One of the coolest things about the Elizabeth neighborhood is that it is so welcoming to geeks, nerds and culture buffs, despite being a stone's throw away from banker busybody Uptown. The area is home to locally owned businesses like Heroes Aren't Hard to Find, The Violin Shoppe, VisArt, Visulite Theatre and Crown Station, among others. And it's places like these that help foster creativity and innovation — the kind of stuff that helps shape a city's identity and give it a little color, if you will.
The million dollar question in Charlotte nowadays: As apartment development comes a-creeping in, will that change the vibe of the area? Of course it will. I mean, when's the last time you heard someone say, "Man, that shiny new apartment building with its valet trash, ugly parking garage and saltwater pool really gives this area character."
But change is in the air, and it looks like Elizabeth might be losing one of its coolest tenants. Earlier today, Twiggy Cerniglia, owner of VisArt, addressed on Facebook the For Rent sign that is now taped on the video rental store's front window. In a message, she told me that their lease is up in August. Considering the high price of rent and the battle for parking in that area, she says it is "VERY likely that we will be moving."
Cerniglia, who's eyeing a space in east Charlotte, admits she hasn't signed a new lease yet, but wanted to reassure her customers that VisArt is definitely not closing.
That's a relief. Remember when it almost did in 2010?
We already know that Jackalope Jack's and Rusty Rabbit next door aren't planning to stay on that corner across the street from VisArt for much longer. In a few years, that whole area of 7th and Caswell could look different. Then where will the geeks, nerds and culture buffs go?
As a soon-to-be college graduate getting ready to brave the big girl world (aka the working world, the post-college slap in the face, whatever you choose to call it), I’m beginning to realize that the concept of full-time employment is a terrifying land of political mumbo jumbo and sticky financial stakes.
This fear became even more real when I watched (via live stream on YouTube) President Obama speak to 100 or so women bloggers and Charlotte natives at ImaginOn library yesterday about issues facing America’s families. The POTUS and his posse partnered with SheKnows, an influential online media organization dedicated to publishing the voices of women all over the country, including many from the Charlotte area.
Sixteen-year-old Blake Brockington was leaning against a doorway when I first saw him in 2013. I was there to teach a creative writing class to young people at Time Out Youth, an LGBTQ youth services agency based in Charlotte. Although he appeared shy with his hands in his jean pockets, he radiated a warm, charismatic energy. I introduced myself to him, and he said I could call him Blake. He cracked a gentle, bright smile when I shook his hand and said how nice it was to meet him.
Blake knew who he was before he had a name for it. “I actually didn’t know I was a female-bodied individual until I was 6,” he told me once on the phone that year. “I always thought I was one of the guys, and one day I was playing outside and I realized I was different.”
TOY’s annual prom allowed him to finally be out as a transgender young man. “It was the first time that anybody had referred to me as my preferred name, my pronouns,” he said. “It was the only place where I felt kind of accepted.”
This evening, City Council will tackle one of the most divisive issues to hit Charlotte in recent months: bathrooms.
Well, the proposed LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance is about more than that, but that's the part critics have honed in on.
What's the issue really about? Keeping all people safe from discrimination. Council is considering updating City Code to add marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression to the list of characteristics protected under law. If passed, taxis couldn't refuse to pick up LGBT passengers. Businesses couldn't refuse to service or sell goods to those who identify LGBT either, and if they did, they could be barred from doing business with the city for up to two years.
Oh, and these protections would extend to public accommodations. Transgender people could use whichever bathroom they feel most comfortable in without being harassed, like one CPCC student was last year.
It's not a ground-breaking move. Minneapolis adopted a similar ordinance in 1975.
The folks who hate when the annual CIAA basketball tournament hits town couldn't wait to chime in on social media about this breaking news. Numerous media outlets (including USA Today, The Grio, Vibe, even TMZ has video already) are reporting shots were fired at Label today during a party advertising to feature T.I., Young Jeezy, Yo Gotti and Young Dolph.
According to the Observer, two people sustained non-life-threatening injuries. The management at Label made the decision to still be open tonight.
