Carrboro Commons

Burmese refugees finding a home in Carrboro

Posted on February 19th, 2009 in Features by jock

By Tom Nading Carrboro Commons Staff Writer

More than 400 Burmese refugees have settled in Carrboro, leaving behind the oppressive military junta that controls Burma and marginalizes minority groups, says Morgan Price, resource coordinator for the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants office in Raleigh.

nading_burmeserefugeesfinal.jpgNaw Meet (left) and her eldest son, a student at Chapel Hill High School, shop at Food Lion for the first time. The two were encouraged to go by Angelo Coclanis, a UNC-Chapel Hill student who helps teach them English.Photo Courtesy of Angelo Coclanis

Organizations such as the USCRI help refugees from around the world adjust to American culture. In Carrboro, the USCRI organizes programs that furnish homes for refugees, offers English lessons and partners families with mentors that help them understand the community. Nevertheless, adapting to the American lifestyle can still be difficult for refugees, Price said.

“Many of the refugees had been farmers where they didn’t have to pay bills,” Price said. “Navigating financial systems is the hardest part. It’s a new way to take care of the family where you can’t just grow things to put on the table.”

After arriving in Carrboro from Burma, also known as Myanmar, in August 2008, Naw Meet and her eldest son, a student at Chapel Hill High School, visited a grocery for the first time on Feb. 4. They were encouraged to go by UNC-Chapel Hill senior Angelo Coclanis, who drove them to the Food Lion at the intersection of NC 54 and Jones Ferry Road in Carrboro.

Before the visit, Naw Meet had a friend buy her groceries because she was overwhelmed and freighted by American grocery stores, Coclanis said.

“The whole idea of non-perishable items was somewhat of a foreign concept to them,” Coclanis said. “The difference between an outdoor market in Burma and a Food Lion is unbelievable.”

Naw Meet lives with her family in an apartment in Carrboro. Her husband, Maung Aung Naway, works the graveyard shift at a chicken processing plant in Pittsboro. Maung Aung Naway and Naw Meet both belong to the Karen ethnic group, one of the minority groups that has been oppressed by the Burmese military junta, said Price.

Although many Karen people are Christian, Maung Aung Naway and Naw Meet practice Buddhism and have constructed a Buddhist shrine in their apartment. Most of the Burmese refugees in Carrboro are either Karen or Chin, Price said.

nading_burmeserefugees2final.jpgAngelo Coclanis shows off the traditional Karen bag and shirt he was given by Naw Meet and her family. He has taught the Burmese family English lessons since October 2008.Staff photo by Tom Nading

Coclanis, who has worked with the family since 2008, visits the family every Monday and teaches them English through a program organized by the USCRI. He teaches vocabulary the family may need to know in their daily lives, such as food items and body parts in case they have to see a doctor.

One of the major challenges for Naw Meet and Maung Aung Naway is living in a society in which they cannot easily communicate with other people, Coclanis said.

“But when I’ve asked them what the hardest part has been, they still maintain that it’s the climate change, how cold it is here,” he said. “I think that’s an indicator that they’re making the best of the situation.”

Coclanis started volunteering with the USCRI after he receiving an e-mail that asked if he wanted to help Burmese refugees learn English. Having traveled to Burma three times, he said he thought it would be a unique opportunity to give back to a country he had enjoyed and fallen in love with.

Price studied abroad in Thailand and conducted research on Burmese migrant workers. She started working at USCRI, where she collects donations and recruits volunteers, in September 2008 after volunteering there for a year. The experiences she has had while working with the refugees has changed her outlook, she said.

“It keeps your mind open when you work with people from a completely different background,” Price said. “It makes you
look at your life with a different eye.”

- To find out how to get involved with the USCRI, click here.

Public to discuss fate of anti-lingering ordinance

Posted on February 19th, 2009 in Town government by jock

By Elisabeth Arriero

Carrboro Commons Staff Writer

An anti-lingering ordinance created last year will be the focus of a public hearing March 24, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen decided at their regular meeting on Feb. 10.


