This Land Is Our Land (Modern Farmer Magazine, Winter 2016)

Gillian Alexander's seed drill is on the fritz. So the winter wheat he’d hoped to get in the ground this early-October morning will have to wait until a parts dealer more than 80 miles away locates the necessary ball-bearing housings. Alexander, 59, who also grows sorghum and soybeans in rural Nicodemus, Kansas, puts the hassle in perspective: “My grandfather farmed wheat here using mules. I’m grateful to carry on that tradition, though it’s hard, even with modern equipment, and it does put pressure on me. I feel like I need to do an exceptional job, not only because that’s what farmers do, but because I’m one of the few black farmers left—in this town, the state, and the nation.”

The Moral Voice of the South (POLITICO Magazine, July 2015)

Surveying the Union campus’ inner garden at the beginning of our conversation, Barber explained that he did not leave to escape, but to ready himself for the next phase of the fight. As we talked, a lone duckling wandered the verdant courtyard just inside the campus walls: a blur of yellow and brown fuzz, one moment sipping water from a puddle, the next, seeking respite from the hot spring sun and concrete, or waddling up to passers-by for a moment of companionship. The duckling—a recent arrival from a local pet store—had found somewhat of a sanctuary at Union. Barber explains that he, too, had been seeking a sanctuary of sorts.

The Roots of Atlanta's Cheating Scandal (POLITICO Magazine, April 2015)

Last week, a parade of educators filed into an Atlanta courtroom to be sentenced for their roles in the test-cheating scandal that has roiled the city for the past several years. The optics were hard to countenance: an all-black roster of educators convicted of betraying mostly black children and their parents, in a district formerly helmed by a black superintendent accused of masterminding the scandal. At issue are not only corrupt educators but also a highly corrupted system decades in the making, one that has its roots in Atlanta’s deeply segregated school system, in which some black students are left to languish with poor resources and bad teachers. To ignore this is to ignore the longstanding problems that will persist long after a single cheating scandal is put to rest. It’s also a lesson Atlanta didn’t learn the first time.

Freaknik: The Rise and Fall of Atlanta's Most Infamous Street Party (co-authored with Rebecca Burns; Atlanta Magazine, April 2015)

It all started in the spring of 1983 with a picnic organized by students attending the Atlanta University Center. As at other historically black colleges and universities, AUC was home to “state clubs” made up of students with common home states. The clubs held social events during the school year and served as pre-Facebook clearinghouses for shared rides home. That spring, members of the DC Metro club threw a picnic in Piedmont Park for students who found themselves stuck on campus over spring break. It was a simple event—sandwiches, coolers, boom boxes, that sort of thing, recalls Sharon Toomer, then a Spelman College freshman and one of the organizers. “A lot of us came by bus; no one had cars back then,” she says of the gathering in the field at the corner of 10th Street and Monroe Drive. In those days, Piedmont Park was shabby, the picnic area little more than a vacant lot.

On Friday, Outkast played their first homecoming show. It was surreal, and sort of perfect.

(, September 2014)

Technically, most of us, the original fans of Outkast, have been waiting on this weekend for three months. Back in June, the duo of Andre Benjamin and Antwan Patton announced in a simple newspaper ad, after appearances at several other music festivals in other parts of the country, that they were finally performing here, in their hometown. In reality, we’ve been waiting more than 10 years. Last night, we finally got what we wanted, in the first of three shows in Centennial Park. What would they do first, I wondered? And then I heard the twinkling notes signaling the start of “Bombs Over Baghdad” and smiled. The message: We were going to work our way back to 1994. It was to be a celebration of Outkast’s entire career, not just Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, the album that put them and our city on the map. Everyone was on board for the journey.