Buzzworm news briefs

Adoption festival targets potential parents

Sure, it’s trendy to adopt small children from far-flung locales like Cambodia and Ethiopia, as Angelina Jolie has proven on many a tabloid cover. But no matter how cute and fashionable they are now, there’s no guaranteeing those urchins will like you when they become teenagers.

“My husband and I are adopting a 16-year-old,” reveals Erica Jourdan, a recruitment specialist with the Buncombe County Department of Social Services. “She’s wonderful because she really wants to be adopted.” And the process doesn’t involve a long-distance airplane commute to a Third World country.

“With older kids, you have a better idea of if they’ll be a good match for your family,” continues Jourdan. “In a lot of ways it’s easier than having your own teenager, because [an adopted teen] really wants to be with you.”

Talking to Jourdan about her experiences could make even the biggest kid-shunning curmudgeon just a little bit curious about the adventure known as adoption, and the recruitment specialist hopes to spread her enthusiasm to the child-loving masses at the Saturday, Nov. 12, Foster/Adopt Fall Festival at the Civic Center.

“This is a fun event,” she reports. “People can drop in and get information without feeling like they’re committing.” Which means there will be no kids milling about, hoping you’ll take them home like a puppy from the pound. Instead, look for representative from adoption agencies and support agencies, as well as families who’ve been through the process and want to share their stories, and photos with profiles of children available for adoption.

Every year, the Buncombe County commissioners designate November as Adoption Awareness Month, hoping to open the eyes of wannabe parents to the plight of local children awaiting permanent homes. There are more than 10,000 kids in foster care in North Carolina, though many of them will return to their birth families in the future. At press time, Buncombe County had 122 children on the “permanency plan” — the road to legal adoption.

“Just because a kid has a plan for adoption doesn’t mean we’re not looking at other options,” Jourdan explains. Sometimes a relative can take the child. Other times, kids need to work out emotional problems before they’re ready to move in with a family.

“Of these 122, 53 or 54 are cleared for adoption and 28 do not have a permanent home identified,” the recruitment specialist notes. “Most of our kids are really good kids; they really want to please. It’s [a matter of making] a parenting-style match.”

To begin the process toward housing one of those 28 Buncombe County kids, Jourdan recommends becoming a licensed foster parent. This involves extensive training, and once a participating family finds a child they’d like to adopt, the state absorbs all of the expense.

“Once a family adopts through the foster system, they’re eligible for a monthly stipend to help the child, and the children receive Medicaid,” she points out. “These are incentives for families who aren’t the richest of the rich to adopt.”

The first step is learning more about what adoption entails — and that’s where the festival comes in. But don’t expect this to be all tri-fold pamphlets and serious talk. “There’s also lots of stuff for kids to do — or people who want to act like kids,” promises Jourdan.

The festival runs from 1-4 p.m. For more information, call 250-5868.

— Alli Marshall

Could N.C. be gay-friendly?

For many Americans, flamboyant former Sen. Jesse Helms was the first thing they thought of in connection with North Carolina. But a newly released poll suggests that now, at least, voters in the state may not agree with Helms’ vehement opposition to gay rights. Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said they support the concept of “equal rights under the law, regardless of sexual orientation.”

“It’s not really all that surprising,” comments Executive Director David Mills of the Common Sense Foundation, which commissioned the poll. “It’s mostly right-wingers who want us all to think that North Carolina is a gay-bashing state. This survey is proof that it is not.”

The Raleigh-based nonprofit says its mission is to promote “equality and justice for all people regardless of race, religious affiliation, sexual orientation or economic status.” The group published the survey results in a study titled “Liberty and Justice for All: A Study of Issues Affecting the LGBT Community in North Carolina.” The full study highlights North Carolina’s status compared to other states on legal issues such as adoption, domestic partnership rights, marriage and civil unions, and provides other insights into LGBT (lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender) issues in the state.

