INDY Week 3.31.21

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Raleigh | Durham | Chapel Hill March 31, 2021


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Raleigh W Durham W Chapel Hill VOL. 38 NO. 11

Rocky Ridge Farm, p. 19 PHOTO BY JADE WILSON

CONTENTS NEWS 10 Raleigh seeks a police chief as its fledgling police advisory board falls apart. BY LEIGH TAUSS 11

A new program at UNC will train Black doulas.

12

Teachers, parents, and students want a theatre classroom in the new Northern High School building's arts wing. BY THOMASI MCDONALD

BY HANNAH CRITCHFIELD

FEATURE 14

The COVID pandemic has exacerbated housing inequities in the Triangle; but we can act before it's too late. BY MATT HARTMAN

ARTS & CULTURE 18

On her new record, Flock of Dimes' Jenn Wasner finds her way out of heartbreak and into healing. BY MADELINE CRONE

19 Black-owned farmland is disappearing. A new Wake County CSA is helping stem the tide. BY ERIC GINSBURG 20 Paying respects to the dead at NCMA's Golden Mummies of Egypt exhibition. BY SARA PEQUEÑO

THE REGULARS 4 15 Minutes

6 Op-Ed

8 PHOTOVOICE

COVER Photo by Jade Wilson / Design by Jon Fuller

WE M A DE THIS PUBLIS H ER Susan Harper

Staff Writer Thomasi McDonald

EDITOR I AL

Digital Content Manager Sara Pequeño

Editor in Chief Jane Porter Managing Editor Geoff West Senior Writer Leigh Tauss

Copy Editor Abigail O'Neill Theater+Dance Critic Byron Woods

Contributors Madeline Crone, Jameela F. Dallis, Michaela Dwyer, Grant Golden, Spencer Griffith, Lucas Hubbard, Brian Howe, Kyesha Jennings, Glenn McDonald, Anna Mudd, Dan Ruccia, Nick Williams Interns Emma Lee Kenfield

C RE ATI V E Creative Director

Annie Maynard Graphic Designer

Jon Fuller Staff Photographer

Jade Wilson A D V E RTI S I N G Director of Sales John Hurld Raleigh Sales Manager MaryAnn Kearns

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C I RC U L ATI O N Berry Media Group

Arts & Culture Editor Sarah Edwards

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March 31, 2021

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BACK TA L K

Last week, Thomasi McDonald wrote about Johnny Lynch, a former City of Durham roads maintenance worker who was fired after he was charged with two felonies for allegedly breaking into an internet cafe. Lynch denies he

broke in and says he was locked in the cafe while he was in the bathroom. Some readers were skeptical.

“His story makes no sense to me,” wrote Facebook commenter SHALEEQUA TURNER JONES. “His phone dead, everybody leave when he went to the bathroom. It don’t add up to me. This man was hiding when the police showed up.” Leigh Tauss spoke to Raleigh chef Scott Crawford about getting sober and reimagining restaurant culture sans alcohol. This was her lede, in Crawford’s words: “I took my first drink when I was 11. It was whiskey, straight. I will never forget how much I enjoyed the feeling of that burn. It was warmth, confidence. It was all the things I was lacking in one sip. I knew, even at 11, that it was going to be an issue. “I don’t know that I’ve read something that so perfectly mirrored my first experience with alcohol (coincidentally also whiskey) as the lede here,” wrote reader DUSTIN GEORGE on Twitter. “Thank you for sharing your story,” wrote ERIC BRAUN on Twitter. “Substance abuse affects so many and hearing from people that are in recovery really can inspire people struggling with addiction.” Finally, Emma Kenfield wrote about artists Caitlin Cary’s and Skillet Gilmore’s new art gallery on North Bloodworth Street. Skillet, whose name is actually Eric, thanked us for disclosing his given name. “Oh, I read it and felt like I saw you with your crocs off or something,” wrote THE MAGNOLIA COLLECTIVE, about Skillet/Eric in a tweet. “Had to avert eyes and forget what I saw.’

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Durham

e

15 MINUTES Robert Creighton, 47 Founder and CEO of Windlift BY EMMA KENFIELD backtalk@indyweek.com

Windlift is an airborne wind energy (AWE) start-up. Windlift turbines are supported in the air without a tower, offering a cheaper, cleaner energy source.

How did Windlift get started? I started Windlift in 2006 in Madison, Wisconsin. While in school there, I founded the company, mainly to file patents for some ideas I had. I wasn’t planning to start the company anytime soon, because there hadn’t been a lot of funding for clean tech. And I thought the world wasn’t ready for it yet and a lot of the technology that I wanted to use wasn’t mature enough. The company got $100,000 in funding in 2008 after I graduated.

Were you always an entrepreneur? I am naturally an entrepreneur. My mom just sent me this little news article from when I was 12, hustling for paper routes. As a kid, I wanted to run a circus. We’d make circus games, invite the neighborhood kids over, and for a nickel they could throw beanbags. I sold roses, did the paper route, I caddied. Then, around college, I became a socialist for a while. Yeah, “eat the rich,” that kind of thing. That’s how I got into environmental causes. And I actually became a canoe guide. I was a fishing guide up in northern Minnesota and I became fascinated by ecology and science.

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SUBJECT

How did you come up with the technology? The problem with wind energy is you build this giant structure to get this turbine blade far enough off the ground to catch wind, because the amount of wind you get is proportional to how high you are. If there’s a building or a hill or a mountain, wind flows over it, and then becomes turbulence. And turbulence is rolling air. So it’s very chaotic. The key with wind energy is to get above that boundary layer to have enough clean air, what’s called laminar flow. Above that layer, the winds are very steady. It’s very clean. That’s why we want to go higher with our systems.

Why do you think the world could benefit from Windlift? We depend on the ecology that sustained us throughout humanity’s history. This idea that we can escape nature is a falsity. We are natural beings living in a natural world. A hundred years from now, when people look back on this time that we’re living in today, if we don’t figure out climate change, it is going to make probably 90 percent of the species on the planet go extinct. I like to think I’m a pretty smart guy sometimes. And I would like to apply what I know about the world to solving this problem if I can. I said, when I started this journey a long time ago, if I go bankrupt, and I lose everything, whatever. At least I’ll be able to tell my grandkids that I tried to do something.W


Q UIC KBA I T

Garden Variety

Spring is upon us. Here’s what you need to know if you’re planning to plant to eat this month.

APRIL 2021 Sunday

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday 1

31

APRIL FOOL’S DAY

Plant turnips

5

6

EASTER

11

Plant parsnips

Start beet seeds outdoors

(March 29–April 8)

(March 29–April 10)

12

13

(seedlings or transplants, April 11–April 26)

19

Plant cauliflower

Plant Swiss chard

(seedlings and transplants, April 1–April 15)

(seedlings or transplants, April 1–April 30)

Plant oregano

Plant cilantro

Start green bean seeds

Plant sage

(April 11–April 22)

(April 11–April 26)

(April 11–April 22)

(April 15–April 26)

(April 11–April 22)

20

22

21

Plant thyme

Plant fennel

Plant rosemary

(April 11–April 26)

(April 1–April 30)

(April 15–April 26)

(April 15–April 26)

26

27

Plant okra

Plant cucumbers

(April 22–26)

(April 22–April 26)

(April 27–May 6)

24

23

EARTH DAY Plant tomatoes

Plant cantaloupe seeds and watermelon seeds

Plant eggplant and zucchini

(April 15–April 26)

(April 22–April 26)

(April 22–26)

29

28

Plant sweet potatoes

SPECIAL TIPS

17

16

Plant lettuce

Plant bell peppers

25

NATIONAL FIND A RAINBOW DAY

10

(April 1–April 30)

15

14

Farmer’s Almanac says don’t plant or sow today.

