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FROM THE EDITOR
CATHY MARTIN EDITOR
PHOTOGRAPH BY TIM SAYER
t’s crazy what can happen when you really slow down. Creativity blossoms during the most unexpected times — you’ll find numerous examples of that in the pages of this magazine. Not only can the process of making something be therapeutic, but slowing the pace (whether voluntary or not) can provide space and clarity for ideas to grow. Times like this demand creativity, don’t they? We’ve been forced to develop new routines in response to the chaos around us. I’ve always been a walker, and a hiker whenever I can get outside the city. I find it calming to take a long walk at the end of the day. Sometimes when I’ve hit a creative block, that’s when my best ideas come to me. But mostly it just helps clear the clutter in my mind. These days I’m taking more walks than ever, but they’re less hurried. Now when I go out, I see families riding bikes, playing basketball in the driveway or hanging out together on the front porch. It almost feels like we’ve gone back in time, to an era before smartphones, the internet and 300-plus channels on the TV — when human connections were all we had, and people focused more on each other. Everyone older than 30 remembers where they were on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. I was at home with my almost 3-year-old son and my 9-month-old daughter when someone called to tell me I should turn on the news. My son played quietly with a wooden train set, his favorite toy of the moment, while I paced in front of the TV. After a couple of hours, my son looked up at me and said, “Mommy, why do those airplanes keep hitting those buildings?” The footage of the hijacked planes hitting the twin towers was playing on repeat as reporters attempted to unravel the situation. At that point, I realized I needed to turn off the TV and tune in to my family. The news can be addictive in times of crisis. But my kids were far too young to understand the implications of what was happening, and my No. 1 priority was to keep things as normal as possible for them. During this crisis, my kids are older and fully aware of what’s going on. Still, I’ve tried to limit my COVID-19 news consumption to a few minutes at the end of the day, just enough to stay informed. If there’s a silver lining in all of this, for many of us, it might be the unexpected time we’ve gotten to spend with the ones closest to us — especially if you have older kids at home. Don’t get me wrong — there have been times when we’ve nearly driven each other crazy. And I’ll be the first in line once it’s safe to dine out at restaurants again. But something tells me, for those of us who were lucky enough to stay safe and healthy, we might look back at these days with a strange, unexpected fondness. (Though I’m still waiting on that artistic breakthrough.) SP
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C H A R LO T T E C H A R L E S TO N World Class Living
DEPARTMENTS 19 | Blvd. Farmers markets are in full swing; a graphic designer creates driveway art; a popular doughnut shop expands its mission.
31 | Simple life How simple, small places can produce life's greatest moments
37 | Bookshelf May’s notable new releases
39 | The road home When Mom comes to visit
43 | Talk it out Online classes, concerts and happy hours help fill the void during shelter at home.
44 | SouthPark stories
Loss and legacy 50 years after the Kent State shootings.
47 | Queen City journal Four-term Mayor Stan Brookshire's role in propelling the city's race relations
75 | Swirl The Queen City’s biggest parties and fundraisers.
80 | Snapshot Breaking barriers with CPA and author Nesha Pai.
FEATURES 50 | Isolation inspiration by Page Leggett
How have Charlotte's artists and performers adjusted to sheltering in place? Very well, thank you.
56 | Close to home by Whitley Adkins Hamlin
Celebrations and milestone moments look at little different these days — but they can still be memorable.
60 | Common threads by Cathy Martin
A local nonprofit unites women artisans a world apart.
64 | From the ground up by David Mildenberg
The Belk family's Wild Hope Farm brings healthy, organic food to Charlotte.
ABOUT THE COVER A public art installation by Kent Youngstrom spreads joy and generosity. Photo by Justin Driscoll.
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1230 West Morehead St., Suite 308 Charlotte, NC 28208 704-523-6987 southparkmagazine.com _______________ Ben Kinney Publisher email@example.com Cathy Martin Editor firstname.lastname@example.org Andie Rose Art Director Lauren M. Coffey Graphic Designer Alyssa Rocherolle Graphic Designer Whitley Adkins Hamlin Style Editor Contributing Writers Sally Brewster, Virginia Brown Michelle Icard, Vanessa Infanzon Ben Jarrell, Catherine Ruth Kelly Caroline Langerman, Page Leggett David Mildenberg, Michael J. Solender Contributing Photographers Daniel Coston, Justin Driscoll Zan Maddox _______________ ADVERTISING Jane Rodewald Account Executive 704-621-9198 email@example.com Scott Leonard Audience Development Specialist/ Account Executive 704-996-6426 firstname.lastname@example.org Brad Beard Graphic Designer _______________
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blvd. People. Places. Things.
HOME GROWN Being at home doesnâ€™t mean you have to forgo simple pleasures such as ripe red strawberries and other fresh produce and artisan-crafted foods. The season has officially opened for many local farmers markets, offering a great place to load up on regionally grown fruits and vegetables to keep your immune system strong and your taste buds happy. For a list of local markets, turn the page.
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|blvd. w ri g h ts vi l l e
be a c h
The Charlotte region is home to dozens of farmers and artisan markets. Here are a few local picks.
MATTHEWS COMMUNITY FARMERS MARKET
A longtime favorite among both professional and home chefs, the downtown Matthews market has adopted its summer schedule — hours are Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon through November. During stay-at-home restrictions, the market employs social-distancing measures and is encouraging customers to pre-order from vendors. matthewsfarmersmarket.com
SOUTH END MARKET AT ATHERTON
This local market features about a dozen farmers, ranchers and artisans peddling everything from soap to sweet potatoes. Located at the corner of Tremont Ave. and South Blvd., the market is open Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. southendmkt.com
UPTOWN FARMERS MARKET
We’ve Missed You! We are ready and waiting for when you come visit beautiful Wrightsville Beach, NC again soon
Charlotte’s newest market opened virtually on April 18, connecting customers to vendors via its website, uptownfarmersmarket.com, and social media. After the stay-at-home order is lifted, the market will be open Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the parking lot at 300 S. Davidson St.
CHARLOTTE REGIONAL FARMERS MARKET
This large market with a wide-ranging selection of goods is one of four state-run markets in North Carolina. Hours are Tues.-Sat. from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. As of late April, vendors have spread out to comply with social-distancing requirements, and at-risk customers are encouraged to shop Tues.-Thur. The market is located at 1801 Yorkmont Rd. charlottefarmersmarket.com SP
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A way with words KENT YOUNGSTROM’S EPHEMERAL ART INSTALLATION SPREADS LOVE AND GENEROSITY.
BY CATHY MARTIN • PHOTOGRAPHS BY JUSTIN DRISCOLL
ver two days in mid-April, artist Kent Youngstrom and his two kids posted more than 100 poster-sized works of art around town, creating a social-media buzz and a scavenger hunt for his 12,000plus Instagram followers. Youngstrom dropped hints about where the works were displayed and encouraged the seekers to “find one, take one.” It’s not the first time Youngstrom has randomly displayed his art in public places, but he says it’s his largest such project to date. Several years ago, he started creating “Words for Friends” installations, placing as many as 100 small cards with messages in a single location. Last month, he came up with the idea of placing art in public spaces as soon as the stay-at-home order was announced as a way of lifting people’s spirits. “One night I just started doodling,” on some black sheets of paper left over from a previous project, he says. Then Youngstrom and his two kids, age 17 and 19, headed out and placed the art around Dilworth and along the 22
rail trail in South End, leaving a few at Camp North End. The posters disappeared within hours. Working out of his Matthews studio, Youngstrom creates paintings commissioned by clients including Crate & Barrel offshoot CB2. He recently completed a collaboration with Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Market. Locally, his newest murals can be seen at Project 658 in east Charlotte and Camp North End. But what he most enjoys is working with words. The “love never fails” message has appeared in Youngstrom’s work off and on for more than a decade. The artist was a little surprised at the buzz surrounding the installation. “It was actually really cool. I was kind of touched by the response,” he says. “Sometimes I forget what art can do,” he said on Instagram, challenging other artists and creators to find ways of giving back. “We all have something to give, and creative brains to figure out another way to do that. I believe one hundred percent [that if] you want to thrive and not just survive, you have to give first.” SP
in the face of adversity Admissions open www.bischarlotte.org
Sidewalk style A SOUTHPARK RESIDENT TAKES POWER-WASHING TO NEW ARTISTIC HEIGHTS WITH FUN STENCILS AND KID-FUELED COLOR PALETTES. BY MICHAEL J. SOLENDER
ince the COVID-19 outbreak earlier this year, social distancing has kept Robin Tonelli from venturing far beyond her Carmel Woods neighborhood home. She’s taken advantage, however, of the newfound time at home to tap into her artistic flow, engage her children in art projects and delight neighbors strolling by on their daily escape-thehouse walks with fun, quirky driveway art. Tonelli creates clean graffiti artwork using her dirty driveway as a canvas, an electric pressure washer as a “brush,” and plastic stencils to create designs, from geometric patterns and T-Rex footprints to hopscotch courts and unicorns. Her 10-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter fill in the patterns with colored chalk and other embellishments. “It’s really a wonderful form of art therapy,” says Tonelli, an environmental graphic designer who co-founded with her husband ROBINRENATO Architecture & Design. “We’re all unplugged from our screens — the kids love it, and it’s impossible to mess up. The process simply uses water and dirty concrete — there’s no paint or chemicals.” In 2018, Tonelli established Driveway Art as a fun side business with her “partners in grime,” Torrie Savage and Paula Bartlett, owners of #thesavageway, a sister company and creative marketing agency. “I saw what Torrie and Paula were doing using clean graffiti to help companies with environmentally sound branding and envisioned a residential market in the DIY home-improvement space for some 24
thing similar,” Tonelli says. Since launching an online site, Driveway Art has sold stencils throughout the U.S. and internationally as far away as Australia. The stencils are priced from $25 to $45. Tonelli says the top sellers are Cobblestone, Hopscotch and CLT Links, a geometric design that can be used to create an outdoor “rug” on your sidewalk or driveway. “Springtime is certainly our busiest season, with spring cleaning typically in full force,” says Tonelli, who noted an uptick in interest this season given recent stay-at-home orders. “It’s funny though, people often ask me how they can make their driveway or sidewalk dirtier in order to get better contrast. It’s really not magic — just eco-friendly water, our stencil and their creativity.” SP To learn more, visit drivewayart.co.
