LISTEN: On the Thursday, May 16 edition of Georgia Today: President Biden will be in Atlanta on Sunday to deliver the Morehouse College commencement speech; an Atlanta influencer joins a lawsuit fighting the federal government's TikTok ban; and a new minor league hockey team in Athens will be named after one of the city's most famous bands.

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Peter Biello: Welcome to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Thursday, May 16. I'm Peter Biello. On today's episode, President Biden will be in Atlanta on Sunday to deliver the Morehouse College commencement speech in Atlanta. Influencer joins a lawsuit fighting the federal government's TikTok ban. And a new minor league hockey team in Athens will be named after one of the city's most famous bands. These stories and more are coming up on this edition of Georgia Today.


Story 1:

Peter Biello: President Joe Biden plans to speak at Atlanta's Morehouse College this Sunday. His commencement address will be his most direct engagement with college students since the start of the Israel-Hamas war. Morehouse and neighboring Spelman College are both centers of Black politics and culture in a crucial swing state for Biden. Spelman student Kaitlin Joseph says the commencement speaker doesn't have to be Biden.

Kaitlin Joseph: It can be someone who — who exemplifies what Morehouse's values are. And I don't think that President Joe Biden does that.

Peter Biello: Ahead of the speech, the White House released new economic data on employment and wages for Black workers.


Story 2:

Peter Biello: Latin American leaders in Georgia are urging the president to expand protections for programs that protect undocumented workers. GPB's Sarah Kallis reports.

Sarah Kallis: Briseyda Neri was four years old when her mother, who was undocumented, was detained by immigration authorities for over a month before being released. She says she had to leave the U.S. with her mom and sister while her father stayed behind.

Briseyda Neri: I would stand by the window and ask my dad, "Where's Mommy?" when he would come home. I believe that no child, no young child should be forced to spend a month away from their mother or father.

Sarah Kallis: Neri later returned and is now working with other advocates, the Georgia Latin American Association, to urge Biden to consider executive orders that will keep what they call mixed status families together. The protections would include parole and place programs for undocumented family members of U.S. citizens, and expand temporary protective status programs. There are similar efforts in other states. For GPB News, I'm Sarah Kallis in Atlanta.



Credit: Jill Noiln / Georgia Recorder

Story 3:

Peter Biello: Addiction care providers have been invited to apply for part of George's share of settlements with major opioid manufacturers. There are a lot of ways that money could be spent. People in active addiction and those closest to them have some ideas about how, as GPB's Sofi Gratas reports.

Chandler Seklecki: Yo yo yo, what up though?

Sofi Gratas: It's past sundown and Chandler Seklecki and Sydney Mckee have pulled into a laundromat parking lot in Augusta

Person: Hi.

Sofi Gratas: Their job: to distribute supplies that aid in safe drug use.

Person: I put it in here?

Sofi Gratas: One of their regulars brings them a plastic red bin of used needles and dumps it into the sharps container that Chandler and Sydney drive around with. Sydney goes to the trunk of the car to grab new needles.

Chandler Seklecki: It's gonna be 200.

Sydney McKee: They all longs?

Chandler Seklecki: Yeah.

Sofi Gratas: This exchange has been legal since 2019, when Georgia passed a syringe service program law to help prevent the spread of diseases like HIV and hepatitis C. It's an example of what's called harm reduction. But Chandler and Sydney's clients don't just get needles. They also get clean cookers. cotton used to filter injected drugs, condoms and water. There's also plenty of Narcan used to reverse overdoses.

People: Oh, word. Yeah. Tourniquets!

Chandler Seklecki: It's like Christmas, right?

Person: Right!

Sofi Gratas: The hope is all this stuff will keep these women and their friends from dying. Over five years, more people have overdosed from opioids here in Richmond County than in any other county within Region 2, a boundary created for opioid settlement fund distribution that also includes Macon and Athens. The idea is that projects in this community and others like it could get grants from court settlements to tackle the opioid epidemic. Harm reduction worker Sydney McKee says it's vital during this process that people directly affected are heard.

Sydney McKee: When you want an expert's opinion, you go to the expert. And the experts are the users. So they have to be included in these big decisions.

