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  Can Georgia’s “Hipster Mayor” Help America Embrace Refugees Again?
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ContributorRBH 
Last EditedRBH  Oct 23, 2018 10:32pm
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AuthorKiera Butler
News DateTuesday, October 23, 2018 11:00:00 AM UTC0:0
DescriptionOn a sweltering July 4 evening, with mosquitoes out in force, Mayor Ted Terry presided over the grill at Clarkston, Georgia’s annual Independence Day pool party. Nigerian pop blared from loudspeakers as a group of women in hijabs sat in the shade, talking and laughing. Toddlers dipped their toes in the wading pool, shrieking with delight. Mayor Ted, as he’s known around town, greeted attendees with one hand and flipped hot dogs with the other.

In downtown Clarkston, you’ll find an array of thriving restaurants—Nepalese, Ethiopian, West African, and that’s just one block. Crime, unemployment, and homelessness are low, and 89 percent of the town’s refugee families are self-sufficient within six months of arrival, which means they no longer accept charity from the aid groups that brought them over. At just 1.4 square miles, Clarkston, with a population of about 13,000, is a dot on the map dwarfed by neighboring Atlanta and its ever-expanding footprint of suburbs and exurbs. But there’s something remarkable about this tiny city: It’s often called the most diverse square mile in the southeastern United States. Half of its residents are immigrants—the vast majority refugees—hailing from more than four dozen countries. The city has two Vietnamese Buddhist temples, a bustling mosque with 800 congregants, an Ethiopian orthodox church, and an innovative middle school for refugee girls whose earlier schooling was interrupted.

Terry, one of the state’s youngest mayors at 35 years old, didn’t create this culture—it has taken three decades for Clarkston to become the global village it is today. But since he was elected in 2013, he has vowed to amplify his city’s message of cultural harmony. Which, given all that has happened since, has proved a challenge indeed.
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