• get down downtown flyerCool Springs Downtown District will host Get Down, Downtown on May 28 from 7-9 p.m. in downtown Fayetteville.

    “The mission behind Get Down, Downtown Fayetteville is to showcase our local musicians, artists and performers, while encouraging visitors to shop and eat local in downtown Fayetteville,” said Lauren Falls, Cool Springs director of marketing and events.

    This event highlights the organizations Busker Program, which has been incorporated in their 4th Friday and holiday events over the last three years.

    Attendees can expect seeing live performers, artists, musicians along Hay Street and Person Street. The family-friendly event will also feature a balloon artist.

    “This is a free, family friendly event and we encourage you to come and enjoy the local talent here in downtown Fayetteville,” Falls said.

    Some of the artists and performers will include, Michael Daughtry and the Drift (Musician), Aloha Ka'naka O Hula Hulau Dancers, Matthew Mercer (VADEN presents Art by D-Zine), Costa, a balloon artist from Imagine Circus, Shadows of the Fire Dance Troupe, performers from Gilbert Theater, among others.

    The event won’t feature specific deals or promotions, but attendees are encouraged to support local businesses and attractions.

    “At Get Down Downtown Fayetteville, you can expect to see a diverse group of performers, artists and musicians from our Fayetteville community” she said.
    For more information, please visit our event page:

  • 11 rocknontheriverAfter being shut down last year due to the pandemic, local music event Rock’n On The River is back and ready to kick-start the season with a double header May 21.

    The concert series will feature a performance each month from May until October at 1122 Person St. (behind Deep Creek Grill) in Fayetteville. The May show will feature two tribute bands — Mostley Crue, playing Motley Cure hits, and Shoot To Thrill, who will pay homage to AC/DC.

    “The event will benefit two local non-profits - Karen Chandler Trust and Kidsville News,” said Greg Adair, organizer of Rock’n On The River. “Half of the proceeds from the event will go to these non-profits.”

    The Karen Chandler Trust is a local nonprofit helping those battling cancer. Kidsville News Foundation is an education and literacy nonprofit in Cumberland County.

    Mostley Crue will perform from 6-8 p.m. Shoot To Thrill will kick off at 8:15 p.m. to 10:15 p.m.

    “We are a pretty high energy band and bring a lot to the show,” said Scott Koempel, lead guitarist for Mostley Crue. “It will be a lot of fun and will be a great night if the weather is perfect.”

    Based out of Raleigh, Mostley Crue started about 13 years ago and currently has four members and a growing following.

    “They are there to laugh and have a great time,” he said. “The band we are playing with, we are great friends, they are a great band and, in the music community, a lot of the community is like family, we support each other.”
    Shoot To Thrill, another Raleigh native, consists of five members and is an all women rock band covering AC/DC that has been around for the last eight years. Shoot To Thrill is known for their fun stage show that incorporates the

    “Even though we like to dress up, rock out and put on a show, we really like to play well,” said Wendy Brancaccio of Shoot To Thrill. “We are so excited … it was so fun when we played two years ago.”

    The Rock’n On The River events will feature food and drinks for purchase at the venue.

    “Deep Creek Grill is the partner that will offer different diner type foods like barbecue, hotdogs, the typical southern diner food,” Adair said. “This is also a Healy sponsored event, and they will be selling beer, four different types of beer and drinks. No outside food or drinks will be allowed.”

    Rock’n On The River began in 2018 when Adair felt the need for a local event for the people of Fayetteville.

    “I just found the place down there and wanted to bring the river back, it wasn't being utilized the way it should and it's a really pretty place,” he said.

    The music series will feature other bands like Reflections II, Trial by Fire, Heart Breaker, Joyner Young & Marie and more for the rest of the season.

    “It's a great set up that gives a chance for a lot of new people to discover bands that may not have seen or go to see usually,” Koempel said. “It's a win situation for the vendors, the event, the bands and people.”

    Parking for the show begins at 5 p.m. and costs $3 per person in any vehicle. Food and beverage sales also begin at 5 p.m. Attendees are encouraged to bring their chairs and blankets. No pets are allowed at the event.

    For more information, line-up updates on Rock’n On The River, visit their Facebook page

    10 Crue and Thrill







    May 21
    6 p.m. Mostley Crue (Motley Crue Tribute)
    8:15 p.m Shoot To Thrill (AC/DC Tribute)
    June 18
    6 p.m. Reflections II (variety)
    8:15 p.m. Trial By Fire (Journey Tribute)
    July 16
    6p.m. Joyner, Young & Marie (Pop/Variety)
    8:15 p.m. Heart Breaker (Heart Tribute)
    Aug. 27
    6 p.m. Throwback Collaboration Band (R&B/Dance)
    8:15 p.m. North Tower (Beach/Boogie)
    Sept. 17
    6 p.m. Cool Heat (Variety/Beach/Dance)
    8:15 p.m. Bad Inc. (Bad Company Tribute)
    Oct. 22
    6 p.m. Rivermist (Classic Rock/Variety/ R&B)
    8:15 p.m. Tuesday's Gone (Skynyrd Tribute)

  • 04 210506 A OP908 0793sOn a normal day at Camp Mackall, hundreds of soldiers seeking to join the elite ranks of Army Special Operations, are running, rucking, climbing and utilizing logic and intelligence to solve problems. On May 6, things looked a little different as the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School’s Family Programs hosted a Spouse Q-Course, which brought the spouses of Special Operations soldiers, cadre and students to the training ground to walk a mile or two in their soldiers’ boots.

    Dee Ann Rader, the Family Resiliency Coordinator for Family Programs, greeted the spouses with a big smile. “This is going to be a great day,” said Rader. “Nothing but good vibes today. I know the spouses are going to have a great day, and that the SWCS cadre will do a great job.”

    Rader’s enthusiasm was matched by the spouses who came in groups and began to mingle immediately. The spouses were excited and their energy filled the room. “This is really a great day to have this event,” continued Rader. “Tomorrow (Friday, May 7) is Military Souse Appreciation Day — so we couldn’t have chosen a better day.”

    The event is one of many family events that is funded by One Team. One Team is an Army funded inclusive program intended to fill in gaps in readiness of SWCS student spouses and families, with the goal of providing resources, training, connections and mentorship to build a firm foundation of knowledge, strength and resiliency as they move forward in the Special Operations community.

    The group was welcomed to Camp Mackall by Maj. Jacob Wachob, acting commander of 1st Bn., 1st Special Warfare Training Group. 1st Battalion is in charge of ARSOF Selection and Assessments, as well as the qualification courses for Civil Affairs, Psychological Operations and Special Forces.

    “We hope this will be a fun and educational day for you,” he said. “You are going to face some challenges, try some good food and have the opportunity to see and do things that you have not done before. Bite off what you can chew — figuratively and literally — and we hope you have a great day.”

    “Nasty Nick” is the world-famous obstacle course that stretches across Camp Mackall. Prior to beginning their day, the spouses watched a video that describes the course. Looking across the room, the spouses looked on in trepidation, but also in excitement.

    “You are going to get to do things today that most people won’t ever get to do. The obstacle course assess your strength, agility and forces you to conquer your fears,” a member of the cadre explained.

    Prior to tackling the obstacle course, the spouses spent time at the SERE Compound. SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) is a training program that prepares U.S. military personnel, Department of Defense civilians and contractors to survive and "return with honor” should they ever be captured by enemy forces.

    At the SERE compound, the spouses were divided into teams — much like the small teams Army Special Operations Soldiers operate in while deployed — to move through various areas of the training, including weapons, trapping and survival techniques. They also had a chance to check out the “Road Kill Café.”

    At the trapping location, spouses learned how soldiers were trained to find water and food if they were ever caught behind enemy lines. A member of the cadre explained that students are taught to focus on protein, noting that students are taught about animals that they can find in various areas of the world, and were shown number of ways of trapping an animal using things you find around you like a rock or string. He explained that a soldier may set 12 traps, but percentage wise would only get one hit, noting that they are looking for smaller animals such as squirrels, rabbits and even rats.

    Jessica, whose husband is in the Civil Affairs Qualification Course, signed up for the event because she “wanted to see first-hand what her husband was going through” so she could “relate to the stories “ her husband shared with her about his training. “This gives me perspective on what he is doing, and I can understand what he is talking about.”

