INDY Week 9.1.21

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Raleigh Durham Chapel Hill September 1, 2021

l e k b c a i P A look inside the Triangle’s booming pickleball scene


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September 1, 2021

Raleigh W Durham W Chapel Hill VOL. 38 NO. 33

The bar at Hank's Downtown Dive in Cary, p. 19 PHOTO BY BRETT VILLENA


Raleigh's attorney says there's no rule against feeding feral cats in the city. So why have animal control officers been writing citations for it? BY LEIGH TAUSS

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Legacies of Lincoln: Part III of The Legends of Lions Park. BY JOEL SRONCE Durham residents are uncovering their ancestral legacies in the county's old Black cemeteries. BY THOMASI MCDONALD 12 A housing crisis lands on our doorsteps as the Supereme Court strikes down the evictions moratorium. BY YANQI XU 13 North Durham residents oppose a development that could pose environmental threats to West Point on the Eno. BY THOMASI MCDONALD


16 The pickleball craze hits the Triangle. BY RACHEL SIMON 18 A conversation with Burlington hip-hop artist, OC from NC. BY KYESHA JENNINGS

19 With restaurants like Hank's, Peck & Plume, and Pizzeria Faulisi, downtown Cary's eclectic food scene begins to find itself. BY LENA GELLER 20 Documentary We Are Here is a reverent tribute to the ecological activism of Paperhand Puppet Intervention. BY BYRON WOODS 21 A new book explores the UNC-Chapel Hill athletics scandal. But does it give the athletes a voice? BY LUCAS HUBBARD

THE REGULARS 4 Letter from the Editor

5 Op-ed

COVER Photo by Brett Villena / Design by Jon Fuller


MaryAnn Kearns Durham/Orange/ Chatham Counties

John Hurld EDITOR I AL Editor in Chief Jane Porter Managing Editor Geoff West

Arts & Culture Editor Sarah Edwards

Theater+Dance Critic Byron Woods



Senior Writer Leigh Tauss

Contributors Will Atkinson, Madeline Crone, Grant Golden, Lena Geller, Spencer Griffith, Lucas Hubbard, Layla Khoury-Hanold, Brian Howe, Lewis Kendall, Kyesha Jennings, Glenn McDonald, Anna Mudd, Dan Ruccia, Jake Sheridan

Creative Director

Annie Maynard

Wake County MaryAnn Kearns

Staff Writers Jasmine Gallup Thomasi McDonald Editorial Assistant Lena Geller Copy Editor Abigail O'Neill

Graphic Designer

Jon Fuller Staff Photographer

Brett Villena

Durham/Orange/ Chatham Counties John Hurld

INDY Week |


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September 1, 2021



Last week for the web, Leigh Tauss wrote about Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson’s report on how the state’s teachers are “indoctrinating” students in the classroom. Tauss described the report, which largely crowdsourced online testimonies from disgruntled parents, in the starkest of terms and her story leads one to the only conclusion that Robinson isn’t much of a fan of public school teachers. Our readers had thoughts.

“I’m not sure how Mr. Robinson navigated the education system if this is what he thinks qualifies as a research paper,” wrote Facebook commenter KELLY WAINAINA. “An anonymous online form with no verification or follow-up. As useful as a Karen’s anti-vaxxer video on YouTube,” wrote commenter ROB RIDINGS. “One more example of GQP gaslighting,” wrote commeter KATHRYN WELCH. We also wrote for the web last week about a bill that passed in the Senate, and now heads to Governor Cooper’s desk, that opponents call an “anti-protest” bill. Some readers support the bill. “Physically assaulting police, destroying property, or inciting others to do so are what the bill mentions. That’s rioting, not protesting,” wrote Facebook commenter CHRISTOPHER BOYCE. “Aren’t all of those already illegal? Aren’t all of those reasons already used, even when unfounded, to declare a protest illegal and quash constitutionally protected rights?,” responded commenter JOSH REED. “It is easy to identify Republican legislation by asking yourself one question: Does this law already exist?,” responded commenter D RYAN ANDERSON to both. “If it does, you are probably looking at a GOP law designed to pander to their base. It actually even works on large national policy too. Republican healthcare plan? It already exists. It is our current healthcare system. Republican minimum wage? It’s the current minimum wage.” Finally, writer Thomasi McDonald wrote about Durham’s welcoming refugees from Afghanistan to the Bull City this month. Comments from some readers show a city divided. “We don’t take care of our own and bus in more,” wrote commenter ANGELIQUE BULLOCK. “Hope they like condos,” joked commenter JONAS CARATTINI.


September 1, 2021 @indyweek

Lett er from t h e E dit or To our readers, As so many of you grapple with the changes that come with a new academic year, we here at INDY Week are experiencing something of a season of change of our own. August was the last month that our longtime publisher, Susan Harper, had a professional affiliation with the INDY. She left her full-time position as publisher, after 25 years, at the end of May and has been working for us in a part-time role during our transition. Susan has helped us shore up so many of the tasks that keep the paper running; at first, I wasn’t sure what we would do without her inestimable energy, work ethic, and institutional knowledge, but now, I am confident that we are in a good position to move forward with our new publishers, John Hurld and MaryAnn Kearns, and a new chief financial officer handling the many, many tasks for which Susan was long responsible. We are so grateful for Susan’s help these past three months as she worked another full-time job, and for all the hard (surely sometimes maddening) work she put into the INDY for so long. We also say goodbye this week to our digital content manager-turned-full-time staff reporter for Orange County, a treasured and vital member of our team, Sara Pequeño. Sara joins the News & Observer in Raleigh, where she will bring her fresh perspective to a role that has traditionally been filled by journalists, often men, who are many decades in at the publication’s opinions desk. We can’t wait to read what Sara has to say in the pages of the N&O. As a staff, we’ll miss Susan and Sara very much, but we are pleased to welcome three new colleagues. Mathias Marchington joins us in taking over some of Susan’s responsibilities as our new sales digital director. Marchington, a Durham resident, is skilled in all types of creative endeavors, from graphic design and illustration to storytelling and marketing, and we are thrilled to welcome him to our team. Another recent hire is Lena Geller, whose byline in our paper has been prolific this summer (most recently in last week’s feature on Triangle beekeeping). Lena will work for us as an editorial assistant, helping us develop our social media strategy and engaging our audiences across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We also look forward to Lena’s continuing to write for the INDY in a freelance capacity, as her pieces infuse our pages with a lively and unique perspective. Finally, Jasmine Gallup, most recently a reporter at The Sanford Herald, joins our news team as a staff writer with a focus on covering Wake County. Jasmine has also contributed stories to the paper’s news section over the past several months, including features that delve into the campus experience for Black students at UNC-Chapel Hill, the landscape for the LGBTQ+ community post-HB 2, and the outlook for North Carolina residents facing eviction. Jasmine is a talented writer and reporter and we’re very excited to have her on board. I want to take a moment to thank all of our readers and contributors, and, especially, to thank those of you who donate to our Press Club. During these pandemic times, when advertising revenues have taken a hit across the board, I fully mean it when I say we would not be able to continue to operate without you. Your contributions to our publication are invaluable and you help us to continue the INDY’s legacy of providing free, fearless journalism to the Triangle. I look forward to this autumn and one day, hopefully soon, to putting this pandemic behind us. Thank you for all your support.


Jane Porter Editor-in-Chief

OP - E D

Time for Change Fuquay-Varina’s Black residents have asked the Town’s elected officials to make structural changes, to little response. At the polls this fall, they’ll have a chance to change who’s an elected official. BY JENNIFER HOLT


arlier this year, a group of engaged citizens formed the Fuquay-Varina Community Alliance to advocate for increasing the social, political, and economic well-being of Fuquay-Varina’s Black residents. During the group’s initial meetings, members identified multiple issues and prioritized making a request for a cultural assessment of municipal government as a first step toward meaningful change. When, in early April, the Board of Commissioners voted to suspend the activity of the town’s Public Safety Committee, Alliance member Jovita Simons wrote to town leaders expressing her dismay. Town manager Adam Mitchell offered Ms. Simons and other Alliance members an audience with the town’s elected officials and, as many saw it, an opportunity to advocate for a cultural assessment. In conversations with Mitchell and the commissioners, the Alliance emphasized that the culture of a municipality is more than just a matter of policing; it includes, among other issues, the town’s efforts regarding public safety, community engagement, housing equity, education, economic development, access to healthcare, transportation, and overall transparency. At Board of Commissioners meetings since late April, Alliance members have used the public comment period to bring forward a three-pronged request for assessment. The group requests that an independent entity conduct a cultural assessment of municipal government; that the Town make public the entire assessment report; and that the Town then engage an independent consultant to analyze, make recommendations, and manage the outcomes of the assessment. At first, commissioners seemed to meet

these requests with strong support. From a series of private meetings with Mitchell and elected officials, Alliance members understood that Mitchell would research independent assessment providers, that all commissioners supported assessment, and that, according to Mayor Pro Tem Blake Massengill, conducting an assessment was “not a matter of if, but when.” Alliance members believed they were moving in a positive direction. But those feelings of hopefulness were short-lived. At a June meeting with Manager Mitchell and Mayor John Byrne, the Alliance learned that Mitchell was not prepared to recommend an assessment and would instead recommend creating a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion position within Town government. Although Alliance members believe that a DEI hire could do some good, they’ve pointed out the stark difference between acquiring DEI personnel and conducting a cultural assessment. The one is in no way a sufficient substitute for the other, and the recommendation of the one in the absence of the other was a significant blow. Alliance members noted that the purpose of all meetings with Town officials was to get a commitment to have a cultural assessment completed by an independent entity in the very near future. The Alliance launched an online petition to renew its ask and gather com-

munity support. Members who spoke at commissioners’ meetings in July argued for separating the DEI hire from conducting an assessment, noting that completing an assessment prior to hiring DEI personnel would impart important benefits. The August 2 Board of Commissioners meeting stands out among recent public events that raise questions about the Town’s willingness to engage a citizen-led group requesting concrete data about the Town’s overall culture. At that meeting, Commissioner William Harris made a motion in support of conducting a cultural assessment. Though the other commissioners had each expressed their support in private meetings with the Alliance, none of them seconded Harris’s motion. None of those commissioners, the mayor, or the town manager have engaged in conversation with members of the Alliance since the June meeting when Mitchell said he would not recommend going forward with assessment. Ms. Simons has not given up hope. At the August 2 meeting, she noted the absence of nearly all elected and appointed officials’ public engagement on the matter: “Did you even hear the cry? I’m sure there have been discussions privately, but nothing in this forum where the citizens of this town can hear the con-

