Exclusive: Mayor Reed Speaks On Atlanta’s New Diversity

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    Mayor Kasim Reed says it is time for Atlanta to become a true multicultural metropolis. In a prepared speech to a room of Latino journalists on Saturday, the Atlanta mayor detailed his vision of the city’s diversity in the future.

    “We’ve patted ourselves on the back for a long time in the city of Atlanta about our diversity and inclusion, but really we’ve only had diversity that included black people and white people,” he said. “And now we’re becoming truly diverse and inclusive.”

    During his speech and in a question-and-answer session afterward, Reed talked about the economy, immigration and the importance of journalism. He also emphasized his support for the DREAM Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the US.

    The audience for the mayor’s speech was assembled for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ Region 4 Conference. It was dubbed, “Identidad en el presente,” which translates to “identity in the present” in English. The conference was attended by dozens of journalists, students and professionals from around the Southeast.

    “His presence really showed us that we’re relevant in this community,” said Nick Valencia, president of the Atlanta chapter of NAHJ. “We may be just a fraction of the population, but the support of someone like Mayor Reed shows that we are important to the leaders of [this] city.”

    Breaking some news, Reed also informed the audience that the city was planning to drop charges against three student journalists who were arrested at an Occupy Atlanta protest last year. The three – Judy Kim of Georgia State, Alisen Redmon of Kennesaw State, and Creative Loafing intern Stephanie Pharr – were charged with obstruction of traffic Nov. 5 after police said they refused to move from a protest area at Woodruff Park.

    Valencia and the Atlanta chapter of NAHJ organized the conference, which took place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Cox Enterprises in Atlanta.

    In addition to voicing his support for increased diversity and addressing the issues of the day, the Democratic mayor also warned Latinos that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney would be disastrous for their community.

    “I think that they can expect the worst administration on immigration in the last 20 years,” Reed said. “I just looked at his immigration stances, and they are stark, they are harsh and they appeal to the right wing of his base.”

    The mayor appeared on MSNBC’s “Meet the Press” the next day where he discussed the presidential candidates and asserted support for President Barack Obama in the upcoming election.

    While politics were a large part of his message, Reed said it was most important for him to be at the conference to show that his support for the Latino community was more than just words

    “As a person of color,” Reed said, “I understand how important it is to be understood.”

    *Photo courtesy of Mekahlo Medina and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists

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