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Volume One Issue 2 STAY I NFORMED. HELP THE NEEDY. GET INVOLVED. $4.00 USD

Parkour Flips Out In Charlotte

INTERNATIONAL TV Program Exposes Sex Trafficking

GRASSROOTS Homeless get Moore

MUSIC John Mark McMillan


Volume 1 Issue 2

Executive Director Matt Shaw Managing Editor Lana Shaw Designer Trey Bates Copy Editor Samantha Reed Business and Community Development Rob Burbank

About Speak Up

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SPEAK UP is a 501(C)(3) Public Charity 512 E. 15th Street Suite One Charlotte, NC 28206

Administrative Assistant Sue Oxley

Features

Board of Directors Phil Felten, Chairman Troy Felten Bruce Simpson

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Contributors Don Roosenburg, Christina Felten, Matt Shaw, Emily Simpson, Hollis Johnson, Keia Mastrianni, Rob Burbank Photographers Dustin Manning, Norman Latva, Emily Simpson, Jenna Trapasso Thomas, Josh Putnam

Parkour In Charlotte

A photo essay of incredible athletes.

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John Mark McMillan

An interview with a Charlotte native.

FAVORITES

Tainted Love

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TV Programing that exposes sex trafficking.

1 4

TAINTED

LOVE

Project 658 Empowered instead of estranged. Ruth.

Meet the Vendor

22 Soil for the Soul Gardening with your Kids. 25 The Mitch Cooper Story A homeless hero. 27 Needing Moore How the answer to one question became the answer for Charlotte’s chronically homeless.

ON THE WEB: for article supplements additional photos and more go to speakup.com


Letter from the Editor

Urban Pioneers

At Speak Up, we see three options we see when it comes to poverty: 1) Ignore it; 2) Give handouts; 3) Create opportunity. The last one inspires us the most. The magazine you hold in your hands is that opportunity. Whether you bought it on the street or from one of our vendor- sponsored boxes throughout the city, you have helped someone in your community make a step out of poverty and into dignity by tangibly supporting their small business. You’re few dollars champion hope. Our aspiration is that you not only bought the magazine for the cause, but because you see a quality product. In step with our name, we aim to speak up about issues and stories not often covered. There are countless individuals and organizations doing remarkable things; we think you’ll be moved and inspired by them. Be sure to check out how Project 658 is transforming a community through a basement sewing studio (opposite page),or how locally based Halogen network is raising awareness on human trafficking through the poignant show Tainted Love (pg.16). Producing a magazine is much like birthing a baby; I know because I am a mother. I know the pangs of contractions along the way, and the spike in intensity near the final stages. The effort, hard work, focus, faith and commitment it required (of many!--see pg. 31) to see this issue through reminded me much of the original birthdays of my kids. Speak Up is growing, we are learning; the last year has been... well, like being pregnant. We had to believe first before seeing the vision in our hearts realized; and along the way of change, discomfort and being ridiculously stretched, little by little, we are getting there. This issue’s existence is a giant step. What keeps up going is a belief that each one of us, even with our failings, can make a profound difference. What we perceive to be a small difference is often big to someone else. A smile, a few dollars, a kind word, a loving challenge--these things are impetus for change. See how one man’s thoughtful question spurred an entire housing program in Charlotte (Needing Moore, pg. 20), or the riches-to-rags-to-fulfillment story of vendor and famed musician Mitch Cooper (Mitch Plays On, pg. 8). At Speak Up we’ve gotten some things wrong, but we are determined to press on with zeal. The words of Abraham Lincoln motivate us: “Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” It’s stories like how one vendor Angela was able to buy a new set of teeth with her Speak Up earnings, or how another vendor Chris got off the streets and into an apartment with his, that encourage and enthuse us. When a baby is born, every prior cost endured pales in comparison to the benefit gained. Getting this magazine into our vendors hands and then to yours makes every hurdle, every long night, every setback and difficulty worth it. We hope it stirs you to speak up in your circle of influence, and believe with us that what you do terrifically matters.

Words and Pictures by: Emily Simpson

PROJECT 658 15,000 bags made from recycled billboard materials have been created, from these efforts, lives are changing daily, hope is being restored, and dignity is bursting forth.

Sincerely, STAY INFORMED, HELP THE NEEDY, GET INVOLVED.

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Lana Shaw SPEAK UP MAGAZINE

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Urban Pioneers

Urban Pioneers

Her

warm olive skin tone contrasts with her dark pigtails. They swing slightly as Pier, a 21-year-old refugee from Southeast Asia, looks up from her sewing machine at Project 658’s studio, the Charlottebased ministry of Sports Outreach Institute. Deriving their name from John 6:58, “I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die, but will live forever,” Project 658 is tucked along the back hallway of a church off Central Avenue. This grassroots initiative is reaching the many nations represented in Charlotte. They proactively work to empower refugees’ efforts in a new country, rather than allowing them to fade in a culture far different than their own. Project 658’s sewing room is abuzz five days a week with motion, laughter, and conversations in several languages. The gracious smiles of Vietnamese and Nepali women invite others in as if they are family members. Fifteen thousand bags made from recycled billboard materials have been created since January. From these efforts, lives are changing daily, hope is being restored, and dignity is bursting forth. On the right side of the sewing room a chalkboard

opportunity to be surrounded by a community where these women are empowered rather than estranged. But most importantly they’re tools to begin relationships. Stitching these bags is a way for the seven refugee women CC Reynolds (sewing studio manager) spends each week with, to foster friendships. Though they may look different, each women’s “motivation and longings are the same,” says CC. “God has made us all the same. Our longings for purpose are alike, but some of us have bigger obstacles to overcome,” CC shares. Every refugee has been traumatized displays a scripture in English, Jorai, and Nepali. Hanging all around are pictures and names of the women who stitch together these ecofriendly bags which are providing job-training skills, English classes, personal finances education, and relationship management. Thus making integration into American culture slightly less overwhelming. This fashionable and upcycled product has stirred interest. Partnerships have emerged since the sewing shop began in Charlotte in January of 2011. Plywood People, based out of Atlanta, has been an incredible partner of Project