Several day laborers wait on the corner of Davie and Jones Ferry roads Monday at 8 a.m. hoping for contractual work. According to Carrboro’s anti-lingering ordinance, they are allowed to stand there from 5 to 11 a.m
Staff photo by Elisabeth Arriero

The ordinance prohibits day laborers from standing at the corner of Davie and Jones Ferry Roads between 11 a.m. and 5 a.m. It was implemented in November 2007 after nearby residents complained that loiterers were drinking, smoking, littering, harassing and defecating.

After updating the board on the ordinance’s effectiveness, town staff recommended that the board leave it as is. Carrboro Police Chief Carolyn Hutchison said the ordinance had in large part reduced crime and litter. She also said that day laborers had put up little resistance to the ordinance.

“It seems that people who previously lingered respect this law and comply with this law,” she said.
But a heated debate that arose during last Tuesday’s meeting between supporters and opponents of the ordinance demonstrated to the board that a public hearing is necessary before they can decide the ordinance’s fate.

Carrboro couple opens craft stand to make ends meet

Posted on February 19th, 2009 in Uncategorized by jock

By Carly Brantmeyer
Carrboro Commons Photo Editor

To make ends meet, Ruperto and Luci, a couple from Guerrero, Mexico, have planted a seed in Carrboro selling handmade, Mexican-inspired crafts.

brantmeyer_flower-standfinal.jpg UNC-Chapel Hill juniors Courtney Cox and Erin Smith, stop to pick out flowers, Thursday, at Ruperto and Luci’s outdoor flower stand in Carrboro. Photojournalism student Smith said, “Courtney and I have driven by this stand a couple of times and decided to stop and take a closer look today.” Cox, a nursing major, said, “They [the flowers] would sell quickly on campus and my friends would love them.” The friends were helping each other pick out flowers to match their newly decorated bedrooms. Staff photo by Carly Brantmeyer

The declining U.S. economy has spurred all types of revenue-raising creativity around the nation. After searching for jobs since moving from Mexico almost a year ago, the couple began selling colorful cornstalk flowers, customized bracelets, detailed dolls and castle creations two months ago. Their idea was inspired by the traditional Mexican handicrafts from their hometown of Guerrero.

“Because of the state of the economy, our flower sales have decreased,” Ruperto, 30, said. The couple is brainstorming ways to sell more innovative items that appeal to Carrboro and Chapel Hill customers, but feels inhibited by the language barrier. Luci, 28, speaks only Spanish, and Ruperto is learning basic English.

The small amount of money that is made from flower sales contributes to the couple’s rent, utilities and food. Ruperto said their rent bill exceeds $500 per month. The flowers and bracelets sell for $5 each, the dolls for $25 and the castles for $50.

UNC-Chapel Hill junior nursing student Courtney Cox, of Monroe, stopped by the stand Wednesday to pick out flowers with her friend Erin Smith.

Smith, a UNC-CH junior and photojournalism student from Wesley Chapel, said, “Courtney and I have driven by this stand a couple of times and decided to stop and take a closer look today.” The girls said the price of the flowers was a little expensive, but was well worth it for the cause. Cox and Smith were picking out flowers to match their newly decorated bedrooms.

Cox said, “[The flowers] would sell quickly on campus, and my friends would love them.” Luci said she wanted to move closer to the UNC-CH campus, but did not know how to go about doing so.

Joe Norkus, a 25-year-old Carrboro native and recent graduate from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, stopped by the stand to pick out a gift for his girlfriend. “I found out about [the flower stand] because a friend of mine came by my house with one of the bracelets,” Norkus said. He said the prices are very reasonable for a handmade flower or bracelet.

“I was looking for something different to give for Valentine’s Day, and now I’ve found it,” Norkus said. He bought his girlfriend two flowers and a customized bracelet with “Susan” stitched across a red and teal band. Luci asked him to pick out the custom bracelet colors as she showed him a bag with different colored spools of thread. Ruperto told Norkus that it would be ready for pick up in “treinta minutos,” or 30 minutes, and Luci began making it on the spot.

