• Feb 24 Shooting One man is dead and another is in the hospital with life-threatening injuries following a shooting in the Douglas Byrd neighborhood.

    On Thursday, Feb. 24, officers with the Fayetteville Police Department responded to a reported shooting along the 4600 block of Fen Court around 6:17 p.m.

    Officers and medical personnel arrived on the scene and located two men who had been shot. Both were transported to a local hospital with life-threatening injuries where one of them later passed away.

    The circumstances surrounding the shooting are under investigation by the Fayetteville Police Department’s Homicide Unit.

    Anyone with information regarding this investigation is asked to contact Detective M. Waters (910) 635-4978 or Crimestoppers at (910) 483-TIPS (8477). Crimestoppers information can also be submitted electronically, by visiting

  • PWC A new crypto mining facility in Fayetteville will be among the city’s top 10 power consumers when it starts operations in August.

    California-based Plan C Crypto will operate an old 20,000-square-foot industrial facility near Fayetteville Regional Airport. It will operate at 5,000 kilowatts, according to the company and the Fayetteville Public Works Commission.

    PWC doesn’t release specific power consumption information on businesses without consent, but the facility’s electrical draw will put it in the company of PWC’s top customers, including Cape Fear Valley Medical Center, Fayetteville State University, Fayetteville Technical Community College and Walmart, among others.

    Many critics consider the industry’s high carbon emissions to be wasteful, contributing to climate change and rising global temperatures.

    Lee Reiners, a researcher at Duke University who studies financial technologies such as cryptocurrency, is among those critical of a business plan for which he sees no legitimate financial utility in its future.

    “Cryptocurrency provides no useful economic function,” he said. “Anything that is an input into that process is not useful. It is wasteful. That’s my opinion with crypto. There’s no there there.”

    Why crypto is so power hungry
    Instead of operating through financial institutions, which verify monetary transactions among other things, cryptocurrencies like ethereum and bitcoin operate outside this structure.

    Cryptocurrency transactions are verified through a process called proof of work whereby multiple entities on a network will verify withdrawals and deposits in the crypto space, in essence cutting out the need for a centralized bank.

    This process of verification is called mining, and once a majority of computers on the network have confirmed the transactions, it’s updated to a public ledger known as the blockchain.

    “Everyone has the same exact copy of the ledger, and everyone agrees on the canonical state of the ledger,” Reiners said. “And that’s made possible by mining.”

    Mining is incentivized, Reiners said, as miners, like the one coming to Fayetteville, are given a certain amount of bitcoin, or whatever cryptocurrency they are mining, for participation in the verification process.

    “You need to incentivize this mining because otherwise, anyone with 51% of the computing power on the blockchain network could just make up whatever they wanted on the ledger,” he said.

    “So, you impose a cost, and you impose that cost in the form of energy consumption. You have to solve this complex mathematical puzzle.”

    Solving that puzzle is what requires so much energy.

    According to reporting from The New York Times last year, the collective process of verifying bitcoin transactions, annually, uses up more energy than the entire country of Finland.

    It’s seven times more than all of Google’s global operations.

    ‘There’s an opportunity cost to all this’
    Plan C Crypto CEO Antonio Bestard said he founded the company as a means to provide more clean energy to the power grid. He said his company would provide an incentive for Fayetteville to buy more energy that is carbon neutral.

    “I’m creating an economic need for more green energy on the grid,” he said. “We found an economic way to help the city of Fayetteville, help green their grid over time.”

    When asked, Bestard would not specifically say how this process would work beyond imploring Fayetteville to find more green energy.

    “We look forward to working with the city of Fayetteville on how they procure power,” Bestard said. He said he has asked the city to run the mining facility with 100% clean energy.

    And it’s not just Fayetteville. By the time the miner there is up and running, Bestard said, there will be facilities in Tarboro, Wilson and Boone.

    But providing exclusively green energy is not something Fayetteville or any of those municipalities can promise.

    According to PWC, the city purchases almost all of its power from Duke Energy, which has a near-monopoly over the power grid in North Carolina.

    While Duke Energy has a goal of 50% carbon emissions reduction by 2030 and net-zero by 2050, the company has a long way to go.

    In 2020, 7% of electricity generated by Duke Energy was from wind, solar and hydroelectric sources. The company’s projections have that number at 23% by 2030.

    Nuclear energy, which is also carbon free, made up 35% of electricity generation in 2020.

    That still puts carbon-emitting energy at nearly 60%.

    Reiners said the claim that crypto incentivizes green production has no basis.

    “I hear this argument a lot,” he said. “‘Oh, cryptocurrency incentivizes the production of green energy.’ I mean, there’s no basis of fact to make that claim.”

    Even if Plan C Crypto’s facility operated 100% carbon free, Reiners said, green energy could be used for something with a legitimate economic purpose.

    “There’s an opportunity cost to all this as well,” he said.

    More revenue for Fayetteville with no investment
    While Plan C Crypto’s facility will become one of the top power consumers in Fayetteville, Bestard said the miner will not run during peak demand hours, when energy consumption and costs are at their highest.

    Fayetteville PWC CEO Elaina Ball said no additional infrastructure will be needed to accommodate the mining facility. Most importantly, it won’t require any peaker plants, large power generating facilities that often use cheaper energy like coal or natural gas during peak hours.

    Ball said Plan C Crypto will provide needed revenue due to the high amount of power it will purchase.

    “By adding a … 5-megawatt consumer like this, what that does is our retail sales are going to go up,” she said.

    “We’re going to have higher usage, 24/7, outside of that window, right, that peak window. When you generate more revenue off of our system that exists, like an industrial customer like this, it helps offset the cost to serve residential customers in the long run.”

    Robert Van Geons, CEO of the Fayetteville Cumberland County Economic Development Corp., or FCEDC, said that despite criticisms of the crypto industry, the new facility will be good for the area.

    “It brings jobs. It brings taxable investment, it’s beneficial for our utility system. And ultimately, regardless of how you feel about cryptocurrency, it is an emerging technology that will continue to evolve,” he said. “We’re going to continue to have newer and newer technological innovations in this country, and we want those to happen here in Fayetteville and Cumberland County.”

    Bestard said the facility will initially employ 19 people, targeting military veterans. Those jobs will be in the electrical, security and information technology fields.

    He said the lowest-paid employees will make $40,500 a year, while a majority will earn in the $60,000 to $100,000 range.

    Bestard said he anticipates dozens more jobs in the coming years.

    Van Geons said that no economic incentives were made to Plan C Crypto, and there is no financial investment from either the city or county.

    Ball said that beyond the typical costs for attaching a new customer to the power grid, there will be no significant costs for PWC.

    The uncertain future of crypto
    In a press release introducing Plan C Crypto to Cumberland, the FCEDC cited market statistics projecting cryptocurrency to grow by more than 100% by 2028.

    But Reiners said that projected growth is speculative.

    “The only reason people buy (cryptocurrency) is they think they can sell it to someone else for a higher price in the future,” he said.

    “It’s been around for a while. It’s been since 2009. So now we’re 13-plus years. How has it impacted a product, a service, a process that we all use, right? It hasn’t. And so, if it hasn’t happened yet, you have to ask yourself when it’s going to happen.”

    He described the industry as a bubble, based solely on the speculative value of what someone else is willing to pay for a product that hasn’t proved its value, in his view.

    “You’re relying on greater fools showing up, and eventually, the supply of greater fools is exhausted,” Reiners said. “And they don’t show up.”

    He said cities like Fayetteville should not be encouraging crypto companies to come to their area in any way.

    “Crypto is a cancer,” Reiners said. “You’re making a deal with the devil.”

    He cited crypto miners buying up cheap carbon-based power in upstate New York, as reported by The New York Times.

    Reiners said he wouldn’t be surprised if the facility in Fayetteville didn’t exist after five years.

    Even if the company fails, though, Ball said it’s not a risk for the community.

    “If I were building a power plant to support this, that would be a huge risk, but we’re not because they’re not increasing capacity,” she said.

    “They’re not increasing the demand. So, this is just sales. We’re not putting in a power plant to support this because they can move out of the demand window. …

    “I know other people in other communities want to have their own perspectives on the industry — that’s fine. But I wear the hat of what’s right for our community and our customers, and this is good.”

    Photo Credit: Fayetteville operates its own Public Works Commission, a public utility that purchases power almost entirely from Duke Energy. Ben Sessoms / Carolina Public Press

  • Editor’s note: This story was initially posted on Feb. 23 but was updated at 8 a.m. Feb. 24 to include the appeal denials.

    Supreme Court Within hours of a three-judge Superior Court panel’s decision in North Carolina’s redistricting lawsuit, all four parties involved filed appeals spanning hundreds of pages to the state Supreme Court. 

    Then, at 10 p.m. Wednesday, the state Supreme Court denied every appeal. Candidate filing was set to open at 8 a.m. Thursday. 

    County elections staff worked feverishly with the N.C. State Board of Elections ​​in the 20-hour window from when they received the latest maps to the opening of candidate filing to be ready to place state and local candidates in the right districts. 

    “As elections officials, we have become accustomed to adapting to quick-changing situations,” said Pat Gannon, spokesperson for the State Board of Elections.

