Who’s Who in Black Atlanta took over Frank Ski’s Restaurant in Buckhead Monday night to announce the publication’s new Game Changers honor presented in the 15th annual edition, which will be debuted on Nov. 6.
Stacii Jae Johnson, Associate Publisher of Who’s Who in Black Atlanta, described the soon-to-be-named Game Changer honorees as Atlanta luminaries who are “original, captivating, distinct, inspiring, profound, impassioned and original.”
The new category for excellence is expected to take off in Who’s Who publications throughout the U.S. and will be launched in Atlanta.
“Atlanta’s the perfect place [to start Game Changers] because historically things have always started in Atlanta,” said Johnson. “As a child my mother told me, ‘Black people can be something in Atlanta.’ She said Atlanta was the place of opportunity for African Americans.”
On hand for the event was Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who will autograph the 2013 edition’s forward. He spoke passionately to the crowd about the importance of Who’s Who in the city and its legacy. He also sat down for a conversation with Real Times Media about the impact Who’s Who can have.
“For 15 years we’ve had Who’s Who in Black Atlanta and what it does is lift up individuals who are worthy examples in the city of Atlanta, because examples matter,” Reed said. “You can’t dream about or become what you’ve never seen, so to the extent that you have a wide range of examples, you have mentors and people that you can model your career after, model your life after, and that’s what Who’s Who provides.
“That’s what makes Who’s Who so special and so important,” Reed continued, “because it really does give people a broad example, a number of examples, of people who have achieved excellence and who have lived lives that are worthy of praise.”
While the 15th rendition of Who’s Who in Black Atlanta will stay true to many of the publication’s established traditions, 2013’s edition will also boast some exciting updates. In addition to adding the first-of-its-kind Game Changer category, Atlanta will also pay homage to the city’s up-and-coming with its Emerging Leaders category.
“We’re making a concentrated effort to reach out and include emerging leaders in the book because for me, I need to see new faces,” said Johnson. “So in Atlanta we’re making sure we reach out and we connect to emerging leaders who are just as much a staple in this city as some of the other leaders who we all are aware of.”
One of those emerging leaders, Justin G. Tanner, a member of the Democratic National Committee’s National Finance Team, talked about the prestige of being named an Emerging Leader.
“It feels incredible,” said Tanner. “Atlanta is pretty much the cradle of the civil rights movement. We’ve had a lot of young, smart leaders who played a major role, not only during that time, but changing the world. So it just is an honor to continue in that tradition. It’s an honor to work under great leaders like Mayor Reed and I couldn’t be more happy to be a part of the publication.”
The night was about gratitude and charity, and it came from more just the publication. Quinnie Jenkins-Rice, Manager of Community Affairs and Grassroots for Southwest Airlines, which is a diamond sponsor of the 2013 Who’s Who in Black Atlanta publication, also gave away two round trip tickets to anywhere in the U.S. to one lucky winner.
For Jenkins-Rice, having her employer involved with Who’s Who was a “no-brainer.”
“I think oftentimes African Americans don’t get the recognition they deserve for all the contributions and wonderful things they’re doing to make not only this city, but this country, a better place,” she said. “So given the opportunity to support something like this, it was a no-brainer for me. I felt it was important for those leaders to know that Southwest Airlines supports them.”
One of the Game Changer honorees is Candace Byrd, Mayor Reed’s Chief of Staff. An Atlanta native and graduate of Georgia State University, Byrd explained how it felt to be recognized as a Game Changer in the 2013 edition.
“To be selected as a Game Changer means that I’m really doing something that’s important and for this edition to honor me and to think that my work is worthy and makes a huge difference is something that I’m really proud about,” said Byrd. “For someone to honor you and to single you out and say, ‘What you’re doing is really important in such a way that it’s a game changer,’ means a lot.”
Byrd was also recognized by the publication in 2005.
Nominations for Who’s Who in Black Atlanta are open until Sept. 23 and the honorees will be unveiled at a celebration event inside the Atlanta Marriott Marquis on Nov. 6.
The Atlanta Daily World is a subsidiary of Real Times Media, which also owns Who’s Who in Black Atlanta and Who’s Who Publishing.
(Photo: Mayor Kasim Reed with Who’s Who Associate Publisher Stacii Jae Johnson)