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unjustly. Yet they keep going every day, persevering rather than being crippled by the unjust circumstances from which they fled. It’s a beautiful example of how when ordinary people step out in faith, hindrances are removed and connections are made with those of multiple nations. Through breaking down barriers of language and socio-economic status, Project 658 has effectively begun to restore neighborhoods. And through their model of doing life alongside the people they employ, transformation is occurring in communities in Charlotte. CC speaks of how Project 658 “meets real needs

for the sake of loving people.” As they continue to create tangible programs designed to support communities, they hope more lives will be affected positively. Sustainability is key. Project 658’s sewing studio is a perfect example of how compassion, geared at equipping people for success, can lead to both restoration and hope, locally and internationally. Refugees become empowered, rather than estranged. And that is a thing of beauty! Learn more about Project 658 at www.project658.com. Order an upcycled bag online at www. sportsoutreach.net/store/soi_store.html

658. They support the vision that it’s possible for “Broken things to be made beautiful again.” This vision aligns with the use of recycled materials and the lovely designs of the bags. To date, Project 658 has received their largest order of 5,000 bags from the Passion Conference. Their success has emerged from a group of passionate hearts that believe in a vision to restore hope through teaching, training, and equipping. For some of the refugee women, the bags have become their lifeline. The stitches sewn allow them to put food on the table for their families. And provide a fair wage and the

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Meet the Vendor

Meet the Vendor

RUTH Words by: Christina Felten Pictures by: Jenna Trapasso Thomas

Ruth is ready to share her past with the world. She spills words of past struggles, loss, pain. She speaks of sinking into oceans of grief and almost drowning in despair. In between her words, tears fall as she also conveys the powerful hope in recovery. She emphasizes life’s beauty; “I have my God and He has blessed me. My family has left me, but I have friends who mean everything to me. Life is a gift and I am thankful.” Ruth Chia-yin Hsieh was born on July 9, 1968, in Taipei, Taiwan. Her father was a captain of a Chinese military merchant ship and her mother was a housewife. Ruth recalls that since early childhood, she did not have a close relationship with her dad, although it was something she really wanted. Because of the nature of his work he would be gone for months, sometimes years, at a time. This put a lot of strain on the growing family, causing Ruth’s mother to suffer from a mental breakdown. She was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Relatives convinced Ruth’s father to return home and care for his wife and three daughters. He did so begrudgingly amongst continual conflict in the house.

The family eventually moved to America in hopes of a “better life.” Ruth was 13 years old. Her parents opened a small grocery store in Lexington, Kentucky. Their marriage problems only intensified with the transition into a new culture, and Ruth vividly remembers horrible incidents of domestic violence. Several times, she called the police when her father was beating her mother. One time, her sister had an epileptic seizure brought on by

the trauma of her dad’s violence. Ruth remembers her mom being beaten black and blue. “When he beat my mother, he would say, ‘If you leave me I will take a shotgun and kill you.’ I was so scared ... I was in trauma.” During this time, Ruth was attending public high school. Already, she was suffering from

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various mental illnesses, and was an easy target for bullies. As she struggled to learn a new language and adapt to a completely different world, her classmates became opponents and she grew more and more isolated. Then, some boys violently assaulted her. They attacked and threw snowballs at her. She suffered a traumatic brain injury resulting in a diagnosis of epilepsy. Following this horrific incident, her parents enrolled her in a Catholic high school, for which they barely earned enough to pay tuition. Depression hit Ruth. Her grades were poor, and she had learning difficulties. She also was unable to make friends. Every afternoon, she worked in the family store. The family business struggled for years and eventually her parents declared bankruptcy. Her father left her mother and he moved back to Taiwan to retire. They never heard from him again. After graduation Ruth worked at different places. She was a tray carrier at a hospital, a waitress, and a nanny. After working for several years, Ruth’s struggle with depression and other mental illnesses intensified. She decided to move back home. However, her mother was not understanding of all Ruth was going through, and within months, she kicked her daughter out of the house. Ruth spent the next years living in government housing and on the streets. At 21, her abusive and unsupportive fiance left her when

told Ruth was pregnant. Admitted to a psychiatric ward, she stayed until the birth of her daughter, Sarah. Social Services arranged for Ruth’s baby to be adopted as she was deemed incapable of caring for Sarah. This separation caused unspeakable pain, and Ruth tried to commit suicide several times in the months following her daughter’s birth. “I constantly overdosed over the next several years. I was in and out of the psychiatric ward. I tried to move back home, but the domestic violence continued and our home was very unstable.” Eventually, Ruth’s sisters married and one of them moved with her mother to Charlotte. Her sister wanted to help Ruth recover, so she invited Ruth to live with them. However, there was more domestic violence, and Ruth got restraining orders on both her sisters. She hasn’t had contact with them since. Meanwhile, her mom was diagnosed with cancer and died in 2009. This deep loss caused Ruth to have another mental breakdown. She was an alcoholic, routinely abused her prescription medications, and tried to commit suicide sixteen times. During all of this, Ruth was homeless. She “lived” at the Salvation Army Women’s shelter for years. “It’s not a very pleasant place to be. People

wanted to start fights with me. Racism was hard.” Finally, due to mental illness and addictions, Ruth was referred to a recovery program, where she currently lives. She’s happy there and says this chance for recovery has given her another shot to live. Along the recovery road, Ruth has learned a lot. “I’m still in the trauma sometimes, and it’s hard. Because you see, it’s like part of your brain. The layers peel off, and it all comes back. In those moments, when the pain is intense, I pray. I pray that God will take it away. That He will be my miracle and save me from my thoughts. “Life is not perfect. You have to grow from the pain. That’s why it’s called growing pains. I used to want sympathy, but I have learned to be strong on my own and to be closer with God. Without God I could not make it. Really, I should have died a long time ago. “By being in fellowship with other people, my spiritual reality is developing. Now, I just take one day at a time and enjoy life. It used to be that people would talk to me and say ‘you’re a nobody’ and it would define me. Now I can be real on my own. I don’t have to pretend to be somebody else. I used to want to be accepted by a lot of people, but I found out that being unique and different is a

