This will be in the Indy tomorrow. (Look for a piece about the Visual Art Exchange.) But the VAE has a press release out, so no need to wait. I love Sparkcon. Moving it to the Warehouse District should make it even better — as a spark for the new downtown arts hub. And the fashion show in the Amphitheater will spark-le.
If you don't know Sparkcon, it's all here on the website. It's September 13-16.
This is from Sarah Powers at VAE:
SPARKcon will be moving to the Warehouse District and the Raleigh Amphitheatre for 2012. Organizers are looking forward to creating a new and distinct look for SPARKcon against the industrial backdrop of Raleigh’s new art district.
The event is September 13-16, 2012, kicking off at the Raleigh Amphitheater for its first Opening Ceremony on September 13. All of the outdoor programming during September 14-16 will be held in the Warehouse District between Martin, Davie, Dawson and West Streets.
SPARKcon will showcase the talent of more than 1,700 artists and attract a crowd of more than 25,000 people over four days. This will be a boon to the emerging arts district and SPARKcon believes this event can help secure the Warehouse district as an arts destination.
SPARKcon is an interdisciplinary arts festival created by designers, artists and community organizers to celebrate creativity in the Triangle. SPARKcon’s name comes from being a “con”ference to “spark” the local art community and seeks to brand the Triangle as “the creative hub of the South.” The event is organized by Visual Art Exchange, which moved its gallery space to the Warehouse District in 2011.
By moving the event, SPARKcon organizers can invest in VAE’s new neighborhood and help brand the neighborhood as an art district. Further, the move will help keep the event fresh and keep SPARKcon distinct amongst the growing number of events and festivals held in downtown Raleigh. The area is also close to transit (take the train to SPARKcon from Cary and Durham!) and provides a combination of indoor art spaces and street space that work with the organizer’s vision for the event.
The Opening Ceremony will be hosted in the Raleigh Amphitheater and will feature fashionSPARK’s runway show as well as dance, circus and music performances. The amphitheater will raise the profile of these events and SPARKcon is thrilled to used this new, professional venue for their production.
Ah, Mitt. You know as well as anyone that the whole point of a corporation is to shield the people who run it from personal liability — while letting them reap the profits, of course. So, yes, there are people in corporations. And these people are entitled to their rights (free speech, political activity). They're just not entitled, or they shouldn't be, to exercise their rights from behind a corporate shield.
So glad to get that off my chest. Now for the news.
"Move to Amend" is meeting tonight, 6:30-8:30, at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh, 3313 Wade Ave. This is, as the title suggests, a movement to amend the Constitution to make it clear that corporations are not entitled to the same First Amendment rights as individual citizens. The effect would be to reverse the Supreme Court's detestable Citizens United ruling that corporations do enjoy the same political rights as people.
From the local organizers:
Move to Amend executive committee member George Friday, an anti-oppression trainer and community organizer, will be touring North Carolina this July, in an effort to build connections, inspire activism, and reveal the origins of corporate power in America.
Move to Amend is a national coalition of over 212,900 people and organizations whose goal is amending the United States Constitution to end corporate rule by building a multiracial, cross-class democracy movement. George's presentations are part history lesson and part heart-felt call-to-action! "Challenging Corporate Rule & Creating Democracy" aims to help local folks understand how they can work to abolish corporate personhood and establish a government of, by, and for the people.
This event is free and open to the public. We appreciate your donations to help us finance these tours, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds.
And, catching up on some news from last week that doesn't seem to have been reported anywhere (which is strange), the Raleigh City Council voted 6-2 to take a position in favor of a constitutional amendment and against Citizens United. Councilor Thomas Crowder's resolution is framed as supporting the original McCain-Feingold curbs on corporate political action that Citizens United overturned. Voting no, Republican John Odom and Bonner Gaylord, unaffiliated. The five Democrats and Mayor Nancy McFarlane, also unaffiliated, voted in favor.
Here's the full resolution:
What's the secret sauce that'll lift our public schools to better results? I think the recipe contains getting kids on their feet more ... and encouraging them to work in groups, helping each other so everyone does better.
