INDY Week 8.11.21

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Raleigh | Durham | Chapel Hill August 11, 2021

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After more than a decade as Mandolin Orange, Emily Frantz and Andrew Marlin retired the band name.

Introducing Watchhouse. BY SARAH EDWARDS, P. 12


Raleigh W Durham W Chapel Hill VOL. 38 NO. 30

CONTENTS NEWS 5

Durham brings back a mask mandate while vaccination rates dwindle. Meanwhile, in Wake, COVID rates soar. BY THOMASI MCDONALD AND

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Faculty preparing for the upcoming semester fear that, without further precautions, the Delta variant will run rampant in their classrooms.

JANE PORTER

BY LEIGH TAUSS

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UNC-CH leaders are questioning professors and accessing their email to find out who leaked the Walter Hussman agreement to the media. BY JOE KILLIAN

10 A Duke professor will lead a research project on reparations.

Arshia Simkin and Emily Cataneo at Redbud Writing Project, p. 16 PHOTO BY BRETT VILLENA

BY THOMASI MCDONALD

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A bill on the governor's desk would permit pharamcists to administer injections but prevents teens from getting a COVID shot on their own. BY ELIZABETH THOMPSON

FEATURE 12

Out with Mandolin Orange, in with Watchhouse. BY SARAH EDWARDS

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Maison Fauna celerates a tradition of cultural exchange between U.S. and U.K. rave music. BY BRIAN HOWE 15 A chat with hip-hop blogger Nancia Odom. BY KYESHA JENNINGS 16 Redbud Writing Project teams up with So & So Books. BY RACHEL SIMON

THE REGULARS 3 15 Minutes

4 Op-ed

Correction: In the print version of our story on Durham's urban heat islands last week, we misspelled the last name of Tobin Freid, Sustainability Manager for the City of Durham. COVER Photo by Brett Villena

August 11, 2021

P U B L I S H E RS Wake County

MaryAnn Kearns

ARTS & CULTURE

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WE M A DE THIS

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Durham/Orange/ Chatham Counties

John Hurld E D I TO RI A L

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

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BACK TA L K

Last week, writer Thomasi McDonald wrote about the efforts of Duke University Press employees to form a workers union. We heard from some DUP employees who oppose forming the union to tell us we didn’t have the other side of the story (see today’s Letter to the Editor). And some of our readers aren’t convinced that the DUP workers who want a union have exhausted all of their other options yet.

“Unions are often a way for workers to put collective pressure on employers to address unfair and unsafe practices,” wrote Facebook commenter PARKER SPARTAN. “In this article, all I saw was someone getting paid $43,000 wanting more money? Is there more to the story? Has Duke done anything to prevent these employees from applying for higher paying jobs elsewhere? Leaving for a higher paying job is the best way to pressure your employer into raising salaries to retain their workforce.” Also last week, writer Lena Geller wrote about local restaurants’ growing shift away from tipping and asks if a fairer system is on the way. Facebook commenter MARTY SULLIVAN shared this anecdote: “We lived in Germany in the late 70s. Tips, or whatever you want to call them, was built into the price of your meal selections. There was no “mandatory” tipping to help the wait staff make minimum wage. Of course most people would leave small tips, just say thanks for the service, but it was not expected. Once when a friend over tipped by mistake, the server came back to the table and returned the money!” Finally, for the web, writer Leigh Tauss covered the Wake County school board meeting during which members voted to require masks in schools for the upcoming semester. Facebook commenter JODI MITCHELL called the requirement “Child abuse!” “Imagine being so naive that you believe that having a child wear a cloth face covering is child abuse, maybe spend some time helping children recover from the trauma of actual abuse instead of shouting from your keyboard,” wrote Facebook commenter TIFFANY HINES in response. “Until the kids can be vaccinated, this is the safest approach even though it is less than perfect,” wrote Facebook commenter CHRIS HOWELL. Commenter PHYLLIS LINDSEY wrote simply, “Thank God.” WANT TO SEE YOUR NAME IN BOLD?

indyweek.com @INDYWeekNC

backtalk@indyweek.com @indyweek

Chapel Hill

15 MINUTES Shenekia Weeks, 42 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer for the Town of Chapel Hill BY SARA PEQUEÑO spequeno@indyweek.com

How did you get into this work? I’ve spent most of my career serving marginalized populations primarily at the intersections of race, class, ability, and also age, and doing so within the human services field, law enforcement, public health, education, and the court system. It was particularly the work that I did in St. Louis, as the diversity, equity, and trauma director for Education Plus. Initially, I was hired to do community building, culture and climate work, and I realized that before we could really focus on belonging we had to address the fact that there were diversity issues. Within that community it is extremely segregated, and so I could not address culture without addressing issues related to race and oppression.

How did you end up in Chapel Hill? Last year, I was missing family and wanted to get closer to North Carolina. And then the pandemic hit, and we were all sitting still, and we watched George Floyd’s agonizing and protracted murder unfold on TV. I grieved holding space, and providing opportunities for people to experience community, and so I began looking for opportunities for diversity, equity, and inclusion work. Chapel Hill … was … moving in the right direction. They were forming the Reimagining Community Task Force. Town manager Maurice Jones really assured me that he was committed to this work and I was sold.

What do you see as some of the biggest goals or needs for Chapel Hill ? I am learning ... the Chapel Hillian way, if you will. The Town, like most municipalities, has to follow a framework, and so when

PHOTO BY BRETT VILLENA

I think about the most pressing needs, they have to go in this order, thinking about it from the individual, institutional, and instructional level. At the individual level, we have to normalize the conversation around race. That is uncomfortable for people, it can be, and so part of my role is normalizing that process. For the organization, I’m tasked with creating a strategic equity plan. We need a framework, infrastructure, tools that will help us to uncover and address biases within our policies and practices. Most pressing, if I had to rank them, I would definitely say inclusion. How do we make room at our existing tables, or create more tables for historically marginalized people, to have voice and choice in developing strategies that change what we uncover, and how they help us to uncover those things?

How does it feel to be the first Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer in the town? There’s lots of identifying and creating and developing, and that’s the benefit and the burden of being the first. Here, we’re building things in the process, and that’s exciting. I wake up feeling incredibly blessed and determined to show up as an authentic Shenekia Weeks, ready to face those challenges. And there will be challenges, but those challenges will ultimately bring about community healing. Racial equity, social equity, social justice— that’s healing work. Inequities cause oppressive conditions, and that harms people. Oppression is, for certain, a formidable foe. W INDYweek.com

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A Press Divided DUP employees are near-evenly split for and against a union. Unfortunately, union opponents say, media is hearing only one side. BY GEORGE BLACK backtalk@indyweek.com

