Closing the Door on Diversity

Saturday, November 10th, 2007

One of the issues that got short shrift this election cycle was the relationship between Chapel Hill’s fiscal policy, Downtown’s “rah rah” growth plan, taxes and our goal to promote a diverse community.

We know longtime residents of moderate means struggle to keep their homes. We know folks just starting out can’t get their foot in the door. Often the folks most affected come from our traditional minority neighborhoods.

Many of the current Council crew think the decline of diversity is inevitable – that their policies worsening the situation will eventually pay off but, as I tried to discuss this recent election cycle, at what cost to the wider community?

I guess it’s a matter of “small-d” democratic philosophy. I promoted diversity of thought, diversity of opinion, diversity of community because, at least from my observation, communities that honor those values are stronger for it. “Honor”, by the way, does not mean being satisfied with the renaming roads or creating conditions that escalate the demise of one of our traditionally diverse neighborhoods.

From today’s N&O article on the “panel discussion at UNC’s Wilson Library to celebrate the republication of John Ehle’s 1965 book “The Free Men,” which chronicles Chapel Hill’s desegregation”, folks who have some historical perspective observe those corrosive effects.

Several panelists made the distinction between desegregation and integration and said they feel the latter is lacking in Chapel Hill.

James Foushee, who participated in demonstrations, said, “Chapel Hill is going to become, in the next five years, an all-white town.”

“We have desegregated,” Karen Parker said. “Integration is up to the individual.”

“Blacks are priced out. Are the people of Chapel Hill aware of that? No, they’re not,” said Wayne King, who covered the protests for The Daily Tar Heel, UNC’s student newspaper. “It’s harder to notice that … no black people are having breakfast in the Carolina Coffee Shop. … Would you notice?” he asked the audience.

Mr. King, it is not just racial minorities that are being shown the door. If we keep going down the road plotted out by our current leadership – anyone – elderly, minority, blue collar and of moderate of means – will be unable to afford the ticket to ride.

Lincoln Center Arts Program Needs a New Home

Friday, March 16th, 2007

Karen Fisher’s Feb. 21st letter to the Chapel Hill News:

The Lincoln Arts Center has to find a new home or risk closing its door permanently. The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools administrative offices will be expanding into the space that the Lincoln Arts Center pottery studio has leased for 30 years. Chapel Hill is in danger of losing this incredible self-supporting, community resource. All it needs to continue is a space adequate for hands-on artwork, preferably near a bus line.

The Lincoln Arts Center has provided classes for over 8,500 registered students. These students include school-aged children, senior citizens and all ages in between. The center serves students of all skill levels and abilities including students with special needs.

There is a sliding fee schedule that makes these classes accessible to citizens of many different income levels. Where else in Chapel Hill can such a diverse group of citizens find wonderful arts instruction and explore their own creativity?

There is no shortage of fine teachers and able assistants in the area, but where will they teach and inspire their students if the Lincoln Arts Center studio closes it doors? All other hand-on arts/pottery programs in the area are privately held and out of range for many of our citizens.

What does it say about our community if this program closes down for lack of space? Are we supporters of community-based arts? We certainly have some wonderful galleries and fine artists in our midst. Where else but at the community level do we nurture the creativity of our citizens?

Take action: Come to the next Chapel Hill Town Council Meeting on Monday at 7 p.m. and lend your support. A petition to find a new home for the Lincoln Arts Center will be presented at that meeting.

Take action: Write to Chapel Hill Mayor Kevin Foy (e-mail: kevinfoy@townofchapelhill.org or 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Chapel Hill 27514 or telephone: 968-2714) and/or The Chapel Hill Town Council (e-mail: mayorandcouncil@townofchapelhill.org or 306 N. Columbia St., Chapel Hill 27516, telephone: 968-2845).

Absolutely eloquent Karen.

As of now (Mar. 16th, 2007) it appears that the Lincoln Arts Center is homeless and that this unique,self-supporting program is kaput by October unless Council finds it a new home.

I’ll be posting both those calls to save the only publicly supported hands-on arts program in Chapel Hill and further information as the story develops.

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