Discover more from 285 South
Before 2022 sunsets, some stories you may have missed.
Happy New Year my friends. But first, some 2022 stories that I hope stay with us.
Dear 285 South friends,
Thank you all for the time you spent reading these stories and joining me on the journey to better understand our region. Every comment or word of support has meant more than you can know.
As 2022 comes to a close, I wanted to share some of the stories - and people - that left an imprint on me - and I hope others - in the past year.
Halal Burger: “Their friendship really launched everything that happened.” Gwinnett County Public Schools made waves this year when it became one of just a handful of school systems in the country to offer halal food to its Muslim students. There was a complex machinery of advocacy that made this happen. I zoomed in on one part of it: the friendship between Max and Yusuf - two video game playing preteens. Yusuf said he had been sick of eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day (why pay so much money for something you don’t even like, he told me). He was hanging out with his friend Max, and Max’s mom, and told them how he felt about the PBJ predicament. The rest - is history :).
“We wouldn’t be who we are without the restaurant”: Jintana Ortiz and her family have been running a Thai restaurant at a shopping plaza in Norcross for more than two decades. When a fire ripped through the plaza in 2021, and the landlord went MIA, they knew their lives would never be the same. The other tenants in the building didn’t have commercial insurance- and lost nearly everything. Jintana’s family had insurance, but spent much of 2022 dealing with repairing the restaurant, reopening it, and working around pandemic-induced supply shortages. The fire brought into focus not only the family’s future, but its legacy here in Atlanta.
Raw sewage is erupting out of bathtubs in an apartment complex on Buford Highway, but no one wants to deal with it. I met Luz Caranza, her five children, and two of her neighbors this past summer at the Villas de las Colinas apartment complex in Brookhaven. All of them told me - and showed me - the raw sewage that had been erupting out of their bathtubs. Though Luz and other residents reportedly still have had plumbing issues, many of them now have lawyers representing them. I hope to do further reporting in 2023 of this deep and endemic issue: the challenges for residents - especially those who speak limited English and immigrated here recently - of living in low income housing complexes that are wrought with multiple layers of problems.
Six months after arriving in metro Atlanta, an Afghan family starts a new life: In 2022, many of the Afghans who had evacuated Afghanistan amid the chaotic Taliban takeover in 2021, settled into the reality that is their new life here. I wrote a feature in Atlanta Magazine, chronicling the journey of one family of 12, who had been living in an extended stay hotel off I-85 for months, before finally moving into an apartment in Stone Mountain.
How sticks and stones can actually help with healing: I met Mohammed Alo, a 26-year-old Syrian student at Georgia State, at Refuge Coffee one afternoon. He left Syria as a child, after he heard a bomb go off on his way home from school one day. He arrived in Clarkston in 2018, after living with his family in Turkey as a refugee. Like so many people who make arduous journeys to migrate here, he had never consciously thought about everything he had been through. But one day, he noticed a mysterious pain in his leg. He started to lose his ability to focus at school. He tried out Narrative Exposure Therapy - and healed from a trauma he never knew he had.
Malala talks to 285 South. I can’t believe it happened but its true. I interviewed the Malala Yousafzai this year. In 2012, when she was shot by the Taliban, I was working at Al Jazeera English and covering her story from afar. In 2022, I had the chance to connect directly with her about her thoughts on immigrant life. She shared some of the things that have make her feel closer to home since moving to the UK: “Pashto songs and other Pakistani music, watch[ing] Bollywood films and cheer[ing] for Pakistan’s cricket team.”
Again, thank you for reading. I plan to continue to report and write about all of these themes, and more, in 2023 . If you ever have suggestions for stories, don’t hesitate to reach out (just reply to this email).
Sincere and best wishes to you all!
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