RAMADAN BEGINS

Plant basil

18

Plant collard greens transplants

Plant kale (seedlings and transplants, April 1–April 30)

3

9

8

7

Saturday

2

Farmer’s Almanac says don’t plant or sow today.

(March 29–April 1)

4

Friday

Plant summer squash

Plant spinach seedlings

(April 1–30)

(April 1–April 30)

30

Plant leeks (seedlings or transplants, April 1–April 30)

If you have seasonal allergies, you’re probably wondering when you’ll be able to breathe through your nose again. Unfortunately, scientists report that allergy season is lasting longer, thanks to climate change.

Sources: The Old Farmer’s Almanac Lunar Calendar + North Carolina State University Planting Calendar for Annual Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbs INDYweek.com

March 31, 2021

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Goodbye to All That Duke University missed the mark on Greek life reform. Now it’s time to ban fraternities for good. BY CAROLINE PETROW-COHEN backtalk@indyweek.com

T

he laundry list of reasons to dismantle Greek life at Duke University now includes a COVID-19 outbreak and campus-wide lockdown. That’s in addition to other pervasive, deeply rooted issues like hazing, gender violence, racism, and heteronormativity. But despite this, Greek life has proven to be very difficult to manage. I dropped out of my sorority last August, as a student-driven movement to abolish Greek life at Duke gained traction. Stories of sexual assault, racial discrimination, and disturbing elitism in Duke’s Greek life dominated social media feeds. Through an anonymous Instagram post, one Black student shared his experience in a Duke fraternity. “White members… said the n-word on multiple occasions,” he wrote. “They said it in songs, they said it in jest, they said it despite the fact that I approached them multiple times and asked respectfully that they stop.” Another student posted that she was drugged at a fraternity party. When she told friends what had happened, she wrote, they said she “should’ve known better” because “that frat was known for drugging women at their parties.” These stories, along with countless others, made it impossible to ignore the problems inherent in Greek life. Hundreds of students left their Greek organizations, while others advocated for reform within the system. Student activists met with Duke administrators to discuss policy changes, which included ending the recruitment of first-year students by Greek organizations. For a few months this past fall, it looked like things were going to change for the better. Greek life at Duke certainly looks different now. Last fall’s reform efforts led 6

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to nine fraternities disaffiliating from the university and forming a new organization, the Durham Interfraternity Council (IFC). When most fraternities left Duke, they took rampant issues like hazing, discrimination, and implicit bias with them. However, they left behind the rules, regulations, and accountability that came with being a Duke University organization. This new version of Greek life is not an improvement. Tensions came to a head when unsanctioned, in-person fraternity recruitment events contributed to a severe spike in coronavirus cases among undergraduates. To contain the outbreak, Duke officials announced a weeklong stay-inplace order for all undergraduates on March 13. Administrators blamed the IFC for the spike, writing in an email to students that “many of these [COVID-19] cases are connected to the off-campus rush activities and parties hosted by individuals connected to Durham Interfraternity Council.” The night that the stay-in-place order was announced, a group of Duke students left a message on campus in graffiti: “F*ck Frats.” Their anger was warranted: The lockdown threatened to cut short the rest of the semester, a heartbreaking experience that Duke students know all too well from last year. Although the lockdown was lifted a week later, students remain angry. More than 1,500 people have signed a petition

calling on Duke to sue the Durham IFC for “reckless endangerment of students and … the Durham community.” One supporter put it simply. “Frats need to be held accountable for acting selfishly and screwing over the entire school,” she wrote. But Duke no longer has the power to discipline these groups. When fraternities cut ties with the university, they effectively shed the responsibility that came with their on-campus positions. For instance, members are no longer required to attend previously mandatory safety and sexual assault trainings. Fraternities disaffiliated in February 2021, after Duke announced changes designed to lessen the influence of selective living groups on campus. New policies plan to move housing sections for selective groups away from the main part of campus, and restrict those sections to junior and senior residents only. Duke administrators told The Chronicle in November that they hope to create a more welcoming and inclusive housing experience for students. It’s no surprise, then, that these changes did not align with the needs of Greek life, a system built on exclusion. By forming the Durham IFC, Duke fraternities prioritized self-preservation over meaningful change. Shreyas Gupta, a Duke senior and founding member of the current movement to abolish Greek life, told The Chronicle last month that there is “nothing redeemable” about fraternities’ decision to disaffili-

“Frats need to be held accountable ... for screwing over the entire school.”

ate. Disaffiliation allows the fraternities to avoid reform, he says, and will result in even less diversity in Greek life. “Now the process has become even more exclusive,” Gupta says, “and it’ll just continue down this road of white, wealthy students attracting more white, wealthy students.” Will Santee, Duke junior and Durham IFC president, says he’s “fully prepared to launch all sorts of sexual assault and racial inequality campaigns,” complete with a judicial board to hold fraternities accountable. This is too little too late, however, as plans to form the board began only after individuals in the Durham IFC were blamed for Duke’s recent coronavirus spike. Duke made an attempt at reform, but unfortunately, that attempt resulted in the Durham IFC. Now it’s time to ban Greek life from university life, on and off campus. Trying to push aside Greek life will only result in replacements and new iterations, where the toxicity of the Greek system can thrive more freely than before. That’s why I dropped out of my sorority, with the hopes that my peers and I could break the system down, piece by piece. In fact, more than 200 women left their Greek organizations this past year, while only a fraction of men did the same. It’s no coincidence that men appear more satisfied than women with the status quo. Santee said fraternities chose to disaffiliate because they did not feel included in the university’s new plan for residential life. Indeed, the new policies would loosen fraternities’ hold on Duke’s social culture, and open the way for a more balanced, coherent undergraduate community. That’s a major change for fraternity members who are accustomed to the status and privilege that Greek life grants them. But change is the whole point. W


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March 31, 2021

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PHOTOVOICE 8

March 31, 2021

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Skoolie Conversion WORDS + PHOTOGRAPHY BY JADE WILSON

The idea of converting a bus into a home isn’t necessarily always radical, but in the case of a recent local remodeling, the way folks came together to pitch in with the labor was. After years of dealing with houselessness and housing insecurities, a disabled, autistic, Black trans couple upcycled a bus. With the aid of community members and an organization called The New South Collective, renovations were completed over the last month. Funds were raised for supplies and what was left over was given to the couple. Now, they can call this place home.