“Did you even hear the cry? ... Get the facts on the table and let’s move forward.”

cerns or issues at hand.” She emphasized that her family has called Fuquay-Varina home for three generations and that now is the time to address systemic racism. “Get the facts on the table,” she proposed, “and let’s move forward together from there.” As of the August town board meetings, the official line is: now is not the time. Or, as Mayor Byrne put it: “I believe that we will move forward. I’m not sure it’ll be at the speed that everybody wants… I believe we’re in a process now, and I have a lot of confidence in our Town team here that we’ll get it done. …We’ll get there.” One wonders about comments like the mayor’s that address the requests of citizen advocacy groups by indefinitely postponing any concrete actions that might directly address those requests. In Fuquay-Varina, as in many small towns, those with power are selling the idea of progress via diversity and inclusion initiatives without taking necessary steps toward fundamental changes that would benefit the very residents who are requesting them. As a result, marginalized groups are still expected to be thankful for whatever quasi-benevolent offerings are made to them by people in power unaccustomed to making genuine concessions. In an election season that will result in a new mayor (for the first time in 20 years) and several new commissioners, residents should be wary of candidate narratives about “progress” that ultimately substitute well-articulated plans for actual structural change. In November, the citizens of Fuquay-Varina will choose between candidates who uphold the status quo and those whose actions indicate that they are, in fact, listening to the community they’re sworn to serve. W

September 1, 2021




Rules for Thee Raleigh suspended ticketing feral cat feeders—and placed an animal control officer on leave—days after the mayor joked she’d pay fines for feeding a feral cat in her neighborhood. BY LEIGH TAUSS


ayor Mary-Ann Baldwin was probably joking when she invited Animal Control to fine her “every day” for feeding a feral cat that roams around her ritzy downtown Raleigh condo building last month. But what started as a wisecrack quickly escalated to the city suspending enforcement of city codes Animal Control had been using to fine residents for feeding feral cats, according to an investigation by the INDY. The same day, the city launched an internal investigation and placed an Animal Control officer on leave related to the matter. Is Baldwin’s joke about to cost someone their job? Because it’s really not funny anymore. 6

September 1, 2021

It might smell like retaliation: a mayor’s gaffe rushes the city’s legal team to reinterpret the rules behind closed doors to give the mayor impunity, while a low-level employee takes the fall. Or it could just be a clumsy game of telephone up the chain of command muffled by the awkward mechanisms of bureaucracy. It’s not clear what happened, exactly, and the city won’t say—but it doesn’t look good. The INDY also discovered that residents paid $1,700 in fines for cat-related code violations prior to the city ceasing enforcement last week. It’s unclear how many of these violations relate spe-

cifically to feral cats as the city does not track that, but multiple sources within Animal Control have confirmed to the INDY that the city does fine people for feeding feral cats under existing code. The debate over feral felines began during a city council discussion of a proposed ordinance to ban the ownership of “wild and dangerous animals” and the feeding of undomesticated animals, such as feral cats and ducks. Baldwin, among others on the council, said the ordinance went too far, and it was sent to the city’s Growth and Natural Resources Committee for further scrutiny. Before the council had even adjourned that afternoon, Animal Control officer Lauren Mulleady fired off an email to Baldwin from her personal email account stating that the city already tickets residents who feed feral cats, as they can spread diseases and wreak havoc on local wildlife. Mulleady, who also owns and rehabilitates exotic animals, said feral cats “pose and already inflict more damage than any of the exotic animal owner’s pets combined in Raleigh.” Naturally, the INDY poked into the matter. We published an article last week detailing the micro-scandal— mostly just calling out the hypocrisy of a mayor flaunting a city code violation and basking in the weirdness of how the council’s quest to satiate a public furor over an escaped zebra cobra led to a debate over feral cats. Baldwin, we figured, would probably back down from her statement. But that’s not what happened. According to an email reviewed by the INDY, the city suspended citations for individuals found feeding or failing to vaccinate feral cats on August 25, the day our paper hit the stands. “Police Department legal staff were consulted and advised that there is no legal authority to cite individuals for this activity under any current city ordinance,” according to the email from RPD Deputy Chief Scott Oosterhoudt to members of the Animal Control division. “I am directing you to immediately cease any enforcement activity that results in such charges/citations.” The same day, an Animal Control officer was placed under investigation in relation to the matter. That employee is currently on paid administrative leave, according to a city employee who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. The city did not confirm or deny that an investigation was underway and declined to answer the INDY’s questions, citing a state statute that keeps personnel matters confidential.

“[Feral cats] pose and inflict more damage than any of the exotic animal owners’ pets combined.” Baldwin declined to comment on the matter, directing questions to City Attorney Robin Tatum, who clarified that the cat-related citations involve all cats, and “the City cannot confirm which, if any, of them involved feral cats.” “There is nothing in the Raleigh Code that relates to feral cats or prohibits individuals from feeding feral cats,” Tatum wrote in an email Tuesday. “Consequently, there are no ordinances that are violated when a person feeds a feral cat, so there is nothing to enforce.” She continued: “The duties that the Code and state statutes impose are upon cat “owners” which does not include someone who feeds a cat that does not belong to them. We are aware of no law that would deem an individual a “de facto” owner for feeding a cat or any other animal that the person does not own.” Animal Control’s rationale behind feral cat violations is somewhat tricky. While nothing in city code explicitly bans folks from feeding feral cats, Raleigh city code (12-3004) defines owners as “any person owning, keeping, harboring, possessing, or acting as custodian, however temporarily, of an animal.” Under two separate city ordinances—12-3007 and 12-3008—“owners” of feral cats can be found in violation if the cat isn’t vaccinated or wanders from their property. That interpretation of the code was shared by both Mulleady in her email to Baldwin and sources within Raleigh public safety who spoke with the INDY. If Tatum is correct, and the code doesn’t apply to feral cat feeders, then why has Raleigh’s Animal Control unit been fining residents for it? According to records obtained by the INDY, the city has issued 47 citations for 67 code violations since 2019 to residents for having a cat “at large” or failing to vaccinate a cat, both of which could apply to feral cat feeders (the city does not track whether a violation relates to a feral or house cat, so there’s no way to know exactly how many feral feeders have paid the piper). The city has collected $1,700 in fines for violations of the at-large and unvaccinated cat ordinances, according to Raleigh Police Department. In the last two years, the city has taken a dozen residents to court over these issues, records from RPD show.

If Tatum is correct, does that mean the 44 residents cited since 2019 (there were three repeat offenders) have legal ground to sue the city if the cat in question was feral? If those citations were illegal, does the city plan to return the dough? Neither Baldwin nor Tatum have elaborated on the matter. If Tatum is wrong, Animal Control officers find themselves in a bind. The Raleigh Police Department’s code states that unlawful orders are those “in violation of federal, state or local law” and that employees are not required to follow them. State statute requires that owners vaccinate their cats. Owners, as defined by Raleigh city code, are any person “acting as a custodian . . . however temporarily” of an animal. Isn’t a person feeding a cat “acting as a custodian?” By which law should Raleigh’s Animal Control abide? Maybe Tatum is right and the code is poorly written. If the city wants to take a hard look at its animal ordinance, it might want to start with the most recent code update, which Baldwin and the council voted to approve just last summer. That policy includes a rule prohibiting residents from keeping water in metal dog bowls, which disproportionately targets low-income pet owners, many of whom are people of color. Other rules take away affordable crating options for pet owners, such as dog igloos, by mandating requirements like “a dry floor raised at least 4 (inches) above the ground.” Plotted geographically, Raleigh’s cat-related citations show at-large and unvaccinated cats are an issue throughout the city, with virtually no neighborhoods immune. It’s a problem that could be getting worse, as last year Animal Control was instructed to stop placing traps for residents who reported feral cats on their properties during the pandemic. Left unchecked, Raleigh’s feral cat population has probably exploded, one source told the INDY last week. So it’s worth asking: if Baldwin cares so much about the plight of feral cats, what’s she going to do about it? Because ceasing enforcement of city code and placing employees on leave in an already threadbare department certainly isn’t helping. W

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September 1, 2021





Part III: Shouldering the Struggle

How stars of a Carrboro gridiron once again help lead a movement for racial justice BY JOEL SRONCE


September 1, 2021


Part I of “Legacies of Lincoln” shines a light on the Mighty Tigers football team from Chapel Hill-Carrboro’s segregated Lincoln High School, and its role during the first wave of the towns’ movement for civil rights in '60 and '61. Part II tells of the movement’s second wave in 1963 and '64, and outlines the mismanaged integration that has led to one of the largest achievement gaps in the country between white students and students of color.


