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Monday, February 18, 2019

Greenville author wins 2019 Southern Book Prize


Greenville author and attorney Jo Hackl’s debut novel, “Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe,” has won the 2019 Southern Book Prize for children’s literature.

The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance award recognizes books that are Southern in nature or by a Southern author, have been published in the previous year, and have been nominated by a SIBA member bookstore or one of their customers.

In a 2016 Greenville Journal story, Hackl described a decade-plus process from when she started writing the middle-grades novel until its publication.

The idea for the story came from her childhood home, the ghost town of Electric Mills, Mississippi. When the lumber mill pulled up and out after the timber was harvested, left behind were thick concrete sidewalks that wove through the woods, overgrown gardens at the old homesites, and scattered concrete pillars that had once held up large homes.

“Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe” tells the story of 12-year-old Cricket and a field cricket named Charlene who follow a 30-year-old clue trail left by an eccentric artist in search of a secret room that may or may not exist — all to try to win back Cricket’s runaway mother.

Hackl began writing “Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe” on Friday and Saturday nights after putting her three children to bed and before her husband got home from his job as a chef.

She wrote the first draft in five months and spent years editing and revising it. Along the way, she took classes in writing fiction and poetry, attended and helped organize conferences, read voraciously in the genre, took outdoor survival courses, and got an agent.

The book sold in 2015 and published in 2018.

Congratulations to Furman Head Basketball Coach Jackie Carson, the 107.3 JAMZ Upstate Black History Maker for February 15th!

Audio provided by 107.3 JAMZ

Jackie Carson emits excellence. After leading the Paladin women’s basketball team as a player, both athletically and academically, she followed her passion into coaching and earned the title of Coach of the Year, making her the first person in league women’s basketball history to garner both player of the year and coach of the year accolades.

That Carson could quickly transform Furman’s basketball fortunes may have surprised many, but not those who know her and appreciate the young mentor’s talent and commitment to recruiting, on-the-floor coaching, preparation, intensity, execution, and overall passion for the game. It is those same qualities, underscored by a deep and abiding dedication to her players and to their athletic and intellectual development, that has many fans of the purple and white sold on the future of Paladin women’s basketball.

It didn’t take long for Jackie Carson to put her stamp on Furman women’s basketball. In fact, it took less than a season. Now nine years into her tenure, Furman’s women’s basketball program is firmly established as a quality competitor in the Southern Conference.

Solidly entrenched as head coach at her alma mater, for which she once starred as a player, Carson has revitalized a program that suffered through five straight losing seasons prior to her arrival.

In her first year the Paladins, bereft of any Carson recruiting additions and a SoCon coaches preseason No. 10 pick, started 6-3 in league play, highlighted by a home win over eventual league regular season champion Appalachian State. By winning five of its final six games to finish with 14 victories, thereby doubling the program’s win total from the year before, Furman leaped from eleventh to fifth place in the standings and jumped from a 4-16 league mark to a 10-10 SoCon ledger, making the Paladins to league’s most improved team in 2010-11.

The strides continued in year two as Furman, with only one senior starter and a host of newcomers, again won 10 league games, including a 75-61 triumph over Chattanooga in Greenville that halted an embarrassing series-losing skid to the Mocs. In addition, the Paladins defeated Conference USA member Marshall and picked up their first SoCon Tournament victory under Carson.

In 2012-13 the Paladins, challenged by injuries to key performers, added to their list of advances under Carson by taking down Samford in Greenville for the first time and knocking off Elon in Timmons Arena in a thrilling late-season contest.

Five years ago the big dividend arrived with Furman’s 18-11 season, highlighted by an 11-2 home record and second place league finish — the program’s best in over a decade. In addition, the Paladins produced two All-SoCon first team selections for the first time since the 2004-05 season and landed a bid to the NIT — another program first. Those accomplishments netted Carson consensus coach of the year honors, making her the first person in league women’s basketball history to garner both player of the year and coach of the year accolades.

The success continued the following year as the Paladins went 19-14 and earned the program’s first bid in the Women’s Basketball Invitation Tournament (WBIT), and in 2015-16 Furman won 15 games, including a road triumph over Richmond and home victory over Clemson. Two years ago the Paladins dealt Chattanooga, the eventual SoCon Tournament champion, their first league loss of the season with a 65-48 triumph in Greenville, halting the Mocs’ seven-game winning streak, and this past year Furman notched its first season sweep of Chattanooga since the 2001-02 campaign on the way to a second round appearance in the WBIT.