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am writing on behalf of the staff members opposed to unionization at Duke University Press in response to the article you published on August 2, “Employees at Duke University Press Want a Union, So Duke Hired a Union-Busting Law Firm.” The majority of our staff, including the managers, oppose unionization for DUP. The campaign phase of the current unionization effort has concluded, and we are now awaiting the results of an extremely close election among eligible voters, with an uncertain outcome. Currently, there are 35 union-eligible employees at Duke University Press who want a union and 36 union-eligible employees who do not want a union.* I’m one of the 36 union-eligible workers who doesn’t want a union. In this world right now, where “moral purity” is expected of anyone who doesn’t want to be publicly excoriated, you can’t speak publicly and have an honest conversation about this misguided union campaign. Unfortunately, this means that all media covering the union is only hearing one side. Here are some things that the public doesn’t know about the Duke University Press Workers Union that may help understanding of both sides. The union organizers from the beginning have focused their strategy on damaging the Press and misrepresenting facts. For many of us who have worked many years at DUP, this has been heartbreaking and unacceptable. I have worked my entire career to reach a place with the benefits that Duke provides. I don’t want anything to happen to that. I also have direct experience with the NewsGuild in my past career and the experience was horrendous. These union organizing efforts began before our director arrived at the Press in June of 2019. We have made tremendous

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“The majority of our staff oppose unionization for DUP.” progress since then in improving workplace climate, which I believe is a key reason that our publishing program has experienced unprecedented success in the face of a global pandemic. We’ve just completed two of the most successful years in the 100year history of the Press. I don’t want to see that momentum slowed or our relationship with the university damaged because of a union. My union colleagues continue to misrepresent everything that is happening. In their latest misrepresentation, they have stated that Duke University objected to the election because of a video glitch during the vote count. The truth is that there are multiple objections. The primary objection is that the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) forgot to put postage on the original ballots, had to send new ballots with postage, and then created a shortened schedule which meant that a couple of ballots might not have arrived on time. In an election that is basically tied, this is a critical mistake. Two union backers left the Press in July (one retired and another took a much higher-level job at another press) and the union knows that a recount may result in a loss. They are desperate to find another way to win right now aside from a fair election process. The DUP Workers Union continually states that unions exist at other university

presses. In fact, no other university press has a union. Yes, there are unionized workers at other presses, but those workers belong to university-wide unions. Harvard University Press employs clerical workers who belong to the Harvard Clerical and Technical Workers Union. This union was established almost 30 years ago. When all 5,000 clerical and technical workers at Harvard University bargain for better wages, they have power. Similarly, there are unionized workers at Wayne State University Press who belong to two separate university-wide unions. The Press is a small department of the university. It would be like the workers within the history department unionizing. It’s a shortcut to hard organizing work across an organization and it’s entirely misguided because such a union will lack power. Duke employs 43,000 workers. Why should 35 workers within one department get better benefits than all other union workers? There is a reason that there is substantial opposition to the DUP Workers Union from union-eligible employees. I hope that your reporting does justice to the full picture. So far, media accounts have failed to do so and have simply reproduced misleading union propaganda. * Here is how I calculated these numbers: 35 official pro-union official votes + 2 votes Duke challenged, presumably pro-union = 37 - two pro-union employees who left the press in July = 35 32 anti-union official votes + 4 votes that the union challenged, presumably antiunion = 36 Note: Three new employees who just joined DUP were not here for the vote so we do not know if they support the union. W George Black is a data administration analyst at Duke University Press.


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Triangle Downtown Durham, March 2020 PHOTO BY JADE WILSON

Gone Viral As the COVID-19 Delta variant spreads rapidly, Durham reinstates its mask mandate while the percentage of fully vaccinated residents drops off. In Wake, where case rates are increasing rapidly, there’s no similar emergency measure in sight. BY THOMASI MCDONALD AND JANE PORTER backtalk@indyweek.com

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ourtney Barton, a registered medical assistant, wore her mask Sunday afternoon while doing laundry with her 14-year-old at The Wash House at Lakewood shopping center in West Durham. Barton, who is fully vaccinated, said she heard about Durham’s new state of emergency. “But I never stopped wearing a mask, even after I was fully vaccinated,” Barton says. And she offered a backhanded compliment for the Durham leaders’ decision to mask up in the face of the Delta threat. “People who are supposed to be leaders aren’t leaders when it comes to what we’re supposed to be doing. It sounds like they’re winging it.” It turns out that the COVID-19 Delta variant is so dangerous, health officials recommended that even vac-

cinated people need to wear a mask indoors, as vaccinated people can transmit the virus—and become infected—just as unvaccinated people can. (Such so-called breakthrough cases are rare, however, and the likelihood of getting seriously ill is much lower among those who have been vaccinated.) Durham’s new mask mandate went into effect on Monday. At a press conference announcing the new rule, Durham Mayor Steve Schewel said he felt he had to reinstate the mask mandate and will re-evaluate its necessity every week. While Schewel acknowledged that there have been a small number of breakthrough cases, he called the pandemic that we are experiencing now “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.” “If you are unvaccinated, the chances are good that the virus will find you,” Schewel said.

The new mandate comes as intensive care units in Triangle hospitals are reaching capacity, with waiting rooms overflowing with patients. And while Wake County has required that people wear masks inside county buildings, it hasn’t taken the further step of requiring an indoor mask mandate across the board, though the county has seen more than 4,000 new cases of COVID-19 over the past two weeks and has one of the highest case rates in the state. Dara Demi, the county’s communications director, told the INDY on Monday that she is currently not aware of any plans to reinstate a mask mandate like Durham’s. In the face of a COVID variant that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) described in an internal report as being as contagious as chicken pox, Durham County health officials reported a decline in vaccinations since June, when the number of fully vaccinated residents increased by about 8.5 percent over the previous month. (During May, the number of fully vaccinated residents grew by some 15 percent). The drop was even more dramatic in July, when the number of fully vaccinated residents grew by less than 2 percent. Durham County health officials reported a 3 percent increase in COVID-19 cases between July 1 and July 26, according to the latest available data on its website as of Sunday. In Wake, the number of cases has grown by more than 6 percent since July 1. Durham’s state of emergency is in concert with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC’s call for all people, including those who are vaccinated, to wear masks in indoor spaces when they are around people they do not live with, in order to reduce the spread. The Bull City’s new state of emergency comes a little over a week after Governor Roy Cooper allowed the state’s mask restrictions to end on July 30. But Cooper, as with several governors across the country, urged residents to follow updated CDC guidelines about wearing masks inside. COVID-19 metrics from the last 14 days show that Durham reported 264 cases per 100,000 residents and 241 COVID-19 deaths; 173,950 people, or 54.1 percent of the population, are fully vaccinated as of Monday. Wake County reported 459 cases per 100,000 residents and 752 deaths, with 615,671 people, or 55.4 percent of the population, fully vaccinated. Orange County, where COVID spread is moderate compared to Durham and Wake, reported 230 cases per 100,000 residents and 101 deaths. The county has a vaccination rate of 60.9 percent. W INDYweek.com

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Triangle ILLUSTRATION BY JON FULLER

A Perfect Storm Faculty preparing for the upcoming semester fear that, without further precautions, the Delta variant of COVID-19 will run rampant in the classroom, endangering them or their loved ones. BY LEIGH TAUSS ltauss@indyweek.com

