INDY Week 2.24.21

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Raleigh | Durham | Chapel Hill February 24, 2021



FAST A Timeline of Black History in the Triangle BY THOMASI MCDONALD AND SARA PEQUEÑO, P. 18

1793 1808 1865 1866 1867


One m o r e i t y! tun oppor . 14! AP R


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February 24, 2021

Raleigh W Durham W Chapel Hill VOL. 38 NO. 6

Land along the Atlantic Coast Pipeline's abandoned route, p. 15 PHOTO BY JADE WILSON


The aftermath of UNC-Chapel Hill's Campus Y break-in. BY SARA PEQUEÑO Duke reckons with a history of systemic racism. BY THOMASI MCDONALD Raleigh considers a tax break system that could save developers millions. BY LEIGH TAUSS

15 The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a bust but property owners along the pipeline's route are stuck in limbo. BY LEWIS KENDALL FEATURE 18

A history of Black achievement in the Triangle. BY THOMASI MCDONALD AND SARA PEQUEÑO

ARTS & CULTURE 20 A new gourmet grocery store is a lifeline for local food producers. 21


An interview with NCCU basketball coach LeVelle Moton, on the heels of new ESPN+ docuseries, Why Not US? BY ERIC TULLIS 23 Minari is a compassionate portrait of belonging. BY GLENN MCDONALD 24 White-dominated arts institutions are keen to diversify. But are they willing to give up power? BY BRIAN HOWE 27 A triad of scrappy new artist-run spaces comes to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro border. BY GEORGE JENNE 28 A new opera illuminates small town Southern life. BY DAN RUCCIA

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Staff Writer Thomasi McDonald


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Theater+Dance Critic Byron Woods Contributors Will Atkinson, Paul Blest, Jameela F. Dallis, Michaela Dwyer, Grant Golden, Spencer

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February 24, 2021



Seema Kak (center) and Seema Kak her team at (center) Kiran, Inc. and PHOTO her team at Kiran BY JADE WILSON

Last week, Leigh Tauss wrote


about how mayors in Raleigh and Durham are speaking out against a proposed state senate bill that would financially punish municipalities that

reduce police department budgets. While Durham hasn’t reduced its police spending yet, Mayor Steve Schewel said it’s considering such a move, in tandem with increasing money for mental health crisis services. Reader Tonesha M. Mayo bemoaned that decreasing police spending would send us back to the 1980s. “I appreciate you guys reporting the news as it’s provided, but this is the dumbest thing ever, no offense to you guys,” TONESTHA M. MAYO wrote. “They can’t honestly be serious. Have we not learned from other states, that I don’t need to mention that are currently scrambling to increase their sbudget by about $6.4 million as a direct response to the increase in crime since the budget had been reduced for the police? How exactly does it make sense to reduce police force as a response to reducing crime? I was born, bred, and raised in the ghetto and I know that will not work. Literally, when that happens the police tend to stop patrolling inner city neighborhoods and crime obviously goes up there, because they know that no one will do anything about it. These mayors and council members have the audacity to actually even suggest something so absurd when they don’t live in inner cities themselves so it won’t affect them. Unless they’re like those other elected officials that cut the overall budget for police while increasing the security aka police force, at their own residences. Everyone keeps talking about more social workers and less police, well here’s my questions for that, how can you talk someone out of a driveby shooting, or selling drugs to provide for themselves or their families after the states have been locked down so long people have lost their jobs, or any of the other crimes that occur? That really doesn’t even make sense. With reduced police force everywhere will turn exactly the way things were in the 80s which was terrible. Those types of situations are being grounds for more people that need mental health services from actual trauma which further makes no sense. I mean I can go on and on, but the point is that instead of reducing the police force, why aren’t they suggesting that police are vetted to find all the bad and crooked cops and further vet police income to actually make a change instead of reducing the budget. Like that is just nonsensical.”

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February 24, 2021



15 MINUTES Seema Kak Executive Director, Kiran Inc. BY SARAH EDWARDS

Can you tell me about the work that Kiran does? Our mission is to end the cycle of abuse and empower South Asian victims of domestic violence for the entire state of North Carolina by providing culturally specific services. We began in 1998; it was just a volunteer organization. A couple of women got together and wanted to highlight the domestic violence that had started to pick up, or at least become noticeable, in the South Asian communities. It grew from there. In 2008, the agency became federally funded for the first time as a nonprofit organization. So, other than just providing domestic violence services, we try to help these victims escape the cycle of abuse and rebuild their lives. We’re not limited to, but we have identified nine South Asian countries we serve, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Burma, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

What is it like to serve the whole state? We’re equipped—for lack of a better word—to provide culturally and gender competent support and prolonged case management. We say prolonged case management because the challenges faced by our clientele are very unique in some ways. When you look at DV victims, the image of the victim is very similar but our clients have compounded situations added to whatever else is going on because there are so many barriers and stigmas attached. Sometimes someone says, “Why do you need a separate organization to support South Asians?” But there’s a huge stigma of divorce in South Asian cultures.

Is the South Asian community growing in North Carolina? Yes. In 2014, we served 120 clients. In 2018, we served 248. At the close of 2020, December 2020, we had served 486 clients. And these are clients that are not, you know, one-time calls—these are clients that we have followed and done more than just calling once or twice. I think 2017 was the last census, and [there were] approximately 303,000 Asian residents in North Carolina. The projected census for 2033 is half a billion.

Are there any special projects or news on the horizon? We’re opening a satellite office in the Mecklenburg area, because our second-highest call volume is from the Charlotte area. We want to do some culturally appropriate training with the police departments and some of the other organizations that help DV victims, so [that] whenever they work with South Asian victims, they are aware of some of the cultural nuances, and so they can know to reach out to us. We’re trying to expand outside of this area because our funding is for all North Carolinians. That’s our big goal for the year. W

February 24, 2021



A Hopeful Dip



inally, some good news! The pandemic is far from over, but the latest stats do offer a glimmer of hope. The daily positive rate for tests is down to 6.2 percent from a record-high of 18 percent earlier this year, and the daily number of reported cases is down by nearly 10,000 cases—from more than 12,000 to just over 2,100 as of Monday. Trends are showing a decrease in cases of the virus as the vaccine rollout trudges on. Hopefully, that will mean more good news in the weeks to come. W

North Carolina Daily COVID-19 Cases 10,000

By the numbers


daily positives


hospitalized with the virus



8,000 7,000

newly reported cases as of Feb. 23

6,000 5,000




trending down)



2,000 1,000

total cases


10/1 10/15 11/1 11/15 12/1 12/15






10,965 total deaths

NC Counties by Tier (January 31 through February 13, 2021)

2,138,275 total vaccine doses administered

Critical/Red Substantial/Orange Significant/Yellow

1,945,852 completed vaccine series

Source: NCDHHS COVID-19 North Carolina Dashboard as of February 22, 2021


February 24, 2021

OP - E D Raleigh's Community Bookstore

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Climate Changer


Michael Regan’s successful efforts to hold polluters accountable will inform his work as EPA administrator


Thurl Bailey, Team of Destiny: How the NC State Wolfpack Won the 1983 NCAA Title... and How You and Your Team Can Choose to be Champions 7pm




aced with the greatest environmental crisis in modern history, our federal government just spent four years rolling back environmental protections, catering to fossil fuel interests, and abdicating our country’s duty to take on climate change. But former President Trump’s failures aren’t the whole story: While the federal government was acting against the best interests of our communities and our climate, state and local leaders, like those here in North Carolina, stepped up to the plate to fill the leadership gap. With state Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Michael Regan poised to helm the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the country will learn from North Carolina’s success in standing up to corporate polluters and taking meaningful action in the fight against the climate crisis. President Joe Biden has seen the success of these efforts and is elevating state leaders to federal roles that will be key to realizing our clean energy future. Those leaders— including Regan—will help guide the U.S. through the great crises of our time. Regan will join the most climate-focused Cabinet in history. Key staffing picks show that Biden is committed to embedding climate in every facet of his administration. He chose Brian Deese, who helped broker the Paris climate accords, as Director of the National Economic Council, and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who fought the Trump administration’s attempts to overturn California’s fuel efficiency standards, to head the Department of Health and Human Services. And that’s why President Biden chose proven leaders like Regan for more traditional climate-related roles, such as at the EPA. His administration is committed to building

“In choosing Regan to helm the EPA, Biden is taking steps to fulfill his campaign promises.” on the successes of state-level leaders who acted to uphold America’s climate promises in the absence of federal leadership. This is welcome news for those of us in the climate movement, and it confirms that the policies North Carolina championed will inspire federal policy. Biden chose former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm—whose deep knowledge of the auto industry will be an asset as America transitions to clean transportation—to lead the Department of Energy. To help implement the most ambitious federal climate agenda in history across multiple departments, he nominated Ali Zaidi, a climate policy expert who led New York state’s climate action efforts. In choosing Regan to helm the EPA, Biden is walking the walk—taking the first crucial steps to fulfill his campaign promises. As DEQ secretary, Michael Regan was at the forefront of negotiations with longtime polluter Duke Energy, leading the state to the multibillion-dollar settlement that requires Duke to clean up almost 80 million tons of toxic coal ash—a commitment that

will benefit communities that have been on the frontlines of poisonous pollution for decades. A native of Goldsboro, Regan has drawn upon his own experiences growing up with the disproportionate effects of pollution and environmental injustice. As secretary, he spearheaded the establishment of North Carolina’s environmental justice advisory board, which champions clean air and water for all North Carolinians, regardless of zip code, race, age, gender, or income. A former EPA staffer, Regan is well-acquainted with the agency’s workings. Now, he’ll be able to apply the lessons he learned on the ground in North Carolina to environmental quality issues facing communities all over the country. Regan will act to undo the Trump administration’s most harmful rollbacks, while setting the U.S. government on a course to meaningful regulatory action that prioritizes the populations most impacted by the climate crisis and pollution. President Biden aptly named climate change one of the four great crises facing our country. Polling shows that voters stand with him and expect the president to tackle the climate crisis head-on. For too long, federal officials have dragged their feet in the fight against climate change, leaving state and local leaders to fill the gaps. But by naming proven leaders like Michael Regan, Biden is showing us that his administration is ready to do the work. Our state has fought to hold big polluters accountable. We know that no matter where you are from, we all deserve clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. North Carolinians should feel proud we have one of our own—someone who has fought for our health and the environment—in the room. And it’s something the whole country should celebrate. W


TICKETS AVAILABLE Kazuo Ishigura, Klara and the Sun in conversation with Neil Gaimon 6pm

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February 24, 2021



February 24, 2021

A Look Into Shay’s Thought Process PHOTOGRAPHY + WORDS BY JADE WILSON

This month, Durham Art Guild’s gallery at Golden Belt is home to 21-year-old mixed-media artist Shay Hendricks’s first exhibition, Constellations: Ways I Felt, Things I Made, which is part of their residency with the Black On Black Project. The show invites the viewer to glimpse how the artist processes the world around them. Screenshots of white text against a black background accompany the works in progress. The artist’s notes consist of words that caught their attention and thoughts that were weighing on them. The exhibition is on display until March 8. W


Chapel Hill Campus Y students demonstrating outside the South Building at UNC-Chapel Hill PHOTO BY COURTNEY STATON

A Reclamation Activists involved with UNC’s Campus Y respond to vandalism that occurred at the building last month while remaining resolute in their protest against the carceral state BY SARA PEQUEÑO


he damage at Campus Y was hard to gauge. Employees of The Meantime, the coffee shop at the bottom of the building, were the first to realize what had happened when they arrived for a Sunday afternoon training session late last month. Some of the damage at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s social justice and innovation center looked impulsive: the swastikas drawn on the floor stickers, the n-word written on a whiteboard, the torn newspapers and photos. Opened cans of food were sitting out, and papers and books were scattered. Other details didn’t indicate rash decisions. Names were scribbled on a canvas in the shape of a Confederate flag. Thirty-five W-2s were stolen, giving the vandal access to the social security numbers and addresses of Meantime baristas. A cardboard tombstone painted with the words “Tar Heel Dead,” accompanied by a shovel, was left in the co-presidents’ office.

