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Raleigh | Durham | Chapel Hill August 19, 2020

STATE OF GRACE With Lionheart, H.C. McEntire put her past in rural North Carolina behind her. Eno Axis resets the land, transformed, under her feet. BY MADELINE CRONE, P. 16


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Raleigh W Durham W Chapel Hill VOL. 37 NO. 30

East Durham Bake Shop enters the bagel biz, p. 20

CONTENTS NEWS 10 Is the new postmaster general trying to privatize the post office? BY JORDAN GREEN

14

UNC's return to campus lasted all of one week.

BY SARAH EDWARDS

15 A DREAMer is losing hope in the American dream.

BY JEREMY CARBALLO PINEDA

FEATURE 16 Eno Axis is a turning point in H.C. McEntire's relationship to the land beneath her feet.

BY MADELINE CRONE

FOOD 20 New Triangle bagel joints fill the hole in your soul.

BY LAYLA KHOURY-HANOLD

MUSIC 21

Anhad + Tanner builds a bridge from Durham to New Delhi.

22 The Pinkerton Raid wants Jefferson Davis off the road.

BY GRANT GOLDEN

BY THOMASI MCDONALD

CULTURE 24 The Black Baptism is a multi-layered Afrofuturist thriller.

BY KYESHA JENNINGS

25 A virtual festival revisits the 19th Amendment on stage.

BY BYRON WOODS

THE REGULARS 4 Voices 5 15 Minutes

6 Quickbait

9 Op-ed

7 A Week in the Life

COVER Photo by Heather Evans Smith/Design by Jon Fuller

WE M A DE THIS PUBLIS H ER Susan Harper

Digital Content Manager Sara Pequeño

EDITOR I AL

Editorial Assistant Cole Villena

Interim Editor in Chief Brian Howe Raleigh News Editor Leigh Tauss Deputy A+C Editor Sarah Edwards Staff Writer Thomasi McDonald

Theater+Dance Critic Byron Woods Voices Columnists T. Greg Doucette, Chika Gujarathi, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Courtney Napier, Barry Saunders, Jonathan Weiler

Contributors Jim Allen, Will Atkinson, Jameela F. Dallis, Michaela Dwyer, Lena Geller, Spencer Griffith, Howard Hardee, Laura Jaramillo, Kyesha Jennings, Glenn McDonald, Josephine McRobbie, Samuel Montgomery-Blinn, Neil Morris, James Michael Nichols, Marta Nuñez Pouzols, Bryan C. Reed, Dan Ruccia, David Ford Smith, Eric Tullis, Michael Venutolo-Mantovani, Chris Vitiello, Ryan Vu

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August 19, 2020

3


BACK TA L K

Last week, writing about the funding relationship between the Raleigh Fine Arts Society and the John William Pope Foundation, Brian Howe wrote that its chairman, Art Pope, “has a long history of supporting policies that harm marginalized communities: bankrolling the 2010 Republican takeover of the N.C. legislature, HB 2, climate-change-denial campaigns, and more.” Art Pope wrote to contest these claims:

“The Indy Week corrected false statements made about the Pope Foundation in its August 12 print issue but replaced it with equally false statements about me. First, I did not “bankroll” a “2010 Republican takeover of the N.C. legislature.” During the 2010 legislative elections, Democrats outspent Republicans, I was not the largest donor, and the “takeover” consisted of the Republicans winning 59% of the statewide legislative vote in a fair election in districts drawn by Democrats. Second, I had no involvement with, much less bankrolled, the enactment of H.B. 2. After its adoption, I was publicly critical of both the Charlotte ordinance and of H.B. 2. Multiple media outlets reported my proposal—for the ordinance to be rescinded and H.B. 2 to be repealed. This was the solution eventually enacted by Charlotte, the legislature, and Governor Cooper, respectively. Third, regarding bankrolling “climate-change-denial campaigns,” I do support a vigorous policy debate on environmental and related economic issues. It is unfortunate that in today’s toxic political environment, the pejorative term “climate change denier” is given to any person or organization that questions any aspect of the Green New Deal, which alienates potential allies on specific environmental issues. Finally, I believe that the overall policies that I support, based on the principles of individual liberty, with equal justice and rights for all, protected by a constitutional government, will improve the well being of marginalized communities. To be sure, there is much work to be done and promises to be fulfilled, but I believe we can have civil conversations about the best way to help marginalized communities without attacks. Indy should stick to the facts and let its readers decide for themselves their beliefs and opinions.” The INDY concedes that Pope has publicly criticized HB 2 and that the source for our claim that he “bankrolled” it, Facing South, is partisan. As for our other claims: The New York Times has reported that “Mr. Pope has used a family fortune to endow conservative research groups and donate to tax-exempt organizations that unseated Republican moderates as well as Democrats,” while The New Yorker has reported that “Tax records show that Pope has given money to at least twenty-seven groups … including organizations opposing environmental regulations, tax increases, unions, and campaign-spending limits.” If we find we erred on further review, we’ll issue a correction. We acknowledge that “bankrolled” may have been too broad a term. As for HB 2, we stand corrected. 4

August 19, 2020

INDYweek.com

voices

From the Core: Learning to Breathe During a Pandemic BY ALEXIS PAULINE GUMBS backtalk@indyweek.com

Dedicated to Lana Garland

L

ike the city I love, this city of tobacco and medicine, I have not yet learned how to breathe in the safest, most loving and sustainable way. Even before the pandemic, I was trying to train my breath to be possibility and not reaction. Before sheltering in place, I participated in a twice-a-week Pilates class in the basement of an office building in downtown Durham. Joseph Pilates, an asthmatic athlete, developed his method working with amputee survivors of World War I and believed that if we could breathe from our core, move from our core, we could become strong from the inside out. I spent years thinking Pilates was a Kegel-based rebranding of yoga designed to keep white women skinny after they had babies. It took a Pilates teacher who was also a Black feminist artist, who I already loved and trusted, to get me to try the practice myself. And now I’m a Pilates evangelist. What does this have to do with Durham? Well, back in my first Voices column I talked about the possibility of a “motherful Durham,” an approach to planning that creates a more life-giving reality in the city I love. On the basement floor, listening to all of us breathing, some of us sending oxygen into muscles we had never before acknowledged or used, I realized something I had never considered possible was happening: intentional movement. All this time I thought I was intentionally walking around, standing up, sitting down, dancing and prancing through life, but I had no idea how I was doing any of those things. And as a person with scoliosis, I was actually putting my body, especially my back, in the situation of just reacting to the daily actions of mostly pain-free mobility. Kind of like how, before I started meditating, I just reacted to the things other people said and did and the challenges I faced without any clue that I could choose my response and align it with an intention for how and who I wanted to be. For me, Pilates is an embodied meditation, which means, like other meditations, I’m mostly terrible at it. After more than a year of practice, I still mostly don’t know how to lift one leg up while keeping my hips even and leaning on my elbow without arching my tired and overstrained lower back to keep everything together. But I have reached the point where I know what I am not doing, and I am learning how to breathe into my abdomi-

nal muscles and contract them in a way that is more supportive to my back. Pilates is a form of abdominal planning. I am sending resources, air, into my core. I am using repetitive practice and movement to strengthen the parts of me that all other parts depend upon. And now I am aware of at least half a dozen tiny decisions I am making about what to do with my muscles with each breath. Could our city be like that—a committed practitioner of something we are currently terrible at? Committed to learning to act beyond reaction, but with profound intention, with awareness of the smaller decisions under each movement of resources? Someone reading this could say, Alexis, this already happening, don’t you see the construction downtown? The installation of 5G? The new city hall, the parking decks? The fulfillment of the plan to make the geographic core of this city a hub of art, food, optimistic post-pandemic coworking spaces and high-priced real estate? We are investing in our core. And everything else will get the trickle-down benefits of good business. Right? Maybe. If we understand the core of our city to be the mostly empty buildings downtown modeling the expense of waiting for a city’s population to learn to breathe safely together. But if we think, if we know, that the core of this city, the muscle, the labor, the mothering that has made Durham inspiring, dynamic, and almost too attractive for its own good is the unceasing stewardship of the Occaneechi band of the Saponi nation, and the unending work of Black and immigrant families in Durham, then we are certainly not sending enough air and life, enough resources and support to our core. We are not moving sustainably at all. We are flailing, guided by our extremities, the people we hope will stay and the overfunding of worst-case government institutions like prisons and police. But what if we let our core guide us, especially in this time of relearning how to breathe, when the same people as always are doing the essential work? What if we trusted that if we took care of our core we would experience what I am experiencing: so much relief for the parts of us (in my case, my lower back) that thanklessly kept us in motion so long. Can we do that, Durham? Invest in the core, move from the core? If we do, we will learn, in the midst of one of the hardest challenges ever, how strong we actually are. W Voices is made possible by contributions to the INDY Press Club. Join today at KeepItINDY.com.

ALEXIS PAULINE GUMBS is the author of Dub: Finding Ceremony and the facilitator of the Combahee Throughline Immersion (sangodare.podia.com/combahee).


PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SUBJECT

Chapel Hill

15 MINUTES Monroe Clayton, 22 Student & Founder of My Vote Matters Merchandising BY SARAH EDWARDS backtalk@indyweek.com

You live in Auburn now but grew up in the Triangle—how did you get involved as a poll worker? I was involved with NC INSPIRE, which is a group that encourages high school students to become civically engaged by getting their peers to organize. I was the lead at my high school, and I was hosting and facilitating voter registration drives. Through that job we met with the Orange County Board of Elections and got to talk to the officials, and they were opening a new position as an election assistant specifically for high school students. They wanted people that were 17 and up to be able to take part in the election. They wanted to get young people involved, and they were switching to computers, and a lot of the people that usually work elections were older. I signed up and worked an election.

How many elections have you worked? I have worked four elections.

When did you decide to turn your passion for civic engagement into a clothing line? That passion has been there, but around December, I got the idea. In the primaries and general election, I had seen that there were no young people. I worked it, and I knew there should be such-and-such a number of people there; it was one of the largest polling places. And given the opportunity now—I was in college and I wanted to change things. It just came to me one day: “I should do this with clothes.” I want to make this look stylish, and I want to get to people that don’t normally like politics or go out of their way to vote. I want this to be something that everyone can resonate with—that it doesn’t matter [what] your age, race, gender is. This is an all-encompassing message.

How can clothes help get that message across for your generation? We love to take pictures for the ‘gram! We love to show our creativity and style, and it resonates. It’s all about going to the people. In election practices, in general, I get angry—we don’t go to the people. We make it very hard to access information.