very important part of my life. I am simple, straightforward and honest. I don’t like flattery. I just want to be real.” Ruth says that by sharing her story with other people, she hopes it will encourage them to pursue their dreams and believe in a hope that is real. As a Speak Up vendor, Ruth is finding a new sense of purpose and drive. She says that selling magazines gives her courage to stand up and face life. It gives her hope and helps her by connecting her with people who have similar struggles. She enjoys the community of Speak Up vendors and is thankful for this unique opportunity. Her favorite place to sell magazines is UNC Charlotte, where she feels God is using her to help students who are struggling with depression. “A lot of the students are not very happy because they don’t know where they are and they’ve lost their identity. But it’s a good thing to go over there, because I can always share my story and be their friend.” Although Ruth’s story is marked with pain and heartache, she has hope for a bright future. “I can make it if I just trust in God. In His timing, He will answer my prayers at just the right moment and time. It takes patience and commitment. He will direct my steps. God knows everything— time, space and things … He knows everything.”

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Sports

Sports

PARKOUR IN CHARLOTTE

Pictures by: Jenna Trapasso Thomas

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Sports

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Sports

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Music

Sports

An

INTERVIEW

with Charlotte’s own

John Mark McMillan

Words By: Matt Shaw

Above: The club practices at the athletic center Below: Jonathan jumps from wall to wall

Speak Up: As a well-known musician, you’ve got a voice. What do you speak up for? John Mark: I have spoken up for people in Africa who need water, and I’ve spoken up for children in developing countries in need. Lots of different things. Those are the two main things that I’ve been involved with. As an artist I have a lot of different things to say within the art itself, but

we’ve done specific things with those particular organizations. Speak Up: You’re an Artist Ambassador for Compassion, what does that mean? John Mark: Basically I help spread the word on what Compassion does. Their model is to find children in developing countries and they connect those children with people who help fund their jourPhotos By: Jenna Thomas

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Music

Music

ney. Their goal is to work with the children to develop them holistically: economically, education, socially and spiritually. They don’t have one model for every child. They figure out what this specific kid needs to grow and become a responsible adult, and they take your money and use it based on the needs of the specific child. And they keep unbelievable tabs – I’ve seen huge files they have on these kids. They see them on a regular basis, weekly, sometimes daily. But it’s based around what the child needs. I’ve met kids who have gone through the whole system and become lawyers, and doctors. I’ve met kids who grew up in the dirt. Literally in the dirt. It’s something that really has a long-term impact. It’s not a one-time thing. You know? In Uganda they’ve had kids come out of the slums through the Compassion program and become political leaders in the country. So they literally have an impact on poverty on a whole nation because of working with the children. It’s really unbelievable. And I think the most unbelievable thing to me is how cheap it is. It’s super cheap. It’s so inexpensive to – I hate to use the word “change” but there’s no other way to say it -- to change their lives. Because really, a lot of them have no chance, and for a little teeny bit of American money, you give them something they could probably never have. I think we get so consumed with how big the poverty problem is – we don’t realize it’s very easy to help a few people.

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Speak Up: You went to Uganda a few years ago with Compassion. Do you think people should take trips to the third world like Uganda? John Mark: Absolutely. I think it’s really important that people see the world. Especially because I think more people are living that way. We think the way we live is the way most people in the world live, but it’s actually not true. I think more people live the way the people I met in Uganda live. The most shocking thing on that trip was how unbelievably full of life and joy they were. They had nothing and they were very happy people. I think it’s mostly because most of them do not know how poor they are. I think kids grow up thinking everyone lives the way they do. That’s what blew me away. I expected to see a bunch of sad, angry people. But they weren’t. Speak Up: Some people give short-term mission trips a hard time. They call them “feel good tours” and that you should spend your $3,000 differently. John Mark: I think nothing is perfect. Nothing works perfectly. But I think that even if a small chunk of that tourism results in someone doing something, then it’s worth it. So people can give it a hard time. And I can understand, but throwing money at a problem doesn’t necessarily fix it, and that things are more complicated than we know. But anything that helps educate us as to

how other people live is a good thing. Speak Up: A couple years ago you were involved in a project called, “I Dreamed There Was a Fountain”that you wrote the title track for. What was that? John Mark: I had some friends that started digging wells in Africa. This friend of mine, Matt Peterson, wanted to end the water crisis in the whole continent of Africa. He did the figures and it’s something like the money spent on one American Christmas would eliminate the water crisis for an entire continent. So he said, “All right, I think we can eliminate this crisis in my lifetime.” Obviously, nothing is so easy – there are political issues and that. But there is still a lot that can be done. So, they started selling water – now it’s pretty common. You see it – not their brand – but you see at a Starbucks or places where you buy water and goods and everything else. But I wanted to help and I loved the idea of having an product, you sell the produce and you generate – it’s not just a one-time give, it generates long-term momentum. So I got with some friends of mine and asked how we could help. We decided to do this album. We found people to donate the mixing and sound mastering. Donate some studio time. All the artists donated their time. It continues to generate money. They have dug a lot of wells because of it. Speak Up: How do you describe your music? John Mark: Man. You know, it’s always weird when you have to describe your own music because it’s almost like describing your own face. What do you look like? I know I’m tall, and I’m white. And I have a beard. You know what I mean? I think we are sometimes folk rock, roots rock. Sometimes just call it rock and roll. But there’s definitely a gospel element in what we do. Some people call it worship music. Some people call it folk rock. A lot of the songs are written with the folk idea in mind. Most of the Economy album was written on an acoustic

