Carrboro Commons

A closely knit group

Posted on April 14th, 2011 in Carrboro Connections,Lifestyles by jock

The Stitch ’n Bitch group meets on the first and third Thursday of the month at Open Eye Cafe to knit and chat.

By Allison Russell

Carrboro Commons Co-Editor

Beware the “Sweater Curse.”

According to the group of women who attend the Carrboro-based knitting group Stitch ’n Bitch, it happens when someone knits an article of clothing for a significant other and gets dumped shortly after.

Members of Stitch n’ Bitch show their socks, scarves, blankets, cardigans, slippers, sweaters and shawls at April Meeting #1 at Open Eye Cafe. The members from left-right are: Laurel Burk, Jessica Thornton, Andrea Turini, Kristin Deinert, Tracey Fine, Rose Hoban, Vanessa Hays and Lesley Starke. (Staff photo by Allison Russell)

“It’s a financial and emotional investment [to knit something for someone],” said Laurel Burk as she wound the yarn around her thin knitting needles. “It has a domestic connotation.”

“Making things for other people is really special,” said Lesley Starke as she smoothed her hand over the child’s sweater she was knitting. “It’s a meditation on that person.”

“You just shouldn’t knit something for your boyfriend until you have a commitment from him,” added Jessica Thornton with a knowing smile.

The Sweater Curse, along with the “Second Sock Syndrome”—what happens when a knitter finishes the first sock but lacks the motivation to finish the pair—are topics of spirited discussion at a Stitch ’n Bitch meeting on a Thursday night at Open Eye Cafe.

Rose Hoban founded the group in January 2007 after she moved to Chapel Hill from Washington.

“I was just sitting around and moping after a breakup, and I thought the group would be a good way to meet people,” said Hoban, who created a Meetup group to spread the word to other interested “stitchers.”

Hoban says she named the group “Stitch ’n Bitch” because knitters and sewers commonly use the phrase.

“My mom called it ‘stitch ’n bitch’ when she and her friends would get together to do needlepoint back in the 70s,” Hoban said.

Hoban, like several of the women in the group, learned how to knit from her mother. Other women, such as Starke, taught themselves how to knit.

“Everything you need to know is on YouTube. No one has an excuse now!” said Starke, with a laugh.

The women of the group range in knitting skills from novice to expert, which makes the group a place to learn as well as to teach.

“One of the reasons I like this group so much is because there are people here that I can ask for help,” said Burk, who is working on her first pair of Argyle socks and waiting to see if the Second Sock Syndrome will set in.

Starke, who creates her own knitting patterns, is currently working on five projects.

“I never have fewer than two going on at once,” Starke said. “I start to feel antsy, so I’ll just break out all my [knitting pattern] books and get the creativity flowing.”

The project she has been working on for more than two years is a scarf that uses Chaos Theory as a code to determine the color pattern.

“It’s kind of like reading DNA,” Starke said, glancing up from the knitting in her lap. “The code determines the color [of the yarn I use for each stitch]. It’s like reading binary code. It’s kind of insane.”

Burk, who is a graduate student in physics at UNC-Chapel Hill, says the group is something she looks forward to after working and studying.

“I do this to stay sane,” Burk said with a grin.

The women say they maintain their sanity by listening to stories, complaints and frustrations from each other’s lives.

“I call the girl I complain about all the time ‘Wifey’,” Thornton said as her fellow knitters chuckled with knowing smiles.

The women talk about anything and everything as they knit, sipping wine and counting stitches.

“If your mother is proper, this probably isn’t the best place for her because we get a little riled up,” said Hoban, who says she has brought her mother to a Stitch ’n Bitch meeting.

A favorite topic of discussion among the group is the latest knitting trends. Many of the women cite knitty.com and Magda Sayeg’s “Knitta, please” blog as two of their favorite knitting websites.

Vanessa Hays, a graduate student in UNC’s School of Information and Library Science, says she enjoys “yarn bombing” on campus and throughout Carrboro.

“It’s like a street art kind of thing,” Hays said. “It’s when you knit something as a cover for something outside, like making a cozy for a tank.”

“It’s simply brilliant!” Hoban added from across the circle.

Hays says she has yarn bombed Weaver Street Market and UNC’s campus. She made the blue and brown tube around a tree in front of Weaver Street as well as the scarf tied around the neck of one of the statues behind Manning Hall.

