INDY Week 11.03.21

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Raleigh Durham Chapel Hill




November 3, 2021




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“People have this perspective that if you’re a musician, life is all fun and games,” says Peter Holsapple. "That’s why they call it playing music. But it is work to do it the right way."

The three-ring circus that is this year's redistricting process. BY LEIGH TAUSS


Durham is moving ahead with its Community Safety Department but some residents have concerns about how it will work. BY THOMASI MCDONALD 10 The Triangle has options to address its dwindling stock of affordable housing but it has to act quickly—and decisively. BY JASMINE GALLUP


13 The state is making it more difficult for those affected by hog farms to get justice, though courts agree the environmental impact is substantial. BY MELBA NEWSOME


15 A conversation with Little Waves and Cocoa Cinnamon co-owner, Areli Barrera Grodski. BY LENA GELLER 16 The music industry is experiencing a mental health crisis. A new benefit album seeks to reach uninsured North Carolina musicians. BY MADELINE CRONE


A new al Riggs album is a testament to the universal strength of the Durham musician's material. BY WILL ATKINSON 19 Keep, toss, donate, sell: A new memoir by a Kenan Visiting Writer at UNC-Chapel Hill gets to the heart of cleaning out. BY KELLY K. FERGUSON 20 The French Dispatch has style. But does it have heart? BY GLENN MCDONALD

THE REGULARS 3 15 Minutes

12 Op-Ed

COVER Design by Jon Fuller


MaryAnn Kearns Durham/Orange/ Chatham Counties

John Hurld EDITOR I AL Editor in Chief Jane Porter

Arts & Culture Editor Sarah Edwards

Theater+Dance Critic Byron Woods



Creative Director

Senior Writer Leigh Tauss

Contributors Will Atkinson, Madeline Crone, Grant Golden, Spencer Griffith, Lucas Hubbard, Layla Khoury-Hanold, Brian Howe, Lewis Kendall, Kyesha Jennings, Glenn McDonald, Anna Mudd, Dan Ruccia, Jake Sheridan

Annie Maynard

Wake County MaryAnn Kearns

Staff Writers Jasmine Gallup Thomasi McDonald Editorial Assistant Lena Geller

November 3, 2021

Staff Photographer

Brett Villena

Durham/Orange/ Chatham Counties John Hurld Sales Digital Director & Classifieds Mathias Marchington

C I RC U L ATI O N Berry Media Group

Managing Editor Geoff West


Graphic Designer

Jon Fuller

INDY Week |


P.O. Box 1772 • Durham, N.C. 27702 Durham: 320 East Chapel Hill Street, #200 Durham, N.C. 27701 | 919-286-1972 Raleigh 919-832-8774 Durham 919-286-1972 Classifieds 919-286-6642

Raleigh: 16 W Martin St,Raleigh, N.C. 27601

E M A I L A D D R E SS E S first initial[no space]last

Contents © 2021 ZM INDY, LLC All rights reserved. Material may not be reproduced without permission.


Our October 13 story on CHALT has been updated to clarify that a News & Observer analysis of stories on The Local Reporter’s website found that several stories authored by members of CHALT, the editor, or board members or that quoted CHALT members didn’t identify those writers or their affiliations with CHALT. The INDY erroneously stated that about a quarter of the stories on The Local Reporter’s website were authored by CHALT members. Here’s another letter on the story from reader LISA BRADEN:


e There is so much wrong with this biased, degraded piece of “journalism” that instead of laying it all out I’ll just sum it up: “81-year-old Julie McClintock, founder of CHALT”—funny how of all the people quoted in your “article” she’s the only one whose age is given. Your message, while despicably insinuated rather then overtly stated, is clear: Older people are regressive dinosaurs. As to: “Who, exactly, in the affluent, near uniformly liberal hamlet orbiting UNC–Chapel Hill was ‘betrayed’ by the sprawling mixed-use project … was left up to interpretation,” if you actually wanted an answer to that question you might have spoken to at least one of the many locals—elected officials and others—who are quite willing to go on record as being opposed to the project. Oh wait, that might have been too close to fair and balanced journalism rather than a sloppy hit piece on CHALT and a dismissal of all but one point of view. You re-upped this propaganda with a second love letter to Stegman on 10/21 in which you again stated that “fingers were pointed” at CHALT for the offending signs. This time you didn’t even bother to include that group’s denial. Just whom are you serving here when you so blatantly allow only one point of view on the critical issue of what constitutes healthy growth in Chapel Hill/Carrboro? I used to rely on the INDY for thoughtful, reasoned coverage and analysis. Obviously those days are gone.


15 MINUTES Maria Lopez, 32 Manager of film programs at the North Carolina Museum of Art BY HANNAH OLSON

What first interested you in film? I grew up in a big family. My dad, as a cost-effective way to keep us entertained, would take us to this local mom-and-pop video rental store close to our house every Friday. He would let us choose as many movies as we wanted. I started out just watching kids’ movies. Eventually, I got tired of watching the same animated movies, ventured off, and discovered the foreign film section. Then, the classic film section. I just felt like watching as many movies as I could. In Chicago, I was very involved in the film scene. I started off as a volunteer, and then became an intern, and eventually got hired as a film programmer at the Chicago Latino Film Festival. I am a young Latina. Growing up, I never really saw myself represented in big Hollywood movies and television. One of the things that I’ve always been passionate about is giving people the opportunity to see themselves represented on screen.

In your time at NCMA so far, what are you most proud of accomplishing? I started January 2020, the pandemic hit, and I didn’t get a chance to really have any in-person screenings. I was forced to come up with virtual film programming, which at first was daunting to me. How do you replicate the experience of watching the movie in a theater and turn it virtual? I realized that one of my favorite things to do after watching a film is talk about them.


This brought on the idea of the NCMA Film Club, which was essentially a discussion on Zoom of a particular film that I chose every month.

Can you tell me a bit more about your film selection process? I have a very diverse taste in movies. I watch all genres, all languages. I usually start off with a long list of films that I’d like to show, and then narrow it down to six or seven that I can program each season. I wish I could share all of my favorite films. What helps me is coming up with a theme. This past fall season the theme was “contemporary comingof-age films.” I was trying to make it as diverse as possible and tell as many stories from diverse perspectives as I could, and I’m very proud of what I came up with. When programming [the outdoor film series this summer], I was thinking about showing nostalgic movies that would bring people joy, remind them of better times—pre-pandemic times. The theme for our winter film series is “artists.” I think it’s fitting since we are a museum; I want to share the work that these artists have done and introduce them to people that may not have heard of them. W

November 3, 2021



North Carolina New congressional districts map approved this week by the N.C. General Assembly. MAP FROM NCGA

Three-Ring Circus Republicans are racing to pass gerrymandered congressional and legislative maps before the March primary candidate filing deadline. Democrats see lawsuits as their only recourse. BY LEIGH TAUSS


ake County state Senator Wiley Nickel’s red and blue markers squealed into the microphone as he circled dots on a cardboard cutout in the legislature’s redistricting committee meeting Monday. The rudimentary gerrymandering lesson would have been comical if it wasn’t based in fact: despite North Carolina’s near 50-50 split between Republican and Democratic voters, the congressional map GOP officials had drawn ensured them an 11-3 or 10-4 majority. “The most important question is very simple: How greedy are you going to be with these maps?” Nickel said. Republicans Monday maintained the maps were drawn fairly in the most transparent process to date. The three new maps—for U.S. congressional districts and the state House and Senate—are expected to pass by a party-line vote this week. In terms of partisan fairness, the Princeton Gerrymandering Project gave the congressional map an “F,” finding it gave Republicans a significant advantage at the polls. State law doesn’t give Governor Roy Cooper a veto, so it will be left up to the courts to see if the maps hold up for the March primary. And the U.S. Supreme Court has shown no interest in blocking partisan gerrymandering. The clock is ticking: with the December filing deadline for candidates just a month away, local and state elections 4