Questions on the survey about specific issues such as fairness in employment and housing also drew support from sizable majorities in the polling, but the more controversial issues of marital and adoption rights for same-sex couples drew mixed or negative reactions.

“I think the poll offers some good insight into how the average person thinks,” says David Gillespie, editor of Western North Carolina’s gay/lesbian monthly paper, Out in Asheville. “I think it’s very useful in terms of looking across the state and perhaps [providing] a little touchstone of reality for the LGBT community.”

The telephone survey, which was conducted by Public Policy Polling, is based on a random sample of 25,000 North Carolina voters and has a 4 percent margin of error.

Other specific poll results: 69 percent disapproved of denying housing to a tenant based on sexual orientation; 57 percent opposed employment discrimination on that basis; 56 percent favored hospital visitation rights for same-sex couples; and 51 percent thought it unfair to define marriage in a way that excludes same-sex couples.

Results dipped into the negatives on more personal and complicated questions: only 35 percent felt denial of health benefits to same-sex partners to be legally unfair; 39 percent favored granting same-sex couples the right to adopt children; and a second, more complex question regarding same-sex marriage found 54 percent favoring the one-man, one-woman definition of marriage. Mills partially attributes the discrepancy in the marriage-question results to a technical glitch in the survey, while Gillespie feels it tends to reflect a more emotionally based reaction to specific scenarios.

“It’s easy to say ‘equal rights,'” Gillespie observes. “That’s a head thing. But when you get down to specifics, then you start raising emotional issues. There’s a difference, and we see that in the data.”

According to Mills, a series of forums is being planned around the state to facilitate discussions with local leaders about the issues in the study.

To request a copy of the study, e-mail the Common Sense Foundation at info@common-sense.org or call (919) 821-9270.

— Nelda Holder

Media activist speaks

Ben Scott, director of the Washington, D.C., office of the advocacy group Free Press, has a message for anyone who turns on the tube, tunes into radio or logs onto the Web. “Media Policy Affects You — Start Affecting It” is the title of a free presentation he’ll give at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 15, at Pack Memorial Library’s Lord Auditorium.

Free Press works “to increase informed public participation in crucial media policy debates, and to generate policies that will produce a more competitive and public-interest-oriented media system,” according to the organization’s Web site.

Scott has written two books about media ownership and control, and is the former telecommunications policy advisor to Rep. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. His talk, which is sponsored by the nonprofit Mountain Area Information Network, will cover such hot-button media issues as consolidation and corporate ownership, grassroots independent media, the rise of Internet-based media and the controversial Telecommunications Act of 1996.

— Jon Elliston

Give this weekend a chance

Peace activists from near and far will be converging on Asheville the weekend of Friday, Nov. 11 through Sunday, Nov. 13. Here’s why:

• A national gathering of the War Resisters League, hosted by the local chapter, Fools of Conscience. The WRL, one of the oldest pacifist organizations in the United States, believes war is a crime against humanity. Activists from across the country will gather in the community room of the Brooks Howell Home, 266 Merrimon Ave. Admission is free, and food will be provided. For more info, call Cicada Brokaw, (828) 277-0758 (e-mail: wncpc@main.nc.us).

• Immediately afterward, the WRL and the WNC School of the Americas Watch will offer a training workshop in nonviolent action on Sunday, from 4-7:30 p.m. Donations to help defer costs are requested but not required, and dinner will be provided. For details, call Clare Hanrahan, (828) 285-0010 (e-mail: hanrahan@celticwordcraft.com).

• The WNC Veterans for Peace will host Peacemaking: Individual, Local Community and International Action. This event happens Saturday, Nov. 12, 1-5 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Asheville. To learn more, call Tim Pluta (828)689-8463 (e-mail: timpluta@hotmail.com).

