INDY Week 12.9.20

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Raleigh | Durham | Chapel Hill December 9, 2020

A love story and history lesson B Y RO S E WO N G , P. 1 2

Raleigh 2 Durham 2 Chapel Hill VOL. 37 NO. 46

Omisade Burney-Scott's guide to Black menopause, p. 16 PHOTO BY JADE WILSON


Lumbees fight for federal recognition. BY THOMASI MCDONALD

10 A major win against the hog farm industry.



A Duke student's ode to Ninth Street. BY ROSE WONG

ARTS & CULTURE 15 Three new North Carolina albums remix the holiday spirit. BY SARAH EDWARDS AND WILL ATKINSON

16 A guide to menopause for Black women. 18


A digital production of "My Geriatric Uterus." BY KATY KOOP

19 A new Lump Gallery exhibit explores Black abundance.


20 Durham artist Bonnie Melton's contributions to Front Burner make a case for the transformative power of painting. BY CARL LITTLE


Vitiello, Ryan Vu, Nick Williams


Interns Ann Gehan, Anna Mudd, Suzannah Claire Perry

Interim Editor in Chief Leigh Tauss Interim A+C Editor Sarah Edwards


Interim News Editor Eric Ginsburg

Annie Maynard

Staff Writer Thomasi McDonald

Jon Fuller

Digital Content Manager Sara Pequeño

THE REGULARS 3 15 Minutes

Theater+Dance Critic Byron Woods

4 Quickbait


COVER Photo by Jade Wilson / Props provided by Dolly's Vintage and The Artisan Market at 305


December 9, 2020

Contributors Will Atkinson, Paul Blest, Jameela F. Dallis, Michaela Dwyer, Grant Golden, Spencer Griffith, Lucas Hubbard, Brian Howe, Kyesha Jennings, Mary King, Drew Millard, Glenn McDonald, Neil Morris, Dan Ruccia, David Ford Smith, Chris

Creative Director Graphic Designer Staff Photographer

Jade Wilson ADVERTISING Director of Sales John Hurld Raleigh Sales Manager MaryAnn Kearns Account Executive Magnolia Wang

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Last week, Sara Pequeño wrote about the sudden closure of the Carolina Theatre, and the subsequent backlash from laid-off employees and fans of the venue.

“I view ‘the pandemic’ as a natural disaster,” wrote Facebook user GLENN MAUGHAN. “Hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, droughts, and climate change are similar problems. Bad things happen when preparations are none, when money is never enough, and good help is hard to find.” In other news, Pequeño also covered dueling protests by The Proud Boys and antiracist activists in downtown Raleigh last week. A heavy police presence separated the protests, and there were no reports of violence. “Police nationwide have repeatedly been accused of being too cozy with the far-right, including extremist groups like the Proud Boys, while overreacting to left-wing protestors,” wrote Facebook user LARRY G. JONES. “This was evident here in Raleigh, according to INDY Week.” “Hmmmm... notorious MAB gave RPD $120 million—not the Proud Boys though. Did the Proud Boys throw bricks at the woke INDY Week?” wrote JOHN CURTIS SMITH. “Our mayor has done more to uphold fascism, and y’all don’t care.” “Wonder why they are wearing masks?” asked ROBIN CUBBON. “If they’re so ‘proud,’” replied VERONICA JAMES. WANT TO SEE YOUR NAME IN BOLD? @IndependentWeekly @indyweek


15 MINUTES Steve Hill, 58 Manager of the Southpoint TROSA Tree Lot BY SARA PEQUEÑO

How long have you worked at the TROSA tree lots? This is my 16th year. I’m a graduate of the program—I graduated in 2004 and became staff-in-training, and then got hired on as a staff member.

What’s your favorite part about it? My favorite part is selling the big trees and assisting families in picking out that perfect tree for the season. It’s a memorable experience for them—not for me so much, but for them. Like this young lady I was dealing with when you came up, she’s been coming out here for 10 years to buy her tree. We only see each other once a year, but there’s a rapport there.

Do you have a favorite story from working at the tree lot? Yes: The night the young man walked up to me on a Friday night and asked me if I had a problem with him proposing on this tree lot. They came and bought a tree, and as the tree was coming off the baler, and we were standing it for him and everything, he knelt down and proposed. It was neat. There was a little audience out here, and everybody was clapping, and it was very memorable.

How is picking out a Christmas tree this year different, thanks to COVID-19? We normally assist the customer a little more than we have this year. This year we’re kind of letting them pick their own tree. We’ve started something a little different: This is a two-part tag. They’ve been tearing off the bottom part and coming and saying they picked out tree number 202 over on the aisle, and we’ll go to this tree that’s got this part left. We get 202 and bring it to our table and wrap it for them and take it to their car so it’s kind of touchless, no-contact. We haven’t been within six feet of them.


out the window, and one of my customers was there and said, “I was wondering where you were at.” So I came outside, and his family was there, and we maintained our social distance. We’re talking about how the times have changed and his little girl says, “Hey Mr. Steve, where’s my candy cane?” And I had to say, “Sweetie, we’re not doing that this year.” Just things like that we miss.

I’ve actually never picked out a Christmas tree. What goes into finding the perfect one? First of all, it’s what the customer is looking for. Once they tell you they’re looking for a slender tree or a fat, full tree, then you can direct them to the different lines where the different trees are. For them to pick out the perfect tree is what they agree on to look at for the next three or four weeks. We try to assist in that, as far as how we were pulling the tree out, spinning it around, and letting them really look at the tree. That part’s kind of different this year.

Anything else you want to add?

How has it changed things for y’all?

These guys are here getting their life together. They’re all participants in our program. And they feel good because they’re being able to help these families have a memorable experience. That’s what it’s about. 2

I’ll give you last night, for example. I’m having to serve our food, our supper—put on latex gloves and serve the guys. I looked

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December 9, 2020


These companies and institutions proudly support free, independent local journalism in the Triangle. Please support our mission—and our community—by supporting them. The ArtsCenter Arts NC State Carolina Theatre of Durham Carolina Performing Arts Cat’s Cradle Duke Performances Dr. Jodi Foy, DDS, PA GoRaleigh Kane Realty Corporation Kenan Institute of Ethics Motorco Music Hall Nasher Museum NC Museum of Art Peace Street Playmakers Repertory Company Quail Ridge Books & Music The Regulator Bookshop Teaser’s Men’s Club Unscripted Hotel



Oh, Christmas Tree BY LEIGH TAUSS


here are a lot of Christmas trees in North Carolina. To be precise, the state is home to about 50 million Fraser fir trees, the desired breed for a lushly leafy, lit, and lively tree. This breed, known for its perfect pyramid shape, accounts for 96 percent of all living Christmas trees produced in the United States, placing North Carolina second nationally in holiday tree production behind Oregon. The Fraser fir is named after John Fraser, an 18th-century Scottish botanist known for his exploration of the Appalachian Mountains. Nowadays, nurturing these trees from the sprout to the saw is big business: according to the U.S Department of Agriculture, Christmas tree sales added $86 million to the state’s coffers in 2017. 2

50 million

Fraser Fir Trees grown in North Carolina, on 25,000 acres, out of 350 million trees grown nationally, on 170,000 acres.

6-10 years amount of time trees take to reach maturity, or the desired retail height of six feet

Contact today to learn how you can become a member of the INDY Corporate Press Club.


of Christmas trees produced in the country come from North Carolina, which ranks second nationally for trees harvested

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December 9, 2020


of the Christmas trees from North Carolina are grown in Ashe, Avery, Alleghany, Watauga, and Jackson counties Source: North Carolina Cooperative Extention at N.C. State University


A Protest for Everyone How to make protests more inclusive for people with disabilities BY RIKKI POYNTER

This op-ed piece is part of a series for Queen City Nerve newspaper in which Rikki Poynter sheds light on barriers faced by deaf and disabled people like herself.


s a disabled person who recently started talking publicly about deafness, disability, and inaccessibility on YouTube, at public speaking engagements, and through my writing, I’ve become more informed about human rights, especially mine in particular. Protests and marches have played a major role in the story of 2020 as a wider range of people have taken to the streets to make their voices heard. Unfortunately, these protests usually don’t cater to those living with disabilities. As a deaf person and ambulatory cane user due to chronic pain and fatigue, I worry about my and other disabled people’s safety. (I would like to note that the following will be about deaf and wheelchair and cane-using experiences. I cannot speak for those who attend protests with other disabilities, as I do not have experience with anything beyond deafness and chronic pain and fatigue.) Most protests I’ve attended or seen online have not had interpreters or any deaf-friendly resources. I was at a protest recently that featured multiple speakers, and I was unable to follow along. When

a certain response was expected, I had to pay attention to my surroundings and try to keep up as best I could. There is no plan available visually to let us know what to do in the event of an emergency. Deaf people, especially Black deaf people, are more at risk for violence due to not being able to hear environmental noises or commands from police. Cane and wheelchair users typically are not safe due to the already inaccessible nature of cities. Many sidewalks and roads are filled with clutter or potholes. In the event that an emergency occurs, abled people will run in a hurry, potentially blocking and also knocking over anyone with an assistive device, which could cause injury. Sometimes, disabled people feel straightup unwelcome. Two friends of mine, a wheelchair user and a cane user, were at the Women’s March a few years ago, where they were met with abled women making hurtful comments toward them. It was also difficult for them to get around due to everyone taking over the sidewalks and leaving no room for them to safely get through. So how can we make these events more accessible so that disabled people can take part? Of course, this may not be possible for all events. Protests can turn extremely dangerous extremely fast, but

“We need to work together to uplift each other’s voices and keep each other safe.”