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boards will have barely enough time to ensure folks are running in the right district. Lawsuits filed last week by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice on behalf of the North Carolina NAACP and Common Cause seek to delay the primary, claiming the draft maps violate the Voting Rights Act because Republicans did not use racial data to draw new districts. You can’t protect the rights of Black voters without knowing where they are, said attorney Mitchell Brown, representing the plaintiffs. “Just because you stick your head in the ground saying you are going to ignore race does not mean that you are not being racist,” Brown says. “To ignore race is to ignore Black voters’ humanity.” Litigation over the state’s voting maps has been the status quo for the last four decades, and there hasn’t been a complete set of maps since the 1980s. The most recent legal battle over Republican-drawn maps in 2011 spanned the last decade, and maps that were later ruled unconstitutional were used in the previous four elections. Republicans have been brazen in defense of their partisan maps. As former GOP Rep. David Lewis said in 2016:

“Electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats [...] So I drew this map to help foster what I think is better for the country.” “I propose that we draw the maps to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and three Democrats,” Lewis said, “because I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats.” Lewis, who resigned from the legislature amid scandal and was sentenced to campaign finance fraud this summer, may finally get his wish: in a year with strong Republican turnout, the GOP could have an 11-3 majority in Congress based on the current maps. The best outcome for Democrats would be an 8-6 split in favor of Republicans. One of the so-called “competitive” districts would include portions of the Triangle in southern Wake County, which swings predominantly Democrat. That district stretches through rural areas to the Triad, nearly 100 miles away. Overall, the state’s three largest metro areas were cut to merge hundreds of thousands of urban voters with Republican-leaning rural areas. The maps completely remade Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Manning’s district, which covers Greensboro and Winston-Salem. She lambasted the proposed new district boundaries as “extreme partisan gerrymandering,” with the aim of recapturing Republican control of the U.S. House. “Under these maps, Guilford County is split into three congressional districts, diluting the interests of my constituents and lumping them in with far-flung counties in the western mountains, the suburbs of Charlotte, and as far east as Wake County,” Manning said in a statement. “These maps don’t acknowledge that the Triad is a region with shared interests, concerns, and needs.” During the committee hearing Monday, Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue said the migration of more than a million voters in Wake, Mecklenburg, and Guilford counties defies common sense. “This kind of radical, extreme effort simply takes us out of the process and I think that you are convinced, as I am, it’s not going to stand,” Blue said. “So why don’t we fix it right while we still have the opportunity to do it and not be governed by what interests outside of North Carolina tell us we ought to do in handling North Carolina business.” The request fell on deaf ears. Relying on the slow pace of the courts has played to Republicans’ advantage in the past. “We have seen in the past, elections move forward even under challenged maps,” says Michael Bitzer, professor of history and politics at Catawba College. “The likelihood is, if past is any prologue, we will continue onward with the elections just shifting the fight to the courts from the legislature.” That’s precisely why the Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed its lawsuits before the maps even received the legislative rubber stamp, hoping to place an injunction and delay the primary until new maps can be drawn. The objection isn’t to the maps themselves, but rather the process used.



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By not including a racial polarization study in the GOP’s consideration of the districts, the lawsuits claim “the districts will dilute the voting power of Black North Carolinians” and “diminish the ability of voters of color to elect the candidates of their choice.” Republicans disagree, arguing that they weren’t required to consult racial data in the process. The lawsuit’s plaintiffs are using race as a sort of catch-22, Republican state Senator Ralph Hise said, according to the News & Observer. “[The Southern Coalition for Social Justice] sued us previously because we used race, and now they’re suing us because we didn’t use race,” Hise told the N&O. “The only constant here is finding any excuse to sue to gain partisan advantage, no matter how contradictory, and they’re doing it before the maps have even been considered by a legislative committee.” Brown, the plaintiff’s attorney, says they’re hoping for a hearing on the request for injunction before the end of the month. That leaves a tight timeline for local and state election boards to enact the changes, says Gerry Cohen, former special counsel to the General Assembly who serves on the Wake County Board of Elections. The work is tedious, Cohen says, and can take hours for each divided precinct. Aside from making sure candidates are running in the right district, the board also has to make sure the correct absentee ballots are mailed to residents, which are required to go out by January 12. “It’s a lot of work and presumably that has to get done right away,” Cohen says. The state House redistricting committee toiled over the maps late into the night Monday, accepting only a handful of amendments from Democrats. The Senate redistricting committee was expected to pass its own version Tuesday. It had not done so by the time the INDY went to print. But tensions were already at a boiling point Monday. After House Speaker Tim Moore confirmed there would not be a vote on the maps at the night’s 7 p.m. session, most Democrats walked out of the chambers. Republicans then appointed Donnie Loftus, a Gaston County Republican who attended the deadly January 6 insurrection at the Capitol, as the House’s newest member. “Redistricting is the most political activity in American politics these days,” Bitzer says. “When you have this level of polarization and partisan divide, and the fact that we the voters have sorted ourselves into communities that tend to vote overwhelmingly for one party over the other, this is what you get.” W


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Safety Skeptics Durham residents have doubts about “reimagined policing” BY THOMASI MCDONALD


n the lead-up to Durham’s municipal election this week, a mailer went out to Durham residents that read: “Murders up 54 percent, Rapes 14 percent. Don’t defund the police!!!!” David Smith, secretary and a former president of Friends of Durham, one of the city’s top political action committees, was behind the mailer. Smith, a Durham native, says he is skeptical of the Bull City’s new Community Safety Department (CSD) that seeks to reimagine law enforcement. “The idea might be a good one, I just don’t know how it will be implemented,” Smith says. “They were going to do traffic at first, but found out they had to have police present. They wanted to do domestic violence, but they are not going to do that either.” (The city’s website notes that sending “trained civilian responders to minor traffic accidents or abandoned vehicles requires approval from the state of North Carolina.) Smith added that with the rise in crime over the past year, support for law enforcement is realistic. “I think the best way to handle crime is through the police,” he says. Smith’s views are in line with trends of decreased support, both nationally and locally, for defunding the police and a marked increase in deadly gun violence. Still, Durham continues in its quest to reimagine policing. The CSD is currently seeking social workers, peer support specialists, licensed clinicians, counselors, health workers, mental health professionals, and paramedics. The new department won’t become operational until next year, but its goal of dispatching first responders—at times without the police or firefighters—is already receiving some negative previews.

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ven before George Floyd’s death, a multi-racial group of millennial activNovember 3, 2021

ists in Durham were among the first in the country to demand defunding the police department and an end to the prison pipeline. The CSD, along with the city’s Public Safety and Wellness Task Force, were borne out of the pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests. Durham’s decision to invest in evidenced-based public safety programs that would take money out of the police department’s coffers is happening during a tenuous time. Support for rethinking public safety following the deaths of Black people at the hands of police has waned with the increase in violent crime in cities and towns across the United States. Despite calls for police reforms dating back to the Obama Administration, last week, the Pew Research Center reported that with the increase in violent crime, Blacks and Hispanics are much less likely to prefer decreased police budgets in their communities. According to the poll, 47 percent of all adults say spending on policing in their communities should be increased. That’s up from 31 percent in June 2020. The poll also shows that 23 percent of African American adults and 16 percent of Hispanics are less likely to favor defunding the police. Last year 42 percent of Black adults and 24 percent of Hispanic adults wanted a decrease in law enforcement funding after Floyd’s death. The Pew Poll mirrors a recent Washington Post report of mayoral candidates across the country voicing support to “restore law and order,” even in liberal cities. Here in Durham, where Black men and boys account for well over 95 percent of the city’s gun violence victims and perpetrators, the past functions as prologue by those who are calling for more police officers in embattled communities like McDougald Terrace, Southside, Oxford


Manor or Liberty and Elm streets, that are already prone to outbreaks of deadly violence. Nearly 40 years ago the horrors of the crack cocaine epidemic destabilized entire neighborhoods and coarsened the soul of America. A great many Black people across the United States and here in Durham supported former President Clinton’s Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 that resulted in the mass incarceration of Black and Brown people. That unintended consequence should serve as a cautionary tale amidst renewed calls for more officers on the streets and potential over-policing of poor neighborhoods. Given the failure of a decades-long so-called War on Drugs, it seems highly unlikely that flooding more police into Durham’s most violent neighborhoods will dissuade people from shooting one another. With the creation of evidence-based approaches like the CSD and the expansion of a Cure Violence “violence interrupters” model, the Bull City, in the words of City Manager Wanda Page, “has an opportunity to lead the way and find new, equitable and innovative approaches to keep our community safe.” Page noted that the city’s concern with violent crime is balanced by the history of policing in America and its impact on people of color. She said the CSD “reflects

our belief that responding to the safety and wellness needs of all residents requires more than police officers, firefighters, and paramedics.” Page said Durham still needs policing, but “it’s unfair to expect [first responders] to address every single issue our residents experience.”