Working alone is tedious; and, if your parents can't help, it's so much harder.
Groups are fun. Presenting as part of a group is fun and a real-world skill that can take you far.
Why shouldn't learning be fun?
Anyway, I love seeing stuff like this. (h/t: Mike Charbonneau at the Wake schools office.) It's a music video produced by a 5th-grade class at Pleasant Union Elementary School — in North Raleigh— and it won the grand prize in a competition with an interesting back story, about which more below. But first:
So the contest involved teachers and their students making music videos using one of many lyrics written by a guy who works at N.C. State.
He's Dr. Lodge McCammon, who's in the College of Education, and he writes "curriculum-based" songs about various subjects from social studies to, in this case, algebra.
Jeffrey Collins had his 5th-grade class do the one about deciding on the order of operations in an algebraic equation. Think about it: How important is getting the order of operations right in your life?
The "Dr. Lodge Video Challenge" was sponsored by a for-profit company, Discovery Education. It sells digital content to schools, so don't confuse it with a philanthropy. On the other hand, no reason to assume that because it makes money, it isn't producing good material.
I've excerpted the company's press release below.
Catching up with our story from a week ago, "North Raleigh residents fight quarry expansion," the Raleigh planning commission voted 8-1 in favor of Martin Marietta Materials' rezoning application, finding that it's in the public interest to let the company use a 97-acre tract it owns as a dump site for its RDU quarry rather than be required to comply with the city's comprehensive plan and the residential-commercial zoning that MMM itself sought for the property in the '90s.
Residents in the nearby Wyngate neighborhood say they bought their homes believing that MMM would develop the acreage as houses and a shopping center they'd like to have. That's what the current zoning on the tract calls for. If it's used as a quarry dump, the value of their homes will be hurt, they believe.
MMM argued that it's running out of places around its RDU quarry to dump the "overburden" — the dirt and loose rocks that come off when it blasts down to the granite. Adding the 97 acres to its quarry operations will allow the company to expand the actual quarry slightly and dig deeper, extending the quarry's useful life from about 20 to perhaps 45 years without the need to truck the overburden to some other location.
The upshot for Wyngate residents: Not an appealing neighbor, but rather one whose property they're barred from entering that over time becomes, at best, an 80-feet high forest of scrub pines.
"I personally think a hill with trees on it is not a detriment to the community," planning commission member Steve Schuster said. Nor, he added, is MMM under any obligation to develop its property at all — so Wyngate residents shouldn't have been counting on homes or stores going there.
Another commission member, Erin Sterling Lewis, went even further. Development along the lines of the current zoning is merely "hypothetical," she said. If Wyngate residents wanted to argue that MMM should be held to residential and commercial uses, they should've come to the planning commission with a buyer for the property and a plan to develop it in that way.
Taken as a whole, the comments of the eight members who voted with MMM amount to saying that the company has a right to use its property the way it wants to — whether that use complies with the comprehensive plan and current zoning or not — as long as any harm to neighboring properties is sufficiently mitigated. "It bothers me when I hear a property owner (i.e., the Wyngate HOA) tell another property owner what to do with his property," commission member Quince Fleming said.
Only Waheed Haq, ordinarily a reliable pro-development vote on the commission, dissented. Haq said Martin Marietta sought the zoning it now wants to ignore, giving Wyngate residents grounds for their understanding that the tract wouldn't be quarried or used in connection with the quarry.
Moreover, Haq said, if MMM wanted the zoning changed, it should've come forward during the city's rewrite of the comprehensive plan in 2007-09. Instead, it was silent and the new comp plan calls for the land to be used as zoned for housing and some retail.
Carlie Huberman, who grew up in Boylan Heights and graduated from American University last month, is now in Australia. She's on the first leg of a five-month backpacking adventure that will take her to enough different countries that, when she rattled them off, it made me dizzy.
Naturally, I thought of John Steinbeck's Travels With Charley — though his explorations were across the U.S.