Housewarming helpers FURNISH FOR GOOD HELPS FAMILIES TRANSITIONING OUT OF POVERTY UPFIT THEIR NEW HOMES. BY CATHERINE RUTH KELLY
From left, Mary Beth Hollett, Lesley Faulkner and Priscilla Chapman.
riscilla Chapman, Lesley Faulkner and Mary Beth Hollett met just over a year ago through their mutual friend and local homeless advocate, Kathy Izard. The three moms were searching for a way to give back to the Charlotte community — Hollett is an empty nester, and Chapman’s and Faulkner's kids were getting older, freeing up time for a new venture. Izard and her friend, Laurie Martin, had an idea. Inspired by The Green Chair Project, a Raleigh organization that offers affordable furnishings for homeless families in transition, Izard and Martin saw a need for something similar in Charlotte. “The dignity they offered by giving such personal shopping choices to families experiencing homelessness was something we didn’t have here,” explains Izard, who in 2012 led the development of Moore Place, an apartment complex for the chronically homeless. “But Laurie and I didn’t have the bandwidth to make it happen.” Instead, they convened a meeting of Charlotte women they thought may be interested in starting a nonprofit modeled after The Green Chair. “Priscilla, Lesley and Mary Beth really lit up around the idea,” Izard says. “No one wanted to tackle such a big project alone, but together, they felt emboldened by each other’s strengths.” Fueled by their shared passion for philanthropy, the trio devised a plan after that first meeting, including establishing a board of directors that includes Kitty Bray, Kelly Burkholder and Genie Scheurer. Furnish For Good now occupies a 3,600-square-foot space on College Street, right across from the Urban Ministry Center, an interfaith agency that provides services for the homeless. The bright, open space serves as a showroom for
their clients to select items for their new homes. “When families move into their affordable housing, they don’t have anything — not a pot, not a pan, not a can opener, not a bed,” Chapman says. “We provide all of that for a small fee.” All of the items are either donated or hand-selected from area thrift stores. Volunteers test and clean the items before displaying them on the showroom floor. FFG strives to create a warm, welcoming atmosphere and a personalized shopping experience. Only one customer is allowed in the store at a time. They are greeted and given a tour before they begin shopping for their items. “Most of our clients have never had a choice in how they furnish their home,” Hollett says. “Here, they can walk through, pick their pillows, lamps and dishes and make it their own — it’s empowering.” FFG has teamed with MOOVR, a local moving company, to carefully pack clients’ items and deliver them to their new homes the same day they are selected. A representative from FFG is present during every step in the process, even when the clients unpack their new goods. “Mary Beth set the table with placemats and plates for our last client on her move-in day,” Chapman explains. “We really want to make it a very personal experience.” FFG has partnered with 11 area agencies that refer clients to them. The organization opened its doors to its first family at the end of November and has served more than 50 people so far. And they have only just begun. “Our city is full of people who want to do good, and we are thrilled to be a part of connecting those people with our neighbors in need,” Faulkner says. SP For more information, visit furnishforgood.org.
Tour Our Homes From Yours We are working in new ways that keep us all safe. And we’re working even harder to provide our customers with an elevated experience. If you would like to tour a home, we’re ready to set up a video call or virtual tour, personalized for you. We are still here for you, with our innovative technology and unrivaled service. Visit us today at PremierSothebysRealty.com.
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Community, coffee and doughnuts COURTNEY BUCKLEY TURNS HER POPULAR DOUGHNUT SHOPS INTO A GROCERY BUSINESS TO SUPPORT LOCAL VENDORS.
s big-box steakhouses receive bailouts meant for your favorite neighborhood grill, as farmers face green in the fields and red in the books, and at a time when (most) people are practicing social distancing, Courtney Buckley, owner of Your Mom’s Donuts is embracing togetherness. She is demanding clean, local food. She’s fostering community. Between her two shops, orders for pickling cucumbers, egg salad and yellow squash stack up alongside the usual requests for doughnuts, bread and cinnamon rolls. What began as a makeshift triage farmers market of sorts for a handful of families was soon handling 300 customers and moving thousands of dollars worth of groceries per week. She may not have been following a plan, but Buckley had the experience for such a venture. Before the global pandemic, before Your Mom’s Donuts opened in 2014, Buckley connected chefs in town with local farmers and their goods. Her business name? "It never really had a name. It was super grassroots,” says 28
CASSIDY BROOKE PHOTOGRAPHY
BY BEN JARRELL
Buckley, whose business at the time was word-of-mouth, informal, simply following the relationships she had built over time. “I like to get stuff done, but I’ve never been a good planner,” she admits. For the last year or so, Buckley and the brother and sister team Chase and Yorke Reynolds of Two Pigs Farm in Rowan County had floated a similar concept. But with two doughnut shops and the recent absorption of Carolina Artisan Breads, Buckley’s energy was committed elsewhere. Still, the idea sat, proofing like a yeast-risen dough on the prep table of her mind. Then in early 2020, the coronavirus arrived. Buckley noticed the immediate effect the crisis had on local businesses. Buckley jumped into action. “Fortunately, I have all of those connections, still.” After assessing the demand for a grocery service, she began sourcing products. Even with two pickup locations — the former key-shop kiosk at Park Road Shopping Center and the original Matthews store — space at Your Mom’s Donuts was limited.
|blvd. Ten years, one 7-year-old, twin 5-year-olds, and a thriving small business later, Buckley is once again using those relationships to create something new. And technically it doesn’t have a name either. For now, her business is still based around that of Your Mom’s Donuts. “It’s a little more complicated now because instead of just dropping off at, say 10 restaurants, I am doing 200 individual orders for people,” Buckley says. Vendors include farms such as Lucky Leaf Gardens out of Harrisburg, Cold Water Creek Farms in Gold Hill, and her friends at Two Pigs Farm in Rowan County. Cheese is sourced mainly from Rachel Klebaur at Orrman’s Cheese Shop, along with a local water buffalo cheese from Fading D Farm in Salisbury. Prepared food items from locals like Hannah Riley of Alternative Chef and Beverly McLaughlin of Beverly’s Gourmet Foods also are available. Buckley sells many items at the same price charged by the vendors themselves. Facilitating local commerce seems to be her main goal. That, and keeping her staff of 10 working — and they’ve been busy. “When I talked with my manager and we game-planned this, we said if we get 20 to 30 families a week that we’re taking care of, hopefully we’ll be able to maintain salaries, keep everybody on staff,” Buckley recalls. “We did 300 orders last week.” To mitigate risks during the pandemic, the staff spends time sanitizing and bagging every order. Curbside pickup is offered two days a week at each location. The business only accepts electronic payments — cash is prohibited. Welcome to food in the corona-world. “I think we’ll keep this going as long as we can,” Buckley says when asked about the longevity of her new venture. “It has been amazing to see the support of the local community.” In the first two weeks, she added a third pickup location at Summit Coffee in Davidson. A fourth pickup location was in the works at Free Range Brewing in NoDa. Thanks to PitchBreakfast, a local investment group geared toward startups, expansion is already underway. Thirtytwo local businesses applied for grants offered to businesses who have pivoted operations during the coronavirus crisis. Buckley’s Zoom video was good enough to land in the top four, earning $3,000 she planned to use to purchase a new double-door commercial refrigerator. Now, for a handful of local businesses, there is a certain comfort in an uncertain future. “Being able to write an $800 check to a small producer who is about to close down is amazing,” Buckley says. “I love writing checks now.” As Buckley says, she’s not much of a planner. This year, however, hasn’t been the best for sticking to a plan. But making a commitment to help struggling local businesses — then figuring out how — shows she is capable of doing a helluva lot more than make a good doughnut. “I will work with any vendors that want in,” Buckley says. “The more of us that can band together, the better it is for everyone.” SP
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Simple small places AND HOW THEY PRODUCE SOME OF LIFE’S GREATEST MOMENTS BY JIM DODSON
arcus Tullius Cicero, the famous Roman philosopher and statesman, once observed that all he needed to live was a good library and his garden. I’m beginning to know what he was talking about. In a world where life as we knew it outside home has largely come to a standstill, familiar people and places that provide a measure of comfort and sense of normality are more important than ever. In my own narrowed sphere, I am fortunate to have a home library and garden where I can find useful diversion, fresh perspective and life more or less unchanged. As any reader knows, a good library can transport you anywhere in the world you’d care to go without leaving your comfortable armchair. And a garden keeps on growing regardless of the day’s news. Before it became a library, the small room that leads to the large screened porch out back was where our house’s previous owner, Mama Meryl Corry, spent most of her days during the final years of her life. Her late husband, Al, was a larger-thanlife character and a gifted contractor who built a number of the first houses in our postwar neighborhood, including, in 1951, his own dream house for Meryl and their four children. It’s a cozy brick-and-wood bungalow that looks more like the private retreat of a Hollywood starlet than a Carolina housewife and mother. In fact, Mama Meryl was both — at least in the opinion of a kid who grew up two doors down from the Corrys but was always in and out of their house with their two youngest sons, Craig and Britt. At a time when preteen boys begin to notice such things, Craig Corry and I maintained that we had the best-looking moms in the neighborhood. Meryl was a statuesque beauty with flowing auburn hair who looked a lot like filmdom’s leading lady Maureen O’Hara. My mom was diminutive and blond, a former beauty queen from Maryland who could have been Doris Day’s kid sister. Not surprisingly they were best friends, their alliance forged by the noisy abundance of boys underfoot.
