Over 100 residents, who either live in or have ties to Norcross, told Canopy Atlanta’s Community Engagement team what journalism would best serve their community for our sixth community issue. The resulting feedback came from community conversations and online surveys.
How we did it
Community listening in Norcross began with a number of conversations with community members and leaders via email and phone calls. From there, we began attending City of Norcross meetings, convening with local special interest groups like Voices of Muslims, Advancing Asian American Justice and the Latin American Association.
The conversations and perspectives on the diverse community, with a population of more than 31% born outside of the United States, proved to be both enlightening and disparate. When surveying some of the Historic Norcross homeowners perusing at the weekly Farm Fresh Wednesdays event, their sentiments described a city full of history, beautiful landscapes, communal belonging and only a smattering of complaints about increasing reports of break-ins and the headaches of traffic.
At that same event, we spoke with some Norcross residents of color, many of Latinx descent, who found living in Norcross to be like living in two cities. The luscious Thrasher Park at the center of the city’s downtown served as a safe haven, but in their neighborhoods along Singleton Road, Jimmy Carter Boulevard and other unincorporated parts of town, the sense of security did not compare.
I met a number of people who reported living in apartments with decades-old furnishings but rent prices that had recently jumped by 30-50%, which led to those residents holding multiple jobs. For Susan, a 40-year resident of Norcross, that experience could not be further from her reality. She admitted that young and single people may have a hard time owning a home, but she and her husband have lived a rather charmed life in Norcross, distancing themselves from the dread of “nameless suburbia throughout Atlanta.”
I met Alex, a Dominican American whose family owns Glam Dominican Hair Salon on Buford Highway. After more than 20 years in Norcross, he reported a feeling of division in the city. A stretch of extended stays, bars and clubs neighbor the salon. Once night falls, police heavily surveil the area, which Alex says, is a way to ticket or arrest Brown and Black people for violations from broken tail lights to DUIs.
We spoke to more than 100 people – from business owners to teachers, unhoused to new Norcross homeowners. Each had a different image of what makes Norcross special and where the city could use improvement. There was not one voice that reigned louder than the other. Instead the listening provided a symphony of various sentiments about a city, one of the most diverse in the United States, that is still seeking harmony and facing growing pains.
In recent weeks, Canopy Atlanta has formed the Norcross Community Editorial Board to further tell the story of the nuances of the Norcross experience. The CEB has asked us to focus on the debated annexation of Norcross, transportation and school performance in the area. They want to find solutions to the inequality of resources, access to fresh food and limited transportation options in Norcross. The board also wants to hear more about infrastructure and public safety.
We look forward to gathering information and reporting on these aspects through the eyes of Norcross residents.
—Stephanie Toone, Community Engagement Editor
- 45 South Cafe
- Best Friends Park
- Farm Fresh Wednesday at Thrasher Park
- Food Terminal at 5000 Buford Highway
- Glam Dominican Hair Salon
- Global Mall
- Graves Park
- Hispanic Heritage Celebration (Summerour Middle School)
- Hong Kong Supermarket
- Pinckneyville Park
- Lillian Webb Park
- Lucky Shoals Park
- Thrasher Park
- WTL Extended Stay
- Intown Suites Extended Stay America – Atlanta
Who we heard from
- 9 percent of respondents were between ages 18 and 24
- 37 percent of respondents were between ages 25 and 34
- 20 percent of respondents were between ages 35 and 44
- 11 percent of respondents were between ages 45 and 54
- 7 percent of respondents were between ages 55 and 64
- 8 percent of respondents were above age 65
- 42 percent of respondents identified as male
- 54 percent of respondents identified as female
- 4 percent of respondents chose not to answer
- 29 percent of respondents identified as East Asian or Asian American
- 27 percent of respondents identified as Black or African American
- 22 percent of respondents identified as Latinx or Hispanic
- 7 percent of respondents identified as South Asian or Desi American
- 7 percent of respondents identified as non-Hispanic white
- 56 percent of community listening respondents currently live in Norcross
- 29 percent of community listening respondents currently work in Norcross
- 7 percent of community listening respondents previously lived in Norcross
What we heard
What do people love about Norcross?