    At the weapons station, they learned that weapons can be made from just about anything, including rocks and sticks. They were given the opportunity to use a couple of the weapons, the first, called a “rabbit stick,” is quite literally a heavy stick that is thrown in a lateral movement at a small animal. The next weapon was a man-made spear that was launched with an atlatl, which is a tool that uses leverage to achieve great velocity.

    Elle, a vivacious brunette, was the first to jump at the chance to throw the rabbit stick. Her throw was not on the mark — or even near it — but she laughed at how bad her throw was. “My husband is in the Special Forces Qualification Course, and when I heard about this, I jumped because I wanted to understand more about what my husband was doing. By doing this, I can connect on a different level having seen for myself what he talks about. I really never thought I would have the opportunity to do this.”

    Jamie’s husband has been in the Army 8 years, and is now in the SFQC. “This is the first time I’ve gotten to see Camp Mackall and having the opportunity to experience new thing and meet new people sounded great to me. It is also pretty neat to learn how make a weapon from thing you pick up off the ground.”

    While most of the attendees were not successful with the atlatl, Jewels, a former soldier, and athlete, hit the target dead center multiple times. “I’m really interested in what he has been doing, and while I am prior military it’s cool to see the SOF side of the house. This is a good group of women, and we are having a lot of fun together.”

    The bonding of spouses is one of the goals of Family Programs. Carolyn Roberson, the Senior Advisor to Family Programs, is the spouse of Maj. Gen. Patrick Roberson, the SWCS Commander. Having lived the Army life, Carolyn explained that the bonds between military spouses are important, particularly when soldiers are deployed or away at training. She noted that having a support system of people who know what you are going through is key to navigating Army life. Having helped plan the event, she was excited to see the bonds that were formed by the spouses and their willingness to try new things and tackle obstacles.

    Prior to leaving the SERE area, the attendees had a chance to taste the offerings of the “Road Kill Café.” The day’s menu was comprised of beaver, otter, goat, deer and raccoon that was cooked by the cadre. The majority of the spouses at least took a bite or two of the offerings, with one woman noting that it “wasn’t that bad.”

    Elia is a native of Colombia, but her husband is a Special Forces Medic, who previously served in 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), but is now an instructor at the Special Warfare Medical Group, which trains ARSOF medics.

    “When we were in Colombia, I didn’t get to see or know much about what he did and didn’t have the opportunity to see it,” she said. “So I wanted to come out and see and learn.”

    The excitement grew as the six teams approached Nasty Nick. While some of the attendees were hesitant as they approached the obstacle course, Aisha grew more excited. “Specifically, I wanted to see these obstacles.”

    She not only saw them, she also got a chance to climb them, cross them and vault across them (the vault wasn’t very successful); however, the teams came together to lift, push and pull one another across – which is symbolic of the way spouses support one another while their soldiers are deployed: They come together as “one team.”

    (All photos by K. Kassens, U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.)

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  • warfighter health symposiumThe Task Force Dagger Special Operations Foundations and the Hunterseven Foundation are coming together to host the Warfighter Health Symposium on May 18. The interactive event is designed to educate service members and veterans on the importance of understanding military exposures as they relate to wellness.

    The educational discussion is free, however, those wanting to attend should register ahead of time as there are only 200 spots available.

    The information presented in this symposium includes military situational awareness, understanding your operational environment, top toxic exposures, and health concerns in military veterans. As well as published academic research conducted by the HunterSeven medical team, other topics presented include identifying gaps in healthcare provider knowledge as it relates to veteran health care, preventative measures, and being proactive in your healthcare while in and out of service.

    This event is for ages 18 and up. The content presented in this symposium is for those who are active military, veterans, their families, medical providers and congressional legislators. There will be Q & A time, a networking session and food and drinks available.

    There will be a variety of presenters including Army Master Sgt. Geoff Dardia, a Green Beret; former Army Sgt. Chelsey Poisson, a registered nurse; June Heston, wife of Brigadier General Michael Heston; and video testimonies of veterans dealing with health issues. A video from North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis will also be shown during the event.

    The Warfighter Health Symposium will take place from 6-9 p.m. on May 18 at Studio 15 located at 215 Williams St. in Fayetteville. For more information and to register for the event visit the website

  • nerd marketIt’s time to put on your favorite superhero outfit because the Cool Spring Downtown District is hosting its first-ever Nerd Market on May 15 from noon until 4 p.m.

    “The Nerd Market will be a place where you can find DC and Marvel memorabilia, artists selling their work, and so much more,” said Lauren Falls, the director of marketing and events for Cool Spring Downtown District.

    Adults and kids of all ages are invited to take part in the opportunity to shop and support the local nerd/comic con community.

    “This is a family-friendly event and free to the public. We will have a food truck, DJ and a cosplay contest that you can enter to win a prize,” Falls sad.

    The Nerd Market will be held at 301 Hay Street in Fayetteville. Those interested in entering the cosplay costume contest can register online. For more information and sign up please visit

  • 05 mil vet kittenCumberland County Animal Services is collaborating with Fort Bragg veterinarians to perform vital surgical procedures on shelter animals. Working alongside Animal Services employees military veterinarians are volunteering their time to spay and neuter shelter dogs and cats to get them ready for adoption. Veterinarians also perform the same service for some of the feral cats that are part of the department’s Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Release program. The program is the most effective and humane option for reducing community cat populations around the county.

    “Not having our own clinic and getting access to surgery and just hands-on practice for our technicians and doctors can be challenging,” said Maj. Renee Krebs, DVM, Clinical Specialist with the 248th Medical Detachment Veterinary Service Support. “It’s so beneficial for us and we really enjoy helping out the shelter.” Once the animals are taken in for surgery, they are placed under anesthesia by trained staff, who also monitor the animals during their surgery and throughout their recovery.

    “We appreciate all the help we get from the Fort Bragg Veterinary Services,” said Animal Services Director Elaine Smith. “They greatly expand our capacity to provide quality care for these animals. They also help us get animals ready for adoption much more quickly, so they don’t have to spend extra days here at the shelter. It’s also great to see the extra experience these veterinarians get so they can keep their surgical skills at the highest level.”

    To learn more about the services Animal Services provides, visit their website at, call 910-321-6852 or visit

    Pictured Above: Maj. Eileen Jenkins, a veterinarian with the 248th Medical Detachment Veterinary Service Support comforts a kitten in this ile photo. (U.S. Army Photo by Dustin D. Biven)

  • 02 churchIt’s that most wonderful time of year again, when the current temporary members of the Fayetteville City Council are tempted to sell the rights to the Public Works Commission for thirty years. In return, the Council will get a mess of pottage in a secret financial story of Biblical proportions.

    This time the would-be buyer is an investment outfit from Louisiana called Bernhard Capital Partners. Let’s call this firm Bernie to keep things simple. The Fayetteville City Council will play the role of Esau. Bernie will take the role of Jacob. PWC will inhabit the role of Birthright in this story.

    Ponder the story of Jacob and Esau from the Bible to see how this fits the City Council’s current flirtation with selling PWC to some out of towners for some fast cash.

    Jacob and Esau were the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah. Esau was born first which gave him the Birthright. This was a big deal in Hebrew times as the first born got the best parts of the family inheritance. Jacob grabbed Esau’s ankle in an effort to be born first. However, Esau emerged first securing his claim to the Birthright.

    Years later, Esau had been out in the fields. He came home hungry as a starving bear. Jacob, being a homebody, had cooked up a mess of red pottage which is what they used to call stew. Jacob, sensing an investment opportunity, refused to give Esau any of the pottage unless Esau swapped his Birthright for a bowl of pottage. Esau’s blood sugar was way down which caused him not to think clearly. Choosing immediate gratification over the delayed version, Jacob agreed to swap his Birthright for the mess of pottage.

    The deal was done. No birthright for Esau. It was a sweet deal for Jacob who was just out a bowl of stew.

    So how does this story fit our very own City Council and its interest in selling PWC as an indentured servant for 30 years to some strangers? Apparently, the City Council was working out a double secret deal like the Manhattan Project with Bernie to sell off PWC. The Raleigh News & Observer spilled the beans in a story on April 13 blowing the cover off the negotiations of the proposed 30 years of PWC wandering in the wilderness under the tender mercies of an out of state company.