Several years ago, as if by the sweet hand of providence, Mama Meryl passed on, and the Corrys reluctantly placed their family home on the market just as my wife Wendy and I happened along in search of our own perfect house in which to grow old. We purchased the place within a week. The Corrys were delighted. To this day, you could never convince me that Mama Meryl and Big Al, wherever they relocated, didn’t have some say in the matter. During the first two years we were updating and renovating rooms, the one space that proved to be a puzzlement was the small room with a fireplace that connected the dining room to the large screened porch in back — the same room where Mama Meryl spent most of her time after Al was gone. From oldest son, Chris, I learned that the space was originally an outdoor patio with a fireplace. Al enclosed it for a cozy reading room featuring an entry door at the rear of the carport, allowing easier access and a good view of the arriving postman. Sometime during our second spring in the house, as I turned my attention to tearing apart and rebuilding Mama Meryl’s overgrown gardens, it suddenly hit me that the room was ideal for a home library like the one I had for two decades in Maine. Earlier this year, we completed work on the library, providing space for 500 or so books in custom-built maple bookcases, with new gallery lighting, original artwork, vintage rugs, a handsome antique walnut writing table and five comfortable chairs suitable for any and all sort of visitors, including spirits. In ancient times and in every culture, libraries and gardens were considered sacred places that nurtured the human spirit. The Great Library of Alexandria in Egypt was considered the spiritual wonder of the world, housing the writings of Aristotle, Plato and Socrates among others — until, after years of decay, Julius Caesar was blamed for burning it down. Jesus spent his last night on Earth praying in a garden and, of course, Adam and Eve were reportedly invited to leave one dressed in fig leaves for violating property rules. I’m pretty sure Mama Meryl approves of how I’ve updated southparkmagazine.com | 31
|simple life her garden and reading room, evidenced by the fact that I can almost feel her presence in both places. With nobody but the dogs and me likely to occupy my library’s armchairs for the foreseeable future, I’ve lately taken to inviting the spirits of well-loved authors who anchor my bookshelves to come sit for a spell in a chair of their choosing. As Mama Meryl hovers approvingly, methinks Walker Percy prefers the houndstooth club chair, while — naturally — Joseph Campbell fancies the mythic oak chair with Egyptian carved heads. Mary Oliver lounges in the elegant red Deacons chair where Annie Dillard often sits, and the big comfy wicker number is rightly claimed by my friend Elwyn Brooks White, whose iconic children’s books (Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web) and collections of essays shaped my views on life and writing from age 6 onward. They inspired me to chase a career in which I’ve wound up eating my own words — or at least living off them. At times like these, E.B. White’s Pulitzer Prize-winning essays, letters and other works have traveled with me since the year I graduated college, and are a tonic for the captive soul. Particularly endearing is his essay, “Death of a Pig,” which details the author’s struggles to save an ailing pig and make peace with his own grief. After burying his pig beneath a wild apple tree with his rambunctious dog Fred in attendance, White confides: “I have written this account in
penitence and grief, as a man who failed to raise his pig ... The grave in the woods is unmarked, but Fred can direct the mourner to it unerringly and with immense good will, and I know he and I shall often revisit it, singly and together, in seasons of reflection and despair, on flagless memorial days of our own choosing.” White and his wife, Katherine, lived on a saltwater farm in North Brooklin, Maine, an hour or so up the road from where my first wife and I lived after we married in 1985 — four days after my favorite author passed away. I never got to meet him, though an unlikely connection unexpectedly came my way through the garden. Upon learning that Wendy and I planned to move home to North Carolina in the winter of 2007, an elderly friend who claimed to be friendly with Katherine White gave me a remarkable going away gift — a clump of white Italian coneflowers she claimed originated in the garden of Katherine White. Remarkably, the flowers made it through a succession of long-distance moves and careful transplantings, faithfully returning spring after spring for more than a decade. Ironically, our last move home to the Corry house proved to be the undoing of my well-traveled coneflowers. Perhaps their uprooting in late summer and the idea of making it to another spring was simply too much for them to contemplate.
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|simple life In any case, I think about those coneflowers from time to time, usually when I’m resting with a cool beverage in an old wooden chair after a day of work in the garden, my other sacred sanctuary in the time of coronavirus. From the depths of that old chair, I find it reassuring to study the stars before dawn and while the birds of late afternoon are dive-bombing the feeders as the last light falls like a benediction over the yard. Certain questions, for the moment at least, remain unanswered. For example, I shall probably never know if those handsome white coneflowers really came from Katherine White’s garden, though I like to think that they did. Their message is clear. “To live in this world,” advises my friend the poet Mary Oliver from her grand red chair in the library, “you must be able to do three things. To love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends upon it; and when it comes time to let it go, to let it go.” Mama Meryl knew this. I suppose I’m finally learning it, too. Someday this house will pass into other hands and the books of my fine home library will be boxed up and donated to the annual church auction or carted off to the community book sale. Likewise, without me around to keep it trimmed and tidy, my garden will likely overrun its borders and spread into places it was never meant to go, a disordered Eden that may prompt the new homeowner to hack it down without a trace. But for now, like long-gone Cicero before me, these are the simple small places where I seek and find whatever there is for present comfort during these flagless memorial days — from books that still let me roam the world to a garden where, I noticed just yesterday, the bluebirds have returned for the third year in a row to start a new family — a sign that life always begins again. SP Contact Editor Jim Dodson at jim@ thepilot.com.
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May books NOTABLE NEW RELEASES COMPILED BY SALLY BREWSTER
The New One: Painfully True Stories from a Reluctant Dad, by Mike Birbiglia In 2016, comedian Mike Birbiglia and poet Jennifer Hope Stein took their 14-month-old daughter, Oona, to the Nantucket Film Festival. When the festival director picked them up at the airport, she asked Mike if he would perform at storytelling night. “The theme of the stories is jealousy,” she said. Jen quipped, “You’re jealous of Oona. You should talk about that.” And so Mike began sharing some of his darkest and funniest thoughts about the decision to have a child. Jen and Mike revealed to each other their sides of what had gone down during Jen’s pregnancy and that first year with their child. Over the next couple years, these stories evolved into a Broadway show, and the more Mike performed it, the more he heard how it resonated — not just with parents but also people who resist all kinds of change. So he pored over his journals, dug deeper and created this book.
The Last Trial, by Scott Turow At 85 years old, Alejandro “Sandy” Stern, a brilliant defense lawyer with his health failing but his spirit intact, is on the brink of retirement. But when his old friend Kiril Pafko, a former Nobel Prize winner in medicine, is faced with charges of insider trading, fraud and murder, his entire life’s work is put in jeopardy, and Stern decides to take on one last trial. In a case that will be the defining coda to both men’s accomplished lives, Stern probes beneath the surface of his friend’s dazzling veneer as a distinguished cancer researcher. As the trial progresses, he will question everything he thought he knew about his friend. Despite Pafko’s many failings, is he innocent of the terrible charges laid against him? How far will Stern go to save his friend, and — no matter the trial’s outcome — will he ever know the truth? Stern’s duty to defend his client and his belief in the power of the judicial system both face a final, terrible test in the courtroom, where the evidence and reality are sometimes worlds apart.
All Adults Here, by Emma Straub All Adults Here is a warm, funny and perceptive novel about the life cycle of one family. Kids become parents, grandchildren become teenagers, and a matriarch confronts the legacy of her mistakes. When Astrid Strick witnesses a school bus accident in the center of town, it jostles loose a repressed memory from her young parenting days decades earlier. Suddenly, Astrid realizes she was not quite the parent she thought she’d been to her three now-grown children. Her youngest son is drifting and unfocused, making parenting mistakes of his own. Her daughter is pregnant yet struggling to give up her own adolescence and has no partner to help raise her child. Her eldest seems to measure his adult life according to standards no one else shares. But who gets to decide, so many years later, which long-ago lapses were the ones that mattered? Who decides which apologies really count? It might be that only Astrid’s 13-year-old granddaughter and her new friend really understand the courage it takes to tell the truth to the people you love the most.
Hello, Summer, by Mary Kay Andrews Conley Hawkins left her family’s small town newspaper, The Silver Bay Beacon, in the rearview mirror years ago. Now a star reporter for a big-city paper, Conley is exactly where she wants to be and is about to take a fancy new position in Washington, D.C. — or so she thinks. When the new job goes up in smoke, Conley finds herself right back where she started, working for her sister, who is trying to keep The Beacon afloat — and she doesn’t exactly have warm feelings for Conley. Soon, she is given the unenviable task of overseeing the local gossip column, “Hello, Summer.” Then Conley witnesses an accident that ends in the death of a local congressman — a beloved war hero with a shady past. The more she digs into the story, the more dangerous it gets. As an old heartbreaker causes trouble and a new flame ignites, it soon looks like their sleepy beach town is the most scandalous hot spot of the summer. SP
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|the road home
When Mom comes to visit
A NEW BABY, AN ORGANIZED PANTRY AND SECRET CHOCOLATE BY CAROLINE HAMILTON LANGERMAN
ecently, our church branded a campaign with the tag line, “The life that really is life.” There were follow up emails with the subject, “The love that really is love,” and postcards about “The giving that really is giving.” I was nine months pregnant and had a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old. I rarely went to church or made it to the bottom of an email or opened an envelope that wasn’t addressed in pen. But the enigmatic slogan struck me as genius, and I put it straight to use in my own campaigns. “The avocados that really are avocados,” I whispered over a firm batch in the produce aisle. “The diaper that really is a diaper,” I sang, when one did its job. The night before the baby was delivered, my parents came to Charlotte to provide what I hoped would be the help that really is help. I envisioned them whisking the big siblings to playgrounds and libraries, drawing their baths, and tucking them in. My job would be caring for the newborn: embracing her terrifying smallness, stumbling back and forth from her crib while I healed from abdominal surgery. This was my third rodeo, and I no longer counted time in weeks. I cheerfully dusted off my old frenemies: the breast pump, and the soft toothbrush for cradle cap. But when we got home from the hospital with the baby, Mom had already established her role — in the kitchen. “Where’s the top for this?” she asked, holding up a plastic contraption for spinning lettuce dry. The sight of it brought me back to being 25, living in Manhattan, when she had run out to Bed Bath & Beyond to outfit my apartment. Since the salad spinner entered my life, I had moved three times, married, borne three children. Needless to say, I had not spun much lettuce. “I don’t think I have that anymore.” Her face fell, perhaps processing the fact that I had grown up to be the sort of person who buys pre-washed arugula in plastic containers. She moved on to the Tupperware, lining the orphans on the counter like a small adoption agency. “If you keep them together with their mates ...” she said. Sometime during this process, my 2-year-old wet her pants. My 4-year-old complained of a headache. The new baby let out her strange kitten cry.
