Atlanta Georgia Review– My Ghetto Fabulous Tour -
People at their Very Best and Very Worst
By, Cassandra George Sturges
I am a Love and Hip Hop Atlanta and Atlanta Housewives fan. In this travel review essay, I am sharing my experiences on my most recent trip to Atlanta, Georgia. I call it the Ghetto Fabulous Tour because many of the Uber drivers were not impressed with my daughter and I desire to visit Kandi Burruss’s Old Lady Gang Restaurant, K Michelle’s Puff and Petals Restaurant, and Resheeda’s Pressed retail store in the mall. However, the Aquarium, Cocoa Cola Museum, and the Martin Luther King Cultural Center Museum and resting place were acceptable choices for upstanding African American citizens.
I have so much to say… I don’t know where to start.
An old black woman bear breasted and legless rolled her wheel chair in front of our Uber driver. Like swans crossing the street with their babies following behind them, she stopped traffic on both sides of the busy street. Unlike the swan family, we all tried to look away, but it was difficult to avoid hitting her while pretending that she was invisible.
Under a beautifully painted bridge with vivid bold colors of yellow, orange, blue, and green 3-D artwork lived a homeless population. I have never seen so much beauty and pain in one dimension of reality. I couldn’t decide if the artwork highlighted or hid the humanity of the homeless people sleeping on the ground.
I was born and raised in Detroit. I am not a stranger to seeing homeless people, where I am from homeless people live in dilapidated buildings, on streets filled with piles of rubbish, and spray painted graffiti decorating the overpasses warning passersby to travel through quickly. The color is a mixture of the dullest gray, saddest brown and hopeless black.
In Atlanta, the mentally ill and people addicted to drugs were neatly interwoven into the upscale downtown scene of modern skyscrapers, buildings, packed restaurants, cultural museums, and the world second largest Aquarium. “Just ignore them and they won’t bother you,” I heard one person say to another while walking into a fancy restaurant. I thought to myself this is exactly how I treat bees and wasps, I ignore them, and they go away. There really isn’t any difference in either scenario, who wants to be stung by the reality of someone else’s unhappiness, pain, and struggle to exist on this planet.
I call my trip to Atlanta, my Ghetto Fabulous Tour. I went to the Aquarium, Cocoa Cola Museum, and the Old Lady Gang Southern Cuisine Restaurant on the first day. The aquarium is one of the most breathtaking beautiful displays of sea life that I have ever seen in my life. Can you imagine being inside of a glass cave with stingrays, exotic schools of fish, and shark whales swimming over your head and all around you? I still dream about this moment. I wish I had sat longer, maybe taken more pictures. The sea dragon did not look real. I didn’t know such a complexly, beautiful, mysterious creature even existed.
My daughter said to me, “I think it’s sad that the gigantic whale shark is limited to swimming in the small circles of this cave.” I responded to her, “I think we all swim in small circles. On most days we are on repeat, we do the same things over and over again. Like us, I wonder if the shark whale knows that there is so much more to see and do in the world. She said, “Even if it was free it would probably still travel in a small region of the ocean in a circle.”
When the Uber driver stopped in front of Atlanta Housewife, Kandi Burruss’s, Old Lady Gang Restaurant, I was sure he had the wrong address. It was an extremely small storefront with faded paint, in a seemingly underprivileged section of town. I was almost too afraid to get out of the car. We asked the driver again, if he was sure that this was the right restaurant and he said, you guys are lucky - there is usually a line around the block.
We walked inside and recognized the pictures on the wall of Mrs. Burruss’s mother and two aunties from the Atlanta Housewives show. It was a very small restaurant, with a long booth seat along the wall, with small square tables, and small metal chairs. I was shocked because from what I have observed from Kandi’s financial success from her several business ventures, I expected more decorum, style, and passion. It felt un-Kandi-like from what I have observed about her from watching her on television.
The wait staff was friendly and efficient, and the fried chicken, collard greens, mac and cheese, and sweet potatoes were scrumptiously, toe stumping, delicious. The food proportions were generous and the prices were fair. The highlight for me was when Aunt Bertha mingled with the guest in the crowded cramped dining area, and she took pictures with my daughter and me. Aunt Bertha was so down-to-earth, friendly, and super funny. She made my day.