his series opens with a claim that the Lincoln students’ movement for civil rights rattled the towns’ status quo, reverberated through the state, and echoed out across the country. It’s no far-reaching exaggeration. Many of the struggle’s protagonists lived lives worthy of novels, as they carried the lessons and leadership of the local movement out into the world. Fred Battle was one. Danita Mason-Hogans, daughter of Lincoln graduate Dave Mason Jr., knows his story well. She calls Fred Battle one of her dearest mentors. Like Fred Baldwin—the Mighty Tigers quarterback featured in Parts I and II—Battle received a college football scholarship thanks to his success at Lincoln. He went on to play at N.C. A&T after graduation. “He used some of that strategy that he learned in Chapel Hill and brought it to A&T, which was also a huge activist community,” Mason-Hogans says of how Battle maintained the symbiotic connection between activism and football. “We have people like [Lincoln graduates] Betty Baldwin and Juanita Alston, who also went to A&T, and they talk about how as they were marching, the football players would flank them,” Mason-Hogans continues. “They would get in a formation, and it was the role of football players to make sure that the people inside the formation were protected. And that’s nothing but a football move!” By Battle’s side, on the field and in the streets, was his A&T football teammate, Jesse, now the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. Like Fred Battle, Mighty Tigers quarterback and Chapel Hill Nine leader Harold Foster continued movement work long after Lincoln. He became the first ever editor-in-chief of the newspaper at North Carolina College—now N.C. Central University—who wasn’t a senior. He then moved to New York City to work with Stokely Carmichael, who would become the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Because of his activism, Foster had been invited to SNCC’s founding in 1960, while still a senior at Lincoln. Later, Foster refused the draft for the Vietnam War and was sentenced to prison for two years. Mason-Hogans’ father, Dave Mason Jr., says that even behind bars Foster was active, teaching some of the prisoners how to read. Others who led the movement that arose from Lincoln continue to influence Chapel Hill-Carrboro to this day. Until recently, Braxton Foushee volunteered at Culbreth Middle School, helping Burmese and Karen students learn English as a second language. Sitting with me at Weaver Street Market in Carrboro, Foushee makes an important connection between Lincoln students and today’s young people. “I was always encouraging and telling those kids, ‘I know you’re in a strange country, but there are people out here that would lead you in the right way,’” he says. “‘If there’s somebody bothering you, you let me know. Because I don’t want you to go through the same thing that we had to go through.’”

Women in the movement

This has been a football story, offering a specific lens through which to view the history of Lincoln High, but young Lincoln women played roles that rivalled those of the young men.


Tuesday, October 5, 2021 The Primary Election for Durham City Council will be held in Durham County, NC on Tuesday October 5th. All City of Durham precincts will be open from 6:30 am until 7:30 pm. Precinct 26– Rougemont will not be open because no city area lies within this precinct. 17-year-old City of Durham voters who are registered and will be 18 years old on or before Nov. 2, 2021 may vote in Durham’s Primary. The following contests will be on the City of Durham ballot: Carrboro High School's football team


Fred Baldwin’s sister, Betty Baldwin Geer, is one. A star on the Lincoln High girls’ basketball team, Betty surpassed Fred in her leadership in the students’ fight for civil rights. Like Battle and Foster, she carried this leadership with her. At N.C. A&T Betty was more than once arrested with Fred Battle and Jesse Jackson during the desegregation movement in Greensboro in the early 1960s. During one action in the summer, so many hundreds of students were arrested that the police took them to farmhouses in the country to detain them. Betty led a chorus of young women singing “We Shall Overcome” in steadfast defiance, as others around them fainted from the heat. Deloris Bynum, another Lincoln graduate, married her high school sweetheart, a Mighty Tigers football player. After graduation she worked at Lenoir Dining Hall on UNC’s campus, and took part in the cafeteria workers’ strike in 1969 that won a higher minimum wage for state employees all across North Carolina. The legacy of these women stays with Danita Mason-Hogans. “I really believe in intergenerational organizing,” she tells me. “There are so many things we can learn from people who came before us. Not just stories of grandeur but strategic efforts; there’s a lot that elders can impart to young people.” While elders have wisdom from their experience, Mason-Hogans says, they too need to recognize when to pass the torch. “My admonition would be that older people need to get out of young people’s way,” she explains. “Young people have always represented the very best of change, and I think that older people have a tendency to

hold on to power and stifle them. Because young people are always at the center of change, but they’re very rarely at the center of power.” She recognizes this changemaking in the Black and Brown Student Coalition (BBSC), a group that students at Carrboro High School founded last summer, and how that effort connects to the Lincoln students’ work. “The BBSC is a really good example of young people who are willing to outwardly question what’s going on, and question the system, and so in that way they are very much connected to Lincoln High School,” Mason-Hogans says.

The Black and Brown Student Coalition

In late July, I stopped by Al’s Burger Shack in Chapel Hill’s Southern Village. A young man named Phoenix Garayùa-Tudryn came around from his station on the kitchen line. We talk outside on his break. When Garayùa-Tudryn was a kid, his father, who is Puerto Rican, moved the family from Florida to Carrboro to become the first football coach for the new Carrboro High School Jaguars. Garayùa-Tudryn has been around the Jaguars most of his life, and in high school, he became one of them. He played quarterback, wide-receiver, and linebacker until he graduated earlier this year. Last summer, Garayùa-Tudryn was a founding member of the BBSC. For him, the necessity of an organization led by students of color was overdue. Not only do students of color at Carrboro High face some of the worst achievement gaps in the country when compared with their white peers, but many also felt that their voices weren’t heard.

•Durham City Mayor •Durham City Council Ward I •Durham City Council Ward II •Durham City Council Ward III Early voting schedule: Thursday, Sept. 16th through Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021. Hours will be consistent at all early voting locations. •Weekdays: 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. •First two Saturdays: 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. •Final Saturday: 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. •Sundays: 12:00 to 4:00 p.m. VOTER REGISTRATION DEADLINE: The voter registration deadline for the October 5, 2021 Primary Election is Friday, September 10, 2021 (25 days prior). Voters that miss the registration deadline may register and vote during the early voting period. Voters who are currently registered need not re-register. Registered voters who have moved or changed other information since the last election should notify the Board of Elections of that change by Sept. 10, 2021. SAME DAY REGISTRATION: Voters are allowed to register and vote during early voting. It is quicker and easier to register in advance, but if you have not registered you can do so during early voting with proper identification. This same day registration is not allowed at polling places on Election Day. Information regarding registration, polling locations, absentee voting, or other election matters may be obtained by contacting the Board of Elections. Website: | Email: Phone: 919-560-0700 | Fax: 919-560-0688 PAID FOR BY DURHAM COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS

September 1, 2021


“There was always that lack of student voice, especially Black and Brown student voice,” he tells me. “It was usually dominated by our white, richer population. We felt like there was a need for a group that could facilitate conversations between students, and that could actually make change in our community and in our schools.” The decision for it to be a Black and Brown coalition was important to Garayùa-Tudryn. “A lot of times in our community, and really in a lot of communities, discrimination and oppression separate our groups, try to put each group against each other,” he says. “We wanted to make sure it was a unified front instead of separating people because everything that we were trying to do is bring people together, even our white students.” One of the BBSC’s leaders this year, Sofia Rangel, a junior at Carrboro, agrees. “Having the Black AND Brown Student Coalition is so important because it creates a sense of unity that we need to combat systems of oppression together,” she says in an email. For Rangel, whether or not to join the BBSC was never a question. “Growing up I have always been surrounded by activism of some kind,” she explains. “My mom was an ESL teacher who was really active in advocating for DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] students. My


September 1, 2021

dad is an immigrant and so I was always aware of the obstacles that came with that identity. Because of this I knew that I wanted to advocate for marginalized voices, including my own, and BBSC was just that.” Leading beside Rangel this year is a senior named Walker Robinson. Like GarayùaTudryn—and like Fred Baldwin, Fred Battle, Harold Foster, Braxton Foushee, and many others—Robinson also leads the football team that lines up on a gridiron in Carrboro. The day after I met with Garayùa-Tudryn, I went back to Southern Village. Robinson just finished a dishwashing shift at Town Hall Grill, on the other side of the Southern Village Green. We sit down outside. Robinson says he remembered that when Garayùa-Tudryn approached him about the BBSC, he knew he wanted to join. As he alludes to the discrepancies at Carrboro High, Robinson also points to how history is taught in our schools, and how that teaching can be a detriment to social justice. “Everything that I knew about the civil rights movement I learned from my parents,” he says. “I didn’t learn anything about what really happened during those times from school, until this past year when I took a class that I really had to go out of my way to take.” But the BBSC is changing that. Robinson says the group is working to add both

a Black and Latinx history class to the high school’s curricula. And the BBSC has already made an impact in another realm. More than 60 years after Fred Baldwin and Jimmy Weaver snuck under a tin fence to watch football games for which they couldn’t afford admission, ticket prices are still an issue for students and community members of color in Carrboro. The BBSC tackled that head on. “One of the things we talked about last year was making games free for all students, taking that cost out,” GarayùaTudryn explains. “And we were actually able to do that. Usually they’d make students pay and that made no sense to us because it added an economic barrier. So it’s gonna be all free next year for Carrboro students.”


