Scientist/activist Jane Goodall to swing through Asheville

Everyone wants a piece of the Chimp Lady.

The Environmental Leadership Center at Warren Wilson College has been bombarded with calls lately begging for a little one-on-one with visiting dignitary Jane Goodall.

People have volunteered to help stage Reasons to Keep On: Drawing Hope From Within and Without, the private summit bringing the renowned British primatologist, conservationist and author to WNC. Goodall will also give a public lecture on Thursday, April 10.

“Tons of people,” confirmed Jill Drzweicki, the center’s environmental-education coordinator. “Many have offered to clean toilets.”

Many of those callers seem eager to bask individually in the celebrated calm of the God-loving evolutionist — who was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace in April 2002, and who turns 69 this April 3.

They want to embrace the hands that once clasped the furry palms of wild chimps in African forests, and to view up close the lustrous smile of the woman who, without even meaning to, wiped the smug, anthropocentric sneer off the face of simian science.

By all measures, Goodall was a wild card at best when, at 26, she set up camp on Lake Tanganyika in East Africa to study chimpanzees in the wild, under the tutelage of anthropologist Louis Leakey. Her initial research — unfettered, as she has often said, by any formal training — irrevocably eroded the notion that human beings have a monopoly on emotions and reasoned behavior.

“It is a tremendous arrogance of our species to assume we are the only thinking and feeling beings on the planet,” Goodall wrote later in her seminal In the Shadow of Man.

After earning her Ph.D. at Cambridge University in 1965, Goodall returned to Tanzania to conduct further research and establish the famed Gombe Stream Research Center. In 1977, she founded the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research, Education and Conservation to provide continued support for field studies of wild chimps.

In 1991, JGI launched Roots & Shoots, an international environmental-and-humanitarian youth program. Beginning with 16 students huddled on Goodall’s front porch in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Roots & Shoots now boasts more than 3,000 registered chapters in about 70 different countries, from grade schools to colleges like Warren Wilson. Branches have even sprung up in prisons and in foreign refugee camps, Drzweicki noted.

The private Warren Wilson event, which runs Wednesday, April 9 to Sunday, April 13, is this year’s edition of the annual Roots & Shoots College Summit. The 2003 summit will bring 50-60 college students from across the country to the Swannanoa campus to discuss environmental issues relating to different sustainability approaches, ranging from the global to the personal.

Goodall’s public lecture, “An Evening With Jane Goodall,” will happen Thursday, April 10 in the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, starting at 7 p.m. Tickets ($50 for a reserved seat in the front of the auditorium, $16/adults and $8/children) are available at the Asheville Civic Center box office, or by calling 251-5505. Proceeds will benefit the Jane Goodall Institute.

Two other activists connected with the summit are also giving public presentations. Bron Taylor, who’s at the forefront of studies on the relationship between religion and nature, will give a free lecture at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 9 in the Gladfelter building’s Canon Lounge on the Warren Wilson campus. And singer/songwriter Dana Lyons will be doing a show at the Grey Eagle on Saturday, April 12 (see “Moo You,” elsewhere in this issue).

For more information on the Warren Wilson summit, visit To learn more about Goodall, go to

— Frank Rabey

Keeping children safe

In the spring of 1989, Bonnie Finney of Norfolk, Va., decided to take a stand against child abuse. She tied a blue ribbon on the antenna of her minivan in remembrance of her late grandson, who’d been murdered by her daughter’s boyfriend. It was her way of proclaiming her personal commitment to enlisting everyone in the fight against child abuse.

Eventually, that symbolic gesture was adopted as a symbol of Child Abuse Prevention Month, a nationwide effort each April to increase public awareness of child abuse and neglect and to encourage involvement in prevention.

“A little one-person campaign has become a national campaign now that reaches thousands, millions,” notes Bill McGuire, director of WNC Child Advocacy and Prevention Services (WNC CAPS).

At the April 1 kickoff for Child Abuse Prevention Month held in downtown Asheville’s City/County Plaza, volunteers tied 1,027 blue ribbons on the surrounding trees — one for each child who was abused or neglected in Buncombe County last year.

The statistics are pretty staggering, says McGuire. “There are about 3 million reports of abuse and neglect in the country in any given year; over 100,000 in North Carolina and almost 4,000 in Buncombe County alone. The number of reports are obviously higher; the substantiation is a lower figure.”

WNC CAPS began as an all-volunteer effort, the Child Abuse Center, in the late ’80s. Now it’s a nonprofit, whose mission, reports McGuire, is “to reduce and prevent child abuse and neglect, strengthen families, and assist victims through prevention, education and treatment.”

One of the agency’s programs is Children’s Personal Safety Education. “We go into the school systems, kindergarten through fourth grade, on this one,” McGuire explains. “Kids, in essence, learn how to avoid an abusive situation or how to get out of one, how to say no, how to get away, how to tell somebody.”

