JULY, 29 - AUG. 4, 2021
Former employees level allegations of sexual misconduct, racism and verbal abuse against the manager of Embur Fire Fusion in Greensboro.
‘HE NEVER SHOWED AN INKLING OF RESPECT’
BY SAYAKA MATSUOKA | PAGE 6
back from boston
renting in w-s
JULY, 29—AUG. 4, 2021
t’s Sunday evening and I’ve been living for five days at the Boston Park Plaza hotel. I’m at the lobby bar now drinking an by Brian Clarey Americano laced with a perfectly legal tincture of THC, eavesdropping on my fellow guests and making small talk with the bartenders as I play out this lifelong dream. Did you know that I have always wanted to live in a hotel? It’s true — ever since I saw Kenny Rogers talk about it on Letterman back in the 1980s. After his divorce (First, second, third? Who knows — the guy was married five times) he moved into Caesars’s Palace in Las Vegas and ended up staying there for like two years. Good enough for the Gambler, good enough for me. Did you know my own wedding was at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas? It’s true. I’ve been hitting the gym every morning — not too hard — and enduring the sauna for as long as I can stand it. I’ve been walking the neighborhoods relentlessly each day; the Plaza is right off Boston Common, near Chinatown and the Charles River, within an hour’s walk of virtually every point in the city proper.
Though I grew up in the Northeast, this is my first time in Boston, and I’m struck by so many things. It’s an old city, founded in 1630, and the crooked streets by the Old North Church, made for horses not for cars, feel like narrow hallways. There’s a statue of an abolitionist in Boston Garden across the street, another of a Union soldier. Somewhere else there’s a statue dedicated to the medicinal use of ether. I haven’t found it yet. And though Bostonians quite resent the comparison, there are echoes of New York — a city I know well — everywhere I look: in the architecture, on the waterfront, in Little Italy and Chinatown and the Theater District. But the sidewalks are less crowded and not speckled with dark spots that used to be gum; it lacks the drone of bus and train layered with the constant punctuation of car horns; and it doesn’t smell here, not like diesel fumes and not like urine and not like burning rubber, not even on the subways. This morning I walked by a fountain near Boston Garden and it smelled like… clean, unchlorinated water. I barely recognized it. There is no better way to experience a city than to live in one of its downtown hotels. And there is no better living than hotel living. Kenny Rogers knew it, so do I. And now you do too.
Did you know I’ve always wanted to live in a hotel?
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(As of Tuesday, July 28)
JULY, 29—AUG. 4, 2021
Coronavirus in the Triad: Documented COVID-19 diagnoses NC 1,041,609 (+14,912) Forsyth 37,717 (+440) Guilford County
COVID-19 deaths NC
Documented recoveries NC
Current cases NC
Hospitalizations (right now) NC First Dose Fully vaccinated
4,856,421 (+107,479) 4,898,881 (50%, +102,070)
Forsyth First Dose
180,567 (47%, +4,042)
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257,227 (48%, +5,222)
UP FRONT | JULY, 29—AUG. 4, 2021
CITY LIFE July 29-Aug. 1 by Michaela Ratliff
THURSDAY July 29
Relay for Life of the Triad @ Western Guilford High School (GSO) 6 p.m.
Pop-Up Produce Pantry @ 733 N Research Pkwy (W-S) 8:45 a.m.
Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC believes everyone deserves to eat. That’s why they’re hosting pop-up produce pantries on various dates to help provide families with fresh fruits and vegetables. For more info, visit the event page on Facebook.
The American Cancer Society invites you to Relay for Life, a set events — such as a survivor/caregiver walk and a luminaria ceremony — dedicated to fundraising for cancer research. Visit relayforlife.org/triadnc for more information or to register. The Voyage of Life: Art, Allegory, and Community Response @ Reynolda House Museum of American Art (W-S) 9:30 a.m. View three centuries of American art that celebrate the milestones of life from art-
Finding Shakespeare: A Walking Adventure to Discover the Bard @ Greensboro Cultural Center (GSO) 7 p.m.
ists Andy Warhol, Grant Wood and more during this exhibition at the Reynolda House. To view for information and future dates, visit the Facebook event page. During this unconventional theatre experience hosted by Creative Greensboro, stop by multiple locations in the Greensboro Cultural Center to view and interact with different Shakespeare scenes. Visit creativegreensboro.com for more information and to register.
SATURDAY July 31
Summer Jubilee @ High Point Public Library (HP) 9 a.m. Head to this back-to-school celebration hosted by the City of High Point Human Rela-
FRIDAY July 30
Create Iron Art! Drop-In Scratchblock Carving Session @ Mixxer (W-S) 3 p.m.