A June 2020 BYP100 protest in downtown Durham if it is possible, try to keep these things in mind: • Hire interpreters, or, if you’re lucky, find an interpreter who is willing to volunteer for the event. Deaf people need access to information. It is critical. • If you know American Sign Language or are at least willing to help your deaf peers out and be a buddy, consider making yourself known with some sort of sign. Bring a notepad and pen, or download a voice-to-text or live transcribing app onto your phone. If something happens, such as a gunshot noise, a dispersal order, or anything of that nature, find visual ways to let us know.


• Keep sidewalks and roadways as clear as possible when cane and wheelchair users are around. If you see someone blocking the way, let them know they need to move over. Creating a designated disability-friendly space for the march is a wonderful way to keep things going smoothly. In 2020, we still have many things and marginalized groups to fight for. We need to work together to uplift each other’s voices and to keep each other safe. Disabled people are some of the most forgotten about people in the world, and that cannot stand any longer. 2 This article was originally published in Charlotte’s Queen City Nerve newspaper.

December 9, 2020



Porch Menace


December 9, 2020


Sunday afternoon, November 22, was a relaxing day until I heard a rustling sound on my front porch. I shot up, looked out the window, and saw a white male on my porch. He was ripping the large banner my neighbor had hand-painted that read “Defund the Police. Invest in Black Communities.” I grabbed my phone and ran outside barefooted in the hope that I’d catch him on video, but he sped off on his moped. I stood on the sidewalk in shock, looked at the street, and saw our banner torn in two. I picked it up, and a Black woman who worked for Duke Transit said she’d seen what happened. She’d told him he shouldn’t have done that. He’d yelled back, “Fuck you, n*****,” as he rode away. Later that night, I found a stun gun in our yard, close to the porch. This attempt at intimidation is no isolated incident. This summer, we watched the Black Lives Matter murals in downtown Durham get defaced with racist slurs. 2

December 9, 2020



Tribal Tension Who Decides? North Carolina tribes clash on recognizing Lumbees. BY THOMASI MCDONALD


orth Carolina’s Lumbee tribe took a step towards federal recognition in November, which is Native American Heritage Month. But before recognition can happen, they’ll have to overcome opposition from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in western North Carolina. On November 17, the Lumbee Recognition Act, sponsored by North Carolina Representative G.K. Butterfield, passed in the U.S. House. It’s been referred to the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Butterfield issued a statement calling the unanimous and bipartisan House vote a “long-awaited victory for the Lumbee tribe, and steps to right a historic wrong by extending the tribe full federal recognition.” If the bill becomes law, Butterfield wrote, “the Lumbee Tribe will be a sovereign entity under federal law and have access to federal funding and services that will promote economic development, access to quality health care, and robust community empowerment.” But just one day after the bill passed, Richard Sneed, the principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and Cyrus Ben, tribal chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, submitted a letter to the U.S. Congress opposing the Lumbee tribe’s quest for federal recognition. Previously, after President Donald Trump promised to sign the current legislation into law, Sneed had implied that the Lumbees were poised to commit identity fraud. Malinda Maynor Lowery, a noted Lumbee historian and scholar, says the long struggle by the North Carolina Native American tribe to receive their due rights from federal and state governments 8

December 9, 2020

“The U.S. government has subjected ALL of our communities to capricious and hypocritical formulations of identity.” should not be reduced to “a sound bite about tribe vs. tribe.” In a series of tweets, Lowery said that opposition to the legislation is a conflict created by the federal government “so they can avoid providing us with the acknowledgement of our sovereignty that we are owed.” According to the Native American Rights Fund, only tribes who maintain a legal relationship to the U.S. government through binding treaties, acts of Congress, executive orders, and the like are officially “recognized” by the federal government. There are currently more than 550 federally recognized tribes in the United States, including some 200 village groups in Alaska. However, there are still hundreds of tribes, including the Lumbees, who are undergoing the lengthy and tedious process of applying for federal recognition. “We didn’t invent these rules and this process,” Sneed told NC Policy Watch last month. “But we have played by the rules, we have respected the process. We expect other tribes to as well.” Lowery, who is also the director of the Center for the Study of the American South at UNC-Chapel Hill, said the process is

harmful, not only to the Lumbees, but also to the Cherokee and Catawba tribes. “To oversimplify this narrative, the U.S. government has subjected ALL of our communities to capricious and hypocritical formulations of identity, and then used those inaccurate definitions to acknowledge our sovereignty,” Lowery tweeted. “This has been most harmful to Lumbees because it subjects us to judgments of our identity that other tribes haven’t had to meet.” Lowery said that the Eastern Band of Cherokee “never had to meet a ‘heritage’ or ‘culture’ requirement to be acknowledged. But Chief Sneed insists that Lumbees do. This isn’t correct.” Days after Trump’s October campaign visit to Lumberton, N.C., in which he vowed to support tribal recognition, Sneed issued a statement condemning “political pandering regarding the Lumbee Recognition Act.” “It’s time to put an end to this charade,” he wrote. “History and facts must guide the process, not politics. The purpose of federal recognition is to empower authentic Native peoples to protect and preserve their cultural identity, not to grant federal endorsement to large-scale identity theft.”

President-elect Joe Biden also said he would support full federal recognition for the Lumbee tribe. In a recent email to the INDY, Eastern Band spokesperson Ashleigh Stephens said leaders representing over 30 tribes across the United States have also voiced opposition to the legislation. Sneed and Ben state in their letter that, “for over a century, the Lumbees have claimed to be Cherokee, Croatan, Siouan, Cheraw, Tuscarora, and other unrelated tribes, but have never been able to demonstrate any historical or genealogical tie to any historical tribe.” “Instead of demonstrating credible ties to historic tribes, they abandon one claim for another when challenges to their identity are asserted,” they added. Moreover, the leaders say the legislation circumvents “a serious review of the Lumbee claims that its current membership has Native American ancestry.” “It is dangerous to pass legislation that short-circuits an established process designed to protect Native American history and identity,” Sneed said. The tribal leaders say the Lumbees should instead pursue federal recognition through established processes administered by the U.S. Department of Interior, “where experts and procedures are in place, not through an act of Congress.” The stakes are substantial, with tens of millions of dollars hanging in the balance for the Lumbees, who live in some of the state’s most impoverished counties. N.C. Policy Watch reported that federal recognition can be life-changing for tribes, with hundreds of millions in federal aid for housing, health care, and edu-

cation “for people who have faced government-sanctioned discrimination and genocide for hundreds of years.” Their reporting also notes that federal recognition can unlock a much more powerful engine of economic change for Native American tribes with casino gambling on tribal land. During the past decade, when North Carolina lawmakers declined to take part in the federal expansion of Medicaid, the Cherokee took over the administration of healthcare for its members and created the Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority using millions of dollars in revenue generated by the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, which sits on its tribal lands. Nonetheless, Sneed and Ben claim that the cost of the bill, if passed into law, would exceed $1 billion and have “devastating impacts” on historic tribal nations that rely on federal funding for healthcare, education, and other services provided by the Indian Health Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs. “With enormous need across Indian Country related to the COVID-19 response, reacquisition of land, protection of natural resources, and protection of Native women and children, federal swingstate politics has overwhelmed sound federal policy and the priorities of tribal governments with whom the United States has treaties and trust relations,” Sneed said. Today, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is a sovereign nation that covers 100 miles, with more than 13,000 enrolled members. Historians report that no one knows exactly how long the Cherokee have lived in western North Carolina. The website notes that artifacts discovered indicate people lived in the region more than 11,000 years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age. Meanwhile, ancient Cherokee tales describe hunts of the mastodon that foraged there. In 1838, the U.S. government forced more than 16,000 Cherokee to walk to Oklahoma. The forced march, which led to an estimated one-quarter to one-half of participants dying, became known as the “Trail of Tears.” The Cherokees in the western part of the state today are descendants of those members who were able to hold on to

