Winning the war … together

While the war against HIV/AIDS has produced many individual heroes — and even a few villains — it’s the sustained effort of entire communities of people that has really made a difference. Shared information, shared challenges, and a collective vision all go a long way toward keeping the flame of hope alive. In that spirit, several WNC groups are co-sponsoring a conference on the future of HIV/AIDS in western North Carolina, seeking to create a shared agenda for the future. “Building a Community of Hope” will highlight the need for partnerships and cooperation among those concerned with HIV/AIDS; the conference is co-ponsored by the WNC HIV/AIDS Consortium, the WNC AIDS Project, the WNC Community Health Service, the New Hope Community Health Center and the Interfaith in Action Coalition.

The conference will run Friday through Sunday, March 12-14, at the First Baptist Church on Oak Street, in Asheville. The sponsors plan to set a concrete action agenda that: follows the collective vision; delineates roles for the various AIDS service organizations; identifies and uses the many resources available within the HIV/AIDS community; and ensures the full involvement of individuals living with HIV/AIDS in planning and implementing initiatives that affect their lives.

Attendance is open to everyone, but conference leaders ask that participants plan to attend all three days. Request forms should be returned by March 5.

For more information, call Bob Davis at 252-7489, ext. 12, or e-mail

Native expressions

Native Americans have a rich legacy of artistic expression. It’s appropriate, then, that the North Carolina American Indian Unity Conference in Fayetteville will feature an art contest to recognize Native Americans living in our fair state.

All entrants must be American Indians who live in North Carolina. Entries may be submitted in the following seven categories: original drawings, paintings, basketwork, wood carvings, beadwork, quilting and mixed media. The first- and second-place winners in each category will receive cash awards and certificates; all entries must be submitted to one of the participating N.C. Indian tribes or organizations no later than March 9.

All entries will be displayed at the N.C. Indian Unity Conference; the judging will be done on March 11, and the awards will be announced during the conference, on Saturday, March 13.

To find out more about the contest’s rules and where to send your entry, call Mickey Michelle Locklear at (919) 733-5998, or write to: 217 W. Jones St., Raleigh NC 27603.

Down the drain

Nearly 6,000 acres of North Carolina wetlands have been drained during the last six months, by developers racing to beat a March deadline created when a federal judge threw out a federal limit on such activity last June. New state restrictions on development in wetlands will take effect next month.

Those 6,000 acres represent more than six times the amount of wetlands the state normally permits to be drained in a year, according to John Dorney of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ wetlands unit. Most of the losses have been in the eastern part of the state, in Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender counties. But developers with one eye on the calendar have also drained areas they don’t plan to develop for several years. “Since the window of opportunity has opened,” said developer John Atkinson, quoted in the Wilmington Morning Star, “all the developers are taking advantage of it. That’s our business.”

Here in the mountains, however, some local environmental leaders, such as the WNC Alliance’s Brownie Newman, are unhappy about this accelerated development. “The nation’s already lost well over half its wetlands,” he said in a recent telephone interview. “It’s tragic for developers use to a legal loophole to develop these places.”

And while DENR has seen a record number of permit applications come pouring in, “renegade” developers without permits are also reportedly working overtime to drain wetlands before the new laws kick in. Under the current regulations, violators are fined $500 and are required to file for a permit.

“There’s all this talk about being tough on crime,” Newman declared, “but it’s time for [officials] to apply that to environmental crime, as well.”

For more information, contact DENR’s Bill Holman at (919) 715-4141.

Rediscovering the South Asheville Cemetery

Last summer, this paper ran a story on the South Asheville Cemetery, one of Asheville’s most interesting and least-known cemeteries. The graveyard, in Kenilworth, was a primary burying place for this city’s African-American citizens for nearly 100 years; slaves and prominent black businessmen alike are interred there. For the last several decades, however, the neglected cemetery has been overgrown and all but forgotten.

Recently, though, the South Asheville Cemetery Association — a group of historians, volunteers and people who have family members buried there — has led a campaign to reclaim the historic site, clearing away brush, establishing nonprofit status for the group, and researching the cemetery’s rich history. Now, the group wants to present its findings. A panel of association members will give a lecture at the Smith-McDowell House on Sunday, Feb. 28 at 2 p.m., to discuss their findings and consider where to go next. The panel will include archaeologist David Moore, Association advisory-board members Eula Shaw and David Quinn, and George Gibson, the last known possessor of the cemetery’s incredible oral history. And who knows — after the lecture, the presenters just might be talked into giving a guided tour of the cemetery itself.

To learn more about the lecture, call Rebecca Lamb, executive director of the Smith-McDowell House, at 253-9231.

Cookies for peace

Asheville has a new piece of art on public display: A “peace pole,” sponsored by the Junior Girl Scouts of Troop 116 of the Pisgah Girl Scout Council, has been set up in front of City Hall as a symbol of the girls’ desire for world peace.

The pole, a 6-foot-tall, four-sided, weatherized red-cedar pole, has been sandblasted with the message “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in English, Spanish, Gaelic and Cherokee — representing the four most prominent ethnic groups found in western North Carolina. The Girl Scouts planned the project themselves, and paid for it with the proceeds of their annual cookie sale.

For more information, contact Jennifer Blaylock at 258-2711.

— captiously compiled by Paul Schattel

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