Cross-cultural adventure benefits local nonprofit

Want to learn more about the Latin people living in our community? How about getting a chance to sample some delicious homemade dishes and enjoy their traditional music and dance?

“A Latin Feast for the Senses,” a benefit for International Link (87 Patton Ave. in downtown Asheville) happens Saturday, April 5, starting at 6:30 p.m. The event is being organized by the Latin volunteers and clients at International Link, a nonprofit community center helping foreign-born local people overcome language and cultural barriers. Tickets are $25; reservations are required.

“The idea is to help people learn more about Latin culture as well as to give Latin people an opportunity to share their culture,” explains Geri Solomon, founder/executive director of International Link.

“We’re going to have Latin food from many different Latin countries,” Solomon explains — including, among others, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico. “Part of the idea too is to help people understand that we don’t only have Mexican people living here.”

Members of the Latin community will also share traditional music and dance throughout the evening, “and hopefully a salsa lesson as well!” adds Solomon.

“Our services are free,” she notes, “and sometimes [clients] give us a little donation, or sometimes they bring us food.” That, she says, evolved into the idea of clients helping make the food for the event.

“It’s going to be a very special evening,” promises Solomon. “Seating is limited — so people should make reservations as soon as possible.”

The event, she explains, “is the first of a series of dinners for 60 we’re going to be having” featuring the cuisines of other cultures represented by International Link clients. Future events may include an Asian feast and a Russian/European feast.

International Link helps clients by hooking them up with language tutors, interpreters and potential employers, says Solomon. Beyond that, it’s a matter of trying to address whatever specific needs clients or their families may have. “If they’re facing any barriers, we’re here for them too.”

Solomon also stresses the group’s continuing need for volunteers. “We have opportunities for cross-cultural exchange, as well as opportunities for people to work on a variety of language skills … with a focus on Spanish and Russian,” she notes.

The group, adds Solomon, is always on the lookout for employment opportunities for their clients, too, so “if employers see this and they need some good workers, let us know!”

Tickets are available at International Link and Malaprop’s. For more information, call International Link at 255-9104.

— Lisa Watters

Spring cleaning

Everybody knows that spring is a time for cleaning and planting and prettying up, both indoors and out. That applies to local streams, roads and public spaces as well as homes and yards. And if you’re not sure where to start, Quality Forward can point you in the right direction.

The volunteer-based environmental group will kick off the Great Asheville-Buncombe Cleanup on Thursday, April 3 at Westville Pub (777 Haywood Road) in West Asheville. Local bluegrass band Buncombe Turnpike will take the stage around 9 p.m. ($2 cover).

People interested in volunteering are welcome to come earlier, however. “We’ll probably set up around 7 p.m. or so,” says Clean Community Coordinator Leslie Huntley. “We’ll have volunteers there who can talk to people and answer questions.”

The cleanup, she explains, runs “the entire month of April. We do a lot of litter pickups and tree and flower plantings. Those are all things that we do throughout the year, but we’re just sort of highlighting them the month of April.”

Quality Forward conducts litter, river and stream cleanups, plantings, and environmental education throughout Buncombe County. The group also coordinates local adopt-a-street and adopt-a-stream programs that encourage area residents to help care for Asheville’s beautiful public spaces.

“People can either volunteer with us or they can use us as a resource for materials,” notes Huntley. “If they want to go out and organize their own cleanup, they can come to us and get bags and vests and gloves. … [We] can also help them with a tree planting or flower and shrub planting in a public space.

“We also do litter and environmental education, things like waste reduction and composting — just any environmental issue that faces the average person on a day-to-day basis.”

For more information, call Quality Forward at 254-1776 or visit their Web site (

— Lisa Watters

Faith and social justice

“She’s really quite remarkable,” says Fitz Legerton, the church relations director at Warren Wilson College, speaking about the Rev. Joyce Hollyday. “She has devoted so much of her life to the search for social justice and transformation.”

A peace activist, author and feminist theologian, Hollyday will give a talk titled “Thirsty for Justice, Hungry for Hope” on Thursday, April 3 at 7:30 p.m. in the Gladfelter Student Center’s Canon Lounge. The event — free and open to the public — is part of the 2003 Davidson Roundtable.

Hollyday, who lives in Western North Carolina, is an associate conference minister for the Southeast Conference of the United Church of Christ. As part of her ministry, she co-directs “Rekindle the Gift,” an oral-history and renewal program among African-American congregations in the Southeast Conference.

For 15 years, Hollyday was associate editor of Sojourners magazine and a member of Sojourners Community in inner-city Washington, D.C., serving as co-pastor of the community for six years.

