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ACLU Press Release

Posted by admin on May 22, 2010 in Other Events, Our Friends, Peace & Justice

AWARD-WINNER ROBERT G. SMITH & DR. DAN T. CARTER HEADLINE ACLU ANNUAL EVENT FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 20, 2009
What: ACLU Annual Membership Meeting & Award Presentation
When: Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 2 p.m.
Where: Asheville Friends Meeting House, 227 Edgewood Road
Asheville, NC – Robert G. (Bob) Smith, the long-time executive director of the Asheville-Buncombe Community Relations Council and a citizen extraordinaire by any measure, will receive the 2010 annual Evan Mahaney Champion of Civil Liberties Award from the Western North Carolina Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union at the chapter’s annual meeting on Sunday, May 23 at 2:00 p.m. In the Friends Meeting House, 227 Edgewood Road, Asheville. The ACLU annual meeting and award presentation is free and open to the public.  This year alone, Smith’s humble but powerful volunteer efforts included his support for two important causes urged by the local chapter of the ACLU – the historical NC Racial Justice Act, signed into law by Governor Perdue last August; and the Civil Liberties Resolution first drafted by the local ACLU chapter that is now being advanced by City Council Member Cecil Bothwell and several other local organizations.  The keynote speaker for this year’s annual meeting of the ACLU of WNC Chapter is Dr. Dan T. Carter, a widely sought speaker, who has lectured throughout the United States and abroad, author of seven works of history, and the winner of many teaching and writing awards. Former President of the Southern Historical Association, Carter has held a half dozen fellowships and visiting appointments including Fulbright professorships in London and Genoa, Italy. He also held Cambridge University’s distinguished chair in American institutions, the Pitt Professorship as well as NEH, ACLS and NHF Fellowships. Kenan University Professor at Emory University, Dr.Carter was appointed the first Educational Foundation Professor of History at the University of South Carolina in the fall of 2000 and became Emeritus Professor in September of 2007.  Dr Carter won the Bancroft Prize for Scottsboro: A Tragedy of the American South. (1970). In addition to the Bancroft Prize, Scottsboro  received the Saturday Review Anisfield Wolfe Award, the Lillian Smith Award and a special citation from the Mystery Writers of America for the author’s success at combining “high level scholarship and the prose quality of the best mystery writers.” The book became the basis for a major NBC television docudrama in 1977 (Judge Horton and the Scottsboro Boys).  After working as an adviser on a number of television documentaries, he joined three-time Emmy winner Paul Stekler as chief historical adviser and principle on-camera commentator for George Wallace: “Settin’ the Woods on Fire,” a three hour biographical documentary on Alabama governor George Wallace and his impact on American politics. The film, based on Carter’s book, The Politics of Rage, aired in the spring of 2000 on PBS’s series, “The American Experience” and was nominated for three Emmys. Carter and Stekler received an Emmy from the American Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for their historical research on the Wallace film.  In addition to his involvement with documentaries, Carter is often called upon by the news media for his observations on American politics and history and he has been interviewed on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” as well as “All Things Considered,” “Morning Edition” and “Weekend Edition;” “The News Hour With Jim Lehrer,” ABC’s “Nightline,” and Terry Gross’s “Fresh Air.” In late 2005, he was a featured interviewee on Bill Moyer’s “Now.” Carter is currently at work on several projects, including what he calls a “meditation on American political culture” as seen through the life of Asa Carter, a violent Klansman of the 1950s and 1960s who created a new identity as “Forrest” Carter in 1972 and became a successful novelist, writing such best selling books as The Outlaw Josey Wales, Watch for Me on the Mountain and The Education of Little Tree.  A short business session will be held at which the ACLU members present will vote on proposed new members of the WNC chapter board: Julie Mayfield of Asheville and Connie Nash of Brevard. Refreshments will be served and the meeting is free and open to the public….

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Friends Digest, Vol 75, Issue 4

Dear Friends,
This Saturday, the 22nd of May, at the Common Light Meeting Place, 137 Center Ave. in Black Mountain, occasional Asheville attender Lena Feldman will celebrate her marriage to Ryan Lane. The ceremony will take place at 4 p.m. All Asheville Friends are invited. A vegetarian pot luck follows immediately. RSVP’s are appreciated, call 828-242-1954 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              828-242-1954      end_of_the_skype_highlighting.
On Sunday, following Meeting for Worship, we will have our monthly “Sandwich Sunday” potluck. Friends are asked to be mindful of food sensitivities in our community and avoid peanuts or peanut products and label the ingredients in your offerings.
Shortly after our potluck has adjourned, at 2 p.m., the WNC Chapter of the ACLU will hold their annual membership meeting at the Meetinghouse. The guest speaker will be renowned historian and author Dr. Dan Carter. There will be a brief business meeting of the WNC Chapter, and the 2010 “Evan Mahaney Champion of Civil Liberties Award” will be bestowed upon Asheville Friend Bob Smith, for his tireless efforts as director of the Asheville Buncombe Community Relations Council and his volunteer work promoting the NC Racial Justice Act and the City of Asheville’s Civil Liberties Resolution. The meeting is free and open to the public. Attenders should expect to be invited to join!
The presentation by Turtle McDermott of West Knoxville Friends Meeting on her work with the Alternatives to Violence Project in Rwanda, originally scheduled to take place at the Meetinghouse next Tuesday, the 25th, has been rescheduled for Monday the 24th at 4 p.m., at the home of Kay Parke at Highland Farms in Swannanoa. Call 669-0932 if you are interested in attending.
On Tuesday the 25th, friends are encouraged to attend a fundraiser for Haiti taking place at the Jack of the Woods pub on Patton Ave. downtown, 6 – 10 p.m. There will be live music and a silent auction of Haitian crafts. Admission is $10.
Finally, Friends who are interested in seeing and reading about Friend Ellen Frerotte’s new community in West Virginia can learn more in this article about the cooperative building of her husband Jim’s shop in their new “neighborhood” on Big Creek, near Alderson. Http://westvirginiaville.com/2010/05/building-stuff-with-a-lot-of-help-from-your-friends/
Best wishes, Steve