s the INDY previously reported, the formation of the Bull City’s CSD has its roots in the 2019 work of Durham Beyond Policing (BYP), a coalition of citywide nonprofits dedicated to divesting from policing and prisons. BYP lobbied for a Public Safety and Wellness Task Force partnered by the city, county, and Durham Public Schools. At the crux of both the Task Force and CSD’s work is research conducted by the Research Triangle Institute in August of last year that did an in-depth analysis of 911 calls between 2017 and 2020. Researchers identified a number of 911 call types that could be responded to without an armed officer, including mental or behavioral health needs, traffic incidents, and quality-of-life issues. CSD Director Ryan Smith last week told the INDY that the new agency has partnered with community groups and public officials to create a crisis call diversion and mobile crisis response pilots. Smith, in email, said the crisis call diversion program “will embed mental health

clinicians into the 911 call center to triage and respond remotely to non-emergent, non-life threatening calls for service.” Meanwhile, he said the mobile crisis response unit “will dispatch a team of trained, unarmed responders to a subset of 911 calls involving behavioral and mental health needs and quality of life concerns.” “It is premature to say how exactly these pilots will function,” Smith said about the programs that are on schedule to be launched next year. Support for the CSD has been mixed, although the people who spoke with the INDY last week, including Friends of Durham’s David Smith, support the initiative in theory.


arlier this month, Donald Hughes, another Bull City native, told city council members he was dismayed by the city’s plan to pay $6,000 to a poet laureate during a pandemic and a deadly gun violence epidemic that all too often targets young Black people. Hughes tells the INDY that the community safety department is the direction the city should be headed in, but he worries that CSD’s response to “minor” crisis scenarios could get out of hand. “I’ve been in a couple of traffic accidents that were minor, but tensions can flare. If [the CSD] is unarmed and can’t handle the situation, who do you call?” he asks. “I’ve seen mental health situations where someone grabs a weapon … it seems the plan is missing some important steps.” Hughes added that it’s not about pitting the police against the CSD. “It’s not ‘either, or’ but ‘both, and,’” he explains. “I’ve worked in government,” he says. “When we start talking about reducing police budgets, there are the unintended consequences of having fewer officers. The folks who are left are overworked and that affects their level of response because they are tired.” Hughes says he thinks the city should listen more to people who live in the communities most impacted by violent crime, and ask them, “If you could control the police budget, what would you do?” The new program members have been listening. Isaac Villegas, Mennonite pastor and president of the governing board of the North Carolina Council of Churches is a task force member. Nearly 132 residents participated in a virtual town hall this month co-hosted by the task force and the CSD. The overwhelming majority of participants want first responders who are com-

passionate, experienced with trauma, and trained in de-escalation. Villegas said residents who want to live in safe communities free of police mistakes cut across all demographics.


ennifer Carroll is an associate professor of anthropology at N.C. State University who formerly worked with the Atlanta/ Carolinas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, where she helped guide the Centers for Disease Control’s overdose response strategy. In December, the city appointed Carroll to serve as the public policy expert for its Public Safety and Wellness Task Force. The task force charge includes reliance on “community-based prevention, intervention, and re-entry services as alternatives to policing and the criminal legal system,” according to the city’s website. Carroll says the public’s uncertainty about the CSD is normal, and “important because that worry [reflects] a community need,” adding that in marginalized communities, the police’s presence is evidence of the residents’ financial investment in the places where they reside and the perception that they have not been abandoned. Carroll notes that people are taught at a very early age to call 911 for the police whenever they’re in trouble. “Now we’re calling the police for everything we need,” she says. “The task force is asking, ‘What do we actually need?’” Carroll says initiatives like the city’s task force and community safety departments aren’t meant to supplant the police department, but ease the officers’ responsibilities by supplementing and adding more appropriate responses to crisis events. Carroll says most police officers joined law enforcement for two reasons—“to get the bad guys and to help people. “We can support that,” she says. Xavier Cason, who co-chairs the task force, says the “plurality of opinion” about public safety is largely based on one’s personal experiences with the police and research about the impact of law enforcement. “The question for me,” he told the INDY this week, “is how do we make actionable what has been researched with what has been people’s lived experience?” Cason counsels a wait-and-see attitude with the CSD and other initiatives that are starting on a small scale, and possibly “scaling up” if effective. “The CSD is very new,” he added, “and still in the stage of just listening.” W

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“I wanted to stay in Harnett County, where I was born and raised, but the housing market was crazy,” Love-Hinton says. “You have people from various places upstate, Connecticut, New York, who are coming down here with cash. They aren’t playing either. Some people have outbid me by $30,000 or $40,000.” For those making less than $70,000 a year, it can be a struggle to afford the monthly mortgage in Raleigh or Durham. Against corporations with a lot of cash on hand, like Zillow or Opendoor, “individual families don’t have a prayer” of winning a bidding war, says Samuel Gunter, executive director of the NC Housing Coalition. “What we’re seeing in Charlotte, for instance, is a hedge fund essentially buying up swaths of single-family homes and turning them into rentals,” he says, “pulling them out of the home ownership market entirely, which is a concern.”

Supply and demand

Stem the Tide How the Triangle’s municipalities can—and can continue to— address the region’s dwindling stock of affordable housing BY JASMINE GALLUP

This is the second part of a two-part series on housing in the Triangle.


fter eight months of viewings, dozens of bids, and thousands of dollars, Tina Love-Hinton got the keys to her first home on August 16. At that moment, she felt profound relief. “I was ecstatic, overwhelmed, but mostly relieved to finally have a home for my children,” Love-Hinton, a mother of five, told the INDY. “It’s a process I never want to go through again.” 10

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As mentioned in part one of INDY Week’s series on the local housing market, tax relief, rent control, and affordable housing preservation could help many people stay in their homes. But for people looking to buy a new home in Raleigh or elsewhere in the Triangle, there’s another problem—they simply can’t afford it. Love-Hinton started looking for a home in January, she says, but even in places like Dunn and Angier, fairly far to the south of Raleigh, the persistent housing shortage inflated prices and created competition impossible for her to beat.

Raleigh mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin says the solution is to increase supply. Earlier this year, the city council approved a change to the zoning code allowing the construction of duplexes, town houses, and apartments in areas where, previously, only single-family homes were allowed. The hope is builders will construct lower-priced town homes throughout the city, creating a gateway to home ownership, Baldwin says. Durham enacted a similar zoning change in 2019 to allow denser housing near downtown. The cities are following the lead of other growing metropolitan areas like Minneapolis and Grand Rapids, Michigan, which each changed local laws to encourage multiuse and mixed-income developments. Oregon, in a more aggressive move, eliminated single-family zoning entirely in cities with more than 10,000 people. These changes have been successful in building up more housing stock but haven’t necessarily made houses more affordable. With so much demand, there’s little incentive for developers to build low-rent apartments or “entry-level” homes that cost less than $200,000, says Gunter. It’s simply not profitable.

