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Read about important Crossroads Charlotte events, information and activities.

Candles are often used in holiday celebrations. Photo by Maurice Reeves. Enlarge Candles are often used in holiday celebrations. Photo by Maurice Reeves.
Rhiannon Fionn-Bowman Posted: December 20th, 2009 Rhiannon Fionn-Bowman

For centuries, humans have celebrated the arrival of winter. Just like today, those gatherings honored family, community and surviving another year. They were also times to eat, drink and be merry.

This year, the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, is Dec. 21 – at 6:38 p.m. EST, to be exact. That doesn't mean much to us now since light and warmth can be obtained by flipping a switch and food is as far away as the nearest refrigerator, restaurant or grocery store.

For our ancestors, however, winter wasn't filled with special recipes and piles of gifts. Winter was the harshest time of the year when food was scarce and the ability to stay warm could, literally, mean life or death. But they knew if they could make it through the longest night, the sun would soon warm their bodies and urge their crops to grow again.

The solstice was a time to celebrate the sun's return. As we do today, the ancients used symbols – such as evergreens and candles – to represent the hopefulness they felt. In good years, they feasted with the knowledge that there was enough food to last until spring.

Cultures and faiths around the world mark the time in their own ways.

Hindus celebrate "Diwali," a five-day festival of lights that focuses on a different deity daily. The date varies on Western calendars but the festival is always the 15th day of Kartika, or the Hindi equivalent to November. This year, the celebration actually began Oct.17. It's a time when women paint their hands with henna, everyone shops for new clothes, and houses are cleaned and decorated with flowers. It's also a time to eat sweets.

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Tonya  Jameson Posted: November 24th, 2009 Tonya Jameson
Clients wait their turn for shots at the Presbyterian Community Care Cruiser in Huntersville.

Gabriel Rodriguez, 12, was shy about being videotaped while getting a flu shot. Afterward he was brave and smiling.

“It wasn’t that bad,” he said, standing inside the Presbyterian Community Care Cruiser stationed at the Solomon House, in Huntersville on Nov. 24.

Gabriel and other youth received flu shots, vaccinations and other health services at the mobile health clinic. The clinic’s staff provides health care to uninsured and under-insured youth in the Charlotte community.

The cruiser is a big fancy truck, reminiscent of a moving van, but it's tricked out with two exam areas, a sink, computer and even a waiting area with a DVD player and headphones.

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Greg Lacour Posted: November 21st, 2009 Greg Lacour
Jose Hernandez, a Mexican immigrant, urged fighting false perceptions .

Click here for more photos by Greg Lacour

Video by Tonya Jameson

Every year, more and more immigrants – Latino, East Asian, Indian, Caribbean – pour into Charlotte. Most of them are just looking a chance to do earn a better living than they did in the old country.

Is Charlotte welcoming them? How well? Are immigrants doing enough to establish themselves in a new community? Should they? What can we all do to adjust to the change without sacrificing what makes Charlotte Charlotte?

They’re questions that touched off a lively round of conversation Nov. 19 at International House in Elizabeth. More than two dozen people from just about everywhere – Mexico, Somalia, Jamaica, Thailand, Pittsburgh – gathered to take part in the latest Crossroads Charlotte conversation: “Finding Community In a New Home: Exchanging Perspectives With Immigrants in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.”

Starting with readings of the four scenarios, participants were asked to identify which best reflected the community they knew. Responses, as you might expect, varied. But the general consensus seemed to be that Charlotte seems to reflect "The Beat Goes On" – growth and opportunity remain with the sense that the city has missed a chance to become something even better.

Still, slowly, the city is beginning to transform into a city that’s more than the swollen small town dominated by banking and churches that it was until recent years.

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Ayofemi Kirby Posted: November 7th, 2009 Ayofemi Kirby
Sarah Stevenson at her home.

Throughout November, the Crossroads Charlotte Correspondents will spotlight individuals who deserve thanks for what they do to improve the city's social capital.

How Sarah Stevenson connects community:

Activist and Co-Founder, Tuesday Morning Breakfast Forum

About Sarah:

When history was made in Charlotte, it’s likely that Sarah Stevenson, 84, was there. A local resident since 1941, Stevenson became passionate about civil rights for all as a parent of students attending public school.

An advocate for achieving equality through education, Stevenson pioneered integrating the local Parent-Teacher Association, eventually becoming the local chapter President. Years later, she became the first African-American woman on the Charlotte school board.

As Stevenson continued to build her legacy in Charlotte, she became Director of the Community Relations Dispute Settlement program in the 1960s, training area police officers and professionals to mediate issues between local citizens. She also continued her work as a leader in organizations such as the National Conference for Christians and Jews (now the Charlotte Coalition for Social Justice) and the Black Political Caucus.

In 1980, Stevenson and other area leaders started the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Forum to provide African-Americans an opportunity to discuss issues with elected and appointed officials. Nearly 30 years later, Stevenson still moderates the Forum every week to a diverse audience at the West Charlotte Recreation Center.

What she thinks our community needs?

“We need better communication, we need to have more respect for each other, and we need to treat each other as God’s people. We need to love each other, and out of that will come issues of education, respect, equality and better treatment for all.”

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