    Turns out there is a non-disclosure agreement between the City Council, PWC and Bernie so the full details aren’t available to the roughly 140,000 electric, water and sewer customers of PWC.

    As the Church Lady used to say, “Well, isn’t that convenient?” At the time of the writing of this column, the NDA was still in place and the details were still double secret. The News & Observer report said Bernie had offered $750 million to the City for the PWC rights for the next 30 years.

    If the opening offer was $750 million, you know that the rights are worth far more than that amount.

    PWC has been around since 1905. It is owned by the city of Fayetteville which means the citizens of Fayetteville. It has received numerous awards for being well run and providing excellent service to our citizens.

    In the interest of full disclosure, my father E.H. Dickey was an electrical engineer for PWC for many years. He was one of those guys who got up in the middle of the night during storms to get the power back on. There are a lot of those guys at PWC who get up in the middle of the night to keep things running. They are local. Having local guys who live here take care of things here is a good thing. No one in Louisiana currently decides when to do maintenance in Fayetteville.

    Under Bernie, that could change. Deferring maintenance is way absentee owners make more money. Do you want to trust an absentee owner to decide whether to spend money to maintain PWC’s equipment? I don’t.

    All this comes under the heading of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Bernie may be wonderful. I don’t know. I do know PWC ain’t broke. Why gamble?

    The makeup of the City Council is temporary. Council members come and go. Fayetteville’s citizens outlast councils. PWC has been run by local citizens since 1905 unless the Council decides to sell it into indentured servitude. The temptation for the current Council to sell PWC is going to be great. The Council would have a slush fund of $750 million to spend on all sorts of favorite ideas. How long do you think it would be until they spent that pile of money on pet projects? The current Council will be out of office, the pile of money will be gone, and Bernie down on the bayou will be setting our rates, deciding on maintenance, and putting us on voice mail before you can say “Oops!”

    It was not a good idea to kill the Golden Goose to get her golden eggs. Indenturing PWC for 30 years to get PWC’s Golden Eggs today will be a decision we will all regret later. PWC is Fayetteville’s Birthright.

    It’s your hometown utility. Tell the City Council not to trade 30 years of PWC for a mess of pottage. Tell your City Council to tell Bernie thanks, but no thanks.

  • 10 Yolanda Burse artist WakandaThe Culture and Heritage Alliance will host the “NC Wakanda Gala” on May 15 from 6-10 p.m. at the Volta Space downtown, which is located at 116 Person St.

    The event will feature a variety of art, music, dancing and more. Attendees are encouraged to wear their “Wakanda” themed or African outfits.

    “We are having fun with it,” said Kelly, the vice president for the Culture and Heritage Alliance. “There will be three artists there, we’ll have African drums, dancing, local artists, there will be African food. The Gala will feature artists like Matthew Mercer, Kognoscenti, Yolanda Burse amongst others.”

    Drinks and mingling will begin at 6 p.m., and customers will be served African hors d'oeuvres.

    Mercer, an artist who specializes in comic books, will be offering some “Black Panther” artwork for viewing and purchase.

    The Gala will observe COVID precautions, allowing up to 75 people, and temperatures will be taken at the door.

    “The Alliance promotes peace, culture in our community and all of North Carolina,” Kelly said. “We promote dance performances, culture exhibitions, storytelling to inform others of the customs, culture and traditions of all indigenous people and that’s native American, Latino, African and so much more.”

    Located at 105 Person St., the Alliance started 15 years ago and hosts events like the African World Peace Festival, the NC African Film Festival, Salsa & Swing Nights, Celebration of African Culture and workshops throughout the year.

    The Salsa & Swing event is free to the public, happening every Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at the Volta Space. Donations are welcome and go towards the Heritage and Culture Alliance, Kelly mentioned.

    “People don’t know how much diversity is in our area, so we bring that forth and bring that out, people can see that there is diversity,” she said.

    “Everyone loves African art, but where can you get it? Is it online but you can talk to us and we’ll find someone for you.”

    Tickets prices for the “NC Wakanda Gala” are $25 single and $40 for a couple and can be purchased at

    To learn more about the Alliance, visit

    Pictured Above: The Gala feature works by artists Yolanda Burse (above) and Mathew Mercer, who will dislay "Black Panther" themed works. (Photos Courtesy the Culture and Hertiage Alliance). 

  • 11 Fay area Trans MuseumThe Fayetteville Area Transportation and Local History Museum opened Literary Fayetteville: Pages of Our Past, a new exhibit that showcases books from the late 18th century to the mid-20th century.

    These books tell the story of Fayetteville’s past through pamphlets, stories, diaries, familiy bibles and more.

    “This exhibit has never been done before,” said Museum Director Bruce Daws. “We picked a timeline, and discussed what to showcase within that frame.”

    The exhibit features over 50 books and pamphlets, each with a unique story and connection to Fayetteville.

    Each book within the exhibit is numbered and there are binders provided that contain the information and background for each book displayed.

    The exhibit also examines Fayetteville's authors, book dealers and libraries. It breaks down the importance of books and how they related to social life in the early 1900s.

    Literary Fayetteville: Pages of Our Past is not just an interesting learning experience for the family, it also provides knowledge to both historians and book collectors. Book collectors can learn what makes a book valuable, and factors relating to the care and condition of a book. Historians can learn the backgrounds of previously unknown books.

    This exhibit provides information that is not only interesting to Fayetteville locals but also fills in the gaps for history buffs.

    One of the pieces that stand out is number 49, which is the diary of Elizabeth Poe as it was kept from 1903 to 1909. She was one of the last of the Poe’s to live in Fayetteville’s E. A. Poe House, now a museum on Arsenal Avenue. This diary allows viewers to step back in time and experience Fayetteville’s life and society through the words of a young woman living in that time.

    The free exhibit was opened to the public on April 23. Depending on the popularity of the exhibit, the Museum will determine if it will remain open for six months or a year.

    The exhibit is a family-friendly environment with something for all ages.

    The Fayetteville Area Transportation and Local History Museum is located at 325 Franklin St. and offers tours of several different historical monuments, the museum and the museum’s annex. Museum hours of operation are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

    For more information about tours and schedules visit their website or call 910-433-1457.


  • 12 10North Carolina USA Boxing presents their 1st annual Carolina Gloves Boxing Tournament May 14 through Sunday, May 16 at Freedom Courts Sportsplex.

    Tournament sessions for Saturday are scheduled to begin at noon and 6:00 p.m. Championships will take place Sunday at noon.

    “We wanted an event that we could grow every year and it had to be branded with the Carolina Gloves name on it,” said Patrick Finklin, tournament director and president of NC Amateur Boxing.

    “We decided to have a boxing tournament in Fayetteville because it is the center of the hub of North Carolina.”

    Finklin added that after COVID-19 many boxers are hungry to start boxing again.

    Boxing is a positive intervention that has been proven to help at-risk and troubled youth stay on the right path.

    “It is an outlet and a lot of gyms in the United States use it to keep kids out of trouble,” said Finklin.

    “They see Floyd Mayweather as well as other well-known boxers and their goal is to become one of them because it is not just always about basketball and football.”

    Boxing can be a platform to not only give kids a positive outlet, but also encourage a long-term commitment to the sport.

    “I was too short for basketball and too small for football,” said Juan Verdejo, who started boxing in his teens. Now 34, Verdejo serves as the head boxing coach at Burgess Boxing & Fitness in Spring Lake. “I think boxing is a way of life.”

    The tournament is a way to bring boxers from area clubs together and promote the sport, Verdejo said.

    “This event will help bring awareness, be entertaining and help build up local youth,” Verdejo said.

    The tournament is open to the public and local audiences can also expect to see talent from across the country compete.

    “Right now we have people registered from California, Florida, New York and Ohio that are coming to participate in the tournament, said Finklin. “We are expecting about 300 boxers to show up in Fayetteville from 8 years old to 70 years old.”

    Being a great boxer requires a lot of training, skills and endurance. It takes 4 months to a year to train for a big fight.

