New York Family Leaves Fast-Paced Lifestyle for the Laid-Back South

Ebony, September 1993 | Go to article overview

New York Family Leaves Fast-Paced Lifestyle for the Laid-Back South


GUNSHOTS, sirens, traffic jams and the rude, crude remarks of impatient passersby used to be commonplace for Evan and Marjul Francis of Queens, N.Y., before they decided, like thousands of other transplanted Northerners, to exchange the pressure-cooker lifestyle of urban America for the slow churning pace of the South.

A region remembered for the bitterness of slavery and Jim Crow is now seen by an increasing number of Black Americans as a hopeful haven away from the big-city scene of drugs, crime and poverty.

"We both agreed that the American Dream was basically over for us in New York," says 27-year-old Evan Francis, a Port Washington, N.Y, native, who decided to move his family South after losing his job as a data technician a week after his honeymoon. "My wife and I had decided that eventually we were going to move to Atlanta, Ga., regardless, but the layoff speeded up the process."

The Francises considered Atlanta as a possible relocation spot shortly after visiting the area during the 1982 baseball playoffs. "When I first came down here, I fell in love with it," Evan explains. "I knew then that Atlanta would suit our needs.

The South has suited the needs of many Black families in recent years. In fact, according to the U. S. Census' 1991 Current Population Reports on Population Characteristics, the proportion of Blacks living in the Southern region of the U.S. increased in the 1980s for the first time this century.

The reason? "It's the push-pull theory operating in reverse," says Dr. Anna Grant, head of the sociology department at Morehouse College in Atlanta. She says overt racism and a plummeting job market in Northern states are primarily responsible for the reverse migration. Before the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Grant says, Blacks "were pushed by the discomfort of life in the South and were pulled by the promise of something better [in the North]. " But now the lures of a broader job market, lower cost of living and a warmer climate, Dr. Grant says, beckon many African-American families to the Southern shores.

Life south of the Mason-Dixon Line was an impressive factor for Marjul Francis, who is also 27. "I feel more comfortable here," says Marjul, a native New Yorker. "The pace in New York was so much faster and more hectic, like a treadmill all the time, but here in Atlanta, it's a lot slower, less stressful and much more relaxed."

Husband Evan agrees. "We don't hear fire engines, police cars and gun shots all the time now," he says. "It's a world of difference here; where we live now is absolutely gorgeous."

The hardest part about leaving New York for suburban Atlanta, they say, was leaving their extended families behind. They especially worried about the impact their move would have on their five-year-old son, Austin, who was used to spending a great deal of time with his grandparents.

"I really expected him to go through more of a traumatic adjustment, but be really hasn't complained at all," says Marjul. For Austin, the family's relocation meant "a little more freedom to play outside," she points out.

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