Raleigh | Durham | Chapel Hill September 8, 2021
The Delta-8 compound is getting popular, but others tout hemp's industrial uses by Jasmine Gallup, p. 8
Raleigh W Durham W Chapel Hill VOL. 38 NO. 34
American Dance Festival returns, p. 21 PHOTO BY AITOR MENDILIBAR
CONTENTS NEWS 5 6
School's back in session. So are school shootings. BY LEIGH TAUSS Incumbent DeDreana Freeman and challenger Marion Johnson compete for Durham's Ward I city council seat with a mutual focus on equity.
Medicinal. Industrial. Recreational. It was all there at Raleigh's Southern Hemp Expo. BY JASMINE GALLUP State test results show the pandemic's troubling impacts on students' learning. BY GREG CHILDRESS
BY THOMASI MCDONALD
A Durham resident receives an education volunteering with immigrants at the Mexican border. BY TITO CRAIGE
P U B L I S H E RS
ARTS & CULTURE 17 18
Kate McGarry talks about What to Wear in the Dark. BY BRIAN HOWE A downsized, cautious Hopscotch works to retain its festival spirit.
BY JORDAN LAWRENCE
20 The Lost Leonardo follows the painting that took the art world by storm. BY GLENN MCDONALD
WE M A DE THIS
ADF Is back. So are the joys and complications of live dance.
Durham/Orange/ Chatham Counties
E D I TO RI A L Editor in Chief Jane Porter Managing Editor Geoff West
BY MICHAELA DWYER
Arts & Culture Editor Sarah Edwards Senior Writer Leigh Tauss Staff Writers Jasmine Gallup Thomasi McDonald
THE REGULARS 3 15 Minutes
Editorial Assistant Lena Geller
4 Drawn Out
Theater+Dance Critic Byron Woods
COVER Design by Jon Fuller
September 8, 2021
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
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BACK TA L K
Last week, Thomasi McDonald wrote about a developer’s plans to build hundreds of homes on the cusp of Durham’s West Point on the Eno, with the potential for more flooding, affected water quality, and other environmental impacts. Our readers had a lot to say about this proposal.
“When will our City & County leaders take water quality & availability into consideration when approving these environmentally destructive developments?,” wrote Facebook commenter SHANNON CARNEY DAVID. “This particular development will poison water that we all need to survive.” “This is unacceptable and should be a priority for our next Mayor and Council,” wrote commenter and candidate BREE L. DAVIS. “I am running for Mayor of Durham and have environmental & climate justice issues as a concern to be addressed with our future comprehensive plan. I am always available to discuss…I care.” “My partner and I put in an offer on this house but found a petition about this Eno River project that evening and were able to retract it,” wrote commenter CRISTIN RYMAN. “Finding the petition actually resurfaced a lot of old memories I had forgotten about this land and it being under threat for years. It’s sad and shameful for so many reasons.” “This person is literally complaining about infill development in their backyard - one that will be significantly denser than their own neighborhood,” wrote Twitter commenter DAVID WINEGAR. “What’s the alternative? Building this even further out, causing more GHG emissions?” Also on Twitter, Durham City Councilmember CHARLIE REECE weighed in on the council’s plans to address the development and the request from citizens to take the matter to a public hearing. “The case is still pending before the Board of Adjustment,” Reece wrote. “The board is only conducting virtual meetings right now due to COVID, and both parties to a case have to consent to a virtual hearing. In this case, both parties have not consented so the matter is delayed indefinitely.”
WANT TO SEE YOUR NAME IN BOLD?
15 MINUTES Jenn Peeler Truman, 31 Designer at Matthew Konar Architect, Raleigh BY LEIGH TAUSS firstname.lastname@example.org
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SUBJECT
You seem to do a little bit of everything in the world of #ralpol—from being a City Council shortlist candidate for the District D appointment, to more recently being appointed to the Raleigh Transit Authority.
or healthy to do—like biking to those places—then we’ve created a better city. And it’s important to think about all of the places in the city being able to do those things.
I usually describe my involvement in Raleigh politics as choosing to have an opinion and be loud, because I think too many people think things in the city will just take care of themselves. But the reality is if you don’t speak up, things just stay how they are. A lot of my work in an architecture firm ties into the city ordinances, so I work with the code every day and I’m familiar with how it affects small businesses firsthand.
You have a pretty holistic way of thinking about these things.
As a millennial, where do you fall in the debate over Raleigh’s future? I am pro-growth of our city because the opposite is not a good situation for anyone economically. When cities shrink, people wind up in a bad position in terms of not having a job or keeping their homes. Specifically, I’m pro growing in a way that allows us to think differently about our future. It’s better for our climate, our environment, and our health to be in walkable, dense communities, so I’m almost always saying we need more density and more walkability because those are the goals I think most millennials have as to how we want to live, how we want to work. Urban agriculture comes into that too because eating hyper-local is healthier for your body. Really, you’re trying to get all of the elements of your life into one small area. I’m a local person so you’ll always see me sporting the #supportlocal. Local businesses, local food, and how we connect to those things, how we connect to our job, home, and where we need to go grocery shopping—those are the basic needs. If we cover those needs in a way that’s climate-friendly and neighborly and fun
Then you can start getting into the impact on climate, but it starts with being hyper-local.
As a designer, when we think about the infrastructures and systems that are around us in their complexity, there’s not one solution that is going to work to fix Raleigh’s issues. These are really big problems—whether we’re talking about growth and gentrification, climate change—we got here because of a lot of different, varied decisions, and it’s going to take a lot to get out of here. Some of the solutions are simple, like ending singlefamily zoning, but some are more complicated like our goals for reducing our carbon footprint and how we subsidize affordable housing.
What do you love most about living in Raleigh right now? This city has a great balance. Right now from my house south of downtown, I can ride my bike with my kids and we can go to the park, go to the pool, go get food—it’s a great, family-oriented, balanced way to live. To me, it’s having that sweet spot of family life where you can work and live and play in a way that doesn’t always involve a car. W INDYweek.com
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DR AWN OUT BY STEVE DAUGHERTY
September 8, 2021
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North Carolina PHOTO VIA PEXELS
Back to School Shootings As students return to classrooms and campuses in the state, so do guns and violence. BY LEIGH TAUSS email@example.com
ast week, the parents of about 4,000 students received a text alert that made their hearts drop to their stomachs: their child’s school was on lockdown; a shooting had occurred. Frantic, they texted their kids—”Where are you? Are you OK? Are you safe?” North Carolina’s first fully in-person school year since the start of the pandemic had only just begun. Last Monday, a 15-year-old student shot a classmate at New Hanover High School in Wilmington. The teen survived with injuries. Two days later, a student at Mount Tabor High School in Winston-Salem, William Chavis Raynard Miller Jr., was shot and killed. The suspect is thought to be another student, though officials have been reluctant to release details, citing an ongoing investigation. And on Thursday, guns were found on a 16-year-old student at Enloe High School in Raleigh; two students were charged. Students are back in the classroom. Guns are too.