Drop in between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. to create your own scratchblock sand mold. No experience is necessary! Find more information on the Facebook event page.
tions Department, in partnership with Brothers and Sisters in Christ, High Point Public Library and High Point Farmers Market. Listen to live music while visiting the petting zoo or High Point University’s Mascot Prowler, who will be in attendance. Arrive early! There’s a giveaway of 432 backpacks filled with supplies. Check the event page on Facebook for more info.
JULY, 29—AUG. 4, 2021 | UP FRONT
Sprague Street Park Clean-up @ Sprague Street Park (W-S) 9 a.m.
Lend a helping hand and clean up Sprague Street Park. Meet up is at Sprague Street Community Center. Contact David Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or 336.650.7680 for more information. Aqueybana El Bravo Food Truck and Beer Tasting @ Buie’s Market (W-S) 12 p.m.
Visit Buie’s Market and get your tastebuds ready for beer tastings and traditional Puerto Rican Street Food. Check out Aqueybana El Bravo’s menu on their Facebook page.
SUNDAY Aug. 1
Grand Reopening @ Scuppernong Books (GSO) 5 p.m.
Scuppernong Books is excited to announce its reopening for public events. Enjoy a pop-up from Crepes by Reto and live music by the Difficulties. Find more information at scuppernongbooks.com. Pollinating Possibility: Growing Green Spaces in Greensboro @ Holy Trinity Episcopal Church (GSO) 2 p.m.
Celebrate the green spaces in Greensboro during this event dedicated to the city’s parks, trails, city and community gardens, lakes and greenways. Speakers from various community organizations dedicated to the environment will share their experiences on keeping Greensboro green. Find more information and register on Eventbrite.
NEWS | JULY, 29— AUG. 4, 2021
Former employees allege sexual harassment, verbal abuse, racism against Reno Brasil, manager of Embur Fire Fusion in Greensboro by Sayaka Matsuoka
ei Sanchez remembers waking you look so lovely today.’” up and feeling physically sick Sanchez also noted that Brasil would one morning in mid-March. often put his hands on their lower back The night before, their manor on their shoulders during their shifts ager had taken them outside of Embur with them. Brasil would tell Sanchez Fire Fusion, a Peruvian Italian restauabout interactions he’s had with women, rant they worked at and yelled at them including a former female Embur while furiously kicking boxes. Sanchez, employee. Sanchez said they have never who is gender nonconforming but often had any relationship outside of work presents as female, is one of five former with Brasil. employees who are speaking out against Sanchez and other former Embur Renato Brasil, otherwise known as Reno, employees say that Brasil regularly made the front-of-house manager at Embur in explicit comments about female coworkGreensboro. Sanchez and others spoke ers and customers, particularly when with Triad City Beat about their experiother male employees were around. ences working with Brasil who they say “He would make comments about exhibits a pattern of verbal abuse, sexual women, mostly derogatory things about harassment and racism towards co-workpeople he was sleeping with like, ‘Oh ers and customers. The employees also yeah, I fucked this girl,’” Sanchez said. allege a culture of acceptance by owners “It just showed that he didn’t have any Koco Tamburri and Jorge Castillo, who respect for the women he was seeing or own Embur and the fine-dining Italian sleeping with.” restaurant Osteria, as well as Dolce & As TCB has reported in the past, Amaro, an Italian patisserie. sexual misconduct is not uncommon in Sanchez, who quit working at Embur the restaurant industry. after the incident in March, was initially According to 2017 analysis by hired by Brasil in December 2020 as a Buzzfeed, there are more sexual haserver. In the beginning, Sanchez says rassment claims filed in the restaurant that they were excited to be working for industry than any other industry in the restaurant. the US, with as many as 90 percent of “When I first got hired there, I women and 70 percent of men reporting remember being really happy because some form of sexual harassment. Other everyone was so nice and kind and it reports cited by the Harvard Business seemed like such a great place to work,” Review make the case that because men Sanchez said. “And I remember thinkmake up the majority of management ing how lucky I was to be at a place that and higher-paying roles, that often, was so welcoming and young, female employees thoughtful. But that that work under them do idea quickly changed.” ‘I remember not feel empowered to Over the next few speak out when they face thinking how months, Sanchez said sexual harassment. lucky I was to be that Brasil worked to And just in the past at a place that was year in North Carolina, develop a relationship with them that made so welcoming and multiple cases of sexual Sanchez feel uncomharassment and even asthoughtful. But fortable. sault have surfaced from that idea quickly prominent restaurants. “From the beginning, Reno was very Last summer, former and changed.’ affectionate with me,” current employees at Bida – Jei Sanchez, former they said. “At first I Manda and Brewery Bhaemployee didn’t think much of vana in Raleigh spoke out it because I’m used against a culture of sexual to being close to my managers, but I misconduct and an abuse of power at noticed fairly quickly that it was like he the restaurants. Employees accused was trying to earn my trust or make me co-owner Van Nolintha, beverage directrust him. It felt like he was going easier tor Jordan Hester and front-of-house on me when hard things happened. He manager Casey Hester of a variety of would be very sweet to me like, ‘Oh Jei, misconduct. As of November 2020,
Employees say Reno Brasil, shown here while a student at GTCC, has created a toxic work environment at Ember Fire Fusion.