    Elections officials had to rush to prepare, not knowing if any of the appeals would be successful and if filing would start on time or be delayed yet again

    For now, it looks as if the 2022 primaries will be held May 17. But there’s one possible legal twist yet to play out.

    Republican leadership in the legislature, named as defendants in the redistricting case, are unhappy with part of the Superior Court panel’s decision, claiming it violates the federal constitution. 

    Now that their appeal has been denied by the state Supreme Court, the defendants have an option to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Those appeals usually take some time, and the high court accepts very few cases. It turned down appeals based on similar federal arguments from North Carolina Republicans in November 2020.

    But with one new conservative justice on the U.S. Supreme Court and a new federal hook for state Republicans, it’s anyone’s guess what will happen this time around. State Republicans have not yet released a formal statement saying they will make a federal appeal.

    How we got here

    The Superior Court panel, consisting of Judges Graham Shirley II, R-Wake, Nathaniel Poovey, R-Catawba, and Dawn Layton, D-Richmond, managed to upset every party with its ruling on the maps Wednesday. 

    The judges were guided by three special masters — former state Supreme Court Justices Robert Orr and Robert Edmunds Jr. and former UNC System President and Superior Court Judge Thomas Ross — who were themselves assisted by four nonpartisan experts in political map-drawing. 

    The state Supreme Court had tasked the judicial panel with judging whether redrawn political maps were fair under the state’s constitution after the higher court declared the Republican-controlled General Assembly’s previous maps to be unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders

    In a unanimous decision Wednesday, the Shirley panel said the redrawn state House and Senate districts were constitutional. But the judges ruled that the redrawn U.S. congressional map was still not fair under the state Supreme Court’s new standards. 

    As a remedy, the Shirley panel adjusted the General Assembly’s map to make it fair under political science measurements that the state Supreme Court had suggested, called “efficiency gap” and “mean-median difference.” This map, the panel suggested, could be used for the 2022 election, and the General Assembly could redraw the map that would be used from the 2024 elections until the state redistricted again in 2031. 

    Legislative defendants appeal

    Republican legislative leaders Phil Berger, Senate president pro tempore, and Tim Moore, House speaker, both among the defendants in this case for their official roles in drawing political maps, said they will challenge the panel’s decision on the congressional map. 

    “Today’s ruling is nothing short of egregious,” Moore said in an official statement. 

    “The trial court’s decision to impose a map drawn by anyone other than the legislature is simply unconstitutional and an affront to every North Carolina voter whose representation would be determined by unelected, partisan activists.” 

    Each of the Superior Court judges is in fact elected, as are the Supreme Court justices who ruled the prior maps were unconstitutional and who will review the appeals. Judicial elections were nonpartisan for 22 years and were publicly financed for nine until the General Assembly, led by Moore and Berger, made the elections partisan again and eliminated public funding in 2018 and 2013, respectively. 

    Legislative defendants think that Article 1, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution, often called the “time, place and manner restrictions,” give state legislatures exclusive jurisdiction over drawing federal election districts. 

    Under this argument, the state courts cannot legally intervene when the state legislature draws maps for federal elections. The state Supreme Court previously dismissed this claim, meaning the legislative defendants will likely have to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to have a chance to win on this argument. 

    Plaintiffs appeal 

    Three groups sued the state in November and December to block the political maps the Republican-led General Assembly passed over Democratic opposition. Those maps were the ones ultimately overturned by the state Supreme Court on Feb. 4.

    The General Assembly had two weeks to redraw the maps to seek Superior Court approval on Wednesday. 

    In the mirror image of the legislative defendants, all three groups suing the state supported the Shirley panel’s intervention on the congressional map. 

    One group, the good-governance and nonpartisan nonprofit Common Cause, appealed both the state House and state Senate maps. 

    The group recognized that the General Assembly passed the House plan with near-unanimous bipartisan support, yet still opposed it and the Senate map, passed by Republicans on strict party-line votes, because each map still “dilutes the voting power of Black communities and relies on misleading data to cover up extreme partisan gerrymanders,” according to the group’s press release. 

    The Common Cause plaintiffs were especially focused on the voting power of Black North Carolinians in the eastern part of the state, centered on Wayne County for the House map and Edgecombe, Wilson and most of Wayne in the Senate map. 

    “We appreciate the bipartisan efforts of the trial court and special masters to remedy illegalities in the congressional map, but justice that is partial is no justice at all,” said Hillary Klein, senior voting rights lawyer at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which represents Common Cause, in the press release. 

    Two other two plaintiff groups, the nonpartisan N.C. League of Conservation Voters and the National Redistricting Foundation, which is backed by the national Democratic Party, appealed only the state Senate map

    The NCLCV plaintiffs also asked for the U.S. congressional map to last the rest of the decade, rather than allowing the General Assembly to try drawing the map again. 

    In its opinion, the Shirley panel stated North Carolina’s political geography, or the way Democratic and Republican voters self-sort in where they live, explains why the Senate map favors Republicans. Even so, the panel stated in its opinion, the difference is within the fairness boundaries the state Supreme Court laid out. 

    In their appeals, both the NCLCV and foundation plaintiffs disputed the panel’s analysis and claimed the map would only ever allow Republicans to have a majority in the state Senate, despite North Carolina being near a 50-50 state in partisan vote share. 

     Photo Credit: The Supreme Court of North Carolina building in Raleigh. Courtesy of the state courts.

  • Fortuna BMC Fayetteville Cumberland County Economic Development Corporation has announced that California-based IT and business management consulting company, Fortuna BMC, Inc., will be coming to Cumberland County. They are expected to hire 50 call center employees, which are remote work opportunities.

    “We are eager to select Fayetteville for our expansion on the East Coast due to its proximity and connection to Fort Bragg, the largest military installation in the United States by population,” said Jack Smith, CEO and founder of Fortuna BMC. “As a veteran of the United States Air Force, I can identify with the challenges presented by the military-to-civilian transition, such as fundamental career support, and helping others understand the skills I can bring to the table from serving my country in the armed forces. After our recent visit to Fayetteville, we are fully convinced that this is a welcoming community for organizations like Fortuna BMC that are passionate about connecting the military community to great job opportunities post-service.”

    Fortuna BMC is an IT consulting and staffing company. They will be working with Fayetteville State University, Fayetteville Technical Community College, NCWorks Career Center, JMH Group, Center for Economic Empowerment & Development, The Small Business and Technology Development Center, Fort Bragg’s Transition Assistance Program and the economic and community development departments for the City of Fayetteville and Cumberland County to help collaborate on workforce development and hiring initiatives. 

    “Creating these types of employment opportunities for and within our local community brings financial stability, and it eases the post-service transition for many veterans. We’re excited that Fortuna BMC selected our region as the place to create those meaningful connections, which will undoubtedly bridge the gap for the veterans,” stated Rob Patton, FCEDC Vice President.

  • scam alert CCS The Cumberland County Department of Public Health has put out an alert saying there is a phone scam targeting citizens.

    The robocall, which is mimicking the Health Department's main phone number, 910-433-3600, states they are delivering medical information. However, the Cumberland County Department of Public Health states that it would never call and leave medical information in such a manner. The Health Department's policy is to never provide a medical diagnosis or lab results via robocall, never provide a medical diagnosis or lab results without first identifying you as the patient or guardian, and they would never ask for a social security number or payment via robocall.

    Anyone who believes they were contacted by one of these scammers should contact the Attorney General of North Carolina at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or (910) 716-6000. You can also contact the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office at (910) 323-1500.

  • fadeless 2 From pieces of artwork traveling across the ocean and being exhibited in international galleries to having her first solo exhibition in the United States, 2022 is proving to be the year for local art teacher Aurelis Lugo.

    Lugo, originally from Puerto Rico, moved to Fayetteville two years ago with her son. She never expected to move out of Puerto Rico, especially as a single mom. But curiosity got the better of her prompting her to move to Fayetteville.

    Not long after relocating, she found a position teaching art within Cumberland County Schools.

    While painting murals for local Fayetteville Puerto Rican restaurants, she also submitted pieces of art to different local shows. So when she heard about the Fayetteville Arts Council mini-grants, she knew she had to apply, hoping to help extend her series or artwork highlighting Puerto Rican women.

    Lugo's exhibit, "Inmarcesible," featured eleven acrylic paintings on display in Puerto Rico. These pieces highlighted Puerto Rican women.

    She wanted to continue that series and highlight more Afro-Puerto Rican women who made history but still did not receive proper recognition.

    "Their stories need to be visualized; they need to be brought up again," Lugo said. "Now the thing is that the women that I'm portraying, even though they did amazing stuff, they are not recognized as they should because of two main reasons, they were black, and they were women."

    The exhibit received funding from the Fayetteville Arts Council and will be opening this weekend at Cape Fear Studios.

    The "Fadeless" exhibition will highlight nine additional women and their stories.

    Some of the highlighted women include María Libertad Gómez Garriga, the first woman to hold the position of President of the House for the Puerto Rican House of Representatives and the only woman to sign the Constitution of Puerto Rico in 1952.