After bringing in a solid recruiting class in her first year that included 2011-12 SoCon Freshman of the Year forward Brittany Hodges, Carson’s second recruiting haul stoked the embers of excitement by including 2012-13 SoCon Freshman of the Year forward Holli Wilkins, who graduated as Furman’s fifth all-time leading scorer. Among the newcomers featured in her third class was standpoint point guard Whitney Bunn, a consensus three-time All-SoCon selection who blew away Furman’s assist standards on the way to brilliant career that saw her finish as the Paladins’ fifth all-time leading scorer (1,538 points) despite suffering a career-ending injury seven game prior to season’s end.

This past year Furman produced three All-SoCon performers for only the second time in program history. The trio of standouts included forward Cierra Carter, who finished her career as the program’s 10th all-time leading scorer (1,383 points) and fifth in rebounding, guard Le’Jzae Davidson, and forward Celena Taborn, who registered a superb freshman campaign averaging 12.0 ppg and 5.8 rpg.

All told, Carson’s tenure Furman has produced eleven all-conference performers, four all-tournament players, two freshmen of the year, and seven SoCon All-Freshman Team selections.

Carson, a Woodbridge, Va., native, and 2000 Furman graduate who served as an assistant coach at James Madison University for five seasons (2006-10), including the final two as associate head coach and last four as recruiting coordinator, was named Furman’s ninth head coach in April of 2010.
During Carson’s five-year tenure at James Madison, the Dukes posted a 125-40 record (.758), including a 74-16 mark (.822) in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), and advanced to postseason tournament play each year. The string of postseason berths included NCAA Tournaments in 2007 and ‘10, as well as Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) appearances in 2006, ’08, and ’09.

In 2009-10 the Dukes went 26-7 overall and 16-2 in CAA action en route to league regular season and tournament championships. Among the noteworthy wins were triumphs over nationally 13th-ranked Virginia (75-73), Georgetown (79-76), and Virginia Tech (66-59).

In 2007, in her second season on staff, James Madison posted a 27-6 slate and advanced to the NCAA Tournament after a regular season that featured wins over Clemson and Wake Forest.

That same year she was among a select number of coaches chosen to participate in the Black Coaches Association’s “Achieving Coaching Excellence” program. The program, for ethnic minority male and female basketball coaches, is a collaborative effort of the BCA, the NCAA Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the NCAA Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee, and the NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics.

It was during her time at James Madison that Carson gained notoriety on the national level with a “Rising Star” Award, presented to five associate or assistant coaches by BasketballScoop.com and ONS Performance in recognition of recruiting, player development, team development/scouting, leadership, and administration.

Prior to going to James Madison, she spent two seasons as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Bucknell (2004-05). In her short tenure there she played a key role in recruiting Patriot League All-Rookie Team honorees Hope Foster and Kesha Champion, who went on to garner league player of the year and defensive player of the year honors, respectively, while leading the Bison to a 20-11 campaign and Patriot League crown in 2007.

Carson began her coaching career as an assistant with the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Fairfax (Va.) Stars, helping the squad, which featured future collegiate stars Marissa Coleman (Maryland), Brittany Mitch (Duke), Abby Robertson (Virginia), and Laura Haskins (Virginia Tech), to the 2003 15-Under AAU National Championship.

One of the finest players in Furman women’s basketball history, she led the Paladins in scoring and rebounding and earned first team All-Southern Conference honors and team MVP accolades as a sophomore, junior, and senior. The standout forward was named SoCon Player of the Year in 1998 & ’99 and served as team captain her final two seasons. She also garnered three SoCon Academic Honor Roll tabs.

As a freshman, she helped Furman to a SoCon regular season championship and as a senior keyed the Paladins to a 20-11 season, SoCon Tournament championship, and the program’s second NCAA Tournament appearance.

Many of her statistics rank among the finest ever posted by a Paladin, including points (1,920/2nd), points per game (16.8/4th), rebounds (1,057/2nd), rebounds per game (9.3/7th), and blocks (99/4th). She scored a school record 37 points against Middle Tennessee State her junior year, and her 724 career free throws and 52 double-doubles (points-rebounds) are still program standards, as are her 12 SoCon Player of the Week scrolls.

Honored as Furman’s 1999 Edna Hartness Female Athlete of the Year, she was inducted into the University’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005 in her first year of eligibility and in November of 2009 became only the third player in program history to have her jersey (No. 22) retired.