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

967-6159

(919) 967-6159

bill.burton.lawyer@gmail.com INDYweek.com

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Raleigh

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Arrested Retirement As Raleigh slowly starts its search for a new police chief, its fledgling police advisory board crumbles from within BY LEIGH TAUSS ltauss@indyweek.com

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fter 33 years of service in Raleigh, Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown was ready to retire. The 57-year-old had endured a hellish year, with the enactment of a citizen-led police advisory group she vehemently opposed and a summer of destructive rioting downtown. On December 30, she announced her last day would be April 1, 2021. But on Thursday, Deck-Brown still will be helming the Raleigh Police Department in an interim capacity because the city is only just starting the process of finding her replacement. City Manager Marchell Adams-David asked Deck-Brown to stay on while the search for her replacement continues. The city is still in the process of putting out a request for proposals for a consultant to help assist with the search, Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin says. “I don’t know that it’s been delayed in so much as it’s taken time to get the consultant on board, and these things do take time,” Baldwin says. “We decided to do an external process, which we knew would be lengthy, as opposed to an internal process with our human resources department.” “Clearly, this search, which will be a national search, is a high priority for the City of Raleigh,” wrote city spokesperson Julia Milstead in an email to the INDY. She says the city is working to secure a contract with a search firm in the coming days. Deck-Brown, who receives a salary of $192,813, will not be involved in selecting her replacement. Her last day is now expected to be June 30, with a new chief in place by July 1. The delayed timeline isn’t good enough for activists pushing police reform, includ-

ing Kerwin Pittman, who has long advocated for officers to be held accountable for reckless use of force. Pittman has requested the city hire from outside Raleigh because the culture of the police department— including what he perceives as a lack of accountability—is deeply ingrained. “They are dragging their feet and they should be more responsive in finding [DeckBrown’s] replacement,” Pittman says. “She wanted to leave and step down, and now they are not facilitating the process.” Meanwhile, the police advisory board Deck-Brown opposed seems to be crumbling, with the recent resignation of two board members who cited poor leadership and a lack of autonomy. In a letter dated March 10, board secretary Stacey Carless said she was stepping down due to “blatant disrespect,” “deceit,” and negative experiences with board leadership. That same day, board member Scotia Burrell penned a resignation letter, which was critical of chairwoman Shelia Alamin-Khashoggi’s dependence on city staff during a recent meeting. “As I listened to this board’s chair seek guidance from the City Manager, who identifies with law enforcement, [Office of Equity and Inclusion Executive Director Audrea Caesar], and the Mayor of Raleigh, on behalf of a board that has been scrambling for any semblance of power, independence, and transparency we could get our hands on for months, I knew I could no longer serve on this board,” Burrell wrote in her resignation letter. The road has been rocky for the board from the start. After the council voted to create the board last year, it struggled to get enough applicants. After two rounds

of reviewing applicants, the council finally appointed nine members last summer. Although advocates for years have urged the city to adopt a board “with teeth” that could review use-of-force incidents, issue discipline, and wield subpoena power, this board is limited to reviewing police policy. This is largely due to state law, which conceals most law enforcement records, including personnel files and internal useof-force investigations. While the city asked the legislature to consider expanding the powers of its advisory board—which both the governor’s task force and General Assembly have taken up in committee—it’s unclear what, if any, changes lawmakers will prioritize this year. City Councilor Jonathan Melton says the city is undertaking some police reforms anyway, including adopting the new ACORNS initiative, which will send social workers along with police officers on certain calls. “I certainly hope that we are able to recruit [a chief] who is progressive and forward-thinking and is willing to help reimagine the role of public safety,” Melton says. “We are asking police officers to handle tasks that are not always best handled by police, including dealing with the homeless and vulnerable members of the community—folks that need help that aren’t necessarily public safety issues.” While the recent resignations from the advisory board were “disappointing,” Baldwin trusts that the board will stay committed to guiding “policy and trust building in the community.” Pittman isn’t buying it. He says the board has taken too long to get its footing without taking substantive action. “This advisory board is … pure fallacy. It is not capable of bringing real change to the Raleigh Police Department or being an accountability mechanism for its citizens,” Pittman says. “When you have players on the board that take cues from the mayor and city manager as to how to respond to the community, that is extremely alarming and shows your interest is not in the community’s interest but in the interest of making the police chief and city manager look good to the public. “This is more a publicity correction board than a citizen advisory board.” W


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Chapel Hill

Mothers’ Helpers Medical professionals hope more Black people working as doulas will improve the maternal mortality rate for Black parents BY HANNAH CRITCHFIELD backtalk@indyweek.com

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new program through the University of North Carolina seeks to boost the number of Black people working as doulas in North Carolina. Its founder hopes these doulas will help address a national crisis in maternal mortality by reducing birth risks for expectant Black parents within the state. “People tend to like to have people on their care team that look like them, but unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot of people of color as care providers, OBs, midwives, or nurses,” said Venus Standard, a professor at the UNC School of Medicine who will lead the pilot doula training initiative. “This is a way that I thought to ‘infiltrate the system,’ so to speak.” New Black mothers are three to four times as likely to die of pregnancy-related complications as whites nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These trends bear out regardless of socioeconomic status or education level—a Black person with a college degree is five times as likely to die in childbirth as is a white counterpart—suggesting that implicit bias in the health care system may play a role. The last time North Carolina’s State Center for Health Statistics looked at the maternal mortality data for North Carolina was in 2016, when the agency analyzed data from 1999 to 2013, which showed a narrowing gap. More recently, however, the United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings 2019 report used CDC data to calculate that in North Carolina, Black women have a maternal mortality rate 2.8 times that of whites. Doulas may help alleviate some of that risk. These trained companions are not

medical professionals, but instead provide emotional and physical support to people undergoing a significant medical event—in this case, childbirth. There is not enough existing research to know if doulas definitively have an impact on reducing maternal mortality. However, evidence suggests birth doulas may help combat some of the risk factors associated with death due to pregnancy-related complications. People who are supported by a doula when giving birth are significantly less likely to need a cesarean section, which Black people experience at higher rates than all other racial groups. Culturally appropriate doula support is additionally believed to boost rates of breastfeeding among Black parents who receive Medicaid services. Accessing a doula who shares your racial background can be challenging, Standard says. White people appear to be overrepresented in the birth doula community. “Cost is the biggest barrier,” she said. “Doula training is not cheap. It will cost approximately $1,250 to $1,500 for your basic doula certification. Not everybody can cover that.” The price of doula services can also be a roadblock for many expecting Black parents or for people on publicly funded insurance such as Medicaid parents. These birthing mothers are more likely to want, but not have access to, a doula than parents who are white or who have commercial insurance. In the 2020 legislative session, Senator Natalie Murdock, a Democrat from Durham, proposed a bill that would have allowed doula services to be covered by

