• 17 01 Parish House doorIt’s times like these that I deeply miss my late friend, former Hope Mills Mayor Eddie Dees.

    As the debate continues to rage over the fate of the Parish House in Hope Mills, I so badly wish I could go for one of our regular rides in Eddie’s pickup and talk about local politics and the future of the town as we often used to do.
    I respect his memory, and would never drag him into this debate without permission. So I made a phone call last week to a young lady I’ve known almost as long as I’ve called Fayetteville home, Eddie’s widow, Susan Faircloth Dees.
    Susan gave her blessing to the words I’m about to write, before some of my harsher critics accuse me of desecrating Eddie’s name.

    One thing I can tell you for sure about Eddie Dees is he was a man of common sense and practicality. He also loved Hope Mills and had a deep appreciation for its history.
    That was what led him to write a book in 1991, Hope Mills Heritage, an illustrated history of his beloved hometown.

    I’m proud to say I helped with the editing of the book, something he gratefully thanked me for in the book’s acknowledgements.

    Of the 112 pages in the book, there are two devoted to the history of the Christ Episcopal Church. One paragraph on those pages deals with the Parish House, noting that in 1910, the bishop of the Diocese of Eastern Carolina instructed the Rev. Norvin C. Duncan to build a parish house to serve as rectory and community center.

    For those who don’t know, a rectory is the house an Episcopal minister lives in. In other faiths it’s called the manse or parsonage.

    Many of those who support saving the Parish House argue that it’s a historic building.

    17 02 Eddie DeesLet’s clarify that. Technically, every building in the downtown historic district that’s on the National Registry of Historic Places is a historic building. That’s because of the geography of the district, not the actual age of the buildings or their role in the history of the town.

    The original inventory of buildings in the Hope Mills historic district included a gas station and a vacant lot, which count as historic not because of real history tied to that location, but simply because of where they are on the map.
    Reminds me of a sign I saw at a gift shop one time that read something like, “In 1829 on this spot, absolutely nothing happened.” The same is true of many so-called historic buildings in downtown Hope Mills.

    But let’s get back to the Parish House. It’s been well documented that for whatever reason, the house has fallen into disrepair. How long that took to happen and who is to blame really aren’t issues. This is a building with a lot of age, and not a lot of real Hope Mills history, that’s in bad shape.

    If you haven’t taken a close look at the front door of the Parish House, there is a CONDEMNED sign on it. Right next to it is a red sign with a big white X. That means it’s unoccupied and has been for some time.

    I’ve seen official reports from town staff stating that it could cost in the vicinity of six figures of town money just to stabilize this building and make it safe for entry, not to mention what would be needed to make it serviceable.

    And if it is restored, what would it be used for? The town is already working toward a permanent museum near Trade Street, which is the true heart of the town’s mill village history with its collection of old storefront shops and its proximity to the textile mill.

    History is great, and where possible it should be preserved. But the elected leaders of this town have a finite budget to deal with, and they are called on to make tough choices.

    One of those involves the town’s future. Right now, there’s a pressing need for a new headquarters for the town’s police and fire departments. Work is scheduled to begin shortly on that facility, which is going to be an expensive but much needed building.

    It will benefit both the police and fire staff who will occupy it, and it will be an asset to the town for years to come.

    I posted something on Facebook recently regarding this whole situation. This is what I wrote. “How soon we forget. Old and historic are different words with different meanings.’’

    There’s another word I’d add to the mix. Sentimental. Just because a group of people have sentimental feelings for something doesn’t mean that it should be preserved at taxpayer expense.

    I feel sentimental about a lot of things, like cars I’ve owned or homes I’ve lived in, but time passes, and when my life circumstances changed, I didn’t continue to invest my income in their upkeep, I moved forward to something new.

    The elected leadership is doing that in the case of the Parish House. This was a tough decision I’m sure, but I respect the fact that they’ve researched it and in their honest opinion are doing the right thing for the town of Hope Mills and its citizens, who put them in office to make the wisest possible use of the tax dollars they are entrusted with spending for the benefit of the entire town.

    If you really support Hope Mills history, give the town’s elected your support in finally getting Heritage Park up and running. It will celebrate the town’s mill heritage while adding a source of revenue with the amphitheater that is proposed to be included in the park.

    So far, the goal of this new group of elected officials is moving forward from two years of negativity. Regardless of what the naysayers will tell you, the motto on the town sign is accurate. “A proud past, a bright future.’’

  • 03 social meadia screenInauguration Day has come and gone, and democracy has prevailed, though not without national pain. A week after a violent, bloody and deadly insurrection at our United States Capitol, our new President and Vice President were sworn in on the steps of that same sacred building before a sprinkling of spectators in a city on near-total lockdown.

    It is both reassuring and horrifying that at least some on the podium, including President Biden and Vice President Harris and their spouses, were reportedly wearing body armor and other protective clothing.

    This unprecedented American inauguration begs the question, “how on God’s green earth did the people of the United States find ourselves in an uncivil war with each other?”
    Social scientists and historians will debate this long after we are gone, and there are surely many factors. Our immediate past President, an active combatant in the uncivil war certainly stoked its fires by both his policies and incendiary language. He did not, however, invent our differences, many of which go back to the earliest days of our nation. He did make it acceptable to voice opinions not acceptable in the past, and that has shoved many Americans into hard and fast positions we find difficult to change.

    Another, harder to pin down, factor is a gift from expanding technologies, social media. This general category includes Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Tik Tok and others used by millions around the world but which digital immigrants like this writer may not know even exist, much less use. As best I understand the technologies, they are powered by algorithms, which allow social media platforms to tell us what they think we want to hear, based on choices we make online.

    A simple example of this phenomenon is if I search for “blue sweater, size M,” it will not be long before ads for blue sweaters, size M pop up on my computer screen. No harm done, and I just might order one.

    More ominous, though, is information fed to us that a is less fact-based and more opinion-based. "The Social Dilemma," a Netflix documentary, explores how the choices we make online, such as “likes,” create our “digital tattoo.” This tattoo identifies us in certain ways and affects how we are perceived both by people who read our posts and also by the technologies that power them. For example, if one person searches for and/or “likes” mainly conservative information or posts, and another person searches for and/or “likes” mainly liberal information or posts, both will find themselves in echo chambers, getting more and more of the same and less and less of the other. This means that if a skeptic and a believer both search for “climate change,” they will get different answers based on their past search behavior. Both answers will be tailored to the user, and neither may be factually accurate.

    Think of it this way. Unless you search for a hard fact such as “how many quarts in a galloon,” the answer you get is going to be based more on how you are perceived generated by algorithms created just for you.

    It is like we have siloed ourselves in two separate Towers of Babel. Those in one shout at those of us in the other, but we do not understand what those in the other tower are saying. In 2021 reality, MSNBC viewers cannot understand Fox News and vice versa.

    Calls for social media regulation are increasing, and rightly so given their worldwide influence and inability to regulate themselves. Congress is expected to take up the issue this session. At the end of the day, though, it is we the American people who must reach out to each other from our separate Towers of Babel and seek common ground.

    Let the healing begin.

  • 07 random kindnessIf you're reading this, congratulations – you made it! You're almost a month into a brand new year. A year that came pre-loaded with its challenges and thoughts of what victories lie ahead,and the memories of time gone by. Over the past year many of us celebrated the joy and excitement of new life, some experienced the sadness of loss, and, if we're at all alike, we've done our best to be a friend offering encouragement in the wake of both the best and worst of times.

    If nothing else, 2020 gave me opportunity once again to acknowledge the fact we're all just passing through. We get, we give, we have and we hold, but in the end we arrive at the same humbling conclusion – everything on this earth is temporary. While we build mighty castles to wall us in or monuments to all we consider great, the only true legacy we leave will be found in how we loved. Over time I've learned to loosen my grip on the things I think I control, lest they begin to control me in return. And I am reminded there is a time and season for everything, and a marvelous Creator who steadies and stills us though it all.

    I don't want to beat a depressingly melancholy drum too long, so let's peer down the road from these first days of 2021 with the knowledge we have choices. We can each choose to see a winding road strewn with rocks, slopes, and unknown peril around each bend, or look a little further to the beauty of the horizon, with the realization the road itself is a journey worth taking. Each step brings us closer to something new, and often leads us away from things familiar.

    In either case we take those steps both challenged and comforted by an immensely wise Creator who seems to say, "Be prepared to let go of anything I take from you, but never let go of My hand!"

    You may have entered 2021 without making a resolution or a promise, but there is plenty of positive change you can work on this year. Start by simply being grateful. Take stock in all you've already been given. More than food, a decent car, a home or stuff to fill it, count the blessings of family, friends, and life itself. At WCLN, our daily charge is to bring relationships alive and deliver music filled with the good news that God loves you. The two greatest things we he hope to inspire in you is to love Him back, and love others more than yourself. That's what makes Christian 105.7 different, and it will work for you, too.

    Enjoy your family and friends today. Give extra hugs and words of love just because you can. Make the world a happier place by doing some extra act of kindness. Smile a little bit longer. Most importantly, be grateful for the life you've been given.

  • 05 rope pic from websiteThe Gilbert Theater’s newest production “Rope” is set to open Jan. 29 and has already sold-out opening day.

    The thrilling drama centered around a murder, once used as the basis of the Alfred Hitchcock film “Rope,” will play every weekend until
    Feb. 14.”

    Tickets are $16 per person, and $14 with senior (55+) and military discount are available for purchase on the theater’s website, or by calling 910-678-7186.

    “’Rope’ is basically the opposite of ‘who done it?’ because you already know who’s done the murder and now it’s all about are they going to get away with it,” Matt Gore, director of the play, said. “It's darkly humorous where these two guys kill this 19-year-old young man, stuff him in a chest and decide to have a dinner party around his corpse.”

    It’s mostly just a study in tension, and the building of tension and suspense, said Lawrence Carlisle, artistic director at the Gilbert Theater.

    Beyond picking the play for the season, Carlisle will be acting in the play in the role of an acquaintance of the two murderers who invite him to the dinner party to flaunt the crime.

    My character slowly starts to have some suspicions, he said.

    Carlisle said he had not acted in a production for a while and thought it would be exciting to audition and act again.

    “I just like the experience of it and having fun with the other performers and learning things from the director to use when I direct things,”
    he said.

    Carlisle picked “Rope” written by Patrick Hamilton, to include in this year’s season because he liked the story, a thriller, and he didn’t think those are seen often enough in theaters.

    “It’s been a little bit of a challenge, you know, I still have to deal with the day-to-day and making sure that things are running smoothly on an administrative level while also learning a whole bunch of lines, worrying about costumes, stuff I usually don't have to worry about,” he said.

    “Rope” is loosely based on the “Leopold and Loeb” murder in the 1920s. Guests can look forward to a night of suspense and thrill.

    “The practices have been super smooth, I like working here and they have some very dedicated people working here behind the scenes, in the offices,” Gore said.

    Things are going fairly well, all things considered, Carlisle said.

    The production will be about two hours long with a ten-minute intermission.

    Theater staff will conduct temperature checks at the door and offer socially distant seating with only up to 25 people per show. Masks will be required, and the staff will be sanitizing everything between each show.

    “I hope people want to come see it, I know things are bad right now in the world, but what I have been trying to do since the start of this pandemic is hopefully have a place where people can come and forget about that even if they do have to wear their masks and socially distance, and not speak to the actors afterwards but some sacrifices have to be made,” Carlisle said.

    For more information about the theater, production and tickets, visit https://www.gilberttheater.com

  • 01 01 Printed Woman 8The new exhibit at Gallery 208, “Monument to Strangers: Photographs of Johanna Warwick”, opens Feb. 2 5:30 p.m. Visitors to the exhibition will see a body of work by an artist who utilizes a minimalist approach to comment on cultural history and how obsolete processes can inform and continue to shape perceptions about Americana.

    British born but raised in Canada, Warwick works and lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “Monument to Strangers” is the result of Warwick researching and recontextualized daily printed newspapers photographs from the 1880s to the 1960s. Visitors to the gallery will see large scale portraits which have been “recontextualized” to reveal Warwick’s truth, “images affect our understanding of cultural history.”

    “Monuments to Strangers” also includes smaller works inspired by the process of image making during an early period in the history of commercial photography and printing. Warwick noted, “it was the first time in history, images of reality could be reproduced on presses reaching the public, rather than an image interpreted and altered by hand.”

    We are fortunate in the area to be able to see works by a contemporary photographer who does not live in our region and an artist whose approach is conceptual. As with many conceptual works of art, visitors do not need to know the artist’s intent, but knowing the intent most often enhances a different type of experience than not knowing the meaning or purpose of the work. (For that reason, Gallery 208 always posts artist’s statements throughout the exhibit.)

    A prelude to visiting the gallery is best said by Warwick: “In this work, I utilize news images and materially re-contextualize them to emphasize the limitations of photography as an emotionally and factually accurate record of the time. I combine analogue and digital processes to underscore the ways in which news photographs have been produced and how that production affects our understanding of cultural history. The photographs look at the selective representation of the individual within printed daily newspapers from the 1880s to the 1960s.”

    Seeing the overly large portraits, 24” x 36,” viewers should be aware Warwick has been inspired by anonymity and through this body of work wanted to “ highlight how women and minorities were vastly underrepresented.” In creating this body of work the artist is “re-presenting these images in hopes to reveal and question our flawed history. The figures in the blocks are unknown, but they were at one point important, or significant enough, to have their image produced in this way. The images reveal how versions of history were presented publicly… I don’t seek to make a document as they were used before, but to photograph them as visual monuments. During this period in history, Men are photographed abundantly; women are few and far between.”

    The exhibit also includes exquisite traditional still-lifes, created by using the outdated blocks of commercial printing as a subject. In these small works the artist is showing us an antiquated process while using new technology. Warwick noted:

    “I am photographing them to present this historic process and lost imagery in a new way, using the technologies that made them obsolete. In re-photographing these images, my photographs are several iterations of light sensitive materials being exposed: the original photograph, the rephotographed negative, the photomechanical produced block, and my exposure. Each image thus goes from a positive, to a negative, recorded once again as a negative, then inverted to a positive. It is in this long chain of events, which traverses over decades, that the glow of light and color occurs. Together I strive for the photographs to describe the history of representation in American daily newspapers, as well as the history of photography.”

    Warwick’s minimalist approach and the medium of photography itself often seems to lend itself to hurrying us hurries through an exhibit, we move too quickly, without contemplation. Due to the elusive nature of photography, the opposite needs to take place. The illusive nature of photography is combining the complexity of a contemporary art in the form of photography with its lingering history, everyone has a camera on their cell phone, and the ever-present hierarchical judgment of photography against other traditional disciplines.

    The unfounded hierarchy and the fact the everyone have a camera on their cell phone only strengthens my revered respect for artists, like Warwick, who create remarkable photographic images equal to works of carved marble. The argument against the hierarchy in the arts is based on two facts. The hierarchical position has been outdated for some and each discipline is innately different and brings a particular way of seeing, ideating, and set of skills.

    An earlier series by Warwick titled “Between the Ground & Sky” supports the above argument. In this body of Warwick wanted to capture the changing landscape of the Danby Marble Quarry in Dorset Mountain, Vermont. (The Danby Quarry, used since the 18th century, is the largest underground marble quarry in the world.)

    She began photographing the marble because she was “curious about its use but eventually became charmed by the physical history carved into the space.” She states: “The heavy unyielding material takes a geometric form inside a huge organic landscape. I am fascinated by the constant metamorphosis of the space . . . Each method of removal has left an indelible impression on the mountain by destroying its natural state and creating a geometric and ordered new landscape. These are the qualities that I find both interesting and intriguing. I am fascinated by its now formal beauty.”

    The conceptualization and dexterity by Warwick to create her photographs should not be compared to the idea and carving of figure in stone. Each medium brings is own innate qualities and challenges. If anything, the history of photography is far more interesting than representational figure carving that has been repeated and practiced in western art for centuries. Or, as John Berger, in “Ways of Seeing,” summarizes: “unlike any other visual image, a photograph is not a rendering, an imitation or an interpretation of its subject, but actually a trace of it. No painting or drawing, however naturalist, belongs to its subject in the way that a photograph does.”

    Johanna Warwick graduated from Massachusetts College of Art and Design with an MFA in Photography in 2010, and from Ryerson University with a BFA in Photography in 2006. She has been an Assistant Professor of Art & Photography at Louisiana State University since 2015 and exhibited in New York, Toronto and other major cities across North America. She was exhibited in Fresh at Klompching Gallery in Brooklyn, NY, and was a selected artist by Lesley A. Martin as part of her Guest Room curating for Der Greif magazine.

    In all types of disciplines art has the potential to bring a truth to the viewer and “Monument to Strangers: Photographs of Johanna Warwick,” meets this criterion. “Monuments to Strangers” opens Feb. 2 at 5:30 p.m. and will remain up until April. The gallery is located at 208 Rowan Street in Fayetteville and is open Monday – Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. For information call 910-484-6200.

  • 02 empty press briefingHey, what's going on? Where? Here in Fayetteville? Raleigh? Washington D.C.? Portland, Seattle? "What's going on?" used to be a friendly, inquisitive and common query? Now, this once innocuous inquiry is met all too often with the flippant response: "How the hell should I know!" That's because they don't know. No one knows. How could they? The news media has gone off course and lost its sense of responsibility along with its journalistic integrity.

    Hey, what's going on? Who the hell knows, but, you will surely know what this generation of inept news media posers want you to know. If it's news that doesn't suit or endorse the narrative of their political agenda or their employers' or advertisers' political agenda, then generally speaking, "it isn't news!"

    As you read the next few hundred words, try to read them through the lens of being an American. Not a white, Black, brown, Democratic, Republican, Liberal, Conservative or vegetarian American, just an American. Think about how great it is. Do we not live in the most fabulous county in the world? And, regardless of race, religion or political affiliation, what do we all have in common? Our freedom. So many freedoms. Why would we want to give them up or put them in jeopardy? We wouldn't. At least, not intentionally. This is why the First Amendment of our Constitution is so vital to our existence as a free nation.

    Without free speech and the free press, we have no idea what our government leadership is doing. And, nothing good has ever come from that. Traditionally, the news media has been the formidable guardian of truth and the ardent enemy of tyranny. Unfortunately, today the media has acquiesced to political and commercial pressures. Now, the tech giants like Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google are closing in on Americans by censoring free speech and picking and choosing what news and information we are entitled to receive. (Sound a little Third Reich?) This is a bold and blatant example of extinguishing American freedoms. It doesn't make any difference what color, race or political persuasion you are, in the end, if this continues, you are going to lose your rights and liberties along with the rest of America.

    Let's put all this on a local perspective and be honest with each other. The next time someone says to you, "Hey, what's going on in Fayetteville?" Admit it! You have NO IDEA! How could you? We are a community of over 300,000, and we have no local TV station, an inept failing daily newspaper, and no media outlets willing to report on local issues and news. Local taxpaying citizens have no idea what is taking place at Fayetteville's City Hall, the County Courthouse, the CC school board meetings, or any other government meetings. We don't know our law enforcement status, what our crime rate is or how our tax dollars are being spent. We have little knowledge of how well our Mayor and fellow council members are performing, and we very, very seldom hear from our City Manager. In other words, Fayetteville and Cumberland County need local news media to keep residents informed on how our community is functioning. This is the responsibility of the local press and what residents expect. The Fayetteville community has a great deal of growth and economic potential. Citizens need to communicate with their local officials and monitor their performance, ensuring they have the community's priorities in proper order and are spending their tax dollars prudently.

    Most people who know me know I'm not a fan of social media. I think it has a few good attributes, but mostly it causes more harm than good by disseminating false and misleading information. Besides, I don't believe in "aiding and abetting" the enemy. Using or providing support, financial or otherwise, to Google, Amazon, Apple, or Facebook only empowers them with more authority to restrict information and impede our First Amendment rights. So, knowing as a local community newspaper, I cannot affect or influence these mega tech companies' sinister actions, I will continue to focus my media concerns locally on Fayetteville and Cumberland County. The Up & Coming Weekly newspaper will continue to work within the journalism industry's basic guidelines and ethics. And, with the help and support of the community, we are working hard to prevent the Fayetteville/Cumberland County community from becoming the next North Carolina "news media desert."

    We desperately need to know what is going on at City Hall, in the County Commissioners' chambers, and at the meetings of the school board and other public gatherings. More importantly, we need honest and factual information to hold our local government officials accountable - information required to celebrate their achievements and congratulate their accomplishments, as well as admonish incompetence and neglect when it exists. It's all about LOCAL. It's all about transparency, and it's all about accountability. It all starts with free speech and the FREE PRESS. Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

  • 06 3Cape Fear Regional Theatre began its studio classes Jan. 25 for children between the ages of 4 to 19.

    The theatre is currently offering classes lasting seven weeks in musical theatre, acting, mini studio meant for 4 through 6-year-olds, and two new additions being the musical theatre dance and improv classes, Marc de la Concha, director of education for CFRT, said.

    “The classes are half process based and half product based,” de la Concha said. “It’s not just getting together and rehearsing a couple of songs for the end show, we try to teach the kids a lot of skills for working in the theatre that will help them when they join us for a summer camp or when they audition for a show on a main stage.”

    We try to give kids those skills which I believe add into their everyday lives like speaking in front of people, working as a team, reading skills and such, it’s a skill building and some product-based stuff meaning singing and dancing so you can show what you learnt throughout the class, he said.

    The mini studios meant for younger kids focus on skills like standing in one place for more than a couple minutes, speak loud enough, be heard from the stage and are taught by me, Ashley Owen, marketing director and instructor for CFRT, said.

    “This semester I am using Dr. Seuss books to teach them those skills and prepping them to go on to higher level classes,” she said.

    During the spring break the kids will do their spring break bootcamp, where we will have them in small groups and do a version of the “Wizard of Oz,” it’s for the kids and won’t be open to the public, he said.

    Owens said classes are once a week for an hour and half and cost $150 with the exception of the mini studio classes which are an hour long and cost $100.

    The theatre offers military, sibling and multi-class discounts. Class size ranges from 10 to 15 kids in each class.

    The class sizes are pretty small, so the kids get one-on-one instruction, and we keep it safe during the pandemic, de la Concha said.

    “Lots of hand sanitizers and everyone’s got a mask on all the time,” Owen said.

    Owens said it's been a tough year but they are lucky to have had great leadership at the theatre who put in the time to figure out things so kids could attend the summer camp program and these classes.

    “Performing arts are important, you know, because we are learning in a different way than in school, learning empathy, learning about other people’s experiences, different cultures in a different way and I think it's important for kids to learn those skills,” de la Concha said. “And some learn these skills better this way than sitting in a school setting, it helps with team building and getting away from a screen and having actual interpersonal interactions.”

    It’s been such a saving grace for me personally, I love the kids, getting to work with them, Owens said.

    “It's just been so nice to see appreciate being together in a way that they or people didn't before the pandemic,” she said.

    We are very excited for this year and anxiously waiting to be fully back in the theatre for education and for our mainstage season as well and hopefully we will be at the other end of this very soon, de la Concha said.

    For more information on the classes and times, visit https://www.cfrt.org/education/#studio-classes

  • 04 Crime Scene DocumentationThe city of Fayetteville has matched a record set several years ago in the number of homicides recorded this past year.

    Police spokesman Sgt. Jeremy Glass says 33 homicides in 2020 include the shooting death of a 7-year-old child and two manslaughter cases. On average, Fayetteville homicides number in the mid-twenties annually.

    Glass said authorities are waiting on the state’s chief medical examiner’s findings in two other cases.

    The detective division is compiling an annual report which will include the identities of murder victims, the alleged perpetrators, causes of death and arrests in every homicide.

    A formal report will be issued in February according to Glass.

  • 03 pexels andrea piacquadio 3768723The reality is that big tech has now jumped right into the arena of the war on censorship. After last week's rally in D.C., Facebook cut user's live feeds. Later, Twitter and Facebook deleted President Trump's account and many others.

    Let's be honest: for years, Google, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook have all been picking and choosing what's seen and not seen on social media platforms. This summer, we watched day and night riots, cities burning, stores looted, police assaulted and thugs were indiscriminately beating the crap out of people. We watched uncensored social media accounts of these coordinated riots and attacks from all across the county.

    I understand that these "big tech" companies have the right to do as they wish. I get it. But, now, it's their way or the highway. In a world of competition, a new company immerged called Parler. If you are not familiar with Parler, it has pitched itself as "Twitter without restrictions." Twitter and Facebook are both free apps, and the president nor anyone else owns them. In exchange for this free service, they use our information and our keystrokes then sell that data to other companies. So last week, the president jumped on Parler. But no-no, without warning, Google pulled Parler from the Google Play Store, and Apple's App Store followed suit. Amazon hosts Parler on their Amazon Web Services and has also threatened to pull Parler. If AWS pulls Parler, they will more than likely be finished. All of this under the pretense that Trump supporters used Parler to call for violence at the Capitol. Really?

    I protest a lot, not in force and not at a demonstration. I quietly resist. I usually protest by not purchasing or using a company's products or services. If you have an Apple phone, Apple requires you to go through their App Store to load apps.

    Google does the same. Amazon owns one of the most extensive web hosting services in the world. When we hear the word cloud, that is part of it. Your information and the company's platforms are stored on their servers.

    Who made these "high-tech" companies responsible for national security? Isn't that law enforcement's job? If there were plots to overthrow the country beforehand, why didn't they report them to the FBI or Homeland Security? When these companies unilaterally or collectively decide to target private citizens, businesses and organizations, that is a conspiracy known as racketeering. Now is the time for Attorney Generals and the FBI to do their jobs and start opening and investigating some cases.

    Why is this happening? Imagine, what if the 78 million people who voted for Donald Trump decided to close their Facebook account and move to Parler? Their revenue would drop, and their stock would nosedive. And, what if 78 million people decided to no longer use Amazon for their shopping and decide to go back to shopping at their local stores?

    Although these actions are not state-run communist propaganda machines, the effects are the same. These high-tech companies are essentially suppressing American's freedom of speech and restricting our First Amendment rights.

    Today, everything revolves around the internet. For years, we were told to stop killing trees, protect the environment and save the planet. This made it easy to move toward the internet and social media. Even if you are frustrated and fed up with all of this, we find ourselves with very few alternatives because we cannot disconnect. Almost everything in our daily lives is connected to the internet. Payroll is electronic with no option to pay in cash. We do taxes via the internet. Our televisions, watches and Amazon Alexas all are collecting data 24/7. Our modern vehicles track every place we go and continually sends out data with no option to turn off the transmitters.

    Can we go back to old school dial-up telephones, manual typewriters and Post Office mail? Can we demand we get paid via a paper check or real cash? How about we quit debating about election fraud and decide to dump electronic voting machines and return to in-person voting on paper ballots. While we are at it, let's get back on the gold standard. Here, in less than 800 words, I laid out how we can fix some issues in America pretty quickly. By the way, does anyone know how to train carrier pigeons?

  • 02 Jan 8 Vaccinations2The Cumberland County Department of Public Health formally moved into Phase 1b, Group 1 of the COVID-19 Vaccination Plan on Jan. 8 administering the coronavirus vaccine to anyone 75 years of age and older, regardless of health conditions.

    More than 500 people received the vaccine at the clinic held at the Crown Complex. Within the first three hours, 200 vaccines were given to individuals in Phase 1a and Phase 1b, Group 1. Individuals who received their first dose of the vaccine are eligible to get their final dose as early as Jan. 29.

    “This was our first mass vaccination clinic for the public, and we are pleased that things ran smoothly,” said Health Director Dr. Jennifer Green. “We will continue to fine-tune our operations as we expand our capacity moving forward into the other phases.”

    The Health Department has already been vaccinating individuals in Phase 1a in a closed point of distribution center at the facility.

    The Health Department coordinated with Cape Fear Valley Health to assist with overflow from the medical center’s limited supply clinic held the
    same day.

    Among those receiving a vaccination at Cape Fear Valley Health was Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin. Although he is not 75 years old, as a licensed funeral director, Colvin falls within the criteria for front-line workers to receive the vaccine.

    He wanted to publicly receive the vaccine, Colvin said, to encourage all residents to receive it when they get the

    As a funeral director, Colvin said he has seen first-hand how COVID-19 has affected this community.

    “This virus is real, it is to be taken seriously,” Colvin said. “But the light at the end of the tunnel is this vaccine … this vaccine is safe, it’s needed and it’s necessary.”

    The next vaccination clinics at the Crown Expo Center for individuals in Phase 1a and Phase 1b, Group 1 are scheduled for Jan. 12, 13, 15 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, while supplies last.

    Individuals who are not part of Phase 1a or Phase 1b, Group 1, are not eligible to be vaccinated at this time. Phase 1a is for health care workers at high risk for exposure and staff and residents at long-term care facilities. Phase 1b, Group 1 is for people 75 years of age or older.

    The COVID-19 vaccine is still limited and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis at the clinics. No appointments are necessary.

    Anyone seeking the vaccine will be screened prior to entering the vaccination area. Vaccinations will be available in a drive-thru setting at the Crown Complex at the West VIP parking lot. A walk-in option will be available at the front of the building.

    Visitors should expect long lines and come prepared to wait. Visit the County’s vaccine website https://co.cumberland.nc.us/departments/public-health-group/public-health/covid-19-vaccine for additional instructions.

    Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccination phases on the County’s vaccination page at co.cumberland.nc.us/covid19vaccine or call 910-433-3770.

    Cape Fear Valley Health will begin online appointment scheduling for vaccines starting Jan. 13 for its hospital campuses including the Cape Fear Valley Medical Center in Fayetteville and Cape Fear Valley hospitals in Hoke and Bladen counties.

    Following the prioritization schedule from the NC Department of Health and Human Services, vaccines will go to those in Phases 1b, group 1, as well as continuing vaccinating first and second doses for healthcare workers in Phase 1a.

    Individuals in the current phases may schedule an appointment online at www.capefearvalley.com/covid19 by choosing a time block. Time blocks for the Medical Center in Fayetteville will be 7-10 a.m.; 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.; 1-4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Vaccine supply is limited and space is limited for each block.

    At the Cape Fear Valley Medical Center in Fayetteville, the vaccine clinic will continue in the Rehabilitation Center Auditorium.

    Individuals should arrive to the building from the corner of Melrose and John Carlisle Lane and look for the “Event Parking” sign for the designated parking lot. Do not arrive more than 30 minutes prior to your scheduled
    appointment block.

    Visit www.capefearvalley.com/covid19 to schedule an appointment and check for additional COVID-19 updates.

    There is also an automated message line, 910-615-9000, which will be updated throughout the vaccine process with the phase currently being vaccinated.

  • 01 IMG 7630Dr. Robert A. Clinton Jr. is a Fayetteville physician at Haymount Urgent Care on Owen Drive. He says he has been averaging 800 patients a day since March because he provides free rapid testing for COVID-19.

    Until two months ago, his customers lined up in his parking lot. When the overflow started affecting nearby business traffic, Dr. Clinton told Up & Coming Weekly he requested police assistance, but eventually decided to lease a location to better accommodate those interested in being tested.

    Since November, 30 of Dr. Clinton’s physician assistants, technicians and other employees have been working at the location of the former K&W cafeteria on Village Drive which was torn down several months ago. Hundreds of cars drive through four lanes for people to receive coronavirus testing. Mondays are the busiest, Dr. Clinton said, because testing is not done on weekends.

    “I’ve been spending $30,000 a day to make test kits available which provide immediate results.” He said he has run up a debt of a million dollars, much of which he hopes will be reimbursed.

    The tests are free, but many patients have insurance policies. Antigen tests are not only rapid. They are considered the most sensitive for detecting active infections, and the results are highly accurate. Health care providers collect mucus from the nose or throat using specialized swabs. Turnaround time of rapid tests is much quicker than PCR tests. Antigen testing works the same way as molecular PCR testing. But, instead of waiting days for the results, antigen rapid tests produce results in an hour or less, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

    Dr. Clinton says he has worked out an arrangement with a lab in Raleigh to speed up PCR testing so those results can also be available the same day.

    There are some other free test locations in Cumberland County. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services website has a listing of testing places. Some Walmart stores and eight CVS Pharmacies in Cumberland County are providing testing. There are two CVS testing sites in Hope Mills. Appointments are required.

    The Cumberland County Department of Public Health announced last week that it is suspending its COVID-19 testing sites until further notice so that the department can scale up vaccination efforts. The department had been conducting free COVID-19 testing twice a week at Manna Church Cliffdale Road campus and Second Missionary Baptist Church.

    “There are many other test locations in Cumberland County that are free and are open to the public,” said Cumberland County Public Health Director Dr. Jennifer Green. “The suspension of the testing sites will allow us to shift our staff to vaccination sites.”

    The NCDHHS continues free testing sites at Manna Dream Center on Wednesdays and New Life Bible Church on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The department is working to get a vendor through NCDHHS to get three additional testing sites in the county.

    Cumberland County currently has more than 20 COVID-19 testing locations. To find one near you, visit co.cumberland.nc.us/covid19. You can also visit the NCDHHS website at https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/about-covid-19/testing/find-my-testing-place to find a free testing place near you.

    As of Jan. 10, Cumberland County has a total of 14,671 COVID-19 cases and 140 deaths.

    The county’s case positivity rate is at 15.4%. The target rate recommended by the World Health Organization is 5%.

    Case Prioritization
    Because of the rising number of positive tests, case investigations and contact tracing will be prioritized. Most recently reported cases, cases linked to a cluster/outbreak and cases known to be living in a congregate or healthcare setting, including hospitalizations will be prioritized first. All cases of COVID-19 must still be reported to the local health department or the NCDHHS.

    The health department will deprioritize cases after 10 days from the date the specimen has been collected.

    “The last lab result that comes in will be investigated first,” said Dr. Green. “The goal of prioritization is to maximize COVID-19 prevention success by focusing health department resources on investigating and tracing the close contacts of cases most at risk of large-scale transmission events.”

    Case Notifications
    NCDHHS issued updated case investigation and contact tracing guidance to help prioritize cases. All residents who have provided a cell phone or email address will receive an automatic text or email message to connect people to follow-up resources and supports.

    People receiving a text or email will be directed to a secure website that provides additional information about how to protect themselves and their loved ones, how to get support if needed to safely isolate, and how to contact someone immediately for additional information.

    Vaccination Rollout Plan
    A tested, safe and effective vaccine will be available to all who want it, the County said, but initial supplies are limited. The health department received more than 3,500 doses of Pfizer and Moderna. Currently, Cumberland County is in Phase 1a of the vaccination plan. This phase vaccinates public health and health care workers fighting COVID-19 and long-term care staff and residents.

    Phase 1b was expected to begin Jan. 11 and will be given in the following order:
    •Group 1: Anyone 75 years and older
    •Group 2: Health care workers (not vaccinated in Phase 1a) and frontline essential workers 50 years and older (estimated to begin late January)
    •Group 3: Health care workers (not vaccinated in Phase 1a) and frontline essential workers (as defined above) of any age (estimated to begin in early February)
    Final dates and times are still to be determined. Visit co.cumberland.nc.us/covid19/covid-19-vaccine for the most recent information.

    Phase 2 will begin shortly after phase 1b in the following order:
    Group 1: Anyone 65-75 years old
    Group 2: Anyone aged 16 to 64 years with one or more high-risk medical conditions, as defined by CDC
    Group 3: Anyone who is incarcerated or living in other congregate settings who is not already vaccinated due to age, medical condition or job function
    Group 4: Essential workers who have not yet been vaccinated in Phase 1b

    Staying Updated
    Cumberland County urges all to stay updated on the latest information about COVID-19. You can visit the webpage at www.co.cumberland.nc.us//covid19 for a list of COVID-19-related closures and service changes.
    The county is also sharing information on its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

  • 04 cape fear valley med ctrTo broaden access to the COVID-19 vaccine, Cape Fear Valley Health has added an additional vaccine clinic at its Health Pavilion North location within the ExpressCare clinic location at 6387 Ramsey St. Going forward, the clinic will be open Tuesday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

    The HPN ExpressCare at this location is temporarily closed due to staff joining the COVID-19 vaccination efforts. ExpressCare at Highsmith Rainey Specialty Hospital will remain open, and an additional provider has been added to the clinic to care for patients seeking walk-in ExpressCare visits. All HPN ExpressCare calls will be forwarded to Highsmith Rainey ExpressCare. The other HPN clinics, including the Cancer Center, physical and occupational therapy, the Health Pavilion North Family Care, laboratory and radiology, as well as the outpatient pharmacy will remain open.

    Cape Fear is currently offering vaccinations to healthcare workers and members of the public who are age 65 and older. Appointments may be scheduled for those that live in Cumberland or Bladen County. There is also a limited supply of doses for walk-ins available for individuals who do not live in one of those counties.

    On Jan. 26, Hoke Hospital’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic converted to a walk-in only clinic that will allow individuals to stay in their vehicles until their group is called.

    Cape Fear’s current vaccination clinic hours (for both employees and the public) are as follows:
    -Cape Fear Valley Rehabilitation Center Auditorium: Tuesday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Those who schedule appointments at www.capefearvalley.com/COVID19 will be given priority here, but walk-ins are welcome, as supply allows.
    -Cape Fear Valley Health Pavilion North (HPN) at ExpressCare: Tuesday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
    -Bladen County Hospital: Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Those who schedule appointments at www.capefearvalley.com/COVID19 will be given priority here, but walk-ins are welcome, as our supply allows.
    -Hoke Hospital: Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Starting Jan. 26, the Hoke clinic will be a walk-in clinic only, which allows individuals to remain in their vehicles until called.