The couple sells their handicrafts in the afternoons Monday through Saturday, taking time off on Sundays for a day of rest. Ruperto said that they buy their materials, including cornstalks, paint, floral tape, bamboo and wire, at Spanish stores in Carrboro.

The flowers are available in vivid, eye-catching colors such as lime green and hot pink and vary in type from lilies to roses to carnations. Luci sprays each flower with water to enhance and preserve the petals’ hand-painted colors before handing the stem to her customers.

Ruperto and Luci have been together for eight years and have a 3-year-old son Juan Carlos, who lives in Mexico with his grandmother.

Ruperto is skilled in areas of brick masonry, PVC piping and chain link fencing. Luci does housework for a family in the Briarcliff neighborhood once every 15 days. Both are seeking work in their respective fields through word of mouth and by passing out fliers at their flower stand.

UNC-CH international studies major Sara Wilkins, of Lumberton, studied abroad in Argentina last semester and came across Ruperto and Luci’s flower stand while driving through Carrboro after tutoring a Hispanic UNC-CH staff member. As she was picking out flowers, Wilkins spoke in Spanish with the couple, learning the details of their financial situation. She now hopes to teach English on a weekly basis to the Spanish-speaking couple.

In exchange for tutoring, Wilkins said that Ruperto and Luci offered to cook Mexican food for her in their Carrboro home. Wilkins misses speaking Spanish fluently and is excited by the potential to teach English and to engage in more conversational practice in a community setting.

“Ruperto and Luci just seem to me to be good, hardworking people,” Wilkins said.

Service-Learning Courses (including Apples Spanish Course):
El Centro Latino:
MANO (Women working towards new opportunities) :

Carrboro preschool teaches toddlers Spanish

Posted on February 18th, 2009 in Latino Issues,School news by jock

By Katie Reich
Carrboro Commons Staff Writer

One Carrboro school, Mi Escuelita, is breaking down language and cultural barriers with the Hispanic community through a Spanish immersion program for children ages 1 to 5.

reich_miescuelitafinal.jpg Maria Antonia Garcia, a Chapel Hill resident, teaches the one to two-year-olds in the Spanish immersion program at Mi Escuelita preschool in Carrboro. The walls of the school are covered in art projects, but as most of the displays in Mi Escuelita, these letters of “Amor y Amistad” (Love and Friendship) are all written in Spanish.
Staff photo by Katie Reich

Mi Escuelita, located on Smith Level Road, functions as an independent, non-profit preschool. Maria Antonia Garcia, a teacher at the school, said the Mi Escuelita does more than serve as a day care.

“It’s a learning environment,” Garcia said.

Garcia, who moved from Cuba to Chapel Hill four years ago, teaches the 1- to 2-year-old children. Garcia said she believes that the school provides a great opportunity to teach the younger generation about the language and culture of Latin America.

“In order to understand each other, we need to learn to communicate with one another,” Garcia said.

Despite the nation’s current economic state and the non-traditional nature of the school, Mi Escuelita is thriving. There are no openings for students, and parents interested in the program must add their child’s name to a lengthy wait list, Garcia said.

According the school’s informational brochure, they are in the process of looking for a larger building so the school can accommodate more students.

UNC-Chapel Hill has seen potential in the Spanish immersion curriculum and formed a relationship with Mi Escuelita through the APPLES Service-Learning Program and the UNC-CH School of Education. Each spring semester, the School of Education sends at least one intern to Mi Escuelita, while the APPLES Program provides volunteers throughout the year.

“The UNC-CH students are a great influence not only for the children, but also for the teachers,” Garcia said. “They help with reading and writing projects, while improving their Spanish and learning how to work in a classroom environment.”

Children learn to farm, care for chickens at camp

Posted on February 18th, 2009 in Features by jock

by Corey Inscoe
Carrboro Commons Co-Editor

“Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?”