Get developers on board One solution Chapel Hill and other cities have considered is “inclusionary zoning,” which requires developers to build affordable housing as part of larger projects. Chapel Hill’s Inclusionary Housing Program, enacted in 2011, requires projects with more than five units to reserve 15 percent of those units for low-to-moderate-income households. Baldwin, however, doesn’t think these policies do enough to help solve housing problems. In a million-dollar inclusionary zoning development, the city might get five affordable housing units, she says. If that money was

instead given directly to the construction of affordable housing, it could result in more than 50 units. “Inclusionary zoning sounds good, but it doesn’t have the impact that other means do,” Baldwin says. “If you look at how many units Chapel Hill has built over the past 10 years with that method, it’s not many. It might be 200 units. In fact, developers have committed to building 183 units since the town implemented the inclusionary zoning ordinance, says Emily Holt, affordable housing development officer. Holt noted that the law simply formalized an affordable housing policy the town put in place in 2000. Since then, developers have committed to building 500 affordable units, built 281, and the town has received $4.9 million from developers allocated for affordable housing, she said. The town could maybe do more, but the state’s ban on rent control prevents it from using inclusionary zoning for rental projects. It applies to houses only. “After the recession in 2008-09, the housing market shifted away from building for sale units and has focused heavily on the construction of rental projects,” Holt says, “which is likely one of the main reasons for the decrease in affordable homeownership units created in private development over the last 10 plus years.” Inclusionary zoning can also be voluntary, with city officials offering incentives—like allowing denser and more profitable developments—in return for affordable housing. By waiving some of the regulations that make projects cost-prohibitive, developers may be more willing to build affordable housing. In Austin, city council members created a program that allowed developers of affordable projects to bypass parking minimums, setback requirements, and height limits. Since the program started in 2019, more than 2,300 new affordable housing units have been planned. Raleigh has already eliminated parking minimums downtown, and “we’re looking to expand that in other areas of the city,” Baldwin says. The city council is also seeking the advice of the Urban Land Institute on what tools are most effective in incentivizing developers to build affordable housing, according to Baldwin. A committee to advise the city on potential incentives is in the works.

Target low-income families

Regardless of the program, the key to success is how it’s administered, says Sidney Betancourt, a housing advocacy organizer with the National Low Income Housing Coalition. In her experience, states and cit-

“I was ecstatic, overwhelmed, but mostly relieved to finally have a home for my children.” ies that make the most impact on housing are those that, first, create programs targeting the most vulnerable people—those who are homeless or making extremely low incomes (at or below 30 percent of area median income). Raleigh does have programs aimed at helping such residents. About $28 million—35 percent of the $80 million affordable housing bond voters approved in November—is earmarked for nonprofit housing projects that will help some of Raleigh’s most vulnerable residents, Baldwin said. This year, $3 million went to expand Healing Transitions Men’s Campus, which helps men and women suffering from addiction, Baldwin says. Another $7 million will go to CASA King’s Ridge Apartments, a 100-unit development that includes supportive services. Much of the focus right now, however, is on increasing the supply of housing for middle-income people like teachers, police officers, and health care workers. Chapel Hill’s inclusionary zoning program, for example, targets those who make less than 80 percent of the area median income. The same is true of Raleigh’s effort to increase housing supply—new units built as a result of changes to zoning laws have no income limits, so they may more often go to people who make more money and can afford to make a higher offer. Rhett Fussell, interim director of the Raleigh Area Land Trust, says programs targeting “missing middle” housing are just one step toward solving the affordable housing crisis. The community land trust, which started a few years ago, builds houses reserved for people making 50 to 80 percent of area median income. “There are [middle-income] people who don’t qualify for government subsidies or programs, but they can’t afford a market-rate house,” Fussell says. “Teachers, policemen, retail workers, it’s those folks we’re trying to serve.” Fussell recognizes there’s still a “huge need” among people making less than 30 percent area median income, but at the same time, there are already programs in place to serve them, he says. Additionally, by helping middle-class earners buy homes, the land trust can free up lower-cost rental units for those who need them, he says. “[The land trust] provides another option for affordable housing in the county, an

option that doesn’t exist presently,” he says. “We’re not gonna solve this problem, but we want to be part of a potential solution.”

Buy, then build The work of the Raleigh Area Land Trust and Raleigh’s nonprofit housing projects each follow Betancourt’s second suggestion for successful programs: prioritizing permanent housing. Many affordable-housing programs are short term, requiring that units remain available to low-income people only for three to five years. After that, the units revert to unaffordable market rates. The expansion of Healing Transitions Men’s Campus and CASA King’s Ridge Apartments, on the other hand, creates affordable housing that will remain in place for decades. Likewise, the creation of affordable homes by community land trusts is long term. “[It] provides a better investment of public funds,” Fussell says. “The land trust can guarantee long-term affordability because we own it forever, we have 99-year leases on the properties. Anytime they’re sold, they can’t be sold at market rate.” One other tool to create permanently affordable units is land acquisition, Baldwin says. About $16 million from the housing bond will go toward buying land near major highways and roads, a strategy that will put the city council in control of any future development in those areas. “When you own the property … you can be the one to say, ‘We want affordable housing here.’ If we can develop along transit lines, that means we’re providing even more affordable housing, because people won’t need to own a car, they can take public transportation.”

Next steps With the help of the affordable housing bond, Raleigh aims to build 5,700 new affordable housing units by 2026, open to people making from 30 percent to 80 percent of the area median income. Despite officials’ work to increase housing density and supply in the past two years, however, they are still lagging behind. As of 2019, Raleigh had a deficit of more than 28,000 affordable rental homes, according to the

National Low Income Housing Coalition. Baldwin admits Raleigh is playing catchup, “like the whole country is,” she says. “I don’t think people understood the implications of not wanting to build denser housing. I’ve always told people we’re not going to buy our way out of this. We recognize that we have to build more.” Much of the delay was due to infighting among the Raleigh City Council. Until 2019, when a new majority was voted into office, most city council members opposed new development, criticizing the construction of skyscrapers and big apartment buildings they said destroyed the character of the city. Criticisms were also levied at large projects for not including enough investment in affordable housing. Although cities like Raleigh and Durham are now taking action—led by a new corps of officials who argue increased development decreases prices—affordable housing programs throughout the state are scattered and relatively small-scale. Ultimately, the answer may be statewide change. When in power, local officials can make changes that have a significant effect on the affordable housing crisis. These changes, however, are not always lasting. As soon as the next cohort of city council members is elected, policies can be reversed. Some solutions that have proven effective elsewhere include state-imposed penalties for cities that don’t allow enough housing production (those that limit development too strictly), and a statewide ban on income discrimination (which would prevent landlords from denying rental applications if a renter was dependent on social security, for example). Another big policy tool is the state housing trust fund. Some counties, like Wake, are already putting aside money for the preservation and production of affordable housing. Likewise, Asheville and Charlotte established housing trust funds in the early 2000s that provide financing to developers that build affordable housing. A state housing trust fund would expand these initiatives to work across North Carolina, tackling the affordable housing problem at scale. Still, Betancourt says, “no state has the resources to end homelessness without significant federal commitment for established, proven solutions. “There are lots of things states can do to move the needle, but nobody is getting it done. Federal investment in affordable homes is the best solution because that is the only type of intervention with the scale of resources necessary to address homelessness.” W

November 3, 2021


OP - E D

Spiritual Citizenship As we welcome Afghan refugees to the Triangle, there are ways to support and advocate for all of our neighbors. BY DANA WILLIAMS


n just the next six months, approximately 1,169 Afghan refugees will be resettled to North Carolina, including the city of Durham. For many in North Carolina, that may seem like a big change. But North Carolina has a rich history of diversity; as of this year, immigrant residents make up about 8.2 percent of North Carolina’s population. In Durham, that number is even higher, with 14.2 percent of the population being foreign born. Growing up in Shelby in the 1980s—with North Carolina roots going back at least to the 18th century—I did not have much opportunity to live and play with people who were born somewhere other than the United States. To be honest, most everyone I knew was born and raised in western North Carolina. But when I came to the Triangle as a freshman at N.C. State in 1993, I began to meet people who had roots in places all over the world. I met these people in classes, at work, and in my local church community. My relationships with international visitors and immigrant families have added rich layers to my North Carolina life. Now, after nearly 30 years in the Triangle, this North Carolina gal has had friends from almost every continent, and I have served alongside many immigrant brothers and sisters—some of whom are undocumented—in local churches. Most recently I have been welcomed into a body of fellow Christians who were born in various nations in Central America. I’ve watched these men and women juggle long days of work and community service, and they’ve inspired me to follow their example and better serve my neighbors. Through their efforts, this group has repeatedly provided groceries to well over 100 families in the last year, helping relieve some of the burdens caused by the pan-


November 3, 2021

“Welcoming the stranger, the alien, the immigrant into our lives is an outworking of our faith.” demic. They are serving not only other immigrant families but families who have had roots in the United States for generations. These loving and hardworking men and women give selflessly, and it is an honor to partner with them. They exhibit the value of service that I was taught as a child in Cleveland County so many years ago. I believe that these friends and co-laborers—some of whom have now lived in North Carolina for years—should be able to earn a path to permanent residency. This conviction comes from my own experience not only as an established North Carolinian but as a pastor and follower of Christ. Though my family roots are well grounded in North Carolina, my spiritual roots are grounded in the Christian Bible. From the lived example of Jesus and the witness of the whole of scripture that points to him, we find his call to care for and take up the cause of the immigrant. From the time of Abraham the sojourner, Joseph the slave, and Moses the exile, we see people who placed their faith in the God of the Bible and found themselves to be strangers and aliens in their societies.

The Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians that the Gentile Christians were like foreigners who had been brought into citizenship in God’s kingdom. Like the early Christians of Ephesus, all who claim the name of Christ were once strangers to him and to each other but now have a place and purpose in God. Therefore, Christians are called to continue this work of Christ, bringing others to spiritual citizenship. Welcoming the stranger, the alien, the immigrant into our lives, including our society, our country, and our state, is an outworking of our faith. As our Lord’s brother wrote, “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:6 ESV). My prayer is for Triangle and Durham residents to welcome all our neighbors. You can make a difference right now in the lives of immigrant and American-born neighbors by supporting the work of nonprofits like House of Mercy, which distributes food and clothing weekly in Durham, and local resettlement agencies preparing to resettle Afghan refugees across North Carolina. Meanwhile, we can advocate for our neighbors. Senator Tillis and Senator Burr: Would you lead us in welcoming immigrants by sponsoring and supporting bipartisan legislative solutions for Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status recipients, and essential workers? Senators and fellow North Carolinians, let us welcome these immigrants to see our state enriched and to follow the biblical examples of welcoming the stranger by more fully inviting these immigrants into our society. W Dana Williams is a pastor and the pastoral care director at King’s Park International Church in Durham.

One 261-acre parcel of land was purchased by Kinlaw Farms in 1998; the other 34-acre plot (in blue) was purchased by Billy Kinlaw in 1994. (Bladen County Tax Assesors website)


million awarded to the plaintiffs in the McKiver case was excessive because, as he put it, “Murphy-Brown’s conduct had not been willful and wanton.” During the questioning, Reagan-appointed judge Harvie Wilkinson III gave a hint of the ruling that would come nine months later. He suggested that plaintiffs were being made to suffer under conditions that also impacted their health because they lacked political influence and didn’t live in what he called “McMansions.” In November 2020, the three-judge panel rejected Smithfield’s call for a retrial and most of its arguments. Writing for the majority, U.S. circuit judge Stephanie Thacker said the company had persisted in its chosen farming practices despite its knowledge of the harms to its neighbors, “exhibiting wanton or willful disregard of the neighbors’ rights to enjoyment of their property.” The lower court verdict would stand.

We were not prepared

Hog Hell Courts agree that the people who live near the industrial hog farms in Bladen, Duplin, and Sampson Counties continue to suffer environmental harms, but state and local laws make it increasingly difficult to get justice. BY MELBA NEWSOME

This is the second part in a two-part series that was supported by a journalism fellowship from the MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative. This story was originally published online at NC Health News.

the minute particles of feces that marred homes, cars, mailboxes, and laundry, from hog waste flushed into open lagoons and sprayed onto feed crops as fertilizer. And the stench. Oh, God, the stench!


Enough is enough

n the mid-1990s, Billy Kinlaw purchased land in a remote, mostly Black section of White Oak, a rural community of just 350 people in Bladen County. Kinlaw, who was white, never intended to live there. The property was strictly a business investment for his contract hog-growing operation for Murphy-Brown, the Smithfield Foods subsidiary. Before long, Kinlaw Farms had more than 14,000 hogs in a dozen swine houses surrounded by three waste lagoons on nearly 300 acres. The surrounding families, most of whom had lived there for generations, had to endure everything that comes with an industrial hog operation of that size: The flies, buzzards, and endless sounds of pigs squealing. In addition to the animals came the noise and disruption from the parade of heavy trucks rumbling down unpaved roads and

After 20 years, Joyce Louretha Richardson McKiver had had enough. In 2014, the then 80-year-old became the lead plaintiff in Joyce McKiver v. Murphy-Brown, LLC, one of 26 federal nuisance lawsuits brought against the company by more than 500 plaintiffs, the majority of them Black. Juries in five trials in 2018 and 2019 awarded 36 plaintiffs a total of almost $550 million, a number that was quickly whittled down to about $98 million because of a state law that caps punitive damages. But on January 31, 2020, Virginia defense attorney Stuart Raphael arrived at the Italianate Lewis F. Powell Jr. Courthouse in Richmond to ask the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals for a do-over. Raphael argued that even the $3.25

North Carolina became an innovator in industrialized pork production and the fastest growing swine-producing state in the country when Smithfield moved into Bladen County in 1992. Legislators and investors were not dissuaded by environmentalists who warned that building a receptacle for huge piles of hog waste filled with hazardous contaminants in a floodplain probably wasn’t the best idea. When Hurricane Floyd brought life-threatening and catastrophic flooding ashore in September 1999, floodwaters breached the lagoons and transformed coastal rural communities like the McKivers’ into seas of dead hogs, chickens, and turkeys and their toxic waste. Two years earlier, the industry’s explosive growth had prompted the state to place a moratorium on expansion— sort of. It prevented companies from building new lagoons but didn’t force them to relocate from the floodplains or to remediate old ones.

Promises made; promises broken After Floyd, then governor Jim Hunt said the hog lagoons had to be gone in a decade. The following year, Smithfield Foods signed an agreement with the state promising to avoid this kind of environmental calamity in the future by developing “environmentally superior” waste technologies. Yet, more than 20 years later, the lagoons are still there. What happened during Floyd happened again in 2016 during Hurricane Matthew and in 2018 during Florence, albeit on a smaller scale. That’s because the 2000 agreement to eliminate the lagoons contained a loophole so big Smithfield has been driving 18-wheel hog haulers through it ever since, said Ryke Longest, codirector of the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic at Duke University School of Law. “Smithfield got off the hook because they were able to point to this clause in the contract that said they have to

November 3, 2021


fix the problems in a way that was economically feasible,” said Longest. “They said they can’t put on new pollution controls because their prices are still the same and that’s not economically feasible for them.” Longest compares the outdated yearsold process Smithfield continues to use to fitting a car with a tailpipe when a catalytic converter is readily available. “The systems that they’re using were designed in some cases 30 or 40 years ago,” said Longest. “They are allowed to continue to operate under a grandfathering provision under some assumptions that have never really been tested that these things would not leak or cause significant groundwater or other pollution concerns. “The scientific evidence is that they do leak. The amount of waste getting off the farm and into the groundwater looks to be very significant.” From 2,000 feet up, it’s clear that the fields surrounding the farms are saturated with sludge pumped from the lagoons that greatly exceeds what’s needed to fertilize the crops. Instead of being absorbed, it pools. Some amount of it eventually runs off into nearby creeks, streams, and watersheds. “We’ve been sampling streams that run off the spray field of those facilities,” said Kemp Burdette, the Cape Fear Riverkeeper. “One has had levels of bacteria and nutrients so high that it’s been placed on [an] EPA list of water bodies that are so polluted that they’re not able to meet their designated uses.”

Decades of administrative and court battles It’s hard to keep track of the number of lawsuits, complaints, EPA filings, and administrative challenges that have taken place since industrial hog farming started to dominate the state’s economy more than 30 years ago. Allegations of racism and environmental injustices have been at the heart of many of those battles.

“The conditions that these operations create make living by these hog operations unbearable. Nuisance claims are one of the only legal tools that people can use to protect their property rights.” Several studies have shown that Black, Latino, and Indigenous populations where the hog farms are located have been disproportionately impacted by these practices. Steve Wing, an epidemiologist and associate professor at UNC, spent two decades documenting the effects of living or even going to school near an industrial hog farm. Wing died before the trials began but his research describing the headaches, coughing, and nausea he found in higher numbers among hog farm neighbors loomed large. After five jury losses and the Fourth Circuit defeat, Smithfield saw the writing on the wall and quickly settled with plaintiffs. In the aggregate, the company has paid out about $15 million to plaintiffs, but these nuisance lawsuits appear to have done little to curb the behavior that spawned them in the first place. For megacompanies like Smithfield—a wholly owned subsidiary of the Chinese WH Group, the world’s largest pork company—it is the cost of doing business. Nonetheless, the pork industry has plenty of friends in state and local government to protect its interests.