Have you had conversations start while wearing the shirts? Everyone who bought a shirt says they get compliments. It does open up a conversation and dialogue sometimes. I remember, I went to get food one time and I was wearing a hoodie and some girl commented on it and it opened up a 10–15 minutes conversation. It leads to organic conversations where I can talk about what MVM is trying to do and voting practices and my own experiences.

Why is it so important to get young people out to the polls? According to census data from 2012, people between the ages of 18-29 make up 21 percent of the U.S. population. Additionally, in 2000 a popular vote shift of .3 percent in a few states would have changed the outcome of the election. When put into the context of 2016, where the popular vote victory was immensely greater, and turnout from young voters was considerably low, I can almost guarantee that if we ran the numbers it would be a similar trend because low turnout amplifies the electoral power of smaller states. W INDYweek.com

August 19, 2020

5


QUICKBAIT

Put That in Your Pipeline

$468 million MVP Southgate’s projected project cost

37

state lawmakers who signed a letter to DEQ Secretary Michael Regan in 2019 urging him to deny the 401 permit

BY LEWIS KENDALL

backtalk@indyweek.com

48.2 miles

F

irst proposed in early 2018, the Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate project is an extension of the main, 303-mile natural-gas line the company is currently working to construct through West Virginia and Virginia. The Southgate addition, as planned, would run through Rockingham and Alamance counties, ending southeast of Graham. Last week, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality denied the project’s 401 Individual Water Quality Certification, a key permit that would have moved the pipeline one step closer to construction. The company now has 60 days to appeal the decision. W

of the pipeline and connectors that would run from the Virginia border southeast into Rockingham and Alamance counties

CASWELL ROCKINGHAM

GUILFORD

ORANGE

ALAMANCE

Environmental Impact

207 Public Opinion

1,722

written comments received by NCDEQ during the public comment period opposing the project

3

written comments received by NCDEQ during the public comment period in favor of the project

streams the project would affect in North Carolina

14,144 linear feet of waterways that would be “temporarily affected” by the project in North Carolina

375 million cubic feet of natural gas per day the pipeline would deliver, according to the company = 1 million cubic feet 6

August 19, 2020

INDYweek.com


A WE E K IN THE L IFE

8/11 8/12 8/13

The Carolina Hurricanes TIE THEIR STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF SERIES against the Boston Bruins at one game apiece.

TROPICAL STORM KYLE, the 11th named storm of this hurricane system, turns away from the East Coast, sparing North Carolina from another damaging storm in this highly active summer. UNC-Chapel Hill reports CLUSTERS OF CORONAVIRUS at two residence halls and a fraternity house. A cluster is defined by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services as “a minimum of 5 cases with illness onsets or initial positive results within a 14-day period” with “plausible epidemiologic linkage between cases.”

ROBERT TRUMP, the 71-year-old brother of President Donald Trump, dies.

UNC-Chapel Hill confirms a FOURTH CLUSTER OF COVID-19 at Hinton-James residence hall. It’s the campus’s largest dorm and one that houses mostly first-year students. Mark Meadows, the Greensboro congressman-turned-Trump chief of staff, says that NO MAILBOXES WILL BE REMOVED ahead of federal elections in November.

8/17

8/15

MAC HODGES, mayor of Washington, N.C., dies due to complications related to COVID-19.

8/16

Joe Biden names KAMALA HARRIS as his running mate, making her the first Black woman to run on a major party ticket. The Durham County Planning Commission ROLLS BACK PLANS FOR DEVELOPMENT in the Braggtown area after residents point out its high potential to gentrify the historically Black neighborhood.

8/14

(Here’s what’s happened since the INDY went to press last week)

YOUR WEEK. EVERY WEDNESDAY. FOOD • NEWS • ARTS • MUSIC

UNC-Chapel Hill updates its COVID-19 dashboard and shows several alarming trends about the spread of the disease on campus, including a 14 percent positive rate of tests among all those tested for exposure. That same day, The Daily Tar Heel publishes an editorial calling the situation a “clusterfuck.” The university announces that ALL CLASSES WILL BE HELD REMOTELY for the rest of the semester at 3:45 p.m.—just before the school’s 5:00 p.m. deadline for fall semester tuition. North Carolina’s online learning platform, NCEdCloud, crashes minutes into the FIRST DAY BACK for K-12 students in public schools across the state. The DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION kicks off with remote speeches from Bernie Sanders, Michelle Obama, and others. The Carolina Hurricanes give up four goals in the third period against the Boston Bruins, putting them on the VERGE OF ELIMINATION.

INDYWEEK.COM INDYweek.com

August 19, 2020

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OP - E D

Gov. Cooper, Give Private Bars a Fighting Chance BY ZACK T. MEDFORD backtalk@indyweek.com

D

ear Gov. Cooper, I don’t envy your position. Keeping North Carolina safe during the pandemic is a difficult, complicated job. When I cast my vote for you three years ago, I voted for a person who was willing to make difficult decisions to guide our state forward. I am the proud father of three boys. Noah, Nathan, and Jacob are my entire life. Last Christmas I gave the oldest, Noah, a Swiss Army knife inscribed with our family motto: “Adversity breeds tenacity.” I think about those words a lot these days. Being a leader means being willing to make the tough choices, but it also means being willing to change your mind when the time comes. You and your team have served the state well, but the time has come to readdress North Carolina’s private bars. Did you know that bars have been allowed to reopen in nearly 40 states, depending on how you interpret “open?” But not in North Carolina. Twelve years ago, my partners and I opened our first bar in Raleigh, Isaac Hunter’s Tavern. Despite all odds, we managed to find a way to succeed. Today, I own five private bars across North Carolina—and every single one of them has been shuttered since March due to the COVID19 pandemic. When the novel coronavirus threatened our state, bar owners like me willingly closed down our life’s work because we trusted you wouldn’t ask us to make that sacrifice unless it was absolutely necessary. As our governor, we believed you would do everything in your power to help us survive. That has not happened. It’s easy to write us off as a bunch of irresponsible anti-maskers, but you’d be wrong. Private bar owners support the NCDHHS guidelines to enforce social distancing, ask our customers to wear masks when they aren’t seated, and adhere to the 11:00 p.m. alcohol sales curfew. We employ thousands of North Carolinians. We pay our taxes. We have families and raise children. We contribute to our communities. I myself have served as president of the Capital City Clauses charity and cofounded the Carolina Cavalry Disaster Relief organization in the wake of Hurricane Florence. In May, I founded the N.C. Bar and Tavern Association. I wanted to give bar owners a voice after your executive order kept private bars shut but opened bars at restau-

“Bar owners like me willingly closed down our life’s work because we trusted you wouldn’t ask us to make that sacrifice unless it was absolutely necessary.” rants and hotels, then a few days later expanded to open breweries and wineries. If it was safe for them to open, there’s a way to make it safe for us, too. We bar owners are asking you to reconsider your wholesale ban on private bars. There are 1,063 of us. We make up just 15 percent of North Carolina’s bar industry, but we are the only ones closed. Virtually all of us are privately owned, not chains with deep pockets. Those of us who were lucky enough to receive federal PPP loans already spent every penny paying our furloughed staff months ago. Many bars have tried modifying their business models by adding food to comply with your directive but were forced to close once more by the state’s alcohol law enforcement officials. We can’t count on the federal government. It doesn’t look like Mitch McConnell and Congress are willing to offer any industry-specific relief, even to the businesses hardest hit. Thirty states have approved to-go cocktails as a tiny gesture to help their bars, but North Carolina’s legislature has rejected even that idea. The state offers some limited loan programs, but after 154 days of being closed, how could bar owners possibly take on more debt with no idea when they might reopen?

The term “private bar” is confusing. It conjures images of sweaty masses packing the dance floor of Studio 54. Believe it or not, most private bars across the state are closer to Cheers than they are to the Copacabana. Most bar owners are closer to Sam Malone than to Bugsy Siegel. Like the owners of 1,062 other small businesses across the state, every weekend I watch my customers walk past my closed doors and into the open bar across the street. The only thing that separates us from them is that we don’t sell food, distill liquor, or brew beer. That’s all. Heck, even N.C. strip clubs are allowed to operate right now if they have a food menu. I’m begging you: We are out of money. We can’t pay rent anymore. Most of us are living off credit cards at this point. We are at the end of our ropes. Please give us a fighting chance. Let us open with the same health protections and restrictions as the rest of the state’s food and drinking establishments: limited capacity, limited hours, table-service-only, masks-required. Close down any of us who violate those rules. We aren’t asking for special treatment; we are asking for equal treatment. We are asking for the chance to survive. We are asking for the same chance to feed our families that you have given hotel bars, breweries, restaurants, and wineries. You can’t imagine how hard it is to watch all you’ve built up be destroyed—and your family’s future evaporate—while lines outside your competitors’ bars are filled with the patrons you used to serve. Even ABC stores have posted record sales while we face ruin. “Adversity breeds tenacity.” As it has been for many people, 2020 has been the hardest year of my life, and it’s not even close to being over. Every day I wonder if I can live up to that same mantra I am trying to teach my sons. Every day my wife and I wonder how we will be able to provide them with a future after losing everything we spent their entire lives building. Bars are the most heavily regulated industry in the state. We are the only business in North Carolina that has to buy its product from the government. We will be safe and responsible—we have to be. If a bar screws up, you can simply revoke their most valuable asset (their liquor license) and refuse to sell to them ever again. Please give us the chance to still be here when this pandemic comes to an end. W Zack T. Medford is the co-owner of Coglin’s Raleigh, Coglin’s Wilmington, Isaac Hunter’s Tavern, and Parliament. INDYweek.com

August 19, 2020

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N E WS

North Carolina

ILLUSTRATION BY ROBERT PAQUETTE

Wrecking the Mail Is Louis DeJoy, the new postmaster general, hitting the self-destruct button on democracy? BY JORDAN GREEN backtalk@indyweek.com

T

he Wisconsin primary on April 7 was the first in the United States since the COVID19 pandemic began. Requests for absentee ballots, also known as mail-in ballots, shot up to 1.3 million, a 440 percent increase from the last presidential primary in April 2016, the Wisconsin Election Commission reported. Inevitably, there were hiccups. Three tubs of absentee ballots from 749 voters in Appleton and Oshkosh were found at the US Postal Service’s Milwaukee Processing & Distribution Center after the election. Thousands of ballots requested two weeks before the election were never delivered to voters. Almost 400 mail-in ballots did not receive postmarks, forcing election officials to confer with the Postal Service to determine whether they should be counted. The troubled Wisconsin primary prompted the Office of the Inspector General at the US Postal Service to issue a recommendation on June 7 that the agency “develop and implement an action plan with timelines to address the potential national issues (ballot 10

