As the city continues to evolve, we’re excited to launch Unapologetically ATL, our new weekly newsletter that explores the stories, trends and events shaping Black culture in the A.
“Unapologetic” has become a mantra for Black people across the country for reclaiming Black culture and being proud of it. Every Thursday, our team of writers, photographers and videographers will keep you informed of the latest and most important news about Black topics.
We’re kicking off our first edition by introducing you to our co-hosts — lifestyle columnist Nedra Rhone and race and culture reporter Ernie Suggs. In our featured Q&A, these two AJC journalists discuss the stories they’re passionate about writing and give an inside look at what to expect from Unapologetically ATL.
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Najja Parker: Both of you have had extensive careers at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Walk me through your journeys at the newspaper.
Ernie Suggs: I arrived at The Atlanta-Journal Constitution in 1997, so I’ve been here for 24 years. I’ve done pretty much everything. I’ve covered cops, the Senate, City Hall, higher education and K-12 education. But there’s always been an overriding umbrella of me covering Black issues and culture, like the civil rights and Black Lives Matter movements.
NP: Twenty-four years is a long time. I didn’t know you started on the night cops beat. How’d you establish yourself as the race and culture reporter?
ES: Well, I wanted to get off night cops (laughs). The night cops beat is where they used to put people when they first started, especially young people. I had previously worked in New York and North Carolina (and) I was young. I went to North Carolina Central University, a historically Black college, and I grew up reading about Martin Luther King, Andrew Young, C.T. Vivian and Joe Lowery. Although Atlanta is that great town with all these people living and working here, we weren’t covering that. I was like, “I can do it!” I made it my unofficial beat, and I eventually became the go-to person for those topics.
NP: What about you, Nedra? How’d you make it to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution?
Nedra Rhone: I was a career changer, first of all. For the first 10 years of my career I worked in marketing. Then I had this epiphany that I wanted to be a journalist and write about people after taking a trip to Lima, Peru. I decided I could do something more with my life, and that’s why I chose journalism. After working at publications in Los Angeles and New York, I came to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2006. They had an opening for a shopping reporter. That was my first job here and that morphed into fashion. Then it was just general lifestyle coverage, then entertainment, then the environment, and now I’m writing the lifestyles column.
NP: Nedra, when I made it to the paper, I was excited you were here. You were writing about topics like Black women’s hair and fashion, and I felt so seen.
NR: There were so many things that were happening in this city that people were talking about in social circles, but you didn’t see that represented in the paper. That was one thing that was really important to me. I know the life that I live, and I know that there are people like me that want to read these types of stories, like Black women’s hair. These are legitimate topics, and they always have been. That was 10 years ago when I started writing those stories about how our hair is politicized. Now you see that becoming a political issue. There’s the CROWN Act. That’s why it was really rewarding for me to be the lifestyle columnist, because I care about what people are talking about.
NP: That’s a great segue into why we’re launching Unapologetically ATL. Why is this newsletter important?
NR: Atlanta, like many other metropolitan areas, is changing rapidly. It’s important for all residents to understand those changes, find ways to engage and feel as if their communities are being seen and heard. We have also been reminded in recent years of how important it is to connect with and support each other in a range of different ways. Unapologetically ATL is the place to explore and celebrate all that we are now and strive to be in the future.
ES: Atlanta has always been the place that people looked toward to see how Black culture was shaping the nation and the world. From the fire of Martin Luther King Jr., to the fire of Outkast, Atlanta has been that place. So as the nation, and by extension Atlanta, continues to change, it is important that The Atlanta Journal-Constitution be that place where people continue to look toward. Unapologetically ATL will serve as that vehicle.
NP: We’ve talked broadly about what we’d like to accomplish with the newsletter. Now let’s get specific. What types of stories will be told?
NR: We’re going to write stories about things that really impact Black life here in Atlanta. For example, we might write about redlining, something that has happened all across the country but has some very specific impacts on the neighborhoods here in the metro area. On the other side, it could be about the Obama portraits that are coming to the High Museum later this year. It’s not just the challenges and the struggles of Black life in Atlanta but the joys and the excitement, too.
ES: Exactly. It could also be about the legacy of Hank Aaron or historically Black colleges and universities. We want to run the gamut on what we cover and how we present ourselves. You also won’t just hear from me and Nedra. Our colleagues will be contributing stories, curating playlists of songs that are inspiring them, and sharing their favorite books, TV shows or things to do around the city.
NR: All Black people are not alike. We don’t all have the same experiences. We have a shared history, but our lived experience can be very different. I think the newsletter is a place where we can acknowledge those differences.
NP: Atlanta has been your home for years now. How are you Unapologetically ATL?
NR: To me, that resonates hugely, because I have dedicated my career to writing about issues that are important. When I think of being unapologetic in terms of my column or this newsletter, I want to feature stories that I know are important to people who look like me and change things. I think that’s why people want to be journalists. You want to make a difference.
ES: I’m Unapologetically ATL, because I love the city. I love the culture. I love the history. If I can represent what this city is as a strong, rich cultural bastion of Blackness, then I can feel happy. I think that’s being unapologetic — not being ashamed of representing and embracing who you are.
Find Nedra on Twitter (@nrhoneajc) and Ernie on Twitter (@erniesuggs).