Protecting the industry first and foremost

A new front in the hog wars

State senator Brent Jackson (R–10th District) was a lead sponsor of Senate Bill 711, the 2018 Farm Act, which limited when and how hog farm neighbors can file such suits and restricted punitive damages. “If we don’t do something to let [Smithfield] know they are welcome here, they’ll

While Smithfield continues to argue it cannot afford to invest in a better hog waste management system, the company is making significant investments in what it calls green energy. In 2018, the company entered a joint venture with Dominion Energy to convert waste from

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November 3, 2021

be leaving this state,” The News & Observer reported Jackson as saying during the argument for the bill’s passage. “Because I do know there’s other states courting them to leave. And if they leave this state, these rural and small towns we have in eastern North Carolina will dry slam up. They’re having a hard enough time as it is today to survive.” Now, a nuisance lawsuit must be filed within a year of when the farm is established or of any “fundamental change,” which does not include changes in ownership, technology, product, or size. Punitive damages are only allowed if the farm operator has a criminal conviction or has received a regulatory notice of a violation. “The conditions that these operations create make living by these hog operations unbearable,” said Southern Environmental Law Center attorney Blakely Hildebrand. “These nuisance claims are one of the only legal tools that people can use to protect their property rights. So when the legislature rolls them back, they are effectively taking away the last legal tool that these communities have to protect themselves, their families, and their property.”

19 of its Duplin and Sampson County farms into biogas. Methane captured from the waste pits will be transported through a 30-mile pipeline and processed in a new anaerobic digester system on the border of the two counties before being injected into an existing natural gas pipeline. Earlier this year, the Department of Environmental Quality issued permits allowing Murphy-Brown to install anaerobic digesters at four swine-feeding operations. The SELC filed an EPA complaint on behalf of the Duplin County NAACP and the North Carolina Poor People’s Campaign alleging that issuing the permits violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI prohibits agencies that receive federal funds from discriminating on the basis of race. “For decades, the swine industry has avoided properly managing animal waste to prevent pollution, and instead displaced harm onto communities of color,” the complaint states. In addition to ignoring long-standing environmental justice and pollution concerns, granting the permits also entrenched an outdated management system with documented harms. The SELC says DEQ also failed to identify and require cleaner technology to manage hog waste or to evaluate and address the effect of its permitting decisions on water quality, both of which are mandated by state law. “Smithfield is using cleaner treatment systems in other states to deal with its hog waste pollution, and North Carolina communities deserve better,” Hildebrand said. Longest believes Smithfield’s new biogas operation gives the residents a new avenue to challenge the company’s claim that it lacks the financial resources to implement a better waste management system. “Given this new revenue stream, how on earth can you say that it’s not economically feasible?” he asked. “After these new revenues come online, shouldn’t they now be made to live up to their promises?” W

BILL BURTON ATTORNEY AT LAW Un c o n t e s t e d Di vo rc e

SEPARATION AGREEMENTS Mu s i c Bu s i n eDIVORCE ss Law UNCONTESTED In c o r p oBUSINESS r a t i o n / LLAW LC / MUSIC Pa r t n e r s h i p INCORPORATION/LLC Wi lls WILLS

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FO O D & D R I N K

Making Waves Cocoa Cinnamon co-owner Areli Barrera Grodski talks equity, sustainability, and winning an international “Micro Roaster of the Year” award BY LENA GELLER


t the beginning of our interview, I ask Areli Barrera Grodski why her roastery is called “Little Waves.” The question is a formality; I’m certain the name comes from the inadvertent hand gestures Durhamites might extend when spotting an acquaintance outside Cocoa Cinnamon’s three locations, which Barrera Grodski co-owns with her husband, Leon. But the name goes deeper, Barrera Grodski tells me: when she and her husband were falling in love, long before coffee entered the chat, a beach-bound Leon sent her a text describing the “little waves brushing up on the shore.” Later, having bonded over a shared love of coffee and community, the couple moved to Durham and dipped their toes in industry waters by rigging a cart to the back of a bicycle and pedaling caffeine around town. Six years, several city grants, and a hefty chunk of crowdsourced funds later, the pair had opened two brick-and-mortar locations and cemented their mission to promote sustainability and inclusion as an immigrant-owned, women-forward business. They then decided to jump on a venue that could serve as both a third cafe and a roastery. The roastery, they agreed, would be called Little Waves. “It relates to the idea that little waves make big waves, and that being rooted in daily actions—we call them rooted reverberations—can help us create these bigger changes,” Areli says. “We have this saying that goes, ‘The sun, the moon, and everything in tune.’ We try to approach everything from a very intentional perspective.” While customers might only have a vague idea of just how intentional the company is, folks in the industry are taking notice. In October, industry publication Roast Magazine named Little Waves the “Micro Roaster of the Year.” Recently, the INDY spoke with Areli Barrera Grodski

about the award, sustainable coffee sourcing, and the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. INDY WEEK: What was your reaction when you heard you’d won? ARELI BARRERA GRODSKI: Extremely elat-

ed, in disbelief, but also not, because we have been hustling so hard since we first opened. The application [for the award] is a beautiful process because it’s a mirror to yourself, to be able to reflect on what you’ve accomplished over the years and where you want to go. Just knowing our hustle since 2010, being a woman of color and an immigrant, and having a predominantly woman-forward business, it feels so rewarding to be seen and acknowledged in this prestigious way. One of the criteria for the contest was a “commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity.” What are some ways that you do this?

There are little things, like adding Spanish [signs and translations] to our Lakewood location so the surrounding community understands that this is a place for them, too. And when I look around and see so many bilingual, sometimes trilingual, women of color working in our business, I’m reminded of how important it is that we represent who we want to invite. What do you prioritize when you’re sourcing coffee?

I’m always seeking to support producers who are women of color. That’s a top priority. It’s been interesting because as we grow and try to get more wholesale accounts, we’ve been talking to Duke, and what they care about is that we get coffees that are certified organic. Most of the people we partner with are using sustainable practices, but they’re not necessarily certified, because certifications cost a lot of money.

Areli Barrera Grodski


I think the most important thing is to build trust and relationships with your producers and to have an awareness of their practices that isn’t just tied to whether or not they have official documentation. How do you ensure that your product is sustainably sourced but also accessible?

Packaging is built into our pricing, so we’ve been considering doing something where you bring your own container, and we sell coffee at a price per ounce. That could make it more accessible for customers, while not cutting at the price that the producer is receiving. We also have a community coffee program, which is essentially like a big community gift card that people can contribute to, so if somebody wants to come and participate in our space and get a drink, they can just pay a dollar and the rest of the price is covered by the community gift card. When we started with Little Waves, we were trying to figure out how to stick to our mission of paying a livable wage and still making our coffee accessible. Part of that is relying on the community to help support the program. I do believe that we live in the city for that. Do tips make up part of the living wage at Cocoa Cinnamon?

We do use tipping. The reason why, right now, is because that’s the only way that

we can actually afford to offer $15 an hour as our starting wage. During the pandemic, we implemented an automatic 20 percent tip, mostly because everything was touchless and we weren’t taking any cash, and we wanted to make sure our team wasn’t losing out on tips. That setup has been the most equitable way of tipping, but we have gotten a lot of one-star reviews from people because of it. People aren’t [as inclined to tip] for coffee as they are for food or a cocktail. What does winning this award mean for Little Waves and Cocoa Cinnamon, moving forward?