“Mom,” I said, “Can we work on this later?” The next day, she gathered all of my plastic cups into families. “You should find a place for these that is consistent.” She wasn’t wrong; our pantry was neglected. But “consistent” was a word that we mostly used for naps and discipline, not Solo cups. Later, while brushing forty small teeth, I heard her call out from the guest room, “You need a suitcase rack in here.” “Can you put your suitcase on the floor?” I said. “A suitcase rack would be nice.” Finally, after the kids fell asleep, she tenderly took the baby from my arms and raised a white flag. “Where’s the chocolate?” she asked. Now, I could get on board with this. I was married to a rule follower who pretended not to like chocolate. Even when he said, “Go right ahead,” I always felt acutely pedestrian having a treat in my husband’s presence. “I wish I had some!” I said. When I visited Mom’s house, I missed certain things: air conditioning that really was air conditioning. WiFi that really was WiFi. Coffee that really wasn’t a frozen bag of Peet’s. But there was always a drawer full of chocolates next to the refrigerator: Dove Promises, wrapped in red and blue foil. Sometimes there were mini Snickers that I wolfed one after another until someone came in and busted me. “Hey!” I’d say casually, turning my back and pretending to rinse a dish. Between the home I’d left and the one I was building, sweets had become a common language. The next day, Mom went to Harris Teeter to get some ingredients for an elaborate vegetable soup. During this time, I nursed the baby while the toddler tantrummed and the 4-year-old listened to the grating singsong voice of Daniel Tiger. She returned with her hands full of bags and set them on the island. I helped her unload small bristle brushes for the sink, a package of dishrags. Then she grinned at me, with her hand still in one of the bags. I braced myself, preparing for the introduction of a new lettuce spinner. Instead, it was a bag of Hershey’s milk chocolate nuggets with almonds. I beamed. “Let’s hide it,” she said, like a little girl. southparkmagazine.com | 39
|the road home “Sure!” I was having fun now, with my practical, chocolate-loving, there-for-me mother. I could use a few bristle brushes for my crusty dishes. It was so sweet how she worked at my sink, initiating the new rags. On the last day of my parents’ stay, an enormous rainsoaked tree fell in Myers Park, and the power went out. I was trying to wean myself off the caesarian-section drugs, and the kids were bouncing off the walls. The only light in the room was the sparkle of my parents’ reading glasses in the glow of their shared iPad. Kindly, they suggested taking one of my children for a haircut. I envisioned this 37-minute activity leaving me napless with a newborn and a threenager. “Actually,” I said, picking myself up off the couch. “Can you take both kids for a haircut? And then take them to a long lunch? And then, if three hours haven’t passed, can you just drive around aimlessly for a very long time?” Apparently, I was a millennial who really was a millennial. Silently, they ushered everyone to the car. In the quiet of my own house, dark and cold, an enormous surge of affection ran through me — for my baby, whose little mittened hand was cupping her cheek like a real live cherub’s, and for the team of helpers who were allowing me this fleeting moment of calm. When they returned, the haircuts were atrocious, but I had emotionally budgeted for that. That night,
Mom made spaghetti in the candlelight. It was cozy as pie. The next day, it hurt to see her leave. She took with her a brown paper bag full of my unloved Tupperware. “I don’t know what I’m going to do with these,” she admitted, and we both cracked up. I stood at the back door, covered in kids, waving as she ducked her big brown hair into her little red car. A few days later, I prepared for the monumental task of changing the bedsheets. I lumbered up the stairs, loathing myself for the state of disarray that would take me a few hours to find the boy’s twin sheets, the girl’s double sheets, our own king sheets, and the baby’s crib sheets. But when I opened the linen closet, I found everything beautifully arranged. Each family member had his or her own shelf, with the sheets folded under the pillowcases. And though I’d not heard the sermon, I understood with certainty the giving that really is giving. The love that really is love. That afternoon, I added a suitcase rack to my Amazon cart and an old-fashioned head of lettuce to my grocery list. I remembered where the chocolates were hidden and snuck one every time the kids — or my husband — turned their backs. I felt lucky to have — and lucky to be — a mother that really is a mother. SP Caroline Langerman is a writer in Charlotte.
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|talk it out
Screen savers ONLINE CLASSES, CONCERTS AND HAPPY HOURS HELP FILL THE VOID DURING SHELTER AT HOME. BY MICHELLE ICARD
here have you been lately? It’s a strange question for a strange time. At the beginning of my quarantine, I traveled between my living room, kitchen, bedroom and patio like a cat pacing a cage. But as days turned into weeks, I relaxed into my circumstances, and then my world started to open up. I took my first SkillPop class. Like many businesses, SkillPop pivoted quickly to an online platform, opening their local classes up nationally. For two hours one day, I sat with my daughter in front of a laptop and we chatted with people from across the country as we learned to apply makeup like a pro. Through Zoom, I spent a lovely evening with 13 members of my book club, discussing The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. We timed our selection to coincide with the book’s centennial anniversary and to celebrate Wharton as the first female recipient of the Pulitzer Prize. But the irony wasn’t lost on us that the title refers to a time prior to a global crisis: World War I in Wharton’s case, a pandemic in ours. Once my appetite for online experiences was whet, I started hanging out pianoside in Ben Platt’s living room for regular concerts. I took an online art lesson. I “clinked” glasses at virtual cocktail parties with friends I met 30 years ago who live 10 hours away, friends who live down the street, and elderly friends who had isolated with conviction but craved connection. I hosted webinars for parents and kids to answer their burning questions about middle school.
And I enrolled in Yale University’s most popular class, The Science of Well-Being, taking place in the professor’s living room in New Haven, Conn. Despite an underlying, albeit sturdy, fear of the COVID-19 virus and the toll it will take, I found myself becoming more and more fulfilled with having fewer choices. Research confirms that when faced with too many possibilities, our brains feel overworked and undersatisfied. Buying a pair of jeans? Well, first let’s narrow down if you want bootcut, flare, skinny, relaxed, loose, boyfriend, girlfriend, crop, slim, straight or cigarette. After that, we’ll move on to color wash, then brand, then denim blends, then … you might just give up. When new restrictions took away the mundane tasks, the decision trees and the productivity pressure that ate up my days, I saw my limited options with greater appreciation. In fact, I noticed many nice things to do that I’d carelessly overlooked before. When it's safe to do so, I will be the first to throw off my sweats, slip into something a lot less comfortable, and run to see all of you at the restaurants, bars, bowling alleys and movie theaters. Until then, I’m hunkering down and discovering what exciting experiences my screen can open up for me. SP Michelle Icard is an author in Charlotte. She runs local programming for middle schoolers and their parents, including leadership camps for girls and boys and conferences for girls and their moms. Learn more about her at MichelleintheMiddle.com. southparkmagazine.com | 43
Loss and legacy
A CHANCE MEETING, AND HOW THE CAMPUS SHOOTINGS AT KENT STATE UNIVERSITY INSPIRED A LIFETIME OF SOCIAL ACTIVISM. BY KEN GARFIELD
e were a couple of long-haired college kids who bumped into each other one snowy November night in 1971 in the Akron airport. I had just landed in a blizzard and needed a ride to Kent, Ohio. Tom Grace had just flown in from a weekend away and was headed back to Kent State University. He was the first person I asked for help. He said yes. I sat in the back of his car packed with friends for the ride to his rental house, where he gave me shelter from the cold. What are the odds? I was a college freshman who had trav-
eled to Ohio to study the killing of four students during an anti-war demonstration at Kent State on May 4, 1970. Tom was one of the nine students wounded that spring afternoon. Fifty years later, America marks that moment in history, at least those of us who still honor its significance. And 50 years later, two old college students revisit that providential encounter in the airport, those 13 seconds of gunfire, and how it shaped his life and mine. Tom is 70. I turned 67 on May 3. It seems like a lifetime ago. And yet just a moment ago.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY KENT STATE UNIVERSITY NEWS SERVICE MAY 4 PHOTOGRAPHS. KENT STATE UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES. SPECIAL COLLECTIONS AND ARCHIVES.
Ken Garfield Tom and I have kept up through the years — Christmas cards, the occasional email, a telephone interview for a story I wrote a decade ago. I bought his book: Kent State: Death and Dissent in the Long Sixties offers a scholarly look at the shooting in the context of student activism. Tom wanted to make the book about more than just him. His editors had to twist his arm to write about how the bullet entered his left heel and exited his foot. If he stands in one place too long now, the foot still goes stiff. If anyone asks, he says it’s from an old injury. There is no particular snapshot of the day that flashes to Tom’s mind, no single, inescapable memory. Maybe that’s how he was able to find a path free of bitterness. As the 50th anniversary of May 4 approached, we talked by phone for nearly two hours. I could hear the strain in his voice. He can go a year without someone interviewing him about Kent State. But for this anniversary, he’s talked with, among others, a filmmaker, a college newspaper reporter and a writer for the American Association of Retired Persons magazine. The son of a social worker, Tom’s dreams had always extended beyond himself. He went to Kent State to study history. He loved family visits to Civil War battlefields and hoped to work for the U.S. National Park Service. Then came Vietnam. That afternoon at Kent State, Tom, a sophomore, was among the many students who gathered to protest the war and the presence of National Guardsmen on their campus. He was 200 feet from the guardsmen, running away from them, when he was shot. Other students were simply walking across campus when gunfire erupted at 12:24 p.m. Such horror, and idiocy. Tom shared an ambulance with Sandra Scheuer, an honors student in speech therapy who had been walking between classes. She died from an M-1 bullet that severed her jugular vein. Tom went home to Syracuse, N.Y., to heal. He returned to Kent, and in 1972 earned a bachelor’s in political science and history with a minor in English. In a diverse and rewarding career, he’s been a social worker, union representative, author and college history professor. He earned a Ph.D. in history and has been a leader in keeping the memory of May 4 alive. Some concrete good came from the shooting: The following year, for example, the 26th Amendment was passed, giving 18-year-olds the right to vote. Many historians believe Kent State forced President Nixon to withdraw U.S. troops more quickly from Cambodia.
Tom Grace Formally retired, Tom still teaches history at SUNY Erie near his home in suburban Buffalo, N.Y. Taking a bullet, Tom says, reinforced his commitment to social activism. It helped give him a voice that resonated beyond what he ever could have imagined. It taught him that ordinary people are often the ones who make history. It reminded him to count his blessings and, like me, to put family first. When he became a father of two children, Alison and T.J., he thought of the four sets of Kent State parents who lost their children. Now with an infant grandson, Nathan, Tom’s heart has grown even more tender for others who know loss. Fifty years later, Tom is content, but in an I-must-dosomething-meaningful-with-my-life sort of way. I am content as well, but restlessly, like Tom, for there are stories I want to tell, sorrows I want to help us learn from. My parents raised me to care about the world beyond my own. Before Kent State, I was already protesting the Vietnam War. Kent State stoked the fire inside me. I dropped out of college to work for George McGovern’s presidential campaign in 1972. I went to Washington and volunteered for a congressman who served on the Judiciary Committee that impeached Richard Nixon. I returned to college and wrote my senior thesis on Kent State. Woodward and Bernstein drew me to journalism. Newspapers drew me to writing about loss and legacy. Talking to people about the meaning of their lives stirred me to think about what my life means. What good did you do with the time you were given? What good did I do? These moments of mortality, of introspection, bubble to the surface each May, taking me back to Kent State and that encounter with Tom. For many of us, it and several other college-campus shootings signaled the end of an age of innocence. Think of the violence, darkness and division that enshroud us now. Maybe May 4, 1970, was a springboard. What was it Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young sang about four dead in Ohio? “We’re finally on our own ...” But, I will leave that to the historians. I just wanted to recount the story of that snowy night nearly 50 years ago in the Akron airport, when I bumped into another child of Kent State, and how each of our journeys took us down similar roads. SP Freelance writer/editor Ken Garfield is a frequent contributor to SouthPark magazine. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. southparkmagazine.com | 45
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|queen city journal
Season of change
BEFORE BECOMING A HOUSEHOLD NAME FOR UPTOWN COMMUTERS, FOUR-TERM MAYOR STAN BROOKSHIRE HELPED PROPEL RACE RELATIONS IN THE CITY. BY VIRGINIA BROWN
motions often run high as cars zip around Interstate 277-N in uptown Charlotte, merging, letting people in, cutting others off. Tangled and imperfect, the road gets us where we need to go. When Stan Brookshire, for whom the northeast loop of the freeway is named, was mayor in the 1960s, the city was much the same: complicated, and not without heightened emotions — but poised to move forward. Stanford R. Brookshire was born on July 22, 1905 near Troutman, a small town just south of Statesville, about 35 miles north of Charlotte. He grew up with five brothers and two sisters and attended Duke University, where he studied history and was managing editor of the student newspaper. Following graduation, Brookshire moved to the Queen City with dreams of being a big-city newspaperman. The loud hum of The Charlotte Observer newsroom, though, coupled with a hearing defect, prevented his future in journalism. The next chapter would have to be more peaceful.