PHOTO BY ALEX PASARELU VIA UNSPLASH

Medicaid. The bill never received a hearing. Standard hopes her initiative will help rectify some of that gap. “Maybe you couldn’t afford to [become a doula] for whatever reason—because you have to pay your rent, you have to feed your children, or you have to pay for your schooling,” said Standard. “If your barrier was financial, this grant takes that part away.” The program will train 20 Black women within the Triangle area as birth doulas, using funding from the C. Felix Harvey Award to Advance Institutional Priorities, a $75,000 grant. The women will be certified through the first and largest doula certifying organization, known as Doulas Of North America (DONA) International, which is often considered the gold standard for doula training. Each Black doula will be required to attend three births—meaning 60 Black people giving birth in North Carolina will also receive access to free doula services under the initiative. “All of the people that are involved— what I call my “dream team”—will be Black, including our trainers,” said Standard. “I think from that perspective, they will be able to give culturally appropriate, culturally sensitive information that may not be given from a trainer that’s not.” Culturally appropriate care means providing support that respects the diversity in childbearing people’s experiences and preferences, and the cultural factors that can impact health care, including com-

munication style, practices around giving birth, and attitudes toward Western health care systems. Birth is not equally experienced by all people in the United States, and historical treatments of people of color have played a large role in shaping the health landscape of today. “I have to teach women that are not Black to be culturally sensitive,” Standard said. “With a Black doula, you don’t have to teach it, but you have to hone in on it–she will be of the same race, but she might not have the same background, experiences, or challenges. She may, but she may not,” she added. “Culturally appropriate training is necessary, and that’s what we feel that we’ll be supplying.” These Black doula trainees will have almost all aspects of their training and certification covered—however, they will need to have access to reliable transportation. “That’s the one requirement,” said Standard. “If a mama calls at three in the morning, you can’t wait for an Uber, you just can’t. You have to jump in your car and you have to be there for her. Because birth does not run on a clock, so it could be two in the morning, it could be six in the morning, it could be two in the afternoon, and you have get there within a reasonable amount of time of her call.” W This story was originally published by N.C. Health News. INDYweek.com

March 31, 2021

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Durham

Protest Theatre Teachers, parents, and students say a dedicated theatre classroom belongs in the new Northern High School’s performing arts wing BY THOMASI MCDONALD tmcdonald@indyweek.com

I

t seems to be a reasonable request that may cost extra now but could save taxpayers a significant amount of money in the future. A teacher at Northern High School in Durham has asked school administrators repeatedly to include a designated theatre arts classroom in the performing arts wing of Northern’s pending replacement school, a 250,000-square-foot building that will stand on 227 acres on North Roxboro Road when it opens in 2023. For Irving Truitt, director of the school’s theatre program, the design of the performing arts wing doesn’t make sense, unless there’s a yearning to mix vehicle exhaust fumes with lines from Shakespeare’s Othello. According to design plans, the performing arts wing will house the school auditorium, a technical theatre space, chorus and band rooms. Meanwhile, dance and drama will share space next to the replacement school’s automotive program. Truitt, who has been asking school administrators to reconsider the school design since 2017, wonders why. He says the theatre program’s rightful place is in the performing arts wing, away from the noise and exhaust pipes of the automotive program. Truitt says his emails to Durham Public Schools (DPS) Superintendent Pascal Mubenga and other administrators routinely go unanswered. So, Truitt helped organize a small but dedicated cast of students, educators, and parents who staged a protest Thursday in front of the DPS Staff Development Center on Hillandale Road, which coincided with a school board meeting. 12

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The school board members walked past the cadre of protesters who held signs that read, “Why Is Theater Separated From The Arts?” and “Theater Students Deserve Better.” Moments before the protest started, Julius Monk, DPS chief operating officer, whose duties include overseeing school maintenance and construction, told the INDY that the public should “look at the actual space” in the design plans. “The theatre stage is literally across the hall from the classroom,” Monk says. “I challenge anyone to find a better theatre than what we’re building at Northern.” Truitt was standing within earshot of Monk while he spoke with the INDY about a classroom across the hall from the theatre stage. “That’s not true,” Truitt says. “It’s the technical theatre shop that’s located from across the stage.” Denise Barnes, a retired DPS teacher who taught theatre to middle school students for 25 years, led the protesters’ chants. “What do we want?” Barnes asked. “Theatre!” The protesters answered. “Where do we want it?” “In the arts wing!” Board members Alexandra Valladares and Frederick Ravin III both stopped to read several of the signs before going inside the building for the meeting. “You need a classroom to teach,” Barnes, the retired teacher, told the INDY. “Theatre is not just someone jumping up on stage and performing. It’s about theory, history, voice and diction, improvisation, and the teaching of social skills. It’s about humanitarianism. You’re teaching philanthropy

Amanitore Truitt, 11, the daughter of Irving Truitt, director of Northern High School’s theatre program PHOTO BY PATRICIA A. MURRAY because you’re giving to the community each time there’s a performance. There’s costuming, makeup, design, and all of the preparation that’s needed to go on stage.” Taylor Walker, a former Northern student, graduated last year from Winston-Salem State University. She credits her work with Truitt as a big reason why she was able to attend college on a performing arts scholarship. “Theatre matters just as much as the other performing arts programs,” she says. Monk and Northern High Principal Dan Gilfort issued a statement late Friday about the replacement school and its theatre arts spaces. Monk and Gilfort say building designers and DPS staff revised building plans to support the theatre arts program “in excess” of state guidelines. They noted “multiple rounds of revisions” to the technical theatre space to support theatre theory and practice along with the provision of an additional classroom. The revisions occurred, the administrators said, all at the behest of Truitt. Monk and Gilfort say the redesign also included the addition of two sinks and a

chase for future washer and dryer hookups to the technical theatre space, “neither of which are included in [state] guidelines.” Monk and Gilfort also point to “additional storage and an office” that have been added to the theatre arts area. “All of these changes were made late in the design process,” according to their joint statement. Alas, the drama continues. Truitt says the administrators are considering the technical theatre space, which they describe as a “prep space area,” as an additional classroom. He says Gilfort and Monk still failed to address the major concern of not having in the arts wing a theatre classroom to teach students acting, directing, producing, history, and theater appreciation. “As required by the North Carolina State Department of Public Instruction 2019 standards for grades 9-12 a theater classroom should be in the design on the performing arts wing,” Truitt wrote in a statement Friday to the school district, which he shared with the INDY. “Although band, dance, chorus has its own space in the per-


forming arts wing, theatre does not have its separate classroom.” The demonstrators’ demands weren’t on the school board agenda Thursday. Still, nearly half of the 46 comments fielded by the board were from parents, teachers, and former students who asked them to reconsider the performing arts wing design. “Theatre is such a valuable resource in our schools, and it should be treated as such,” Durham resident Carolyn Allen wrote to the board before their meeting. “I cannot imagine why the building would be designed in such a way as to leave theatre out of the performing arts wing, but this is an error that begs to be corrected. I am aware that there will be a cost to changing an approved design. However, I believe it is worth whatever the cost is now to fix something that will affect countless students and staff members for the next 50 years.” Nicole Gibbs, another resident, told the board members in a statement that the layouts of the performing arts spaces in the design “blatantly insert inequities,” especially for the theatre program. Gibbs says design inequities include the omission of a designated theatre arts classroom in the arts wing, which is “prioritizing chorus and band to receive superior learning spaces” and “imposing the dangers of an automotive program in the performance wing.” One notable supporter at the protest was longtime Hillside High School teacher Wendell Tabb, a Tony Award winner for his contributions to theatre education. Tabb says he’s willing to assist Monk and his team in redesigning the replacement high school’s performing arts wing to include a dedicated theatre classroom. Tabb says he was fortunate to have been invited to advise in the design of the current Hillside High School building, which opened in the 1990s. “Nearly 25 years later, Hillside Theatre is still one of the most used facilities in the district and community,” he wrote to school officials in November. “For the most part, the performing arts wing was well planned and designed with the next generation of students in mind.” As a caveat, Tabb notes that Hillside High’s performing arts wing had one major flaw: the band room was too small to accommodate the school’s marching band. “DPS had to later correct this mistake by having taxpayers invest in a brand new stand-alone band room and suite,” Tabb says. “DPS should not be making the same mistake in 2020 that was made in 1995.” DPS officials expect construction of the new school to begin this summer. W INDYweek.com