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deadlines, postmarks, tracking technology, political and election mail coordinator outreach) identified in this report.” But Louis DeJoy, who took the helm of the agency through appointment by its board of governors a week later, had different concerns. DeJoy is a Greensboro businessman and political fundraiser who has reportedly contributed more than $1.2 million to the Trump Victory Fund. Reflecting on his first eight weeks on the job during remarks to the board of governors on Aug. 7, DeJoy said the Postal Service is in a “dire” financial position due in part to “a broken business model.” He vowed to rein in costs and bring efficiency to the organization. Since mid-July, congressional Democrats have been raising alarms about the Postal Service’s commitment to returning mail-in ballots as operational changes are resulting in clearly discernible slowdowns in service. In a July 16 letter to DeJoy, five U.S. senators, led by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, noted that mail-in ballots cast in the Pennsylvania primary—a critical swing state in the November election—leapt from 80,000 in 2018 to more than 1.5 million in 2020. “The success of mail voting is dependent [on] a number of federal, state and local entities working in coordination,” they wrote. “Election officials face the difficult challenge of planning the administration of this upcoming election—including arranging election mailings, sending ballots to voters on time, setting deadlines to mail back ballots, and coordinating with the Postal Service to meet its requirements—with increasingly strained budgets. “If mail ballots arrive late and are uncounted, some voters may be disenfranchised,” they warned. While DeJoy has been implementing operational changes at the Postal Service that Democratic lawmakers fear will compromise the integrity of mail-in balloting, President Trump has been busy undermining public confidence. In late May, Trump falsely tweeted that California would send absentee ballots to “anyone in the state,” including “people that aren’t citizens.” “There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent,” he wrote. “Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed.”

And in late July, the president escalated his false and alarmist rhetoric with a tweet predicting that “2020 will be the most inaccurate and fraudulent election in history” because of mail-in voting, while making the unprecedented suggestion that the election should be delayed. Absentee-ballot fraud has marred some elections in the past, including the 2018 contest in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, in which the NC Board of Elections threw out the results after a political operative harvested fraudulent ballots to benefit the Republican candidate. But Richard L. Hasen, an elections expert at the University of California Irvine, told the Associated Press that fraud is “extremely rare” in five states that already relied primarily on mail-in voting before the pandemic, including heavily Republican Utah.

L

ess than three weeks into DeJoy’s tenure, postal handlers and carriers began receiving orders to curtail costs, even if it meant sacrificing prompt delivery. An internal document originally published by The Washington Post entitled “Mandatory Stand-Up Talk: All Employees—Pivoting for Our Future” informed employees that as of July 10, extra trips and late trips would no longer be authorized. “One aspect of these changes that may be difficult for employees is that—temporarily—we may see mail left behind on the workroom floor or docks … We will address root causes of these delays and adjust the very next day,” the document says. Another memo reported by the Post indicated that overtime would be prohibited. The operational changes came at a time when the workforce at the Postal Service was buffeted by challenges from COVID19. In a July 23 letter to his membership, National Postal Mail Handlers Union President Paul Hogrogian said 3,267 postal workers had tested positive for COVID19, more than double the number from a month earlier. Out of 630,000 people employed by the Postal Service, 75 had perished from COVID. “While the numbers in the Northeast and East continue to improve, the numbers in other parts of the country, especially in those jurisdictions where face covering and other social distancing policies are not strictly enforced, are worsening at a disturbing rate,” Hogrogian wrote. “This means the crisis is far from over. The numbers are


getting worse; they are not getting better. There is no real end in sight.” Hogrogian bluntly appraised the consequences of the changes. “Most processing plants are already extremely understaffed,” he wrote. “Eliminating or even reducing overtime can only result in increased delays in the processing and delivery of mail and packages, including critical items such as prescriptions and election materials.” The slowdown was already apparent in New Jersey by July 21, when Rep. Andy Kim, a Democrat, wrote to DeJoy in a letter obtained by Triad City Beat: “Many of my constituents have rightly contacted my office to express frustration and concern about ongoing mail delivery delays, some of whom have not received their medications and first-class mail for more than three days.” By early August, members of the Illinois delegation informed DeJoy that they had received reports “of individuals going up to two weeks without mail delivery in some Chicago neighborhoods,” and the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that some residents in the region hadn’t received packages and letters in three weeks. While the Postal Service’s financial challenges are widely acknowledged—the agency ran a loss of $9 billion in fiscal year 2019, according to DeJoy—many Democrats and progressives argue that its instability was structurally mandated when the Republican-controlled Congress passed a 2006 law requiring the service to pre-fund employees’ post-retirement health-care costs 75 years into the future. The timing of DeJoy’s arrival and his insistence on slashing costs to realign the organization just four months before the election hasn’t been lost on Democratic lawmakers. “While these changes in a normal year would be drastic, in a presidential election year when many states are relying heavily on absentee mail-in ballots, increases in mail delivery timing would impair the ability of ballots to be received and counted in a timely manner—an unacceptable outcome in a free and fair election,” wrote Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), who chairs the House Oversight and Reform Committee, along with three other House Democrats.

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ouis DeJoy and his wife, Aldona Wos, are longtime Republican Party patrons in North Carolina, with a history of largesse and a trail of politicians keen to receive their favor. A native New Yorker, DeJoy moved his company, New Breed Logistics, to High Point in the 1990s, building it into an organization with 70 distribution centers

and 7,000 employees before selling it to for $615 million to XPO Logistics in 2014. Befitting DeJoy’s status as a new commercial baron and the couple’s budding stature as political movers, they paid $5.9 million in 2005 for an Irving Park mansion built in 1934 for textile executive Herman Cone. Wos was the first of the two to build a political reputation, landing a position as North Carolina finance cochair for George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign, which propelled her into an ambassadorship to Estonia after he won. Wos, whose father served in the Polish Home Army during World War II and survived a German concentration camp, maintains a strong interest in national security and serves as a trustee of the Washington-based Institute of World Politics, a graduate school for young people interested in national security and diplomacy. Her relationship with the institute provided her with the opportunity to arrange an appearance by founder John Lenczowski and former CIA Director James Woolsey at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro in 2016. Over the past 15 years Wos and DeJoy have hosted one high-profile visitor after another: a midterm election fundraiser featuring President Bush at their Irving Park home in 2006, an early campaign stop by then-presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani at NC A&T in 2007, a 2017 fundraiser at their home for President Trump. Following the same trajectory as she did in the Bush years, Wos went from a fundraiser to an appointment to the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships in the Trump administration. In March, Trump appointed Wos ambassador to Canada, a post that is awaiting Senate confirmation. In between Bush and Trump, Wos also got involved in North Carolina politics, cochairing Republican Pat McCrory’s campaign for governor. In 2013, he tapped her to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. Wos’s tenure at NC DHHS from 2013– 2015 bears an uncanny resemblance to the emerging contours of DeJoy’s leadership at the Postal Service. While DeJoy told the US Postal Service Board of Governors on August 7 that the organization suffers from a “broken business model,” Wos started her tenure at DHHS in January 2013 by declaring that the state’s Medicaid program was “broken.” When she resigned from the post 32 months later, she noted with pride that the Medicaid program was $130.7 million in the black. Wos’s leadership at DHHS and her husband’s stewardship of the Postal Service

both emphasize fiscal solvency over service to the public. In Wos’s case, the collateral damage was substantial. In her first year at the agency, thousands of food-assistance recipients were left waiting for benefits for as long as 30 days because of a glitch in the NC FAST system, prompting federal officials to threaten to withdraw funding. That same year, DHHS rolled out its new NCTracks Medicaid management and billing system, and hundreds of health-care providers found themselves unable to get paid for their services. In her quest to reposition DHHS, Wos turned to the private sector, hiring Joe Hauck, the vice president for sales and marketing for New Breed Logistics—her husband’s company—as a consultant. The $310,000 contract for 11 months of work was one of a series of contracts that prompted a federal grand jury investigation. Wos defended her hire of Hauck in a memo to state lawmakers that credited him with realizing savings in payments to nonprofits, expanding the Office of the Internal Audit, and creating a plan to recruit and retain state-level employ-

“When Wos resigned her post, Gov. McCrory, far from being displeased, famously wept.” ees at psychiatric hospitals to reduce the agency’s dependency on temporary workers. When Wos resigned her post, Gov. McCrory, far from being displeased, famously wept, and praised her by saying she “took all the hits, took all the bullets.”

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ouis DeJoy’s history of building a profitable transportation-and-logistics company and President Trump’s well-documented disdain for the US Postal Service has led to speculation that DeJoy’s function as postmaster general is to privatize the organization. At least some of Trump’s derision for the Postal Service appears to be a byproduct of his grudge against Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon. In May, Trump insisted that the Postal Service raise its shipping fees by four to five times the current rate in exchange for a $10 billion loan from the U.S. government. Raising rates, critics of the administration point out, might have the opposite effect of punishing Amazon because it would make the Postal Service less competitive. “The Postal Service is a joke because they’re handing out packages for Amazon and other internet companies, and every time they bring a package, they lose money on it,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.