Still, some of the evidence was confusing: shirts with Confederate flags crossed out with red Xs were laid across banisters. The suspect left his driver’s license and pieces of mail. He wrote his name on a whiteboard. Campus Y co-president Thilini Weerakkody was on a date when she learned the news and drove to the sandy pink building. Groups of students walked around, looking for the vandal and assessing the damage. “I just felt that moment when you’re sucked of energy, and you’re just like, ‘Oh, my God, this is gonna be so much more than I can handle today,’” Weerakkody says. Last week, the Campus Y began reclaiming its space through “You Can’t Silence Us,” a digital campaign documenting the group’s return to the building and places that had been marred by hate. Nineteen people—symptomless, double-masked, and socially distanced—converged for the photoshoot. Participants painted phrases like “THIS IS OUR HOME” and “Do

not forget James L. Cates Jr.”—an homage to the Black man stabbed to death by white supremacists on UNC’s campus in the 1970s—across posters. They took photos in front of the spot where the suspect broke in, and where he set up displays. They photographed themselves replacing books and ripping up Confederate flag stickers. They invited members of UNC’s Black Student Movement and Hillel, and made their message loud and clear. “The leadership was sad, and then the community was angry, and they were [fired up], and they wanted something to put their energy into,” Weerakkody says. “This is a response to that. This is a way for us to channel all that into an effective and graceful event.” The campaign is also a way for students to address people who called for justice for the organization. On the day they discovered the vandalism, the group was unsure about calling the police. They did so only after a Campus Y employee, who the university requires to report incidents, arrived at the scene. The co-presidents made it clear in their initial statement that they did not want to contribute to the carceral state, frustrating some. One woman told the students they needed to “show their teeth.” Instead, the Campus Y compiled a document of ways to combat white supremacy without involving police. “We are going to acknowledge that the prison industrial complex was created for and by white people,” Weerakkody says. “If we were to promote them, we would be catering to those individuals.” The university informed the public of the damage to the Campus Y: the announcement mentioned the break-in, “antisemitic symbols,” and a “racial epithet,” but left out other descriptors. A Campus Y statement, along with a Daily Tar Heel story, revealed the rest. The Faculty Executive Committee, the Campus Safety Commission, and others have made public statements supporting the Campus Y. Aside from the initial statement and individual professors, Weerakkody says the university’s administration has not acknowledged her and her co-president. “We were begging for support,” she says. “We were begging for safety. And we didn’t receive it. I don’t think any other student group centered on service, social justice, or serving marginalized people did either, in the years before us.” The university has attempted to involve campus police in the aftermath. Officials say campus police have offered to meet with students and have made additional safety recommendations. They also say officers fixed the basement door, where the suspect is believed to have entered. The Campus Y footed the bill, Weerakkody says. This incident isn’t isolated. There have been at least five other reports of racist vandalism since 2019, both on and off campus. Local activist Lindsay Ayling listed 28 events since 2017, including rallies as well as individual visitors.

February 24, 2021



Neo-Confederates have walked around, displaying guns, knives, and handcuffs, on a campus where the Confederate monument Silent Sam presided over simmering racial tensions for more than 100 years. In 2019, the Ku Klux Klan organized outside the courthouse in Hillsborough, white robes and all. Others livestream themselves on campus and threaten students. Hate crime incidents in North Carolina increased by 48 percent in 2019 over the previous year, according to FBI data; it also saw the highest number of hate crimes reported since the FBI began collecting and publishing this data in 1992. The Southern Poverty Law Center reported 29 hate groups in North Carolina in 2020, down from a record-high of 40 in 2018. Ayling recalled a moment in 2017 where a football fan harassed and threatened a student handing out fliers about Silent Sam. At one point, she says, she was pinned between the fan and the student. Afterward, she was unsure about reporting the incident to the university, but says she was told it would be used as part of an investigation into Silent Sam. She met with officials, filed a lengthy report, and nothing happened. “The report doesn’t actually do anything,” Ayling says. “They don’t take it seriously, and they won’t take any measures except telling you your experience was invalid.” The university informs students of campus threats and emergencies via Alert Carolina, but historically hasn’t informed students of alt-right individuals on campus. This led campus activists to create “UNC Anti-Racist Alerts” in 2019, a system that texts students when these groups are 10

February 24, 2021

close to campus in the absence of information from university officials. “Alert Carolina is committed to only reporting confirmed facts and the Alert Carolina website is the best official source of information during a health or safety situation,” the university said in a statement. But in October, an alert about an armed person on campus revealed flaws with Alert Carolina. Police reviewed security camera footage and said there was never an armed suspect to begin with. UNC Campus Police have not released information on the Campus Y suspect, who was apprehended and is undergoing psychiatric evaluation. The investigation is still ongoing. Despite this, the energy around the building is different. “In a historical context, white supremacist groups would go to institutions like ours to use intimidation to stop us doing our work,” Weerakkody says. “That was the impetus of doing ‘You Can’t Silence Us,’ which is where we are now. The idea was born out of a time when we were really low. We felt like we didn’t have control.” At this week’s event, there were new concerns. Two separate men, dressed in all black, were seen taking photos of the students and their posters. When the group was standing together, someone shouted a homophobic slur from a car. The Campus Y members don’t know who these people are. “There was a sense of fear,” Weerakkody says. “We were trying so hard to reclaim our space, and it showed us that this fear is still present. But the presence of white supremacy, and the presence of threat and intimidation, proves that we need to be doing our work.” W



A Matter of Roots In its quest to become anti-racist, Duke University must reckon with a past that echoes into the present BY THOMASI MCDONALD


an Duke really become anti-racist?” The question was emblazoned on the cover of the 2020 winter edition of the Duke University alumni magazine and probed with essays, feature stories, and text excerpts from podcasts—mostly responding to the larger racial reckoning that swept America following George Floyd’s death. Letters to the editor in the issue offered mixed reviews about the magazine’s coverage of the Black Lives Matter protests. But an incendiary letter submitted by Charles Philip Clutts, a 1961 Duke graduate, unleashed anger on social media. Clutts called the “constant reminders” of systemic racism “wearisome” and said Black men should marry, take care of their children, avoid drugs, stay out of jail, and realize that “acting white by studying is not a bad thing.” Duke Magazine editor Robert Bliwise, and Sterly Wilder, the associate vice president of alumni affairs, quickly issued an apology and tried to create distance between the magazine and the letter. But some alumni felt the apology was insufficient. “I am a young Black alum and I am utterly disgusted that these letters that spread lies, racism, and violence were published,” Sabrina Dee commented on the magazine’s Facebook page. “I do not accept this apology because it isn’t an apology and furthermore does nothing to make right what was wrong. This is very disappointing but not surprising.” Just months before, Floyd’s death prompted Duke President Vincent Price to weigh in on racial injustice, writing in the magazine’s summer edition that it was time for white people to consider the impact of systemic racism and “engage deeply, and with humility, with humanity, and with honesty.” But the letter’s publication suggests that, for white people in power, engaging is much easier to talk about than to actually do.

A History of Racism and Injustice It’s not surprising that systemic racism is alive and well at Duke, or that the university’s history of racism was

On the job training session at campus dining in 1947


anything but a prelude to the school’s ongoing struggles with race relations on campus. In “A More Complicated Love,” an essay in the summer issue, Duke University archivist Valerie Gillispie explains the tension between the school’s past and present. “While we became a university only in 1924, we began our life as an educational institution in 1838,” Gillispie explains. “Our records are scant about who worked at the school beyond faculty, but we have information from the 1850s that Braxton Craven, president of the institution, owned enslaved people. He also sought to purchase two children, according to an affidavit in the State Archives, but chose not to—the price was higher than he wanted to pay.” Gillispie adds that Duke apparently also “rented” enslaved labor at times. The university’s treatment of Black laborers, Gillispie writes, “remains an issue today.” Mark Anthony Neal, the James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of African and American Studies at the university, says Duke “has long had the reputation of being a ‘plantation’ in Durham,’ [as] the city’s largest employer.” “For many Black residents, Duke isn’t a world renowned university, but simply the place they go to work, and where they might in fact feel undervalued and underpaid,” Neal wrote in an email to the INDY.

Duke’s relationship with race is encapsulated by the efforts of Julian Abele, the Black architect who designed more than 30 buildings on the campus, including the Allen Building and the iconic Duke Chapel. But Abele was never allowed to set foot inside the storied sanctuary after it was completed in 1935. Of course, the Allen building was the site of a Black student occupation in 1969, at the height of the Black Power movement. In 2016, Duke honored Abele’s lasting contributions by naming the campus’s busiest quadrangle the “Abele Quad.” Also in 2016, nine Duke students took to the Allen building to demand better treatment for the university’s Black workers, prompting administrators to pay all university employees the city of Durham’s official living wage of $12.35 an hour. A year later, Duke raised its minimum wage to $13 an hour, and then to $15 in 2019. Collective action isn’t new at Duke, but these forward strides have not always translated as effectively in other facets of life on the campus. Theodore D. Segal—a 1977 Duke graduate and author of Point of Reckoning: The Fight For Racial Justice at Duke University—published last month by Duke University Press, chronicles a cache of present-day racist incidents on campus that he calls a “troubling echo” of the 1960s. These include, in 2015, a noose found hanging near the

February 24, 2021


student center, and a 2017 report from National Public Radio where African American students at Duke’s divinity school described feeling like they had entered “a racial nightmare,” seemingly from another era. Black students were not the only people of color targeted. In 2019, Megan Neely, then director of graduate studies in the Department of Biostatistics, sent an email asking international graduate students to refrain from speaking Chinese inside the department or in other professional settings because, she said, she had overheard two other professors complaining about students speaking loudly in Chinese. Segal chronicles the reaction of the pioneering Duke pediatrician and professor Brenda Armstrong who, as a leader of the school’s Afro-American Society, organized the Black student takeover of the Allen Building in 1969 to protest the racial climate on campus. Before she died in 2018, Armstrong served as the associate dean for admissions at the Duke School of Medicine for more than 20 years, in addition to working as a senior associate dean for student diversity, recruitment, and retention. “Everybody has a gift, and nobody’s gift is better than anyone else’s,” Armstrong said of the racist incidents that polluted the campus before her death. “But that culture of sharing and appreciating each other’s gifts has not been achieved.” Segal, an attorney and a board member at Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies, writes that the school’s janitors, maids, and other service workers were historically underpaid. “The old way of running Duke was you hired ten Blacks to do the job of two and you paid them a tenth of what they should be paid,” Segal writes. “Under this system, Duke’s maids were paid $0.43 per hour in 1951. By the start of 1959, the hourly amount was $0.65 per hour, earning maids a paycheck of $19.50 for a standard thirty-hour work week.” By 1965, Segal writes, when maids’ wages were increased to an average of $0.85 per hour, it was still far below the federal minimum wage of $1.25, with no holiday or sick leave. “Maids had to go from house to house and clean up for white folks to survive, or else they went on welfare,” Segal says.

