Chess & Community: The Coolest Athens Change-Makers You’ve Never Heard Of

Chess & Community


Story by Rachel Bailey.

Athens Clarke County Police Chief Scott Freeman hit the deck, face down on the floor of the stage in front of hundreds of kids and their parents. Step by step, the kids in the crowd, mostly young black men, hollered instructions: “Put your hands palm-down on the ground!” “Legs straight!” “Feet flexed!” “Now PUSH!” “Push again!” “One…Two…Three!” Following the children’s instructions step by step, the Chief began doing push-ups for the crowd.

Was this a scene from some youth’s benign payback-for-the-police dream in a Black vs. Blue Lives Matter world? Quite the opposite. It was a highlight of 2016’s Chess & Community Conference, with Four Athens director Jim Flannery leading the crowd in coaching Chief Freeman — one painstaking movement at a time — to do push-ups, all part of a demonstration of how easy it is to write computer code. After all, if you can teach a police chief to work those arms, you can teach a computer to run the program you’ve dreamed up.

Chess & Community

With Chess & Community’s 2017 Conference fast approaching (January 7 on the 5th floor of UGA’s Tate Center, with doors at 10 a.m.), My Athens caught up with Executive Director Lemuel LaRoche (better known to some as Life the Griot) for a chat about how the Athens nonprofit is working “to bring this divided community together.”

“Chess & Community is a youth development organization that develops leaders in Athens,” LaRoche says. “This is a youth-led conference.”

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Help Wanted! Seeking Spring Interns

My Athens is growing fast, and we need our team to grow with us! We’re seeking some new contributors for the spring, from video to commercial photography to writers. Check out the descriptions below!

Want to get involved but don’t quite fit within any of the descriptions below? Reach out to us anyway! Who knows — you could be the piece we didn’t even know we were missing. Contact Executive Director Rachel Bailey at and tell us about yourself!

Video Intern
Commercial Photography Intern
Graphic Design
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Moonflower Designs

Editor’s Note: Remember a time when it wasn’t gloomy and rainy and horrid outside? This terrible weather is making us dream of spring flowers and warm afternoons. What a better way to brighten up your day than reading this great archive piece about Moonflower Designs, and bask in the beauty of their wonderful floral arrangements.

Words by Eva Claire Schwartz & Catherine Dolaher. Photos courtesy of Moonflower Designs.

We had the chance to sit down and speak with Mandy O’Shea of Moonflower Designs about her passion for the art of floral arrangements and why she has chosen to make her art right here in Athens.


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Fire Up the Hydrants

Words by Nina Guzman    Video by John Roche   Feature Photo by Joshua Jones

Last month you might have noticed something different in the Athens downtown area. Small murals popping up in the most unexpected of places; fire hydrants! No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. That is a bear drawn with playful precision on a fire hydrant. To commemorate 80 years of clean drinking water in Athens, fire hydrants all over downtown have been turned into fun (and useful) art pieces. After a blind evaluation process, 20 artists with varying degrees of skill were chosen by a panel of judges representing the Athens Area Arts Council (including yours truly), ACC Fire and Emergency Services, ACC Public Utilities Department and the Athens Downtown Development Authority. What a fun way to bridge water conservation and art.

Inspired by this wonderful mix of water conservation awareness and art, John Roche created a video showing off the newly designed hydrants.


Visit the Fire Up the Hydrants to learn more more and to vote for you favorite hydrant!  Voting ends in February 2017 and winners will be announced March 2017.

Let’s Give Thanks: Part 2

Words by: Nina Guzman

Here in My Athen, we have a lot to be thankful for, which brings us to part 2 of our Thankfulness series. We hope this post finds you safe and surrounded by the people you love.




Cathy Marszalik – Photographer/Contributor

I’m thankful for the The Classic City that I’ve called home for the past 7 years. Between its kind residents, creative vibes, and outstanding food, I’ve truly found a place where I belong, and a place that has helped me become the artistic, adventurous and happy person I always hoped I’d become. Thank you so much for many years of twinkling winters, invaluable lessons, and beautiful friendships… Athens, I love you.



Kelsey Smith – Graphic Design Intern

I am so thankful for my little family in Athens & the little life we share together. They have seen me through so much change over the last year. Doing life wouldn’t be half as meaningful if I didn’t get come home to their love every night.



