Upcoming Equity-Related Events

There are a few events coming up over the next week that I’d like to highlight:

Thursday, April 24 at 6 pm – Hood Talk at the Burton St. Center

Saturday, April 26 at 7 pm – Date My City Professional Mixer at Club Eleven

Monday, April 28 – Stand Against Racism event at AB Tech, 8 am (see flyer below). You can find out more in this recent article in the Asheville Citizen-Times about the Stand.
ab tech stand against racism

Tim Wise at UNCA April 16

Tim Wise is speaking at UNC Asheville next Wednesday, April 16 at 6:30 pm in the Humanities Lecture Hall as part of the YWCA Stand Against Racism. Wise is a nationally recognized antiracist writer and educator who articulates issues of white privilege in very powerful ways. I highly recommend this event – it will be an uncomfortable but important talk.
tim wise april 16 unca

YWCA Stand Against Racism

The YWCA of Asheville Stand Against Racism is underway, with events happening this month and into May. The Stand Against Racism is a nationwide YWCA campaign to raise awareness that racism still exists and that it will no longer be ignored or tolerated. There is still time to sign up to participate.

Go to ywcastand.org for more info, a calendar of events and to sign up. You can email angel.redmond@ywcaofasheville.org with questions.
YWCA Stand Against Racism

Knowledge is Power

Here is a story I wrote for this week’s Mountain Xpress. Please note that the workshop and job fair had to be postponed at the last minute, but the Professional Mixer is on for this Saturday.

Vernon White II

Working Relationships

It might not surprise Vernon White II’s former teachers and classmates at T.C. Roberson High that this two-time MVP, who was awarded a full basketball scholarship to N.C. A&T State University, is once again tackling a challenge with his trademark persistence, energy and enthusiasm. With a bachelor’s degree in sports medicine and a new position at Eaton Corp., White could have chosen to focus on solely on his own career. Instead, he identified an unmet need in the community and decided to take action.

“I’d moved back home after graduation and was doing temp work at Eaton. When I asked about getting a full-time job, they asked for my resumé, and I thought, what’s a resumé?” White realized that a great education did not necessarily prepare young people like him for the world of work — not to mention his friends who didn’t attend college. “It was like a light bulb going off,” he recalls. “This is a problem: How can we solve it?”

With only a month and a half to prepare, White and staffers Tameka Crump and Max Cherry from the Linwood Crump – Shiloh Complex pulled together their first job fair at the center last April. Now, as they gear up for this year’s edition, White reflected on what makes this event unique.

“When you think of a job fair, you think of just going in and turning in resumés, but this is not like that. I wanted to give people more of an introduction, to educate people about the format and the purpose of a job fair. A lot of people don’t understand that it’s about relationships, making connections.”

To help people do that, the Shiloh Center will host a workshop. Supervisors from various city departments will conduct mock interviews, review resumés and provide insight into what employers are looking for in candidates. “Many people today don’t realize the importance of first impressions and interviews,” says Cherry. “We are not looking to become the next big job fair: We’re looking to be the springboard for individuals who seek work.”

The goal for this year’s event is to have 25 companies and five universities represented. White hopes that in addition to dropping off resumés, attendees will also learn about resources they can use to get their names out there and about the best ways to search for jobs online. The city of Asheville will provide computers so that applicants can fill out online applications on the spot. “One of the biggest reasons why we decided to host and develop the job fair is to show the general public there are employment opportunities regardless of age, race, sex, criminal background and education,” Cherry explains.

And convenience aside, the centrally located venue will also encourage people from diverse backgrounds to participate. Shiloh (a biblical name often translated as “the Messiah” or “the Peaceful One”) is a historically African-American community established before 1870 in an area that’s now part of Biltmore Estate. George Vanderbilt bought the land in the late 1880s and moved the whole community, including its church and cemetery, to the current location. Today, Shiloh is a racially diverse neighborhood with both low-income and middle-class residents.

White, who grew up in Shiloh, wants people from different backgrounds to talk to one another and build connections. “Asheville has a lot of potential, and that was nice to see when I came back. At the end of the day, the whole purpose is to inspire people to step outside of their limitations, to talk to different people, to try something different.”

“It’s so easy to get caught up in the lifestyle of doing the wrong thing,” he continues. “And if people wait until it’s too late — until they have background issues and their record gets in front of them — then they are playing catch-up. We want to avoid that. If we can get the youth now to see how important this is, I think we’ll be in good shape.”

Date My City Professional Mixer

Besides his efforts to support job seekers, Vernon White is involved in another initiative aimed at helping minority professionals advance their careers. He’s teamed up with Date My City founder Sheneika Smith, Major Moments Events and Melting Pot Asheville to organize the first Date My City Professional Mixer.

The networking event will be held Saturday, March 22, from 7 to 10 p.m. at Tressa’s Jazz and Blues (28 Broadway in downtown Asheville). There will also be an announcement by the Western North Carolina Diversity Engagement Coalition, a network of anchor institutions seeking to promote a diverse and inclusive workforce.