  • 02 cv4I yield to Pat King’s editorial below because it seems to be the sentiment of many educated and well-informed Fayetteville residents on the historical, educational, cultural and fiscal benefits our community would gain from having the North Carolina Civil War & Reconstruction History Center located in our community. It would be a big win — unless small minds and personal political agendas crush another opportunity for us to enhance the quality of life of all citizens. The impact of this facility on Fayetteville would be grand and historical. Will it happen? Stay tuned. Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          — Bill
    I just finished reading John L. Johnson’s letter published in The Fayetteville Observer Thursday, Jan. 23. It was the incentive I needed to write these comments. His characterization of “myopic attitudes and lack of visionary leadership” exactly matches my perception of the elected city officials — primarily the mayor — who are in a position to have the greatest influence on the possibility of the North Carolina Civil War & Reconstruction History Center coming to fruition.

    In the Dec. 29, 2019, edition of The Fayetteville Observer is an article by staff writer John Henderson titled “Debate rages on about proposed Civil War History Center.” There is no raging debate, only the slow strangulation of support for this important project by the mayor and those he calls “concerned citizens,” primarily citizens that he needs to maintain his power base and time in office. On page A6 of that edition is a picture of the mayor, another local politician and a phalanx of Colvin’s “concerned citizens.” As the mayor continues his flip-flop about the NCCWRHC, he manages to keep this particular constituency opposed to what is already a functioning Civil War and Reconstruction History Center.

    If he took the time to learn about the great work that the History Center’s Cheri Todd Molter and her small staff are doing, he might come to understand that most of his incitement about the Center is false and harmful to eventually getting this significant project committed and under construction. Anyone who goes to the website http://nccivilwarcenter.org and reads all the articles and watches the videos will understand what this facility will be — a teaching and learning center for all our people and (that will show) how this period shaped and still affects us all.

    The mayor is resorting to the same tactics he used in his campaign to remove the Market House from recognition as the symbol of our city — keeping a number of our citizens hoodwinked into believing his version of the facts. It worked. And it will work again and lead to the demise of the NCCWR History Center by keeping it from becoming a full reality.

    Mr. Johnson, the lack of “visionary leadership” you see will continue to do harm to the growth and betterment of our community unless citizens, like yourself, continue to speak up and support what is so desperately needed for the growth of jobs, development and investment in our city.

    To the mayor I say: Take the time to fully understand and respond to Mr. Johnson like you did to Mr. Patrick Tuohey’s piece in Friday’s newspaper about the development along Hay Street. Your legacy is becoming one of keeping racial issues as part of what should be what is good for all of Fayetteville’s citizens. You should be focused on Fayetteville’s future — not on your future and re-election.
  • 03 mohit tomar 9 g 6JcF6fk unsplashHow about these for some eye-popping numbers?

    There are apparently 2,153 billionaires — yes, with a b — in the world who have the same collective worth as the poorest half of the world. Put another way, these 2,153 vastly privileged people have the same collective wealth as 4.6 billion — yes, with a b — poor people. And, who is the richest person in the world? He is Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, and his estimated worth is $131 billion, almost six times North Carolina’s annual budget at one man’s disposal. Bill Gates is No. 2 at $96 billion, followed by Warren Buffett at $83 billion. Donald Trump comes in at a mere $3 billion. Much of that wealth has come from exploding technology and financial sectors. The report also finds that 22 men have more wealth than Africa’s 326 million women combined.

    Oxfam, a group of 19 independent charitable organizations focused on reducing global poverty, issues an annual report on who holds the world’s wealth. The report, issued to coincide with this month’s gathering of the ultra-rich at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, is based on data from the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report, an outfit that has a good handle on where the money is. More than a few observers see the irony in rich people flying in on their private jets to discuss world poverty, among other issues. The Oxfam report is full of economic statistics that can be sliced and diced in all sorts of ways, not all of them positive.

    The World Economic Forum also expands the elite billionaire category to the richest multi-millionaires, which means the top 1% of the world’s wealth holders have twice as much collective wealth as almost seven billion people. One way to visualize the disparity of this inequality is to imagine that if we all sat on our wealth in $100 bills, most of us would sitting on the floor. Middle class folks from a wealthy nation, say most Americans, would be sitting at chair height. The world’s two richest men, Bezos and Gates, would be sitting in space.

    One aspect of world poverty and global inequity is that women put in literally billions of unpaid, undervalued work around the world, at least 12.5 billion hours adding almost $11 trillion — yes, with a t — to the world economy every year. This work includes women who walk miles to get water for their families, providing cooking, child-minding and other care work that is undervalued and generally unpaid, keeping the women in poverty and generating massive wealth for others.

    In general, the rich get richer and the poor either stay the same or get poorer. Money makes money through investing — hence more billionaires, most of them Americans, but workers do not have enough money to make it work for them. Oxfam reports that while the poorest of the poor are making some progress worldwide, nearly half the world’s population lives on less than $5.50 a day.

    “Extreme wealth is a sign of a failing economic system,” says the Oxfam report. Still, no one is realistically advocating snagging billions from the big-time “haves” of the world, much less from you and me. But Oxfam does have some suggestions to right the distortions that allow a few to accumulate vast wealth while most people struggle.

    1.  Deliver universal health care, education and other public services to all, including women and girls. Limit or end privatization of public services.

    2.  Invest in public services that allow women to move from daily hours of unpaid care services into actual employment.

    3.  End the under taxation of wealthy individuals and corporations that now pay lower rates than middle-class individuals. Eliminate tax avoidance and evasion by the super-rich and corporations.

    It took decades to get to such economic unbalance, and it will take decades to right our worldwide economic ship. What has occurred and how to deal with it is well worth pondering as we surf the internet with our fingers hovering over “Buy Now” on the Amazon website.

  • 12 nikolas noonan fQM8cbGY6iQ unsplashIf you want to see a play that tells a story that is both entertaining and relatable then “Ruins” is a must-see. This play is both humorous and in touch with what it feels like to experience a natural disaster. Written and directed by Montgomery Sutton, “Ruins” will be performed at the Gilbert Theater Jan. 24-Feb. 9.

    What starts as a simple story of a man who visits his former friend and lover, who has been affected by a horrific natural disaster, evolves into a reflection on their relationship, their memories and what led to their eventual breakup. This is production is an in-depth examination of what we feel like as people in romantic relationships and how these relationships affect our everyday lives.

    Unlike other plays performed in the Gilbert Theater, the set for “Ruins” has a look to it that is far from the glitz and glam of many typical sets. The set is so unique and life-like, it looks like a tornado blew through the theater, decimating the stage. Broken furniture is scattered everywhere. Remnants of a house have been spread all around the stage and the cast even describes where each room of the house formerly was throughout the course of the play.

    The performance starts off with a scene where we meet the two main characters, Grace Garson and Adam Smith. Grace is played by Megan L. Martinez, and the character that is Adam is played by Justin Matthew Toyer.

    During the opening scene, Garson and Smith meet for the first time in over a decade. They are in the literal ruins of Garson’s childhood home, reminiscing about all the memories they made in the home. Garson was not expecting to see Smith, and Smith is very nervous to see Garson after all of these years.

    The tension between these two could have been felt from miles away. Martinez and Toyer do an incredible job displaying the complexity of the many feelings their characters are feeling at that moment.

    The talent of Martinez and Toyer shines throughout the course of the play. Regardless of what emotion they are supposed to evoke, they show it with care and with intense passion. There was intense passion the audience could feel from the actors. It was almost as if the lines between actor and character were blurred.

    As the show goes on audience learns more and more about their relationship. The two started out as high school sweethearts. They were crazy about each other. They were so crazy about each other that in college they even contemplated the idea of going to New York City together.

    Later down the road, their relationship faced much adversity. They wanted different things from life, which led them down two separate paths. The actors portray their story through reflections told by the characters and flashback scenes.
    The symbolism in the story was touching as well. One thing that really broke my heart  was the tree coming down. This tree was Grace and Adam’s favorite tree when they were teenagers. The tree coming down essentially symbolized the end of that time that they had together.

    To experience the artistic creation that is “Ruins,” visit www.gilberttheater.com for tickets and information.

  • 08 VeryStableGenius 3D extend copyPresident Donald Trump blasted top military officials as “losers” and “a bunch of dopes and babies” for lack of success in recent wars during a tense meeting early in his presidency, which set a negative tone for the relationship between the Pentagon and White House, according to a new book.

    The book, “A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America,” was written by Washington Post national investigative reporter Carol Leonnig and White House bureau chief Philip Rucker. It provides an insider narrative of Donald Trump’s presidency.

    “A Very Stable Genius” was named after Trump’s declaration of his superior knowledge. The book chronicles the first three years of the Trump presidency, with interviews about high-level administration discussions, which the authors say have not been made public before. Included are details of a meeting at the Pentagon in the summer of 2017, six months into Trump’s presidency, where top generals and administration officials met with the president to discuss U.S. alliances and military posture overseas. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn were present. All of them have since stepped down from their posts.

    For the first time, officials who felt honor-bound not to criticize a sitting president publicly or divulge what they witnessed in a position of trust, tell the truth for the benefit of history. Sources interviewed for the book say the Pentagon meeting devolved into an angry rant by Trump, who accused top U.S. military officials of incompetence. He called Afghanistan a “loser war” and told the generals that “you don’t know how to win anymore.” He attacked the group for the costs of ongoing military operations overseas and said that the United States should have gotten payments in oil from allies that the U.S. assisted in the Middle East.

    “I wouldn’t go to war with you people,” the book quotes Trump as saying to the military officials. “You’re a bunch of dopes and babies.”

    According to the authors, Tillerson defended the military leaders and told Trump his criticism was “totally wrong.” Tillerson was fired in March 2018. Mattis, a former Marine Corps general, resigned about nine months later, citing differences with Trump over support for foreign allies. Mattis declined to comment on the new book. During the meeting, the authors wrote, Trump suggested charging “rent” to South Korea for U.S. military forces stationed there and suggested that NATO countries owed America direct payments totaling hundreds of millions of dollars.

    Publicly, Pentagon leaders characterized the meeting in a positive light. But Leonnig and Rucker said the session led to a strained relationship between the generals and Trump and the eventual departure of several high-ranking officials who were upset over the administration’s policies. Predictably, President Trump lashed out at the authors of the book calling them “stone-cold losers.”

    In a tweet, Trump asserted that “almost every story” in the book was “a made-up lie.”

  • 21 01 Jaden FordJaden Ford
    Westover • Basketball• Sophomore
    Ford has a grade point average of 3.51. She averages 8.8 points and 4.8 rebounds for the Westover girls basketball team. She has made 14 3-point baskets.

    21 02 Harmony MartinHarmony Martin
    Westover • Basketball/soccer• Freshman
    Martin has a grade point average of 3.75. She averages 12.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and 5.1 assists for the Wolverine girls basketball team. She has made 10 3-point baskets.

  •  04 IMG 0365What’s that signpost up ahead? Beware, you are about to cross over into the Valentine Zone. It’s the middle ground between light and shadow, science and superstition. It lies between the pit of man’s fears and women’s expectations. This is the dimension of sensitivity. A place where no man is safe from making a bumble-headed move in affairs of the heart.

    As a public service to men everywhere, today’s stain on world literature will explain what love is. Gentlemen start your engines. As our Beloved Dear Leader might report: “Many people say that love is a hot-blooded emotion.” Au contraire, as our French friends would say love is best exemplified by the world’s greatest cold-blooded lover. I speak of the Casanova of Reptilian Love, the one, the only, Diego the Giant Tortoise of Amor. Diego was recently the subject of an admiring article in The New York Times written by Amee Ortiz. If Amee said it, I believe it and that settles it. Diego has recently retired as the King of Tortoise Love, which triggered The New York Times article.
    Let us first consider Diego’s background to determine what made him such a superstar in the giant tortoise world. Diego was hatched around 1920 on the island of Espanola. At some point in the 1930s, he emigrated from Espanola to his current home in the Galapagos. Diego’s personal stats are impressive. When he extends his full length, he is almost 5 feet long and weighs over 175 pounds. That is a lot of giant tortoise. Despite Diego’s uncanny resemblance to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Lady Tortoise’s can’t get enough of Diego. Who says love is blind? Diego says so.

    To misquote our old pal, Percy Bysshe Shelly in his poem “Ozymandias,” “Look upon Diego’s works, ye mighty warm-blooded mammals, and despair!” Diego is over 100 years old and a stud among studs. He had a way with the lady tortoises that resulted in saving his species from extinction. He was placed in a captive breeding program in the 1970s in the Galapagos Islands. When Diego signed up for romantic duty, there were only 14 giant tortoises of his tribe, the Chelonoidis hoodensis, on the island. The 14 giant tortoises consisted of 12 lady tortoises, Diego and another male with the uninspiring name of E5. Things were looking bleaker than the chance the Tar Heels would get into the NCAA tournament for the survival of the species until Diego rose to the occasion. When Diego had finished doing his thing in 2019, there were 2,000 giant tortoises on the island. These statistics demonstrate that baby giant tortoises are proof that male giant tortoises look good to female giant tortoises.

    Through the giant tortoise equivalent of 23 & Me genetic testing, it turns out that Diego was responsible for 40% of the resulting baby giant tortoises. This does mean that his buddy, E5 was responsible for 60% of the new giant tortoises, but Diego gets all the publicity. Obviously, Diego has a much better press agent than E5 — as well as a much catchier name. Professor James Gibbs, head guru of giant tortoise Love Island, explained Diego’s fame, saying that “Diego has a big personality — quite aggressive, active and vocal in his mating habits, and so I think he has gotten most of the attention. But it clearly is the other quieter male that has had much more success. Maybe he prefers to mate more at night.”

    Makes you wonder what sweet nothings Diego bellows in the ears of the lady tortoises. It also makes you wonder if tortoises have ears. Have you ever seen a giant tortoise’s ears? Not me. But apparently Diego knew where to look. Apparently, lady tortoises have an aural spot with which Diego could tickle their fancy. One can only wonder what Diego whispered to his lady loves — “If loving you is wrong, I don’t want to be a giant tortoise,” “This giant tortoise is in love with you,” “I just bellowed to say ‘I love you’” “Tortoise love will keep us together,” “All you need is tortoise love,” “I want to hold your claw,” or possibly “My shell, Ma Belle.” The ways of giant tortoise love are a many splendored thing.

    Diego is going to be sent back to his home island of Espanola, where he is going to live out the rest of his days writing his memoirs, telling lies to his tortoise buddies about his multiple romantic conquests and appearing in commercials for Viagra.

    So, what can Diego teach mere mortal men about love in this most dangerous time of the upcoming Valentine Zone? Toot your own horn. Have a big personality. Promise her anything but remember to deliver. Slow and steady wins the race to repopulate. Never, ever give up. Even if you look like Mitch McConnell, there is a woman who is right for you.

  • 07 homeless personFayetteville City Council is considering spending nearly $4 million on a facility to help the homeless. The money is available to the city in state grant funds. City Council invited officials of Raleigh’s Oak City Cares to make a presentation at a recent public meeting. Oak City Cares is an organization that bills itself as a multiservice agency that provides a day center and services to help the homeless.

    The “concept is to coordinate rather than compete with other agencies,” said Oak City Cares Executive Director Kathryn Johnson.

    Wake County provided $7 million, and the city of Raleigh gave $3.4 million for the multipurpose center in downtown Raleigh, according to Rick Miller, retired regional director of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Raleigh, which operates the facility.

    Wake County provided an old warehouse as a shell building for the center. Catholic Charities employees operate the facility, which raised $2.5 million in a private fundraising effort. The funds are paying the nonprofit agency’s share of operating costs for the first few years and provide $400,000 in reserve funds, Johnson told Council.

    Local Fayetteville agencies that serve the homeless insist a multimillion-dollar complex would be a waste of money since the services offered by such a facility are already available in the community. Fayetteville’s Operation Inasmuch has many of the programs and facilities provided by Oak City Cares. FOI’s website says its 40-bed lodge has led more than 200 men to get jobs, assisted over 100 men to find stable housing, provided individualized case management, offered job search and interview training and reduced the homeless population. Just as Oak City Cares does, the Operation Inasmuch lodge provides shower facilities, laundry services and computer access.

    Unlike the capital city area where city and county governments worked together, Cumberland County Commissioners have said they have no interest in joining the city in a multipurpose center for the homeless. Other groups are also active in Fayetteville in meeting the needs of people living on the streets. Street people who live a public, transient lifestyle on the streets of a city are among the homeless and are often mentally ill. Organizations here that serve the homeless agree the city should focus on job creation and providing affordable housing.

    City Council also heard from the director of Communities in Communities, which builds and leases tiny homes for those in need. It’s a Greensboro-based company that replaces vacant and blighted properties in the Triad with small houses of 500 to 1,000 square feet. Scott Jones outlined cottage communities in pocket neighborhoods that have been developed in High Point and Greensboro with a new development underway in Winston-Salem. “They are designed to serve the needs of the chronic homeless,” Jones said. “The idea is to replace tent-living with small homes that are practical and affordable.”

    Rent is subsidized based on the occupants’ earnings. City officials took no action on the proposals and did not schedule a subsequent meeting.

  • 14 car at side of roadReturning from a funeral in Texas, I encountered on the west outskirts of Columbia, South Carolina, on I-20, a 10-year old Lincoln four-door sedan, which had “just died”. Occupants were “Kiki”, the driver, a 30-something-year-old woman with a purple wig, “Estevan” a 25-year old guy and two young grade-school kids. Kiki told me that the clamps to her battery posts — battery was in the trunk — were loose and the car had cut off several times.

     I asked how she knew the clamps were loose. She replied that she had gotten a jump start from someone else who had told her that, but this person didn’t have any tools to tighten the clamps. I figured that getting the clamps tightened would be easy, and it was — only one clamp was loose, but it required six 1-inch-long segments of paper clip wire inserted between the clamp and post to add enough bulk to the post. This paper clip trick on the battery worked, since the engine started right away and kept running. 

    In the trunk, I noticed that the vehicle’s donut spare had no air; there was a gap where there should have been a bead between the tire and the rim. The spare was not needed since there was no flat tire, but when I told Kiki about the empty spare and offered to try to inflate it, she agreed.

    I was hoping that my new more-powerful Viair compressor would pump air into the tire fast enough to reseal the bead without having to use a ratchet strap around the tread to force the tire’s inner lip against the rim. After massaging the tire with my hand as the compressor hummed away, I was delighted to hear a very loud pop as the bead sealed. As Estevan looked on I pointed out a jack in the trunk, but there was no lug wrench.
    I informed Kiki of all this, recommending she get a lug wrench. It was then that she told me also that the vehicle’s steering was very loose so the car was hard to keep in a lane. I advised her to call for a tow or drive the car slowly and directly to a shop like Pep Boys in Columbia.
    She replied that she had no money for either so she would have to try to drive it another 20 miles to her original destination. Before we split, Kiki and Estevan both thanked me for helping them. I hope they made it.
    Walt’s tips:
    Keep battery clamps tight, so they cannot be moved by hand.
    Check the spare tire for proper inflation.
    Have tire changing tools.
    If the car cannot be steered safely, park it!
  • The Fayetteville Sports Club has announced its Hall of Fame class for 2020.

    The new list of inductees includes four voted into the traditional Hall of Fame and two added as members of the Legends category, which was introduced for the first time last year to honor candidates who had been considered for some time but had not been inducted.

    The four members of the regular class include veteran high school official Neil Buie, former Terry Sanford High School and Elon football standout Brent Sexton, three-sport high school star and UNC-Pembroke volleyball All-American Melanie Grooms-Garrett and former E.E. Smith boys basketball coach Roy McNeill.

    The two Legends selections were longtime minor league baseball player Bob Spicer Sr. and the late Jimmy Edwards Jr., standout dirt track racing driver.

    Here are brief biographies of each honoree.

    Neil Buie

    A 1965 graduate of Fayetteville High School, Buie has been involved in various levels of officiating since 1967. He was a baseball umpire for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association from 1967-98. He umpired five high school state championship series.

    He also called seven American Legion state title series plus a dozen area championships.

    Buie also worked at the NCAA Division I, II and III levels calling baseball.

    In addition to baseball, Buie called high school football. He was involved with six NCHSAA regional championship games, two state championships, the 1993 North Carolina Coaches Association East-West All-Star game and the 1996 Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas.

    Buie has served as regional supervisor of baseball officials from 1998-2019 and has done the same for football officials from 2013 to the present.

    He has won a number of awards from the NCHSAA including the Golden Whistle Award, the highest award given to officials, along with the Special Person Award and the Distinguished Service Award.

    Jimmy Edwards Jr.

    Better known by his nickname "Porky," Edwards was one of the most successful dirt-track racers in North and South Carolina.

    He began his career in the lower levels of both dirt and asphalt racing in 1975, then advanced to the popular Late Model division in 1976. Edwards claimed more than a dozen track titles and took his 400th career win in July of 2007 at the Fayetteville Motor Speedway.

    In 1979, he won 40 races. In 1983, he won 24 times in only 35 starts.

    He competed head-to-head with NASCAR stars like Bobby Allison, Dale Earnhardt and David Pearson in short track competition.

    Edwards died at the age of 57 in 2011.

    Melanie Grooms-Garrett

    Grooms-Garrett was one of the most versatile and outstanding athletes in the history of South View High School.

    Her senior year with the Tigers, she was the athlete of the year in three different sports, volleyball, basketball and softball.

    She enrolled at UNC-Pembroke and continued her athletic success there, becoming the only player in school history to be named an NAIA All-American in the sport of volleyball.

    Grooms-Garrett also played softball for the Braves and was All-Carolinas Conference from 1991-92 and All-District her senior year.

    She returned to UNC-Pembroke to serve as head coach of the volleyball and softball teams.

    She coached softball for two years, nearly tripling the school’s win total from the first season in her final year as softball coach.

    She was inducted into the UNC-Pembroke Hall of Fame in 2003.

    Roy McNeill

    During his stint as head basketball coach at E.E. Smith, McNeill compiled a record of 185-62. He coached from 1993-1999 and earned one Holiday Classic championship, two conference titles and three sectional championships.
    Those are impressive numbers considering he inherited a team his first year that went 4-22 in the previous season.

    He ended his career with six 20-win seasons, nine consecutive state playoff appearances and nine straight winning seasons. His prior head coaching stops included Northwest Halifax, Wilson Hunt, Lumberton and Littlefield.
    He was voted Mid-South Conference Coach of the Year in 1999.

    McNeill played college basketball at Fayetteville State and was inducted into the Fayetteville State Hall of Fame in 1993.

    Brent Sexton

    Sexton was a football standout at Terry Sanford High School before going on to star on the football team at Elon University.

    He earned All-American recognition at Elon in 1974 and was elected into the Elon Sports Hall of Fame in 1985.

    Sexton was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1975 and played three seasons with the organization, winning a Super Bowl ring in 1975 when the Steelers defeated the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl X by a score of 21-17.
    Sexton was the third-highest player drafted in Elon history, taken in the fifth round. The only players who went higher were Rich McGeorge, a first-round choice of the Green Bay Packers in 1970 and Jimmy Smith, who was taken in the fourth round by the Washington Redskins in 1984.

    Sexton set an Elon record in 1971 when he intercepted five passes in one game vs. Gardner-Webb.

    Bob Spicer Sr.

    Spicer, a native of Richmond, Va., and a longtime Fayetteville resident after his baseball career was over, was among a trio of players drafted by the old Philadelphia Athletics before they relocated to Kansas City.
    During his high school days he played on a two-time state championship basketball in Newport News, Va. He later played semi-pro football in the Dixie League.

    Spicer made appearances with teams in Lumberton, Fayetteville, Macon and Springfield before spending a number of seasons in the Pacific Coast League with Los Angeles. His best pitch was a screwball, complemented by a knuckleball and a slider.

    One of his teammates in Los Angeles was the actor Chuck Connors of "The Rifleman" fame.

    One of his best years was with Macon in the South Atlantic League in 1949 when he compiled a 20-6 record with an earned run average of 2.73. He struck out 119 batters.
    In his lone season in Fayetteville, 1948, he was 18-4.

    In 1958, he won the Rawlings Silver Glove Award for his fielding.

    Spicer was also a successful billiards player who competed against legends like Willie Mosconi and Rudolf Wanderone Jr., better known as Minnesota Fats. In golf he was a one handicapper.
  • 06 01 Memorial auditorium and arenaSpectra Venue Management, the company that manages Fayetteville’s Crown Complex, has selected Conventions, Sports, and Leisure International to conduct a market analysis and feasibility study for a new venue to replace the Crown Theatre and Crown Arena. Memorial auditorium and arena will be closed in October 2022. The study will analyze and determine whether a new facility is feasible, and if so, its type, size and location. Results of the market analysis and feasibility study are expected by May of this year. The study is being paid for by Spectra Venue Management, utilizing funds that were set aside in its 2017 management agreement with Cumberland County. “We are excited for CSL to get started on this project,” Trent Merritt, Spectra’s regional vice president, said. CSL clients in North Carolina include Hickory Performing Arts Center; Keenan Stadium at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; the Charlotte Coliseum; and proposed venues in Wilmington and Mooresville. CSL will establish a date, time and location for public forums for those who wish to provide insight or feedback on the project.

    County extension of water lines to Grays Creek underway

    06 02 chemours2Several dozen Grays Creek residents were on hand at a county commission meeting this month when the board agreed to spend $376,000 for engineering work on a water line extension. The need for public water came to the surface two-and-a-half years ago when GenX, a potential carcinogen, was found in Grays Creek water wells. The culprit is the huge Chemours chemical plant on the Cumberland/Bladen County line. Chemours has provided bottled water and water filtration systems to some homes in the area. The project is a $10.5 million water line extension commissioners approved Jan. 6. GenX has also been reported in the Cape Fear River and in drinking water supplies of communities downstream from Chemours that get their water from the river. Residents claim the contamination has reduced property values and that Chemours should be held responsible for the cost of the water line extension.

    SBA provides loans for Hurricane Dorian repairs

    The U.S. Small Business Administration says Working Capital Disaster Loans are available to small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, businesses engaged in aquaculture and private nonprofit organizations in some North Carolina communities as a result of Hurricane Dorian on Sept. 6 - 10, 2019. Locally, loans are available in Cumberland, Bladen, Harnett and Hoke counties. The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program is available to eligible farm-related and nonfarm-related entities that suffered financial losses as a direct result of the hurricane. Disaster loans are not available to 06 03 hurricane dorin 2agricultural producers, farmers and ranchers. The loan amount can be up to $2 million with interest rates of 4% for small businesses and 2.75% for private nonprofit organizations, with terms up to 30 years. The SBA determines eligibility based on the size of the applicant, type of activity and its financial resources. These working capital loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that could have been paid had the disaster not occurred. Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application via SBA’s secure website at Disasterloan.sba.gov. Disaster loan information may also be obtained by calling the SBA’s Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 or by sending an email to disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.
    Fayetteville airport opens new concourse

    The new concourse features an open rotunda with large viewing windows, a new waiting area with in-seat charging stations and three new boarding gates. American Airlines is utilizing the new 06 04 Fayetteville Regional Airportconcourse, servicing its daily flights to and from Charlotte. The concourse will soon feature a new restaurant, which is expected to open in the spring. The facility is Phase 1 of a $45 million renovation project at Fayetteville Regional Project.
    “The opening of the new concourse is a big milestone for us,” said Airport Director Bradley Whited. “No major improvements have been made to the airport terminal since its opening in 1969.”
    Plans to start Phase 2 are already underway, including renovation of the front façade, a refreshed interior, a new TSA checkpoint, renovated ticketing and baggage wings and an updated second floor. Offering service to two major airline hubs, travelers have access to more than 230 one-stop destinations.

    Public countywide education program set

    A local state of education event scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 4, will shine a spotlight on various educational institutions in Cumberland County. During the event at J.W. Seabrook Auditorium on the campus of Fayetteville State University, participants will learn about major initiatives and strategic priorities in Cumberland County schools. Leaders from Fayetteville State, Methodist University and Fayetteville Technical Community College will also be featured. The program begins at 6 p.m.
    06 05 State of Education of CC 2 1200x496 copy
  • 15 valentinesA Hope Mills tradition, the annual 55+ Valentine’s Day luncheon, will be held Friday, Feb. 14, in the community room at the Hope Mills Recreation Center.

    The time will be from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. and the cost is $8 per person.

    All those interested in attending need to come to the front desk at the Hope Mills Recreation Center during regular business hours to sign up. This year’s event will be limited to 100 participants.

    “It’s an opportunity to come celebrate the holiday with music and a fully catered meal,’’ said Kasey Ivey of the Recreation and Parks department. Ivey said there is not a designated cutoff date for signing up for the luncheon, but those planning to attend are encouraged to sign up as soon as possible to avoid not being able to attend.

    The registration fee covers the meal, which will include two main dishes, two sides, rolls, desserts and drinks.

    The music will be provided by a disc jockey.
    This year’s event will feature a new catering service, Ivey said. After years of using Fred Chason’s Grandsons Buffet, which Ivey said has been wonderful, the Valentine’s Day luncheon will be changing to A Catered Affair by Chef Glenn and Company. Chef Glenn also operates The Diner in the former Becky’s Cafe, as well as two popular food trucks.

    Ivey said Chef Glenn has done several events for the town, including an event held after the swearing in of the new Board of Commissioners last December. Chef Glenn has also catered the Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

    Ivey said the new arrangement with Chef Glenn will include a carving station where people will be served as they go through the line instead of the self-service format from past Valentine’s Day luncheons.
    “I hope they will enjoy that,’’ Ivey said.

    If anyone has questions about this year’s 55+ Valentine’s Day Luncheon they can call the main number at the Hope Mills Recreation Center, 910-426-4109.

  • 10 dayne topkin cB10K2ugb 4 unsplashWomen have made many contributions to western music. The Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra is taking the initiative to recognize and celebrate women composers in its production of “Music She Wrote” Saturday, Feb. 8. This concert, held in the Seabrook Auditorium at Fayetteville State University, will feature pieces exclusively written by women.

    One of the women featured in this concert is Florence Price. Born in the late 1880s in Little Rock, Arkansas, Price is credited for being the first African-American woman composer. Her musical endeavors began at an early age under the guidance of her mother, who was a music teacher. At the age of 11, Price had her first composition published. She also had success in her academics and graduated at 14 with the title of valedictorian and later studied at the New England Conservatory of Music. During her lifetime, she worked as a music educator, organist and composer. Her Symphony No.1 in E minor can be heard at the FSO concert. The composition won first prize in the Rodman Wanamaker Competition in 1932.

    Another woman featured in the“Music She Wrote” program is Amy Beach. An American composer, Beach is considered to be the first American female composer of large scale art music. Also known as serious music, art music refers to any music derived from Western classical music. The FSO will honor her by performing her “Gaelic” symphony. The symphony premiered in 1896, performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Beah was also a successful pianist who performed her works in the United States and Germany.

    The FSO also offers a unique opportunity to experience the music of a living composer. Anna Clyne currently resides in the United States. She is a Grammy-nominated contemporary English composer. Her compositions are known for their acoustic and electro-acoustic elements. She has had many accomplishments and has had pieces premiere at various music festivals, such as the 2019 Carrillo Festival of Contemporary Music. She has also served as an in-residence composer for various symphony orchestras, including the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Berkeley Symphony, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the L’ Orchestre national d’île-de-France. Her works “Masquerade” and “Seascape,” which is the second movement from her orchestral suite titled, “Abstractions,” are to be performed for this concert.

    Other women composers that will be featured in the concert are Ellen Taafe Zwillich, Joan Tower and Cecile Chaminade. The Fayetteville symphony promises an evening of empowerment, and listeners will be exposed to music created by intelligent and groundbreaking women.

    Visit http://www.fayettevillesymphony.org/ or call 910-433-4690 for tickets and information.
  • 09 Picture1Once upon a time, not so far, far away, in the Land of Cape Fear Regional Theatre, fairytale creatures wove a mesmerizing story with song, dance, comedy, love, self-acceptance and, of course, a princess, a hero and a villain. In this magical place, also known as CFRT, the townspeople watched ever so closely as the landscape magically transformed from a kingdom into an ogre’s swampy home and then to an open field, a dragon’s keep with a tall-tower and so much more — right before their very eyes. In fact, the enchanted land was innovative and brilliant as  “Shrek: The Musical” unfolded upon the stage. There is still time to see it —  the play runs through Feb. 16 at CFRT.

    The characters within the performance have stupendous vocals — whether speaking, shouting at each other (did I mention the ogres or the dragon yet?) or singing. The show is choreographed by Sebastiani Romagnolo and music is directed by David Maglione. From their storybook homeland, to the spellbinding music, it’s clear the performers are engrossed in the story, and it reflects in the the performance.

    The audience travels along on a  journey with Shrek, played by Nicholas J. Pearson , Donkey, played by Marc De La Concha, Princess Fiona, played by Becca Vourvoulas and Lord Farquaad, played by Gabe Belyeu. The youth ensemble includes Zoi Pegues as Teen Fiona. Both Vourvoulas and Pegues appeared in CFRT’s production of “Annie” last season. It truly is an adventure for all involved. The townspeople’s involvement is not only welcomed, but expected.

    CFRT does not hold back when it comes to imaginary depiction of detailed characterizations for each and every part of their productions — especially with this particular story — “Shrek: The Musical.” The talented team members at CFRT are inventive visionaries.

    The first moment  audience members are received into the spellbinding world of Shrek and the others, they are whisked away on an eye-catching journey.

    The costuming was impressive. Each fairytale character or person had the accurate whimsical attire to perform their representation of their character and  bring this magical production to life.

    The harmonious movement in the choreography and dazzling execution of lighting and sound made an already incredible show that much more entertaining and engaging.

    In a nutshell, everything about this show is amazing. The outstanding vocals of the performers, the interaction with the audience and the characters, the moments when you will literally laugh out loud, the dynamic costumes, the dancing and movement on stage during the scenes, the props and music, all of it will not only grab your attention, but hold it throughout the show.

    Don’t miss this opportunity to take a trip to CFRT for this theatrical performance of “Shrek: The Musical.”

    There is still time to purchase tickets to see how the story plays out on stage. Visit www.cfrt.org for your entrance into a fairytale like no other!

  • 17 Parish House doorFew people are more qualified than Hope Mills commissioner Bryan Marley to speak on the situation involving the future of the town’s Parish House.

    In addition to being one of the newest members of the Board of Commissioners, Marley has dedicated his life to the job of firefighter, going back to 1991 when he joined the Pearce’s Mill fire department as a junior firefighter.
    From there, he moved on to jobs with the Hope Mills fire department and Cumberland County Emergency Services.

    Today, he works in Hoke County as emergency management director and fire marshall.

    Marley was one of three commissioners who recently voted to accept an offer from a demolition firm to raze the Parish House and free up the property for other pursuits he considers more viable for the town
    to pursue.

    His reasons for removing the Parish House, which although it is located in the Hope Mills historic district is not specifically listed in the National Registry of Historic Places as some claim, are rooted in fact, not politics.
    “In my opinion, the building is structurally unsafe,’’ Marley said. “It’s a life safety issue.’’

    Marley’s reasons to get rid of the Parish House go beyond the problems with the structure. He’s read all the reports that have been done by town staff and by people hired by the town to examine the structure.
    “There are reports of mold growing in the building,’’ he said. “That’s a respiratory hazard.’’

    The reports also indicate the structure is in danger of collapse.

    While he doesn’t think there’s an immediate threat to the town or its people, should the building fall or burn on its own, he called it an eyesore that does nothing to improve the aesthetics of the area where it’s located.
    To those who consider the building historic, Marley shares his personal experience as a resident of Hope Mills since his youth. “I’ve never heard of anybody talk about the historic Parish House,’’ he said. “I don’t see the great historical value there.’’

    But the price tag for making it usable is high, and Marley thinks the town has more critical projects that need town money than a building with questionable history.

    “We’ve got a new police and fire complex that we are trying to get off the ground,’’ he said. “We are looking at that being a $16.5 million project.’’

    There’s also a need to use the land where the Parish House is located to help with the parking situation downtown, especially for events at Hope Mills Lake and the long-planned Heritage Park.

    Something else Marley said people need to consider is the figures that have been quoted on the restoration of the Parish House are superficial, and will likely go higher should workers get inside the building and look for other problems.
    “If they find asbestos or lead paint, they’ve got to mitigate that,’’ he said. “Once you get into a project like that, the price goes up.’’

    Marley wouldn’t be surprised if the final number for bringing the Parish House back to life soared closer to $ 1million. “That’s a million dollars the town is taking out of the general fund,’’ he said. “They have to put that money back eventually.’’

    The only way to do that, Marley fears, is to increase taxes, and that’s something no elected official wants to discuss. “That conversation hasn’t come up,’’ he said, “but how are you going to recoup that money and be able to carry on the same level of service to the citizens that we are doing now?’’

    Marley stressed that he is not against preserving town history, adding that he’s fully committed to saving the Christ Episcopal Church building adjacent to the Parish House. He thinks the town can save the money it would spend on the Parish House renovation and use a smaller portion of it to complete repairs on the church, which is in far better condition.

    He thinks it’s a doable option to finish work on the proposed town museum and the church and have both ready for the town’s citizens to use by summer.

    “I’m not against town history or preservation,’’ he said. “We’ve just got to think common sense.’’

    Marley thinks the negativity about the history of the Parish House has gotten out of hand. He’d like to see people discuss the matter like adults. “I agree it’s an old building,’’ Marley said. “We just can’t sit here and continue to go like we’re going. It’s never going to get anything accomplished.’’

    He said that includes efforts some would like the town to pursue with Preservation North Carolina, which would reportedly restore the Parish House without costing the town valuable taxpayer money.

    But Marley doesn’t think the entire story is being told. “They take your building and property and market it for you,’’ he said. “They find private investors or companies to come in and they purchase your property.’’