“There’s no words to describe that sort of fear as a parent,” says Raleigh-based Moms Demand Action volunteer and shooting survivor Tony Cope. “Every parent at the school who got those texts is now trying to process that lingering fear. It leaves lasting scars.” Cope has experienced that terror twice: most recently, his 18-year-old daughter survived an active shooter at a friend’s home while hiding in an upstairs bathroom, where she quietly texted Cope. Before that, Cope survived a shooting at a Target in Apex, hiding in the aisles with his then six-year-old daughter. Since then, he’s advocated for gun control and gun safety with Moms Demand Action, a group formed after 20 young children were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Cope says he isn’t surprised that a return to school has brought back school shootings. Gun sales surged during the pandemic. In 2020, people in the U.S. purchased nearly 23 million guns, a 64 percent increase over the previous
year. About 40 percent of those purchases were first-time gun owners, according to a survey from the National Shooting Sports Foundation. “That means there’s a lot of people not necessarily well trained with handling or storing guns and we’ve seen a spike in gun violence in every facet in our communities,” Cope says. Many school shooters get their weapons from the home of either a relative or a friend, Jessica Burroughs, campaign director of N.C. Gun Safety at Moms Rising, pointed out. But confronting the issue at home isn’t enough. Gun control laws need to be maintained and in some cases strengthened, and as a society, we must reevaluate a culture that teaches children “that the answer to problems can be found at the end of a gun,” Burroughs said in a statement. “[Last week’s] tragedy at Mount Tabor High School— the second school shooting in N.C. this week—is a painful reminder that we have failed in the very basic responsibility to keep our kids safe,” Burroughs said. “We must prioritize the actions we’ve failed to take so far and that starts with keeping all guns off of school campuses. Period, no exceptions.” The problem can be traced down from the top: for decades, Republicans have been working to peel back gun control laws. Just last week, Governor Roy Cooper vetoed a bill that would have removed the requirement that handgun owners obtain a permit from local law enforcement. “At a time of rising gun violence, we cannot afford to repeal a system that works to save lives,” Cooper said in a statement. “The legislature should focus on combating gun violence instead of making it easier for guns to end up in the wrong hands.” And last month, state Attorney General Josh Stein joined 21 other attorneys general to call on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to close the “ghost gun” loophole that allows people to buy and assemble untraceable guns at home. “Gun violence is on the rise,” Stein said. “We must make our communities safer, so I urge the federal government to make clear that ghost guns are firearms under federal law.” Pushing for legislation is critical, Cope says, including increasing background checks and cracking down on unlicensed weapons dealers. Educating gun owners on safety can also stop firearms from getting into the wrong hands, Cope adds. That means separating ammunition from the gun, storing weapons in gun safes, and using gun locks. “If the child doesn’t get the gun,” Cope says, “nothing with gun violence happens.” W INDYweek.com
September 8, 2021
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The Equity Twins Durham’s Ward I race features two progressive candidates who differ in their approaches to inclusion and achieving equity. BY THOMASI MCDONALD firstname.lastname@example.org
urham’s two biggest political action committees released their endorsements last week, and one of the more intriguing contests in the state’s bluest city is the Ward I race between incumbent city council member DeDreana Freeman and challenger Marion Johnson. Freeman is a special assistant at Durham Children’s Initiative, where she works with community partners to help children achieve academic success. Freeman was first elected to the council in 2017. Johnson works as a consultant with Frontline Solutions, a Black-owned social justice firm in Durham that supports nonprofits and foundations with an eye on diversity, equity, and inclusion. She has served on the board of the People’s Alliance, including a one-year stint as co-chair. She currently serves as chair of Durham’s participatory budgeting steering committee. It would not be improper, or inaccurate, to describe Freeman and Johnson as the “equity twins” of the upcoming municipal elections. Johnson on Friday told the INDY in an email that she and Freeman are both progressive candidates who both believe in equity and inclusion as critical values for Durham. “Where I believe we differ,” Johnson says, “is in terms of how we create a progressive vision for Durham. Councilmember Freeman’s votes against the affordable housing bond and against participatory budgeting are two examples of places where we disagree.” The incumbent says that although she and Johnson share similar progressive views, their strengths “don’t align.” Freeman in an email to the INDY says that she stands for “equity as a way of life,” and that Johnson is not aware of the facts surrounding her vote against the $95 million affordable housing bond referendum, approved by nearly 80 percent of Durham residents in November of 2019, that city leaders touted as the largest in the state’s history. “The vote on the issues concerning the affordable housing bond was to continue the pursuit of closing the gap in funding renovations as proposed by the Durham Housing Authority,” Freeman wrote. “My ultimate deci6
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PHOTO BY JUSTIN COOK
sion was clearly based on the then-facts, or lack thereof. Council hastily pushed for a $95 million bond, which barely scratches the surface of an overall $544 million deficit left to our communities.” The Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People PAC has endorsed Freeman. In a recent statement, the PAC said she “has proven to be steadfast in her commitment to a more equitable Durham during her time on the city council.” “Racial equity is embedded in all of her decision-making,” the statement continued. “She has a clear handle on her job and is willing to ask tough questions.” The People’s Alliance PAC on Thursday endorsed Johnson, calling her an “essential voice” for the city. “From her work opposing Amendment One to her chairing of Durham’s experiment in radical and inclusive democracy through Participatory Budgeting, Marion T. Johnson is a necessary leader for our time,” the People’s Alliance PAC announced on its website. Both candidates have deeply loyal followers—even among city council members—in what is expected to be a close race. Council member Mark-Anthony Middleton, the lone candidate to garner endorsements from both PACs, has endorsed Freeman.
“There is no more insistent voice than hers in the Durham public square calling us to the realization that the work of true racial equity is hard and at times uncomfortable,” Middleton wrote in his endorsement of Freeman on social media late last month. “She is the epitome of the Socratic gadfly and a champion of those that too often don’t get a second thought from the privileged and powerful.” Fellow council member Jillian Johnson has planted one of Johnson’s campaign signs in the front yard of her home. “I’m supporting Marion Johnson because I think she’s the best candidate in the race,” Johnson, the city’s mayor pro tem, wrote in an email to the INDY. “I believe in her vision for our city, and I think she has the right combination of policy expertise, focus, and empathy to help move the city forward.” In response to a People’s Alliance candidates’ question about the single most important issue facing the city, Freeman said leaders should focus on the issues of social, economic, and environmental justice “with an equity lens” to envision a city “where everyone can safely live, work, worship and play. “As an elected official, I can say that the issues confronting the City and County are interrelated,” Freeman wrote. “From gun violence to housing to rac-
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“From gun violence to housing to racism as a public health crisis, we have to tackle all of the issues in tandem with an understanding of how moving resources or support will impact another area.” ism as a public health crisis, we have to tackle all of the issues in tandem with an understanding of how moving resources or support will impact another area. Equity must be at the foundation of what we do, because what we see in the other issues is a result of inequities.” In her response, Johnson said the single most important issue the city currently faces is an economic crisis in the wake of COVID-19. She wrote that the city “still has the potential and ability to make strong progressive budgets,” and she supports a $25 an hour wage for municipal employees and contractors. She supports free public transit, prioritizing infrastructure maintenance, and repairs in low-income neighborhoods. Johnson added that a housing shortage, particularly with affordable housing, is a challenge for the city, a problem exacerbated by gentrification and displacement, especially of Black families. “COVID-19 accelerated the eviction rate, the rate at which people become homeless, and the widening wealth gap between homeowners and renters,” she wrote. “The people who are most vulnerable are people who have unstable or unofficial housing agreements, or are renting month-to-month, because they often don’t qualify for typical tenant protections.” There’s a growing resentment among Black and Brown residents threatened with displacement by more affluent white newcomers who are purchasing homes thousands of dollars above already-inflated prices due to the housing shortage. As a consequence, some political observers say Durham is facing a new kind of existential threat. Now that the Bull City is prospering, who gets to live here? Only a little less than 4 percent of the combined $160 million from the housing bond and its complementary funds will go toward home ownership, long recognized as the most effective way to build wealth in low-income communities, according to a housing policy case study from the online housing policy resource platform Local Housing Solutions. Another $4.6 million will go to fund minor repairs for
low-income homeowners with code violations, bringing the total allocated for home ownership to a mere 6.8 percent. While addressing the issue of affordable housing in the Durham Committee’s questionnaire, Freeman said that during her 2017 campaign she “put forth ideas to equitably address displacement caused by gentrification and proposed a $100 million bond to pay for these efforts,” adding that “many of these ideas are in the 2019 housing bond referendum.” Freeman said that addressing the challenge of affordable housing will require more than a housing plan. “To make affordable housing a sustainable reality and prevent homelessness, we must also address job training, entrepreneurship, small business incubation, and public health and safety concerns,” she said. Similarly, in the Durham Committee questionnaire, Johnson said that the city’s housing crisis goes hand-in-hand with its economic crisis. “While our rent and our housing prices are exploding, our wages are stagnating,” she wrote. “According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s latest report, the housing wage in the Triangle is $21.81/hour. Advocating for a living wage of $15/hour isn’t sufficient anymore. We need to be advocating for a thriving wage of $25/hour—enough for people to consistently keep their heads above water and not be one missed paycheck away from disaster.” Freeman’s and Johnson’s mutual push for equity is best reflected in their dual concerns for tenants’ rights and desires to avert a housing crisis compounded with the end of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium. Early last month, Freeman introduced a resolution intended to protect tenants with a “Tenants’ Bill Of Rights,” drafted by Bull City Tenants United, a Durham advocacy group for low-income renters. In the People’s Alliance PAC questionnaire, Johnson praised Durham’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program as “a great example of how leadership can leverage multiple levels of support—city, county, and federal—to best serve and protect residents.” W INDYweek.com