    Another woman highlighted in the exhibit is Carmen Belem Richardson, the first Black Puerto Rican actress to appear on television in Puerto Rico.

    "Fadeless" also demonstrates Lugo's outreach into mixed-media paintings. She incorporates spray paint, glitter, molding and all types of materials into the images. She says this showcases her growth and the change she has experienced as an artist and person since her last exhibit.

    "Personally, it means a lot to me because it's like, another goal that I accomplished. And also because of the kind of message that I'm delivering with this. I'm not only showing my culture; I'm showing that My people have interesting people that you should know about. And they can be an example. Mainly [for] everybody."

    Lugo said that preparing for a solo exhibition is like preparing for a wedding. It's a big day, and everything needs to be perfect.

    She says she visited the North Carolina Museum of Art quite a bit while preparing for the opening of "Fadeless."

    "So this is my big thing, and it feels so different from the ones that I did in Puerto Rico. My first solo exhibition in Puerto Rico was in a gallery at a mall," Lugo said. "But this time, it feels very different. Because I'm outside my country and it's like a big responsibility. Because I'm bringing my culture, I'm letting others see how important these women are. And it's like a lot of pressure, but it's also it's a big accomplishment."

    Lugo also has other pressures, as her artwork is currently on display in London at the Boomer Gallery at Tower Bridge. Soon her artwork will travel to Rome and then this summer it will be in Spain.

    Looking to the future, Lugo is already planning her next addition to her series. She hopes to create full-length art pieces that incorporate fashion and clothing materials into her art.

    "This is like a never-ending project that I will continue working on and working on it, no matter where in the world I am," Lugo said. "I'll continue working on it because there are a lot of women that did amazing things."
    Cape Fear Studios & Gallery will be holding a gallery opening for "Fadeless" on Feb. 25 at 6 p.m. The exhibit will be open to the public until March 22.

  • Greetings,

    Thank you all for serving on the Fayetteville Ethics Committee and doing your civic duty. We have proudly published the Up & Coming Weekly community newspaper for over 25 years and have never swayed from our mission and mandate to promote, accentuate and uplift the Fayetteville community while serving its residents. Those who know me personally know I am as passionate about this newspaper as the community. Consequently, I can be highly opinionated and sometimes brutally honest when it comes to the Fayetteville/Cumberland County community. Up & Coming Weekly has a reputation for always striving to be forthright and honest and never a purveyor of misinformation, gossip or drama. As a community publication, we aim to bring clarification, insight and opinion to policies, issues and matters affecting the local quality of life. Again, I love this community, and it saddens me to see our City's direction under its present leadership. This love of community is why I am writing this letter and voicing my opinion. I offer my advice and recommendations as the Ethics Committee moves forward in evaluating former City Council member Tisha Waddell's allegations of potential mismanagement and corruption, as stated in her November resignation letter.

    My biggest concern is that you at the Ethics Commission may not have the full context as volunteers and Council-appointed members. You may not know what is happening at City Hall and who the people are making the decisions that raised Waddell's concerns and prompted her resignation. This lack of context could put the entire Commission at a significant disadvantage. The recently reversed and unanimous decision made by the City Council to send Waddell's allegations to the Ethics Commission has only increased citizens' suspicions that a cover-up is in the making. The reality is that the Council appoints the Ethics Committee. The assumption is that the Mayor and Council will not investigate themselves and intend to use members of the Ethics Committee as pawns to exonerate themselves and dismiss the allegations out of hand. Public opinion seems to echo that, if there is no substance to Waddell's claims of mismanagement and corruption, as the Council claims, then why not call for an independent external investigation and be done with it? If "there is nothing to see here," why not have a thorough external investigation? The Ethics Commission's previous decision to dismiss the eight charges against Fayetteville Police Chief Gina Hawkins has created even more mistrust and skepticism among citizens. It again confirmed that City Council would not investigate itself.

    Most people would agree, "Where there is smoke, there's fire." We know every member of the Ethics Commission is an upstanding, law-abiding and honest community member. Still, the fact remains they are far removed from the realities of what is taking place in our city government. Undoubtedly, the Commission wants to do its best for the residents and the community. I ask that the Ethics Commission listen intently to all the concerns and allegations brought before you. If the circumstances warrant it, call for an independent external investigation of all allegations. Once the independent analysis is complete, the chips will fall where they may. If there is substance to some or all the complaints, they can be addressed individually. At least, once an independent investigation is conducted, it really will be over and done, and Fayetteville residents will be satisfied knowing that fairness and justice have prevailed. This external investigation is the only way the truth will ultimately come out, and confidence can be restored in our City government leadership.
    Suppose the Commission finds no legitimacy to the Waddell allegations and dismisses the case like they did with Hawkins. In that case, I fear it will only cast dispersions on the Committee and cause more skepticism and mistrust among the Fayetteville residents proving the City Council will not investigate itself.

    Calling for an external, independent investigation into Waddell's allegations is the only way to put these issues behind us and restore citizens' confidence and trust in the integrity of the City government and the Ethics Commission process.

    There is much to learn from talking to residents out in the community. The unsolicited comments from city residents, city employees, downtown businesses, Fayetteville police officers and first responders speak of significant concerns with city leadership as well as concerns over escalating homicide and crime rates, the suspicious dealings surrounding the Prince Charles project and the parking deck fiasco, the halfway house Dismiss Project on Cain Rd. and the Barnhard Capital Partner's clandestine bid for Public Works Commission.

    Again, I thank you for your service to our City and community. I write this as a friend and concerned citizen. You are not obligated to heed any of the advice. However, keep in mind that the City of Fayetteville today is nothing like when most of us started building our businesses and raising our families. We must do everything possible to maintain the integrity of our local government for the sake of those who will come after us.

    A call for an independent external investigation will assure this.

    Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

    Best Regards,

  • RHF Meet Us At the Park Rick's Place has planned an afternoon away for the families dealing with the stress of last-minute deployments, a way to connect with other military families and to take a break.

    The Rick Herrema Foundation focuses on strengthening relationships and building community for military families through fun, quality activities. They host events and fun days at Rick's Place, a 50-acre park, to offer children a place to have fun and a place to support military families, so they know they aren't alone.

    This weekend they are supporting families by hosting a Meet Us at the Park event specifically for families dealing with the rapid deployments occurring over the past three weeks.

    "We wanted to do something extra," Vicky Jimenez, director of programs at RHF, said. "We wanted to do an event that would be dedicated for those families who have been impacted by the recent deployment."

    From 2 to 5 p.m., there will be activities, inflatables, games for kids and local organizations offering resources to families. In addition, the food truck, Hot Dog Central, will be at the event feeding families in attendance.

    Jimenez told Up & Coming Weekly that while families are at Rick's Place, they can set aside the stressors that deployment may have placed on them, at least for a short time.

    "The importance of having these events is to connect people to these other families that are going through the same challenges as them," Jimenez said.

    The Meet Us at the Park event will be followed by the monthly scheduled event, Family Fun Day, which is open to any military family. This month, RHF will be hosting a drive-in movie screening.

    "This will be our first drive-in movie. So we wanted to try and give it a chance and give families different activities here at Rick's Place," Jimenez said.

    The 2000s family classic, "The Chronicle of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," will be playing on the big screen. Families can enjoy the movie from the comfort of their warm vehicles or pull up a chair with blankets to watch it outside. RHF will give out free popcorn and hot cocoa to families. The movie starts around 5:30 p.m.

    The two events take place on Saturday, Feb. 26. Registration to both events is required. Jimenez said that she is expecting 100 to 150 people to be at the two events, but they know there are countless more families who are impacted.

    If families find out about the events after registration is closed, they can contact RHF by calling 910-444-1743 to see if space is available.

    To pre-register for the event, visit To register for the movie night, visit

    The next Family Fun Day is scheduled for March 26 and is planned to be a Physical Fitness Family Challenge.

    Families will have a change to compete against each other in several activities and lunch will be provided at no cost. Registration for that event is open.

    Rick's Place is located at 5572 Shenandoah Drive.

    For more information, visit or call the Rick's Place team at 910-444-1743.

  • chesnutt Charles Waddell Chesnutt was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on June 20, 1858. Even though he identified as Black, he could pass as white but chose not to do so. His father, Andrew Jackson Chesnutt, was the son of a white slave owner and his Black mistress.

    His mother, Anne Maria Sampson, was the daughter of a free biracial couple from Fayetteville. Her parents were freed slaves who left North Carolina for Ohio to be with relatives before the Civil War and moved back to North Carolina after the Civil War and the resulting emancipation.

    Chesnutt attended the Howard School. He was a teacher in Charlotte and moved back to Fayetteville to teach. Upon his return, Chesnutt became first the assistant principal and then eventually the principal of the Fayetteville State Normal School for Negroes. At the age of 20, he met and married his wife, Susan Perry, a teacher. They had four children, and one of the daughters, Helen Maria Chesnutt, became a noted classicist and published a biography of her father.

    The couple was increasingly concerned about racial prejudice, poverty and limited job opportunities in the South, so they moved to New York and later to Cleveland. While earning a law degree, Chesnutt worked as a stenographer for the Nickel Plate Railroad Company. He established a lucrative court reporting business that made him financially prosperous.