their land, or hide in the hills, or who were able to return. Today, the 55,000-member Lumbee Tribe resides primarily in North Carolina’s Robeson, Hoke, Cumberland, and Scotland counties. According to the official Lumbee Tribe website, it is the largest tribe in the state, the largest tribe east of the Mississippi River, and the ninth largest in the nation. The Lumbee take their name from the Lumbee River, which courses through Robeson County. Pembroke is the economic, cultural, and political center of the tribe. The Lumbee Tribe website notes that its members are descendants of “the amalgamation of various Siouan, Algonquian, and Iroquoian speaking tribes.” Lumbee historians say the earliest document showing Indian communities in the area of Drowning Creek is a map prepared by John Herbert, the commissioner of Indian trade for the Wineau Factory on the Black River, in 1725. Herbert identifies the four Siouan-speaking communities as the Saraws, Pedee, Scavanos, and Wacomas. Today, Drowning Creek is known as the Lumber River, and flows through present-day Robeson County. Many Lumbee people also know it as the Lumbee River. In 1885, the tribe gained recognition as Indian by the state of North Carolina. But its efforts to gain full federal recognition date back to 1888. The petition sought federal assistance for the tribe and its schools. The petition was denied due to a lack of funding by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, according to the tribe’s website. In 1956, Congress passed the Lumbee Act, which recognized the tribe as Indian, but nonetheless withheld the full benefits of federal recognition from the tribe. Prior to the legislation that is now before the Senate, bills were sponsored in 1988 by former U.S. Representative Mike McIntyre of Lumberton and in 2003 by former U.S. Senator Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina. In an interview in April, Lowery, the historian, said tribal governments are often challenged to prove the legitimacy of their identity, and that it’s hypocritical for others to tell them they don’t belong. “The idea of pure blood or pure ancestry or ‘how much Indian are you?’ is an outsider’s way of making us disappear,” she said. 2


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Piggybank Court barbecues Smithfield’s claims, giving low-income neighbors of hog farms optimism BY GREG BARNES


lsie Herring is thrilled by a federal appeals court ruling last month that rejected most of the arguments presented by Smithfield Foods in a case that has pitted the world’s largest hog producer against its mostly low-income Black neighbors. Herring, 72, said she has been fighting how Smithfield raises its hogs since the 1990s. She has watched farmers spray fecal matter onto her mother’s home in Wallace, North Carolina, she said, to the extent that “it rained down on us just like it was raining, and the smell was like nothing I have ever experienced.” Over the years, Herring said, she wrote letters to everyone she could think of— state and federal regulators, the governor, the attorney general, state lawmakers, the county health department. Anyone who might be able to stop the spraying, the awful smells, the flies, and the potential health hazards coming from the industrial hog farm next door. No one listened, she said. Instead, they retaliated. One time, Herring said, the farmer next door came over waving a stick and warning her to stop making baseless complaints. Another time, she said, the farmer’s son barged into her then 98-year-old mother’s home and shook the chair she sat in. Two other times, she said, he threatened them with a gun. Herring said that when she complained to what was then the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources, she was told she could be forced to pay for the farmer’s losses, or be jailed for making baseless complaints. Herring, who is a plaintiff in one of the lawsuits, said she hopes they will listen now. 10

December 9, 2020

She thinks the scathing November 19 ruling by the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia will finally make people understand the harmful impact Smithfield Foods has had on its neighbors. “It’s been long overdue … and is a glimmer of hope that maybe this is the road that will bring about some sustainable change that makes living in our homes enjoyable again, which is how it should be,” Herring said. “Your home is your castle.” The three-panel appeals court rejected most of Smithfield’s arguments in the Kinlaw Farms case, the first of five nuisance lawsuits to go to trial in U.S. District Court since 2018. In the Kinlaw case, the appeals court upheld a lower court jury’s decision that the 10 plaintiffs each be awarded $75,000 in compensatory damages, a sum that was reduced by a factor of ten under a state law that caps awards. But the court also ruled that punitive damages awarded in the case—originally set at $5 million per plaintiff, but cut in half under the same law—were unfairly weighted against Smithfield’s corporate assets and must be reconsidered. Hours after the ruling was announced, Smithfield released a statement saying it had reached a settlement that would resolve the nuisance cases against the company. Smithfield would not divulge financial or other terms of the settlement. But it appears that it will extend monetary awards to the 10 plaintiffs in the Kinlaw Farms case, as well as the more than 500 North Carolina residents named in other lawsuits against the company.

Hogs at a hog farm in Lillington, NC. PHOTO BY ALEX BOERNER

Whether the settlement translates into hog farms becoming kinder, more thoughtful neighbors remains to be seen. Previously, lawyers for Smithfield had argued that the nuisance lawsuits pose “a dire threat to hog farming” in North Carolina and “an existential threat to the livelihoods of farmers and the food security of our nation.” Sherri White-Williamson, environmental justice policy director for the North Carolina Conservation Network, grew up in Sampson County, the heart of hog country. More than 40 percent of North Carolina’s hog farms are in Sampson, Duplin, and Bladen counties in eastern North Carolina. White-Williamson said she left her Sampson County home before Smithfield built the world’s largest hog slaughterhouse in Bladen County in the early 1990s. When she returned to stay about two years ago, White-Williamson said, she was confronted by a proliferation of industrial hog farms and the problems that her neighbors have complained about for years. White-Williamson thinks the appeals court ruling may eventually help Smith-

field’s neighbors, but she doesn’t expect anything to happen soon. “I think in some ways that that may be a challenge, quite frankly, because the spray field and lagoon system is so ingrained right now that unless Smithfield is willing to take a different route or role, that it would be awhile before there could be major changes that would actually be helpful to the communities that live around these facilities,” she said. “I think that’s just the reality. I would be hopeful that perhaps with this decision, that it might accelerate things that Smithfield might be able to do to reduce some of the exposure and disruption in the communities of color and low-income communities that are exposed to all of the stuff that they are exposed to from the presence of these industrial hog farms.” Will Hendrick, staff attorney for Waterkeeper Alliance, has been involved in the cases against Smithfield’s subsidiary, Murphy-Brown LLC, for years. Hendrick is cautiously optimistic, too. “The next step is to restore the same exact rights to people who are suffering the same exact plight, because of the same

exact company’s use of the same exact system elsewhere,” Hendrick said. Murphy-Brown, the company named in the lawsuits, supplies hogs to farmers for Smithfield and oversees farming operations. Smithfield has been owned by a Chinese company, the WH Group, since 2013. Ryke Longest, director of the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic at Duke Law School, has also been working on issues involving hog farms for years. “I certainly think this can be an opportunity to turn around the company’s willingness to do more to protect the environment and the neighbors,” Longest said in an email. But he has his doubts. “Thus far, their strategy appears to rely on political favoritism by key legislators like (state Representative) Jimmy Dixon (R-Duplin) and effective public relations firm work such as the N.C. Farm Families PR campaign,” Longest said. “They had excellent legal counsel at trial and on appeal and a conservative panel of judges. But they still lost big at the Fourth Circuit in a way that no team of spin doctors, image polishers, and political apologists can repair.” Longest’s lack of confidence in Smithfield spills over to the company’s vague statement about its settlement. Longest questions whether a settlement has even been reached. Hendrick and White-Williamson said they had heard only rumors about the settlement. “Announcing that a confidential settlement has been reached and simultaneously downplaying the magnitude of Smithfield’s overwhelming loss at the Fourth Circuit is strategic,” Longest said. “This announcement appears aimed at getting the media and markets to move on past this story without actually reading the opinion itself.” Longest referred to the concurring opinion by appeals court Justice J. Harvie Wilkinson III. Reading that opinion, he said, “is the last thing that Smithfield’s public relations professionals will want people to do.” “Judge Wilkinson was an appointee of Ronald Reagan, and his name had been floated for the Supreme Court in times past,” Longest said. “His portion of the opinion demolished key arguments made by the Pork Council, Farm Bureau, and Smithfield Foods itself.” Smithfield did not respond to a request for comment on how the appeals court ruling could benefit the neighbors of hog farms. Kinlaw Farms sits at the end of a dirt road in the White Oak community of Bladen County. The road is dotted with small, wood-framed houses and trailers. According to the appeals court ruling, “Kinlaw trucks created noise and dust ceaselessly.”