• And finally, Common Sense at the Nuclear Crossroads will hold a one-day workshop on nuclear-transport issues in UNCA’s Owen Conference Center Saturday, Nov. 12, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free; participants are encouraged to bring a bag lunch, a bunch of ideas and a friend.

For more info, contact Mary Olson (828) 675-1792 (e-mail: nirs@main.nc.us).

— Cecil Bothwell

URTV Guide

2005 has been a busy year for URTV — even though it’s not on the air yet. The public-access station, which will air on Charter Cable station 20 and feature shows produced by local volunteers, has undergone more than six years of political, financial and organizational struggles. But now, after securing $425,000 in funding from Asheville City Council earlier this year, the much-discussed station appears to be only a few months away from beginning broadcasts.

One of the major challenges the station has faced most recently has been finding a qualified general manager to oversee the project. After a nationwide search, the URTV board recently offered the job to local producer/director Kurt Mann. The owner of the Asheville-based television-production company Ironwood Media Group, Mann stepped down from his role as chairman of the Media Arts Project to take the URTV position.

“It was an opportunity to start a television studio,” Mann says about his reasons for taking the job. “It was something I couldn’t really pass up.”

Among Mann’s first duties will be outfitting URTV’s studio. Finding a suitable and affordable location to house the studio has been a formidable task, say station organizers. But after an extensive search, URTV board members recently signed a lease on a group of suites at the Asheville Office Park, which is just on the edge of downtown, near the tunnel on Tunnel Road.

The space is currently undergoing extensive remodeling to turn it into a working television studio, and is expected to be finished in early 2006. Once completed, the Public Access Media Center will have a fully equipped studio, editing facilities, administration offices and a 50-seat training room that will double as an exhibition hall.

Another challenge URTV’s staff will soon be facing is the need for programming. Since public-access shows are created by members of the community, finding enough content for a full broadcast schedule requires significant public outreach. “The first step is to make the community understand how vital their participation will be in the creation of the content,” Mann says.

To that end, URTV will hold an “Information Exchange” program at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 16. During the program, which will take place at the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center (56 Broadway), URTV staff will provide details about the station and assess the level of community interest in new programming.

“The information exchange is an opportunity for the public to ask questions, but it is also a way that they can give us feedback on what kind of station they’d like to have,” Mann says. “We don’t even know what’s out there yet.”

For more information, visit the URTV Web site (www.urtv.org).

— Steve Shanafelt

Local groups screen anti-Wal-Mart documentary

Community radio station WPVM-LP 103.5 will screen Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price at the Fine Arts Theater in Asheville as a fund-raiser.

Director Robert Greenwald calls his new documentary film “a movie about American families and American ideals; a movie about one corporation crushing the American dream for millions of ordinary people — right or left, Republican or Democrat, red or blue.” More than 3,000 groups are presenting the film in communities nationwide in an attempt to bypass the usual distribution system and reach audiences directly.

The benefit screening will be held at the Fine Arts Theater, 36 Biltmore Ave., Sunday, Nov. 13, 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets ($10) may be purchased at the Mountain Area Information Network, 34 Wall St., Suite 407. Any remaining tickets will be available at the door. For more information, call 255-0182 or visit the station’s Web site (www.wpvm.org).

Other local showings, sponsored by a local Wal-Mart watch group, will follow: Sunday, Nov. 13, 2, 4:30 and 7:30 p.m., Skyland Cinema (828) 697-2463; Wednesday, Nov. 16, 7 p.m., Warren Wilson College, Jensen Lecture Hall (828) 771-3901.

The group will also host a rally in front of the Super Wal-Mart (125 Bleachery Blvd. in Asheville) Saturday, Nov. 19, at 1 p.m. Co-sponsors include the WNC Central Labor Council, the Warren Wilson College Peace and Justice Crew, the UNCA Socialist Unity League, and Americans for Democratic Action, among others.

For more information, contact 771-3901 (e-mail: socialjustice@warren-wilson.edu).

— Cecil Bothwell

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