guitar, but then it ended up being much more rock-driven songs. Speak Up: On your blog you referred to a Malcolm Gladwell article that suggests people start smokingcigarettes because it is dangerous. And then you transition into talking about Jesus--implying that you think Jesus is dangerous. John Mark: He is dangerous! The whole Malcolm Gladwell basically proves, or in an article he appears to prove that the reason people smoke is because it’s bad for you. People continue smoking because of the mental, physical or chemical addiction, but the reason most people start is because of the danger. So my whole take on that and Jesus is that I think that sometimes in the modern church Jesus has become very safe and very palatable, and I think people do that because they want to spread the news of Jesus and reach lots of people. But I feel like sometimes I’m personally turned off by the super safe, feminine boy idea of the schoolteacher of Jesus. That’s wrong – I like schoolteachers. But no, I’m just saying this sort of perfect, politically perfect hippie Jesus. I don’t know. Of course, I like hippies too – I’m sort of a hippie myself. I guess what I’m saying is that I think we’ve made Jesus safe, but he’s not safe. When He walks into the temple and turned over tables and whipped people with cords, you know, people He loved went to jail, people He loved died because they believed in Him. And I think sometimes we want to make Christianity easy and safe. I think some of the very attractive aspects of Christianity is that they are not. I’ve got a buddy of mine who talks about art, and I guess this is what I was really getting at with Jesus and cigarettes. He says that the girls that you fall in love with are not the girls who give it all away. The girls who play hard to get, those are the girls you value, those are the girls you want to marry, those are the girls you want to pursue. The girls who walk around showing their stuff are not nearly as interesting. Because you’ve seen it and you have it and there

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Music

Music

it is. No mystery. It’s just right there in front of you. But the girls you pursue, the girls you want to experience life with, are the girls you have to chase. Those are the girls that are really sexy. The girls that don’t give all their secrets away. Art is the same way – if you give it all away, then you give the listener or the viewer no opportunity to join in the conversation. You give it to them, they have it, they are done – fast food. Hamburger, roll in and roll out, it’s done. But if you give them just a little bit and make things a little difficult, you give them the opportunity to pursue, to come further. I think lots of times in church we want to have every answer laid out on a platter. People walk in, take it and leave. But I think that sometimes it might help the Christian community at large not to have all the answers. You know what I mean? I think it might help Christians to only have a few answers. I think that God is a mysterious thing for a reason. He is mysterious. Christ is a mystery. Speak Up: You sing a lot about blood. The majority of your songs on your last few albums refer to blood explicitly. John Mark: Yes. You know, it’s funny that a lot of people refer to the same pictures in their writing. Look at Springsteen – he’s always singing about the road, the street. Singing about cars, buses, transportation. And later on Springsteen said it was because he was scared to settle down. He found comfort in not having to be in one place. And you’ll hear Ryan Adams singing about houses. So for some reason, for me, I get connected to blood and bones and stuff like that. But for me blood represents life. It represents life. So I would say across the board my records are about life. And especially the songs that have the Christian association. There’s the blood of Jesus, which I believe is life, or represents the life available. But other situations like “blood on the promenade,” speaks of injustice, and we all see it. It’s like it’s so clear that it’s invisible. There’s blood on the promenade, and when you

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grow up seeing something, it is almost like it’s not there. You know? If you grow up seeing poverty, you don’t see it. You know? You probably see people every day. So in that case blood is life, I’m wide awake and there’s blood on the promenade, which is basically saying, “I’m here, I’m alive, I see it. I’m wide awake.” Speak Up: So you are proclaiming that you’re awake and see the blood of injustice... John Mark: Exactly. I’m here. I see it. It exists. There is injustice. For me, it was a relational injustice when I wrote it, but it could be across the board. You know? I guess it could also mean that everybody has been hurt. There’s blood on the promenade, there’s blood in the street. It’s pretty depressing if you think about it. But then there’s, “we’ve got a blood, we’ve got a love that will break the flood.” Blood represents life. We have strength, we have the ability to make it through this thing that we’re dealing with. And then there’s the blood of the Son, or blood of a son – reference to Jesus just as He suffered for us. So blood represents life and all its different contexts. And the spilling of it is death. So you have the blood which can speak to life and death. It’s life-giving blood, or the lack thereof. Speak Up: In the video promo for “Economy” before the album was released you said, ‘We’ve have close friends pass away, we’ve seen divorce and some of us have had miscarriages.’ Then later you said, ‘We’re kind of crushed but not destroyed and there’s a lot of hope on this album.’ Can you tell about a track that you see as hopeful? John Mark: Almost every song on the album was written with a person in mind. A person I know. Not that it’s written for them, like I’m singing to them, as much as I was looking at their situation and thinking, “How I could I sing from their perspective.” So I think there’s hope on the album. The hope, for me, is the Christian hope. The album begins with a kind of tonguein-cheek thing, “The Devil’s dealing dirty in

broken hearts and counterfeit currency.” And the album ends with “You have called us loved and You have called us wanted / One time we were bruised, we were bankrupt and haunted.” Basically, to me a lot of the hope is the Christian hope of believing there is something more for us. At least, that’s what it was for me. Speak Up: Have you told those people that you were thinking of their situation? John Mark: No. Some of them tell me their favorite song and I’ll think, “I know that’s your favorite song, because I wrote it for you.” But I don’t say that yet. I don’t think any of them know. Speak Up: Many people may sing a song of yours that have never even heard of you. “How He Loves” is one. What’s the origin of that? John Mark: I wrote that song right after a friend of mine passed away in a car accident. I was just sort of, obviously, out of my mind. I’ve always dealt with my issues through song. And so I had a couple lines in a journal and thought it sounded like something I wanted to sing. So I took those lines and I sat down and wrote most of the song the day after he died. It’s interesting how that song became such a popular song. Written out of a bad situation. Speak Up: You’re from Charlotte and you live here. What hopes do you have for the city? John Mark: When I was in high school we would joke about how there is no music in Charlotte. And that seems to be changing a lot. There’s a lot – not like Atlanta, not like even Orlando – but there’s good music coming into Charlotte. And it’s growing. And the culture in Charlotte is growing. I’d love to see Charlotte develop something. I’d love to see Charlotte have an identity. Charlotte is very much – and I can only say that because I love Charlotte and I have been here my whole life – Charlotte is very much a city without an identity. You know? Most people here weren’t born in Charlotte. They might go