In a blistering concurring opinion, Justice Wilkinson agreed that the lower court should revisit the punitive damage awards, and he acknowledged the critical economic importance of the hog industry in North Carolina. But Wilkinson also wrote that “It is past time to acknowledge the full harms that the unreformed practices of hog farming are inflicting.” “I fully recognize the essential contributions of the pork industry in general, and of North Carolina’s hog farms in particular,” Wilkinson wrote. “I am also not so naive as to imagine that hog farming could ever be an antiseptic enterprise. But the record here reveals outrageous conditions at Kinlaw Farms—conditions that, when their effects inevitably spread to neighboring households, violated homeowners’ rights to the healthful enjoyment of their property.” Wilkinson wrote that a truck delivery schedule for Kinlaw Farms showed 11 deliveries between 12:30 a.m and 5:30 a.m. during a single morning. Wilkinson also wrote about the issues with hog confinement, lagoons, and spray fields. Kinlaw Farms raised nearly 15,000 hogs at a time. Murphy-Brown stopped supplying hogs to the farm after the lawsuit was filed. According to the court’s ruling, Murphy-Brown had sited and designed the farm and routinely visited the property for inspections. The farm’s owner, Billy Kinlaw, has said in the past that his farm was among the best run in the state. “At the risk of replaying this theme ad nauseum, it should be observed that these interlocking dysfunctions were characteristic not just of close confinement but of the lagoon-and-sprayfield system as well,” Wilkinson wrote. “The negative effects on animals, workers, and homeowners are here all visible in a single glance.” Wilkinson also wrote that waste in the Kinlaw Farms’ lagoons almost certainly contained “pathogenic microorganisms and bacteria.” “When this waste material is sprayed into the air, everything around, including nearby homes, is at the mercy of the prevailing winds,” he wrote. “While the odor potential from spraying untreated hog waste high into the air—where it then drifts toward nearby homes—is self-evident, Murphy-Brown also knew of odor complaints from neighbors of hog farms with setups similar to Kinlaw.” Wilkinson pointed to studies showing that leakage from hog lagoons contributes to ground and surface water contamination, and that many of North Carolina’s lagoons lie in floodplains that make them subject to spills.

“At the end of all this wreckage lies an uncomfortable truth: these nuisance conditions were unlikely to have persisted for long—or even to have arisen at all—had the neighbors of Kinlaw Farms been wealthier or more politically powerful,” Wilkinson wrote, describing how a moratorium on new lagoon and spray fields arose after hog farms threatened to expand into wealthy and tourist-dependent Moore County. The county is home to Pinehurst and other nationally recognized golf courses. “It is well-established—almost to the point of judicial notice—that environmental harms are visited disproportionately upon the dispossessed—here, on minority populations and poor communities,” he wrote. In the minority opinion, Justice Steven Agee said evidence presented about Smithfield’s assets posed an improper risk not only to punitive damages but to compensatory damages. “The prejudice from this error is so profound that a full new trial is necessary,” wrote Agee, who also objected to the district court decision to allow expert testimony from a defense witness but not one from Smithfield. Elsie Herring’s great-grandfather was a freed slave who bought a sliver of farmland in the Duplin County town of Wallace in 1891. Over the years, she said, her ancestors added on so that the property now comprises about 60 acres. Herring moved to New York at an early age to work in banking, but returned home in 1993 to be with her elderly and sick mother, who died at age 99. When Herring returned, she found an industrial hog farm next door and all of the problems that she said came with it. But no one listened to her complaints, she said, because that is how it has always been. “Historically,” she said, “this is just the way our system has incorporated people of color into the scheme of things—the policymaking and decision-making. We’re left out. Totally.” Herring says she can only hope that the appeals court ruling will help the neighbors of hog farms. “I’m really very thrilled about the verdict,” she said. “I think it’s important that industry understand that they have to be held accountable for their bad behavior. They destroyed the quality of our lives. This has been going on for the last 30 years or so now. So this is our time.” 2 This story is published in partnership with North Carolina Health News.

December 9, 2020



A love story and history lesson by Rose Wong


he moment I wandered onto Ninth Street as a clueless Duke freshman experiencing her first days of August humidity in the Southeast, I never quite looked at the world the same way. On Ninth Street, I worked my first service industry job, where I saw, heard about, and experienced more sexual harassment than I knew existed. I fell in love with a woman and jumped into a whirl of confusion. I formed many thoughts while walking back and forth between White Star Laundry & Cleaners and Bruegger’s Bagels. I cried. I laughed more. About to enter my last semester of college, I now live in Erwin Mill, a Ninth Street 12

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apartment building converted from a cotton mill in the 1970s (which I didn’t know until reporting for this story). Driving on Ninth Street a few dozen evenings ago, I was struck by the pink and purple skies gently resting on the street’s low-rise buildings and reflected, once again, on how much I love my home. That thought came with a pang of guilt. My understanding of Ninth Street and West Durham was limited to the last four years. To truly love someone is to know someone. It was time to learn more. Readers—this is a love story, a farewell letter, and a chronicle of my home and the people who defend it.

MILL VILLAGE For decades, wheat crop covered most of what is now Old West Durham—a neighborhood that stretches north from the Durham Freeway to Englewood Avenue, and west from Broad Street to Hillandale Road. Except for Pinhook, according to John Schelp, former president of the Old West Durham Neighborhood Association and West Durham’s street historian. In the early to mid-19th century, Pinhook was a “rough and roaring” settlement whose great appeal was its tavern. After a day’s journey, travelers walking from Hillsborough to Raleigh would end

up at Pinhook, which was “100 yards southwest of the southwest corner of Erwin Mill,” Schelp said. They would kick back in the tavern, socialize with locals—including University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill students who could party at Pinhook away from authority figures—and rest up before continuing their journey the next morning. Ninth Street itself was part of farmland owned by the Rigsbee family, whose land now holds Hillsborough Road, Carolina Avenue, 15th Street, and most of Duke West Campus. In 1892, the Duke family bought that land from the Rigsbees to build a cotton mill to diversify their investments in tobacco and expand into other industries, like textiles. The long red-brick building on Ninth Street was the first of eight Erwin Mills that the Duke family owned in the Southeast. I and many Duke students live in the first. Parizade and Local 22, both restaurants, and the 10-story Erwin Square Tower replaced the fourth, which was larger. The development of the mill village, which stretched from Monuts on Ninth Street to the Duke Gardens, left no room for Pinhook’s ruckus, Schelp said. “If you drank too much, not only did you lose your job, you lost your mill house … all the houses were owned by the mills,” Schelp said. Relative to other mill villages in the Southeast in the early 20th century, life wasn’t too bad, Schelp said. Erwin Mill workers and their families had access to a health clinic, library, swimming pool, baseball field, and tennis courts. Unlike some mill villages that had company stores, Erwin Mills allowed private merchants to populate Ninth Street, Schelp said. There was a grocery store, hardware store, post office, and McDonald’s Drugstore, a pharmacy and soda shop that served renowned milkshakes for 80 years, until 2003.

Some people in Old West Durham were clearly not communists. Don Hill’s Lock and Gun on Hillsborough Road (renamed Don Hill’s Lock and Safe in 2007) had a large cannon facing the street out front. For a while after the flyers that falsely claimed Campbell and Valentine were communists spread throughout the neighborhood, that cannon was turned towards Ninth Street, Campbell said. “It was a little scary,” Campbell said. “This was just a few months after people who were communists got killed in Greensboro.”



In the 1970s, during Erwin Mills’ slow decline, new businesses and ideas began flowing into Ninth Street. In 1974, Duke alumnus David Birkhead founded The Regulator Press, which printed political news for grassroots organizations, in the back of what is now The Regulator bookstore. A couple years later, he gathered friends— including fellow alumni Tom Campbell and Aden Field—and suggested that they rent the street-front space and sell books, Campbell said. Field jumped on the idea; Campbell, who had recently finished his master’s degree in environmental management at Duke and could not find a job, agreed to help out for a few months. “A few months became 41 years,” Campbell said. The Regulator Bookshop opened in 1976. Field moved on after two years, and John Valentine, another Dukie, joined Campbell until they both retired almost three years ago. The entire friend group—Campbell, Valentine, Birkhead, Field—were politically progressive. “Durham was still largely a conservative town, so we were a little different,” Campbell said. Campbell and Valentine invited provocative authors to speak at their store, including feminist novelist Margaret Atwood, Black historian John Hope Franklin, and former Vice President Al Gore, during his book tour for Earth in the Balance. Shortly after the 1979 Greensboro Massacre, when the Ku Klux Klan and American Nazi Party killed four members of the Communist Workers Party, members dropped off copies of their newspaper on a rack at The Regulator where locals could share flyers and free information, Campbell said. Flyers soon circulated the neighborhood, stating that there were communists on Ninth Street. “They were referring to us,” Campbell said.