“I like to do it at night so people will wake up the next day and see something new,” Hays said. “My goal is to do one every day.”

As a result of the close-knit nature of the group, Hoban says people have come and gone in the past.

“Everybody has been really great, but the group is self-selecting. It’s not for some folks,” Hoban said.

“I don’t try to enforce any ethos here,” Hoban said. “It’s just come, knit and hang out.”

For a printer-friendly version of this story, click here.

Upstart Northside News connects community

Posted on March 3rd, 2011 in Carrboro Connections by jock

By Louie Horvath

Alexander Stephens is the de facto editor-in-chief of the brand new Northside News, which has released two editions since September. Shown here adjusting the photos outside the Jackson Center. (Staff photo by Louie Horvath.)

Carrboro Commons Staff Writer

While it may seem small now, the Northside News has big dreams.

What began in September as a double-sided single sheet of paper hopes to expand into a heftier newspaper comprised of content created by Northside residents.

Northside, Chapel Hill’s historically black neighborhood, has recently seen an influx of college students. The Northside News celebrates that heritage, while still trying to include the newest additions to the neighborhood according to de facto editor-in-chief Alexander Stephens.

“The idea is to create a publication that will keep people connected and keep people informed on things that are going on in the community,”  Stephens said.

“Also to offer people a forum for expressing their ideas. The idea is that most of the content will eventually be produced by people who live in Northside.”

The newspaper, while still in its nascent stages, has shown an interest in ensuring that Northside residents know about events and meetings held in and around their neighborhood.

“The goal is to connect residents, organizations and community centers,” said Hudson Vaughan, artist and scholar in residence at the Marian Cheek Jackson Center. “As we’ve distributed it and talked to people, people seem pretty interested in it. That’s something they would like.”

The Northside News is run by the Jackson Center, which operates out of St. Joseph Christian Methodist Church on Rosemary Street in Chapel Hill. Stephens also serves as the associate director for documentary initiatives at the Jackson Center.

The Northside News fits into the Jackson Center’s goal of creating a stronger, healthier community.

The Northside News can also be downloaded off the internet. Shown here is their second issue, which came out in Mid-February. (Staff photo by Jock Lauterer)

“It is about (using the past) to shape a vision for the future of these communities,” Stephens said. “Our philosophy is you can’t really move forward toward the best community that we can have unless we understand where we come from.”

Presently, the Northside News publishes sporadically, being released when Stephens and the Jackson Center staff have the time to work on it. However, they are working toward publishing issues regularly.

“The idea initially was to have it every couple of months,” Stephens said. “We are a small staff and we’ve got a lot of other projects. We have a lot that we need to include in the next one, and it will come out maybe in mid-March.”

Stephens, who once interned at a small newspaper in southeastern Missouri while at UNC-Chapel Hill, graduated last year and went straight to the Jackson Center.

The Northside News had been something that the Jackson Center talked about creating for a long time, but only recently did the time seem right to go forward with those plans.

“It was a pretty collaborative effort of the staff, Alexander’s had a background in working with newspaper, and we had been wanting to find a way to have a print link throughout the Northside,” Vaughan said. “Our thinking was between the Jackson Scholars program and Alexander coming on the staff, and wanting to have some way to really connect people with Jackson Center, the idea just drove.”

One of the first Northside residents to accept the challenge of contributing to the paper was UNC-CH senior Jonathan Tarleton.

His note about living in Northside as a student can be seen in the newspaper’s second edition, released in mid-February.

“I’m very big on getting to know the community I’m in, especially Northside,” Tarleton said. “This community has a strong history, and people on the Northside have a strong relation with the history and the community.“

With local support, this newspaper could continue to flourish.

“So far, everybody’s raved about it,” Vaughan said. “I have a lot of people come up to me and say, ‘Who does this? This is great.’ A lot of organizations have taken interest in it.”

Welcome to Arneville: Greensboro Street’s thriving student community

Posted on February 3rd, 2011 in Carrboro Connections,Features,Lifestyles by jock

By Louie Horvath
Carrboro Commons Staff Writer

Twenty years ago, when Arne Gray built a cluster of student housing on North Greensboro Street, he never thought the residents would take so much pride in living in his self-made community.

They call it “Arneville.”