The next day, we went to the mall to visit, Love and Hip Hop Atlanta’s Rasheeda’s store Pressed. Kirk’s daughter, Kelsie Frost, welcomed us into the store and took pictures with us after our purchase. As soon as you walk into the store, there is a sign that reads: No cameras or pictures without purchase. The clothing in the store is for fit, petite, people who enjoy partying and going to clubs—or people who are professional dancers and strippers. Kelsie Frost was such a sweet beautiful young woman. She wore jeans and a t-shirt and did not have on any make up. I could not have asked for better customer service. If I were younger and in shape,—this would be my favorite store.
I am sure I am not their ideal customer; however, I did manage to buy a pair of earrings and a ribbed rust colored t-shirt dress with buttons down the slit on one side that must be sewn up more than half way so that I can wear it in public. I thought many of the items were a little pricey, for the value. My $30 dollars earrings turned colors the very next day. I think they should increase the quality of the merchandise or decrease the price to match the value of their current merchandise.
I had a long discussion with my best friend, about the desire to support and show love for Black Businesses—but to what degree am I showing lack of love and self-respect for myself by not making good financial decisions. I would have never bought those items from any mainstream store or business based on the quality and prices of the merchandise. I had to remind myself that Rasheeda is doing well financially; she has several homes—I need to make sure that I am being fair and honest with myself and looking out for my own best interest.
I am sure that the overhead costs for her store to be located in the mall with all of the name brand stores, like Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Versace is very expensive. Maybe Rasheeda should take a page out of Kandi Burruss and K Michelle’s book and find a location in an underprivileged area to support the community of people who support her. This will allow her to have fair prices for the merchandise she is selling and still earn a decent profit margin.
I found the merchandise in the name brand stores to be as underwhelming as Megan Markles’ wedding dress, when she married Prince Harry. I find it insulting almost that royalty aim to dress in a manner to give the illusion of simplicity and modesty when they have servants, precious gemstones, and old money beyond our grandest imagination. They live a life of indulgence, yet want to give off the perception of reserve and humility. Child please. White people who truly possess old money aim to hide their wealth to the public and people without money try to dress as if they are financially wealthy to impress other people into believing that they have excessive amounts of money.
In my opinion, the name brand clothes and shoes lacked imagination, were lifeless, sterile, and boring – to say the least. I think it is sad that so many black people want to acquire wealth so that they can purchase mainstream name brand clothing items to show the world that they are worthy of respect and that they deserve the air that they breathe as the original people on planet earth. We, black people, forget that we are priceless beings. European’s up rooted us from our homeland, built special ships with shackles and packed us like sardines butt-ass naked because of the wealth of knowledge and physical and mental strength and endurance that we innately have as human beings.
Goddammit—we have nothing to prove to anybody. We don’t need expensive clothes, shoes, and cars to show the world what we are made of and what we are capable of. North America was built off the backs of black people for over 300 hundred years of free service. If black people collectively decided to spend their money wisely—the American economy would collapse.
Seeing the birth home, and resting place of Martin Luther King Jr. reminded me of where we were politically and legally, how much we have accomplished, and how far we still need to go acquire equality as human beings. While staring at his clothes, cuffs, hats, Nobel Peace Prize, the wooden cart they carried his body in the funeral possession, the actual podium where he gave his “I have a dream Speech” and the black, tear stained veil, his wife Coretta Scott-King wore at his funeral—I said repeatedly in my head, Thank You Dr. King for your service to humanity. I wondered to myself, as to whether I was doing my part in the world.
Visiting the Martin Luther King, Jr cultural center made me feel proud, sad, and hopeful all at the same time. When we were leaving, the Ebenezer Church where Dr. King’s Funeral was held and his mother was shot and killed while playing the piano in church, there was a picture collage of African American women such as Madame C. J. Walker, Phillis Wheatley, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Michelle Obama, and Oprah Winfrey. I commented to my best friend Lisa, “I don’t feel like Oprah’s energy belongs in the same prestige and esteem as these women. I feel like she belongs in a category with Oscar winners like Halle Barry and Monique and Grammy winners like Beyoncé. I am not saying that she isn’t an inspiration—just not on the same social status of these women.
It’s great that she built the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa for the people who don’t watch her shows, go to her movies, or eat weight watchers. They can place her picture in their museum. When history looks back on Oprah’s accomplishments aside from acquiring an enormous amount of wealth from interviewing successful people who actually put their lives and beliefs on the line—I don’t know what her real talent or contribution is to African Americans or America for that matter.” A fifty-something-year-old, black man on the tour bus overheard us agreeing with each other, and said Oprah has a lot of money. “She is a billionaire; black people can aspire to be wealthy like her. Being a rich black woman earns her the right to be in the photo.”
