A school for local activists

A free workshop, “Working Locally for Social Change: Transforming Political Rhetoric into Social Action” aims to help local activists increase their impact. This interactive, skills-based workshop will take place Saturday April 13, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at A-B Tech’s Simpson Lecture Hall (340 Victoria Road). Sponsored by Democracy South and both the state and local chapters of the League of Women Voters, the event is open to anyone interested in becoming a more effective advocate for positive change in their community and in meeting and networking with people working on a variety of issues.

Participants will learn how to: choose an issue to organize around; develop an effective organizing plan based on a power analysis; build, join and use networks and coalitions to move an issue along; plan and host an educational house party; maximize the impact of phone calls to legislators; organize successful accountability sessions with legislators; use a door-to-door canvass to raise awareness and inspire action; build relationships with local reporters and editorial boards and get positive media coverage; and make the links between a given issue and money in politics.

Each participant will receive: a bound Advocates’ Toolkit providing brief “how-to” guides for each of the skills covered in the workshop; opportunities and resources for networking with other advocates in the area; the video Clean Money Campaign Reform, about money in politics and successful campaign-finance-reform efforts; and fact sheets detailing how money in politics affects many issues and groups throughout North Carolina.

To register or for more information, call (888) 687-8683, ext. 11 or e-mail:

Guilt-free eating

Whether your taste in dining runs to black tie or blue jeans, an outdoor barbecue or the finest haute cuisine, you can help make it happen as part of the Western North Carolina AIDS Project’s seventh annual “Night to Remember” benefit.

WNCAP is asking friends and supporters to host dinner parties in their homes between now and May 4. Dinner guests will be asked to make a donation to WNCAP, and both they and their host will receive tickets for the “Night to Remember” gala at Shotzy’s (in the historic S&W Building in downtown Asheville) on Saturday May 4 at 9 p.m. Entertainment will be provided by Stephanie’s Id and Ms. Ruby Mayfield. In addition, more than 30 of Asheville’s finest restaurants will donate their favorite desserts. The celebrity guest will be WLOS-TV anchorperson Tammy Watford.

Those not hosting or attending parties can dine at participating restaurants — The Savoy, the Charlotte Street Pub (upstairs), The Golden Horn and John Henry’s — on May 4 and have a portion of the check donated to WNCAP. Restaurant diners and others wishing to attend the gala may make a donation at the door.

WNCAP provides client services to more than 300 men, women and children affected by HIV/AIDS, as well as conducting AIDS education-and-prevention training throughout WNC.

For more information or to host a dinner, call WNCAP at 252-7489, ext. 25.

Theater for social change

An upcoming three-day workshop, “Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed,” offers a chance to learn about a type of dynamic theater that educates, challenges the status quo — and could even get you arrested. Produced by Asheville Playback Theatre with the support of the Asheville Area Arts Council, the workshop (which runs April 20-22) will culminate in an evening of interactive theater for the general public on Monday April 22, 7:30 p.m. at the YMI Cultural Center (39 South Market St.) The event is co-sponsored by the YMI; a suggested $10 donation will be taken at the door (seating is limited and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis).

Theatre of the Oppressed was developed in the 1950s and ’60s by Brazilian director/political activist Augusto Boal to encourage social change in his country. Because of his work, Boal was frequently imprisoned and even exiled at one time. Since then, explains APT Managing Director Raphael Peter, this form of interactive theater has been used all over the world (in such arenas as schools, factories, community centers and even town squares in Mafia-controlled areas of Italy) to empower people and help them understand social structures.

The Asheville workshop will introduce the community to Boal’s ideas and techniques. Boal-trained facilitators Marc Rich and Subrina Robinson will lead the workshop; both actors and nonactors are encouraged to attend. The first two days will be devoted to exercises and games designed to explore habitual behaviors and assumptions, as well as build trust, self-awareness, and active engagement. On day three, participants will create and rehearse scenes that embody some kind of oppression or conflict they’ve experienced in Asheville.

“It could be racism, sexism, ageism; it could be attitudes about foreigners, or Northerners coming in and telling natives what to do,” explains APT Artistic Director Deborah Scott. That evening, workshop participants will perform the scenes for the public while inviting audience members to offer new solutions and outcomes to these forms of oppression.

Boal’s philosophy, explains Scott, is to break down the barriers between “onstage” and “offstage” and to get the audience more involved in creating what happens onstage. “They’re creating theater that tells their own story; they’re not being shown an interpretation or propaganda.” This kind of theater, adds Scott, “[allows] participants to rehearse new ways of acting. It’s very empowering.”

Scott points out that when Boal (now in his 80s) started working in Europe and North America after working for many years in Third World countries, “He discovered that the word ‘oppression’ means something very different here. In Central and South America, it meant literally guys with machine guns and landowners that could basically work you to death. … The kind of oppression he’s encountered in more developed countries [is the] oppression of fear of isolation and loneliness, the oppression of social values and expectations. Instead of the cop on the corner, it’s the cop in the head.”

Scott sees Theatre of the Oppressed as a kind of active mediation that Asheville could adopt whenever there was some kind of conflict or standoff in the community. “This is a tool that we’re bringing to Asheville,” she says. “That’s what’s exciting to me.”