September 8, 2021
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Raleigh Industry day at the Southern Hemp Expo 2021 at the Raleigh Convention Center PHOTO BY BRETT VILLENA
Delta Variant An alternate THC compound emerges while cannabis advocates are divided over how best to use the plant. BY JASMINE GALLUP email@example.com
n the main stage of the Raleigh Convention Center, physician Uma Dhanabalan gestures behind a podium, talking about scientific studies, research, and the global economy. It’s Thursday morning, and the third annual Southern Hemp Expo resembles nothing so much as a business conference. The only difference is the people. Instead of men in business suits, there are middle-aged couples, millenials, and budding young entrepreneurs. Matthew Soares, of Massachusetts, drove 12 hours south to attend the expo, he told the INDY. “I’m starting a hemp clothing company,” Soares says. “I think there’s a business opportunity there, but I also think there’s a necessity to increase the use of industrial hemp for a variety of different things.” 8
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From a young age, Soares says, he didn’t understand why the production of industrial hemp was suppressed. Today, he talks about how growing hemp can help return carbon to the Earth. There’s a huge need for regenerative farming, he says. “No plant is more efficient at sequestering carbon than industrial hemp,” Soares says. “It’s a necessity, environmentally, for us to do this. It makes no sense that it’s not being cultivated on a really large scale in the United States.” Soares’s business is a safe bet in an uncertain industry. Although some cannabis products became legal in North Carolina in 2015, many still exist in a grey area. The line is a blurry one. Any cannabis derivative with less than 0.3 percent THC—the chemical in marijuana
responsible for its characteristic high—is legal to grow and sell. That includes CBD and other compounds like CBN and CBG, which don’t have a psychoactive effect. Although research is scarce, hemp products are often advertised for their alleged calming or anti-inflammatory properties, as sleep aids or pain relievers. On the other hand, there are compounds like delta8, an alternate form of THC often described as “weed light.” While delta-8 will give people a high, its effects are usually less intense than traditional marijuana (as long as you don’t take too much), says Tanya Durand, owner of The Hemp Store, with locations in Raleigh, Chapel Hill, and Wake Forest. “Delta-8 THC is an isomer of cannabis,” Durand says. “So it’s naturally occurring in the cannabis plant, but in order to produce large amounts of it, they do have to process it from CBD. It turns into delta-8 THC, which is psychoactive. It’s very similar to delta-9 THC, which is the main component in marijuana.” The legality of delta-8 is somewhat ambiguous, Paul Adams, industrial hemp program manager at the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, told the INDY in an email. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, synthesized or manufactured THC products like delta-8 are just as illegal as marijuana. But, Adams adds, “It seems that if Delta-8 THC could be extracted from a hemp plant directly in volumes large enough to use then that delta-8 would be legal. “It is unclear if CBD derived from hemp and then acted upon to create Delta-8 THC results in a legal product,” he says. So far, the law has given dispensaries enough leeway to sell delta-8. The new compound is definitely the current craze, Durand says, with about 70 percent of her customers looking for it when they come into the store. Not everyone, though, is looking to get high. “That’s the surprising part,” Durand says. “We get people who are about to turn 21, waiting to be able to purchase it. We have middle-aged people coming in, older people who said they’ve never tried it but heard from a friend that it really helped them with their arthritis or whatever it was. We’re seeing all kinds of people.” Delta-8 and other THC alternatives have divided the cannabis community into people who think the plant should primarily be used to make industrial products like clothing and biofuel, and dispensary owners who believe in the medical benefits of CBD and THC, some of whom are in favor of widespread legalization of marijuana.
Hemp products at the Southern Hemp Expo 2021 PHOTO BY BRETT VILLENA One of those owners is Durand, who says she’s used illegal cannabis in the past to treat migraines, postpartum depression, and anxiety, and was later amazed at the benefits of hemp. “I’ve always believed that cannabis was medicinal,” Durand says. North Carolina may soon take the first step toward legalization with a bill that would allow the use of medical marijuana. If approved, Senate Bill 711, or the Compassionate Care Act, would be one of the strictest in the country, allowing the use of marijuana only for patients with debilitating medical conditions such as cancer, epilepsy, or PTSD. Production and sale of medical marijuana would also be severely limited, with no more than 40 stores allowed statewide. The legalization of medical marijuana across the nation has been driven in part by scientific research showing cannabis can relieve chronic pain and may have benefits for nausea, spasms, and seizures. But with marijuana still classified as a Schedule 1 drug by the federal government, research is limited. The criminalization of marijuana has created a catch-22 in the rapidly growing hemp industry. Sellers of CBD or other cannabinoids are barred from advertising them as medically beneficial because there’s not enough research to prove they are—most of the evidence is anecdotal.
On the other hand, doctors and scientists who want to discover what benefits CBD and other cannabinoids can have, if any, are hindered by severe restrictions on research, a long-lasting legacy from the war on drugs. At the hemp expo, small business owners are selling every cannabis product you can imagine—cigars, cigarettes, prerolls, vape cartridges, gummies, chocolate bars, tinctures, dog treats. College students looking for delta-8 walk alongside third-generation farmers investing in a new crop. At one hemp dispensary, it feels like you’ve walked back into the 1960s, with a large sign that reads, “Find your groove.” In the next booth, managers at Aurum Labs explain how their scientists test hemp and cannabis products to determine their purity and potency, identifying different strains and looking for traces of pesticides or heavy metals. An entire micro-economy has sprung up around this now-legal plant—businesses catering to hemp farmers who need equipment, insurance, development, testing, and distribution. The question is, will it last? You won’t find any doubt at the hemp expo. “Right now, we’re all pioneers,” says one business rep, an insurance agent. “(Soon), it’s gonna be real.” W INDYweek.com
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Learning Loss Sobering test results confirm the pandemic’s toll on North Carolina’s students BY GREG CHILDRESS firstname.lastname@example.org
tate test results show that student learning suffered greatly last year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fewer than half of students—45.4 percent—in grades K-12 passed state reading, math, and science exams during the 2020-21 school year. The much-anticipated scores were released this week during the State Board of Education’s regular meeting. They reflect the extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic and related disruptions affected the state’s 1.5 million schoolchildren, many of whom spent most of the academic year learning remotely. “Educators, administrators, parents, and many others concerned about the education of North Carolina’s children will have access to data that will deepen their understanding of the effects of the past 18 months on our students’ growth and proficiency and will guide efforts to recover from the losses we know have occurred,” said Jill Camnitz, chairwoman of the board’s Student Learning and Achievement Committee.
A significant decline
The 45.4 percent proficiency rate for the 2020-21 school year compares with the 58.8 percent passing rate for 2018-19, a drop of more than 13 percentage points. Tests were waived for the 2019-20 school year due to the pandemic, but the U.S. Department of Public Education required the exams in 2020-21 to help gauge learning loss. Under a federal waiver provided last year, schools and the state were not held to the requirement that at least 95 percent of students participate in the assessments. As a condition of the waiver, though, North Carolina and other states were required to report participation by student subgroups. The participation data are reported for both eligible students who took the tests and those who did not take the tests. The student achievement data for the 2020-21 school year are based on all end10
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of- grade and end-of-course tests. The data reflect the percentage of students who scored at Level 3 and above (“grade-level proficiency”), at Level 4 and above (“college and career readiness”), and at each academic achievement level. While comparisons to 2018-19 are instructive, Camnitz and other state education leaders cautioned against reading too much into the data from school years that were very different. “It [2018-19] is included as a way to provide context,” Camnitz said. “Comparison of the two years should only be made with a recognition of multiple anomalies that occurred during the 2020-21 school year and during test administration.” She described last Wednesday’s report as a “first step” and promised a comprehensive “learning loss” report in March. Many education experts predicted that low-income students and those with learning disabilities would be disproportionately affected by COVID-19 learning loss caused by school closures. “How much learning students lose during school closures varies significantly by access to remote learning, the quality of remote instruction, home support, and the degree of engagement,” researchers from McKinsey & Company, a public policy and management consulting firm, said last year.
Low-income, minority children fare worst
The report shows that learning loss was acute among students from economically disadvantaged families. Testing data show that only 28.8 percent of economically disadvantaged students were proficient on exams last school year. In 2018-19, that figure was 44.6 percent. But students from wealthier families also suffered. Testing data from last school year show 55.7 percent of non-economically dis-
PHOTO VIA PEXELS
advantaged students proficient on state exams, down from 71 percent after the 2018-19 school year. Learning loss was also acute among the state’s two largest minority groups, Blacks and Hispanics. Less than one-quarter of Black students were proficient on exams last year, compared to 41 percent who were in 2018-2019. Meanwhile, a third of of Hispanic students were proficient last year, as compared to 48.6 percent in 2018-19. White students experienced a similar decline. Last year 58.9 percent passed the exams, compared with 71 percent in 2018-19. According to a survey conducted by The Harris Poll of more than 900, U.S., K-12 teachers, 79 percent believe the pandemic caused their student to lose out on learning and 72 percent said it set back students’ learning. “We are seeing more administrator and staff turnover as a result of the pandemic. For example, superintendent turnover went from 13 percent last year to 18 percent in 2021, which will make it more challenging to address learning loss,” said Verlan Stephens, managing partner for Agile Education Marketing, the firm that sponsored the poll. “Once states begin publishing testing results, we will have a better picture of learning loss hot spots.”