Arne Gray of "Arneville." (Staff photo by Louie Horvath)

“For whatever reason, when I first started this, it became clear that I was focused on a particular block, and then the Town of Carrboro started to call it Arneville,” Gray said. “The mayor and the building inspection guys.”

It was a title that the inhabitants of Arneville were proud to cast upon themselves, and they did it less than subtly.

“Some of the first people that moved in put up a sign that said ‘Welcome to Arneville,” Gray said. “They printed T-shirts. I didn’t know this was happening. They said ‘Oh we could have given you one, but…’ And they printed Arneville money. Much of this went on and I didn’t know about it.”

Even though the sign is not there anymore, the residents still have a sense of pride and community from living in Arneville.

“I would say 50 percent of the people in Arneville stop by my house once a week,” Alex Walters, current renter, said. “It’s easy to drop in. We have TVs so people come over all the time to watch the basketball games.”

Internationalist Books stays true to its radical roots

Posted on November 23rd, 2010 in A&E,Books,Carrboro Connections by jock

By Gloria Lloyd
Carrboro Commons Staff Writer

Internationalist Books and Community Center, located on West Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, is an independent, nonprofit cooperative and alternative bookstore that has served as a hub for social activism and grassroots organizing for the past three decades.

Animal advocate David Cantor gives a talk on Nov. 19 at Internationalist Books, a nonprofit bookstore and community center in Chapel Hill. Cantor spoke about how environmental policies affect animals. (Staff photo by Gloria Lloyd)

Internationalist Books is often described as a “radical” bookstore, a description that its volunteers and customers embrace.

Outreach manager Laurin Gioglio said of the term, “We’re trying to own it a little bit.” Longtime volunteer Mike Cohen called the bookshop a “nest for radical action.”

The bookstore provides meeting space for a number of area nonprofits, including the Carrboro Community Garden and other environmental or social justice-related groups.  Inventory manager Lydia Powers said the Internationalist is a space where any group can “study, work, talk and promote their interests.”

Although the shop runs on a tight budget and is mostly run by dozens of volunteers who sign up to work in the store for at least three hours per week, the bookshop also has three part-time staffers who manage operations.

The store sells books that cover a variety of topics, on nearly every day of the year but one. On Friday, Nov. 26, the Internationalist will not be selling books but is instead promoting its 12th annual Buy Nothing Day, a local celebration of an international movement designed to protest consumerism.

On its website, the Internationalist describes Buy Nothing Day as a “response to the consumer-driven post-Thanksgiving shop-ocolypse known as Black Friday.”

The store urges its potential shoppers to instead come into the shop and make arts and crafts or play board games.  In past years, Carrburritos and other local restaurants have donated food for the store’s Buy Nothing Day participants.

Some of the most dedicated Internationalist volunteers have worked shifts at the shop since it opened in 1981. In February, the shop will celebrate 30 years as a community meeting space and resource.

In the 1980s, the Internationalist served as a hub for anti-apartheid organizing at UNC-Chapel Hill. More recent activist groups have opposed the Iraq and Persian Gulf Wars.

The store’s founder, Bob Sheldon, was murdered while closing the shop in February 1991, a crime that remains unsolved. Sonic Youth wrote a song about the incident called “Chapel Hill,” and the Indigo Girls referred to Sheldon’s murder in the song “Jonas and Ezekiel.”

In the years after Sheldon’s death, the Internationalist moved from West Rosemary Street to its present location on Franklin Street, which increased street traffic and prominence.

Gioglio said that in addition to the usual contingent of Chapel Hill and Carrboro activists, “A lot of people coming between Chapel Hill and Carrboro stop by because it’s on the way.”

The store also reorganized as a cooperative, with a sliding scale fee to become a member and receive store discounts and voting power on the Board of Directors.

Politically, the Internationalist is often described as having a leftist bent.  “We may be towards the left of the spectrum, but we’re an umbrella of a collective,” said Gioglio. “Some volunteers are interested in prison rights or abolition, some are interested in anarchy, some are interested in political and philosophical theories, some are interested in animal rights.”

Powers said that Internationalist Books has functioned as a living room and meeting space for an assortment of groups throughout the community who have not been welcomed by other nonprofits, including a homeless group that wrote a letter of thanks to the bookstore for providing a meeting space.

A chair outside of Internationalist Books gives shoppers a taste of what types of books will be on the shelves inside. (Staff photo by Gloria Lloyd)

The Internationalist regularly holds author appearances and film screenings, including an upcoming Dec. 16 screening featuring a documentary, “River of Waste,” about the environmental damage caused by hog lagoons.

