Rounding the Bases: My Top Four Moments as a 404 Native

Photograph of CJ in Atlanta taken by iSmooth

April 4th holds a special place in the hearts of Atlantans, as we celebrate 404 Day – a true Atlanta holiday. As a proud native of this vibrant city, I reflect on my journey around the bases of life, marking some of my most cherished moments.

1st Base: Born and Bred

Born in Atlanta on April 10, 1976, in the NW Atlanta Bankhead Community, I proudly hail as a Grady Baby. My educational roots were nurtured in Atlanta Public Schools (APS) at Grove Park Elementary School. Under the guidance of Principal Sylvia Jones and APS Superintendent Alonzo Crim, I imbibed the essence of excellence in education, inspired by Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays’ Quotable Quotes. Atlanta Public Schools integrated in 1965, a year before the Braves found their home in Atlanta from Milwaukee.

2nd Base: Playing Ball

At the tender age of eight, I stepped onto the field of Cascade Youth Organization (CYO) as a Brave, coached by esteemed individuals like Emmett Johnson Sr., Chairman of the APS School Board, Joshua Butler Sr., an art teacher at B.E. Mays High School, and Gus Burns. The CYO Opening Day parades were grand spectacles, graced by legends like Hank Aaron, Maynard Jackson, and Coretta Scott King.

3rd Base: Honored Recognition

November 20, 2011, marked a significant milestone as Atlanta City Councilman Michael Julian Bond proclaimed it C.J. Stewart Day and L.E.A.D. Day in Atlanta, thanks to the advocacy of Rendell Jackson.

Home Plate: Legacy

Standing tall at home plate, I find solace in being a part of the legacy of Atlanta. Modeling for the nine-foot-tall bronze statue of Hank Aaron at Truist Park’s Monument Gardens was a profound honor. As my wife Kelli and I celebrate 27 years of marriage this year, our journey together has been intertwined with our dedication to establishing the LEAD Center For Youth, a love and thank you letter to Atlanta for all it has done for us.

Atlanta, with all its complexities and challenges, has always been our anchor and inspiration. As we continue our mission with LEAD, Atlanta’s love and support have only strengthened our resolve to empower at-risk youth, helping them navigate the curveballs of life with resilience and grace.

On this 404 Day, I reminisce on just a few of the countless moments that define my Atlanta journey. Forever indebted to this city, I proudly proclaim: Foreva I Love Atlanta. ✌🏿

Photo credit: iSmooth