As he looks to the future, GarayùaTudryn, now a student at UNC-Chapel Hill, has a sober perspective. “I’m extremely privileged and honored to be in this town because there’s so much history with everybody that’s been an activist growing up, especially that Lincoln High football team just setting that example,” Garayùa-Tudryn says. “But I think we still have a long way to go, and there’s a lot that needs to be done, and there’s a lot that people need to process within themselves

about what they’re supporting and what their support means.” Despite the long road ahead, GarayùaTudryn is aware of the great steps the BBSC has taken, and how it will benefit those engaged in the future. “Our project spread around to the colleges. UNC was using the [BBSC] podcast in their School of Education. And I think Duke was doing the same,” he says. “So I feel like just that community that we built and that structure, that foundation, is gonna make it really easy to help out in the future.” Like Mason-Hogans, even Garayùa-Tudryn, at age 18, understands that when it comes to the BBSC and student-led movements, he needs to step back. As with Mighty Tigers of old, passing the baton from one generation to the next, Garayùa-Tudryn will continue to support his former football team as well as the social-justice movement to which he contributed a great deal. But just as he can no longer take the field in a Jaguars jersey, his involvement in the BBSC won’t be from a leadership position anymore. “I kind of also don’t want to be too involved, because it’s theirs now,” he says. “They have different goals; they have different experiences. So you gotta value that and just let them move forward.” And move forward they will. Mightily. W


Durham County

Buried History Neighbors to more than 30 old Black cemeteries scattered throughout Durham are connecting to the lives of their forebears. BY THOMASI MCDONALD


ld, abandoned African American cemeteries that were created before and after slavery are archives, not unlike museums, says North Carolina Central University history professor Charles Johnson. “They hold a treasure trove of our experiences and our history, not just for who is interred there, but the means of burial,” Johnson told the INDY last week. “It was not uncommon for African Americans who were not literate during post-emancipation to use crude carving instruments to make tombstones out of field stones. “These cemeteries give us an opportunity to honor our ancestors and treat them in death in ways they were not treated in life,” says Johnson, who notes that the current quest by Black Americans to connect with family is not unlike the post-Reconstruction period when newly freedmen and women wanted to be buried at gravesites “in named plots next to family members in unmarked plots.” “There’s a great deal of sanctity with this.” Johnson has partnered with Duke University and Historic Stagville for the study, “Reckoning with the Dead: The Durham Black Burial Grounds Collaboratory.” His commentary came to mind last week after the discovery of the old Holman Family Cemetery, an abandoned, long-neglected, parcel that sits on the edge of Black Meadow Ridge in North Durham’s Horton Hills community in the Argonne Hills subdivision. The modest cemetery has a handful of extant tombstones, including one for Seal Hall, who was born in 1800 and died in 1891, along with a second one propped against a tree that states Lonnie Holman was born in 1867 and died in 1925. Nicholas Levy, vice president of Preservation Durham, knew the patch of sacred ground. Levy and Preservation Durham’s Board President Tom Miller visited the family cemetery in early August and stuck 68 small orange flags in the ground to mark poten-

tial gravesites after determining the tombstones and other grave markers were part of a “much larger, patterned area including dozens of fieldstones and grave depressions.” In an email to the INDY, Levy says property records and other documents confirm that the cemetery was part of an expansive 88-acre tract owned by Dilsy, a Black woman who purchased the land in the late 1870s. In noting its importance, Levy adds the gravesite will help scholars, historians, and the general public better understand the “early post-Civil War reconfiguration of communities around the Eno River.” Johnson says there are at least 30 old Black cemeteries in various states of condition scattered throughout Durham and the surrounding region that were established during slavery and the post-Emancipation period. “A couple are historically significant,” he says. Johnson says many of the burial grounds sit on hills to symbolize Calvary or Golgotha and are established near rivers to symbolize the biblical significance of the Jordan River. One of the more intriguing Black burial grounds is the Johnson Family Cemetery tucked away in Duke Forest near the border of Durham and Orange counties. The cemetery sits on a hill surrounded by oak, pine, and hickory trees. The site, now the property of a neighborhood homeowners association, was originally owned by Charles William Johnston, who started the Green Hill plantation after he received a land grant from the King of England in 1750. Enslaved people, dating back to the 1700s, were allowed to bury their loved ones on the plot of land. The last known burial happened in 1959. The descendants of those interred at the cemetery could not be reached for comment, but the website, johnsondescendants., provides a wealth of infor-

Johnston Family Cemetery in Chapel Hill


mation. The website notes, for instance, that the Bible of Fannie Moore lists the names of the enslaved people buried at the site. The two oldest recorded burials were for “David,” who was born in 1781, and Rachel, born a decade later in 1791. Susan Johnston Sellers, a descendant of the Johnston plantation owners, wants to restore the burial ground with help from the state. “It’s the sad heritage of my family and others that this cemetery has been completely forgotten,” Sellers told the INDY. After returning to the area several years ago, she has encouraged her neighbors to support efforts to preserve the burial ground. Sellers explained that although the place is formally known as the Johnston Cemetery, the formerly enslaved on the Green Hill plantation dropped the letter “t” after emancipation. The ancient cemetery is laid out in lined rows of tombstones, granite, and quartz rocks. The quiet burial ground is a testament to a people who, after being stolen from themselves, reclaimed and honored their lives in death. Near the cemetery entrance, there appear to be remnants of an outdoor church, where ancient, lichen-covered rocks with smooth surfaces may have served as worship pews. The tombstones and fieldstone markers range in size from a massive, anvil-shaped rock that sits next to an unlikely statue of a Hindu deity, to a quartz rock less than 10 inches long and two inches wide, embedded in the pine-straw covered ground. Sellers’ neighbor Lindsay Wilkes on Sunday pointed to trees near depressions in the grounds. She has since learned that

the trees may have served as grave markers. “Sometimes they would bury around the tree for an entire family,” Wilkes says. “A cemetery census says there are 144 graves there, but I think there are at least 200,” Sellers says. “My great-grandfather’s will left 1.15 acres to the cemetery’s descendants, but it was never honored.” “We are exploring the possibility, that the transfer of ownership of the cemetery, to an HOA, may not have been proper, or legal,” says Jackie Johnson Shahin, a Johnson Cemetery descendant who maintains the website about the history of the burial ground. In an email to the INDY, Shahin said that many of the descendants live in the Triangle because their ancestors remained in the area after emancipation. The Black burial ground’s descendants include several pioneers. Stanley Vickers was the first Black student to attend Carrboro-Chapel Hill public schools. Civil rights activist and decorated military veteran Jim Merritt was the first Black person to serve on the Chapel Hill town council, and Andre Leon Talley, the fashion maven, author, and journalist is a creative and former fashion director with Vogue magazine. Sellers, Wilkes, and their neighbors’ plans to preserve the cemetery are mirrored by the supporters of the Holman Family Cemetery, and at all of the Black burial grounds throughout the region. “We need to preserve this place out of respect for the humanity of those buried there, out of appreciation for the all-too-rare window it opens onto part of our shared past, and out of dedication to be better stewards of Durham history—particularly Black history—going forward,” Levy says. W

September 1, 2021



North Carolina

The Next Crisis Protections for struggling tenants end as the Supreme Court voids the federal evictions moratorium. BY YANQI XU


undreds of thousands of North Carolina households behind on rent lost an important legal protection, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the eviction moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a 6-3 decision on Thursday. The CDC stay on eviction, first issued by the Trump administration in September 2020, was extended multiple times to expire at the end of July. On June 29, Justice Brett Kavanaugh became the pivotal vote in the 5-4 decision to let the moratorium run its course, denying the plaintiff Alabama Association of Realtors’ motion for emergency relief. As Policy Watch previously reported, Kavanaugh said the CDC “exceeded its existing statutory authority by issuing a nationwide moratorium.” Yet he spared the federal rule given that it was about to end in a month, to allow for the distribution of rental relief funds, he explained. However, the CDC issued another eviction moratorium for two months starting August 3 that halts evictions in areas with “substantial and high levels of community transmission levels” of the coronavirus. 12

September 1, 2021

The plaintiffs came back with a new challenge, again green lighted by the D.C. District Court, and then sought an emergency injunction from the Supreme Court against the CDC order. This time, Kavanaugh and his colleague Chief Justice John Roberts joined the four justices who previously ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. The majority wrote in the opinion, “Apart from slightly narrowing the geographic scope, the new moratorium is indistinguishable from the old.” However, the six justices reasoned that there was a need to vacate the eviction moratorium, considering the votes in the previous case and the situation across the country. The opinion read, “equities had shifted in the plaintiffs’ favor: Vaccine and rental-assistance distribution had improved since the stay was entered, while the harm to landlords had continued to increase.” The six justices nominated by Republican presidents, including three nominated by Trump, took a narrow interpretation of the CDC’s authority granted by the Public

Health Service Act to say its authority relates more to regulating quarantines and imports. They also said the moratorium interferes with the landlord-tenant laws within purview of individual states. Gov. Roy Cooper’s moratorium, which first went into effect in October 2020, is no longer in effect. It would have added another layer of protection by preserving the requirements of the federal moratorium should the CDC order expire. However, the Republican-controlled Council of State rejected his request for a renewal the day the earlier SCOTUS decision was handed down, as Policy Watch previously reported. Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, dissented in the case, writing that the court merely vacated a stay on the eviction moratorium without hearing any oral argument. The three said the monetary losses claimed by the plaintiffs could still be recovered, as the CDC moratorium requests that tenants pay back their owed rents. They urged the majority to compare the landlords’ financial loss to the toll that COVID-19 is taking. “The public interest strongly favors respecting the CDC’s judgment at this moment, when over 90 percent of counties are experiencing high transmission rates,” the dissent read. Nationwide, only 11 percent of the rental relief has been distributed, and seven million tenants are relying on the eviction moratorium to shore them up while they wait, according to the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel. In North Carolina, the Delta variant has caused another surge of COVID cases. On August 26, North Carolina daily new cases topped 8,600 for the first time in months. A month ago, the number was 1,401. Hospitalizations have tripled to exceed 3,500, compared to early July figures. Kathryn Sabbeth, a law professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, called the decision “cruel and horrific.” “There are people right now [against whom] the writ of possession was already issued and the sheriff is going to go out and throw them in the street now, like right now,” she said. She urges judges to step up and help settle the cases through diversion and mediation programs. Sabbeth maintained that tenants still have their basic rights. It is well established that it’s illegal for landlords to lock people out without a court order and sheriffs’ execution, she said. The CARES Act has a key provision that requires landlords to give 30-day eviction notice for housing backed by federal mortgages or subsidies. Tenants can apply for rental assistance to avoid nonpayment eviction and seek legal representation in court. W This story originally published online at N.C. Policy Watch.