Of course we shut him down and told him to mind his own business—but what we should have said, is Martin Luther King, Jr. died never acquired monetary wealth in his life time but his value to humanity is incalculable – much like Harriet Tubman. The history books are clear about their self-sacrificing contributions—they gave their hearts and souls to fight for human equality.
After taking a 5-hour tour of Atlanta, we had dinner at K Michelle’s Puff and Petals Restaurant located in an underprivileged area teeming with people who are extremely addicted to drugs. The storefront was white with large pink roses painted on it. Inside of the restaurant was very tiny, with maybe enough seating for 20 people. A square flower wall with shades of pink and white flowers decorated the center of the bar, on the other side of the restaurant was a patent leather, baby pink L shaped couch, with beautiful chairs and tables with white tablecloths with pink napkins folded like roses in the center of each table.
The dining area décor was accented with silver, gold, white, fresh flowers and acrylic diamonds. K Michelle’s restaurant was simply adorable. K Michelle’s restaurant looked like a little girl’s dream had come true straight out of a fairytale. My best friend, daughter, and I, all agreed this is the cutest little restaurant that we had ever seen. We all agreed that since the ambience was so passionately girly and cute, we waged a bet that the food was going to be barely edible.
The wait staff were endearing and accommodating. What I loved about our waiter and all of the staff in the restaurant is that they did not act as if this was just a temporary gig and that soon as the plant called or it was time for them to go back to college they were leaving without notice. They took pride in their job as if working in Puff and Petals was their life’s passion. I haven’t seen this much pride in a hospitality related career from my people in a long time.
As we settled in our
baby pink booth and marveled at the pretty, pink décor, the waiter brought our
drinks to the table—this changed everything. My daughter and I ordered the
Cigar on the Beach Drink that came in a wooden cigar box filled with sand and a
cigar. The waiter poured the drink and clouds of sweet smelling smoke floated
over our entire table while he poured the drinks into the glass. It was so
exciting to watch the beautiful smoke clouds dissipate before we were able to
taste our drinks.
My best friend had a drink called the Illusion. As the waiter poured the drink it changed from a clear liquid to a pretty royal blue. We noticed that some drinks were served with sparkles, fresh flowers, and large fake diamonds. K Michelle created a magical, enchanting dining experience that made me feel like I had not seen and done everything and that dreams do come true.
We had decided that we were going to give her pass on the food because of the décor and drink presentations but to our surprise, we did not have to. I had a kale salad, the herb encrusted chicken with creamed spinach, and sweet potatoes. On a scale of 1 to 10, I give Puff and Petals food a solid 20. This is not a typo. I give the food twenty points on a 1 to 10 scale. The food was the bomb diggity. My daughter had pink deviled eggs that were not only almost too cute to eat but delicious. My best friend had the lobster mac and cheese and crab cakes. We all agreed that our food was amazing including the bread pudding and chocolate brownie desserts. It felt so good to be wrong. K Michelle’s Puff and Petals restaurant was ghetto fabulous.
I had so much to think about in terms of being Black in America, the stereotypes of Black people in the media, being forced to dine in neighborhoods that I would have otherwise never patronized if it were not for me being a fan of Love and Hip Hop Atlanta, and Atlanta Housewives.
On the plane ride back home, I decided that I am enormously proud of Kandi Burruss and K Michelle for placing their restaurants in underprivileged communities because who am I- who are we as a society- to ignore the needs of people who are less fortunate than ourselves. For good or for bad, these are our people and we can’t make them invisible. We can’t pretend they don’t exist. Only by the Grace of God, it is not me, my family or friends. If we completely abandon them—they will lose their humanity and hope—because as the old saying goes, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” The Old Lady Gang, and Puff and Petals restaurants are providing jobs to the people who need them the most. How dare I be ashamed of my people?
Gaudy, hood, rachet, and ghetto, are juxtapose words to elegant, classy, and sophisticated. No human has a right to define what is an appropriate lifestyle that demonstrates culture, cuisine, and entertainment for all people. When I let go of all of the stereotypes about how black people are supposed to act, dress, talk, and think in comparison to mainstream white society I could appreciate the plethora of emotions that awakened inside of my consciousness of what it means to be an African American woman in modern day America. As black people, many of us have decided to primarily identify with the pain and struggles in the African American communities such as police violence, but we rarely appreciate and celebrate our small-scale successes unless they have first been approved of by mainstream society.
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