    Once that’s done, Marley said the town no longer has direct control over the building or the property. Marley doesn’t want to surrender town use of a piece of premium property in the downtown area.
    “All the citizens I’ve talked to, the greater majority if they even know about the Parish House do not care and want to see it gone,’’ Marley said.

    “I’m trying to put the dollar figures out there and let people know. That’s my point. If you’re going to say one side of the story, say both sides of the story.’’

  • 13 LIVE CONCERT 1aThe Fayetteville Community Concert series put in a tall order for the midwinter 2020 show. The response? A show as big as Texas. Community Concerts brings singing sensation The Texas Tenors to the Crown Theater, Friday, Feb. 14,  at 7:30 p.m.

    The Emmy Award-winning vocalists rose to fame on “America’s Got Talent” in 2009. World renowned, The Texas Tenors are the most successful music group and third highest-selling artist in the history of the TV show. Now the tenor trio of John Hagen, Marcus Collins and JC Fisher are bringing their 10th Anniversary Tour to Fayetteville for a one-night performance.

    Community Concerts attractions director Michael Fleishman is excited to host The Texas Tenors in this 84th show season themed “It’s Showtime.” The Texas Tenors is the third hit attraction in the all-star concert line-up, coming after Chicago and Mannheim Steamroller’s stellar productions and ushering in The Four Tops and The Temptations combo March 6 and The Oakridge Boys May 21. Adding to the anticipation for The Texas Tenor performance is the concert date, a day as synonymous with love as the tenor voice is with romance.

    “This is the perfect Valentine’s Day show. Skip the restaurant lines and do this instead. From Bruno Mars, the Righteous Brothers and John Denver to country music and Broadway hits, The Texas Tenors are a nonstop wow,” said Fleishman.

    The versatile vocals of the trio make for a night of exciting entertainment. The 10th Anniversary Tour includes a collection of music from the past decade, including selections from the 2019 album “A Collection of Broadway & American Classics,” which debuted at #1 on the Billboard Classical Charts. The hit parade pinnacle is a second for the band, as their 2017 studio album “Rise” met the same acclaim. The Texas Tenors look forward to sharing their songs with Fayetteville fans.

    “We are excited about our upcoming Valentine’s Day concert at the Crown,” said Tenor Marcus Collins. “We’ve put together a special repertoire of some of our favorites but also what we feel are the most romantic love songs ever written. Of course, there will be a mix of our signature patriotic, country and classical songs as well.”

    Over the past decade, the classically trained tenors have performed more than 1,300 concerts around the U.S. and world, including headline shows in Las Vegas, Nevada; Branson, Missouri; China; and a 24-city tour in the United Kingdom. The Texas Tenors perform three different live concerts, “Rise: Live on Tour,” “Let Freedom Sing” and holiday favorite “Deep in the Heart of Christmas.” The 2019-20 10th Anniversary Tour celebrates the group’s success with hits fan love and brand-new music.

    With four studio albums, four DVD releases, two Public Broadcasting Service specials and multiple singles to date, their music appeals to all ages and blends many music genres, so much that they were named Billboard’s Magazine’s 2017 #10 Classical Crossover Artist in the World. The Texas Tenor music has roots in country, classical, opera and Broadway show tunes, and meets success in all venues from performing arts centers and casinos to symphony halls and outdoor festivals. The group even performs on cruise vacations, with private performances for members of their official and ever-growing fan club.

    In addition to collaborations with some of the more prestigious symphonies in the world, including the Houston Symphony, Pittsburg Symphony and The City of Prague Orchestra, the group has performed at the White House National Tree Lighting, Medal of Honor ceremonies, charity events, NBA games and the Professional Bull Riding World Finals in Las Vegas. Of special distinction is the fact that The Texas Tenors are among the top 50 artists from the AGT series invited to compete on the show’s NBC prime-time championship spin-off, “America’s Got Talent: The Champions” and the only U.S. vocal group invited to participate.

    Beyond music, Hagen, Collins and Fisher are also published authors. Winner of the 2015 Gelett Burgess Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature, “Ruckus on the Ranch” is the inaugural picture book from The Texas Tenors, a western-themed read about playful ranch critters. A six-song CD of accompanying music for “Ruckus on the Ranch” accompanies the book. The Texas Tenor’s second and newest book, “Moon’s on Fire,” is soon to be released and is a sequel to “Ruckus.” It also comes with a CD and features “The Cowboy Lullaby” for the youngest fans.

    The men that make up The Texas Tenors are as varied as the music they sing. John Hagen, referred to simply as “The Tenor,” has an extensive classical background, while Marcus Collins, “The Contemporary Tenor,” has a past that includes TV and film work. JC Fisher, aka “The Romantic Tenor,” is the group’s founder who grew up singing in church. Collectively, their influences include artists from the modern, classical, spiritual and operatic traditions.

    A member of The Texas Tenor fan club, Francene Taylor lives in Havelock, North Carolina, but plans to travel to Fayetteville for the Feb. 14 special. She has seen the group over 70 times and in states ranging from North Carolina and New Jersey to Missouri and Arizona, including two cruise concerts. For her, and other devoted fan club members, traveling to see their favorite band is not a problem.

    “Wherever they go,” said Taylor, “people just gravitate to them. I know we do.”

    Hooked on The Texas Tenors since the first AGT broadcast, Taylor described their personalities, not only musicality, as “magnetic.”

    “Each of the Tenors brings something special to the trio, and each has unique character. But when they combine, watch out! They are also very audience-oriented; the guys draw the crowd into every performance. Even though I have seen them many times, each performance is unique, and they never do exactly the same show twice.”

    To buy single-show tickets to The Texas Tenor performance, visit the Crown box office in person, the Cape Fear Tix website online or call 1-888-267-6208. For season memberships, see http://www.community-concerts.com/tickets/.

  • 16 town hall For the fifth consecutive year, the town of Hope Mills is preparing to conduct its annual Citizens  Academy program. Designed to teach town citizens the basics of local government and administration, it was created by current town manager Melissa Adams.

    This year’s sessions will begin on Tuesday, Feb. 11, and continue for eight consecutive weeks, with the final session scheduled for Thursday, March 17. That’s the only session that won’t be on a Tuesday and was necessary to mesh with the fire department’s schedule.

    After the opening session, which will introduce the participants to all the department heads from the town, each session will deal with a specific area of town administration or government. The initial session will include an explanation of the town’s council-manager form of government and the roles of the members of the Board of Commissioners.

    The departments involved include police, fire, parks and recreation, planning and zoning inspection, infrastructure and public works, finance and budgeting, stormwater and town hall administration.

    Most of the classes are held at the department being studied that week, with hands-on opportunities to work with some of the equipment like the police and fire departments use, among others.

    In the session on town finances, each participant will get a chance to craft a budget for the town.

    All those interested in taking part need to complete the online registration form at www.townofhopemills.com and email it to town clerk Jane Starling at jstarling@townofhopemills.com. It can also be faxed to 910-424-4902. The program is limited to a maximum of 15 people to allow more individual attention and to make touring the various locations where the class is held easier.

    The usual cutoff for applications is the Friday before the first class, which this year will fall on Feb. 7.

    A graduation ceremony for all participants is scheduled on Thursday, April 2, at a meeting of the Hope Mills Board of Commissioners. Each member of the class will receive a plaque from the town for completing the course.
    If you have questions about the program, call Starling during regular business hours at 910-426-4113.

  • 11 fbphotoPiedmont Natural Gas, Fayetteville State University and The Fayetteville/Cumberland County Arts Council present “True to Yourself 2020: A Black History Month Talk Series” Saturday, Feb. 1 at J. W. Seabrook Auditorium on the campus of Fayetteville State University from 7-9 p.m.

     “We are in the third year of our ‘True to Yourself’ Black History Month Talk Series that celebrates and highlights Hollywood movie stars who have been true to themselves and the things they have believed in throughout their lives. That is part of what makes them successful,” said Greg Weber, president and CEO of the Arts Council. “That particular event focuses on successful Hollywood black artists. They come in and share their story and do a question and answer session. … We hope it inspires people.”

     Weber added that no matter what challenges one may have or what’s around you, as long as you stick to the things you believe in that make you who you are, you are going to be a success.

     The event features actress Meagan Good and her producer husband DeVon Franklin. “We chose these two individuals because we have not done a husband and wife team and Meagan has been so successful as an actress,” said Weber. “DeVon brings to the table the producing side, and he was voted one of the top 100 most influential black people in Hollywood. … We thought that would be a nice combination.

     “How do these two people that are in high profile positions and on this ‘A’ league level still make certain they are not just true to themselves as individuals but true to themselves as a couple?” asked Weber. “Hopefully it will inspire married guys like me that we can really still be supportive of everything our wife is doing.”

     Meagan Good is an actress who has appeared in numerous television shows, films and music videos. Some of her movies and TV shows include “The Intruder,” “Think Like A Man,” “Stomp the Yard,” “Waist Deep,” “My Wife and Kids” and more. DeVon Franklin is an award-winning Hollywood TV and film producer, New York Times best-selling author, preacher and international motivational speaker.

     “The Arts Council is an organization that supports every single artist and every single cultural arts organization in town,” said Weber. “We actually have a very broad footprint here in the city for what we do, which is support anything that has to do with lifelong learning through the arts, economic development, cultural preservation and individual artists.

     “We would like to thank our sponsors, Piedmont Natural Gas and Fayetteville State University because we would not be able to do this event without their support,” said Weber.

     Tickets cost $20, student cost is $10 and VIP Meet and Greet is $100.

    For more information, contact UniQue Webster at 910-323-1776 or uniquew@theartscouncil.com.

  • Here are the results from the Patriot Athletic Conference Cheerleading competition held on Saturday, Jan. 18, at Douglas Byrd High School.

    Overall champion

    Gray’s Creek

    Nonbuilding champion


    Building champion

    Gray’s Creek

    Game Day champion

    Terry Sanford

    All-Patriot Athletic Conference
    The following cheerleaders were chosen All-Conference

    E.E. Smith - Jasmine Myrick, Mikayla Staten, Connieyah Polk
    Douglas Byrd - Navaeh Owens, Na’Lyssia Walls
    Westover - Jak’yah Bozier, Martina Simms, Serenity Spraill
    Cape Fear - Nakiyah Wright
    Pine Forest - Julia Sanders, Cynara Cooper
    South View - Asa Moore, Mya Bartell
    Gray’s Creek - Cailyn Fontaine, Mackenzie Neasbitt, Blakelyn Mote
    Terry Sanford - Avery Schenk, Ella Lewis, Isabel Chavis

    Coach of the year

    Jamila Parks, South View

    Cheerleader of the year

    Avery Schenk, Terry Sanford

    NCCCA All-Region
    The following cheerleaders were selected to the All-Region Cheer team chosen by the North Carolina Cheerleading Coaches Association:
    South View - Mya Bartell, Valencia Williams
    Terry Sanford - Avery Schenk
  • 19 Super Bowl logo Here are the Cumberland County Schools head football coaches’ forecasts for this weekend’s Super Bowl LIV game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers.

    Brian Randolph, Jack Britt — I like Kansas City, 37-34. Kansas City has a wealth of skill and speed on offense, and I love the Honey Badger (defensive back Tyrann Mathieu) on their defense.

    Mike Paroli, Douglas Byrd  — I think Kansas City will win 41-38. The 49ers had a great running game and pass rush against the (Green Bay) Packers, but Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid will find a way to win.

    Jacob Thomas, Cape Fear — Two evenly matched teams. Kansas City has the edge at quarterback, but I feel that San Francisco is a better team in all three phases of the game and this seems to be their year from start to finish. Forty-Niners in a close one.

    David Lovette, Gray’s Creek — Chiefs, 35-28. The Chiefs have so much speed on offense and (quarterback Patrick) Mahomes is a difference maker.

    Bill Sochovka, Pine Forest — Kansas City by two touchdowns. Their offense is so explosive and has a lot of weapons. Very tough to stop.

    Bruce McClelland, Terry Sanford — Great matchup. Speed vs. power. Old school vs. new school football. I like San Francisco being more physical — running game and pass rush getting home without having to blitz. San Francisco 34, Kansas City 28.

    Duran McLaurin, Seventy-First — Chiefs will win, 34-21. Slow starts haven’t seemed to hurt the Chiefs because their opponents have struggled to maintain offensive execution and special teams play. Just too many weapons and an underrated defense will be too much for the 49ers.

    Rodney Brewington, South View — San Francisco, 31-21. San Francisco has a very special defense. The defense has the ability to rush and hurry the quarterback with only four defensive linemen. They have a strong running game and a solid quarterback.

    Ernest King, Westover — I feel the teams are evenly matched, but I give the edge to San Francisco. They have a great running game and a whole lot of weapons, three running backs and a receiver corps that can score anytime. A defense that really gets after it and the team has enthusiastic pride about what they do.

  • 05 moneyRecently, we’ve seen an increased interest in mindfulness, although the concept itself is thousands of years old. Essentially, being mindful means you are living very much in the present, highly conscious of your thoughts and feelings. However, being mindful doesn’t mean acting on those thoughts and feelings — it’s just the opposite. With mindfulness, your decision-making is based on cognitive skills and a rational perspective, rather than emotions. As such, mindfulness can be quite valuable as you make investment decisions.

    Two of the most common emotions or tendencies associated with investing are fear and greed. Let’s see how they can affect investors’ behavior.

    • When investors are fearful … Investors’ biggest fear is losing money. So, how did many of them respond during the steep market decline from late 2007 through early 2009? They began selling off their stocks and stock-based mutual funds and fled for “safer” investments, such as Treasury bills and certificates of deposit. But mindful investors witnessed the same situation and saw something else: a great buying opportunity. By looking past the fear of losing money, they recognized the chance to buy quality investments at bargain prices. And they were rewarded for their patience, long-term perspective and refusal to let fear govern their decisions, because 10 years after the market bottomed out in March 2009 (as measured by the Dow Jones Industrial Average), it had risen about 300%.

    • When investors are greedy … We only have to go back a few years before the 2007-09 bear market to see a classic example of greed in the investment world. From 1995 to early 2000, investors chased after almost any company that had “dot com” in its name, even companies with no business plans, no assets and, in some cases, no products. Yet, the rising stock prices of these companies led more and more investors to buy shares in them, causing a greed-driven vicious circle — more demand led to higher prices, which led to more demand. But the bubble burst in March 2000, and by October 2002, the technology-dominated Nasdaq stock index had fallen more than 75%. And since some of these companies not only lost value, but went out of business, many investors never recouped their investments.

    To avoid the dangers of fear and greed, take these steps:

    • Know your investments. Make sure you understand what you’re investing in. Know the fundamentals, such as the quality of the product or service, the skill of the management team, the state of the industry, whether the stock is priced fairly or overvalued, and so on. The better informed you are, the less likely you’ll be to chase after “hot” investments or to bail out on good ones.

    • Rebalance when necessary. If you’ve decided your portfolio should contain certain percentages of stocks, bonds and other vehicles, stick to those percentages and rebalance when necessary.

    • Keep investing. Ups and downs are a normal feature of the investment landscape. By continuing to invest over time, rather than stopping and starting, you can reduce the effects of volatility on your portfolio.
    It’s not always easy to be a mindful investor and to avoid letting emotions drive your decisions – but it’s well worth the effort.
  • 20 01 isaiah Bridges copyIsaiah Bridges

    Westover • Basketball• Senior

    Bridges has a grade point average of 3.5. He is the starting point guard on Westover’s boys’ basketball team. He is a member of the Brotherhood of Successful Students mentoring program. As of this writing, the Wolverine basketball team is 14-0. Bridges currently averages 5.5 points, 3.6 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game.


    20 02 Tyler StricklandTyler Strickland

    Gray's Creek• Basketball/baseball• Senior

    Strickland has a grade point average of 4.125. He is a member of the National Honor Society and the Future Farmers of America. He played travel baseball for the Canes American team last summer. He is committed to play
    for the University of North Carolina at Wilmington on a baseball scholarship.

  • 06 01 Logan MelgarA Navy SEAL has pleaded not guilty after being charged with murder in the strangulation death of a Fort Bragg Green Beret staff sergeant while both were deployed in West Africa a year-and-a-half ago. Special Warfare Operator Chief Tony E. DeDolph was arraigned on charges of involuntary manslaughter, hazing and felony murder plus conspiracy, assault, obstruction of justice and burglary, according to court records. DeDolph and three other service members — a fellow SEAL and two Marine Raiders, including Gunnery Sgt. Mario Madera-Rodriguez — were initially charged in the June 4, 2017, death of Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar in Bamako, Mali, where the men were on a counterterrorism deployment. Madera-Rodriguez was arraigned on charges late last year. The other co-defendants, Staff Sgt. Kevin Maxwell and Navy SEAL Adam C. Matthews, pleaded guilty to lesser charges in 2019. DeDolph’s attorney, Phillip Stackhouse, told Military Times Jan. 10 that the government had denied his client’s requests for expert witnesses, which included a criminologist, DNA analyst and forensic pathologist. But the judge in the trial granted the requests. “This case is nothing short of sad for everyone involved,” Stackhouse said. He called Melgar’s death a “tragic accident” that has since “snowballed into an injustice” because of the way it has been handled.

    Federal Emergency Management Agency grants local government financial assistance

    The state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have announced that more than $1.6 million has been approved to reimburse expenses for damages to the Cumberland County landfill, which was 06 02 Burrow Pitdamaged during Hurricane Florence. Reimbursements include costs for dredging and reconstructing the landfill’s borrow pit after hurricane-related flood damage. A borrow pit is a large hole that has been dug for a particular purpose. FEMA has approved more than $5 million in Hurricane Florence-related expenses for Cumberland County. FEMA’s public assistance program provides grants for state and local governments to reimburse the cost of debris removal, emergency protective measures and permanent repair work. FEMA reimburses applicants at least 75% of eligible costs, and the state covers the remaining 25%.

    Vets service office recognized

    Cumberland County Veterans Services has been ranked No. 1 in the state for distribution of veterans’ affairs expenditures for fiscal year 2018. Cumberland County ranked first in the state with VA expenditures of $897,700,000. VA expenditures include compensation and pension, construction and education and vocational rehabilitation employment.

    In a letter to Cumberland County Veterans Services, North Carolina Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Regional Manager Robert Johnson said, “The news of Cumberland County Veterans Services achieving this prestigious position does not come as any surprise.”

    06 03 DMVA Newsletter HeaderNEWSThe Cumberland County Veterans Services Department helps veterans and their dependents obtain benefits to which they are entitled by submitting claims benefits to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The office is located at 301 E. Russell St., Fayetteville. Call 910-677-2970 or go to co.cumberland.nc.us for more information.

    VA staff vacancies mount

    Despite new incentives to help the Veterans Administration fill vacant staff positions, the number of vacancies rose to nearly 50,000 over the last year, according to the latest federal data. A key Democratic senator wants to know why the employment shortfall isn’t being fixed.

    06 04 VA SealIn a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee ranking member, Jon Tester, D-Mont., said he has “serious concerns” that officials have not found a way to deal with the department’s “persistent workforce shortage” despite assistance from Congress. “I remain consistently frustrated that VA medical facilities, particularly those in rural areas, are dramatically understaffed,” Tester wrote.

    Tester said lawmakers have offered new hiring incentives such as loan repayment and relocation incentives but have been disappointed with the results. VA press secretary Christina Mandreucc said in a statement that many vacancies are attributed to “normal retirements and job changes” and not widespread problems with department hiring practices.

    Citizen interest in serving local government is lacking

    The city of Fayetteville needs more than 30 citizens to fill vacancies on various advisory boards and commissions. Here are the vacancies the city says need to be filled:
    Airport Commission – two openings
    Audit Committee – two openings
    Fair Housing Board – three openings; one is required to be a real estate representative
    Fayetteville Advisory Committee on Transit – four openings; one is required to be a FAST Driver, one is required to be an ADA representative, one is required to be a resident who lives in the FAST service area and one must be a business representative
    06 05 citizen participationRedevelopment Commission – two openings
    Historic Resources Commission – five openings; one must be a building designer
    Linear Park – two openings
    Personnel Review Board – three openings
    Public Arts Commission – three openings; two are required to be arts council appointees
    Planning Commission – two openings
    Parks & Recreation Advisory Commission – one opening
    Fayetteville-Cumberland Human Relations Commission – one opening
    Applications are being accepted until midnight Jan. 31. All qualified applications will be presented to the city council’s appointments committee in February. The city is accepting applications on its website at www.fayettevillenc.gov.
  • 03 margaret picRemember bell-bottom pants from the 1970s? How about shag haircuts and midriff-baring outfits and skinny suits for men? They are all back in some form, generally with new monikers like “flares,” “bedhead” and “hipster.” At the end of the day, though, these blasts from the past are comebacks of ideas that worked before and are working again.

    The same is true for the names we bestow on what is most precious to us in life, our children.

    The Social Security Administration has kept track of what we name our children since the 1880s, and it turns out that vintage names are making a comeback, especially for baby girls. A century ago, the 10 most popular names for girls were Mary, Dorothy, Helen, Margaret (yay!), Ruth, Mildred, Virginia, Elizabeth, Frances and Anna. I know babies and little girls today with some of those names, even though none of them are in the current top 10. Still, the SSA says traditional names are popping up on birth certificates, including Violet, Hazel, Faye, June, Millie, Eloise, Vera, Elsa, Stella, Rosalie, Olive and Josie. I know a few of those as well.

    As for boys, the 1920 top 10 names were John, William, Robert, James, Charles, George, Joseph, Edward, Frank and Richard. William and James are still among the top 10 in 2020, which indicates that parents may be more willing to take a flier on girls’ names than with those for boys. Like the girls, boys are also experiencing a return of vintage names, including Clyde, Warren, Silas, Everett, Otto, Hugh, Jasper, Leon, Amos, Otis, Dean and Archie. Our family has a new double-traditional, George Claude.

    North Carolina parents seem right on trend in our baby-naming. In 2018, the latest year available, we named our little girls Ava, Emma, Olivia, Charlotte, Harper, Isabella, Amelia, Abigail, Sophia and Elizabeth, a nice mixture of tradition and a bit of modern. Tar Heel boy-naming continues to lean on tradition, with William and James still in the top 10 in second and fourth place, along with Noah, Liam, Elijah, Mason, Jackson, Carter, Lucas and Benjamin.

    Make no mistake, though. American parents are perfectly willing to be creative on names when the mood strikes, according to Huff Post, which seems to be every bit as interested in baby naming as I am. For example, Maverick is more popular for boys than the first man’s name, Adam. Brooklyn, originally a New York borough, is more popular for girls than the traditional Anna. Oaklynn, a word that does not register on spellcheck, is one of the fastest rising names for girls. Axel was recently bestowed on more little boys than ever-popular Edward, and Genesis is both more popular than Lauren for girls and the fastest-rising name for boys between 2017-2018. Jason was a biggie several decades ago, but it has now been passed by Angel, and Roman now tops Justin. For girls, Serenity has edged out the traditional Julia, and Brittany, once in the top five, has declined to only a few hundred in 2018. Dior is one of the fastest risers, with more than 1,000 baby girls receiving it in 2018. Kairo, another made-up word, is zooming up the name chart for boys, while Cairo, the actual spelling of the word, has never hit the 1,000 mark.

    The real question for parents with a new and precious bundle of joy is whether his or her name has already stood the test of time or whether someone will say 20 years later, “Oh, you must have been born in 2020!”
  • 10 sled graEditor's note:  Due to inclement weather, Sled-gra has been moved to Saturday, Jan. 25 from 3-9 p.m. The Arts Council exhibit will be opening tonight. 

    If you are looking for something fun to do on a Friday night at the end of the month, look no further than the Fourth Friday celebration that takes place right here in Fayetteville.

    Every fourth Friday of the month, downtown Fayetteville puts on a variety of events and forms of entertainment available to everyone. And it’s free to attend. Many of these events are sponsored by the Cool Spring Downtown District. The Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County and local businesses and galleries participate go all-out for Fourth Friday festivities as well.

    This event is filled with music, the arts and so much more. It is essentially a celebration of downtown Fayetteville and the arts. People of all ages and all walks of life are able to enjoy the local talents of Fayetteville through the display of their exhibits and often performances throughout the downtown area. Small businesses are spread all throughout the four-and-a-half-block radius of downtown Fayetteville.

    Bianca Shoneman is the president of the Cool Spring Downtown District. Since its inception, the Cool Spring Downtown District participated in Fourth Friday.

    When asked about what goes into the behind the scenes of the events, Shoneman said, “It depends month to month on what the activity level is. Each month is unique and varies. Sometimes it involves street programming like bussers and vendors and artist performance, and other times it requires more of a large-scale event. It takes months of planning and collaboration in communication across various channels, including the media, the arts community, municipal services, et cetera.”

    The Cool Spring Downtown District is always looking for ways to improve upon participance in Fourth Friday. Shoneman said, “We are looking to do some larger events in Fourth Friday in the coming year. In February, we have something really special to celebrate black history month.”

    Metoya Scott is the public relations manager for the Arts Council of Fayetteville. Regarding the Arts Council’s role in Fourth Friday, Scott said, “Recently we have been doing a parking lot party. We are not doing it outside because of the weather, but we have exhibits that open on Fourth Friday. So, it just kind of varies.”

    Scott added that she hopes to engage even more people than the Arts Council already reaches with its many programs and educational initiatives. “Letting people know that we are open to new people moving here that we are an open gallery that is open seven days a week (is important),” said Scott. “(As is) increasing the amount of people who know what the Arts Council is, and of course, the amount of people attending our events.”

    This Fourth Friday, don’t miss sledding at Segra Stadium, complete with four snow hills. Search Sled-Gra on Eventbrite for tickets and information.

    To learn more about Fourth Friday, visit theartscouncil.com or visitdowntownfayettevile.com.

  • 09 Shrek picJanuary in Fayetteville can be a fun and busy time with community activities. This week locals can play in the snow at Segra Stadium, catch a Marksmen game at the Crown, or watch Oscar contenders at the Cameo. For adventure seekers who want to step into a fairy tale and tag along with a hero and his trusty steed to rescue a princess, well, the Cape Fear Regional Theatre has just the thing. “Shrek: The Musical” opens at CFRT Jan. 23 and brings with it lavish set pieces and costumes, local and national talent and enough song and dance to make the Times Square New Year’s Eve Party look weak.

    Based on the Oscar-winning animated film, the musical is a Tony Award winning feat of its own. Creating fairy tale misfits and fire-breathing dragons in animation is fun to watch, but CFRT is presenting them right on stage in the ‘Ville. The technical team has been working behind the scenes to make sure local audiences are thrilled with the results, said CFRT Artistic Director Mary Kate Burke.

    Truckloads of set pieces and costumes were rented and brought in for the show, Burke said, but CFRT technical crew regulars finished up set and costume work to make “Shrek” a “visual feast” for local audiences.

    With the truckloads brought in behind the scenes, 19 songs, 31 cast members and one flying dragon, “It’s an ogre-size show in every sense of the word,” Director Tiffany Green said.

    The characters you love (or don’t) from the movie will be onstage: Shrek, Donkey, Princess Fiona and Lord Farquaad. Not to worry if you haven’t seen (or don’t remember) details from the movie. Burke said audiences will have no trouble following the story.

    Ogre Shrek and his sidekick, Donkey set off on a quest to rescue the beautiful Princess Fiona, who is guarded by a love-sick dragon. The vertically challenged Lord Farquaad wants to marry Fiona and become king. There will be some trouble, some romance, a secret revealed, big laughs and a lot of singing and dancing.

    The show is appropriate for all ages and presents themes that resonate with humans and fairy tale creatures alike, Green said.

    “It is about love, acceptance, tolerance and joy,” Green said. “It is about putting light out into the world. It’s really a show for everyone.”

    The large cast includes Nicholas J. Pearson as Shrek, Marc De La Concha as Donkey, Becca Vourvoulas as Princess Fiona, and Gabe Belyeu as Lord Farquaad. The youth ensemble includes Zoi Pegues as Teen Fiona. Both Vourvoulas and Pegues appeared in CFRT’s production of “Annie” last season.

    “Shrek: The Musical” has music by Jeanine Tesori. The book and lyrics are by David Lindsay-Abaire. The show is choreographed by Sebastiani Romagnolo and music is directed by David Maglione.

    “Shrek: The Musica”l runs Jan. 23 until Feb.16. CFRT has scheduled several special events during the show’s run. You can also treat your little ogre to a VIP Experience after matinee showings in February. For more information on special events or to purchase tickets, visit cfrt.org or call 910-323-4233.

    Special Events

    PJ Party, Jan. 23 and Feb.7 The perfect excuse to wear your pajamas in public and enjoy a pre-show popcorn bar and friendship bracelet making.
    Opening Night Dance Party, Jan. 25 following the performance. Join the cast, creative team and CFRT staff for an opening night dance party and reception.
    Military Appreciation Night Jan. 29 All military personnel receive a 25% discount on tickets with valid ID.
    Swamp Soiree, Jan. 30 Preshow games and activities that are perfect for all the fairy tale creatures in the audience.
    Teacher Appreciation Night, Jan. 31 All educators receive a 25% discount on tickets with valid ID.
    Ogre and Princess Party, Feb. 1 Dress as your favorite ogre, princess or fairytale creature. Decorate your own crown and color pictures before the show.
    Sensory Friendly Performance, Feb. 2 Lighting and sound effects are decreased and there is a “safe zone” with sensory experiences and tactile objects for anyone to use.
    Galentines’s Day, Feb. 13 Enjoy a mimosa bar with your best girlfriends.
  • 19 basketballThe Cumberland County Schools have scheduled 10 Play4Kay basketball games this season in memory of the late Kay Yow, the longtime womens basketball coach at North Carolina State University.

    The Play4Kay games are held annually to help raise money for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. The games are held by both high school and college teams and are the biggest single source of contributions annually to the fund.
    The Kay Yow Cancer Fund was established on Dec. 3, 2007, by Yow during her battle with breast cancer.

    She fought the disease for the final 22 years of her life, finally dying in 2009.

    Since the Kay Yow Cancer Fund was created, it has given $7.53 million to a variety of programs involved in cancer research. Although Yow suffered from breast cancer, the money donated to the fund is used to help support all forms of cancer research.

    According to an article from the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, Yow’s oncologist said her life was both extended and enhanced during her fight with cancer because of research on the disease that had been conducted as far back as 20 years or more prior to her death.

    Cumberland County Schools didn’t get seriously involved in the Play4Kay fundraisers until a couple of years ago when county student activities director Vernon Aldridge heard a presentation by Chasity Melvin at a state athletic directors conference.

    Melvin starred at Lakewood High School and went on to play for Yow at NC State, where she was a Kodak All-American and led the Wolfpack to the NCAA Women’s Final Four in 1998. She set an NCAA semifinal scoring record with 37 points in North Carolina State’s loss to perennial NCAA power Louisiana Tech.

    Melvin was the 11th player taken overall in the 1999 WNBA college draft. She spent 12 years as a standout player in the WNBA, playing for the Cleveland Rockers, Washington Mystics and Chicago Sky.
    She played in the WNBA All-Star game in 2001.

    In addition to her WNBA career, Melvin played professionally in Italy, Israel, Spain, Poland, Russia and China.

    At the time she made the presentation to the athletic directors, she was serving as the director of the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. She moved on to an assistant coaching position with the Greensboro Swarm basketball team, which competes in the NBA’s G League. Last September she was hired as an assistant coach for the women’s team at Loyola University in Baltimore, Maryland.

    Aldridge said that Melvin told the athletic directors that even though the Kay Yow Cancer Fund is based in North Carolina, the state was not the national leader in annual donations to the fund.
    Aldridge came back to Cumberland County and addressed the situation to the senior high school athletic directors.

    “We felt that was a shame,’’ Aldridge said, that the state wasn’t tops in donations to the fund.

    He presented the idea to the athletic directors and suggested their schools take a more active part in the annual Play4Kay fundraising drive.

    This year, the Play4Kay fundraisers are scheduled to be held nationally from Feb. 14-24. However, each school is allowed to schedule a fundraising date that is most convenient for the school and doesn’t have to strictly adhere to the dates announced by the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.

    Cumberland County holds its games earlier than the scheduled Play4Kay dates because the local high school regular season ends on Friday, Feb. 14. The method used to raise the money for the fund is up to each school to decide.
    The fundraisers are generally held separate from ticket sales and involve a specific fundraising method that is the choice of each school.

    Aldridge said the fundraisers are usually held during both the boys and girls basketball games that are on the Play4Kay schedule.

    He said he’s seen county schools engage in a variety of activities to raise money for Play4Kay. Among the activities that have been used include selling T-shirts, baked goods or even passing the hat around the gym during the game designated as the Play4Kay event.

    Some schools involve the entire student body and hold fundraisers on campus during the days leading up to the Play4Kay contests. The Kay Yow Cancer Fund also encourages schools to honor cancer survivors at their fundraising events.

    “It’s up to each school how they raise funds,’’ Aldridge said. “They all do something different.

    “Cancer is a disease that I don’t think anyone in this country can say hasn’t affected someone they know.’ We felt this would be a great cause for us to take on.’’ Aldridge estimates that over the last two years, the county schools have donated $13,000 at its Play4Kay games.

    Following are this year’s Play4Kay games that will be hosted by the 10 Cumberland County senior high schools. If you have specific questions about the national Play4Kay effort or the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, call the fund’s office in Raleigh at 919-659-3301.

    Jan. 22 - St. Pauls at South View.
    Jan.  24 - Pine Forest at Douglas Byrd.
    Jan. 28 - Douglas Byrd at E.E. Smith.
    Jan. 31 - Douglas Byrd at Cape Fear, Terry Sanford at Gray’s Creek.
    Feb. 4 - Purnell Swett at Jack Britt, Scotland at Seventy-First.
    Feb. 7 - Terry Sanford at Westover, E.E. Smith at Pine Forest.
    Feb. 11 - South View at Terry Sanford.

  • 12 web1 5Our community offers a unique structure of residents and it’s fair to say that many know firsthand the struggles of war. It is because of this very reason that Givens Performing Arts Center at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke chose the play “Bandstand” as one of its performances for this year. It’s a one-night-only performance Wednesday, Jan. 29.

    Directed by three-time Tony winner and “Hamilton” choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, the musical “Bandstand” is a top notch-production with upbeat music. It’s a compelling story that portrays the undeniable impact of war and the lifelong consequences on those who serve. The play takes place in 1945. There’s a homecoming and a joyous celebration of such. “Bandstand” will have you tapping your feet and snapping your fingers to the lively music of jazz and swing. But it’s not just about the celebrations of those who have returned. It also how addresses the tough question of to deal with getting back to so-called “normal” life once one has been to war.

    “Bandstand” is a play that will captivate your emotions by weaving the struggle of war with the main character Pfc. Donny Noviski, who is thrilled to be home but also laboring to find his way to fulfill his lifelong dream of being a singer and songwriter.

    “This story is one that moves the heart and honors our women and men who serve our country,” Givens Performing Arts Center Marketing Director Chat Locklear said. “And although the music is inspired by the 1940s, it is all brand-new.”
    If you want to feel nostalgic, you like swing and jazz music, you want to honor our military or you just want to understand what service members and their families go through, this play is something to put on your calendar. There will be only one performance of Bandstand and it is Wednesday, Jan. 29, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $21 - $46. The show is recommended for those 13 and older because of some adult language and some subject matter that may not be understood by younger children. Audiences can expect the show to last two hours and to include an intermission.

    Call 910-521-6361 or visit https://www.uncp.edu/resources/givens-performing-arts-center for tickets and information.

  • 05 teacher and studentsFriend, the 2019-2020 long Legislative Session has adjourned, and we still don’t have a budget. The failure to pass this budget lies with Sen. Phil Berger and the Republican leadership who are unwilling to compromise and work for all the people in North Carolina. Our educators deserve a pay increase, we need investment in our public education infrastructure, we must protect our water from contaminants like Gen X, North Carolinians need Medicaid expansion, and we can pay for it all by cutting corporate welfare in favor of taking care of the people of North Carolina. 

    It is time to govern and put people over politics. Republicans continue to make excuses rather than working for the people of North Carolina and compromising on a budget that works for everyone. I am committed along with the other 20 democratic members in the Senate to continue this fight for a better budget. 

    On Jan. 14, the North Carolina Senate met for a brief session before adjourning until April. 

    During this session, no compromise was made on the budget. Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue and all Senate Democratic members offered to stay for as long as it takes to get an adequate budget that supports public education (K-12 and higher ed), teachers, support staff and retirees.

     What I’m fighting for in the budget process:
    ·     Adequate pay raise for teachers — GOP budget has a 3.8% raise, Gov. Cooper proposed 8.6%. Senate Democrats are fighting for a compromise of 6.5%.
    ·     Adequate pay raise for retirees — GOP budget has a 0.5% raise. Gov. Cooper proposed 2%. Senate Democrats suggested a compromise of 1.5%.
    ·     Adequate pay for noncertified educators — GOP budget included a $500 bonus. Gov. Cooper proposed 1.5%. Senate Democrats suggested 2%, while other state employees saw an increase of the minimum to $15/hour, facility staff like bus drivers, janitors, cafeteria staff and others have not seen a meaningful pay raise in years.
    ·     Democrats proposed a $100 million increase in public school infrastructure, including $19 million in additional funding for Cumberland County.
    ·     Democrats also proposed $5 million in additional resources to address contaminants like Gen X.

     The North Carolina General Assembly session has adjourned and will be back in session April 28. Please know that the office will continue to be open, so feel free to visit us at any time.  Please contact us by phone at 919-733-5776 or by email at Devierela@ncleg.net for further questions.

  • 14 Neil Peart"The measure of a life is a measure of love and respect." — "The Garden" by Rush.

     On Jan. 7, drummer, lyricist, motorcyclist and writer Neil Peart died from brain cancer. To the music world, he was one of the greatest drummers and percussionists ever. To the motorcycling world, he was a motorcycle enthusiast. To his fans, he was a hero.