The Past As Prelude Duke’s historical mistreatment of its Black employees resonates with Brett Chambers, 12

February 24, 2021

Allen Building takeover, February 13, 1969


a 1979 Duke graduate whose grandmother worked as a maid at the university during the 1940s and 1950s. Chambers told the INDY he still feels bitter that his grandmother’s work went unappreciated. A native of Maryland, Chambers spent summers growing up in the shadow of the university’s East Campus in Durham’s Walltown neighborhood. In addition to his grandmother cleaning women’s dormitory rooms, his cousin worked as a gardener on the campus. But when his mother, a Black woman, wanted to apply for admission, she couldn’t because of the racial bar. “My mom couldn’t go to Duke, but goddammit, I said, ‘I’m gonna go,” he says. “Black people were working in the hospitals, and as cooks and nurses, doing all the work, but my grandmother’s child was not even allowed the privilege to be rejected by Duke.” Does Chambers think, moving forward, that Duke can become anti-racist? “No,” he says adamantly. Chambers, who teaches journalism at North Carolina Central University, says Duke is “fundamentally racist.” But, he says, that the university acknowledging its racism is “a huge step.” Segal notes that when Duke’s Board of Trustees finally voted to end the school’s racially exclusive admissions in 1961, the primary reason wasn’t an altruistic ideological change. It was money. “Increasingly,” he writes, “the federal government and national foundations were making clear to Duke and other southern universities that grants would stop if they refused to admit Black students.”

Neal describes the role of race in the classrooms of predominantly white institutions as complex. “From the standpoint of being a Black professor, whiteness becomes a default for expertise,” Neal told the INDY. “So for students—even those who are Black—there is often an unconscious bias that professors of color are less prepared, less capable, and that their educational experience is diminished because of it, especially when it comes to disciplines in which faculty of color are perceived as unicorns.” Duke’s racial inequity problem has not been relegated to isolated incidents. In 2019, the university vetoed a proposed $3.3 billion Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit project after university officials outlined four “unresolved challenges” related to the rail’s alignment and construction, including disruption from building, noise, and liability. Several local leaders concluded, according to reporting from the INDY, that Duke’s upper echelon never wanted the light rail in the first place. Mayor Steve Schewel told the INDY last week that the light rail project was part of the city’s shared equity strategy, “because it would have helped a lot of low-income residents get access to good jobs.”

Making Amends Michael Ivory, Jr., an African American student from Miami, was admitted to Duke in 2014. In an essay published in the alumni magazine’s winter issue,

“Roots of the Matter,” Ivory considers the university’s anti-racist efforts and recalls a freshman year visit to Shooters II, a club near East Campus and popular student hangout. While waiting to get inside, Ivory writes, he struck up a conversation with a Black man, a Durham resident. “Out of these facts came one of the most disturbing lessons I would ever learn,” Ivory wrote of the conversation. The young man told him that in many Black communities in the city, Duke is called “a modern-day penitentiary.” “‘We say that when you’re born, Duke signs your birth certificate,” Ivory remembers the man saying. “‘When you work, Duke probably signs your paycheck. And when you die, Duke signs your death certificate.’” In the months after that visit to Shooters, Ivory says he entered into the “gauntlet of academic and personal growth that defines the transition to college.” “Then, a noose was hung on campus.” Ivory concludes that Duke “has a number of ways to enact its anti-racist vision, but here is what I know: Race and racism have always been a matter of roots.” “I cannot remain satisfied with the pruning of branches,” he writes. Ivory, who now works with Duke’s Office of Development, told the INDY last week that the university has made decisions and signed contracts that “literally displace whole neighborhoods.” He suggests Duke should spearhead working with state and local governments to help purchase homes for Black and Brown residents, or create land trusts to anchor and stabilize historically Black neighborhoods where people are losing their homes. “Duke, by all means, should look at what it looks like to relinquish land,” he says. Neal says there has been some degree of change, with more Black people in positions of leadership on campus, and that “it is clear that Duke is in a different place.” In 2020, 9 percent of undergraduate students were Black and 41 percent white, per university data; for faculty, the ratio is around 15:70 percent. “Yet, to articulate the values of anti-racism—virtue signaling, as it were—is the easy part,” Neal says. “This is going to be hard work, and 400-plus years of anti-Black racism in the United States will not be resolved because a few college administrators finally saw the light because of George Floyd.” “It is disingenuous and disrespectful,” Neal adds, “to those folks who have been waging battles against anti-Black racism around the world, in this country, and even at Duke, to think this can be addressed by a few pronouncements.” W

February 24, 2021




Money, Later Raleigh is considering a city-wide Tax Increment Grant program that could save developments like John Kane’s Downtown South millions in taxes BY LEIGH TAUSS


citywide tax break could save developers millions if they prove their projects benefit the community— potentially including John Kane’s controversial Downtown South redevelopment—but Raleigh leaders insist it’s not a handout. “It’s not a tax giveaway,” Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin told the INDY. “We are investing in communities that have never been invested in before.” Tax Increment Grants are in place in Charlotte, and unlike other subsidies, the developer receives no money upfront for the project. In fact, they don’t get any money at all until they finish and prove they’ve made good on promised improvements in the neighborhood. For Downtown South, it could help transform what Baldwin called an “industrial wasteland” into a bustling mixed-use soccer stadium and athletic complex with housing, retail, and businesses. Some groups, however, including the North Carolina Justice Center, vehemently oppose subsidizing development when the city is already facing a projected $28 million budget shortfall on top of more pressing needs brought on by the pandemic. “In many cases, this tool has subsidized development that would have otherwise occurred, accelerated gentrification, and failed to deliver sustained community benefits,” the group stated in a recent letter. “It has also committed public dollars to the pockets of developers that otherwise could be driven back into community benefits and public institutions.” The tax break formula Raleigh is considering is relatively simple and modeled after Charlotte’s program. For qualifying projects—ones that demonstrate a public benefit and in which the developer takes on sole financial responsibility—the city will reimburse up to 75 percent of taxes for up to 15 years, depending on whether the project is in an underdeveloped location. Projects in less prioritized areas receive a 50 percent reimbursement for 10 years. There is no minimum investment in order to be considered for the TIG, which city leaders hope will promote equity among qualifying projects. 14

February 24, 2021

Rendering of Downtown South COURTESY OF KANE REALTY

“The TIG would not fund a stadium–there needs to be more in the mix.” Take, for example, a project with an assessed value of $500 million in southeast Raleigh. If it can clear the hoops by proving community benefits—either through affordable housing or workforce development—the developer would get reimbursed for $1.3 million of the $1.8 million they’d pay in taxes each year, over 15 years. So in the end, the developer would save about $20 million in taxes over that period. The subsidy, however, is capped at 2 percent of the city’s annual property tax levy, according to Allison Bradsher, Raleigh’s chief financial officer. That would limit the total reimbursement across all projects to $5.1 million, based on projected property tax revenues for 2021. More ambitious projects, such as the $2 billion Downtown South project, would exceed the cap by about $200,000. Bonner Gaylord, managing director for Kane Realty and a former Raleigh city councilor, said the tax subsidy alone won’t make or break the project. It has already been granted a rezoning. He likened the TIG to sugar on a cake. “It’s the cake we need to focus on—not one of the ingredients of the cake, and dissecting it, and trying to break it down. We need to look at the bigger picture,” Gaylord told the INDY. “The TIG would not reasonably fund a stadium; there needs to be more in the mix, just like sugar can’t make a cake. There needs to be addi-

tional partnerships and collaborations to unlock the full potential.” It’s unclear if Kane will ask for additional city funds to make his project a reality. In 2006, Kane requested $75 million from Raleigh to build a parking deck in North Hills. The City turned him down. Former Mayor Charles Meeker says that was a good decision at the time. He opposes a TIG—not because he doesn’t believe projects like Downtown South should happen, but because he thinks subsidizing development after the fact gets the formula backward. “The developer needs the money upfront, so the timing is off, and it provides the benefit to the developer way down the road,” Meeker told the INDY. “It doesn’t really help the developer deliver at the right time, and it does hurt the City down the road. If the City thinks the soccer stadium is so important, it should provide a cash subsidy.” City council member Jonathan Melton is trying to keep an open mind about the proposal and says it could be good for Raleigh to have some framework in place. And while it does save developers money, it’s not like the city is cutting them a check. “That’s money that doesn’t exist yet. It’s not like there’s this pot of money that can be allocated elsewhere,” Melton told the INDY. “It’s not like spending money to encourage the project—the project hasn’t happened yet.” The council plans to discuss ways to engage the community in the tax break system at an upcoming meeting. Baldwin says she’s not in a rush to push through the policy. “We still have a lot of work to do,” Baldwin says. “The fact is that we need this done and done right, not done fast—and it needs to be citywide, so everybody knows.” W


North Carolina Donovan McLaurin on his property in Cumberland County. PHOTO BY JADE WILSON

Land of Opportunity The Atlantic Coast Pipeline project was abandoned last year, but property owners who sold their land, or had it taken via eminent domain, find themselves in limbo BY LEWIS KENDALL


he flags came first—colored plastic and metal rods stuck in the soft ground that turned Donovan McLaurin’s Cumberland County property into a giant earthy pincushion. That was around 2015, McLaurin reckons, not long after the 600-mile, $8 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) was first proposed. The product of a partnership between Dominion Energy and Duke Energy, the pipeline was designed to deliver some 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from the Appalachian Basin through West Virginia, Virginia, and, as it turned out, straight through McLaurin’s backyard in southeastern North Carolina. The flags were the first paragraph in a chapter of McLaurin’s life that has dragged on for more than five years and is set to stretch out even longer. Last summer, Dominion and Duke announced they were canceling the pipeline due

to ballooning costs and ongoing legal hurdles. But recently, Dominion said it does not plan to release individuals from easements and land claims it secured for the project, leaving McLaurin and roughly 3,000 other landowners with costly and potentially permanent scars. McLaurin’s experience tracks with others’ who own property located up and down the pipeline’s proposed route. After the survey flags came the offers. Land agents for the project came knocking on McLaurin’s door with an initial offer for a nearly 11-acre strip, running straight through the middle of his land. Fifteen years ago, the 74-year-old had purchased the tract—some 39 acres in total—for just under $350,000. The land agent’s first proposal was a check for $34,000. “I said, ‘Have you lost your damn mind?’” McLaurin recalls. “I told him he was a carpetbagging, land-stealing thief.”