all of the restaurants’ upper management has resigned or been fired. Jordan Hester is facing criminal peeping charges unrelated to his conduct at the restaurants and Casey Hester is no longer at the company, according to reporting by Eater. In another instance, an employee who worked at Ashley Christensen’s flagship restaurant, Poole’s Diner, posted publicly on social media about being assaulted by two different employees during her time working there, according to reporting by Indy Week. And more recently, a waitress who formerly worked at a Firebirds Wood Fired Grill in Durham is suing the restaurant chain for “unwelcome suggestive comments, sexual advances and
other forms of sexual harassment” by coworkers and customers, according to the News & Observer. Like with Poole’s Diner, the allegations against management at Embur first surfaced publicly on social media. On Sunday, former employee Jeff Love, who began working at Embur as a bartender in November 2019, posted on Facebook about his experience working with Brasil. Love worked his last shift at Embur on July 23, after getting tired of working with Brasil and finding another job. “Almost every shift, he would speak about employees or customers,” Love told TCB. “Pretty much any young woman who would come in he would
JULY, 29—AUG. 4, 2021| NEWS
talk about, and he would also talk about Burnot left in February after finding customers he had slept with. He would another job. talk about their breasts or butts or their body shape or if it was someone very ‘WHY AREN’T YOU young, he would say something like, ‘As TALKING TO ME?’ long as they’re legal; come on we’re men n addition to making remarks, right?!’” Sanchez and others allege that Another former female employee Brasil exhibited a predatory, posseswho worked with Brasil in the past year sive attitude towards some of the female said he would touch her on the back or employees. Over the course of the three shoulders when he came up to talk to months that Sanchez worked at the her. According to the employee, who restaurant, they said that they became wished to remain anonymous for fear of increasingly uncomfortable with Brasil’s retaliation, Brasil didn’t touch the male treatment of them from the sexual comemployees the same way. The former ments he made to the physical touches. employee also echoed many of the other At one point, they made it a point to tell employees’ remarks that Brasil would Brasil they had a romantic partner but speak explicitly about female customers, that didn’t stop Brasil from trying to get pointing out their body parts. One time, close to them. When Sanchez and their the employee remembers, Brasil said, “I partner broke up a few months later, like girls that look like a bitch.” Sanchez made the decision to stop being After Sanchez and a female employee friendly with Brasil in the hopes that he were hired last year, Love said Brasil would leave them alone. began talking about wanting to have sex “I had broken up with my partner with the new employees. and Reno knew, and at that point, I had “Reno was always talking about these decided to back off in my friendliness two new servers sexually to anyone who with him,” Sanchez said. “I knew he was would listen,” Love said. “He would going to keep making advances towards say things like, ‘Oh my god her tits, her me, so I was just trying to strictly be proass, I don’t know which one I want to fessional and not be friends with him.” fuck more. One or both of them?’ And One afternoon, Sanchez said they he would only say this when there were went into work and responded to Brasil’s other men around.” greeting with a short reply. No small Roland Burnot, who worked at Embur talk, more stoicism. Shortly afterwards, from Aug. 2020 until Feb. 2021, was one Sanchez said Brasil approached them of the male employees who was present and asked them if they “needed to be when Brasil made the remarks about sent home.” When Sanchez asked what Sanchez and the other employee. he was talking about, Brasil responded “After I started working there, we got that they “needed to get their shit toa couple of new hires because some gether” and threatened to send Sanchez people had left and at the time, that’s home again. Throughout the shift, what Reno was talking about the most,” Brasil’s mood worsened and led to him Burnot said. “I’ve heard nitpicking Sanchez’s perforcountless things whether it’s mance. He commented on ‘It was just a like, ‘Look at this person’ or how they were putting wine ‘Look at that body part.’ It glasses away too loudly and very weird was definitely just objectifycriticized them for their wine environment.’ pour. ing their like rear end or – Roland Burnot, chest.” “He was harassing me the Burnot said that he heard former employee entire night because I wasn’t Brasil make comments about being friendly enough with female customers as well. He him,” Sanchez said. felt that Brasil was trying to promote a According to the female employee “locker room” culture. who worked with Brasil in the past year, “There was this a large atmosphere they quit after finding working with him of objectifying women and him coming to be uncomfortable. after you if you weren’t saying any“It was never anything super obvious thing,” Burnot said. “He would be like, but it was subtle flirtations that I felt I ‘Right? This is fine right?’ like looking had to adapt to to keep my job,” she for confirmation or justification…. The said. “He is very quick to get offended if biggest thing was that there was a sort of he gets rejected. It’s like you can feel the egging on type of thing where you were storm inside of him brewing. I felt like encouraged to like objectify women. You I had to make myself less and fall into were encouraged and cheered on; it was that helpless woman role to keep myself just a very weird environment.” safe.”