ACT scores, graduation results remain relatively steady
Also released in Wednesday’s data report were performance outcomes on
the ACT college readiness exam administered to all 11th graders and the fourand five-year graduation rate for the class of 2021. On the ACT, for which the University of North Carolina System sets a composite score of 17 as its minimum admission requirement, the state saw a slight decline in the percentage of students achieving that score, from 55.8 percent in 2018-19 to 55.2 percent in 2020-21. Tammy Howard, director of accountability services for NCDPI, noted that the less pronounced difference compared with state exams, ca probably be attributed to the more cumulative nature of the ACT, which is also less course specific. The state’s four-year graduation rate for the Class of 2021 also declined slightly, to 86.9 percent from 87.6 percent for the class of 2020. The Class of 2019 four-year graduation rate was 86.5 percent. SBE Chairman Eric Davis said districts will use testing data to develop instructional plans for the current school year. “These results show the resilience of our students and dedication of our teachers and others to persevere despite the many disruptions to learning,” Davis said. “The scores should not be interpreted to indicate deficiencies in student learning or our teachers’ abilities to teach.” W This story originally published online at N.C. Policy Watch.
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The writer (center) with immigrants Wilfredo (L), who received his green card, and Y.M., who has applied for hers PHOTO COURTESY OF THE WRITER
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Delia laughed. When I was still in Mexico, my brother devised a plan. He was already in the U.S. and stood in a parking lot next to the Rio Grande. He waved dog biscuits at Chanel, and Chanel ran across the dry gully, from Mexico into his arms in the U.S. When I got across, he handed me my dog. ICE got angry and stopped me from boarding that bus.
An Education On the Mexican border, a Triangle resident learns from immigrants hoping to settle in the United States BY TITO CRAIGE email@example.com
ir, I have to ask for help. Could you print my I-94 so I can prove I entered legally?
At the door of Annunciation House here in El Paso, I see a very pregnant woman with pink nails, frilly running shoes, and a pink parka. In rapid-fire Cuban Spanish, she is asking me for a copy of the I-94, the Arrival/Departure document from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. She says she needs the paper since it is the only document to prove she entered the U.S. legally. I ask this woman—her name is Delia—why she walked instead of coming on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) bus that delivers hundreds of immigrants every day. She says ICE refused to let her bring her pit bull and she won’t abandon her dog. I tell her that, since she did not arrive on an ICE vehicle, I cannot admit her but that I’ll call a volunteer to print her I-94. While waiting for the I-94, we prop our elbows on steel railings and Delia tells me how she fled Cuba by taking a boat to Guyana on the northeastern coast of South America. Then she and her husband embarked on a two-year odyssey that ended in El Paso. 12
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I worked my way across 15 countries by painting nails. Fifteen! My husband is a barber and cuts hair, so we saved a lot of money. Pesos. Quetzals. Do you realize that almost everyone wants their nails painted or hair cut? And colored, too. We had so much time that we planned our Miami nail salon and barber shop. My husband almost got killed, though. In Mexico, he met some narco-traffickers who wanted a personal barber. My husband agreed but kept offering cuts to others, too. When the narcos told him to serve them only, my husband said, ‘Fuck off!’ They broke his nose, so we fled, hitchhiking to the Texas border. “Did ICE let you enter?” I asked. We got a “lawful entry” so we can be in the U.S. But then I had a problem because ICE did not like my pit bull, Chanel. I think Chanel smells wonderful, but ICE kicked us off the bus. I had to walk hours from the bridge to here. “How did you get the dog,” I asked, “if ICE was detaining you?”
he more I talked with Delia, the more I was convinced that the U.S. should welcome her and her husband. Her journey was hard, but she has remained optimistic, tough, persistent, funny, and kind. She reminds me of my great grandfather, another optimist. He fled European wars only to encounter debt peonage and anti-Semitism. Like Delia, he persisted. The immigrants’ road is rough. Many of us happily employ immigrants but our system rarely offers legal status or citizenship. Some immigrants have been murdered, including my great grandfather, who, in 1910, was shot in the back by a man who hated Jews. During his short life, Ernst Kohlberg was an entrepreneur par excellence. After three years in debt peonage, he bought his freedom. His gold mining ventures in Mexico failed, but he bought two hotels, started a bank, and built cigar factories in El Paso and Philadelphia. Millions of Americans smoked his Selectos that, of course, were filled with the finest Cuban tobaccos. His creative energy was legendary, and it is no surprise that he is featured in The Wonderful Country, a novel by Tom Lea. Today, he is remembered with a plaque in the synagogue he founded, Temple Mount Sinai, and in the Hotel Paso del Norte, where his portrait hangs next to one of Pancho Villa. He built a palatial home that was completed just before his death. Nowadays, curious descendants like me visit the University of Texas in El Paso to see archived letters Kohlberg wrote about how a cowboy town morphed into a modern city. I used to think the U.S. should block most of today’s immigrants. Thanks to seven years of teaching ESL classes, interviews in El Paso, and visits to detention facilities, I have changed my mind. This was not a sudden development. Rather, my views broadened over several years and were deeply enhanced by my time at Annunciation House. I see that immigrants are idealistic, tenacious, and courteous. They have qualities I would seek in an employee or neighbor. Companies throughout the U.S. are desperate for workers. Instead of vilifying immigrants, why not pass laws that provide work visas and paths to citizenship for the millions who cut lawns, clean hospitals, build roads, operate food trucks, and construct homes? In El Paso, there are “help wanted” signs everywhere, and in Juarez, a mile away, there are Mexicans and Central Americans ready to work but unable to cross. Many immigrants have the traits that we want in an employee: willingness to work hard, dependability, punctuality, and determination. Do we really need a southern border? If we allow goods to cross freely, why not labor? What about the law of supply and demand? Why not welcome those who
In 1875, the author’s great grandfather, Ernst Kohlberg, arrived in El Paso PHOTO COURTESTY OF THE WRITER
are ready to work? Today, residents of the 50 states, including millions without legal status, travel around the country without state border checks. Why not remove the border checkpoints and the wall? The wisdom of opening borders is accepted in most of Europe, and, today, when a German drives into France, no one asks to see their passport. Isn’t it time to end our hostility towards the nations that provide the men and women who we employ as gardeners, carpenters, road builders, and chefs?
which bends in the wind is stronger than the mighty oak which breaks in a storm. As I witness the nobility of the immigrants I meet during my time here in El Paso, I feel called to serve. Immigrants are assets to our souls and our futures. I am proud of my great grandparents, and I am proud of the people who cross the Rio Grande. Americans are the descendants of immigrants, and, like the men and women from centuries past, the new arrivals act generously in ways that make me weep.
t Annunciation House, I speak Spanish, French, and Haitian Creole. I interview immigrants and call relatives in faroff cities. I fill out forms, pass out hand cleaner, mop up vomit, and change diapers. When someone has a positive Rapid COVID Test and breaks down in tears, I learn to adjust. A co-worker named Shawn reminds me of Confucius’s words: The green reed
Forty-three years ago, Ruben Garcia, 70, founded Annunciation House (AH). Today, AH’s largest facility is the Casa del Refugiado, a former blue jeans factory where immigrants released by ICE and the Border Patrol are welcomed by volunteers. After a day or two, the refugees travel by bus or plane to the homes of relatives where they INDYweek.com
September 8, 2021
will live until their deportation hearings. Located in El Paso a couple of miles from the Rio Grande, the 125,000 square-foot building houses hundreds of cots, a kitchen, and a canopy for COVID testing. The building is so gigantic that it took me a week to figure out how to get from the front door to the office. It offers a dispensary, clinic, and showers. With gray hair and twinkling eyes, founder Garcia looks like a benevolent uncle. In his welcoming speech to me and other volunteers, he talks with a measured kindness. He seems like the perfect foil to those who insult migrants and block their entry. Welcome to Annunciation House. There are about 70,000 refugees waiting in Mexico, of whom some 26,000 qualify for an immigration hearing in the U.S. What happens before they get here? ICE and the UN prepare manifests so that refugees are ready for transportation to a relative’s home in the U.S. A few months later, they appear before an immigration judge and present reasons why they should not be deported. About 60 percent have no legal representation and need an advocate. These days, politics is affecting everything, and this is a real tragedy. Texas governor Greg Abbott is following the Trump playbook since he wants to run for president. No longer do we send the governor a Christmas card. Trump did not get all of his wall built, but he got something even better: No. 42. This rule was instituted when he claimed that migrants created a public health emergency, and it means that many are stuck in Mexico for years. The first rule at Annunciation is ‘no one dies here.’ We are a petri dish, so we wear masks and use hand sanitizer. We do the Rapid Test, but it is not always accurate, so, if someone tests positive, we use the PCR, the gold standard. We come out of the faith tradition, but we don’t impose our social justice perspective on anyone. We are conscious that the Creator, Allah, and so on identify with the ‘least’ among us. We in this room are not among the least, but we do this work because it puts us amongst them. God resides in that bus in which refugees ride. You volunteers affirm the spirit and soul of this nation. It is what this nation truly aspires to be. I think of Jesus and the apostles and the 5,000 who needed something to eat. Jesus could have said ‘we will feed a few because I have so little,’ but he said, ‘all are welcome’ and the small offering was enough for all. We say: ‘All who come have a place. Be the light for hope.’ Life here is a joyous set of interruptions. Remember this saying: ‘Blessed be the flexible for they will not get bent out of shape.’ 14
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A mural at Annunciation House in El Paso PHOTO COURTESY OF THE WRITER We want volunteers to serve in Juarez, but there is too much violence. In fact, violence is part of the reason I call them refugees. The UN calls them ‘refugees’ but the U.S. government is terrified of using that word, because it would entitle them to certain rights. Nonetheless, I use the term, and this drives the U.S. government crazy. I don’t say ‘asylum,’ because that is a status the government grants. I see them as having a status already, because they are fleeing their homes. Haitians are incredible self-advocates. After all, they have come across the water and through Mexico. This is a tough situation for them. ICE takes away their shoelaces, their clothes, and they arrive here with nothing. Shoelaces? ICE says it stops them from running or hanging themselves. It sucks, it really sucks. What do we do? We keep doing intake, often until 2 am. Don’t forget this saying: ‘Live in the moment. Share the life of the refugee. You have the chance right now to know the people right in front of you.’