We’re trying to ride the wave, pun intended, and seize the momentum so we can continue to grow [and] reach the moonshot goals we have with creating sustainability within our system and our industry chain supply chain. Some of that is wages: we do provide a livable wage, but that’s like, the bare minimum. We want to create possibilities for coffee careers. And if we’re thinking about livable wages for our team, we need to be thinking about livable wages for our producers as well. Every contributor that has helped us get to where we are today, cup to crop and crop to cup—they all play a role in this award and should partake in the recognition of it. W Read a longer version of this conversation on

November 3, 2021




[Self-released; Nov. 8]

Peter Holsapple, North Carolina musician and collaborator on Be Good To Yourself PHOTO BRETT VILLENA

A Listening Ear On benefit album Be Good To Yourself, North Carolina musicians come together to confront mental health challenges in the music industry BY MADELINE CRONE


n 2019, after losing friends and fellow musicians to suicide and drug overdose, Ed Bumgardner decided he’d had enough. The Winston-Salem-based bass player reached out to longtime collaborators, guitarist Rob Slater (Sneakers) and drummer/producer Chris Garges (Fred Wesley, Don Dixon), with the idea of a benefit album. To channel the helplessness they felt about the mental health crisis, the three veteran musicians and native North Carolinians assembled a group of like-minded artists who are whole-hearted believers in the healing power of music and the strength of the state’s unique collaborative arts community. On November 8, a star-studded roster of local artists will put their best foot forward in the fight against the brim16

November 3, 2021

ming crisis with Be Good To Yourself—a benefit album to assist uninsured North Carolina musicians facing mental health and substance abuse challenges. Two years in the making, the project began as a 10-track concept. The sweeping entrance of the COVID19 pandemic the next year illuminated even deeper issues within the music industry, such as the compounding stress of unemployment and financial precarity without access to affordable mental health care. Social distancing mandates further complicated the recording process, but with the help of 29 additional studios across the state, the cast of musicians were able to safely complete the album from a distance. The final product, a 23-track collection, is spread across two albums and features over 60 musicians, including sev-

eral local to the Triangle, such as Mipso’s Libby Rodenbough, Rod Abernethy of Arrogance, and Whiskeytown’s Caitlin Cary. Each of the artists—all but three from North Carolina—offer talent to a spanning list of covers, hand-selected by Bumgardner to construct a congruent story arc. The concept itself, too, exemplifies the interwoven nature of the state’s music community. Among the critical players of the native, nurturing scene: Peter Holsapple. The now Durham-based artist got his start at R.J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem, where he met Chris Stamey, along with Mitch Easter and Bobby Locke; together, they formed Rittenhouse Square. “I think people have this perspective that if you’re a musician, life is all fun and games,” Holsapple says. “That’s why they call it playing music. But it is work to do it the right way. It’s a conscious effort to come up with something from your soul that, hopefully, will touch someone else. Otherwise, you’re working in a vacuum.” The pandemic, Holsapple says, has been a “modified vacuum” for many musicians. But he also is five decades into the profession and knows that the mental health crisis predates the pandemic. “A lot of us have had mental issues stemming from the music business,” he says. “I stand proudly as somebody who has been able to walk myself back from that with counseling. But there’s nothing out there directly accessible by musicians who are between gigs and freaking out and need somebody to talk to, to help them sort stuff out.” Therein lies the necessity of Be Good To Yourself. Holsapple goes just as far back with Bumgardner and Slater as he does with Stamey and refers to the trio as the “brain trust” behind the project. “They have all endured a lot themselves as professional musicians,” he says. “It’s not a smooth ride. You can’t count on anything; you just take it and hope that somebody hears it and it somehow resonates with them.” On the album, Holsapple lends his accordion acumen to Bo Diddley’s 1961 track “Pills,” which the New York Dolls brought to greater fame on their self-titled 1973 LP. (“When you’re 16 years old, and the New York Dolls’ record comes out, and everybody else in the city wants to hear “Can’t You See” by Marshall Tucker Band, you feel an empathy with the song,” he says.) The topical significance is clear. “Everybody’s medicating somehow or meditating,” Holsapple says. “So the hope is you can get some help, and ideally, forgo the need of medication. But if you need medication, you can get somebody who can prescribe it for you. That’s what this record is all about.” Holsapple encourages people to buy several copies and give them as gifts to friends and neighbors over the holidays. “For the cost of a few coffees, this project not only points out the need for mental health for North Carolina

musicians—but also that our music scene, which has been around for ages, is a really healthy place to be a musician,” he says. “If we can get the mental health thing available for more of us, it’ll be even better on that front. Raleigh-based rock vet Jack Cornell, formerly of The Fabulous Knobs, presents his perspective of the surmounting mental health crisis in a now-universal language: the meme. “It says you have like a $500 car carrying $8,000 worth of gear to drive four hours to a gig for just $25 and a free T-shirt,” he explains jokingly. “And that’s it, right? We’ll do whatever we have to do to play.” Cornell has been playing music with Terry Anderson since the 70s, and the pair has collaborated on countless records under several band names, including Terry Anderson and The Olympic Ass-Kickin Team. This connection brought him into the project to record vocals for the track “Betty Ford.” Penned by Anderson and their Ohio-based friend, Erica Blinn, “Betty Ford” fits well into the healing portion of Bumgardner’s envisioned story arc. The song’s title points to a place where one goes to better themself in a time of crisis. Its driving lyric—‘You better get your ass to Betty Ford’—is a humorous take on the taboo subject of seeking help. “It’s a kind of tongue-in-cheek song, and in some ways quite literal,” Cornell says. “The song is a lot of fun to play. But there’s an absolutely honest bit about ‘You need to get some help, we all want you to be well because you’re kind of a jerk right now.’” A critical component of the local arts community is that those within the deeper generational layers continue to pave the way for new artists whose contemporary contributions strengthen the deep roots of regional traditions. Faith Jones joins this project as one of those newcomers shaped by the sounds she was raised on in Durham and the storytellers who inspired her own stories. “We’re coming of age in a really crazy time,” says Jones, who graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill last year but walked just a few weeks ago at a delayed ceremony. Before the pandemic, her post-grad plans involved moving to New York City to pursue theatre. But in the stillness of her forced pause, things shifted. “During the pandemic, a lot of my priorities changed,” she says. “Honestly, I was in a huge depressive episode for much of 2020. And I feel like as artists, we’re uniquely positioned to feel emotions very deeply, which makes our art really good, but it makes living day-to-day very tough.” Bumgardner contacted Jones via her UNC songwriting professor, Florence Dore,

after hearing her rendition of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” on Cover Charge, the Cat’s Cradle COVID-19 relief record produced by Stamey. Startlingly expressive, Jones’ vocals on the album evoke an even moodier take on Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression.” She considers the circumstances of her personal mental health crisis with wisdom well beyond her 22 years. As a recent college graduate, she feels fortunate to have been raised by empathetic parents in a generation that is considered to be more forthcoming about struggles and solutions like therapy. She describes her mother as “radical for her time,” allowing Jones and her siblings to take personal days from school on an as-needed basis. But also, as a Black woman, Jones recognizes that her experience is not broadly reflected across the Black community. “I can’t speak for all the Black community, of course, but there’s a historical inclination to not talk about things like that and not put your business out there,” says Jones. “That was a means of protecting us from the eyes of white people and white judgment and racism, this historical response to generational trauma. But thankfully, my mom was different. Growing up, I really felt that shift inside my household. At school, I found the people of our generation are more open to talking about it.” Among the micro-generation defined by their entrance into “adulthood” during a global health crisis, Jones’ vocal talent and unique perspective are invaluable to a project that was created to both benefit and reflect a diverse community of suffering artists. Proceeds raised from the album—the record sales, as well as merchandise and any performances related to it—will go directly to the nonprofit organization Abundance NC, which will make disbursements to the professional health care group MindPath Care Centers, whose psychiatric professionals are offering prorated services for artists. It’s a partnership that ensures that North Carolina musicians have a number to call when they need help. This willingness of contributors to offer themselves to fellow artists is what Be Good To Yourself is about. Enabling these artists to take care of themself ensures that issues of mental health and substance abuse will not stop the music “As has always been the case, North Carolina has an incredibly high caliber of musicians, all of whom have vision and voice,” Bumgardner says. “But the great thing about NC musicians is that they don’t mind donating their most viable means of currency—their talent—to help somebody else.” W

November 3, 2021




[Nov. 5; Husky Pants Records]


The Pinhook, Durham | Nov. 12, 9 p.m. | $10

Fertile Ground Oh Good It’s Al Riggs may be full of songs from the cutting-room floor, but it still has a remarkable, vinyl-ready crispness and cohesion BY WILL ATKINSON


hen you’re as prolific as Durham’s al Riggs—whose output of albums, mini-albums, EPs, and one-off covers has arrived in a more or less continuous stream since Riggs began releasing music in 2011—it’s inevitable that some work ends up on the cutting-room floor. That’s the premise behind Oh Good It’s Al Riggs, which collects eight songs recorded between 2019 and 2021 that, for one reason or another, didn’t find a home on any other project. Riggs bills the release as a collection of “mini-epics,” which positions each track more as a self-contained unit, with clear rising and falling action, than as part of a larger whole. A ragged intensity does characterize many of these tracks, from the arena-sized chorus of “Onshore” to the scorching breakdown that hits near the one-minute mark of “GFC” (that’s “good, fast, and cheap”). The only exception to this rule may be the closing track, “Springwater,” which paints a picture of a rural domestic idyll over sparse acoustic guitar and bass: “When you float back to the house at dusk / I will have taken the children, the cats under the porch, and the bulk of the garden,” Riggs sings, “so you can keep floating away / Springwater in your hair.” An alternate take of “Nun in the Tower,” meanwhile—which appeared as the final track of Riggs’s most recent full-length, April’s I Got a Big Electric Fan to Keep Me Cool While I Sleep—is a near-complete reimagining of the original, using a droning organ to great effect.


