Imagining a New, Safer Atlanta
The Case for Trap Cultural Zones
What does a new, safer Atlanta look like? How do we draw upon all that is right in our city while fixing and improving all that is wrong? Atlanta is a predominantly Black city ranked in the top 20 U.S. cities with the largest TLGBQ+ populations. Yet our public policy doesn’t reflect this nor prioritize the communities that have consistently set Atlanta’s culture. Music artists, born and raised in the Trap of Atlanta, have influenced the world, through their music and while the city generates billions of dollars from Trap music and the appropriation of trap culture, it has completely divested from these areas."
Trap is more than just a music form; it’s a way of life for marginalized people trying to survive the environments they were born into. Trapping – namely the act of selling drugs – is a major element of trap culture. Artists like 2Chainz, T.I., and Outkast were all born and raised in the trap, but these areas are now being gentrified without meaningfully improving the lives of the Black people who didn’t have many options. Between 2014 and 2015, the Atlanta police department made a total of 1,070 marijuana related arrests. 1,032 of those arrests were for possession of marijuana under one ounce. Today, there are an average of 15 bookings for marijuana possession, which is progress – but much work is still needed.
For the first time, Atlanta is no longer a predominantly Black city and though Black art remains celebrated, Black trappers are consistently criminalized. By erasing the trap, we're erasing Atlanta's culture. SNaP Co. is a LGBTQ organization that fights for everybody Black and those who have been harmed by systemic and interpersonal violence. Alongside the family of DeAundre Philips, Brother Haroun (founder of the Street Groomers), and other community leaders, SNaP Co. led the charge for marijuana reform in Atlanta so that folks wouldn't be profiled and thrown into cages for a few blunts or nuggets of cannabis. Our people have been making a dollar out of 15 cents for far too long. It’s time for the City of Atlanta to come up with the other 85.
To do this, we at SNaP Co. envision city-wide Trap Cultural Zones that celebrate the Black and queer communities that make Atlanta so distinct, and reinvest in those communities rather than overpolicing and surveilling them. There are a wealth of Black and TLGBQ+ led businesses, faith spaces, non-profit organizations, and creative collectives that are making their communities safer, healthier, and more interconnected. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel but we can and should celebrate those who are making this city better each and every day. The process of creating trap cultural zones would begin with mapping and highlighting those institutions in a streamlined and accessible way. Businesses who sign up to be part of Trap Cultural Zones will have access to a new network/community of people committed to action, business grants and loans of varying amounts, training and resources on de-escalation tactics that don't involve police, and other incentives that are community informed and build up new ways of supporting one another.
Once we have mapped these spaces out and increased support for them, we can analyze the data and spotlight the parts of the city with the highest prevalence of Black and queer community building. These neighborhoods will form the foundation of the first Trap Cultural Zones. What do those communities need? Some regions may have a strong nightlife but few family-friendly activities. Others may need more healthy food options and green spaces. And perhaps others have high rates of interpersonal violence and are in need of dedicated violence interrupters. Other structural improvements might be street repair, increased street lighting, food banks, affordable housing, healthcare clinics, early education centers, and recreation centers. No one neighborhood in Atlanta has the same needs as another but we can meet each of these needs without badges or guns, but rather with preventative and proactive measures.