Four new digital citizens stand in front of the lunch counter at the ICRC&M 55 years after four A&T students launched the 1906s sit in movement. Left to right: Alexis Anderson, April Parker, Irving Allen, and Kristen Jeffers. Photo by Stephen Charles.

Four new digital citizens stand in front of the lunch counter at the ICRC&M 55 years after four A&T students launched the 1906s sit in movement. Left to right: Alexis Anderson, April Parker, Irving Allen, and Kristen Jeffers. Photo by Stephen Charles.

The four walk through the gift shop at the International Civil Rights Center & Museum, past souvenirs, ballcaps, 1960s Sit-In Movement T-shirts, and through a door marked “Employees Only.” It leads to a large exhibit room and the original Woolworth’s lunch counter where, 55 years ago this month, four students sat down and asked to be served.

Had it happened in 2015 the A&T Four would likely have tweeted that first meeting: #SeparateIsNotEqual.

Today, four new leaders line up in the front of the lunch counter: Alexis Anderson, April Parker, Irving Allen, and Kristen Jeffers. Local photographer Stephen Charles snaps a few pictures. Then Charles says, “Okay, hands up.”

It’s “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” a gesture that’s brought a mix of respect and revolt since it first appeared at protests in the wake of the August 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. And it’s just as clear a sign about where you stand on the issues facing black America today as it was for a black man or woman to sit at a lunch counter in 1960s. Only today there’s a museum rope around the lunch counter.

“Trust,” says Parker. “Fifty-five years from now, they’ll thank us.”

In the last four months there’s been a visible increase in civic activity in Greensboro, spearheaded by the national Black Lives Matter movement, and locally mobilized by digital activists like Parker and many others. Motivated by traditions of the Civil Rights Movement of the ’60s, such as the sit-ins, these young leaders are using new tools the keep the conversation going.

In November 210014, using social media and texts, protesters organized a 300-person march from the municipal building to the International Civil Rights Center & Museum and shut down South Elm Street in front of the museum.

In December, faculty, students and staff held a die-in at Bennett College.

In January, protesters packed city-council chambers to voice their support of the museum board’s concerns over the mayor’s offer for the city to run the museum.

This month, protesters held a daylong teach-in at Melvin Municipal Office Building, leading up to a council meeting where the council voted to keep the word “massacre” instead of “shootout” on the historical marker.

“There is increased activism, and I think that is a good thing,” says Mayor Nancy Vaughan, when asked if she’s noticed more civic activity from her side of the dais. “And I hope it will be sustained.”

In response to the Black Lives Matter Greensboro movement, Vaughan says the city is planning a series of conversations and hearings, starting on Feb. 24 at 6 p.m. at Bennett College. The first meeting will be on police accountability and neighborhood relations, Vaughan says.

“You have the trending topics… you see it in your newsfeed,” Anderson says about this hashtag activism. “There’s no way to escape it.”

Read the full story in Triad City Beat’s February 11 issue. 

Fresh Eyes: Hard Cider, Hard Issues with Lacy Ward


This article published in Triad City Beat December 3, 2014

GREENSBORO—November was uncompromising. It opened with the board of directors at the International Civil Rights Museum firing the executive director, Lacy Ward, and ended with a grand jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

Ward hasn’t said much publicly since the firing and neither has the museum. But under his leadership, I’d started to see the museum as something like a civil-rights think tank, where preachers, teachers, artists and politicians could get together and create model programs for cities across the US, a place where people could peacefully protest, express anger and, once their boots have cooled, come inside and start working on solutions.

And I wondered what a conversation about Ferguson could have looked like in the museum, if the doors weren’t closed to the protesters outside. Where do we go from here? Just because the conversation can’t happen at the museum right now doesn’t mean it can’t happen somewhere else.

So I sent Ward a message on Facebook.

We met at Scuppernong Books on Elm Street last week, the night before Thanksgiving. He asked for hot apple cider at the bookstore bar, but they only had hard cider.

As we sat down, I asked Ward: If you could create a handbook on how to have a conversation from here, post-Ferguson, to strengthen the relationship between the community and the police, what would it look like? Where do you start? Here’s what he said.

Choose a common language

“The first step is to find a common language. Race isn’t a common language for Americans. For us, it produces a multitude of languages that are ethnically based.

“In the case of Michael Brown, what’s the initial crime? It’s jaywalking. What’s the final outcome? It’s the use of deadly force, and effective use of deadly force. The suspect is dead. We need to ask ourselves: ‘Is that the way we want to police America?’

“If most people can agree on the answer that jaywalking should not result in death, then we have found a common area of discussion. That’s the language.

“We need to have a higher-level conversation than the one race gives us. Race is a very emotional conversation, but that’s where we’re stuck. We’re stuck in a race conversation that doesn’t give us an answer to the problems that confront us.”

Define public safety

“What does public safety mean to you? You need to have that conversation out in the open, absent from current events to influence that discussion. Public safety has different meanings based on race — we already know that, right? So you need to have an open discussion across the social construct of race to examine things like, “‘What is public safety?’”

Understand the monopoly of violence

“The state — and I don’t mean the state of North Carolina, I mean the government — the state has a monopoly on violence. What does that mean? It means we as citizens have surrendered violence to the state. We will give to the state the power to exercise violence. Why? To maintain peace. The state is allowed to legally use violence, because when we as citizens use violence, we create anarchy. So to keep peace we surrender that. But we don’t surrender the discussion of when the use of that violence is appropriate.”

