Brookhaven, GA, November 10, 2016 – by Guest Columnist, Marian Liou – I have witnessed this magical property countless times and can attest to its power. The most recent display occurred two weeks ago, when over two hundred people congregated at one of Buford Highway’s available spaces and then walked – and biked! – in Buford Highway’s first Halloween parade, in an ineffable celebration of what this place truly means.
It means so much. It may mean everything.
As we all know, for the past several decades, Buford Highway has served as the point of entry to Atlanta for the world, for immigrants and refugees pursuing economic and educational opportunity and fleeing conflict, repression, and persecution. For Atlanta’s immigrants, Buford Highway has incubated not only entrepreneurship and innovation but also existence and identity, with values, traditions, and food fusing to forge individuals into a community that is at once familiar and yet wholly new.
Buford Highway is also the point of entry for all Atlantans to the world. For Atlantans who may be generations removed from their own immigrant or forced relocation stories, Buford Highway provides an initial foray and foretaste of cultures and civilizations far beyond Atlanta, in an environment archetypical to Atlanta – the suburban transportation corridor dotted with strip malls and parking lots.
As such, Buford Highway exists and thrives as a place in between, seemingly as a place of coming and going, and more profoundly as a place for those searching for belonging, welcome, authenticity, and connection. It offers a framework for discovery, invention and rebirth, of both self and community. It affords a haven to the hyphenated, because it is a physical and geographical hyphen. It is home, not just for those of us, like myself, who are classified as hyphenated Americans, but for any of us who have at times found ourselves somewhere in the middle, between worlds, families, or faiths, or quite simply lost, out of place in our own country, culture, or community.
This is why, despite recent turmoil, tragedies, and an election that have wrenchingly revealed defects we may never have otherwise acknowledged, I believe we can make a better way, and that Buford Highway can help us make this way.
This way depends on appreciating and affirming the beauty in the places and people who are often invisible, forgotten, and overlooked, because we do not clamor for recognition, because we do not recognize our own beauty.
This way depends on understanding that Buford Highway’s success testifies to the innovative and indomitable immigrant, fundamentally American, intrinsically human, spirit that always finds a will and a way in the in-between places.
This way also depends on realizing that, in some sense, the future is already here on Buford Highway, not only because of its demographics, but because it possesses qualities that all cities aspire to – socioeconomic diversity, thriving small businesses, robust public transportation, and affordable housing.
The future of Buford Highway itself, then, depends on our willingness and ability to know ourselves, and to appreciate that our most deeply cherished ideals and aspirations can be found in the most unlikely of places, that the most visible and up-to-date manifestation of Atlanta as the birthplace of the civil rights movement, the powerhouse of the Atlanta Way, and the ambassador of the New South currently resides outside city limits in a visually chaotic, culturally vibrant community comprised of immigrants and refugees from all over the world.
Buford Highway is unique, it is beautiful, it is extraordinary, and this magic is not something we should easily surrender.
Let Buford Highway be our love glue.
I invite you to send me your love stories of Buford Highway at firstname.lastname@example.org.