Black mecca

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A black mecca, in the United States, is a city to which African Americans, particularly professionals,[1] are drawn to live, due to some or all of the following factors:

  • superior economic opportunities for blacks, often as assessed by the presence of a large black upper-middle and upper class
  • black political power in a city
  • leading black educational institutions in a city
  • a city's leading role in black arts, music, and other culture
  • harmonious black-white race relations in a city

Atlanta has been referred to as a black mecca since the 1970s, while New York City's Harlem was referred to as a black mecca during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s and still is today.[2][3][4]

Atlanta[edit]

Atlanta has frequently been referred to as a black mecca since the 1970s.[5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21]

1971 Ebony article calling Atlanta the "black mecca" of the South

In 1971, Ebony magazine called Atlanta the "black mecca of the South", because "black folks have more, live better, accomplish more and deal with whites more effectively than they do anywhere else in the South—or North".[15] Ebony illustrated as evidence of "mecca" status Atlanta's high black home ownership, the Atlanta University Center (the nation's largest consortium of historically black colleges (HBCUs)), Atlanta's civil rights heritage, black business ownership, black-owned restaurants, the civic leadership of the black clergy, black fraternal organizations, and black political power in City Hall, while it also acknowledged the poverty which a large percentage of Atlanta's black population endured.

In 1983, Atlanta magazine said that Atlanta's reputation as a black mecca was "deserved because it is true" because "the metro area now has the highest proportion of middle-income African-Americans of any city in the country".[16]

A 1997 Ebony magazine article illustrated Atlanta's status as "the new mecca" (and the "land of milk and honey" for blacks) because a poll of the magazine's 100 most influential African Americans voted Atlanta overall the best city for blacks, possessed the most employment opportunities for blacks, it was American's "most diverse city", and was the city with the best schools and most affordable housing for blacks.[11] A 2002 article in the same magazine reconfirmed Atlanta as "the new black mecca" and "the go-to city for blacks."[14]

In 2009 the Associated Press characterized Atlanta's status as a black mecca by black political power in its City Hall.[12]

Black entertainment mecca[edit]

In 2011 in a New York Times article with the short title "Atlanta Emerges as a Black Entertainment Mecca", comedian Cedric the Entertainer, who hosted that year's Soul Train Music Awards, said Atlanta had always been a black mecca and continues to be one, with respect to the black musical talent in the city.[20]

Mecca for LGBT African Americans[edit]

In 2005 the New York Times reported that Atlanta had become a mecca for gay blacks, noting that within the African-American community in the U.S., in which being gay was less accepted than in society as a whole, Atlanta formed a refuge of tolerance. It also noted Atlanta's annual Atlanta Black Pride festival.[22] An earlier 2004 article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution also documented Atlanta as a "hub" or "mecca" for black gays.[23]

Criticism[edit]

Atlanta's status as a "mecca" for blacks is sometimes questioned, or the concept of a "mecca" refuted altogether, due to the endemic high levels of black poverty that exist alongside black success.[7] In 1997 the Chicago Tribune published an article titled "Atlanta's image as a black mecca losing luster". The loss in "luster" was because of a reality that too many blacks weren't coming close to financial success, but rather "caught up in a vicious cycle of poverty, crime and homelessness". The city had among the highest crime rates in the nation, many inner-city blacks were unable to travel to jobs in the suburbs, and despite 20 years of black city leadership, the reality was that city officials were unable to solve these problems.[24]

Harlem[edit]

"Harlem, Mecca of the New Negro", March 1925 issue of Survey Graphic

Harlem renaissance[edit]

Harlem in New York City was referred to as a black mecca during the 1920s and 1930s. In March 1925 the leading magazine Survey Graphic produced an issue entitled "Harlem: Mecca of the New Negro"[4] that was devoted to the African-American literary and artistic movement now known as the "Harlem Renaissance". Alain Locke guest-edited this issue. Much of the material appears in his 1925 anthology "The New Negro."[2][3] In 1965, author Seth Scheiner published the book Negro Mecca; A History of the Negro in New York City, 1865-1920.[25]

The 2001 book Harlemworld documented that the concept of Harlem as a black mecca at that time (i.e. seven decades after the Harlem Renaissance) was still present among many residents - a concept that was "history-laden" or even quasi-mythical.[26][27]

Mecca for West African Muslim immigrants[edit]

Black Mecca: The African Muslims of Harlem was also the title of a 2010 book by Temple University professor Zain Abdullah about Muslim West African immigrants in New York City, using "Mecca" not only in the generic sense of "a place that people are drawn to" but also playing on the original meaning of Mecca as the Muslim holy city.[28]

Washington, D.C.[edit]

In 2011, online magazine Clutch named Washington, D.C. alongside Atlanta as a black mecca, defining a black mecca as "a magnet for upwardly mobile black professionals from all walks of life, the cities’ landscapes…continuously being transformed by surging black entrepreneurship, and [boasting] amazing black history through their HBCUs, artistic expression and individual cultures." However, the article questioned the attraction of the "black mecca" cities to young black women professionals in light of high HIV infection rates among black men.[29]

Other cities[edit]