Other programs include parenting education, as well as counseling and therapy for abused children and their families.

“This is the main thing we do out of the office,” says McGuire. “Statistics tell us that half of abuse cases are going to be under 6 years old. And you see these young children coming in — sometimes fearful, distrustful, their heads hanging down — and then after a little bit of counseling and therapy, a different situation. It’s really kind of neat to see that.”

WNC CAPS also handles the intake and scheduling of medical exams for physically or sexually abused children, “not only in Asheville/Buncombe, but for 22 western counties,” McGuire reports.

He also throws out still more alarming figures: One in five kids will be abused; half will be under 6 years old, and three-quarters will be under 12 years old.

“That’s why I think prevention is so critical and so important — to try and stop some of that hurt before it ever starts. … Hopefully one day, working together, we really can make a difference,” he concludes.

As part of the activities planned for Child Abuse Prevention Month, WNC Child Advocacy is staging a reception/awards ceremony on Wednesday, April 16. The agency will present Cheryl Alderman with the Blue Ribbon Award for Extraordinary Contribution to Child Abuse Prevention for her fund-raising efforts. Cathy Scott of WLOS-TV and Carrie Hunter of WKSF will receive Media Awards for helping boost public awareness of child abuse and prevention.

For more information, call WNC Child Advocacy & Prevention Services at 254-2000.

— Lisa Watters

A chip off the old block

About three dozen Madison County residents will soon pitch in to help create the county’s first public sculpture. Over the course of two days — Friday, April 11 and Saturday, April 12 — these eager volunteers will take turns helping sculptor Paris Alexander (whose work has been shown in museums and galleries across the state) chip away at a 300-pound chunk of stone to create a beautiful design in relief. Although the work will be done outside the Madison County Arts Council office, the finished piece is destined to grace the new Madison County Library, scheduled to open this spring.

The seeds for the project were sown during a phone conversation Arts Council Director Anne Rawson and an outreach representative from the North Carolina Museum of Art.

“She and I were talking about various things that we might be able to do here in Madison County to help promote not only the museum but art itself,” Rawson explains. “One of the things we came up with was the idea that it would be great to do a public sculpture, because there aren’t any in Madison County.”

Both parties liked the idea and Alexander, who lives in Raleigh, was commissioned to create the project.

Notes Rawson: “He has come up with … a very lovely, simple design that will work well here in Madison County. It’s mountains in the background, with someone playing a traditional five-string fretless banjo (which is how people play, up where we are) … with ‘Madison County’ across the bottom.”

Volunteers, she reports, “will be working hands-on with Paris, two people in each two-hour slot — so it’s not going to be a matter of standing around watching someone else work. Everyone is actually going to be there carving and doing some work and helping create a public sculpture. We thought it was very important to have the citizens of our county own this by being able to work on it.”

Alexander “will do the initial carve, so that somebody won’t put a chisel in there and crack the thing up,” adds Rawson, cracking up herself. “That would just be a real problem.

“He’ll already have it laid out and designed — and then it will be a matter of people coming and helping him do the final carving and polishing.” The volunteers have already had an orientation to prepare for the project.

In thinking about a site for the sculpture “where the community would really see it,” explains Rawson, “it seemed to partner very well with … the new library going up. We feel that will be a wonderful place for it.”

The Madison County Arts Council office is at 136 Hwy. 213 on the Mars Hill College campus, in front of the athletic field. For more information, call 689-5507.

— Lisa Watters

WNCW changes tune

Over the past few years, Spindale public radio station WNCW has become nearly as well known for messy public disagreements over how the station should be run as it has been for the eclectic play list that has won national acclaim.

In the latest installment, Isothermal Community College President Bill Lewis confirmed to Xpress that Program Director Mark Keefe‘s contract has not been renewed for fiscal year 2003-04, which begins July 1. (ICC holds the station’s broadcasting license, and the college employs the radio station’s staffers.)

In addition, Station Manager David Gordon‘s contract will be extended for six months (until Dec. 31), instead of the one-year term that full-time employees typically receive, Lewis said. At the end of the year, Gordon’s contract will once again be subject to extension or renewal, said Lewis.

But because state law deems personnel records private, Lewis said he couldn’t discuss the reasons for the two actions.

Keefe and Gordon declined to comment on the matter.

Both men, however, have faced criticism from a core of vocal WNCW listeners dissatisfied with the direction the station has taken, which they view as too commercial.

One such critic, former WNCW announcer/assistant engineer Alan Tinney, stated: “The main thing is to get the station back on track. … They have a mandate that they have lost, as far as having a public-radio station that serves the public.”

For his part, Lewis offered this: “I think we are in a position to continue what we do and try to do it in a more effective way. That’s always the aspiration and should always be the aspiration of any organization.”

— Tracy Rose

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