My travel plans this year include a jaunt to Carrboro this summer followed by Charlotte in September to see who's protesting at the Democratic National Convention and why. (Yes, I am looking for sympathy.)
So Carlie, who majored in film production, put me on her distribution list for the short travel pieces she'll be making and posting along the way. Her first, about 90 seconds, is from Melbourne and is about its street art. I like it a lot.
I think she's calling this series "Have Camera Will Travel." (?)
I'm calling it "My Vicarious Vacation(s)."
She also has a website, carliescamera.
In time, it may be seen that the way the YWCA's closing was so bungled helped sound the alarm that led to the organization's resuscitation. If so, last night's get-together of board members and terminated staffers at Martin Street Baptist Church — a private meeting — will be seen as an important turning point.
When it ended, both sides pledged that, from now on, there won't be two sides.
"We decided there's not going to be any more 'we' and 'they,'" the board's Maria Spaulding told several reporters waiting outside. For the first time, she said, board members had apologized face-to-face for the way the situation was mishandled. "We can't say enough how badly we feel," Spaulding said.
Representing the staffers, Olivia Robinson also expressed a desire for reconciliation. "Trust is developed when you communicate," she said. Finally, communications were begun, with emails and phone numbers exchanged and a willingness to work together also.
"The ball's in the board's court," Robinson added, but staffers are offering their expertise and experience, confident that any plan to reopen the YW will need to draw on both.
Will the YW reopen in its East Hargett Street building? "I think that is the vision for the community," Spaulding answered. But she didn't express it as her own vision necessarily. Her focus, she said, is on paying off the organization's debts, including back pay owed to the terminated staffers.
The debts may be as much as $500,000, according to board member Deborah Warren, who emerged from the church after Spaulding departed. They are at least $350,000, Warren said. An exact accounting hasn't been done.
The fact that it took three weeks following the closing for the board to meet with staffers is indicative of how dysfunctional the YW's organization structure had gotten. The turmoil that ensued could've been avoided.
On the other hand, the turmoil helped call attention to the YW's woes in a way that a more orderly downsizing doubtless wouldn't have. That's small consolation for workers whose jobs were yanked away on 24 hours notice, along with their health insurance unless they're able to pay for it themselves. It'll be no consolidation unless most or all of the jobs are restored — and quickly.
Paradoxically, what's clear at this point is that reopening the YW, if it occurs at all, will be a hard job, one requiring patience — and urgency. Nothing will happen if everyone waits for someone else to take the lead, and while no one person can bring the YW back, unless a few people step forward soon and take charge of the major organizing effort that's needed, the moment created by the turmoil will be lost.
Community members are organizing. The staffers are organizing. But legally, it's the board that's in charge — and it's the board that must take charge, bring people together ... and get to work.
Updating this story from the Indy on Wednesday, the YWCA of the Greater Triangle's board did meet Thursday with Raleigh business and civic leaders, shutting ex-staffers and the press out of the proceedings. In fact, when some of us — staff and reporters — showed up at the meeting place (I went because Maria Spauding told me that board members would talk to the press afterward), we were informed it was private property and directed to leave the grounds. Understandably, I suppose, given that the grounds belong to Hospice of Wake County. People with terminal illnesses were living their final days inside, and the only visitors (other than the ones who came to this private meeting) were their families and friends.
The woman who asked me to leave said there was no place inside or outside where a bunch of camped-out reporters and staffers wouldn't be an intrusion.
I spoke with one person who attended the meeting. She asked not to be identified. She said it's undecided whether the YWCA facility will reopen. The YW's guests were sympathic/supportive, but they wanted to hear a business plan for retaining programs and—maybe—the facility, and the YW board didn't have a plan. So the only decision made was that the board should develop one and then call another meeting.