March 31, 2021

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A Home Truth

How the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequities in the Triangle’s housing market— and what we can do before it’s too late BY MATT HARTMAN

backtalk@indyweek.com

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Fany Sarmiento and her two youngest children at Garden Terrace Apartments PHOTO BY JADE WILSON 14

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any Sarmiento moved to Durham two years ago, settling into Garden Terrace Apartments in Lakewood. She had been living in New York City, and it seemed like Durham would offer a better life. It didn’t. “It’s starting to be more and more like New York all the time,” she says in Spanish, through a translator. “In a lot of ways, it’s even worse because there aren’t really laws to protect tenants.” With COVID-19, it got even harder for families like the Sarmientos. She left work to care for her children; others moved into hotels or spent all their savings. There was already an evictions crisis in the area. Now there’s a looming catastrophe. “The pandemic has changed everything for us,” Sarmiento says. But not everyone in the Triangle is struggling. Homeowners have watched their wealth grow as a mix of historically low interest rates and other factors have driven home values up more than 20 percent in the past year, according to data from the Multiple Listing Service. They can cash in on a highly competitive market where buyers are putting in offers on not-yet-listed homes, sight unseen. “Now, it’s not uncommon to have multiple offers on coming-soon status houses,” says Courtney James, managing partner of Urban Durham Realty. These experiences are the lived reality of what wonks call a “K-shaped recovery,” in which different parts of the economy recover from a shock at different rates. Now, that recovery means inequality that was growing before the pandemic—


between renters and owners, white and blue or pink collar, white people and people of color—is only accelerating. In response, activists are only getting more ambitious. How their fight plays out in the next few years may set the stage for the future of the Triangle.

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ut first, we have to survive the present. “It’s like asking about the future of shipbuilding on the deck of the Titanic,” says Roberto Quercia, a city planning professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of A Place Called Home: The Social Dimensions of Homeownership. “There is just not a lot of perspective.” Even with vaccinations well underway and the $1.9 trillion relief bill recently signed by President Joe Biden, the economic recovery from the pandemic will take until the middle of the decade, Quercia says. Triangle residents dealing with lost wages, healthcare costs, back rent and utility bills, and other fallout will need support long after the medical catastrophe subsides. Evictions are the most pressing problem. “We know from research that home instability is hugely important to the development of children,” Quercia says. It’s also a public health issue “closely connected to declines in physical and mental health,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Keeping people in their homes is the most cost-effective way to improve social well-being. Two years ago, a hospital in Chicago found it cheaper to simply pay some homeless patients’ rent than it was to continually treat the medical issues that arose from unstable housing. “The pandemic, if nothing else, has made these cracks in our safety net obvious,” Quercia says. But it also tends to expand them. “The vast majority of our clients have continued to be very low-wealth families who have been stuck in a historic cycle of poverty,” says Peter Gilbert, the director of Legal Aid’s Eviction Diversion Program, noting that the program’s clients are disproportionately Black and disproportionately have a single mother or grandmother as head of the household. “For them, this economic crisis is not a new experience, but it is worsened and deepened by COVID-19.” That’s why large-scale—and previously unthinkable—policies like direct rental assistance payments and evictions mor-

“ The pandemic, if nothing else, has made these cracks in our safety net obvious. atoria are especially important. Unfortunately, they are also marred by uneven implementation and poor design. While federal and statewide evictions moratoria have substantially decreased the number of evictions filed in the court system, unofficial evictions are still happening outside of the courts, Gilbert says. “[We’ve observed in our clients] many folks are being pressured to move out by their landlords,” he explains. “Landlords are calling them every day, saying ‘if you don’t pay the rent, you’ve got to move.’” They don’t, but many tenants aren’t aware of their rights. And some are rightly afraid that forcing a court action will impede their ability to secure housing in the future, since many landlords use past eviction filings to screen potential tenants—sometimes even when the court ruled in the tenant’s favor. Compounding that problem is the fact that housing relief policies place the burden of enforcement on those under threat of eviction, says Bill Rowe, general counsel and deputy director for advocacy at the North Carolina Justice Center. INDYweek.com

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The initial federal policy set by the CDC last year required anyone who wanted protection under the moratorium to fill out a declaration form then provide it to their landlord, who would, hopefully, refrain from filing an eviction. It was confusing for renters, landlords, and even the courts, Rowe explains. Though the statewide moratorium Gov. Roy Cooper signed simplified things somewhat, problems linger. Tenants still have to sign the declaration form, and it’s only for those who meet certain income requirements. “It would be nice to have what other states have, which is a straight moratorium: no evictions for nonpayment of rent,” Rowe says. “That makes it easier. If somebody comes into the courthouse with an eviction paper because somebody is behind on rent, they can’t do it.” Rental assistance programs saw similar problems. A Durham program that used federal funding to pay rent and utility bills required residents to fill out 11 separate forms within a 20-day window or their claims were denied. “That meant most people were denied, because most people couldn’t figure out and fill out 11 separate pieces of paper correctly within 20 days, because there was no assistance to do that,” Gilbert says. That may be by design, as Republicans continue to handicap the programs with additional restrictions. Most assistance programs also leave out Triangle residents with unstable housing situations, the people who most need them. Renters with unofficial agreements or subleases and those with month-tomonth leases are ineligible for assistance. Canceling a month-to-month lease or raising rent at the end of a rental term aren’t regulated under the eviction moratorium as canceling the agreement or raising rents isn’t technically an eviction without a signed lease. Residents can be priced out of their homes without legal recourse. It’s those situations that Sarmiento, speaking on behalf of the Garden Terrace Tenants Union, says show the real problem. Sarmiento explains that one union member lived in the same apartment for six years without an official lease, but when the union asked the landlord to provide one so that the tenant could get rental assistance, it came with a $200 rent increase. “Our landlord is in his house, just comfortable,” Sarmiento says. “He knows that we’re in a totally different world, a totally changed world. And it doesn’t seem to impact him.” But even ensuring those people are covered under assistance programs might not be enough. Though the state already has $700 million set aside for rental assistance and more coming from the $50 billion dedicated to housing costs in March’s American Rescue Plan Act, the need is even more extraordinary. A U.S. Census survey recently found that nearly a third of adults in North Carolina live in households “where it has been somewhat or very difficult to pay for usual household expenses.” Based on census data estimates, covering a single month of those expenses in the Triangle alone would cost nearly $250 million, and activists emphasize that residents need help with back payments since the pandemic began. 16

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“ If you combine all the affordable housing from all the nonprofit groups in Durham, it still won’t be enough.