By the 1980s, Ninth Street was a hub for progressives and the intellectually curious. Ninth Street Bakery, which opened in 1981 where Dain’s Place and Durham Cycles are currently, was the first bakery in town to offer organic and whole-grain options, co-founder Frank Ferrell said. Durham Mayor Steve Schewel, who helped Campbell and Field organize their bookstore the night before The Regulator’s opening, recalled often meeting other left-leaning thinkers at the Ninth Street Bakery and bouncing thoughts back and forth for hours. While attending graduate school at Duke, Schewel worked for North Carolina Public Interest Research Group, which rented office space above what is now Wavelengths. Vaguely Reminiscent owner Carol Anderson said that “a network of lefty groups” rented offices above the hair salon back then. Based on their interests in vintage fashion and basket weaving, Anderson and then-business partner Deb Nickell founded Vaguely Reminiscent in 1982, taking the name from folk singer Charlie King’s 1979 song “Vaguely Reminiscent of the ’60s.” Baskets and used clothes were not enough to fill a store, they soon realized, so they expanded to crafts and natural-fi-

ber clothing. Today, that’s where you find Kamala Harris prayer candles and magnets that read “Wake Up And Smell The Complete And Utter Bullshit!” (Yes, I bought one.) A piece of Durham history occurred in Vaguely Reminiscent. In preparation for the first official Durham pride parade in 1986, queer and progressive organizers asked then-Mayor Wib Gulley to make an anti-discrimination proclamation to protect them. Gulley did them one better and created an anti-discrimination week. The backlash was immediate. Local religious leaders and conservatives, led by U.S. Senator Jesse Helms’ National Congressional Club, organized a recall campaign against Gulley. Activists set up booths around Durham and sought to collect the 14,000 signatures in six weeks they needed to trigger a new mayoral election. Anderson mobilized volunteers to visit the same places where the recall campaign was collecting signatures to tell community members why they should not sign the petition. They met on the back porch of Vaguely Reminiscent to collect the tables, chairs, and informational materials they needed, Anderson said. The recall campaign did not get enough signatures. “There was a lot of political activism and interest in changing our community for the better,” Mayor Schewel said about Ninth Street back then. “The culture we were part of then has shaped what Durham is now.”

“MONEY IS POURING” Like a metronome set at 100 beats per minute, time lords over places and lives, demanding that all keep up. Ninth Street is not exempt. As national chains move into spaces on the street where local stores once thrived, Ninth Street is becoming increasingly gentrified. Construction workers are turning the

parking lot across from Anderson’s store into a Chase bank, the second bank on the street. The lost lot was critical to small businesses on the east side of the street. Anderson had planned to sell her business to a longtime employee this year. Not only has the pandemic delayed her retirement, but she doesn’t know if anyone will want to take over a small business that’s a vestige of the past, perhaps vaguely reminiscent of the 80s. “It doesn’t have the political left vibe that it did,” Anderson said of Ninth Street. But that doesn’t mean the community hasn’t taken steps to defend itself. Between 2006 and 2008, Schelp worked with the City Council to create the Ninth Street Plan, which aimed to stave off corporate enterprise and preserve local businesses for as long as possible, he said. The plan mandated a two-story limit on much of the east side of the street, an even split of three and four-story buildings on the west side, and banned drive-through windows (The Wells Fargo drive-through was built before the plan.) Fast-food chains like McDonald’s are less likely to move in if they can’t have a drive-through, Schelp said. Knocking down a one-story unit sounds less profitable when you can only replace it with a two-story building. Schelp and others from the neighborhood negotiated with other developers on and near Ninth Street, including Harris Teeter, the Berkshire Ninth Street apartments, Station Nine, and Duke Medical Center. They succeeded in influencing the exteriors of some buildings—lots of brick is visible on upscale apartment buildings. But no units were set aside as affordable housing with less-than market rent, as some desired. “Money is pouring into Durham,” Schelp said. “You can either complain about the bulldozers when they show up, or you can, months in advance, sit down at the table, roll up your sleeves, and negotiate with the developers to make something that is more acceptable to the community and the builder.” A 1987 state law prohibited rent control on the county or city level. While inclusionary zoning—a policy requiring that a given share of a new construction be affordable for residents of moderate to low-income—is not illegal, it is not explicitly legal either (a 2001 bill to allow mandatory inclusionary zoning died in committee). Municipalities considering mandating inclusionary zoning worry that the Republican-held General Assembly would not only respond by suing the city, Schelp said, but also ban the affordable housing strategy altogether.

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ACCEPTING DEVELOPMENT Change is coming. Durham City Council member Javiera Caballero said that the city is currently updating the Durham Comprehensive Plan in ways that will expand affordable housing. In coming years, the city will see a rise in multi-family homes—duplexes, triplexes, quads—to accommodate the influx of people moving to Durham and keep housing prices from skyrocketing, she anticipates. The Comprehensive Plan will affect the entire city and supersede the Ninth Street Plan, Caballero said. The gentrification plaguing Durham today is the inverse of 20th-century white flight, when white people moved in large numbers out of racially mixed urban areas to the suburbs, taking wealth and jobs with them. Affluent whites are now moving to the city, displacing long-time Black residents who cannot compete financially for a number of reasons. For one, mortgage applications for Black residents here are less likely to get approved than applications for white residents. Although Mayor Pro Tempore Jillian Johnson could not predict the future of


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Ninth Street, she said that “all Durham neighborhoods are going to need to densify in the coming years in order to ensure adequate availability of housing, particularly housing that’s affordable to lower-income residents.” So Ninth Street will change. The question is, for whom? While some see rampant commercial growth (has anyone given Capital One a call?), others envision a compact and financially accessible community for all.

HOME Since I was born, I moved back and forth between Canada, Hong Kong, and Michigan. In each place, I lived with different adults. I’ve been asked countless times—which is home? Perhaps my answer will change years from now, when I settle down somewhere and start a family. But Durham is the first place that has truly felt like home. Ninth Street today is far from the dwindling mill village turned up-and-coming lefty hub where Schewel and Campbell hung out years ago. The steady march of gentrification could bury those roots. Still, I find my story aligning and intersecting with the experiences of the mayor and the landmark bookstore founder. This street helped change how I think about politics, race, and gender too. I also spent countless hours in The Regulator, particularly when I was desperate to escape the toxic demands of campus life. If only you could meet all the wonderfully strange people I met here as well. Even though I may just be another Duke student cruising through, the impact that Durham has had on me and the thousands of students who wander onto Ninth Street for the first time every year will far outlast our time here.

I have wondered what this street will look like when I return to Durham as an alumna, and whether it will still hold magic as it has for me and so many before me. I don’t know, but I still have a lot of faith in the people who choose to call it home for the long haul. 2 All photos by 9th Street journalist Rose Wong, who can be reached at Editor’s note: This story was produced through a partnership between the INDY and The 9th Street Journal, which is published by journalism students at Duke University’s DeWitt Wallace Center for Media & Democracy.



Blue Christmas Three yearning new albums remix and reimagine the holiday spirit BY SARAH EDWARDS AND WILL ATKINSON


HHH 1⁄2 [Tompkins Square; Dec. 11]

Interpretation has always been woven into the fingerstyle guitar tradition. The work of artists like the late John Fahey—probably the best-known representative of the style broadly known as “American primitive”— drew from influences as diverse as folk, blues, and Indian raga. Some of his best-known arrangements were simply variations on others. The holidays, of course, present no shortage of source material, something Fahey realized when he released 1968’s The New Possibility, a collection of Christmas songs arranged for solo guitar that remains his best-selling work. Following in the footsteps of that album, Chapel Hill’s Josh Kimbrough soundtracks the winter season with the Yule Chime EP, a follow-up to June’s excellent Slither, Soar & Disappear. The new release features two original compositions alongside three Christmas standards, each recorded with the raw intimacy that is so characteristic of American primitive guitar. Kimbrough’s playing has a way of teetering on the line between the familiar and foreign. On standards like “Good King Wenceslas” and the gorgeous “Once in Royal David’s City,” the melodies are instantly recognizable, yet cloaked in enough unusual detail—the dissonance produced by the droning pedal tone of a bass line, an occasional flourish of ringing harmonics, a brief hesitation between phrases—to make these old hymns feel fresh. Occasionally, Kimbrough is accompanied by lap steel or a whistling drone, but his acoustic guitar work always remains the focus. There is an organic, deliberate sense of timing to these arrangements that, like the subtle squeak of fingers against a fretboard, conveys a closeness and warmth befitting the season. In the long tradition of reinterpreting Christmas classics, Yule Chime is a welcome addition. —Will Atkinson



HHH 1⁄2 [Sleepy Cat Records; Dec. 11]

HHH [Do Not Gather; Dec. 8]