Opportunity Costs A group of North Durham residents is fighting to stop a custom homebuilder from creating what could be an environmental nightmare with the development of more than 350 homes on the cusp of West Point on the Eno, the city’s flagship park. BY THOMASI MCDONALD


offee importer Timothy Hill and his wife, Julie, searched five years for a home before purchasing a 2,300-squarefoot, three-bedroom, red-brick house this spring in the Argonne Hills subdivision in North Durham. The neighborhood, with homes built in the late 1960s and early 1970s, is chock full of character. The Hills’ backyard features a grape arbor. There’s an old Black cemetery where gravesites hold the remains of freedmen and women who toiled at the Stagville Plantation about 10 miles away before settling in the North Durham community. Hill can leave his screened-in back porch and stroll through Black Meadow Ridge—a sloping, heavily wooded parcel of land—before ending up at West Point on the Eno Park and the Eno River. “A piece of property like this does not exist in Durham anywhere else,” Hill wrote in an email to the INDY. “There is no public park like this closer to downtown that the city has.” Before buying the home, Hill and his wife discovered that a developer with a reputation for building opulent, modernist homes wanted to build a development of 379 single-family homes and townhouses that would cover nearly 60 acres of Black Meadow Ridge, which sits less than 100 feet from their backyard. Tightly packed houses would replace a 10-minute walk through the woods and tree-lined walking trails to the city’s flagship park and Eno River—but not before the trees of Black Meadow Ridge are

clear-cut, the sloping land’s granite foundations blasted away, and then graded smooth. Hill felt reassured when he learned that a handful of his new neighbors and the homeowners association last year petitioned the city to stop the proposed development. Hill is a reluctant activist who shies away from the spotlight. He knows that the fight to save Black Meadow Ridge has been going on for decades. But now he has joined his neighbors in a fight to stop the homebuilder from creating what they believe could be an environmental nightmare on the cusp of the city’s flagship park. The fate of Black Meadow Ridge could be sealed over the next two months when the Durham Board of Adjustment decides whether the public will have a voice in what happens to the serene wooded land that slopes toward the Eno River. How the proposed development came about from the start irks Hill and his neighbors. They say the initial green light for the development was based on nearly 50-year-old site plans that were incorrectly rubber-stamped in 2016 by a former city-county planning director after a 6-0 city council vote in March 2012 that called for a comprehensive plan and future land for Black Meadow Ridge as “rural, residential very-low density,” according to the City of Durham website. Hill says the land was re-zoned in 2012 due to environmental concerns and also because it’s designated as a highest-pri-

West Point at the Eno


ority watershed preservation area for the city. The December 2018 Eno River Watershed Assessment Report on the city’s website stated that the top source of pollution, as well as a threat to the river’s water quality and watershed health, is stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces, including roofs, solid decks, patios, sidewalks, driveways, roads, and compacted gravel. Brown’s plans to cover Black Meadow Ridge with hard surfaces is troubling, Hill says, especially with the ongoing duress of climate change. Though it’s a stunningly beautiful area, and people surely would want to live there, it doesn’t necessarily mean they should. “Building at a high density with 70 percent or more impervious surfaces will

have huge impacts on the environment and the Eno,” Hill says. “It’s not a matter of ‘if’ this area will flood. It is a matter of when and how bad it will be.” The city’s website shows that local water bodies are less healthy when as little as 10 percent of an area is covered with impervious surfaces. With natural ground cover, 50 percent of water runoff seeps into the ground where it is filtered by natural processes before reaching streams and creeks. Severe damage to nearby rivers, streams, and lakes can occur if more than 30 percent is covered with asphalt, concrete, brick and other man-made materials. The city also notes that 75 percent or more of impervious surfaces can exponentially change the way rain moves through the water cycle

September 1, 2021


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September 1, 2021


by increasing pollution that flows into nearby bodies of water and flooding. Hill adds that flooding at the Eno is already a problem: in 2019, more than a half million gallons of raw sewage leaked into the Eno after heavy rainfall. “With the Eno River being designated as a water source last year, it is imperative it is protected and more pressure is not added to this fragile area,” he says. The proposed development is spearheaded by Keith T. Brown, founder of Point Ridge Park in Chapel Hill. The completed neighborhood will sit along the southern boundary of the West Point on the Eno, which spans roughly 400 acres once inhabited by the Eno Indians, who lived along the Eno River. Over the past two years, plans for the development have been met with widely reported objections from nearby residents and their supporters. They point to Brown’s success in gaining approval from the city-county planning department for the massive project five years ago without any public input. A July 2016 letter to Brown from Steven Medlin, a former city-county planning director, confirms the site was granted administrative site plan approval. That’s significant because it allows him to undertake the project with no public input. Hill and his neighbors want the Durham Board of Adjustment to require the proposed development to undergo a major site plan review, which would include public notice and public hearings. “This is abnormal for any development,” Hill says about the approval of development plans that he says are inconsistent and outdated. “Much less one that impacts the city so greatly.” In March of last year, a handful of Argonne Hills homeowners teamed up with the Horton Hills Homeowners Association and the Eno River Association to hire Chapel Hill attorney T.C. Morphis, Jr., who filed an appeal to the BOA that asked its members to “invalidate and reverse in its entirety the 2016 letter issued by Mr. Steven Medlin,” and require the proposed development to undergo a major site plan process. Morphis, in the 52-page appeal, claims that Brown is relying on a zoning ordinance created 40 years ago that presumed the construction of Eno Drive, a major highway akin to the 147 Freeway that would have run through Black Meadow Ridge and West Point on the Eno Park. The appeal further notes that a proposed 1972 housing development known as Foxmoor was contingent upon the existence of Eno Drive. Foxmoor, which called for

412 units and Eno Drive, was “ultimately scrapped,” owing to “its likely devastating impact on this most environmentally sensitive area of Durham,” Morphis stated in the appeal. One of the homeowners listed on the appeal is Christy Benson, an associate professor of business law at Elon University. She says the fight to save the Eno from overdevelopment dates back to 1973 with the proposal to construct Eno Drive. Benson says the project never gained traction thanks in large part to Margaret Nygard, a legendary activist who is known as the Mother of the Eno River system. “She came out fighting mad,” Benson says, “and slowly beat back the proposed Eno Drive. There was a massive public outcry.” Last September, lawyers on behalf of Brown and Point Ridge Park countered the homeowners’ appeal, filing a motion with the BOA to “exclude the appeal narrative” that focused on the development’s environmental impact from the affidavit Morphis filed with the board months before. Durham attorneys William J. Brian and Jeffrey Roether with the Morningstar Law Group argued that while seeking two forms of relief by calling for the BOA to reverse Medlin’s decision and for public input, Morphis’s appeal veered off course when he delved into other issues, particularly “the environmental impacts of the development, that have no relations to the issues presented.” The Durham attorneys did not respond to an email from the INDY regarding the legal proceedings. Last month, two workers used an excavator to uproot trees that stretched nearly three-quarters of a mile and 20 feet wide along the perimeter of Black Ridge Meadow. The broken trees, scattered vegetation, mounds of red dirt, and muddied holes are about 50 yards from the Hills’ and their neighbors’ homes. Benson was surprised when she learned the developer was knocking down trees in the neighborhood before the BOA hearings. “I thought the city was trying to expand the capacity of stormwater drainage near Stadium Drive,” Benson said. Hill filed a complaint with the city-county planning department. Planning Director Sara Young, in an email to the INDY, said staffers investigated the site after receiving Hill’s complaint and found “that clearing had occurred without the proper approvals.” Young explained that “clearing in excess of 12,000 square feet requires a

