A few days ago, a colleague encouraged me to check out the donation page of Jon Ossoff, the 30-year-old Democratic candidate for Georgia’s 6th district. The graphics were simple and clear, the Apple Pay checkout appeared to be smooth, the increments of pay accessible to all. It was a slick operation. “But whatever you do, DON’T sign up for the emails,” he warned. “I get, like twelve a day.” Read more…
At Oxford American, André Gallant tells the story of Eh Kaw Htoo, a Karen refugee from Myanmar — a man who “extolled the redneck’s work ethic” and helped build a community of 150 Karens who sustain one another by living frugally and sharing the bounty of the land in the rural community of Comer, Georgia.
I met Eh Kaw in 2012, when I approached him as a reporter for the Athens Banner-Herald to tell his story to our shared community. Those first meetings enchanted me. In our earliest conversations, Eh Kaw explained that the Karen’s ability to keep gardens, trap rabbits in nearby woodlands, and slaughter chickens helped his people retain their cultural identity.
From the beginning, I loved Pa Saw’s food: roselle green and chicken skin soup, eggplant and anchovies in turmeric, hot dogs and canola greens scooped with rice mounds into sweet gum leaves. The debtless and quasi-agrarian lifestyle she and other Karen adhered to stirred a primal gene somewhere within me. After I reported that first story, we became friends, and in 2014, I attended a party to celebrate Eh Kaw and Pa Saw becoming U.S. citizens. Dozens of people gathered around a buffet table anchored by goat stew—the whole animal (organs but no hide) cooked in a tall pot. A few months later, I went to a joint wedding of four Karen couples, after which we dined at an outdoor buffet on tables hewed from pine trees.
Every few months, I returned to Comer to visit Eh Kaw and the other Karen. On one trip, he took me to various Karen houses to show off their infrastructure.
Each home we visited was organized in a similar fashion to Semoeneh’s property but adapted to the particular footprint of the lot. The houses were made of materials ranging from cinder block to clapboard, and every yard teemed with life: vegetables, poultry, the odd goat, droplets of brook water falling from minnow-snatching nets, a horde of shoes at the back door arranged as a roll call for those snoozing inside.
Most geographical definitions of Europe do, in fact, exclude Georgia. A modified version of the border that Herodotus’ contemporaries agreed on—along the Tanais River, today’s Don—is still the most commonly accepted version of the Europe-Asia border, following the Don, Kuma, and Manych rivers from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea. Other geographers put it along the ridge of the Caucasus Mountains, which separate Russia from Georgia—a particularly cruel irony, given that Georgia’s embrace of a European identity is focused largely on distinguishing itself from Russia.
In the 1950s, Soviet geographers undertook an effort to finally eliminate confusion about where the border between Europe and Asia lie, and as part of that they solicited opinions from the geographical societies of the three “Transcaucasus” republics: Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. The first two argued that they should be placed in Asia, with only the Georgian opinion dissenting, on “historical-cultural” grounds, that the southern border of the Soviet Union, separating it from Iran and Turkey, was the proper border with Asia. But Moscow disagreed: “That sort of radical decision would hardly be accepted by the scientific community either in the USSR, or outside its borders. In geographical, historical-ethnographic terms the Transcaucasus belongs to Asia,” wrote geographer Eduard Murzaev, summarizing the debate in a Soviet journal.
And so Georgians since then have preferred to demur on the question of where exactly the border of Europe lies. Even Georgian textbooks don’t argue that Georgia is geographically in Europe, instead offering varying definitions of “political” Europe, “geographical” Europe, and so on. “In Georgia, there’s no interest in discussing this,” Gverdtsiteli tells me.
In Roads & Kingdoms, Joshua Kucera travels to the nation of Georgia, along the border of Russia and Europe, to examine the longstanding debate about whether it belongs to Asia, Europe or the Middle East, and why it matters.
These days the museum has no ticket office, schedule, or employees. An elderly Georgian man named Soso, who introduced himself as a former KGB colonel, guides the tours. Soso said that when he returned to Tbilisi from Moscow after the collapse of the Soviet Union, he was unable to obtain a pension or an apartment, so he moved into the museum. He survives on donations from tourists.
“There are sometimes no tourists for two weeks,” he complained.
While we were talking, kids from the neighboring houses dashed into the museum. They said it was the first time they had seen the museum’s gates open, and they wanted to see what was inside. They looked at the numerous portraits and busts of Stalin and Lenin.
“Do you know who that is?” I asked, pointing to a bust of Lenin.
They said they didn’t know.
n+1 publishes an excerpt, with illustrations, from Victoria Lomasko’s 2015 book, A Trip to Tbilisi. Journalist and illustrator Lomasko was first noticed in the West for her graphic reportage from the Pussy Riot trial. In Tbilisi, Georgia, she spoke with historians, artists, journalists, activists, squatters, and local clergy about the political and cultural climate in a former Soviet republic that continues to have a tense relationship with Russia.