While it's really disheartening someone or someone(s) — police haven't arrested anyone yet — was stupid enough to fire shots (not "shoot up," as some might say) inside a club during a party and risk serious injury to a lot of people over what probably will turn out to be something petty, the responses I've seen on social media have also been pretty disappointing. It's a shame that some people see this incident as an opportunity to decry the presence of CIAA in Charlotte. As if the tournament, with its accompanying celebratory parties — many of which are not even sanctioned by the conference — breeds violence.
That's ridiculous. The truth is, CIAA week is a massive yearly reunion for alumni who attended the schools a part of the conference, mixed in with locals who want to be out in the middle of all that live energy, with a few bad apples sprinkled in. And that's just like any other huge event that brings in thousands of visitors to a city. (See WBTV's story last year comparing arrest numbers from CI and Speed Street.) Anyone who says otherwise needs to seriously analyze their own motives.
Newly elected Sen. Thom Tillis held a Q&A at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington D.C. on Monday where he said that restaurants should be able to opt out of the hand washing safeguards that are in place after an employee uses the bathroom.
"I said, I don’t have any problem with Starbucks if they choose to opt out of this policy as long as they post a sign that says ‘We don’t require our employees to wash their hands after leaving the restrooms.’ The market will take care of that," Tillis is quoted as saying.
There are a lot of reasons to wash hands when it comes to food prep, but we wondered what the other side of the argument had to say about the idea, as well.
So, we reached out to E. Coli and got this response:
Holy shit! What a great idea from Thom Tillis!
My friends (Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, Campylobacter and Staphylococcus aureus) and I have been incredibly supportive of this idea for years. After all, what's a trip to a restaurant without a dehydrating performance by vomiting and diarrhea afterward?
We can only imagine the benefits this can have on the economy and health insurance industry after countless people go to the hospital with food poisoning. Currently, only 1 in 6 people gets food poisoning each year, and I think with Mr. Tillis' help, we can significantly increase those numbers.
Great idea, Mr. Tillis! We're so glad you give a shit! (And we mean that literally.)
We are mad as hell, we are sick of this happening and we need leadership.
This was the message brought to lawmakers and community leaders Tuesday night at Dupp & Swat, a local boutique and creative space in NoDa, as it hosted Going up on a Tuesday, an event in connection with #FergusonEverywhere, a nationwide response to cases of police brutality disproportionately affecting African-Americans.
The event began rather low-key as about 50 people watched a slideshow of photos from Ferguson, Missouri, by local photographer Alvin Jacobs Jr., and listened to his compelling stories from the front lines of the protests. By the time he finished, the diverse crowd had doubled in size.
The panel of local leaders included former city councilwoman Beth Pickering, N.C. Rep. Kelly Alexander, attorney Matt Newton, Corine Mack from the NAACP, N.C. Rep. Rodney Moore, community activist Robert Dawkins and Sam Spencer, the former president of NC Young Democrats. Each gave a brief overview of the success they’ve had working within the establishment and touted establishment objectives like petitions, supporting legislation (like the nondiscrimination ordinance being voted on by City Council on Monday) and bills they planned to introduce during the next General Assembly session. The crowd listened politely.
But when the question and answer period came, the young people in the audience turned up.
If you happened to be twirling your radio dial here in Charlotte Monday night trying to find out what the grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, had decided in the case against Darren Wilson — the police officer who killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in August — you may have stumbled on me in the middle of a high-volume, four-hour-long “discussion” of that situation on News-Talk station 1110-AM WBT. The passionate responses I heard regarding the decision to not indict Wilson were as hot as anywhere else in the country. The only difference between what was going on here as compared to cities ranging from New York to Los Angeles was that, thankfully, ours didn’t escalate to the physically violent category.
Instead, what you would have heard fell into one of two general categories. The majority of the station’s predominantly conservative, white listeners lambasted me as a despicable "race-baiting liberal" who was just trying to stir up trouble like Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton. But according to many others who were persistent and patient enough to get through the jammed phone lines, I deserved to be congratulated for having the courage to demand that we deal with the problem of institutional racism rearing its head in this country again, which appears to be allowing cops get away with killing African-American men with impunity.