    Chesnutt also began writing stories during this time. He was the first African American to have his short story, "The Goophered Grapevine," published by a national magazine, The Atlantic Monthly.

    He was one of the most prominent African American novelists who produced profound works of fiction that exemplified racial prejudice in the 19th and 20th centuries. His first short story, "Uncle Peter's House," was featured in the Cleveland News and Herald in 1885. His literature told stories of the post-Civil War South. His first book, "The Conjure Woman," published in 1899, is a collection of seven short stories set in Fayetteville and examines pre and post-Civil War race relations. Between 1885 and 1905, Chesnutt published more than 50 short stories, essays, articles, books, lectures and novels. He also published a biography of the anti-slavery leader Frederick Douglass. Two of his books were adapted as silent films, and several of his works have been published posthumously.

    Chesnutt worked with Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. DuBois and became one of the early 20th century's most prominent activists and commentators. He served on the General Committee of the newly founded National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He also toured on the national lecture circuit in the northern states.

    Fayetteville State University's library, The Charles Waddell Chesnutt Library, is named in his honor. The library contains a collection of artifacts ranging from photos, legal records and valuable information. The National Association awarded Chesnutt the Spingarn Medal for the Advancement of Colored People for his literary achievements and for the most distinguished service of any Black person that year who acted to advance the cause of Blacks in America. He was awarded an honorary LL.D., a doctorate-level law degree, from Wilberforce University. In 2008, the United States Postal Service honored him with the 31st stamp in the Black Heritage Series.

    Charles Chesnutt died in Cleveland, Ohio, on November 15, 1932, at 74. William L. Andrews wrote of Chesnutt, "Today Chesnutt is recognized as a major innovator in the tradition of Afro-American fiction, an important contributor to the deromanticizing trend in post-Civil War southern literature and a singular voice among turn-of-the-century realists who treated the color line in American life."

  • 561px Louis Huard The Punishment of Loki Unless you have been hiding from a Balrog under a moss encrusted rock, you have seen ads for Amazon's new TV series on the "Lord of the Rings." Several moss-encrusted decades ago, I read the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy during college. The new series takes place thousands of years before Frodo and pals graced Middle Earth. It also takes place without the guiding hands of J.R.R. Tolkien, being created from whole Mithril by writers living in the second decade of the 21st Century. Since Professor Tolkien sailed off in 1973 to the Gray Havens to join Bilbo, I am pretty sure he had nothing to do with the upcoming series. Feeling grumpy about his story being assumed by lesser writers than Tolkien, I decided to investigate the back story from whence Middle Earth emerged.

    Norse mythology is as colorful as Greek mythology is convoluted. Tolkien was a fan of Norse mythology. Today we shall wander through and mangle Viking theology.

    My first exposure to the Norsemen came in the form of an excellent 1958 movie called "The Vikings" with Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis and the star of McHale's Navy, Ernest Borgnine. The Vikings were a rough bunch with an equally tough bunch of gods. The opening of "The Vikings" recites a line from the "English Book of Common Prayer": "Protect us, oh Lord from the wrath of the Northmen." So, hop on board Mr. Peabody's Way Back Machine to head back to the 11th Century when the Vikings were doing their thing.

    Tolkien's Lord of the Rings saga was inspired by the Norse story of Andvari's magic ring. According to Mr. Google, Andvari was a dwarf who enjoyed humidity and lived under a waterfall. Andy, as his friends called him, could turn himself into a fish on demand. Why he wanted to become a fish is beyond the scope of this column. Andy owned a magic ring called Andvaranaut, which allowed him to find gold at will. One day when Andy was swimming about as a fish, he had the misfortune to be caught by the Norse god Loki. Loki strong-armed Andy into giving him the magic ring and all his gold. Naturally, Andy was not happy by this turn of events.

    Andy put a curse on his stolen ring that whoever had it would come to a bad end. It's not nice to steal from dwarves, even if they are in the form of a fish.

    Loki's background is nontraditional. When Loki was male, he was the proud father of a daughter named Hel, the goddess of the Underworld. Loki also had two sons. Loki was a bit of a jokester. Being bored one day, he turned himself into a mare and managed to get in the horsey family way by a stallion. While in his mare form, Loki gave birth to an eight-legged colt. Loki enjoyed shape-shifting and appeared as a number of critters, including a fly. He used the stolen ring to bribe Odin to give Loki a pass for killing the son of a god. A whole bunch of sword fighting, dragon-slaying and talking birds ensue from the curse of the ring. Lots of Viking folks end up with the ring, with each coming to a bad end. In one version, Queen Gurun ends up with the ring. Gurun then marries Attila, the Hun who succumbs to the ring's curse, losing his war with Rome.

    Loki's bribe to Odin ultimately led to the death of one of Odin's sons. When Odin discovered Loki's role, he and his buddies are sorely vexed. Trigger warning: Don't upset Odin. Odin turned Loki's son Vali into a wolf, who then chowed down on Loki's other son Narfi creating shredded Narfi. The gods plucked out Narfi's unchewed organs and turned them into iron bands. Odin used the iron bands to fasten Loki to a rock. Some might consider being chained to a rock with the vital organs of a child to be a pretty harsh punishment. But not the Norse gods. Oh, no. Like Karen Carpenter once sang, they had only just begun. The goddess of the moon, a lass named Skadi, wanted to get in on the action.

    She caught a giant drooling poisonous snake. Skadi tied the snake over Loki's head where it would drip venom right onto poor Loki, causing him pain and great mental anguish. This punishment lasted for quite a while until Loki's sweet wife Sigyn found Loki. She brought her favorite Calphalon pot to catch the venom as it dripped down on Loki. Sigyn is still sitting by Loki, catching venom even as you read these words.
    Unfortunately, Sigyn must empty the pot when the venom fills it up periodically.

    When she takes the pot away, the snake drool keeps hitting Loki while the pot is being emptied. The impact of the venom makes Loki shake in pain. The Vikings explain that Loki's shaking causes earthquakes.

    So, what did we learn today?

    Even if you can turn yourself into a fish, don't do it.

    Don't anger the Norse gods.

    And always be nice to your wife if you don't want venom dripped on your head.

  • history Before Fort Bragg embodied much of the identity of Fayetteville, the city grew and established itself for another purpose.

    Fayetteville was a vital inland city involved in trade because it had a direct route on the Cape Fear River to Wilmington.

    The Fayetteville Area Transportation and Local History Museum details the history of Fayetteville during this time through their Cape Fear River gallery.

    The exhibit has long been displayed on the museum's first floor, but it has gained a new addition. In celebration of Black History Month, the museum has put up new placards detailing the histories of African Americans on the Cape Fear River.

    "Finally, we have one of our Black History exhibits that remain up for over a year become part of a semi-permanent space," said Heidi Bleazey, historic properties supervisor. "The river is why Fayetteville is here, and having the acknowledgment of the back-breaking, life-ending, life-sustaining things that African Americans did to help build Fayetteville as a travel and trade community (is important)."

    Bleazey, Catherine Linton, museum specialist, and Emma Freeman, marketing and social media coordinator, worked on the exhibit, perusing census records and old newspapers. Their efforts were fruitful in the form of a new artifact.

    Included in the exhibit is an illustration from a June 17, 1865 edition of Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper.

    The drawing shows an enslaved family escaping down the Cape Fear River. Behind them is another boat. The illustration was drawn by a Union war correspondent.

    "This is an amazing artifact because it represents so much of what we don't know. There's a second boat behind the first. Are they pursuing them? Is that another family? It's just subject to a lot of feeling," said Bleazey.

    "We always look to the primary sources," said Linton. "That's an article from 1865; that story came right from the source that is physically on display."

    In addition to the newspaper, the placards detail the lives of African American river pilots such as Daniel Buxton. Through some research, Buxton's life and person have taken clearer form. Buxton piloted the riverboat

    A.P. Hunt for over 60 years. He was a leader in the Fayetteville community, a founding member of St. Joseph's Episcopal Church. His reputation as a riverboat pilot was excellent, never having an accident on the river throughout his career, an almost unheard-of feat.

    Buxton is said to be buried at what was once called Miles Branch Cemetery, a Black cemetery, now known as Elmwood Cemetery. His legend lives on in the hearts of the researchers at the museum. The women have searched for his headstone but have yet to find it.

    "There's a piece of Daniel that is a little elusive to us," said Bleazey. "He's the nostalgic poster child of a river pilot."

    As research has continued, more stories and names of the river workers have begun to pop out. Several of their names appear on the placards, a tribute to who they were and where they worked and lived.

    "We know so few, that to be able to put a name to these people is important … And I felt like if all I know is that what the census said, then by gosh I'm excited about that and that should be there because there are so many we don't know," said Bleazey.

  • Chili Challenge 2021 The Home Builders Association of Fayetteville (HBAF) comprises builders, developers, suppliers, bankers, mortgage brokers and marketing professionals.

    Founded in 1963, the association has provided members with a variety of resources on the housing industry and opportunities to grow and improve their businesses. Of 62 local associations in North Carolina, the HBAF is in the top ten largest associations.