Since Thursday, the board has finally scheduled a sit-down with their ex-staffers. It's on for Tuesday — tomorrow — at 6 p.m. at Martin Street Baptist Church. The invitation reads:
Dear Former Staff Members of the YWCA:
The board would like to meet with the former staff of the YWCA on Tuesday, March 20 at 6:00 pm at Martin Street Baptist Church. Dr. Earl Johnson, Pastor has graciously agreed to facilitate this meeting. Our objective is to share with you what we know about current and future plans for repaying our debt and possibly reopening the facility. We are anticipating that the meeting will end at 7:30 pm. Please send regrets or RSVP to ...
Joan Vinas, President, on behalf of the Board of Directors
This followed a letter to the board from the 14 ex-staffers which you can read here:
One question in the letter:
"Have any of you donated to the workers' fund to help us pay basic bills? Here is the link
to make a tax deductible donation that will go directly to the workers’ emergency fund:
The letter concludes:
"We have shared with you some of the heartache and pain that displaced participants have faced since you abruptly ceased operations and displaced them. Now, we want to publicly share with you some of the situations we workers are facing that have been exacerbated by your unconscionable decision to abruptly shut down. Please hear our stories. Please do what is right.
These following quotes are from displaced workers.
“Our mission statement is to empower women and eliminate racism, but instead you are disempowering women and eliminating jobs.”
“I have a toddler in daycare and a son who is a sophomore at Howard University. I had to call him to tell him I was laid off. He rushed to an emergency meeting with the financial aid office to re-negotiate tuition payments. Then he headed to the Western Union to wire me his last $80 to help me pay the mortgage. This is my nineteen-year-old son, giving his family every dime in his pocket.”
“It is just the embarrassment of getting to this point in my life and not being able to pay my bills. I never thought that as I entered my sixties I would be faced with this dilemma. It has caused me so much anguish.”
“My fiancé passed away this year and I lost a baby. On top of that, we just started to recover from the tornado that put a tree through our house and we had to move. I finally came back to work and now I no longer have a job. I’ve gone through all the stages of grief. I don’t have a coping mechanism anymore. I am just burnt out. Where do I go and what do I do?”
“I worked so hard so that my daughter can have a stable life and not know the struggles that I went through growing up. This sudden lay off set me back and now I’m working overtime with little funds. We are trying to keep things normal so she doesn’t know how hard it is. We are struggling to get her birthday party together, even though we can’t afford it. She deserves some normalcy and a simple party for a little girl. We are struggling to pay our basic bills. We are just struggling in general, in every way.”
“Just this year, I paid off my college loans and our car payment. My husband and I finally started accruing some savings. We have about $8000 in savings now, which means we are much, much better off than the majority of my former co-workers. But with a family of four and monthly expenses around $4000, we will tap into our savings right away and it will go fast.”
“After 15 years of dedication to the YWCA, I just feel like you pulled the rug out from under me. Having no health insurance at this age is just so scary. I have no life insurance. I have nothing to leave my daughters. You didn’t even give us any warning so that we could get prepared. Those crucial, basic things that we need are gone. Now I’m a burden to my family. At this age, I should be helping my mother, but instead she is helping me.”
"I feel robbed of my dignity and trust because of the situation the YWCA has put me in. TRUTH+TRUTH = TRUTH! We deserve the truth."
We remain dismayed, shocked and grieving, and we continue to hope that you will do what is right and just.
Damon Circosta rates as a strong defender and clever playmaker who should help the Raleigh Goodmons in a tough league — the N.C. Future Development League — dominated of late by the Carolina Wingers. The Wingers are led by their point man, Paul "Skip" Stam, and by owner-manager Art "His Holiness" Pope.
But Stam can only go to his right, and he looks like he's lost a step or two over the years. Circosta is more versatile, and he's touted as a "next-generation leader" by his coach:
Raleigh, N.C. — Barbara Goodmon, president of the A.J. Fletcher Foundation, announced Thursday that Damon Circosta has been named executive director of the foundation, beginning April 2.
Circosta currently heads the North Carolina Center for Voter Education, a non-profit whose mission is to inform and engage North Carolinians so that they may fully participate in democracy. He is a graduate of the University of Arizona School of Law and a member of the State Bar of North Carolina.
