Saturday, September 29, 2007

Carrboro in Norfolk

UNC's own Jock Lauderer of the journalism school was the star of the NNA session yesterday called "Filling the gap--a new kind of community 'paper.'" He and his colleague Andy Bechtel talked about their experience creating and editing the Carrboro Commons. He talked about the rush the students experienced as they realized that their class was not dealing in hypothetical news stories--they were actually, really and truly, going online! Jock is running the show alone this semester, but in the spring once again he and Andy will turn their reporting and editing classes loose in and upon Carrboro.

They and others in this session stressed to these mostly non-daily newspaper editors and publishers the need to have an online presence that does more than just "shovel" the content of the print edition onto the web. Use the strength of the web--its immediacy--to your advantage, they urged. Break the news as it happens. Follow up later, but be the first to get it out there. You are not "scooping yourselves" when you do that, these presenters said. Rather you're bolstering your own audience.

Presenter Elizabeth K. Hansen of Eastern Kentucky University illustrated the point with a photo by Jack Delano taken in 1940 in Brockton, Mass. It's of a newspaper office posting headlines of news that had broken since the last edition.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Off to Norfolk

I'm heading out today to Norfolk, with my mother, for the annual convention of the National Newspaper Association. Three years ago I joined her in Denver, where she won a lifetime achievement award. This year, we are just hanging out.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Endangered: Paschal House, mid-century treasure

"I personally think this is, flat out, the greatest modern house in North Carolina," says Raleigh architect Frank Harmon about the house built in 1950, designed by James Fitzgibbon for George and Beth Paschal.

It happens to sit on seven developable parcels in inside-the-beltline Raleigh.

The family recognizes the importance of the house, which is on the National Register; but they are asking $5.6 million. Preservation North Carolina is on a rescue mission--would be willing to sell off parts of the property if the house could be preserved.

See photo gallery for an idea of what could be lost.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Queen Anne's lace

Queen Anne's lace is an exotic invasive, a cousin of the carrot that shouldn't be here. But in August, when everything but the crape myrtle is wilting, it is lovely in its sturdiness. Here it is going on October, but we've had such a protracted, dry summer that it made perfect sense to receive this beautiful little poem in my inbox today, published in the Christian Science Monitor, sent to me by the author.

Queen Anne's Lace

Terri Erickson teaches at Salem College. She's the niece of Stephen White, of Stephen White Graphics in Carr Mill Mall. He did the cover art for her book.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Fair Trial Initiative

What a pleasure to be there tonight for Mark Kleinschmidt and the Fair Trial Initiative as they launch a tradition. At tonight's fundraiser at the George Watts Hill Alumni Center, they gave the first annual Kirk Osborne award, to honor a great advocate, sadly taken from us. The award went to Buddy Connor. I didn't know Kirk and don't know Buddy, but the passion with which both of them, and all of these people, approach their difficult jobs is inspiring.

Then we heard a talk by Stuart Taylor Jr., who knew Kirk well, most recently as Reade Seligmann's lawyer. With Robert KC Johnson he has just published a book on the Duke case.

He said one of Osborne's memorable sayings was that luck was the combination of preparation and opportunity. I like that. It's kind of like the saying attributed to Thomas Jefferson: The harder I work, the luckier I get.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Extreme weather

This afternoon's rain is such a surprise it's almost like snow! Today I was doing some historical research that led me (as it has many times lately) into genealogical sites. I found this item reposted from a 1995 genealogical society newsletter from Jefferson, Tennessee:

As we wander in the archives and wonder about our ancestors, here is another item of interest about our past. It is another aspect of the our ancestor quest. I am going to pass on a tidbit of Info 1816: The year without a summer.

As a result of the eruption of Mt. Tambour Volcano in Java 1815, 12,000 island residents lost their lives. The Volcano is also to blame for an unusual weather pattern the following year in North America, resulting in mass migrations of people trying to avoid the ensuing climatic changes.

The summer of 1816 was unusually cold, with killing frosts and even snowfall destroying crops throughout the United States. June and July were the coldest months, 19 states had snowfall in June! There were no fall harvests; animals and people starved; wild animals ravaged the frontier. Not understanding the meteorological causes, people blamed the wrath of God for their hardships. Some, destitute and despondent, committed suicide.

By 1817 the climate had returned to normal. However, many had moved to warmer parts of the country and numerous farmers left for the cities to go into industrial work.

If you have no explanation for why your ancestor may have migrated or you can not determine exactly when it happened just sometime around 1815-1820 consider that this event may have been the cause.

So I did a little more investigating and found out more about "The Year There Was No Summer."