During that period, says Legerton, Hollyday traveled widely in the United States and around the globe to write about faith-based struggles for justice and peace. She went to the Middle East in 1997 and visited South Africa twice — once to cover the persecution of the church under apartheid, and a decade later to observe that nation’s unprecedented Truth and Reconciliation Commission. She was a founding member of Witness for Peace in Nicaragua and part of the first team to go to that country to establish a nonviolent, prayerful presence in its war zones in the 1980s.

Hollyday has written several books, including Then Shall Your Light Rise: Spiritual Formation and Social Witness, Clothed With the Sun: Biblical Woman, Social Justice, and Us, and the spiritual autobiography Turning Towards Home: A Sojourn of Hope. She also co-edited Crucible of Fire: The Church Confronts Apartheid.

The Davidson Roundtable is an annual Warren Wilson College event. It was established in 1987 by Mr. and Mrs. George Donnell “Don” Davidson Jr. in honor of his father, George Donnell Davidson, a 1902 graduate of the Asheville Farm School (which became Warren Wilson). In fact, says Legerton, “Part of the present campus was once the property of Don Davidson’s grandfather.”

Each spring for the past 16 years, the roundtable has invited special guests to share their life stories, including both successes and disappointments. These “fellows” are selected based on achievements that reflect the concept of Christian vocation in business, industry, philanthropy or humanitarian service.

For more information, call Legerton at 771-2038.

— Lisa Watters

Mad about the Bard

The name Stratford is inextricably linked with William Shakespeare. Lovers of the Bard may think of his birthplace: Stratford-on-Avon, England. But there’s also Stratford, Ontario — the home of North America’s largest classical repertory theater company and an acclaimed annual festival devoted to the master’s works. The Stratford Festival, now in its 51st season, draws more than 600,000 spectators each year.

The Asheville Symphony Guild has scheduled a fund-raising trip to this year’s festival, reserving seats for Shakespeare’s history play Antony and Cleopatra, his well-known comedy The Taming of the Shrew, and the rarely produced romance Pericles, Prince of Tyre.

“We thought that Shakespeare lovers would appreciate an opportunity to see it done well by some very professional actors,” explains Guild President Bill Roskind.

A portion of the $1,149 (double occupancy) ticket price will be a tax-deductible donation to the Symphony. Space is limited, and tickets are available to Guild members and the public on a first-come, first-served basis. The deadline for making reservations is Tuesday, April 8 ($400 deposit required).

The four-day, three-night excursion (June 9-12) includes round-trip airfare from Asheville and ground transportation to the hotel; accommodations, including breakfast, at the Arden Park Hotel near the festival grounds; tickets to three performances; and several guided tours — including visits to the Stratford Festival costume warehouse and the 19th-century village of St. Jacobs, famous for its farmers’ market and crafts studios.

“There are so many picturesque little communities all around Stratford,” notes Roskind. “It’s kind of a paradise for vacationers. People go there from all over the U.S. and Canada.”

If you’d rather speak the Bard’s immortal words yourself than hear someone else do it, check out “Acting for Shakespeare” — a class offered by Highland Repertory Theatre in partnership with A-B Tech. The 10-week class meets Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., beginning April 5. Tuition is $60 plus a $1.25 student insurance fee.

Taught by Highland Rep co-founder/artistic director Andrew Gall, the class will teach Shakespearean acting technique, styles and language. Students will study scenes and monologues to gain experience with Shakespearean performance and help them prepare for auditions.

Highland is one of four local theaters participating in the fund-raiser (the others are Asheville Community Theatre, the Artists Resource Center and the Montford Park Players) by promoting it among their own supporters. The Symphony Guild will make a donation to each theater from the proceeds.

The remainder of the funds raised will help support the symphony and the Guild’s own musical-education program. “One of our Guild docents,” Roskind explains, “will travel with some of the symphony musicians to various schools, and they’ll pull all of the third or fourth or fifth graders in the school together for an hour to hear about music and learn about the instruments and hear the musicians play.”

To register for the Stratford trip, call Anne Holt at 658-8700 or Roskind at 684-5552. To register for “Acting for Shakespeare,” call the A-B Tech continuing-education department at 254-1921, ext. 472.

— Lisa Watters

New Age expo returns to Asheville

Shamanism, angel communication, sound and light therapy, aura analysis, pyschics and healthy thinking will converge in this year’s Body, Mind and Spirit Expo, coming to the Asheville Civic Center April 5-6. With more than 60 exhibitors and 40 free lectures, there’s something for anyone of a holistic bent.

BMSE, which has staged such events in nine states since 1985, says they “stay on the cutting edge of new thought.” Tickets for the weekend are $7 advance, $8 at the door. A two-hour workshop by Patricia Billman titled “Manifest your Abundance with Angels” (Sunday, April 6, 4-6 p.m.) costs $25.

— Cecil Bothwell

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