Sam Stephens – Food Editor

The day before Thanksgiving will be the first anniversary of getting this beautiful girl! Rosa, my 3-ish year old pit bull, is the only reason that I’m as sane as I am. I’m so thankful to have such an incredible animal as a companion. Dogs are the most loving creatures; I’m blessed to have been chosen by the best one.




Austin Steele – Photographer

I’m thankful for the season of fall. Yeah, I know everything is dying and it’s getting colder, but it’s the time of year when we can come together with our friends and families to break some bread and (preferably) drink some beer. Cheers!


Let’s Give Thanks

Words: Nina Guzman

It’s that time of year again. Time to visit family, stuff our faces with fattening/delicious food, and watch the parade on TV. As it starts to get chillier outside (and even chillier in our terribly ventilated houses) we keep ourselves warm with thoughts of thanks. Thanks for free wifi in our favorite coffee shops, for cute puppies and gas station ramen. We are thankful for you; our readers, sponsors and friends that support us, read our posts and attend our events.

This week we will be rolling out  thoughts of thanks from our contributors and editors. We hope this post finds you in good health and good company.


Mobley Brandenburg – Contributor

I’m thankful for the simple scenes that make you stop in you tracks. We can all use more time to reconnect and soak in the moment.


Courtney Blackwell – Style and Communications Intern

This year I am thankful for the many blessings I have achieved through the year of 2016. An internship I love, clarity in the direction I want to go in career wise, and the opportunity to celebrate another Thanksgiving with those I love.

Kayla Renie – Blog Photo Director

I’m a big believer in loving the little things in life. There’s so much I’m thankful for, but I’m particularly fond of my cat and all my little plants. Having a sweet pet to come home to and inheriting my mom’s green thumb makes life pretty great.


Jason Clarke – Contributor

I am thankful, thankful for my five awesome cats and the love of my life, who cleans their litter box when I don’t want to…so a lot of the time.


Nina Karina – Managing Editor

Here is a package my father sent me a few months ago. Every corner of this box is marked with positive affirmations and loving messages. It wasn’t my birthday and there weren’t any holidays going on. I keep this package in a prominent place in my living room to remind myself that I am not alone, that I am loved. I am thankful to have such wonderful people on my side.



The Athens Taco Takedown Returns!

Athens Taco Takedown 2016

The Athens Taco Takedown is Back October 16!

It’s no secret that we here at My Athens love food (sign up for our monthly food newsletter here!), and tacos are among our favorite foods of all. That’s what inspired us to join forces with Terrapin last year to present the Athens Taco Takedown, a taco cook-off competition featuring ten of our favorite local restaurants throwing down — we had everything from ice cream tacos to tuna tacos seared onsite, and we couldn’t believe the community’s response. We knew we had to do it again. And tickets are on sale here right now!

Athens Taco Takedown 2016

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Join Our Team!

Join our team at My Athens! There are two unique roles within the organization that need to be filled, and we are searching for innovative and creative individuals with a passion for Athens stories to take on these roles. We are seeking to fill the positions of Managing Editor and Merch Manager.

We are also seeking new writers and photographers to contribute to the blog over the course of this year, especially folks with an interest in telling stories pertaining to fashion. If interested, please send a cover letter and some writing samples, if you have them, to Some interviewing and longer form writing experience are preferred, though we also include and guide folks without experience to develop basic skills like interviewing and story structure. Ideally, our writers are also avid readers of journalism of some kind and willing to pitch their own story ideas as well as taking assignments from editors.

Take a look at the descriptions below and, if you are interested in applying for either Managing Editor or Merch Manager, send a cover letter and resume to executive director, Rachel Bailey, at

CREATIVES assemble

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Athens To-Do List: Stargazing with Vestigo

Story by Christy Rogers. Images by Austin Steele and Jonathan Lim.

It was Friday, May 6th. I tore out of the parking lot of Home.made, where I work, with about ten minutes to spare, leaving only a few moments to pick up Austin Steele. Trust me, he was not happy when I was going fifteen (maybe twenty) miles over the speed limit in the middle of the night to get to a random parking lot before 10 p.m.

The reason? I did not want to miss this.

Photo by Austin Steele

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