A RELUCTANT LEADER
When Brookshire got to Charlotte, ole Jim Crow had long dictated blacks’ access to restaurants, hotels and theaters throughout the South. In Brookshire’s new city, the atmosphere was no different. Blacks and whites were separated, even in death: Just north of uptown, a fence kept visitors to Pinewood Cemetery, where blacks were buried, away from Elmwood, which was reserved for whites. “It was a time of social change. … We either had to accept change and make change work for the betterment of our city and community, or else we had to fight it,” Brookshire said in an interview with Edward Perzel for the WSOC-TV Oral History Project, years before he passed away in 1990. Too young to serve in World War I, and too old for World War II, Brookshire had no intention of fighting. Following a brief stint in construction with his father, who
started out farming but later got into building, Brookshire went into business with his brother dealing industrial belts. He hadn’t planned to run for public office, but, after a year as president of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce and at the urging of local business leaders, he ended up serving as mayor for four terms, from 1961-1969. None was particularly easy. In May 1963, three months before Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. dreamt aloud on the national mall, he visited Charlotte to speak to students at the city’s black high schools. Around that time, local civil rights leader Reginald Hawkins had protested the city’s segregated establishments. Hawkins, a dentist who later ran for N.C. governor, believed the city’s progress toward desegregation wasn’t moving fast enough. Brookshire, who had already established the biracial Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee, needed to act. Instead of going the way of Southern cities before him, he and several other white and black business owners started simply: They shared a meal. The idea came from local cafeteria owner J. W. “Slug” Claiborne, a Charlotte restaurateur who operated several Slug’s restaurants and the Barclay Cafeterias. The idea was simple: Across town, every white member of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce would go to lunch with a black member on the same day. Brookshire walked into the Manger Motor Inn on 10th Street, a white establishment, with A.E. Spears, president of the black-owned Mechanics and Farmers Bank, and a professor from Johnson C. Smith University, and placed an order. Later that month, the chamber’s executive board unanimously voted to desegregate many of the city’s hotels, restaurants and movie theaters.
NATIONAL MODEL FOR DESEGREGATION
Though he was progressive for his time, Brookshire still clung to some old-fashioned values popular in his day consouthparkmagazine.com | 47
|queen city journal
Harry Golden, George M. Ivey, Billy Graham and Stan Brookshire in a photo from 1963. 48
Charlotte City Council members take the oath at a 1965 meeting. From left, Jerry Tuttle, Milton Short, Fred Alexander, Sandy Jordan, Jim Whittington, Mayor Stan Brookshire, Claude Albea and John Thrower. president whom Brookshire had put in charge of his Mayor’s Committee of Community Relations. “I think the answers must come through interracial understanding, goodwill and cooperation,” he continued. “Charlotte’s progressive action in May of 1963, at the same time that Birmingham was bringing out police dogs and firehoses, helped set the stage nationally for what became the hugely important 1964 Civil Rights Act,” says local historian Tom Hanchett.
A LASTING LEGACY
Despite Charlotte’s early progress toward improved racial equality, there was more to be done during Brookshire's tenure. In 1969, Frederick D. Alexander, a funeral-home owner who had been the first black elected to Charlotte City Council, led the fight to remove the fence separating Elmwood and Pinewood cemeteries. City Council was deadlocked. With his deciding vote, Brookshire broke the tie, and the fence came down. Today, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee is headed by Willie Ratchford, with the goal of improving communication among Charlotte’s diverse communities. With race-relation issues from the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott to growing immigrant and refugee populations, the committee continues the work of Brookshire’s day. In May 2013, 50 years after the famed “eat-in,” the committee urged residents to invite someone of a different race to lunch on the same day. Brookshire passed away in October 1990. Shaded by the city’s signature crepe myrtles and oaks, the former mayor is laid to rest at Evergreen Cemetery, a pocket of east Charlotte where, fittingly, demographics are roughly one-third black, white and Hispanic. Inside the cemetery’s stone pillars, everyone is welcome. SP
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF J. MURREY ATKINS LIBRARY, UNC CHARLOTTE
cerning topics like interracial marriage, which he opposed. Still, his stances on broader civil-rights issues were more clear-cut. “In my mind, there were no questions about which direction we should go,” Brookshire said in an interview in 1973. “After all, the blacks in this country are citizens. They were entitled to citizenship rights. To give them their requests for equal rights and opportunities was both legal and morally right.” Just after becoming mayor, in 1961, Brookshire instituted an “urban-renewal” program in the uptown black community known as Brooklyn. It was Brookshire’s earnest way of showing the black community that the city was invested in improving their environment by furnishing better housing and providing opportunities in education and jobs. “I’m convinced that if we hadn’t cleared Brooklyn … along with giving [blacks] equal citizenship rights … I think that we might have had such incidents here that they had in Watts,” Brookshire said, referring to the violent 1965 race riots in Los Angeles. Whatever the intention, the repercussions of the program had a lasting, controversial effect. Many residents of Brooklyn — once a thriving African American community in what is now Second Ward — were displaced from the only home they knew. The urban-renewal program continues to be a hot-button topic today, with current Charlotte politicians pressing for minority involvement in the redevelopment of the former Brooklyn site. Nevertheless, in July 1963, The Charlotte Observer reported that Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy said he was “particularly impressed” with Charlotte’s “striking progress” in desegregating area establishments. Kennedy and other administration leaders called on Brookshire to provide more details about the local efforts to model for other communities beginning to take action toward desegregation. “Our problems are not solely Negro or white, but interracial,” said John R. Cunningham, a former Davidson College
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“In times of crisis, people fall back on the 50
arts.” — Mary Kamerer
Tender Morning l Mary Kamerer
Isolation inspiration HOW HAVE CHARLOTTE ARTISTS, ACTORS AND DANCERS ADJUSTED TO SHELTERING IN PLACE? VERY WELL, THANK YOU. BY PAGE LEGGETT
rtist Mary Kamerer didn’t know how long we’d be under a shelter-in-place order. None of us did. So, she brought a few supplies from Dilworth Artisan Station home with her. But not nearly enough. Kamerer is married to a physician who’s working during the coronavirus crisis. Her priority is keeping their family safe, so she’s fastidious about what comes into the house. Retrieving art supplies from her studio wasn’t an option. “Anything can be a canvas,” she says. She planned to use scrap plywood she saved from a home renovation as a makeshift canvas when she ran out of actual canvases. Creatives are accustomed to solving problems on the fly. Ask any actor who’s flubbed a line. The show doesn’t stop. You ad lib and move on.
LEANING ON OTHER SKILLS Audrey Baran was in the middle of rehearsals for Big Moves 2020, her dance company’s final concert of the season, when the stay-home order was announced. At press time, she wasn’t sure if the show would go on — but
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“I’ve found that routine with enjoying the emptiness is an art in itself.” — Audrey Baran
she wasn’t wringing her hands. The dance teacher and founder of Baran Dance, a contemporary dance company, remained diligent about her routine, even though there’s nothing routine about home confinement. “I wake up at the same time and practice yoga every morning, no matter what. On the creative side, finding a few minutes of improvisation in my kitchen, living room or yard helps to make me feel like myself,” Baran says. “I’m an incredibly structured person,” she adds. “So, managing the time is relatively easy. I’ve found that balancing routine with enjoying the emptiness is an art in itself.” She wondered if others might like to join in her yoga practice — from a distance. She asked friends if they’d like to be part of virtual yoga and then opened it to the public via social media. Creatives are introspective by nature, and sheltering in place has allowed them even more solitude to ponder. “I’ve been thinking about my identity a lot,” Baran says. “If I got injured or couldn’t dance for some reason, what would I do? Who would I be? I’ve found that leaning on other skills is helpful, albeit not nearly as fulfilling. I love cooking and am catching up on a lot of reading. I’m always in motion … so this time has really made me slow down. My dogs and husband appreciate it.” Her company made dance videos for Instagram and offered weekly classes on Instagram Live. “Dancing alone can be therapeutic but also lonely,” Baran says. “It’s nice to know your friends are dancing with you.” She’s made the most of the downtime. A novice drummer for years, she’s used the time at home to practice more. She’s taken knitting classes via Zoom — and already has a scarf to her credit.
PHOTOGRAPH THIS PAGE BY JEFF CRAVOTTA
Actor Brian Lafontaine is studying piano while sheltering at home, and he’s still able to do voiceover work.
‘I CAN LEARN SOMETHING NEW’ Baran wasn’t the only creative to take up a new art form. Actor and producer Brian Lafontaine spent a lot of his early quarantine days at the piano. “I’ve been at it on and off for a few years, but more so now because — well, I’ve got the time. The entire film and TV industry is shut down until further notice,” he says. You might have seen Lafontaine in local productions (most recently, as Oscar Madison in Theatre Charlotte’s The Odd Couple) or on TV. He’s done everything from commercials to Dawson’s Creek (1998) to the Netflix series Stranger Things (2016) to the current season of Ozark.
