ICYMI: Xpress feature reads of the week

Looking for some longform (or longerform) reads to cozy up with over the weekend? Here’s a round-up of our leading feature stories from the last seven days. Happy reading!

News

Deals on wheels: Pushcarts foster downtown Asheville’s distinctive vibe
By Max Hunt

Samuel Whittington sells gemstones and hand-crafted jewelry on Wall Street, outside The Market Place restaurant. “This is my retail aspect,” he says; he also sells wholesale out of his studio and runs an Etsy site during the offseason.

After years of honing his craft, Whittington decided to bring his wares to the street in 2012. Most local vendors sit out the winter months, but some are taking advantage of the warm weather to keep going longer. “You can usually gauge business by driving around town and seeing how many people are walking around,” says Whittington.

A LA CARTE: Samuel Whittington crafts jewelry while selling his wares on Wall Street. Often unheralded, pushcarts play an important role in diversifying Asheville's economy and adding to the city's ambiance. Photo by Hayley Benton
A LA CARTE: Samuel Whittington crafts jewelry while selling his wares on Wall Street. Often unheralded, pushcarts play an important role in diversifying Asheville’s economy and adding to the city’s ambiance. Photo by Hayley Benton

Vendors, he maintains, help bolster the city’s charm. “I think the artists and local craftspeople are what give Asheville its flavor. That magnetism ripples out into the community in a beneficial economic way for the bars, theaters and restaurants — all the things Asheville thrives off of.”

In downtown Asheville, 30 permitted pushcarts offer a wide range of food, beverages and merchandise, helping foster a friendly, festive atmosphere within the central business district. (continue reading)


Arts

Local artist introduces figurines with a global mission
By Alli Marshall

When local educator, dancer and designer Joe Adams shares an action figure from his Underdog Crew Collectibles, he tells the recipient, “This is a symbol of all things good and possible.” The figures, which balance, spin and pose in break dance freezes, are not only made with positive intentions, but they represent Adams’ hope to better the world.

SPIN CYCLE: The b-boy (or girl) figurines in the Underdog Crew Collectibles represent hope and positive thought. They can be used in a game, too, though inventor Joe Adams encourages others to think up their own rules of play.
SPIN CYCLE: The b-boy (or girl) figurines in the Underdog Crew Collectibles represent hope and positive thought. They can be used in a game, too, though inventor Joe Adams encourages others to think up their own rules of play.

The artist has lofty goals for his small toys. “They’re the next generation of the green army men,” he says, “but instead of carrying weapons, they dance. They’re peace warriors.”

While the Underdog Crew Collectibles are sure to appeal to break dancers (aka b-boys and b-girls) and their fans, one doesn’t need to be proficient in windmills or the worm to appreciate the 3-D printed figures. They’re not gender-specific and they have no particular nationality, Adams points out. Playing with them is open-ended and develops fine-motor skills.

“It’s all about this vision of educational value and social mission,” he says. “I started taking them into my classes to talk about shapes and the mechanics of doing freezes.” Funded by a grant from Asheville City Schools, Adams is currently an artist-in-education at Isaac Dickson. For five weeks, all third-grade students take physical education with him. In that class, through break dance moves, they learn about angles and balance. (continue reading)


Food

Social justice through food: The legacy of Hanan Shabazz
By Jonathan Ammons

For most chefs, every day looks a lot like the last one, with the same menu and the same kitchen crew. But Hanan Shabazz’s restaurant has neither of those. And as a teacher in Green Opportunities’ Kitchen Ready program, she sees a continual three-month rotation of students creating free lunches for the community.

Launched in 2011 and based out of  what was originally the African-American Livingston Street School in Asheville’s Southside community, the Kitchen Ready program offers free classes to community members facing employment barriers. Shabazz’s connection to the neighborhood stretches back half a century, to a time when she wielded picket signs rather than a chef’s knife.

SOUL OF A CHEF: Hanan Shabazz, an instructor in the Green Opportunities Kitchen Ready culinary training program, has a lifetime of experience in cooking soul food, feeding people and fighting for equality.
SOUL OF A CHEF: Hanan Shabazz, an instructor in the Green Opportunities Kitchen Ready culinary training program, has a lifetime of experience in cooking soul food, feeding people and fighting for equality.

“I hope you don’t mind if I work while we talk,” she says as she whips up the filling for a rack of deviled eggs. “I always have to be doing something if I’m here.”

Born in 1949 and raised in a family of 10 in Asheville’s Burton Street community, Shabazz had poor health and moved in with her grandmother. “I learned to do a lot of things from her,” she says. “All my life, I loved to be in the kitchen.” She moved back in with her parents around the time the city schools began to integrate.

