Bem Joiner is the founder of Atlanta Influences Everything and one of the city’s most astute cultural observers.
Bem was raised in the West End, and attended Garden Hills Elementary, Sutton Middle School, and North Atlanta High School. Frustrated that large corporations like Nike were using Atlanta’s cultural outputs, but not engaging with the city’s cultural communities, led him to declare that “Atlanta Influences Everything,” which his partners, Ian Ford and Tory Edwards, put on a t-shirt. The rest is history.
We asked Bem to give us his Top 5 Something, and he hit us back with his Top 5 places to go to at least feel like an ATLien.
① Five Points Marta Station and Little Five Points: Five Points is as raw as it gets. It’s the city center, where you’ll see tourists looking bewildered, government workers, nine-to-fivers, and corporate hustlers blending together. Little 5 Points because it’s the place in Atlanta to find a bohemian life. People from the suburbs take long trips to get there, and it’s probably where the bewildered tourists at Five Points Station meant to go, but were confused by the names.
② Busy Bee Cafe, Manuel’s Tavern, Fat Matt’s Rib Shack, Tassili’s Raw Reality: There are soooo many food places to choose from here. There’s a lot of variety, and all of the places mentioned above have a legit cult following.
③ MJQ Concourse is the easiest place in Atlanta to go to party, once you know how to find the place. The prices are always the same, you can hear a variety of music, there’s no dress code, and when you pull back layers—you turn on the lights—it really is a place where a united Atlanta comes to party together.
④ Magic City: All of the lore! The lemon pepper wings! When former LA Clippers Guard (now current Atlanta Hawk and Gwinnett County native) Lou Williams broke protocol and blamed it on the wings at Magic City, CNN and all of the top tier media came in. Atlanta didn’t know how to say, “Yeah, come get these wings!” And you’ll never hear Atlanta say that, but we all know it.
⑤ AUC and The King Center: The Dr. King element of it all. When you understand how Chicago, with its Blackness and Fred Hampton, San Francisco with the Black Panthers, and how other Black cities maintain their identities, you understand why Atlanta pulls so many Black people here. Malcolm X College can’t hold a candle to AUC. It’s why Atlanta became the Black Mecca, and why it continues to be. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. went there, and for The King Center, it’s like Witchdoctor said in the song “Georgia Plains” — “Take your shoes off, goddamn ground is holy.”