“I do this for my own mental well-being,” he said. “It’s really the perfect time to reconnect with music. It’s also good to know that — at almost 50! — I can learn something new.” Lafontaine also has a podcast called You May Have Seen, in which he interviews not-so-famous professional film and TV actors. Since the coronavirus outbreak, he’s been revisiting former guests to talk about how the current situation is affecting them. Since Lafontaine is also a voice actor, he’s still getting auditions and jobs. But he says an actor’s life is one filled with uncertainty even in good times. So, actors are as prepared as anyone could be for the doubt created by a pandemic. southparkmagazine.com | 53
“I couldn’t cope with life — with or without the coronavirus — if I wasn’t creating.” — Martin Settle A CREATING COCOON Martin Settle, a writer, poet, artist and retired English professor, maintained his regular routine during the early days of the lockdown. He missed his 5:30 a.m. gatherings at Starbucks with other early risers, but little else changed. “I continue to work as I always have as a writer and assemblage artist. I write in my den, and I do art in my studio in the backyard. I couldn’t cope with life — with or without the coronavirus — if I wasn’t creating.” The pandemic inspired Settle to create a 10-minute wordless comedic play. “Two people wearing masks and looking down at their phones bump into each other,” he says. “They’re horrified that they accidentally touched.” They also drop their phones and fear picking them up; confusion and humor ensue. In good times and bad, Settle is in his home studio from 7 to 11 a.m. each day. “I’m extremely lucky,” he says. “I have this cocoon I’ve always had where I get to create.”
And It Came to Pass l Martin Settle
‘TRUST THE PATH’ Photographer, artist and teacher Catherine Anderson has a place to exercise creativity in her home, too — a garage-turned-studio. Normally, Anderson has a packed teaching and travel schedule, including leading creative classes all over the world. The pandemic, she says, forced her into “pause mode.” But she didn’t stop creating entirely. “Art is about making meaning,” she says — and we’re all searching for that now. “I could keep busy in my studio for the next 10 years,” says the former lawyer and South Africa native in her lilting accent. “I have enough supplies and ideas. But I’m asking myself: What feels important now? And what feels important is stopping and sitting in the stillness for a while.” Anderson admits she is privileged to enjoy the comfort of her home studio while others are suffering. “How do I live with that paradox? I feel like the best use of this time is patience.” She started a new journal. “I wrote on the first page: ‘Embracing the Unknown.’ That’s what I’ve been teaching these last couple of years — life is uncertain, so we have to live in the moment.” Anderson has a labyrinth in her backyard, just beyond the studio. She’s walked it during the shutdown, reminding herself, “There is no place we need to go. We must move within. Trust the path.”
COMPULSIVE CREATIVITY Even people who aren’t artistic, at least not in the visual sense, have used the time alone to create. I’m one of them. Taking to heart the Maxine Hong Kingston quote, “In a time of destruction, create something,” I started making daily “coronacollages” at the start of sequestration. Tearing pages out of magazines and then collaging the pictures has been a peaceful escape. From that very first day, I knew these works should be temporary. “[This collage] existed just long enough for me to snap a photo,” I shared on social media. Making it impermanent reminds me that nothing — including this plague — lasts forever. Collage time was what I most looked forward to each day, and many days I found I couldn’t limit myself to just one. I collaged compulsively. As uncertain and frightening as this time has been, many artists have felt lucky to have art as an outlet. “I am grateful to have painting to keep me preoccupied,” Kamerer says. “In times of crisis, people fall back on the arts. We’re looking to books and movies. People are contacting artists to ask, ‘How can I keep the kids occupied?’” She’s missed her colleagues at the studio but continues to paint in her kitchen and on her back porch. She has shared her process with other artists — and the would-be artists the pandemic has spawned — on YouTube. “No one wants to literally
Sheltering l Catherine Anderson see paint dry,” she says. “So, I’ve been recording my work and turning it into a time-lapse video tutorial. I’ll condense eight hours into two minutes.” The still-life and landscape painter sought inspiration close to home. In normal times, she enjoys painting en plein air. But people often approach and peek over her shoulder, and that’s too much of a risk now. So, she began snapping photos when she and her husband biked the McMullen Park Greenway, painting from those once she returned home. She never considered whether her “pandemic paintings” would sell. She paints because that’s what artists do. And she wondered how she could help. If the paintings she created in quarantine do sell, she plans to donate the money to the COVID-19 Response Fund. Art, whether you’re making it or appreciating it, is healing. Eventually, Catherine Anderson says, we’ll come to see some purpose in this troubled time. “We’re living in a liminal space,” she says. “But there is meaning in this. A new world is being born.” SP southparkmagazine.com | 55
Close to home
CELEBRATIONS, FROM BIRTHDAYS TO ELEGANT DATE NIGHTS, LOOK A LITTLE DIFFERENT THESE DAYS. BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN THEY HAVE TO BE ANY LESS MEMORABLE.
BY WHITLEY ADKINS HAMLIN
n upside of social distancing is that we are given a great opportunity to connect more intentionally, meaningfully — and creatively — with those closest to us. My mama always told me when you’re given lemons, you make lemonade. With that in mind, I asked some of our city’s most aspirational creatives to share a glimpse at how they’ve carried out small — albeit beautiful — gatherings at home. We hope their ideas — plus a few of my own — will inspire you to host your own special celebrations while staying close at home with those you love.
Sunday funday “On any typical Sunday, my family heads to church and then to brunch somewhere in the Queen City,” says event planner Katrina Hutchins, who would normally be busy preparing for weddings and other spring gatherings this time of year. “It’s a tradition we look forward to weekly and something we have deeply missed during the COVID-19 quarantine. “However, just because we can’t go out, we can still make a brunch at home that is fun, a little fancy and family-friendly,” says Hutchins, who lives in Myers Park with her husband and two young sons. “Everything I used was something I either already owned or picked up with an online drive-up order from Target or local stores. I wanted to mix ‘fancy’ and practical items since we are dealing with young kids — I love mixing the two for a unique juxtaposition when setting a table.” For the tablecloth, Hutchins took an old sheet and “let the kids go wild with some paint.” For the place settings, she paired a set of chargers she already had with her grandmother’s wedding china. The Queen Charlotte centerpiece from R. Runberg Curiosities is “a nod to the city we’re missing so much,” Hutchins says. Kid-friendly paper plates and disposable cutlery made for easy clean-up.
Backyard birthday A family treasure that has been in Rainy Westerman’s family since the early 1980s was the centerpiece for her daughter Anne Brensley’s 11th birthday party, held in the backyard of the family’s Rock Hill home. “I used my childhood tablecloth that was always used in the sunroom of my grandparent’s beach house in Holden Beach,” says Westerman, an interior designer. “Sometimes we would bring the tablecloth out onto the front lawn and lay it out there and watch the boats go by. I also used my grandmother’s silver, which was passed down to her from my great-grandmother.” Camellias, rhododendrons, azaleas, spirea and lily of the valley, cut fresh from Westerman’s yard, were used as a centerpiece. “I baked a three-layer cake and made buttercream frosting in Annie’s favorite color, turquoise, and put it on top of a cake stand that is part of a tradition in our family.”
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Date night in Interior designer Gray Walker and her husband, Geordie, had planned an early spring getaway to Jamaica. Like others who had to cancel spring-break trips and vacations, they had no choice but to postpone it. “This was a dinner for Geordie and me at home. We canceled a trip to Round Hill, so I created a candlelight dinner for two under the stars.” Walker chose the gazebo in the woods of her home’s property to host the intimate dinner with her husband. She used a backgammon table from her living room as a makeshift table, the perfect size for dinner for two, and borrowed the chairs from her back porch dining table. Walker set the table with Vietri china and flowers picked from her own garden and from Whole Foods. A swath of fabric from Peter Dunham Textiles was repurposed as a beautiful makeshift table skirt.
Putting on the works “March started off beautiful in Charlotte — warm weather, flowering trees, lots of lacrosse games and, most importantly, my oldest daughter, Elizabeth’s 12th birthday,” says Brooke Werhane Maples, a local artist. “But with the news of COVID-19 spreading like wildfire and social distancing becoming the new norm, we felt the most responsible act would be to call off the [planned] sleepover party of six girls.” Instead, the mother of three put together a cozy family dinner, with presents for Elizabeth to open. “When you are quarantined and also like to keep busy, a little creative challenge is welcomed,” Maples says. “I put on my thinking cap, remembered everything my grandmother taught me about setting the table, and put on the works, all from what we had at home. I cut budding tree branches for centerpieces and pulled out all my pretty vases. I set the table with our favorite spring Audubon Tiffany china, pretty block-print linen napkins and my mother-in-law’s vintage glassware. “Homemade Shirley Temples flowed for the kids, and rose for Mom and Dad. We made her favorite homemade pizzas, easy steamed green beans with olive oil and a spring- themed layered cake. After dinner we went outside and enjoyed a bonfire.” She got to DJ all her favorite songs and ate two pieces of cake — if that’s not quarantine birthday party success, I don’t know what is! 58
Picnic under the stars Using collected mismatched layered china and linens, I wanted to create an easy but comfortable and pretty picnic dinner with my boyfriend, Jay. We chose First Ward Park, with sunset views and our city’s skyline for a first-rate backdrop. [Our date took place prior to the city’s restrictions on park attendance.] A bottle of wine, candle sticks and tapered candles, a gifted William Yeoward water carafe, and fresh flowers from Harris Teeter served as delightful accoutrements in bringing traditional indoor dining outside. We picked up takeout from Stagioni and topped off the meal with a slice of my coronavirus late-night addiction — a slice of Cicely’s homemade cake from Laurel Market. After sunset, Jay played his guitar and we sang songs in the park. We both got dressed up — he wore a sport coat, and I wore a long skirt and my trusty Lucchese cowboy boots. We both realized, if it weren’t for the citywide shutdown, we may have never thought to have had such an awesome, fun date night and experience.”
