The Historical Street – Auburn Avenue

Bigmouthben StoresAs an owner of this establishment, I have come to realize the dynamics, the mental exhaustion, the extremely hard work, and the “pride” that comes along with small business ownership, especially on the famous Auburn Avenue in downtown Atlanta – in the area better known as “Sweet Auburn” or  the “Old Fourth Ward”.

Pride in having the opportunity to build a business on the same street that in 1956 Fortune Magazine called “the richest negro street in the world”. Proud to know that so many historical people and events were once right here. 

Just thinking about the many business owners, teachers, apprentice, carpenters, doctors, lawyers, pastors, and others that pushed through oppression to live their dreams in times and places that were not so good to them or for them makes you really think about what Auburn Avenue holds for the future. Our ancestor’s determination to live a better life and provide a legacy to generations to come has proven to be far more difficult to obtain than the legacies of other races that we see all around us today.

Reflecting Pool at the Historical King Center

I am proud to say “Yes, my husband and I have a business on Auburn Avenue just one block from the Historic King Center and the birth home of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “

King Home 1

“We also right across the street from the Historical Wheat Street Baptist Church. We are so happy to be part of history in the making.

Historical Wheat Street Baptist Church

Nevertheless, I am more disheartened to see the people that walk more frequently up and down the once wealthiest negro street in the world, peddling for change and drugs. I would like to see our business and others in this area flourishing like the businesses from earlier times. But unfortunately, this is coming with a price and a task greater than we would have thought.

Homeless Man on Auburn Avenue

So why has it been so difficult for African Americans in this neighborhood to overcome poverty, drug use, and crime? I know there are hundreds of statistics on the lack of family structure, lack of education, lack of resources, lack of support, etc., but how exactly do we think the current situation would change if more of our children were being raised in a two-parent home with a prominent father figure; if the school systems were developed to that of the school systems from more affluent neighborhoods; or if additional resources were poured into the community? I would be the first to say “great start, it is needed, but it isn’t enough”.

Food Donation at Hurt Park

Can someone be placed in what is perceived as all the right places with all the right resources and still fail to recognize and take advantage of opportunities? The answer is yes. And it has been seen in all races all around the world. But unfortunately, it seems to be more prominent in our African American communities. In observation of my surroundings, I have found that a person’s thought process starting at a young age, plays such a crucial role in their decision making.

I ask myself – so why has this neighborhood not seen a significant change for the better? Could it be that personal responsibility to change the way we see ourselves or how we think, perceive or interpret our lives is faulty in some way? Do we not critique our own personal decisions? How do you get an individual to consciously start searching from within?

One of the books that I am reading to challenge the way I think says -“Thoughts lead to feelings. Feelings lead to actions. Actions lead to results.” So does everything come down to how we think or what we think about?

As we live and work in this area, it has become a consistent question that we make a part of our lives to answer. Not only on Auburn Ave. but with our family members as well. We continually search for ways to motivate and mentor ourselves and others to take personal responsibility for our lives then look outward.

What is keeping us from returning to those days of business owners, teachers, apprentice, carpenters, doctors, lawyers, pastors, scientist, and beyond creating an empowering economic environment that could bring back those prosperous times of the past? The dynamics of business, economy, and society has changed a great deal but how are other communities thriving while others still struggle with the same generational issues?

Do we dare challenge our thought process? Do we dare challenge our personal decisions? And only after thorough self-reflection do we then focus on outward influences?

If what we “think on” each day does not change, neither will we!


© 2018 All words & images by Tanya Graham unless otherwise noted.


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