Embur Fire Fusion is part of a restaurant group that includes Osteria and Dolce & Amaro.
According to Sanchez, as Brasil’s getting in my face and telling me off and mood soured that evening, he started insulting me and telling me how disgustmaking mistakes like serving the wrong ing how I am, and I was like, Oh my god, wine or putting in the wrong food oris this guy going to touch me? I don’t know what ders, which he then blamed on Sanchez. I’m going to if he touches me,” they recalled. Towards the end of the night, while Then Brasil threatened to cut their Sanchez was talking with Jeff Love, who hours. Sanchez said they started to cry, was working at the bar that night, Brasil and that made Brasil berate them even approached Sanchez and asked them to more. come with him outside. “He started saying, ‘Do you even want Confused, Sanchez to work here? I’ll stop followed an angry Brasil scheduling you until you ‘He will through the kitchen, out the can’t work here anyback of the restaurant into more,’” Sanchez said. disrespect you the back parking lot where “And I’m like shaking in front of they say Brasil began yelling and crying and he says, and kicking nearby boxes and anyone at the ‘Don’t do that; don’t give trash. me that. I don’t give a drop of a hat.’ “He started getting really, fuck; go ahead and try – Former female really angry and starts yelling employee it.’” at me and telling me how After about 10 mingross I am,” Sanchez said. utes, both of them went “And then he asks, ‘Why are you all up back inside. Jeff’s ass? You’re not talking to me, but For the rest of the night, Sanchez said you’re talking to Jeff? Why aren’t you that Brasil followed them around as they talking to me? I’m your manager.’” continued to work. If they poured wine, Sanchez said that Brasil then made Brasil would come up to them smirking them sit on the curb while he towered and say, “See, that wasn’t so hard was over them and continued to yell. He it?” became red-faced and started to laugh Love, who was manning the front of while shouting. Sanchez said at that the restaurant alone during the incident, point, they were afraid that Brasil would said he remembers hearing Brasil shoutget violent. ing when he went to the kitchen to re“He kept coming closer and closer and Cont. on pg. 8
NEWS | JULY, 29— AUG. 4, 2021
cont. from pg. 7
trieve something from the walk-in cooler. He also recalls seeing Sanchez upset after they came back inside. At the end of the shift after Sanchez left, Love said Brasil came up to him and explained why he was upset. “He admits that he was upset because [Sanchez] was talking to me,” Love said. “He says to me, ‘I know that you’re handsome and charming and have the gift of gab, but I’m the manager here.’” The next day, Sanchez called owner Koco Tamburi and quit. The former female employee said that they have witnessed Brasil’s fluctuations in mood, too. “There were many times where I walked into a shift and I could tell he was in a really bad mood or he would flip a switch suddenly,” she said. “When he’s upset, he totally shuts down and he will disrespect you in front of anyone at the drop of a hat.” While Brasil declined an interview with TCB for this article, according to one former employee, Brasil has worked with Tamburi for years. The employee, who worked at Osteria in 2016 and spoke to TCB on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, said that Brasil has been with the restaurant group since they opened Osteria in 2013. “He has worked with Koco the entire time Koco has been in business,” they said. “He was definitely one of the more well-established people there. Based on photos posted on his Facebook page and his LinkedIn profile, Brasil graduated with an associate of arts in the culinary arts as well as in hospitality administration/management from Guilford Technical Community College. He attended the school starting in 2018 and graduated this year. His LinkedIn profile also notes that he has been working as the restaurant manager at Embur since May 2019. In a News and Record article from 2010, Brasil is cited as having worked at Chili’s in Greensboro. In the article, Brasil is noted as being 24 years old which would put him at around 35 years old today. According to Love, who is also in his mid-30’s, the two are around the same age. Brasil’s Facebook profile also shows that he is currently in a relationship with a woman. After his outburst with Sanchez in March, Tamburi told Sanchez that he would pay for Brasil to attend anger management classes. To that, Sanchez replied that they wanted to see receipts as proof. To date, Sanchez said they have not seen any evidence that Brasil has
taken such classes.
he would talk about their bodies,” they said. “He would almost comment always on their ass like, ‘Oof ’ or ‘I wonder what she’s doing later.’ “When it came to customers and women especially, he never showed an inkling of respect,” they continued. And despite Brasil’s regular comments, the employee said that Tamburi never reprimanded him for his behavior. And that’s likely due to the close relationship the two have. “It’s unfortunate that Koco allows it,” they continued. The former employee said they can understand not wanting to speak out against Brasil, who they said has a “very, very short temper.” “It didn’t take much to set him off at all,” they said. “He’s very rough around the edges…. If Reno didn’t have things the way Reno wanted them, he didn’t care about other people thought of him, he would just do whatever he wanted to do.”