“I am excited to join a North Carolina foundation that is active in the arts, education, public broadcasting and social justice. The Foundation has a proud history of taking a collaborative and inclusive approach to philanthropy, and I am thrilled to be a part of it,” Circosta said.
“Damon understands what the word 'community' means," Goodmon said. "He has a fine record of public service work and brings passion, skill, and energy to our Foundation. North Carolina is in good hands with next-generation leaders like Damon.”
The A.J. Fletcher Foundation was established by Alfred Johnston Fletcher (1887-1979). The Foundation recently moved offices to 909 Glenwood Ave., the former home of A.J. Fletcher. Fletcher’s grandson, Jim Goodmon, is board chair of the Foundation and president and CEO of Capitol Broadcasting Company, which owns WRAL-TV.
[Update, 10:15 a.m.: I just spoke with Doug McMillan, CEO of the YMCA of the Triangle. He said the YMCA is not a convener of the Thursday meeting nor is it looking to take anything from the YWCA. "We are coming to listen," McMillan said. "We are not leading."
[The YMCA has collaborated successfully with other organizations in East Raleigh, and that kind of collaboration may be possible with some of the programs the YWCA has been running, McMIllan added. But at this point, without much information about what the YW's specific programs are, he doesn't know how such a collaboration might work. "We want to be supportive," McMillan said. "We just don't know how best to be supportive."
[I have calls in to Craig Chancellor and Maria Spaulding, and I'll be writing a piece later for tomorrow's Indy.]
What follows is the original post from last night —
It's been a week since terminated workers hosted their meeting at Martin Street Baptist Church, and there's been no public word from the Board of Directors of the YWCA of the Greater Triangle. I was told by two reliable sources that, prior to that public session in the church last Monday, board members assured a small group of community leaders during a private session that they'd be getting together soon with the workers — soon meaning by the weekend.
Well, that didn't happen. But the YWCA board has called a big meeting in two days — apparently it's invitation-only — with United Way officials, the leadership of the YMCA of the Triangle, and some other dignitaries including a few Southeast Raleigh leaders. It's billed as "an important meeting to discuss the future of the organization. YOUR input and advice are critical."
But none of the terminated employees were invited, apparently, nor any of the YW's program participants, for that matter.
The meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m.-12 noon in the auditorium at the Hospice of Wake County campus, which is located at 5980 Trinity Road in West Raleigh, on the other side of town and miles from the YWCA building.
The invitation came from YWCA board chair Maria Spaulding and United Way of the Greater Triangle CEO Craig Chancellor. Also copied up top were Doug McMillan, CEO of the YMCA of the Triangle, and Bruce Lightner, a Southeast Raleigh leader who co-chairs the Raleigh MLK Celebration Committee.
Lightner, in an email provided to one of the former YWCA workers, told a fellow invitee that he was asked to get involved by the Rev. Earl Johnson, pastor at Martin Street Baptist and the new president of the Raleigh-Wake Citizens Association (RWCA), Southeast Raleigh's main political organization. "It is my understanding the meeting is called by the Triangle YMCA Board, Triangle YMCA Administrators and Triangle United Way Administrators," Lightner says in the email.
Lightner expressed concern that a closed-door meeting will simply add to the "mountain of distrust and animosity" that Southeast Raleigh feels toward the YW's board. It's time, he suggests, for the board "to have a community wide meeting and invite former YWCA Board Members, former YWCA Staff, other stake holders in the boarder community ... and citizens most effected by the YWCA's closing. Such a public meeting will go a long way in providing a vision and commitment to move forward with openness and transparency."
Johnson, when I reached him by telephone, said he's committed to keeping the YWCA open, but he said it may not necessarily be called the YWCA. "I do think there needs to be a change in leadership," Johnson said. "But you were at the meeting Monday. People spoke out strongly that it that they want it to stay [and reopen]. The community benefits are tremendous. I haven't heard anybody say, come shut it down."
One possible scenario I've heard is that YMCA may take over most of the YWCA's programs, though not necessarily its building nor its core mission. [And this — see above — is the impression that the YMCA's Doug McMillan is anxious to dispel.]