“It’s not a matter of ‘if’ this area will flood. It’s a matter of when and how bad it will be.” land disturbance permit, issued by the County’s Stormwater and Erosion Control Division.” Young also noted that the city’s Unified Development Ordinance requires a site plan for any development that requires a permit, so the amount of clearing by the excavator without an approved site plan was also a violation. “Based on these two violations both the City-County Planning Department and the County’s Stormwater and Erosion Control Division are pursuing enforcement actions,” Young added. Hill’s backyard is less than 12 feet away from the historic, albeit long-neglected Holman Cemetery where the few remaining tombstones date back to the 1800s. Officials with Preservation Durham visited Hill’s home after the trees near his backyard were yanked out of the earth and stuck 68 small orange flags in the ground to mark potential gravesites. Hill thinks there might be as many as 80 graves at the site (see story on page 11). Nicholas Levy, vice president of Preservation Durham, said in an email to the INDY that the gravesite is “an extremely important historic space—one we’re just beginning to understand.” Given the acute housing shortage in Durham, complaints about the construction of new housing in the region seem counterintuitive. But the Black Meadow Ridge advocates say it’s not just about opposing home construction. They say the development will destroy nearly 90 acres of woodland that stretches from Roxboro Road to Stadium Drive. Black Meadow Ridge for decades has been home to Eno wildlife, hiking trails, hardwood trees, and ancient granite rock while serving as a buffer between the city park and their homes. “Black Meadow Ridge will be gone,” Hill said, while trampling over land not traumatized by the excavator. Keith Brown, the developer, last week did not return a voicemail left on num-

bers listed as his cell phone or offices in Chapel Hill. An email sent to addresses listed for Brown were also unanswered. Brown is a Durham native and N.C. State University School of Design graduate. In 1984, he founded Sun Forest Systems, a custom design/build firm, one year after he graduated from college. In 2000, Brown was named The Carolina’s Year 2000 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. That same year, Brown was CEO and founder of BuildNet, once described as the darling of Wall Street before it went bankrupt. An internet search shows that the developer has his own social causes, including an orphanage he co-founded for children in South Africa. Benson and opponents of the development say Brown is trying to push the proposed development through by riding on the coattails of the obsolete Foxmoor development. Benson, citing her work as a business school professor, says that she is not “inherently anti-development.” “But we need a more equitable and sustainable base from an environmental standpoint and from a historical standpoint,” she says. Benson points to centuries past when the Eno Indians resided in the area, and how formerly enslaved people found refuge on the land after the Civil War. She speaks about the white settlers who created the mill village in the deeply wooded area during the pre-colonial era and traded with the Eno tribe. She recalls the importance of the Mangum farmhouse and how the family rose to prominence. She notes how the Eno and Falls Lake continue to provide safe drinking water for residents in Durham, Wake, and Orange counties. Now she worries that a fundamental part of Durham’s history may be lost. The Eno, she says, “encapsulates so much of Durham’s soul.” W

September 1, 2021


E TC. Cynthia Etheridge, local pickleball enthusiast PHOTO BY BRETT VILLENA

In Full Swing Pickleball’s local popularity is picking up speed. Could the Triangle become the pickleball capital of the United States? BY RACHEL SIMON


ynthia Etheridge has a full, busy life: she’s a lifeguard and singer, and is happily married. But once she’s on a pickleball playing court, all of her outside titles melt away. “I could stay out all day every day if I could,” she says with a laugh. “You would think I have nothing else to do.” Although Etheridge’s dedication to the game may be more than most (she plays at least two to three days a week), she’s far from the only person in the Triangle who’s taken an interest in pickleball over the last few years—or in the country, for that matter. Created in the 1960s, pickleball—a lively, quick-moving combo of tennis, badminton, and Ping-Pong loved by 8- and 80-year-olds alike—is the fastest-growing sport in the United States, with millions of players appreciating its ease, low barriers to entry, and friendly competition. 16

September 1, 2021

There are new courts popping up constantly across the nation, including in the Triangle, which boasts an estimated 4,000 players in Raleigh alone, according to Swing Racquet + Paddle, a new racquet-sports facility. Set to open in 2022, the facility will offer courts for tennis, pickleball, beach tennis, table tennis, and a buzzy racquet sport called Padel. In Durham, meanwhile, a new, 14-court pickleball facility is being installed at Piney Wood Park, with a space that will feature lessons, tournaments, and more. In Cary, Chapel Hill, and Apex, courts regularly attract hundreds of players on a daily basis. For longtime fans of the game, pickleball’s recent rise in popularity isn’t surprising. “It’s such an easy sport to learn and it’s fun,” says Brad Hemminger, an associate professor at UNC’s School of

Information and Library Science and a Chapel Hill-based player. “That’s why the growth is so huge.” Since first picking up a paddle in 2012, Hemminger has become not just an avid player but also a coach and ambassador for Chapel Hill’s growing pickleball community. Four years ago, he organized the town’s first-ever pickleball tournament, featuring more than 170 teams; in the time since, Hemminger has advocated for the sport’s inclusion in schools and campuses throughout the Triangle. Pickleball, he argues, is more than just an enjoyable activity—it’s also a major money-maker, thanks to players coming in from out of town for competitions and other events. “It’s really positive for the local governments,” he says, “It brings in revenue; it brings in people.” The addition of a business like Swing—a $55 million project which bills itself as the largest multi-racquet sports complex in the world, and will feature 76 courts on its 45 acres—will only help, Hemminger believes. “When you have a large facility like that, then you can draw national scale and national tournaments,” he explains. “We already bring in tens of thousands of dollars, but we could bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue to the town, as well as many visitors.” Even before the space opens, though, the Triangle is already making a splash as a fast-growing hub for the game. “I think pickleball is going to eclipse tennis in terms of the eventual number of players,” says Banks Talley, a member of the Raleigh Pickleball Fanatics, an offshoot of the larger Raleigh Pickleball Club Facebook group, which boasts nearly 1,000 members. That would really be saying something, if Talley’s prediction proves true, since the Triangle is also home to a booming tennis community (it’s the #4 market for membership activations, according to the United States Tennis Association.) In a friend’s recently built Cary development, he adds, the planners put in more pickleball courts than tennis courts, “because they know they’re going to be used more.” Etheridge, meanwhile, says that, during her pickleball adventures, she’s met players coming from as far as Wilmington and past Fayetteville who’ve made the trek to the Triangle due to a lack of courts in their own towns. The area’s prestige has its downsides—Etheridge notes that at Method Community Park, where she often plays, courts are so crowded she’s had to wait nearly 45 minutes for a game—but for the most part, pickleball fans are glad to see their hometowns thrive through the sport. “Raleigh has grown exponentially in the last 25 years… [and] I think they’re trying to be ahead of the trend instead of behind it,” says Talley. The game, he notes, has been popular in other cities for decades—but it wasn’t until fairly recently that Raleigh and its surrounding towns became hubs in their own right. Part of it, he explains, is due to the Triangle’s warm weather.



inger has d ambasnity. ever pickms; in the rt’s incluTriangle. ble activyers comer events. ” he says,

llion projet sports on its 45

n you can Free play pickleball at Method Rd Community Center in Raleigh e explains. PHOTO BY BRETT VILLENA s, but we n revenue “It’s one of those sports that can be played er if he wanted to learn, Zeigler hesitated almost 12 months of the year, at least here,” until the man added, “unless you think the riangle is Talley says. Barring the (very) occasional game’s just for white old men.” “I was shocked because that’s exactly the game. snow, even the winter season isn’t a probin terms lem for devout local pickleball fans; the game what I was thinking,” Zeigler recalls with Talley, a requires enough movement and energy that a laugh. “So I ate some humble pie and said, ‘yeah, that’s a nice thought,’ so he said, fshoot of players typically leave sweaty. up, which “If you play pickleball the way it’s sup- ‘here, take a moment and I’ll show you,’ and y be say- posed to be played, you leave with a very that moment became 12 years.” As a coach, Zeigler thrives on teachsince the aerobic workout,” he says. unity (it’s The game’s year-round outdoor setting ing new players—even those who’ve never ording to is especially appealing during the ongoing played a single sport before, let alone one pandemic since players can socially dis- with a paddle—how to get into the game. adds, the tance across a net and wear masks with- “You can immediately, whether you know all is courts, out affecting play. Over the last year and the rules or not, get out and start having a half, similar sports like racquetball or fun,” he says. re.” And once a player gets initiated, it’s easy pickleball Ping-Pong became harder to play safely— as Wilm- but pickleball’s popularity rose, especially to find a local game or session, thanks to the Facebook groups and other Meetup ek to the in the Triangle. wns. The The area’s demographics, too, make it a groups such as the Apex-based Triangle es that at perfect fit for the sport. With a surplus of Pickleball Enthusiasts. Or, you can simply come by the Y or ys, courts retirees and college students, two of pickutes for a leball’s biggest playing groups, “anywhere Method at any time and ask players if lad to see you are in the Triangle, it’s easy to go find there’s room for one more. Chances are, people to play with, and to play all different you’ll be welcomed onto the court. “Every day there’s someone that’s brand 5 years… skill levels,” says Hemminger. d instead Eric Zeigler, a Zumba and chess instruc- new, which is always exciting,” says Zeigler. has been tor who’s also a certified pickleball coach After all, he adds, pickleball’s “whole point until fair- with the International Pickleball Teaching is to bring the community together, to cross s became Professional Association (IPTPA), recalls lines of division, as well as to bring a love due to the feeling skeptical, at first, that the sport and a sense of purpose to this game that would be a fit for him. Asked by a play- we all love.”W

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“I didn’t ever really hear any ‘bullshit hip-hop,’” he says, describing his style by emphasizing “real, real, real, real, real” hiphop. The INDY spoke with OC about Southern lyricism, and musical influences, and upcoming projects. INDY WEEK: When did you start rapping? OC From NC: I’ve always been kind of

nerdy. I was a writer really young. I’ve always written poetry or actual stories in middle school and high school. Around 2013 or so, my family member was just like, ‘If we have CDs of you we would listen to you all the time. You’re dope.” At the end of 2013, we did our first show and it was very successful. In 2014 we released our first actual mixtape called Twenty14. Being from North Carolina, was your introduction to northern hip-hop a result of the commercialization? Or did somebody put you on it?

