. Johnston was a pallbearer at Sherman’s funeral. The UGA family loves Hershel today; he is one of the school’s favorite graduates but can those people vote for Trump after he cost us a second national championship.
Summary: From politics to football back to politics, a house divided cannot stand. I use to think Abraham Lincoln wrote that before the Civil War but when I started reading the Bible more I learned Mark 3:25 says “And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” Elected officials should seek to bring people together and find reasonable solutions rather than inadvertently dividing us.
You know Georgia is open for business—always has been. Remember, during the roughest parts of the Civil Rights Movement, Black and White leaders in Atlanta would quietly meet and resolved issues with money and economic development in mind. Refighting the Civil War seems like fun to some until they realize that new industry doesn’t want to locate in a place with social disorder.
Atlanta’s Lewis Grizzard wrote that once he got back to Georgia he was going to nail his feet to the ground. Brother, I have been there and it usually involved a messed up stomach in the developing world. You don’t miss ole Georgia until you are somewhere else. When altitude sickness had my head spinning in Manta, Ecuador, I thought about Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Coming Home.” Yea, those confederate flag-loving southern rockers are my homeboys too. Their “Gold & Platinum” greatest hit cd is one of my all-time favorites behind Thriller, the Police’s Synchronicity and the Gentler Side of John Coltrane.
Problem-solvers listen to all sides of the issue and seek a common ground. Listen. Who knew that in Sweet Home Alabama, Lynyrd Skynyrd sang “in Birmingham, they loved the governor…boo boo boo.” So this Florida band was booing George Wallace….well, dam.
Anyway south Georgia is open for business and all those classmates who had successful careers elsewhere can retire to the warmth of the southern sun. Luke Bryan can romanticize in song about south Georgia and we do ride in trucks but the next generation seems a little aimless at times. Rather than talking about them, let’s talk with them because they could be heading backwards.
At the end of the day, I hope candidates for local, state and national offices read and take something positive from this blog’s Best Interest Initiative. Those nine blog post are deep.