All About Atlanta: Sweet Auburn Historic District

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Sweet Auburn Avenue features a mural of Congressman John Lewis who I swear I saw at Clermont Lounge years ago. Good times.

I will admit I was pretty pitiful as I met with my divorce attorney for the first time. I recall looking and feeling like a naive, suburban, stay-at-home reject. I wasn’t wearing any makeup. My locs were pulled back from my face in a respectable bun. I had on a goddamn cardigan sweater and sensible shoes. Lord, I was in a state. I don’t recall exactly how the conversation in that attorney’s office but a key element of it went something like this…

“Are you dating or involved with someone since your split?”

I shrugged, “It’s been a decade since I’ve been out in the dating scene. I don’t do dating apps. I barely have time to get out and socialize. And I’ve got two toddlers. Who the hell is going to date me?”

The attorney gave me a look and replied, “Girl, you trippin. You’ll do just fine. You’re cute and this is Atlanta. Everybody is divorced with kids. Trust me. You won’t stay single for long.”

I remember walking back to my car and seriously checking myself. I had spent the last six months following a healthier, blood-type appropriate diet and swimming at the local aquatics center. I’d dropped 50 pounds and had to pull down packed-away clothes from the attic because I practically drowned in everything in my closet. The come-fuck-me heels I’d avoided like the plague were no longer torturous to walk in because I was much lighter on them. And the locs I constantly pulled up and back were long, healthy and reflective of my true energy.  As I got into the car, pulled on my seat belt and looked at myself in the rearview mirror, I thought:

Woman, you are hot and sexy and cool and smart and ’bout it. Treat yourself.

And with that, I launched my Atlanta dating adventures which have been the coolest shit ever. It’s not just that Atlanta is brimming with eligible, disease-free, gainfully-employed singles. Or that there are so many options for going out on cool, unique, out-of-the-box dates. My idea of and attitude toward dating had matured because I had grown so much since the last time I was in the dating pool.

Years ago, I believed that I needed to find “the one” so that I could get married and have kids and fully realize the “female” version of the American dream. I’d been there, done that and learned how that dream wasn’t a one-size-fits-all thing. Plus, with all that marrying and child-birthing out of the way, I was free to date with a different purpose. That purpose was loving and learning myself. That purpose was about having a good time and satisfying my personal curiosities. That purpose was more about dating and being in a healthy relationship with myself than trying to have a relationship with anyone else. If I happened to connect with someone interested in sharing an activity with me, cool. If not, that was cool too.  Either way, I was determined to enjoy my child-free days and nights. I also found that I every time I did cut loose to do me, those independent moments made mom duty, writer duty and general adulting sweeter and better in every way imaginable.

Church

Church is a bar on the corner of Edgewood and Boulevard where ping pong rules.

Of all the things I’ve gotten into while dating in Atlanta—from pole dancing at PoleLaTeaz to midnight scooter-riding on the Beltline to shooting a 357 Magnum revolver at Stoddard’s Range and  Guns—I’ve haven’t been able to get enough of spending time on Edgewood Avenue in the historic neighborhood of Sweet Auburn. In fact,  I was there just last month flinging my locs around with a brilliant companion (Hi Sid!) to DJ Kemit at The Music Room.  I compare the vibe on Edgewood Avenue to what I imagine Harlem was like during the jazz age: HOPPIN’! No matter the season or the weather, I know I can go there and get into some dancing or ping pong play or arcade play or soul food or stand up comedy or pizza by the slice or cocktails or live singing or people watching and end the night feeling good as hell.

Best of all about the time I spend on Edgewood is the Blackness. I’ve mentioned safe spaces in my Black History Month posts before but I can’t stress how important it is for my people to be in environments where we can simply be free to be great.  There are several Black-owned businesses on this strip located just around the corner from Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth home, Ebenezer Baptist Church, The King Center and the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame. On a summer night on Edgewood, there’s no greater feeling than walking down the street and passing by so many other beautiful Black people smiling, laughing and also appreciating that this space and its amazing energy has been gifted to us by the ancestors.

The true center of the Sweet Auburn Historic District is Auburn Avenue itself which is just a block north of Edgewood Avenue. John Wesley Dobbs (remember I mentioned him in this post here) first coined the name “Sweet Auburn” because Auburn Avenue was at one time the “richest Negro street in the world.”  That wealth came as the result of the numerous Black professionals, entertainers, politicians, educators and financial institutions relegated to this one mile stretch due to Jim Crow segregation.

Sweet Auburn Music Fest

Each year, the history of Auburn Avenue is honored and celebrated with the Sweet Auburn Springfest.

In 1904, ex-slave, businessman and politician Henry A. Rucker built the first Black-owned office building, the Rucker Building, right on Auburn Avenue. In 1905, Alonzo Herndon, an ex-slave hailing from Walton County, founded and presided over the second-largest Black insurance company in the US, Atlanta Life Insurance. Its headquarters were on Auburn Avenue. In 1912 and 1913, the Odd Fellow Building and Auditorium which provided meetings and office space for Black professionals in addition to a movie house and dance party for Blacks was built on Auburn Avenue. In 1928, the offices of the first black-owned and longest running African American newspaper, the Atlanta Daily World, were founded on Auburn Avenue. In 1938, the Royal Peacock Club (Top Hat Club), an elegant African-American destination for Black popular music, opened on Auburn Avenue.

I’m seriously only scratching the surface here. And I invite you to read more about the history of Sweet Auburn by visiting the link here. I have no doubt that you will be as impressed and inspired by what I learned about this Atlanta-based Black Wallstreet as I was.

For anyone in Atlanta interested in getting it in with this happily divorced Atlanta nightlifer on the Edgewood corridor, hit me up and be prepared to have a good time. Otherwise, please let me live, let me be great and stay tuned for the next post.

Until tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

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