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It started by chance, or some might say divine intervention, when a children’s minister met a group of tall, dark young men in a Charlotte grocery store.
And it grew into a cross-cultural commitment that was much more than a summer mission trip or donations to foreign missionaries.
Carl and Nina Phillips are members of St. John’s Baptist Church on Hawthorne Lane. David Thon is one of the “Lost Boys” of the Sudan who settled in Charlotte in 2001. The Phillips were his mentors as he navigated a new life in the United States and gained an education.
“We had no idea what we were getting into when we responded to a call for mentors from Caroletta Partain, also from St. John’s, who was organizing a mentoring program for the young men,” said Nina.
After the chance meeting between Martha Kearse, children’s minister at St. John’s, and a group of the “Lost Boys,” the historic church in Elizabeth began supplementing the services provided by Catholic Social Services, the agency that brought the group to Charlotte.
The friendship between Nina and Carol Phillips and David Thon wasn’t the only one forged when Charlotte became home to a group of young men from the Sudan in 2001.
And Thon isn’t the only one who worked, obtained degrees and found ways to help his home country.
Four others have earned their bachelor degrees: Joseph Majak, from Mars Hill; Manoi Athiaan Manoi, from UNC-Asheville; and Daniel Thongbor and James Mijak from UNC-Charlotte.
Manoi is continuing his master’s degree studies at North Carolina A&T State University. Abraham Garang is a senior at Lynchburg College in Virginia, and Atem Ajak plans to graduate soon from Defiance College in Ohio.
Video, photo and text by Tonya Jameson
Watching black fraternities and sororities use their bodies to create rhythms as they battle for bragging rights is regular part of college life at historically black colleges. It’s called stepping, and in the last decade it has expanded beyond the walls of black colleges.
At Winthrop University in Rock Hill recently, Step Afrika combined traditional stepping with other dance forms to entertain and educate college students.
The troupe, consisting of dancers ages 22-32, performs at venues throughout the world. The troupe pays homage to stepping in “Tribute,” but in other pieces the group incorporates West African dance, tap and other modern dance forms.
“A Step Afrika show is not exactly what you would see from a step show, but both are very, very unique and exciting,” said dancer Jakari Sherman.
Text by Rhiannon Bowman
Rosie Molinary, author of "Hijas Americanas: Beauty, Body Image, and Growing Up Latina," didn't mean to start a non-profit organization.
But after the research for her book about growing up within two cultures confirmed her intuitions about the struggles the Latinas face, she couldn't help herself. "I felt that I couldn't put my head in the sand on this," she said.
According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Education and the National Campaign to End Teen Pregnancy, Latino students have the highest dropout rates of all races. A third of the Latinas who dropped out of school cited pregnancy or marriage as their reason.
On book tour, teachers would approach Molinary and say things like, "I wish you could talk to my Latinas." Others would ask, "What can I do to help?"
A former teacher for Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, Molinary said she knew she wanted to offer mentoring, scholarships and programs for the girls but wasn't sure how to get started.
So, in March 2008, she gathered her friends and asked for their ideas and support. Many of the women in that first meeting are still on the board of directors for what is now known as Circle de Luz, which means "Circle of Light."
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