root for the Panthers, but if the Panthers play the team from where they are from, they turn against the Panthers. Charlotte has loyalty issues to Charlotte. But you know, I’d love to see people really get behind Charlotte and take pride in ownership in Charlotte, and see an identity develop. And I would like to see Charlotte become a place where we are excited about who we are as a community, as a people. Support each other and root for each other. Not just in sports, but in every area. Speak Up: If someone were to come to Charlotte for the weekend, and you were their tour guide, where would you take them? John Mark: Where would I take them? I would take them to eat food at Zada Jane’s for breakfast. Or take them to The Diamond diner. It depends on where they are from. A lot of people from out West will not eat fried pickles. They can’t take the fried food. Or Pinky’s--I love Pinky’s. What else do we do? I haven’t been out and about so much since we had kids. There’s good music at the Gin Mill, we go out there once in a while to hear people play and sing. That’s always a lot of fun. What else is fun to do in Charlotte? Freedom Park is great. Speak Up: And where would you take them to church? John Mark: I go to church at Queen City Church on Sunday nights at the Visualite Theater, where my dad is the pastor. I’d bring them there since those are my people and the people I have relationships with. I know their stories and I feel welcome and accepted there. I walk in there and I know people’s stories. Sometimes I don’t want to say their stories-Speak Up: --“that’s the guy I wrote ‘Economy’ for.” John Mark: *laugh* Exactly. I love it because it feels like home to me. Just down home.

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International

International

D E T N I A T LOVE

Words By: Hollis Johnson

TV Programing that Exposes Sex Trafficking At the age of nine years old, it all began for me. I would leave my family’s house in the evenings before my father came home from work, and would go to my pimp. There I would be used sexually, maybe 2-3 times a week. When it was over for the night, I would bring the money back to my family, never letting my father find out the truth. My grandmother and aunt knew, they were the ones who sold me…

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In a village outside of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, this little girl’s nightmare was also her reality. She says that at the time this was happening to her, about 99 percent of the children in her village were being sexually exploited. She has since been rescued, and is currently regaining her life back with the aid of an organization specifically designed to help victims of sex trafficking. Though the number of child victims in her village has slightly decreased, she shares sadly that her

older sister is still trapped in this industry. While it is shocking to hear, the United Nations crime fighting office recently released a statement in USA Today, stating that “2.4 million people across the globe are victims of human trafficking at any one time, and 80 percent of them are being exploited as sexual slaves…only one out of 100 victims of trafficking is ever rescued.” According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the definition of sex

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International

International

trafficking is considered to be this, “a modernday form of slavery in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act is under the age of 18 years.” To put it more simply, sex slavery. So the question then begs to be asked, what can be done about this? Hearing the cries for social justice, one television network has stepped up to the plate refusing mediocrity and mindless

audience, these halogens must stay connected to survive, are unique and diverse, and one of the chemicals in the group has yet to be discovered. Halogen TV regards its viewers on those same three principles, and believes in a powerful generation not fully realized. With intentional programming, Halogen TV aims to be a sort of filter for their viewers, with so much information and opportunity out there it is hard to figure out who to help and how. So at

meant to expose the realities of sex trafficking on both a domestic and international level. Through interviews with survivors, experts, and NGO workers, their stories tell the tale of an atrocity that is happening to young boys and girls everywhere. Even right here in Charlotte, NC, victims of sexual exploitation can be found. Tainted Love was given the rare opportunity to interview a young woman brave enough to share her story about what happened to her in our very city.

different. According to an undercover investigator interviewed on the series, it is estimated that about 60 percent of male foreigners visiting Thailand are actually sex tourists, and that this industry provides a large profit for many in the country. Despite the fact that prostitution is illegal in Thailand, it is hard to miss the beautiful women and neon lights that come out at night in this big city. There are reportedly several different red-light districts in Bangkok, each one

entertainment. Founded three years ago by EVP and General Manager Becky Henderson, Halogen TV is a socially-conscious entertainment network that encourages and motivates individuals to “be the change” they want to see in the world. Be the change. Powerful in its simplicity, the Charlotte based network got its name from a group of chemicals on the periodic table called halogens. Similar to the network’s target

Halogen TV, they provide the latest and best news of positive social change around the globe and give you the inside track on how to get involved. Broadcasting both acquired programming and original shows; audiences can get a broader scope of what is happening around the world.As a front-runner in socially conscious entertainment programming, Halogen TV has created an original series, Tainted Love, which is

While the series has been filmed in various locations around the US, it has also been shot in international locations as well. On a recent shoot to Thailand and Cambodia, Tainted Love was offered a much deeper look inside this horrific industry. Arriving first in Bangkok, Thailand, the Tainted Love crew blended in with the many tourists, some just there to see the sights while others were there for something entirely

known for something different. There are streets for locals, and then for curious tourists, one for African and Arab men, one that showcases Thai women, or European women, or ladyboys (young men dressed up as women), whatever the customer wants, the customer gets, essentially. While in Bangkok, Tainted Love was able to interview some great organizations fighting against the sexual exploitation of these women,

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International

International

NightLight being one of them. The organization has offices in Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Bangkok, all focusing on the rescue and recovery of women trapped in the sex trade. At NightLight, the women learn many valuable tools to help them reintegrate into society. One of the ways they can gain back their independence is by learning to make jewelry and bags that the organization sells, giving them back all of the profit. Another organization Tainted Love met up with is located in Chiang Mai, Thailand, who works with a specific group targeted by sexual exploitation. The victims in this case, are young boys. During a visit to Thailand a few years ago to learn more about sex trafficking, a young woman from the US was shocked to learn that no one was helping these boys. Shortly after her trip, she founded Urban Light with the goal to show these boys real love and help them find another way to live. The organization has a center where the boys can come during the day, feel safe and cared for,