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Meanwhile, Wos and DeJoy’s holdings raise questions about whether the new postmaster general has a conflict of interest: Wos’s financial-disclosure filings with the Office of Government Ethics as part of her nomination for the ambassadorship to Canada revealed that the couple holds between $30.1 million and $75.3 million in assets with Postal Service competitors or contractors, including XPO Logistics—the company that acquired New Breed—and trucking company JB Hunt, according to The Washington Post. On August 7, the same day that Sen. Elizabeth Warren and eight other lawmakers asked the Postal Service Inspector General to open an investigation into DeJoy’s personal finances, the new postmaster general directly denied in remarks to his Board of Governors that he was either beholden to Trump or planning to privatize the organization. “I was not appointed by the Governors to position the Postal Service to be privatized or to manage its decline,” DeJoy said in remarks published by the Postal Service. “To the contrary, I accepted the job of postmaster general fully committed to the role of the Postal Service as an integral part of the United States government, providing all Americans with universal and open access to our unrivaled processing and delivery network.” As for Trump, DeJoy said, “While I certainly have a good relationship with the president of the United States, the notion that I would ever make decisions concerning the Postal Service at the direction of the president or anyone else in the administration is wholly off-base. I serve at the pleasure of the governors of the Postal Service, a group that is bipartisan by statute and that will evaluate my performance in a nonpartisan fashion.” DeJoy also denied that he was trying to sabotage the election by slowing down delivery of the mail. “The Postal Service and I are fully committed to fulfilling our role in the electoral process,” DeJoy told his board. “If policymakers choose to utilize the mail as part of their election system, we will do everything we can to deliver election mail in a timely manner consistent with our operational standards.” He added that “despite any assertions to the contrary, we are not slowing down election mail or any other mail.” DeJoy’s comments did little to assuage the concerns of Democratic lawmakers; if anything, his rollout of an organizational restructuring only antagonized them. As part of the restructuring, the Postal Service implemented an immediate management-hiring freeze and voluntary early 12

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“This election is going to suck.” retirement, while consolidating management into three operating units: logistics and processing operations, retail and delivery operations, and commerce and business solutions. Two days before the announced restructuring, DeJoy had met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Referencing the elimination of overtime and restrictions on extra mail transportation trips, Schumer and Pelosi called on DeJoy to reverse the changes. “We believe these changes, made during the middle of a once-in-a-century pandemic, now threaten the timely delivery of mail—including medicines for seniors, paychecks for workers, and absentee ballots for voters—that is essential to millions of Americans,” they wrote. Sen. Gary C. Peters of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, announced an investigation into Postal Service delays on August 6. Evidence was not hard to find: On the same day, Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) informed Peters by letter: “Some postal employees in Maine express concern about USPS’s ability to handle the anticipated crush of mail we expect from the general election. They report that they feel personally responsible but institutionally unsupported for their role in the health of our democracy. (We can share more details confidentially with staff to protect the individuals who have come forward, or we can put investigators in direct contact with constituents.)” On August 8, the morning after the announced organizational restructuring at the Postal Service—characterized by some as a “Friday night massacre”—some Democratic lawmakers reacted with fury, calling for DeJoy’s resignation or removal. “The United States Postal Service was established by our Constitution, and this year it will play an unprecedented role in guaranteeing our right to vote,” Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) said in a press release. “However, Postmaster DeJoy continues his unconstitutional sabotage of our Postal Service with complete disregard for the institution’s promise of ‘safe and speedy transit of the mail’ and ‘prompt delivery of its contents.’” Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) was even more eviscerating. “DeJoy’s secret removal of the senior officials who run the day-to-day operations at USPS lays bare his mission to centralize power, dismantle the agency and degrade

service in order to thwart vote-by-mail across the nation to aid Trump’s reelection efforts,” DeFazio said. “This November, an historic number of citizens will vote by mail in order to protect their health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. DeJoy’s nefarious collection efforts will suppress millions of mail-in ballots and threaten the voting rights of millions of Americans, setting the stage for a breach of our Constitution.”

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ike DeJoy, Mark Dimondstein comes from Greensboro, where he worked as a clerk prior to his 2013 election as president of the 200,000-member American Postal Workers Union. Dimondstein told Triad City Beat he’s not particularly concerned about the managerial reorganization at the top. “What I’m focused on from last Friday is that neither the Postal Service Board of Governors nor the postmaster general advocated or asked that Congress provide the Post Office with appropriate COVID relief,” Dimondstein told TCB. He added that since the Postal Service is ordinarily funded through revenue generated from users, it would be appropriate for taxpayers to foot the bill for a one-time injection of COVID-relief funding for the benefit of the American people. The Democratic-controlled House approved $25 billion in funding for the Postal Service in June as part of the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions, or Heroes Act, but the White House and the House Democrats were unable to come to an agreement on a second round of COVID relief spending. Instead, on August 8, President Trump signed a series of executive orders to address the COVID crisis that did not include aid to the Postal Service. While the integrity of the election is a particular concern for Democrats, lawmakers from both parties have warned that slowing down the mail undermines constituents’ ability to obtain life-saving medications during the pandemic. In an August 8 letter, Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) urged DeJoy “to reverse recent policies impacting delivery times and to call your attention to concerns raised by my constituents. “Montanans from across the state have contacted me to express their alarm by these orders, including your July 10, 2020 directive to hold late mail until the next day, and the resulting delays in mail delivery,”

Daines wrote. “This action, if not rescinded, will negatively impact mail delivery for Montanans and unacceptably increase the risk of late prescriptions, commercial products, or bill delivery.” Rural, sparsely populated states like Montana, which tend to elect Republican representatives, have a special stake in maintaining the Postal Service. “For many,” Daines reflected, “the unforgiving climate and terrain paired with the shortage of pharmacies [in Montana] makes the continuity of USPS an existential necessity.” On July 29, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin reached an agreement with DeJoy for the federal government to extend $10 billion in credit to the Postal Service, allowing the organization to avoid running out of cash at the end of September and to continue operating through May 2021. DeJoy could not be reached for this story, but Philip Bogenberger, a Postal Service spokesperson, said in an email to TCB that the organization’s “financial condition is not going to impact our ability to process and deliver election and political mail. The Postal Service has ample capacity to adjust our nationwide processing and delivery network to meet projected election and political mail volume, including an additional volume that may result as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.” Bogenberger’s assurance came with caveat. He said the Postal Service “strongly recommends that election officials advise voters to request absentee ballots as soon as possible, but no later than 15 days prior to the election date—or Oct. 19—and to mail them in at least a week before the election—or Oct. 27.” He said the Postal Service plans to send a letter to election officials “in states that have deadlines for requesting and casting mail-in ballots that under our reading of their election laws appears to be incongruous with the Postal Service delivery standards.” In a July 7 report on the misplaced ballots in the Wisconsin primary, the US Postal Service Office of the Inspector General warned: “States’ deadlines for voters to request absentee ballots are insufficient to ensure delivery before an election.” The report singled out 11 states with no deadline or deadlines within three days of the election, including Minnesota and Ohio—considered critical swing states— along with New Hampshire, North Dakota, Washington, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Montana, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming. Ten other states, including Michigan and Wisconsin—also swing states—along with Georgia, Louisiana, New Mexico,


South Carolina, Alabama, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, and Oregon have deadlines four or five days before the election. (North Carolina requires that absentee ballots be received by the county board of elections seven days before the election, in keeping with the Postal Service’s stated delivery standards.) In response to the lost absentee ballots that plagued the Wisconsin primary, the Inspector General determined that some of the problems were caused by actors outside of the Postal Service. The report found that the tubs of absentee ballots from Appleton and Oshkosh were late because a third-party mailer held them for one day and didn’t present them to the Postal Service until 6:00 p.m. on primary election day. And the Inspector General said the Milwaukee Election Office determined there was a computer glitch on March 22, resulting in almost 2,700 requested ballots that were never sent to voters. But the Inspector General’s report contains no explanation for why 390 completed ballots were returned without postmarks, except to note that the Postal Service worked with the election office and determined the validity of all but 40 of them. The report went on to say that the Postal Service’s official guidance states that all ballots should be postmarked by machine or hand, and the district manager for the Lakeland area plans to communicate with all employees to clarify their roles and responsibilities. Whether errors are made by the Postal Service, election officials, or third-party contractors, it’s not hard to imagine that delays could result in outright disenfranchisement—or fabricated claims by Trump and his supporters that the election is being stolen as local election offices wait weeks to retrieve lost ballots. Advocates for a full and fair vote might echo the Postal Service’s official recommendation: Put in your request for an absentee ballot and get it in the mail as early as possible. But the view from those working at the ground level in the organization is not so straightforward. “This election is going to suck,” a personnel processing specialist at the Postal Service’s human resources center in Greensboro told TCB, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Vote by mail is tanked. … [You should] vote in person. If you are lucky to live in the city, it will be COVID-protocol controlled. Lines out the door if you can afford to take off work. I, along with many of my friends, are so worried. Ugh.” W A version of this story first appeared in Triad City Beat on August 13. INDYweek.com

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Chapel Hill

School’s Out UNC moves classes online after one chaotic week on campus BY SARAH EDWARDS sedwards@indyweek.com

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he Orange County Board of Health had warned UNC-Chapel Hill administration not to bring students back to campus. Nevertheless, over the summer— under directives from the UNC Board of Governors—university officials launched a “Roadmap” approach to the pandemic and, in early August, cars descended on Chapel Hill. Undergraduates cautiously moved into dorms. It did not take long for things to change course: A week into classes, on Monday, August 17, the university announced that classes will move online, effective August 19. The announcement was made by email around 3:45 p.m. on Monday afternoon, less than two hours before a 5:00 p.m. deadline for fall tuition. According to the registrar’s office, withdrawal refunds are reduced to 80 percent after August 17. “We have emphasized that if we were faced with the need to change plans—take an off-ramp—we would not hesitate to do so, but we have not taken this decision lightly,” the email from chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz stated, adding that the university is moving quickly toward “de-densification” and expects the “majority of undergraduate residential students to change their residential plans for the fall.” According to the email, international students, athletes, and students without home resources like reliable internet will have the option to remain on campus; all other students can cancel their residence hall contracts without penalty. The university athletic season will proceed, according to a statement from UNC Athletics, despite the de-densification of campus and shift to remote classes. In early July, 37 positive cases were identified among athletes, coaches, and staff. “From early on in the roadmap planning, our infectious disease colleagues told us 14

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that clusters would be a warning that off ramps should be considered,” Mimi Chapman, chair of the UNC-Chapel Hill faculty, said at an emergency faculty meeting held Monday afternoon. “We’re at such a consideration point, a week into classes. It is a serious and sobering moment.” Classes at the state’s flagship university— one of the largest universities in the country to reconvene for the fall, with 5,800 students in campus housing—began August 10. The first week proved disastrous. Over the weekend, four COVID-19 clusters were reported in the span of three days. On Friday, two clusters—one at private residence hall Granville Towers and another at first-year residence hall Ehringhaus—were reported by campus alerts, followed by a confirmed outbreak at Sigma Nu fraternity house on Saturday and one at Hinton James Residence Hall on Sunday. Monday afternoon, the university updated its COVID-19 dashboard. Going into the weekend, the dashboard had listed 11 new cases for the week of August 3; by Monday, that number had spiked. Out of the 954 students who received tests from campus health last week, 130 tested positive. Five employees also tested positive. This brought the student positivity rate up to 13.6 percent. Things moved quickly after the weekend. Barbara Rimer, dean of UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, joined the chorus of faculty calling for the university to move to online classes, writing, “We have tried to make this work, but it is not working.” Student newspaper The Daily Tar Heel was blunter, with a blistering Monday morning editorial and a headline that would go on to make national news: “UNC has a clusterfuck on its hands.” “We all saw this coming,” the editorial read.