Ever since Mariah Carey’s 1994 gold standard, Merry Christmas, the holiday album has become something of a riteof-passage for artists. For the collaborative, close-knit Carrboro label Sleepy Cat Records, this meant gathering its artists for a winter mixtape of original—and originally reimagined—holiday tunes. The resulting album is thoughtful, inventive, and very fun. And while the liner notes stress that Sleepy Cat wanted to make a collection that wasn’t pious, there’s still a hint of the holy in several of its astral Laurel Canyon covers. A Trippers & Askers original, “Christmas in Mumbai,” kicks off the mixtape with a warbling, vulnerable acoustic ditty that circles the refrain “Hallelujah, I’m alive” with gravitas. Chessa Rich’s cover of Judee Sill’s 1971 “Jesus Was a Crossmaker” touches on hallowed ground: The song has been covered by the likes of Linda Ronstadt and Warren Zevon. But while Sill’s original was yearning and frantic (supposedly, she wrote it during a breakup), Rich makes it soundly her own, with a clear-eyed, steady delivery that has a slight chill of the occult, as sleigh bells shiver in the background. Next comes another standard: Joni Mitchell’s emotional “River,” which was released the same year and also finds its roots in heartbreak (Mitchell wrote it while in the process of breaking up with Graham Nash; appropriate to this year, the song laments a holiday spent apart). Where Mitchell’s voice is wild with emotion at times, singer-songwriter Chris Frisina is patient, his voice deep and reaching as he draws out each syllable to its barest, most vulnerable wish. T. Gold’s trippy, glitchy “305 ‘til I Die (Christmas in Miami)” is, as the title would imply, an original. It’s a golden ode to freedom and skateboarding by the ocean, with production (termed “lawless” in the liner notes) that’s reverb-heavy, irreverent, and unique. It’s the standout of the album. There’s more: a silvery Vashti Bunyan cover by Blue Cactus; a roiling Kinks cover by Owen FitzGerald; the ballad of a troubled mall Santa by Earleine (who recently joined the Sleepy Cat fold, and whose lacey psychedelic vocals are astonishing and new to me); a full-bodied, orchestral Libby Rodenbough cover of Low’s “Just Like Christmas,” and, finally, an original by Josh Kimbrough, who has another holiday release on this page. It’s an endearing oddball mixtape, and it satisfies from start to finish. —Sarah Edwards

If your first reaction, when hearing mention of a pandemic-themed holiday album, is skepticism, you’re not alone. But The Clamplamp Parade, A Holiday Compilation, which was spearheaded by Wilmington singer-songwriter Justin Lacy and brings together originals from 11 independent artists from across the state, is full of surprises and rich fissures. Not always lyrically. The first song, Lacy’s “Newport Christmas Parade,” begins by mentioning a Clorox bottle, hinting that an album of coronavirus crossword search terms will follow. Thankfully, it doesn’t. The track, which recalls family memories of Lacy’s grandfather sneaking gifts to families in need in Newport, North Carolina, is melancholic and opulent. The arrangement—idiosyncratic, intimate vocals crossed with chamber-pop pomp—is stunning, and would bring to mind Sufjan Stevens even if there weren’t a holiday theme at play. Annie Jo Buchanan’s “In These Lights” is a sweet, crooning ode to gratitude and being able to come home for Christmas. Emma Nelson’s “Christmas Song,” meanwhile is a little less straightforward—narratively, it’s off the rails, with a lusty, meandering address to Santa and Mrs. Claus—but Nelson’s deep, confident delivery is charming and perfect for a year where everything is off the rails. The chorus of Billy Heathen’s “Is This Still...” anticipates holiday separation over Zoom, as Heathen’s deep, gleaming bass lines somehow conjure a communal feeling: a crowded concert in a sticky-floored venue. At just under two minutes, Durham bedroom pop act Moon Racer’s “Maybe This Will Be the Year I Move” is equally charming, with Autumn Ehinger’s delicate, dreamy vocals meditating on empty streets and love gone wrong. Ehinger takes her band name from a supporting character (a winged lion) in the 1964 stop-animation film Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. That warm, kitschy sentimentality makes for a perfect penultimate track on an album with lilting, lo-fi production that feels reminiscent of early-aughts holiday music, where all irony could be transformed into sincerity if you put enough tinsel on it. While none of these songs may become caroling standards anytime soon, they sweetly capture the raw, uneven spirit of a raw, uneven year. —Sarah Edwards 2

December 9, 2020



Embracing Aging How a local podcast and zine are guiding Black women through menopause BY THOMASI MCDONALD


he great St. Louis performance artist and playwright Keith Antar Mason says that life may have begun with the creation of atoms, but cultures are built with the telling of our stories. Stories are at the center of the remarkable Durham activist and artist Omisade Burney-Scott’s innovative work on behalf of Black women going through the challenges of menopause. And those stories and lessons hearken back to the Black healing tradition, including her own. “Ahhh yes, we were little girls,” Burney-Scott, now 53, tells the INDY, her luminescent eyes widening with memory. “My sister reached across the lamp, and it kissed her arm. And it burned her. My Aunt Anna said, ‘You going to put some salve on it, and I’m going to take you to Ms. So-and-So. And she’s going to talk the fire out of it.’ And we were like, ‘Whaaat is she talking about?” Burney-Scott still remembers the woman well. “She looked like she was anywhere between 75 and a hundred,” she says. “And we sit in her little house. She pulls out the Bible. She tells my sister to sit down. And then, I forget what it’s called when people open the Bible and pick a—basically, she divined. She was like, ‘Boom. This is the scripture.’ And she read the scripture. And then she took her hand, and she put her hand over my sister’s arm. And she prayed. And then, after she prayed, she anointed my sister with some olive oil ... and we went on about our business.” Her sister’s arm, which should’ve scarred, bears a mark but feels smooth, she says. “That’s a story we will always tell,” she says about her family. “And the power in 16

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that woman’s hands. The power in her hand. And all the Africanisms in that. Wrapped up in Jesus.” Burney-Scott’s popular podcast, The Black Girl’s Guide to Surviving Menopause, is in its second season and relies on stories and healing traditions like these. “If you unpack each of the stories, there’s a remedy that’s been gifted to folks,” Burney-Scott says of the podcast. “Whether it’s the remedy of forgiveness, whether it’s the remedy of self-acceptance, whether it’s the remedy of living your passion, whether it’s the remedy of loving who you want to love—there’s a remedy packed into each one of these stories.” Burney-Scott’s work deals with the wide-ranging impacts of menopause and aging, especially for Black women. The largest, ongoing body of research surrounding what women experience during menopause comes from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation, which started in 1996. The study found that Black and Latina women enter menopause earlier and experience more severe symptoms, owing to socioeconomic factors and other stressors, including systemic racism. The Black Girl’s Guide to Surviving Menopause first aired last year on Mother’s Day, then launched a series of community conversations in Durham, Washington, D.C., and Kenya. Coronavirus interrupted plans for a community session that had been scheduled to take place in Harlem in late March. Undaunted, Burney-Scott began hosting conversations online; events for the summer solstice and autumnal equinox drew over 300 people each. One Facebook event attracted more than 1,500 viewers.

Omisade Burney-Scott

During a September podcast episode, “Healing Is Your Birthright,” Burney-Scott conversed with guest Karen Rose, a master teacher, herbalist, healer, and priestess who lives in Brooklyn. Much of the discussion focused on the benefits of plantbased medicines, and how they can give women a measure of medical autonomy to heal themselves. Many of these remedies had been passed down through families rather than formalized medical practice. Rose, who owns the Sacred Vibes Apothecary in Brooklyn, recommended herbal concoctions for common menopausal conditions: hot flashes, lack of libido, vaginal dryness, skin changes, and stress. A native of Guyana, Rose noted that her remedies are based on “ancestral herbal practices” that were gifted to her by her parents and grandparents.


Last month, Burney-Scott expanded on the podcast’s success by publishing a beautifully designed e-zine, Messages From The Menopausal Multiverse which rewrites the narrative surrounding the stage in a woman’s life when she experiences a natural decline in her reproductive hormones when she reaches her forties or fifties. The e-zine includes the words of local womanist activists. It also pays tribute to Burney-Scott’s mother, along with other Black women whose work has served as a guide along her journey: Audre Lorde, Gwendolyn Brooks, Sojourner Truth, June Jordan, and Toni Morrison. The dynamic volume offers “keys” to not just surviving, but thriving, while aging gracefully. In it, Burney-Scott presents her selfhood as the possessor of four elements, or “Omis”: earth, air, fire, and water.