OC from NC Honors the ‘Real’ in Hip-Hop A conversation with the Burlington rapper. BY KYESHA JENNINGS | @kyeshajennings


s he puts it, OC from NC is “a regular-ass dude” from North Carolina. But the Burlington rapper is far from regular. His verbal dexterity, introspective storytelling, and consistent musical output position him as one of the best rappers in North Carolina. And if you ask OC, born Octavius Dion Taylor, he is “the best rapper here.” His rapping style continues the foundation of hip-hop; rapping over boom-bap beats, demonstrating advanced lyricism, and championing his signature style of rapping, which takes place, not over an instrumental track, but to a live beat set played by his producer and longtime collaborator, B-Square. The innovative gesture always keeps audiences engaged. Today, almost 50 years after the birth of hip-hop, the musical landscape changes and shifts frequently. We even see veteran emcees changing their sound, to keep up with whatever is current or whatever is trending. But OC remains motivated to stick to hip-hop’s core by remembering his introduction to it, at the age of 10, when he heard Wu-Tang, Biggie, and Nas. 18

September 1, 2021

I grew up in a country area in North Carolina, the Caswell County area. My older cousins had moved to Burlington before my family transitioned to the area. When they would come pick me up on the weekends, and on that ride up, it would be like, ‘listen to this boy, this is what’s hot right now type of shit.’ Luckily for me, they happened to be listening to the right artists. You did an interview recently where the interviewees premiered your music and were surprised that you can rap because you’re from the South. How does it make you feel when folks think that Southern artists don’t have lyrics?

It’s outrageous, but also it says a lot about how we’re being presented to the world. North Carolina didn’t just start getting dope. Yes, I was influenced heavily by those northern acts, you know, at a young age, but when I was in my 20s, this was like a 9th Wonder world! People were RAPPING! Phonte was rapping. Pooh was rapping. Medium was rapping. There were rappers who were very dope. I just don’t think that—outside of 88.7 and certain college stations—I can’t

remember a time when there was an artist here in North Carolina, who was dope in the sense of [“real hip-hop”] and was pushed by the state. I think that has a lot to do with it. I don’t turn the radio on and hear dope lyricists when I get in my car. So it doesn’t surprise me at all. But at the same time, it’s more like, ‘yeah, you missed out, I wish you knew how dope artists from here are, but at least you caught on right now.’ Tell me about your most recent and upcoming projects.

The most recent project was Dope Sell Itself, which is produced by B-Squared and D.R.U.G. Beats. It was a little different because I’m dealing with two producers, and it’s kind of hard to maneuver a certain way with multiple producers, especially of that caliber. But it was easy as hell because they’re both dope. Me and DJ Flash have a full album that drops on October 31st titled The God’s Talk. You know he’s been DJing for Little Brother and 9th for a while, but he got into production like five years ago. I was kind of listening to what he was doing, and I liked the direction he was going in. It’s got that you know, North Carolina feel, so it felt right. The project is like soul music from the 70s with bars from the 90s. And of course, it has that boom-bap feel. It’s definitely a combination of soul and hip hop. Who are some of your musical influences?

Nas, Black Thought, Mos Def, Common, Ye.’ I’m a big Kanye fan. He has always been so ahead of the trends or creating trends throughout his career. What is your favorite accomplishment of your rap career thus far?

I got a simple funny answer, cause it could be a lot. But my mama called me while she was on a trip. Shade 45 had played my song like three times in two days. She was bugging! Had a whole group of old folks listening to DJ Premier to see if my song was gonna play again. Then it does. Day, week, month, year, made! W

FO O D & D R I N K

Out on the Town Cary’s eclectic downtown food scene begins to find itself BY LENA GELLER


or some time, Cary has held the reputation of cruise ship: a self-contained community docked in a corner of the Triangle, dominated by corporate sprawl and out-of-towners who occasionally interact with folks in the port of call. But over the past few years, revitalization efforts have begun to help the town shed this image and emerge with its own distinct identity. Cary’s once-sleepy downtown area is well on its way to becoming a vibrant, walkable urban center—and independent restaurants are leading the charge. Bond Brothers Beer Co., Pizzeria Faulisi, and SideBar— three businesses that got in on the ground floor of Cary’s downtown food and beverage scene, opening in 2016, 2017, and 2018, respectively—have each successfully launched second ventures (Bond Brothers Eastside, Big Dom’s Bagel Shop, and Hank’s Downtown Dive) a few doors down from their original spots. “To plan, open, and succeed with two concepts inside of five years speaks volumes to the enthusiasm that the neighborhood and the town have for growth,” says Matthew Bettinger, owner of SideBar and Hank’s. That enthusiasm is also driving restaurants based outside Cary to put down roots there: Scratch Kitchen & Taproom, which originated in Apex, and Di Fara Pizza Tavern, a family-run, by-the-slice spot in Brooklyn, New York, both opened a second location in downtown Cary this year. When Di Fara co-owner Greg Norton moved to Cary six years ago, he was initially unsure whether to go into construction or expand the restaurant his uncle established in 1965. After seeing how many Northeast transplants live in the town, though, he knew his pizza would be a hit. His only concern? The local water. “When I make pizzas with North Carolina water, the pizza crust curls up on the edges, like a stingray,” Norton says. “When I make it with New York water, which is the best water in the world, it comes out perfect every time. It’s night and day.” At first, Norton thought he’d have to get his relatives to ship him water from New York—“I wasn’t gonna cook

The interior of Peck & Plume in Raleigh


the pizza any other way,” he says—but then he discovered the New York WaterMaker, a filtration machine that uses a purification process and mineral concentrate to replicate water from the Catskills. “Boom,” he says. “Problem solved.” A few blocks away, another restaurant just opened, but unlike Di Fara, this one uses its Cary locale to define its brand. Peck & Plume, which opened in August as the revamped dining room at The Mayton—a boutique hotel that was bought out of bankruptcy by local developers in 2020—is decorated to spotlight local flora and fauna, drawing its theme from the seven-acre landscape it will overlook once Cary’s Downtown Park Project is completed in 2023. The restaurant’s crown jewel is its botanical wallpaper, which poses cardinals and turtle doves against a tangled backdrop of native North Carolina plants. The wallpaper, designed by Hillsborough artist Katie Hayes and produced by the Durham-based company Spoonflower, stands alongside a number of pieces that The Mayton commissioned from area artists. The Mayton’s renovation was executed by Early Bird Night Owl, the same management team partnered with The Durham Hotel. Like The Restaurant at The Durham, Peck & Plume is chef-driven, with a seasonal menu built around locally sourced ingredients, though it features more international flavors than its Bull City counterpart, and its dining environment is a tad more casual; guests can take their plates to the outdoor terrace, if they want, or to an

armchair in the hotel’s cozy library. And if the Peck & Plume menu doesn’t strike a guest’s fancy, The Mayton staff won’t hesitate to suggest an alternative. “If we don’t have something they’re looking for, right outside our door, there’s lots of great places we can recommend for them to stroll to,” says Craig Spitzer, co-founder of Early Bird Night Owl. Zach Faulisi, who owns Pizzeria Faulisi and Big Dom’s, shared a similar sentiment; downtown restaurant owners want to lift each other up, he says, not poach each other’s customers. “It’s the more, the merrier,” Faulisi says. “We don’t look at it like some big competition, we just look at it like, the more buzz there is around downtown Cary, the more people will come in and check it out.” Bettinger agrees: “It’s nice to know that if we’re on a wait, there’s somewhere else great that someone can sit down and have a good dinner,” he says—also noting that with Cary’s massive Fenton development (a 92-acre mixed-use project) opening in a few months, it’s crucial for independent downtown businesses to support each other right now. “It’s gonna be important that downtown Cary can stand on its own and create its own energy,” Bettinger says. But he’s not too worried. “Our customer base is built on familiar faces that have a lot of pride for where they are,” Bettinger says. “That’s the thing I love about Cary. People are really motivated to be loyal to their spots.”W

September 1, 2021




Varsity Theatre, Chapel Hill | Sept. 9, 7 p.m. |


Good on Paper New documentary We Are Here is a reverent tribute to the ecological activism of Paperhand Puppet Intervention BY BYRON WOODS


few days after moving from Los Angeles to Carrboro, the filmmaker Marc Levy took his kids to see Paperhand Puppet Intervention’s 2015 summer show, A Drop in the Bucket, at Chapel Hill’s Forest Theatre. The experience changed his life. “I’d never seen anything like it before,” he recalls. “Just coming from L.A., I thought, ‘This is an undiscovered gem. How does the world not know about this?’” The Saxapahaw-based troupe has a longstanding emphasis on unassuming artistry that is in the service of community building and ecological activism. That creative focus stood in marked contrast to Levy’s professional experience, until then, as co-founder and co-director at The Marcs, an Emmy- and Webby-nominated media production company generating sports programming for top-shelf clients like Red Bull and the NFL. “It seemed like this utopian experience, this ideal,” Levy recalls. Encountering the company over the next 20

September 1, 2021

three years only reinforced his initial impressions. Paperhand, he says, seemed “to be people doing their fucking art the way they wanted to do it, in as pure a way as I have ever seen.” Finally, Levy decided: “I wanted some of that for myself.” Next, he convinced Paperhand co-founders Donovan Zimmerman and Jan Burger to let him and a technician document the company’s work during its most stressful time of the year: show week, the final days before presenting their 2019 production, We Are Here. Regional audiences see the result Thursday, Sept. 9 when Levy screens his probing documentary, also named We Are Here, at Chapel Hill’s Varsity Theatre. Levy’s crew captured the challenges every theater group faces as opening night approaches: the adrenaline-based highs of load-in and tech; the mid-rehearsal meltdowns and moments of doubt that are usually kept out of the public eye.