Rarely are places other than Atlanta and Harlem mentioned as black meccas, though in questioning the status of Atlanta as a black mecca, comparisons are often made to other cities with large black populations, such as Birmingham, AL, Detroit, Charleston, SC, Washington, D.C., St. Louis, Memphis, Philadelphia, Miami, Houston, Los Angeles and New Orleans,[1] as well as New York (as a whole, i.e. not just Harlem), Baltimore and Chicago.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Economics Perspectives: What Cities = More Black Jobs?", Black Enterprise, November 1991
  2. ^ a b "Further, by 1920 Harlem had gained a symbolic significance for blacks which caused it to be referred to as a "mecca" by scholars of the period" in Carolyn Jackson, "Harlem Renaissance: Pivotal Period in the Development of Afro-American Culture", Yale University.
  3. ^ a b reference to the text "Harlem—the Mecca of the Negroes the country over" in Wallace Thurman's 1928 book Negro Life in New York's Harlem, in Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, Harlem is Nowhere: A Journey to the Mecca of Black America, Little, Brown, 2011.
  4. ^ a b Locke, Alain (March 1925). "Harlem, Mecca of the New Negro". Survey Graphic. Retrieved 17 February 2012. 
  5. ^ "A CHAMPION FOR ATLANTA: Maynard Jackson: 'Black mecca' burgeoned under leader", Atlanta Journal-Constitution, June 29, 2003.
  6. ^ "the city that calls itself America's ' Black Mecca'"; in William Booth, "Atlanta Is Less Than Festive on Eve of Another 'Freaknik'", Washington Post, April 18, 1996.
  7. ^ a b "'The Black Mecca' leads the nation in numbers of African American millionaires; at the same time, it leads the nation in the percentage of its children in poverty"; in Robert D. Bullard, The Black Metropolis in the Twenty-first Century: Race, Power, and Politics, Rowman & Littlefield, 2007, p. 151.
  8. ^ "the city that earned a national reputation as America's 'black mecca'"; in David J. Dent, In Search of Black America: Discovering the African-American Dream, Free Press, 2001.
  9. ^ "the cornerstone upon which today's 'Black Mecca' was built"; in William Jelani Cobb, "The New South's Capital Likes to Contradict Itself", Washington Post, July 13, 2008.
  10. ^ "And, they said, don't forget Atlanta's reputation as a black mecca"; in "Georgia second in nation for black-owned businesses", Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 5, 2010.
  11. ^ a b c "Atlanta is New Mecca for Blacks", Ebony, September 1997.
  12. ^ a b "Atlanta's allure as the black mecca"; in "Atlanta contest shows battered black electorate", Associated Press article on MSNBC, December 4, 2009.
  13. ^ " the Southern capital regarded as the nation's black mecca"; in Emin Haines, "Race, attacks expected in Atlanta mayor runoff", Marietta Daily Journal, November 5, 2009.
  14. ^ a b "Is Atlanta the new black mecca?" Ebony, March 2002.
  15. ^ a b "Atlanta, black mecca of the South", Ebony, August 1971.
  16. ^ a b Terry Williams, "Money talks: Atlanta has the highest percentage of middle-class blacks of any city in the nation", Atlanta magazine, March 2003.
  17. ^ “Atlanta is a city that is known as the black mecca"; in "Upcoming city elections will show how Atlanta is undergoing profound changes", Saporta Report, October 2009.
  18. ^ "That stockpile of black brain power has made Atlanta the nation's mecca for blacks, especially buppies looking for Afro-American affluence and political clout"; in "Bond vs. Lewis - it's Atlanta's loss that only one of the two can win", Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 16, 1986.
  19. ^ "Is it this that has made Atlanta the mecca of the black middle class?"; in Henry Louis Gates, America Behind the Color Line: Dialogues with African Americans, Grand Central Publishing, 2007.
  20. ^ a b "Atlanta had always been a black mecca and continues to be one;, in Kim Severson, "Stars Flock to Atlanta, Reshaping a Center of Black Culture", New York Times, November 26, 2011.
  21. ^ Nathan McCall, "Atlanta: The City of the Next Generation", Black Enterprise, May 1987.
  22. ^ "Atlanta has become mecca for black gays", New York Times, August 15, 2005.
  23. ^ Dres Jubera, "Atlanta a hub for black gays", Atlanta Journal-Constitution, February 21, 2004.
  24. ^ Kirby, Joseph A. (30 April 1997). "Atlanta's Image As Black Mecca Losing Luster". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 16 August 2012. 
  25. ^ Seth Scheiner, Negro Mecca; A History of the Negro in New York City, 1865-1920 (1965), at Amazon.com.
  26. ^ Jackson, Jr., John L. (2003). Harlemworld. University Of Chicago Press. pp. 19, 30, 50, 209. ISBN 0226389995. 
  27. ^ "Harlem: the Black Mecca" in "Harlem Renaissance" in Bio classroom on The Biography Channel website.
  28. ^ Abdullah, Zain (2010). Black Mecca: The African Muslims of Harlem. Oxford University Press, USA. ISBN 0195314255. 
  29. ^ Kymberly Sheckleford, "Black meccas or urban graveyards", Clutch, November 15, 2011.