    “The characteristics of a great boxer are being motivated, having great mental and physical discipline, perseverance and the determination to get better,” said Finklin.

    “Their training entails stretching, muscle memory, running, sparring, fighting and competing.”

    He added, “They start off as a novice which is 0-10 fights and once they get more than 10 fights they are in an open division. Every boxer’s main goal is to make the United States Olympic Team and afterwards to become pro.”

    “We have about 6 gyms in the Fayetteville and Spring Lake area and we have boxers from all over the country coming in,” said Finklin. “If you have students who are in the boxing gym come on out and support the event because those students will be at the tournament.”

    Prizes for the winners of the tournament include a Championship Belt and bragging rights for the 1st place winner and a medal for the 2nd place winner.

    “We want to bring some exposure of amateur boxing to North Carolina because there are a lot of people who don’t even know that it exists,” said Finklin. “We wanted to create an outlet for people to be able to be excited about and come out to watch.”

    All boxers and coaches must check-in Friday, May 14 from 12-6:00 p.m. General admission is $15 and $10 with a student ID. The event is open to the public. For more information call 910-309-6956 or visit

    Pictured Above: Head boxing coach Juan Verdejo (center giving thumbs up) will be coaching boxers from Burgess Noxing and Fitness in the 1st Carolina Gloves Boxing Tournament. (photo courtesy Burgess Boxing & Fitness). 

  • 03 vote verticalIn 2006/7, I led the opposition to an effort to restructure the Fayetteville City Council. I was wrong. Vote Yes Fayetteville is a current attempt to change the Council make-up from nine single member districts to five single and four at-large seats. This is an opportunity for correcting a serious past failing, and I am taking it. I will do all that I can to help achieve this restructuring.

    In 2006, I attended a meeting where several speakers made the case that the proposed referendum to change the Council structure would dilute Black representation on the Council. In that meeting, I agreed to lead an effort opposing the referendum. I did so even though I had signed the petition calling for the referendum.

    My mind was changed because I accepted the argument that Black citizens face some challenges that are best understood by other Blacks. In addition, when looking at voting patterns in the city, it was clear that white citizens primarily voted for white candidates. This voting pattern brought in the likelihood that there was a racism component at work. There was also the consideration that running at-large is more expensive than competing in a single district and that would be a hindrance for Black candidates.

    In the end, on February 6, 2007, the referendum passed and the process of implementing the new structure started. However, the U.S. Justice Department had authority to reverse the decision of Fayetteville voters and did so. The Justice Department concluded that that the 6-3 plan could negatively affect minority voting. That is, make the election of minority candidates less likely.

    Opposing passage of the restructuring resolution gave our group members far better insight into the issues affecting all Fayetteville citizens, but especially Black residents. More clearly, we saw the societal and political blind spots: areas that needed to be addressed, but with different approaches and attitudes from what was the norm. For this reason, what had been the referendum opposition organization, “NO 2,” became the Fayetteville Area Coalition for Equality (FAYCE). I was elected chairman of the new organization.

    The focus of FAYCE was on the needs of Black residents while endeavoring to have local governments treat all residents fairly and equally. It is absolutely critical to understand that it was not our aim to have any group(s) of Fayetteville citizens given attention to the detriment of any other group(s). Even though our focus was on issues affecting Black citizens, the aim was fair and equal treatment for all.

    FAYCE had a clearly defined approach for pursuing our overall aim. Gathering facts and examining those facts, before taking a position on any issue, was central to that approach. There was also commitment to detailed planning for any project or action.

    Our commitment to these principles showed through in the structure of our meetings, in how we addressed difficult issues, in developing a candidates’ guide for the 2007 municipal election, and sponsoring candidates’ forums for that election. In line with our desire to get facts and thoughtful responses and to accurately and productively inform citizens, we provided forum questions to the candidates in advance. In line with our approach, these forums were not about tripping anybody up; they were about informing citizens and encouraging reasoning over emotion.

    Into 2008, FAYCE was proving very effective in pursuing the organization’s goals. Then came the 2008 North Carolina presidential primary. Barack Obama received 9 out of 10 Black votes. Don Worthington, a reporter with The Fayetteville Observer, called and asked me what I thought about Blacks voting so overwhelmingly for Obama. He quoted me correctly as saying, “If nine out of 10 Blacks voted for Obama, they may be guilty of the same racism they accused whites of in the past.” The main argument in 2006, against restructuring the Council, was that since whites overwhelmingly voted for whites, that voting pattern indicated the presence of racism. Continuing that reasoning, why would Blacks voting overwhelmingly for a Black candidate not also raise the possibility of racism?

    Although there were some individuals who publicly agreed with what I said, the outrage in opposition was deafening. WIDU, a local radio station with a sizeable Black audience, was inundated with calls from people who were totally disgusted with my comment.

    The level of disgust was eye-opening for me. Then there was this statement written by someone on Ron Harrison’s blog: “…FAYCE flounders — and honestly, it was beginning to look like an organization that could positively influence the community … which befuddles me why Merritt opened his mouth in such a manner.” The clear message from the outrage and comments, such as the one quoted here, was that I should have been quiet regarding a condition I believed could prove dangerous and debilitating for this city and even the nation. That was not and is not my approach to leading or living. I resigned as chairman of FAYCE.

    The experience that I have reviewed to this point caused a major revamping of the framework within which I do my thinking. For instance, there was a time when, if the government said something was true, I accepted it without question; I was inclined to, without detailed examination, accept claims of racism as true; I believed that the vast majority of politicians were committed to doing what was good for all Americans; did not give extensive attention to the political process, governmental policies, or fiscal considerations. Every one of these components, and more, of my framework for thinking has shifted 180 degrees.

    Against this backdrop, here is how I now assess Vote Yes Fayetteville. The 5/4 restructuring is required because the current structure of nine single member districts is doing exactly what, in 2006, those of us who opposed that restructuring claimed would happen if it were instituted; except, in 2021, the racial impact is reversed. In 2006, there were more white residents than Black. That is no longer the case. Eight of the 10 members of Council are Black and, during elections, indications are that Black citizens overwhelmingly vote for viable Black Democratic candidates. Applying the racism argument made in 2006/7 by those of us who opposed restructuring, and by the U.S. Justice Department in overruling the will of Fayetteville voters, the current Council structure requires some effort to even the playing field for white citizens.

    Another point of opposition being raised again is that it is more expensive to run at-large than in a district and this puts Black candidates at a disadvantage. One response to this claim is to point to Blacks who are currently serving in at-large positions, such as: sheriff, chairman of the County Commission, and Clerk of Court.
    In terms of fairness and equal treatment of all, the impact on white citizens of this at-large cost argument demands attention. It says to white citizens who have financial means, “You are able to provide substantial financial support to candidates or to your personal campaign; consequently, we must maintain a system that prevents you from participating in the political process in a manner equal to all other citizens.” This is totally unfair and certainly smells like discrimination.

    There also seems to be greater attention to issues championed by Black residents than to those affecting all citizens of the city. The first of these regards the Market House; despite its otherwise very positive historical significance, because slaves were sold there, Council is giving significant attention to what might be done to quell outrage from some Black citizens and an undetermined number of white citizens. Of equal high priority with Council is satisfying demands for a citizens police review board that would have access to records and information that are not now publically available.

    While there is tremendous focus on these two issues, the weightier responsibilities of local government are getting far less attention than is necessary or reasonably expected by the general public. Among these are understaffing of the police department, rising crime rates, failure to protect property during a season of protesting/rioting/looting, not proactively promoting economic development, questionable handling of infrastructure needs, and, in general, conducting city affairs in a fashion that divides rather than unifies citizens.

    The negative consequences of the picture painted here are many, but the loss of white residents is one deserving of serious consideration by those who might oppose Vote Yes Fayetteville. Since 2000, maybe before, the white population of Fayetteville has been in decline. If this restructuring and other fairness/equalizing actions are not taken, Fayetteville will experience the same terrifying quality of life decline as other cities that followed our current course. Consider Chicago, Baltimore, Los Angeles and so forth.

    At the bottom line, I contend that if this effort to restructure the Fayetteville City Council fails, it will show us to be a city where white citizens are treated unfairly, the primary indicator of racism in voting only applies to whites, and we are willing to protect these conditions at the cost of a dramatic decline in our quality of life.

    Support Vote Yes Fayetteville.

  • 04 new chmaber pres copyThe Greater Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce announced that Sharon Fiveash was selected as the new President and CEO. The Chamber’s Board of Directors voted unanimously to approve Fiveash for the position following a nationwide search. “We had many strong candidates from throughout the country. Sharon Fiveash was the ideal choice,” said Brian Pearce, Chair of the Chamber’s Board. Fiveash has served numerous chambers including those in Lexington, Kentucky., Branson and Chillicothe, Missouri, and South Windsor, Connecticut. Pearce said Fiveash brings more than 30 years of diverse business experience combined with experience in marketing, sales, fundraising, economic development and lobbying to Fayetteville.

    Pictured Above: Sharon Fiveash 

  • 06 staff poseWhile many small businesses in the area faced challenges during the pandemic year, some entrepreneurs saw opportunities to adapt, survive and even thrive. Such is the case for Angie Toman, owner of Living Balance Studios, a local wellness and fitness boutique.

    Living Balance opened its store front as a private-instruction only studio in Fayetteville in 2013, but Toman had been offering lessons since 2001. When the pandemic hit, Toman was able to host online classes.

    Due to her ingenuity and dedication to serving her clients, Toman not only adapted her business to survive COVID-19 restrictions, but is now able to expand her business.
    On May 15, Living Balance Studios will host a grand re-opening of sorts, with additional space to meet customer needs. The public is invited to the free event scheduled from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at 201 S McPherson Church Road, to enjoy a sampling of classes offered at the studio. There will be raffle prizes, nutrition and wellness consultations, and more.

    Hobby to Career

    Toman is a former trial lawyer turned health and wellness teacher who began her journey in yoga and Pilates back in the early 90’s to help with her migraines, a result of her stressful work life.

    “At the time, no one in town was teaching yoga in my part of Florida, so I basically started watching videos and training myself, and it wasn’t too hard given that I had a dance background,” Toman said. “It was fun, a hobby on the side.”

    After moving to Fayetteville in August of 2000, she became a stay-at-home mom.

    “I wasn’t good at just staying home and I started getting very antsy,” she recalls. “I was looking for something to do and a local gym started offering yoga classes, so a friend of mine recommended me to teach yoga and Pilates.”

    After teaching for a while, her students requested private lessons, which led her to offering lessons out of her home or client’s homes.

    “I started doing that and from then it was kind of word of mouth,” Toman said.

    “A student told a friend, and a friend told a friend and in a year or two I was basically this travelling yoga show.”

    Toman moved to D.C. and continued her business there before returning to Fayetteville in 2010. After divorce, she had to figure out if she was going to make this hobby her career. Her family and friends thought she was crazy not to go back to practicing law where she could make a lot more money, she said.

    “I liked being a lawyer, being a trial attorney, I liked the energy of that, I enjoyed the adrenaline rush, but I knew it wasn't the type of job for me if I wanted to be present with my kids and create my own schedule,” Toman said.

    “So, I decided I was going to give it a shot. I told my family I was going to give it five years, and if I can’t support my family then I’ll go back to being a lawyer.”

    Thriving during a pandemic

    Living Balance began in 2013 with five to seven instructors who taught private lessons. Class space increased from one studio to two within two years after opening, but it wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic that Toman really considered expanding the business.

    During the pandemic, most of their clients continued lessons online when the studio was closed, so the business survived the financial pinch many small businesses in the area felt.

    “About 75 percent of our clientele stayed with us,” Toman said. “Some bought two to three packages ahead of time to help us keep the cash flow, so I was able to pay rent, pay my instructors.”

    Hosting online classes during the last year also allowed her to continue classes with clients who were out of town or on vacation,
    she said.

    Toman decided to open a bigger space and offer group classes. With some local yoga studios permanently closing their doors during the pandemic year, she had the opportunity to ask those owners for their top yoga instructors.

    “Because there were so many instructors who were suddenly out of work, I was able to really pick the best ones for my team,” she said.

    Toman looked for instructors with more in-depth training than basic yoga certification, those working therapeutically with clients who had injuries, health concerns and those who didn’t feel comfortable for any reason mentally or physically.

    “I was specific about who I hired, how they were trained, and spent time observing private classes to understand the attention to detail that comes with a private class,” Toman said.

    With expansion, Toman was worried that she wouldn’t have time to teach and would become more of an administrator, which led her to making her two lead instructors managers.

    Jessica Laird runs social media and marketing, while Vicky Greene runs all the administrative day-to-day things that come up, allowing Toman time to lead some classes.

    “I know what my passion is, it’s teaching and watching people grow in their practice, and watching it change their life, whether it's physically, mental or spiritually,” Toman said.

    Health Benefits

    “Pilates is all about core strength, your abdominal strength, your back strength,” Toman said. “So many people have back issues - as opposed to taking a pill for the pain, Pilates is a great place to strengthen all those muscles, it gives you support,” she said.

    Most clients who do Pilates find that it’s a strong workout, it’s a hard workout, but they feel good afterwards and it’s low impact, she mentioned.

    A yogi of 27 years, Toman likes to run, life weights and do aerobics as well, but yoga is the main thing that keeps her body moving and
    in shape.

    “It’s so good for your joints, your muscles, it allows you to keep moving,” she said.

    Toman emphasized the benefits of yoga and centering yourself in the stressful environment of the pandemic.

    “I find myself in the morning just doing five or 10 minutes of yoga, it gets me mentally ready for the day, it’s such a stress reliever,”
    she said.

    Dream Come True

    “A year ago in March, this was not even on my radar,” she said. “It's been a whirlwind of a year, it's been wonderful, people ask me if I am stressed but I am not stressed, I am busy.”

    The pandemic and lockdown worked in favor of the studio, giving them the chance to focus and get construction done and conduct a soft open on March 22.

    “Everything has fallen into place, like I am doing what I was supposed to be doing,” she said.

    “My kids say ‘you’re so lucky to love what you’re doing every day,’ but I say the idea behind this started in 2001 and we are in 2021 — it’s been a 20-year process, it didn’t happen overnight,” Toman said.

    The mission behind the launch of Living Balance Studios was to have the place become a sanctuary for everyone that entered, she said. “I want this place to be where people can let go of their world and be taken care of,” she said.

    Grand Opening and Beyond

    Living Balance Studios will be expanding in the same building but will now see larger studio spaces, going from 1500 to 4,300 square feet in the building, which was formerly Morgan’s Chop House. They will now have 26 coaches on their team.

    The Grand Opening will offer free classes in four studios. Classes are expected to fill up quickly, so get there early to sign up for slots. For a detailed schedule of classes, visit 

    “We will be offering lectures and discussions on health, wellness and all our services, where people can be educated about them,” Toman said. Hayat from Hayat Yoga Shala (one of the yoga businesses that closed last year) will be a keynote instructor.

    Raffle tickets will be available for purchase to bid on different items like a 25-class-pass, an Apple Crate Basket, massage therapy gift certificates, wellness coaching gift certificates and more. Classes will be free, but donations will be accepted to benefit The Better Health Organization of Cumberland County and The Children’s Advocacy Center.

    The Grand Opening will highlight a sampling of what Living Balance Studios will offer: yoga, Pilates, life and wellness, nutrition, counselling, yoga assist massage, reiki and more.

    “The nutrition coach will help guide your grocery shopping, go through your pantry, the life and wellness training focuses on lifestyle and living healthier, yoga assist massage, a form of Thai massage, where the client lies on the floor and I passively put them in different yoga poses. While they are in that pose, I am doing pressure points and massage on their body. We have got reiki services which are energy healing,” Toman said.

    The studio will be offering workshops this summer on meditation workshops, chakra, hula hoop. Information will be listed on their website.

    Living Balance also offers free Karma Yoga workshops every Thursday for the community at 6 p.m.

    “One thing we are known for is being very detail oriented, we have a great reputation, trying to take care of the clients,” Toman said. “Even though we have a lot more people now I want it to be that experience.”

    Pictured Above: Living Balance Studios was able to expand their space in the last year and hire additional instructors (above). Their grand opening on May 15 will hilight available classes to include restorative yoga & riki, hot yoga, pilates, as well as forums such as healthy eating and Chakras 101. 