Sofi Gratas: That's how Richmond County's needle exchange started. About 50,000 needles are distributed here every year, largely thanks to Chandler Seklecki. He's lost count of the times he's been revived by Narcan.

Chandler Seklecki: I've absolutely stopped breathing in a lot of these hotels.

Sofi Gratas: Now he's in recovery.

Chandler Seklecki: Being an IV user for 20 plus years myself, the fact of the matter is, you are going to inject drugs with whatever utensils you've got — like, whatever gear you've got your hands on. It's — it's going to happen.

Sofi Gratas: Even if that gear is unsafe. So with donations from other users, he started ordering needles online and handing them out.

Chandler Seklecki: If I didn't do something about it, nobody else would.

Sofi Gratas: Today, the supplies Chandler and Sidney hand out are paid for by the Georgia Harm Reduction Coalition. They hope if the larger organization applies for funds, that it will trickle down to pay for more of the work they do. Some see this work as the first step in helping someone in addiction. Others worry harm reduction prolongs drug use. But though it doesn't happen often, Chandler and Sydney do connect people to addiction treatment, too. We pull into a motel to meet Robbie and Sara. We're not using their last names. By now, the sharps container is almost halfway full.

Sarah: This helps a lot because it gives us a way to stay clean, to stay scar-free.

Sofi Gratas: Sarah is what harm reductionist would call a secondary. Someone who both benefits personally from a needle exchange but also shares with others.

Sarah: And that's the rule. Like, if we give somebody, a couple bags or whatever, we're like, hey, don't sell these. Don't do nothing else with these other than give them to people that need them.

Sofi Gratas: But sometimes there's not enough to go around. Sarah remembers a recent call she got about an active overdose.

Sarah: My homegirls are like, "Oh my God, he's dead, he's dead, he's dead! We need Narcan. We need Narcan." I was like, "Robbie. Narcan. Run."

Sofi Gratas: He ran a mile away to the motel managed by April.

April: How are you?

Sofi Gratas: She says six people have overdosed here since December.

April: I should be handing room keys with a thing of Narcan.

Sofi Gratas: April thinks money should fund more harm reduction.

April: You'd probably see a lot less deaths.

Sofi Gratas: But also:

April: Another step in the right direction would be to open a clinic close by.

Sofi Gratas: There's one rehab center in Augusta and two centers that offer medication for opioid use disorder. But April says they're too expensive and not where the users are. Plus, there's no recovery center where people through rehab can maintain sobriety and where people like her or even first responders can find Narcan easily.

April: Where the deputies can go 2 miles up the road and say "We ran out of Narcan. The city hasn't given us any. We need more."

Sofi Gratas: So far, that job — flooding the streets with Narcan and safe supplies — has largely fallen on the users and those who care about them.

Chandler Seklecki: Robbie, I love you.

Person: Love you, man.

April: Appreciate it, brother.

Sofi Gratas: For GPB News, I'm Sofi Gratas in Augusta.

Brian Crump

Brian Crump

Credit: AP Photo/Kate Brumback

Story 4:

Peter Biello: Civil rights attorney Ben Crump says new evidence supports the assertion that a Florida sheriff's deputy shot and killed an Air Force airman in error. Crump represents the family of Roger Fortson, who was shot when his family says the deputy went into the wrong apartment in response to a domestic disturbance call. Fortson is from Georgia and enlisted after graduating from McNair High School in Atlanta. Crump says body camera footage and police radio traffic show the deputy's error. At a press conference, the airman's mother, Meeka Fortson, demanded justice for her son.

Meeka Fortson: You thought he was a poor Black boy. But what you didn't know, he had a mama that's a poor Black single mama. And I'll walk through the fire for justice for mine. You're not gonna get anymore tears.

Peter Biello: The deputy shot Fortson six times in his home before ordering the airman to drop a gun he had been holding when he answered the door. Fortson's funeral is scheduled for tomorrow in Stonecrest, east of Atlanta.


