In Atlanta, we love a great story, but it ain’t all doom and gloom. With that thought in mind, say hello to Everyday Heroes. This place we call home is filled with ordinary people who accomplish extraordinary feats. Their selfless acts make this region so special — and they bring out the best in all of us.
This holiday season, Capital B Atlanta, the AJC, and our partners wanted to share their inspiring stories, celebrate their accomplishments, and offer ways that you can help. We’ve profiled three people who are working toward finding solutions to problems in their communities, the metro area, and the state.
Everything about the colorful flower shop is an intentional vision from its founder, Quianah Upton. Even how she obtained the building itself — down the street from where Rayshard Brooks was killed by police years earlier on Pryor Road — was a form of reparations, she said.
Customers at Nourish Botanica are first greeted by the vibrant colors that Upton painted on the walls with the help of a designer. Then you see the colorful flower chandeliers that hang from the ceiling, which Upton, a Black woman living in South Atlanta, says were inspired by angels. But she has a bigger vision.
In the backyard of the shop is an open field of grass where she hopes to open a “greenhouse café,” that will provide Black people a space to heal and play.
At the center of it, Upton envisions, will be food justice for residents of South Atlanta, an area she knows will soon be vulnerable to the gentrification brought on by the Atlanta BeltLine. The goal is to have 50% of the food come from Atlanta at a reasonable price that residents in South Atlanta can afford.
Upton’s connection to food insecurity is personal. The Virgin Islands-born Army brat dealt with family poverty. Her mother went from being married and in the military to getting injured, later moving the family into public housing. She remembers the overwhelming feeling that comes with food insecurity. One way Upton coped was through creating art.
After moving to Atlanta for its Black arts scene, Upton launched Arbitrary Living in 2014. The pop-up shop on Auburn Avenue was a go-to space for vintage furniture and decor finds, as well a space that promoted community among Black creatives.
Working at Arbitrary Living, Upton was inspired by Truly Living Well, a local organization started by Black farmers, focused on building food equity in Atlanta. At the time, Truly Living Well had a farm location on Auburn Avenue, and after seeing their work, ideas started to swirl in Upton’s mind.
“When I was introduced to Truly Living Well and seeing Black people growing food, it all finally started to connect for me,” she recalls. “It was deeply healing for me on a personal level, and I was drawn to learning more and creating artful experiences around stories of the people who were producing our food.”
For years, Upton would host dinners where she would bring community and city leaders to discuss the needs of various food access organizations, along with other topics like gentrification, and arts funding.
Upton was cooking all the food herself, hosting the dinners in spaces at various art galleries in Black areas of the city, being intentional about who she invited, the menu — everything.
Then finally, in 2020, she was inspired to raise the money for herself. She began a campaign to raise $75,000 so she could begin the work of having her own café, starting with the land to build. She later upped her goal to $180,000.
It was around this time that Upton got a huge lift from Kristin Jordan. Jordan owned a building in South Atlanta and hoped to open her own fair-trade business.
When Upton moved to South Atlanta, her mail was accidentally delivered to Jordan’s property. At the time, Upton’s fundraiser for Nourish Botanica had been live for two months. Jordan had already given money to the GoFundMe, but after looking her up to alert Upton to the mail mixup, she was so moved by the Nourish Botanica mission that she wanted to do more.
A year later in 2021, Jordan, who is immunocompromised and wasn’t using her property for in-person business, offered Upton the use of her space on a lease basis, with the hope that Upton would be able to buy it in a few years.
So far, Upton has raised enough money for Nourish Botanica’s plant and flower shop. She hopes to have the café fully operational in the fall of 2023, which is dependent on the former’s success, she says. Upton’s view on what she can do in this moment without the café feels like it’s aligned with what she will do in the future.
At its heart, Nourish Botanica will be a gathering place where residents are educated on the financial side knowing where their food comes from, and how it’s prepared. The space will also provide programming involving dinners, panels, and community gatherings.
“We want to model that revenue-based businesses can be built around community care and redistribution of holistic and nutritional resources for Black folks,” she said. “That’s something that drives me daily.”
HOW TO HELP
For more information on Nourish Botanica, please visit https://www.nourishbotanica.cafe/.
To host an event, contact Quianah and her team here: https://www.nourishbotanica.cafe/event-space-atlanta.
Follow Nourish Botanica on Instagram @nourishbotanica.