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eaching middle schoolers how to play trombone and flute has never been easy, but for Wake County music teacher Patricia Norris (who asked us not to use her real name for fear of backlash) the job has never been harder. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit its peak early this year, onsite students had to wear special face masks and protective bell covers to limit the airflow from their instruments. Daily playing time was limited to 30 minutes. Even more challenging: most students were participating virtually, so hands-on instruction was almost impossible. “Is it annoying? Yes.” Norris tells me. “Am I willing to put up with that annoyance? A thousand times yes.” 6

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While Norris is vaccinated, her husband is immunocompromised and unable to get the vaccine without potential health risks. And now that a new, even more contagious strain of the virus—known as the Delta variant—is infecting thousands in North Carolina, she’s fearful of bringing COVID home. That’s why, despite the nuisance, Norris is willing to jump over hurdles to keep her family safe while ensuring her students still get as much quality instruction as possible. She’s far from alone. Teachers and school staff statewide, from primary school to the state’s university system, are wary as the new semester quickly approaches, and share

the concern that the administration isn’t doing enough to keep them safe in the classroom. UNC-Chapel Hill office worker Michelle Clark (who also asked we not use her real name for fear of retaliation) has been back in her cubicle for three weeks now and keeps her mask on at all times. While vaccinated, she is a high-risk individual, as is her mother. Though the school has rolled out some protocols, including mandating the use of masks inside all campus buildings, Clark feels they aren’t enough to stop a potential outbreak once students return. For starters, teachers learned this week that desks in their classrooms were rearranged to pre-pandemic form, without any social distancing. But many are afraid to voice these concerns, for fear of putting their jobs at risk. “I don’t feel safe and I think there are a lot of people that are uncomfortable but it’s all said in one-on-one conversations. It’s not said in a group setting,” Clark told the INDY. “I think everyone is a little wary about saying too much and everyone is just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Students come back in a week and we have been there for three weeks now. It feels really tense.” A spokesperson for UNC told the INDY via email that unvaccinated employees will be required to be tested weekly for the virus. However, the university can’t make vaccinations mandatory as “the UNC System has advised the campuses that under state law, only the North Carolina Commission for Public Health may mandate immunizations for college students.” Clark feels the school has been downplaying the risk of the virus, noting that in a recent faculty meeting the risk of contracting COVID-19 was compared to the likelihood of getting into a car accident on the way to work. “I was blown away that those were being compared and it was being considered a hazard on the job,” Clark said. “It feels like UNC really doesn’t care if we get it or not as long as students are on campus.” UNC and North Carolina State University attempted to hold in-person classes last fall, which ended disastrously with students reportedly partying off-campus and a slew of outbreaks reported within days of students’ return. Instruction was abruptly shifted online. Without stricter protocols, Clark says staff at the school are wary of another looming catastrophe.

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ases of the virus have been creeping up for awhile, but within the last two weeks a trickle of positive cases has turned into a flood, thanks to the Delta variant. Friday saw the highest number of new cases: 4,505 since this winter, and nearly 11 percent of folks are testing positive. Hospitalization is approaching 2,000 and almost 14,000 people have died from the virus in North Carolina. Meanwhile, 38 percent of the state remains completely unvaccinated.


“It is kind of like rearranging the furniture when the house is on fire. None of us feel quite ready to tackle this beast again but here we go.” Governor Roy Cooper recently required state employees to show proof of vaccination, and those who remain unvaccinated will be required to wear masks and get tested regularly. “Until more people get the vaccine, we will continue living with the very real threat of serious disease, and we will continue to see more dangerous and contagious variants like Delta,” Cooper said during a press conference last week. To the governor’s credit, he’s done a lot to try to urge the state’s anti-vaxxers to get their shots, including holding four $1 million lottery drawings. But the vaccination rate has leveled out at fewer than 100,000 new doses per week, which isn’t enough to stop the spread of this new strain. Despite the state’s alarming metrics, Cooper has yet to reinstitute a statewide mask mandate, or require more restrictions in the classroom, such as social distancing protocols, to keep students and teachers safe. Safety standards have been left up to the purview of the school districts. Last week, the Wake County school board voted to keep its mask mandate in place amid forceful debate from parents and staff on both sides of the issue. Dueling petitions urged the board in different directions, with one asking that masks be optional while another requested that they be required. Statements from some of the state’s congressional delegation haven’t helped the debate, with Rep. Madison Cawthorn fueling the anti-vaxxer sentiments by calling child mask requirements “psychological child abuse” in a recent interview. Other parents have questioned the science behind masks, with little of their own science to back their claims. Duke professor of pediatrics Danny Benjamin said the science is clear. “From a medicine perspective, masking clearly works. It prevents transmission in schools,” Benjamin said at a media briefing last week. As children under 12 can’t receive the vaccine, Benjamin said universal mask mandates are the only way to avoid outbreaks. Until a greater percentage of the population has been vaccinated, Benjamin suspects schools will likely “struggle a little bit with some increased clusters and some secondary transmission” this semester.

“The Delta variant is several-fold more transmissible than the original variant, the Alpha variant. As such, it will make secondary attack rates in the unmasked setting much higher,” Benjamin said. “It will result in much more quarantine, and it will result in faster school closures as a result of multiple clusters. So, it makes masking more important.” Norris says that, at points last semester, her school had only a third of its typical 1,000 students attending class in person. Now, 900—about triple—are expected to return, making social distancing that much harder, especially during lunchtime when students typically sit closely, talking, with masks off while they eat. The problem is a lack of staffing and funding, Norris says. Stricter social distancing protocols require more teachers to enforce them, and more classroom space to spread out students. That just doesn’t exist right now. “It is kind of like rearranging the furniture when the house is on fire,” Norris says. “None of us feel quite ready to tackle this beast again but here we go whether we’re ready or not.” Without addressing gaps in education funding, Norris says teachers will continue to be asked to do more with less. Clark believes vaccination requirements should be in place for all school employees. She’s already heard of students buying forged vaccine status cards to bypass protocols. Although weekly testing is in place because faculty have been on campus for weeks, “if something is percolating, it’s already here.” And if the past is any precedent, she doubts the university will take further action to stop the spread of the virus until it’s too late. “Everything is so reactive it’s reckless,” Clark says. Norris says she hoped the Wake County school board would fully return, before the new semester begins, to the social distancing standards put into place last year. While the mask mandate was a good start, she says more is needed to keep teachers and their families safe. “Doing it this time around is going to be this much more difficult because we have so many more bodies on our campuses,” Norris says. “I know there are huge roadblocks to that. You would need more staff, more staff means more money. It’s a perfect storm.”W INDYweek.com

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Chapel Hill

Witch Hunt UNC-Chapel Hill leaders are questioning professors and accessing their email in a quest to find out who leaked Walter Hussman, Jr.’s donor agreement to the media. BY JOE KILLIAN backtalk@indyweek.com