  • 01 Crime Stoppers LogoWell, now that our Hometown Utility PWC has ceased negotiations with Bernhard Capital, Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin and his cabal may be back to the drawing board for an alternative plan to raid the coffers of one of the most caring, well-managed and efficient utility companies in the state.

    On two fronts, the entire ordeal of the prospect of allowing an equity firm with no utility experience to take over the management or our local utility was the near-perfect example of how the lack of transparency in local government can impact a community.

    One: lack of transparency allows unpopular and unsavory schemes to hatch.

    Two: When there is openness in government, it enables local media to report news and provide detailed information to the general public, keeping them informed on issues and situations that affect taxpayers' livelihoods and quality of life.

    Transparency encourages elected officials to justify their actions. Free speech and transparency in government are vitally important in maintaining a free democracy. Of course, it helps when local elected officials care more about their constituents than they do themselves. In our community, it's sadly becoming pretty apparent they do not.

    Those who care about the Fayetteville and Cumberland County community and its residents get involved with the community. Two recent Fayetteville events demonstrated this type of caring.

    The local Crime Stoppers organization cares about our law enforcement officers. Fayetteville Crime Stoppers recently launched a county-wide appreciation initiative where they began visiting law enforcement agencies in Fayetteville and Cumberland County to present officers a full dinner gift card from Chick-fil-A. It was made possible through the partnership and generosity of local businessman Tommy Arnold, owner of Chick-fil-A, and the dedication of the Crime Stoppers organization. The initiative was launched May 6 with a presentation to the Fayetteville City Police Department by Arnold, Fayetteville Crime Stoppers Chairman Dr. Eric See of Methodist University, and Duncan Hubbard of Holmes Electric. These Crime Stoppers supporters and volunteers are people, businesses and organizations that care, and the Fayetteville community is better and safer because of them.

    The Care Clinic on Robeson Street is another perfect example of a local organization dedicated to caring for the health and welfare of residents who cannot afford health insurance for medical and dental services. For over a quarter century, this invaluable and charitable non-profit organization has depended on a countless number of caring volunteers from all walks of life, funded only by generous donations and a few well-planned community events.

    One such event was also May 6, when they held their annual Wine Tasting and Silent Auction at the Cape Fear Botanical Gardens. It was heartwarming to see the outpouring of community support for an organization that provides medical and dental services to residents free of charge. The event was a virtual "who's who" of caring residents, including Mike Nagowski, CEO of Cape Fear Valley Health Systems, and State Representative John Szoka. Unfortunately, conspicuously absent were members of our city and county management team and our elected officials. This was highly disappointing.

    You would think this would have been the perfect time to come and support the Care Clinic and the people that do so much work for our residents. Our local elected officials missed this opportunity while sending a message of apathy to their constituents. No doubt, if asked, everyone will have a grand excuse for not attending, but the fact remains — “actions will always speak louder than words.”

    Another saying our leadership should become familiar with: "No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care."

    As a media source, we work with hundreds of people and dozens of great invaluable organizations covering all aspects of quality of life in Fayetteville — people and organizations that care. These people and organizations make our life better and our community pleasantly unique.

    We need leadership that respects, encourages and endorses those values. There is no hiding from the truth. Again, "actions will always speak louder than words."

    In the coming months, all residents must pay close attention to the actions of those who seek leadership positions in our community. Their track record will speak volumes on how much they care about the Fayetteville and Cumberland County community.

    Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

  • tribute 2I never truly understood the role of a mother until I lost my mother, Cora Jones, the night before Thanksgiving in 2007. I also lost the person who informed me of her death. My little sister, Chakita Jones, was murdered four days before her 26th birthday. My sister and mother were not perfect, but they did their best to give their kids the best. As a mother of seven, my sister gave her life to save her son’s life. When my sister was killed, she was shielding my nephew from bullets. During her last six months of life, my mother was more worried about me, Kita, and Josh than the fact that she was dying. Her biggest concern was making sure that I finished high school and enrolled in college. But, when Kita called me, my entire world changed. I had never experienced the death of a family member. When I lost my mother, I felt numb for months. When I lost my mom, I lost unconditional love. I lost my direction in life, motivation, and my will to continue with life. Yes, I had suicidal thoughts. While many will not admit it, this is a reality for many of us who have lost our mother. You will never get over it. Every year, I, like others, am reminded of the importance of a mother.

    Mother’s Day is bittersweet for those who do not physically have a mother. We take the time to reflect on the beautiful memories she left us. However, we are constantly wishing that we can have one more conversation. Everyday, I wish that I can go back to 1360 Davis Street and sit on the steps under the tree with my mom while she has a cold beer after a long day of work at the cleaners.

     On Mother’s Day, me and Kita would visit her gravesite and reflect. Now, Kita is gone and I have to visit two gravesites. When my mom passed away, Kita was that last living piece of her that I had. Kita was four years younger than me, and no matter how much we would argue, I always knew she was going to be there. She provided that unconditional love that I needed at a trying time. We did not judge each other. When she had my niece, I watched her grow from a girl to a woman fast. Though she was young, she understood that she had to care for this life she was bringing forth. As we grew older, Kita had more kids and loved each one equally. At the time of her death, she was the mother of seven beautiful children. Realistically, I was in no position to take on the responsibility of seven more kids alone. So, I am forever thankful to my cousins Brittany, Courtney, and Iesha for being there. These women along with all the other females in my family stepped into a void that was created by a senseless act of violence. Before my mom passed, she met this woman that lived across the street from my aunt and they became friends. Over the years, Kia grew to be more like family and would become grandmother to all 10 of my mother’s grandchildren. She does her best to be present for every special occasion concerning the kids, just as my mother would.

     I will never forget the day I told Kita and Kia I was about to have my first child. They acted as if they were more excited than me. However, nothing will ever top the moment that my kid’s mother jokingly threw two positive pregnancy tests on me and said “congratulations, you a daddy now.” I jumped out of the bed and grabbed her instantly. She made me the happiest man on earth and gave me a reason to push forward. I was already confident in her mothering skills because she had a child prior to us meeting. I was the one who had to learn how to be a parent. She was the greatest teacher. When my son was born, I was constantly wondering if I was doing the right thing. I would always ask questions like “can I hold him,” “how am I supposed to do this,” or “are you sure I’m not hurting him.” She would always laugh while she helped me and reassured me that the baby is good. Like many mothers, G has made sacrifices to ensure that me and my boys can have peace... and clean clothes. As a father, I must commend the mother of my children. She is a mother and business owner that loves to give back. Last summer, in the late stages of her pregnancy, she participated in marches and helped to serve the homeless at the Market House. Her maternal gifts allow me the opportunity to focus on providing for our family. There is no amount of gratitude that can be shown to express how I feel about her.

     She recently donated her time and hands to mothers that lost their sons in combat. Her company, Royal Stitches, provided handmade red, white and blue roses named American Flowers to veteran nonprofit Southern CC, Inc. as a part of their “Tribute to Gold Star Mothers.” CEO Tony Brown and his organization honored Gold Star Mothers with a day of pampering. Mothers received a makeover courtesy of Fusion Hair Salon. After receiving makeovers, the group of women were escorted to Pierro’s for dinner and Hummingbird to make candles. During dinner, the mothers were serenaded by Tony and a group of men. Before departing, each mother was given a gift bag that included American Flowers among other gifts donated by small businesses throughout the community.

     A mother is the most important person you have in your life. As men, we will never know what it is like to carry a child. Witnessing childbirth changed my life. I can only imagine how it feels to birth a child. But, women do it every day. So, salute to every mother. Happy Mother’s Day. Salute to every activist getting active. Peace.  


    Pictured below: (left) Author Rakeem Jones and his sister Chakita.  (right) Cora Jones, the author's mother.

    Photos courtesy of the author.

    Keem and Kita

    Keem Mom Cora Jones










  • 02 USCapitolFlagsHC1507 source 1Hip! Hip! Hooray! Yippee! Yippee!

    Something both positive and bipartisan is floating around in Congress, and it deserves robust discussion and serious consideration.