    The HBAF's third annual Chili Challenge is a friendly competition where members can enter their chili recipes. The winners will have the opportunity to claim the title of first or second place. There is also an Award for Taster's Choice. In addition to the chili cook-off and chili tasting, there will be live music, Clyde's Cabin Band, and beer provided by the venue Dirtbag Ales Brewery and Taproom. The event is open to the public. Tickets can be purchased at or on the day of the event at the door.

    Tickets are $20 and allow attendees to taste all the competing chilis and include two drinks. Competing teams pay $100 to participate in the Chili Challenge.

    "The money raised is used to further the mission of the HBAF... to serve, advocate and promote the local building and development industries while fostering unity between members, government and the community," said Natalie W. Fryer, executive officer, HBAF.

    Previous competitor and winner Tracy Mozingo hopes to win a voter's choice award this year.

    "Truth be told, my husband Jeff volunteered me to enter the contest because he likes my chili and thought I would enjoy the camaraderie and marketing opportunity. I then enlisted the help of fellow chili-maker and friend Kim Evers," Mozingo said. "We have won the judges' choice each year, but we'd love to take voter's choice as well!"

    "When we won, I felt shock and disbelief and utter excitement, Mozingo said. "I think I may have screamed and jumped with excitement."

    Evers explains that the competition was steep.

    "We were so excited because there were so many other great chilis out there," said Evers.

    "We have entered every year since it started, which was in 2020. And we won the judges' vote each year," explained Mozingo. "Kim and I each make our own chili, and we marry the two at the event."

    The event is full of fun and camaraderie, according to Evers.

    "It is so much fun hanging out with all the local builders and their teams," Evers said. "It is a fun crowd."

    Chili challenge tip? Evers said, "Ground white pepper and lots of love." Mozingo's advice? "Get ready for spicy fun. Bring your appetite."

    The Chili Challenge will take place on Feb. 25 from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at 5435 Corporation Drive.

  • Dogwood The 40th annual Fayetteville Dogwood Festival hosted a media event at the Cape Fear Botanical Gardens on the evening of Wednesday, Feb. 16. Run by a nonprofit by the same name, the Fayetteville Dogwood Festival group says that they “aim to entertain the members of our community, promote and sustain new and existing business. Enhance a positive community image, and attract out-of-town visitors, while sharing the cultural and recreational opportunities available in the Fayetteville Area.” While the organization supports and plans multiple events throughout the year, none is larger or more expansive than the Dogwood Festival.

    And, after two years of pandemic-driven cancellations and rescheduling, according to Dogwood Festival Executive Director Sarahgrace Snipes, attended can expect a “full-fledged dogwood festival.”

    “We are back,” Snipes proclaimed on Wednesday evening.

    And back they are, with a record-setting five national acts slated to perform across the three-day festival beginning on April 22 and ending April 24.

    On Friday, April 22, national acts Marcy Playground and Hoobastank will take the stage. On Saturday, April 23, Dillon Carmichael, Kameron Marlowe and Tyler Farr will perform an evening of country music. Sunday, April 24, will finish off the event with headliners The Purple Madness – A Tribute to Prince. Throughout all three nights, local talent will perform alongside these headliners.

    At the media night, festival organizers assured attendees that all of the tried and true Dogwood Festival favorites would be back in full force and “better than ever.”

    Attractions will include: Airborn Aerials performances, Boom & Bloom fireworks on Friday night, King BMX bike shows, the Cork and Fork event will return, there will be a silent auction, Lafayette Ford will present the Car, Motorcycle and Truck Show, there will be a performance area on Hay Street in front of the Market House, a street fair in the downtown area, the Midway with a mix of rides and attractions for all ages and finally the KidZone will be back as well.

    In addition to these attractions, the Dogwood Festival has added new events for visitors this year. The Downtown Stage powered by Piedmont Natural Gas will offer country music on Saturday and Sunday, beginning at noon on Gillespie Street. Ring Wars of Carolina will be hosting a wrestling tournament on Saturday and Sunday at the intersection of Ray Avenue and Hay Street. Local attraction Sweet Valley Ranch will also be out with a mix of entertainment on offer as a new addition to this year’s attractions.

    Sweet Valley Ranch Owner Fred Surgeon spoke at the media event and shared an impressive list of options Sweet Valley Ranch will bring with them to the Dogwood Festival. They will set up on Green Street, where visitors can enjoy a petting zoo with a broad mix of animals, carnival games and even take a ride down the street on a dinosaur.

    Surgeon was particularly excited about the variety of animals with which festival-goers can meet and visit at the petting zoo.

    “It’s about engaging with nature and with our animals,” Surgeon said.

    In addition to these activities, the Surgeon explained that they would have their food truck on site. According to Surgeon, the Sweet Valley Ranch Giveback Food Truck partners with local nonprofits, and in November and December last year, the food truck program raised $25,000.

    Snipes also announced continued support with annual events that, while not directly affiliated with the Dogwood Festival, are sanctioned by the organization. These include the annual Crimestoppers BBQ and the All American Tattoo Convention.

  • 7054393 Close to 5,000 Fort Bragg troops are in Eastern Europe amidst a Ukraine-Russia standoff. Many of these soldiers are from the 82nd Airborne Division - an infantry division that is ready to go anywhere in the world within 18 hours.

    Last week, the deployment of the second round of 3,000 paratroopers began to leave Fort Bragg. Several hundred soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division Air Assault from Fort Campbell on the Kentucky Tennessee border are also headed to Eastern Europe.

    Several commercial jets graced the runways at Pope Army Airfield last week, waiting to take several hundred soldiers overseas. While the paratroopers were waiting at Green Ramp, the final springboard for deploying soldiers, pizza, fried chicken and all types of food were being given out. The Religious Support Office had religious texts and books ready to go if anyone wanted, and there was a long line for stations set up to handle last-minute paperwork.

    Many of the waiting paratroopers were socializing, rechecking their gear or catching a few moments of sleep.

    Specialist Bryan Flores was laughing with the men next to him. He has been in the Army for almost four years and moved to Fort Bragg three months ago from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska.

    Flores said this will be his first deployment and going out and serving on a mission is exciting.

    "From the human's perspective, I'm really nervous. But as a soldier, I'm prepared, and because I know what to do, I know my job."

    Flores is stationed at Fort Bragg with his wife, Marta, and her two children - ages 10 and 7 years old. He said he didn't want to tell the two kids he was leaving.

    "I didn't want to tell them to their faces that I'm leaving because, of course, they would be very upset and really scared," Flores said. "It's hard to tell kids goodbye; I'm leaving somewhere, especially if it's in regard to conflict."

    He says it's especially hard to leave his family as they just moved to Fort Bragg and were still getting adjusted to the base.

    "I certainly didn't expect it to happen; it was more of a last-minute thing. But of course, that's what we're here to do," Flores said. "When we are ready to go, we're supposed to go and confront the enemy and protect the citizens of the world because that's what the United States is about; we protect."

    Flores said that if he could bring something home from his deployment, he would try and find a figurine of a historical monument or something that represents liberation from World War II.

    On the other hand, 27-year-old 1st Lt. Alex Blankenship said he would want to bring home a magnet for his unadorned fridge doors. Blakenship, who's been serving in the Army for almost three years, says he was able to see his family a week before his deployment orders came in. They took his cat and wished him a happy birthday before he left. For his family, deployments are just part of the military lifestyle.

    "My parents went through this stuff with my dad being in the Navy," Blankenship said. "So, it's not anything new."

    According to White House officials, these soldiers are not being sent to fight in Ukraine officially; they will support the allies of the United States. Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said the 82nd Airborne Division was chosen because they were already on heightened alert and multi-mission capable.

    "I think their versatility, their ability to move quickly and to conduct a range of missions across a range of contingencies which is well-proven, that is why the Secretary has ordered them to go," Kirby said.

    One of those missions might be to help support American evacuees fleeing Ukraine into Poland.

    On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops to deploy to the two separatist regions of Eastern Ukraine.

    More troops could be mobilized to Europe as the Russia-Ukraine crisis continues. The Pentagon put 8,500 troops on "high alert" in January for possible deployment if NATO's response forces are activated.

  • Kurilla Fort Bragg’s Lt. Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla will take responsibility for all U.S. military operations in the Middle East and neighboring nations in the coming weeks.

    The U.S. Senate voted unanimously to confirm Kurilla’s nomination to lead U.S. Central Command and be promoted to a four-star general.

    According to the Pentagon, he will soon replace Gen. Kenneth McKenzie of the Marine Corps, who has commanded CENTCOM since 2019. McKenzie is retiring in April.

    Kurilla is the commander of the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg. He is a West Point graduate who led special operations and conventional forces in Panama, Iraq and Afghanistan. He previously commanded the 82nd Airborne Division, the elite 75th Ranger Regiment and its 2nd Battalion. He has also served as the assistant commander of Joint Special Operations Command and as the Pentagon’s deputy director for special operations and counterterrorism.

    Kurilla is currently deployed to Germany, leading a task force of troops helping NATO allies in the unfolding Ukraine-Russia conflict.