The Old Well at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The other 16 UNC system schools will stay in-person, according to the chancellor’s announcement. UNC-Chapel Hill’s graduate schools will continue on a caseby-case basis, and research will continue. “There are no easy answers as the nation navigates through the pandemic,” UNC system president Peter Hans said in the statement. “At this point we haven’t received any information that would lead to similar modifications at any of our other universities.” There has been unrest across the system, however. At East Carolina University, campus police reported shutting down as many as 20 parties the week of August 5, the largest of which was attended by an estimated 400 students. News of a COVID-19 cluster at ECU broke on Monday morning, August 17. That same day, across the state, faculty senate at Appalachian State University—where a COVID19 outbreak had recently been confirmed—passed a vote of no-confidence in chancellor Sheri Everts. In Chapel Hill, the tense Monday afternoon virtual faculty meeting quickly met its 500-person capacity to discuss how it would handle the quick shift to online classes, as students vacated campus and returned home. During a question-and-answer portion of that meeting, executive vice chancellor and provost Robert Blouin stated that all students who were in isolation and quarantine—177 in isolation and 349 in quarantine, as of August 17—would not go home and out into the community until it was safe to do so.

PHOTO BY COURTESY OF UNC.EDU

However, Ken Pittman, director of UNC Campus Health, stated there is no plan for mass testing before students return home. That stance reflects UNC’s earlier decision not to mandate mass testing upon student arrival to campus. Nearby colleges like Duke, however, had implemented baseline testing—and had moved students who tested positive immediately to quarantine zones. Pittman recommended that students quarantine upon returning home, but stated that on-campus testing was recommended for students who are symptomatic or who have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive. When pressed about refund extensions for withdrawals, at the end of the meeting, chancellor Guskiewicz did indicate flexibility. “We will work with that deadline,” Guskiewicz said. “We were notified of that yesterday, and we won’t hold to that deadline.” Just last week, The Washington Post visited campus and highlighted some of the preventive measures that the university had put into place, writing that UNC was providing “an early glimpse of what higher education looks like in Pandemic America at a prominent state university.” That glimpse proved fleeting. During a tense portion of the meeting Monday afternoon, provost Robert Blouin defended the university’s initial decision to proceed with the roadmap. “I don’t apologize for trying,” he said. W


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On Being Undocumented Because of what I did as a three-year-old, I have no access to the American dream BY JEREMY CARBALLO PINEDA backtalk@indyweek.com

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hat do you do when you wake up? Every morning, I check the Department of Homeland Security’s website for updates about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Or at least, I used to, until July 28. On that day, the DHS released a memo that directed the agency to reject all new applications for DACA, going against the Supreme Court’s ruling and effectively rejecting my bid for life. I crossed the border when I was three years old, involuntarily and unconsciously. I am undocumented, illegal, an alien. Yet I have been made American in the fullest sense. I pledged allegiance to the U.S. flag from kindergarten to my senior year in high school—more than a decade of falsely believing that “liberty and justice for all” was a reality. I was taught whitewashed history in North Carolina public schools. I learned English better than my mother tongue, Spanish. I chased the American dream, as it was the only hope I had for a better life. I was interpolated into the “model minority.” It’s always tricky to answer, “Where are you from?” I always say that I was raised in North Carolina but born in Costa Rica. I could lie, say that I’m American, and avoid awkward follow-up questions, but I can’t bring myself to do it. My freedom has already been stifled in so many ways by my status. I won’t allow it to cloak my reality to others. Being legally barred from working is the most significant way my freedom has been stifled. My college degree will be useless when I graduate; I dread every semester that passes because it’s a reminder of the unfortunate situation that I will face at the end. The American dream can rightfully be deemed a “dream” in my situation. All because of what I did as a three-year-old. The most shocking part is that the crime I committed is equivalent to being fined for a parking ticket. If an immigrant is caught attempting to enter the U.S. illegally, they are subject to a fine of “at least $50 and not more than $250 for each such entry,” states Title 8 of the U.S. Code.

“Imagine if you parked in the wrong spot and were then subject to separation from your family and the loss of your livelihood.” Imagine if you parked in the wrong spot and were then subject to separation from your family and the loss of your livelihood.

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ACA allowed undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. before the age of 16, among other requirements, to live and work in the U.S. legally for two-year periods. Jeff Sessions, the former secretary of the DHS, ordered DACA to be terminated in 2017. The termination did not allow new applications to be accepted, and wouldn’t allow extensions to be requested, either. But on June 18, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration did not end DACA lawfully— quite the surprise, given the majority-conservative court. The administration violated the Administrative Proce-

dure Act by failing to provide a justifiable explanation for the program’s termination. This did not mean that the Trump Administration could not end DACA in the future. Rather, it meant that “until you explain why your policy choice was the right one, you have to go back to the old policy,” says Professor Kate Evans, Director of Duke Law’s Immigration Rights Clinic. Around 700,000 recipients and 1,350,000 eligible immigrants were and still are affected by DHS’s decision, which prompted intense advocacy and litigation challenging the termination of DACA. Ultimately, the case landed at the Supreme Court’s steps, which ordered DHS to resume DACA as it was initially intended by the Obama administration. After a three-year wait, I applied for DACA in July in the hope that the DHS would abide by the Court’s decision. The legal community believed it would. “The Supreme Court decision required them to accept new applications,” says Evans. “There was every expectation that [DHS] was going to change their policy.” But on July 28, the DHS released a memo that ordered all new DACA applications to be preemptively denied and reduced the deferral period to one year. Instead of providing a sound legal justification for ending DACA, they introduced a new policy that restricted DACA even further. The blame can’t solely be placed on the Trump administration. “It is rather shocking to see the government violate the Supreme Court’s orders,” says Evans. “Both the creation and dissolution of DACA were products of [Congress’s] failure to create and reform immigration laws. A lot of power sits with the administration around these significant policy decisions.” The DHS has become its own judge and jury, enabled by its secretary and the president. But this isn’t the end. Dreamers’ last hopes lie in a judge revoking the legality of the memo or in a Democratic-led administration. DACA would have given me a semblance of justice and allowed me to work for the common good. All I wish for is the chance to one day better the moral and material lives of other Americans. W INDYweek.com

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H.C. McEntire

PHOTO BY HEATHER EVANS SMITH

STATE OF GRACE With Lionheart, H.C. McEntire put her past in rural North Carolina behind her. Eno Axis resets the land, transformed, under her feet. BY MADELINE CRONE music@indyweek.com

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haped by her upbringing in a small rural town outside of Tryon, Heather McEntire’s idea of home involves ample space and a slow pace. She lives in a century-old farmhouse nestled into a bank of the Eno River on the Orange County line, a wellspring of inspiration that has harbored her and her partner during this perilous year.

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After spending two decades frequently on tour, McEntire let herself take a break from the road last fall. She needed to be still for a while. She didn’t know, of course, that those few months would turn into a year. “This quarantine has psychically been taxing,” she says by phone. “I’m isolating in this place, on this land that I’m honoring with my record and feel blessed to draw inspiration from. I can’t play shows, I can’t go on the road, I can’t really leave. But it’s still nurturing me.” It also nurtured Eno Axis, her second solo record as H.C. McEntire, which comes out August 21 on Merge Records. After that fruitful, stationary autumn, she finished the record in February, though she feels its themes overlay the strange months to come. The video for lead single “Time, on Fire,” with its images of domesticity and metaphors for time, takes on new meaning in a previously unimaginable world. McEntire’s discography reads like a roadmap through a personal journey, and those pieces of her past reassemble in a new form on Eno Axis, which is largely about falling in love and the natural beauty of her abode. It’s easy to notice the local landmark, but the “axis” is the key, as the album marks a turning point in McEntire’s relationship to past and place. It’s a new concept of home, seen through bright lenses of forgiveness and progress. Raised by conservative Christian parents in the quiet foothills of Green Creek, McEntire jumped at the opportunity to attend UNC Wilmington, where she studied creative writing. In this newfound corner of her home state, she discovered punk rock and founded Bellafea as lead guitarist and vocalist, with drummer Nathan Buchanan and bassist Eddie Sanchez. They released their debut EP, Family Tree, in 2005 on Raleigh’s Pidgeon English Records. After touring for a growing audience across the country, the trio headed inland, relocating in Chapel Hill. There, Bellafea got to work on a full-length debut, Calvacade, which arrived in 2008 on Southern Records. After 10 years tearing through the scene, McEntire found herself alleviating the sharp edges of punk with folk-rock in a new band, Mount Moriah. The transition came from her natural desire to slow down. “I didn’t sing, I yelled,” she says of her time in Bellafea. “Doing that for ten years is exhausting. It’s fun. It’s cathartic. It’s exactly the release that I needed. But I was learning more about my nuances and my voice. I learned that underneath the yell, I could actually carry a tune. It was a pretty interesting discovery.” McEntire started drawing on her creative-writing background to pen more-narrative songs, which, she says, is “a lot easier to do when the songs aren’t two minutes and really, really fast. We were stripping down a lot, but we were also bringing in a lot of space and opportunities to weave in stories—which is my first love.”