November 3, 2021

For all its deliberately low-stakes approach, though, Oh Good It’s Al Riggs manages to be remarkably cohesive. This is in part thanks to the collaborators Riggs brought on to the project: three of the tracks were recorded at the Greensboro studio LGTBIZ with multi-instrumentalist Brad Cook (whose credits include Bon Iver and Sharon Van Etten), while the mastering work of Patrick Klem (a favorite engineer of Three Lobed Recordings and Paradise of Bachelors) lends the collection a consistent, vinyl-ready crispness. Whether by accident or by design, Oh Good It’s Al Riggs may be the most essentially-al-Riggs release yet, a testament to both the homespun ethos and the uniform strength of their material. Even an al Riggs album full of leftovers and misfits still runs with the best of them. W



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n the age of Marie Kondo’s tidying up, stuff has lost cachet. The current trend of minimalism values experiences over things, and Millennials and Gen Xers have little interest in the colonial bedroom sets or service for 12 that their parents have left behind. But what if your mother ran an upscale antique store filled with beautiful, irreplaceable objects? It’s one matter to purge Gone with the Wind collectibles, but a Genji screen or 19th-century quilt might give pause. When Julia Ridley Smith’s parents pass, she’s left with a Herculean sorting that begins with thousands of her mother’s books. And Smith, the Kenan Visiting Writer at UNC–Chapel Hill, is a passionate book lover. The Sum of Trifles chronicles the two and a half years Smith spends with her parents’ North Carolina estate in Greensboro, beginning with her mother’s death from lung cancer and ending with a tag sale. In a series of linked essays, Smith deftly springboards between memoir and meditations on the nature of possessions. Each chapter is organized around an object bestowed one of four fates: keep, donate, toss, or sell. Anyone who has lost a loved one has likely suffered the emotional aftermath of sifting their belongings into piles. When we do this, we’re not only parsing the stuff, but we’re parsing the grief, the detritus of our experiences. Smith turns to philosophy, history, and literature in the attempt to distance herself, only to realize, “I want objects to

William A. Link, Frank Porter Graham: Southern Liberal, Citizen of the World


have an inherent meaning.” She acknowledges that even in adulthood, part of us remains a child clinging to Blankie. Complicating the situation: Smith was raised by a professional appraiser of objects, someone who attached great meaning to them. But when Smith realizes she’ll need a larger house to make room for the new things, she has to reckon with the forces that shape materialism. “How had I swallowed the bougie notion that a large tastefully decorated house is the ultimate sign of a woman’s success?” she wonders. She considers her ingrained old southern (white) aesthetic: wood floors, antiques, Persian rugs, framed art … “all tasteful, cor-

rect, and welcoming, exuding warmth and richness,” and never nouveau riche. The cracked claw-foot tub is superior to the new Jacuzzi. In the end she must admit to an ingrained classism—that it is easy to value the old when your family has a history of living well. Going deeper, Smith must confront the slaveholding in her family line. “It no longer escapes me that the beautiful things that fill our homes were provided by a financial success that long depended on our moral failure and suffering of thousands of human beings.” This gets at another truth: that in this era, there is no excuse for proliferating cherished stories about expensive family heirlooms without acknowledging how that wealth was accumulated. The challenge in writing memoir is avoiding the “and then” trap, a list of events with no sense of causality. But Smith’s use of the essay form allows for meandering and chronological leaps, all while never losing tension. At times she tests us, but the pull always snaps back. Each chapter is broken into short sections that create an effective breadcrumb method, as readers track Smith’s memories and thoughts. At one point, she comments on the strength of space as she remembers listening to jazz with her father, but this observation could easily be applied to her own book: “A pause, a gap, an empty space signifies that beauty is on its way, but you have to wait for it.” Recommended for anyone who has lost a parent, for lovers and wranglers of ephemera, for amateur epistemologists, and for incorrigible musers. W

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Timothée Chalamet and Lyna Khoudri in The French Dispatch

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Style Issue Wes Anderson’s insistent aesthetic choices make The French Dispatch easy to like but hard to love BY GLENN MCDONALD


irector Wes Anderson’s films are easy to like. With their florid art design and meticulous visual compositions, his movies are always beautiful to behold. The dense and cerebral dialogue is likewise lovely, once you’re persuaded to roll with the vibe. But, somehow, Wes Anderson movies aren’t that easy to love. The same insistent aesthetic choices that make his films so unique also present an impediment to emotional connection. Anderson’s movies tend to be pretty, charming, and chilly. That’s the situation with the director’s latest high-concept arthouse initiative, The French Dispatch, which is entirely enjoyable without being particularly engaging. I liked the movie a lot, but rather in the way that I might like a complicated painting hanging in an upscale gallery, where the

thermostat is set too low and the docents keep giving me the stink eye. The film is an anthology of three short stories, plus a prelude, each set in mid-20th-century France, and each with a connection to the overarching framing narrative. That bigger connecting story concerns an English-language publication called The French Dispatch, staffed by eccentric writers and cranky expats. The film is inspired by The New Yorker magazine back in its imperial phase, when it regularly featured legendary writers like James Baldwin, Mavis Gallant, and J.D. Salinger. Anderson’s script is an elaborate construction. The first story, concerning a feral painter (Benicio Del Toro) and his prison guard muse (Léa Seydoux), is told through several layers of artifice. It’s a short film about a magazine story delivered via pub-

lic lecture (by Tilda Swinton), occasionally interrupted with backstory and commentary from a narrator (Anjelica Huston) and the Dispatch editor in chief (Bill Murray). It’s a complicated arrangement and each of the three stories is formatted with similar addenda—flashbacks, footnotes, sidebars. To accommodate all these layers, Anderson employs his usual dizzying array of cinematic maneuvers, including split-screen formatting, blown-out color palettes, voice-overs, freeze frames, title cards, animation, shifting aspect ratio, monochrome sequences, and playful subtitles. (Watch for those: some jokes play out entirely within the subtitles.) It’s a testament to Anderson’s particularly fussy genius that all this relentless stylization mostly works. I was seldom confused as to what was happening, story-wise, even as the movie shuttles up and down through its various levels of commentary and jokey artistic remove. The problem was that I didn’t much care about what was happening or—a much bigger problem—whom it was happening to. The French Dispatch is jammed with enormously appealing performers: Frances McDormand, Jeffrey Wright, Timothée Chalamet, Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson (of course), Mathieu Amalric, Elisabeth Moss, Saoirse Ronan, Christoph Waltz, and hey —is that Henry Winkler? It is! These are extremely lovable movie stars, each and every one, but they’re caught in the exquisite clockwork gears of Anderson’s brain. The film’s second and third stories, concerning a student protest and a criminal caper, are even busier than the first. The character through-lines become impossible to follow, terminally tangled with visual puns, literary allusions, and aesthetic flourishes. Even with an artist as accomplished as Anderson, a film can suffer from Too Much Style. It’s hard to care about a movie when you don’t care about its people. Then again, I suspect that The French Dispatch may be one of those movies that improves upon second viewing. I simply wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of this film, which is by far the most Wes Anderson-y of all Wes Anderson movies. Gird your loins accordingly. I didn’t love it, but I sure did like it. W

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