We're back with our series Inside Atlanta—each week, we sit down with influential locals to talk about what Atlanta means to them. Today we’re chatting with Robbie Medwed, the Education Director for the Southern Jewish Resource Network for Gender and Sexual Diversity (SOJOURN). In his role with SOJOURN, and in his “free” time, Robbie works tirelessly for the empowerment of the LGBTQ community throughout Atlanta and the South.
Whether it’s influencing policymakers during the legislative session or writing columns for local publications, Medwed is not afraid to make his voice heard. He works hard, but this Atlanta native loves his city and makes time to enjoy the best of what it has to offer. Today we get a tour of The Big Peach led by Robbie himself
I live in… “Piedmont Heights. We’re not really Morningside, we’re not really Ansley Park, and we’re definitely not Buckhead. You’d probably know it best as “across the street from the new Sprouts. Our best-known landmark is Gorilla Car Wash, so you could say we’re pretty great in terms of neighborhood identity.”
I Wish People Knew… “just how easy it is to influence state and local politics. We might like to think we live in a big city, but when it comes down to it, we still operate like a small town, and I mean that in a good way. Our city council members, local legislators, and representatives are our neighbors.
They actually like hearing from all of us. They want to know who we are and they want to know our opinions. Lots of them really do base the decisions they make on the arguments they hear from their constituents, and a few phone calls and well-written emails can legitimately influence the outcome of some major issues.”
You Can Find Me… “walking the halls of the State Capitol during the legislative session trying to convince lawmakers to do good things. Sometimes that means private conversations, public call-outs, and the occasional testifying at a committee hearing. During the rest of the year I travel around the South for work teaching LGBTQ suicide prevention workshops to local educators and community leaders. I’m also on the board of my synagogue (Congregation Shearith Israel in Morningside) and I love riding my bicycle around the Silver Comet Trail and the streets of downtown just before the sun comes up on the weekends. I’ll ride on the BeltLine, but only if it’s super early in the morning.”
It’s Dinner Time, I’m Headed to… “my own kitchen to cook. I love to cook and it’s usually one of my favorite ways to relax. I used to teach cooking classes at Hal’s Kitchen in Brookhaven and have my own bakery that sold at farmer’s markets and a few stores around town. If I’m not cooking, my favorite places in town have to be Desta Ethiopian Kitchen, El Rey Del Taco on Buford Highway, and just about every restaurant in Decatur.”
Clock Strikes 5’oclock, I’m Drinking… “something spicy, smoky and whiskey-filled at the Pinewood Tippling Room in Decatur.
They’re my go-to for a celebration, some meaningful self-pity or second dates (never first dates, I don’t want a bad date to steal my favorite place). I’m there enough that they put a special drink on the menu for my birthday last summer. Plus, drinking is always better when there are grit tots involved. That’s right, tots made of cheddar grits. You’re welcome, Atlanta. Tell them Robbie sent you.”
If I had to Stay in a Hotel, I’d Check Into… “A hike-in campsite at Cloudland Canyon State Park in Northwest Georgia. I travel enough for work and stay in hotels as it is, but I don’t get to be outside enough. Cloudland Canyon is a great state park—it’s got great hiking, beautiful views, and the rangers there aren’t as strict as the folks at Unicoi in Helen. It’s only a couple of hours outside the city, so it’s close enough to go for a quick weekend away.”
Atlanta’s Best Kept Secret is… “our theater scene. We’ve got a couple of really well-known theater and improv spots, but there are so many small companies that are putting on incredible shows around town. Serenbe, Village Theatre, Eyedrum, The Goat Farm—there are so many incredible venues putting on high quality shows that deserve out attention. Atlanta’s become a real actor’s town thanks to the booming movie industry, which means the talent level in our theater companies has gone up, too. Plus, the smaller companies almost always have really reasonable ticket prices.”
When I’m Playing Tourist I go to… “The National Center for Civil and Human Rights. It is, hands-down, the best museum in Atlanta, and definitely one of the best in the country. I’ve been there more than a few times and I’m moved and learn something new every time I go. A good museum should challenge and inspire, and The Center absolutely does that. Plus, as an Atlanta native, Centennial Park has a special place in my heart because I remember what downtown used to look like before it existed.”
I Get My Sweat On… “At Gravitee Fitness on Cheshire Bridge Road. It’s not too intimidating, it has all the equipment you’d need without too many frills, and it’s the kind of place where everyone stops what they’re doing and dances when Britney Spears comes on the sound system. Seriously, that’s happened before. If your gym doesn’t have impromptu dance parties, you’re at the wrong gym.”
I Love Spending My Money at… “ the farmer’s market or with local artists. Some of our best local businesses are at the farmer’s markets. My favorites are Tucker, Freedom Center and Grant Park markets. They’re really community-driven and have great producers and farmers. I also love some of the local artists we’ve got here. I’ve got art in my house from Alli Royce Soble, Grant Henry (Sister Louisa), and Methane Studios. I also spend a good deal of my money at Tower on Piedmont. They’re great people and have some fantastic customer service. I do a whiskey registry there every year for my birthday and they’ve been able to get me bottles of whiskey that aren’t for sale anywhere else.”