Other landowners echoed McLaurin’s experience, describing the initial offers on their land as “woefully lowball” or “chicken feed.” The second offer to McLaurin was higher, but still not enough to compensate for a project he figured would make his land essentially worthless. A longtime worker for a regional glass manufacturer, he had plans to build himself a home there and had gentlemen’s agreements secured to sell off a few segments. But those plans have since been scuppered. In a 2017 complaint McLaurin filed with multiple state agencies, including the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, the state Board of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors, the Real Estate Commission, and the N.C. State Bar, he wrote that the companies “play games” with landowners to secure easements, including using emotional manipulation and intentionally undervaluing property. “They intimidate all with threats of eminent domain and have no regard for what you paid for your land or your plans for it,” McLaurin wrote in the complaint. He never heard back. In early 2018, the ACP submitted to McLaurin its final offer: $7,600. He didn’t take it. A day after the offer expired, he was served with a 350-page eminent domain lawsuit. For a variety of reasons, McLaurin didn’t end up going to court, and anyway, he didn’t want to pay a lawyer to fight what he felt was an uphill battle. Some landowners did go the legal route. Marvin Winstead, a Nash County farmer, rejected the companies’ offers and decided to hire a lawyer to fight the easement claim on his property that would have, he says, severely hampered his crop production and felled a 100-year-old pine tree—his mother’s favorite. Though he had help—he was backed by the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL)—the case was a time-consuming, uncertain slog. “It was a six-year disruption of my life,” Winstead says. “I was working on this thing like a full-time job. I was going at it seven days a week if necessary.” The case was still being litigated when the companies announced the project’s cancellation, and Winstead’s lawyer has since filed a motion attempting to recoup legal fees. But the fact that the companies would put as much time, effort, and money into his sliver of land told Winstead everything he needed to know about their priorities. “All they care about is getting their pipe in the ground and pumping gas through it,” he says. “No concern over what they do to the landowners, or to the community, and they’re certainly not concerned about what they’re doing to the world at large by expanding the use of natural gas.” Further north on the pipeline’s route, Richard Averitt and his family were hoping to build a getaway for travelers near the Blue Ridge Parkway in Nelson County, Virginia. Six years and more than six figures in legal fees later, they, like Winstead, were able to stave off the companies’ attempts

February 24, 2021



to commandeer their land until the project was canceled. A permanent easement would have meant a loss of millions in property value, according to Averitt. Still, the 50-year-old said it would be a stretch to call the outcome a victory. He estimated the family worked 20 hours a week wrangling with the companies; for years, they hesitated to leave town, afraid of a missed legal summons or that the companies would simply come on to the property and start digging. But they were the lucky ones, Averitt says, with the means to fight back. “I feel terrible for those folks who signed easements under duress,” he says. “The system is bent so outrageously toward these for-profit companies.” Averitt says he thinks large corporations in general intentionally target rural communities that don’t have the resources to fight back. “Once we got into this, we realized that this is not new,” he says. “It’s been happening for years to economically disadvantaged Black and brown folks in rural communities with the least voice.” Because McLaurin didn’t show up to his 2018 court date, Duke and Dominion won the judgment. Within days, workers with chainsaws swarmed his property, cutting it up “from one ear to the other.” Now, when you walk around McLaurin’s property—just down the road from the Wade Town Hall—it’s hard to come up with a better description. The land, dotted with poplar, black gum, and water oak, backs 16

February 24, 2021

up to the Cape Fear River, a major source of drinking water for the eastern part of the state. In the two years after workers first broke ground, they have fully split the ground in two. Near the creek that flows into the river, a huge bite has been taken out of the land, with mounds of sandy soil stacked 30 feet high on either side of the path where the pipe would have been installed. The softness of the earth forced the companies to build hundreds of yards of “beam roads” through the woods, arranging large wood planks on the ground so heavy machinery would have stable surfaces to maneuver on while clearing, cutting, and digging. The barn house where McLaurin lives is visible from the clearing, as are the corrals where he keeps a few horses. “How would you ever fix a place like this? What would you do with it now?” he asked. “It’s pretty much ruined.” Recently, as required by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Duke and Dominion released plans to restore and clean up the construction and disturbances along the pipeline’s route, which they aim to complete by the end of next year. But some landowners are unsatisfied with the plan, which will leave in place all 31.4 miles of completed pipe, as well as a portion of the more than 100 miles of felled trees. Even more concerning for people like McLaurin, though, is what might come next. The same day the companies announced the pipeline’s cancellation, Dominion announced that it would sell its gas trans-

mission and storage assets to Berkshire Hathaway in a $9.7 billion deal. Those assets did not include the collected easements, which are earmarked specifically for the construction of a natural gas pipeline. Other than the restoration and finishing out the remaining court cases with folks like Averitt and Winstead, Dominion said it does not have any current plans for the easements and other land claims. “We paid fair market value for the easements, so we plan to keep them at this time,” Dominion spokesman Aaron Ruby wrote in an email. “For the next two years, we will be focused on concluding the project and restoring disturbed areas. We do not have any other plans for the easements at this time.” But for McLaurin, the fact that the companies refuse to release the land back to owners is cause for concern: While Duke

and Dominion may have folded their hands, what’s to stop another company coming in and deciding a pipeline is worth its while? “Now see, what does that tell you? If I don’t have plans for something, I’ll throw it in the trash. If I do have plans for something, I’ll put it on the shelf,” McLaurin says. “They’re just like a cat sitting there waiting for the rat to come back around.” And if it’s not the ACP, there will always be another project (like the Mountain Valley Pipeline, for instance, proposed along a 300-mile stretch of land, from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia) that communities have to deal with— unless someone changes the system. That change, says Sharon Ponton, a community organizer who works with BREDL, lies with reform at the source: regulatory agencies like FERC, and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which

The Durham County Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board will begin accepting applications on March 1, 2021 for its FY 2021 grant program. All 501 (c)(3) community based non-profit agencies and educational institutions with programs that address alcohol abuse education and prevention within Durham County are eligible to apply. The Durham County Criminal Justice Resource Center (Drug Treatment Court) is also eligible to apply.

Donovan McLaurin on his property in Cumberland County. PHOTOS BY JADE WILSON

helps craft the rules and routes for projects like the ACP. “There’s got to be major changes,” Ponton says, including forcing companies to obtain all the necessary easements and certifications for the entire length of a project before any ground is broken. FERC itself needs oversight and reorganization that would afford at least a little more power to individuals, she added. “They are very anti-community and landowner and very pro-industry,” Ponton says of the regulatory agency. Early last year, congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD) launched an investigation into FERC and its certification of projects such as the ACP. The investigation found that over the past 20 years, FERC has granted more than 1,000 certificates of public convenience and necessity—the designation required for a company to exercise eminent domain—while rejecting only six, a 99 percent approval rate. The investigation also found that over the past 12 years, FERC has denied every landowner appeal it has received. “A system where corporations win nearly 100 percent of the time, and people win zero percent of the time, is not a fair, unbiased, and balanced system,” Raskin said at

a congressional hearing in December. “It is rigged. That is not a system of justice or of administrative process that anyone can recognize for a democratic society.” Ambling around his property on a recent, chilly afternoon, McLaurin sees both the forest and the trees. He wants systemic change, but he also realizes the need for immediate and just compensation for landowners, many of whom can’t afford to wait around for the gears of bureaucracy to turn. In speaking of having the rug pulled out from under him, he is quick to appreciate the irony of his situation. “You’re dealing with stolen merchandise to start with,” he said with a laugh. “I got it from somebody who got it from somebody who stole it from the Indians. If you really think about it, you really ain’t got a hell of a lot of room to complain.” But at the end of the day, he added, that doesn’t excuse the behavior of companies that, in his eyes, target vulnerable communities and strong-arm people in the name of corporate profit. “If they treated people right and paid them equitably, there wouldn’t be near as much to think about,” he says. “But that wasn’t the name of the game.”W

Applications must be submitted online using our ZoomGrants application process no later than midnight on April 30, 2021. All applications will be assessed to determine which applicants best meet the eligibility and performance criteria outlined in the Durham County ABC grant program guidelines. Grant funding decisions will be determined by the Durham County ABC Board. Grant recipients will be notified by June 15, 2021 of their selection. To submit an application this year, applicants will need to create a ZoomGrants account or use an existing account, if applicable. Information about the ZoomGrants application process and the grant program guidelines can be found at Interested organizations are strongly encouraged to attend the Information Meeting which will be held virtually via Zoom Meetings on Tuesday, March 2, 2021 at 11:00 am. Please visit our website at to RSVP and to access the virtual meeting information. For questions, please email

February 24, 2021




FAST A Timeline of Black History in the Triangle BY THOMASI MCDONALD AND SARA PEQUEÑO

1891: St. Joseph’s AME Baptist church is built. The

Key Chapel Hill Durham Raleigh North Carolina/United States

1793: Enslaved Black people begin constructing the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the nation’s oldest public university 1808: John Chavis, a free-born Black man, opens a

school in Raleigh. Chavis, who fought in the Revolutionary War, teaches white children by day and Black pupils at night

1896: Sarah Hunter, wife of the head of St Augustine’s University, establishes the St. Agnes Hospital on the university’s campus. The hospital serves as an accredited training school for nurses; it will be the only hospital and training school for African Americans between Atlanta and Washington, D.C. for nearly half a century

1865: Shaw University, now the oldest Black college in the southeast, is founded

April 18, 1904: Pioneering comedian Dewey “Pigmeat” Markham is born

1865: James Henry Harris, born a slave, returns to

February 25, 1907: Physician and businessman

Raleigh after time abroad in Africa and serves as a city alderman. He is also one of the founders of Oberlin Village

1866: White Rock Baptist Church, Durham’s first Black church, forms

Manassa Thomas Pope and partner M.A. Johnson found the Mechanics and Farmers Bank to provide banking services to the Black community

July 5, 1910: Dr. James E. Shepard, a business-

1869: North Carolina ratifies the 15th Amendment, which gives Black men the right to vote

man, opens the National Religious Training School and Chautauqua for the Colored Race; after changing names and ownership, the school is eventually recognized as N.C. Central University by the state legislature in 1969. It is the first state-supported university for Black people in the nation

November 3, 1875: James E. Shepard, founder

1913: The second Black library in North Carolina,

and first president of what will become North Carolina Central University, is born in Oberlin Village

the Durham Colored Library, is founded in the Baraca, a borrowed room in the White Rock Baptist Church

1868: The first African-American state legislators—

1919: Dr. Manassa T. Pope mounts a bid for a seat

February 3, 1870: Congress passes the Fif-

1921: Black women open the Efland Home for Wayward Girls, serving Black girls who tended to be incacreated in adult jails, unlike white children and Black boys

three senators and 17 representatives—are elected to the General Assembly

teenth Amendment

1880: John Merrick, pioneer business leader, arrives in Durham as a barber; he invests in real estate and builds his own home and rental properties

1886: Wilson Caldwell—a university worker born

into slavery, justice of the peace, and founder of a school for Black children—is elected to the Chapel Hill Board of Commissioners

ted serves as superintendent of public grade schools for Black children, including the Ledger school in Hayti and the Hack Road school

February 24, 2021

Cotten is born in what will eventually be Carrboro, on Lloyd Street near the train tracks

1896: The Supreme Court upholds segregation in its “separate but equal” doctrine

1887: The Whitted School is built; James A. Whit-


munity pharmacy and drug store, The Durham Drug Company, to train Black druggists

January 31, 1865: The Thirteenth Amendment

abolishes slavery

Episcopal church to train Black teachers


1895: Dr. Aaron M. Moore helps organize a com-

January 1895: Folk musician Elizabeth “Libba”