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and are given a new hope for their future. Although these boys are victims of sexual exploitation, they did not come to the red-light district in chains. Most of the boys come from surrounding villages, sent to the city to make money for their families. It is a hard concept to grasp, but the duty and responsibility to provide for their family will drive one if not all siblings to prostitution. It is a stark contrast to watch these boys during the day, many around the age of 16, playing and laughing and teasing one another as if they had not a care in the world, only to see them later in the night trying to sell themselves to men 3-4 times their age at the bars. One courageous young man who shared his story, confided that even now that he is out of the bars, he still feels the weight of providing for his family, and it is hard to bare. The founder mentioned that when she took him back to his home village to bring money to his family, money gained not from prostituting himself, his mother only said,

“that’s it, that’s all you have to give us?” Sadly, it seems that the amount of money matters much more than the means of getting it. One common theme across Thailand and Cambodia, which kept being repeated in interviews with Tainted Love, was the plight of the boys. There just aren’t enough people helping them, and unfortunately the demand for them is increasing. There is also the local perspective that boys are too resilient and strong to be victims, therefore leading many to believe that there is then no need to help them. And while there are many wonderful organizations in place helping the girls and women, the rescue and recovery looks so different for boys and is, consequently, quite another matter in itself. This is not to say that no one is doing anything, and Tainted Love was able to interview some brave individuals willing to take this risk on. One such organization in Cambodia, seeming to do it all is Agape International Missions. With a variety of programs, Agape offers recovery to survivors through their Restoration Center, reaches out to traffickers/pimps through the Lord’s Gym, and helps rebuild communities through Rahab’s House, among many other ongoing and future projects. Several of their buildings are strategically located in a village outside of Phnom Penh, known for its child sex slaves and a destination for pedophiles worldwide. Two more organizations also fighting for change in Cambodia, and reaching out to both boy and girl victims to sex trafficking, are Hagar International and Love146. As devastating as this problem is, Tainted Love has also discovered along the way that there are so many willing to try and stop it. Stories of victory and hope are shared on this emotional series, and ways that viewers like you and me can actually help. Tainted Love producer, Tamara Park, encourages audiences to stay informed on what is happening and that, “many of these organizations have stateside

stores where they [viewers] can use their purchasing power to help support the dignity of those women and children who have come out of sexual exploitation.” True to Halogen TV’s motto, Tainted Love powerfully expresses that we must be the change. We, the suppliers and the demanders and the victims, have the power to put this multi-billion dollar industry to rest.

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Trash To Treasure

Trash To Treasure

Words by: Don Roosenberg Photos by: Sarah Moore

Soil for the Soul

Gardening with Your Kids We live in an era where we have to fight to instill character in our kids (and ourselves). The values of hard work, responsibility, exercise, healthy eating and quality relationships don’t come automatically, especially in this electronic age where video games, TV and Internet can swallow up time and erode the soul. We have to be intentional to tip the scales in favor of quality and bring motivation to our children. Having a vegetable garden in your back yard is one

great way to do this. It provides an opportunity to bond with your kids, as together you work at something and watch the soil yield the literal fruit of your labor. Everyone wants their children to eat healthy food, and gardening makes this a more realistic goal. Your child will be excited to taste that tomato he took part in growing. Plus, fresh veggies taste much better than anything at the store. By getting your kids involved in a garden they’ll get lots of fresh air, learn about nature, build an

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appreciation for quality food and experience firsthand the payoff of responsibility. The key is to make gardening easy. Instead of an in-ground garden that takes hours of digging, tilling and weeding, build a simple raised bed using the clearance scrap wood at your local hardware store (if you have a hammer and nails, you can do this!) and fill it with ready potting mix. Do a quick search online to see different models and choose what works best for your family. Buy a house brand potting mix without the fertilizer and add your own, a slow release organic fertilizer such as Plant-Tone. Synthetic fertilizers kill the life

in your soil and can burn your plants in hot weather. Let your kids help mix the soil; get them a few of their own tools so they feel legit (or plastic spoons from your kitchen will do just fine). Start small. Make a list of 5-10 things you’d like to grow. Research each thing to find the proper planting times and how many plants you’ll need for a “Goldilocks harvest”--not too much and not too little. Keep in mind it doesn’t have to be perfect! Don’t worry if your rows aren’t straight or even if all the conditions aren’t adding up perfectly. Just give it a go and see what happens; there’s always the handy friend ‘Google’ for troubleshooting or if you have

questions along the way. The process is the most fun, and it opens the door for you and your kids to learn together. March, April and May are good planting times for many things in your summer garden, but if you miss out on those times you can plant later in the summer for a fall crop. Some crops such as carrots, have tiny seeds and need adult supervision to plant. But even small children can cover the seeds with soil and pat them down. Other summer crops--squash, zucchini, cucumbers, and beans--are grown from large seeds that are just the right size for children to plant. Use the “push, pinch and pat” method.

Lay them all out in a line, push them into the soil, pinch the soil together and pat them down for good soil contact. After planting have your child help water daily with her own watering can. You won’t have to worry about weeds very much with the raised beds, but if need be you can make even the weeding a fun game, challenging your child to spot and pull them each week before you do. There’s so much more your children can learn and benefit from gardening, whether they’re toddlers or teens:

Shadows and Light

Keep a chart of the sun’s progress in a day to determine the best spot for your garden. Where does the sun rise and set? Do a scale drawing of your back yard and have your child mark the shadow lines each hour. A south-facing garden with six or more hours of sunlight is best.