I clean two bathrooms, load toilet paper, and move boxes of blankets and clothing. A colleague with COPD almost collapses after climbing the steps to the dorm rooms, so we make sure to find him a room downstairs. I wonder if he will stay.
I complete intake forms for a Haitian family of three and contact their relatives
in Florida. I end up using three languages in addition to English to arrange tickets for the 62-hour trip. I interview a Honduran mother and daughter. They waited in Juarez for two years, but today they will take a bus to Austin, Texas. I welcome them to the U.S. and tell them I am glad they are safe. They smile timidly. It occurs to me that very few people have said a kind word to them in the past few months. My job is to be friendly, harm no one, and find a safe harbor.
A dust storm blows through El Paso, making it nearly impossible to see anything on Interstate 10. A Honduran tells me his relatives refuse to pay for the bus ticket, so his family is stuck. Forty Haitians, Cubans, and Hondurans arrive. The Cubans don’t have ankle bracelets, many have new clothes, and one even has a multicolored bouffant hairdo. Another has a mohawk. Our shift supervisor welcomes the new arrivals, but three Cubans interrupt and ask to be taken to the airport. They have already arranged flights and do not want food, cots, or intake. They are ready to fly to Miami, so we print the I-94s and send them on their way.
I talk with Marie, a Haitian woman whose husband was detained. Today, single women and couples with children are allowed in. Marie is seven months pregnant, but her
husband must stay in detention. Our nurse discovers that Marie has a urinary tract infection, so I explain in Creole that she should take antibiotics. I am unsure she understands. I call the lawyers at Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center and complete the intake paperwork for the husband. I have no idea if he will be released before Marie heads to the airport. What will happen in the Dallas airport to a woman in pain who speaks no English and who is ready to give birth? Marie’s husband was detained after he lawfully entered the United States. This peculiar injustice reminds me of the first detainee I ever met. Her initials are Y.M., and I met her at Eloy Detention Center in Arizona. Since Y.M. had never had a visitor, Tucson’s Unitarian Universalist church arranged for me and my wife to go to Eloy. She sobbed as soon as she saw us. She told us that, at the border, she asked for asylum; ICE told her that she had the right to apply but that she would be in detention first. She languished there, utterly isolated. After our emotional visit, I sent her ESL books, commissary money, and jokes in Spanish. She and other women taught each other and formed a community. She was thrilled to learn some English phrases and sent us monthly letters the old-timey way, on paper. We called an Arizona law office and, after almost two years in prison, Y.M. flew to Louisville, Kentucky. Now, she is working at an automotive factory and applying for asylum.
This morning Ruben speaks to the new arrivals. Welcome. How many were in Juarez for two years or more? Wow. You could get old there! No danger here. We are not “la migra.” You can stay here or in a hotel. If you leave the building, you can’t return here because of COVID. Don’t do reservations on your phones please. We will give you meals. We are all volunteers to help. When you get to where you are going, get a lawyer. Agreed? Immigration will try to deport you. You must have a lawyer so as to improve your chances of being allowed to stay. The press is here and if you want to be interviewed, raise your hand. Anyone kidnapped in Juarez? No one? OK. I do intake for a family from Honduras. The 18-year-old son has thick glasses and says he wants to be a doctor. The mother tells me that merciful God has protected me, and because of his blessings, I am here.
I practice imitating Ruben’s welcome speech, and, today, I am asked to give the talk to a new group. “Welcome. We are happy that you are here. We want you to know we feel honored to know each of you. Bienvenidos, todos! We will assist you on your journey from El Paso to the home of a friend or family member.” People clap and say Gracias! and Bueno! I realize that I am the first U.S. citizen to say anything nice. “Ahora esta es su casa.” Our house is your house. “For us, you are a gift. You bring your language, culture, ideas, dreams, and willingness to work. We want to serve you and your families. We will make sure you are safe. You will get a cot, cosmetics, clothes, a shower, and a wash basin. We will help you get to relatives’ homes. It is there that you should prepare immigration paperwork. Contact a lawyer or an agency to assist you. Questions?” I intake a Cuban woman and ask how she felt when she realized she was in the U.S. She says, Honestly, nothing. I was numb; it was so unexpected. I didn’t know what to think, so I didn’t think. Now I’m here and I still don’t know what to think.
I interview Yoli, a Guatemalan from San Marcos, the very town in which my Guatemalan-American son was born. Silently, I think that if I had not adopted my son, Marco might be sitting in front of me today. Yoli speaks Mam, a Mayan language, is 28 and has four children. She tells me that her drunk husband was incapable of taking care of the children, so she fled with two of her kids, leaving the others with her mother. She teaches me how to say hello by touching hands and tapping my face. I appreciate this tender gesture so much that I can barely murmur “gracias.” Marta, also a Guatemalan, is next. She left her home eight days ago and traveled by bus and train to Juarez. She tests positive with the Rapid Test, so she and her daughter have to move into quarantine. She bursts into tears and says that the delay is too much to bear. I assure her that she will not be deported during the next 10 days, but I feel helpless. I want to offer something but all I can do is sit and listen.
I meet a Honduran, Dia, and two of her friends. After getting their bedrolls, they grab yellow buckets and mop the vast floor.
“Thanks!” I say to Dia. “Want to take a break?” No, we got to get it done. “When you’re finished,” I tell her, “let’s get some shoes to replace your flip flops.” OK. Later, I take them to the clothing room, and they search through piles of shoes on dozens of shelves. A volunteer comes in and scolds me, Soon, everybody will come in here and take garbage bags full of stuff. “No discussion necessary,” I say. “They need shoes for the cold bus ride and we have hundreds.” It turns out that Dia is a teacher and much better educated than many. She opposes the president’s political party, so she cannot get work. She tells me that her mother had six siblings, four of whom died at birth. Only a brother survived, but he contracted polio. His arms are rigid, and her mother spoon-feeds and clothes him. Years ago, Dia’s brothers made their way to Virginia to raise money for their stricken uncle. Even though her life seems overwhelmingly difficult, Dia says, I’ve been watched over by angels. I crossed the border on my first attempt, but many others were deported. I am so impressed by Dia, her family story, and her mopping that I ask if there is anything else she needs. She says she lost her cell phone, so, against the AH rules, I go to Walmart and buy one and pay for the plan. By the time I get back to AH, Dia has found her phone and so I still have an extra. Later, I call her a few times in Virginia to see how she is doing. No one answers.
SEPT 22 – OCT 3
A group of detainees arrives from Laredo, but they can’t get off the bus because the COVID testers haven’t arrived. Kneeling on the bus’s stairs, I chat with Border Patrol drivers who have embroidered patches saying “Mr. Rodriguez” and “Mr. Ruiz.” They announce that they are ready to retire so they can explore new hobbies. Guess what I’m going to do?, Mr. Ruiz asks me. “Hmmm. I have no idea. Fishing? Sailing? Camping? RVing?” No. You’ll never get it in a million years. Give up? “Racing cars on a dirt track? Paragliding? I don’t know.” INDYweek.com
September 8, 2021
“You’re right! Hey, you guys seem like great friends.”
