“Keeping the dream alive.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dedicated his life to seeking justice for his fellow human beings. To honor King’s legacy — the dream of a better world — a five-day birthday celebration is being staged in Asheville, running from Friday, Jan. 12. through Wednesday, Jan. 17.

The Martin Luther King Association of Asheville/Buncombe County will recognize the winners of this year’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award — a youth and an adult who have worked on behalf of disadvantaged and oppressed people in our community.

The adult recipient, Gene Bell, is being honored for his tireless efforts to close the minority-achievement gap in the Asheville City Schools. Thanks to him, the Asheville City School Board is considering adopting the Kipp Model, one of the few such programs in the country with a demonstrated record of success. Bell is also working on a parental-involvement initiative that will empower parents to develop partnerships with students, teachers and administrators. Besides chairing many boards, Bell also volunteers with numerous organizations.

Youth recipient Elizabeth Brannock, a senior at Asheville High, is being recognized for planning and implementing a food “drop-and-run” program for needy families. Besides publicizing the program, she organized youth volunteers to collect and deliver boxes of nonperishable foods to people’s doorsteps. Brannock also organized a youth Bible-study group in her neighborhood and planned an out-of-town retreat for the participants.

Brannock and the other youth-award nominees will be honored during the Youth and Teen Celebration on Friday, Jan. 12 in Pack Place’s Diana Wortham Theatre, starting at 4:30 p.m. This free event will include special tributes to Dr. King, as well as live entertainment; everyone is welcome to attend.

All award nominees and recipients will be honored at the 20th annual Martin Luther King Prayer Breakfast on Saturday, Jan. 13 in the Grove Park Inn’s Grand Ballroom, starting at 8:30 a.m. At 11:30 that same morning, the YMI Cultural Center will host mediated dialogues on race relations (box lunches are available).

The annual Peace Walk will take place on Monday, Jan. 15 (King’s birthday), starting at the St. James AME Church (corner of Hildebrand Street and Martin Luther King Drive) at 11:30 a.m. Participants, who will walk from there to City/County Plaza, are asked to bring nonperishable food items to be donated to the needy. At 6 p.m., Bell and the other adult award nominees will be honored at a free Candlelight Service (all are welcome).

Noted civil rights activist Sheyann Webb-Christburg will give the keynote address at UNCA’s Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, which begins at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 17, in Lipinsky Auditorium. A book-signing will follow the talk, which is free and open to the public.

At age 8, Webb-Christburg was known as King’s “smallest freedom fighter.” In 1965, she walked alongside King in many marches, including the Selma march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on “Bloody Sunday.” Her story, captured in her memoirs, is also a major part of the book and television series Eyes on the Prize — America’s Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965. Disney Films recently produced a made-for-TV movie, titled Selma Lord Selma, about Webb-Christburg’s experiences. Now a dedicated youth advocate, she serves as coordinator of student activities at Alabama State University.

The talk is jointly sponsored by UNCA’s African-American Student Association, humanities program, multicultural student programs and philosophy department.

For more information on the events of Jan. 12, 13 and 15, or to buy tickets for the Prayer Breakfast, call Oralene Graves-Simmons (252-4614). For information on the Jan. 17 Webb-Christburg talk, call UNCA’s multicultural student programs (251-6671).

Teens to make a joyful noise

A $12,000 grant from the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will enable more than 100 local teen musical groups to play concerts and dances on Friday and Saturday nights in the county’s seven high schools and middle schools. The grant recipient, Our Next Generation — a nonprofit organization established to develop youth centers — has lined up promoters to work with bands, small ensembles and individual singers.

ONG President Dr. Gene Rainey hopes the program will help solve two problems. “First, it will offer opportunities for talented young musicians to perform before the public,” he said, adding, “By law, they cannot perform where alcohol is served.”

The program will also give Buncombe’s youth something else to do on weekends, in addition to skating, bowling and movies. “ONG’s program will provide a safe, drug-free and alcohol-free environment for weekend entertainment,” he said.