     As the drummer for rock trio Rush, the band was different than the other groups in the 70s. They were the nerd squad. On tour, Rush was known for reading books, playing tennis and baseball, visiting museums and talking science fiction and philosophy. To them, the band was about the music and being the best.

     In 1997, tragedy hit. Neil's 19-year-old daughter was killed in a car accident, and nine months later, his wife died from cancer. Shortly after that, he packed up his BMW 1100GS and started riding. Absent for years, he traveled over 55,000 miles across the Americas. In 2002, he released the book, "Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road." The book documented his journey of grief, motorcycle life and healing. In the end, he found love and returned to the band and work. The motorcycle community took note.

     It was no secret that Neil disliked touring and the notoriety of stardom. After a show, Neil would escape to his tour bus, and the band would pull into a place they called the "Chateau Walmart" for the night. The next morning, he would ride off to the next venue.

     As a lyricist, once Neil joined the band in 1968, he wrote all of Rush's lyrics with over 75 songs to his credit. Rush's most popular sounds were "Tom Sawyer," "The Spirit of Radio" and "Working Man." Over time, Neil wrote seven books, including four about motorcycling. Rush retired in 2015 with a 40-year tour.

     In June 1994, The Standard wrote about him growing up in St. Catharines, Canada. In the article, Neil said, "And in a world which is supposed to be so desperate for heroes, maybe it's time we stopped looking so far away. Surely we have learned by now not to hitch our wagons to a 'star,' not to bow to celebrity. We find no superhumans among actors, athletes, artists or the aristocracy, as the media are so constantly revealing that our so-called heroes from Prince Charles to Michael Jackson, are in reality, as old Fred Nietzsche put it, 'human — all too human.' … And maybe the role models that we really need are to be found all around us, right in our own neighborhoods. Not some remote model of perfection which exists only as a fantasy, but everyday people who actually show us, by example, a way to behave that we can see is good, and sometimes even people who can show us what it is to be excellent."

     In an article in Inc., Neil told the reporter, "Never follow anyone, be your own hero."
  • 16 Peggy Hall Friends and professional acquaintances of the late Peggy Hall mourned the death of the former Cumberland County Board of Education member and praised her as a person with deep concern for the students and teachers she worked to serve.

    Hall, 78, died on Jan. 8. A career vocational education teacher with  30 years of experience, she made her first bid to run for the school board when her late husband McKinley “Mackey” Hall, himself a career educator, decided not to seek re-election to the board for health reasons.

    Dr. Marvin Connelly, superintendent of the Cumberland County Schools, released a statement on the death of Mrs. Hall.

    “Mrs. Peggy Hall was an extraordinary educator and a dedicated school board member who always put students first,’’ he said. “Her many contributions to Cumberland County Schools will never be forgotten. The field of education has lost a great advocate for children and public education. My thoughts and prayers are with her loved ones during this difficult time.’’

    Hall was elected to the Board of Education in the November 2016 election to fill the District 6 seat on the board which covers schools in the Hope Mills area of Cumberland County where her late husband Mackey called home.
    Peggy Hall stepped down from the board last June because of health and personal reasons.

    Greg West, who currently serves as vice-chairman of the Cumberland County Board of Education, said Mrs. Hall brought 30 years of experience as a vocational education teacher to
    the board.

    While her late husband focused most of his energies as a board member in the areas of school facilities and athletics, West said Mrs. Hall placed an emphasis on the students in the classroom.

    “She was always polite and respectful,’’ West said. “She and Mackey wanted what was best for Cumberland County. She was a great lady. They are together again.’’

    Hope Mills Mayor Jackie Warner taught with Mrs. Hall on the faculty at Douglas Byrd High School years ago. The two continued their friendship through the years when Mrs. Hall married Mackey and they lived in a home on South Main Street in Hope Mills, across from the furniture business operated by Warner’s husband, Alex. Warner said her relationship with Mrs. Hall goes back 40 years, even before she met and married her husband Alex.

    “I always had a lot of respect for her,’’ Mayor Warner said of Mrs. Hall. “She was always an advocate for children. I don’t know a harsh word that was ever spoken about her. People that worked with her liked her. She was good with parents and good with kids.’’

    Hope Mills Board of Commissioners member Pat Edwards got to know Mrs. Hall through her friendship with Mackey Hall. “She was a very delightful person, very caring,’’ Edwards said. “She supported everything Mackey did. She was a beautiful person, inside and out.

    “She loved Hope Mills and she loved the school system. She was proud to live here.’’

    Edwards said both Mrs. Hall and her late husband Mackey were the kind of people who would do anything for you.

    Carolyn Thompkins, another longtime friend of Mrs. Hall, also got to know her initially through her friendship with Mackey Hall.
    “She was an amazing woman, an amazing teacher,’’ Thompkins said. “She was like a little bumblebee, all over doing everything, pleasing everybody. She was one of the people I put on a pedestal. She earned the right to be up there.’’
    Thompkins said Mrs. Hall was especially articulate, and had the ability to speak to people of any station in life on their own level. “She could escalate up or down,’’ Thompkins said. “She was so empathic, so caring.

    “She was just a shining star. She’s an asset to heaven and a loss to us.’’

    Susan Dees said she and her late husband, former Hope Mills mayor Eddie Dees, would drive to Horry County in South Carolina with Mrs. Hall and her late husband Mackey to enjoy the oyster roasts there.

    “She loved Mackey Hall and grew to love Hope Mills,’’ Dees said. “She enjoyed being on the school board. She had a passion for children and the schools.’’

    Margaret Ledford, wife of the late Randy Ledford, longtime football and baseball coach at South View High School, knew Mrs. Hall through her relationship with Mackey Hall when he was assistant principal and athletic director at South View High School.

    “She’d call me once in awhile and we’d talk on the phone,’’ Ledford said. “She was so easy to talk to, friendly and caring. She was a very sweet lady.’’
  • 15 college studentsFayetteville Technical Community College's Central Sterile Processing Program offers students a chance to learn a new career and enter the health field in just 16 weeks.  Sterile processing is a field that does not receive a lot of attention, so spreading the word about opportunities in this field is a top priority.  It is a growing profession and needs trained, quality and technical individuals.

    The Central Sterile Processing Program is part of the Department of Surgical Services at FTCC.  We offer a curriculum program, and our campus is military friendly.  The program’s goal is to provide the community with highly trained, certified technicians to build the local workforce.  Upon completion of the program, students will have the knowledge and skills to successfully pass the national certification exam provided by the Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution, Inc. as a Certified Sterile Processing Department Technician.

    The Sterile Processing Department is considered to be the “heart” of the hospital, as infection control starts here. SPD consists of disinfection, decontamination, preparation and packaging, sterilization, sterile storage, and distribution of medical supplies and equipment. Students must have a working knowledge of the SPD environment, including the types of chemicals used, surgical instrumentation, processes, record-keeping in addition to critical thinking and troubleshooting skills to name a few. Technicians must be able to provide safe, quality patient care.

    The program is offered every fall semester and runs from August to December. Classes are broken up into two eight-week sessions. The program offers a combination class taught during the first eight weeks on campus in the evenings and shares information on an introduction to sterile processing, anatomy and physiology, microbiology, and medical terminology. There is also a lab portion that meets two evenings a week and gives the students the opportunity to learn and demonstrate the necessary skills to prepare for the clinical environment. The second eight weeks are comprised of clinical hours and professional development in preparation for employment. Clinical hours are scheduled at various facilities with a minimum of 18 hours a week and vary from day to day based on the assigned location. Students are prepared for entry-level positions and are job-ready upon completion.

    To find out more information and how to apply, visit https://www.faytechcc.edu/academics/health-programs/central-sterile-processing/, contact me at gallowas@faytechcc.edu or call 910-678-9861. In addition to receiving affordable, high-quality education, students who attend Fayetteville Technical Community College have unique opportunities to network and experience leadership roles, enjoy athletics and much more. We invite you to visit our campus locations in Fayetteville, Spring Lake, or Fort Bragg and become a member of our team. Make the SMART choice for your education — Fayetteville Technical Community College.  

  • 13 01 business rally 1If you are a local business owner or are looking to start a new venture, the Building Business Rally, which will be held on Jan. 30, is a must for you.

    “This could have one of the biggest impacts on keeping dollars local than any other event this year,” said Christine Michaels, president and CEO of the Greater Fayetteville Chamber.

    The event will be held at the Ramada Plaza, 1707 Owen Dr., from 2-6 p.m., and features purchasing and procurement representatives for Fayetteville and Cumberland County’s largest buyers who have over $1 billion of needs and opportunities for local vendors, regardless of your business.

    “To have the purchasing staff from the major companies and government entities all in one place, and all with dollars to spend, is an unbelievable opportunity for local businesses to make the right connections,” said Michaels.

    Robert Van Geons, president and CEO of the Fayetteville Cumberland Economic Development Corporation, said the Building Business Rally is significant for our community. “These major organizations spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year, and if they have to go out of Fayetteville/Cumberland County to find businesses to meet their procurement needs, we are exporting that wealth to other people and places,” said Van Geons. “Imagine if we spent all our public dollars here, how much better our community can be. Our hope with events like the Building Business Rally is by educating our entrepreneurs and future entrepreneurs, we can build that ecosystem, keep more dollars local and churn that funding through our local economy.”

    13 02 UAC012220015The town of Hope Mills is one entity looking to keep their dollars local and will be at the event. In the next five years, the town projects it will spend over $35 million on major projects, including the construction of the John W. Hodges Public Safety Building, design and implementation of the Heritage Park Masterplan, and the Hope Mills Golf Course Masterplan.

    “As we continue to see huge increases in future economic development, focusing on our local contractor and vendor base is paramount to the growth of the base of local businesses in this region, “ said Chancer McLaughlin, planning and economic development director for town of Hope Mills. “This event is so important to us because growing our local general contractor pool is vital to creating a sustainable tax base that ultimately results, not only in keeping local companies in business but also helping retain many of the local college students, creating opportunities for employment.”  

    The Building Business Rally is part of a communitywide initiative by local elected officials to increase the amount of funding spent locally on the wide range of service, supply and equipment purchased by local government.

    Michaels emphasized the event is for every type of business, and the needs of these organizations are not just construction. Suppliers, professional service providers and prime and sub-contractors of all sizes should attend.

    “We are educating and engaging local businesses on how to work with us and the types of goods and services we need, “ said city of Fayetteville Mayor Pro Tem Kathy Jensen. “We will be there because it’s vital that our community foster an environment where businesses can thrive and grow. Even though you think you might not belong there, check it out and you may just find an opportunity that’s perfect for you.”

    Michaels said one might equate the Building Business Rally to attending a job fair, only here you are connecting your business to organizations that have money to spend and are looking for local vendors to spend it with.

    “Having attended a previous rally, I would encourage other businesses to bring materials such as a capability statement that tells them about your services, references that can talk about your performance and business cards because you want to make sure you stand out,” said Michelle Horne, president and CEO of Landart Solutions. “Time is money. It’s exciting to have a one-stop-shop and be able to participate in and find opportunities throughout the community in a short period of time.”

    Over 100 businesses are recognizing the potential opportunities available and have already registered to attend the Rally. James Suber, owner of  JS Designs is registered and says as a small business, getting the word out is hard and the event makes that easier for him. “I am looking forward to it because I hope to get the word out about the services we have to offer and hopefully gain business. I think this is a great opportunity for us to introduce ourselves to the community.”

    Joel Angarita of BGS Services agrees that as a local small business, his biggest challenge is getting his company’s name out to the community and says the Building Business Rally offers even more than promoting his services. “I also believe by attending, it will help recognize the gaps that aren’t being filled here,” he said.

    This is an opportunity to introduce your company to 15 major organizations and tell them how you can help them and find out what they are looking for,” said Ramona Moore, director of sales and marketing for Holiday Inn & Suites West/Fort Bragg.

    Even with extensive involvement and a long work history in our community, Moore knows taking advantage of this opportunity is important to her and other local businesses. “As a new hotel, I need to get the word out, and this is the perfect (venue) for that. … I would tell all businesses to take advantage of this great event and don’ t miss this opportunity.”

    The Building Business Rally is free to attend. Businesses are encouraged to preregister at www.faybids.com or can register at the door. All registrants will have their company information shared with the participating procurement representatives.
  • 02 BaseballThis week, Bill yields his space to sports writer Earl Vaughan Jr. to address the Houston Astros cheating scandal. The sport of baseball has a relationship with its own rules that often defies description.

    While sports like football and basketball seem to insist that rules be enforced with precision and accuracy across the board, baseball is the one major sport where the competitors seem to approach certain aspects of the game with a wink and a grin. I had the great fortune to interview legendary pitcher Gaylord Perry. For those not familiar, Perry’s a North Carolina native best-known for his alleged mastery of an illegal pitch called the spitball. He never admitted that he threw it, but there were strong suspicions and a trail of frustrated batters that would swear he did. But while Perry’s spitter was legendary, another staple of baseball is the stealing of signs.

    Again, for the uninitiated, here’s what that involves. The catcher gives a signal to the pitcher as to what pitch to throw. This usually involves dropping down a different number of fingers that represent each pitch. The pitcher either accepts the signal or he shakes off the sign and the catcher makes another suggestion. It’s possible for players on the opposing team to see these signs. The next step is to figure out the code the pitcher and catcher are using so the batter can be alerted to what pitch the pitcher is throwing. For a Major League player, that information is a huge asset that will most often result in him getting a hit. This has been going on since the game was invented.

    No complaints. Until now. You may have heard about the Houston Astros cheating scandal. They just happen to be the parent team of Fayetteville’s minor league affiliate, the Woodpeckers. The Astros have been accused of taking the art of sign stealing into the 21st century. With the help of electronic enhancement, they picked up the other teams’ signs then relayed the information to the batter. So guess what? The Astros won the 2017 World Series 4-3.
    The commissioner of baseball, Rob Manfred, warned the Astros to stop. Apparently, they didn’t.

    So, Manfred suspended Astros manager A.J. Hinch and G.M. Jeff Luhnow for a year. The team then fired both men. The dominos continued to fall as Alex Cora, a former Astros bench coach who led the Boston Red Sox to the World Series title in 2018 and New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran, a former Astros player, were both implicated in the scandal.

    There’s just one problem with all this. That shiny trophy the Astros got for winning the 2017 World Series is still in their possession. The record books still say they are the champions. That’s got to change. Stealing signs is one thing. Adding electronic technology to the mix is taking it to a completely unfair and unacceptable level.

    Multiple talking heads on television say that taking the championship from the Astros is pointless. They won the games. They won the championship. No one is going to forget that.

    True. But, they will also never forget if the title is stripped from them. When people look in a record book and go down the list and notice that word vacated next to the year 2017, it will recall this incident, how wrong it was and that the penalty exacted for it was steep.

    If the NCAA can strip national championships from college teams, there’s no reason Major League Baseball can’t do the same with the Astros. CBS Sports compiled a list of teams that lost their NCAA titles and are no longer recognized as champions for far less than what the Houston Astros did.

    San Francisco men’s soccer, 1978 — One student-athlete submitted an altered transcript when he enrolled in the school.

    Tulsa women’s golf, 1988 — The golf team did nothing wrong but lost the title because the NCAA put the entire Tulsa athletic program on three-year’s probation after a host of violations by the school’s track and field team.
    Syracuse men’s lacrosse, 1990 — Lost the title because the wife of the head coach co-signed a car loan for a player on the team.

    Hawaii men’s volleyball, 2002 — One player played on a professional team before playing for the college team.

    LSU women’s outdoor track and field, 2012 — One player used a stimulant that’s on the NCAA’s banned list. The stimulant is routinely found in over-the-counter nutritional supplements.

    The Astros, Red Sox and Mets took the first step in sending the right message that electronic sign-stealing won’t be tolerated by cutting ties with the people who have been implicated in the scheme.
    Now, Major League Baseball needs to finish the puzzle and leave the Houston Astros with an empty trophy case.
  • 07 McKaughlin VillilonFayetteville is struggling with the departure of elements of two 82nd Airborne Division combat teams to the Middle East, where casualties continue to mount. Two paratroopers with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team in Afghanistan died earlier this month. Staff Sgt. Ian Paul McLaughlin, 29, of Newport News, Virginia, and Pfc. Miguel Angel Villalon, 21, of Joliet, Illinois, were killed when their vehicle struck a roadside improvised explosive device. Two other U.S. soldiers from the 82nd Airborne were wounded in the attack, which occurred in the southern province of Kandahar, a spokesman for the division said.

    “When our nation called for its best airborne combat engineers to deploy into harm’s way, Staff Sgt. McLaughlin and Pfc. Villalon answered without hesitation,” said Col. Art Sellers, Commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team.
    Maj. Gen. James Mingus, the 82nd Airborne Division’s commanding general, added, “These paratroopers represent the very best of our nation and our Army. They will be honored, mourned, but never forgotten, and we are committed to taking care of their families for life.”

    The U.S. also has the 82nd’s 1st Brigade Combat Team on duty in the Middle East. The entire unit’s 4,000 paratroopers were deployed following the killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani. The troops were deployed to Iraq, Kuwait and other parts of the region, overseen by the Army’s Central Command. Defense officials maintain that the additional soldiers were not a direct response to Soleimani’s death, but rather a continuation of an earlier announcement to beef up America’s military presence in the region, officials said.

    McLaughlin and Villalon were assigned to the 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion at Fort Bragg. This was their first combat deployment.  McLaughlin joined the Army in 2012. His awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with “C” Device, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the Army Good Conduct Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the Combat Action Badge and the Basic Parachutist Badge. He was a 2018 graduate of the U.S. Army Advanced Airborne School Jumpmaster Course. McLaughlin is survived by his wife and four children. The couple’s youngest child was born while his father was deployed.
    Villalon joined the Army in 2018. His awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal with “C” Device, the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal and the Combat Action Badge. Villalon is survived by his mother of Chicago, Illinois and father of Brownsville, Texas.

    More than 2,400 American troops have died in Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion was launched in response to the 9/11 attacks. Most of the 20,000 international troops now in Afghanistan are focused on training and advising Afghan security forces, with a smaller contingent taking part in a counterterrorism mission.

  • 11 RuinsWhen natural disasters strike Fayetteville, our community often becomes poignant, reflecting on prior disasters and our relationships with each other.  Montgomery Sutton’s “Ruins,” opening on Jan. 24 at Gilbert Theater, asks the questions, What is the past? And when we look on the past, what are we really looking back on?

    The production is a romantic tragic comedy set in the wake of a horrific natural disaster in Tornado Alley, where two lovers who haven’t seen each other in a decade are reunited in the wake of that tragedy. “Over the course of 90 minutes, they relive moments from their pasts that shed light on the past 10 years. Each of them realizes that actions and events from the past they remember may not exist in the same way they think for the other person,” Sutton explained.

    A short play was the origin of the production almost a decade ago. For Sutton, the play was inspired by personal events in his life, which spurred the evolution of the work.  He is oiginally from Dallas, Texas, and since he began the writing of the play, there have been two major natural disasters in the area — tornadoes. “And then of course, in my personal life, there have been all kinds of personal and romantic relationships that have come and gone that have elevated me and also erupted and dissolved. The play has very much become an exploration of what heightened moments of tragedy in life can inspire in our own personal spheres,” he said.

    He wanted to explore the nostalgia of events that we recall and question whether or not the memories we are recalling might, in fact, be fiction.

    Larry Carlisle III, the artistic director at Gilbert Theater is excited to see the show on stage. “This is the first time that it’s been produced anywhere, so no one has ever seen it on a stage before. We, at the Gilbert — that’s kind of part of our mission to present lesser-known and sometimes previously unpublished or unproduced works.”

    Since the show takes place in the wake of a tornado, the set reflects that. “The technical director and main builder of the set really outdid herself on this one,” Carlisle said.

    The cast is small, featuring new and familiar faces. Adam Smith is played by Justin Toyer. Grace Carson is played by Megan Martinez. The last character is a tree removal expert named Mr. Green, played by Michael Carney. Carney and Toyer are Gilbert veterans, but the show will be Martinez’s first time performing on the Gilbert stage.

    Sutton was an actor in Cape Fear Regional Theater’s “Henry V” in 2016. At Gilbert Theater, he wrote a new adaptation and directed “Antigone” two years ago.

    Sutton’s favorite part of the production is the inventive way that the cast performs the transitions in time throughout the production. Being in one space and with one audience, the production “changes the trope of this flashback into something that is very unique … and creates an experience that becomes slightly experimental in the way it looks at how our memories affect our actions in the present,” said Sutton.

    “Ruins” opens on Jan. 24 and runs through Feb. 9. Tickets can be purchased online at https://www.gilberttheater.com/ or by calling 910-678-7186. Tickets are $16 and specially priced tickets for seniors 55 and up, military, students and first responders are available for $14.

  • 08 cat cageThe term pound is still commonly used in American society. Its origin is a mystery, but one belief is that it’s a derivative of impound, meaning an enclosed area. These days, homeless animals are no longer viewed as a public nuisance to be warehoused in substandard facilities and disposed of as quickly as possible. Homeless animals and the care they receive in shelters has changed for the better. Increasingly, the trend across the United States is to design shelters as friendly and inviting community centers where the public can go to relinquish or adopt pets.

    “There is an awareness and a willingness to help these animals, and we are confident that we can make an even bigger difference … in the coming years,” Cumberland County Animal Control Director Elaine Smith said in a news release. “Our ultimate goal is to never have to euthanize an adoptable animal, and we appreciate all the help from our community partners, the Fayetteville Animal Protection Society, numerous rescue groups, our volunteers and foster parents.”
    Animal Control said 3,012 dogs and cats were adopted locally in 2019, compared to 2,829 in 2018. The number of dogs and cats euthanized by the county dropped by more than 500 from 3,790 in 2018 to 3,241 in 2019. Smith said personnel at Animal Control strive to perform their jobs professionally and thoroughly. They love and care for the animals brought into the shelter, she said, and do their best to find homes for as many of the animals as possible, and only as a last resort, euthanize them.

    The Cumberland County Animal Control department has implemented the Fear Free Shelter Program whereby all 48 employees complete studies on the emotional health of animals, animal communication, gentle control techniques and good behavior training. The Fear Free Shelter Program teaches strategies and techniques to reduce fear, anxiety, stress and frustration in the dogs and cats handled by Animal Control staff in the shelter and in the field.

    “Our goal at Cumberland County Animal Control is to constantly improve the way we handle and house animals at our shelter so that we minimize the animals’ stress and fear,” Smith said. “We are all animal lovers, so the employees are eager to learn and improve their knowledge and skills.” Future Animal Control employees will be required to obtain certification when they are hired. This training is provided at no cost by the Fear Free Shelter Program.

    The public is encouraged to support the thousands of cats and dogs who find their way to the animal shelter annually. Monetary donations can be made to the Animal Enrichment Fund at licensepet.com/cumberlandcountyncdonate. Food, toys or treats can be donated at the shelter. Additionally, Friends of Cumberland County Animal Shelter collects cold-weather dog houses, straw and blankets for outdoor dogs for their comfort and safety during the winter months. 

    Residents who would like to donate cold-weather supplies may drop off items at the shelter. The Animal Control Department and Animal Shelter are located off Tom Starling Road, east of Fayetteville.

  • 04 UAC012220006In my column two weeks ago titled “Black Privilege Is Real in America,” I shared my reaction to an opinion piece that appeared in The Fayetteville Observer. It was written by Debra Figgins and titled, “County schools must address racial disparities in discipline.” The writer presented several actions that she contended should be taken by the Cumberland County School System to reduce adverse disciplinary actions toward black students. I saw her presentation as reflecting “Black Privilege.” See  http://www.karlmerritt.com/2020/01/09/black-privilege-is-real-in-america/ for my column. In part, I wrote: “If I have accurately assessed what is being called for here, it means special treatment of disruptive black students, while disadvantaging educators and non-disruptive students. For educators, that disadvantaging comes by way of adding a multitude of new requirements to a workload that is very likely already overwhelming for most. Further, the additional requirements, without attention to parental and student responsibilities, are doomed to failure. Sadly, students who, without regard to race, will be disadvantaged in that teachers will have even less time and energy for helping them in their education process.

    ‘The bottom line is that this is a call for special treatment of black students while disadvantaging educators and other students; even those black students who want to learn and do not present disciplinary problems. This is ‘black privilege.’”

    The school situation allowed for discussion of one manifestation of black privilege. However, another glaring indicator came along at about the same time as I was writing regarding Cumberland County Schools. In a column titled “Smith Recreation Center as Early Voting Site for Primary: Fear and Anger,” I addressed the push to make Smith Recreation Center an early voting site for the 2020 Primary. See http://www.karlmerritt.com/2019/12/29/smith-recreation-center-as-early-voting-site-for-primary-fear-and-anger/.

     Because the Cumberland County Board of Elections was not able to unanimously agree on a 2020 Primary early voting plan, the decision had to be made by the North Carolina Board of Elections. With three Democrats and two Republicans on that board, only a majority vote is required. Democrats from our local board presented a Majority Plan, and Republicans presented a Minority Plan. This was done before the State Board Dec. 20, 2019.

    The State Board voted, along party lines, to approve the Majority (Democratic) Plan. This was not a surprise to me. However, I found the Majority’s argument weak, while Democrats on the State Board seemed to totally disregard the case made by the Minority. Given that the area in question is predominately black by population, I hold that this is another case of “black privilege.” What follows are some instances reflecting the Majority argument weaknesses and/or disregard of the Minority case.

    Rev. Dr. Floyd W. Johnson Jr., Democrat and chairman of the County Board, opened the Majority presentation by saying, in part, “The members of the Majority Plan agrees that due to the aging community and lack of personal transportation that the Smith Recreation Center as an early voting site is a necessity because voters will not have to walk or ride the bus to another voting site. The site will not only accommodate the students from Fayetteville State University but also the voters from the Town of Spring Lake.”

    He went on to say that the recommendation regarding Smith is not driven by consideration of race. This was followed by Johnson saying, “It is, however, one of the heaviest poverty struck areas in Cumberland County that is centered in heart of Afro-American community. It makes sense that everyone should have a right or access to a voting site regardless of their circumstances.”

    When this opening is viewed in light of other information that was provided and the summary quote from my column, which is repeated at the end of this one, what is being called for here constitutes special treatment of black citizens in the area surrounding Smith.

    Linda Devore, Republican and County Board member, talked about the Minority’s approach to selecting early voting sites. She emphasized that they want to minimize wait times on Election Day. That means focusing on large precincts when selecting early voting sites. Some have as many as nearly 5,000 registered voters. This is not the case in older neighborhoods like around Smith Recreation Center and around the Board of Elections. For me, this approach seems very reasonable. This thoughtful approach does not support making Smith an early primary voting site.

    Irene Grimes, Democrat County Board member, also spoke for the Majority Plan. At one point, she made this statement: “I know we are probably going to hear about budgetary restraints that should keep Smith closed for the primary. Those, of course, have to be taken into consideration. However, one of the biggest arguments for Smith is that, this community, every time we have had a meeting about early voting plans, primary or general election, this community has shown up. They have shown up at the meetings advocating heavily for this center to be open. I believe we all are constantly lamenting the lack of voter participation in our elections. So, one of the biggest arguments is if the population in that area wants Smith Recreation as a voting site, then we should give it to them.”

    I read this statement to say forget cost, scrap reason, and just give people what they want. That is a troubling approach and a weak argument. It is even more troubling when a statement by Linda Devore, regarding the Nov. 12, 2019, meeting referred to above by Grimes, comes into play. Devore said, “Of the 46 who attended the meeting, only two live in the precinct where Smith Recreation is, and only one was from the adjacent precinct. The other people live in scattered precincts all across the county.” These numbers do not line up with the tremendous interest and support argument claimed by Grimes.

    Johnson and Grimes talked about not wanting voters to have to walk or take a bus to the Board of Elections to vote early. I found this interesting because of what was said about proposed weekend early voting. Devore explained that the Minority Plan called for Saturday voting on the first and third Saturdays so that workers would not work two weekends back-to-back. Grimes responded by saying: “I have been an election poll worker before I was appointed to the board. I also ran an early voting site, and I know that whether you are a regular staff member at the Board of Elections or a temporary poll worker like I was, everybody is extremely dedicated. And I understand that we have... that we wanted to take into consideration the staffing issue, but it’s an election. I mean, we all just buckle down, put on our big girl pants, and do the 18 hours we have to do.”

    So, people should not have to take a short bus ride to vote, but workers should “... put on big girl pants and...” This sounds like very special treatment of a selected group of people.

    Dr. Stella Anderson, Democratic member of the State Board, questioned Linda Devore regarding a reference Devore made during the Nov. 12 meeting to a newly revised state statute, adopted days earlier.  Anderson based her question to Devore on an article from The Fayetteville Observer titled “Vote site fight: Should early voting be held next door to Fayetteville State University?” Devore explained that her comments were mischaracterized by the Observer, which did not have a reporter at the meeting.  At the Nov. 12 meeting, Devore read the relevant section of the statute and then raised the concern about how this newly revised statute should be applied to the Smith issue. She also expressed her concern that the plan be based on what is best for the voters of the entire county.

    The following section from my column gives attention to what Devore was referring to — “four precincts” are those close to Smith: “Finally, this singular focus will very possibly conflict with the intent, if not the letter, of recently passed legislation. During the 2016 primary, in these four precincts, a total of 2,516 ballots were cast: 205 by Republicans, 2,301 by Democrats and 10 by others. Having Smith Recreation as an early voting site during the primary would clearly favor Democrats and a primarily black population. Senate Bill 683/SL 2019-239, 163-227.6(b) speaks to voting site selection and ends with ‘... that the use of the sites chosen will not unfairly favor any party, racial or ethnic group, or candidate.’”

    My assessment is that Anderson made a lengthy statement intended to exempt the State Board from considering the requirements of Senate Bill 683/SL 2019-239, 163-227.6(b). Quoted below is the heart of her statement: “We all need to be understanding about what the considerations are supposed to be for the state board when we have before us petition plans. And the standard is for us to look at the plan as a whole... period. All of the sites that are proposed for the county and the extent to which the county’s electorate is well served by, and in this case, the multiple sites that are before us. So it is not the inclusion or exclusion of a single site and the perception of who will be best served, who would be mostly served, by any given site.”

    Simply put, I strongly contend that Anderson’s statement dismisses consideration of an applicable statute.

    Over the course of this hearing, Devore made several points that were also raised in my column. That was the case because much of what I wrote was prompted by a review of the  Nov. 12 meeting minutes. Aside from the statute issue, I summarized as follows: The picture here is one of misinformation that is not widely and forthrightly corrected by those who initially contribute to forming it: accusations of black voter suppression not supported by facts or reason; focusing on a small segment of the population when, in this case, equal treatment of all should be the aim; disregarding the high financial cost of the proposed change; not recognizing the inequity of having one site so much closer to another than is the case with others; by declining use of city buses, calling for greater convenience than seems necessary.

    At the bottom line, Democrats on the State Board approved a plan including Smith Recreation Center, despite a weak argument for doing so, and a multitude of legitimate reasons for not approving it. Even further, they totally dismissed appropriate consideration for a statute that certainly should have been given far more attention. This is unjustified special treatment of a group of people; it is black privilege.

  • 18 NC STATEEditor’s note: This story is a departure for High School Highlights. We normally write about local high school athletic stars, but this is about a project that involves a former local athlete who has distinguished himself in the field of invention. Will Marsh was a starter on the Cape Fear High School baseball team during his days there. He’s moved on to North Carolina State University, where he was one of the team members involved in the invention of a new device that will make the baling of pine straw a lot easier. Thanks to Rebecca Nagy, science writer for the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at North Carolina State, for this story.

    Baling pine straw for landscaping use is a $250 million industry across the southeast, relying almost entirely on hand labor. Five alumni from the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering designed and built the first production-ready machine to remove sticks and pine cones from pine straw and cut labor costs by up to 80%.

    Starting as a senior design project in BAE, alumni Matthew Parker, Ben Cauthen, Alex Greeson, Ben Cranfill and Will Marsh created the Pine Bine to address labor problems plaguing the underdeveloped pine straw industry during a capstone senior design project in 2017. By graduation in 2018, they had developed a patent-pending machine capable of reducing industry labor requirements. The Innovative Agricultural Technologies, LLC “Pine Bine,” or pine straw combine, streamlines the pine straw harvesting process to make the industry more efficient and profitable.

    In 2018, the five alumni won first place in the AGCO student design competition at the American Society of Biological and Agricultural Engineers Annual International Meeting in Detroit, Michigan.

    Now the founders of Innovative Agricultural Technologies, LLC they were recently finalists in The Farm Bureau Ag Innovation Challenge, a national business competition for U.S. food and agriculture startups. In addition to the judging portion of the competition, there was also a People’s Choice Award. Voting for that award ended last weekend.

    “Without the fantastic education we received at NC State and the support given to us by the BAE department both before and after graduation, we could never have developed our ideas to this level,” Parker notes. “N.C. State has truly given us the opportunity to pursue our dreams.”

    The American Farm Bureau Federation, in partnership with Farm Credit, awards $145,000 in startup funds to entrepreneurs who compete throughout the year, culminating at a live pitch competition at the AFBF Annual Convention. Startup funds for The Challenge are provided by sponsors Bayer Crop Science, Country Financial, Farm Bureau Bank, Farm Bureau Financial Services, Farm Credit and John Deere.

    While deciding on a project for their senior design course, the team saw a need and an opportunity in the pine straw industry. Pine straw, a big part of the landscaping industry in the southeast, is hindered by an insufficient labor force.
    “One big problem in that industry is that labor is hard to come by,” explained Parker, who is currently a graduate student at Campbell University’s Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law in Raleigh. “It’s hard to find people that want to go into the woods and separate pine straw from sticks and pine cones to get the best quality pine straw.”

    “Landscaping pine straw shields soil surrounding plants and their root systems from the sun, and holds moisture to promote plant growth, explains Greeson. “It also lasts a long time, is more cost-effective than hardwood mulch alternatives and provides a natural appearance to any garden. Pine straw is really nature’s mulch, but nobody wants their gardens littered with sticks and pine cones.”

    Then came the Pine Bine.

    “Our machine is the first ever machine to actually be successful at removing sticks and pine cones from pine straw,” Parker continues.  “And we designed it and built it right here as senior engineering students at NC State.”
    Shortly after graduation, the team formed Innovative Agricultural Technologies, LLC, and partnered with a small-scale rural equipment manufacturer in North Carolina and plans to release the Pine Bine in the general market in the next several months. 

    Parker expressed Innovative Agricultural Technologies’ goal that the Pine Bine will “revolutionize the pine straw industry and make raising longleaf pine trees profitable again.”

    Because of their unique growth habit, longleaf pine trees create an ecosystem found nowhere else on earth.  However, loblolly pines, which do not produce the same ecological benefits as longleaf pines, have largely overtaken the lumber market throughout the southeast because loblolly pines grow at twice the rate of longleaf pines.

    “If successful, the Pine Bine is positioned to help reverse this centuries-old trend of declining longleaf pine acreage throughout the southeast simply by doing its part to harness market forces rather than resorting to cumbersome state regulation,” notes Parker. “People will naturally want to protect longleaf pine ecosystems once it becomes more profitable to do so through the mechanization of the pine straw industry.”

    Parker noted the longleaf pine’s intimate connection with the history of North Carolina.

    “The North Carolina State Toast proudly declares, ‘Here’s to the land of the longleaf pine; the summer land where the sun doth shine; where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great; here’s to down-home, the Old North State!’” he said. “For our part, Innovative Agricultural Technologies wants to keep the significance of the longleaf pine alive in North Carolina and throughout the Southeast.”

  • 15 master plan croppedThe citizens of Hope Mills have spoken on which direction they’d like the development of the Heritage Park master plan to take. Now, it’s just a matter of getting the final pieces in place and securing grant money to begin actual work on the project.

    Lamarco Morrison, head of the Hope Mills Parks and Recreation Department, said there were no major surprises when citizens responded to a request for input on the master plan at a meeting held in mid-December.

    As expected, some people expressed strong opinions on the fate of the Parish House, which has fallen into disrepair since being donated to the town. The Board of Commissioners was expected to continue discussion on the Parish House at its regular meeting last week, which was held prior to the writing of this article. (Editor's note: Since the writing of the article, the board voted to demolish the Parish House.)

    All three of the proposed plans for Heritage Park depict the Parish House as still standing.

    Morrison said he told the design team to show the Parish House on all the plans but not to include it in anything yet to be developed as action is still needed by the board on what will happen to it.
    There were four areas of concern the citizen input focused on. They were park character, amenity needs, program needs and criteria for prioritization.

    Historic and cultural preservation were tops in two of the four categories, earning 26% under park character and 24% under criteria for prioritization. Also a high priority was adventure at 25% under the program needs category.
    Leading the way under amenity needs were nature trails at 24%.

    The only other item that hit the 20% mark was sustainable at 21%  under the park character category.

    Items that reached 15% or better were educational under park character at 16%, amphitheater at 15% under amenity needs and concerts at 17% under program needs.

    The version of Heritage Park most people preferred keeps the main parking area near the intersection of Lakeview Road and Lakeshore Drive. It also allows for about 15 more parking spaces than either of the other two plans.
    Called Concept C, Morrison said it has the least impact on the existing sewer line and takes advantage of the natural layout of the land.

    “It preserved the most open space and took into account a lot of the site features we need to be aware of,’’ Morrison said.

    Even though Concept C was preferred, Morrison said the town is still taking input from citizens. All three site plans are available on the Parks and Recreation Facebook page.
    Anyone who would still like to comment on which plan they prefer is welcome to contact Morrison directly via email at lmorrison@townofhopemills.com.