Other events include appearances by touring activists, such as an event held Friday, Nov. 19 in which David Cantor of Responsible Policies for Animals, Inc. spoke on land use policy and the human disconnect from animals as part of RPA’s “This Land Is Their Land” campaign to move beyond factory farming and promote a different way of looking at animals and the Earth.

“Humans have ceased being citizens and have become consumers, TV watchers, spectators,” Cantor said in his talk. “Very few people have any idea what an ecosystem is.”

The shelves of the bookstore are filled with books, magazines and pamphlets on topics such as feminism and veganism.   A lending library is named in honor of Lisa Garmon, a longtime local activist and 20-year volunteer at the Internationalist.

Along with printed literature and information, the store now has computers that people can use. The Internationalist hosts music events as well as book readings and monthly discussions on various topics.

The Internationalist is a supporter of a number of long-term local projects, including the monthly Really Really Free Market held at the Carrboro Town Commons, as well as newer events such as the Carrboro Anarchist Bookfair.

Many local initiatives, such as the Carrboro Community Garden and Croatan Earth First!, hold their meetings at the Internationalist.

The cooperative also hosts the Chapel Hill stops of numerous traveling exhibits and groups in the summer, including Think Outside the Bomb and the Beehive Design Collective, a traveling mural show that seeks to educate and mobilize consumers against mountaintop coal removal.

Cohen said that the Internationalist is important because “the Chapel Hill activist community shouldn’t be dependent on the university for resources.”

With the stability that the Internationalist can offer of a permanent storefront dedicated to promoting activism, dedication to local causes doesn’t always have to end with graduation in Chapel Hill. Cohen said the community cooperative bookshop can “provide a level of continuity that student groups can’t maintain.”

As a nonprofit organization, Internationalist Books accepts donations, including book donations that are either sold in the store or sent to political prisoners as part of the Prison Books Collective.  The collective mails about 12,000 books each year to prisoners throughout the South for the program.

As part of the Prison Books Collective, the bookstore also hosts a monthly birthday card writing night for prisoners. “We know about their struggle,” Gioglio said. “Prisoners need love, too.”

Gioglio said that if the Internationalist received more in donations, the bookshop would be able to stock and sell more new books on its shelves rather than used. The store managers would also like to have enough funds to hold a speaker series that could bring more well-known speakers to the store.

Carrboro residents meet at Meetup.com

Posted on October 6th, 2010 in Carrboro Connections,Features,Lifestyles by jock

By Gloria Lloyd
Carrboro Commons Staff Writer

In dog parks and coffee shops, in subjects spanning Buddhism to poetry, Carrboro residents are busy organizing online and congregating offline around their shared interests. While Facebook is a way to keep up with old friends, Meetup.com is a social networking site geared toward meeting new friends.

Every Tuesday night at the Looking Glass Café, Carrboro’s gaming community sips coffee and plays games such as Small World, shown here. (Staff photo by Gloria Lloyd)

The Meetup website makes it easy for people to focus new acquaintances around a common interest, rather than the more traditional sorting of age, occupation, or neighborhood. Anyone can register at the Meetup website, browse by location and interest, and join groups for free, but organizers of the interest-based Meetups are charged a fee of $72 for six months.

Carrboro resident Jason Casden, who organizes the weekly Carrboro Chess Meetup, and is a member of a few other Meetup groups, said, “I think it’s interesting to see people self-organize without pre-defined groupings. It’s easier to find people with a common interest.” Casden explained that Meetup makes it easier to “meet a huge set of people outside the normal path of what types of classes you take, where you live, where you work.”

Carrboro Small Dog Meetup organizer Michelle Vitko moved to Carrboro over the summer and hoped to find a few tiny playmates for Rupert, her energetic five-pound Yorkshire terrier.

But Vitko and Rupert repeatedly found themselves alone in the small dog area at Southern Community Park near Southern Village in Chapel Hill. Vitko said, “I would bring Rupert here, and he would just look through the fence—I realized I had to start something like this [Meetup] or get another dog.”