Existing coverage of the troupe prompted Levy to pursue another path in his documentary. “I didn’t want to hear experts talking about their importance; I didn’t even necessarily want to get into the intricacies of each movement in the show,” he recalls. “What was interesting to me was this: Who are these people? How do they live? What’s it like being them, particularly since their themes are so life-and-death, not just on a personal level, but life on Earth: existence as we know it.” “How do they live with that reality?” he continues, “What are their personal lives like?” Levy’s pensive hour-long work gets at the answers in unguarded moments. In individual interviews, the director lifts up his subjects and brings into visibility their private struggles, as they come to grips with truths that are clearly very hard for them to face at times, on an individual level as well as a planetary one. After Zimmerman goes swimming with his daughter Althea in the Haw River, Levy’s camera captures the deep, silent love and concern that a father has for his child’s future in a world in the grip of steadily increasing global warming. It’s challenging to witness Burger losing his composure at a 2019 climate strike protest in Raleigh, as he recalls his daughter asking “What do you mean we have 11 years [to control the current climate crisis]?” In a particularly raw, heartfelt moment, the clearcutting of old forests at developments like Chatham Mills brings long-time studio artist Gretchen Adracie to tears. We not only see but also feel it viscerally when she says that clearcutting “hits me right in my heart space.” When asked how he gets people to explore such private moments on camera, Levy is quiet for a moment. “They know I’m there in deep reverence for their life, quietly observing, taking it in,” he says, finally. “When you do that, you’re validating them, validating their life. You’re saying this is important to see. I’m searching for a way to understand my own life and all of our lives here. Paperhand is able to tell stories that have extremely dark themes in a way that still feels palatable. To tell the story, I had to zoom in on that darkness.” It took Levy nearly two years to complete his film, an extended and mostly solitary foray in an editing booth as he wrestled with the story of artists struggling to tell a story of their own. Finally, he resolved to “give people what Paperhand gives me.” “I’m a translator, a medium here,” he concludes. “I take this world, put it through the film processor I am. People will see something that they’ve never seen of Paperhand but is still of Paperhand. I think they’re going to be really surprised by what they see.” W



[University of Michigan Press; August 27]

The Big Short College athletes, routinely deprived of a quality education at UNC-Chapel Hill, are left without a voice in a new book on the athletics scandal that’s plagued the school for the past decade. BY LUCAS HUBBARD


he National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is not designed to be understood. Its contradictions are the point, as the new book, Discredited: The UNC Scandal and College Athletics’ Amateur Ideal explores, using UNC-Chapel Hill’s scandal-plagued athletics department as its source. Who benefits from such contradictions, or who loses out, is more clear— but it’s a reality the book is loath to satisfactorily probe. Programs like Carolina’s generate tens of millions in revenue annually through sports—dollars which are not passed on to those who fuel the enterprise, but to the NCAA, a nonprofit organization, and its member institutions. They, in turn, burn through this money on facilities, branding, and staff salaries: In 2019, 40 of the 50 states’ highest-paid public employees were college football head coaches. Conversely, players are not paid employees but are instead “student-athletes,” a 70-year-old term invented to evade workers’ compensation claims when players got hurt or killed during competition. By this summer, this tension was too much; the courts awarded players a trickle of profits through agreements by which they can profit from endorsements bearing their names, images, and likenesses (NIL), and the NCAA can still make money. But without further reform, the NCAA will remain what it has always been: an unwieldy, money-making appendage sutured to the torso of higher education at best, and, at worst, a millstone around the necks of top colleges, inhibiting their academic goals. Andy Thomason, the author of Discredited and an editor at The Chronicle of Higher Education, a D.C.-based publication that caters to those working in academia, understands this paradox. He gives a brisk but detailed look at an ecosystem in which collegiate athletic ambitions came into direct

conflict with academic standards, and then, in the 2000s, clearly took precedence. Until this July, the primary compensation NCAA athletes could receive was through a scholarship, a Nike-swoosh emblazoned pair of bootstraps upon which players could pull if they found time to hit the library between double sessions and film study. Permitted by the NCAA beginning in 1957, athletic scholarships opened the door to scandal across the country by incorporating a pay-for-play model, Thomason writes. UNC, under the principled guidance of head basketball coach Dean Smith, distinguished itself as the rare school that could do both. A top-tier athletic university that sacrificed nothing in the way of academics, the campus fostered a Tobacco Road exceptionalism known as “The Carolina Way.” The scandal would crack this facade as UNC administrators hustled to keep up with stipulations guiding athletes’ academic eligibility. It started small, with a student who needed credits to graduate, and an African and Afro-American Studies department, formed in 1997, willing to help. The department created a new course, supervised by the department chair, in which the sole requirement was the completion of a single paper. From there, it metastasized. By the time a disgruntled learning specialist blew the whistle in 2010, more than 3,000 students had taken these “paper classes.” The department secretary, not its chair, was often grading the papers, and rather leni-

ently. And the athletics department, eager to keep unprepared students eligible for sports, had taken to the ruse through strategic advising and course creation, with athletes comprising a disproportionate 47 percent of those enrolled in such courses. Thomason neatly synthesizes the construction of the paper classes, the banal slippery slope administrators traveled down, and the fallout of the eventual discovery. Disgust turns to shock as the university, dispelling the NCAA’s claims of athlete preferential treatment, argues that, since all students had access to these paper classes, no favoritism was on display. Shock turns to laughter when the NCAA accepts the argument. Discredited does well to identify the pressures facing the academic advisors who made the system hum, but not all of the dots get connected. Two of the biggest figures in the scandal— former department chair Julius Nyang’oro and former department secretary Debbie Crowder— declined interviews with Thomason. Their absence is unsurprising, but one benefit of waiting until 2021 to write the book should be, in theory, to tell the whole story. More troubling is the prioritization of the humanity of the academic staff over that of the athletes, who, displaced by innumerable white-savior characters, are largely rendered invisible and voiceless. Thomason makes this intention clear from the first chapter, writing that while the cost of amateurism to athletes is well-trod ground,

“comparatively little has been written of late about the costs to the institutions of higher learning.” As it stands, the agency of the athletes in Discredited is fluid and never flattering: they “seized the opportunity” to take these courses, but their successes are chalked up, in an infantilizing pattern that one would hope had ended with The Blind Side, to the aid of their advisors. By my count, two former athletes—both women’s basketball players—are interviewed and quoted in the text, mostly to provide character witness statements like “she really was the mom I wish I had” about academic support staff. It’s telling that the book considers the biggest casualties of the scandal to be the fired advisors, rather than the athletes denied proper fiduciary compensation and whose insufficient redress—the promise of an education—was subsequently sacrificed. Thomason is rightly pessimistic about the long-term success of an imperfect union between an academic mission and the entertainment of big-time athletics. But it can work for both parties—the athletics lending a marketing, branding, and fundraising outlet for the school and the school legitimating the athletic enterprise and subsidizing its labor costs—as long as no one stops to consider the needs of the athletes or the students. In the conclusion, Thomason writes “there are no villains in this story, only well-intentioned people who suffered sobering fates,” a statement that requires an epochal suspension of disbelief. These words suggest a skeptical eye might be better trained on the administrators and systems Thomason centers throughout the book. After all, if you’re writing about a college sports and higher education scandal in 2021 and you can’t find a bad guy, then maybe you just need to look a bit harder. W

September 1, 2021





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September 1, 2021


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EMPLOYMENT Escalation Engineer (Durham, NC) Riverbed Technology is hiring in Durham, North Carolina. Escalation Engineer: Maintain, diagnose, and solve complex networking problems in the LAN/WAN networks of clients utilizing Riverbed’s extremely sophisticated application performance technology. Job # D217. Send resume to HR @ Riverbed, 680 Folsom St., 6th Fl., San Francisco, CA 94107. Must ref job #. Software Engineer III (Raleigh, NC) Software Engineer III sought by LexisNexis USA in Raleigh, NC to perform moderately difficult research, design, software dvlpmnt assignments. EE reports to LexisNexis USA office in Raleigh, NC but may telecommute from any location within US. Min of Masters or equiv in Comp Sci, Engg Mgmt or rltd + 1 yr exp in job offered or rltd rqd. Mail resume to Toyia Hayward, 1100 Alderman Dr, Alpharetta, GA 30005.

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Love your store! How do you determine which books to buy as stock? Ugh, good question, because it is THE QUESTION. Every year over a million new books get published. And since we sell used books, too, the 130 million books that Google calculated existed as of 2010 are fair game. And 2010 was before Knausgaard wrote volume after volume about his struggles. At first, those numbers are intimidating–– even the thousands of books Letters currently has on its shelves couldn’t be read in a lifetime. And not a day goes by that we don’t hear of a new author or a new title we want to check out and stock in the store. But we can’t carry all the ones we want, so beyond the bestsellers and award winners, the Oprah picks and the book club staples, we listen to that little voice that says, “I bet someone will find this interesting.”

From Jeff T. So NPR released a piece called “We Asked, You Answered: Your 50 Favorite Sci-Fi And Fantasy Books Of The Past Decade.” If you could recommend just three for me to start with, that would be great! Thanks. Whittling down 50 of the best sci-fi books of the last decade to a top three may seem like an impossible task but the team at Letters used their secret methodology to come up with the definitive answer: Fifth Season by Jemisin, The Buried Giant by Ishiguro, and Exhalation by Chiang. This is an advertising partner initiative.


September 1, 2021


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