    Morrison said one of the big advantages of using Concept C is it keeps the parking area away from potentially flood-prone portions of the proposed park.

    While some of the walking trails in the park would be able to survive occasionally being flooded, Morrison said it’s not good planning to put the parking area in a space that could be subject to frequent flooding.
    Morrison said many of the favorable comments were in support of the trail system because it takes advantage of what is called pedestrian circulation.

    The preferred plan will also allow the town to use a piece of property it already owns on South Main Street and install an overlook, Morrison said.

    “That was a pleasing feature not only for the park, but for the people driving by,’’ he said.

    The next big step will be to apply for a Park and Recreation Trust Fund.

    "It’s a 50-50 match,’’ Morrison said. “You can get up to $500,000 but we’re probably going to go after $300,000 to do a phase one of Heritage Park.’’

    Morrison has worked in other municipalities that received PARTF grants. If there are no further delays in the project, Morrison said Hope Mills could be awarded the grant as soon as August of this year, and work on phase one of Heritage Park could begin as late as the end of this year or sometime early in 2021.

    “We are excited and ready to get phase one started, regardless of which way we go,’’ he said.

  • 05 N1804P17007CNow that we’ve closed the book on 2019, it’s officially tax season. As you prepare your tax returns for the April 15 deadline, you might already start looking for opportunities to improve your tax-related financial outcomes in the future. And one important step you can take is to connect your tax professional with your financial advisor. Together, these professionals can help you take advantage of some valuable strategies:

    Roth vs. traditional IRA — If you’re eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA and a traditional IRA, you might find it beneficial to have your financial advisor talk to your tax professional about which is the better choice. Generally, if you think your tax rate will be higher in retirement, you might want to contribute to the Roth IRA, which provides tax-free withdrawals, if you’re older than 59 ½ and have had your account at least five years. But if you think your tax bracket will be lower when you retire, you might be better off with the traditional IRA, which offers upfront tax benefits — specifically, your contributions may reduce your annual taxable income in a given tax year. Your tax advisor may have some thoughts on this issue, as well as how it might fit in with your overall tax picture in retirement.

    Taxable vs. non-taxable income — Turning taxable income into non-taxable income can lower your current year’s tax bracket. Depending on your income, you could potentially subtract your traditional IRA contributions, or your SEP-IRA contributions if you’re self-employed, from your taxable income. And even now, it’s not too late to affect the 2019 tax year, if you still haven’t reached the IRA or SEP-IRA contribution limits. Before you file your 2019 tax returns, your tax professional can tell your financial advisor how much you would have to contribute to your traditional IRA, SEP-IRA or similar account to potentially lower your taxable income. If you make the contribution, your financial advisor can illustrate how it would impact your retirement picture and make a recommendation on how to invest the money. You can fund your IRA with virtually any type of investment — stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and so on.

    Capital gains taxes on mutual funds — You might think you have total control over taxes related to your mutual funds. After all, you decide how long to hold these funds before selling shares and incurring capital gains taxes. However, mutual fund managers are usually free to buy and sell new investments as they see fit, and some of these sales could generate capital gains taxes for you. If these taxes are relatively large in any one year, your tax professional may notice and could relay this information to your financial advisor. This doesn’t necessarily mean these mutual funds are inappropriate for you; they still may be suitable for your goals, risk tolerance and time horizon. But the tax aspect may be of interest to your financial advisor, who might recommend more tax-efficient investment options.

    Your investment and tax pictures have many overlaps, and by ensuring your team of advisors is working together, or at least communicating with each other, you can increase the chances of getting your desired results.

  • 02 fake newsEditor's note: The cost of the demolition of the Parish House is less than $7,800, not $1,800. The actual bid was $7,715. The original typos in the article have been corrected below.

    The decision to demolish the old Christ Episcopal Church Parish House for less than $7,800 demonstrated the common sense and prudent leadership of the newly elected commissioners of Hope Mills. Commissioners Pat Edwards, Bryan Marley and Kenjuana McCray prevailed as they rebuffed the efforts of Commissioners Jerry Legge and Jessie Bellflowers in their attempt to restore the 110-year-old building for a whopping estimated price tag of over $300,000 of Hope Mills taxpayers’ money. Over the years, even with numerous repairs, additions and building modifications, it was difficult to identify much of anything that could  be documented or classified as significantly historical about the building.

     This being the case, the commissioners demonstrated the kind of logical thinking and visionary decision-making that will move Hope Mills positively into the 21st century. Tough decisions are rarely ever popular, no doubt about it. In this case, three Hope Mills commissioners evaluated the facts, completed their due diligence and made a decision based on what was best for the town and its residents. That’s leadership. And, that’s what they were elected to do.

     They will undoubtedly experience boisterous pushback from distractors in the form of personal attacks, criticism, protests and whiney social media posts. However, with Hope Mills having 16,000+ residents, a dozen or so malcontents demonstrating this kind of behavior is mostly inconsequential. Unfortunately, it has become more and more prevalent with the reckless popularity of social media compounded by the inability of the news media to wean itself away from the temptation of creating “fake news.”

     I have written many articles about my disappointment with today’s media and journalistic community, especially when so many of them disseminate, create and report fake news. Fake news is not only defined as creating and reporting things that are not true. It is misrepresenting or eliminating known facts to add drama to a story, cause or personal agenda. Fake news is also when only one side of the story is told, depriving the public of facts they need to understand an issue or situation at hand.

    This was the situation recently when The Fayetteville Observer and WTVD-11 both ignored major facts and circumstances influencing the ultimate decision to demolish the Parish House. They chose the easy route and focused only on the sympathetic protesters and Jessie Bellflowers’ disappointment over the decision to demolish the building. They covered the story without any mention of the actual time and energy that the board invested in doing the appropriate due diligence on the project. The Parish House has no significant historical value. Estimated revitalization cost is $300,000+.  One hundred forty-thousand dollars plus must be paid up front just to stabilize the building before anyone can safely enter to get a detailed estimate on the work needed — an estimate that could very well exceed $300,000.

     Hope Mills is not Williamsburg, Virginia, nor is it Old Salem. Hope Mills has its own wonderfully unique blend of Southern hospitality and personality. Its current leadership is smart, caring and thorough. These leaders see the big picture of Hope Mills’ future — economic development, safe neighborhoods, outstanding schools, clean streets, art, music, theater, festivals and fun, lakeside family activites. What’s not to like here? Three hundred thousand dollars less to demolish the Parish House can go a long way in building and maintaining a historically wonderful Cumberland County community.
     Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

  • 08 helloquence OQMZwNd3ThU unsplashEvery other year the city of Fayetteville conducts a comprehensive survey to assess resident satisfaction of major city services. Consulting firm ETC Institute administered the most recent survey during the fall of 2019. It was reported to City Council this month. The highest level of gratification was the overall satisfaction of fire department services. Categories that citizens felt need additional emphasis were traffic flow, street maintenance and the overall quality of police protection. However, police performance was second only to fire protection.

    The survey found that residents have a positive perception of the city. The overall quality of services provided by the city was significantly higher than findings in the southeastern U.S. and the nation as a whole. Residents ranked Fayetteville as a safe and secure community and a desirable place to live and work. Survey respondents were asked about taxes and their willingness to support additional funding for certain services.

    Fire and police services and stormwater infrastructure got the most funding support along with investments in the city’s transportation network and construction of additional sidewalks. Since the last survey, satisfaction ratings have increased or stayed the same in 66 of 101 areas of concern over the last two years. Fayetteville ranks 13% above the U.S. average in the overall quality of city services and 15% above the national average in city employees’ customer service.

    Residents who took the biennial survey were asked about their feeling of safety in Fayetteville. Fifty-four percent said they felt safe. Forty-seven percent of the people were neutral in their responses or felt unsafe. Nationally, 66% of the citizenry felt safe in their communities. Police response time got good marks; 58% were satisfied with law enforcement response to emergencies. But 39% of the respondents were happy with neighborhood police patrols.

    Overall, the fall 2019 citizen survey reflected improvements in the ways the city of Fayetteville provided services to its residents. There was one area of general dissatisfaction over the last few years — code enforcement. There was a 17% negative differential in the enforcement of codes and city ordinances in Fayetteville when compared with other cities in the mid-Atlantic region. The appearance of houses in neighborhoods was down a tad since 2013. Graffiti removal got a 48% rating six years ago but was 43% in 2019. Removal of abandoned vehicles on private property got a better response from the city in 2013 than last year.

    City officials say the purpose of the resident survey was to help the city ensure that its priorities match the needs and wants of residents. This was the fourth survey that ETC Institute has conducted for the city of Fayetteville. During the past year, ETC Institute said 42% of households contacted the city to seek services, ask questions or file complaints. Survey results are available online via the city’s website, https://fayettevillenc.gov/ .

  • 11 N1111P72003CFor history buffs, avid learners or anyone up for a challenge, the Civil War & Reconstruction Quiz Bowl, which will take place on Jan. 23 at the Headquarters Library, presents an exciting opportunity for informal and friendly competition as well as an opportunity for an intellectual test.

    The quiz bowl was originally part of a larger series of programs called the Arsenal Roundtable. Now, after 19 years, the annual competition still welcomes young and old to enter and test their historical knowledge, with a cap of 15 contestants. “All ages (can compete), which is why we give a prize to the adult and youth winner,” said Leisa Greathouse, the associate curator of education for the Museum of the Cape Fear. The youth category is considered to be 16 and under.

    The winners will receive a $50 gift card to Barnes & Noble.

    Since learning is fun, the categories are, too. “The name of the categories this year are taken from famous and popular movie quotes,” Greathouse said. “The categories are: ‘I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse,’ ‘…life is like a box of chocolates,’ ‘Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer,’ ‘Here’s Johnny,’ ‘You ain’t heard nothing yet,’ ‘Shaken, not stirred,’ ‘Carpe Diem. Seize the day boys,’ ‘I feel the need — the need for speed,’ ‘Houston, we have a problem ’ (and) ‘Bond, James Bond.’”

    Some questions are easy; some questions are hard. They cover a broad range of topics, including people, battles and places, weapons and the military, slavery and freedom. Some questions are about events that took place after the war. In total, 200 questions, including some that are reserved for certain circumstances, will be prepared for the competition.

    With the recent and constant conversations around the pending transition of the Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex into The North Carolina Civil War & Reconstruction History Center, one may be tempted to think the quiz bowl is especially relevant right now. However, an understanding of history is always something important for any community.

    “Even though it can be a divisive topic, we view it as an opportunity to bring understanding through education. Year after year, generation after generation, we seek to build a community of critical thinkers and history-minded individuals. Knowing at least a certain amount of history is imperative to understanding our society,” Greathouse pointed out.

    “History and history museums are always relevant, and we would like to see more people spend more time visiting our facility and attending events like this,” she said.

    Participating in the event is a great opportunity learn facts in an interactive way. Greathouse encourages teachers and college faculty to give extra credit to students in attendance.

    The Civil War & Reconstruction Quiz Bowl will take place on  Jan. 23, at 7 p.m., in the Pate Room of the Headquarters Library, located at 300 Maiden Lane. Up to 15 participants can compete and are encouraged to sign up ahead of time by emailing leisa.greathouse@ncdcr.gov or by calling 910-500-4243. If space is available, which has been the case in the past, then registrations will be taken at the door.

  •   13 512px USMC 09611The Fayetteville Cumberland County Ministerial Council presents the 27th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast Monday, Jan. 20, from 8-10 a.m., at the Crown Exposition Center. The theme this year is “Seize the Moment: A New Season.”

     “This is the 27th year of the Ministerial Council sponsoring this event, and it has become somewhat iconic in the city,” said Dr. Maxie Dobson, president of the Fayetteville Cumberland County Ministerial Council. “We have the level of sustained support community-wise that we do, and I think that speaks to our community, (which) appreciates the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King and what he stood for, which are the principles we espouse.”

     Dobson added that’s why the celebration is so well supported and probably one of the most popular events in terms of attendance in our city on an annual basis, and the event organizers are grateful for the support.

     “We will have a great speaker, Bishop Kenneth Monroe … of Eastern North Carolina District A. M. E. Zion Church body, for the event this year. … And we are looking forward to him speaking under the theme, as there is a lot of excitement of him being a part of the program,” said Dobson.

    “It is a time to not only celebrate but to reflect as we look at the theme that the organization has selected. … It somewhat speaks to if, in past times, opportunities have not been given attention, what you would have liked to (do).

     “We can look at where we are now and examine ourselves and ask, ‘what is it can I do to contribute to my community?’ So, it’s in that context that we chose the specific theme for the 2020 breakfast.”

    One of the things that is being done this year that is different is the expansion on the theme and engagement of the community beyond the holiday.

     Dobson added that in the council’s communication to its sponsors for the 2020 breakfast included a form that would allow the sponsors to select a project that can be engaged year-round and not make the day of service effort just on the MLK holiday.

     “Some organizations do different things on that day as a show of community support,” said Dobson. “We want to provoke expanding that to select something that can be done beyond that day and not necessarily every week, but something that can encompass the entire year.

     “We are anticipating how that will be received by the community, and we have a board meeting to see what kinds of submissions that we have had so far,” said Dobson.

    He continued, “That is an expansion of an element — engaging the community in service throughout the year to be a help and (supporting) what the organizations and individuals choose to do. We are looking forward to seeing how that evolves.”

     The event will feature breakfast, entertainment, a speaker and an 8-year-old youngster who will recite speeches by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “There’s a young man who comes well recommended, and he will recite different speeches by Dr. King,” said Dobson. “This will be a way of allowing the youth to be represented in the program, and we look forward to this highlight.

     “We will have singers, but one of the things we want to do is expedite things so that we can be completed by 10 a.m.,” said Dobson. “We are very committed about doing that, so we may not have as much entertainment as we have had in some of the previous years.”

     Dobson added that, like previous years, there will be music playing while individuals are eating breakfast.

     The Fayetteville Cumberland County Ministerial Council began in 1957, and the organization is in its 62nd year. “It was birthed during the civil rights era, and it was to give attention to … (the fact) that we had to be a better community,” said Dobson. “They were faced with things like education, housing and the typical things that many communities were challenged with during the 50s and 60s.”

     One of the primary things the Council  highlights is the hard-earned right to vote and to encourage the community and the leaders of the faith community to engage their congregation to exercise their right. As a 501c3 organization, the Council is not allowed and does not become an advocate of any particular candidate, but it is an advocate of encouraging everyone who is eligible to vote to go to the polls and vote.

     “One of the other things we do is to highlight opportunities for nonprofits to seek funds to pursue the community endeavors that they have become organized to do, and there is funding from different sources,” said Dobson. “So we have these kinds of discussions at our monthly breakfast meetings, which are the third Saturday of each month — except for the months of January, June and July.”

     One of the primary outcomes of the Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast is to fund 10 scholarships of $1,000 each to high school students who are going to college. “We take great satisfaction in the legacy that we have there and the number of students that we have been able to help over the years,” said Dobson. “I think that’s one component that the community appreciates very much and that they are contributing to that kind of objective and we look forward to doing that again in 2020.”

     The Martin Luther King Jr. Worship Service is Sunday, Jan. 19, at 5 p.m., at Covenant Love Church. The guest speaker is Apostle Anthony Buie, pastor of St. Joseph Miracle Revival Center in Red Springs, North Carolina.
     Ticket cost for breakfast is $20. The day of the event ticket cost will be $25. Sponsorship levels are available for purchase.
     For more information or to purchase tickets, call Pastor Yvonne Hodges at 910-797-5879 or email Beverly Gibson at secretaryfccmcfaync@gmail.com. Visit the website at www.fayettevillemincouncil.org for more details.

  • 20 Newtown 1Dates of some tragedies are etched in our memories forever. On Sept. 11, we pause to remember the thousands who perished in 2001 as a result of the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

    Many individuals remember where they were when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963 and/or when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down on April 4, 1968.

    Unfortunately, in the past 20 years, there are several dates stamped in our memories because of shootings in our nation’s schools, such as the ones at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, on April 20, 1999, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, 2018.

    And on December 14, 2012, the nation wept when 26 people, including 20 children, were killed during the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. While this tragedy tore the hearts of people nationwide, it was profoundly personal to me.

    I was executive director of the Connecticut Association of Schools-Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference and, on that day, was attending a meeting with the Commissioner of Education and the Board of Directors for the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents. The commissioner was interrupted to take a private call, left immediately, and shortly thereafter the news of a “school shooting” reached the nation.

    Suddenly, what previously was important became insignificant as we were all shocked at yet another senseless act of violence. As details of the shooting rampage were released, the incident became more and more horrific. The principal of Sandy Hook Elementary at the time, Dawn Hochsprung, was one of the six adults who perished that day. She was a personal friend of mine.

    So, like millions of Americans this past weekend, I was overcome with emotion when Newtown High School won the CIAC Class LL State Football Championship — seven years to the exact day of the Sandy Hook tragedy. Newtown won the state title on the last play of the game as Jack Street — a fourth grader at Sandy Hook in 2012 — threw a touchdown pass just as the fog lifted enough to be able to see downfield.

    Once again, high school sports and football in particular, was a unifying activity for a community. Amid the sorrow of the day, this incredible storybook finish by the Newtown High School football team gave everyone in the community — at least for a moment — the strength to continue the healing process.

    We have seen time after time when high school sports provided students, parents and those in our communities a means to come together, to band together and to rise above struggles arm in arm. This was but the latest example.
    The grieving process will continue for those people who lost loved ones in the Sandy Hook tragedy, but this amazing effort by these high school football players brought smiles and tears of joy to a community that has not had many of those emotions for the past seven years.

    Bobby Pattison, the Newtown High School football coach, had the following to say after the state title: “The great thing about football and sports in general, moments like this bring people together,” Pattison said.

    “These guys had an outstanding year. To win a state championship, to win on the last play, it’s been a tremendous accomplishment. And these boys deserve it. They’re a great bunch.”

    The value of high school football for communities across America? We would suggest what happened in Newtown, Connecticut, last month says it all.

  • 12 MarshallLooking for an event to go to that will be both inspiring and motivating? Look no further than the Givens Performing Arts Center, where  Newy Scruggs, a seven-time Emmy winner, sports personality and UNCP alumnus will host Cynthia Marshall on Jan 22.

     The Dallas Mavericks’ CEO is the first African-American CEO in the NBA. She took over the role in February 2018.

    Marshall has been making her mark since day one. She grew up in low-income housing in Richmond, California. She went to college at the University of California, Berkeley, on a full academic scholarship. She also became the university’s first African-American cheerleader.

    Marshall came out of retirement to be the CEO of the Mavericks. Before her retirement, she enjoyed a 36-year career at AT&T. She began her career there after graduating from college with a degree in business administration and human resources management. Throughout the years, she worked her way up, and in 2012, Marshall was promoted to the role of senior vice president of human resources/chief diversity officer for the national office.

    Abdul Ghaffar is the director of campus engagement and leadership at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

    Ghaffar said that the main focus of the event would be, “Mr. Scruggs and Ms. Marshall sharing their many experiences in business and television with the audience.”

    When it came to having Marshall, specifically, at the Givens Performing Arts Center, Ghaffar said, “The host of the event, Newy Scruggs, a UNCP graduate and sports personality in Dallas. He recommended her. Once I began my research, I discovered that she has several North Carolina ties, including living in the state for several years.

    “Our speaker series has a long tradition at UNCP. We have hosted such names as Spike Lee, Maya Angelou, Caitlyn Jenner, Oliver North, James Earl Jones, Henry Winkler, Cornel West, Bill Nye, Olympians Gabby Douglas and Billy Mills and so many more. Many times, we have our speakers visit parts of our community like the Pembroke Boys and Girls Club and the Lumbee Tribe. Most speakers are interviewed on WNCP TV on campus and participate in a reception for the students, faculty, staff and donors.”

    When asked about what he and the rest of the students and staff hope to get of the event, Ghaffar said, “We are co-sponsoring this event with the School of Business. Since Ms. Marshall was an executive at AT&T for many years and is the only female CEO in the NBA, meaning she runs a billion-dollar sports franchise, we are hoping our students gain some knowledge about the business world. Also Mr. Scruggs is a seven-time Emmy Award winner and hosts his own radio show and is a TV sports personality, so we hope our students will be motivated by his success as a UNCP Alumni.”

    Visit uncp.edu/resources/givens-performing-arts-center for more information or to buy tickets to this event.

  • 03 voting stickersThe start of a new year makes us feel clean, fresh, renewed and hopeful. Gone are the holiday decorations, which — no matter how treasured — seem heavy and tired. In are resolutions for kindness, health and achievement. It is a time for looking forward, knowing the road ahead may be difficult but embarking on it with hope and good faith.

    We are a nation as divided politically as we have been, at least in my lifetime, and it is impossible in January to see where we will be in November. It feels to many Americans of both persuasions that it is going to be a long and difficult haul. North Carolina is widely perceived as a battleground state in presidential politics, but we have some issues that need tackling on the home front that are not — or should not be — overtly partisan.

    Like many states, North Carolina struggles with a growing urban-rural divide. Our cities are growing and thriving, fueled by higher education, technology and financial services. Our rural areas are stagnant, even losing population, and facing losses in educational offerings, health care and economic opportunities. North Carolinians of all political persuasions should urge our political leaders to step up measures to address these disparities.

    A major help would be Medicaid expansion. In low-wealth areas where medical care is in ever-growing short supply and residents have to travel to get it, Medicaid expansion would both provide health coverage for more than half a million North Carolinians and create jobs in communities that desperately need them. Withholding Medicaid coverage, when most of it would be paid for in federal, not state, dollars is both shortsighted and cruel. This can be remedied by a vote of the General Assembly, but there has been much suffering over the last decade.

    Another significant piece in addressing the urban-rural divide is increasing public education funding. Public education in urban counties offers families strong and diverse options, including various academies and charter schools. But some North Carolina counties, especially in the northeastern part of the state, can no longer fund their schools, much less provide options. This means that students in rural areas are less prepared for today’s higher education and today’s technology-focused workplaces. Lesser educational offerings virtually guarantee that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer in both economics and quality of life.

     North Carolina used to bill herself as “Variety Vacationland,” a nod toward both our beautiful pristine coast and our spectacular mountains. In the decades since that slogan disappeared from North Carolina license plates, our environment — like many across the nation — has taken hits from increased population density and emissions and wastes from energy-production facilities. North Carolinians must hold our leaders accountable for protecting our environment in ways they never have in the past.

    Finally, Americans — including the 10-million-plus of us who call ourselves Tar Heels — understand that there is something seriously wrong with our election systems and that a big part of the problem is extreme gerrymandering. Both Democrats and Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly have failed to act on redistricting reform, either out of fear of losing power or hope of attaining it. While gerrymandering has existed since the earliest years of our nation, it has become more extreme with technology, and it is cutting voters out of the election process making “one man, one vote” no longer true. North Carolina voters must insist that the General Assembly address this issue in 2020. If they do not, our state will suffer through extreme gerrymandering for at least another 10 years.

    As 2020 unfolds, we are into a new decade and 20% into the 21st century. Life is good for many of us, but our issues are difficult for many North Carolinians. Our elected officials swear oaths to do the right thing, and it is up to all of us to hold them to it.
  • 16 studioEarlier this fall Sue Moody was looking at some pictures taken by children of her friends that were posted on Facebook when she came up with an idea.

    While the pictures were good, Moody wondered if the youngsters might be able to benefit from some expertise provided by people trained in the art of photography.

    She spoke with Elizabeth Blevins of the Hope Mills Creative Arts Council and worked with her to schedule a series of presentations for budding young photographers. The classes are scheduled to meet from February until May at The Studio on Trade Street at a cost of $10 per student.

    There is a limit on class size so anyone interested needs to sign up as soon as possible by calling 910-853-4536 or emailing HopeMillscac@gmail.com.

    Moody said response to the initial class sessions will dictate whether plans are made for other events in the future. She said there has been discussion of sessions for adults.

    “We know there is a need in our community,’’ Moody said. “Other artists are affiliated with the Creative Arts Council. We just want an inventory to find out what the community wants. We hope people will register soon so we have everything in place and are prepared for them.’’

    All classes for the sessions with students ages 12-18 will be from 6-8 p.m. Following are the instructors for the initial series of classes and the dates they will be teaching:

    Cherri Stoute, Tuesday, Feb. 11 — Stoute owns The Studio on Trade Street. Stoute is a film school graduate who has worked in a variety of roles. She’ll study cameras and smartphone cameras with the students and discuss editing.

    Elizabeth Blevins, Tuesday, March 10 — Blevins is a member of the N.C. Press Association and the U.S. Press Association. She’s been a staff member and contributing writer to four regional publications including Up & Coming Weekly. Her topics will be perspective and photography fads.

    Michelle DeHetre, Tuesday, April 21 — For the last five years, DeHetre has worked as the operations manager at The Studio on Trade Street. Based out of Greensboro, DeHetre has a background in portrait photography. Her workshop will cover the topics of composition and improvising backdrops.

    Bill McQueen, Tuesday, May 12 — McQueen has called Hope Mills home for 31 years. He is the owner of Response Marketing Group, which offers consulting services to large and small businesses around the country. His topic will be thinking outside the box and putting into practice the instruction students have received during the class.

  • 09 cape fear valley med ctrCape Fear Valley Medical Center in Fayetteville is likely one of the safest institutions in Cumberland County. It has facilities and procedures designed to keep patients, staff and visitors safe at all times. The local hospital is the flagship of a system of area health facilities to include Cape Fear Valley Healthplex, Fayetteville’s most comprehensive fitness and wellness center. A couple of weeks ago, health system facilities were placed on lockdown for a day because of a nonspecific threat made to law enforcement against a Fayetteville-area hospital.

    Cape Fear Valley Health System maintains more than 700 continuously monitored security cameras at its campuses. The system also has a comprehensive visitor management system, a security team with 24-hour internal and external patrols, metal detectors and screening at emergency room entrances as well as additional safety mechanisms for use in emergency situations.

    Law enforcement officers combed medical center offices after a man called the National Suicide Hotline, threatening to kill himself and first responders employed by the hospital. The lockdown was ordered as police officers descended on the Owen Drive hospital, a sprawling set of inpatient and outpatient facilities. Police used cellphone technology to determine the caller’s location. He originally said he was on Interstate 95 in Fayetteville before then saying he was outside Cape Fear Valley’s Fayetteville campus. The situation prompted authorities to restrict admission to Cape Fear Valley except for the emergency department. Police found no one on medical center property.

    The health system also restricted access to Highsmith-Rainey Specialty Hospital, Hoke Hospital and Bladen County Hospital. It was the second incident of concern at the medical center in the last two months.

    Cape Fear Valley Health is a 950-bed health system serving a region of more than 800,000 people in southeastern North Carolina. The not-for-profit system is the state’s eighth-largest health system made up of 7,000 team members and 850 physicians, eight hospitals and more than 60 primary care and specialty clinics. Cape Fear Valley Health offers residencies in emergency medicine, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry and general surgery, as well as a transitional year internship in affiliation with the Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine at Campbell University.

  • 17 01 Brower park sign One of the busiest times of the year is in progress for the Hope Mills Parks and Recreation Department as parents are signing up youngsters from the town and beyond for the various youth sports teams offered during the spring.
    Registration began last week at the Hope Mills Parks and Recreation Department headquarters on Rockfish Road and will continue for the most part through the month of February.

    Maxey Dove of the Parks and Recreation staff encouraged parents to sign up early and avoid the last-minute rush caused by folks who wait until the final days of February to get their children enrolled in the program.
    “We get 70% of our registration the last two or three days,’’ Dove said. “Until we close the doors on that last day it’s hard to project how many teams we will have.’’

    The sports offered in the spring include baseball, softball, indoor soccer and wrestling.

    All registration is required in person at the recreation headquarters. Dove said the town is continuing to work on offering online registration and hopes to be able to offer that by the fall.

    Any youngster who has never played in the Hope Mills recreation program before is required to provide a copy of a birth certificate and proof of residence, which can be done with a utility bill.
    People outside of Hope Mills can sign their children up to play, but there is a difference in the fee charged. It’s $30 for Hope Mills residents and $40 for non-residents.

    Times for registration are 8:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 9:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday.

    Baseball and softball are the most popular of the two spring sports, Dove said.

    Categories for baseball include T-ball for age 5, junior pee wee age 6, coach-pitch ages 7-8, minor baseball ages 9-10, major ages 11-12 and Dixie boys ages 13-14.
    Softball is the Darlings at ages 7-8, Angels at ages 9-10, Ponytails ages 11-12 and Belles ages 13-15.

    Last season, four Hope Mills teams won state titles and advanced to regional competition in Dixie Youth play. A fifth team supported by the town won the state Lady Legion softball championship, with several of the players on that team former competitors in the Hope Mills youth sports program.

    Soccer has an instructional level for ages 5-7 and individual teams for ages 7-12. Wrestling is divided both by weight and age from 6-12.

    Dove said if there are specific questions about any sport or registration call during regular business hours at 910-426-4109.

  • 07 MILLEY GEN CMD 13AUG2014 1Under pressure from lawmakers, America’s top military officer declined to defend President Donald Trump’s decision to grant clemency to three service members last month but said he does not believe the moves will disrupt good order in the ranks. “I think the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the means by which we maintain good order and discipline are a critical element in order to maintain some level of humanity in combat zones,” said Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley during an appearance before the House Armed Services Committee.

    The comments came following questioning from Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., a Marine Corps veteran, who said he heard from current service members who were dismayed by the moves. The separate cases have all drawn attacks from Trump’s critics and praise from his supporters. The decisions were reportedly made over the objections of senior military officials who warned that forgiving war crimes could undermine the military justice system.

    In November, Trump granted a pardon to Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, convicted of second-degree murder in the death of two Afghans. Lorance walked out of military prison the next day. He also preemptively waived charges against Army Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, who faced trial at Fort Bragg on murder charges for actions in Afghanistan. In the most highly publicized case, Trump granted clemency to Navy Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, who had been acquitted of a string of alleged war crimes but convicted of posing for a picture alongside the corpse of an insurgent.

    Trump said their previous military service merited a “second chance.” Congressman Moulton said a Marine sergeant major texted him saying Trump’s actions were “basically setting a precedent that the rule of law in a combat zone doesn’t apply and encourages folks to start burning villages and pillaging like Genghis Khan.”

    Defense officials emphasized that the moves were within the White House’s authority. “I understand where the sergeant major is coming from,” Milley said. But, he noted the president of the United States is part of the process, and he has the legal authority to do what he did.

    Trump’s timing was part of the issue. Senior military advisers said the commander in chief should not have involved himself until all the cases were adjudicated. Asked about Golsteyn’s status, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told The Washington Post that he was focused on the Gallagher case and would “take this one step at a time.”

    Republicans came to the president’s defense. “We need to be very careful in equating bad judgment calls, calls that may get you relieved of command, with a war crime,” Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., and an Army veteran said.

    First hailed a hero, then stripped of his medals and charged with murder only to be pardoned by the president, Golsteyn wants the Silver Star he was awarded in 2010 to be upgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross, the military’s second-highest honor. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and a former Green Beret. He was cited for bravery while with the 3rd Special Forces Group during the battle of Marjah in 2010, where he repeatedly braved enemy fire, launched a mission to find enemy marksmen, aided a wounded Afghan soldier and coordinated airstrikes.


    Pictured: Gen. Mark Milley appeared before the House Armed Services Committee.

  • 19 Karl MolnarKarl Molnar has seen the perspective of local high school basketball from the sides of a private school and public school coach, going back to his days at Fayetteville Academy and his current role as varsity boys coach at Terry Sanford.
    He’s keenly away there has been friction between the two groups in the past, but he also thinks  the coaches involved share a common bond that should help them pull together.

    “I hated there was distance between them,’’ Molnar said. “I like to think at the end of the day, your job as coach is to do the best you can.’’

    In an effort to bridge the gap and get everybody at the same table for a change, Molnar came up with the idea of the inaugural MLK Dream Jam, which will be held on this year’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday, Jan. 20, at the Terry Sanford gymnasium.

    The schedule will feature a mixture of Cumberland County Schools and local private schools playing head-to-head in both boys and girls basketball games, the action beginning at 11:30 a.m. and continuing through the final game of the day at 7 p.m. A total of six games are scheduled.

    Molnar said he tried to involve as many public schools as possible in the event.

    Some schools accepted quickly while some others weren’t able to commit to the tournament because they had prior obligations or their schedules for this season were already full.
    Molnar said a handful of coaches, who he didn’t identify, still didn’t want to take part in the event.

    In determining the matchups for the one-day event, Molnar said he tried to go by overall records and any head-to-head competition that had already taken place.
    He is hopeful that the level of talent in this inaugural competition will draw the interest of a number of college coaches.

    “We’ve heard from some coaches who are coming to see the talent in Fayetteville,’’ Molnar said. “The hope is as this event progresses over the years, we’ll have all the top public schools and all the top private schools playing in the same event.’’

    Admission to all games will be $10 Molnar said. Fans will be allowed to stay and watch as many games as they like on a single ticket.

    MLK Dream Jam schedule

    Here is the schedule for the inaugural MLK Dream Jam at Terry Sanford High School as of Tuesday, Jan. 7. The schedule is still subject to late changes:

    11:30 a.m. -  Terry Sanford vs. Freedom Christian Academy
    1 p.m. - Richmond Senior vs. Village Christian Academy
    2:30 p.m. - Cape Fear vs. Trinity Christian School

    Pictured: Karl Molnar
  • 18 fireworks debrisWhen Cape Fear football coach Jake Thomas brought his son to club wrestling practice after New Year’s Eve, he was met by a disappointing sight on the school’s football field.
    Someone had used a small area near the baseball-field end as a launching pad for fireworks.

    Photos taken by Thomas showed a burned out spot on the turf of the Cape Fear field with the litter from the various types of fireworks used by whoever trespassed illegally on school grounds still there.

    Thomas said it certainly could have been a lot worse, and has been when he’s seen people who’ve driven vehicles onto athletic fields and left damaging doughnuts cut into the turf with the wheels of their trucks or cars.
    But seeing the Cape Fear field marred by the fireworks was not a pleasing sign for Thomas, who estimates he and members of his coaching staff spend in the vicinity of 200 hours a year doing everything to the field from cutting the grass, tending to the health of the soil and painting it for Thursday and Friday football contests during the season.

    “When I was first coming into coaching, you don’t appreciate how much time you spend on field maintenance, painting the field, all those things,’’ Thomas said. “You really don’t get a full understanding until you do it yourself.’’

    Thomas said the fans who show up on Friday night only get to see the end result and don’t realize the total amount of work that the football staff puts into making the field not only safe to play on but appealing to the eye.

    Beyond the work on the field, there are rules in place about who can and can’t use school practice facilities like the football field. Thomas noted that not even Cape Fear varsity and junior varsity athletes are allowed to be on school property working out without a member of the coaching staff being present with them.

    “There are liability issues,’’ Thomas said. Even in the school weight room, athletes can’t lift without having a coach there to oversee what’s taking place.

    Vernon Aldridge, student activities director for the Cumberland County Schools, said those who used the Cape Fear football field for shooting fireworks were guilty of trespassing.
    “If definitely has to do with safety reasons, but it’s also a liability issue,’’ Aldridge said, “having folks on our grounds if they are injured. The liability falls on us.’’

    Aldridge said high schools are not allowed to use fireworks at their games on Friday nights because it’s a fire code issue. While it used to be alright when Aldridge was a coach at South View in the early part of 2000, the fire marshal later ruled that it was not allowed.

    During its run to the state football championship in 1991, South View had a fan who brought a musket-like gun to games that was fired following each Tiger touchdown.

    Aldridge said that practice is also no longer allowed due to firearms restrictions on campus.

    Thomas said he did not make an official police report of the incident at Cape Fear but he has asked members of the Cape Fear community to help identify who was involved, especially if they were students, so proper discipline can be administered as needed.

    Aldridge said the county will likely not get involved and will let Cape Fear handle the matter at the school level, including any decision regarding offering a reward for identifying those involved.

  • 14 car oilWalt Brinker, 1966 West Point graduate, retired US Army infantry lieutenant colonel and Vietnam War veteran, retired civilian project manager, instructor at FTCC, and Eastover resident, has provided well over 2,000 free-of-charge roadside assists as a hobby. With experience from these assists he wrote a book, “Roadside Survival: Low-Tech Solutions to Automobile Breakdowns” for the everyday motorist. He also set up a website, “roadsidesurvival.com”, to help individuals, driver education teachers, and law enforcement. This vignette captures one of his many assists, along with lessons.

    The Toyota Highlander was stopped on the Interstate highway shoulder. The right front tire was flat. Its occupants were roasting on the hot summer day. “Joseph” from Cameroon, the driver and father of the family, told me that he couldn’t get to his spare tire because the vehicle’s rear hatchback, which covered access to lower the spare, wouldn’t open. So I jacked up his vehicle, removed the flat tire wheel, wrapped it in an old sheet and put it in my car. Joseph and I took it to a Walmart for repair — all it needed was a valve stem.

    While we were there, I pointed out a portable 12-volt jumper battery and compressor, which could come in handy. He was not interested. Tire repaired, we returned to his vehicle, where I remounted the wheel. His 8-year old twin daughters, coached and rehearsed while Joseph and I were gone, performed a really cute, lively thank you dance for me. Very nice!

    Before I departed I suggested Joseph visit the nearby Toyota dealer to fix the latch on his rear door; he declined, saying he was in a hurry. His wife remarked acidly, “We might as well not have a spare tire.” I decided to leave before their fight. After taking the next exit and returning toward the Toyota, I noticed that it had not moved. I circled back and again stopped.

    Evidently, while Joseph and I were away, the family had used the sound system, running down the vehicle’s battery. So I gave him a jump start. I then gently reminded him about that portable jumper battery we had seen, suggesting he might want to reconsider. He smiled and said, “No,I don’t think so”, before thanking me and driving away.