Peter adds, “We’re looking to have a wider variety of audience other than solely Caucasian.” Already, he says, there’s a good cross section of people enrolled in the workshop: members of both the African-American and the gay-and-lesbian communities, teenagers, seniors and an Asian-American. Peter says he’s worked with YMI Executive Director Oralene Simmons in the past and that they’ve been looking for an opportunity to do a project together. “So [the YMI Cultural Center] seemed to be the perfect place to have the big event.”

For more information or to register, call 274-7223.

New literary journal launched

A new Asheville-based literary journal has just announced the publication of its very first issue. Rivendell will emphasize place, explains Editor Sebastian Matthews: “Each issue will focus on a specific place out of which art is made and enjoyed: a geographic location, a community, [or] a shared sensibility.”

The first issue, “City of Angels,” will focus on Los Angeles and environs, including poets from The World Stage (a community workshop in LA’s revitalized Leimert Park) and a loosely knit community of writers and artists living in the college town of Claremont and the surrounding mountains. The issue will include an interview with Peter J. Harris, elder statesman of The World Stage, as well as poems, personal essays, short stories, memoir excerpts, photographs and a portfolio of photo-lithographs.

Future issues will cover such themes as “Northern New England,” “In Nature,” “Southern Appalachia” and “On the Road.” Now available locally (at Issues International News Stand, Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe and Downtown Books & News), the new journal will soon be available nationally at other independent bookstores.

Rivendell will hold its launch party Friday April 10, beginning at 6 p.m. at Issues (32 Biltmore Ave.) The evening will include live jazz, a small art opening, a reading and a silent auction. Copies of the journal will be on sale along with short- and long-sleeve T-shirts with the Rivendell logo.

The reading (featuring local writers Rick Chess, Tommy Hays, Glenis Redmond, Matthews and others) will begin at 8 p.m.; authors will read from their own work as well as from the journal. The silent auction will follow, with signed copies of books, T-shirts, hand-set broadsides, photographs and other original artwork up for grabs. All proceeds will go to Rivendell and Issues.

Editing small-press ventures “is in my blood,” says Matthews. In the early ’60s, his father co-edited the groundbreaking literary magazine Lillabulero; in the ’70s, his mother was an early member of Alice Janes Books, a cooperative press with an emphasis on publishing women’s poetry. “I always thought it was something I would try,” he explains.

Matthews and his wife moved to Asheville three years ago (both teach at Warren Wilson College), and he says they “found a place to write” here. And since the journal is about place, he explains, “It seemed appropriate to start now, having found one ourselves.”

Matthews wanted to hold the launch party at Issues “because of its independent status and because of its connection to the African-American community in Asheville,” he says. One of the writing communities highlighted in “City of Angels” issue is African-American, Matthews explains, adding, “those kind of connections seem important.”

For more information, call 299-1245 or visit the Rivendell Web site (

And the winning artichoke is …

The ninth annual Organic Growers School last month not only offered dozens of workshops but also hosted 36 exhibitors who showcased a variety of locally and/or organically grown products. These were judged in a number of different categories, and winners were announced at the end of the day.

Here are the first-/second-place winners, respectively. Best Locally Grown Plant: Jake’s Farm (for their artichoke)/Oliver Organics (for their nasturtium); Best Value-Added Non-Food Product: Arthur Morgan School (heirloom seeds)/Red Moon Herbs (Pregnant Goddess Kit and Power Pack); Best Value-Added Food Product: Yancey County Farmers’ Market (Masoni goat cheese)/Open Sesame (chocolate-chip cookies); Best Packaging for a Local Product: Herbworks and Everlastings (flower lamps)/Yancey County Farmers’ Market (oils); Best Local Produce Product: Jake’s Farm (mesclun)/Good Earth Organics (red oak leaf).

The Organic Growers School is a joint project of Blue Ridge Community College, the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association and the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service.

For information on exhibiting at the March 2003 Organic Growers School, call Elly Wells at 258-3387.

YWCA announces new child-care center, summer camp registration

The newly renovated and expanded YWCA Child Care Center is now open. The multicultural facility, with space for 47 children ages 3 months to 5 years, will be open Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Two meals and a snack will be provided daily; swimming lessons and field trips will also be offered. Fees are on a sliding scale, and Buncombe County vouchers will be accepted.

The YWCA Child Care Center aims to bring the YWCA’s vision — empowering women and their families and eliminating racism — to its youngest members. Children will be encouraged to appreciate other cultures, learn basic academics, and enjoy nonviolent play. Each child will have an individual portfolio; these will be used to help determine whether the youngest are achieving the appropriate developmental benchmarks whether and the oldest are ready for kindergarten. Parental involvement will be highly encouraged; foster grandparents will also be active at the facility.

In other news, the YWCA has announced open registration for its summer camp (grades K-5) and Spirit Camp (ages 11-16), to be held in the brand new YWCA Youth Wing. Five classrooms will provide space for science, technology, arts, a computer lab and tutoring. Both camps will start the day after school ends and will run Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. The cost is $100 a week, including an afternoon snack. Participants may sign up for one week or the entire summer; YWCA membership is required.

The theme for this year’s K-5 camp is “A Celebration of Community”; each week will address a different aspect of community building. Campers will enjoy weekly field trips, swimming, games, and arts & crafts.

The Spirit Camp will provide opportunities for community involvement and exploring career options as well as swimming, field trips, games and other activities. The objective is to help adolescents build self-esteem while having fun.

For more information, call 254-7206 or visit the YWCA’s Web site (


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