For more information, go to facebook.com/wncdec or facebook.com/newasheville.

Photo by Alicia Funderburk

Important Conversations at the Burton Street Community Center

I received this announcement from InterActivism (photo from Spirit House):
Hood Talk is a series of cultural organizing events rooted in addressing the issues and concerns communities of color face in Asheville.  All events are FREE with childcare provided. Join us is growing this movement and helping people help themselves and affirm their voices.

Upcoming events at the Burton Street Community Center, 134 Burton St.:

“The House I Live In” film showing
Discussion on the War on Drugs and the Prison Industrial Complex
Friday, March 14th 5-7:30PM

Spirit House (from Durham) Workshop
Training and cultural organizing for communities on police violence and prison
Saturday, March 15th 10AM-4PM

Mass Incarceration & Its Impact on Family, Community
Thursday, March 20th 6-7:30PM
Panel discussion and Spoken word poetry

Hood Talk
Thursday, March 27th 6-8PM
Community Discussion
Like Hood Talk on Facebook.prison industrial complex

Hood Talk This Thursday

The first in a series of “Hood Talk” events happens this week. The focus of the series is to raise awareness of the challenges faced in African American neighborhoods and in public housing communities in Asheville, which are predominantly African American. The conversations will also address solutions to these challenges.

From the organizers:

Developing positive energy to restore greater communication and strength throughout our community in Asheville, from the North, South, East, and West.

Come join us at the Burton St Community Center this Thursday 2.27.14 from 6 to 8 pm as we hear from caring folks from several neighborhoods in Asheville. This is a safe and chill place to listen to what you have to share about what’s going on in your hood, enjoy light food, entertainment, and inspiration while we create solutions to stay empowered and overcome challenges in our neighborhoods!

Ubuntu,” I am because we are”
-Xhosa, South African Proverb
“A problem shared, is a problem halved”
-English Proverb
“Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow”
-Swedish Proverb

RSVP via Facebook here.

hood talk asheville

South Asheville Cemetery Events

Here are flyers for two events this week related to the South Asheville Cemetery – a history presentation and a work day.  “For nearly 100 years — from the 1840s until it was closed in the mid-1940s — South Asheville Cemetery was the primary place of burial for African-Americans in the city. No one really knows how many people are buried there; estimates run from about 1,500 to as many as 5,000 graves.” (Mountain Xpress, If Stones Could Talk, 1998).south asheville cemetery history
south asheville cemetery work day

Black History Month Free Breakfast Program in Hillcrest

Announcement from the Women’s Wellbeing and Development Foundation:

A Free Breakfast will take place every Saturday in February at Hillcrest’s Carl E. Johnson Community Center from 9 am until 11 am.

This program is in celebration of Black History month and honors the original Free Breakfast Program that was begun by the Black Panthers during the height of the Civil Rights era. They offered a free hot meal to the children of their communities in the morning, preparing them for the day nutritionally, and empowering their minds and spirits through education while they ate. The community leaders educated the children about their true rights and history, and taught them how to stand up for what they believed in, and for fair and equal treatment. At one point the head of the FBI at the time, J. Edgar Hoover, declared that the Free Breakfast Program was the single largest threat to national security.

It’s a wonderful series, last year we fed over 500 people. We expect similar numbers this year.

You can make a donation to this program at wwd-f.org. If you’d like to volunteer, call 828-255-8777 or email nicole@wwd-f.org.

More about the Women’s Wellbeing and Development Foundation from their website:

WWD-F empowers women and girls to utilize their economic, social, intellectual, and spiritual potential to achieve personal growth and the integrated development of their communities. The foundation provides resources and capacity building to women-run projects that directly benefit marginalized and disadvantaged women and children throughout the world.

WWD-F realizes that the development of women and their communities requires a comprehensive and multi-faceted approach that addresses both personal and collective challenges.

Diversity Through Laughter

Here is an article I wrote for this week’s Mountain Xpress:

Asheville likes to celebrate diversity, and we’ve got the bumper stickers to prove it. But when it comes to actually experiencing diversity, that’s another story. “I come from Miami, and I’m so used to seeing a diverse group of people, all kinds of people, hanging out,” says Tiffany Gill of The Color ME Brown Project. “I’d like to see more of that here in Asheville.”

Victoria Blount, the nonprofit’s creative director, puts it this way: “If you’re in a certain demographic, there’s a ton for you to do. But if you are not, it’s hard to get out there, so you have to make your own way.”

Sheneika Smith of Date My City, a local initiative to encourage cultural diversity, says: “Diverse entertainment in Asheville is essential for the overall well-being of the community. I believe if we offer opportunities to unite, even through arts and entertainment, it will eventually give way to opportunities for civic engagement and improved community involvement.”

joe greene asheville

Happily, promoter Joe Greene has a plan. “We’re promoting diversity through laughter,” he says of the vision behind his production company, KJG Enterprises. Specifically, “KJG Enterprises is built upon the belief that the cultivation of diverse audiences can create positive exchanges and foster equity for all community residents in Asheville.” This goal grew out of his experience with what he calls the social, economic and cultural isolation of the established African-American community.