Layers in the Soil

Head out to a nearby wooded area and bring a shovel. Show your child the layers you can find there: leaves on top as natural mulch (or covering for the soil), rotting leaves beneath as compost (fertilizing and conditioning the soil) and the soil below that is dark and rich. Dig

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Homeless Heroes

Trash To Treasure

even deeper to find the inevitable Carolina red clay subsoil. Use the same technique of compost mulch, rich soil and clay subsoil in your own garden. Just add more organic fertilizer at the end of the season and some more compost as mulch on top and you’ll never have to till again.

Problem-Solving

If a plant isn’t doing well it’s easy to throw on some fastacting fertilizer. But this results in spindly, weak growth making it susceptible to diseases and insects. When you apply pesticides they end up killing more beneficial insects than bad ones and hurting the microbial activity in the soil. The best solution is to stay organic: start with quality soil, which encourages healthy, disease-and-bug-resistant plants. There are also plenty of natural pesticide alternatives that you can make at home. It takes more time to research, but this provides a chance for you and your child to solve the problem together. It As definitely worth the effort--both for your child and your garden.

and gardening definitely helps instill it back into the soul.

Responsibility

Allow your child to take ownership over something; give her one or two plants, perhaps in a pot, that is entirely hers to look after. Let her choose what that will be. Help get her started but have her be in charge of making sure it gets proper light and water everyday. Something that is your child’s very own to nurture will motivate her to be a caring responsible child.

Accepting What is Imperfect

Not everything in the garden is going to work the way you planned it. Plants die, crops fail. It’s all part of the experience, and good gardeners learn from their mistakes and try to fix them next year. Failure is okay--it shouldn’t stop you or your child. Show your children this principle firsthand in your gardening, and it will stay with them their enitre life.

Patience

Growing vegetables in the garden takes time. It may take two weeks for a seed to sprout and much longer for a harvest. This is a good thing in our world of fast food, entertainment, communication and news. Patience has become a lost art,

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Don Rosenberg is owner of Instant Organic Garden and author of “No Green Thumb Required! Organic Family Gardening Made Easy.” He builds back yard vegetable gardens for families throughout the greater Charlotte, NC area and talks to local groups on how to make gardening easy. His business is expanding across the United States. For more information, visit www.instantorganicgarden. com. 704-910-6498 donrosenberg@gmail.com

The

Mitch Cooper Story Words by: Rob Burbank Pictures by: Josh Putnam My days are different. A good day is no longer defined the same as it was just a short time ago. In fact, if you would have told me a year ago I would be sitting in a coffee house on an early Spring morning listening to the life story of a formerly homeless, recovering addict I would have called you crazy. But, here I am. With heart in hand and eyes and ears wide open… here I am. I am blessed to soak up the incredible experiences of a gifted musician who has been down more roads, in front of more crowds, and faced more challenges in the first 47 years of his life than most of us ever will. His definition of a good day is radically different now. These days every day seems to be a good day for Mitch Cooper. After hearing his story over a cup of my favorite dark roast, it was evident that this wasn’t always the case. With the long gray hair, that has weathered life’s storms with him, Mitch’s words mark the milestones in his life that bring him to where he now sits. He has a rich history of music in his family..it’s in his blood. He carries that rhythm his father had playing for Buddy Holly in the 50’s to and through

each of his memories. He got his first guitar when he was 12. He soon traded a guitar for drums and found his calling. Mitch and a friend formed a band. He soon moved on and spent the next few years playing with some well known local bands. Then, in the mid 80’s he and another buddy started The Inn. It was then that the ‘fun’ really began. More and

more gigs, being signed by Fox Records, the parties, the worldwide tours with the likes of Blues Traveler, Grand Funk Railroad, solo gigs and so much more. Mitch humbly says “I made nice amounts of money.” He is also equally real, but more specific, about the one constant through much of these years. The drugs. “My heroin habit was immense.

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Homeless Heroes

homeless and sleeping in the rain,” Cooper smiles “I ended up sleeping in a bed. So what’s next chapter of Cooper’s life look like? Back to music it is. In addition to Open Mic nights, the gifted musician looks to be booking at venues all over the area. But, there is something different. The passion lights up in his eyes as he says, “I just want to live simply…I just

want to give back. I feel more successful now that I did when I was making lots of money. And, I feel more together. Money is not important to me anymore…..only what it can do.” Mitch pauses and then in a very satisfied tone finishes, “Everything’s good man…. everything’s good.” Things that used to be important to Mitch aren’t. Life’s radically different. The stress

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that was is nowhere to be found. Sitting in front of me was a man who through hell and back has found his peace and his place. His words reinforce his contentment. “I have an apartment, a jam box, a TV, a guitar, some acrylic paints and a pad….I’m set. I have a great girlfriend, I’m set.” How does Mitch want to be remembered? He muses, “As a guy that’s in a position to give back to people he doesn’t know. I would like a stranger to become my friend.” With humility he concludes, “I want to be remembered as a guy that set up a place that made Charlotte 0% homeless. That’s my goal with my music. And hopefully people, when they come to see me, they know they’re supporting the homeless more than my back pocket.” Mitch you’ve turned another stranger into and friend and have helped me to continue redefining what it means to have a good day... That Saturday was a good day…..a very good day.

“You mean to tell me, you do all this good in the day and you lock them out to the bad at night? Does that make any sense to you?”

Needing Moore

How the answer to one question became the answer for Charlotte’s chronically homeless. “You mean to tell me, you do all this good in the day and you lock them out to the bad at night? Does that make any sense to you?” Kathy Izard, Urban Ministry Center volunteer and former board member, vividly remembers the day Denver Moore spoke these words. It was a question she had never

asked herself in 15 years of volunteering and it was the one that would, subsequently, help create a housing project never before seen in the Queen City. This January, eighty-five of Charlotte’s chronically homeless will call Moore Place home. A true collaboration of community, Moore Place is, at its core,

the answer to one very simple question. One Thursday morning over coffee, I met with Kathy Izard to talk about the conversation that changed her life.”Meeting Denver Moore changed my path in ways I never saw coming” says Izard. It started with a book.