1867: Saint Augustine’s University is founded by the rom the nation’s first public university, built by enslaved people, to the demonstrators this summer who finally rid the Capitol grounds of its monuments to white supremacy, the history of the Triangle and its major towns and cities—Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh—is inextricably intertwined with the history of its Black residents. Black history is American history, and Black History Week, established as a precursor to Black History Month by the author and historian Carter G. Woodson, was an early affirmation, and now an ongoing reminder, that Black Lives Matter. In honor of this February tradition, the INDY created a timeline to recognize and celebrate the work and achievements of Black activists, educators, and leaders in the realms of business, government, and faith. It’s but a small sample of the contributions of so many over the centuries.

church was founded by Edian Markham. In addition to being churches, St. Joseph’s and White Rock are bastions of activism and business catalysts, where members create consensus about the importance of education

on the Raleigh City Council

1921: Builder and businessman Calvin Lightner constructs the Lightner Arcade and Hotel on East Hargett Street, downtown Raleigh’s “Black Main Street.” It becomes a social hub for Black Americans during Jim Crow 1926: Louis E. Austin, fiery editor and publisher,

establishes The Carolina Times, a Black weekly newspaper with the slogan “The Truth Unbridled.” The Times becomes one of the most influential newspapers in the state

1933: Black American attorneys Conrad O. Pearson and Cecil McCoy file an action on behalf of Thomas R. Hocutt against the University of North Carolina, ushering in the desegregation of state-funded universities

1935: The city’s best-known Bluesman—Fulton Allen, also known as Blind Boy Fuller—records with the Reverend Gary Davis in New York, popularizing the “Piedmont Blues” 1938: Pauli Murray is rejected from UNC’s graduate program because she is Black. She later becomes an Episcopal priest and delivers her first Eucharist (communion) at Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill, the same church where her grandmother was baptized as an enslaved person

October 13, 1938: Shirley Caesar, First Lady of

1960: Ella Baker, a Shaw

University valedictorian and the first national director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, forms The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee on the Shaw University campus. SNCC’s young leaders will incorporate Baker’s philosophies of “militant anti-racism,” grassroots organizing, and subverting class and gender hierarchies

1975: Architect Phil Freelon graduates from N.C. State’s School of Design

African American elected to Raleigh’s city council

April 30, 1963: N.C. State and Shaw University

students protest segregation at Raleigh’s State Theatre, on Salisbury Street

1966: Duke University hires its first Black faculty

publishes the landmark volume, From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans. He will become a leading American historian

member, Samuel DuBois Cook; Black students take over the Allen Building on the East Campus to protest the school’s racial climate

1953: Rencher N. Harris becomes the first Black

1966: Attorney Floyd B. McKissick is named

man elected to the Durham City Council; in 1958, he is the first Black man appointed to the city’s school board

National Director of the Congress of Racial Equality (C.O.R.E.)

1954: The Supreme Court releases its landmark ruling desegregating schools in Brown v. Board of Education

UNC-Chapel Hill School of Social Work, becoming the university’s first Black faculty member. Three years later, Blyden Jackson will become UNC’s first Black professor

February 8, 1960: Four Black students stage a

sit-in at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro

February 16, 1960: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. addresses the congregation of the White Rock Baptist Church, delivering his history-making “fill up the jails” civil rights speech

February 28, 1960: Nine Lincoln High School students stage a sit-in at Colonial Drug Store on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill. The next day, around 100 young people picket outside in solidarity September 8, 1960: Bill Campbell is the first Black student to attend an all-white Raleigh city school (another Raleighite, Joe Holt, was the first Black student to challenge school segregation in the city in 1956)

1975: Muhammad Mosque No. 34 is renamed the Durham Muhammad Masjid following the death of national leader Elijah Muhammad; now named Ar-Razzaq Islamic Center, it is Durham’s oldest masjid

1961: Businessman John Winters becomes the first

to admit undergraduate students regardless of race

April 22, 1947: Durham’s John Hope Franklin

arrested for conducting a peaceful sit-in at the Royal Ice Cream Company in downtown Durham in one of the country’s first civil rights sit-ins

1974: Raleigh’s John Winters and Fred Alexander of Mecklenburg County become the first Black Americans elected to the North Carolina state Senate since Reconstruction

1975: The Hayti Heritage Center, formerly the home

1940: P.R. Jervay Sr. starts The Carolinian newspaper

June 23, 1957: Seven Black demonstrators are

the first African American elected mayor of a majority-white, major Southern city in the United States

1961: The Duke University Board of Trustees votes

May 18, 1963: Black demonstrators are arrested at a peaceful sit-in at a Howard Johnson’s restaurant in Durham

Gospel, is born

1973: Clarence Lightner is elected mayor of Raleigh,

July 1966: Hortense McClinton joins the

February 13, 1969: Duke students, many from the Afro-American society, occupy the Allen building to protest the university’s treatment of Black students February 23, 1969: UNC-Chapel Hill cafeteria

workers go on strike with the support of the Black Student Movement

May 6, 1969: Howard Lee is elected mayor of

Chapel Hill, the first Black man to lead any predominantly white Southern town

1971: Civil rights activist Ann Atwater serves as

co-chair of a charrette, along with local KKK leader C.P. Ellis, that eventually leads to the desegregation of Durham’s public schools

1973: Josephine Dobbs Clement becomes the first Black woman to serve on the Durham City Board of Education

of St. Joseph’s AME church, opens

1978: John H. Baker is

elected Sheriff of Wake County, North Carolina’s first African American sheriff since Reconstruction

November 28, 1981: Michael

Jordan plays his first game for the Tar Heels, scoring 12 points

1989: Chester Jenkins is elected Durham’s first

Black mayor; eight of the 13 city council members are Black

1991: Dan Blue becomes the first African Ameri-

can to serve as speaker of the house in the General Assembly

1995: Dr. Sharon Elliott-Bynum and her sister,

Pat Amaechi, co-found Healing with CAARE, Inc., a non-profit community-based organization to support people living with HIV/AIDS

2008: The Marian Cheek Jackson Center opens in Northside, honoring Marian Lovette Cheek Jackson, the historian of St. Joseph C.M.E. since the 1950s August 20, 2018: Silent Sam is toppled by


2019: Then-presidential candidate Kamala Harris

delivers a keynote speech at the 84th-anniversary banquet of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People

Summer 2020: Following weeks of protests after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police, anti-racist activists and Black Lives Matter supporters in Raleigh topple two Confederate statues from a monument at the State Capitol 2021: N.C. Central University graduate, McArthur

Genius Grant recipient, and civil rights titan Reverend William Barber delivers the homily at the inaugural prayer for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Harris W

February 24, 2021


FO O D & D R I N K

Grocery Gourmet Sundries is a salve for home cooking burnout and a lifeline for local food producers BY LAYLA KHOURY-HANOLD


f you’ve been making most of your meals at home for the last year, you know that cooking burnout is real. Perhaps you’ve supported local restaurants by treating yourself to takeout, but your wallet is feeling the squeeze. Where can you turn for culinary inspiration and delicious, thoughtfully sourced eats? Enter sundries, a new gourmet grocery located at 2618 Hillsborough Road, inside the cheerful farmhouse interior of Durham’s LocoPops. Open since January, the shop offers top-notch provisions—and a lifeline for local food producers. Founder Kristin Bedinger describes the concept as “a smaller version of Southern Seasons—which was beloved and will be missed—but for the next generation and with a more local bent.” Shelves at sundries are stocked with staples from local and regional makers, including sprouted all-purpose flour and grits from Mebane’s Red Tail Grains, and ten kinds of heirloom beans from renowned purveyor Rancho Gordo, whose bean club has recently become something of a cult phenomenon. The store is the first retail outlet for Saxapahaw baker Kathleen Williams’ crackers, part of a line of products called Kate’s Goods, and also serves as a pick-up location for her naturally leavened bread subscription. Shoppers can also score loaves from Raleigh’s Boulted Bread, or a baguette from Oxford’s Strong Arm Baking Co. “I’m excited about working closely with producers and chefs to expand their reach in Durham, and to help connect people who might like to work together,” Bedinger says. “Durham’s cooperative business community inspires me, and it’s so rewarding to order from other local businesses.” 20

February 24, 2021

Opening a specialty food store is a dream come true for Bedinger. After earning a business administration degree from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2007, she moved to New York City to work in digital media. After completing a culinary arts certificate from the Institute of Culinary Education in 2011, she transitioned to working in restaurants. She honed her cooking chops at Torrisi Italian Specialties and Carbone, then moved into restaurant operations. But her most formative experience was a summer stint at Stinky Bklyn, a cheese shop that cemented her love for specialty food retail. In 2015, she moved back to North Carolina to be closer to family and nature; she was drawn to Durham’s growing food scene and small city appeal. Her work experience here, as director of events at The Durham Hotel, and later as director of Durham Food Hall, cultivated her connection to the local food community. During a period of professional transition last fall, Bedinger reflected on how COVID-19 had upended the restaurant and retail landscape. She realized that her experience and passion for food could help local producers connect with their customers beyond farmer’s markets and restaurant menus. Bedinger toyed with starting a food hub, but aggregating locally produced food posed complicated fulfillment logistics. The idea of a specialty food store still appealed to her, though initially, she wasn’t sure there was a place for it in Durham. A fateful conversation with Jennifer Curtis, co-founder of Firsthand Foods, connected Bedinger with Summer Bicknell, the founder of LocoPops. Bicknell had recently added grocery items—including Firsthand

Kristin Bedinger at sundries


Foods’ pasture-raised meats—to extend her shop’s offerings beyond paletas. In late November, Bedinger and Bicknell met up; discovering that they shared similar food philosophies and operating principles, they decided to work together. They began working on sourcing and planning and, on January 12, opened sundries for business. “It’s a great size,” Bedinger says. “The access to the facilities in the building is perfect. The connection to such a neighborhood institution—LocoPops has such a following—it’s incredible.” Bedinger has continued to expand sundries’ offerings in the hope that the assortment will help customers stave off kitchen boredom while supporting local and independent food makers. Stock up on Firsthand Foods’ ground beef, chorizo, or sausage links, and come summer, grillready meats. Refresh your spice rack with blends from Asheville’s Spicewalla, including Everything Bagel Seasoning and Modena Balsamic Rub, a rich, herby blend that’s excellent on roast chicken and vegetables. Snacks in regular rotation in Bedinger’s pantry include Bertie County Peanuts and popcorn from Durham’s The Mad Popper. Sought-after items from further afield round out Bedinger’s curation, including Fly By Jing’s Sichuan Chili Crisp, Kewpie

Mayonnaise, Scout Canning’s sustainable tuna, and Seed + Mill’s tahini and halva. Sundries’ beverage selection shines, too. There’s Ghia, a non-alcoholic aperitif; craft beers, such as sours from Edmund’s Oast Brewing Co. in Charleston and hazy IPAs from Wilmington’s New Anthem Beer Project; and value-driven wines made by small producers, often in lesser-known regions and with uncommon varietals. Each bottle is accompanied by Bedinger’s thoughtful tasting notes, as with an Italian Cortese blend she describes as “snappy, minerally, and bright without being thin. Great for Chablis drinkers or those who like a medium-bodied white without any oak, vanilla, or buttery flavor.” Bedinger’s next plan is to offer grab-andgo and take-and-heat prepared foods. In the meantime, sundries carries frozen fare from local purveyors, including ramen kits and gyoza from Dashi, wood-fired pizzas from Napoli, and ravioli and tomato sauces from Melina’s Fresh Pasta. “I want people to have the convenience aspect of dropping into a neighborhood store and getting what they need for dinner,” Bedinger says. In a post-pandemic world, she envisions “people stopping in for something cool to bring to a dinner party—even if you’re not a cook.” W



Premiered Feb. 12 on ESPN+


So now that you’ve seen the finished product, what are some of the things you feel this docuseries accomplishes as far as educating viewers?