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UNC-Chapel Hill investigation into a leaked donor agreement is focusing on professors who have been critical of Walter Hussman, the wealthy Arkansas media magnate whose $25 million pledge to the university’s journalism school led to its being renamed for him. It also includes the university’s examining faculty emails without their knowledge, according to sources directly involved in the investigation. Last week, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) sent a letter to Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz warning that the investigation appears to be violating the First Amendment rights of faculty. Hussman’s behind-the-scenes lobbying against the hiring of acclaimed journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones drew new attention to his influence at the university and was a major factor in Hannah-Jones’s refusing an eventual tenure offer from the school and instead going to Howard University. The contract with Hussman, which the university considers confidential, was published by the News & Observer on July 14. The university announced an investigation two days later, seeking to determine how the paper got the document. So far, say two professors the university has attempted to interview as part of the inquiry, the school appears to be focusing not on those who may have had access to the documents, but on professors who have been publicly critical of Hussman’s outsized influence. Deb Aikat and Daniel Kreiss, both professors at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media, were asked to answer questions about the leak of the document. But both professors say their positions wouldn’t have given them access to the contract and that the university appears to 8

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have singled them out because of their criticisms of Hussman. Aikat met with investigators this week. Kreiss declined to do so, he said Wednesday, amid concerns with how it was being handled and by whom. “I did agree to the meeting,” Kreiss said. “However, over the weekend the more I thought about it and talked to other university leaders, including consulting with a few people who specialize in employment law, questions that came up over and over again were, under what authority is this inquiry happening? What are my rights and responsibilities and what is the scope?” Kreiss asked those questions of Katie Nolan, executive director of Strategy, Policy and Special Projects at UNC’s Division of Human Resources and Equal Opportunity and Compliance, who had asked to speak with him as part of the investigation. In an email, Nolan replied that she was “not proceeding under any specific formal policy or process at this time, as leadership does not have enough information at this time to determine whether a policy or process or policy has potentially been violated.” Nolan had been asked to help in that assessment, she wrote to Kreiss. “This raised a million red flags to me,” Kreiss said. “There’s no formal policy. There’s no formal process. As I’m sure you can appreciate, I was very wary of walking into a meeting where someone who is a lawyer with people who are far senior to me are going to ask me questions in a meeting with no rules, that doesn’t concern any specific policies they can name and is not taking place according to any university determined process. I felt like that would make me really vulnerable and make other UNC employees potentially very vulnerable, even though I don’t have any privileged knowledge relating to this inquiry.”

Hussman School of Media and Journalism at UNC–Chapel Hill PHOTO COURTESY OF UNC.EDU

That, said both Kreiss and Aikat, appears to be the point—to send a message to vocal faculty that speech critical of the university or its major donors makes them de facto suspects. “There is no reason to believe that anyone on the faculty would have had access to the things they are talking about,” Aikat told Policy Watch Wednesday. “But if you look at the people they have asked to speak to, who they want to ask questions, it is the people who have spoken out on Walter Hussman and the influence that it is obvious he had in the Nikole Hannah-Jones hiring.” Two sources with direct knowledge of the investigation told Policy Watch that the university has also accessed the emails of faculty they suspect may have knowledge of how the document was leaked to the press and is preparing evidence from those emails with which to confront them in interviews. “Absent anyone saying there has been specific misconduct by these individuals that is being investigated, that is a total violation,” said one of the sources, who asked not to be identified in order to avoid retaliation for discussing the ongoing investigation. “People use their university emails to discuss private information from students, medical information, private family information with their families. For the university to be accessing these emails without any warning to faculty

and without citing any evidence that any of these individuals have done anything or are suspected of doing anything wrong is completely outside of established university procedures and completely unethical.” In its Wednesday letter to the school’s chancellor, FIRE called the targeting of faculty in the investigation a potential First Amendment violation. “There is nothing—including in their criticism itself—to indicate that their criticism was based on access to confidential information not already obtained by the media and their own experiences as faculty in the Hussman School,” FIRE wrote in its letter to the chancellor. “Thus, we are concerned that the course of UNC’s investigation as it pertains to faculty members such as Kreiss and Aikat owes its origin to their exercise of protected speech in public criticism of UNC and Walter Hussman, not whether they had access to the agreement.” “Comments Kreiss and Aikat have made on social media and to reporters are protected by the First Amendment,” the group wrote. “As state employees, professors do not relinquish First Amendment rights to comment on matters of public interest by virtue of government employment. Rather, the right of government employees to speak as individuals on matters of public concern is clearly preserved in First Amendment jurisprudence. In fact, courts recognize


This story originally published online at N.C. Policy Watch.

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faculty rights to free expression as uniquely robust in order to preserve academic freedom and the university’s important role as the ‘quintessential marketplace of ideas.’” The letter continued: “Precedent is clear that an investigation targeting individuals who have exercised their First Amendment rights can itself violate the First Amendment, even if the investigation concludes in favor of the speakers. The question is not whether the university ultimately metes out formal punishment, but whether the institution’s actions ‘would chill or silence a person of ordinary firmness from future First Amendment activities[.]’ An investigation into protected expression may meet this standard.” The group has requested a reply from the university. Policy Watch has reached out to the administrators conducting the investigation. They forwarded the request to university spokesperson Joanne Peters Denny, who provided the following statement: “Many of our employees are entrusted with confidential information, pursuant to various state and federal laws and contractual agreements. When that confidentiality is breached, we take it very seriously. As the University previously indicated, we are investigating reports of a leak of confidential donor information relating to the agreement between the Hussman family, the University and the (then) School of Media and Journalism. We are unable to comment further at this time.” The university is wasting its time with such an investigation, Kreiss said Wednesday. It would make more sense to look into the undue influence Hussman wielded during the controversy surrounding the job and tenure offers extended to Hannah-Jones, he said. Last week, that influence was revealed to be even broader than previously believed, when the university released hundreds of pages of documents and emails related to the controversy in reply to outstanding requests under the Freedom of Information Act. The emails showed Hussman contacting more people than he initially disclosed, more times than he admitted in interviews on the matter, and having far greater access to confidential personnel information related to the hire than is generally given to anyone outside of the actual hiring process. “They should be looking into that,” Kreiss said. The university has, so far, announced no such investigation. W

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Durham

Making Good A Duke economist on the case for paying reparations to the descendants of enslaved people. BY THOMASI MCDONALD tmcdonald@indyweek.com

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hen the William T. Grant Foundation announced last month that it had awarded a $300,000 grant to the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University to research the feasibility of paying reparations to Black American descendants of enslaved persons, William Darity, Jr. was elated. Darity, a Duke economist who will lead the research project, told the INDY that the commitment of a major philanthropist to support such research was “a signal moment.” As director of the Cook Center, he is widely considered one of the nation’s leading scholars on the issue of reparations. “This is unprecedented and very encouraging,” Darity wrote in an email to the INDY about the project, “Making Black Reparations in America.” Dating back to Union General William T. Sherman’s Special Field Orders No. 15 in 1865, which authorized confiscated land and land abandoned by Confederates to be redistributed to freedmen, there have been discussions surrounding reparations as an ultimate acknowledgment of slavery and how the savage, arrogant, and barbaric crime enriched white men and turned America into a superpower. But a legacy of vociferous and negative responses to Black reparations has resulted. “The fact [is] that the claim for redress for Black American descendants of persons enslaved in the United States has not been met for 156 years,” Darity told the INDY. “[The] failure to provide the formerly enslaved with the promised 40 acre land grants at the end of the Civil War suggests that anti-racism must lie at the heart of the persistent resistance to meet the reparations bill.” 10

