Wilmington on Fire screening April 15

Neuse Regional Library will hold a free screening of the award-winning documentary Wilmington on Fire on April 15 at 3 p.m. A film by Christopher Everett, Wilmington on Fire chronicles the only successful cout de tat in U.S. history in 1898 when white supremacists in the coastal N.C. town gunned down and exiled hundreds of black citizens after the local election of Fusion Party candidates. The offices of the Daily Record, a black-owned newspaper, were burned to the ground and white candidates seized power in the port city. Everett, who will be available after the film to discuss its making, uses primary sources and experts to explain how the displacement of hundreds of blacks more than 30 years after the Civil War ended contributed to the rise of Jim Crow and later of private prisons. Everett won Best Director at the 2017 Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles for his first feature documentary and the film won for Best Documentary at the 2016 N.C. Black Film...

SmART brings Elexus Jionde to Kinston for residency

Twitter’s “Unconventional History Teacher” Elexus Jionde will speak at the Kinston Arts Center at 400 N. Queen St. on April 6 at 7 p.m. Jionde, the founder of Intelexual Media, has written numerous threads on stories of black struggles and white privilege for her audience of more than 40,000 and has been featured in a variety of articles about race and the future of media. “How the Past Affects the Present” will explore how history is taught while exploring historically overlooked local stories, like the 1951 walkout at Adkin High School, and how urban planning in the 20th century exacerbates the socioeconomic challenges facing cities across the country today. Kinston Teens is partnering with SmART Kinston to bring Jionde’s messages about youth empowerment to Lenoir County through a weekend teaching artist residency, which will explore how local issues can be solved through art....

Reps. Bell, Graham host local leaders for Arts Day 2017

By Ty Johnson RALEIGH – Arts leaders from across the state were at the State Capitol Wednesday to talk with lawmakers about arts funding ahead of creation of the legislative budget. Majority Leader John Bell hosted advocates from Wayne, Lenoir and Craven counties at his legislative office to talk about the role the arts play in the region, especially in attracting investment and maintaining the region’s reputation as welcoming to military families. “Quality of life is a really big deal. The arts add to that,” Rep. Bell told the group, which included N.C. Arts Council Board of Directors Chairman Stephen Hill and Kinston Arts Council Director Sandy Landis, who also serves on the Arts NC board. Bell said arts-driven development in Goldsboro and Kinston has enhanced the region’s stature when it comes to Base Realignment and Closure and settling veterans. “A lot of people are coming back downtown,” he said. “It really adds to our quality of life.” As for this year’s budget for arts, Bell said he couldn’t guarantee the legislature would grant last year’s increased budget or increase the grassroots arts budget to give all 100 counties funding for paid arts administrative staff, but said “we’ll take a shot at it.” Rep. George Graham, who joined Bell at the meeting, added that Triangle residents are growing increasingly aware of what’s going on down the U.S. 70 Corridor. “In Raleigh, people are asking about what’s going on in Kinston,” Graham said, turning to Hill and thanking him for changing Lenoir County into “another world.” Graham noted that Bell’s party will play a larger role in drafting the new...

After pressure over Facebook post, Kinston community development planner asked to withdraw application

An architect and Kinston High graduate introduced at the Feb. 20 Kinston City Council meeting as the town’s newest community development planner suddenly withdrew his application on Thursday, citing pressure from the city over a 2016 Facebook post. Staff introduced Javad Suggs at the council meeting one week before he was to begin work and while his introduction was not on the city agenda, City Manager Tony Sears said he was introduced Monday night as a new employee. “Technically Monday he was introduced, yes,” Sears said. “He has withdrawn his application from the City of Kinston.” Suggs, who began school in Lenoir County as a kindergartner, said he moved from Washington, D.C. to Raleigh last year to work as an architect, but was interested in coming home to Kinston. “I already had a lucrative job: office, benefits and a mentor,” he said. “It was the perfect situation for a young architect. Then I heard about this position. The responsibilities were so idyllic to me … I felt that I couldn’t pass it up. I had always daydreamed about going back and doing things in Kinston.” When he got the job, Suggs put in his notice, ended his lease in the Triangle and came to Kinston in time for the meeting where he was told he would be introduced to the city council. “Everything seemed like it was fine at that point,” Suggs said, adding that staff members lauded him for coming back, especially for leaving behind larger cities. “It took a tremendous act of faith,” he said. “I was willing to go back to school. City planning is something...

SmART writer attends journalism conference

By Emily Sides I am attending the Daily Tar Heel newspaper 124th birthday conference Friday and Saturday in Chapel Hill. I will be live-tweeting throughout the conference so feel free to follow me @trianglesides on Twitter. I am one of ten Watchdog Fellows which are supported by Democracy Fund, a foundation started by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, according to the foundation’s website. In 2015, the foundation awarded grants to American Press Institute, Bipartisan Policy Center, Center for Public Integrity, Free Press, Online News Association and more. The Daily Tar Heel newspaper is independent from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, according to their website. Last November the Daily Tar Heel, along with Capital Broadcasting Company, the Charlotte Observer Publishing Company and the Durham Herald Company, sued the university “for access to public records regarding sexual assault cases on campus,” according to this article by Katie Rice for the Daily Tar Heel (http://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2016/11/the-daily-tar-heel-files-lawsuit-against-unc-to-obtain-campus-sexual-assault-records). Editor-In-Chief Jane Wester told Rice access to the documents is “important to hold the University accountable to its sexual assault policy.” In the article, Wester said the newspaper’s financial independence gave them the ability to sue the university. On Friday, UNC-Chapel Hill students and attendees will listen to a panel called “Rape and the Campus” that includes Wester. Susan King, the dean of the UNC School of Media and Journalism, will moderate the panel that includes Wester, “Duke Chronicle editor Claire Ballentine, the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Sarah Brown, Roanoke Times’ Sara Gregory, UNC media law expert Cathy Packer, and Monika Johnson Hostler of N.C. CASA about the challenge and responsibility of covering sexual assault,” according...