The building and adjacent lots owned by the YWCA are valued at upwards of $1 million, I'm told. But the YWCA is in debt to the tune of $500,000 or perhaps more. So YWCA board members may be anxious to liquidate the assets — the building — pay off the debts and go away.
If the YMCA takes over, however, two things will almost certainly be true.
Number one, whatever programs remain from the YW, the organization will not be led by women, let alone women of color, as the YWCA has historically been.
Number two, the YMCA is very unlikely to maintain the YWCA's mission, which is: Empower women, and eradicate racism.
To maintain the mission, the YWCA would need to be reconstituted as an independent organization with a strong board, led by women and housed in Southeast Raleigh. Where in Southeast Raleigh? Well, there's a perfectly good building on East Hargett Street.
The good news, if there be such in the debacle of the Raleigh YWCA closing, is that the Southeast Raleigh community is rising strongly to insist that the facility and its programs be saved. That was apparent tonight as 200 people gathered — not at the YWCA, but as it turned out at the Martin Street Baptist Church a few blocks away — to voice their feelings and start to organize. "We were going in different directions," said Wake County Commissioner James West, talking about how hard times brought the community down. But with the news about the YW, West said, "We are coming together."
Said Rukiya Dillahunt, a retired school vice principal and activist in Black Workers for Justice: "The people united will never be defeated." After leading a chant with those words, Dillahunt vowed: "And we are going to save the YWCA on Hargett Street."
Those who came expecting to hear a plan to save the YWCA were disappointed, however. No board members of the YWCA of the Greater Triangle, the governing body that closed the building and terminated 14 employees on less than a day's notice Wednesday, attended the meeting. That fact ticked off the displaced workers. One, Omisade Burney-Scott, read aloud the outraged letter they directed at the board on Friday. Another, Crystal Hayes, called them "cowards."
Board members did meet privately with a small group of community leaders in a conference room at Martin Street Baptist before the public session began.
According to several people who were there, board members said they closed the YW abruptly after being warned by their "legal counsel" that they risked criminal charges if they continued to employ people knowing they didn't have any money to pay them. The lawyers also advised board members not to attend the open meeting last night and not to allow it to be held at the YWCA, as the workers and community leaders planned.
So, at the last minute, the open meeting was moved to the church, with organizers directing folks there as they arrived at the YW.
Because the board members did not address issues in public, the people who attended the meeting came away without any information about how deep the financial troubles of the YWCA go. I was told by a knowledgeable person that the organization's debt is $500,000 in round numbers. I can't quote the name.
Board members said in private that they intend to meet with the displaced workers as soon as possible, probably this week, and are working hard to find the money to pay them their back wages they're owed.
If details about the organization's debts were scant, though, organizing to get the details and begin to address them is moving ahead.
The Rev. Earl Johnson, pastor at Martin Street and the new president of the RWCA (Raleigh Wake Citizens Association), Southeast Raleigh's political arm, is among the leaders along with members of his church and members of First Baptist Church downtown.
City Councilor Eugene Weeks said he's talked with Council members, City Manager Russell Allen and Mayor Nancy McFarlane and they're "listening" for ways the city can help.
Keith Sutton, the district's representative on the Wake County Board of Education, said school leaders are working as a team to find after-school programs for the kids who were in such programs at the YW.
Several organizations have volunteered to host the YW's senior group, the Golden Oaks.
And Bishop M.S. Nesbitt of Deliverance Cathedral of Love got a big round of applause when she spoke toward the end of the meeting and promised that her church will write checks to each of the 14 displaced workers for $1,000 each.
Organizers are raising money to support the 14 employees who were terminated and who continue to be owed back wages. Those wishing to contribute should direct checks to ACRE (Action for Community in Raleigh), a nonprofit 501(c)3 group which has agreed to handle the donations and pass them through to the workers. The mailing address is:
331 W. Main St.
Durham, N 27701.
Write YWCA on the check. Contributions will be tax-deductible.