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Opera Express performers lead a discussion on bullying with Freedom School students. Enlarge Opera Express performers lead a discussion on bullying with Freedom School students.
Amanda Pagliarini Posted: July 28th, 2011 Amanda Pagliarini

“Someone who doesn’t feel good about themselves.” 

This was a young boy’s response to the question, "What is a bully?" 

The performers of Opera Express engaged the children at Shalom Park Freedom School in a dialogue about bullying and friendship after performing their similarly themed version of The Billy Goats Gruff. About 50 Freedom School students, from kindergarten to fifth grade, enjoyed the operatic version of the fairytale about three billy goats and a bullying troll. The performance and the dialogue that followed focused on seeing the humanity in bullies and using kindness to breed kindness.

Shalom Park Freedom School is a collaborative effort to provide free, quality summer education programs for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools students in underserved areas. The first Jewish-run Freedom School in the country, students take park in a six-week literacy and enrichment program in an effort to combat summer break learning loss.

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Greg Lacour Posted: July 27th, 2011 Greg Lacour
More than 125 women attended the Women's Empowerment Brunch in Ballantyne. (

Some stories worth sharing this week:

  • After a six-week standoff, the Charlotte City Council has finally released $7.5 million to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority following the demotion of longtime CEO Tim Newman. Council members had withheld the money from the city’s tourism wing because of questions over management and spending practices.

  • Whoever the CRVA board hires as its new CEO will no doubt have to pay close attention to the new Center City 2020 Vision Plan, a document that lays out a course for uptown and the neighborhoods immediately surrounding the Interstate 277 loop. It’s a $750,000 study paid for jointly by the city, Mecklenburg County and Charlotte Center City Partners.

  • Charities in Charlotte and elsewhere in the region are reeling from the news that the federal government is cutting emergency grant funding in half or more. “We are extremely grateful that they gave us an allocation, but we just wish the dollars weren’t as few as they are,” says Richard Heins, a United Way of Central Carolinas vice president. "It's very tough for critical needs charities, because the needs continue to rise."

  • In the backwash of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ contentious decision to close or consolidate 11 of its schools, a divide is growing between the school board and county commissioners over which school construction and renovation projects to tackle first.

  • The Gray Classic Golf Tournament in Ballantyne has always been a Y-chromosome kind of event, but this year it added a feminine touch: a Women’s Empowerment Brunch, in which more than 125 women gathered to encourage and bond with each other.

Greg Lacour Posted: July 25th, 2011 Greg Lacour
Carlos Robson of SlamCharlotte at The Scenario.

The normally bustling intersection of North Davidson and East 36th streets, the heart of NoDa, was unusually quiet for a Friday evening as Q took the stage for mic check.

There was a reason for the vacant streets.

Sing it, Q.

It’s hot outside this evening …”

It was. Upper 90s, high humidity, the whirring-cicada dog days spread out and moved in, an unwelcome guest. But a breeze blew every few minutes, and the temperature dropped as the sun got lower. The Scenario began to roll.

It was an evening of spoken-word poetry and live music on the rickety wooden stage next to Salvador Deli, where musicians and poets perform every Friday night. But this was a Crossroads Charlotte production, the second time we’ve hosted an event at that site.

Members of SlamCharlotte, the spoken-word consortium, were invited to spin their own poetic takes on Crossroads’ four “scenarios” – Fortress Charlotte, Class Act, The Beat Goes On and Eye To Eye. The Hot Damn Band and Heavy Rotation, a NoDa band fronted by poet and Crossroads friend Laurence Maher, provided the (funky!) music. Q – Quentin Talley, Crossroads’ artist-in-residence – emceed and held the whole thing together. (It was Livestreamed, too; video here.)

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Lee Howard Posted: July 21st, 2011 Lee Howard
Kali Ferguson, LaWana Mafield and Lori Fernald Khamala helped organize "Storyology"

Sabine couldn’t stomach American food. In her native Haiti, milk was served warm and food didn’t come in cans. Miriam, born in Nairobi, was shunned by Americans with black skin because she had a Kenyan accent. And a 4-year-old Arturo Gonzales remembers crossing the Rio Grande in the dead of night. The river water was so cold.

The tales told are of the many people who come to America. Some knowingly. Some as children simply following in their parents’ footsteps. The stories are not glamorous, but they tell of the arrival of new Americans. Even as current political sentiment would slam the nation’s borders closed, there are stories to be told of hope and freedom waiting in America. But these also are stories of loss, fear and alienation.

International House provided a forum Monday for “Storyology,” a program featuring about a half dozen videos created by locally based refugees and immigrants. About 50 people were on hand to watch the three- to four-minute films, which were made possible courtesy of American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker-affiliated organization that includes people of various faiths who describe themselves as committed to social justice, peace and humanitarian service.

“There is very little positive news about immigration in our country,” said Lori Fernald Khamala of the AFSC’s Greensboro-based Immigrant Services Committee. She was joined Monday by Kali Ferguson, her friend since third grade. Khamala and Ferguson, herself a storyteller and cultural educator, helped identify and organize the participants, who also had to learn the technology required to tell their stories on video.

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