Income from ticket sales, as well as CDs and tapes made and sold at the events, will be divided between the promoters and the bands. “The teens will be paid for their performances,” explained Rainey, “if they are good enough to attract a crowd.” Ten percent of the gross will go to ONG to help build youth centers.

The overall project promoter is Rob Stimson, who also has his own local band. UNCA management major Isaac Grant will help with promoting musical groups in the faith community.

“All types of music and all religious groups are invited to participate,” stresses Rainey, adding, “We [also] need adult volunteers to help us with this project.”

Adult volunteers and teen musicians or groups can e-mail Rainey at or call him at 258-0922.

A new North Asheville library?

Users of the Asheville-Buncombe Library System’s North Asheville branch are all too familiar with the facility’s limited parking, lack of public restrooms and severe space crunch. That’s not surprising, considering that the structure — the second oldest of the library’s 10 branches — opened back in 1958.

So what can be done about it? To help answer that question, the library system’s board of trustees is sponsoring a community meeting in the North Asheville Community Center, located in the same building (37 E. Larchmont St.), on Thursday, Jan. 11 at 7 p.m. (in the event of bad weather, the meeting will be held on Jan. 18).

The library board and staff are seeking input on possible locations for a new branch — the present site allows no room for expansion — and the types of services that should be offered there.

For more information, call 251-4991.

Keeping our young people

According to the latest data, young adults and professionals in Asheville and Buncombe County are increasingly leaving the area to live elsewhere. In 1990, there were 43,587 county residents in the 18-to-34-year-old age group (25 percent of the local population); by 1999, that number had shrunk to 40,976 (21 percent), according to state and Census Bureau data. Although these statistics mirror state and national trends, the dip in the local numbers has been much more severe.

One organization concerned about the problem is Asheville-Buncombe VISION, a community-based nonprofit that works to help area residents address common goals. In 1995, VISION listed increasing the local 18-to-34-year-old population as one of five benchmarks for gauging community progress.

VISION board member Terry Bellamy, who also serves on the Asheville City Council, is heading up a project to determine the reasons for this trend. “Tapping the potential of young adults could bring new leadership and insight for the future of Asheville and Buncombe County.” explains Bellamy. “But to retain and attract the age group, we need to understand the issues first.”

To this end, VISION is holding a community forum on Thursday, Jan. 11 at A-B Tech’s Laurel Auditorium, from 6-7:30 p.m. State Sen. Charles Carter will lead the public discussion, with help from a panel made up of representatives from state government, local businesses and community groups. For more information, call the VISION office (254-0333), e-mail them (, or visit their Web site (

N.C. summer internships

Summer may seem a long way off, but it’s not too early to start planning for that summer job. How about undertaking historical research on the Morrow Mountain area near Albermarle, studying sea turtles at Kure Beach, helping to develop a Web page for the Marine Fisheries in Washington, assisting prisoners through the work-release program in Charlotte, or lending a hand at the Supreme Court in Raleigh? These are just a few of the 100 state-government internships available in locations across North Carolina — with opportunities in almost any recognized field of study, from accounting to zoology.

To be eligible, one must be a North Carolina resident attending a college, university, technical institute or community college in North Carolina or an equivalent institution in another state. Students should have an overall grade point average of 2.5 or better (on a 4.0 scale) and must have completed one year of study. To qualify for a position designated as “law,” students must have completed a year of law school.

The internships provide a unique combination of learning, working, theory and practice. A stipend of $6.75 per hour (40 hours per week) will be paid for 10 weeks of service, from May 29 to Aug. 3. The application deadline is Feb. 2.

Interns are selected through a competitive process overseen by the NC Internship Council, based on a review of the applications, interviews with prospective supervisors, students’ academic records, participation in extracurricular activities, and demonstrated interest in state government. Successful applicants will be notified in mid-April.

Details about the program and a listing of summer 2001 internships are available on-line at; by contacting the Youth Advocacy and Involvement Office in the N.C. Department of Administration at (919) 733-9296; or through campus career-placement or cooperative-education offices.


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