The Fire Omi asks, “What does it mean to be in this body at this time, to acknowledge what this body wants and needs, and to move accordingly?” The Water Omi asks Black women to “reclaim your sweetness.” “Reclaim rest as an act of liberation,” the Water Omi says. “Fight the addiction to stay in motion.” Lana Garland, director of the Hayti Heritage Film Festival, says the festival will be giving The Black Girl’s Guide a platform to have a conversation with a major television network next year. Garland did not go into the specifics, except to say the network will “meet up with Black Girls in 2021.” Speaking to the importance of Burney-Scott’s work, Garland, 58, points out that as a Gen X-er, her coming-of-age years were marked by an older generation of women who did not talk freely about menopause. “There was a reluctance,” Garland says. “Like it was something that was shameful.” Garland says that when she was in her forties and going through perimenopause, she felt like she had missed out on conversations preparing her for the first indicators of hormonal aging. “It was like, ‘Oh my God, why aren’t people talking about this?’” she says. “And it affects us all. Our children. The men and women in our relationships.” Garland says The Black Girl’s Guide represents a paradigm shift of “who we decide ourselves to be.” “This conversation is very, very, very important,” she adds. “We get to say who we are.” Nia Wilson, the executive director of SpiritHouse in downtown Durham, echoes Garland’s observations. Wilson says culturally, Black people and people of color are used to honoring their elders for their wisdom, and to learn what they have to offer. But white supremacy and patriarchy teach women to “stay young, move quickly, and be productive.” “Think about how many times women run to get plastic surgery so they can remain young,” Wilson says. “I’m finding beauty in my body at 57, and it’s hard

to say that out loud. It’s like a cognitive dissonance.” “Women are relegated to boxes as we get older,” she adds. “We still feel vibrant. We still continue to learn, grow, and thrive. We have to combat the boxes. Women are shamed for, and shamed about, the aging process.” That’s why she’s grateful for the work Burney-Scott—affectionately known as “Omi”— is putting forward with her podcast and zine. “Omi broke that wide open, and created a voice to say who we really are,” says Wilson, who adds that Burney-Scott’s work is engaging Black women of all ages. “We’re not just strong Black women. We can be soft. We can be vulnerable. We are still being sexual, and there has not been room to talk about that until now.” Burney-Scott says she wants to “decolonize the crone.” “If you say, ‘Describe an older woman to me, or an older witch, or an older whatever—what would you say they look like?’” she asks. “And people would say, ‘Hmm. She’s probably wrinkled, and gnarled up, and white, and lives in the woods, and is mean, and is isolated, and terrorizes children.’ And you’re like, ‘Yeah.’” That raises questions for Burney Scott. “Why is that who she is? Where did that come from? Where did that trope or stereotype come from?” Burney-Scott says she is not yet a “crone”—defined by dictionaries as a thin, ugly, old woman—but feels that she’s on her own personal journey to “crone-dom.” “Because I’m aging,” she says softly. “Because I’m aging.” Part of Burney-Scott’s journey is offering a contrast to a youth-centric culture that celebrates all of the different ways that young people move, create, love, fight, learn, and grieve. She aims to show that older people have those same aspirations and desires. “Just because you’re 50, or 60, or 70, or 80, doesn’t mean you don’t love,” she explains. “That doesn’t mean you don’t experience sexual pleasure. It doesn’t mean you can’t express yourself sexually. It doesn’t mean you don’t experience passion, or sensuality. Or grief, or anger. You still experience all those things. You just have more lived experience.” 2

“Women are relegated to boxes as we get older. We still feel vibrant. We still continue to learn, grow, and thrive.”

Omisade’s Journey to Activism


hen Omisade Burney-Scott was a little girl, her mother, Mary, would often remind her that she couldn’t fall on her sword every day. “Every day is not a good day to die,” her mom would tell her. “You have to pick and choose your battles.” And she did. She says her activism began in 1985, when she was a senior at West Craven High School in New Bern, North Carolina. She was student body president, and she organized a handful of her fellow female students to protest a dress code that she deemed sexist. “Girls couldn’t wear Bermuda shorts, but we could wear mini-skirts,” she explains. “Boys could wear anything. The principal’s name was Mr. Jolly, which was ironic, because he was not a happy person.” Burney-Scott later enrolled at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, earning an undergraduate degree in communications in 1989. Her professors and the works of James Baldwin, Octavia Butler, Alice Walker, and Jean Toomer left a lasting impact. She says one Black history professor, Dr. Harold Woodard, was “unrelenting” in his effort to introduce his students to the “other parts of your Blackness and sit you in it,” while Dr. Soyini D. Madison required her students to act out the characters they read. “In the process of embodying the narrative that is us, you’re attaching the narrative to your own,” she says. “You’re transformed. You embody Toni Morrison’s work, and there’s no way you cannot be changed by it.” After graduation, Burney-Scott worked at UNC’s undergraduate admissions office until 1994, when she moved to Durham and started working with Public Allies, a federally funded program with AmeriCorps that trains and places young people in nonprofits. Burney-Scott’s consciousness was growing, but she was still looking to “marry the right guy, have the 2.5 kids, live in a McBox with an SUV and the clout to do activism,” she says. “Then I got pregnant at 25.” “He went everywhere I went,” she says of Che, her oldest son. “Both of my boys are fully incorporated into my work.” While working with Public Allies in 1996, Burney-Scott started hearing about “Sister Michelle,” this amazing sister who was executive director of the Public Allies office in Chicago. “The two staffs grew close,” she says. “We would hang out together.” At the time, Burney-Scott had no idea that “Sister Michelle” would become a beloved figure worldwide as the First Lady, or that her husband, “the brother who is a community organizer,” would make history as the nation’s first African American president. Burney-Scott left Public Allies in 2000, the year her mother Mary passed. That’s when she changed her first name—from Wilhelmina, or “Billie,” to Omisade—and continued her study of traditional West African spiritual practices in Cuba, South Carolina, and Nigeria. The divorced mother of two sons—Che, now 28, and Taj, 12—she later co-founded Spirit House—a community organization inspired by the Black Liberation Movement with the aim of eliminating “the negative impacts of poverty and racism on the Black community.” Burney-Scott also worked for a national reproductive rights organization before taking a sabbatical in 2018. “When I stepped away from social justice work in 2018, the Universe listened and asked, ‘Well what do you want to do?’” she says. “I still want to tell stories. But I want to tell stories about Black women.” “I’m really committed to reminding people that when you’re looking at a Black woman, you’re looking at infinite possibilities,” she adds.

December 9, 2020




Through December 31 via Vimeo

Loramev Jones in My Geriatric Uterus


Golden Womb Translated to film, a production of the Fringe show My Geriatric Uterus feels handmade and personal BY KATY KOOP


he digital production of My Geriatric Uterus, which debuted at the 2019 Cincinnati Fringe Festival, opens with the Raleigh-based playwright-performer Lormarev Jones as Grown-Ass Woman. She’s introducing a special episode of a fictional public access show, Adulting for Millennials, for her 35th birthday. The public-access episode travels back to previous moments and singalongs composed by Christopher Wood, unpacking the student loan crisis, the difficulties of forging a career under late-stage capitalism, and the fraught pressures from her uterus. The uterus itself, created by puppet designer Samantha Corey, is a pink marionette outfitted with delicate fallopian arms, a cigarette dangling out of its mouth. Between sing-a-longs and skits, under Carolyn Guido Clifford’s direction, Jones breaks from the public access host persona, speaking off-the-cuff to the distinct obstacles that Black millennial women face, not just in the workforce but when it comes to motherhood and what her children may face. These moments of raw power—which might otherwise have played directly to the audience on the Cincinnati Fringe stage the show premiered on—instead occur in 18

December 9, 2020

full view of the studio, revealing cameras, light fixtures, and the production staff. The meta-theatricality of seeing the scaffolding of film production is satisfying, though this choice makes you wish you could be closer to Jones in these moments, not viewing her digitally from off-stage right. Despite these moments of distance, and a few instances of issues with audio mixing, the experience is exhilarating from start to finish. Like any good Fringe experience, even translated to film, My Geriatric Uterus feels handmade, personal, and jagged around the edges—from the bright set pieces and papercut transition shots to the unmistakable, industrial aesthetic of Durham’s Shadowbox Studio space, where the production was filmed. My Geriatric Uterus, produced by Aggressive Curl Pattern Productions, is available on-demand via Vimeo for a $5 one-time viewing through the end of December. Tips collected via payment apps go directly to the artist. Running at 35 minutes, My Geriatric Uterus is worth much more than the $5 asking price. In a time when fresh, experimental local art is often inaccessible due to social distancing restrictions, My Geriatric Uterus feels exactly like what theater should be, even digitally. 2