“We came to school one day, and somebody had written on the steps, ‘All niggers, go back to Africa,’” Shabazz recalls. “And it freaked me out. It wasn’t about color to us: We were just trying to get an education. They said they wanted us away from the school, so we walked out, and there was a riot. It turned violent.” (continue reading)


Living

Think before you toss: Asheville considers pay-as-you-throw trash collection
By Jacob Oley

It’s a motion we hardly have to think about: The arm swings back, then forward, and the discarded item arcs toward the trash bin. It’s almost as easy as breathing. But what if it cost more the more times we tossed? Would we start thinking twice before throwing something away?

Despite exhortations to live sustainably, despite reuse, recycling and composting programs, Asheville sent 21,858 tons of solid waste to the Buncombe County landfill between June 30, 2014, and July 1, 2015, according to the city’s website.

Buncombe County Landfill. Photo by Aiyanna Sezak-Blatt
Buncombe County Landfill. Photo by Aiyanna Sezak-Blatt

In 2014, City Council approved a resolution that calls for reducing municipal solid waste by 50 percent by 2035, when the current landfill is projected to be full. Developing a new one will be expensive, and decisions with a long-term impact will have to be made at that point.

To help meet this goal, Asheville is considering implementing a pay-as-you-throw system. Instead of a flat rate for municipal waste pickup, residents would be charged a variable amount based on how much trash they generated. The city hired consultant Lisa Skumatz of the Colorado-based Skumatz Economic Research Associates to evaluate Asheville’s unique situation and recommend the best approach. On Dec. 15, the city’s Planning and Economic Development Committee met to hear her report and discuss details of such a system. (continue reading)

BIRTH DANCE: Belly dancing was originally created to help women with the birth process, but it offers offers added health benefits, says sacred dance teacher Michelle Dionne. Photo by Kelcey Loomer
Belly dancing was originally created to help women with the birth process, but it offers offers added health benefits, says Michelle Dionne. Photo by Kelcey Loomer

Asheville practitioners offer dance as a gateway to healing
By Nicki Glasser

“Engaging the body in some way is an essential part of healing,” says Shari Azar.

She’s one of several Asheville-based dance and movement specialists who say that moving our bodies in mindful ways can facilitate emotional and physical healing.

“If you consider [that] we are dynamic moving beings, that we’re made up of cells that move and breathe and that we are a high percentage of water, everything about us is motion,” says Azar, a somatic experiencing practitioner, movement artist and educator. “When we fall into patterns of stuckness or disease, where we don’t feel aligned or well in our lives, [dance] engages the brain and the body in a way that it is not habituated to, [which allows] things to come to the surface, to be witnessed and seen and expressed.” (continue reading)


Opinion

Gray baby: Life, death and slippery slopes
By Abigail Hickman

At my stage of life, I’ve been to many funerals, stopping by to “pay my respects.” I’m not entirely clear on what that phrase actually means, but I’ve come to accept it as a debt I owe to death, simply because I’m lucky enough to still be breathing. So I cross my fingers (and my heart) that my condolence card and drop-in visit to the funeral parlor give the Grim Reaper sufficient respect to keep my account in the black and dissuade him from according me any unwanted special attention.

Abigail Hickman
Abigail Hickman

Recently, however, I attended a funeral that wasn’t for an older person or someone who’d suffered a long illness. Either of those circumstances would have assuaged my conscience and quieted the guilt I often feel when I’m walking away from one of these proceedings. I usually stop by McDonald’s for a milkshake afterward and tip my paper cup in honor of the deceased — reminding myself, with each pull on my straw, not to live a drive-thru-line kind of life.

This particular funeral, though, was for the daughter of a former student of mine — a peppy, mischievous 2-year-old named Abagail Newman, who’d been shot in the neck with a 20-gauge shotgun. I never knew the child, but shotguns, of course, don’t fire themselves, and this is where things get confusing.

According to the transcript of the 911 call made by Abagail’s longtime baby sitter, Heather Stepp, “One of the guns lying on the table was loaded. … A little girl is shot.” The operator never asked for clarification of this statement, which seems to raise a host of questions. (continue reading)

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About Hayley Benton
Current freelance journalist and artist. Former culture/entertainment reporter at the Asheville Citizen-Times and former news reporter at Mountain Xpress. Also a coffee drinker, bad photographer, teller of stupid jokes and maker-upper of words. I can be reached at hayleyebenton [at] gmail.com. Follow me @HayleyTweeet

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