This is the sixth in a series about a book that was given to Mayor Marks for Christmas by his staff titled For The Love Of Cities: The Love Affair Between People And Their Places by Peter Kageyama. It talks about a number of needs in any city, large or small, and what it takes for a city to have such a draw that people long to live there, or return to it no matter how long they have been gone.
On this particular day, the mayor teased me with one of the opening lines of Chapter Eight. It states, “Building a great city is akin to throwing a great party.” I was intrigued by the concept, but found myself wanting to counter with, “Yeah, but what about public safety?” The truth is, we need it all. We need to be safe; we need food, clothing and shelter; we need our kids and us to be healthy and smart; we need fellowship and a sense of belonging; and we need to party. By partying, I don’t mean in ways that will get you in trouble with God and man, I mean, we need to celebrate our city. If you don’t have public safety, you can’t celebrate, and after a while, if you have nothing to celebrate about your city, you won’t have public safety.
Kageyama talks about two cities which have experienced exactly what I am talking about: Detroit, MI, and New Orleans, LA. Detroit got into trouble from man-made disasters in the form of poor leadership and economic choices, and New Orleans literally and physically nearly drowned. Both cities are making a comeback, thanks to what Peter calls “co-creators.” Co- creators include but aren’t confined to builders, networkers, entrepreneurs, educators, bridge builders, provocateurs, and champions.
Co-creators see vast potential in their cities irrespective of their current state, and love their town so much that they will work long and hard to make it shine, both within and without. In Athens we have people dedicating long hours to beautifying everything from cemeteries to putting flowers in planters on the Square to making Storytellers’, Grease, and Fiddlers’ Festivals enjoyable, smooth and humming. We have people who are legitimately able to gain the trust and respect of others, even from groups who historically haven’t trusted each other, and help them walk in the other’s moccasins. Because of co-creators, we have High Cotton Arts, Little Red School/Scout House, and Houston Library. We have the Bridge “Where Community Matters.” We have Relay for Life, the Autism Walk, Heroes’ Day, and nearly innumerable fundraising 5Ks, fish fries and BBQs for worthy causes.
Kageyama also calls co-creators the “great lovers of cities,” as well as outliers. They have an ego that is well-developed and healthy in the truest sense, demonstrated by the fact that they are not threatened by the accomplishments of others, or their ideas. They are motivated by what the Italians call fiero, which loosely translated means “taking pride in accomplishing a particularly challenging task.”
Kageyama then points us to two fascinating categories of co-creators: the provocateurs and the champions. While most of the time provocateurs have a negative reputation as people who incite others to commit crimes; it has also come to define the courage of someone like Harper Lee writing To Kill A Mockingbird. One can start out appearing to be a troublemaker and end up winning an award for it. My favorites are the champions. They are the ones that the rest of the co-creators look to for guidance and inspiration.
“We need more co-conspirators,” said Mayor Ronnie, and then sent me outside to search for one of the Athens Rocks rocks that Holly Hollman talks about on her column. Then I was razzed mercilessly by Holly, Amy Golden and Mayor Ronnie for my ignorance of this cool new way to celebrate Athens, and happily endured my comeuppance on Facebook later in the day. Ronnie had to roll; we had to pray; and be warned, we asked God for more co-creators.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner