- Monday, 21 October 2019
- Written by Bill Bowman
Hope Mills Community Roundtables bring citizens together to effect positive change in the community.
Hope Mills Community Roundtables bring citizens together to effect positive change in the community.
You are probably asking yourself the musical question, “How did Up & Coming Weekly’s copy editor let such a stupid mistake creep into the title of this stain on world literature?” Or you may even be asking a more profound question, “Why are these annoying columns impinging on my eyeballs before they get turned into fish wrap?” Alas, some questions don’t have answers. But as to the spelling of lyre, it is correct. Today’s visit into the swamp of free media is going to consist of a visit to our old Greek friend, the lyre-playing Orpheus. For those of you who may have missed the class on Ancient Greek Music Appreciation 101, a lyre is a small U-shaped harp.
We are exploring the story of Orpheus because the talking heads on the news are reporting on everyone calling everyone else liars. You have probably heard enough about Ukraine this week and who is lying about whom. So today, take a break from political liars and ponder musical lyres.
Orpheus was the Elvis of his day. He could pluck his lyre till the cows came home. When Orpheus sang and played the lyre, trees and rocks would dance, rivers would change course and lions would lie down with lambs. After listening to Orpheus, cannibals gave up human protein and became vegans. Orpheus was that good. Naturally being a Greek god helped as Orpheus had a supernatural musical talent that would have made John Lennon jealous. Like all Greek mythology, there are many versions of Orpheus’ story. Today you will get the version I like best.
Orpheus’ baby daddy was probably Apollo. The ancient Greeks didn’t have 23 & Me to test their DNA, so the paternity of most gods is a guess at best. As a lad, Orpheus had the old wanderlust. He scratched that itch by sailing with Jason and the Argonauts. On their course on the Love Boat, Orpheus and the Argonauts had to sail by an island populated by the Sirens. The Sirens were a bunch of bodaciously beautiful babes who were singers themselves. The Sirens made Jennifer Lopez look like a boy — if you know what I mean, and I think you do. Sailors would hear the Sirens singing and it was Katy, bar the door. To hook up with the Sirens, sailors would jump into the water and drown or crash their ships into the rocks, ending up in a watery grave. When the Sirens began belting out their songs for the Argonauts, Orpheus whipped out his lyre and played “Fire on the Mountain.” His music drowned out the Siren songs, letting the sailors keep sailing safely onward.
Like all Greek gods, Orpheus had a troubled love life, sort of like yours. But I digress. Orpheus fell in love with the elegant Eurydice. He proposed to her, and she accepted. Alas, the course of true love never runs smooth. At her wedding, Eurydice was walking around in the tall grass when she was set upon by a satyr. Satyrs have horns on their heads as befits a half goat and half man. Satyrs liked to drink and make whoopee. Eurydice knew all this. She ran to try to escape the satyr. Unfortunately, in her haste, she stepped into a nest of vipers. She sustained a viper bite to her heel, which caused her to expire. Sad.
Eurydice, being dead, had no choice but to descend into the Underworld, where the dead folks hung out under the watchful eyes of the Underworld’s rulers, Hades and Persephone. Orpheus, being love struck, went down into the Underworld looking for his beloved. Normally, when you go into the Underworld, you don’t get to come back. However, Orpheus rosined up his bow and started playing that lyre to beat the band. The bosses of the Underworld were so taken with his music that they agreed to let Orpheus take Eurydice back to the land of the living. There was one condition. Orpheus had to walk in front of Eurydice without looking back at her until they both got out of the Underworld. Naturally, Orpheus messed up this simple task. Like most men, he couldn’t follow directions. When Orpheus got back topside, he turned around to look at Eurydice, who was still in the Underworld. Yuge mistake! He got one good look at Eurydice, and then she disappeared forever.