    Army Maj. Gen. Christopher Donahue was confirmed by Senate to be promoted to lieutenant general and take command of the 18th Airborne Corps in Kurilla’s place. Donahue, the current 82nd Airborne Division commander, is also deployed to Europe in response to the Ukraine crisis.

    Photo Credit: Lt. Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps, gives a speech at the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) change of command, March 5, 2021, at the division parade field, Fort Campbell, Ky. Kurilla spoke on the great work that Maj. Gen. Brian Winski achieved and how he’s excited to see what Maj. Gen. JP McGee will accomplish.

  • court house faytteville Eligible Cumberland County residents at risk of spreading COVID-19 will be provided isolated shelter for the foreseeable future.

    The county Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the renewal of the N.C. Non-Congregate Sheltering program on Monday.

    The program provides shelter for those eligible who need to isolate due to exposure or contraction of COVID-19 and don’t have another way of safely quarantining.

    Among those included are first responders and health care workers who need to isolate from family members because of exposure and those who test positive or were exposed and need to quarantine.

    Those who need to socially distance as a precautionary measure are also eligible. It’s up to the discretion of public health officials, but it typically includes high-risk groups, such as people over age 65 or those with underlying health conditions.

    The county, in partnership with local nonprofits and religious organizations, pays for shelter in a hotel along with other needs such as food, medicine and transportation, among other things.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency and N.C. Emergency Management then fully reimburse the county.

    The county reported that it has provided shelter and food to more than 70 people in Cumberland and transportation to 35.

    Over 92% have been for those at risk of severe COVID-19, according to the county.

    The program will operate as long as the federal government approves it or the governor’s state of emergency order stays in effect, or for one year, whichever date comes first.

    Those who don’t have a safe way of quarantining due to their living arrangements and think they are eligible can email county Emergency Management Coordinator Garry Crumpler at

    Latest COVID-19 data for Cumberland

    The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classifies Cumberland as a high transmission county, along with all of North Carolina and a wide swath of the rest of the country.

    That designation is made based on new case counts and percentage of positive cases in the past week. New case counts over 100 per 100,000 people and a positivity rate over 10% are considered high transmission.

    As of Monday, Cumberland has seen more than 350 new cases per 100,000 people in the past week, according to the CDC.

    Among all tests in the past week, 19% have returned positive.

    But that number has gone down. Earlier in the month, the positivity rate was more than 31%, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

    Based on the high transmission, the CDC recommends that anyone indoors in a public setting in Cumberland County wear a mask to reduce transmission.

    But that will be by personal choice, as the county ended its indoor mask mandate on Sunday.

    The county still recommends mask-wearing, and businesses can still require them if they choose to.

    As of Monday, 548 people in Cumberland County have died due to COVID-19 during the pandemic.

  • State Map Feb 17 NEW After a two-week sprint, the state Supreme Court’s deadline looms for North Carolina’s General Assembly to submit revised political maps after justices ruled the prior maps to be unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders favoring Republicans.

    On Thursday afternoon, the General Assembly passed the new map for the state House with bipartisan support. Later that night, the legislature passed the state Senate and U.S. congressional maps on party-line votes.
    Earlier Thursday, state Sens. Paul Newton and Warren Daniel, the Republicans responsible for drawing new state Senate and U.S. congressional maps, presented them to the House redistricting committee.

    “We believe that if either party runs good candidates and good campaigns and touches the issues that people care about, either party could have a majority at the end of the next election,” Newton said about the Senate maps.

    Daniel presented the U.S. congressional maps and described them as highly competitive. Both senators described the maps as passing the mathematical measures for partisan fairness that the state Supreme Court laid out as potential tests for constitutionality.

    But Democrats protested, along with one Republican.

    “Boy, I’m really not sure how this map is going to pass constitutional muster,” said Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, during the floor debate.

    The constitutional standard for these maps was only set earlier in the week, when the state Supreme Court released its full opinion on Monday. The court previously released an order Feb. 4 that gave some guidance about what it would look for in constitutional maps.

    Harrison based her analysis of metropolitan counties, such as Guilford in her district, that were split in the proposed congressional map.

    Rep. John Szoka, R-Cumberland, a 20-year military veteran, voted against the congressional maps for splitting up Fort Bragg, the largest military base in the county. The maps followed the court’s mathematical standards for fairness at the expense of keeping communities of interest together, he said.

    Rep. Charles Graham, D-Robeson, partially agreed with his Republican colleague. Graham had hoped to see more preservation of communities of interest, namely a U.S. congressional district encompassing all of the Sandhills region of the state. An early proposed version of the map included such a district, but in this passed version, the region is split into three districts.

    On Friday, the maps will be filed with the three-judge panel at the trial court to review the maps for compliance with the state Supreme Court’s order on what counts as constitutional political maps. The court may also consider maps from the three groups that sued the Republican legislative leaders in December to stop their first attempts at redistricting from going forward.

    As it stands now, the 2022 primaries are scheduled for May 17. Here are the court and election deadlines leading up to Election Day, and the ways it could all get delayed again.

    Trial court to decide, again
    When a plaintiff raises a constitutional question in North Carolina’s courts, it goes in front of a panel of three Superior Court judges. The panel appointed in this case, of two Republican judges and one Democrat, previously said the Republican maps drawn in November were constitutional.

    Plaintiffs appealed that decision to the state Supreme Court, which overturned the decision. The higher court laid out some standards by which the partisan skew of a map, or how much it favors one political party over another, can be measured for constitutional compliance and sent the case back to the three-judge panel.

    Now, Judges Graham Shirley II, R-Wake, Nathaniel Poovey, R-Catawba, and Dawn Layton, D-Richmond, will have until noon Feb. 23, to decide which maps the state will use in its 2022 primaries.
    Each of the plaintiff groups in the case — the N.C. League of Conservation Voters, the Democratic Party-affiliated National Redistricting Fund and the nonpartisan good-governance group Common Cause — can submit their own maps for consideration.

    If no party appeals the decision, the primaries would likely proceed as planned. Candidate filing would open Feb. 24 and close March 4. Then, absentee-by-mail ballots would go out at the latest on April 1. Early in-person voting would start April 28, and the primary election day would be May 17.

    But an appeal of the trial court’s decision from any party by 5 p.m. Feb. 23 would likely delay all that, according to Catawba College political science professor and redistricting expert Michael Bitzer.

    “It’s an extremely tight window that we’re operating under right now, and any further delay will have an effect on the primary date,” Bitzer wrote in an email to Carolina Public Press.

    That’s even before considering the potential complications of an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court or the legal fight over the eligibility of U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-Hendersonville, to run, both of which could further disrupt parts of the elections.

    How voters are affected
    Redistricting “​​is the most political activity in American politics,” and North Carolina’s voters are watching it play out in real time, Bitzer said.

    As a consequence, voters have seen their voting districts split, zipped back together and recombined in ways that could change who is on their ballots. The primary was delayed from March and could be delayed again. Guilford County has seen some of the most dynamic proposed changes to its political maps.

    But for voters who may be confused or frustrated with the redistricting process, the county’s election director, Charlie Collicutt, wants voters to remember there’s so much more on the ballot.

    Voters could see county commissioners, sheriffs, school board members, bond issues or municipal offices on their ballots come May. Each of those elections is important, so even if voters are throwing up their hands with the state legislature or congressional elections, their votes can still make an impact in other races, Collicutt said.

    Once candidate filing is complete, elections officials like Collicutt will have a couple of weeks under the current schedule to create ballots for each precinct in their counties. When that happens, voters can use N.C. State Board of Elections website to look up sample ballots to see the candidates and races that will be on their ballots to help them prepare to vote.

    Voters can already request an absentee-by-mail ballot, which will be mailed out at least 45 days before the election. Even if they request an absentee ballot, voters can still choose to vote in person but may not do both.

    “​​I’m a voter, too, and I don’t want it to be hard and confusing,” Collicutt said.

    What’s next
    Redistricting lawsuit schedule
    Feb. 23: Noon deadline for the trial court to approve the General Assembly’s maps or adopt maps from plaintiffs

    Feb. 23: 5 p.m. deadline for an emergency application of a stay with the state Supreme Court

    If no party asks for a stay, the elections will likely follow the schedule below. If a party asks for a stay and the state Supreme Court grants it, every step below will likely be delayed.

    Election schedule
    Absentee-by-mail ballot portal is open.

    Feb. 24-March 4: Candidate filing. Candidates who filed under the previous districts and want to move under the new maps can ask to have their first filing negated and refile.

    March 28: County boards of elections will start mailing out absentee by-mail ballots. The State Board of Elections could delay this to April 1 if some counties need more time.

    April 22: Civilian voter registration deadline for the primary.

    April 28: One-stop, in-person early voting period begins.

    May 10: Last day for civilians to ask for an absentee ballot.

    May 14: Last day for one-stop, in-person early voting period.

    May 17: Election Day for the primary and delayed municipal elections. All absentee-by-mail ballots have to be in the mail and postmarked by this date.

  • pexels anna shvets 3786126 Cumberland County will be lifting the indoor mask mandate beginning Feb. 20 at 5 p.m. This comes after the Cumberland County Schools Board of Education voted to lift their mask mandate earlier this month.