Define deadly force

“When we do we all feel ready to surrender to the state the use of deadly force? Are we willing to surrender it for jaywalking? It’s a question we all need to answer because a police officer with body armor and a gun is authorized to exercise violence on our behalf — because we gave that monopoly to him or her. How far do we want to him or her to go in terms of keeping the peace?

“Look at the numbers: How much are you willing to spend to maintain peace?

“How much money will the state of Missouri spend due to the actions of one civil servant? The National Guard was called in, sales-tax revenue was not collected due to looting and rioting. That money’s going to come from healthcare, education, parks and rec, all services the state of Missouri is bound to provide, services which provide better results for people in the long term. Those dollars had to be diverted because of one officer’s actions. Isn’t that a crime?

“Do we want to give one civil servant the authority to cost the state that much money, for jaywalking? So before the answer, we need to predict, what’s going to be the ultimate cost of using this tactic to address this offense?

“In Greensboro, we need to have an open discussion on having body cameras. What does it mean to wear them? And what are the rules under which they are utilized? What’s the common purpose? Protect the officer? Or line the pockets of the company who makes the cameras?”

Get in the conversation about how police are trained

“Officer Wilson said he responded in the way he was trained. I was in the military; we train our police officers the same way we train our military: kill. As military members we kill in the name of national defense. Until we tell them differently through police academies, through training, this is what we should expect from them.”

Give the police ‘surety of purpose’

“A public discussion about training, which will influence the police chief, will influence the norms and the behaviors observed by beat cops. The police department, I believe, is open to citizen guidance. Do we have the right process in place? I don’t know. I think officers would love to have that surety of purpose.”

Have a public conversation with a diverse group of people

“Bring together a diversity of people — chosen not by race, but experience. Representatives of city council, a representative of police or public safety, a representative of the faith community, youth community and the business community. You need to know how to collectively accumulate your voice in such clarity that the sworn officers of the state, the paid officers of the state, can understand you. They work for you.

“We can only start where we are. I’m okay with that. We can decide where we go.”

George Scheer


George Scheer

George Scheer, Collaborative Director for Elsewhere Artist Collaborative, explains a little of what he’s learned about the grant writing process. Number one: Know what the foundations are passionate about and connect them with the right projects and artists.

Last week, George met with representatives from Weatherspoon Art Museum and Downtown Greensboro Inc. to identify locations for a new art installation project planned for downtown during ArtBeat Greensboro. The three organizations are collaborating to bring tape artist Michael Townsend to the city. The Weatherspoon Art Museum initiated the project, Elsewhere is providing artists for the night-time, guerilla-like installation, and Downtown Greensboro Inc. is providing additional resources and support for the project.

Details coming soon. Meantime, sample some of tape artist Michael Townsend’s work on his flickr page and Web site.

For more information about ArtBeat Greensboro, visit our blogsite.

sounds local


Dawn Chorus

Photo by John Rash

Dawn Chorus
It could be said that founder Andrew Dudek himself is an unexplained phenomenon that dawns on Greensboro’s creative communities. The man behind Greensboro’s most loved record store, Gate City Noise, is now gate-keeper at Square One, a shared rehearsal space for hungry hipsters and music lovers just outside the old Glenwood Neighborhood. Dudek walks and talks a strong love for home-grown, community-nurtured music. That love comes through this shoegazer style of rock, which whispers of Iron and Wine behind a beautifully tense vocal styling reminiscent of the west’s Rocky Votolato. Only in this Dawn Chorus, the musical arrangements rise to fiercer, frentic, rock crescendos strong enough to make any shoegazer look up.

Dawn Chorus appears in this month’s Dotmatrix Project, June 26, at the Green Burro. The show is free and starts not-so-promptly at 8 or 9.

Fitness goals: Part II


Tonya and I are meeting today to discuss her online community marketing plan. Here are a few things we’ll talk about to help her grow her downtown pilates business in Greensboro.

Create a “Get Fit Pilates” blog. Tonya likes to write. And she has niche topic: Pilates, and, she’s trained in a muscle recovery technique for athletes called Muscle Activation Technique.

Post her schedule online. I have a friend who is interested in taking Tonya’s pilates class, but I don’t know where to find her schedule. She has paper brochures, but I lose them all the time. So we’ll create a page on her blog that’s dedicated to posting her class schedule.

Start a flickr account. A friend and a talented photographer has agreed to shoot some pictures of Tonya, and her studio. When I recently did a flickr search on pilates, there were very few good pictures. Some looked more like people doing yoga poses, or random shots of people in flexible poses, saying it was pilates. We could build Tonya’s online presence by starting a flickr account for her studio. There, we’ll post pictures of all kinds of women and body types doing the poses correctly. Then, in the comments section, we’ll explain the benefit behind the pose. We’ll tag each post with search terms, and her studio’s business location. We’ll use these photos for blog fodder throughout the year.

Create “reminder” emails and texts. One of the biggest obstacles to attending an exercise class is mustering up the motivation that you’ll feel better when you’re done. Email reminders, texts, and other messages strategically timed could do wonders for improving her client’s rate of consistent attendance.

To be continued …