Lump Gallery, Raleigh | Through January 3, 2021 Raleigh's Community Bookstore


All That Glitters Opulence, Decadence, curated by William Paul Thomas, explores complicated notions of Black abundance BY JAMEELA F. DALLIS


hrough Opulence, Decadence, the Durham-based curator William Paul Thomas asks, “If you attained a surplus of something that you greatly desired, would you flaunt it, share it, hoard it, hide it, or spoil it?” On view through January 3 at Raleigh’s Lump Gallery, the show highlights nine Black artists who Thomas asked to explore this question outside of conventional “commercial or external pressures.” These works explore both tangible and intangible forms of wealth and excess, as well as how artists represent, manage, and revel in abundance. Thomas, an accomplished painter, received his MFA in studio art from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2013. In March of this year, Lump director George Jenne invited Thomas to curate a show. The summer that followed, Thomas says, was full of “personal epiphanies” and deep reflections on his own experience of abundance amid national and global turmoil and loss. When Jenne asked again if Thomas was interested in curating a show, he said yes. Thomas says that in curating, he considered the “diversity amongst the artists” in different stages of their creative careers. “Some people have been working for a long time, some people are just now getting started and trying to figure out what

they want to do,” he says. “You have Whitney [Stanley], who is an attorney making artwork and is really invested in art. And then you have Jim Lee, who’s done some of everything throughout his life and also has an amazing creative practice. And you have everybody in between that.” He’s also interested—“vocationally, culturally, and economically”—in breaking down what the word “diversity” means. Opulence, Decadence—which also features work by artists Johannes Barfield, Leticia Clementina, Clarence Heyward, Kwaku Osei, JP Jermaine Powell, Brittany Santiago, and Ariel Williams—challenges viewers to think about the diversity of Black art and Black representation. “There are layers,” Thomas says. The exhibition takes its name from Kanye West’s and Jay-Z’s 2011 song “Murder to Excellence.” The lyrics—“Black excellence, opulence, decadence”—mark a shift in the song from the lament, “Black-on-black murder,” to a celebration of luxury that includes “sheepskin coats,” “Gucci,” and “Black Cards.” The line has stayed with him for years, Thomas says, and it seemed perfect for an exhibition about “Black people experiencing and managing abundance.” Ariel Williams, a New Jersey-based painter, was already working on paintings that fit

the show’s theme when Thomas invited her to participate. Her four featured oil paintings are provocative. Each is a highly detailed rendering of a cake—in deep lavender, muted goldenrod, baby pink, and lacy white frosting. All of them are riddled with fissures; some are topped with mushrooms and slugs. Do they marry opulence and the eventual conclusion of decadence: decay? Or will cakes—symbols of celebration and arguably made for sharing—spoil if they’re hoarded or hidden away? “Let Us Prey: Verse I, Feast” and “Let Us Prey: Verse II, Famine,” two pieces from Durham-based multidisciplinary artist Jim Lee, are meant to be shown together. They feature eggshells and bones that create modern ossuaries that reflect what he calls “the dark side of abundance.” “Abundance doesn’t just appear,” Lee writes. “It must be accumulated (read as: mined, harvested, or hunted) from existing resources that are always limited by natural laws and systems of interdependence.” Works appearing to flaunt or share abundance include a series by emerging artist Leticia Clementina, which feature the hands of Ashley Harpe—Clementina’s nail technician—with luxuriously decorated nails, cupping saffron roses and dripping honeycomb. Clarence Heyward’s The Emperor’s New Clothes reflects on a time in the artist’s life when he flaunted abundance by wearing gold grills he’d saved up to buy as a teenager. There are also three striking mixed-media pieces by the Raleigh artist JP Jermaine Powell; they feature crowned Black women against soft pink and rich turquoise backgrounds. Thomas says he is inspired by the Studio Museum in Harlem, which is directed by Thelma Golden and devoted to artists of the African diaspora. “It’s international and is a long-standing example of the wide variety of artwork Black artists produce and doesn’t narrow what we [Black artists] do to trauma or any stereotype,” Thomas says. Opulence, Decadance is the gallery’s third exhibition since the start of the pandemic, following Lindsay Metivier’s Home Range and Warren Hicks’s Begat. “I’m really grateful for having colleagues, friends, and other artists in this community who entrust me with organizing an exhibition of their work and take time from their regular work to contribute to something like this,” says Thomas. “Every one of them expressed a wonderful gesture of love to me by contributing.” 2

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December 9, 2020




The North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh | Through February 14

Inner Dialogues Artist Bonnie Melton’s contributions to a new NCMA exhibit make a case for the transcendent power of painting. BY CARL LITTLE





December 9, 2020

ith Front Burner: Highlights in Contemporary North Carolina Painting at the North Carolina Museum of Art, which runs through Februar 14, guest curator and painter Ashlynn Browning brought together work from 25 “emerging, mid-career, and established” artists to prove a simple point: Not only is painting not dead in the Tar Heel State; it’s thriving. Front Burner—which runs alongside other noteworthy exhibits at NCMA, including Good as Gold: Fashioning Senegalese Women (through January 3) and Reflections on Light: Works from the NCMA Collection (through February 14)—opened and closed in March, then reopened in early September. It provides ample evidence supporting the thesis that painting remains on the “front burner” of the art world. Working in acrylic, oil, and watercolor— sometimes with unexpected added media, like grape juice or neon—the featured painters run the aesthetic gamut, from William Paul Thomas’s striking portrait heads to Hannah Cole’s studies of weeds, and from Georges Le Chevallier’s abstract “Baked Goat Cheese with Garden Lettuces (after Chef Alice Waters)” to Carmen Neely’s “In An Alternate Reality,” which features a “faux flower crown.” Among the stand-outs is Bonnie Melton, a longtime Durham resident whose enigmatic and engaging works explore the space between representation and abstraction. “Vigilance” (2016), one of her three oilon-wood paintings in Front Burner, features irregular geometric shapes that form a leaning, roughly L-shaped construction. The shape might be the corner of a roof or a wobbly antenna, but there’s nothing definite about it. The loose paint, which drips in places, indicates dissolution, while the title sug-

gests the opposite: attentiveness, as if the structure were “Bonnie Melton’s paintings in Front Burner: (left) “Vigilance,” a makeshift bulwark (right, top) “Comb for Nell,” (bottom) “Throb.” PHOTO COURTESY OF NCMA against peril. The other two Melton pieces in the In 1989, she returned to her home state show, “Comb for Nell” (2017) and “Throb” for good. (2018), reveal equally inscrutable items on Early on, Melton was drawn to landoff-white layered foundations. If the “comb” scapes. She continued with them after a and the “throb” are not immediately appar- residency at Millay Colony for the Arts in ent in these paintings, that’s intentional. Austerlitz, New York, in the mid-eighties, As Melton explained in an email to the and when she moved back South, where INDY, these and other canvases “are worked she painted “in those glorious open fields over, mutated images from initial starts and on a dairy farm.” “Road/In” (1990) is a resthen studio reckonings.” In a statement on onant arrangement of rolling red earth and her website, Melton reflects further: green fields cleaved by a dirt road. “I paint to let an inner dialogue surAfter a fellow artist at the Millay resiface,” she writes. “Sometimes the conver- dency introduced her to the work of the sation is direct, more often than not ellip- abstract painter, Bill Jensen, Melton shifted tical. Associations arise, become thwart- gears. She began seeking out his paintings ed, sink, and then re-surface through the and, as she says, “a seed was set.” She left paint. Mostly I am looking for the nerve the representational landscape mode and within each painting. My nerve, the nerve began mapping an inner topography. of the paint.” Over time, Melton has developed an audiThe surfaces of these paintings are, as ence fervently devoted to her oblique and she says, somewhat “lean.” She starts off disarming creations. You can understand with a simple blank surface, then builds why: The paintings explore the intersecon top of the solvent-infused drawing she tion of mystery and recognition with idioinscribes there. Once she feels the paint- syncratic panache. It’s as though Melton ing is done, she lets it dry, tries to see were searching for a visual synapse between where the varnish hot spots are, and then inner and outer worlds. applies a light coat of preservative varnish Back in the fall, Melton reported hav“so as to unify the surface.” Lean, perhaps, ing three paintings “open” in the studio— but complexly overlaid nonetheless. works in progress that were, in her words, Born in Lexington, Kentucky and raised “chattering for attention in the pandemin North Carolina, Melton earned a B.A. ic.” She reported feeling “much undertow” in English at Guilford College in Greens- and found herself simply looking at, rathboro. In 1977, she moved to Philadelphia er than painting, them. But she knows to attend the Pennsylvania Academy of herself and her process well enough that Fine Arts (PAFA) where she earned a “what needs to surface, will.” Something certificate in 1981 and won the Hobson to look forward to as we make our way Pittman Prize for Experimental Painting. through uncharted territory. 2

December 9, 2020


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