‘HE JUST WANTED TO TELL ME I WAS LYING’ hen Jei Sanchez told Tamburi they were quitting, Tamburi asked Sanchez if they had been in a relationship with Brasil. When Sanchez responded that they had not, Tamburi seemed unconvinced that Brasil would act that way. “He said, ‘Well Reno would never do this,’” Sanchez said. As Sanchez told Tamburi what happened, they said the owner would then hang up and call Brasil to get his response. Tamburi would then counter Sanchez’s account by sticking up for Brasil. “The entire time that I’m trying to tell him that your manager has been harassing people, he would not believe me,” Sanchez said. “He just wanted to tell me I was lying.” Love, who said that he often got into arguments with Brasil at work, said he, too, was repeatedly dismissed by both ‘NOT A SINGLE REDEEMING Tamburi and Jorge Castillo when he QUALITY IN THAT RACE’ brought allegations against Brasil to n addition to the allegations of them. More recently, Love told Castillo sexual misconduct, Love stated that he was going to go public with his story Brasil made racist comments about and asked Castillo to remove Brasil from certain customers and that he a management position. would apply the auto gratuity to groups “He kept saying, ‘I don’t know anybased on race. thing about that, I just do my job over “He’s very racist against Asians,” Love here and I don’t worry about it,’” Love said. “One time he said something about said. how there was ‘not a single redeeming On July 23, Love sent a group message quality in that race,’ and I just looked to his co-workers outlining many of his at him, mouth open. I didn’t even know grievances against Brasil, including the how to respond.” instances of sexual misconduct. In the The anonymous employee who message, Love states worked with Brasil in that he has spoken said that when ‘It was clearly a lot of 2016 to Castillo, but that the High Point FurCastillo said “he didn’t just inconsistency in niture Market came know about these to town, many Asian his autogratting things and this is why customers would come Reno has been allowed policy and... it was to Osteria. They said to continue working at generally based on they too, witnessed BraEmbur.” race from my obser- sil making derogatory While both Love remarks about Asians vation and things he and how they didn’t tip and Sanchez’s allegations are from the past would say.’ well. Both Love and the two years, the former former employee said – Jeff Love, former employee who worked that Brasil would often employee with Brasil in 2016 apply an automatic said that the culture of group tax to groups accepting Brasil’s problematic behavior of Black or Brown customers but would is not new. not do so for white parties. According The employee said that they witnessed to both employees, the company policy Brasil’s sexist remarks when they worked was to apply an auto gratuity to groups as a server at Osteria. At the time, Brasil that had at least eight customers. But was also a server there and had not on more than one occasion, Love said worked up to manager yet. he witnessed Brasil applying the tip to a “Any time any woman would walk by, smaller group of Latinx customers.
“It was clearly a lot of just inconsistency in his autogratting policy and that seemed to be the theme that it was generally based on race from my observation and things that he would say,” Love said. The former employee reiterated Love’s assertion. “Koco would allow [Brasil] to autograt tables of people of color, pretty much anyone who wasn’t white,” they said. “[Brasil] expected a certain kind of people to be there and if they weren’t he was really rude to them to their faces.” Sanchez also noted that they witnessed Brasil speaking disparagingly about Black customers, particularly when they asked for extra things like more sauce. They also remember Brasil stating that Black customers don’t tip. Reached by phone on Tuesday, Brasil stated that he and the owners were “taking legal action.” Owner Tamburi declined to comment and instead, directed questions to Stanley Hammer, an attorney with the Wyatt Early Harris Wheeler firm in High Point. Hammer specializes in commercial litigation and is representing Embur Fire Fusion Restaurant. During a phone call on Tuesday, Hammer stated that they were going to do whatever they needed to protect his client and that they want Love to retract his statement and apologize. “I would respond by asking what he thinks I should apologize for specifically and if anyone is claiming that the statement is untrue,” Love said. In a letter sent to TCB, Hammer wrote the following: “Please be advised that my client vehemently denies the statements made by a former employee who maliciously alleges that a manager engaged in unwarranted and allegedly illegal conduct. I caution you that republication of any false statements made by Mr. Love or others would be in reckless disregard of the facts, and subject your publication to liability for defamation.” During the phone interview, Sanchez, whose voice broke with emotion towards the end of the call, said that they’re scared to speak out but that it’s important for them to do so to protect others. “As much as it scares me to put my name out there and talk about it, it scares me so much more to know that this man could continue to do this to other people and continue to make them feel like they’re crazy or hurt them or make them feel like they don’t matter,” Sanchez said. “He’s a raging narcissist; he doesn’t care about other people. I hope that one day, he can realize that his actions were not acceptable.”