We get a busload of depressed, smelly people. It turns out that officials took their street clothes, and the immigrants were flown from Brownsville to El Paso. Of all the things I don’t understand, this is the most confounding. Why does our government (that is, the taxpayers) fund planes to fly 800 miles across Texas and then deport most of them?
We’ve relied on each other for 15 years. We’re buddies.
Dude, I’m gonna have SEX! Lots of sex, sex, and sex! “OK! Well, that is something!” I say. Told you you’d never guess.
I look through the grimy, translucent barrier that separates us from the passengers and ask, “Who’s getting off the bus?” They were flown in from the Rio Grande Valley. They get to keep their clothes. We ran out of sweatpants and T-shirts. “Any problems today?” I ask. We don’t have problems. Hey, we gotta go! Stay young!
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I help a mom dispose of soggy diapers, and I clean up an infant’s vomit. A man cannot figure out an airfare, so I show him the current price on the internet. I am irritated that there are things we can’t change. A one-year-old has a fever, but we cannot give him Tylenol. Almost no one has money, but we cannot give out cash. A woman squats on her bed and tries to pull off her skinny jeans. No matter how hard she tugs, she cannot get the denim to slide over the clunky, black ankle monitor. She starts to cry. “Excuse me. Any way I can help?” I ask. Cut my jeans! I can’t get them off. I have to wash them. This grillete (shackle) won’t let me take my pants off. “Tell you what. Pull your pants back on and we’ll find a woman who has scissors,” I say, having no idea which volunteer to approach. We go to the office, and a colleague quickly takes out a pair of scissors and rips the seam halfway up to the woman’s knee. The two women smile.
I learn to ask if women want “feminine towels.” Few can afford to be discreet about the body, especially the women who breastfeed and all those who make sure to leave the bathroom door open.
I realize it is time to leave Annunciation House, at least for now. I recall tense discussions with other volunteers. Who gets priority with clothing and first aid? How does the chlorine sprayer work? Despite hassles, we recognize we are serving brothers and sisters in need. We are blessed with the opportunity to welcome the newest among us. Among the volunteers, there were sharp disagreements, so I was touched to get a ‘thank you’ from colleagues. One wrote, My man, it has been such a gift to have you here. I appreciate and love so much your hilarious sense of humor, your empathy, and care for both the guests and fellow volunteers, and just your presence in a room. I’m gonna miss you, dude, and may our paths cross again. Another said, It was wonderful to work with you, welcoming our kin on the border. Thank you for sharing so much in so little time. Bendiciones y buen viaje. (Blessings and have a good trip.) It is hard to imagine anything more inconsistent than U.S. immigration laws. During the thousands of years that Native Americans inhabited the Americas, there were no restrictions. For most of the time that the U.S. has existed, there were no restrictive laws. Many laws passed by Congress, like the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, were unjust and, in recent decades, have resulted in over 12 million people living in a legal limbo. Immigration restrictions are a blot on American history, akin to the Japanese-American internment camps. My experience here at Annunciation House makes one thing abundantly clear: It’s time to reform the system. W While volunteering at a refugee center in El Paso, Craige came to appreciate what life was like for his great grandfather, Ernst Kohlberg, who arrived on Ellis Island in 1875. Due to experiences in Texas and North Carolina, Craige is becoming an Accredited Representative, so he can advocate for immigrants in court. After a career in public schools, Craige is teaching Civics and English as a Second Language at Durham Technical Community College.
M U SIC
THE KATE MCGARRY & KEITH GANZ ENSEMBLE: WHAT TO WEAR IN THE DARK
[Resilience Music Alliance; Sep. 3]
Night Vision Durham jazz greats Kate McGarry and Keith Ganz cloak a tale of trial and redemption in comforting seventies pop songs BY BRIAN HOWE firstname.lastname@example.org
he jazz singer Kate McGarry already had one Grammy nomination in 2009, when she arrived in Durham from New York with Keith Ganz, her partner in music and life, who grew up in the area. She’s earned two more since then. The Subject Tonight Is Love, with Ganz and their longtime keyboardist, Gary Versace, got the nod in 2018 for its sensitive settings of poetry by Hafiz. McGarry was recognized again, in 2020, for her part in a large-ensemble album by the visionary John Hollenbeck. In all that time, though, another record—their “white whale,” as McGarry says—was taking shape. It finally saw the light of day (to use a cliché advisedly) last week. What to Wear in the Dark features Ganz, Versace, and nine other musicians, including McGarry’s first work with the trumpeter Ron Miles, of Bill Frissell fame. It proffers fresh, vivacious jazz interpretations of pop music from the late sixties and the seventies: Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, and The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun.” Yet for all their comforting familiarity, these arrangements emerged from some of McGarry’s and Ganz’s hardest times, and the album is sequenced as the same kind of lifeline for listeners, through the dark and out again, that creating it was for them. McGarry is already renowned for the winning naturalness with which she blurs jazz into folk and pop, from Peter Gabriel to Björk, and What to Wear in the Dark continues that tradition with graceful gravitas. INDY WEEK: What brought you to Durham? KATE MCGARRY: What first brought this music out was that we lost a lot of
people in a short time: both my parents, Keith’s dad, and a real seminal teacher of mine. It’s very disorienting when the people who kind of hold you are just wiped out, and you’re like, well, who am I? Looking down the road at New York, as much community and great things as we had there, we were longing for a more peaceful, sustainable situation. KEITH GANZ: We loved it here, but she had no connection to anyone, and I immediately went on tour with Harry Connick Jr. KM: I was really in a kind of freefall space. I sort of lost my identity as a singer, and then I had a career-threatening vocal injury. This snowball of big events was jarring, and these arrangements started to come in places of real despair. It sounds corny, but it was something sustaining and real, like a thread to hold onto in these old songs. Other songs started to come that were a reflection of jarring world events that were happening. As someone who has made many nineties-music Spotify playlists during the pandemic, I relate to that urge to reach for familiar, comforting songs. KG: She already had the name for the record before the pandemic, which turned out to be the perfect time to release it. We didn’t know how dark things would be. KM: The pandemic afforded us the opportunity to finish the record. We had had one recording session in 2017, and then another just before everything shut down. We ended up having this year to sculpt it and put it together, and we did one more song that was the capstone, Cat Stevens’s “On the Road to Find Out,” with Becca Stevens and Michelle Willis.