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hile the Triangle’s poorest residents are struggling, the wealthy are claiming ever-more expensive houses and apartments, including newcomers powering the region’s growth—the engineers, for instance, who will likely come for jobs at Google’s new hub in Durham. COVID is just accelerating this process. Because of the scant and uneven protection North Carolina tenants have, the pandemic offers an opportunity for landlords and investment companies to increase their profits. Gilbert notes that many landlords have rejected payments from assistance programs like HOPE because it was better for them financially. “They were more interested in being able to re-rent the unit to a new tenant at a higher rate than in keeping their current tenant, even if they could pay off their balance with government assistance,” he says. While early reports of a mass exodus from cities across the country appear to be overstated, there is evidence that large metro areas like New York and San Francisco have seen increased out-migration. And the Triangle was a popular destination for transplants. Armed with higher wages, working alongside white-collar locals who have enjoyed recent economic growth, those buyers are willing and able to pay higher home prices. “Most of our agents said they are working with a little bit more out-of-state buyers than average,” says James of

Urban Durham Realty. Her anecdotal survey also found that New York, Colorado, Florida, California, and Washington D.C were the most common locations from which buyers were moving. She also notes an uptick of smalltime investors from out of state looking to cash in on the region’s popularity. The increased demand creates other dangers, too. James notes that associated fees have doubled and time on the market has been cut by a third. Buyers are also expected to write letters to the seller—something James said is “ripe for Fair Housing Act violations.” “We’re making it difficult for first-time home buyers or buyers that are looking for more affordable homes,” says James, who serves on Durham’s Affordable Housing Implementation Committee. “It’s going to have to be non-market forces that help these buyers. The market is not going to do it.” But nonprofit and affordable housing developers say their hands are tied. “If you combine all the affordable housing from all the nonprofit groups in Durham, it still wouldn’t be nearly enough,” says Selina Mack, the executive director of the Durham Community Land Trust, which owns 282 affordable units. “Nonprofits cannot build our way out of the need for affordable housing. We’re going to need help from the private sector.” Everyone is at the mercy of a market that is driving up prices. Land costs are rising, and lumber costs, which have doubled nationally since 2020, are driving up the cost of construction. As a result, everyone has to charge more to keep projects financially viable, and the largest for-profit developers have such deep pockets that they outbid everyone else. While some zoning deals could be struck that create units affordable to residents making 80 percent of the area median income (AMI)—which for Durham and Orange counties was $72,700 for a family of four in 2020 and $75,300 for Wake County—it’s increasingly hard to make it affordable to those making 50 percent AMI ($45,450 for Durham and Orange, $47,050 for Wake) and below, considered the area of real need. “That’s going to require a subsidy,” says Rowe. “An owner could not produce the housing for those folks.” Those market conditions are one reason why popular housing policies, such as Raleigh’s recent accessory dwelling unit policy, have had so little impact. “Boulder, Colorado, tried this some time ago,” Quercia, the city planning professor, says. “They found that instead of a single $500,000 house in a single-family lot, they had two $500,000 houses in a single-family lot. You can build more that way, but I’m not sure how much of it will become affordable.” The COVID upheaval has led to other developments that can seem like quick fixes. If the much-vaunted workfrom-home revolution comes to fruition, there may be unrentable office space that could be converted to residential spaces. But activists say it’s hard to tell if those projects could be viable for affordable housing, given the costs of conversion, as well as different infrastructure needs for homes, such as transportation, nearby food, and different utility requirements. The high price point of other converted buildings, like Durham’s American Tobacco or Raleigh’s Caraleigh Mills, gives evidence that it actually may fuel gentrification.


“It is very tempting to want to come up with creative or technological fixes for the lack of affordable housing,” says Gilbert. “Whether it is tiny homes or housing people in hotels or perhaps converted storefronts. But I think there is not a quick and easy fix.”

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espite the dire outlook, affordable housing advocates are cautiously hopeful, in that the pandemic has spotlighted existing problems in ways that make them unavoidable. “This crisis has demonstrated the ways that housing is so integral to our public health and the basic functioning of our economy and society,” says Nick MacLeod, organizing director for the North Carolina Housing Coalition. MacLeod and others see an opportunity to make a transformational change. Like all local politics in North Carolina, the immense power the General Assembly wields over city and county governments constrains what’s possible. Republicans at the state level have long passed laws limiting aggressive policies like rent control, along with more mundane strategies like impact fees. An unfriendly court system has added to the confusion, making city and county lawyers cautious about passing policies that are standard elsewhere in the country—such as inclusionary zoning—and worried about expensive lawsuits they might not win, even when they have a strong case. But the appetite to think boldly has grown as the country gets used to direct stimulus payments, increased unemployment insurance, and other COVID-driven assistance. “It does feel like there is so much more space that’s opened up,” MacLeod says. “We’re reckoning with the scale of this crisis in a new way.” New options include using housing funds—from COVID relief or the housing bonds passed across the region in recent years—to aggressively expand the legal protections renters have. For instance, they could be used to guarantee a lawyer for any tenants going to eviction court, vastly increasing the costs of evictions for landlords. Several policy changes are back on the table, too. Charlotte is exploring a law prohibiting source-of-income discrimination, which would make it illegal for landlords to refuse tenants because they use Section 8 vouchers. Doing so would solve a long-standing problem contributing to the affordable housing shortage. Cities and counties could also refuse to provide local funding in development deals unless

developers agree to eviction protections for their tenants. The fact that we’re in a state of emergency may also open up new options. North Carolina law says that local governments that declare a state of emergency can essentially do whatever is “reasonably necessary” to maintain order and protect people and property. That broad power may mean that Triangle cities could pass their own evictions moratoria, simplifying the process and ensuring that they last until the pandemic’s economic fallout ends. It’s unclear whether that policy would survive a court challenge, in part because it is untested. But activists say there’s a case for it. “I’d like to think any city can do what it needs to do to protect its citizens when there’s a state of emergency,” Rowe says. MacLeod agrees, adding he doesn’t think state law prohibits a local moratorium. That option could disappear quickly, though, as the General Assembly could pass a law limiting local state -of-emergency powers at any point. In fact, Republicans are currently trying to do just that to the governor, in retaliation for his COVID policies. What makes all of those options possible—and what’s at the root of activists’ hope—is residents pushing for them. “There are a couple pieces that are always open questions,” MacLeod says. “One is how much political will are elected officials willing to take. Two is how much are we effectively organizing, both because it helps push elected officials, but also because when they have backup, they can feel better stepping out on a limb to do something [without] precedent.” Sarmiento and her union show how much organized neighbors can do on their own. In addition to fighting to keep their neighbors in their homes and forcing inspections to fix long-standing issues, Garden Terrace Tenants Union is trying to organize a single, collective lease for all of its members, vastly improving individual bargaining power with the landlord. It won’t be a short fight, and addressing the inequalities across the rest of the Triangle will be even longer. But Sarmiento is confident. “If we continue to fight, we will be able to win something here,” she says. “I know we have fewer rights here than we have in New York City, but some people think we don’t have any rights at all, and that’s not true either. We started talking to neighbors about what rights we have and how we can fight for more. Now, we see people with less fear moving forward with strength and courage.” W

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M U SIC

FLOCK OF DIMES: HEAD OF ROSES

[Sub Pop Records; Apr. 2]

Coming up Roses In making her transcendent new Flock of Dimes record, Jenn Wasner found her way out of heartbreak and on the road to healing BY MADELINE CRONE music@indyweek.com