Story 5: 

Peter Biello: The state's airports are getting a combined $120 million for upgrades. Georgia's U.S. Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff announced yesterday that the funds are coming from the bipartisan infrastructure law. The recipients are Macon's Middle Georgia Regional Airport, Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson and the Savannah Hilton Head International Airport. Airports can use the funding to upgrade runways, taxiways, safety, airport transit connections and roadways.


Story 6:

Peter Biello: An Atlanta influencer has signed on to a lawsuit against the federal government over its TikTok ban. Paul Tran is the owner of Love and Pebble skincare brand. He's one of many creator plaintiffs. According to court documents, the creators argue the law will quote "shutter a discreet medium of communication that has become part of American life." They also claim the ban is a violation of their First Amendment rights. Supporters of the ban argue TikTok is a cybersecurity threat. The lawsuit comes after President Biden signed a bill into law that would force TikTok to divest from parent company ByteDance, or face a ban.


Story 7:

Peter Biello: In sports, organizers of Atlanta's Peachtree Road Race say they expect registration to close earlier than usual this year. The Atlanta Track Club said yesterday 40,000 runners have registered for the race's 55th running on July 4. Capacity for what's billed as the world's largest 10K is 50,000 runners. The club said registrations so far surpassing those of the past five years and could close before the June 15 scheduled deadline.


Story 8:

Peter Biello: Fans of the new minor league hockey team in Athens have chosen the team's name. More than 8000 people participated, and the top vote getter is the Athens Rock Lobsters. It's a nod to the B-52's hit song "Rock Lobster" and the B-52's approve. The band said in a statement that they are honored to have their hometown team named for their song. The Athens Rock Lobsters play their first game later this year.


Story 9:

Peter Biello: The NBA's Atlanta Dream will move their two regular season home games against the Indiana Fever to the downtown home of the NBA's Atlanta Hawks. The move to State Farm Arena is meant to fit a larger crowd drawn by three of the biggest stars in the WNBA, including the Fever's Caitlin Clark. The Dream normally play at the league's smallest venue, the 3,500 seat Gateway Center near Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. State Farm Arena can seat 17,000. Clark's record-setting college career ahead of her draft by the Fever has sparked unprecedented interest in women's basketball. Two other No. 1 WNBA overall draft picks also will be at those games on June 21 and Aug. 26. They are Clark's Fever teammate Aliyah Boston and the Dream's own Rhyne Howard.


Story 10:

Peter Biello: The Braves have the day off today before starting a four-game series against the Padres tomorrow. Today is the second day of rest for Braves star right fielder Ronald Acuña Jr, who was taken out of the lineup yesterday because manager Brian Snitker thought he needed a mental break. Snitker says it's good for players in a slump to just take a day or two off.

Brian Snitker: You know, they sit and watch and think, "Man, it's not as hard as I'm making it, maybe." So I think it's good for them in certain, you know, situations.

Peter Biello: Acuna is batting .245, far below last year's .337. And earlier this week, he was picked off at first base for a major league-leading fourth time this season. Max Freed is scheduled to get the start for the Braves tomorrow night.

The Atlanta Vibe after winning the very first PVF match on January 24, 2024. Kacie Evans is in the front row at the far right.

The Atlanta Vibe after winning the very first PVF match on January 24, 2024. Kacie Evans is in the front row at the far right.

Credit: Atlanta Vibe


Story 11:

Peter Biello: And finally, in volleyball, the Atlanta Vibes 2024 inaugural season came to a close last night in the Pro Volleyball Federation Championship semifinals, as they lost a close five-set match to the No. 4 seed Grand Rapids Rise. Offensive powerhouses Analizar Ravena and Leah Edman combined for 30 kills in the match. Among the historic firsts in this first season, The Vibe scored the first point and went on to win the first match in league history at Omaha in January.


Peter Biello: And that is it for this edition of Georgia Today. If you want to learn more about any of these stories, visit And if you want to stay on top of the news, the best thing to do, of course, is to subscribe to this podcast. We will be there in your podcast feed every weekday afternoon if you do. And if you've got feedback, something we should know about, perhaps a story we should be reporting on, we would love to hear from you. Email us. The address is I'm Peter Biello. Thanks for listening. We'll see you tomorrow.


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