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Asheville Friend on Front Page of ACT Mountain Section

Posted by admin on Feb 7, 2010 in Our Friends

Our Bob Smith (executive director of the Asheville-Buncombe Community Relations Council) is pictured (and quoted) on the front of the “Mountains” Section of the AC-T (Friday, February 5) in a feature story regarding the legacy of slavery in Western North Carolina.
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VANCE SITE LOOKS AT WNC’s SLAVERY HISTORY — AC-T — February 5, 2010, page B1

WEAVERVILLE — Slavery in Western North Carolina isn’t the most
comfortable topic to talk about, but Tammy Walsh doesn’t think people should avoid it.

And to get the conversation started, Walsh is giving people a glimpse behind the big house on the hill every Saturday in February at the Vance Birthplace Historic Site, home to North Carolina’s Civil War Gov. Zebulon Vance. She hopes the program, “Behind the Big House,” brings the issue of slavery in WNC out into the open so people can have a frank discussion about a history that is often neglected or ignored.

People’s breathing changes at the mere thought of slavery, said Bob Smith, executive director of Asheville-Buncombe Council of Community Relations, a group that strives to develop mutual respect with a focus on ending discrimination.

But, Smith said, in order to move beyond “the elephant in the room,” people need to acknowledge slaves were “chattel” and “property.”

Accomplishments by African-Americans have been a part of WNC’s history since the 1700s, yet there is little acknowledgement on any of the historic markers or sites, according to Deborah Miles, executive director of the Center for Diversity Education in Asheville.

Miles said the setting is notable because the National Park Service didn’t talk about slavery at any of its Civil War sites until 1995. A program like this at a state site on an important historical figure raises the question in public, making it less likely to be dismissed.

And programs like “Behind the Big House” can make people question therole of ancestors as slaves or slave owners and elected leaders, Miles said. This may lead to uncomfortable questions of “how ‘unearned privilege’ might still exist in a merit-based society.”

“I believe that the more we understand about the past, the more tools we have to shape the future,” she said.

Day to day

Slaves made up 15 percent of the population of Buncombe County in the late 18th Century.

Farms in the region were relatively small in scale so the hierarchy of domestic workers and field workers was not as developed as in the plantation system, according to Walsh. There were fewer numbers of slaves to specialize in particular jobs, so they may have worked both in the fields on the farm and at other jobs in town, depending on the time of year.

But slaves in North Carolina generally had more interaction with slaves on other farms, often looking there to find a spouse, and could travel to different farms to court or visit during their limited free time.

The story becomes tangible when visitors tour the historic site in Weaverville. The modest two-story, five-room home David Vance Sr., the governor’s grandfather had built on the hill is misleading. It’s not a McMansion by today’s standards, instead it’s a modest home. But, according to Walsh, documents indicate the family was wealthy enough to own up to 19 slaves at one point, which wasn’t typical in the region.

The two-room slave quarters, a building originally owned by Robert Patton and relocated from its original location in Swannanoa Valley, had a fireplace, wooden floorboards, two windows with no panes and two doors. If people wanted light, the windows and doors had to remain open, even in winter.

There were three cabins with at least eight people per one-room dwelling the size of a medium-sized car.

Making history real

Occasionally, Walsh takes her show on the road to schools at teachers’ requests.

One request came from Sandy Tarintino, a fourth-grade teacher at Francine Delany New School. She said the most important thing about the “Behind the Big House” outreach program her students saw were the documents that let them to connect the dots in a factual manner.

Tarintino said her students’ reaction to the program was largely horror.

“It makes the abstract concrete,” Tarintino said. “You start to picture families. You start to picture a grandmother. When you make content like that place-based and put that in the context of where a child learns and where a child lives, it makes it more relevant.”

The program is based on information culled from primary source documents like court records, wills, letters and diaries, among other sources. And, Walsh said, this makes the program real and indisputable because it puts a face and a name to the people affected by slavery.

Going forward;

The legacy of slavery and the Civil War still have lingering impacts in the region, in the statistics on income, positions of power and authority, housing and education trends, Miles said.

But Smith said African-Americans cannot continue to use slavery as an excuse.

“A lot of empires were built on free labor. Subjugating people, exploiting people,” Smith said. But, since African-Americans overcame slavery, “We can overcome anything.”

Instead, African-Americans should use it as inspiration and to demonstrate that they have learned something so they may “never be slaves again, particularly in our own mind, which is where we have to free slaves from.”

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