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ollowing Mount Moriah’s third record, How to Dance, in 2016, some of McEntire’s bandmates began settling down, taking other jobs, and starting families. McEntire, who wanted to keep pushing, decided to perform under her name. A solo career would allow her to say “yes” quickly and often, maintaining control of her music. Still, that “solo” career wasn’t too far from Mount Moriah, as drummer Daniel Faust and bassist Casey Toll both came along. Luke Norton, whom McEntire met while touring


in Angel Olsen’s band, also joined. In addition to co-producing Eno Axis, he shaped the sound as a co-writer, weighing in on arrangements, playing various instruments, and co-mixing the tracks. McEntire, now 38, started experimenting across the Americana spectrum when she was 27. “I think it was like returning a bit to what I grew up on, what I cut my teeth on, with country for sure,” she says. “And that felt empowering because I suppressed that part of myself in my early twenties. There was a disconnect, in that there’s a lot of pain in that background.” In part, she’s referring to her journey as a queer woman coming into her own whose identity created turmoil in her family relationships. “At the time, punk music was great for me because I could just thrash around,” she says, laughing. “I was pretty bitter talking about religion, and country music went along with it. So I kind of rediscovered it.” This process involved years of examining the South. McEntire contemplated her relationship with home and her family, which is established in the state with multi-generational depth. In 2018, she took the first steps with her solo debut, Lionheart. Like Eno Axis, the record is autobiographical and was written in the early days of winter. But unlike her latest work, it was written mostly on the road. McEntire says the stories come from a time when her life felt “not chaotic, but a bit ungrounded.” “I’m very proud of it,” she says of Lionheart. “I was trying to make a layered, full country record. But there’s a part of it that feels like I had to make that to move on. I don’t know how to explain it other than that. It’s very personal.” To McEntire, these two albums feel quite different from each other, though there are connecting threads. But the new record has a heightened attention to depth, dynamics, and space. “Eno Axis feels like a confident and mature step forward from Lionheart in tone, arrangement, production, and spirit,” she says. “I was experiencing a tremendous amount of joy and clarity and peace.” “Hands for the Harvest” is a model of serenity in simplicity. Chosen as the album opener, the song evokes thematic patterns of sowing, growing, and nurturing. It came to life on a self-imposed retreat with her girlfriend last fall, deep in the woods surrounding Boone. “I was thinking about the ease of accepting certainty, surrendering to love, proclaiming it as straightforward as a daily task, like lighting the wood stove or turn-

ing rows in the garden,” McEntire says. “High Rise” illustrates becoming enamored; McEntire employs natural elements as similes to draw out those early days of blooming romance. The stripped-down instrumentation of Eno Axis harks back to both McEntire’s punk days and her Appalachian roots, bringing her music full-circle. She wrote each song in open tunings, embracing the sacrality of the farmhouse where the record was born. “I’ve collected different styles and sonics from different phases in my life,” she says. “It feels like I’ve finally brought them together in this album. It doesn’t feel like a country record to me but feels very authentic to where I’m at.” Spending much of her adulthood on the road, McEntire has seen many incredible parts of the world. Over the years, she’s watched colleagues and friends leave for Los Angeles and New York and Nashville. But a steadfast part of her soul longs for home. “I just love the South, and I’m pretty hellbent on staying here,” she says. “It comes from wanting to create the South that I desire, that I’m comfortable with. An inclusive South that can be vibrant with music and art. Maybe it’s the Virgo in me, but my thoughts are, ‘Well, if you move away, then that’s one less person affecting this change.’” Her deep roots in the region are woven into themes of paradoxical identity throughout her album. McEntire challenges her native region, to which she feels deeply connected, by posing critical questions as well as loving odes. She focuses on racial injustice with “One Eye Open.” It was the last song she wrote for the album, but it predates the Black Lives Matter protests that began in the spring. Soulful vocals scrutinize the relationship between white supremacy and Christian fundamentalism. Her perspective on prejudice is sharpened by her struggles in coming into her queer identity in the face of traditional Southern resistance. “River’s Jaw,” the third single from the record, is the album’s most abstract narrative, but perhaps its most fundamental, too. It outlines McEntire returning home and finding footing in the stillness. “At its core, the song is about gratitude,” she says. “But first, to get there, I had to let the universe drag me down to a depth I didn’t know was possible, a slow procession of drastic alterations and disintegrations. Still, with knees so raw, I kept walking along the river, one foot in front of the other. I kept clinging to the order of chores, to the clockwork of the sun’s rotation. I followed the river and found the clearing.” W

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Best Adult entertAinment in the triAngle

Best live theAter CompAny in the triAngle

Durham Performing Arts Center

Raleigh Little Theatre raleighlittletheatre.org

dpacnc.com

FINALISTS Burning Coal Theatre Company; PlayMakers Repertory Company; Ward Theatre Company

FINALISTS Boxcar Bar + Arcade; Whole Brain Escape; work. Nightclub

Best live theAter venue in the triAngle

Best Art gAllery in the triAngle Artspace

Durham Performing Arts Center

artspacenc.org

dpacnc.org

FINALISTS Bakova Gallery; Cedar Creek Gallery; Hillsborough Gallery of Arts, VAE Raleigh

FINALISTS The Carolina Theatre; Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts; Raleigh Little Theatre

Best BArtender/ mixologist in durhAm County

The Pinhook Best Karaoke in the Triangle, Best Place to Dance in the Triangle, Best Gay or Lesbian Bar in the Triangle

Sean Umstead FINALISTS Arturo Sanchez; Erin Karcher; Luke Zabor

PHOTO BY JADE WILSON

Best loCAl podCAst The Bob and Lu Show FINALISTS Black Girls’ Guide to Surviving Menopause; Holly Springs Deep Dive Podcast; RDU on Stage

Best museum in the triAngle

Best BArtender/ mixologist in orAnge / ChAthAm County

Best Comedy CluB in the triAngle

Best gAy or lesBiAn BAr in the triAngle

North Carolina Museum of Art

Tony at The Wooden Nickel

Goodnights Comedy Club

The Pinhook

goodnightscomedy.com

thepinhook.com

FINALISTS Mettlesome’s Okay Alright Theater; The PIT Chapel Hill; Raleigh Improv

FINALISTS The Green Monkey; Legends Nightclub; work. Nightclub

FINALISTS Marbles Kids Museum; Museum of Life and Science; North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

Best BArtender/ mixologist in WAke County

Best Community event in the triAngle

Best kArAoke in the triAngle

Dylan McKeon

Festival for the Eno

The Pinhook

enofest.org

thepinhook.com

FINALISTS Brewgaloo; Carrboro Music Festival; Drag Queen Story Hour

FINALISTS All King Karaoke; David Price’s Original Super Karaoke; Flex

FINALISTS James Peery; Jay at James Pharmacy Seafood; Norm Underwood

FINALISTS Kristie Stehle; Rob Nation

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August 19, 2020

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ncartmuseum.org

Best neighBorhood BAr in durhAm County The Blue Note Grill thebluenotegrill.com

FINALISTS Accordion Club; Arcana Bar and Lounge; Beer Study-Durham


Best NeighBorhood Bar iN oraNge / Chatham CouNty The Wooden Nickel Public House

Best plaCe to get speCialty CoCktails iN the triaNgle Alley Twenty Six

thewnp.com

alleytwentysix.com

FINALISTS Hot Tin Roof; Imbibe; The Kraken, Orange County Social Club

FINALISTS Belltree; The Crunkleton; Kingfisher, Watts & Ward

Best NeighBorhood Bar iN Wake CouNty

Best plaCe to hear Bluegrass iN the triaNgle

Person Street Bar

Wide Open Bluegrass Festival

person-street.com

worldofbluegrass.com

FINALISTS Champions Bars; The Green Monkey; work. Nightclub

FINALISTS The Blue Note Grill; Community Church Concerts; The Kraken

Best opeN miC Night iN the triaNgle

Best plaCe to hear Blues iN the triaNgle

The Blue Note Grill

The Blue Note Grill

thebluenotegrill.com

thebluenotegrill.com

FINALISTS Carolina Waves Presents: Open Mic Live; Imurj—The Artists’ Café; The Station

FINALISTS Duke Performances, Imurj—The Artists’ Café; The Kraken

Best outdoor musiC VeNue iN the triaNgle

Best plaCe to hear hip-hop or soul iN the triaNgle

North Carolina Museum of Art ncartmuseum.org

FINALISTS Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek; Koka Booth Amphitheatre; Red Hat Amphitheater

Best plaCe for iNdoor fuN iN the triaNgle Museum of Life and Science lifeandscience.org

FINALISTS Boxcar Bar + Arcade, Bull City Escape, Dogwood Country Club

Best plaCe to daNCe iN the triaNgle The Pinhook thepinhook.com

FINALISTS Coglin’s Raleigh, The Kraken, Legends Nightclub

North Carolina Museum of Art Best Museum in the Triangle, Best Outdoor Music Venue in the Triangle PHOTO BY JADE WILSON

Cat’s Cradle catscradle.com

FINALISTS Beyú Caffè; Imurj—The Artists’ Café; The Pour House Music Hall & Record Shop

Best plaCe to hear roCk’N’roll iN the triaNgle

Best plaCe to shoot pool iN the triaNgle

Best plaCe to hear Jazz iN the triaNgle

Cat’s Cradle

greenroomdurham.com

Beyú Caffè

FINALISTS Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek; Local 506; Motorco Music Hall; The Pour House Music Hall & Record Shop

beyucaffe.com

FINALISTS C.Grace; Irregardless Café; Sharp 9 Gallery

Best plaCe to hear Noise/eleCtroNiCa iN the triaNgle The Fruit

durhamfruit.com FINALISTS Isaac Hunter’s Sub Rosa; Nightlight; Ruby Deluxe

catscradle.com

Best plaCe to hear World or iNterNatioNal musiC iN the triaNgle Duke Performances

dukeperformances.duke.edu FINALISTS Carolina Performing Arts; International Festival; North Carolina Museum of Art

Green Room

FINALISTS Champions Bars; The Kraken; Zogs Pool

Best theater to see aN iNdie film iN the triaNgle The Carolina Theatre carolinatheatre.org

FINALISTS Alamo Drafthouse Cinema Raleigh; Chelsea Theater; The Rialto Theatre

Best triVia Night iN the triaNgle Bull City Ciderworks bullcityciderworks.com

FINALISTS Quarter Horse Bar & Arcade; Ruckus Pizza and Bar; Tomato Jake’s Pizzeria INDYweek.com

August 19, 2020

19


FOOD

EVERYTHING BAGELS

BRANDWEIN’S BAGELS

EAST DURHAM BAKE SHOP

530 Foster Street, Ste. 1, Durham 919-251-8738 | durhamfoodhall.com

505 West Rosemary Street, Chapel Hill 919-240-7071 | brandweinsbagels.com

406 South Driver Street, Durham 919-957-1090 | eastdurhambakeshop.com

Hole in One From New York classics to avant-garde fancies, three new bagel spots provide comforting carbs in uncomfortable times BY LAYLA KHOURY-HANOLD food@indyweek.com

If

the sourdough-baking craze that ensued during the coronavirus pandemic is any indication, then people are finding solace in making and eating elemental carbs. While baking bread has enabled home cooks to witness the magical alchemy of flour and water, it’s also helped them appreciate the labor, time, and care that go into making food from scratch. That difficulty is why we’re not about to suggest that you start rolling your own bagels. Luckily, three locals have decided to take their bagel-making game from their home kitchens to their own shops. From New York-style bagels to avant-garde bagel sandwiches to top-notch bagels from a master pie-maker, they all deliver equal parts sustenance and comfort. When Alex Brandwein was growing up in Westchester, New York, eating bagels was a daily occurrence.