    The mask mandate for the county went into place back on Aug. 27 when the Delta Variant of COVID-19 was rising in the county. However, the latest data shows that the COVID-19 infection positivity rate peaked in North Carolina at 36.3% on Jan. 22 and has decreased to 14.4% as of Feb. 15. Cumberland County’s positivity rate has decreased from 37.8% on Jan. 31, to 25.5% on Feb. 15. The Cumberland County Department of Public Health says that the number continues to decline.

    “The COVID-19 landscape looks different than it did two years ago. We know what works and what stops the spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Jennifer Green, Cumberland County Public Health Director. “Masks remain an effective strategy for preventing the spread of COVID-19. Despite the recension of this formal order, we continue to recommend masking in public indoor spaces, particularly and in settings with lower vaccination rates.”

    Masks will still be required in all Cumberland County government buildings, including the Cumberland County Department of Public Health and the Judge E. Maurice Braswell Cumberland County Courthouse. Residents should continue to comply with mask requirements in businesses, healthcare and long-term facilities, educational settings, and other institutions as appropriate.

    The Federal CDC Order requires face masks to be worn by all people at indoor transportation hubs and while on public transportation, including school buses and vans, remains in place.

  • The City of Fayetteville held a Race in America roundtable discussion between public servants who have managed Fayetteville-Cumberland Human Relations efforts since the Commission's creation in 1965.

    Town Hall Panelists included Former State Representative Elmer Floyd, Ron McElrath, Dr. Anthony Wade and the current Commission Vice-Chairwoman Milette Harris as the moderator.

    Panelists spoke about where Fayetteville came from and where the future is heading.

    "When it comes down to planning for the future, you have to understand where you come from," said Wade. "When you speak to these issues going forward, you speak to them based on your reflections of the past."

    The panel said they could use the past as a launching pad to push Fayetteville to a better future. Many panelists believe the roadmap to a more progressive future is through the youth.

    The human relation commission has discussed having a youth commission so the young leaders of the community can talk about the issues in their city and schools.

    "It's never too late, and it's never too early to get involved," said Harris.'

    The vice-chairwoman said the key to impact change is to educate, communicate and listen to everyone in the community, no matter the perspective.

    McElrath says to work toward a more inclusive community; they need to look at where the decision-makers are and make sure that everyone is sitting at the table. He said constant dialogue is essential to ensure everyone is on the same page and understands everyone's perspective.

    "We must never assume that what progress we've gained, we can't lose," McElrath said.

  • Faith Column When we first meet someone, we're often taken by their accomplishments, the way they dress or speak or even the way they enter a room. Rarely though, do we consider the forces of life and nature which made them this way. Similarly, when we see the beauty – or even the desolation – in nature, we rarely consider the long-term change or forces by which it was created. Consider for a moment the steep, multifaceted walls, stunning colors and sheer magnitude of the Grand Canyon.

    For as much beauty as it offers any beholder, it has obviously made it through a very violent past. It is living to tell the story of ice and raging waters, wind and time, which have made it the breathtaking beauty we see today. As humans, though our experiences alone do not define us, we are surely shaped, to various extents, by the waters of experience that have flowed through us, and maybe more so by our responses to them. Every one of us has a past. Measured in hours, days or years, the events of our lifetime have gradually developed us into what others see today. Our tendency is to see objects we consider beautiful without any consideration for the process of its creation. I enjoy giving gifts to family and friends that extend from one of my many hobbies (many, because I am 'blessed' with a short attention span). One of the hobbies I particularly enjoy is woodworking.

    Rather than furniture or items that require great precision levels, I prefer to make small things where the appreciation value comes from their uniqueness. If I really dug into my psyche, I'd probably discover that this actually comes from a sense of inadequacy and that unique, one-of-a-kind gifts leave less room for judgment. But more than that, I believe there can even be a somewhat redemptive quality to woodworking. One year I wanted to do something special for the people I work with at Christmas and decided to make wooden Christmas ornaments. I first pulled a few pieces of firewood from the stack near the edge of our property. After cleaning them up, I began shaping them into rectangles about eight inches long and three to four inches across. After some preparation, I secured each piece on a lathe, which causes the wood to spin at rotations up to thousands of revolutions per minute. At first, they wobble. So, I spin them a little more slowly and introduce a large chisel to take off the rough edges, causing them to be unbalanced.

    As the wood becomes a little more stable, I can increase the speed and use smaller chisels to begin the process of refining and shaping each piece into a definable shape. Eventually, I'm able to use sandpaper to make the newly formed shape smooth to the touch. This is us. This is the Grand Canyon. We are, over time, shaped with cuts both deep and shallow at the hands of a Creator. And just as one can see the beauty in one, or the wonder in another, so is the beauty of our uniqueness. We have all lived a story worth telling, and when we do, we can point people back to the Creator, who had a plan from the beginning of it all.

  • fayetteville logo 1024x585 Celebrating Black History Month is important to many people in this country. None more so than the people in the All American City of Fayetteville. This great city has become home to many ethnicities and cultures. A lot of this has to do with the Fort Bragg military installation. During Fayetteville's annual International Folk Festival, admiration and respect for cultural diversity are highly displayed. However, in February, Black History Month, it's an important time to celebrate and recognize the many contributions and sacrifices and honor the heritage of African Americans who have contributed to the history of the City of Fayetteville.

    Many of us are aware of the nation's tumultuous history related to African Americans and those of African descent. As stated earlier, we want to celebrate the contributions of just a few African American Fayetteville natives. One such person to honor would be the first well-known African American novelist, Charles W. Chesnutt. He grew up in Fayetteville and would serve as principal of the State Colored School from 1880 to 1883. This school would later become Fayetteville State University.

    Today the library on the FSU campus is named in honor of the renowned author.

    In politics, Fayetteville Native Hiram Revels became the nation's first African American United States Senator in 1870. He was born to free black parents in 1827. He served as a minister within the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). There are a few African American firsts in politics in Fayetteville. Marshall Pitts, Jr. served two terms and was the city's first African American Mayor. Ms. Mable C. Smith served as a city councilwoman representing her community east of the Cape Fear River. Mrs. Mary E. McAllister served as the first African American female chair of the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners and served in the NC General Assembly, to name a few.

    African Americans also contributed to local religious endeavors. Henry Evans, a prominent Black preacher, has been credited as the father of the Methodist Church, white and Black, in Fayetteville. Sometime before 1800, he built the African Meeting House, the present-day Evans Metropolitan A. M. E. Zion Church. Another native son Harry Hosier, a Methodist minister of the early 19th century, was once called "one of the greatest orators in America" by Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

    We could go on and on about the rich African American History that has come out of and helped shape this All American City of Fayetteville. Still, none of it would mean anything we don't continue to build on it. We must continue to celebrate our diversity. That is done by publicly honoring Black men and women who contribute to the city's history. We must make sure that history brings us together as a community and does not divide us. History has to live outside of the classrooms and textbooks. It must become a lived experience if we are to truly appreciate its' lessons. Finally, we have to make a concerted effort to share these lessons to make not only Fayetteville a better city but North Carolina a better state and the United States a better nation.

  • coffee Gerrymandering.

    It is a word only a sitting legislator in the majority party can love. For everyone else, it is a word that can send us into a deep sleep lasting the duration of any given election year. Yes, it is a boring concept for most of us, but make no mistake. When it comes to gerrymandering — you snooze, you lose.

    Here is a quick tutorial. The US Constitution requires an actual count of how many people live in our nation taken every ten years, and that count is called a census.

    The first census was taken in 1790 and found just under four million newly minted Americans. The 2020 census found almost 334 million of us. Census data has many uses, but their most important role is determining representation in the US House of Representatives and state legislatures.

    For example, our least populous state, Wyoming, has only one member of the US House, while North Carolina, the 9th most populous state, now has 14 members of the House to represent us in Washington.
    Redistricting based on census data is done in all states, mostly by partisan legislatures, including the NC General Assembly.

    The idea is that each citizen has roughly equal representation — that no state’s and no citizen’s political clout is appreciably greater than any other’s based on population.

    It is a simple stab at fairness that has been polluted from the birth of our nation. Simply put, the party in power at any given moment manipulates the census information to ensure that more candidates representing its point of view get elected than candidates from other parties and points of view. It has been done by political parties that no longer exist, and more recently, by both Democrats and Republicans.

    At its basest definition, gerrymandering means politicians select their voters and not the other way around.

    And why should you care? Isn’t gerrymandering just politics, as usual, no matter who is doing it? You should care because the people doing the gerrymandering may well be taking your vote away from you.

    Consider this. If you are a Democrat in a congressional or legislative district heavily gerrymandered to be Republican, there is really no reason for you to make an effort to vote. The Democrats you support are not going to be elected. It works the other way, as well, for Republicans in heavily gerrymandered Democratic districts. Gerrymandering is a theft of a basic right of citizenship — your right to vote and choose who represents you.

    But it is complicated. Over time, various and sometimes conflicting court rulings have made the redistricting process consider the rights of minority voters, the wholeness of communities both by geography and culture and other factors.

    These are often difficult to assess and balance and are virtually impossible for average voters to grasp, which translates into a national sleeping potion.