More With More Executive producers Chris Paul and Stephen A. Smith’s new docuseries, Why Not Us?, is an in-depth look at HBCU athletics BY ERIC TULLIS


n March 2019, the Durham community rallied behind its lesser-known Division I hoops squad, the North Carolina Central University Men’s Basketball Team, as the school set its sights on its first-ever win in the NCAA Tournament. While their 78-74 loss to North Dakota State University was an upset, it opened up a larger conversation about why a historically black university’s chances of succeeding on the biggest stage in college basketball have traditionally been so slim. This question and more are being addressed in a new eight-part ESPN+ docuseries entitled Why Not Us: North Carolina Central University Men’s Basketball. Co-executive produced by NBA star Chris Paul and ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith, Why Not Us shines a light on the unique challenges and joys of playing for a legacy HBCU basketball team like the NCCU Eagles. At the center of this docuseries, and team, is advisor, mentor, father figure, spiritual guide, and NCCU men’s basketball head coach LeVelle Moton. Recently, Moton spoke with the INDY about how this docuseries came to fruition, how the pandemic has affected his team, and the possibilities of all HBCU athletic programs doing “more with more.”

INDY WEEK: Before you were approached about the idea for Why Not Us, had you ever thought that there needed to be an in-depth look at the culture of HBCU athletics? COACH LEVELLE MOTON: Yeah. In my opinion, we’ve always been overlooked. I saw the University of Kentucky have it. They are more than deserving of it. I saw Duke have it. They are more than deserving of it. And I saw Penny [Anfernee Hardaway] have one done about his career at the University of Memphis. I just didn’t know who would do ours, because of familiarity. The truth of the matter is that these people that run these companies and these media outlets don’t normally look like us. All of us are genuinely attracted to people in situations that look like us. Especially if we’re telling a story. No one was really thinking about HBCUs in this country during the summer. We were no longer talking about Black Lives Matter; it was no longer about “shutting up and dribbling.” It was just a culmination of all of the things being paid attention to more than ever, because we were all in the house. I thought it created momentum for a story to be told.

Well, it’s going to be eight episodes, and I’ve only seen the first two. The world gets to see the second one on February 24th. My job was really easy. I just wanted to be myself. That’s all I told them. This isn’t Love & Hip Hop. This isn’t a reality show. There’s nothing scripted. They’re putting a mic on me, and I’m doing what I do and saying what I say every single day, regardless of who is around. I have a bigger mission. I wanted our team to be represented in that same way. Are we different? Yes. Do we act and communicate differently? Yes. Our differences are what make us dope, and for so long, the world has always gravitated towards our differences. When we created rock & roll, they loved it. When we created hip-hop, they loved it. This world has always gravitated toward our creativity and authenticity. One thing I do know is that when we do things from our hearts, it will touch the hearts of others. You’ve said that “needing our opportunities’’ is part of the essence captured in the title “Why Not Us.” Does the title also speak to the ongoing conversation around why highly recruited black athletes choose to play for blue blood, predominately white institutions, rather than HBCUs like NCCU? It 100 percent speaks to that. The title can be perceived from multiple perspectives. Five-star recruits are going to this blue blood school. Why not us? A docuseries like this has never been made about an HBCU. Why not? This-and-that school has accomplished so much over the past five or ten years. So have we. Why hasn’t that light been shown on us? It’s more of a definitive statement than a question. Last year, when five-star recruit Makur Maker chose Howard University over other top college hoops programs, it was said to be a “game-changer.” As someone who has tried to recruit these kinds of players, how much of that narrative did you buy into? I thought that would be the tip of the iceberg. Even though that young man chose a school within our conference, I was excited. In a sense, this generation needs its own Jackie Robinson. They’re not necessarily developed

February 24, 2021


into leaders in the manner that we were. They need to see someone make that impact. They need to see that they don’t have to go to these blue blood programs to achieve their dreams, which is ultimately the NBA. You can come here. All you have to do is put up numbers, right? It doesn’t matter where you go; you have to perform. But it had to start with someone having the options and choosing an HBCU. Recently, NCCU announced that it would be cutting its baseball program at the end of the 2021 season. How does a decision like that tie-in to some of the challenges that come with running a successful athletic program at an HBCU? It’s all tied-in. Honestly, we didn’t want this docuseries to be the “NCCU brochure” documentary. We wanted it to highlight who we really are. We neither wanted to hide nor mask our difficulties and challenges as a program. In some of the upcoming episodes, you’re going to start to see how we are able to achieve some things in spite of certain things. We’re not ashamed to highlight our challenges. That’s been the beauty of HBCUs—we’ve always done more with less. Now, the cry is, “Let us be able to do more with more.” We just have to bring it to the attention of the nation. Then, hopefully, we can receive more federal and state funding. Hopefully, this docuseries can address some of those things, and all of these brilliant minds that we have in this nation can develop a game plan to help all HBCUs.

“That’s been the beauty of HBCUs— we’ve always done more with less. Now the cry is, “Let us be able to do more with more.”

I played, there was a big connection. But let’s be honest—traditionally, no one’s basketball program is going to compete against their football team on an HBCU campus during homecoming. When you combine the COVID-19 pandemic with other ongoing issues, these last college basketball seasons have been strange. Can this docuseries be a part of a larger “reset” button for the sport?

Is there’s a connection between the community and the NCCU basketball program just as there is for the football team and the interest that the larger community shows during, say, homecoming? It comes and it goes. That would probably be a question that the community would have to answer. When

It feels that way. I don’t know if there’s been a college basketball program that’s been hit with COVID in the way that we have. We were out for 52 days. Including this morning, we’ve only practiced nine times as a basketball team, with 10 people or more. It’s really difficult. This documentary really highlights the atrocities associated with this pandemic. Our guys were in quarantine for over 50 days. Then we were asked to go out there and play basketball on national television. It was hard. The mental anguish that is associated with this pandemic is tough. I told the guys several times, “If y’all don’t want to do this, let’s stop. I’m with you either way.” So, yes, it is a chance for the country to peel back the layers and realize that these young men aren’t just your entertainment; they’re someone’s kids. No one has bothered to care about what’s going on in the minds of these young men. Why? Because it’s a business. That’s the message that I try to invoke in our young men. I’m the last coach that’s going to care about you. W

BILL BURTON ATTORNEY AT LAW Un c o n t e s t e d Di vo rc e Bu s i n e s s L a w UNCONTESTED In c o r p o r a t i o n / L LC / DIVORCE Pa r t n e r s h i p MUSIC BUSINESS LAW Wi l l s INCORPORATION/LLC WILLS C o l l e c t i o n s SEPARATION AGREEMENTS Mu s i c


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February 24, 2021




Available now in select theaters and on VOD Feb. 26

A still from Minari PHOTO COURTESY OF A24

Promised Land Minari is a compassionately observed portrait of family and belonging BY GLENN MCDONALD


f award season nominations are any indication—and they usually are—then Minari will be remembered as one the best films of the year. A modest story of a Korean immigrant family in the 1980s, Minari swept the top awards at Sundance, earned a Golden Globe nod, and made dozens of best-of lists. On the local level, it was named best narrative film by the North Carolina Film Critics Association. While it’s true that you can’t always trust the critics, this time, you safely can. Director Lee Isaac Chung’s semi-autobiographical story follows a Korean-American family trying to adjust to small-town life in Arkansas. Father, husband, and would-be farmer Jacob Yi (Steven Yeun) has dragged his family inland from California. He dreams of providing Korean vegetables to immigrant communities in the region.

Jacob’s wife Monica (Yeri Han) is skeptical, but willing to give it a try. The two kids—six-year-old David (Alan Kim) and older sister Anne (Noel Kate Cho)—have a childlike faith in their dad. Plus, living in a trailer is an exciting novelty (“It’s a house with wheels!”). Little David is a stand-in for director Chung, who based the film around his own memories of the year that his Korean grandma came to live on his parents’ farm. Good choice: She’s pretty unforgettable. As played by veteran South Korean actress Yuh-Jung Youn, grandma Soonja is the bright and lovable heart of the film. As a story, Minari is not too concerned with plot or incident. Instead, it’s a compassionately observed portrait of the emotional dynamics among the five family members. David doesn’t like

grandma at first (“She smells Korean”), but soon comes to depend on her fierce loyalty and love. Monica and Jacob’s marriage is severely strained by their new circumstances, and the film drills down deep into the unstable foundations of their love. Lest this all sound too heavy, rest assured that Minari has its moments of gentle humor—often provided by Pentecostal field hand Paul (Will Patton), who defies expectations by proving himself decent and sincere, even when speaking in tongues. The story dodges many other formula traps, too. The Yi family’s small-town neighbors are never overtly hostile or racist. They’re mostly kind, actually, if a little clueless. Chung documents the inevitable micro-aggressions, but stays away from standard-issue redneck stereotypes. As an emotional experience, Minari is, hmm... fulfilling is the word, maybe. It’s gratifying to be treated so respectfully by a filmmaker. Chung trusts us to have the patience and insight to appreciate the subtleties of his story. The performances match the material in this way, with the entire ensemble—even the kids—finding beautifully underplayed moments that are quiet and true. Minari does have one conspicuous weakness, and it’s a real puzzler. Many of the image compositions and camera choices are so specifically weird that they must be deliberate, yet so awkward that they have to be considered mistakes. They’re little floating paradoxes, and they’re awfully distracting. When assembling delicate moments on film, the one phrase you don’t want in your audience’s mind is, “Did they do that on purpose?” In the end, it’s not a big deal. Such is the strength of the storytelling and the acting that you’ll be too invested up in the characters to notice anything else. And in its final scenes, Minari does that miraculous thing that good movies can do, dropping you right out of your head and down into your heart. W

February 24, 2021



The Inclusion Delusion White-dominated arts institutions are keen to diversify. But are they willing to give up power? BY BRIAN HOWE


white arts worker volunteers a comparison of his only two Black colleagues. A white gala attendee asks a Black person how they could afford the tickets. A white department head is paid five times as much as her Black peer. In the summer of 2020, a museum tasks a traumatized Black staffer with mentoring its white director, who “just doesn’t get it.” These personal testimonies from artists, art workers, and supporters around the state—mainly in the Triangle, the Triad, and Charlotte—were shared with the INDY by the activist group North Carolina Black Artists for Liberation. They reflect the range of anti-Black dynamics, from casual to structural, that flourish in white-dominated industries like the arts. They are symptoms of a sickness that NCBAL is working to purge, from independent theaters and galleries to state and university presenters and museums—and not just on the stage or walls, but from the vendors to the boardroom. Most arts organizations, liberal by default, readily claim the same goals. Most of them can list off the incremental improvements—in staff diversity, in community initiatives, in shows and exhibits—they’ve made in the years since Black Lives Matter made Black artists impossible to ignore. But many of these changes have been slow and superficial. Arts organizations tend to have small staffs and low turnover. Many boards have minimum contribution requirements—it would cost you $10 million to be a trustee at the Met, for instance. These forces keep institutions disproportionately white, and make diversity easier to achieve in rhetoric and guest exhibits than in parity of income or influence. Diversity is an attractive proposition for organizations—in fact, it’s a pillar of contemporary white supremacy. Showing Black work and hiring low-level Black staff doesn’t disturb the status quo that white people are constantly tempted to relax into. Income inequality makes diversity inexpensive—even profitable, as it earns grant 24