Orpheus wandered lonely as a cloud while weeping piteously after he realized what he had done. He had some more adventures until he finally went to see the Oracle of Dionysus. A funny thing happened to him on his way to the Oracle. The Oracle had a cult following of women called Maenads. These ladies were wild dancers who did all sorts of things about which we cannot speak in a family newspaper. The Maenads were plenty riled up when Orpheus came into view. Unhappy with being interrupted, the Maenads tore Orpheus into shreds — even breaking his lyre.
What, if anything, have we learned today? To quote Winston Churchill: “If you are walking through Hell, keep going.”
Gentlemen, if you are lost, ask directions and follow them. If you come upon a crowd of ladies wilding in the woods, turn around. And as Andy Griffith once said, “Don’t ever, ever, mess with the ladies of the Altar Guild.”
Orpheus was the Elvis of his day. He could pluck his lyre till the cows came home.
This week, Up & Coming Weekly Publisher Bill Bowman yields his space to columnist Karl Merritt to discuss the challenges faced by the North Carolina Civil War & Reconstruction History Center.
For over 10 years, a group of volunteers, along with some paid staff, has been working to develop a concept for the North Carolina Civil War & Reconstruction History Center, as well as raise funds, design the building and build it. As of this writing, they have, with the help of extremely capable individuals, started to collect information consistent with their concept for the Center. Even further, millions of dollars have been raised and an award-winning architectural design is complete.
Beyond what is happening locally, the budget currently being considered by the North Carolina General Assembly includes $46 million for this project. That budget was vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper, but the House voted to override the veto. At this moment, action by the Senate is pending.
A study conducted by ConsultEcon, Inc. in 2014 stated about the Center, “The preliminary attendance potential is estimated at 75,000 to 135,000, with a midrange estimate rounded to 105,000 in a stable year of operation.” Considering this assessment was before SEGRA Stadium, the Woodpeckers baseball team, the Prince Charles Hotel resurrection and all the other development coming to downtown, the economic impact of the Center will be substantial.
With all that in place, and the project moving ahead, Mayor Mitch Colvin, who is black, has now stated he opposes proceeding with the Center under the current concept and name. He explained that his objection is based on input from citizens — not just black citizens — who oppose the project. As best as I can determine, two considerations are central to the opposition by black citizens with whom the mayor has talked: Because of slavery references, they are uncomfortable with discussion of the Civil War and they do not trust that slavery and the Civil War will be accurately addressed. Colvin also argues that the $7.5 million that the city of Fayetteville promised to provide in support of this project can be used better elsewhere. To obtain state support, Fayetteville and Cumberland County were required to commit that they would invest $7.5 million each in the project.
The summary of Colvin’s position in the preceding paragraph is based on various reportings in The Fayetteville Observer and his comments during a public meeting Thursday, Sept. 26. I attended that meeting. It was organized by Val Applewhite, former city councilwoman, with Advance Carolina and the Fayetteville branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People as cosponsors. Given the content and flow of the meeting, I concluded it was an obvious attempt to build opposition to the Center. Aside from some elected officials, the attendees were overwhelmingly black citizens.
Given the amazing progress that has been made to this point by organizers, the reasonable question is what gives Colvin, some City Council members, and a few vocal citizens justification to demand changes to the name and concept of this project? Do the math. Considering price increases, the cost of the Center will certainly be more than $65 million. The state will put in $46 million and forever pay the cost of operating the facility after construction. Organizers are raising millions of dollars. Cumberland County will provide $7.5 million. Add the fact that this is a state facility, not just for Fayetteville. For a one-time investment of $7.5 million, Fayetteville receives a tremendous economic return over many years to come.
In the final analysis, $7.5 million from Fayetteville is minuscule and will be recouped in taxes, not to mention added jobs. This being the case, why would Colvin and his group try to take over, and even risk losing, this project? My thinking is this is more identity politics. Consider the primary population categories in Fayetteville as available at http://worldpopulationreview.com: White: 45.95%; Black or African-American: 41.54%; Two or more races: 5.83%; Asian: 2.88%; Other race: 2.59%.
Here is my unpacking of that assessment. If Colvin and other black politicians, as well as some like-minded whites, can appeal to the emotions of the 41.54% of black Fayetteville citizens and drive substantial voter turnout, they can easily win elections. Add some of the other nonwhite groups, and the odds are even better. This is the game played across America.