    I fell in love with civics in the 9th grade, and it has shaped my life. Civics is the study of how government works and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

    In an authoritarian system, civics is not so important, because the government is going to do what it wants no matter what the citizens think since they have few rights or responsibilities.

    In a democratic system like ours, however, it is critical that citizens understand what government is supposed to do and what it is actually doing. It is critical as well that we understand our own rights and responsibilities and what it means to be a citizen of the United States, including our obligation to vote.

    Civics has long since fallen on hard times, though. As of 2018, only 9 states require a year of civics education and 10 states have no civics requirements at all. Blessedly, North Carolina falls into the former category.

    A survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found that only 26% of Americans can identify our 3 branches of government. I should not have been, of course, but I was stunned late last year — yes, stunned! — when a newly elected U.S. Senator, Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., identified the 3 branches as, “You know, the House, the Senate, and the executive.” Maybe, he just played too much football.

    I have no idea if Sen. Tuberville’s civics ignorance was the tipping point, but two of his colleagues are sponsoring legislation to invest $1 billion annually in civics and history education in K-12 schools throughout our country. Sens. Chris Coons, D-Del., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, say the Educating for Democracy Act would help future generations of Americans gain a deeper understanding of the workings of government and what their obligations are as citizens of the United States. It would provide grants to states, non-profits, educational institutions and strengthen scholarship programs. A companion bill, also bipartisan, has been filed in the U.S. House.

    The legislation would clearly fill a huge void in our nation, but it is not without controversy. Some of civics is clear and factual, particularly the structure of government, federal, state and local, and its mechanics, executive, legislative and judicial. Those are just the facts, ma’am.
    How we use government becomes more interpretive. Think of the debate now raging over the use of the filibuster in the U.S. Senate. The filibuster exists, but how it is employed is highly controversial.

    The same is true of history. As for the history component of the legislation, we all know the American Civil War occurred between 1861-1865, and that its effects haunt us to this day. How we perceive that conflict, its background and aftermath, though, is individual and personal and often at odds with the perception of others. Ditto for the American experience in Vietnam and the January 6th insurrection in Washington. These events occurred, but many of us interpret them differently.

    All of that said, members of Congress are addressing a void in our national knowledge that has swallowed up Americans’ sense of our country and our place in it.

    What we do not know — and do not attempt to learn — threatens the future of our democracy. Much has been written over the last decade about this threat.

    The only way to combat it is to educate Americans about where we came from and how we participate as citizens.

  • 07 CFRT BEFORECape Fear Regional Theatre is undergoing renovations to improve the audience experience.

    The popular theatre that began performing in 1962 under the name “Fayetteville Little Theatre” became CFRT and now features a three-story complex serving about 49,000 audience members in a typical year.

    “This theatre is flying from coach to first-class,” Mary Kate Burke, artistic director for CFRT, said.

    CFRT will be getting a new HVAC system, more handicap accessible and stair-free seating, better lighting and a new sound system, among other changes.

    “The width of the seats will go from 19 to 21 inches and the depth of each row will gain at least 6 inches deeper than before from the knees to the back of the chair,” Burke said. “There was a lot of community engagement and consensus and we have decided to stick with the red seats.”

    In the past, CFRT received feedback about volume issues and uneven hearing throughout the theatre. The new sound system will address and fix these problems. The organization invited Rob Kaplowitz to help design the system.

    Kaplowitz is a 25-year veteran in the sound industry, having worked as a composer, sound designer and is a recipient of a Tony Award for “Fela!” and an OBIE Award for Sustained Excellence In Sound Design, among other celebrations of his work. He has worked in many theatre companies on and off Broadway.

    CFRT hosted a meet-and-greet with Kaplowitz for theatre sponsors, donors and patrons on April 16 to show the crowd prototypes of the new improvements and the new sound system.

    “The old sound system’s best speakers were the center ones, you can see there’s a wide variation from front to bank, so rest assured I have replaced all of them,” he said. “We are becoming inaudible going to the back. Before, the person who wanted the front and aisle seat was hearing the worst sounding show possible.”

    Kaplowitz said the equipment that CFRT had been using in the building is pre-2000s and basically obsolete, adding that sound technology has rapidly evolved in the last few years.

    “The new speakers sound 60 times better than the voice you heard so far,” he assured the crowd. “With the new speakers, you've got coverage all the way to the back, with very little variation. The difference between two seats will not be more than 8 decibels, which is very low.”

    CFRT has reached over 70% of their monetary goal to pay for renovations due to contributions from various patrons and donors. The theatre also received a $250,000 grant that jump-started the campaign from a foundation that prefers to remain anonymous.

    Theatre-goers can also sponsor a new seat with a plaque bearing a name or message. There are about 100 seats left to sponsor. Sponsor plaques from the original seats will be part of a new installation in the lobby. More information can be found by visiting Those interested in learning how to become a sponsor can call Ella Wrenn at 910-323-4234 ext. 229.

  • 12 Max Greene faces Greensboros Emery AlexanderFencers from the All-American Fencing Academy took gold medals in all events in an April 24 tournament with Greensboro Fencing Academy. It was the first multi-club tournament since last April when the pandemic forced closures and restrictions.

    After nearly a year with a mixture of virtual classes and in-house tournaments, the All-American Fencing Academy’s fencers got their first challenge and an opportunity to gauge their progress against a tough fencing club. Three events were contested during the weekend tournament: youth mixed foil, men’s foil and women’s foil.

    In the youth foil, Fayetteville fencer Atticus Conlin went undefeated in the pool rounds while teammate Max Greene placed 2nd after the pools. Emery Alexander from Greensboro was close behind seeding 3rd after the pools.

    Greene was able to defeat Alexander in the semi-final round which pitted him against Conlin in the gold medal round. During their last tournament, Conlin was undefeated in the pools and elimination rounds, eventually defeating Greene. However, during this tournament, Greene jumped to an early lead in the finals and was able to maintain it and defeat Conlin 10-6 earning Greene his first gold medal.

    In the women’s foil, All-American Fencing Academy fielded 4 fencers against Greensboro’s 5 fencers. Fayetteville fencer Isabelle Guevarra went undefeated against 8 other fencers, only giving up 12 touches in the pool round. Mackie Hinds from Greensboro took second coming out of the pool round.
    Fayetteville fencer Gianna Megill competed in her first tournament since she began fencing three months ago. She had an astounding performance in the pool, winning 3 out of 8 bouts.

    In the elimination rounds, 1st and 2nd seeds Guevarra and Hinds continued their march to the gold medal round where Guevarra defeated Hinds 15-6. All-American Fencing Academy team member Elinor Morkos tied for 3rd during the tournament.

    “Elinor has been very consistent, and you see her utilizing many of the tactics and drills we work on in class and it has been successful for her,” said All-American Fencing Academy head coach Gerhard Guevarra. “She has been working hard and persistent on training well.”

    “This is Isabelle’s first year in the senior events having graduated from the youth USA Fencing category,” Coach Guevarra said. “She was looking forward to earning her first national rating before the pandemic halted all national events at the beginning of the fall 2020 competitive season.”

    In the men’s foil event, All-American Fencing Academy fielded 6 fencers, once again overshadowed by Greensboro’s 9 fencers. The men’s foil competition was divided into 3 pools of five fencers where All-American Fencing Academy teammates Gabriel Guevarra and Bruce McRae placed 1st and undefeated in their respective pools while Greensboro’s Arlo Leake took 1st in the 3rd pool.

    New All-American Fencing Academy fencer Weston Black earned 2 wins in his pool in his first tournament after starting fencing only two
    months ago.

    In the elimination rounds, 5th seed Leo Hinds from Greensboro upset Fayetteville fencer Daniel Johnson, who was 4th seed. There was another upset in the first round where Greensboro teammates Matthew Clark in 14th seed defeated 3rd seed Arlo Clark, giving 6th seed All-American Fencer Colton Culliton a window of opportunity to continue to the semi-final round. Culliton defeated Clark 15-11 to face teammate Gabriel Guevarra in the final four.

    1st and 2nd seed McRae and Gabriel Guevarra went unimpeded in the elimination rounds and faced each other in the gold medal round where Guevarra took the win 15-9.