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funding and, especially since last summer, cultural capital. But the gains of “inclusion” can be less evident for underpaid, isolated Black artists and art workers, who risk being used as cover and burdened with unpaid antiracist labor, as if it were their duty to take apart what white people have built. “I think that’s the normal way of working,” says NCBAL cofounder Antoine Williams. “‘Oh, there’s racism in art, so let’s give Black people a show.’ But how does that affect the power structure? You can wait people out, or give them a space to do something, but the institution keeps moving.” Structural change is harder than inclusion. It’s not putting a black square on Instagram. It’s not searching for a director who can increase diversity while maintaining your “traditional, core, white art audience,” which is how the president of the Indianapolis Museum of Art recently gave away the game before resigning in disgrace. It has real consequences for white privilege and comfort. And it’s what NCBAL called on all North Carolina arts institutions to drive toward in a petition it released in July. Signed by several hundred people in the local arts world, the petition outlined a series of recommendations, including hiring Black vendors and consultants, creating paid internships and other professional pathways for Black students, offering free admission to BIPOC, undertaking racial sensitivity training, adding more Black leadership, correcting pay inequality, and collecting and showing more Black art.

None of these concerns surprised arts organizations, most of which, in the upheaval of last summer, were already either refining or hurling together some kind of Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion (DEAI) plan by institutional fiat. But perhaps the accountability measure that followed did. The petition gave them six months to develop and implement racial equity plans “with measurable goals in the areas of hiring, organizational culture, leadership and organizational transparency,” or NCBAL would notify their donors and boards of their inaction. I first reported on the petition when it emerged alongside a separate but similar one aimed at CAM Raleigh, where discontent about racial sensitivity had been swirling at least since a disastrous exhibit by the painter Margaret Bowland in 2018. Though the petition is aimed across the arts, it was expedient, here at the six-month deadline, to examine its impact in the visual art world, as that’s where all seven NCBAL founders—Williams, Jessica Gaynelle Moss, Marcus Kiser, Carmen Neely, Sherrill Roland, J. Stacy Utley, and Chris Watts—do their work. Plus, museums’ deep colonial roots and administrative inertia make them especially slow and cumbersome to change. In addition to two NCBAL leaders, I interviewed personnel at the Ackland Art Museum at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Duke University’s Nasher Museum of Art, VAE Raleigh, and the North Carolina Arts Council. I also reviewed NCBAL’s emails with other institutions around the state. The North Carolina Museum of Art

did not respond to requests for comment, and CAM Raleigh declined to, though I did learn that embattled director Gab Smith, no longer works at the museum. I found some encouraging motions and signs of mutual understanding. But I also saw a gap between NCBAL’s intention and its reception—one mirroring the divide between limits of the white liberal imagination and transformative change.


essica Moss is friendly and brisk in our conversations, repeating my name with warming regularity. I can hear the frustration rising in her voice only when she discusses the most common misunderstandings the petition slammed into: white people thinking she was asking for a job instead of asking them to do one, and focusing on what they had already done instead of what they were going to do. Or at least, I can hear that frustration whenever Moss’s 15-month-old daughter, Max, isn’t clamoring for her attention, which she often is. NCBAL is but one of the Charlotte-based artist’s many creative endeavors. She’s a prolific curator and consultant. With projects like The Roll Up CLT, she redevelops neglected, formerly prosperous Black spaces as affordable housing and artist residencies. Her artwork is in the collections of the Institute of Contemporary Art Baltimore and UNC-Charlotte. She has master’s degrees in both art and law. It’s not like she needed more work. “In a way, I consider this a part of the body of work that I’m building,” Moss says. “It’s never a hindrance, because it’s important to be able to carve out these initiatives, so that Max and generations beyond her don’t have the same issues I or my parents or my grandparents had.” Antoine Williams is an interdisciplinary artist focused on critical race theory who teaches painting and drawing at Guilford College in Greensboro. He was recently commissioned by the Biden-Harris campaign to create a get-out-the-vote mural in downtown Durham. Like Moss, Williams found the drive to start NCBAL—and the courage, which calling out every art institution in the state certainly takes—in a desire to remove the barriers he’d overcome. “Before I got my MFA, I lived in Charlotte, and those are really insular spaces,” he says. “Coming from a working-class background, it’s really hard to get into them, and once you’re in there, it’s a really bizarre space. It was made without you in mind. Now that I am where I am, I don’t want to just be happy that I’m included. So what can I do to make things more equitable for students who remind me of me, and I see the obstacles ahead?”

When NCBLA’s petition landed in artsworld inboxes across the state, it elicited a range of responses, from simple acknowledgement to performative gratitude to tremors of unease. Some institutions sent updates on their ongoing diversity efforts; others asked for advice or offered the artists exhibits. Then there were the cringey outliers: the orchestra that needed “guidance” on its Black Lives Matter season, with no mention of compensation; the small-town curator demanding a list of Black artists, because, she said, she could only find two. It was clear enough from the petition (“If you are feeling lost and don’t know where to begin, consider hiring a BIPOC consultant to assist with the development of a strategic plan”) that NCBAL wasn’t offering free consulting, and even clearer in the Zoom Q-and-A they hosted in July. “Diversity and inclusion is not my specialty, Moss says. “There are professionals who do this work, and I’m not one of them, and I find myself constantly reiterating that. But I also feel that if I don’t do this, it just won’t be done.” Nor was it NCBAL’s intention to become the administrators of a state-wide arts equity organization. They hoped to simply provide a roadmap and accountability measures for the work arts institutions said they were already doing, and then step back to observe. “The accountability measures were put in place so you can hold yourself accountable,” Moss says. “All these institutions are different sizes, with different boards, different missions. No one knows them better than the people who work within them. The ask isn’t to report back to this group saying, ‘Have we done it right?’ None of us is the boss. The boss is future generations that can benefit from the systems you’re putting in place now.” As the six-month deadline closes, NCBAL is waiting to see which institutions will put out new or revised strategic plans—not just promises, but written policy, which lasts, while well-meaning people come and go. But it’s not like they’re going to sit down with spreadsheets and release diversity reports to boards and donors all at once. They’re less interested in the modest gains of the last six months than in the work of years to come—not immediate perfection, but constant forward motion, with white people pushing it uphill. “I’m seeing some Black people being hired in new roles, and that’s a part of this, but it can’t be the only part,” Moss says. “A lot of those people are being taken advantage of. That this work should fall on the few Black people in leadership roles was not something we expected, and I feel

February 24, 2021


ened by that. I really believe in the ability of humanity to reach some sort of harmonious space, but there has to be a relinquishing of power, and I don’t know if I’m as hopeful in the people in these places of power to actually relinquish it.” If any of those powerful people took the petition’s accountability measure as a threat, most of them were careful not to let it show. But the strength of the lever is indicative of the mass it has to move. “An institution has a ton of power and history,” Williams says. “We’re just asking for it to be equitable, and we’re using the leverage we have.” “Here’s the thing,” he goes on. “People don’t usually give up or shift how they organize power if they’re just asked. I haven’t seen evidence that it works to say, ‘Hey, can you do all of this really hard work that’s going to take a lot of time, and you’re going to mess up, but you have to stick with it?’”


Your week. Every Wednesday.


February 24, 2021

he petition has had some clear and direct outcomes—one organization reported making reparations payments to a Black staffer, for example—though its impact can be hard to unravel from the national movement it’s a part of. But to be sure, change is underway at North Carolina art institutions. At UNC, the petition landed just as the University Office for Diversity and Inclusion was implementing a mandatory fiveyear DEAI process. Ariel Fielding, the Ackland Art Museum’s communications director, who has a professional background in organizational racial equity, says the museum has hired a long-term antiracism trainer as it works on a DEAI plan, which it has never had in writing before. The Ackland is also releasing a new official history that reckons with its endowment’s roots in the slave-trading profits of its namesake’s stepfather. “Large institutions can be very slow-moving, and change is not always necessarily initiated from within,” Fielding says. “Once you’re in one of those institutions and have learned to navigate how they function, it’s hard to introduce new ideas. Any kind of commitment to antiracism is going to be swimming upstream. It can be very helpful when an outside entity approaches the institution asking for change.” If American museum collections are 85 percent white and male, as a bombshell study found in 2019, then Duke’s Nasher Museum of Art has long been far ahead of the curve. “We’ve been actively pursuing the inverse of that,” says Trevor Schoonmaker, who was the architect of this institutional identity as a curator—a key position that remains open

since he became the museum’s director. Schoonmaker is confident that the Nasher’s national leadership in collecting Black art is baked in enough to outlast him, but he also acknowledges the need to think beyond the collection. “Diversity matters a lot, but it isn’t the same as doing the work,” he says. “Racial equity is going to be the lens that we look at every opportunity through, whether it’s a vendor or a staff hire.” Tamara Holmes Brothers, formerly the Nasher’s fundraising director, moved over to the North Carolina Arts Council to become its deputy director in May. She is the first Black person in senior leadership in the half-century history of the influential agency, which doles out public funding to artists across the state. She was hired to develop internal policy, with a focus on diversity and inclusion. “I think the petition was a constant reminder to hold ourselves accountable in this work, because it encouraged us to be transparent, internally and externally,” says Brothers. She outlines an eighteen-month process that started in May 2020 and is proceeding through listening sessions dubbed BIPOC Arts Equity Forums. The initiative will culminate in the integration of a new DEAI policy into the strategic plan on the art council’s website. Brothers recalls that, when she forwarded the petition to the council’s longtime director, Wayne Martin, she took care to note that he shouldn’t take it personally—“that the tone came out of frustration.” Indeed, everyone seemed to agree that none of this was personal, but it also seemed to take effort all around to maintain this belief. “I go back to this Audre Lorde quote, where she says it is the master’s tool to rely on the oppressed to correct the mistakes of the oppressor,” Moss says. “To put the weight on the oppressed to make the oppressors feel better is very confusing to me, and I’m trying to be so cool about it, Brian, because I know it’s not personal. We’re just the channel, and it’s getting deflected.”


asked several people whether institutions don’t really want to change, don’t know how to, or simply can’t. “I don’t believe that they can’t,” Antoine Williams says. “It’s either—or both—that they don’t know how or want to. Some people, I can tell they just genuinely are confused about what to do, and others are down until it gets to a certain point that starts to shake the foundation of what they really believe.”