Keith Ganz and Kate McGarry
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ARTISTS
The record starts with “Dancing in the Dark,” and given your track record and the context, I genuinely thought it was going to be Springsteen. Why Sinatra? KM: It felt like the beginning of the record. It was sort of like going from a time of naivete and innocence into the darkness where you can’t tell what’s coming. We had the old-timey bass drum and Gary playing accordion. We always have a foot in both camps, one in the jazz camp and one in some kind of folk or pop camp. So, it’s pretty true to form to include some standards. Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell—these are things a listener might expect from an album like this. But I don’t think anyone saw “Desperado” coming, and you play it really straight. KM: There was a time when there were so many mass shootings every week. I had a sense of the aloneness of people, and it felt like a kind of prayer to reach somebody. That seems like it’s grown even more, the loneliness that drives people to do horrible things. “It Happens All the Time in Heaven” brings us back to Hafiz. KM: He’s a 14th-century poet-saint but he’s so contemporary. He cuts through bullshit [and] says the truth. It was inspiring to me the way that he talks about love among
men and women, men and men, women and women—the main thing is, how can I be more loving to you? Speaking of cutting through bullshit, I have to ask about your spiel at the beginning of “The 59th Street Bridge Song.” KM: As we worked on the main arrangement, which was really about reconnecting to the joy of life, I was feeling that the over-monetization of the music industry and the self-promotion machine, all those things had just gotten so ramped up. I remembered this book by Hal Galper, called The Touring Musician. I wanted to put in a paragraph for contrast, with everybody playing free and raucous, and then have a release. You recently did a livestream at Sharp 9 Gallery in Durham. How challenging is it to promote this record? KM: That was the first time we had played the music with a full band in 16 months, and it was really fun. I’m very sad to see that it doesn’t really feel like it’s safe to go back out. The idea that we would bring people, friends and family and fans, together when they might get sick, it just feels like it’s not time. Luckily, Resilience Music Alliance is a dream label, and I feel like they’re going to help us get the music out there despite the lack of touring opportunities now. W INDYweek.com
September 8, 2021
M U SIC
ke up w a W i
Face the Music Clinging to its founding spirit, Hopscotch makes a cautious return to Raleigh BY JORDAN LAWRENCE
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September 8, 2021
HOPSCOTCH MUSIC FESTIVAL Thursday, Sep. 9–Saturday, Sep. 11, $79–$299 Downtown Raleigh | hopscotchmusicfest.com
hrowing a music festival is as much about small details as booking cool acts. Right now, those details are proving to be difficult. Nathan Price—director of the Hopscotch Music Festival, which returns to downtown Raleigh this week after losing last year to COVID-19—tended to one of the myriad little difficulties, as he spoke to INDY Week seven days before the event. Normally, organizers go to the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control Commission to talk with someone and secure necessary permits. This year, due to pandemic protocols, Price had to drop off forms without a consultation. They were mailed back with a small error that he had to fix and then drive back. It’s a small inconvenience. But large festivals contain many moving parts, and small inconveniences add up, especially for Hopscotch, which got by this year with Price as the only full-time employee, plus some contract workers. “There’s some other things, extra hoops and stuff like that you have to jump through this year,” Price says, “which we’re happy to do, but sometimes they come out of nowhere.” Of course, not all the obstacles to bringing Hopscotch back for an 11th outing were so small. For the sake of public health, the typically club-heavy festival will take place entirely outdoors, straining to present the prismatic selection of musical styles attendees expect while cutting out the 10 indoor venues it utilized in 2019, programming solely on a pair of open-air stages. As a result, this year’s Hopscotch is reduced to just 28 acts. The last one had 137. August 20 brought a further complication. With COVID-19 cases surging and the Delta variant threatening, Hopscotch announced a requirement for attendees to show proof of vaccination or a negative test within 72 hours, which meant figuring out more new logistics with 20 days to plan and implement them. Given all this, it’s impressive how much ground this year’s lineup manages to cover. There are lofty indie acts and ascending pop
PHOTO BY TOM ANDREW
artists, hip-hop innovators, and Americana enliven-ers. And, for a festival happening entirely on big outdoor stages, a surprising number of wild-eyed experimentalists. Metal and other heavy music are the only perennial Hopscotch hallmark not on the menu. Price explains that such extreme sounds were hard to make work with this year’s format. “You don’t really want to put like a crazy noise artist in front of kids and stuff like that,” he says. “But I think that we still were able to touch on a lot of different genres and get a little bit of everything out there.” Hopscotch’s variety will be enriched by downtown’s many clubs, which will host the expected unofficial day parties, as well as evening shows in the absence of official indoor offerings. While they didn’t program these bills, Price says organizers communicated with the venues about their safety plans, and that most were already prioritizing public health with protocols for attendees and holding performances outside where possible. Karly Hartzman sings and plays guitar in Wednesday, a rising indie rock band out of Asheville that plays the festival for a second time. She says maintaining the day party and evening club presence is crucial to her expectation that Hopscotch will still feel like Hopscotch. But, she says, while the opportunity to perform is meaningful, Hopscotch enacting its recent public health protocols was crucial to her feeling okay about participating. “I think it’s important to keep playing shows when we feel comfortable, especially if they’re outside,” she says. “Shows have been the setting I’ve seen people the happiest in the past few months. Shows definitely just create so many therapeutic moments. For both the bands and the audience.” lesthegenius, a Raleigh rapper playing his first Hopscotch, doesn’t think hip-hop is “as equally represented” as it has been in years past. But he grants this has a lot to do with the smaller number of acts overall, and he’s grateful for the opportunity. “It’s cool to be out here and represent and put on a good show,” he says. “And just be carrying that torch forward.” W
O U R HOPSCOTCH PICKS Raleigh's Community Bookstore
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T H U R S DAY, S E P T E M B E R 9 Wednesday
Sarah Shook & the Disarmers
Few of the many acts reviving and evolving ’90s indie rock balance heft and delicacy like Asheville’s Wednesday. On this year’s Twin Plagues, the bands drifts toward shoegaze with the reverberating weight of their guitars and bass, while allowing space for Karly Hartzman, whose vocals are both softly sonorous and impishly slacker.
Shook and her band are no strangers to Hopscotch, and they’re not hard to find playing around the Triangle, give or take a pandemic. But her bluntly poetic lyricism, and the group’s overall vibe, which zeroes in on the no-fucks-given ethos that connects outlaw country and old-school punk, fits the festival’s boundary-averse chaos so well.
Just the kind of left-of-center pop singer you’d expect at Hopscotch, Polachek realizes that bop-able rhythms and attractive melodies often do best when presented in vigorous contrast with offbeat textures. Her 2021 single “Bunny Is a Rider” clicks and layers and percolates under her enrapturing vocal, catchy despite (and because) of its anxious sonic shifts.
Moore Square Park, 5:15 p.m.
Moore Square Park, 7 p.m.
City Plaza, 9:30 p.m.
Cadwell Turnbull, No Gods, No Monsters Events
Ed Southern, Fight Songs: A Story of Love and Sports in a Complicated South with editor Robin Miura Marjorie Spruill, One Woman, One Vote: Rediscovering the Woman Suffrage Movement VI RTUAL
F R I DAY, S E P T E M B E R 1 0
The Dead Tongues
Another Hopscotch regular, but one that keeps showing up in different ways, from the blearily striding folk-rock of Ryan Gustafson’s early songs, through to the experimental folk minimalism of his more recent recordings as The Dead Tongues. This year’s beautiful single “Pawnshop Dollar Bills,” finds the songwriter continuing to draw resolve from the universality of broken feeling.
“Why don’t you leave your worldly troubles outside and come in here and sweat?” These words are heard in the intro to “Frank’s Tune,” the lead single from MaKraven’s upcoming Deciphering the Message. But it’s more about finding rhythms and grooves that convert them into affirming energy for the drummer and jazz explorer par excellence.
Flying Lotus’ restless experimentalism has pushed hip-hop boundaries for so long it’s easy to take it for granted. The producer, DJ, and rapper pulls in sleek but percussive Eastern influences on his 2021 score for the Netflix anime series Yasuke with the same mix of brazen creativity and heartfelt reverence he brought to the heady and nervy jazz inflections of 2014’s essential You’re Dead!
Moore Square Park, 7:00 p.m.
City Plaza, 7:45 p.m.
City Plaza, 9:30 p.m.
Honoreé F. Jeffers, The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois: A Novel with Stephanie Powell Watts
Register for Quail Ridge Books Events Series at www.quailridgebooks.com. www.quailridgebooks.com • 919.828.1588 • North Hills 4209-100 Lassiter Mill Road, Raleigh, NC 27609 Offering FREE Media Mail shipping and contactless pickup!
SAT U R DAY, S E P T E M B E R 1 1 Bowerbirds
Archers of Loaf
Bowerbirds haven’t played locally since Phil Moore rebooted the project with this year’s becalmyounglovers, which maintains the stark, elemental indiefolk aesthetic while focusing on raw emotions from the departure of his bandmate and romantic partner, as well as a general unease with the state of the world. We can all relate to at least half of that, right?
Since playing Hopscotch in 2012, Stetson has parlayed his uniquely moving, and frequently haunting, saxophone techniques into becoming a film soundtrack guru (yes, that’s his transfixing score in Hereditary). Maybe that’ll help you imagine visuals to ground you as you take in his mystifying textures and melodic loops. Or maybe it’s better to get lost.
A Mount Rushmore act for North Carolina indie rock, the Archers indulge some nostalgia in the covers and singles they released these past couple of years—looking back to ’90s halcyon days with propulsive intent on 2020’s “Raleigh Days,” for instance. But their sound remains sharply and distinctly angled, and inexhaustibly purgative. So: bring on the reminiscence.
Moore Square, 5:15 p.m.
City Plaza, 6 p.m.
Moore Square Park, 8:45 p.m.
City Plaza, 9:30 p.m.
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Animal Collective’s arrival here feels like Hopscotch coming full circle. Panda Bear, the colorfully contorting electro-pop act’s most acclaimed member, was among the headliners at the event’s first outing in 2010. And while it’s been a long time since the band’s 2009 apex of popularity and artistry, the album Merriweather Post Pavilion, their hypnotic, watery vibe remains very much intact on their score for the 2021 film, Creston. INDYweek.com
September 8, 2021
SC R E E N
THE LOST LEONARDO | HHHH1/2
Opens Friday, Sep. 10
Diane Modestini and Ashok Roy inspecting the Naples copy of the Salvator Mundi PHOTO COURTESY OF SONY CLASSIC PICTURES
Paint by Numbers The Lost Leonardo chronicles the incredible story of how a $1,175 painting was later sold for $450 million BY GLENN MCDONALD email@example.com
n 2005, a painting at an obscure New Orleans auction house was purchased for $1,175 and sent by UPS to New York City for restoration. In 2017, the same painting sold at a Christie’s auction for $450 million, by far the most expensive work of art ever sold at public auction. What happened in the years between is chronicled in The Lost Leonardo, one of the most flat-out fascinating documentary films you’ll ever see. It’s several movies in one, really—an art-world doc that morphs into a historical mystery, a gray-market crime caper, and finally an indictment of power and greed at the highest levels. Along the way we meet earnest art lovers, oily middlemen, obnoxious critics, crusading investigative reporters, crooked curators, obsessed FBI agents, angry Russian oligarchs, and even a few heads of state.