Community members are drawn to the neighborhood’s:
- “A major driver for me moving here was the diversity. The diversity of incomes, people and cultures.”
- “I love seeing shop signs in 3 or 4 different languages. I love the diversity among the kids who visit us on Halloween.”
- Food options:
- “We have so many food options. You can have everything from Asian to Jamaican.”
- “It’s the people that make it special.”
- “There are a lot of Vietnamese people here, so we have a strong resource and support community which is good for me.”
- “This is a better community for kids.”
- “We’re new here, but I love it. It’s quite different from Michigan. People are really kind here.”
- “The schools are better here.”
- “I like the events we have here. You never run out of things to do with everything around here.”
- “I love the tiny yet charming downtown, I love the library.”
- Green spaces:
- “The county is investing $19 million in walking trails, playgrounds, forest trails. That is going to be amazing.”
What issues do community members want to learn more about or see changed?
- “I think the strong suit [diversity] is also the weakness. It would be good to have a little more understanding about the different cultures. Diversity is rich here, but where do you go to learn all about it?
- “The diversity is lacking in Historic downtown. What I dislike is how segregated it is here. Most of the white people live in the historic part. It’s more of the Hispanic community and others that live on this end. It’s a stark contrast. It’s like night & day. They’re pricing people out of that area (Historic Downtown).”
- “I think there could be more community gardens that are affordable to help people have access to fresh, affordable food. There’s a garden here that charges $300 a year to be a part of it. That’s too much.”
- “It would be nice if Norcross created more green spaces and gardens for the population of folks that live in apartment complexes.”
- “The thing that’s not so good is the police harassment by the City of Norcross. They harass Black people and Latin people here to the point that businesses have had to change their hours.”
- The home prices have gone up a lot. We are always looking, but with the way things are it would be a lot harder for us to buy anything else.
Do you have any issues in accessing information from governments or other civic organizations, especially if English is not your primary language?
- Positive Feedback on Multilingual Information: Many respondents praised specific areas like Norcross for doing a good job in providing information in Spanish. There were mentions of seeing signs in public in Spanish and other languages like Korean, and Chinese, and that schools are equipped with Spanish translators.
- Need for More Information in Spanish: Some respondents expressed difficulty in accessing information in Spanish, indicating a desire for more comprehensive resources in this language. A few mentioned that while there is translated information, it’s often not enough or is provided late to the Hispanic community.
- English Proficiency & Privilege: Several respondents acknowledged their privilege in being fluent in English and being educated, recognizing that this gives them an advantage in accessing information. A few respondents also mentioned being well-versed with the internet, emphasizing the importance of digital literacy.
- Community Support & Sharing: Some respondents highlighted the importance of community support, mentioning that information is often shared amongst community members, especially when official channels fall short. A specific example mentioned was the Vietnamese community being actively involved and supporting each other.
- Challenges Even for English Speakers: Some English-speaking respondents also mentioned challenges in accessing information, emphasizing that while language can be a barrier, it’s not the only one. Issues like complexity in finding housing assistance and the need for more civic engagement programs were highlighted.
- Civic Engagement: A number of respondents mentioned their level of civic engagement, with some feeling well-engaged and informed, while others expressed a desire to be more involved. Some mentioned barriers to civic participation, like not being citizens.
- Specific Needs for Other Languages: Besides Spanish, there were mentions of the need for resources in other languages like Vietnamese and Korean. The Vietnamese community, in particular, was highlighted for often having to navigate systems with bilingual staff due to a lack of official Vietnamese-speaking resources.
- Ease of Access & Online Information: Some respondents found it easy to access information, especially online. However, the ease of access might vary depending on the city, with some cities providing more accessible info in Spanish than others.
Canopy Atlanta is currently working with a Community Editorial Board, made of residents with ties to Norcross, to finalize story topics for our sixth community issue, due in February / March 2024.
Ways to Participate
Residents or people with ties to Norcross can complete this short 3-minute survey to tell us what matters to them to inform our reporting and the stories that are selected.
Explore more ways to get involved with Canopy Atlanta.
Editor: Christina Lee
Canopy Atlanta Reader: Mariann Martin
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