*Huffington Post blogger Kelly Smith Beaty is described as a proud Atlantan who’s currently working and residing in New York. But she goes home often and is called a “regular at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.” Yes, Kelly loves her some Spelman College, Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, and Home Depot, in addition to metro-Atlanta as a whole.
But lately there’s been a dark cloud hanging over her hometown that doesn’t seem to want to move on. In fact, you could say it’s attracting more of the same kinds of dark clouds. What is this metaphor we’re referring to? Well, put it like this. Kelly is becoming increasingly frustrated by the negative images of her hometown being perpetuated more and more on reality TV.
In her most recent essay, she won’t come right out and name names, but it’s pretty obvious she speaking out about VH1’s newest Hot mess called “Love& Hip Hop: Atlanta.”
Her disgust with that show and others that depict her beloved city in a not so flattering way, at least from her perspective, runs so deep that she asks, “Will Real Black People of Atlanta Please Stand Up?!”
I, like many of you, watched in complete horror as a cable network debuted yet another reality drama based on black life as it purportedly unfolds in the ATL. I will refrain from mentioning the name of this show because if you saw it then you already know what I’m referring to and if you didn’t then I do not wish to entice or encourage you to seek it out. In fact, the more that I reflect on my feelings about what I witnessed Monday evening, the more I realize that my disgust lies not just with that particular show alone, but with the way that the city which was once a symbol of black progress is now being portrayed in the media as a whole.
Series after series I have watched with great chagrin as popular reality TV franchises select the jewel of the south to lift the veil of mystique behind the city’s affluent and create what ultimately amounts to a ratings bonanza for the networks and a cash windfall for the producers.
Time after time, executive producers from L.A. and New York, where I currently reside- bring their camera crews and A/V techs into our city to create what inevitably amounts to the Jerry Springer equivalent of the franchise’s northern counterparts. A series that historically featured the diamond encrusted lives of wealthy spouses debuted an Atlanta version of the series where the wealth was elusive and spouses were no longer a requirement. More recently, a show about popular entertainers and the women who love them premiered an Atlanta-based installment where the term popular was subjective and women suggested that other women should be put “on the track,” a prostitution reference that is particularly damaging for a city that is already noted for being one of the largest hubs for child sex trafficking in the world. To put it mildly I was offended. To state I plainly, I was aghast.
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How is it that a city which was once the crowning jewel in the story of black America has allowed itself to be positioned as the melting pot of black affliction? The Atlanta that I knew and grew up in was one of great pride and self-respect. Our achievements were known across the globe, as people from far and wide would often respond, “Wow, I hear that black people are really doing their thing down there,” when I would tell them I’m from Atlanta. Today that assertion is often met with “Yoooo….I hear Atlanta’s got them bangin’ strip clubs.” …Really?!?
So for those who seem to have forgotten who we really are, I’d like to offer a brief REALITY check on the Real Black People of Atlanta:
If you’d like to make a reality show about prominent housewives, I’d suggest doing a retrospective on the wife of Alonzo Herndon- a former slave turned businessman who went on to found the Atlanta Life Insurance Company, became the city’s largest black property owner by 1900, and made history as Atlanta’s first black millionaire. His first wife’s name was Adrienne Herndon and she was a teacher at Atlanta University. I’m no screen writer, but it seems to me that being the wife of a “new negro” in a post slavery south would be wrought with drama and ratings drivers.
Read the rest of Kelly Smith Beaty’s thoughts at Huffington Post.
Editors Note: Since its publication, Beaty’s essay has gone viral. She told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s “The Buzz” blog that she’s really surprised by the far reaching response to the article.
“At first it was mostly Atlantans saying, ‘Thank you for standing up for us.’ Now people who don’t even live in Atlanta are reaching out to me,” Beaty told us. “I’m definitely surprised by the response but I was literally just writing my frustrations. Apparently many people agree. Most people value decency, integrity, and pride and I think those who do, based on the responses, are ready to be heard.”
Read more of that story at AJC.com.