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William Darity Jr. The bill Darity refers to is U.S. House Bill 40, which calls for a commission on the study of reparations. Michigan Democrat John Conyers first introduced it in 1989 and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat from Texas, has been pushing it recently. The bill has never reached the House floor for a vote, however. But the Grant Foundation-financed project comes “amid increased interest in reparations as a mechanism to reduce racial inequality,” according to a foundation press release. While polls in recent years have shown that most Americans oppose cash reparations, support is trending upward. Foundation officials noted that more than half of Americans would favor a congressional commission to study the legacy of slavery and ongoing systemic racism directed at Black Americans. That sustained anti-Black racism is a consequence of the nation’s failure to hold slaveholding secessionists accountable by

treating the Confederate war on the Union as an act of treason, Darity says. He connects the Confederacy to the attempted coup in the nation’s capital on January 6 as running “in a straight line.” While the foundation noted in the release that the full toll of slavery was “immeasurable,” officials point to one metric as proof of the fallout: the racial wealth gap. Black Americans account for nearly 13 percent of the nation’s population, but they hold less than three percent of the nation’s wealth. Moreover, the average level of Black family wealth is $850,000 less than that of the average white family, Darity says. Foundation officials say the wealth gap serves as “a critical index of the cumulative effects, across generations, of racial injustice in the United States.” “Research is clear that the disadvantages faced by Black children and youth substantially reflect the unequal transmission of wealth across generations, which is rooted in slavery and continues through systemic racism into our own day,” Foundation President Adam Gamoran said in the release. “Reparations to descendants of enslaved persons has the potential to address the structural foundations of racial inequality, and as a potential national policy, it calls for rigorous scientific inquiry to address questions of feasibility and practicality.” Darity says grassroots activism has aided growing interest and support for reparations; receptiveness among several 2020 presidential candidates; and the events of 2020, particularly the murder of George Floyd, “led, finally, to widespread acknowledgment that there is systemic and continuous anti-black violence in the United States.” Darity and Duke economist Lisa A. Gennetian will be joined by a team of researchers who will conduct a series of “macro-simulation exercises” to investigate the effects of different configurations of Black reparations, to gauge the impact on the economic well-being of Black children and their families, but also the economy-wide ramifications for all Americans. Foundation officials say the scientific work includes four engagement activities that will enable the team to share their findings with research audiences and the broader public.

Darity says the simulation exercises are an important part of the research supported by the grant but can’t yet share them publicly. In the book From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century, Darity and co-author A. Kirsten Mullen propose a range of payment options to eliminate the racial wealth gap based on unpaid wages, the purchase prices of human property, and the land promised to the freedman. The book points to the words of Judah P. Benjamin, a member of Jefferson Davis’s Confederate cabinet, who in 1860 said, “our slaves . . . directly or indirectly involve a value of four thousand million dollars.” Darity and Mullen point out in From Here to Equality that as of 2019, $4 billion compounds to $2 trillion at 4 percent interest, to $9.3 trillion at 5 percent, and to $42.3 trillion at 6 percent. A reparations program based on the broken promise of “40 acres of tillable ground” could result in financial payments of $267,000 per person for 40 million Black descendants of American slavery. The literal promised land for freedmen covered three states that stretched across the coast of South Carolina and extended through Georgia, down into the northern portions of Florida. For Black Americans, it was yet another promise unkept. Following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, President Andrew Johnson ordered the land allocated under Special Field Orders No. 15 to be restored to the former slaveholders. During a June appearance on CBS Sunday Morning, Darity noted that it would cost $11-$12 trillion to finance reparations, more than twice the federal budget, CBS Sunday journalist Mark Whitaker noted. Whitaker also pointed to a University of Massachusetts Amherst/ WCVB poll in the spring that indicated two-thirds of Americans are against government reparations. Undeterred, Darity points to one of the hypotheses of his research into the feasibility of paying reparations to Black Americans: “[If] a reparations plan closed the Black-white wealth gap it would contribute to a higher rate of growth for the U.S. economy as a whole.” W


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North Carolina

A Hard Bargain House Bill 96 permits pharmacists to administer more injections, but it prevents teens from getting a COVID shot on their own. BY ELIZABETH THOMPSON backtalk@indyweek.com

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bill that would make post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), birth control, and testosterone more easily available is on Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk—but while some advocates celebrate the bill’s passage, opponents argue against controversial vaccine language added to the bill. The bill came into controversy after Sen. Joyce Krawiec (R-Forsyth) added a provision requiring young people to get parental permission before receiving the vaccines that have not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, such as the COVID-19 vaccine. The House passed the bill Thursday 106-5, with five Democrats voting “no” after the Senate gave it unanimous approval Tuesday. House Bill 96 would allow pharmacists to dispense, deliver, and administer certain medications, including PEP, nicotine replacement therapy, self-administered oral and transdermal contraceptives, prenatal vitamins, glucagon, testosterone and vitamin B12 as well as vaccinations or immunizations “recommended or required by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” the bill says. The bill also requires health care providers to “obtain written consent from a parent or legal guardian prior to administering any vaccine that has been granted emergency use authorization and is not yet fully approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration to an individual under 18 years of age.” This would include all current vaccinations against COVID-19, although the FDA has accelerated its timetable to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccines by Labor Day or sooner. Krawiec said the amendment was in response to her constituents’ concerns

about their children receiving a vaccine approved for emergency use authorization. “Parents know their children the best,” Krawiec said in a news release Tuesday. “They, not the government, should have the ultimate say when it comes to their child’s health.” Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford), who was an original sponsor of the bill, removed her name from the bill and voted against it Thursday due to the amendment. She did not speak on the House floor Thursday since she may have been exposed to coronavirus recently. “I don’t think it’s a good idea,” she told WRAL. “There are a lot of vaccine skeptics out there. My opinion is we need more people vaccinated, not fewer.” Rep. Wayne Sasser (R-Albemarle), primary sponsor of the bill said it had “no opposition” on the House floor Thursday. “We’ve worked with some changes that they made over in the Senate,” Sasser said. “All the stakeholders are on board.”

Expanded access to key medication Lee Storrow, executive director of the North Carolina AIDS Action Network, said the bill’s passage is a move in the right direction in expanding access to PEP, an oral medication one must take 72 hours after possible exposure to an HIV-positive person in order to prevent HIV. “People who need post-exposure prophylaxis are finding themselves in an emergency situation, and they need to get access to the medication in up to 72 hours,” Storrow said. “There’s strong agreement from even medical providers that pharmacists need to be able to dispense this medication to folks.”