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his past year, the indie-pop-rocker Jenn Wasner has grown to learn how to harness her stake in personal and global happenings, with a clear understanding of the weight of her hand—and responsibility in—both. Over the past decade, Wasner has carved out a distinct sonic space for herself, honing her craft as a roots musician and becoming a beacon among North Carolina’s highly dynamic music community. A founding frontwoman of renowned duo Wye Oak, a frequent collaborator in the local music scene, and touring member of groups like Sylvan Esso and Bon Iver, she also finds her work as a solo artist uniquely fulfilling. Head of Roses, out April 2 on Sub Pop Records, is her sophomore full-length release as solo act Flock of Dimes. The veteran indie artist follows her first full-length release as Flock of Dimes—2016’s serene If You See Me, Say Yes—with a book of breakup songs. The album highlights duality: the push and pull of action and reaction, and the rippling implications of it all. The songs, written during a global pandemic and social justice reckoning, evolved into a less subjective message about healing; in 2021, that message resonates in an expansive way. “I feel called to give back to the world,” Wasner says over the phone, one morning in March. “But I can’t do that if I’m too consumed with my own pain. It has to start with understanding yourself, compassion for your pain. In healing, you create space to give back to the world in very meaningful ways.” Wasner always considered herself to be “in touch” with her emotions. By the end of working on Head of Roses, though, she’d come to understand that there was a fun18

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damental disconnect that benumbed her in the presence of inner turmoil. “I come from a somewhat unstable upbringing—mental illness, drug addiction,” says Wasner, a native of Baltimore, Maryland. “Pretty much all of us were operating in survival mode. Everyone contends with that differently, but the outside world became a huge ecosystem of distraction from that core of suffering.” Wasner’s second step into Flock of Dimes chronicles her clouded path through a breakup that cruelly coincided with the pandemic. Despite efforts to immerse herself elsewhere, 2020 stripped Wasner of almost every defense mechanism, leaving her vulnerable to her double-edged heartbreak. Having fled from one relationship for another that failed, she was both the recipient and source of pain in a situation that proved mutually devastating. Alone in the mirror, Wasner became anchored in her reflection. Head of Roses, created in isolation, evocatively captures what it means to forgive. Raw lyricism details the discovery of perceived “brokenness” within her, evoking an almost palpable reckoning with self-image. Once she had the idea, Wasner says, a theme began to “emerge from the murk.” Clarity came as she learned to feel compassion for her own suffering for the first time; unable, also, to seek that validation from a partner, she turned pen to paper. She also began peeling back the pain of a fractured coming-of-age that she had previously been “unable or unwilling” to sort through. “I don’t think I was operating in the world as myself,” she says. “The songs tell that story.” As she strung one song behind the next, the story that emerged defied subjective

Jenn Wasner of Flock of Dimes

PHOTO BY JADE WILSON

bounds, with a universal-feeling plot about pain. The transcendental nature of this is what Wasner believes is the real point of any art—broadening understanding through introspection. “It goes to show all the ways we can hide from ourselves,” she says. “That’s why I’m drawn to something like songwriting. My life has changed immensely as a result of that practice, showing up and seeing what emerges in that creative space. It’s the thing I’m most grateful for that carried me through this nightmare of a year.” With the help of producer Nick Sanborn (Sylvan Esso) Wasner transformed a heartbreak diary into a folkloric, celestial pop dreamscape. The production paves a sonic escape route from her lyricism, candidly untangling a labyrinth of self-discovery. Wasner usually produces her own records, as she has for others, like the singer Madeline Kenney. But Sanborn brought her music places she had never ventured. Tracks like “Two” and “One More Hour” measure the distance between infatuation and interdependence. The first considers the definition of freedom when personal autonomy feels gaping, while the second embodies the new-lover appeal of fantasy over reality. Head of Roses grounded Wasner in previously inconceivable ways, with healing that extended beyond her nuclear realm

and strengthened her relationship with the outside world. “In learning to feel compassion for my suffering and forgiving myself, I opened myself to forgiving and feeling compassion for others,” she says. “We are all being called to heal ourselves, so we can hold more space for the immense amounts of suffering in the world.” The title track itself came effortlessly. As the words melded with melody, Wasner felt a finality and chose it to bookend the 10 tracks. The closing line, “love is time,” captures the essence of this personal project. “In the past, I’ve been so impatient to get to the bottom of something—like if I can understand it, I can fix it—but, sadly, understanding alone is not enough,” she says. “Healing has to happen in the body, heart, and mind, and that can take a long time. And sometimes the most loving act you can do is to grant that time and space, to yourself, or to the person you love.” Here, personal growth budded. Embracing the fact that there is more than one side of every story, and that those stories are intertwined. “Head of Roses’’ captures this entanglement. “The title is the perfect symbol of this,” she says. “When I hear it, I picture a garden overrun, blooming all over the place, the thorns of the thing fully inseparable from the flowers themselves.” W


FO O D & D R I N K

Faithful Farming Black-owned farmland is disappearing. A new Wake County CSA is helping stem the tide. BY ERIC GINSBURG food@indyweek.com

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teve McCalla always dreamed of farming. As a kid growing up in New York City, he maintained a vegetable garden with peppers, tomatoes, and other crops in his Queens backyard. “I always wanted to be a farmer, ever since I could remember,” McCalla recalls. But his career in the ’70s leaned towards computers, and later, telecommunications. When his longtime employer offered employees buyout packages amid a round of layoffs, McCalla saw an opportunity. His parents and brother had already moved to North Carolina, and a few years earlier, he’d bought land. “Really then it was just a matter of shifting down,” he says. He took the package, and in 2003 started Rocky Ridge Farm in Louisburg, about 40 minutes northeast of downtown Raleigh. The career shift made him one of only a few Black farmers in the nation—about two percent of farmers in the U.S. are Black, and of those, only about 2,000 Black farmers call North Carolina home, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Census data shows the average NC farmer runs a 168-acre farm whose market value exceeds $250,000 per year; for African American farmers, the average is 95 acres. Jarred White runs into this issue constantly in his role at the Pittsboro-based Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA (RAFI-USA). “When I started at RAFI in late 2019, I kept encountering this problem of Black land loss,” White says, before listing off a variety of contributing factors including policies rooted in the Reconstruction-era and USDA discrimination. “The rate at which Black farmers specifically were losing land was immense.” Congress is currently considering federal action to address this historic and ongoing discrimination in the form of the Justice for Black Farmers Act. In early March, Congress also passed the COVID-19 relief bill, which included the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act, a $5 billion provision sponsored by Sen. Ralph Warnock of Georgia that will go toward forgiving the debts of farmers of color.