hen it comes to helping her clients, Keena McMillan keeps hitting the same wall. More and more often, the caseworker at the Winston-Salem Salvation Army said she has trouble finding affordable residences for people who need housing. “It has been an issue that we’ve seen,” McMillan said. “Clients come in through one of our programs needing to be housed. That’s part of our process: to find affordable housing. But the way things are right now, that’s very difficult.” The key word here is “affordable.” A two-bedroom apartment in WinstonSalem can rent for anywhere from $550 to $2,700 a month, which advocates say is not affordable to many Winston-Salem residents. McMillan says several of the apartment complexes she has worked with before have skyrocketed in price in recent months. As the city found in a 2018 study, fluctuations in housing affordability burden lower-income families the most. Families earning less than $20,000 a year are more than 90 percent likely to be costburdened, meaning more than one-third of their income goes toward housing. “With the pandemic, a lot of people weren’t working or getting the pay they were before,” said McMillan. “The waiting list for income-based housing is so long that a client will end up homeless before they can move in.” Rent in Winston-Salem has continued to rise since the pandemic began, as they have across the country. Since the beginning of 2021, housing nationally has gone up 9.2 percent according to a national survey by Apartment Lists. In Winston-Salem, RENTCafé reported that rent has gone up 10 percent between June 2020 and June 2021. But according to advocates, housing affordability in the city was a problem long before COVID-19, largely because of a lack of available units. The gap McMillan sees in WinstonSalem is that there is too big of a leap for people who might not have needed low-income housing in the past but who cannot afford Winston-Salem’s rising rates. The average monthly rent as of June 2021 is $991 according to RENTCafé. Richard Angino, owner and managing member of Third Wave Housing, a company that forms professional partnerships to benefit tenants, says the solution is to build more inventory. As of
JULY, 29—AUG. 4, 2021| NEWS
More units are needed to combat the affordable housing crisis in W-S by Nicole Zeniker
2018, 47 percent of housing in Winstonrepresentatives at the city in time for Salem was built between 1960 and 1979. publication. Although he believes Winston-Salem Currently, Angino says they are looking has enough land to build more affordat location near downtown to develop a able housing, there are not enough neighborhood. apartments in the city to keep everyone “There’s an eight-acre site that’s vahoused. cant,” he said. “It used to be residential, Based in Winston-Salem, the organizathe same as the western part of downtion has worked toward creating more town. Basically what happened was affordable housing in in the 1920s the city Winston-Salem. determined that even “The amount of poputhough it was a vibrant lation that we’ve grown, Rent has gone up community, they zoned we have a demand of it industrial.” 10 percent in 14,000 units and noAngino recently finished where near that many,” Winston-Salem in a project called Essex said Angino. “We’ve Place, a property conthe last year, with sisting of 48 units for lost more apartments than we’ve gained in whose incomes the average monthly people the last five years. The are between 30 and rental complexes have 60 percent of the area rent at $991. been able to raise the median income. He rents quite a bit because says that before he even there’s no competition. broke ground on this building, people “We have plenty of land and talented were calling him asking when they could people who can build in Winstonmove in because demand for affordable Salem,” he continued. “We just don’t housing is so high. have enough tools from the city or the The city was able to provide money for county.” this, a total of $1.35 million for Essex Triad City Beat did not hear back from Place and one other project.
For the last three years, housing advocates groups have also asked the city to fund the Peters Creek Initiative to turn the former Budget Inn into an affordable apartment complex. “There was an old hotel there that was dilapidated and people were living there,” said Andrea Kurtz of United Way Forsyth. “A group formed to figure out how to take the hotel and turn it into something that would support this community. They formed a collective to build an affordable housing collective on this sight. They’re still missing gap funding to build it affordably, so they’re looking at how to finance that.” According to Kurtz, there are several ways to keep costs down when building affordable housing. She mentioned that many cities invest in new apartments in order to keep the costs down. “Whether a unit is going to rent at $1,500 or $600 a month, with the exception of a couple of amenities, it cost essentially the same to build them,” Kurtz added. “That would keep the rents affordable to people who currently live there. Otherwise they would be forced to build something that will push people out of that neighborhood.”