This is not the first time Colvin has convinced some members of City Council to force a group to make major changes in their program based on an alleged concern for Fayetteville’s black citizens. It also happened in 2016. I wrote about this episode in a column titled, “Dogwood Festival Music Diversity: An Opportunity for Exercising Leadership.” Please read the column at http://www.karlmerritt.com/2017/02/03/dogwood-festival-music-diversity-an-opportunity-for-exercising-leadership/. In my estimation, Colvin, and some other members of City Council, in an atmosphere of total disrespect toward officials of the Dogwood Festival and lack of appreciation for the contributions of the Dogwood organization to this city, bullied festival organizers into adding music genres that are inconsistent with what had been a very successful concept. The Dogwood Festival was “hijacked” and the same thing is being attempted with the Center.
In preparation for writing this column, I emailed eight questions to Colvin and all nine members of City Council. Councilwoman Tisha Waddell was the only one to answer the questions in writing. Councilman Bill Crisp answered every question during a phone conversation. Councilman D.J. Haire, after some back-and-forth by email, sent one saying that he saw me at the Thursday meeting and what he said there is his position. That is, he is talking with his constituents. Mayor Colvin’s response was to ask if I sent the questions to Cumberland County Commissioners. I responded that I had not sent the questions because I understood they were still on board and asked if he knew differently. There was no further response. I received no response, email or otherwise, from the remaining members of City Council.
Space will only allow me to share responses to a few of the eight questions. One question was, “What steps are being taken by Council to accurately determine the magnitude of opposition to and support for this project?” Neither Waddell nor Crisp made any claim of an organized process for accurately measuring opposition or support. In the Thursday meeting, Haire indicated that he is holding listening sessions throughout his district. Waddell indicated that she received two phone calls and one email expressing opposition to the Center. Crisp said, from his district, one person advised him of opposition while several indicated support for the project. Given Fayetteville’s population of over 200,000, it is impossible to conclude that there is a fair and effective effort to measure opposition to the History Center. I say “opposition” because I sense there is no effort on the part of the mayor and his cohorts to measure support. If that were the case, there would be serious outreach across racial lines and presentations would be balanced.
Another question was, “Given that a previous council approved the funding and organizers have substantially moved ahead depending on that funding, do you have concern that pulling the funding will cause future distrust of Fayetteville government?” Waddell and Crisp fully recognize the danger in the wrangling that is going on regarding city support of this project. In my estimation, this discourages citizens, businesses or anybody who might be willing to invest in the advancement of this city; they must be able to trust City Council to live up to its commitments. Even further, our legislative delegation, based on a supportive vote of a previous City Council, fought to get state funding for this project. Now, at the last minute, the rug is being toyed with in what I hold is an indefensible manner. I find it laughable that, given how City Council is handling this matter, anybody would have the audacity to question the honesty and integrity of the Center organizers.
A third question: “If the $7.5 million is withdrawn, how will it be used? What will be the economic impact of the alternative use?” It has become common knowledge that the $7.5 million city commitment is not budgeted. Consequently, there is no plan for how that money would be used elsewhere. That also means no effort has been made to determine the economic impact of using the money elsewhere and how any return compares with putting it toward the Center. This failure to budget highlights, again, the trust issue with this Council.
One other question from the eight: “Have you made a public statement regarding the ‘Build it so we can burn it down’ sign that was held up by one attendee during the public hearing on this matter?” The sign referred to in this question shows in a photo accompanying an article in The Fayetteville Observer by John Henderson titled, “Fayetteville mayor: Growing number of black residents concerned about Civil War center.” The person holding the sign is sitting on the front row. Other signs are also being held up in the chamber. In their responses, Waddell and Crisp expressed concern that the sign was there but stated that they had not made any public comment. Waddell wrote: “I have not made a public statement about it, but I find all references to violence and/or criminal behavior abhorrent. I believe that regardless of whether one supports something or not, we should always support civil dialogue and should be encouraging open communication without fear of retribution.” Neither Haire nor Colvin addressed the question. I have no doubt that if such a sign were held up regarding a project supported by, and seen as favorable to the black community, the outrage from Colvin and his cohorts would be deafening. What message is received by white Fayetteville citizens?