Rocky Ridge Farm owners Steve and Elke McCalla

PHOTO BY JADE WILSON

On a more micro and localized scale, White realized that part of the solution might lie in partnering farmers like McCalla with RAFI’s strong network of faith communities affiliated with the organization. His idea: convince a group of church members to buy CSA shares directly from local Black farmers. Now, RAFI is piloting the project in Wake County, with more than 120 people joining from across eight participating churches and sourcing a plethora of fresh food from three Black-owned local farms. Dubbed the Faith and Farms Partnership Project, the effort will bring in about $20,000 total for its initial eight-week run. That’s huge for McCalla. He relied on selling his haul at the Wake Forest Farmers Market in the past, but he’s been refraining during the pandemic. “I’m 68, I’m Black, and I’ve had heart trouble,” he says, adding that he previously underwent a quadruple bypass. “That put me right in the crosshairs of COVID-19.” The CSA model offers stability—it’s easier to know how much to plant, offers a reliable cash flow, and frees him up to plan for the future, McCalla says. His partner, Elke McCalla, who joined the organic farm several years after it launched, called the new partnership project “a real blessing.” “To even get to the point on our own where we’d be able to have a 30-person CSA would’ve taken us years to get that level,” she says. “When the help from Jarred and [RAFI], they pretty much gift-wrapped this up and put this in our lap overnight. We couldn’t have done this on our own at all.” This model is also more effective than a farmer’s market, Elke adds, pointing out that it simplifies their workflow and cuts down on time and food waste. With the CSA, there’s a set number of weekly shares, so they know exactly

how much to harvest, take it to one church drop site, and any boxes that participants forget to pick up are donated directly to local food banks by the churches. Participants receive a wide range of food from the McCallas—right now, that means potatoes, beets, spinach, radishes, arugula, mustard greens, and swiss chard, to name a few selections. Those who sign up again in the summer will get cantaloupes, corn, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, watermelon, and peppers, among other fresh and organic crops. Church members are also getting goods from the Black Farmers’ Hub in Raleigh and Singing Stream Farm in Creedmoor, White says. There are already a couple Triangle organizations designed to support Black farmers, such as Tall Grass Food Box and the Black Farmers Market. What sets the Faith and Farms Partnership Project apart is the relationship with various religious communities rather than a more one-on-one connection with individual consumers. So far, a range of churches including Unitarian, Baptist, and Lutheran churches, are involved across Wake County, but White would like to expand to other faith communities as well. If the model proves successful—and as far as the McCallas consider, it already has—he wants to replicate it around the state, drawing in more Black farmers and farmers of color more broadly. “The main thing we want people to understand is that the goal is to work against injustices in the food system that marginalize farmers of color and rural communities of color,” White says. “We know that farmers of color in the U.S. continue to endure systemic racism within the food system, which causes consistent social, economic, and political harm. We’re attempting to build partnerships to counteract a lot of the effects of that injustice.” W INDYweek.com

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A RT

GOLDEN MUMMIES OF EGYPT

Through July 11, $17–$24 | North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh | ncartmuseum.org

A Dying Art Paying respects at the North Carolina Museum of Art’s new Golden Mummies of Egypt exhibition BY SARA PEQUEÑO spequeno@indyweek.com

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rtemidorus is not the first mummy I’ve met, but he is the first mummy whose name I remember. The Egyptian boy probably died around 100-120 C.E. between the ages of 19 and 21—the same age as my little sister, a jolting detail which made me linger with him longer. He’ll always be that age to onlookers, sitting in his wrappings with a Greek-style portrait greeting visitors outside his glass case. Artemidorus is also the first mummy on display at Golden Mummies of Egypt, a new exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Art. It’s not the first traveling ancient Egypt exhibit to come to the museum—the last, Temples and Tombs: Treasures of Egyptian Art from The British Museum, was in 2007— but it is the first time human remains have been displayed at NCMA. NCMA has provided interactive screens, interspersed throughout the exhibit, and three informational videos on temples and the excavation process. Eight total mummies are featured, each with a screen for visitors to learn more about the mummies’ outer gildings and inner wrappings (don’t worry, it isn’t gory). The mummies are spaced between remnants of ancient Egypt, ranging from jewelry to tiny carved statues of gods and goddesses. The mummies may look a bit different than you’d expect. As with pharaonic Egyptian exhibits, the mummies and their belongings are decorated with intricate carvings of the afterlife and gilded to show their status in society. The Golden Mummies of Egypt focuses on the Greco-Roman period of Egypt circa 300 B.C.E. to 200 C.E., some of the last centuries that practiced mummification. Caroline Rocheleau, an Egyptologist and the museum’s curator of ancient art, says this part of history is often ignored. “That was one of the reasons I liked the exhibition, because we’re dealing with 20

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a very specific period in Egyptian history, at the very end,” Rocheleau told the INDY. “Egypt has existed for 3,000 years at that point, at the very least. And then the country gets ‘saved’ by Alexander [the Great] from the Persians.” Evidence of these blended cultures is also visible: the artwork on the mummies and in the paintings, for example, reflect Greco-Roman hairstyles and accessories. I visited on a Wednesday afternoon in March. The spread of COVID, at this point, still meant stricter protocols: timed entry, hand sanitizer stations, and far fewer folks than my last visit to the museum, in February of 2020, a few weeks before the world shut down. The open frame of the East building, where the exhibition is housed, made the exhibit seem even emptier. It would be hard not to appreciate having a near-silent NCMA to take in this exhibit—it is, of course, a walk among the dead. Instead of rushing through the exhibit or worrying about holding up anyone else, I got to sit with Artemidorus, a woman named Isaious, and the six other mummies laying in temporary rest in Raleigh. Curated by Nomad Productions using artifacts from the Manchester Museum in England, the exhibition was originally supposed to come to North Carolina during 2020. Then the pandemic hit. In a way, though, visiting this year in the brutal wake of 2020 made it more impactful. We’re living through a time of acute mourning—since last March, more than 12,000 North Carolinians have died. Families have delayed funerals. Loved ones said goodbye on iPads in a hospital room. We’ve seen disproportionate numbers of deaths in communities of color. Seeing these mummies, carefully wrapped in bandages and adorned with beautiful gold masks and paintings of the

Mummy mask from Hawara

PHOTO COURTESY OF NCMA

people they were—or they aspired to be— felt like seeing them at a wake. No rushing, no bumping against others and overhearing conversations. Just these two-thousandyear-old bodies whose souls were supposed to be with Osiris in the afterlife. Scrolling through the digital renderings of the different layers, captured by CT scans instead of invasive unwrappings, felt respectful. Although the exhibition is poignant, there are still ways for children to learn from the experience. NCMA provides hieroglyph matching games, and children can draw their own versions of a burial mask. The exhibition also does its best to contextualize the moment in history—as well as the moment these remains and artifacts were discovered by William Matthew Flinders Petrie in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. One video shows information about the British excavation of the graves; other displays explain the way Greece and Rome were intertwining with Egypt and its belief systems, and hint to the reality that Alexander the Great’s “conquest” was, the many now understand it, colonization. “What I love about this exhibition is that it’s more than just mummies—it’s about

hopes for the afterlife at a time in Egypt when Egyptian, Greek, and Roman cultures blended together,” Rocheleau said in an exhibition press release. The mummies show signs of these consequences: the faces painted on bandages are white-appearing, and some interactive screens denote where pieces of the body were broken during the excavation process. An attentive visitor, attune to the consequences of colonization (and Flinders Petrie’s background in eugenics), may find that understanding the complexity of this era can work in tandem with the beauty of Egyptian burial practices. That messaging, though, might not be blatant enough for every museum visitor to pick up on. The exhibition is fascinating and uses modern technology to add a new dimension to seeing mummies in a museum. Even though the museum has now opened up, maybe you can find a quiet moment to sit with these mummies, understanding that they are more than just ornate artwork. Maybe, if you’re able, you can take a few hours out of a weekday, when the East building is most quiet, and pay your respects to the dead. W


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