Buzzworm news briefs

Farm women speak

The Sustainable Agriculture Program at Warren Wilson College will host Cynthia Vagnetti, who will present her film, Voices of American Farm Women at the school and at Malaprop’s Bookstore and Cafe. The work is a narrative documentary of Upper Midwest farm women who are forging new local-food systems based on biodiverse farming practices. Ethnographer and photographer Vagnetti, recognized nationally for her documentary work, has spent years recording the lives of women involved in sustainable agriculture through photography, video and oral history.

Vagnetti will screen her film and speak at Warren Wilson’s Canon Hall at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, April 19, and again at Malaprop’s at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 21. Both events are free and open to the public.

— Cecil Bothwell

Blessed be thy bicycle

The coalition of organizers behind the upcoming 16th annual Strive Not to Drive are going all out to persuade people to keep their vehicles parked at home during the three-day campaign to raise air-quality awareness. Why go to such lengths to try and break the public of its driving habit for a few days? According to a fact sheet released by the Strive Not to Drive coalition — comprised of representatives of the Land-of-Sky Regional Council, the Buncombe County Health Center, the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources and other organizations — Western North Carolina ranks among the state’s highest regions for age-adjusted mortality rates due to pneumonia, flu, emphysema and asthma, a trend that signifies a red flag for air-quality concerns.

According to Linda Giltz of Land-of-Sky, the event is meant to encourage people to look at transportation in a different way, focusing on the health implications. “This is a chance for people to try something new, to give them the inspiration to try getting around a different way,” says Giltz. In that effort, the organizers are offering a series of free public events:

• First off, a little incentive to participate: Asheville bus fares will be reduced to a mere 25 cents on the event kick-off day, Friday, April 21 (Earth Day, of course), making it cheaper for motorists to leave their cars behind. A few elected officials have agreed to jump on the bandwagon — or rather, the bus. Asheville City Council members Brownie Newman, Bryan Freeborn, Holly Jones and Jan Davis, along with Weaverville Mayor Bett Stroud, have committed to ride public transit that day. And Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy will join them at 2:30 p.m. for a press conference at the Asheville Transit Center in support of multimodal transportation.

• The coalition will be offering free popcorn and entertainment at the Fourth Annual Strive Not to Drive Film Festival (UNCA’s Highsmith Center, Friday, April 21, 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.), which will feature alternative-transportation-themed film shorts by local students and professionals.

• There’s an open invitation on Saturday to join one of two “Strive to Ride” bike trips. Originating at All Soul’s Cathedral in Biltmore Village at 11:45 a.m. on Saturday, April 22, the routes will span three or 25 miles. Parents can bring their kids aged 3 to 12 (bring your own bikes and helmets) for a “bike rodeo” that’s scheduled from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the same location.

• The coalition will even stage a “Blessing of the Bicycles” — a surefire way to persuade God-fearing Americans that a 10-speed will get you to heaven faster than an SUV. The ceremony will take place outside All Soul’s Cathedral at 11 a.m. on Saturday morning as a lead-in to the day’s bike excursions.

The Strive Not to Drive Coalition won’t be the only group out there advocating for alternative transport on Earth Day: Other activists will gather at Aston Park for a Critical Mass bike ride at 4:30 p.m. on April 21.

For a complete listing of Strive Not to Drive events, visit www.gettingaround-wnc.com. For bus schedules, go to www.ashevilletransit.com or call 253-5691.

— Rebecca Bowe

Crossing borders

On April 10, an estimated 2 million people took to the streets in a wave of immigrants’-rights protests that swept through 140 cities across the country.

In Asheville, approximately 60 immigrants and supporters joined the national outcry with a rally at Pack Square. “The emphasis of this event was to bring a word of peace and love, and to make the community aware that we are hard workers, we love this country, we love Asheville, and we respect the United States,” explained Carmen Alicia Ayala, a local organizer. As she spoke, a lone counter-demonstrator stood his ground across the street with a sign proclaiming, “Illegal is Illegal.”

While the local reaction to the proposed immigration reforms currently being debated in Washington is dwarfed by the estimated 100,000 that rallied in Manhattan or the some 75,000 that marched through Fort Myers, Fla., that same day, there’s good reason for the immigration debate to be of central focus locally. According to a recent UNC-Chapel Hill study entitled “The Economic Impact of the Hispanic Population on the State of North Carolina,” the largest increase of the Latino population in the United States during the past decade has taken place here in North Carolina.

Amid the crackle of radio talk shows fanning flared emotions about the issue, an upcoming local event will address immigration questions, with the goal of finding practical solutions.

Presented by the Leadership Asheville Forum and the North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement, a forum entitled “Illegal Immigration: Looking for Common Ground” will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 25, at the Reuter Center on the UNCA campus. The keynote speaker, Dr. Hiroshi Motomura, is a professor of law at UNC-Chapel Hill and a co-author of one of the most widely used immigration casebooks. Joining him will be Dr. Mark Gibney, the Belk Distinguished Professor in the Humanities at UNCA.

“We don’t expect that this forum is going to solve problems, but we want to extend the dialogue on the issue,” says Denise Snodgrass of the Center for Creative Retirement.

Joe McGuire, a local attorney-at-law and one of the main organizers of the forum, adds that the purpose behind it is “not to vent, but to share views in a way to find middle ground and move forward when there are reasonable, heartfelt positions on both sides.”