York-style bagel: a thin, shiny exterior and an airy-yetchewy interior. After Brandwein completed a summer internship at a bagel shop and finalized his business plan, Brandwein’s Bagels held its first pop-up in August 2019, selling out of 680 plain, sesame, and everything bagels in a few hours. In early 2020, he signed a lease for the commercial-kitchen-turned-storefront and launched a weekly online bagel-delivery service called “Saturdays Are for Bagels,” which sold out of 1,200 bagels the first time. “People like bagels, but the whole thing for me is more than that,” Brandwein says. “The bagels are a vehicle for what we are providing, which is a good feeling that comes with it.” Brandwein’s Bagels opened on August 7 with outdoor seating, serving New York-style bagels, cream cheese, and sandwiches like lox-and-cream cheese featuring ACME smoked salmon. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Everything Bagels, a bagel shop serving “avant-garde bagel creations” that opened in May inside the Durham Food Hall. When owner Jen Kremer and her husband moved to the Triangle from Philadelphia, they missed bagels, too. Kremer, who still owns a bakery there called Sweet Freedom, also missed baking. Two years ago, she started tinkering with a bagel recipe at home. “I’m a chef, so I can’t just make a bagel. I have to make it the bagel,” Kremer says. “And I want to be as crazy and funky as I can be but still not turn people off.” Bagel flavors like togarashi sesame and seaweed everything highlight her creative flair, but her out-of-the-box approach is also influenced by Sweet Freedom’s mission to cater to various dietary restrictions. Though Kremer admits that Everything Bagels is a more “gluttonous and glutinous” venture, it was important to her to offer vegan and vegetarian options. As with fashion design, avant-garde creations can be polarizing. Kremer has been pleasantly surprised by how Durhamites have embraced the more “out-there” sandwiches, which have been further enhanced by chef Ray Williams (previously of the Durham Hotel). The best-selling Philly Style Tempeh features marinated local tempeh, broccoli

“I’m a chef, so I can’t just make a bagel. I have to make it the bagel.” “Bagels were just this good feeling,” Brandwein says. “There was something about when someone came through the door with a bag of bagels that just sort of calmed everything down.” But when he moved to Chapel Hill to pursue an MBA at UNC’s business school, Brandwein was shocked to find that no downtown bagel shop existed. When he returned to New York for Thanksgiving break in 2018, he made bagels using a pre-made mix, even though he couldn’t boil water. The saying is truer than usual for Brandwein, who once grabbed a tea kettle when his mother asked him to put on water to boil pasta. Back in Chapel Hill, Brandwein began developing his recipe and technique (he’s got the burn marks on his forearms to prove it), making bagels at home to share with his MBA classmates in exchange for feedback before moving his operation to a commercial kitchen on West Rosemary Street. His formula, with local Lindley Mills flour and barley malt syrup, exemplifies a New 20

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INDYweek.com

Brandwein’s Bagels

PHOTO COURTESY OF BRANDWEIN’S BAGELS

rabe, Calabrian chilies, and cauliflower toum, a garlicky whipped cauliflower spread that stands in for Provolone. Another Durham shop that’s slinging bagels isn’t new, per se. Though Ali Rudel is best known for her seasonal pies at East Durham Bake Shop, which she co-owns with her husband, Ben Filippo, she’s also got a deft touch with bagels. “We didn’t feel we could get a solid New York-style, super chewy bagel nearby, so we used to make them ourselves,” Rudel says of the bagels she made at home for her family. Earlier this year, Filippo jokingly suggested celebrating his birthday with a bagel pop-up at the bakery. It ended up happening, coinciding with National Bagel Day on January 15, no less. It was so successful that they decided to launch Bagel Wednesdays at East Durham Bake Shop. “I spent a long time developing the recipe. I got a lot of input from diehard bagel enthusiasts before launching,” Rudel says. Rudel and her team continued making bagels in small batches—six at a time—until demand started outpacing production, just after COVID-19 hit. Rudel had already launched Club Sandwich, a membership program to raise funds for an expansion. Some of those funds went toward equipment to scale bagel production, including a water boiler that yields 60 bagels per batch. Bagels are now a permanent menu fixture and can be pre-ordered online or purchased at the Durham Farmers’ Market. The regular lineup includes plain, everything, salt, sesame, and poppyseed; cream cheese flavors such as olive or Sun Gold tomato; and bagel sandwiches, which are overseen by chef Chris McLaurin (previously of LaPlace and Picnic) and include weekly specials named after employees. W


M U SIC

Anhad + Tanner

ANHAD + TANNER: IN OTHER WORDS

HHHH [Self-released; Aug. 8]

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ARTISTS

Turning the Tabla A young electro-classical duo builds a bridge between Durham and New Delhi BY GRANT GOLDEN music@indyweek.com

I

n Other Words is the debut record from the young duo Anhad + Tanner, which consists of New Delhi’s Anhad Khanna and Durham’s Tanner Willeford. Clocking in at just over half an hour, the record traverses an array of densely packed soundscapes that combine an array of styles—the grandiosity of classical music, the subtleties of jazz, the sprawling nature of Indian raga, and the pomp of electronic dance music— into something fresh and invigorating. Throughout the album, Khanna builds rich electronic palettes, while Willeford’s classical and jazz piano stylings guide the tracks in unexpected directions. The album opens with a tone-setting piece, “Jiya II,” that slowly unfurls with washed-out keys and rich string arrangements. But as it progresses, new elements bubble into the mix: Atmospheric vocals from Isheeta Chakrvarty hover over the instrumentation while white-noise sweeps and subtle, downtempo electronic drums bounce on either side of the mix. Every track on In Other Words feels like a fully fleshed-out world, but they all string together on a unifying thread: the recontextualization of Indian musical traditions and Western electronic structures. Tabla replace hi-hats as a driving percussive

force, flutes and sitars replace snarling synth whorls, and Hindustani vocals display warm vibrato, then get chopped into stutter steps or reversed to make ambient flourishes and textures. Traditionally, Indian classical music doesn’t feature counterpoint, but Anhad + Tanner toss that expectation out the window with tracks like “Gum” (featuring Kamakshi Khanna and Vibhor Mathur). We hear a mixture of melodies: Soaring flutes blend with delayed guitar lines and ethereal vocals, all sitting delicately atop soft piano chords. As soon as the track feels like it’s settling into a low-key groove, hand drums slip into the mix and blend with electronic drum and bass to breathe new life into the song. While the music sometimes called “Asian Underground,” from which mainstream genres like bhangra arose, isn’t new—artists like Karsh Kale have been blending Indian classical and folk with electronic music for decades—Anhad + Tanner has a fresh take on the genre, seamlessly blending traditions into a new, unified sound. In Other Words is a powerful debut with ambitious goals and mesmerizing results. W

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August 19, 2020

21


MUSIC

Three-Thousand Mile Monument A new protest video by The Pinkerton Raid calls to strip Confederate honors from Jefferson Davis Highway BY THOMASI MCDONALD tmcdonald@indyweek.com

A

s Confederate statues, battle flags, and historic names topple from public spaces, one of the most enduring symbols of the nation’s white supremacist past remains. A new video by Durham-based band The Pinkerton Raid seeks to draw attention to the issue in “a tribute to the fighters for racial justice.” Each day, motorists commute along the Jefferson Davis Highway, which stretches for thousands of miles across the United States. Built during the same period as the monuments that are being pulled down across the South, the highway is named after the Confederate president who led the Southern states’ failed effort to destroy America over the right to profit from the enslaved bodies of Black people. Today, it starts in Virginia and runs through the Carolinas—passing near Durham as U.S. Route 15—before winding down into Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, and then veering west into Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas, and California. The 1910 plan for a transcontinental highway to honor a traitor was yet another odious effort by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The UDC’s sponsorship of the highway happened between 1877 and the early 1920s, a time that Black historians, including Rayford Logan and John Hope Franklin, described as the nadir of the country’s race relations. Reconstruction was sabotaged by white terrorist lynchings, the end of the North’s support for Black civil rights, Jim Crow, the Chinese Exclusion Act, and the rewriting of history that recast the Confederacy’s immoral quest to perpetuate slavery as a noble Lost Cause. A former News & Observer staff writer, Jesse James DeConto is also an accomplished songwriter and musician in The Pinkerton Raid, with bassist Jon Depue and drummer Scott McFarlane. In 2018, DeConto was covering the downfall of the Silent Sam statue at UNC-Chapel Hill for The New York Times. That year, inspired by the ongoing protests taking place in the Triangle and across America, The Pinkerton Raid released “Jefferson Davis Highway” on its fourth album, Where the Wildest Spirits Fly. DeConto had written the song the year before, fol22

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lowing two seminal events in the anatomy of America’s volatile racial landscape. One was the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. The second was the tearing down of the Confederate statue in front of the historic courthouse in Durham. The video is timed to mark the third anniversary of the widely divergent causes. The video, by Chapel Hill filmmaker Ye Tun, celebrates the activists “who were fighting to remove the memorials to white supremacy,” DeConto wrote in a press release. “Most of the The Pinkerton Raid PHOTO BY WILL GEHRMAN video footage came from the people’s uprising after the senseless murder of George Floyd by MinneThe protests that erupted after the police murdered apolis police.” George Floyd are the video’s visual leitmotif. There are also DeConto first noticed the highway when he had a images of Dylann Roof being taken into custody after he part-time job as a church musician in the country out- was charged with the mass murders of the Black worshipside Durham. The sign’s meaning in the crosscurrents pers at a Charleston church, where he had just finished of social change resonated with him and served as an praying with them. There’s footage of activist Bree Newepiphany. some pulling down the Confederate flag from the South “I was driving every week to lead people in songs of love, Carolina state capitol grounds, protesters moving forward peace, and justice, and I was traveling a road named for in a swirl of tear gas, and the split-second moment when the leading defender of slavery,” DeConto wrote. “It was the statue in Durham crashed to the ground. just too much cognitive dissonance, a kind of hypocrisy At one point, DeConto is walking down U.S. 15, armed baked into the system, right down to the asphalt.” with his guitar and singing for justice. There’s anger for After a brief introduction to the history of the Jeffer- the police killings that don’t seem to stop, and there’s big son Davis Highway—“a 3,000 mile monument”—the song love for freedom, justice, and equality. The video ends with begins with DeConto playing the opening guitar chords, an aerial shot of the long-overdue assertion that Black giving way to a montage of protest images here in the Lives Matter, rendered by a group of artists in a burst of Triangle and across the country. bright colors on Tryon Street in Charlotte. “There’s so much sadness, pain, anger, and terror in Main Street’s named for the president violent policing and these monuments intended to keep Who commanded the Confederates people down,” DeConto wrote. “But there’s so much joy To defend them Dixie Pharaohs and beauty in these masses of people marching, kneeling, Against the armies of the Lord speaking, singing, dancing and making art. The solidariMain Street’s got a monument ty prevails even as our own government uses its power For the fighters, for the cause against the people.” Gotta tear it down like that battle flag See the online version of this story for the video and ‘Cause the war is over now… visit The Pinkerton Raid’s Bandcamp page to purchase the We ride the Jefferson Davis Highway, song. The band intends to donate proceeds to racial justice To sing in God’s own country. organizations such as BYP100 for the month of August. W