    Seniors headed to college

    All-American Fencing Academy seniors Sabrina Krupenko, Bruce McRae and Holden McNeil have all been accepted to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for the fall and will all be trying out for the Division 1 NCAA Varsity Fencing Team. Seniors Gabriel Guevarra and Kaitlyn Gerow have been accepted to East Carolina University and intend to continue fencing at the university club.

    Beginner Fencing Camp

    The All-American Fencing Academy will be hosting its annual Beginner Summer Fencing Camp for students between the ages of 7-12 and teens. The Camp will be from June 18-20 at the Academy in downtown Fayetteville. For more information about the Camp visit

    A growing sport and a growing club

    The sport of fencing is growing world-wide. In an historically European dominated sport, U.S. teams have consistently been present on the world stage. In the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo, fencing will have a full medal count for the first time with 6 individual medals and 6 team medals.

    For those interested in trying their hand at the sport, the All-American Fencing Academy hosts a walk-in class for beginners during Fourth Friday events downtown. The Academy is located at 207 B Donaldson St. The Academy instructs and trains recreational and competitive fencers starting at age 7, teens, adults and veterans ages 40+. Its fencers compete regionally and nationally. Coaches include former World Cup and NCAA fencers.

    For more information about the All-American Fencing Academy and its classes, please call 910-644-0137, e-mail or visit

    Pictured Above: Fayettevile fencer Max Greene (left) faces Greensboro's Emery Alexander in the youth foil competition. Greene advanced to the finals and won his first golden metal. (Photo courtesy All-American Fencing Academy). 

  • 05 Saragrace SnipesSarahgrace Snipes is the new executive director of the Fayetteville Dogwood Festival. She succeeds Malia Allen who resigned last summer. Snipes was previously associated with the North Carolina Azalea Festival in Wilmington. "It is an honor to be able to play a part in the Fayetteville community as the next Executive Director of the Fayetteville Dogwood Festival,” Snipes said in a statement. “After a long and difficult year of the pandemic, I am looking forward to bringing joy to Fayetteville's citizens and businesses through our events.” The Dogwood Festival has been a Fayetteville tradition for 39 years. It is usually a three-day festival celebrated during the 4th weekend of April. It went on hiatus last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A mini event scheduled last month was also cancelled.

  • 03 USCapitolBuildingHC1611 sourceNorth Carolina has grown large enough over the last decade to earn a 14th congressional seat, the U.S. Census Bureau announced April 27 in a news release. That seat will be contested during next year’s 2022 congressional elections.

    The announcement came as the U.S. Census Bureau completed data processing for the first 2020 Census results. Its state population counts are used to apportion the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives among the 50 states. As population increases or decreases in each state, the number of seats to represent it changes. North Carolina was one of five states to pick up a seat, while Texas picked up two. Seven states lost a congressional seat, including New York and California.

    Complete data is expected to be released Aug. 16, paving the way for the General Assembly to begin creating new maps for the 14 congressional districts, all 120 N.C. House seats, and all 50 N.C. Senate seats.

    The 14 seats are the most the state has had. North Carolina had 13 seats in the House from 1813 to 1843 and again since 2003. In total, North Carolina now shows an overall population of 10.45 million people. The 2010 figure was 9.5 million. North Carolina remains the ninth-most-populous state and grew by 918,465 people, or 9.6%, between 2010 an 2020. N.C.’s growth outpaced the U.S. as a whole, which had a 7.4% population growth rate.

    The General Assembly has sole authority over redistricting. The governor can neither sign nor veto redistricting maps.

    “Redistricting can be a tough process under any circumstances, but it gets even more complicated when you add in a new congressional seat,” said Mitch Kokai, John Locke Foundation senior political analyst. “Rather than tweaking existing district lines, lawmakers have to decide how and where to create a whole new district. The ripple effects could be felt in congressional districts across the state.”

    As of now the 2022 primaries are set to take place on March 8. As reported by The Associated Press, North Carolina election dates for 2022 likely won’t be altered despite anticipated delays in receiving data needed to perform the once-a-decade redistricting, the General Assembly’s top Republicans said recently. Candidate filing is planned for December.

    With these numbers, North Carolina will also have 16 presidential electors, up from 15, beginning in 2024. The Electoral College is the group of presidential electors required by the U.S. Constitution to form every four years for the sole purpose of electing the president and vice president. Each state appoints electors, equal in number to its congressional delegation.

    North Carolina has eight Republican members of the U.S. House and five Democrats, after courts ordered new maps drawn for the 2020 election. Beginning with elections in 2014 and again 2016, and 2018, North Carolina elected 10 Republican members of the U.S. House and three members who were Democrats.

    In examining the early data it appears to Carolina Journal, and this is speculation, that the best-case scenario for Democrats would be a 9-5 GOP map that leaves all Democrat incumbents with blue-leaning districts, and the GOP protecting all eight of its member districts, while drawing a GOP-friendly 14th seat. The worst case would be a new map in which voters would be likely to select 10 GOP members and four Democrats to represent the state.

    According to Cook Political, when it comes to control of the U.S. House:

    “Republicans’ biggest redistricting weapons are Texas, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina — and they could conceivably pick up all five seats they need for the majority from those four alone.”

    Cook Political predicts the GOP would pick up 1.5 House seats from NC, which would reflect either a 9-5 or 10-4 map. UVA Center for Center for Politics predicts nationally the GOP will gain a minimum of one seat out of North Carolina.

    In a 10-4 scenario, it is possible the districts of Rep. Alma Adams in the Charlotte area, Reps. David Price and Deborah Ross in the Triangle area, and Rep. G.K. Butterfield’s eastern North Carolina district would be largely retained for Democrats, with Republicans targeting the Greensboro-area district of first-term Democrat Rep. Kathy Manning.

    The new 14th District could possibly be carved out of the Charlotte suburbs, including parts of Mecklenburg, Cleveland and Gaston Counties, but those decisions can’t begin to take shape until county-by-county numbers are released in late summer. House Speaker Tim Moore, among many others, is rumored to be thinking of running for Congress. He is from Cleveland County. First elected to the General Assembly in 2002, Moore is serving his fourth term as the presiding officer of the House and is the longest-serving Republican House speaker in North Carolina history.

    With heavy population growth on North Carolina’s southern coast, another possibility is that the 7th District could be more of a coastal district, with a new district taking in some of Wake County and perhaps anchored in Johnston. This is speculation that could change once county-by-county population numbers are release late in the summer.

    Nationally, Republicans are expected to make small gains through congressional redistricting. If the 2020 election were to be held again under the new apportionment, Joe Biden would have won with 303 Electoral College votes, rather than 306.

    Apportionment has made Texas the big winner of two new congressional seats. Florida, North Carolina, Colorado, Montana and Oregon all picked up one new member of Congress.

    Losing a congressional seat after a population drop were New York, California, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. This is the first time California has ever lost a seat in the U.S. House due to a population decrease.

    Editor’s note: This story has been updated from its original online posting to reflect that the information provided is based on data research and the writer’s analysis.

  • 08 sdc parachute 3The Salvation Army of the Sandhills region will be hosting a Summer Day Camp for children in grades K-8 from June 7 to
    Aug. 16.

    “The Salvation Army Red Shield Club Summer Day Camp is our annual camp that provides a safe environment for the children we serve to play and grow,” said Alison Henion, who serves as the community relations and development coordinator for Sandhill’s Salvation Army.

    The camp takes place annually and can usually hold 45 to 50 kids but will host only 22 this year due to COVID-19 restrictions. The camp costs $55 per week, with a one-time $15 registration fee, and will have a rolling registration all summer so participants can join anytime. Camp will be held during the day from 7:45 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.

    “This year is an Olympic theme so we will have many friendly and fun competitions mimicking the Summer Olympic Games,” Henion said. “We also have art and crafts, field trips, movie days and computer time. We incorporate education in a fun way as well by hosting a reading competition and academic games.”

    The camps will be led by their Community Center Director Donya Campbell along with two other program aides.

    “We also will have different businesses, churches and community groups come spend time with the kids,” she said. “They host activities provide lunch or just simply hang out and play.”

    The camp application to the camp can be found at and emailed to or delivered in person at the admin office located at 220 E Russell St.

    For those interested in donating to the local Salvation Army or volunteering, visit or call Alison at 910-483-8119.

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