Brandon Cordrey, executive director of the scrappy arts nonprofit VAE Raleigh, doesn’t buy that organizations can’t change, either. When he received the petition, he immediately forwarded it to his staff and board to sign. “We’ve worked with many of those artists, and their sentiments line up with our core values,” he says, though VAE did lose two individual donors who thought it was “reverse racism.” “We just said, ‘OK, goodbye,’” Cordrey says. “We’re not going to change our values for their funding.” Though VAE already had a strategic plan online, the NCBAL petition inspired them to break out the DEAI aspects in their own section. Cordrey saw the petition as a great resource for those who didn’t already have the language to address these issues—“a copy-and-paste gift from those artists, who shouldn’t have to do that work,” he says. “Granting organizations require you to report demographics back to them,” he goes on. “The reports show that tax dollars from everyone are being used to serve a specific group of people, based on decisions made by a majority-white staff and board. And the grantors go, why, thank you for this information, and then give them money again the next year. If they’re not going to hold themselves accountable, someone needs to.” Historically, VAE has been a very homogenous organization. But that has changed over the last several years. According to Cordrey, the small staff is now 25 percent people of color, 75 percent queer, and 50 percent nonbinary. They reached the benchmark of a board with no single-race majority last year. “This involves changing an entire culture we’ve built in order to make sure, when we hire employees of color, queer employees, employees with disabilities, that they actually feel like they are respected and appreciated,” Cordrey says. “And that’s the harder work. But it’s not impossible, and it’s not unreasonable.” Sooner or later, a leadership change will come. “I’m confident we’ve put a board in place that will hire VAE’s first leader of color,” Cordrey says. “I’ve done some work, but I obviously have a lot of blind spots, because I’m a white dude. A person of color in that top seat would help get to that next level I’m probably not capable of pushing us to.” This seems closest to the radical heart of the NCBAL’s reasonable demands, and the hardest part for white people to envision. Perhaps true progress will be measured not by how many of us will use our disproportionate power justly, but by how many are willing to give it up.W

A RT Lindsay Metivier in front of Peel Gallery PHOTO BY JADE WILSON

State of Art Artist-run spaces at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro border forge a scrappy, abundant new scene BY GEORGE JENNE


he Chapel Hill-Carrboro border, one block east of where Franklin Street melds into Main Street, is home to a concentration of creative energy. There, along a narrow corridor above the Local 506 music club, one can find a coalition of intimate contemporary art spaces known as Attic 506. The first space is marked by a glowing neon sign that reads My Room. “When you have a show, you can say, ‘My art is in My Room,’” explains Amanda Barr, who turned her nine-by-twelve foot sculpture studio into a gallery, which hosts a wide variety of experimental art shows. (Disclosure: I am professionally involved with My Room.) Next door, Slug, created by Conner Calhoun, stakes its claim as a project space exclusively by and for queer artists. Then, at the end of the hall, a high-definition TV hangs against a black wall; this is Acid Rain, a digital venue that shows con-

ceptual videos curated by Jerstin Crosby. Crosby also rents a studio space in the Attic, which he shares with his wife, Orvokki Crosby, and her project, The Concern Newsstand, an inspiring inventory of category-defying art books, zines, and printed material. In the last room on the hall is Drawing Room, which Bill Thelen opened less than two weeks ago. Part-exhibition space, part-residency, it’s dedicated exclusively to drawing. “I think there’s this disconnect between artists and institutions,” Thelen says. “They’re run by people from the outside that don’t know how to deal with artists, or how to help artists. I look at Drawing Room as having the potential to be an amazing institution.” It’s a lofty sentiment, but one that should be taken seriously considering Thelen’s longstanding success with Lump

Gallery, the artist-run Raleigh exhibition space that he created in 1996. For 25 years, the gallery, which is dedicated to showing conceptual art by underrepresented artists, has been a mainstay of the Raleigh arts scene. Until now, Orange County hasn’t had a space quite like that. The Attic is just one of a number of recent efforts by restless artists in Chapel Hill and Carrboro who long for proper studios and places to show conceptually driven work. Portions of the space are backed by modest grants from the Orange County Arts Commission, but the majority of its members foot the bill personally. A noticeable lack of institutional support for artists’ individual practices, compounded by the scarcity of affordable commercial real estate, inspired the founders to snatch up these awkward spots and transform them into avant-garde spaces. These spaces can be visited en masse every second Friday of the month, during an informal evening art crawl. From the roof deck behind Attic 506, you can spot a ramshackle building at 102 South Merritt Mill Road. Its sign reads, CIGARS, advertising the unlikely combination of cigar shop and art exhibition space created by Ginger Wagg and Chapel Hill poet laureate CJ Suitt. Wagg, a performance artist, makes rigorously site-specific work, and the pair plans to host a wide variety of projects that extend out of the store, into the parking lot, and beyond. “Chapel Hill and Carrboro need more arts spaces, projects, and dialogue that stem from residents and community members, not just larger organizations and institutions,” the two wrote in an email to the INDY. It’s a crystalline mission, though the programming itself is still, by design, unfocused. Wagg and Suitt seem comfortable biding their time and waiting for the right idea to galvanize in the moment. The space, which opened last summer, is as of yet unnamed. From there, it’s a straight shot up Main Street to a storefront on West Rosemary that is home to Peel, a digital photography lab and art gallery founded by the

photographer Lindsay Metivier, which will open its lab on March 5 and host its first exhibition in April. Peel’s newly renovated interior strikes a contrast with the daring attitude that its scrappier contemporaries exude. Inside, though, there’s a comforting sense of abundance: Peel comprises a boutique space for original art objects, a gallery, and an impressive suite of photo scanners and printers. This multi-purpose set-up is key to Metivier’s vision, which involves what she calls “creative cross-pollination.” “The idea has always been to offer space for exhibition, production, events and retail, under one roof,” Metivier says. While these spaces are as varied as the artists who run them, they’re bonded by a common drive: They’re all creating conditions vital to the survival of artists, and they’re not waiting for outside help. “I think you always have to take the reins,” Thelen says. Orvokki echoes that spirit of self-determination as she explains the genesis of The Concern Newsstand. “I just saw something missing there,” she says. “Having grown up in Chapel Hill, there’s a history of amazing bookstores here, and they just went away. They just evaporated.” In two adjacent towns that tout a vibrant creative culture, this go-it-alone approach seems like it should be unnecessary. So far, though, their efforts seem to be working. People are showing up, even as the pandemic limits capacity and creates uncertainty in the exhibition schedule. This success is due, in part, to artists being forced to manifest substance from nothing. For Amanda Barr, the drive for My Room goes back to her father, who experienced extreme isolation as an artist and was never able to bring people together like Barr has. “My dad died alone as a janitor,” she says. “He painted in his house and he died of a heart attack, with the paint still wet on his palette. He never did what I did, the community-building, reaching out and connecting with people—and trying desperately.”W

February 24, 2021




[Albany Records; Nov. 1]

Talk of the Town A new opera brims with local literary luminaries, illuminating the texture of small town life BY DAN RUCCIA


few weeks ago, soprano Andrea Edith Moore was walking her dog down an alley in her Durham neighborhood when she came across a bomb squad removing a forgotten World War II mortar. A neighbor had discovered it in a crawlspace, left there by a previous owner of the house. Mesmerized, Moore hurried home. “I was like, ‘I’m the nosy neighbor,’ and I posted to the listserv,” Moore recalls, laughing. “I felt like I had come upon this discovery. It was a tangible moment of, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve got to share this.’” That same energy—of secrets, of being in your neighbor’s business, of the deep connectedness that underlies a community—animates her new recording of Daniel Thomas Davis’s chamber opera, Family Secrets: Kith and Kin, released in Novemberon Albany Records. Written in 2015 and commissioned by Moore, the work unfolds in a series of seven vignettes from life in an imagined Southern town, each built around some kind of secret—real or imaginary, hidden or revealed, dark or light. The work uses texts from seven authors, each of whom has a connection to Orange County: Allan Gurganus, Lee Smith, Frances Mayes, Michael Malone, Daniel Wallace, Jeffrey Beam, and the late Randall Kenan, who passed away in late August. Moore and Davis grew up in North Carolina themselves, making this a celebration of the area’s arts scene. Moore initially conceived of the piece in 2008, after returning home from a twoyear stint working as a singer in Hamburg, Germany. She settled in Hillsborough with her parents, who gradually introduced her to the town’s vibrant literary life, including 28

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many of these authors. By around 2011, she decided she wanted to commission a new work that brought them together, something that reflected the worlds of these contemporary Southern writers. She settled on the theme of family secrets, because “everyone has them” and “I knew that a Southern writer without family secrets just wasn’t doing the right thing—you know?” She was right. The writers turned in piles of text. She jokes that Jeffrey Beam submitted 100 poems (in reality, it was closer to 30). As she and Davis began sifting through the texts, condensing them down and giving them shape, they began to discover connections between them. “These writers all know each other,” Davis writes in the liner notes. “And one way or another, the people that inhabit their writing all seem to know each other, too.” That insight is a driving principle in Family Secrets, allowing these seven distinct literary voices to meld into a single village. It’s a town brimming with recognizable figures and the complex emotional relationships that grow in a place where, for better or for worse, everyone knows everyone else. Take “The Porch,” which adapts a poem by Beam. In the distance, some neighbors are singing an imagined folk song accompanied by a crackly banjo, while Moore’s character zeroes in on details of the neighborhood swirling around her. She spins a web of evocative metaphors, buttressed by vast, open harmonies from a five-piece ensemble of banjo, violin, cello, piano, and oboe. Within those observations comes

Andrea Edith Moore


a sudden burst of sadness for someone who is gone. “Will you return?” She asks, “Or will your absence become coolness?” Later, the scene peaks when that absence becomes a “sweet and deafening silence,” over an impossibly ebullient musical texture that seems to contain more sound than five instruments could possibly make. Heard now, the layers of emotion are almost too much to bear. Even more complex is Kenan’s “Chinaberry Tree,” which recounts the true story of his aunt’s murder at the hands of his uncle. What starts as a hopeful tale of a return to the South for retirement takes a grisly turn that reflects the many roles we inhabit in our lives—all silently observed by an omnipresent, disinterested Chinaberry tree. Davis twines Moore’s singing with spoken narration by actor Jane Holding, with one echoing or foreshadowing the other throughout. Unlike the rest of the opera, which seems to be congenitally rooted in folk music, this scene is driven by the logic and turbulence of post-minimal classical music. Kenan was notorious for missing deadlines, and Davis had already started writing music when he finally, bashfully, submitted his text. But the story

he wrote, as Moore recalls, “anchored the whole thing and turned it into an operatic scale.” Davis calls it “a parable of the Great Migration and race and violence and the American South—these painful histories that are cyclical.” Not everything in the opera is heavy. Gurganus and Smith’s contributions crackle and fizz with the primal joy of gossip; “But, yes, even knowing Sheila, I AM the least little bit surprised!” Moore declares at one point. Wallace’s “The Pantry,” meanwhile, charts a fantastical voyage of discovery in a hidden corner of the pantry, over a slurred honky-tonk piano. It’s these moments of levity that give the darker moments their impact, enhanced throughout by Davis’s warm, evocative music. While Moore has performed Family Secrets a few times already, including at the North Carolina Opera in 2018, any planned performances around the record have, of course, been scrapped. We’re all feeling the coolness of absence right now. Being able to go see this on stage would be a great way to replace that coolness with warmth, to see and be seen, to gossip about it, and maybe as Allan Gurganus says in the epilogue, “be saved from our worst selves.” W

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February 24, 2021


ur webpage.



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February 24, 2021


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