I've also learned that there was an earthquake in Edenton in December-January 1811-12.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The long civil rights movement

For several years, UNC history professor Jacquelyn Dowd Hall has been arguing that the received version of what constituted the "civil rights movement" is impoverished:

The civil rights movement circulates through American memory in forms and through channels that are at once powerful, dangerous, and hotly contested. Civil rights memorials jostle with the South's ubiquitous monuments to its Confederate past. Exemplary scholarship and documentaries abound, and participants have produced wave after wave of autobiographical accounts, at least two hundred to date. Images of the movement appear and reappear each year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and during Black History Month. Yet remembrance is always a form of forgetting, and the dominant narrative of the civil rights movement—distilled from history and memory, twisted by ideology and political contestation, and embedded in heritage tours, museums, public rituals, textbooks, and various artifacts of mass culture—distorts and suppresses as much as it reveals.

Centering on what Bayard Rustin in 1965 called the "classical" phase of the struggle, the dominant narrative chronicles a short civil rights movement that begins with the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, proceeds through public protests, and culminates with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Then comes the decline. After a season of moral clarity, the country is beset by the Vietnam War, urban riots, and reaction against the excesses of the late 1960s and the 1970s, understood variously as student rebellion, black militancy, feminism, busing, affirmative action, or an overweening welfare state. A so-called white backlash sets the stage for the conservative interregnum that, for good or ill, depending on one's ideological persuasion, marks the beginning of another story, the story that surrounds us now.

Martin Luther King Jr. is this narrative's defining figure—frozen in 1963, proclaiming "I have a dream" during the march on the Mall. Endlessly reproduced and selectively quoted, his speeches retain their majesty yet lose their political bite. We hear little of the King who believed that "the racial issue that we confront in America is not a sectional but a national problem" and who attacked segregation in the urban North. Erased altogether is the King who opposed the Vietnam War and linked racism at home to militarism and imperialism abroad. Gone is King the democratic socialist who advocated unionization, planned the Poor People's Campaign, and was assassinated in 1968 while supporting a sanitation workers' strike.

By confining the civil rights struggle to the South, to bowdlerized heroes, to a single halcyon decade, and to limited, noneconomic objectives, the master narrative simultaneously elevates and diminishes the movement. It ensures the status of the classical phase as a triumphal moment in a larger American progress narrative, yet it undermines its gravitas. It prevents one of the most remarkable mass movements in American history from speaking effectively to the challenges of our time.

It's nice to see that Hall's project has found serious traction. Harvard's Charles Warren Center is sponsoring a workshop on "Race-Making and Law-Making in 'the Long Civil Rights Movement.'"

A local footnote: At Monday night's town council meeting, we approved plans for a granite paver to be placed in front of the Old Post Office on Franklin Street to mark the space with the name Peace and Justice Plaza. Three long-time social activists, Joe and Lucy Straley and Charlotte Adams, will be honored by having their names carved on the paver. There is plenty of room for other names in the future. These three people were exceptional in their devotion to social justice, in the sheer number of hours they spent in active protest.

But of course, they were not the only ones. One notable moment of social protest was the period of 1963-64 when, despite the determined activism of Chapel Hill college and high school students in particular, the town council not once but twice refused to pass a local public accommodations ordinance. During Holy Week 1964, protesters positioned themselves in front of the Post Office and stayed there day and night for a week, fasting.

The three in the center--Quinton Baker, Karen Parker, and Braxton Foushee--reflect upon their experiences as students and protesters in Chapel Hill in 1963-64. On the right is UNC student Erika Stallings. It was a privilege to moderate this panel, to hear the panelists' brave stories.

In today's story about Peace and Justice Plaza in the Daily Tar Heel, Laura Bickford, a current-day protester, complains that "It's unfair for this one moment 40 years ago to be memorialized when there are a lot of other struggles that are going on." But that is precisely not the point. This is not a marker that commemorates the past only. By giving this space the name of "Peace and Justice Plaza" and by honoring three notable activists with the explicit acknowledgment that others may be honored in the future, the town is acknowledging its part in the long and unfinished civil rights movement. We are saying that protest is a welcome and healthy part of civic discourse--even when (as in the 1963-64 episode) it turns out that the town is on the wrong side of history.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

This American Carrboro

Paul has posted this great parody of "This American Life" that Tom Maxwell and John Ensslin have done, "This Carrboro Life." (Duncan, you would have gotten an email thank you by now, but your mail address bounced, even though I used "reply"!)

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Shrimp and grits . . . not

OK, so it's passe and kitch, I still like the Silver Palate recipes. On Saturday night I served the classic Basque Salad to guests. "Like shrimp and grits only with rice," said one. Just so. And (dare I say it in Chapel Hill, home of Crooks Corner which has cornered the market on that one) just as good.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Destination Chapel Hill

Laurie Paolicelli, for the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau, is spearheading an effort to have Chapel Hill selected as one of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Distinctive Destinations for 2008. (Hillsborough is one for 2007.) She asked me to write a letter in support of the nomination. Here is what I wrote.

