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(From left) BLK Swan, Stephen Gordon, Q and Filmore at Art In the A.M. Enlarge (From left) BLK Swan, Stephen Gordon, Q and Filmore at Art In the A.M.
Greg Lacour Posted: November 30th, 2010 Greg Lacour

It was 7:30 on a chilly Friday morning, and the few patrons huddled over their coffee and pastries at Amelie’s in NoDa were startled to hear some unexpected sounds coming from the bakery’s far corner: Spoken-word poetry, jazz piano. A performance? At this hour?

Oh, yes. This was a new Crossroads Charlotte initiative, Art In the A.M., hosted by poet Quentin “Q” Talley, who came up with the idea. Q made the ultimate sacrifice for an artist. He’d been up until 3:30 a.m. on Friday, then woke up to get himself to Amelie’s before 7:30. The staff brought out coffee, which Q (and the rest of us) guzzled gratefully.

“It’s unprecedented that any artist is up at this hour,” a smiling Q told a modest but enthusiastic audience. “Hence, we only do this once a month.”

Q and fellow poet/singers BLK Swan and Filmore performed their works, some improvised, and Stephen Gordon contributed piano accompaniment. Crossroads has scheduled four more sessions, all at 7:30 a.m. on the third Friday of each month; they’ll all be Livestreamed on Crossroads’ Facebook page.

Q said people kept asking him why he and his friends performed so late at night. So he decided to start performing occasionally in the mornings before people had to go to work, and he took the idea to Crossroads, thinking it was another way to help build community through relevant art.

“People talk over coffee all the time,” he said, “so why not have some art in the background to help facilitate that?”

But the art wasn’t meant to just be background noise. Filmore kicked things off with a strong poem: “We are raising a society of soldiers and minimum-wage workers,” he recited. “This poem is for the broken.”

BLK Swan played a pair of her own bluesy tunes on acoustic guitar before all three poets collaborated on a spoken-word piece with Gordon’s piano as the musical frame. (“Wake up, man!” Q teased Gordon.)

Earliness aside, folks were glad they came. Alexis Godfrey, who usually stops at Amelie’s for her morning coffee, said she learned about Art In the A.M. on Facebook. “I love poetry and discussion, and I was interested in finding out what Crossroads is about,” she said. “I’ll be at the next event. It was awesome. Just the poetry and deep words. It just reminds you of what’s going on in the community.”

She paused, then laughed. “That’s all I can think of this early in the morning.”

Greg Lacour Posted: November 24th, 2010 Greg Lacour
Students at Chantilly Montessori prepared more than 800 sandwiches for Urban Ministry.

Some stories worth sharing this week:


  • It’d be great if we could go a week without linking to another groan-inducing story out of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, but this week's story about local PTA organizations wanting to raise money to help with teacher salaries is the latest, and likely not the last. 
  • Better news here: Charlotte and St. Louis are the finalists to host the 2012 Democratic National Convention. It’d be a huge economic opportunity--and, maybe, a chance to show people across the nation the kind of community we want to see.
  • A strange and sad story here about a friendship ruined, then ended in violence. What’s just as striking, though, is the passing mention of a rapidly growing Russian-speaking community just east of Charlotte. How many of us even knew it existed?
  • In an all-day project called Operation Sandwich, students in Chantilly Montessori's first, second and third grades made more than 800 sandwiches that will be delivered to Urban Ministry today and shared with Charlotte's homeless. What a great way to teach kids that anyone--no matter how small--can make a difference in someone else's life.

Rhiannon Fionn-Bowman Posted: November 23rd, 2010 Rhiannon Fionn-Bowman
The ASC premiered one of three videos about Crestdale at a Matthews townhall meeting.

At the Matthews town hall meeting Nov. 23, the Arts & Science Council  premiered a video series about Charlotte's historic Crestdale neighborhood, made possible through grants from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Community Foundation and Crossroads Charlotte, in association with The Light Factory.

Crestdale, one of the oldest African American communities in the city, was founded after the Civil War by freed slaves. Today, it is divided into three distinct areas: one, a longtime African American neighborhood, second, a Habitat for Humanity neighborhood of Montagnard (Vietnamese) residents, and the third, a newer, blended community called Crestdale Commons.

"ASC's initiative was to connect these three neighborhoods through an artist residency experience, as well as connect the community to the variety of cultural programming taking place in the Matthews Community Center," said Ben Kubie, ASC's program director, as he introduced the videos.

[WATCH: Tank Town: An Oral History of Crestdale on YouTube]

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Crystal Dempsey Posted: November 21st, 2010 Crystal Dempsey

By Courtney Devores

Filmmaker and WBTV reporter Steve Crump debuted his documentary "Sojourn of the Strings" on Nov. 18 at the Mint Museum uptown.

Nine months in the making, “Sojourn” traces the history of the banjo and, to some degree, the fiddle from Africa during the slave trade to its appropriation by white minstrel performers. Crump also focuses on the black community's recent reclamation of these instruments.

WTVI will air "Sojourn" at 9 p.m. Monday, Nov. 22, and at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 24, followed by "Pebble in a Pond," a documentary about the Charlotte Folk Society. “Sojourn” is one of more than 20 documentaries that Crump has collaborated on with WTVI.

The documentary centers on the fifth anniversary of the Black Banjo Gathering last March at Appalachian State. New York's Ebony Hillbillies, New Orleans' Don Vappie, Mali's Cheick Hamala Diabate, the Carolina Chocolate Drops and mentor Joe Thompson lend their thoughts on the instrument’s evolution as do renowned folk musicians Pete Seeger and Bela Fleck.

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