Next Stop: Atlanta

It’s 8:30 in the morning and already Frank Fernandez carries the energy of a man running behind schedule. Hovering over his laptop in a coffee shop he forgoes the available stool behind him, as if sitting might somehow slow him down. He’s on a call while he works his touch pad, awaiting his drip coffee. Soon he’ll be attending an Atlanta Business League luncheon, and after that, he’s giving me a ride-along tour of Atlanta’s Westside, where concentrated poverty has been the defining characteristic for decades. The former Harvard tight end has learned the art of mixing well in different crowds. He’s wearing a suit, which, as he freely admits, is not his natural state. Still, he’s tall and handsome, so he can pull it off—and it helps with the CEOs of the business league. As Vice President of Community Development for the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, Fernandez operates in various spaces between billionaire development projects and the city’s most disenfranchised residents. “I’m a translator,” he says. Before attending Harvard, as the son of Cuban immigrants, he grew up in Miami’s poorer neighborhoods, like Cutler Ridge and Coral Way. “Every day I think about how to translate among these different stakeholders who have different worldviews and experiences. They have wholly different languages with regard to how they think about life.”