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Words by: Keia Mastrianni Pictures by: Dustin Manning & Norman Lavata

It was up to $600 a day.” “It was ridiculous…it was crazy.” Fast forwarding through this tumultuous life we move in and around the blur of successes and challenges in the music business, even other not so fruitful ventures outside of that brutal industry, and we end up in 2005. Mitch is sharing an apartment in Uptown. He has an argument with his roommate. Locks are changed, a restraining order is placed on him and he has nowhere to go. “Like overnight I became homeless. I had no money. My drug habit was out of control. I was sick…it was horrible.” H i s friend Steve Davis saved his life and got him checked into a Methadone clinic. He got clean, but lost his address and everything else he had. Mitch spent the next four years sleeping in shelters, the occasional friend’s house and bouncing in and out of mental hospitals and clinics. Finally he caught a break. This homeless musician got accepted into a program that gave him a place to live and get his live started again. “After 4 years of being

Grassroots Charlotte


Grassroots Charlotte

Kathy was urged by her mother to read, The Same Kind of Different as Me, authored by Ron Hall and Denver Moore. It told the unlikely story of a friendship between Hall, an affluent art collector, and Moore, a chronically homeless man at the time. “That book starting haunting me,” said Izard, who had been volunteering at the Urban Ministry Center since 1995. “I kept thinking about it,” she said. As Kathy tells it, the book kept her awake at night until, one day, she sent an email to Ron Hall asking him and Denver Moore to speak at the Urban Ministry Center. It was a shot in the dark. To her surprise, Hall returned her email and agreed to a speaking engagement, one that had yet to be created. “There was no speaking engagement,” laughs Izard.”It was just an idea I hadn’t told anyone about including Dale Mullennix.” Mullennix is the

Grassroots Charlotte

Executive Director at the Urban Ministry Center. What followed was the very first True Blessings luncheon on November 16, 2007. The day before the event, Kathy took Denver on a tour, showcasing the wonderful programs and services offered by the Urban Ministry Center including the soup kitchen, the Artworks program and Community Garden. She describes Moore as a man of few words. “He doesn’t speak much but, when he does, it seems to come from an otherworldly place.” During the obligatory tour, Denver kept his hands in his pockets, staying silent. Finally, he spoke. “Where are the beds?” he asked. Kathy explained that there were no beds. The Urban Ministry Center provides a wealth of supportive services to Charlotte’s homeless population, but beds and shelter were not one of them.

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Then, the infamous question. “You mean to tell me, you do all this good in the day and you lock them out to the bad at night? Does that make any sense to you?Flabbergasted, Kathy shook her head no. Denver asked, “Are you going to do something about it?” Admittedly, Kathy didn’t know. She was a volunteer. The event she worked on with friends was somewhat of a phenomenon, created by happenstance as a result of a “pie in the sky” email to Ron Hall. As they left the Center, Moore looked at Kathy and reassured her, “You don’t have to be scared.” “About what?” She assumed he was referring to the audience of 1100 people that were attending True Blessings the next day. “About building the beds,” said Denver. “They already know they are coming” Unsure of what Denver was saying, Kathy asked, “Who?” She pauses and repeats Denver’s words to her, “The people who are going to help you.” That moment, Kathy says, changed her life. It also became the impetus for the development of Moore Place. That same year, the Charlotte Observer published an op-ed piece by Liz ClasenKelly, Urban Ministry Center employee, which discussed the benefits of Housing First, a progressive housing model which

had garnered significant positive outcomes in cities such as Denver, Seattle, Salt Lake City and New York. Those cities reported a remarkable reduction in homelessness and significant savings in tax-payer assisted services such as emergency room visits, jail stays and temporary shelters. That Observer article caught the attention of local philanthropists Jon and Pat Moore. Consequently, the Moore’s had also seen a recent television piece on the show 60 Minutes about Common Ground, a New York based non-profit that pioneered Housing First programs, most notably in Times Square. . The subject impacted the couple enough to warrant a phone to their friend Dale Mullennix, Executive Director of the Urban Ministry Center. They asked about the possibility of Housing First solutions in Charlotte. The simple answer to that question, Mullennix explained, was a pilot project to

test the concept. In May 2008, Homeless to Homes (H2H) was launched as a result of a generous donation provided by Jon and Pat Moore. The pilot project moved its first four residents into apartment units scattered throughout Charlotte and has since added twenty more. Joann Markley, case manager for Homeless to Homes recorded impressive results within the first few months. Immediately following the successful implementation of H2H, the Urban Ministry Center along with key individuals within the community got to work on Moore Place. A vulnerability index was conducted in 2010 to count Charlotte’s chronically homeless. The Urban Ministry Center recruited Common Ground to assist. Representing the New York nonprofit was Caroline Chambre, who served as technical advisor to the survey. Chambre came bearing

extensive experience, having managed a permanent supportive housing building in Times Square that singlehandedly reduced homelessness within a 20-block radius by 87 percent. Turns out, this was the same building featured on 60 Minutes the day that Jon and Pat Moore were watching. Chambre, a native Charlottean, returned soon after completing the vulnerability index to become the Director of Housing Programs for the Urban Ministry Center. The opportunity to contribute to bringing a Housing First model to her hometown was an opportunity she could not miss. Since then, Chambre along with the time and talent of many Charlotteans have nurtured the housing development to fruition. “Moore Place is an opportunity for Charlotte to say that homelessness is a solvable problem,” says Chambre. “It is a just, compassionate way to approach the housing dilemma.” To Chambre, Moore Place is a viable beginning, something that can be replicated. So far, it is a clear message that the community problem of homelessness can and is being solved by the collaboration of a just and caring community. What was once a thought-provoking question has become a new housing frontier in Charlotte.

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DIGNITY POVERTY

Speak Up  

A publication about the happenings in Charlotte North Carolina. This magazine is published as a way for the homeless of Charlotte to earn a...

Speak Up  

A publication about the happenings in Charlotte North Carolina. This magazine is published as a way for the homeless of Charlotte to earn a...

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