    Driver tips:

    1. Don’t drive without a spare tire, especially in hot or cold weather, with one’s family. Not having access to the spare is the same as driving without it.
    2. If you know of a problem that restricts performance of basics such as changing a tire, get it fixed before a trip. As the saying goes, “The good Lord helps those who help themselves.”
    3. Consider keeping a 12-volt portable jumper battery and a 12-volt air compressor in your vehicle. Note: portable batteries require periodic recharging after each use or monthly, at least, otherwise they will underperform. Total loss of charge will end the battery’s effective life.

  •  04 jared brashier duNHkmSkW6M unsplashLook, up into the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Nope. It’s a Reaper Drone. Iranian General Soleimani probably wished it was Superman instead. But as the Rolling Stones once pointed out in song, “You can’t always get what you want/But if you try some time/You just might find you get what you need.”

    Soleimani got what he needed, which was a sudden exit into the land of 70 virgins, courtesy of the United States. Without question, he was a really bad guy, responsible for the deaths of many Americans, Iranians and Iraqis. But as someone once said, just because you can do something, doesn’t mean that you should do it. Personally, I could fly to Vegas to gamble away all of my earthly treasures in a short time. However, just because I can do it, doesn’t mean that I should do it.

     Let’s get in Mr. Peabody’s Way Back machine and visit with our old friend the Greek King Pyrrhus. Pyrrhus was born about 319 B.C.E. His daddy was king of Epirus. Unfortunately for child Pyrrhus, there was a squabble for the throne. His dad lost his job to the King of Macedon. Once Pyrrhus grew up, he got involved in a fight for the remains of Alexander the Great’s empire. By 297, Pyrrhus had taken over his old homeplace and surrounding territories. In 280 B.C.E., Pyrrhus got into a battle with the new kids on the block, the Romans. The Romans were feeling their oats, and Macedon looked like a pretty nice place to hang their helmets.

     Pyrrhus wasn’t about to give up his throne without a fight. He took 20 war elephants and about 3,000 troops for a showdown with the Romans. Back then, war elephants were the technological equivalent of drones. A major ruckus ensued between the Greeks and the Romans. Much to the Romans’ surprise, Pyrrhus whipped them at the battle of Asculum.

     Although Pyrrhus won the battle, he lost most of his generals, officers and foot soldiers. The Romans lost more men than Pyrrhus, but they had the advantage that replacement soldiers were anxious to join the Roman legions. Unfortunately for Pyrrhus, the well was dry for replacement soldiers for the Greeks. One of Pyrrhus’ surviving officers congratulated Pyrrhus on winning the battle. Pyrrhus, knowing that his army was mostly kaput, famously replied according to legend: “If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.”

    This gave history the colorful term “Pyrrhic victory.” According to the wizards at Wikipedia, a Pyrrhic victory leaves “such a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat. Someone who wins a Pyrrhic victory has taken a heavy toll that negates any true sense of achievement or damages long-term progress.”

     What does Pyrrhus have to do with Soleimani’s sudden and gooey death? Maybe nothing, This column is written 10 days before it appears to stain world literature yet again. Maybe the Iranians quietly took it on the chin, which seems unlikely. Or maybe the Iranians have done all sorts of terrible things and we have a brand-new 20-year shooting war now with the Iranians.

    We sent Soleimani to his well-deserved reward, but at what cost in American lives? Living in Fayetteville, war is not some abstraction. Our friends and neighbors are sent into harm’s way when the nation calls. We take war very seriously because we understand its real cost. If it can be avoided, it should be.

     I get the feeling that our own Dear Leader is the first Zen President. He lives only in the present. The past is of no interest to him. The future doesn’t exist. The only thing that exists is the immediate now. Soleimani is dead. What happens next is not a factor. Pyrrhus would understand and not be pleased with celebrating Soleimani’s death as such a victory. To quote many football coaches, “When you score a touchdown, don’t showboat, act like you have been there before.”

     However, not to leave on a sour note, let us consider what is happening to pigeons in Las Vegas. According to The Washington Post, someone is gluing brightly colored miniature cowboy hats on pigeons. The local pigeon rescue group, an excellent bunch called Lofty Hopes, is trying to help unhat the pigeons. Mariah Hillman, the group’s founder, has been passing out business cards telling people to feed the pigeons and give Mariah a call to come catch the pigeons so she can get their tiny hats off. Unsurprisingly, the hat glue is not good for the pigeons. So far, Mariah has caught and rehabbed two pigeons, Chuck Norris who is wearing a red cowboy hat and Coolamity James wearing a pink lady-like cowboy hat. Suspicion for hatting the pigeons has pointed to someone attending the National Finals Rodeo. The Rodeo has denied any involvement in hatting the pigeons. Gluing a hat to a pigeon is something that a human can do. Which takes us back to the original thesis of this column. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean that you should do it.

     For the 82ndAirborne Division, as Sgt. Phil Esterhaus used to say on Hill Street Blues: “Let’s be careful out there.” Come home safely. We love you.
  • 21 01 Nyielah NickNyielah Nick

    Seventy-First • Basketball• Senior

    Nick has a grade point average of 3.6. She averages 7.6 points and 5.7 rebounds per game for the Falcons. She is also active in the school’s JROTC program.

    21 02 anijaAnija Borja

    Seventy-First• Basketball• Senior

    Borja has a grade point average of 3.7.

  • 10 business thingSeveral years ago, the Public Works Commission set as a strategic goal increasing our local vendor capacity and engaging local vendors on the many opportunities available to them to provide services and goods to PWC. This came after both hearing concerns of local businesses and many incidents where PWC had to re-bid opportunities because of low or no response.

    Among our many initiatives was starting an event to invite local businesses to learn about the millions of dollars we spend on goods and services and future plans and capital projects that businesses could position themselves to be a part of.

     PWC held a “Building Business Rally” in 2016 and 2017. Because of its success, in 2018, we coordinated an expanded Regional Building Business Rally, partnering with nearly 30 organizations and agencies on the event with the hopes of increasing local spending and encouraging local economic development. The Rally is a unique opportunity as a “one-stop” shop for local businesses where they connect to organizations that have money to spend and are looking for local businesses to spend it with.

    Since May of 2018, the momentum of this effort has continued. Our Building Local Vendor Capacity Committee set our vision to “maximize local purchasing and procurement opportunities from within our region, thereby enhancing the wealth and health of the community” and our mission to use community collaboration to enhance our local supplier base.

     Collaboration and education are key to our success, and with the support of the Cumberland County’s Mayor’s Coalition, January has been proclaimed as Building Local Business month, with the month culminating with the fourth annual Building Business Rally on Thursday, Jan. 30.

    Organizations participating in the Rally are Cumberland County and Fayetteville’s largest buyers, representing over $1 billion in opportunities. They include Cape Fear Valley Hospital System; Cumberland County; Cumberland County Schools; the city of Fayetteville, including FAST and Community Development; Fayetteville State University; Fayetteville Technical Community college; the town of Hope Mills; the town of Spring Lake; North Carolina Department of Transportation; Prince Charles Holdings; PWC; and Vector Fleet Maintenance, which manages the city of Fayetteville fleet.

     Some of the opportunities that will be presented at the rally are PWC’s ongoing needs installing water and sewer services, maintaining our current system and annual repairs and maintenance and upgrades of our electric system. Cumberland County Schools estimates spending $10 million a year on instructional custodial supplies, information technology, and construction, while the town of Hope Mills projects it will spend over $34 million on facilities, public works, transportation, public safety and  stormwater and recreation projects.

    The Jan. 30 event utilizes the local business resources of the Greater Fayetteville Chamber, the Small Business and Technology Development Center, and Cumberland County N.C. Works to help businesses find opportunities, structure their business for success and find a qualified workforce.

     To register for the event, which will be held at the Ramada Plaza on Owen Drive from 2-6 p.m., visit www.faybids.com. Bookmark that site as it is a one-stop-shop for local contracting opportunities and local classes and workshops that can benefit your business.

  • 06 01 your voice your voteThe question of voter ID in North Carolina for the November elections remains unsettled. Attorney General Josh Stein announced he will appeal a judge’s ruling blocking the state law requiring ID from going into effect. However, it appears that no matter how the legal fight unfolds, voter ID will not be required during the state’s primary elections in the spring. Although Election Day for the primary isn’t until March, absentee voting starts in less than two weeks. Stein said he would not request that ID be put back in place for the primary, “to avoid any further voter confusion.” A federal judge in North Carolina said she would block the law temporarily.

    “North Carolina has a sordid history of racial discrimination and voter suppression stretching back to the time of slavery,” wrote Loretta Biggs, a federal judge in North Carolina’s middle district.

    Opponents of voter ID have said that voter fraud is incredibly rare. North Carolina officials caught one case of in-person voter impersonation in the 2016 elections, out of 4.8 million votes cast. They 06 02 your voice your votecontend the real intent of voter ID is to disenfranchise minorities and college students, who are less likely to have driver’s licenses and who tend to support Democrats.

    Local Army-dependent school students supported

    Cumberland County Schools serves the third-largest concentration of military-connected students in the world. The district has dedicated personnel who support the needs of military dependents and their families. District staff remains in close communication and collaboration with Fort Bragg military liaisons to provide additional support to families who are affected by the rapid deployment of soldiers from various units of Fort Bragg, the school system said in a statement.
    “We are united behind our Fort Bragg soldiers and families,” said CCS Superintendent Dr. Marvin Connelly, Jr. “Our entire school system is ready to assist our students, staff and families during this challenging time.”

    06 03 Trump MilitaryThe school system has developed a comprehensive support plan to include expanding the Military Student Transition Consultants school coverage, so they are available to assist more military-connected students, connecting the families of deployed soldiers with resources available to them and providing training and resources for school personnel. Families in need of additional support may contact their school counselor or MSTC for guidance.

    Trump popularity is down among military men and women

    A recent Military Times survey reveals that President Trump’s favorability among service members continues to decline. Approval of the president’s performance has been on the decline since the initial poll in 2016. Half of active-duty military personnel contacted held an unfavorable view of Trump. Forty-two percent approved of his conduct in the latest poll, held between Oct. 23 and Dec. 2. Fifty percent of troops said they had an unfavorable view of him. By comparison, just a few weeks after his election in November 2016, 37% had a negative opinion. The poll surveyed 1,630 active-duty Military Times subscribers in partnership with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University. The numbers likely reflect career-oriented men and women,” said Peter Feaver, a 06 04 census jobs copypolitical science professor at Duke University. “These are people for whom the morals and standards of the military mean a lot,” he said.

    Hundreds of part-time jobs available in Cumberland County

    The U.S. Census Bureau is recruiting thousands of workers in Cumberland County for temporary jobs in advance of the 2020 census. The Atlanta Regional Census Center reports there are 3,667 employment opportunities in Cumberland County. Forty-one percent of those positions are filled. Interested individuals are urged to apply. The census count is used to determine how much federal funding goes to communities and states and determines how many members in the U.S. House of Representatives each state gets. Job seekers may apply online. The 2020 Census Jobs website allows applicants to apply for a range of positions, including recruiting assistants, office operations supervisors, clerks, census field supervisors and census takers. The positions offer flexible work 06 05 County Manager Amy Cannonhours, including daytime, evenings and weekends. The pay rate is $14.00 - $14.50. More information is available at www.2020census.gov or call 1-855-562-2020.

    Cumberland County official honored

    County Manager Amy Cannon was recently recognized by the International City & County Management Association for 30 years of service to local government. The awards are based on the number of years of full-time employment in local government. Cannon has been the county manager since June 2014 and is the first woman to serve in that position. She previously served as the deputy county manager and assistant county manager for financial and administrative services. Cannon was the county’s finance director from 1998 to 2013.

    “We are proud of the leadership she has provided as our county manager and congratulate her on this tremendous milestone,” said County Commission Chairman Marshall Faircloth.

    Cannon began her career in local government as an internal auditor with the city of Fayetteville. She is a Fayetteville native and earned an accounting degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
    Picture 5: County Manager Amy Cannon
  • 17 01 Cumberland County had a good showing in the recently-completed Holiday Classic basketball tournament, with county schools taking championships in three of the four brackets.

    This was the second year of a major format change in the tournament that was instituted by Cumberland County Schools student activities director Vernon Aldridge.

    After years of the county schools facing each other as many as five times in one season, Aldridge instituted the change that divided the 10 county schools into four brackets and brought in outside schools to lower the chance county schools from the same conference would meet each other in the tournament.

    “We got a lot of compliments from the outside schools on how the tournament was run,’’ Aldridge said. One email from Eric Davis, coach at Wilmington Laney, called the tournament the best run event of its kind he had seen in his 19 years as a coach.

    Here’s a look at the three brackets of the tournament that were won by Cumberland County Schools.

    17 02 manasBoys
    Len Maness Bracket

    Westover’s boys downed Middle Creek, Laney and county rival Cape Fear en route to the championship.

    Wolverine head coach George Stackhouse felt his team’s depth allowed Westover to utilize different styles of play and maintain poise in a couple of games when they didn’t get off to a good start.
    Ma’Nas Drummond of Westover was named the Most Valuable Player of the Maness bracket, scoring 18 points in the title game to lead Westover to the win.

    “We felt confident he was going to be able to contribute a lot this year,’’ Stackhouse said of Drummond. “His teammates and everybody were very happy he was able to get MVP.’’

    Stackhouse said he feels his team is in a good place as it heads into conference play immediately after the holiday break. “We’ve still got a few things we need to work out,’’ he said. “I’d like halfcourt execution to be better.
    “We’ve got to get everyone playing up to their ability, playing together as a team, see if we can’t keep improving.’’

    Ike Walker Sr. Bracket

    Terry Sanford downed Corinth Holders, Pine Forest and Southern Lee en route to winning the Walker bracket. Coach Karl Molnar said he’s been impressed with his team’s ability to work hard and move the basketball all season, and that continued during the run through the tournament.

    17 03 David MolnarIf there was a shortcoming the team showed during the tournament, it was the inability to slow down individual opposing players who were on a shooting hot streak.

    “It’s hard to win much of anything without playing some good defense,’’ Molnar said. “We’ve not quite mastered how to shut down that one kid that gets going. But we’ve managed to keep our opponents quiet as a whole and put us in a position to move the ball around and be successful offensively.’’

    Molnar’s son, Davis, was chosen as the MVP of the Walker bracket, scoring 25 in the title game with Southern Lee.

    Molnar said he and his son have frequent basketball conversations on and off the court. “Davis knows as player-and-coach or father-and-son he can talk to me,’’ Molnar said. “He had a good run of three games, and they came at a good time.’’

    Molnar felt it was a good sign for county basketball that three of the four finalists in the boys’ brackets of the Holiday Classic were from Cumberland County.

    “It’s looking pretty strong for us,’’ he said of the county teams. T
    hings are looking good for the Bulldogs as well as they’ll enter into January’s conference schedule awaiting the return of football standout Ezemdi Udoh, who missed the Holiday Classic because of his participation in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas.

    We can’t wait until we get him on the same sheet of music,’’ Molnar said.

    Gene Arrington bracket
    E.E. Smith’s girls served notice on the rest of the Patriot Athletic Conference that even though they are young, they’ve apparently recovered from the graduation losses suffered last season.

    Smith downed Corinth Holders, Westover and Wilmington Hoggard en route to the Arrington bracket championship.

    Ke’Onna Bryant won MVP honors for Smith, playing a critical defensive role for her team en route to the championship.

    Smith coach Dee Hardy praised Bryant for her aggressive play in the tournament and said she stepped up in key situations where Smith needed a steal or a rebound.

    In the 41-32 win over Hoggard in the tournament final, Hardy said she learned some things about her young team and its perseverance and ability to maintain focus.

    "We were able to get a lot of five-second counts and out-of-bounds plays,’’ Hardy said. “That was great to see.’’

    If there was one troubling result from the tournament it was the fact Smith was the only Cumberland County girls team to make the championship round.

    The next highest finishes from the county were third by Jack Britt in the Tom Jackson bracket and third by Westover in the Arrington bracket.

    Hardy said she hasn’t seen all the county teams yet so she really can’t say how strong the conference is. For now, she’s focusing on her team.

    “Our main focus will be trying to be disciplined and play self-motivated,’’ Hardy said. “We really need to fine tune some things and go back to some basics.’’

    Picture 1: Ke’Onna Bryant won MVP honors for Smith, playing a critical defensive role for her team en route to the championship.Photo Credit: Matt Plyler

    Picture 2: Ma’Nas Drummond of Westover was named the Most Valuable Player of the Maness bracket. Photo Credit: Matt Plyler

    Picture 3: Davis Molnar was chosen as the MVP of the Walker bracket, scoring 25 in the title game with Southern Lee. Photo Credit: Matt Plyler



  • 16 01 greenway signKasey Ivey of the Hope Mills Parks and Recreation had already been talking with Rebecca Skiba of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission about coming to Hope Mills to discuss nature programs the town might be able to offer.

    That was before Dec. 3, when a member of the town’s maintenance staff spotted a coyote on the newly-opened Golfview Greenway Walking Trail at the old municipal golf course.

    When Ivey posted the news on the Parks and Recreation Facebook page, she was surprised at the response.

    “It sparked 56 comments and 187 shares,’’ she said. When Skiba came to Hope Mills for a scheduled visit on Dec. 9 to tour local nature-related sites around the town, Ivey shared with her the news about the coyotes at the golf course. Skiba, who is the outreach education specialist for the southern coastal region of the state, said she would be available to make a presentation on co-existing with coyotes.

    So Skiba will return to Hope Mills on Wednesday, Jan. 29, at 6 p.m. at the community room at the Hope Mills Recreation Center to talk about coyotes.

    There is limited space, so people interested in coming to the presentation need to reach out to Ivey as soon as possible. Her email address is kivey@townofhopemills.com.

    Ivey wants to make sure enough people are interested in the meeting to make Skiba’s trip to Hope Mills worth her time, since she travels a great deal and covers such a large area of the state in her job.

    Both Ivey and Skiba stressed that the presence of coyotes at the new greenway is not a cause for panic, and people who plan to use it shouldn’t be fearful or jump to any conclusions about the animals.

    Skiba has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Georgia and has worked in North Carolina for the past four years.

    She said the biggest problem with coyotes is that people don’t know a lot about them and they tend to be afraid of what they don’t know.

    16 02 coyotesCoyotes are present in all 100 of North Carolina’s counties, Skiba said, adding it is difficult to regulate the population. One of the main aims of her presentation will be to educate the public on the difference between a perceived threat a real one.

    The primary rule of thumb with coytotes, she said, is live and let live. “We’ve never had a case in North Carolina where a coyote has attacked and harmed a human being,’’ she said.

    But that doesn’t mean that every living thing is safe around coyotes. They are omnivores, Skiba said, which means they eat everything from vegetables to bugs to fruit. And, unfortunately, some small animals.

    That’s why any greenway walkers with pets, especially small ones, need to either leave them at home or keep them on a leash, as they could be potential prey for the coyotes.

    If a human sees a coyote, it’s fairly easy to shoo them off and go about their business. “They don’t stalk you,’’ Skiba said.

    It is possible for a coyote to be rabid, but unlikely, Skiba said. Wild animals at the top of the list to develop rabies are raccoons, skunks and foxes, Skiba said. “Coyotes aren’t really high up on the list.’’

    In the event anyone encounters an animal exhibiting odd behavior, they should contact local animal control authorities immediately.

    Skiba said typical early onset rabies behavior in animals includes being disoriented or appearing in public places while making no attempt to hide or protect themselves. “Not all rabies is the foaming at the mouth phase,’’
    she said.

    For her presentation in Hope Mills, Skiba said she plans to discuss the history of coyotes in North Carolina, the ecology involved and how they affect other species in the state.

    She will also present different options of coyote management, but added that her presentation will not be dealing with any kind of program the town as a whole can put into place, just things to be done on an individual basis.

    “This is a general information session to dispel myths and fears that are out there,’’ Skiba said, “also to bring up certain things that people can keep in mind to make sure they are not attracting coyotes if they don’t desire to have them.

    “We go about our daily lives and we don’t consider the ways we impact or attract wildlife. I’m just trying to bring those up as well.’’

    If anyone has specific questions about coyotes or other wildlife in the Hope Mills area the best way to reach Skiba is via her email at rebecca.skiba@ncwildlife.org.

    There is also a Wildlife Helpline at the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission which allows callers to speak to a trained biologist and ask specific questions about wildlife behavior, wildlife-related damage or injury and co-existing with wildlife. The number is 866-318-2401.

  • 12 ophthalmicFayetteville Technical Community College plans to offer a new certificate program during Fall 2020 designed for certified ophthalmic assistants and certified ophthalmic technicians to gain the skills needed for the ophthalmic surgical assistant.

    The need to develop OSAs is now nationally recognized, and ophthalmologists agree that the range of OSA training could assist the mechanical and technical aspects of ophthalmic surgery.

    Based on the fact there are no OSA programs in North Carolina, the employment opportunities for graduates of FTCC’s Ophthalmic Surgical Assistant program will continue to grow. The program will provide current COAs and COTs with another unique career option in the health care industry.

    The didactic portion of the program will be taught online, and the laboratory portion will be taught in the evenings. This format will allow interested candidates to continue their employment while completing the requirements for the program.
    Fayetteville Technical Community College can help you earn the training that can set you up to get the career you want. In addition to high-quality education available at an affordable cost, students can enjoy leadership opportunities by participation in a number of clubs and organizations, athletics and so much more. Fayetteville Tech offers associate degree programs, certificate programs and diploma programs in the areas of health, business, computer technology, engineering/applied technology and public service. Students who wish to pursue a four-year degree can save money on tuition and other expenses by enrolling at FTCC in arts and humanities or math and science associate degree programs, which transfer to some four-year colleges/universities. Students who have transferred from FTCC to four-year colleges have enjoyed high levels of success in the four-year college environment. 

    Make an investment in yourself that pays off. Learn more about exciting possibilities awaiting you at Fayetteville Technical Community College by visiting the website at www.faytechcc.edu. Make the smart choice for your education—Fayetteville Technical Community College! To learn more about the OSA Program, please contact me at 910-678-8358 or via email herringt@faytechcc.edu.

  • 03 women talkingWords and language, specifically English, have been important to me all my life. My mother was a grammatical stickler, and the Precious Jewels stick me with that label as well. English, with all its peculiarities, is a rich language with about 170,000 words — more than any other language, though most of us use only 20,000 to 30,000 of them regularly. It is considered a difficult language for non-English speakers to learn.

    Like most languages, English evolves. Chances are that if our most celebrated playwright and acknowledged master of English, William Shakespeare, appeared to speak to us today, we probably would not understand his English of four centuries ago — nor he our modern parlance. Shakespeare would almost certainly not get our most recent words, expressions or acronyms.

    The dictionary company, Merriam-Webster, adds new words every year, and based on its additions since 2010, Caroline Bologna writing for Huff Post has listed 20 “words” that helped define the decade we just left, 2010-2019. Here are some of them. 

    A decade ago, we might not have known what each other were saying but now we all know that “hashtag” refers to the pound symbol, #, used in connection with various social and political movements and the social medium, Twitter. We also know “FOMO” means fear of missing out, a form of anxiety in the age of social media. “Self-care” means not just taking care of one’s physical and mental health but pampering and indulging oneself as well. “Athleisure” references cozy and comfortable clothing, like yoga pants, worn outside the gym in all sorts of circumstances, something my mother could never have imagined and to which I plead “totally guilty.” “Bingeable” refers not to midnight snacks but to streamed television or other-screened programming watched for hours on end — of which your columnist is also totally guilty.  

    I had to look up this one, but a “flexitarian” is a person eating a more plant-based diet by reducing animal protein without eliminating it altogether. To “Stan” was also a new term for me, and it refers to being an aggressive, even obsessive, fan of some celebrity or another and is short for “stalker fan.” It derives from an Eminem song dealing with that topic. I still grapple with the meaning of “meme” — is it an idea or a visual symbol or both? Maybe Merriam-Webster can set me straight.

    Finally, I love the notion of “glamping”— glamorous camping — and look forward to trying it in our new decade. I am working on taking “selfies” but am not as interested in them as in glamping. And, truth be told, at my age, I have had just about as much “mansplaining” —male condescension in the workplace and personal relationships — as I can stand.

    Merriam-Webster also documents the most searched word each year, and with a 313% uptick in searches, 2019’s most sought after word definition was for the humble pronoun “they.” Apparently, many of us are trying to figure out how to use that word when referring to people of undetermined, unknown, fluid or otherwise undescribed gender. Also in the highly searched category were “quid pro quo,” “impeach,” “egregious” and “crawdad” for obvious reasons — Donald Trump and a bestselling novel.

    In 2120, English speakers may no longer know the meaning of FOMO or mansplaining, just as we no longer understand words Shakespeare used often — amain (at full speed), corse (corpse) or peradventure (chance). English was in Shakespeare’s day and remains today a language with great flexibility and resilience and one which finds a way to describe our world as it changes.

    Welcome to the 2020s, whatever they may bring!

  • 07 01 82nd Airborne Division InsigniaThe 82nd Airborne Division’s Immediate Response Force has deployed to the Middle East. One of the division’s brigade combat teams is routinely on call as America’s rapid deployment strike force. Fifteen years ago, in December 2004, elements of the 82nd deployed to Iraq in support of Iraqi national elections. Today, as they have throughout the division’s history, the troopers who wear the red, white and blue patch of the 82nd Airborne Division are the cutting edge of the United States strategic combat force. Defense Secretary Mark Esper launched the deployment of America’s Guard of Honor on New Year’s Day saying, “At the direction of the Commander in Chief, I have authorized the deployment of an infantry battalion from the Immediate Response Force of the 82nd Airborne Division to the U.S. Central Command area of operations in response to recent events in Iraq.”

    Additional 82nd paratroopers followed. The deployment came in the wake of rocket attacks against Iraqi bases housing coalition troops.

    Property taxes are due

    The Cumberland County tax collector reminds taxpayers that property taxes for real estate and personal property that have not been paid are considered delinquent. The county can impose interest and enforced collections such as bank levy, wage/rent garnishments and foreclosure. Payments can be made in the tax office, by phone or online. There is a processing fee for credit or debit card payments. Electronic check draft payments can be made online for no additional fee. To pay in person, go to Room 527 on the fifth floor of the Courthouse from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. To pay by phone, call 1-866-441-6614. To pay online, visit co.cumberland.nc.us/tax/payments. The address to pay taxes by mail is Cumberland County Tax Collector, P.O. Box 449, Fayetteville, N.C., 28302-0449. Tax listing forms must be updated and signed and be postmarked no later than Jan. 31 to avoid a 10% late listing fee. For more information, call 910-678-7507 or go to co.cumberland.nc.us/tax.aspx.
    07 02 Property Tax Scrabble
    Citizens can help shape Fayetteville’s future

    The city of Fayetteville will hold its annual Community Café Conversation Thursday, Jan. 16, at Smith Recreation Center on Slater Avenue. The event will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. and allows Fayetteville citizens to answer questions about their perceptions of the community’s priorities. Questions include what city services need to be improved and how the city can better promote transparency and accountability. Input will be incorporated into the city’s strategic plan, which guides future efforts and budget decisions. Interested residents are encouraged to reserve their seats by calling 910-433-1979 or emailing an RSVP to atebbe@ci.fay.nc.us. A drawing will be held at the end of the event for gift certificates to several local businesses as a way of saying, “thank you” to the participants.

    Energy assistance aid expanded

    07 03 community meetingThe Cumberland County Department of Social Services is accepting applications for the North Carolina Low Income Energy Assistance Program from all qualified households. In December, only households with elderly or disabled persons could apply for LIEAP. The program helps qualified families with their heating costs. LIEAP is federally funded and provides a one-time vendor payment directly to the utility company to help eligible households pay their heating bills during cold-weather months. Household income must not exceed 130% of the poverty level. There are several ways Cumberland County residents can apply. Applications can be made in person at DSS, located at 1225 Ramsey St., Fayetteville. Applications can also be downloaded and submitted by mail or fax. Households may apply for LIEAP through March 31, or until funds are exhausted.

    Cancer patient advocacy

    Jesse H. Byrd has won the Mary Lynn Bryan Leadership Award for his years of cancer patient advocacy work. The Bryan Leadership Award recognizes the person who best exhibits excellence in leading a Cumberland County charitable organization toward sound nonprofit best practices. Byrd, a retired CPA, is a founding member of Friends of the Cancer Center, which formed in 1989 to help support area cancer patients and their families. The support includes financial assistance, hats, scarves, yoga and art therapy programs, all free of charge to patients. The FOCC became a part 07 04 Electric power linesof the Cape Fear Valley Health Foundation in 2002, allowing Byrd to join the foundation’s board of directors. He has been on the board since. Byrd’s wife, Irene, died of cancer, which led to his dedication to the cancer community over the years. In 2014, Byrd helped establish the Irene Thompson Byrd Cancer Care Endowment. The endowment has grown to nearly $1 million. Cape Fear Valley Health Foundation will receive $1,000 under the Bryan Leadership Award to use toward board member development.

    07 05 Cape Fear Valley Health logo
  • There’s a popular saying that no matter how thin the pancake, it always has two sides, which is a colorful variant of there are two sides to every story. This statement is so true regarding the article “The Parish House” by Elizabeth Blevins, owner of Hopemills.net. After careful review, I found at least 18 areas that are rift with misinformation purported to be fact-based information.

    The article omits several public records and a factual, chronological history of event references that, for some unknown reason, Blevins failed to include and share with her readers. Some examples are:

    05 parish house 2 The article completely omitted the town board regular meeting Feb. 4, 2019, regarding the discussion of the Parish House and its demolition (Budget Retreat Item 2018). A motion was made by Mayor Pro Tem Mike Mitchell to rescind the motion from March 3, 2018, to budget for the demolition of the Parish House and engineering fees for the design of a parking lot until the Board has received further information from the Historic Preservation Commission. Why? Because the HPC was never informed of the town board’s decision to demolish the building.

    Blevins also claims the Parish House is not on the National Register of Historic Places — but it is! I researched her claim by calling Amber Stimpson, local preservation commission/certified local government coordinator at the State Historic Preservation Office, located at the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources in Raleigh, North Carolina. Stimpson informed me Hope Mills was last surveyed in 1985 and the Parish House, at a minimum, must be “significant” enough to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

    In fact, this issue was referenced during a town board regular meeting on March 8, 2017, where Planning and Development Administrator Chancer McLaughlin presented an overview of the Hope Mills Historic Overlay District in concert with the work of the Historic Preservation Commission. McLaughlin presented a map with the current boundaries and noted the HOD is registered on the National Register of Historic Places.

    Blevins also claims Pat Hall identified the HOD … but she did not. The HOD was identified as the Historic Mill Village in 1985 when it was placed on the National Register of Historic Properties by the North Carolina Department of History and Culture. In fact, the Historic Preservation Commission began reviewing the HOD with a $15,000 grant by the same State Division in 1995.

    Further, the Parish House is 110 years old as of 2020 — not 89 years old. According to the Episcopal Church History in North Carolina by Rev. Norvin C. Duncan, the Parish House was built in 1910, not 1930. The church burned in 1916, at which time the Parish House was damaged. The Parish House was partially restored and a new brick church building was erected.

    After reading the article, my best advice to Blevins is a quote from Catherine Rampell’s article, “Four suggested 2020 resolutions for the media.” Rampell states, “Make sure we’re in the information business, not the disinformation business. … Yes, it’s important to challenge misstatements or deliberate lies, especially consequential ones. But we need to lead with the facts, contest the falsehoods and swiftly return to the facts again. Instead of amplifying the lies, we must amplify the truths.”

    In conclusion, I cannot predict what the future holds for the 110-year-old Parish House. However, what I do know is that every option must be discussed and explored, along with public input, before a final decision is made in the best interest of the town and the citizens of Hope Mills.

    Jessie Bellflowers
  • 14 OrchestraFrom 1600 to 1750, the Baroque period challenged artistic expectations in Europe. Meaning “oddly shaped pearl,” barroco is characterized by contrasting melodies, harmony and multiple instrument sounds. This style didn’t become popular overnight. In fact, critics of the period described Baroque compositions as overly complicated and elaborate. However, fans of Bach, Vivaldi, Purcell and other masterminds of the era would disagree. The Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra will play tribute to these artists with a Baroque performance, Jan. 16, at St. John’s Episcopal Church.

    The concert will provide an educational glimpse into 17th- and 18th-century Europe. In fact, Executive Director Jesse Hughes chose to showcase works from this era “to give the community and audience exposure to famous (composers) of the Baroque period,” particularly Johann Sebastian Bach. “He was like the musical example — the model — the one that’s paid a lot of homage to by the previous composers,” Hughes said about the German composer. “He is looked at as being the forerunner of the Baroque style.”

    Baroque music also offers quite a variety to the listener, Hughes said. Although the Baroque movement took place in Europe, styles varied between countries, particularly France, Germany, England and Italy. Such variety will be represented at FSO’s concert.

    “Expect to be entertained through the musical versatility and flexibility of the musicians,” Hughes said. “For example, Adagio in G Minor for Strings and Organ, where you normally see it on piano, you’ll see on a church organ.”

    Hughes explained that FSO will perform as a chamber orchestra, a more intimate format, since Baroque compositions were traditionally performed this way. “The chamber orchestra can be 50 players or less, and normally instead of having multiple instruments on a part it can be one to two instruments on a part,” said Hughes.

    St. John’s intimate setting combined with the smaller orchestra will allow for more interaction between performers and audience, according to Hughes. Instead of performing onstage, the orchestra will be on ground level; the performers will also enter the same doors that the patrons enter, so the audience will likely be able to meet orchestra members after the concert.

    During the remainder of the season, FSO will perform “Music She Wrote,” a concert that celebrates female composers with works written exclusively by women on Feb. 8. On March 7, FSO will highlight pieces by Brahms, Wagner, Bizet and Berlioz during “In Their Footsteps.” April 4, FSO will perform Bohemian masterpieces, including Dvorak’s Cello Concerto, in “Musical Folktales.” The Music Nerd will appear at 6:45 p.m. before each concert to hold a question and answer session with the audience.

    Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra’s “If It Ain’t Baroque” will take place at 302 Green St., Thursday, Jan. 16, at 7:30 p.m.

    To learn more or to purchase tickets, visit https://squareup.com/store/fayetteville-symphony-orchestra/item/if-it-ain-t-baroque.

  • 13 One Thousand GiftsOn New Year's Eve of 2018, my boss, Dorothy, laid a bright blue spiral notebook on my desk. I slipped my thumb under the front cover and turned to the first page, the quiet crack of the card stock separating from the paper it protected, proving it had never been opened.

    “A new notebook for a new year,” she said.

    This was a challenge.

    Several years ago, Dorothy read a book called “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp, and remembering it sparked her to buy the entire staff a notebook and a copy of the book. The challenge was to chronicle 1,000 God-given gifts, no matter how big or small, by the end of 2019. It could be a good meal or beautiful flower, a credit card paid off or sweet baby laughter. The first chirp of a bird when spring arrives. Family. Common things. Uncommon things. Silly things. Serious things. Any good gift from God.

    At first thought, this sounds cliche. It's so easy for me to gloss over those sticky-sweet quotes dressed in beautiful fonts slapped on a well-edited photo of some snow-covered trees that friends on social media post almost daily. Those graphics that say, “Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened,” or “Life's a journey, not a destination.” Ugh. Give me a break. The quotes never really have anything to do with the background they're plastered on and they kind of make me want to throw up, but I digress. If those kinds of things help you, that's great. More power to you, I say. For me, its a big “thanks, but no thanks."

    For the first half of last year, I participated in this challenge, chronicling nearly 500 of the thousand I was to come up with. I must say, I was feeling mighty fine. I was loving life — taking care of myself, seeing some relationships in my life have some major breakthroughs, cooking supper for my family every night. I was making my list day by day and it was really making a difference.

    That summer, one of the most unknowingly overwhelming seasons of my life hit like an anvil to the forehead. I had family members become life-threateningly ill. My 1-year-old started day care for the first time, causing a change in my work schedule and time at home, in addition to bringing sickness after sickness home with him for months. My husband and I sold our home and moved back to my family's farm to better tackle some debt and be near to those sick family members. Most of it was not all that weighty, but all at once, it was a lot of change in a short amount of time.

    Somehow, as I tried to keep on keeping on, my 1,000 Gifts list trailed off.

    Over the course of just three months, I found myself irritated, unmotivated, easily offended, critical of others, overwhelmed, exhausted, disappointed, disengaged, crying a lot, inattentive, rude to my husband and telling myself how much of a failure I was because of the important things I let slip through the cracks at work and at home.

    I had a lot on my plate, but I know that all those things would have been easier to chew if I feasted on thanks-giving.

    I am convinced now more than ever that there's actually something to this gift list. In the last 24 hours of Jesus's life before he was crucified, he did a strange thing. In Luke 22, we find the account of the Last Supper, where Jesus brings his disciples together to share a meal. Luke 22:19 says, “And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them...” Originally written in Greek, the word for “he gave thanks” is “eucharisteo." The root word of eucharisteo is "charis," meaning “grace.” Jesus took bread, saw it as grace, and gave thanks. Also found in eucharisteo is "chara," which means “joy.” Isn't that what we all long for? More joy? It seems that deep chara joy is found at the table of euCHARisteo — the table of thanksgiving.

    Voskamp writes, “So then, as long as thanks is possible, joy is always possible... Whenever, meaning now. Wherever, meaning here.” In every circumstance, in every season of life, joy can be found if we can focus on giving thanks. To say it better, joy is found when we see God in the here and now.