September 8, 2021
The controversy around this famous painting, known as the Salvator Mundi, played out in the headlines a few years back. But if you don’t know about it, that’s actually a good thing. I didn’t know much, either, and it’s better to let the film present the many surprises in store. The salient fact is that soon after that New Orleans auction the painting was authenticated, kind of, as the work of Leonardo da Vinci. Since there are only around 15 da Vinci paintings in the world, this was a Very Big Deal. Danish director Andreas Koefoed makes all the right choices for telling this story. He paces the film like a mystery thriller, using disciplined disclosure of information to keep the audience hooked. The cinematography is dynamic and inventive. For instance, thanks to drone cameras, we get
to peek into an NYC penthouse studio from just outside the window. His talking-head interview segments are immaculately composed—little paintings in themselves—and deeply revealing. Koefoed deploys an ingenious strategy here. After the various interview subjects tell their version of a key event—a suspicious transaction, a dubious decision—Koefoed keeps the camera rolling for a beat or two, the way you might hold someone’s gaze, if you think they just lied to you. The motion picture camera is famously good at revealing buried emotions, and several of the interviewees here clearly feel guilty about something. One greasy banker essentially telegraphs his thoughts: I know I’m talking bullshit, but do you know I’m talking bullshit? It’s so much fun. The film also uses clever framing and juxtaposition to suggest where its sympathies lie. The mercenary European businessmen are filmed in their spooky One Percenter hives, smoking cigars and prowling high-security warehouse vaults. Those deemed relatively innocent, like the restoration artist who initially cleaned up the painting, are interviewed in comfortable domestic spaces or green gardens. This sort of oblique commentary is common enough in documentaries, but director Koefoed really leans into it. The result is a true-story film that is technically quite even-handed, but which also provides some almost subliminal narrative traction. We get the sense of heroes and villains, even as the camera interrogates everyone with a skeptical eye. Interestingly, the people who come off best are the investigative journalists who try to untangle the whole mess. They look most comfortable in front of the lens. The Lost Leonardo works on several levels and in the end it’s a rather ferocious indictment of how we determine value in our culture. But mostly it’s just a hell of a ride, a mystery wrapped in a scandal and dropped into a rabbit hole of shady-ass rich people. And that makes for a good time at the movies. W
2021 AMERICAN DANCE FESTIVAL: TOGETHER WE DANCE
Thursday, Sep. 9–Thursday, Sep. 16, 7:30 p.m. nightly, $35
Slow Dancing ADF is back. So are the joys and complications of pandemic-era live dance. BY MICHAELA DWYER firstname.lastname@example.org
n early 2020, when COVID-19 lockdowns became life as usual, Kyle Abraham—who leads the ensemble A.I.M and is one of today’s most in-demand choreographers— was alone in Los Angeles. And when he says alone, he really means alone. “The thing about the whole conversation people had [during the pandemic] around the phrase ‘alone together,’” Abraham says, “is that we’re actually not. You probably have your significant other or your dog. My parents are deceased. [Lockdown isolation] was a very different experience for people like me.” Sharing the constraints of all artists who usually work together in person, he looked to outdoor parks for practice space. Once he got indoor studio access to generate material for a New York City Ballet commission, he gravitated toward Nina Simone songs and filmed himself dancing. The process felt intuitive, an echo of how he usually works with his own company: he’ll send the recorded material to the dancers and “see how it sits on their bodies, have conversations, make changes.” These exchanges produced pieces of a new repertory work made, in part, of solos—a generative choreographic form for dancers scattered across the country. The circumstances reminded Abraham of the expansiveness of an economical approach. “The thing that I realized during this pandemic is how to focus on what I can do, not what I can’t do,” Abraham says. “It’s something I hope I can carry with me.” This week, North Carolina audiences will be the first to see Nina Simone Suite (working title) when A.I.M kicks off the American Dance Festival’s “Together We Dance,” a weeklong series that marks the organization’s first proscenium performances in over a year and the first festival since the summer of 2019. Staged, like a down-South Jacob’s Pillow, in the open-air Joseph M. Bryan, Jr. Theater at the North Carolina Museum of Art, the lineup of eight companies and solo performers is a mix of festival alumni and associates, ranging from annual standards like the Paul Taylor Dance Company to more recent alumni like Abraham’s company. In addition to the Nina Simone Suite, audiences will see the more pandemic-rehearsal-friendly solo model in Molissa Fenley’s Rite of Spring-reinterpreting State of Darkness, originally commissioned by ADF in 1988, and Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel’s 2016 work Citizen. The fall festival’s curation also took an economical approach. Executive Director Jodee Nimerichter, driven to
“support artists the best we could,” looked to retain artist commitments already made by the end of the first half of 2020, when the organization canceled the summer festival and the office filled up with thousands of unusable playbills. Over the first year of the pandemic, ADF shifted to virtual programming and education, and then, slowly, outdoor performances throughout the Triangle, including at Mystic Farm & Distillery and Durham’s Maplewood Cemetery. The current festival, Nimerichter says, is “pretty close to what we can do safely at this time that resembles what we normally do,” meaning: presenting professional dance artists on a proscenium stage. (In searching for a venue, though, the festival was open-minded; one scrapped idea was Durham’s old Bulls ballpark.) Sustaining itself, during a hellish 18 months and counting, has been difficult. With no season ticket sales, ADF relied on a Small Business Administration PPP loan, grants, and National Endowment for the Arts and donor support to get the 88-year-old festival through the wringer. The festival also furloughed several staff and eventually terminated three positions. These kinds of organizational decisions—not unique to ADF—have galvanized arts workers to organize and urge field-wide reckonings around how COVID’s disruption of “business as usual” in the arts has underlined long standing inequities, especially across labor, race, and gender lines. For the dance field, already marginalized within the arts’ funding hierarchies, these issues felt especially acute. “I think [the pandemic] exacerbated a scarcity mindset,” says Shannon Drake, who worked at ADF for four years and whose role as Co-Director of School Administration was terminated in fall 2020. “There wasn’t as much [resourcing] to do anything, so we needed to do as little as possible. And of course doing as little as possible during COVID [safety-wise] was excellent. But I think that translated to a sort of dispensability of what makes anything go around, which is the workers.” For so many, COVID has put a finer point on the personal-political intersection: how workers fit within the work they do, how the missions they serve with their labor do or don’t make space for their own agency and creativity. “I’m so grateful that we were able to keep the dancers and staff on salary,” Abraham says of his company’s sustenance during the pandemic. “But this was also a time for so many people to reflect on what they want to be
“A.I.M” by Kyle Abraham
PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER DUGGAN
doing and how they want to be doing it. This has created a lot of open communication about how to make the organization better and how to make the individuals in the organization better as well.” In its foregrounding of the body, the dance field also zeroes in on the materiality of our ongoing public health emergency and the meticulous metrics of care needed to stage a festival, hold rehearsal, or simply gather in a small group. When audiences fill in the amphitheater for “Together We Dance,” they’ll be expected to follow masking protocols, contracts necessary to take the field back toward something resembling a normal flow of activity— although, as with Abraham’s interrogation of the phrase “alone together,” there seems to be no more “normal,” no exact going “back.” To move forward has required unprecedented creative planning and hopefulness tempered by a readiness to change plans. ADF’s aim is to have indoor performances next summer and to reactivate the Scripps Studios with “bubble” residencies and, eventually, the return of community dance classes. But for now, events like “Together We Dance” are opportunities to attune to the present: to celebrate, grieve, and consider what togetherness feels—and moves—like. “If you think of what we lost during COVID,” says Moses T. Alexander Greene, NCMA’s Director of Performing Arts and Film, “we lost the ability to be with one another, to hug one another—which is all dance, when you think about it.” W INDYweek.com
September 8, 2021
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There is really only one rule to Sudoku: Fill in the game board so that the numbers 1 through 9 occur exactly once in each row, column, and 3x3 box. The numbers can appear in any order and diagonals are not considered. Your initial game board will consist of several numbers that are already placed. Those numbers cannot be changed. Your goal is to fill in the empty squares following the simple rule above.
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September 8, 2021
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