OPINION | JULY, 29—AUG. 4, 2021
Boston and back
his past week, members of Heaston, in his address to the the Association of Alternamember papers this year, noted that our tive Newsmedia gathered in new funding partners considered the Boston for seminars, awards alts “the future of local news,” because and fellowship. of our connection to our communities, It had been a rough stretch for the our outstanding journalism and our association, which has lost dozens of scrappiness, which is how so many of us members since Facebook and Google managed to survive the pandemic after stripped much of our ad revenue amid all our advertisers dropped out. the general decline of newspapers. Every last one of us was unsure if we Even before the pandemic, the future would be here this year. of our little corner of the media looked Triad City Beat enjoyed a wonderuncertain. ful annual conference. We’ve benefited these We don’t do Our newest staff writer last two years under the Nicole Zelniker absorbed this for awards, leadership of President enough history and John Heaston, publisher and we don’t do technique to appreciate of the Reader in Omaha, this for board our style of journalism. who forged alliances Managing Editor Sayaka seats or fancy with the Black and Latinx was named to accommodations Matsuoka press in a quest to the AAN Board as Free in a downtown get some recognition Speech Chair, recognifrom the agencies and tion of her hard work hotel. nonprofits that fund and bright future. And journalism. Until now, our we took Third Place in groups had been perennially shut out of one of the biggest award categories: the money shower from organizations Right-Wing Extremism Coverage, for like the Knight Foundation and Google this 2020 article by Jordan Green about News Initiative. No more. And the American white supremacists who organization ended its bylaws to include fought in a civil war in the Ukraine. Black, Latino and LGBTQ+ media orgs, But we don’t do this for awards, and which had previously been defined as we don’t do this for board seats or fancy “niche publications,” which in the alteraccommodations in a downtown hotel. native media universe, we reckoned, We’re here for our communities. And amounts to the same thing. that’s why we’re still here.
by Nicole Zeniker
Mixed-media artist Lisa Strout stays grounded in Winston-Salem
isa Strout has lived all over for the last 30 or so years, from Oregon to Amsterdam. After five years in northern Virginia, she settled in Winston-Salem three years ago. She lives in a home that she renovated herself, a daunting task. Everything had to be upgraded, from the electrical wiring to the plumbing. For nine months after buying the house, Strout and her husband would come visit and meet with their contractor. But as Strout put it, she loves a challenge. “I think that’s the only way to grow creatively as well as a person,” the artist says. “I love to see something and say, ‘I wonder how I’m going to make that work.’ When I first started out, I did mosaic, so I learned how to do murals and things like that. And then I thought, Wouldn’t it be cool to make something 3D?” Strout’s work is varied, from blackand-white ceramic animals to a vibrant animal totem pole, from a red rug with yellow patterns to a massive black thumbprint on a white background. The animals feature varying expressions, from content to confused. The totem pole specifically features all kinds of animals, including a red dog with black spots, a yellow parrot cocking its head and a slightly cross-eyed chicken on top. The red rug is similarly imbued with unique features, with small white squares sewn throughout that give the rug a brighter appearance. Mostly self-taught, Strout, a woman with spiky blonde hair and rectangular black glasses, works across ceramic, cement, mosaic tile and paint on canvas. Her favorite is ceramics, which she says is “almost like a living thing” to her. Over the pandemic year, she learned embroidery. “I used the lockdown as sort of a positive reset, or I tried to,” she says. “I found it quite a creative time for me, and being able to find some joy in my work really helped that.” In addition to her new home, which she lives in with her husband and numerous animals, Strout spends time
in her new studio, which is in the Downtown Arts District on Trade Street. She opened the space in mid-July. Most of Strout’s work is in her studio space, which has a gallery area. She looks forward to getting to know Winston-Salem better, including the people here. She says that as an artist, that is the best part of having a studio in the community, especially one people can visit. “When we lived in northern Virginia, I was able to work with the visitors center and we put together an artisan trail, which connected crafters and small food producers to help promote small artisans,” she says. “I’ve also put together a sculpture park where we had exhibits that stayed for a year or two so it was always developing and evolving. There are lots of things you can do because the local leaders can talk to you.” Strout had a studio space in Leesburg, VA, and managed a gallery for about a year. In her new space, she hopes people stop by and get to know her and her art, just as she becomes more familiar with the community. “I’d been looking for a space for a long time,” she says. “I really missed having a studio that wasn’t in my house. I love that interaction of people dropping by, and there’s more of an opportunity to participate in the community when you have a visible space. And being in the arts district is incredible.” While she exhibits a plethora of pieces, Strout wasn’t always an artist. For five years or so, she worked in the wine industry in northern California. She says she COURTESY PHOTO took the leap In addition to paintings and embroidery, Strout does totem poles like this one made out of to full-time ceramics. art-making after the Sept. cesses, brand new locations and meeting new people is what 11 attacks made her realize that if she did keeps her moving forward. not make it work now, she might never be “I’ve now done garden furniture and totems and things like able to. that,” she says. “And when I couldn’t find the tile colors that I “I wasn’t in New York, but it was a want, I had to learn to make tiles. It’s just a process of evolvwakeup call,” Strout says. ing. That’s what drives me.” As for Strout’s inspiration, she says the novelty of art pro-
JULY, 29—AUG. 4, 2021 | CULTURE
Learn more about Strout and her work on Facebook. Her studio is located at 204 W 6th Street and is open Thursday through Saturday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. or by appointment.
