The first time I saw the acoustic duo Sinners & Saints, they'd agreed to perform at a benefit show I organized at the Evening Muse to help raise funds for my former wife and dear friend Tarrah, who had been diagnosed with cancer and was faced with exorbitant medical bills. I was living in the San Francisco Bay Area at the time and had flown to Charlotte for the show. Perry Fowler and Mark Baran — the two guys who make up Sinners & Saints — had never met Tarrah or me. But like the other local Charlotte acts on the bill — singer-songwriter Le Anna Eden, jazz rapper Quent Young, and Grey Revell's David Bowie tribute band Loving the Alien (not to mention a couple of generous out-of-town acts) — they had taken time out of their busy schedules to play for a fellow Charlottean.
"Man, we're just happy to be able to help," Baran said to me after the band performed a blistering set that evening, and his sentiment was echoed by every other artist on the bill that day.
That spirit of giving is part of the reason we have recently instituted a local-only focus at Creative Loafing. Benefit concerts like Tunes for Tarrah happen all the time in this city. The Charlotte arts community is fiercely loyal; local creative people stick by each other, collaborate on larger conceptual projects, and donate their time to causes that help this community thrive.
Just last week, several Charlotte acts — Radio Lola, Modern Primitives, the Menders, Aloha Broha, and 16-year-old singer-songwriter Maya Beth Atkins — performed for Refugee Charlotte, a benefit show organized to help raise awareness and funds to help our neighbors from other countries who have sought asylum here. On March 11, bands including St. Paul & The Broken Bones will perform at Housing Fest: A Concert to End Homelessness, sponsored by the Urban Ministry, to help raise awareness of chronic homelessness in this city.
In this issue's cover story, CL's Pat Moran sat down with Sinners & Saints to find out what makes the duo tick, and part of it is that spirit of community that had them playing the Tunes for Tarrah show last summer. Another part of it is the amazing chemistry they felt when they first got together and began harmonizing on country and folk songs.
"There's something about certain voices that, when combined, create something altogether different than what the two voices could ever do on their own," Baran tells Moran in "The Acid Test." "There are only so many times when you're singing with another person and you give yourself chills. I felt that with us."
Sinners & Saints celebrate the release of their new album, On the Other Side, this week, and we see good things for them on the horizon.
Elsewhere in this issue, you'll see the spirit of community in stories about a new theater piece and a woman who's taking her writing and ideas to the West Coast.
Perry Tannenbaum writes of a group of actors, singers and dancers who are bringing life to a tale of young people in the Charlotte area (and, by extension, other areas) still suffering from complications of HIV/AIDS. Playwright Jermaine Nakia Lee's A Walk in My Shoes is a musical based on the real work Lee has done with people in Charlotte — particularly in the African-American community — who continue to battle not only AIDS but also the taboos surrounding it.
Ryan Pitkin talks with a Charlotte woman, Elexus Jionde, whose miseducation and reeducation on African-American history had her taking to Twitter, where her provocative statements on black oppression made her a viral sensation. Her upcoming book, The A-Z Guide to Black Oppression, is about to be published and Jionde is headed to Los Angeles, where she hopes to make a national impact on the way young people are taught black history.
"I'm trying to make college education more accessible to my own people," Jionde tells Pitkin in "A New Kind of Black History Teacher." "At Garinger [High School in Charlotte], only 11 percent of the people in my class went to college, and most of them were going to community colleges and the rest were going to small HBCUs around North Carolina. I was one of a handful who went to a bigger research institution and that's where I learned how to research, how to think objectively."
But while Jionde is headed west for now, her ultimate goal, she says, is to return home, where she can give back to Charlotte, as so many other local artists and creatives are doing every day of every week.