Vitko started the Small Dog Meetup about two months ago, posting the meeting times on the more regional Toy Dogs of the Triangle Meetup group and advertising the old-fashioned way with fliers at apartment complexes, pet stores and the dog park fence. Attendance has reached about 20 small dogs per meeting, and the group has expanded to meet twice a week, Monday evenings at 6:30 and Saturday mornings at 9:30.

Super Junior Youth Group empowers Carrboro kids

Posted on October 6th, 2010 in Carrboro Connections,Carrboro children,Features by jock

By Mary Stewart Robins
Carrboro Commons Staff Writer

It is not every day that you see a group of minority youth armed with cameras and paired with a college student, taking pictures of rocks, trees and cracks in the pavement.

Patrick Clare, senior English major from Raleigh helps Moo Shae, 12, of the Super Junior Youth Group, take a photograph of an alphabet letter found in nature (Staff photo by Mary Stewart Robins).

Friday Oct. 1, a group of Carrboro Karen and Hispanic kids, ages 11 to 15 met with students from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to learn about photography.

With the help of the college students, the kids were given the task of finding and taking pictures of alphabet letters found in nature.  The alphabet photo-scavenger hunt is one of many enriching activities in which the Carrboro “Super” Junior Youth Group participates.  This junior youth group is one of 20 groups in the Triangle which meets weekly, with the goal of empowering kids to make a difference.

These junior youth groups started around nine years ago by members of the Bahá’í faith in the community.  Today, the groups consist of 90 percent non-Bahá’í youth of varying ethnicity and are led by pairs of individuals called animators, according to Mark Perry, a part-time lecturer of dramatic arts at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Perry and his wife Azi Perry animate the Super Junior Youth Group.  He said they refrain from calling themselves teachers, aiming to be on the same level as the kids they lead.

The group focuses on four main aspects: prayer, study, socializing and service.

“One of my main goals is to build unity and community, Perry said.  “This age is particularly susceptible to change for the better.  We can direct them towards service to humanity and towards integrity.”

The majority of the kids in the Super Junior Youth Group are among the 500 Karen refugees in Carrboro.  The Karen people are originally from Burma.  However, many were forced flee to Thailand refugee camps when the Burmese military drove them out of the country.  Before coming to the US, many of the junior youth group kids spent most of their life in these refugee camps, according to Perry.

The Perrys are currently using a book titled “Glimmerings of Hope,” which narrates the story of a young African boy, Kibomi, who witnessed his parent’s murder by Rwandan soldiers in an ethnic-cleansing campaign.  Kibomi is tempted to join a rebel army and seek revenge, but instead chose a life of hope, rather than despair.

Because many of the Karen youth have faced ethnic-cleansing within their own families, this book is especially relevant, said Perry.  “When we read the story together in June, the kids were absolutely attentive. With 25 people in the room, there was not a sound. The idea of choosing hope over despair, I think, became clear to them as a life-choice.”

Chess clubs set up in Carrboro

Posted on March 4th, 2010 in Carrboro Connections,Sports by jock

By Elizabeth Jensen

Jason Casden’s dad can beat him in about 15 moves, blindfolded. His dad turns his back to the board and tells his son where to move his pieces.

His dad is a scholastic chess instructor and has achieved a master’s level ranking. He leads the Mulligan Chess Club at Scottie’s Coffee & Tea House in Worthington, Ohio.

“He always wants to have me get beaten by one of his third or fourth graders,” Casden said.

“There you go, attacking me already,” Sharon Eisner says as Jason Casden moves his knight to a position that threatens her queen, the most powerful piece in a chess game. “Look at that, no fear.” Tyler Jessee, 11, watches and thinks about how he’d get out of the trap. (Staff photo by Elizabeth Jensen)

In November, Casden visited his dad’s club, and the relaxed, fun environment inspired him to start the Carrboro Chess Club. The club meets at 3 p.m. on Saturdays at Jessee’s Coffee & Bar at 401 E. Main St.

But Casden isn’t the only one starting a chess club in Carrboro.

Henry Johnston heads the Rising Tide Chess Club that meets Wednesdays, 6 p.m., at Open Eye Café at 101 S. Greensboro St.

“The idea is that a drop of water all alone dries up, but when we come together, we’ll be a rising tide that will sink all of the ships,” club member Eric Slavin said. “If one of us wins a tournament, we will have all have won.”

Johnston started meeting informally with local players after he returned from Iceland in May. He was there to learn Icelandic. In the fall, he went to Ukraine for three months to study chess from an international master.