    So, I'm starting over. This year, I'm making a list called “Seeing 2020” — get it? It's time for a new perspective — a grateful perspective — that can only come by finding today's good and lovely. I'm filling it with things Philippians 4:8 talks about. It says, “...whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Today's things.

    You can find — I can find — today's good and lovely in the middle of heartache, tumult, emotional debris and disappointment. It's there. We just have to look.

    I want more joy. I definitely want God's grace. I must be intentional in giving thanks no matter what this year holds.

    You find what you look for. What can you find today?

  • 06 michael jin ipHlSSaC3vk unsplashSo many times, I have heard people who have been involved in an auto wreck say: “I have full coverage.” What does that mean? For most people that means they have coverage for liability, property damage and a rental car. Let’s talk about what that often does not mean.

    When most of us buy auto insurance, we’re just looking at how much coverage we need to get behind the wheel and how low we can keep the monthly payment. Here’s the reality of auto insurance coverage:

    One day you are running out to the grocery store to pick up a few things. As you drive through an intersection with the green light, another driver runs the red light and smashes into your car. You wake up at the hospital with stitches in your head and several broken bones. You had to have some emergency surgery, and you will be in the hospital for several days. You aren’t going to be able to go back to work for quite a while and you have bills to pay. Your life has just been turned upside down. Your daily commitments and responsibilities are still there, even though you are out of commission.

    It’s usually at this point when most of us will begin to wonder about how much insurance the guy/gal that hit us had. This is a good question because your medical bills alone could easily exceed $30,000. What about your missed paychecks? What about the broken bones and the scar on your head? What about the terrible pain you feel that the pain killers barely take the edge off?

    North Carolina law requires a minimum of $30,000 in insurance coverage to operate a motor vehicle. If the guy that hit you has minimum coverage, what do you do? You look at your insurance coverage. Do you have “underinsured” coverage? That is the “UIM” coverage on your policy. “UM” is for when an uninsured motorist hits you. “UIM” is for when a motorist hits you and they do not have enough coverage to pay for your damages. Most of us do not know much about “UIM” or “UM” until we need it, and then we wish we had it or had gotten more.

    Honestly, if you have a significant injury in a car wreck, $30,000 minimum coverage will not be enough to protect you from serious financial loss. On the flip side, if you run the red light and hit someone and only have $30,000 in coverage, that will not protect you from serious financial trouble, either. My recommendation is to get as much coverage as you can afford and, if you can, try not to have anything less than $100,000.00 in coverage. This should include liability coverage (if you are at fault) and underinsured “UIM” and uninsured “UM” coverage (if someone hits you who has little or no coverage). If you can afford more, do it. It only takes one bad wreck to make us realize how important that coverage is — and if you don’t have it, the consequences can be devastating.

  • 09 N1509P39004CThe 2018 North Carolina Infant Mortality Report shows the infant mortality rate in Cumberland County has dropped significantly — 33% compared to 2017. The lower infant mortality rate mirrors a record low rate statewide. In Cumberland County, there were 34 infant deaths recorded to residents of the county in 2018, compared to 52 deaths in 2017. The infant mortality rate in Cumberland County in 2018 was 6.3 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2018 compared to 9.4 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2017.

    Statewide, infant deaths in 2018 reached the lowest rate in the 31 years that deaths have been tracked — declining for the third straight year. According to the North Carolina Infant Mortality Report, 806 infant deaths were recorded to residents of North Carolina in 2018 compared to 852 in 2017.

    “While we are pleased by recent reports of a reduction in the number of infant deaths in Cumberland County, one death is still too many,” said Cumberland County Public Health Director Dr. Jennifer Green. “Department initiatives such as the Baby Store are aimed at promoting prenatal health which leads to healthy moms and healthy babies.”

    Wisconsin is at the top of the Centers for Disease Control and prevention list when it comes to infant mortality for nonHispanic black women, with the following deaths per 1,000 live births:
    Wisconsin — 14.28
    Ohio — 13.46
    Alabama — 13.40
    Indiana — 13.26
    North Carolina — 12.24

    Dr. Green notes that North Carolina has historically been among the states with high rates of infant mortality. The report indicates that notable disparities persist in infant mortality, particularly among African Americans. The African-American infant mortality rate in the tar heel state reached an all-time low, decreasing by 9% since 2016. In Cumberland County, the rate is four times the white infant mortality rate at 9.9 deaths per 1,000 births in 2018. Leading causes of infant mortality are preterm birth and low birth weight, birth defects, Sudden Unexpected Infant Death and complications of pregnancy, labor and delivery.

    The rate is impacted by a wide range of social, behavioral and health risk factors, including poverty, racism, education, tobacco use, obesity and lack of access to medical care before and during pregnancy. In the United States, research has identified associations between individual socioeconomic factors and select community-level factors. In the 2018 report, the authors looked beyond traditional risk factors for infant mortality and examined the social context of race in this country to understand African-American women’s long-standing birth outcome disadvantage.

    In the process, recent insights are highlighted concerning neighborhood-level factors such as crime, poverty, segregation and institutional racism. A 2018 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, which uses data from 2013-2015, states: For infants of nonHispanic black women, the mortality rate ranged from 8.27 in Massachusetts to 14.28 in Wisconsin.

    “The data should be shocking to everyone,” Wisconsin state Rep. Shelia Stubbs said in an email. “But for black families, especially black women, this is reality.”

  • 08 downtown parking 2 2Republic Parking assumed management and enforcement of downtown parking the first of the year, taking over from McLaurin Parking. City officials say that, initially, there will be no changes to downtown parking enforcement as the new company takes over. Republic Parking is working with City Council to implement a paid parking plan in the downtown area. Parking revisions were made necessary with the construction of Segra Stadium, the minor league baseball field in the 400 block of Hay Street.

    The city will charge patrons $5 per parking space in the more than 1,100 parking spaces in the 12 downtown public parking lots during large downtown events, to include home baseball games. City-paid lots will be clearly marked with roadside signs indicating the lot locations. Parking attendants at the city-maintained parking lots will accept cash or credit/debit cards as payment for $5 parking fees.

    Republic Parking is in the process of deciding where to place pay stations that will be installed along on-street parking and in city parking lots. Costs will be $1 per hour for on-street parking and $1 per hour or $5 per day in city lots. Downtown visitors will also be able to use the app, ParkMobile, to pay for parking. Republic Parking is working on an education campaign in advance of the expected spring kick-off for paid parking.

    “Paid parking is something that is needed here in Fayetteville. We are a growing city, and this is the direction many growing cities with successful downtown areas are taking,” said Mayor Mitch Colvin. “I am confident this plan will allow more people to enjoy our beautiful downtown area.”

    Information will be provided via the news media, the city’s website and through downtown businesses. A new website complete with FAQs and other information about downtown parking will also be launched in the coming months.

    “Republic Parking manages parking for more than 100 municipalities across the country, said Jack Skelton, Republic’s executive vice president of Municipal Division. We look forward to working with the city and community to develop an innovative and convenient downtown parking program.” Skelton went on to say “We’ve seen this time and time again — that businesses are concerned paid parking will be a detriment to downtown visitors — on the contrary, our experience shows that paid parking actually increases parking turnover, with visitors finding it easier to park and businesses finding that it increases their customer foot traffic due to higher parking turnover.”

    Revenue generated by downtown parking will be used to assist in paying the debt on Segra Stadium as part of the business plan the city developed more than 18 months ago when proposing the stadium concept to City Council. Republic Parking was selected through a process that included submissions from five different parking firms. Republic has managed the city’s airport parking lots for several years. Information on the current downtown parking enforcement plan can be found at www.FayettevilleNC.gov/downtownparking.

  • 08 downtown parking 2 2Republic Parking assumed management and enforcement of downtown parking the first of the year, taking over from McLaurin Parking. City officials say that, initially, there will be no changes to downtown parking enforcement as the new company takes over. Republic Parking is working with City Council to implement a paid parking plan in the downtown area. Parking revisions were made necessary with the construction of Segra Stadium, the minor league baseball field in the 400 block of Hay Street.

    The city will charge patrons $5 per parking space in the more than 1,100 parking spaces in the 12 downtown public parking lots during large downtown events, to include home baseball games. City-paid lots will be clearly marked with roadside signs indicating the lot locations. Parking attendants at the city-maintained parking lots will accept cash or credit/debit cards as payment for $5 parking fees.

    Republic Parking is in the process of deciding where to place pay stations that will be installed along on-street parking and in city parking lots. Costs will be $1 per hour for on-street parking and $1 per hour or $5 per day in city lots. Downtown visitors will also be able to use the app, ParkMobile, to pay for parking. Republic Parking is working on an education campaign in advance of the expected spring kick-off for paid parking.

    “Paid parking is something that is needed here in Fayetteville. We are a growing city, and this is the direction many growing cities with successful downtown areas are taking,” said Mayor Mitch Colvin. “I am confident this plan will allow more people to enjoy our beautiful downtown area.”

    Information will be provided via the news media, the city’s website and through downtown businesses. A new website complete with FAQs and other information about downtown parking will also be launched in the coming months.

    “Republic Parking manages parking for more than 100 municipalities across the country, said Jack Skelton, Republic’s executive vice president of Municipal Division. We look forward to working with the city and community to develop an innovative and convenient downtown parking program.” Skelton went on to say “We’ve seen this time and time again — that businesses are concerned paid parking will be a detriment to downtown visitors — on the contrary, our experience shows that paid parking actually increases parking turnover, with visitors finding it easier to park and businesses finding that it increases their customer foot traffic due to higher parking turnover.”

    Revenue generated by downtown parking will be used to assist in paying the debt on Segra Stadium as part of the business plan the city developed more than 18 months ago when proposing the stadium concept to City Council. Republic Parking was selected through a process that included submissions from five different parking firms. Republic has managed the city’s airport parking lots for several years. Information on the current downtown parking enforcement plan can be found at www.FayettevilleNC.gov/downtownparking.

  • 02 Parish HouseWell, 2020 marks Up & Coming Weekly’s 25th year as Fayetteville and Cumberland County’s weekly community newspaper. It’s been a great quarter-century, and we are thankful that we have been able to contribute to the growth and prosperity of the community. Yes, we are a unique publication, highly opinionated and focused on the good news and quality of life in Fayetteville, Fort Bragg, Hope Mills and Cumberland County. Our local newspaper is uniquely customized to serve our unique community. In the last two years, and in response to the needs and demands of our readers, we have modified our publication and operating procedures to meet the needs of our readers and better serve the community. During this time, we have added writers and reporters, created new sections, expanded distribution in Hope Mills and Spring Lake, brought on additional editors and expanded our online presence. We are proud of what we do and cherish the position we hold in the community.

    Of course, nobody’s perfect, so we do have our share of distractors. Not all of our readers agree with our opinion or the positions we take on certain issues, and that’s OK. At least they are reading our publication — because these issues affect the people and communities that our newspaper serves. Every article and opinion piece we publish is a reflection of someone’s perception of this community. And everyone is welcome to contribute. However, our reporters and news correspondents like Earl Vaughan Jr., Jeff Thompson and Elizabeth Blevins are dedicated professionals charged with providing our readers with accurate and honest information about important community projects, local government initiatives and community events. Providing facts is their job. They take it seriously, and they do it extremely well. Below is such an example.

    Here, Up & Coming Weekly’s Hope Mills correspondent Elizabeth Blevins clears the air around the swirling controversy over the future of the Hope Mills Parish House. Let us know what you think. On page 8, Hope Mills Commissioner Jessie Bellflowers also shares his opinion with us about the Parish House. I am often told that everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not to their own facts. We agree. However, you be the judge!

    Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.
        — Bill Bowman, publisher

    On Dec. 16, the Hope Mills Board of Commissioners discussed the Parish House, one of several historic buildings owned by the municipality. While they didn’t vote, the board members did request estimates for demolishing the house. Days later, former members of the Hope Mills Historic Preservation Commission and its followers launched a social media campaign of misinformation designed to sway public opinion in favor of preserving the house. The HPC wants to preserve the building for use as a museum.

    In July 2017, the Board of Commissioners met with members of the HPC to hear from local architect Gordon Johnson. Johnson noted the town’s inspection department had concerns about the deterioration of the building, specifically its sagging floors. His recommendation was the town look into other options before investing a large amount of money into restoration.

    Pat Hall, then-chairman of the HPC, recommended the board do nothing with the Parish House while it was settling an ownership issue with the heirs of an adjoining property. That issue wasn’t settled until summer 2019.
    Several months later, the HPC met with town staff, who confirmed the Parish House was no longer a viable option. They suggested the town might purchase a mill house on Trade Street as an alternative location for the museum.
    During the November 2017 board meeting, it was announced the town had purchased the mill house and members of the HPC specifically requested the town manager inform the board they didn’t want to move forward with the Parish House. That evening, the HPC members posted their excitement on social media, and then explained the Parish House restoration would have been far too costly to continue.

    In March of 2018, during the board’s budget retreat, a staff member officially informed the board the repairs for the Parish House were too expensive to move forward. Town manager Melissa Adams read a prepared statement from the HPC, indicating they didn’t have a problem with the municipality destroying the house but did not want them to sell the property. The board voted unanimously to demolish the Parish House during that meeting.

    For nearly a year, the staff worked diligently on making modifications to the mill house, and there was no mention of the Parish House during official meetings by the Board of Commissioners. But in February 2019, the two groups met again, and Pat Hall declared the HPC was never notified of the board’s decision to demolish the house. Further, she insisted the HPC never advocated for its destruction but instead wanted it restored. Amazingly, the same board that voted to demolish it 11 months earlier, rescinded their votes and directed staff to begin restoration.

    In 2017, the estimated restoration would have cost $220,000. A recent survey by an engineer indicated the cost has ballooned to more than $350,000. The building suffered damage from two hurricanes and was struck by a vehicle a year ago.

    The historical integrity of the house has been hotly debated. The second floor was replaced after a fire in 1916, a kitchen and bathroom were added later, as well as siding and a front porch. Very little of the original historic structure remains.

    Members of the HPC suggested they would raise the funds necessary for the reconstruction, but all but one has resigned. Now, the board is left to decide whether they should spend close to half a million dollars restoring the building or redirect that money to other more viable projects.
  • 15 grays creek studentsA group of students from Gray’s Creek High School recently earned statewide recognition from the North Carolina High School Athletic Association for participating in a contest to help raise money to provide food for those in need.
    The NCHSAA in cooperation with United Health Care sponsored the annual Turkey Bowl, which invited NCHSAA member schools to compete in a statewide fundraising effort.

    The contest was held Nov. 4-8, and the participating schools were free to choose how they wanted to take part in collecting food or money for the project.

    They could either raise money to donate to an actual food bank or collect food for an on-campus food pantry.

    LeAndra Barriage is a biology teacher at Gray’s Creek and also serves as the school’s Student Government Association advisor. She learned about the Turkey Bowl from Gray’s Creek athletic director Troy Lindsey.

    The SGA at Gray’s Creek is composed of the class and student body officers at the school. Barriage enlisted the officer corps to take part in the competition.

    Annually, during the month of November, Gray’s Creek has long been involved in something called Bears Giving, where the school collects food to give away to the Gray’s Creek Christian Center.

    For the Turkey Bowl, Barriage said the students decided to raise money to give away to the center by doing something the school calls Minute to Win It.

    The plan was to hold a one-minute period of donations during the daily announcements at Gray’s Creek.

    To promote the event, members of the SGA, as well as some members of the Gray’s Creek faculty and staff, got free T-shirts from the NCHSAA and wore them around school prior to the morning of the fundraiser, as well as on the day of the event.

    They also made announcements to promote the upcoming event and posted signs around the school.

    The morning of the fundraiser, a song was played for one minute over the intercom, and every class in the school contributed money during that time period. The class that raised the most money was treated to a free breakfast.

    When it was over, Gray’s Creek had raised $800, which ultimately earned it second-place in the statewide NCHSAA competition.

    The school later presented a check for that amount to the Gray’s Creek Christian Center.

    Barriage said the school likes to support the Center because it serves anywhere from 75 to 100 families in the Gray’s Creek community on a weekly basis.

    “I think it’s good for the kids to think beyond themselves and realize they are just a part of the community,’’ she said. “It is important to kind of give back to those who might be having a difficult time.

    “At one point or another in our lifetime, we’re all probably going to be in that position where we need a little help. I think it’s truly important to recognize when we have the ability to help we should do those things.’’

    While $800 might not seem like a tremendous amount of money, Barriage said the students were told that every dollar donated in the fund drive represented four meals, which means the money raised by the Gray’s Creek SGA paid for 3,200 meals for those in need.

    “I think that was kind of awe-inspiring,’’ Barriage said. “A little goes a long way.’’

    Carlisle Eley and Mary Ledford, two of the Gray’s Creek students who took part in the fundraiser, agreed participating in the event was meaningful to them and their classmates.

    “The more we donate to them, the more it helps our community,’’ Eley, a junior, said of the Gray’s Creek Christian Center. “I was really surprised by how much money we got.’’

    Ledford, a freshman, thought the donation of money was a good combination with the existing Bears Giving program at the school. “We thought adding the money would be another way to give back,’’ she said. “It directly affects students who go to our school and directly affects everyone who lives in our immediate community.’’

    While Ledford appreciated the statewide recognition from the NCHSAA, she added that wasn’t the most important part of the project. “It went to our community center,’’ she said. “That is the best part.’’

    Pictured from left to right. Back row: Carlisle Eley, Hunter Stewart, Gray's Creek
    Principal Lisa Stewart, Kim Ellington of Gray’s Creek Christian Center, Helen Thomas, Kayla Mady
    Front row: Garrett Harbison, Kylie Aldridge

  • 04 N1807P44009CI have read, and my wife has told me 1,000 times, “Do not read a newspaper or watch a TV newscast shortly before going to bed.” The warning is that doing so will interfere with my sleep.

    I certainly wish that I had followed that sound advice on Dec. 6, 2019. Instead, I made the mistake of reading The Fayetteville Observer online edition for that day. It included an opinion piece by Debra Figgins, who is president of the Fayetteville Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. The title was “County schools must address racial disparities in discipline.” I do not doubt that Figgins, and those she represents, firmly believe all that was presented in that opinion piece. What I say here intends no disrespect or lack of appreciation for Figgins or her sorority. However, her presentation disrupted my sleep because it was more of the arguments for actions that I believe fail to appropriately address the matter at hand. Inordinately high rates of serious disciplinary actions toward black students in public schools.

    Beyond not forthrightly determining and addressing the root causes of unacceptable conduct by black students, I see placing full blame and corrective responsibility on educators and other staff as unfair and doomed to failure. My observation is that this is by no means where the bulk of the blame and responsibility for correction should fall. This thinking did not just show up for me as a result of this opinion piece. Reading it was simply like gasoline on a smoldering fire.

    Being black and proud of it makes it very difficult to be silent when I see what feels like excuse-making and passing the buck when it comes to dealing with the unacceptable conditions and actions of some black Americans. My level of sadness and outrage generated by this excuse-making and buck-passing is heightened by various observations and experiences. Among the observations and experiences that send my sadness and outrage meter spiraling are the examples of attention given to charges of “white privilege.” White people today are supposed to feel guilty because of whatever advantage they supposedly have in life because of being white. Further, they are required to somehow compensate black Americans for some immeasurable disadvantage our ancestors suffered.

    The contention is that black Americans are still adversely impacted by slavery and all of the horrendous events that followed. I accept that position. I part ways with those who, under the “white privilege” umbrella, are comfortable seeking to solve problems plaguing black Americans by totally blaming white Americans and calling on them to fix our situation — while we accept no responsibility for causing or fixing our problems. All of this in a climate where, while not perfect, there are substantial opportunities for black Americans to succeed in life.

    For me, thinking such as that put forth by Figgins aligns with the excuse-making, pass-the-buck approach justified by claims of white privilege. As I reflected on the opinion piece and how what is proposed there is happening across the country, my thought was that white privilege is alleged, but black privilege is real. I could not sleep.

    Figgins opens by explaining: “The Social Action Committee of the Fayetteville Alumnae Chapter (FAC) wrote a resolution entitled, ‘Resolution to Eliminate Racial Disparities in School Suspensions and Stop the School to Prison Pipeline’ to address an issue that not only plagues Cumberland County Schools, but the state and nation as well.” She then presents statistics regarding this issue: “Unfortunately, this October Cumberland County Schools and North Carolina Department of Public Instruction reported in 2017-2018, black girls were suspended at 7 times the rate of white girls. Black boys were suspended at 5 times the rate of white boys. Black students were suspended at 5.5 times the rate of white students. Seventy percent of short-term suspensions in Cumberland County Schools were black students.

    “Eighty-two percent of long-term suspensions were black students. It is time to identify more effective strategies to eliminate placing students of color on a path to prison.”

    The resolution closes as follows: “Resolved, that the Fayetteville Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, on behalf of its members: 1. urges the Cumberland County Board of Education to develop policies that will significantly reduce racial disparities in suspensions; 2. requests that all Cumberland County School employees and Board of Education members be required to participate in cultural sensitivity to enhance their ability to work with racially and ethnically diverse populations; 3. requests that the leadership of Cumberland County Schools annually evaluate each school’s disciplinary policies using a racially equitable lens to determine if those polices disparately impact students of racial minorities; 4. advocates for greater diversity in the hiring of teachers and administrators within the Cumberland County School District; 5. recognizes that implementing systemic change to affect positive outcomes for students of color requires involvement by community stakeholders; 6. commits fully to bring about this needed change by supporting Cumberland County Schools through engagement with school officials, serving on system-wide committees, acting as mentors to students and supporting teachers, parents and student resource providers; and 7. believes that together we can significantly impact the quality of education for all students in Cumberland County Schools.”

    As I read this opinion piece, my impression was that the school system, especially teachers and school staff, are being called on to do the fixing of this problem. I see nothing that puts the responsibility on anybody else. Maybe this resolution addresses school personnel and there is another one that speaks to students and their responsibilities/conduct. Maybe the same is the case with parents. If an equal level of scrutiny and pressure is being applied to Cumberland County students and parents, please show me.

    If I have accurately assessed what is being called for here, it means special treatment of disruptive black students while disadvantaging educators and nondisruptive students. For educators, that disadvantaging comes by way of adding a multitude of new requirements to a workload that is very likely already overwhelming for most. Further, the additional requirements, without attention to parental and student responsibilities, are doomed to failure. Sadly, students, without regard to race, will be disadvantaged in that teachers will have even less time and energy for helping them in their education process.

    The bottom line is that this is a call for special treatment of black students, while disadvantaging educators and other students, even those black students who want to learn and do not present disciplinary problems. This is “black privilege.”

    What is being proposed by Figgins and her sorority is not new. Not only have the kinds of proposals put forth here been considered elsewhere, many have been implemented. This from a 2014 article by Kimberly Hefling titled, “Government issuing recommendations for classroom discipline.”

    It states, “The Obama administration on Wednesday pressed the nation’s schools to abandon what it described as overly zealous discipline policies that send students to court instead of the principal’s office. Even before the announcement, school districts around the country have been taking action to adjust the policies that disproportionately affect minority students.”

    The following statement from a Dec. 19, 2018, article by Jonathan Butcher titled, “Obama’s School Discipline Guidance Could Be Doomed. Here’s Why That’s Great News” gives a critical clarification the Obama guidance: “And a letter drafted by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty and signed by state-based research institutes questioned the Dear Colleague letter’s use of ‘disparate impact.’ The federal guidance used this legal theory to threaten schools with investigations if schools disciplined students from certain races more often — even if the same students broke rules more frequently than their peers.”

    Key on “… even if the same students broke rules more frequently than their peers.” I contend this piece of information is further support for the label of “black privilege.” This is special treatment of one group while disadvantaging others. Based on the Obama guidance, schools across this nation implemented the kinds of actions called for by Figgins.

    Now comes the test of all that I have argued to this point. An article on Dec. 21, 2018, by Francisco Vara-Orta, titled, “It’s official: DeVos has axed Obama discipline guidelines meant to reduce suspensions of students of color” begins with this opening paragraph: “It’s official: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has rescinded the guidance issued by the Obama administration directing schools to reduce racial disparities in how they discipline students.” Although the guidelines have been rescinded, school systems are given the authority to determine disciplinary policies at the local level.

    Despite the rescinding of the Obama guidelines, I expect that local school systems will still be pressured to take the kinds of actions called for by those guidelines. That is exactly what is happening in the resolution effort underway by Figgins and the Fayetteville Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Far more often than not, school systems will yield to these demands. Black privilege is real in America.
  • 10 Stock photoLet’s do business! As a small business owner, as well as a member of the Fayetteville City Council, our Council’s strategic goal of having a diverse and viable economy is one that is near and dear to my heart. It is so important that we foster an environment where businesses can thrive and grow.

    Along with proclaiming January as Building Local Business month, I want to encourage all local businesses to attend the fourth annual Building Business Rally on Thursday, Jan. 30, at the Ramada Plaza, from 2-6 p.m., to learn about opportunities to win local government bids and contracts.

    The event features purchasing and procurement representatives for Fayetteville and Cumberland County’s largest buyers, including many from the city of Fayetteville. Each has needs and offers opportunities for local vendors — suppliers, professional service providers and prime and subcontractors of all sizes. The event is an ongoing initiative to educate and engage local businesses on how to do business with our organizations as well as the types of goods and services we need.

    Businesses that attend will have the opportunity to meet and talk with representatives from the city of Fayetteville’s purchasing department, Community Development, the Fayetteville Area System of Transit, and Vector Fleet Maintenance, who manages the city’s fleet.

    The city currently has budgeted millions of dollars for a multitude of projects and initiatives that city leaders would love nothing more than to spend locally. Examples range from the continued work on the Parks and Recreation bond projects — the sports field complex, Jordan Soccer Complex and the Senior Center East — to Fayetteville Regional Airport renovations, sidewalk and streetscape improvements and over $4 million in stormwater projects.

    Closely related to city projects, representatives from Prince Charles Holdings will also be available at the event. Prince Charles Holdings’ private investment in our downtown area is complimenting ongoing city initiatives, and they also have needs for services, materials and contractors.

    Other organizations participating in the Building Business Rally include Cape Fear Valley Hospital System, Cumberland County, Cumberland County Schools, Fayetteville State University, Fayetteville Technical Community College, the town of Hope Mills, the town of Spring Lake and the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

    To help businesses take full advantage of the opportunities presented by the event, organizers — the Greater Fayetteville Chamber, Small Business and Technology Development Center, and Cumberland County N.C. Works — have scheduled a series of Building Business Rally Workshops before the Jan. 30 event. Presented by the SBTC, topics of the two remaining workshops, which will be Jan. 9 and Jan. 23, include information that can help businesses get results when attending the Building Business Rally. Workshops will be held at the PWC Administrative Offices at 955 Old Wilmington Rd. at 6 p.m., and the Building Business Rally is scheduled for Jan. 30, from 2-6 p.m., at the Ramada Plaza on Owen Drive.

    All events are free. Additional details about the workshops and Building Business rally, as well as event registration and local contracting opportunities, can be found at www.faybids.com.
  • 19 01 colin baumgartnerColin Baumgartner

    Jack Britt • Swimming/cross country/track• Junior

    Baumgartner has a weighted grade point average of 4.35. He is one of the captains of the swim team and is on the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Student Athletic Committee for Region IV. He ranks 19th in a class of 495 students.

    19 02 Anna MillerAnna Miller

    Jack Britt• Swimming• Senior

    Miller has a weighted grade point average of 4.34. She is a captain of the Jack Britt swim team and practices year round with the Fayetteville Aquatic Swim Team. She also coaches younger swimmers.

  • 18 01 Vernon Aldridge copyBeginning with the fall semester this year, incoming sixth graders and ninth graders in the Cumberland County Schools will get a clean slate when it comes to allowing them to participate in extracurricular activities at the school they’re attending.

    Cumberland County is one of a number of school systems around the state that holds students to a higher standard when it comes to allowing them to take part in things like athletics, band, chorus and school clubs.

    They must maintain a grade point average of 2.0 or better to be eligible for extracurricular activities.

    At a recent meeting of the Cumberland County Board of Education, board members voted to lower that requirement for incoming sixth graders and ninth graders, giving them a clean slate and allowing them to take part in all extracurricular events during their first semester at their new schools.

    Once the initial nine-week semester is over, if they haven’t managed to maintain a 2.0 average, the rule kicks in and they will be ineligible until their grades improve.

    Vernon Aldridge, student activities director for the county schools, along with board members Greg West and Susan Williams support the change as a way to help the incoming sixth and ninth graders deal with what is traditionally a difficult transition period by allowing them to become as fully involved in activities at their new school as possible.

    Aldridge said he meets with county high school football coaches every February, and they brought up the idea of allowing the sixth and ninth graders to be able to waive the 2.0 requirement.
    18 02 susan williams copy
    “They don’t lose a lot of athletes once they get them into the program and monitor their grades,’’ Aldridge said. “We know when kids belong to something, whether it’s athletics or arts, they do better in school.’’

    Williams, who taught choral music for 32 years, said there is research available that shows social and emotional outcomes of students improve when they are involved with the arts.

    “One of my biggest concerns is if they are not allowed to start those programs in the sixth and ninth grades, they may never get back there,’’ she said. “I’ve had students come back to me through the years and say, ‘Ms. Williams, if it hadn’t been for your class, I would have been struggling everywhere else.’ ’’

    She noted that ninth-grade band students get to spend a summer at camp with fellow band members and begin school in fall with as many as 100 or more new friends.

    “They have already been able to fit into the mold of that new school,’’ she said.

    West agreed with Williams that studies show the more engaged students are in all activities a school offers, the better they perform academically.

    “It’s extremely important to get plugged in when you’re at a new school for the first time,’’ he said. “If they don’t plug in early, they’re far less likely to plug in later.

    18 03 Greg West copy“The bottom line is they need more caring adults in their lives, not less.’’

    West said extracurricular activities give students more access to those kinds of adults. Giving them greater access to those activities is what needs to happen, he said, adding, “First semester sixth grade and first semester ninth grade are probably the two most critical thresholds for these kids to shape their middle and high school careers.’’

    Pictures from top to bottom: Vernon Aldridge, Susan Williams, Greg West

  • 11 Biggers HazelGallery 208 is privileged to start the new year with a selection of original works by the late American artist John Biggers. Best known for his narrative murals, John Biggers dedicated his work to the depiction of the human condition and the interdependence of family — from ancestry to the multigenerational. The exhibition, “John Biggers: The Lasting Legacy,” opens Jan. 14 at Gallery 208 in Fayetteville.

    Born in Gastonia, North Carolina, John Biggers (1924-2001) was the youngest of seven children. Cora Biggers worked as a housekeeper and Paul Biggers was a teacher, principal and minister. Both parents encouraged all their children to pursue an education. In 1941, John Biggers enrolled in Virginia’s Hampton Institute, now known as Hampton University. Biggers’ education at Hampton Institute, growing up in North Carolina, and his later travels to Africa, would become the underpinning for his success as an artist and an educator.

    At Hampton Institute, Biggers studied art under Viktor Lowenfeld and became friends with two fellow students: Charles White and Elizabeth Catlett  — both White and Catlett would become historically important African-American artists. In 1943, while still a student, Biggers’ mural, “Dying Soldier,” was featured in the landmark exhibition “Young Negro Art,” organized by Lowenfeld for New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

    Biggers followed his mentor, Lowenfeld, to Pennsylvania State University to study the art of mural painting. It was at Pennsylvanian State University that Biggers’ academic career unfolded; he earned a master’s in art education in 1948 and a Ph.D. in 1954. While still working on his dissertation, Biggers moved to Houston, Texas, in 1949 to start an art department at Texas Southern University, known as Texas State College for Negroes. Biggers became chairman of the art department and remained at the university until his retirement in 1983.

    Early artistic recognition included the first prize at the annual exhibition of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston for his painting, “The Cradle,” in 1950. A pivotal event occurred in 1957 when Biggers was invited to participate in a six-month fellowship in Africa — the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization tour. Biggers became one of the first African-American artists t to travel to the newly independent Ghana.

    Because of the UNESCO fellowship, Biggers and his wife Hazel were able to visit several countries: Nigeria, Togo, Dahomey — now the Republic of Benin, and Ghana. In Ghana, they met and became friends with scholar Patrick Hulede, who enlightened them about Ghanaian culture and history. Biggers’ experiences in Africa and his friendship with Hulede became  significant influences on Biggers’ view of the world and his personal history and shaped a lifetime of artistic pursuits.

    After receiving a second award, the Danforth Foundation’s E. Harris Harbison Award for Distinguished Teaching, Biggers and his wife were able to travel for an additional six months to other countries in Africa. But it was his first trip to Ghana, Nigeria and other parts of Africa that inspired Biggers to create an award-winning illustrated book titled “Ananse: The Web of Life in Africa.”

    By the 1960s, when Abstract Expressionism and Pop art were the fad styles, Biggers forged his style based on ancestral heritage, African art, Southern black culture, nature and his everyday experiences. In his creative pursuit as an artist, an educator and an activist, Biggers became a major contributor to American art and culture for the next 50 years. In 1995, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and Hampton University Art Museum organized his first comprehensive retrospective exposing the depth of his legacy.

    Best stated by gallery owner Michael Rosenfield, “John Biggers died in 2001, leaving behind a body of work that, as Maya Angelou stated, leads us through his expressions into the discovery of ourselves at our most intimate level.”
    Rosenfield also stated: “Biggers drew inspiration from African art and culture, from the injustices of a segregated United States, from the stoic women of his own family and from the heroism of everyday survival.”
    During his long-celebrated career and achievements as an artist, Biggers agreed to do a retrospective of his work at the Fayetteville Museum of Art in the 1980s. The museum exhibition and his work being exhibited locally during the past 15 years are the direct results of Biggers’ ties to family.

    Biggers’ niece, Andretta Hales, lives in Fayetteville and was instrumental in having her uncle’s exhibit at the Fayetteville Museum of Art. Hales worked with Tom Grubb, president of the Fayetteville Museum of Art, to bring the one-person exhibit of Biggers’ work to the community. Since then, Hales has worked with Calvin Mims of the Ellington White Contemporary Gallery in Fayetteville to exhibit his original works in local exhibitions.

    Past group exhibitions in Fayetteville include the Fayetteville Arts Council, and most recently, Hales worked with Fayetteville State University Professor Dwight Smith for the January 2019 exhibition at Rosenthal Gallery titled “Celebrating Heritage: Selected Works from the John and Hazel Biggers Collection of African and African American Art.”

    Hales, Smith and Mims have all been an integral part of Gallery 208 being able to exhibit Biggers’ work. The exhibit at Gallery 208 is part of a larger collaboration with Ellington White Contemporary Gallery and Rosenthal Gallery at FSU. Ellington White Contemporary Gallery on Gillespie Street is exhibiting National Black American Art Exhibition, Jan.15-March 14. “Works of Paper by Ben Jones” will be on exhibit at Rosenthal Gallery at FSU between Jan. 22 and Feb. 28.
    The public is invited to the reception at Gallery 208 of “John Biggers: The Lasting Legacy” on Jan. 14 between 5:30 and 7 p.m. During the opening, Andretta Hales will be introduced at 6:15 p.m. to briefly address her personal history with Biggers, his life and his work.

    “John Biggers: The Lasting Legacy” will remain at Gallery 208 until March 20 for visitors to be able to see work by a celebrated American artist — an artist from North Carolina whose works evoke the value and strength of family and heritage. Gallery 208, is located at 208 Rowan St. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call Gallery 208 for information about the exhibit at 910-484-6200.

  • 09doubt Gilbert Theater continues its season with “Doubt,” which will run Feb. 1-17. The play is by John Patrick Shanley. Gilbert Theater Artistic Director Matthew Overturf will direct it.

    “This play is set in 1964, and the playwright, John Patrick Shanley, writes in the prologue that when he wrote it, he thought about this time and it was as if the world was going through a giant puberty,” said Overturf. “There was so much change occurring during this time, such as The Civil Rights Act being passed. And John F. Kennedy had just been assassinated the year before.”

    Overturf noted that the Catholic Church had just gone through a significant change. The Vatican II Council was trying to become more open and welcoming and look a bit more like the communities it served, he explained. Everything was shifting and changing during this time.

    The drama involves Sister Aloysius, a Bronx Catholic school principal, who takes matters into her own hands when she suspects the parish priest, Father Flynn, of improper relations with one of the male students.

    As Aloysius and the Father face off, it brings out the worst in both of them and reveals weaknesses, humanity and doubt in so many things. The production deals with the struggle of faith and doubt, right and wrong, and the gray area in between.

    “The male student happens to be the first African-American student in the school because the school had just become desegregated,” said Overturf. “Basically, the play becomes about Sister Aloysius’ crusade against Father Flynn. She brings on Sister James, a fairly young nun, to kind of help in this because (Sister James) is the teacher of the student.”

    The play is called “Doubt” for a reason. “There are a lot of circumstantial things and a lot of ideas that Sister Aloysius has that may not necessarily be founded in facts or truths, but she has her suspicions,” said Overturf. “And those, to her, are just as important as any facts.”

    Overturf continued, “We have a phenomenal cast. It is an important play for me because I fell in love with it in college and always wanted to direct it. It is a hard-hitting play.

    “What I love about it is that it is guaranteed to cause you to leave and talk about it. People will be discussing it and what they believe the outcome is because it is a wonderful show.”

    For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit www.gilberttheater.com or call 910-678-7186.

  • 01coverUAC013019001 For Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra Music Director Stefan Sanders, programming concerts for holidays can be especially fun. The Feb. 9 “Love is in the Air” concert is no exception. It includes classic pieces sure to stir the soul as well as a performance by guest pianist Anton Nel, who will perform Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 2.”