To the National Trust:

In November 1829, William Ruffin wrote from Chapel Hill to his father, Thomas Ruffin, who was soon to begin his distinguished career on the North Carolina Supreme Court, with a complaint about his new college town:

I think that the Trustees were imprudent in their choice of a site for the University. Instead of situating it in a town where there is good society or at least respectable with whom the students might have intercourse, they picked upon a spot at the time almost uninhabited and entirely destitute of persons with whom a gentleman ought to have intercourse. . . . The Trustees chose the spot where young men were to be trained up in the paths of science and morality, but left it open for vagabonds. If they wished a retired place aloof from the world, secluded from all intercourse with men—they should have permitted no one to settle on it. Whereas they have let all come who wished until finally half the villains in the state have congregated and fixed upon this place as one in which they can spend their time idly and at their ease.

Young Mr. Ruffin, no model student, should not be taken as a reliable witness. His father had pulled him out of a private college in Baltimore in favor of the state school that was both less expensive and closer to his watchful eye in Hillsborough. William’s sense of a clear difference between the town and the gown is accurate; but by the early 21st century, I believe most people have come to find the tension to be creative, healthy, and productive.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was “the first state university to open its doors.” I understand that folks down in Georgia had their charter earlier, but Chapel Hill brought more determination to the project. The physical campus, a beautiful space full of old buildings still in use surrounded by giant canopy trees, offers fascinating glimpses into a rich past, “rich” as in bountiful and “rich” as in fraught with the complexities that mark the entire American South. On McCorkle Place is an obelisk to the Rev. Joseph Caldwell, first president of the university. This marker was erected in 1904 to replace one considered not fine enough. The old marker was removed to the African American cemetery, where it marks the burial place of three slaves, including November Caldwell, who had belonged to Joseph Caldwell. Professor Tim McMillan offers a walking tour of the campus that reveals other interesting traces of the university’s racial history.

The African American cemetery and its white counterpart are next to the Center for Dramatic Art, which houses the Paul Green Theater, named for the first southern playwright to gain national attention. The original Playmakers Theater, which has just been renovated, is in an 1851 building that is a National Historic Landmark. A couple of blocks away, on beautiful Franklin Street with its large historic houses (within one of Chapel Hill’s three National Register districts), is the Horace Williams House, named for a UNC philosophy professor and home to the Preservation Society of Chapel Hill. Thomas Wolfe’s portrait hangs in the Dialectic Chambers in New West (actually an old building, recently renovated), and his shadow is everywhere.

When I came to Chapel Hill as a graduate student twenty years ago this fall, I was drawn to the university for its academic strengths, of course—but also to the town itself for its reputation as a beacon of light within North Carolina and the South. Thanks to the work of Frank Porter Graham, Howard Odum, and many other university figures, Chapel Hill has a secure reputation as a place where progressive ideas are born and progressive ideals are lived out. It has been my privilege to participate as a public official in the thoughtful evolution of this thriving and inclusive town. For me, the pleasures of living and working in Chapel Hill are inexhaustible. I am convinced that the history and character of Chapel Hill, as reflected in its built environment and the generosity of its citizens, are more than enough to make it a Distinctive Destination for 2008. I hope you will agree.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Homelessness plan moves into action phase

At tonight's meeting of the executive team of the Partnership to End Homelessness in Orange County, we will declare ourselves off to the start of our 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness. We haven't hired a plan coordinator yet--finalizing the job description is one of our agenda items--but there's already real work going on that is having an impact on homeless people. Tonight we will hear from some of the people doing this work:

Project Homeless Connect, a one-day, "one-stop" offering of services to the homeless, is happening because of a $3,500 grant that the staff working group for the Orange County Partnership secured this spring. That represents just one way in which the 10-year plan promises to enable us to leverage new resources as well as to better coordinate existing ones.

Since November 2004, when the community held a forum on homelessness that attracted more than 300 people, it has been clear that there's a tremendous amount of public interest in working constructively to help the homeless in our midst. In September 2005, we kicked off the project of creating our 10-year plan. "Our challenge is to make an enduring difference," said Mayor Foy at that meeting. "It is possible to have a society as rich as our based on moral values that does not accept that people will be homeless."

Now it is time to act. Please give your support in whatever way you can to our "bold proposal."

Monday, September 03, 2007

Labor Day weekend round-up

The celebration of the 65th reunion of the Navy B-1 Band in Chapel Hill was very moving.

Farewell to a man whose powerful influence on my life was unknown until he died.

The Loray Mill in Gastonia is finally going to get the historical marker it deserves.

Paul has a nice Labor Day poem in yesterday's N&O.