“That’s my whole focus,” says Greene. “To break down walls between people; to get everyone together.”

KJG Enterprises’ next event, “Funny ’R’ Us,” will be held Saturday, Jan. 18, at Asheville Community Theatre. The show will feature urban comedians Tyler Craig, Fredo Davis and Terrell Marrow. All three are based in Atlanta. Craig, a native of that city, has performed on the BET network’s Comic View and worked with Chris Tucker; Davis, aka Fdstmp, has also worked for Comic View and the TV series Who’s Got Jokes?; Marrow is a standup artist. Asheville musician Lyric will open, and Blunation Films and Go Diva Photography will document the evening.

A portion of the proceeds from “Funny ’R’ Us” will go to support My Daddy Taught Me That, a development program for 12- to 19-year-old males, run by local author and social worker Keynon Lake. The mentoring program supports participants in character building, academics and career preparation. There’s also an emphasis on “morals and being accountable for your actions,” says Lake.

Greene says both he and Lake “want to show people that we can come together … that everything a young black male presents is not negative.” Lake agrees, saying he wants to send a message to “bring our different entities together to focus on one common goal.”

Unfortunately, says Greene, “coming from a minority man’s point of view, it’s hard. I’m fighting every day to do something the right way, but I’m already put in that category and limited by that stereotype.”

The Asheville native spent his childhood in the Klondyke public housing complex, then moved to West Asheville. He attended college in Greensboro, playing football for N.C. A&T State University. During that time, he got into event promotion. After college, Greene moved to Charlotte, where he continued working as a promoter. “I stayed away from Asheville for 10 years, because I thought there wasn’t anything for me here,” he says.

When Greene finally did return to his hometown, he was disappointed by the lack of entertainment options that appealed to him, so he began putting on events. His first Asheville comedy show was at The Rocket Club in 2007. This was followed by events at venues like The Magnetic Theatre, Asheville Music Hall, Haywood Lounge, Diana Wortham Theatre, YMI Cultural Center, the Asheville Civic Center and Hole N Da Wall.

During the past year, Greene took a break from putting on shows to focus on building his business skills. “I had to take a step back to learn,” he says. He participated in the Eagle Market Streets Development Corp.’s BLOCK Academy program and Mountain BizWorks’ Business Boot Camp.

“This show,” says Greene, “is to introduce everyone to what I’ve been doing.” With an early start time (8 p.m.) and a classy venue, Greene says “Funny ’R’ Us” is for “people who want to dress up, go out, relax and have a laugh.”

If things go as planned, KJG Enterprises will branch out into other types of events. Greene says he’s considering plays, R&B vocalists and old-school rappers. Greene says the latter is a strong possibility, since he hung out with Doug E. Fresh in New York City recently, thanks to connections made through KJG.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time: I’m, like, 15-plus years deep in this,” says Greene. “I’m fighting for it. I am fighting to break the barriers down.”

what: Funny ’R’ Us Comedy Show featuring Tyler Craig, with Fredo Davis and Terrell Marrow. Lyric opens
where: Asheville Community Theatre, ashevilletheatre.org
when: Saturday, Jan. 18, at 8 p.m. $25

photo by jon farmer

Asheville Action Round Up

Here’s a round up of recent positive stories and opportunities for action:

The Asheville Citizen-Times ran this feature story about Stephen Smith, “Asheville man uplifts others after prison stint.” It’s worth a read. Here’s a quote of Smith’s from the story, “I used the analogy of the body, how different organs and muscles and ears and eyes all work together collectively to achieve good health, and how a community of people is supposed to work when everyone is accountable and doing what they’re supposed to do.”
stephen smith asheville

Right up the Asheville Action alley is this story in WNC Magazine, “Positive Reinforcements,” which features LEAF in Schools & Streets, Green Opportunities and others.

There will be a variety of Martin Luther King week events in Asheville. The MLK Jr. Association of Asheville and Buncombe County has a series of events, including the annual Prayer Breakfast. UNC Asheville also will be hosting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration week, as well as supporting the MLK Association events. Finally, this Color of Asheville post includes community events hosted by the Ethical Society of Asheville and Burton Street Peace Garden.

Finally, the next session of Building BridgesGoing Beyond Racism Through Understanding and Respect” starts on January 27 at MAHEC. In their invitation to this session, the Building Bridges board states, “This is a way we can make Asheville/Buncombe County more inclusive and equitable, by building mutual understanding and respect. Let’s grow these seeds so that we can work together to actualize the kind of community we want to live in.” If that resonates with you, I highly encourage you to attend. Register here.

Note: I may not be able to post next week, but I’ll be back at the end of the month!

photo for the asheville citizen times by bill sanders


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