So much for the questions. As to the concept for this Center, it appears Colvin, and those who join him in thinking there will be an overwhelming focus on slavery and justifying the South’s actions in the Civil War, do not understand the current concept. To be fair with the mayor, I sent him an email asking what he understood the concept to be and how he wanted it changed. No response. A few months ago, I wrote a column titled “Needed: NC Civil War & Reconstruction History Center.” It is at http://www.karlmerritt.com/2019/06/25/needed-nc-civil-war-reconstruction-history-center/. The concept is to focus on the stories that show how all people were affected by, and responded to, the Civil War and Reconstruction. It does not take much effort to get accurate information on this matter of concept or the whole project. Informing and encouraging the black community to do so does not fit with the strategy and tactics of identity politics.
In the end, due to political maneuvering, short-sightedness and misinformation, Fayetteville will probably lose this project and suffer for years to come because of doing so. That suffering will include even greater racial tension than we know now. That will be because, even though most white citizens are scared into silence where identity politics is at work; frustration, disgust, and even anger, must be present in many of them. If the concept and name are changed and the project survives, the negative impact on race relations will be the same, if not worse. What’s being done here is “treacherous territory.” Yes, another hijacking is underway.
A study conducted by ConsultEcon, Inc. in 2014 stated about the Center, “The preliminary attendance potential is estimated at 75,000 to 135,000, with a midrange estimate rounded to 105,000 in a stable year of operation.”
In preparation for writing this column, I emailed eight questions to Colvin and all nine members of City Council. Councilwoman Tisha Waddell (bottom) was the only one to answer the questions in writing. Councilman Bill Crisp (top) answered every question during a phone conversation.
In Munich, Germany, Oct. 6 marked the end of one of their oldest and most celebrated traditions, Oktoberfest. However, at St. Patrick Catholic Church on Village Drive, last Sunday’s celebration of Oktoberfest marked over four decades of food, fun, frolic, music and beer — lots of beer, sauerkraut, potato salad and sausages. All Bavarian-style. This annual event, hosted by the St. Pat’s Knights of Columbus organization, is a major fundraiser for the church. Traditionally, Up & Coming Weekly rarely writes about programs and events that have already taken place; however, this event was special and so impressive I felt impelled to make an exception and advise our readers to put it on their calendars for the first Sunday in October 2020.
I guess with this event coming on the heels of the Fayetteville Greek Festival and the International Folk Festival, it made me cognizant and appreciative of our incredibly diverse community.
Knight Fred Cutter was the chairman of this year’s festivities, and he and his committee went to the far extreme to capture the authentic ambiance and culture of a true Bavarian festival, right down to the decorations, food, music and costumes. Surprisingly, many in attendance dressed in traditional Bavarian attire; the men wore lederhosen, and the ladies wore colorful dirndls — pronounced dern-DULL — which is an ensemble that includes a blouse, skirt and apron. The music was exceptional. Throughout the evening, attendees marched, sang and danced to the Little German Band and Dancers out of Raleigh. They were quite talented, performing songs, waltzes and polkas from the Bavaria region of Germany that energized and electrified the audience. The German word “Gemütlichkeit” describes a state of belonging when being surrounded by good friends, with good music and good times.
So, nothing to do in Fayetteville? What nonsense. There’s plenty to do here. And, the best common denominator all these community events and venues have is the people themselves. We encourage everyone to get involved and get to know our residents and our community. St. Patrick’s Oktoberfest is only one example of the excellent events that define our unique community.
Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.
St. Patrick’s Catholic Church on Village Drive celebrated Oktoberfest this past Sunday with a fun family affair.
Picture 1, L-R: Lia, Lexie and Yiotta Hasapis