Angie Kent-Mitchell, who oversees the pharmacies at Roanoke Chowan Community Health Center in Ahoskie PHOTO COURTESY OF ROANOKE CHOWAN COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTER. If the bill is signed into law, North Carolina would join states like New York, California, Colorado, and Virginia in making this medication more available. “There’s a real desire in the public health space and for those of us working in HIV and Hepatitis C and communicable diseases to make sure that we learn lessons from these last two years,” Storrow said. He said that it’s important to grab the initiative, so “that we don’t find ourselves in a worse place with so many other public health issues, after these last two years because we’ve taken our eye off the ball of important priorities around HIV.” The bill would also allow pharmacists to administer testosterone injections to people 18 and older, and deliver, distribute, and administer birth control. Susanna Birdsong, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, said “it would be great” if the bill also had provisions to help people better afford birth control. “But this is a good first step,” Birdsong said. “And it definitely increases availability and access, and it provides another way, another outlet for people to access birth control.”

Addressing disparities Despite being home to research giants Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina ranked 33rd in America’s Health Rankings by the United Health Foundation.

While every North Carolina county has at least one pharmacy, Sen. Jim Burgin (R-Harnett) said on the Senate floor Tuesday, there are five counties without a family physician, 20 without a pediatrician, 26 without an OB-GYN, and 30 without a psychiatrist. “House Bill 96 is a combination of multiple groups that came together to help expand access to health care for citizens across our state,” Burgin said, including the North Carolina Association of Pharmacists, the North Carolina Retail Merchants Association, the North Carolina Medical Society, North Carolina Medical Board, the North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians, the North Carolina Pediatric Society, North Carolina Obstetrical and Gynecological Society, and the North Carolina Psychiatric Association. The bill was presented to Cooper Tuesday, after the INDY’s deadline. He would not say whether he would sign the bill at a Coronavirus Task Force briefing on August 4. During a tour of the Forsyth Department of Public Health vaccination site, Cooper said the language of the amended bill “concerns me,” the Winston-Salem Journal reported. “We’re going to examine that legislation as it goes through the process,” Cooper said at the Task Force briefing. “It does some important things that we know that we need to do, so we’re going to continue to look at it.” W This story was originally published by N.C. Health News. INDYweek.com

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MUSIC

WATCHHOUSE: WATCHHOUSE

[Tiptoe Tiger Music/Thirty Tigers; Aug. 13]

Emily Frantz and Andrew Marlin PHOTO BY BRETT VILLENA

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After more than a decade as Mandolin Orange, Emily Frantz and Andrew Marlin retired the band name. Now meet Watchhouse. BY SARAH EDWARDS sedwards@indyweek.com

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n 2009, using the name Mandolin Orange, the musicians Emily Frantz and Andrew Marlin began to play music in the backyards and on the front porches of Carrboro. In a warbly video from that time, the pair sit on an old green couch and harmonize to an adaptation of an Old English song. With Frantz on the violin and Marlin cradling his guitar, their knees turned toward each other, the harmony is keening, intuitive, and intimate. In 2010, the duo released debut album Quiet Little Room, followed by 2011’s Haste Make/Hard Hearted Stranger, albums that held the warm appeal of an open door leading into a living room. In 2013, they signed with prominent North Carolina label Yep Roc Records, a deal that opened its own door for Frantz and Marlin: four more albums, glowing national recognition alongside adoring regional reception, and years of nonstop touring followed. Still—even as Mandolin Orange ascended from front-porch performances to sold-out stadiums, expanding from duo to a band backing—intimacy has been its constant. You’ll find that same intimacy in new album Watchhouse, out August 13 on Tiptoe Tiger Music/Thirty Tigers, with one significant new change: Mandolin Orange is no more. Instead, Frantz and Marlin announced in April that they would now make music under the name Watchhouse, a name drawn from a spot that Marlin frequented when he was young. A name change is a bold move for any band, but especially for a band as entrenched in the roots scene as Mandolin Orange. By the time fifth studio album Tides of a Teardrop was released in 2019—an album which reckoned, with a ruminative slow burn, with the early death of Marlin’s mother—they’d found niches performing both pared-down sets at the Governor’s Mansion and opening for the Avett Brothers at packed Red Rocks Amphitheatre shows. It seemed clear that they were forerunners in the Americana revival, and to many fans, the name Mandolin Orange is synonomous with North Carolina music (a pressure that comes with its own creative constraints). Changing up the name had, and has, a certain “Dylan goes electric” shock to it. Online, in message boards and in YouTube comments, you’ll find some detractors grumbling that the band has lost its magic. But experiencing intimacy with a band also means being along for the ride. As Marlin and Frantz tell it, over the years they’d begun to experience a growing gap between the name they’d chosen when they were in their early twenties, and the creative purpose they’d begun to write toward as seasoned artists. There was not, as Marlin says of the original naming, any “setting of intentions.” Now that has changed.


“It’s sort of this clean re-entry into the world. It just felt like a pressure cooker kind of feeling—that we can’t just go back to doing things the same way that we always did.”

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ne overcast morning—the kind of humid, motionless August day that hangs like wet laundry on a line—the pair meet me at a park near their home in Chapel Hill. It’s the week before the U.N. climate change report is released, and the Delta variant lends a nervous friction to otherwise hopeful talk of an album rollout. There’s a line in the Watchhouse song “Beautiful Flowers” that seems to speak to that restless tension, as it trickles planetary decline down to its particulars. In the song, lamenting a butterfly that has been crushed against a widowshield, Frantz gently croons, “The summertime blues, they’re burning red hot.” It’s one of the best lines on the album, landing with a perfect spark in 2021. Wrestling with the future leads to talk of touring. Imagining it, Marlin says—speaking in his characteristic dry, unhurried voice—is like trying to focus on something with blurred vision, and “as much as you want to see it, it can’t ever quite come into focus.” “I’m excited to go back to playing shows but there’s this weird, slight disconnect, where there’s a lot of apprehension in the crowd,” he says. “And I think, for us on stage, there is this looming presence of—well, for lack of a better word, death.” “Damn it,” Frantz says. “We finally wrote an album that wasn’t about death, and here we are talking about it.” But even if Watchhouse’s nine songs are filled with dark references—climate change looms large, as does a burgeoning culture of online meanness—the album is surprisingly hopeful. In late 2018, Frantz and Marlin became parents to a daughter, Ruby, and Watchhouse—which was recorded in a cabin in February 2020, right before the pandemic set in—yearns for a better world. In “Upside Down,” Frantz sings, with sweet assurance, of the experience of meeting their newborn (“you’ve known me all your life / swear I’ve missed you all of mine / now you’re here I’ll always be right by your side”). It’s hard for a piece of art to not feel hopeful with that kind of protective yearning on the line. In that sense, Watchhouse can certainly be described as a parenthood

album, but there are entry points for anyone who desires a better world. As with Frantz and Marlin’s other harmonies, the songs on Watchhouse evoke the intimacy of working through a problem. But there’s also something fresh: a persistent, textured shimmering and droning with inflections of pop, a polish that likely comes from producer Josh Kaufman (Bonny Light Horseman), who has worked with bands like The National and Hiss Golden Messenger. When they began recording, Kaufman told Frantz and Marlin to imagine they were making their first record. Watchhouse—which features drummer Joe Westerlund, guitarist Josh Oliver, and bassist Clint Mullican, with contributions from Kaufman and Dave Nelson—was recorded before the band decided to rebrand, so what you hear on the album is not the sound of artists who know what they’ll be next. It’s the sound of artists figuring it out. Frantz says that 2020 was one of the first times they’d been still, after a decade of relentless touring. As they took time at home—the park we’re sitting is one that they frequent with Ruby, where they often wade along the creek, skipping stones—it became evident that they needed to test a new vision. A music video for a song on the new album, “New Star,” made a decade after the video on the green couch and directed by Amelia Meath of Sylvan Esso, edges toward that vision, one which sounds both intimate and unihibited. Frame after frame depicts people gathering, luminescent in the glow of birthday cake candles. Marlin and Frantz aren’t even in the video, until the last shot, but their confident voices steer the scenes, with Marlin singing: “At least we’re all here together / settled in for the winter / casting our lives, found a new star.” “Finally releasing this album, it’s sort of this clean re-entry into the world,” Frantz says. “It just felt like a pressure cooker kind of feeling—that we can’t just go back to doing things the same way that we always did.” W INDYweek.com