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Common threads A CHARLOTTE NONPROFIT UNITES WOMEN ARTISANS A WORLD APART. BY CATHY MARTIN
PHOTOGRAPH LEFT BY LORETTA HUGHBANKS / PHOTOGRAPHS RIGHT BY CARLEY STEWART
ometimes to get things done, all you have to do is ask. The expression has held true for Christin Boone, founder of the local nonprofit Empower for Hope. That’s not to say Boone hasn’t worked tirelessly over the last decade helping grow her organization from supporting a small sewing operation in east Africa to employing local artisans crafting high-end garments. But recognizing opportunities to advocate for her cause has allowed her to expand her mission — and Boone isn’t finished yet. Twelve years ago, the Charlotte native hosted two women from East Africa in her home. They were in town for an event supporting women artisans at a local church. The women ran sewing projects in their home countries of Rwanda and Burundi, helping widows and other women get back on their feet in a region ravaged by genocide in the early 1990s, when an estimated 800,000 people were murdered as competing tribes battled for control. The women shared horrific tales of violence, having witnessed family members being killed and narrowly escaping their own deaths. Goreth Inarukundo told a story of forbidden love — she met a man from the opposite tribe and they were forced to escape Burundi, a landlocked country about the size of Maryland, fleeing to Kenya. Later, Inarukundo and her husband, Evariste, returned to Burundi and established Amahoro, a sewing project to help local women who had survived the atrocities. “They knew that their calling was to help women who had survived the genocide, who were widowed, and teach them how to sew — teach them a trade and counsel them,” Boone says. After the women left Charlotte, they stayed in touch with Boone. Having a background in marketing, Boone offered to help Inarukundo build a website for Amahoro to sell the handbags, zipper pouches, stuffed animals and other items made by the artisans in Burundi. In 2010, Boone made her first trip to Africa, helping lead a women’s conference on topics including health and hygiene. After that trip, she was certain she’d be back. “I just knew there was going to be a long-term relationship with them, somehow.”
oone began making regular trips to Africa, bringing items made by the artisans of Amahoro back home to sell. “I usually take a couple of women [with me] who might have sewing skills that could teach technique or could help us design new products,” says Boone, who learned to sew from her mother. “I was always designing Barbie clothes and designing my prom dresses and designing my wedding dress,” she says, recalling frequent trips to Mary Jo’s Cloth Store, the beloved fabric shop that operated for 68 years in Dallas and Gastonia before closing last year.
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“We have created this little community of women that now is our Empower for Hope team. ... I have all different languages, all different belief systems. Yet this thing of sewing just really kind of brings them together.”
“I just love fabrics and color,” says Boone, who has two children, 17 and 19. “So it was just a really natural fit for me to be involved in the design process, and the marketing process of that.” Before Boone stepped in to help, the tiny shop in Burundi might go an entire week without selling anything; its customers are mostly expats and aid workers passing through. Amahoro currently employs about 25 women making about 10,000 products a year. Its largest customer is a Christian attraction in Kentucky that purchases items to sell in its gift shop. After a while, Boone realized she needed to supplement the work of the artisans in Burundi to fill orders. “There were times when I needed products made — zipper pouches or wallets or whatever — that I didn’t have enough of from Africa. I wasn’t going to get in enough.” She learned about Project 658, a Christian ministry based in east Charlotte that operates a sewing school for refugees and immigrants. Supplying fabrics sourced from her trips to Africa, she began working with Project 658 to help fill orders. “People kept saying, ‘I love those fabrics, can you make skirts?’” Around the same time, in 2018, The Mint Museum hosted an exhibition of African-print fashion. When she heard about the exhibition, Boone approached the museum staff. “I said, ‘We’re dabbling in making some skirts. Would you want some skirts to hang in your gift shop?’” They said yes. Before long, people started ordering the full, ballgown skirts to wear to The Mint’s annual Coveted Couture Gala that doubled as a closing celebration of the exhibition. Boone also connected with Chosen, a small boutique on 62
Selwyn Avenue owned by Caroline Dowling. “She’s really conscientious about bringing in give-back brands that are doing good in the world,” Boone says. “And I just walked in one day, and I said, ‘Look, I’ve got these skirts.’” Chosen now carries Empower for Hope skirts, which are priced from $140 to $240 and come in three styles: the original gathered skirt with pockets, a fitted A-line skirt and a wrap skirt. Boone also hosts frequent pop-up events at the store, where she can measure clients for a more custom fit. Through her relationship with Project 658, Boone employs five local sewers that work in their homes. “We have created this little community of women that now is our Empower for Hope team. I have women [originally] from Burma, and from Myanmar and Afghanistan and Iraq and Mexico, and I have all different languages, all different belief systems. Yet, this thing of sewing just really kind of brings them together.”
oone says the skirts are a small but important part of the business, which she established as a nonprofit about five years ago. Recently, however, she’s expanded her vision for Empower for Hope. “I started taking medical teams with me [to Burundi], because the need is so great for medical [care] there,” says Boone, who communicates with her partners in Africa daily via WhatsApp. Sometimes even basic items such as bandages and antibiotics are scarce.
PHOTOGRAPH BY NAN GRAY
Empower for Hope’s skirts can be customfitted and exude a high-end aesthetic. “The fabrics just call for it. They’re so regal,” founder Christin Boone says.
A couple of years ago, Boone emailed T.J. Trad, an Oklahoma-based cardiologist who established Cura for the World, a humanitarian organization that brings medical care and supplies to underdeveloped regions. She wondered if he might be interested in building a clinic in Burundi. “He [had clinics] in Uganda, he was in the Congo, he was in some of the countries surrounding us.” After nearly a year with no reply, Trad responded. “He said, ‘I’m sorry, it took me so long to get back to you, but sure, I’d love to build a clinic in Burundi.” Last fall, Empower for Hope held its first fundraiser, emceed by local radio host Ramona Holloway. The organization raised $20,000, with Trad’s organization pledging additional funds. The money will be used to purchase land for the clinic and a new home for the sewing business in Burundi. Upgrading from the group’s former site, which was small and lacked access to clean water, would allow Amahoro’s products to achieve fair-trade certification and expand distribution to more retail stores.
n the day we first spoke, Boone shared disappointing news that an upcoming trip to Burundi had been canceled due to coronavirus travel restrictions. She had planned to look at a plot of land for the new clinic. A couple of weeks later, she emailed to let me know her local workers had temporarily shifted their work to producing face masks that would be donated to health care workers and
sold to the public. “The best part about this is that we are utilizing scraps from our skirts, and the women are excited to help their community,” Boone says. As Amahoro’s orders dried up amid the pandemic, Boone began collecting donations of $100 per month to support her African counterparts and their families while they are not working. Meanwhile, the organization decided to give up the small rented building where the sewers and artisans had worked for the last decade. “When the smoke clears, we plan to build a new building and start again,” Boone says. “[The project has] grown, so now it’s not just 25 artisans. It’s 25 artisans, their families and all the people they support that are affected, which is about 200 people that depend on what we do.” While the elegant skirts made in Charlotte provide a steady source of income for Empower for Hope, Boone hopes people understand the meaning behind the mission. “It’s really about bringing women together from different backgrounds and learning to love and support each other,” Boone says. “It gives us another outlet to tell the story about what we’re doing and why we’re working so hard at this — because women need to feel empowered and feel special and feel valued. And whether it’s here or whether it’s [in Burundi], that’s our mission to do that.” SP Learn more about Empower for Hope at empowerforhope.org. southparkmagazine.com | 63
From the ground up THE BELK FAMILY’S LATEST VENTURE — AN ORGANIC FARM — IS AN EXPERIMENT IN BRINGING LOCAL HEALTHY FOOD TO CHARLOTTE WHILE INSPIRING YOUNG FARMERS. BY DAVID MILDENBERG • PHOTOGRAPHS BY ZAN MADDOX
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orty-five miles south of downtown Charlotte, the same family that filled generations of North Carolinians’ closets with sweaters, coats and shoes is slowly working its way into local kitchens, one head of broccoli at a time. From late April through late summer, the Belks’ Wild Hope Farm delivers a couple hundred containers filled with organic vegetables to customers weekly, while selling additional produce at the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market. The business is about healthy food, nutrition, restoring the quality of soil and other positive karma. The farm’s “connector,” Katherine Belk, 28, never worked full time for the company started by her great-grandfather William Henry Belk in Monroe in 1888. But in her third summer overseeing the farm, she’s displaying the work ethic and messaging of a veteran entrepreneur. “We want to be financially sustainable, environmentally sustainable and socially sustainable,” she says. “A lot of farms our size might be relying on migrant workers that they house and pay a very little amount. But we want to pay a living wage and build a model for a farm that is going to be around for decades — not something you do for three years, burn out the land and move on.” Katherine and her family want their farm to help expand the local food movement in the Charlotte area, which is catching up with other cities already embracing the trend. The goal is to promote healthier diets and lifestyles and a renewed respect for land.
atherine was working at a product design firm in Boston in 2016 when her parents, Tim and Sarah, told her about their plans to create an organic farm on part of the 200 acres they’d bought in 1996. The Rodman area of rural Chester County has a picturesque feel that is hardly a second-home hot spot, but the Belks liked its close proximity to Charlotte. Tim stepped down as CEO of Belk in July 2016, a year after the family sold the business to a New York private-equity firm. He had succeeded his uncle, former Charlotte Mayor John Belk, who was CEO for 50 years. Tim’s father, Tom, was president and oversaw merchandising at the department store chain until his sudden death at age 71 in 1997. Katherine attended boarding school in Delaware and, like her father and three of her four siblings, Williams College in Massachusetts. She studied business and art at the top-ranked private college, graduated in 2013 and then headed 140 miles west to Boston. It was Sarah’s vision to expand beyond the
burgeoning flower business that she had started at the farm and add vegetables, Tim says. He calls his wife the “grower” in the family. She’d learned much about local agriculture by helping start a volunteer food stand that operated from 2009 to 2015. The couple visited various farms and searched nationally for a manager before hiring Shawn Jadrnicek, who at the time was operating Clemson University’s student-run organic farm. Among his special interests is no-till farming, which conserves water, improves the soil’s organic matter, and creates significant fuel and labor savings by limiting plowing. He has impressed the Belks with his craftiness, such as piling compost on top of a concrete slab embedded with coils. In winter, the composting process warms the coils and, in turn, heats the farm’s greenhouse, reducing the need to buy power. With Jadrnicek focused on the field, the Belks needed someone to sell and distribute the produce. “I initially told my parents, ‘Good for you guys to do something together post-retirement,’ and that was about it,” Katherine says. “But then I thought, you know, I’d become pretty stuck in my ways. I was ready for a change.” Her parents encouraged the move with some trepidation. Rural South Carolina is a different place than Boston. “We asked, ‘Did we send her off to college so that she could work for the family farm?” Tim Belk says. “But then I thought, It’s a startup, an early-stage industry, it’s organic farming, and we’ll get to work with our daughter and maybe get to coach her.” Katherine’s husband, Peyton, had grown up on a horse farm in Virginia and was also ready for a new opportunity. “He was super supportive,” she says. The business kicked off in mid-2018 with 3.5 planted acres and about 100 customers signed up for weekly produce drop offs. The first year was the hardest, like any small business. “Sean and I were working around the clock just to get things started,” Katherine says. They ramped up to 6.5 acres in 2019 and 12 acres this year. Carrots, garlic, radishes, turnips, greens, cabbage, peppers, watermelon and okra are among the 75 varieties of vegetables and fruits grown at the farm. In mid-April, the farm had sold out of its 340 farm shares: Subscribers pay $22 to $32 a week for deliveries that include a basket of fresh produce from late April through November. Rachel Klein leads the farm’s community share program. She describes her job as “making sure that our customers get a variety of stuff and a better value than if they went to the farmers southparkmagazine.com | 67
market and bought everything. Klein says the Carolina climate of extreme summer heat and too much or too little rain makes Wild Hope more challenging than her previous work at a 15acre farm in the California foothills. “We keep a high-quality standard, but the whole idea of [community-supported agriculture] is that customers are accepting what happens with the farm,” Klein says. “They understand that if one week we don’t have broccoli, we’ll supplement it with a lot of kale.” Tim says he views the farm as a promising project that is benefiting from growing interest in healthier food. “We’re comparing notes with other farms. We want to know if a farmer can generate enough income to pay a competitive wage so that a worker could send their kid to college. That’s what we would like to show,” he says. “Hopefully it is a business model that can be replicated. But first we have to prove it works.” Proof is key for the former CEO, says his daughter. “He’s a project manager to the max,” she says. “He always sets a deadline, and then we work on it. That’s definitely his skill set, so we let him keep track of timelines and we focus on getting the work done.”