CULTURE | JULY, 29—AUG. 4, 2021
High Point’s Freedom Clay paints ‘Black people of America’
by Michaela Ratliff
lack and brown figures painted on canvases of various sizes line the walls of the Gallery on Main in High Point. Some figures are adults, some are children. Some have afros while others wear hats. A few are instantly recognizable as athletes or actors, like Cicely Tyson. Many are ambiguous. Despite the differences found between the subjects of the paintings, they all have one thing in common: facelessness. According to the artist, Randy C. Rogers, who goes by Freedom Clay, the anonymity is intentional. “I want other people to be able to see themselves and develop their own narratives based on their lived experiences and their relationship to others,” he says. Clay has made a permanent impression on the art scene in his hometown of High Point over the last decade. His latest solo exhibition, Reimagining Freedom 2.0, went live at the Gallery on Main in May where it remained until earlier this month. The show featured more than 70 of what Clay calls “Afro-folk” art pieces with vivid colors, bold messages and themes of Black culture all dedicated to the two most influential people in his life. In 2018, he suffered the loss of his mother, Constance A. Rogers, and his grandmother, Alberta Worthy Evans, who passed away within three months of each other. How do I re-emerge and resurface after these great losses I’ve just experienced? Clay asked himself. He did so by gathering completed paintings and mixed media pieces and making new ones in response to the personal, social and political experiences of Black people. “Little Girl True” is Clay’s interpretation of Jet magazine’s 2013 cover on missing Black children in America. The girl’s black silhouette features two twisted ponytails adorned by white barrettes. Her yellow, sleeveless dress stands out against the bloodred background. “This powerful faceless face is the face of all Black children who are missing and for those who will never return,” Clay
Freedom Clay creates bold, vivid pieces that he calls “Afro-folk.”
says. In the painting “Sir Cotton,” a homage to enslaved Black people, the black silhouette of a man against a sky-blue background sits behind balls of cotton that rise to the middle of his arm. Some cotton balls appear opaquer than others, indicating they were created with brushstrokes of varying intensity. It’s unclear if the shadow is the front or the back of the man, but what is clear is what he’s doing. While the subject of most of the pieces is vague, some are inspired by real people. Clay speaks highly of his mother, who was a vivacious music lover. “She was really the epitome of living your best life,” he says. “Ms. Soul 2 Soul” was Constance’s multimedia piece in the exhibit, made with paint and 7-inch vinyl records, or 45s that
Connect with Freedom Clay on Facebook or follow him on Instagram @freedomclay. Catch him at Artsy People of Color’s next pop-up shop on 8/1 at Sabrina McGowen’s Art Gallery.
belonged to her. She appears in a blue gown with a green collar, the downward strokes of the paintbrush creating movement in the garment. The golden yellow background further emphasizes the positive, radiant energy Clay says his mother exuded. In her afro made of four 45s, the viewer can see Billy Paul’s “Me & Mrs. Jones” and Otis Redding’s “The Happy Song.” In addition to being an artist, Clay is an author, releasing Nakedly Covered: A Collection of Haiku in March. “Haiku really drew me in because it’s a very stylized poetry,” he says. “It’s very succinct in terms of being able to contextualize an idea or a statement or to get your point across in 17 syllables.” The collection, which Clay considers one of his most personal to date, can be viewed as an open letter to Black men and boys, who are praised in the work instead of criticized. “Black men and boys are not valued nor are we loved and appreciated in our society,” Clay says. “The muse for this celebration was really celebrating Black
JULY, 29—AUG. 4, 2021 | CULTURE COURTESY PHOTO
Often times, Clay paints faceless figures in the hopes that people will be able to “see themselves and develop their own narratives” through his art.
men and boys.” Although he lives in Durham now, Clay regularly returns to the Triad to host events as the founder of Artsy People of Color, a collective he started nearly seven years ago. “It was primarily providing an opportunity to bring Black creatives or entrepreneurs together to showcase their work in a beautiful and welcoming environment,” Clay says.
His body of work has regular items for sale at APOC’s pop-up shops, held once a month at Sabrina McGowen’s gallery in High Point. Clay’s art aims to “examine the multi-dimensional facets and intersections of Black people in America by affirming our beauty and humanity,” he says. “My art is an amalgamation of my experiences living as a Black man in America.”
SHOT IN THE TRIAD | JULY, 29—AUG. 4, 2021
SHOT IN THE TRIAD
Bur-Mil Club Road, Greensboro
CAROLYN DE BERRY
Summer evening on Lake Brandt at Bur-Mil Park.
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A misogynist restaurant manager in Greensboro, rising rents in Winston-Salem, hotel living, "Black America" and more.
Published on Jul 29, 2021
A misogynist restaurant manager in Greensboro, rising rents in Winston-Salem, hotel living, "Black America" and more.