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UNRIVALED GROOVE VOL. I | HHHH

[Maison Fauna; Aug. 13]

Two Nations Under a Groove Maison Fauna celebrates and cultivates a tradition of cultural exchange between U.S. and UK rave music BY BRIAN HOWE

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

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music@indyweek.com

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nrivaled Groove Vol. I, the new UK garage compilation from Durham label Maison Fauna, celebrates the long-running cultural exchange between rave music in the U.S. and the UK. The soulful sound of garage house took shape in New York and New Jersey in the 1980s. Its name comes from the discotheque, Paradise Garage, where it was bred by iconic DJs like Larry Levan. In the 1990s, UK producers started speeding up garage and swirling it with hip-hop, R&B, and drum-andbass influences. By decade’s end, a strain called 2-step emerged. Four-on-the-floor pulses gave way to skeletal swing rhythms full of eerie negative space, which could be stuffed with pitch-and-time-shifted vocal samples, offbeat accents, and wobbly basses. After producing dance hits in Britain, 2-step later birthed both chic crossovers like Burial and the aggro scourge of American dubstep. It’s what most people think of as UK garage today. Releasing August 13 on limited-edition marbled vinyl and streaming platforms, Unrivaled Groove Vol. I is a classicist connoisseur’s take on garage, formally lodged in the nineties but porous to novel sounds. The passion project of Maison Fauna cofounder Kir, who has a recurring UKG party of the same title, its eight tracks are evenly divided among U.S. and UK artists, with concentrations in North Carolina and Bristol, England. On “Warning,” Nottingham’s Panar pierces big, whooshing chords with a bassline so squiggly it sounds like it’s trying to talk.

Kir’s filter-snap minimalism is evident in her collaboration with Enver, “Sans.” Bristol’s Lewis Aung throttles a heavenly arpeggio down to a wisp and adds drums suggestive of a live kit in “Aarai,” while Bristol’s Two Toke brings rapid jungle palpitations to “Cloud Lament.” The helium-huffing vocals that serve as rhythmic diacritics on many tracks take center stage in “Solid Ground” by the anonymous collective HIDD3N HAND. Aside from Ohioan Dan Miles’s “Axis,” which draws tasteful horror-movie ambiance around an arrhythmic heartbeat, the overall vibe is subdued euphoria, apt of the oceanic aesthetic Kir cultivates in her visuals. Take a dip in the release party at The Fruit on Saturday, August 14 ($10 advance/$15 door), which features Kir, Whenuknow, and headliner Dan Miles, putting their underground spin on the popular injunction to party like it’s 1999. W


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Her Take: On Carolina Hip-Hop ILLUSTRATION BY JON FULLER

INDY WEEK: When did you first fall in love with hip-hop? ODUM: I found my first paid job when I was nine years old playing the piano for my church. I played three instruments growing up: the piano, French horn, and walking French horn. When I got paid, I would go to the record store and buy music that I saw on Yo MTV Raps, and Rap City. It was watching Rap City that really made me fall in love with hip-hop.

Wordsmith A conversation with longtime North Carolina hip-hop blogger Nancia Odom BY KYESHA JENNINGS

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music@indyweek.com | @kyeshajennings

t has now been a year since this hip-hop column debuted. I have enjoyed every minute of my experience documenting hip-hop in the Triangle area, but I am not the first to do so. In the mid 2000s when the future of print magazines and newspapers first became uncertain, blogs began to flourish. When Google acquired and redesigned blogger.com— one of the earliest dedicated publishing tools—the easy-to-navigate and pre-made template format allowed room for anyone to write about anything, and to share those ideas with a public-facing audience. Highpoint native Nancia Odom, a registered nurse by trade who now leads teams in support of clinical software, launched Nancioishiphop.com in 2008. The blog made her one of the first people to document hip-hop in North Carolina, and the site is still active. Over the years, Odom covered music across both Carolinas, often interviewing artists she admired from nearby Southern regions. Some of her most notable accomplishments include interviewing 9th Wonder, an early career J. Cole, King Mez, and SkyBlew. It is important that I—that we—give Nancia her flowers and recognize her work as an integral component of North Carolina’s hip-hop ecosystem. Recently, I sat down to speak with her about mid-2000’s hip-hop in the Carolinas, and what’s next for the blog.

What inspired you to begin blogging? During the height of the blog era, I was following bigger blogs like 2DopeBoyz, and I was also following a lot of regional hiphop blogs. There was a blog down in Texas I was following, one based out of Miami that covered a lot of Florida hip-hop. I was following one out of Philly and Detroit. And then it dawned on me and I was like, ‘Who is covering Carolina hip-hop?’ I don’t think there’s ever truly an original idea. So there probably was someone already covering Carolina hip-hop, I just didn’t know. I was already going to all of the shows in the area. So I decided to start blogging about the shows that I go to and the artists and people I meet. And that’s how I started. I started on Blogspot like a lot of people did. Eventually I became intentional about my branding, created a Twitter account, and purchased a domain from Godaddy.com. Can you talk a little bit about the format of your blog and your approach to conducting interviews? I was putting a lot of time into the blog, you know, not only was I going to shows in North Carolina and South Carolina, but I was also going to Atlanta for festivals. I was even going to shows in Richmond and different places in Virginia—basically anywhere that I could drive to. I did a few video interviews when artists would come to town. I remember doing a video interview with Big Sean not too long after he signed with Kanye. I also interviewed a lot of 9th Wonder’s artists. He was very supportive of what I was doing. [The] majority of the interviews I did were mostly over the phone or radiotype interviews. I was running my own

show on UNC’s college radio station, so I would play a lot of my interviews on air. If I saw an artist in person at a show, because I kept material on me, I had an audio recorder that I would carry with me, I would say ‘Can I just talk to you for a few minutes?’ and would just record it in the moment. I did a lot of walking up to people and just telling them who I was and what I did. If they didn’t have time to interview, I would ask if we could meet at a later time. How did you fund traveling across the south to attend hip-hop shows? I started selling T-shirts as a way to get money to help me fund driving places. There was a store in Greensboro that carried my shirts. So that was another way to earn revenue. And then if people in the community had music-related events I would inquire about having a table or they would offer me a table to sell my shirts. That was another way for me to meet people, too. Can you share your favorite memory during your time blogging? From 2009-2012 I had a weekly podcast with Randy Roper, who is based out of Atlanta. We were podcasting before “podcasting” was a thing. Our podcast was called “Where is Hip-Hop” and we recorded 96 episodes. Randy was the music editor of Ozone Magazine, and together we became known as the ‘Siskel & Ebert of hip-hop.’ Weekly we discussed all things happening in the culture. I was able to share with him upcoming Carolina artists during that time and he shared with me what was happening in the music industry. Some of our later episodes are still available on YouTube. At this same time, I also had a hip-hop and technology podcast with Shadeed Eleazer who is based in the DMV area. We covered all things tech and hip-hop. What is in store for Nancioishiphop.com? I do want to go back to it but not in the same way, because what “blogging” is now is not what it was back then. For now, I plan to keep the website active as an archive of Carolina hip-hop from 2008-2017. W INDYweek.com