he coronavirus pandemic is sparking “incredible growth and interest” in the demand for local food across the state, says Nancy Creamer, an N.C. State University professor of horticultural science. The Belks are joining at an interesting time for Charlotte’s local food ecosystem. The increasing, pre-coronavirus popularity of the Queen City’s chef-driven restaurants, many of whom rely on fresh local farm products, has bolstered demand among consumers, says Chad Blackwelder, a food service marketing specialist at the N.C. Department of Agriculture. “Without the support of local chefs, I am not sure that customers and consumers would have local farmers on their grocery shopping and menu planning radar,” he says. Unlike other metro areas that were quicker to recognize the benefits of local agriculture, many Charlotte residents tend to value convenience over quality, says Katherine, who is expecting her first child in August. “They don’t necessarily make a connection to the importance of how we treat the soil,” she says. “But it really does matter: Don’t you want your kids to be able to enjoy this world too?” The Wild Hope folks view their farm as both a business and an educational opportunity. Next year, they hope to add pick-your-own blueberries and events, including discussions of farming practices or just fun musical or dinner gatherings. “We want this to be a model of how you make this work to inspire other younger farmers,” Klein says. It’s also inspiring to nascent baby boomer farmers like Tim. “We’re on a steep learning curve, but we think and hope that we are building a brand around organic vegetables in the Charlotte market. It’s very early stage for organic local farms, but we are excited about working with others to make this work.” SP
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A monthly guide to Charlotte’s parties and galas
Wish Ball benefiting Make-A-Wish Central and Western North Carolina Feb. 21, Westin Charlotte This year’s Wish Ball raised more than $700,000 to grant life-changing wishes to local kids, including Wish Kid Liam, who was surprised onstage with a trip to Hawaii. The gala also honored President and CEO Amy Brindley-Takacs for her years of leadership with the local chapter.
Wish kid Liam’s wish to go to Hawaii is revealed.
Dennis Limberg and Sherry Latten
PHOTOGRAPHS BY DANIEL COSTON
Debra and Peter Smul and Amy Brindley-Takacs
Cassidy Davis, Erin Condit and Bonnie Davis
Felice and Tom Jenike
Carter and Esther Loetz
Wish Kid Olivia celebrates with her family after being given a puppy from an auction winner.
Jimmy Murphy and Lauren Lorraine
Octavia Collins, Jed Collins, Jen Lepkowski and Clay Collins
Phil and Amy Colaco purchase a Wish Art Painting donated by wish kid Olivia. southparkmagazine.com | 75
A monthly guide to Charlotte’s parties and galas
Dream Gala a benefit for Dream On 3 Jan. 25, Founders Hall This year’s Dream Gala raised more than $676,000 for Dream On 3, which provides sports opportunities to kids with life-altering conditions. Concrete Supply Co. was honored as the Queen City Business of the Year, with The Vining Group taking honors as Queen City Small Business Of The Year. Country music artist Nick Davisson performed, and former Carolina Panthers guard Kevin Donnalley and Cleveland Browns defensive tackle (and former UNC Charlotte 49er) Larry Ogunjobi were also on hand.
Carrigan Bainn and Crystal Thornburg
Dream Gala King And Queen of 2020
Mike Greene, Warner Grantham and Wes Hyland
Maria Ellis, Karen Gibson, Stevie Bruce and Amy Bruce
Eric Schlenker and Adam Bourne
Matt Pugh, Keith Williams and Andrew Jarrett
Elizabeth Lindsey, Kristin Vining and Brandon Lindsey
Michael and Shannon Elmore, Brooke Mulloy and Hailey Gaugh
PHOTOGRAPHS BY DANIEL COSTON
William Wilson and Greg Ott
A monthly guide to Charlotte’s parties and galas
Fashion Breathes Life benefiting Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Feb. 1, Byron’s South End Nearly 300 people turned out for an evening of fashion, food, music and fundraising for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Fifteen local “supermodels” hit the runway in styles from local boutiques including Sloan, Capitol and Taylor Richards Conger. Hendrick Luxury Group presented the event, which raised more than $400,000.
Ben and Jill Pleune, Chad Cooke and Courtney Sloan Cooke, Michael and Kristen Sloan, Craig and Cathy Sloan
Melanie Meekins, Maya Ervin and Brittny Ervin
Jennifer Winstel and Nancy McNelis
PHOTOGRAPHS BY DANIEL COSTON
Berhan Nebioglu, Nikki Baber, Mary Margaret Banner, Audrey Hood, Claire Samuels, Koren Ayers and Alissa Pace
Nicole and Josh Scronce
Michelle Simpson and Valerie McKernan
Bill and Stephanie True and Luis Machicao
Amanda Lanier and Athena Kortesis
Lisa and John Erdos
Matthew and Nikki Baber and Emily Oliver southparkmagazine.com | 77
A monthly guide to Charlotteâ€™s parties and galas
Greater Charlotte Heart Ball a benefit for the American Heart Association Feb. 15, Crown Ballroom at NASCAR Hall Of Fame This yearâ€™s Heart Ball raised a whopping $2 million at the South Beach-themed event, complete with pink flamingos, mermaids and Miami Vice-inspired attire. Mike Lamach, CEO of Ingersoll Rand, chaired the 2020 gala, which raises money for cardiovascular research, education and outreach programs.
Carl Armato, Shirley Houston-Aluko and Yele Aluko
Erin Link, Cheryl Emanuel and Bert Scott
Jesse and Angela Cureton
PHOTOGRAPHS BY DANIEL COSTON
Steven and Karen Kropp, Todd Albaum, Shirley Cress Dudley and Bill Evans
A monthly guide to Charlotte’s parties and galas
Dancing with the Stars of Charlotte for The Pink House benefiting Carolina Breast Friends Feb. 28, Knight Theater This year’s gala celebrated its fifth anniversary with a night that swooned and swayed. Lisa Sherrill took home the award for raising the most money. Tom Lane-Brady and Stephen Wilson shared the Crowd Pleaser award, and Jamie Satterfield won the Judge’s Choice prize to cap off an amazing night that raised more than $940,000.
Darinka Diviljak and Rick Stack
PHOTOGRAPHS BY DANIEL COSTON
Emily Guthrie and Jamie Satterfield
Claire Talley and Cel Thompson
Lisa Sherrill and Felipe Gonzalez Edmiston
Sherry and Chris Ebel
Kurt Coleman models Stephen Wilson’s Elton John glasses
Julie Gray and Dmitriy Solomakha
Clair Campbell and Randy Coble
Stephen Wilson and Darinka Divljak
Jamie Satterfield southparkmagazine.com | 79
IN HER NEW BOOK, NESHA PAI SHARES STORIES ABOUT GROWING UP IN THE SOUTH AND FINDING HER IDENTITY AS A FIRST-GENERATION AMERICAN. PHOTOGRAPH BY RICHARD ISRAEL
BY VANESSA INFANZON
or local entrepreneur Nesha Pai, writing down the details of her journey to adulthood healed her childhood wounds, giving her the tools to visualize a path to building confidence and identity. Her first book, Overcoming Ordinary Obstacles, a guide for personal growth and success, was released at the end of 2019. Pai believes readers of various backgrounds will relate to her story and the struggles she faced, including self-identity while growing up between two very opposite cultures. Pai was born in Raleigh, the daughter of Indian immigrants. She graduated from N.C. State University in 1993 and moved to Charlotte that same year. She opened Pai CPA, a certified public accounting firm, in 2011. Pai and her staff — she often hires stay-at-home moms who work virtually — provide accounting services for small businesses. Comments have been edited for brevity.
“We live in a fast-paced superficial world, and in today’s climate, we need more authenticity and vulnerability.”
What was your purpose in writing the book? To help and inspire others. I feel that a book made sense to capture a wider net of people that could somehow relate to what I went through. I always felt alone, and this created a way for me to heal through my own past and find others that felt the same. I shared [my own struggles and obstacles] through the viewpoint of a first-generation Indian woman born, raised in the South, but the “ordinary obstacles” I talk about should relate to so many human beings. We live in a fast-paced superficial world, and in today’s climate, we need more authenticity and vulnerability — we connect through the deepest parts of others through our authenticity and vulnerability. It is through these crossroads that we have the opportunity to change the trajectory of our lives. I wanted to share my own journey in order to show others who may feel stuck. 80
Who do you hope reads the book? My intended audience was women, however, I have found a major surprise since my launch. Men are reading my book and reflecting on their own lives. Each chapter has a set of reflection questions that the reader can go through to analyze their own journey. It was not intended for self-help as much as it is for educating people on a different culture and generation — but also for readers to deepen their own sense of purpose for themselves. What’s the significance of the lion on the cover? The lion represents courage, heart and strength. It takes those things to overcome an obstacle that comes our way. It also reflects both cultures that represent me. In the Indian culture, it represents the vehicle of Durga, who is the goddess of war — battling evil, in essence good over evil. In Christianity (which I have recently adopted), the lion is referenced throughout the Bible. What advice would you give someone who is thinking about writing a book?
Just do a brain dump — don’t worry about perfection in the beginning. Overcoming Ordinary Obstacles can be purchased on Amazon.com.
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