INDYweek.com

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SC R E E N

TARHEEL SHORTIES FILM FESTIVAL

Tuesday, Aug. 25–Thursday, Aug. 27, 8 p.m. | free–$25 suggested donation | cucalorus.org The Black Baptism PHOTO COURTESY OF STEPHANIE DIANE FORD

Escape Artist Afrofuturist thriller The Black Baptism is a multi-layered metaphor about Black women BY KYESHA JENNINGS arts@indyweek.com

“I

’m a former businessperson realizing that I’m an artist,” says Durham-based filmmaker Stephanie Diane Ford, whose career trajectory has been an example of following your passion. After earning a business degree and working in IT and software development, Ford moved to Paris to pursue fashion management. Motivated by the desire to escape the 9-to-5 and immerse herself in a visually creative environment, she discovered her love for filmmaking while creating a short promo trailer for her fashion blog. It didn’t feel like work. “Once I discovered my interest in film, I knew I could hit the ground running as a producer because management just came naturally,” she says. “That whole process 24

August 19, 2020

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was fun from start to finish. I decided in that moment, this is how I want to spend most of my day.” Eight years later, she’s a “Filmed in NC” grant recipient from the Cucalorus Film Foundation. Her first short, The Black Baptism, premiered at the Hayti Heritage Film Festival in February, and then screened at the Hip-Hop Film Festival and the Revolution Me Film Festival, where it won in the “Best Horror/Thriller/Sci-fi” category. Next, at 8:00 p.m. Thursday, August 27, The Black Baptism appears in a block called “Tough and Transforming” in the Tarheel Shorties Film Festival. A program of Wilmington’s Cucalorus Film Festival, Tar Heel Shorties showcases indie films from North Carolina. It usually takes place in Wilson but is online-only this year.

A genre-blurring ode to Black women in search of their higher selves, the Afrofuturist film takes viewers deep into the main character’s psychological state, skillfully incorporating African and European mythology and religion in nuanced ways. “The first character, the Goddess, she is inspired by the Egyptian Pantheon, and the overall story comes from the Yoruba Oya story mythos,” Ford says. “Those stories correlated with the themes I wanted to tell, and they create the space to put it in a fantasy environment.” Ford says the plot was inspired by a combination of her personal life experiences and the collective experience of Black women: “The feeling like there’s no protection, on a collective level. The feeling that we’ve got to figure it out all alone. Everything’s a struggle. You know we’re overworked, having to build things from scratch, not having something established to walk into—but then, look at what can come.” The protagonist, played by Amethyst Davis, begins as a prisoner. “She just has herself,” Ford says. “She starts off naked, imprisoned, barely getting any supplies.” But as the 20-minute film progresses through short vignettes, we realize a murder has occurred, which results in the prisoner being forced to navigate a series of life-or-death challenges that are meant to connect her to her divine purpose. The Black Baptism is also a metaphor for the dynamics of dysfunctional relationships and break-ups. Ford considers what internal healing looks like in order for an individual to take responsibility for their own actions. “Most people don’t,” she says. “We really do have the power to create our own reality. As hard as it is, when you really take full ownership of that, you move away from being a victim in a lot of ways.” Rather than a specific romantic relationship, the film reveals the emotional turmoil and pain women experience as a result of relationship lows or breakups. “For some people, certain relationships stick with them forever,” Ford says. “So it really is, for women, a process to work through that type of hurt sometimes. That is what shaped the foundation of why [the protagonist] needed to connect to her spiritual side instead of being stuck.” There are a number of important messages embedded in the plot, communicated through the Goddess that directly assists the protagonist and the viewers. For Ford, the most important takeaway from the film is the tagline—“fear is a lack of imagination”—which reminds us that, through collective self-belief, Black women can overcome almost anything. W


h of their ers deep skillfully and reli-

SC R E E N

THE 19TH AMENDMENT PROJECT

Through Sunday, Aug. 30 | $2 (screening)/$25 (series) | Burning Coal Theatre, Raleigh | burningcoal.org

Suffering for Suffrage Fourteen ways of looking at what the 19th Amendment achieved—and what it didn’t BY BYRON WOODS arts@indyweek.com

spired by y comes s. “Those tell, and onment.” ianna Wynn knew the 19th Amendnation of ment would make a great play. e experi- “It has all these interesting characters: o protec- antagonists, protagonists, and heroes ve got to with not-so-admirable sides to them,” You know says the president of Wake County’s scratch, League of Women Voters. “Theater pronto—but vides a good platform for telling a story from a variety of perspectives, and a lot s, begins of perspectives have not been included in our history.” ff naked, But she didn’t imagine 14 plays—all new, from a host of notable local and national gh short playwrights—coming out of a post-show d, which chat last season with Burning Coal Thee a series atre’s artistic director, Jerome Davis. connect This year marks the centennial of the constitutional amendment that e dynam- acknowledged women’s right to vote. ups. Ford It’s also the 100th anniversary of the order for League of Women Voters, which took n actions. the place of the Equal Suffrage Associahave the tion after the amendment was ratified in is, when 1920. With both in mind, Wynn asked if ove away Burning Coal would help commemorate the anniversaries. the film “The subject’s important, particularly n experi- in an election year,” Davis says. “It was a no-brainer to me.” ps. ick with Through the end of August, audiencwomen, a es will see the results of this response: metimes. The 19th Amendment Project, a festival e protag- of 14 short films produced by 12 regional nstead of theater companies and adapted from the original 10-minute plays commissioned by mbedded Burning Coal. ess that Every evening August 17–30, the thewers. For ater will release one new film online at lm is the 7:00 p.m. (They’ll remain online through reminds September.) Tickets are affordable: $2 for men can a single show or $25 for the entire series. Patrons can see the films on their own

D

schedule, anytime between their release and September 30. Initially, Davis planned on presenting the works live in Burning Coal’s Murphey School Auditorium, modeled on the omnibus productions that director Nicolas Kent pioneered at London’s Tricycle Theatre: short plays by major playwrights on the same evening, on topics like the lead-up to the Iraqi War or the West’s long involvements in Afghanistan. Then the pandemic came. “While producing fourteen ten-minute shows over two nights did not feel at the time like a bridge too far for our theater, the idea of producing fourteen short films instead did,” Davis says wryly. “The diversity of artistic viewpoints on film would have been difficult for us to accomplish on our own.” Reflecting on the extensive buy-in he achieved with the statewide Shakespeare Marathon that Burning Coal hosted and put online in 2016, Davis started thinking about partners. Ultimately, 11 other companies from the region added their works to the three films Burning Coal brought to the project. In Raleigh, the North Carolina Opera, NC Theatre, Raleigh Little Theatre, Theatre in the Park, William Peace University, and the Women’s Theatre Festival are contributing productions. Agape Theater Project and NCCU will add work from Durham, along with Gilbert Theater and Sweet Tea Shakespeare from Fayetteville. The scripts they’ve adapted focus on histories untold and present-day responses. “There was racism in the suffrage movement, and women of color were marginalized,” Wynn says. “Nineteen-twenty did not secure voting rights for women of color.

The Tender-Hearted PHOTO BY BURNING COAL THEATRE

That fight continued for decades, up to the nineteen-sixties. Actually, we’re still fighting for voting rights today.” Playwright Kelly Doyle, whose Blue Burning Coal produced in 2011, was adamant as she solicited scripts, mostly from women of color, among local playwrights and colleagues in New York, California, and a constellation of Eastern and Midwestern states. “I said I just want your truth, whatever that truth is—angry, loud or quiet,” Doyle says. “I knew if they all told their personal truth, we’d have an exciting mix of shows. And we do.” The festival opened August 17 with Raleigh Little Theatre’s premiere of the savage satire Inalienable Rights by Deb Margolin, cofounder of the historic lesbian feminist company Split Britches. By the project’s end, serious, comic, historical, and contemporary works—and an aria by New York librettist Ruth Margraff—will be produced, along with homages and critical interrogations of suffrage leaders including Jane Addams, Ida B. Wells, Sojourner Truth, and Susan B. Anthony. The breadth is impressive. In Magdalena Gómez’s Apartment 19, Afro-Latina characters in present-day New York find common cause in their ancestors’ erasure from the history of feminism. A North Carolina farm woman comes to a very sharp fork in the road, seven years before suffrage, in Clare Bayley’s The Tender-Hearted. Women on a runaway train have to figure out an exit strategy fast in The

19th, and a student gets an unexpectedly up-close-and-personal education on Black women suffragists in Behold: Colored and Woman, Inconceivable. “The size of this topic needs as many perspectives and voices as possible,” playwright and Piedmont Laureate Tamara Kissane says. In her drama, Thunderclap, a daughter eligible to vote for the first time, two months from now, pushes back hard when her parents try to get her to join them at the polls. “I have a twelve-year-old daughter, and I think a lot about when it is her time to vote: how that world will look and what a vote will mean to her,” Kissane says. “A vote can be a burden, especially to this youngest voting generation. We desperately need them to be engaged. But in some ways, our older generations have set them up to fail.” As Alice informs her parents that she and her friends have decided they “will no longer enable this bullshit,” we confront the potential death of hope in a deeply flawed system. “I don’t want to imply that I’m not grateful for the 19th Amendment,” Kissane says. “Even as a young girl, I was excited by the stories of the suffragettes; I’ve always been a proud feminist. I also feel that at this moment, we really need to be focusing not on what was, but ‘now what?’ And it needs to be done with honesty, transparency, and love—along with the acknowledgment that it is painful to be an American.” W INDYweek.com

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