Around Town: Black Wall Street AVL teams with Wilma Dykeman Legacy for birthday bash

POWER TRIO: From left, DeWayne Barton, Juan Holladay and Becky Stone will perform at Wilma Dykeman’s 102nd birthday celebration on Saturday, May 21, honoring the late author and activist. Photos courtesy of Black Wall Street AVL

The late Wilma Dykeman was perhaps best known as an environmentalist due to her writings on and advocacy for the French Broad River watershed. But she was also a pioneer in the world of social justice, helping shine a light on civil rights leaders and other African Americans through her writings.

That’s why J Hackett, founder of Black Wall Street AVL, was honored when the Wilma Dykeman Legacy asked his group to partner with it in presenting a 102nd birthday celebration commemorating Dykeman on Saturday, May 21, 1-4 p.m.

“This celebration is also our celebration,” Hackett says. “Who knows where we would all be, or what we would have never experienced, had [Dykeman] not seen far beyond her years. She saw us. And Black Wall Street AVL intends to be part of the continued legacy of Wilma Dykeman.”

For several years, the Dykeman Legacy worked with the city of Asheville to celebrate the birthday at the historic city-owned building at 8 River Arts Place. Black Wall Street AVL secured a long-term lease on the building in October.

“It seems right at this point to celebrate on an annual basis the fact that all people have hopes and fears, dreams and nightmares that are equally important,” says Jim Stokely, president of the Dykeman Legacy and her son. “I hope this will be a lasting partnership.”

The free event will feature performers in a variety of genres, including Becky Stone, an actor and storyteller, DeWayne Barton, co-founder of Green Opportunities and the Burton Street Community Peace Gardens, and Juan Holladay, a songwriter and musician and founder of the soul band the Secret B-Sides.

In addition, the event will honor some forgotten African American civil rights leaders who were interviewed for Neither Black Nor White, a 1957 book written by Dykeman and her husband, James Stokely.

“It is important to draw attention to the civil rights heroes of the 1950s and 1960s because these are our ancestors speaking to us,” Jim Stokely says. “They opened our eyes to terrible injustices that persist to this day. If we listen, they are telling us to continue on a journey of awareness, awakening and action.”

For more information about the event, visit

Mark of distinction

The League of Women Voters of Asheville-Buncombe County will celebrate the installation of a  marker honoring Helen Morris Lewis at the Patton Parker House on Sunday, May 22, 1-3 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Lewis organized the first women’s rights association in North Carolina in Asheville in 1894. She went on to become a prominent advocate of women’s suffrage and the first woman to seek local elective office.

The marker will be installed as a part of a program by the William G. Pomeroy Foundation and the National Collaborative for Women’s History sites to honor individuals and events associated with the women’s suffrage movement.

A brief ceremony will begin at 1:30 p.m. with the marker dedication. Jo Nicholas, president of the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, will speak,  and Katherine Calhoun Cutshall, collections manager for the Buncombe County Special Collections, will highlight some of Lewis’ accomplishments.

The Patton Parker House is at 95 Charlotte St. For more information, visit

Power of the pulpit

Black Mountain Presbyterian Church will screen the documentary At The River: Profiles in Quiet Courage on Thursday, May 19, 6 p.m.

Created by filmmakers Carolyn Crowder and Rod Murphy, the movie profiles white Presbyterian ministers in the Deep South who stood up to racism during the civil rights era. Crowder and Murphy cut what was originally an 11-part series of 20-minute profiles into a feature film that they have entered into the Atlanta International Documentary Film Festival, The Sidewalk Film Festival and six others.

Crowder told Xpress in 2019 that she was raised in a racist family in Alabama but was “radicalized” by two Presbyterian ministers she encountered at Auburn University.

“There’s a feeling, I think, in the country that no white Southerner ever did a good thing during the civil rights movement, and I just knew it wasn’t true,” she says.

The two are touring colleges, churches and seminaries around the country to screen and discuss the film.

Black Mountain Presbyterian Church is at 117 Montreat Road, Black Mountain. For more information about the documentary, visit

Read all about it

The Western North Carolina Historical Association will kick off its 2022 ReadWNC literary series with Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle’s book Even As We Breathe via Zoom on Tuesday, May 24, 6 p.m.

The book won the group’s  Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award in 2021.

Saunooke Clapsaddle and historian Barbara Duncan will discuss the facts behind the fictional depiction of mid-20th century Cherokee life and culture. The conversation will also detail the real-life detention of Axis diplomats and their families at Asheville’s Grove Park Inn during World War II and other local history incorporated into the novel.

In July, the ReadWNC literary series will focus on Guests on Earth by Lee Smith. In October, author Sharyn McCrumb will discuss the historical research she did for her novel The Ballad of Frankie Silver.

Tickets can be purchased for individual events or for the full series at a discount. For more information or to register, go to

What a thrill

Robert Kun‘s decision to write a novella started in an unusual way.

“A friend of mine asked me to write her a testimonial for her pet-sitting business,” the Buncombe County resident says. “Later, she asked me for an affidavit for a custody case. Afterwards, she asked if I had ever considered writing, because she thought the things I had written for her were so good.”

Taking up the challenge, Kun started work on a book that was initially based on his life. That effort eventually morphed into his recently self-published psychological thriller, Lucid. The book tells the story of a young man who becomes obsessed with his girlfriend’s best friend and struggles with controlling his desire for her.

“I never set out to write any specific genre,” Kun says. “I just wrote as it came to me and let the story go where it wanted to. One thing I did know from the beginning was that it was going to be deep and dark.”

For more information on the book, visit

Curiouser and curiouser

The Storm Rhum Bar and Bistro is home to Asheville’s first Curio Machine, a repurposed vending machine that sells art, writing, stickers and more. The machines, which originated in Boone, are part of a collaborative project between artist Bunny Eaton, author Ben Loomis and farmer Jordan Holder.

“The three of us and most of our friends have been trained through our 20s to become serial side hustlers for a chance to get ahead,” says Loomis. “So when we saw another business doing this during a visit to Portland, Ore., we thought it would work well in our neck of the woods.”

The company is eager to get Asheville artists to participate by selling their creations through the Curio Machine, Loomis says. “We buy wholesale from local artists so they get paid up front and then we promote their social media/websites online and in our machines,” he says.

Loomis is in talks with a few other Asheville venues, with hopes to have machines in those places by the summer.

The Storm Rhum Bar and Bistro is at 125 S. Lexington Ave. For more information, go to



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About Justin McGuire
Justin McGuire is a UNC Chapel Hill graduate with more than 30 years of experience as a writer and editor. His work has appeared in The Sporting News, the (Rock Hill, SC) Herald and various other publications. Follow me @jmcguireMLB

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One thought on “Around Town: Black Wall Street AVL teams with Wilma Dykeman Legacy for birthday bash

  1. Curious

    Didn’t the Asheville Art Museum have an “art vending machine” many years ago?

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