Two shows Saturday night in downtown Kinston

The Roman Sams will “head up North” Saturday night at 10 p.m. as they bring their vocal rock sound to North Street Pub & Eatery in their return to Kinston. North Street Pub has daily drink and food specials and provides a second venue for nightlife in downtown Kinston in addition to the Red Room, which will host house favorite Dr. Bacon, an Appalachian funk rock group from Asheville. Dr. Bacon posted the following on Facebook about their Kinston show: “Guess who’s coming back to The Red Room THIS Saturday for an evening of funky, grassy, electric goodness? DR. BACON! See y’all crazy, awesome Kinstonians...

Winsome headlines February First Friday

Local rock trio Winsome returned to the Atlantic Art House Feb. 3 for First Friday as Sara Smith’s house band for her gallery opening and tamale tasting, sponsored by Mother Earth Brewing Co. Brothers Craig, Michael & Chris Harrison covered alternative rock hits from Weezer, the Pixies and more, while Sara displayed her latest work ahead of a special show at the Arts Center scheduled for later this spring. Along with her visual arts offerings, Sara prepared a smattering of North Carolina-inspired toppings for her beef shoulder tamales, including a sweet potato and collard cole slaw so good it also served as a side. Around the corner, Pam Wynn sold her wares at her in-home gallery, Joyful Artist Studio & Creative Lab. Pam’s essential oils & shower melts are seasonal favorites as winter blows itself to an...

Strong response at art plan workshop

Nearly 30 people were at the Art Center Monday night for a community workshop built around N.C. Arts Council’s SmART Initiative, the state-run economic development program that inspired the mission of the SmART Kinston City Project Foundation. As one of five SmART Cities, Kinston is putting together a plan for enhancing downtown connectivity through public art. A steering committee selected Vicki Scuri of Seattle to create a vision reimagining the Queen Street corridor, Arts & Cultural District and Grainger Stadium areas for a new generation of Lenoir County visitors. The timing of the Queen Street repaving project has presented opportunities to marry N.C. Department of Transportation efforts with wayfinding and placemaking concepts throughout the existing city center. City Manager Tony Sears said the new Queen Street will have two lanes and angled parking, but it won’t be repaved until the city completes its work on water infrastructure beneath the road. “A lot of the water’s already been done,” Tony said Monday. “What’s left is South Queen.” Tony added that while the city hasn’t yet gotten a schedule or estimate for when the work could be complete, there is interest in synching the project with the ideas that come from the SmART Initiative. “The city doesn’t have a timeline,” he said. “We want it to be one project” Vicki said much of the inspiration for the plan will come from the character of Kinston and its people, who she said impressed her with their forthrightness about what they want to see in their city. Nancy Trovillion, deputy director of the N.C. Arts Council, said the strong response from the community...

Fifth annual Stars Dance delights sold out crowd

Votes cast at the 2017 Stars Dance for the Arts nearly doubled the totals from the previous year last weekend as more than 240 audience members helped select dancers Lindsay King & Alton Roberson the winners of the Mirror Ball Award. Jennifer Bland & Lee Albritton won the award for best costume, sponsored by H. Stadiem, while Ashely Perry Rudolph & Nathan Perry won the People’s Choice award. The judges awarded a three-way tie to Marilyn Rosenthal & Cameron Beaman, Ashley Stucker & R.J. Smith, Ashley Andrews & Dusk Stroud, all of whom earned all 10s for their performances. “It was a really great event,” said Sandy Landis, executive director of the Arts...

The Stars come out Saturday

Online voting closes at midnight Friday for the fifth annual Stars Dance for the Arts competition, which pairs dancers with local Stars in an event that annually draws hundreds to the Community Council for the Arts in Downtown Kinston. GENERAL ADMISSION TICKETS STILL AVAILABLE Votes cost $10, with all proceeds going to the Arts Council to fund operations, arts programs and events like Soup and a Bowl on Jan. 29. Raising money for the arts is part of what attracted R.J. Smith to participate when he was invited after another participant cancelled earlier this winter. “I knew that all the money we raised would go to the arts,” he said. “Also, I thought it would be a lot of fun to do it.” R.J. is no stranger to performing downtown. When he’s not giving tours at Mother Earth, he plays percussion for The Vanilla Gorillas. “It helps that I’m a drummer,” he said. “I can keep a beat. I’ve got a little bit of rhythm.” R.J. said while he has won a few freestyle dance competitions on his own, working with Ashley Fillippeli Stucker on their hip-hop dance to “A Hard Knock Life” has rounded out his dancing experience. “She really is a dancer. She choreographed the whole dance,” he said. “I’m learning a lot from her. I learned a lot of new moves.” Teenell White, an aerobics and Zumba instructor, returns to Stars Dance after her first experience last year partnered with SmART Kinston Director Ty Johnson. Teenell said choosing a Bruno Mars song, 24K Magic, for her freestyle dance with Michael Martin was all about creating a...