Children will have the chance to find out exactly how Mary’s garden grows this year at the Quite Contrary Farms Carrboro kid camp.


Marianne Prince holds her rooster, Basil, outside of her garden at Quite Contrary Farm, where she will be holding the first Carrboro Kid Camp where kids will learn to garden and farm. “Children have a real natural desire to want to help, work and have fun with it,” Prince said. “It’s so good for them to make them feel like they have accomplished something.”
Staff Photo by Corey Inscoe

A handful of children, ages 6 to 9, will spend a week with Carrboro resident Marianne Prince, a former museum exhibit designer, helping her plant seeds, harvest fruits and vegetables, and take care of her chickens.

The first camp will be held during the week of April 6, which is spring break for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.

“Spring break goes back to the idea of having kids home to help on the farm, so it just made sense that we would have the camp during spring break,” Prince said.

To prepare for the first year of kid camp, Prince, who earned a bachelor’s degree in art and design from North Carolina State University, transformed her Carrboro home into a miniature farm with a large garden adorning the left side of her house.

Prince is a sculptor and painter, but her studio now holds a new incubator and two boxes of chicks. On the right side of the house is a chicken coop, though her chickens are not usually found there. That’s because they are roaming around her yard, or maybe even a neighbor’s yard.

None of her neighbors, however, seem to care about the “free range” chickens. In fact, they are the ones who encouraged Prince to start the camp.

Maria Rowan was instrumental in helping Prince start the camp. “She’s opened up her house and yard to all the families,” Rowan said.

Prince, her boyfriend, Sean Woolcock, and his 14-year-old daughter, Darcy, have “really rejuvenated the neighborhood,” Rowan said.

Rowan said neighborhood children have been coming over to Prince’s house for a while, helping her with gardening and other farm duties.

“I would love to have a place where my daughter can go do these things,” Rowan said.

The camp is a natural extension of what already happens at Prince’s house. Local children love to help garden and play with the chickens, especially the very friendly rooster, Basil.

“You should be here on a Saturday,” Prince said. “There are kids all around the yard.”

Carrboro Century Center plays classic films

Posted on February 18th, 2009 in Features by jock

By Becky Wessels

Carrboro Commons Staff Writer

Carrboro finally has a movie theater with Century Center Cinema.

The Carrboro Century Center, at 100 N. Greensboro St., transforms into a movie theater the last Saturday of each month, from September to April. For only $4, moviegoers can enjoy popcorn and soda while watching films like the 1942 classics “Casablanca” and “Citizen Kane.”

Nic Beery, the curator of the Century Center Cinema since it opened in 2007, is a local filmmaker who moved to Carrboro from Washington, D.C., four years ago. Beery said he wants to give people the opportunity to experience classic movies in a different way.
“Basically I want to shows films the public hasn’t had a chance to see anywhere else other than maybe television,” he said.

wessels_centurycinemafinal.jpgPeople gather in the Century Center for Buster Keaton’s 1927 silent movie, “The General,” on Sept. 22. Erich Lieth plays a score on a grand piano. Century Center Cinema curator, Nic Beery, a huge Buster Keaton fan, plans to show “College,” a Keaton comedy on March 28.Photo courtesy of Nic Beery

Beery picks the films based on three criteria:

“First, very selfishly, I show the movies I want to see and want to see with an audience,” he said. But he also takes audience suggestions and tries to cover a variety of genres.

“My mission is to show a classic, a foreign, a silent and an independent film,” Beery said.

Many of the screenings incorporate live music. For the upcoming “Casablanca” showing, local guitarist Joe Tullos will play songs from the film before the showing and afterward at the Open Eye Café across the street.

And for the March 28 screening of Buster Keaton’s 1927 silent film, “College,” pianist Erich Lieth of Carrboro will improvise a score on the grand piano during the film.

People from across the Triangle attend the showings.

Beery said he was receiving e-mails from people in Switzerland when he started planning a showing of Charlie Chaplin’s 1927 classic, “The Gold Rush.”

Forum delves into lives of black North Carolina writers

Posted on February 18th, 2009 in A&E,Carrboro Connections by jock

By Erica Satten
Carrboro Commons Staff Writer

Eight of the most famous African American writers in the history of the United States before World War I came from North Carolina.

satten_forumfinal.jpg William L. Andrews, distinguished professor of English at UNC-CH, holds his book, “The North Carolina Roots of African American Literature.” Andrews will lead the Community Book Forum at the Carrboro Century Center to celebrate Black History Month on Friday, Feb. 20.Staff photo by Erica Satten

William L. Andrews, distinguished professor of English at UNC-Chapel Hill, will explore the lives and works of eight of these writers to celebrate Black History Month during a book forum at the Carrboro Century Center on Friday, Feb. 20, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Andrews, who specializes in African American literature before World War I, has written two books and co-edited at least 40 others on the subject. The lecture will focus on his book, “The North Carolina Roots of African American Literature.” The collection of poetry, fiction, autobiographies and essays is written by eight famous African American writers from North Carolina before World War I. They are Charles W. Chesnutt, Anna Julia Cooper, David Bryant Fulton, George Moses Horton, Harriet Jacobs, Lunsford Lane, Moses Roper and David Walker.

Andrews looks forward to introducing forum attendees to the African American writers in his book.

“They are the best writers that North Carolina produced up to the 20th century, and they probably aren’t as well-known as they should be,” Andrews said. “I’m hoping that the people who come will become more familiar with and appreciative of these eight writers.”

The lecture is one of three community book forums that the Carrboro Cybrary and Recreation and Parks Department host every year. Laura Dallas, the Cybrary’s manager, is in charge of selecting a book and inviting either its author or a panel of local experts to lead each forum’s discussion. Admission is free, and the Carrboro Century Center is at 100 N. Greensboro St.

Local resale store attracts parents of young children

Posted on February 18th, 2009 in Features,Lifestyles by jock

By Amelia Black and Virginia McIlwain
Carrboro Commons Staff Writers

Shopping around for an affordable crib or stroller? Searching for maternity wear or a unique gift for an expecting mother? The Red Hen, Carrboro’s own “resale and gift boutique” for parents and their young children, probably has just the thing you’re looking for.

mcilwain_redhen1final.jpg Anna Lorenz and her 2-year-old daughter, Clare, browse the shoe rack at The Red Hen. Lorenz says she is always impressed by what she finds in the store, noting that many of the clothes on the racks still have their original sales tags. Staff photo by Virginia McIlwain

The store, located in downtown Carrboro at 201 Weaver St., boasts an array of modestly priced, pre-owned toys, clothing, books and baby equipment. Local handicrafts, hard-to-find baby essentials and new items like reusable diapers are also in stock.

But don’t be fooled — The Red Hen is not your average thrift store or consignment shop; its trendy atmosphere and dedication to creating an enjoyable shopping experience for customers of all ages have caught the attention of local parents like Michelle Hache, a Saxapahaw resident and mother of a 21-month-old.

“One of the coolest things about The Red Hen is that moms run it,” said Hache. “They know exactly what other moms are looking for and put the products they sell to use with their own children.”

Eric Shook, a small business owner from Pittsboro and father of a 2-year-old, agrees.

“That’s the benefit of operating a small, local business,” said Shook. “They’re able to look at the local demographic and cater to its needs. If this same store opened in Raleigh, it would be entirely different from what we have in Carrboro — as it should be.”

A store is born
The Red Hen is the direct result of owner DeeDee Lavinder’s desire to highlight resale as a fun and practical way to have a positive impact on not only the environment, but also shoppers’ wallets. Lavinder opened the store in March 2007 soon after she moved to North Carolina.

“I had been helping my husband with his construction business, and… I just wasn’t inspired,” she said.

