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Raging against the Corporate Machine

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Stop Walmart

I am a Target lover. I often go in for one thing and come out having spent $100. And the days I tell myself I don’t need a cart… I am in utter denial. It’s my go-to place for just about everything, similar to how a lot of people think of Walmart. For a lot of reasons, though, I won’t step foot in a Walmart. I just can’t support a company notorious for poor practices, like their anti-union stance, exploitation of workers, and discriminatory attitudes. My money won’t go into perpetuating that cycle. (To learn more about Walmart’s practices, visit the websites of The Walmart 1% and Workplace Fairness.)

You should know, I’m not a complete cynic; I get the appeal of it. My parents used to go to Walmart for everything when we were growing up. When you have a big family, it’s more convenient to just take a Saturday trip to the giant store that carries everything and pick up all the groceries for the week, last-minute poster boards for school projects, and lots and lots of laundry detergent. It’s nice to be able to get that all in one place. I even understand the people who only go there a few times a year – Black Friday, maybe. I get the desire to have a nice TV or the latest Wii games at a good price. Maybe it’s worth it for you to drive a few miles down the road, sit in traffic to turn into the shopping center, fight for a parking spot, and get in there to buy whatever you need and go on with your week.

Now, imagine all of that, except the Walmart is now across the street as soon as you pull out of your neighborhood. That changes the game a little bit, doesn’t it? It’s not quite as appealing when that traffic is in front of your house and people are spending their money there, causing your favorite small businesses to struggle. Maybe you think it will bring jobs to your area… but then you might wonder if your neighbors will be part of the millions of Walmart workers making an annual wage less than the federal poverty line. I can’t imagine that would contribute to making communities more sustainable, can you? That’s a big deal, and it’s what my neighborhood is currently being threatened with.

Selig Enterprises Inc., owner of Suburban Plaza on North Decatur Road wants to redevelop the shopping center and has plans to include a Walmart. (Take a look at this article for more information.) Almost two years into planning, they are talking as if it is a done deal. Last summer was when I first noticed the neighborhood banding together to put a stop to this. Good Growth DeKalb (GGD) was formed as an organization of residents concerned about the issue, and it seemed the Medlock Area Neighborhood Association was all over it. You can take a look at the Tell Selig: NO WM in Decatur Facebook page to learn more. I live in the Medlock Park Neighborhood, my house just over a mile from the proposed Walmart site. Driving through the neighborhood, “Stop Walmart” signs are in a lot of yards. Though a lot of the public outcry has seemed to die down since the beginning of this whole thing, a lot of really hardworking people have kept at it, namely GGD. I honestly thought it was pretty close to being over until a recent public notice sign appeared at Suburban Plaza notifying everyone of a Board of Appeals hearing to appeal the decision to issue a building permit. All of a sudden, it seems there has been a spark in community determination and everyone is ready to fight again. The picture at the top illustrates just that – a rally at the intersection outside our neighborhood on February 1st to raise awareness about the issue.

I’ve seen my community being built up and coming together in a lot of ways around this issue, and perhaps it’s far from over. It’s really nice to see the neighborhood alive again and wanting to challenge the possibility of a corporation moving into our neighborhood. Will it be enough or will we become another alarming Walmart statistic? I hope we can stop the corporate takeover, but all I know for now is I’ve never been prouder of where I come from than when I see my neighbors united to confront norms and challenge the status quo for the well-being of our community.

What issues are going on in your community? Is there anything you’re involved with that you’d like to share with others? This week I encourage you to do a little research, find out what’s happening in your neighborhood and what you can do to help. Community action is a really powerful thing. You never know what kind of difference that could make.

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This week I wanted to write about something to help you readers get to know me a little better. I searched my brain pretty hard for the perfect topic, not realizing that it was literally in front of me the whole time. What a better way to tell you about myself than through telling you about my home, Decatur, GA. It’s where I live and where I play. It’s in me, and it surrounds me. I love Decatur. Most of you who know me probably know I can’t shut up about it. It’s a really good feeling to truly love where you live, to be constantly discovering something new, and to not be able to imagine yourself anyplace else. If you’re coming to visit Decatur anytime soon, take a look at my top 5 things I love about this city for some inspiration.

1. Eddie’s Attic
Stage at Eddie's Attic
This cool, cozy live music venue attracts people from all over to hear singer/songwriters do their thing. It’s where I saw a lot of my favorite artists play for the first time, like the Indigo Girls, Shawn Mullins, Meg Hutchinson, and Tyler Hilton. When I entered the “listening room” the first time to hear Dar Williams play, I honestly wasn’t immediately struck by the magic. Perhaps it wasn’t until the lights were dimmed and she was in the middle of a song and I looked around to see perfect strangers squeezed in shoulder-to-shoulder with all eyes on her that I realized how special this place is. Now, every time I visit Eddie’s, I can expect something spectacular, and, let’s just say I’ve never been let down. Mention should also be made of their super-cool Songwriter’s Open Mic on Monday nights, which is such a great way to witness genuine talent and find out about new music. If you aren’t into music much, maybe you’ll stop by to grab some Attic Beignets… they are insanely good!

2. The Art Scene
Mural on the Square
I love that I can drive down the street or walk across Decatur Square and I am surprised by a new piece of art along the road or on the side of a building. (Pictured here is a mural on the Square, on the right side of Squash Blossom.) It’s so cool to live somewhere that exhibits such a great appreciation for art. I can’t even tell you how many pieces hanging on the walls of my home are from artists from the Decatur Arts Festival. Of course, if you can’t wait until the once-a-year event held in May, there is always the option to swing into Homegrown or Wild Oats and Billy Goats to find something awesome made by a local artist. It’s an awesome feeling looking around my city and seeing the creativity and hard work of local artists being cherished.

3. Raging Burrito
Raging Sign
OK, I have to admit something. There isn’t really anything magical about this place, BUT I really, really love Mexican food. And, I think, this is where it’s at. Raging Burrito has a ton of delicious, unique menu options, from the Veggie Chili Con Queso to the Baja Fish Tacos to the Frisco Taco Salad. Seriously, it’s so good. If you’ve never been here, you’re missing out big time!

4. Kudzu Antique Market
Kudzu
This is the coolest place ever. Deemed “Atlanta’s best vintage home store,” it is filled with unique items. Whether you are shopping for a birthday gift or a new furnishing for your home, or if you just have a couple hours to waste on a Saturday afternoon looking at cool stuff, this is the place to go. I truly believe there is nothing you can’t find here if you look hard enough. It’s like a maze of treasures just waiting for a home. Go on in and check it out…. Just make sure there is room in your car for your finds!

5. Decatur Farmers Market
FM Veggies
There’s nothing like having the ability to buy fresh, local food and meet the people who grew it. Twice a week in Decatur, on Saturdays from 9:00am to 1:00pm and Wednesdays from 3:00pm to 6:00pm, you have the opportunity to do just that. The Decatur Farmers Market provides an easy way to get local, organic food on your table. Whether you’re looking for fresh fruits and veggies, melt-in-your-mouth cheese, homemade pesto, or gluten-free goodies… or maybe just a treat from King of Pops… the Market is sure to make your week just a little better, twice.

This list is only a small taste of what Decatur has to offer. Hopefully, it has sparked some interest and you’ll come to get to know this great city, make your own memories, and maybe even write out your own “top 5” list.

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