    “Concerts close to holidays offer an opportunity to program thematically, and love and romance and longing for someone are a major part of the human condition,” said Sanders. “Putting together a concert is like creating a menu. You want to put together things that pair well and accent each other and are palatable. Think about the songs we listen to on the radio. As people, we have strong feelings, and there is a lot of great music that is love-inspired.”

    And there will be plenty of them in this performance. Whether it’s romance or great music you are after, FSO has a well-programmed performance set for the weekend before Valentine’s Day. The playlist includes selections from Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet,” plus iconic music from “Casablanca” and “West Side Story.”

    “The symphony is going to play some incredible, beloved romantic music — some of the songs will be very recognizable,” Sanders said. “There is also a lot of music that has been used in TV and film so that the audience will hear it, and even if they don’t know it by name, they will recognize it.”

    Special guest Anton Nel has been an international performance pianist for nearly four decades. He is also an acclaimed harpsichordist and fortepianist. But it is not just his talent that makes him a great fit for this FSO concert. Sanders credits Nel with inspiring not just audiences but the performers with whom he shares the stage — a pleasure Sanders has had more than once.

    “Any time you work with someone, there are some unknowns,” Sanders said. “But just the rapport with someone you have worked with and can trust makes for a positive experience. And Anton is an incredible artist. He is renowned for his interpretation of certain composers. I think the other performers will enjoy working with someone of this caliber.

    “I have seen several performances with Anton and other greats where their artistry inspires everyone else on the stage to be their absolute best. Anton is one of those artists who brings out the best in other artists.”

    The piece Nel is playing is significant for more than one reason. It’s great music, but the back story is also something many people will be able to relate to and find hope in. It’s about mental health. Early in Rachmaninoff’s career, he wrote a symphony. When it premiered, the performance was abysmal. The audience hated it.

    “This threw him into a very deep depression,” said Sanders. “He was at the bottom. Thankfully, he was able to get help.”

    A therapist helped Rachmaninoff to get out of his deep depression. And Rachmaninoff did more than just survive. He started thriving. “He felt inspired to write a second concert,” said Sanders. “And he dedicated it to his therapist, Nikolai Dahl. It goes to show that the things people deal with today are similar to what people dealt with years ago.”

    With a mission to educate, entertain and inspire the citizens of the Fayetteville region as the leading musical resource, FSO is creative in its programming and outreach initiatives. The organization is built on the premise that great symphonic music should affordable and fun.

    One of the initiatives that aims to make the symphony fun and approachable to everyone is the “Music Nerd” preconcert talks. About 45 minutes before the concert begins, Sanders and FSO Musicologist Joshua Busman will take the stage. Sanders described the Music Nerd portion as a casual chat. “It is a way for curious minds to learn about the music and other interesting facts related to the programming,” Sanders said. “Often, people like to have more context than what a program note provides. It is a way for people to learn more about the music we are going to play.”

    FSO also provides program notes on its website so attendees will have a good idea about what the performance will contain. The program notes are available at www.fayettevillesymphony.org.

    Methodist University will host the concert at Huff Concert Hall, 5400 Ramsey St. The Music Nerd talk starts at 6:45 p.m. The concert starts at 7 p.m. Visit www.fayettevillesymphony.org or call 910-433- 4690 for tickets and information.

  • 07priority issues  Fayetteville City Council members will meet next month for their annual planning retreat. Last week, they held a preliminary session designed to zero in on issues they believe most important to the people in the year ahead. For the first time in many years, crime control is not on the list.

    The priorities include initiating a development plan for the Murchison Road corridor. Members have been talking about economic improvement along the roadway for years. Mayor Mitch Colvin owns Colvin Funeral Home & Crematory at 2010 Murchison Rd. Murchison Road stretches for 10 miles from downtown Fayetteville to Spring Lake.

    City Council plans to take on the revitalization in segments, the first being from the new Rowan Street railroad overpass to Langdon Street, just beyond Fayetteville State University. Local business development, improved street lighting, additional bus stops and mobility are potential areas of improvement. It “could be 15, 20 years before this whole corridor is done,” said Mayor Pro Tem Ted Mohn.

    Another area of interest to council would be the city’s investment in a modern, high-speed broadband system. Councilman Jim Arp spoke of making Fayetteville a Top 50 smart technology city, saying “information is the commerce of the next century.”

    The city administration calls these special interest projects targets for action. Other projects include completion of the comprehensive land use plan, development and maintenance of city street and stormwater systems, and development of options for a young adult engagement program and an internship program.

    The objective of the session was to get the council thinking in greater detail about the goals it will concentrate on during the annual planning retreat. In addition to public safety concerns, they scratched development of parks and recreation programs from their list. P&R Committee Chair Kathy Jensen noted that passage of the $35 million bond referendum three years ago had stabilized funding needs.

    The list of targets for action did not include crime control in Fayetteville. Statistics continue to reflect an overall upward trend in crime over 17 years with both violent and property crimes increasing. Based on this trend, the crime rate in Fayetteville for 2019 is expected to be higher than in 2016 according to CityRating.com. The city had a record number of homicides in 2016 — 33.

    In 2016, the violent crime rate in Fayetteville was higher than the violent crime rate in North Carolina by 103.42 percent, and the city’s property crime rate was higher than the property crime rate in North Carolina by 66.23 percent.

    The source of data on Fayetteville crime rates is the FBI Report of Offenses Known to Law Enforcement. The projected crime rate data was generated from the trends and crime information available from previous years of reported data. The FBI cautions that statistics comparing yearly data solely on the basis of population is meaningful only upon further examination of all variables that affect crime.

  • 03banknotes bills cash 164652 Almost 50 years ago, “Deep Throat” gave Washington Post investigative journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward advice so fundamental that Americans, both journalists and ordinary citizens, have found it useful ever since. “Follow the money,” whispered the thenanonymous source in the murky depths of a Washington, D.C., parking garage. His admonition resulted in the only presidential resignation in American history, at least so far.

    Money both ebbs and flows, so let’s take a look at some that is flowing — or soon will be.

    China, with whom President Donald Trump and his family have conflicted relationships, has granted Ivanka Trump preliminary approval for five additional trademarks. These involve sunglasses, child care centers, wedding dresses and brokerage, charitable fundraising, and art valuation services.

    Ivanka’s supporters argue the trademarks are necessary to protect her famous name from others who might seek to capitalize on it. Critics say that a Trump asking a foreign government for valuable trademark rights opens the door to pressure from that nation in all sorts of government negotiations. It unquestionably lays out the welcome mat for lucrative business possibilities in the future.

    That money faucet is poised to flow. 

    Money also ebbs, even disappears, for both individuals and entities. The Public School Forum of North Carolina, a nonpartisan advocate for public education, charged this month that reduced funding to traditional public schools in favor of charter and private schools has undermined public education for millions of North Carolina students. The vast majority of our children are in traditional public schools. The group urged the General Assembly to “renew North Carolina’s commitment to public schools for the public good.”

    Said Lauren Fox of the Public School Forum, “Recent policy decision have served to discredit, defund and devalue our state’s public education system.”

    Rural North Carolina also suffers from a money flow that has morphed into a money trickle from both public and private sources. Some small towns and rural areas are highly creative in making their communities unique in some way to combat the increasing concentration of resources — cultural, educational and monetary — in growing urban areas. Others are flattened by the lack of opportunity that sends their young folks to “the big city,” be it in North Carolina or somewhere else.

    Our state, once known as “Variety Vacationland,” is blessed with one-of-a-kind nooks and crannies from Murphy to Manteo and Tuxedo to Turkey. Our travel dollars would be well spent giving ourselves special memories and helping prime our small towns’ money faucets.

    And, money does indeed grow, even if not on trees. Increasingly, in the United States and other developed countries, wealth is concentrating in the coffers of the few while the many accumulate debt.

    Statistics abound and vary, but virtually all find that the richest are getting richer. CNN reported last year that the top 1 percent of Americans now hold 38 percent of the nation’s wealth, up from just under 34 percent a decade ago, while the bottom 90 percent holds about 23 percent of the wealth, down from 28 percent.

    Within those numbers are significant racial and ethnic gaps. The Pew Research Center reports that since the Great Recession of the last decade, white families continue to hold more wealth than other demographic groups.

    In addition, while we may not know the exact numbers ourselves, we do understand our economic system is not working for many of us. The World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, this month released polling results. They reveal that Americans, along with people in other developed nations, are losing faith in capitalism. Nearly two-thirds of Americans surveyed no longer believe our economic system is a path to upward mobility.

    “Deep Throat” steered the intrepid reporters toward criminal activities that changed the course of our nation and made millions of Americans distrustful of our government. The ebb and flow of money is not usually criminal, but it affects all of us, and we should be aware of when and how. We should also press for policy changes when we believe they are needed.

  • 06Joshua Beale 2  A Fort Bragg Green Beret died from enemy gunfire in Afghanistan Jan. 22. The Department of Defense announced the death of Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Z. Beale, 32, of Carrollton, Virginia. He was mortally wounded by enemy small-arms fire during combat operations in Uruzgan Province, the DOD said in a news release. SFC Beale was a member of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg and was posthumously promoted to sergeant first class, a spokesman with the U.S. Army Special Operations Command said.

    “He will be greatly missed by everyone who had the fortunate opportunity to know him. We extend our deepest condolences to his family for this tragic loss,” said Col. Nathan Prussian, commander of 3rd Special Forces Group. This was Beale’s fourth combat deployment, and his third tour to Afghanistan.

    Will the city join the county at its 911 center?

    A nondescript, gated building that formerly housed U.S. Defense Department offices is the future home of Cumberland County’s joint 911 communications and emergency operations centers.

    Surveillance cameras are mounted on every corner of the structure. Perimeter wrought iron fencing is K-rated, which means the barrier provides anti-terrorism crash protection. County government bought the 17,000 square-foot building at the intersection of Ravenhill Drive and Executive Place for $5.1 million.

    Consultants will develop designs and preliminary cost estimates for renovations, which Assistant County Manager Tracey Jackson said will cost as much as $17 million, including upgraded communications equipment.

    “Building a new center would cost more than $30 million,” Jackson said. “Our communications center and emergency operations center are outdated and obsolete.”

    Officials noted that the county will request state grant funding from the North Carolina 911 Board of Directors. The city of Fayetteville and county commissioners have been debating whether to undertake a joint effort to consolidate 911 operations for several years.

    County Commission Chair Jeannette Council said she has been in touch with Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin regarding the city’s interest in a joint venture and is awaiting a response. “We have been talking about building a new emergency services center for years,” she said. A “path is before us now, and we are excited about what lies ahead.”

    Congressional election still undecided

    With the seating of a new North Carolina Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement pending, the state’s 9th Congressional District still has no representation in Congress. Much of Cumberland County is in the district.

    A state board evidentiary hearing on alleged election improprieties was canceled when courts ruled the board’s makeup was unconstitutional and dissolved it. In a separate court action, Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway denied Republican Mark Harris’ effort to be declared winner of the November election. He said the incoming elections board doesn’t have to certify the results of the election until the investigation into alleged absentee ballot fraud is completed.

    “Why are we looking at a dramatic intervention by one branch of government into the functioning of another branch of government?” the judge asked. “That’s an extraordinary step to ask a court to take.”

    Democratic leaders in the U.S. House have already said they won’t seat Harris until the fraud allegations have been resolved. Harris led Democrat Dan McCready by about 900 votes following the election, but the state board has refused to certify that because of suspicious absentee voting results in Bladen and Robeson counties.

    Gene Booth named new Emergency Services director

    Cumberland County Manager Amy Cannon has announced the promotion of Woodson E. “Gene” Booth to director of Cumberland County Emergency Services. He succeeds Randy Beeman, who resigned in July to accept a position in Durham County. Booth has worked for Cumberland County Emergency Services for almost 15 years, most recently as the Emergency Management Program Coordinator and fire marshal.

    “Mr. Booth has demonstrated that he has the experience, skills and character to lead our Emergency Services Department, and that was especially evident as he managed the Emergency Operations Center during Hurricane Florence,” Cannon said.

    Booth is a Hoke County native. He graduated from Cape Fear High School and has more than 21 years of public safety experience. During his tenure, he led the county’s emergency management efforts for Hurricanes Matthew and Florence.

    FSU/Lafayette Society collaboration

    Wednesday, Feb. 6, at 6 p.m., The Lafayette Society will partner with the Fayetteville State University Black History Scholars Association to co-host a presentation by Dr. Robert Taber about the Haitian Revolution. Taber is assistant professor of History at FSU, where he has taught courses about U.S., African-American, Latin American and French history since 2016.

    “His audience will be introduced to the major events, themes and personalities of the Haitian Revolution, and (he) will highlight the ways the revolution influenced the coming of the U.S. Civil War,” said Lafayette Society President Hank Parfitt.

    In 1775, slavery was legal everywhere in the Americas. By 1890, it was legal nowhere. The rebellion in Haiti, 1789-1804, is regarded as the most successful uprising of enslaved people in the history of the world.

    The event will take place in the Rudolph Jones Student Center on the campus of FSU, and it is free and open to the public. For more information, email hankparfitt@embarqmail.com or visit www.lafayettesociety.org.

    Photo: Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Beale

  • 13SuperBowl Up & Coming Weekly polled the ten Cumberland County Schools senior high school football coaches on who they think this year’s Super Bowl winner will be.

    Deadline constraints forced us to contact them prior to the playing of the American Football Conference and National Football Conference championship games the weekend of Sunday, Jan. 30.

    The AFC finals had New England at Kansas City while the NFC game had the Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans.

    Super Bowl LIII will be Sunday, Feb. 3, at 6:30 p.m. at Mercedes- Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. The game will be televised by CBS.

    Up & Coming Weekly gave the coaches the option of picking both conference championship games and choosing a Super Bowl winner or just picking a Super Bowl winner from all four teams.

    Here’s what they said, along with my prediction at the end.

    Rodney Brewington, South View — Brewington picks Kansas City over the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl. “Kansas City has better quarterback play,’’ he said.

    Deron Donald, E.E. Smith — “The best four teams are left,’’ Donald said. “I may have to go with experience over talent this time. Kansas City and Los Angeles are probably two of the most talented and explosive teams in a while. However, Drew Brees (New Orleans quarterback) and Tom Brady (New England quarterback) are proven winners and have excelled on the big stage multiple times. With that being said, New Orleans and New England in the Super Bowl.’’

    Donald’s score pick — New England 38, New Orleans 35.

    Ernest King, Westover — King picks the Los Angeles Rams. “I feel they have a good enough defense to put pressure on the opposing quarterback,’’ he said. “Offensively, they have a good running game and they throw the ball well enough to have a balanced attack.’’

    David Lovette, Gray’s Creek — New Orleans Saints. “I’m not real sure about my pick, but the Saints are as good as any,’’ Lovette said.

    Duran McLaurin, Seventy-First — McLaurin picks Kansas City over New Orleans.

    Bruce McClelland, Terry Sanford — “Young gun (Patrick) Mahomes (Kansas City quarterback) sneaks past Tom Brady and the (New England) Patriots,’’ McClelland said. “Drew Brees (New Orleans quarterback) and Sean Payton (head coach of New Orleans) squeak by the Los Angeles Rams in a high-scoring affair.

    “New Orleans Saints 31, Kansas Chiefs 30 in the Super Bowl. Brees and Payton get ring No. two.’’

    Mike Paroli, Douglas Byrd — Paroli picks the home teams in the conference championship games, Kansas City and New Orleans. In the Super Bowl, he likes the Saints over the Chiefs.

    Brian Randolph, Jack Britt — Randolph picks New England in the AFC and New Orleans in the AFC.

    “I am expecting two really explosive championship games, with all four teams lighting up the scoreboard,’’ he said. “I think in the end the Patriots and Saints will prevail and give us all a Super Bowl for the ages.

    “My team (Carolina) was eliminated long ago, so I am just hoping for a really good game between two well-coached teams.’’

    Randolph picks the New Orleans Saints to win it all.

    Bill Sochovka, Pine Forest —Sochovka likes the New Orleans Saints in the Super Bowl.

    “Any team but New England,’’ he said. “I would love to see Drew Brees get another Super Bowl ring. He is a great quarterback but an even better human being who gives back to the community.’’

    Jacob Thomas, Cape Fear — “Both games are very interesting matchups with high-powered offenses,’’ Thomas said. “I want to go with the new blood, flashy quarterback, but my gut says don’t go against (Bill) Belichick/(Tom) Brady (of New England).

    “New England beats the Chiefs in the AFC. I’m going with what I think gets the slight edge in quarterback-coach combination. The Saints outscore the Rams in the NFC.

    “In the Super Bowl, I’m going with the Patriots to win it against all odds.”

    And, just for fun:

    Earl Vaughan Jr., Up & Coming Weekly — The early odds favor New Orleans to win it all, but I’m going to let my heart overrule them. My dad’s family is from Missouri, with many of my relatives living near the Kansas City area.

    I think New Orleans is a tough out in the Superdome, so I’m picking them to win the NFC title while I’ll take Kansas City to get the most of home field and the play of Patrick Mahomes against the always-tough Patriots in the AFC final.

    For the Super Bowl, I’m pulling with my relatives for the Chiefs, along with long-suffering coach Andy Reid, who I would love to see finally get an NFL championship.

  • Meetings

    For details about all meetings and activities, including location where not listed, call Town Clerk Jane Starling at 910-426-4113. Until the Parks and Recreation building has been repaired following damage from Hurricane Florence, some meetings may be moved to Luther Meeting Room at Town Hall at regular dates and times. Those meetings are noted with an asterisk below.

    Board of Commissioners Monday, Feb. 4, 7 p.m., Luther Board Room, Town Hall

    Historic Preservation Commission Wednesday, Feb. 13, Parks and Recreation Center*

    Board of Commissioners Monday Feb. 18, Luther Meeting Room, Town Hall*

    Parks and Recreation Committee Monday, Feb. 25, 6:30 p.m., Parks and Recreation Center*

    Appearance Commission Tuesday, Feb. 26, 6:30 p.m., Parks and Recreation Center*

    Veterans Affairs Commission Thursday, Feb. 28, 7 p.m., Parks and Recreation Center*


    For more information on these activities, contact Meghan Hawkins at 910-426-4109.

    Hope Mills Area Kiwanis Club at Sammio’s, second Tuesdays at noon and fourth Tuesdays at 6 p.m. For details, call 910-237-1240.

    Promote yourself

    Email hopemills@upandcomingweekly.com.

  • 05FlyFayetteville The Jan. 16, 2019, issue of Up & Coming Weekly featured a Publisher’s Pen article by Bill Bowman about the virtues of the Fayetteville airport. Here are some of our readers’ unedited responses.

    Hi Bill!

    As usual on point! I learned the hard way about trying to save a couple of bucks flying out of RDU instead of Fayetteville. Long story short, it was a nightmare and I will never ever do it again! What really hurt Fayetteville is when U.S. Air merged with American Airlines and they cut the flights to and from Reagan National a couple of years ago.

    I frequently traveled to Washington when that flight was available because I have family in Maryland. And it was cheap! Maybe someday we will get it back — along with other destinations — but until then, flying to Charlotte or Atlanta will suffice. And you are also correct, the Pentagon is only two stops away from the Reagan National on the Metro Subway system. It was very convenient for people in the military.

    Have a great day!

    Nelson L. Smith


    Mr. Bowman is 110 percent correct in this article, “Fly Fayetteville!” I have found this airport for my wife and I to be far friendlier and more accommodating with us and her post knee surgery accommodations! Also, taking into account the almost two-hour, 90- mile trip, expensive RDU parking and time wasted, to us it makes sense to FLY FAYETTEVILLE!

    Matthew Fagin


    This isn’t a reflection on the airport. It’s a reflection on local government. That airport will never be more than a hub. But if they want large airlines to invest... they should give them something to invest in. They need to create industry in our community. And to do that they have to invest in our community! When you spend all of your time publicly disrespecting Fayetteville and all aspects of the community... you can’t really expect the residents to commit and you sure as hell can’t get outside agencies to commit. Local government owns that airport. They want it to be better, then they need to make it better. Or resign. Either option would be an improvement.

    Liz Blevins via Facebook

    Also in the Jan. 16 issue, Karl Merritt wrote about the government shutdown and misplaced outrage. Here is one reader’s response,

    As I read your column on the 34th day of the trump shut do down. Yes, it’s his shut down, he said he would do it, and he said he would own it. He did it but he is not owning it. He also said that Mexico would pay, they told him that they would not pay for his wall. Thump lied, and he continues to lie everyday. To close the government is only hurting honest hard working people. For you and thump to bring up the drug and crime components is disingenuous. Placing a wall on the southern border will not solve the drug and crime problem. This is a complete shut down of the federal government and it’s shameful. It’s people like you and trump that I pray for every night that God will change your hearts.

    James F. Hawkins

  • 08lending The new director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has asked Congress for explicit authority to strengthen its enforcement of financial protections for service members. Kathleen Kraninger wants specific authorization to conduct examinations of payday lenders and others under the CFPB’s jurisdiction to ensure the lenders are complying with the Military Lending Act.

    Kraninger’s appointment to the CFPB came under scrutiny in the Senate in December. She was a littleknown government employee. Her nomination was narrowly approved along party lines.

    A 2006 Department of Defense report detailed the harmful effects of high-interest loans on service members and on military readiness. In 2015, the Department of Defense tightened its implementing regulation to help prevent lenders from evading the rules. But last year, under then-acting CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney, the agency pulled back from its regular examinations of payday lenders, saying it didn’t have the authority to do those exams.

    In announcing her legislative proposal, which was submitted in January, Kraninger said the bureau’s commitment to the well-being of service members “includes ensuring that lenders subject to our jurisdiction comply with the Military Lending Act.”

    The law limits interest rates that can be charged to active-duty service members and their dependents to an annual percentage rate of 36 percent. Young service members, who are particularly vulnerable to these lenders, aren’t necessarily aware of complex laws that protect them and might not file complaints. Kraninger noted she was pleased to see the legislation proposed recently in the House of Representatives.

    The North Carolinas General Assembly has resisted efforts of payday lenders and other creditors to foist their high interest rates, often in the triple digits, on the people of this state. During years of back and forth on predatory lending, federal legislation has been inconsistent. Two years ago, a bill written by Congressman Patrick McHenry of western North Carolina would allow lenders with the most harmful lending practices to do business in the Tar Heel state.

    The North Carolina Consumer Finance Act governs check-cashing businesses and prohibits cash advances under some circumstances. A company known as Online Cash 4 Payday declares on its website that “borrowers looking for loans without a credit check or who have bad credit will need to look for alternative forms of financing.”

    North Carolina installment loans and personal loans are available and legal. There are dozens of small-loan and check-cashing store-front companies in Fayetteville. Online Cash 4 Pay said, “we are here to give you access to the money you need when your (sic) in a pinch … whether your (sic) needing a cash advance, installment loan, personal funds for debt consolidation, title loan, or any type of financial advance.”

    In anticipation of a proposal to revise debt collection rules expected in March, advocates from 74 national and state consumer groups sent a letter to Kraninger urging the bureau to focus on protecting consumers from abusive debt collection practices.

  • 02pub notes “Who’s on First” was a comedy routine made popular by comedians Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in the 1940s. It was clever and funny. The act centered on Abbott trying to explain to Costello the nature of a baseball game. The routine exemplified how difficult it can be trying to communicate an otherwise simple concept when the components of the event are misleading and confusing. Hence, the phrase, “Who’s on first?” took on the meaning, “Does anyone know what’s going on here?”

    That’s a question many Americans are asking as they watch our national government spiraling out of control, making innocent American citizens collateral damage to politicians’ petty and senseless personal, political agendas. Republican and Democratic parties are guilty of this pettiness — of both ignoring common sense and allegiance to their sworn responsibilities to the American people.

    This belligerent “my way or the highway” style of political thinking does not produce the kind of government that will preserve the future safety, rights and freedoms of American citizens.

    The pettiness of our leaders at the highest levels of government should have all Americans concerned. The 35-day government shutdown is the latest example of this. Shutdown for what? To keep from allocating $5 billion to President Trump for border security? That’s chump change in our federal budget.

    Is it worth putting our country in economic jeopardy and inflicting financial hardships on hundreds of thousands of innocent Americans? I think not. Again, Americans become collateral damage to the government elite as our leaders needlessly spend time and money on issues and situations that add nothing to America’s overall safety, well-being or quality of life. We deserve better. In this situation, we surely deserve more than a three-week continuing resolution granting a threeweek temporary reprieve. Now we have 800,000 federal employees holding their breaths, waiting in anticipation for the second shoe to drop. And, over what? Again, chump change and principle?

    This irresponsible behavior trickles down to our local governments, too. That is why we are paying so much attention to the Hope Mills commissioners — with the exception of Pat Edwards, who makes common-sense decisions on the town’s behalf. Mayor Pro Tem Mike Mitchell and fellow Commissioners Meg Larson, Jesse Bellflowers and Jerry Legge are hell-bent on discrediting Hope Mills Mayor Jackie Warner. It comes down to not wanting her to succeed or get credit for initiating projects that would benefit the town and endear her to the Hope Mills community.

    As a result, ordinances are adopted and unilateral decisions are made without citizen or staff input. This approach to politics has the town running amok, needlessly spending time and taxpayer money on an internal investigation that has yet to be defined — except to insinuate wrongdoing.

    Really? By whom? When? The real purpose is an attempt to embarrass and discredit Warner and to fulfill personal agendas that have nothing to do with the well-being of Hope Mills or its citizens. If Mitchell, Bellflowers, Larson and Legge wanted the best for Hope Mills, they would spend their time and efforts working together to move the town forward and not in finding fault with Warner’s aggressive and successful leadership style.

    Well, we can’t do much about the political situation in Washington, D.C. However, we can act locally. We love the Hope Mills community and will continue to support the town by being its community newspaper and its advocate. In reality, the growth, progress and opportunities in Hope Mills can overcome the negative impact of the town’s leadership — even with rumors and fake news circulation in the town undermining its leadership, progress and achievements.

    Up & Coming Weekly and Elizabeth Blevins’ informational website, Hope-Mills.net, are committed to keeping you abreast of news, events and information that affect all the citizens of Hope Mills and Cumberland County. Stay tuned. Good things are happening in Hope Mills, and we are pleased to be a part of it.

    Thanks for reading Up & Coming WeeklySubscribe to the electronic version free of charge at www.upandcomingweekly.comStay in the know!

  • 14CoolIt If you are the mother or father of a high school athlete here in North Carolina, this message is primarily for you.

    When you attend an athletic event that involves your son or daughter, cheer to your heart’s content, enjoy the camaraderie that high school sports offer, and have fun. But when it comes to verbally criticizing game officials or coaches, cool it.

    Make no mistake about it. Your passion is admired, and your support of the hometown team is needed. But so is your self-control. Yelling, screaming and berating the officials humiliates your child, annoys those sitting around you, embarrasses your child’s school and is the major contributing reason North Carolina is experiencing a shortage of high school officials.

    It’s true. According to a recent survey by the National Association of Sports Officials, more than 75 percent of all high school officials say “adult behavior” is the primary reason they quit. And 80 percent of all young officials hang up their stripes after just two years of whistle blowing. Why? They don’t need your abuse.

    Plus, there’s a ripple effect. There are more officials over 60 than under 30 in many areas. And as older, experienced officials retire, there aren’t enough younger ones to replace them. If there are no officials, there are no games. The shortage of licensed high school officials is severe enough in some areas of the country that athletic events are being postponed or cancelled — especially at the freshman and junior varsity levels.

    Research confirms that participation in high school sports and activities instills a sense of pride in school and community, teaches lifelong lessons like the value of teamwork and selfdiscipline and facilitates the physical and emotional  development of those who participate. So, if the games go away because there aren’t enough men and women to officiate them, the loss will be infinitely greater than just an “L” on the scoreboard. It will be putting a dent in your community’s future.

    If you would like to be a part of the solution to the shortage of high school officials, you can sign up to become a licensed official at HighSchoolOfficials.com.

    In Fayetteville and surrounding counties, you can also contact www.saoanc.org, the Southeastern Athletic Officials Association.

  • 15EJ E.J. McArthur

    Cape Fear • Basketball• Sophomore

    McArthur has a grade point average of 4.0. He’s a member of the Key Club, Future Business Leaders of America, Fear Factor and Distributive Education Clubs of America.





    Amelia Shook

    Cape Fear • Swimming/ cross country/soccer • Sophomore

    Shook has a weighted grade point average of 4.5. She is a member of the Key Club, Fear Factor and the History Club.

  • 10STEM Dr. Marilyn Lanier is an assistant professor in the Department of Elementary Education at Fayetteville State University. She is also the founder and organizer of the “Fall in Love with Math, Science & the Arts Expo.” She put on the inaugural event in 2016. It had 25 booths and saw 300 attendees. Fast forward to 2018 and there were 64 booths, and 800 people attended the expo. This year, Lanier hopes to see well over 1,000 people at the expo, which will take place Saturday, Feb. 16, at Fayetteville State University Capel Arena.

    It’s a celebration of math, science and the arts. The entire event is designed specifically to have fun but also to spark a passion for discovery and learning.

    “The country is moving into science and math, so STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering and math, covers a little of all these areas,” Lanier said. “This expo is a place where students can delve into science and try hands-on things. Students get to experience a variety of areas where they can see and get a good idea of what STEM is.”

    Lanier promised guests will find plenty to keep them engaged — including a trip to the FSU Aquarium. “We will shuttle them over to the science building, where they can take part in observing organisms and do hands-on activities,” she said. “Last year, they were able to touch lobsters. It was such an amazing experience. You could see on their faces that they were excited about that.”

    Look for static displays, including fire trucks, patrol cars, and an ambulance where people can get inside the vehicles and see how they work and talk to the people who use them. There will be plenty of other kinds of technology, too.

    “We will have robots,” Lanier said. “They can get finger-printed, see small animals and even do puttputt. Science is everywhere and that is what we want to show people. For example, putt-putt involves physics.”

    Though she leads the charge, Lanier said she is thankful for the support from the community. “When I started this, I wanted to connect with the community, and, because I’m a science person, I wanted to make hands-on experiences available to children. Being an educator, I know there is limited time in school where kids get a chance to do science hands-on.”

    She is not alone in her enthusiasm for sharing the joy of learning. She partners with the Cumberland County Public Library and Information Center and the Cumberland County Schools system as well as other institutions, including Methodist University.

    The expo is free to attend. “We try to make things very accessible,” Lanier said. “We want to get the message of STEM out there. We will have a lot of giveaways, and each booth will have something children can walk away with. Children are given a little bag to collect the goodies from the vendors —and they will get a lot of goodies,” she added.

    The expo is sponsored by Fayetteville State University Department of Education/College of Education. It will take place at Capel Arena, which is located at 1200 Murchison Rd. It starts at 1 p.m. and ends at 3:30 p.m.

    For more information, contact Dr. Marilyn Lanier at 910-672-1631 or mlanier1@uncfsu.edu.


  • 11Eddie Deese  Next month will mark the one-year anniversary of my editor, Stephanie Crider, asking me to take on the role of Hope Mills correspondent for Up & Coming Weekly.

    As I observe that milestone, I wanted to take a few minutes to share the backstory of my history with the town and why it is a special place to me.

    Although I was born in and spent the early years of my Up & Coming Weekly life in Massey Hill — which everyone with any history in Cumberland County knows to be the natural rival of Hope Mills on the athletic field — Hope Mills has been important to me since my youth.

    My late mother, Peggy Blount Vaughan, had many relatives in Hope Mills. As a girl, she’d catch the train in Fayetteville and ride out to Hope Mills on the weekends to spend time with her cousin, Mildred Starling.

    I temporarily lost contact with Hope Mills, and the entire Fayetteville area, when my family moved away from here in the mid-1960s so my dad, Earl Vaughan Sr., could begin his training as a Presbyterian minister. It was not until I graduated from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington in 1976 that I came back to Cumberland County.

    During my days as a Seahawk, I met a guy who not only reconnected me with Hope Mills but showed me more about the town and its people than I had ever known. His name was Eddie Dees, and he became my best friend.

    Eddie and I had a lot in common. We both loved sports, we were both interested in writing, and, for a time, we were on the same career path. As college students, we were both employed by Fayetteville Publishing Company as correspondents in the sports department, Eddie with The Fayetteville Times and me with The Fayetteville Observer.

    He graduated college before I did and returned to Hope Mills as a teacher at South View High School. Months later, he would help me get an interim position as an English teacher at South View.

    It was there our career paths diverged. Halfway into my three-month interim job at South View, a full-time position opened at The Fayetteville Observer in sports, where I had been working parttime since the summer of 1972. I took it and stayed there until September 2016.

    Eddie remained at South View until eventually leaving and going to Gray’s Creek High School and later Freedom Christian Academy before contracting pancreatic cancer, which eventually took his life in June 2016, months before I retired from the newspaper.

    You could not spend any amount of time around Eddie and not get a strong sense of his passion for the town of Hope Mills. He lived there all his life — from the house on the hill near the railroad bridge as a youth, to his home on South Main Street as an adult, to the dwelling of his final years at the corner of his beloved Hope Mills Lake with wife Susan and daughters Carey and Casey.

    He would share his fondness for his town in a book he wrote, “Hope Mills Heritage,” a book I was honored to have a small part in helping him write.

    He loved Hope Mills. He loved its people. And he especially loved its beautiful lake.

    When the dam first failed and the town lost the lake, he was crushed. Restoring the lake was a primary factor in his decision to enter politics and successfully run for Hope Mills mayor.

    We used to spend hours riding in his truck as I gave him political advice before and after his election. I viewed myself as a poor man’s James Carville, and any bad decisions he made as mayor can largely be blamed on me because I knew way more about high school sports than I did politics.

    For any faults Eddie may have had, loving his hometown wasn’t among them.

    I’ve tried to adopt the same approach in my coverage of Hope Mills for Up & Coming WeeklyI’ve tried to tell the stories of the town, good and bad, with honesty and frankness, while sharing deep appreciation and respect for the thousands of people who call it home.

    I hope I’ve done that, and I plan to continue doing it. I want to thank everyone who’s worked with and supported both me and Up & Coming Weekly in our mission to cover Hope Mills the best way we know how.

    Thanks for reading what we’ve had to share, and here’s to another year of telling the stories of Hope Mills.

    Photo: Former Hope Mills Mayor Eddie Dees

  • 04pitt Is seeing believing? Today we are going determine the nature of reality. In America, politically, what you see is what you want to see. It’s a pretty neat trick. Alternate facts reproduce like bunnies in spring time. Today’s crime against world literature tackles why reality, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

    Unless you have been living under a rock, you have seen the video of the confrontation at the Lincoln Memorial between high school students, Native American tribal elder Nathan Phillips and the Hebrew Israelites, which occurred at the March for Life in Washington, D.C. This video has it all — something for folks of every political stripe to seize as evidence that their side is correct and the other side is pure evil. The primary high school student shall not be named as he will encounter a passel of troubles for grinning at Phillips. Let’s call the student Archie. Now to explain how perception works.

    The best college teacher I ever had was an English professor named Rollin Lasseter. A half century ago, Dr. Lasseter explained the nature of perception to our literature class one bright spring day by holding up a cigar. He asked us to look at the cigar and tell him what it was. The class, still having bright young minds, which had not yet been pounded by the real world, unanimously agreed it was a cigar.

    Dr. Lasseter told us we were correct, but that while we perceived it was a cigar, what we really saw was light filtered through our optic nerves which was then converted into electrical impulses, which Mr. Brain then interpreted as a cigar. Dr. Lasseter pointed out, “You really do not have a cigar in your brain, because if you did, it would clog you in some fashion.” I have never forgotten this advice. What you see is subject to interpretation and filtration.

    Back to Archie and Phillips. There are two opposed narratives about their meeting, which differ based upon what you think of Donald Trump. As they say, let us teach the controversy. The Beatles once sang: “Let me take you down/ Cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields/ Nothing is real/ And nothing to get hung about.”

    Version A, short-form video: The video of Phillips and Archie that spread across the internet like a digital flood shows Phillips surrounded by chanting, mocking students wearing “Make America Great Again” hats. The students are menacing Phillips, who is playing a drum and singing a prayer song.

    Archie stands up close and personal to Phillips with a frozen grin on his face while appearing to block Phillips. Adherents of Version A were outraged by the students’ actions, intimidating a man who had served his country in war. Phillips calmly chants a prayer song while confronted by a crowd who might do him harm at any moment. Phillips is quoted saying, “When I took that drum and hit the first beat... it was a supplication to God. Look at us, God, look at what is going on here; my America is being torn apart by racism, hatred, bigotry.”

    Now let’s look at Version B, long-form video: In Version B, the high school students are shouting cheers to drown out insults from the Hebrew Israelites. Phillips then walks into the crowd of students to A, try to calm things down between the students and the Hebrew Israelites, or B, insert himself into the crowd of students to provoke an incident. Phillips walks up to Archie and refuses to go around him. Archie says, “He locked eyes with me and approached me, coming within inches of my face. I did not speak to him, I did not make any hand gestures or other aggressive moves. To be honest, I was startled and confused as to why he had approached me ... I was worried that a situation was getting out of control where adults were attempting to provoke teenagers.”

    So, you take your choice. Pick your interpretation of what happened. Archie and his friends were punks trying to intimidate an older Native American activist who was trying to defuse an escalating confrontation between the students and the Hebrew Israelites. Or, Phillips was totally at fault for walking into a crowd of peaceful high school students who were blamelessly waiting for a bus while being harassed by Hebrew Israelites.

    It doesn’t matter which perception you choose, as it won’t convince the other side that you are correct. Call each other names on the internet if you like. Like cement hardening under a hot July sun, America continues to calcify into camps that get along as well as the Shiites and the Sunnis. It may be that the result of the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart and America’s political arteries is not going to work out as well as either side hopes.

    What have we learned today? Again, almost nothing. Better luck, next column. However, keep in mind the