Lavinder’s daughter was 1 ½ years old when she found out that a local resale store for kids that she frequented was closing down. “I did a little research,” she said. “I’ve been a pretty hard-core resale shopper my whole life, so how could I live in a county without a resale shop for my daughter?”

Teens take weekend to write, direct and act in plays

Posted on February 18th, 2009 in A&E,Features by jock

By Allison Miller
Carrboro Commons Co-Editor

Upstairs in an attic room, four teenagers hold scripts, discussing and fighting over a plastic box sitting on the blue-carpeted floor.


Christian Persico, a Carrboro High School sophomore rehearses “All Dreid Up,” one of the four one-act plays in the February 48. He grabs the box, a prop which his character believes can give him anything he needs, including water, food and condoms. In the background is Ian Rose, an East Chapel Hill High School sophomore.

Staff Photo by Allison Miller

But it’s only a play.

The play rehearsal is part of “The February 48,” a two-day event ― stretching from Friday, Feb. 13 to Sunday, Feb.15 ― during which high school students write, rehearse and direct one-act plays, culminating in a performance at the ArtsCenter.

“In standard theater productions you get a week to do tech rehearsals; with us you have one hour.” said Lizzie McManus, a 16-year-old Chapel Hill High School junior and production manager for the plays.

The February 48 is put on by One Song Productions, a nonprofit theater group started in 2001 and run by high school students. McManus and the event’s other production manager, 17-year-old Chapel Hill High senior Donovan Dorrance, sit on One Song’s board of directors.

Open Eye Café in Carrboro sponsors the event.

“Overall the most difficult part was talking my parents into doing it,” said Anya Josephs, a 14-year-old Chapel Hill High freshman acting in one of the plays. “They like to know where I am and know I’m safe. They didn’t like it at first when they thought I wasn’t going to be doing any sleeping this weekend.”

The weekend is busy, but the teenagers do get time for sleep.

Following auditions on Feb. 7, The February 48 kicked off at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 13 with a meeting of all the teens involved. McManus and Dorrance broke the teens into four groups, each to work on a different play.

The seven writers then had the next four and a half hours to compose rough drafts of their scripts.

McManus and Dorrance’s only guideline for the writers was that they had to begin and end with lines from children’s books. The four plays all start with: “Everyone is just waiting,” and end with, “But no one saw it.”

Rita’s in Carrboro’s Carr Mill Mall offers frozen treats

Posted on February 18th, 2009 in Growth and development,Lifestyles by jock

By Kafi Robinson
Carrboro Commons Staff Writer

Despite the wintery weather, facing the area lately, Carrboro residents have extended a warm welcome to Rita’s, which opened its new Carr Mill Mall on Dec. 7.


Geoff Henslee, 23, of Durham, is the manager of Rita’s in Carr Mill Mall. He says that customers in Carrboro enjoy the friendly atmosphere and the unique variety of frozen treats at Rita’s.
Staff photo by Kafi Robinson

Rita’s started out as an Italian ice shop in Bensalem, Pa. in 1984, and since then has become a franchise, now celebrating its 25th year of business. Rita’s has spread its “ice custard happiness” to more than 500 locations, now including Carr Mill Mall.

Todd Doros, the owner of Rita’s, chose this location he said because it reminds him of home.

“I grew up in a town similar to Carrboro,” Doros said, who is originally from New Hope, Pa. “I liked this area, and it felt very comfortable here.”

This was also an ideal location because not many businesses sell frozen custard in this area.

“Custard in general isn’t sold at many places in the South …. It’s more of a Northern thing,” said store manager Geoff Henslee, a Durham resident who’s originally from South Carolina.

Rita’s now offers a variety of frozen treats, ranging from Italian ices, frozen custard and Misto shakes, which are a combination of the two. They also serve fat-free, cholesterol-free and trans-fat free varieties for the more health conscious.

Still, Rita’s is most known for its frozen custard selections. Henslee explains that custard is similar to soft-serve ice cream, only it contains egg and has less air.

“Customers say it’s a lot like frozen pudding or whipped cream, and I have to agree with them,” he said.

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