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REDBUD WRITING PROJECT | SO & SO BOOKS

719 N. Person Street, Raleigh | redbudwriting.org | soandsobooks.com

Redbud founders Emily Cataneo and Arshia Simkin PHOTO BY BRETT VILLENA

An Open Book Now sharing space with So & So Books, the Redbud Writing Project looks toward building out the Triangle’s literary scene BY RACHEL SIMON arts@indyweek.com

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or readers and writers alike, the Triangle has always had much to offer: a multitude of beloved bookstores, residents like Lee Smith and the late Randall Kenan, the North Carolina Book Festival, and even a few streets in Raleigh’s Quail Hollow named after writers like Thoreau and Hemingway. But for all its merits, the area has historically lacked a space dedicated to its literary-minded folks—until recently. In June, Raleigh’s So & So Books teamed up with Redbud Writing Project, a writing school serving adults in the Triangle, to open a headquarters for both companies that would bring together the people who write books and those who love to read them. While Redbud’s co-founders Emily Cataneo and Arshia Simkin had envisioned a physical hub for the organization since its 2019 launch, it wasn’t until So & So’s co-founders 16

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Chris Tonelli and Charles Wilkes left the shop’s longtime Mordecai location last winter in search of a larger space that the possibility of collaborating took shape. “The Triangle area is rich with writers, but there’s not a unified scene, the way I see in other cities, and I think some part of that is a storefront or a place to go,” Tonelli recalls thinking. So when an opportunity arose to partner with another organization to share rent on a new location at 719 N. Person Street, Redbud immediately sprang to mind. The space Tonelli and Wilkes landed upon (just across the street from their previous location) features two floors, each with its unique layout: upstairs, customers can browse So & So’s endless rows of bright-colored shelves before following the staircase down to enter Redbud’s offices, with their brick-covered walls and hand-carved wooden tables.

The two spaces have separate entrances, with Redbud’s just around the corner from the bookstore’s, making it ideal for both individual and joint activities. ”It made a lot of sense,” Tonelli says, “to try to develop a kind of center where folks know they can go for books, they can go for writing, they can go for readings and panels and other literary discussions.” For Cataneo and Simkin, partnering with the So & So team was an easy decision. “So & So is one of the places that has been a champion of Redbud since the beginning,” says Simkin, noting the bookstore’s longheld support of its classes and program. “When they mentioned that they had this opportunity, it kind of seemed too good to pass up.” After all, So & So isn’t just any bookstore. Founded in 2013, the shop specializes in giving customized book recommendations to each potential buyer, along with hosting a number of readings, book clubs, and listening parties, among other events. Tonelli and Wilkes frequently collaborate with other local businesses, too; currently, they’re partnering with Oakwood Cemetery and NC State’s MFA in Creative Writing Program for a poetry contest, with submissions open until Sept. 1. So & So’s model of community reach-out and nontraditional programming fits well with Redbud’s philosophy. Although the school had long held its courses at bookstores around the Triangle—places like Raleigh’s Quail Ridge and Chapel Hill’s Epilogue (and continues to do so, as well as online)—the new headquarters offers a chance for it to expand its offerings through events like readings and trivia nights. Already, the locale has been put to good use: besides the packed grand opening party the organizations hosted June 25, the space has held writing classes, meet-ups, and even a pop-up plant shop from local company Philo And Fern. When they’re not teaching, both Simkin and Cataneo even occasionally take on a few shifts at So & So, selling books and encouraging writing-curious customers to check out the organization based just down the stairs. “The goal is to unify the communities so that it’s not about separate little pods,” says Tonelli. “It’s really great to be in the shop or in a book club or at a reading and they’re talking about Redbud. It just kind of means that those things are becoming synonymous and the barriers to those communities are easing even faster.” While Redbud isn’t the first Triangle-based organization interested in offering writing workshops in a communal space—Tonelli himself took part in a short-lived endeavor called The Hinge that offered classes in Durham back in 2011—there’s reason to think it’ll thrive where its predecessors have failed. For one thing, Simkin and Cataneo are determined to reach students from all areas of the Triangle, not just Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. And with the Mordecai location as home base, Cataneo


says, she and Simkin can focus on furthering the school’s reach to areas like Pittsboro, where, through the town’s McIntyre’s Books, Redbud will be offering its first class later this month. “It is really important to us to continue to offer classes throughout the Triangle so we can reach people in all parts of the community, but then we’re also really, really excited to have this headquarters,” says Cataneo. “Having brick and mortar literary spaces like this are super important in engendering growth and community in a literary scene in a city.” For its fall course load, Redbud is offering six workshop classes at its headquarters, in addition to several more at Quail Ridge, in Pittsboro, and on Zoom. Among other offerings, students can enjoy an introductory novel writing course, an explainer on memoir, and a class entirely focused on surrealism in poetry. Each class will see participants not only learn the craft in question but also work on projects of their own to share with classmates. Registration is open now; the first courses begin August 15. Tonelli is hopeful that Redbud’s students will check out So & So’s offerings upstairs before and after each session. “If someone’s writing reminds them of this certain author, [the teachers] are recommending books, so hopefully those folks come upstairs and snag that book by that author,” he says. The favor goes both ways; Tonelli keeps a printout of Redbud’s schedule at the bookstore’s checkout desk to inform any interested writers of their programs. Says Simkin, “Our goal is always to reach as many people as possible and to sort of do it in the most fun and inclusive way.” Already, the effects of that mission can be seen. At the grand opening earlier this summer, dozens of people filed into both levels of the building to hear writers read their work and to celebrate Redbud and So & So’s partnership. As Simkin watched students meet in person for the first time after talking only on Zoom, and then enjoy applause from the crowded room after their readings, she felt a sense of assurance. Here was evidence underscoring the reasons that she and Cataneo had pursued a physical location. “Getting to see them read them in person and feel appreciated and feel like they were part of something bigger, for me that was like, oh, this is why we’re doing this,” she recalls. The goal of any community organization, Cataneo adds, is to encourage members to root each other on in achieving their goals. “In a physical space,” she says, “it’s all the easier to make those connections and support each other.” W

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