— Rebecca Bowe

Head trip

No one, perhaps, believed more fervently in the power of hallucinogenic drugs to enhance human understanding than Terence McKenna. McKenna, who died in 2000, was a firm proponent of psychedelics and their mind-opening powers, and while many of us might take issue with the wisdom of snorting ayahuasca or nibbling at mildly poisonous mushrooms in order to gain insight, enough of the world’s musicians, thinkers and software programmers have crossed the bright line between reality and super-reality — and reported back — to render this controversial subject worthy of a second look.

McKenna’s magnum opus, The Invisible Landscape: The Mind, Hallucinogens and the I Ching marked three decades in print last year and now appears in a revised and updated edition. The author’s brother and collaborator, Dennis McKenna, will appear in Asheville this week to discuss the arcane knowledge that rolls like a sine wave (or a Jerry Garcia solo) through the book’s pages.

McKenna will appear at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 22, Malaprop’s Bookstore.

— Kent Priestley

Campaign calendar

Serving up political smarts: At 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 20, the Asheville Branch NAACP and the Empowerment Resource Center of Asheville/Buncombe County, will offer a “Political Education Candidates Forum” for community members to meet and talk with candidates in the primary election. Co-sponsoring the public event are the Gamma Gamma Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, the Baptist Minister’s Union and the Community Development Committee of the YMI Cultural Center. The forum will be held at the YMI, 39 S. Market St., in downtown Asheville. For additional information, call 281-3066.

Dance with the one who brings you: J.B. Howard, candidate for Sheriff of Buncombe County, is holding a Spring Dance Benefit on Friday, April 21. The festivities take place at the Shrine Club on Jim’s Branch Road in Swannanoa. For details and tickets, call the candidate’s headquarters at 298-1331.

District Republicans gather: The 11th District Republic Convention takes place Saturday, April 22, at Haywood Community College’s auditorium. Registration begins at 2 p.m., and the convention starts at 3 p.m. A voluntary contribution of $5 will be requested for the meeting; a dinner will follow at 5 p.m., at a cost of $20 per individual or $35 per couple. For information on the convention or to volunteer at the local Republican headquarters (53B Shiloh Road, Asheville), call 253-5800.

Deadline approaching for absentee ballots: Registered voters who plan to vote by mail can request absentee ballots from the Buncombe County Board of Elections (250-4200). The deadline for those requests is April 25, with exceptions for illness or disability.

Early voting is now available: One-stop absentee voting (or “early” voting) is currently available for the primary, but will end on April 29. One-stop voting takes place at the Board of Elections office, 189 College St. in Asheville.

Precinct workers needed: To help out at your precinct for the primary or general election, you must be a registered voter in Buncombe County affiliated with either the Democratic or Republican Party. For additional information, contact the Board of Elections at 250-4200 or visit www.buncombecounty.org/governing/depts/Election.

Send us your campaign news: We welcome news from candidates, organizations and citizens regarding the May 2 primary election. April 26 will be our last pre-primary column, so we need your information no later than Thursday, April 20. (The calendar will resume later in the summer to cover general election activity.) Send event information to nholder@mountainx.com, (fax) 251-1311, or “Campaign Calendar,” Mountain Xpress, P.O. Box 144, Asheville, NC 28802.

Studying N.C.’s alt-health care choices

Safeguarding freedom of choice in the practice — or pursuit — of healing therapies will be the topic of two public hearings in Asheville on Tuesday, April 25.

The state legislature’s Select Committee on Complementary and Alternative Medicine is visiting the area to hear from practitioners and the public regarding potential legislation that could offer greater guarantees to different healing modalities in the state.

“I think this could have a real effect on our area, because of the draw that we are,” says Rep. Susan Fisher of Buncombe County, a member of the committee, referring to both the practitioners and clients of alternative therapies in this area. “I’m excited about it.”

Fisher noted that the committee’s chair, Rep. Earline Parmon of Forsyth County, specifically targeted Asheville for hearings because she recognized the economic and therapeutic impacts of complementary and alternative medicine here — something Fisher calls “one of our economic points of viability.”

A bill entitled the Consumer Health Freedom Act was introduced in the 2005 legislative session. Although it did not move forward, interest in the issue did result in the formation of the study committee.

“The basis of this [committee] is to look at ways that we can begin to give some freedom of choice in the kind of health care we would like to use,” says Fisher — freedom that is not necessarily guaranteed under current state law.

According to local homeopathy practitioner Jane Cicchetti, the original bill was patterned after existing laws in Minnesota, Rhode Island, California, Idaho, Oklahoma and Louisiana. It would have offered legal “safe harbor” to practitioners of homeopathy, herbology, naturopathy, cranial sacral therapy, Native American medicine and a number of other modalities by providing exemption from standard medical licensing for practicing the “healing arts,” while requiring that certain guidelines be met for the protection of the public.

The original bill, H.B. 1303, sought to avoid “technical violations of the existing medical licensing laws” for alternative and complementary practitioners whose services are not legally prohibited, but also do not fall inside the state’s licensing, certification or registration requirements. The bill cited a statistic that over 3 million North Carolinians currently receive a “substantial volume of health care services from complementary and alternative health care providers.”

The legislative committee will hold both morning and evening public hearings on April 25 at the N.C. Arboretum. The sessions are scheduled from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

— Nelda Holder

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