Anjali Enjeti | Longreads | January 2017 | 10 minutes (2,425 words)
I am sitting in the middle seat of the third row of a minivan. A heap of purses crowd my feet. Elbows and knees jab my sides. We are gridlocked on I-285 during Atlanta evening rush hour in a crawl-pause rhythm, our progress as tedious as arranging the frames of a stop motion animation film. The nose of our van points southeast to Savannah, the historic coastal town Union Army General Sherman spared during the Civil War. When raindrops the size of nickels smack our windshield, the hazard lights on surrounding vehicles blink on like garlands of bulbs on a Christmas tree.
“Hey,” my friend in the second row calls, craning her neck to make eye contact. “Do you want chai?”
I lean forward. The seatbelt catches my breastbone. “You want to make a stop already? We’ll never get there at this rate.”
“No, no,” says the driver, my neighbor from up the street. “We brought a thermos. And cups.”
I am incredulous, not only because my friends thought to pack chai on a four-hour road trip, but because, judging by the way the rest of my friends continue their chatter, I am the only person who finds it odd.
It’s no wonder. Among our seven passengers, six have immigrated to the U.S. from South Asia. They sip chai from morning to night. Percolating pots of fresh ginger, full fat milk and cardamom serve as background music in their homes.
I am the only one of us born and raised in the States, the only one who considers bagged tea to be actual tea, the one who stubbornly refuses to wear saris to celebrate South Asian holidays, the clueless audience for conversations rattled off in Hindi, a language I don’t understand.
I am the interpreter of academic monograms like S.A.T. and A.P., the friend who suggests they not worry so much about their kids’ grades or test scores, the beloved Aunty who sticks up for their children whenever a parental rule interferes with their enjoyment of authentically American childhoods.
Steam from the chai forms a layer of film on my face. I inhale its aroma, hopeful it will ease the dull ache in my gut, the sinking feeling my friends probably can’t decipher because they grew up in countries where their brown skin and names did not summarily mark them as outsiders. Not even these ladies, my closest friends, know that I harbor a deep-seated fear of small American cities and towns.
Like the one we’re headed to. Read more…
Patrick Phillips | Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America| W. W. Norton & Company | September 2016 | 17 minutes (4,588 words)
Below is an excerpt from Blood at the Root, by the poet Patrick Phillips. The story begins in September of 1912, in the days after two assaults on white women. Ellen Grice claimed she was attacked by two black men who left before she was hurt. The next day Mae Crow, a 19-year-old white woman, was discovered injured and unconscious in the woods. She allegedly regained consciousness for long enough to accuse a 16-year-old black youth, Ernest Knox. This story is recommended by Longreads contributing editor Dana Snitzky.
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Journalists only started writing about the expulsions once the wagon trains of refugees grew too large and too numerous to ignore.
Though it would take weeks before reports reached Atlanta, in the days after the attack on Crow a nighttime ritual began to unfold, as each evening at dusk groups of white men gathered at the crossroads of the county. They came with satchels of brass bullets, shotgun shells, and stoppered glass bottles of kerosene, and sticks of “Red Cross” dynamite poked out through the tops of their saddlebags. When darkness fell, the night riders set out with one goal: to stoke the terror created by the lynching of Edwards and use it to drive black people out of Forsyth County for good.
In 1907, W. E. B. Du Bois had put into words what every “colored” person in Georgia knew from experience, which was that “the police system of the South was primarily designed to control slaves. . . . And tacitly assumed that every white man was ipso facto a member of that police.” In the first decade of the twentieth century, the days when all white men had been legally empowered to pursue and arrest fugitive slaves were only fifty years in the past, and the fathers and grandfathers of many locals would have been part of such posses in the days of slavery.
So it must have seemed natural to many whites when, each night around sundown, a knock came at the door and the adult men of the family were summoned to join a group heading out toward the clusters of black cabins scattered around Forsyth—along the Chattahoochee out in Oscarville, in the shadow of Sawnee Mountain north of Cumming, and south, toward Shakerag and Big Creek. It would take months—and, in a handful of cases, years—before the in-town blacks of Cumming were finally forced out, since many lived under the protection of rich white men, in whose kitchens and dining rooms they served. Instead, it was to the homes of cotton pickers, sharecroppers, and small landowners that the night riders went first, and it was these most vulnerable families who fled in the first waves of the exodus. Read more…
On making a move from the City to the South. Steven Boone and other New Yorkers have headed to Warner Robins, Georgia:
Like so many young black parents, she moved south not just to provide her children with a more secure environment but also to escape the punishing New York rents. In Warner Robins, entire homes in quiet areas rent for less than a single room in Bed Stuy. Townhouses on well-kept complexes, complete with pool and 24-hour gym access, go for as little as $450 a month and rarely higher than $850. In Macon, the college town next door (and geographically the true dead center of Georgia), gorgeous historic homes rent for as low as $400 a month and often no more than $650. (The local rumor is that, as lovely as the homes are, the ghosts in them insure frequent turnaround. Cool.)
This new wave of African-Americans heading south has been called the Second Great Migration or the Reverse Migration, in contrast to last century’s black exodus from a segregated, hostile South to opportunities in the North.