    Complicated though it is, legal redistricting and its ugly twin, gerrymandering, are facts of American life that affect each and every voter and those they love. You should care because not caring and opposing gerrymandering essentially gives your vote to others whose viewpoints and goals may well be the exact opposite of yours and may promote policies that harm you and your family.

    More cynically, if you agree with the current gerrymanderers, legislators in North Carolina and throughout the nation, the political pendulum always swings. They, and you, will eventually be on the receiving end of gerrymandering, and you may not like that — not one little bit!

    Much less painful and much more palatable is redistricting reform to rein in out-of-control gerrymandering birthed by vicious and out-of-control political partisanship.

  • Sherri and Dewberry Joseph "Bear" Dewberry is a man who values community and giving back.

    Dewberry, who often goes by the childhood nickname "Bear," describes himself as a community partner. He owns several local businesses and has joined forces with the Fayetteville Chamber and multiple other organizations since moving to Fayetteville years ago. While he's not a native, he considers Fayetteville his home.

    Dewberry grew up in Georgia in a military family and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1995. One year later, he was stationed in Fayetteville for the Special Operations Combat Medic Course (SOCM). He was away from his family and his new wife, so he went into town.

    "I went into a small tavern here, and the welcoming vibe was so overwhelming and so overpowering that I wanted to do that," Dewberry said. "I wanted to be that for anybody else to walk through my door."

    He served 22 years in the Army. Most of that time - outside of his 14 deployments - he was stationed at Fort Bragg.

    When he retired in 2017, he knew Fayetteville would continue to be his home. His children were in the local school system, and he had just opened his first bar, On-After Pub & Grub. He said Fayetteville was a place where he could give a helping hand to people who needed help. It's a place where community and community values are strong.

    "Every community has its challenges. Every community has its divisions. But Fayetteville, I think, does a better job of traversing those divisions, those caverns that destroy other communities because we are so diverse because the military is such a huge presence because local law enforcement is so supportive," Dewberry said. "I mean, in other communities where you will absolutely fall apart, Fayetteville doesn't."

    He told Up & Coming Weekly that he wanted to make sure giving back to the community was a core tenant of any of his businesses. So, at least once a quarter, he helps hold a fundraiser or community event that supports a local organization or a Fayetteville community member.

    "We've done fundraisers for the care division, domestic violence and abuse. We've done fundraisers for Autism awareness. We've done it for breast cancer," Dewberry said. "We've created our own charity called the On-After Children's Christmas where every year we link up with schools and counselors and adoptive families and with our family, and each of the kids will get toys and books and food and clothes."

    Nothing illustrates this need to give back, as well as the fundraiser On-After Pub & Grub helped with earlier this month. The On-After team, along with Cape Fear UPA, raised money to help a local family whose five-year-old son was diagnosed with leukemia. The child's father had to leave his job to help with the treatments for his son. In one day, they were able to raise $7,500.

    In 2019, On-After was awarded the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year Award, and Rep. Richard Hudson recognized Dewberry at the House of Representatives.

    "They have proven to be a reliable leader in the community and continue to go above and beyond to support the community wherever it is needed," Hudson said during the recognition.

    Despite this praise, Dewberry says he doesn't consider himself a leader or anyone special, just a good guy.

    He spoke about a soldier who reached out to Dewberry four years ago and asked for help. Dewberry said he took an interest in this man's career and helped him get through some troubles he was having. That same soldier, four years later, has been promoted, is a squad leader now, and is serving as a mentor.

    "And that type of passing it on is so much more important to me than passing on wealth or goods or services," Dewberry said. "It's passing on knowledge and passing on understanding so that people can help themselves and then help others."

    The future is looking bright for Dewberry. His cleaning company, which opened during the pandemic to keep his workers at On-After Pub & Grill paid, is doing well. He is also planning on opening a new pool and billiard

    hall called H8ters. It will be opening in early 2022 off Fort Bragg Road.

    Outside of his new business, he is currently planning an Autism Awareness On-After Poker Run. This year will be the fifth that Dewberry has helped with an annual autism run. He says they partner with several local organizations to help raise money for the Autism Society of Cumberland County. The next run is scheduled for April 16.

    "I want to be the butterfly that affects the rest of the world, but through small doings," Dewberry laughed. "Of course, a big, bearded butterfly named Bear."

  • Cumberland Foundation The Cumberland Community Foundation manages more than 60 scholarship endowment funds created by local individuals, families, civic organizations and corporations who want to provide a path to higher education for future generations.

    “Right now we are getting ready to open the community scholarship cycle, and the applications will be available online starting Wednesday, Feb. 16,” said Mary Holmes, president/CEO, Cumberland Community Foundation, Inc. “Between now and then, students should complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and this is the process the foundation uses to verify financial need.”

    She added, “Most of the scholarships are based on financial need, academic achievement and community service, but we do have a few that are not need-based and are achievement-based only.”

    “So the student will go online between Wednesday, Feb. 16 and Wednesday, March 23 to fill out the application and answer questions about themselves,” said Holmes. “The questions want to know the high school you attend, which colleges you want to attend, your grade point average (GPA) and your intended major in college.”

    Holmes added the online system would present the opportunities for which the student is eligible, and the applications will pop up for the student to apply.

    Each year, Cumberland Community Foundation awards more than $900,000 in college scholarships to students from southeastern North Carolina. The Cumberland Community Foundation Scholarship Committee selects most scholarships. A few scholarships are selected by external selection committees at the individual high schools. High school students should check with their school’s guidance office to learn about scholarship opportunities.

    “A lot of scholarships are narrowed down to a specific high school, and for example, the John Thomas Gibson Memorial Scholarship is for a student going from E. E. Smith High School to North Carolina A & T University,” said Holmes. “Some of our scholarships are for students in any high school in Cumberland County going to any college, and they just have to go online and apply to be presented with all of the opportunities.”

    “We have a wonderful committee of mostly retired educators that serve as our scholarship selection committee,” said Holmes. “They read all of the applications, make the selection, and then they score all of the applications based on the priorities that the donor established.”

    She added, “For example, a donor may want 50% of the points based on financial need, 25% on academic success, and 25% on community service.”

    “We just completed the process of selecting 21 students for the Robert H. Short scholarship, and he left 10 million dollars to the Cumberland Community Foundation to help local students go to college,” said Holmes. “Those students will receive up to $30,000 payable over a 4-year period.”

    Applications are due Wednesday, Mar. 23 at 11:59 pm. Students will be asked to submit their information from their FAFSA application, their transcripts, letters of recommendation, etc.

    Visit for information on how to apply for the scholarships. For more information, visit

  • pexels julia larson 6455778 The fitness industry continually evolves with apps, exercise equipment and the latest concepts in exercise science. The newest buzzword in the industry is "functional training." If you are not in the industry, you may ask what functional training is? Ask any personal trainer or group fitness instructor what functional training is, and chances are you will get a variety of explanations.

    Functional training done correctly has a huge carry over on the way we move in everyday life with benefits for everyone regardless of age or fitness level. Fitness centers have historically modeled their floor exercise stations with sectorized equipment that uses a singular motion for specific muscle groups, emphasizing muscle development based on repetitions and weight. The bodybuilding industry had and still has a significant influence on training and gyms filled with machines designed to target muscle isolation.

    Functional training enters the arena as an added approach to overall training. Fitness centers are seeing the need for functional training and making entire additions for rooms or an area with selected equipment specifically for this purpose.

    Functional training is defined as training that relates to how we move daily. Functional training consists of five daily life patterns: bend and lift, push, pull, single-leg movement, and rotation. Our movements are multi-planar. The planes of motion incorporated with the five-movement patterns are frontal (side to side), sagittal (forward and backward movement) and transverse, which is rotation. As an example, you go to the grocery store pushing your cart, back up for something you missed, select items that are high and low on the shelves, take the items and place them on the checkout, put the items back in the cart, push the cart to the car and put the bags in. Drive home, take them out, carry groceries up the steps into the house and place them on shelves. You may not realize it, but this scenario involves all three planes of motion and all five movement patterns.

    You pushed, pulled, bent and lifted, worked in a single leg motion and rotated. How does functional training help you with this scenario? Functional training significantly impacts life outside the gym and gives an added advantage in the sports arena. Fitness centers add entire rooms or areas for training that are distinctively different in concept and flow. A room might include workstations that involve multiple movements and unconventional exercises. Types of equipment might consist of a ski machine that works you in a forward motion like the movement of cross-country skiing using the triceps, back muscles, quads, glutes and core. A sled machine that requires you to push and pull from one point to the next, which involves the entire core and leg muscles to push and pull. A punching bag works the core, rotation, leg, back, arms and pectoral muscles. TRX equipment, weighted balls, rowing machines, air dynamic cycles and treadmills. Versatile workstations and a variety of equipment that is fun and challenging. Functional training is also becoming part of group fitness classes, emphasizing compound movement patterns that include weights. If you are thinking about joining a fitness center or hiring a personal trainer, inquire about functional training. It can improve your daily activities, sports games and recreation with strength stability, performance and movement patterns. Live, love life with increased movement and strength.

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