Following graduation in 2000 with a degree in health and exercise science, she played for professional teams in Belgium and Israel for two years before entering the coaching ranks.

Carson and husband, Rob, who serves as Assistant Athletic Director/Assistant Director of Academic Assistance, have two daughters: Londyn Elaun Carson, 7, and Lathyn Ellea Carson, 5.

Please join us in congratulating this 2019 Upstate Black History Maker!

Sponsored by:

Action, Not Avoidance


By Lee Yarborough, President   |   Propel HR

With more than 20 years in the industry, I have seen my fair share of issues in human resources. When people are involved, situations that occur in the workplace can be unpredictable and complex. The HR world is constantly evolving, and every day presents a new challenge. However, there is one concern I hear from clients and business owners repeatedly. The names change, and details vary, but the scenario is always the same and avoidance is always the theme. Here is an example:

Barbara Business Owner: Larry has worked for the company for a long time. His work is valuable and no one else in the company really knows how to do his job, but I keep having to deal with issues surrounding his attitude. He is negative and makes inappropriate comments about work, the company, and even clients. There is tension between him and his co-workers. Morale is low, and I see an impact across the company. His attitude is affecting production.

Me: Have you spoken to Larry and counseled him about his attitude?

Barbara: Well, he knows that I am upset because of a comment he made last week, but we didn’t have a formal talk. After his most recent comments, I just moved the team around so that no one would have to work directly with him and all communication now goes through me. He is working on a big project which is keyto meeting our quarterly goals. We can’t lose him!

Me: Help me understand, you have changed the structure of the team so that he doesn’t have to work with anyone? You are now taking time from your day to act as his communicator? This doesn’t sound good. In fact, it sounds toxic.

Barbara: It is, but I don’t know what to do about it. I feel stuck because I need Larry. No one else knows how to do his job and sometimes it is easier to just avoid dealing with him. But, it is now affecting my work and I am worried that other employees may be searching for another job.

Me: You can’t avoid this problem any longer. It is time to act! 

Typically, the business owner has been dealing with the problem for a long time and the behavior has not been properly addressed. The business owner often avoids dealing with the problem because there are no procedures in place to handle the workload in the event the employee quits or is terminated. It is easier to just avoid the problem. No action is taken, and the current behavior continues or accelerates. Employees witness the poor performance, as well as the avoidance tactics from management. As a result, morale declines and trust erodes. The work team, once united and productive, is now fragmented.

Solving this problem sounds simple, yet it can be the most challenging part of a business leader’s job because action is required to address the problem and form a resolution. Not dealing with issues, dealing with them poorly, or letting things go on too long puts a strain on your business and can have a direct impact on your bottom line. Avoidance is not the answer, the problem should be confronted and resolved.

The conversation continued with Barbara and together we came up with a plan for her to address the problem. We focused on the business needs, the morale of her team, and the overall performance of the individual.

That week, she dug into the problem by learning more about Larry’s job and cross-training other employees. She met with Larry and counseled him on his behavior. She provided productive feedback and documented the problems as well as the expectations of improvement. The employees felt encouraged because they felt like she was making fair decisions for the entire team.

In the end, a difficult decision was made, and Larry no longer works for the company. Instead of being the catastrophic event Barbara had predicted, it occurred without a hitch. The team picked up his workload and overall, the company fared better. Employees were happier and worked harder to meet business goals. Barbara was less stressed and more productive as well. The quarterly goals were not only met but were exceeded.

She called me a few months later with an update and to thank me for the advice. I reminded her that she knew what the problem was, and she knew how to handle it. All I did was encourage her to take action and recognize when avoidance was becoming a barrier to success.


Greenville’s new federal courthouse has a new look

Rendering provided by General Services Administration.

A new rendering for Greenville’s new federal courthouse has been released, and the brick is gone.

The new design was released by the General Services Administration on Thursday and it no longer includes brick, a common material in downtown Greenville, which was included in previous designs.

The city’s Design Review Board, which typically has to approve the look of new buildings within the city’s central business district, will not have a say because the federal government is exempt.

Construction will begin next month. Groundbreaking for the project, which received initial funding all the way back in 2004, is expected to take place in April, according to the GSA, the agency that handles office space for civilian employees of the federal government.

The 193,000-square-foot facility — to be named for former South Carolina Gov. Carroll A. Campbell Jr. — will be 10 stories tall and contain seven courtrooms and chambers for nine judges. Other court-related tenants include the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and a federal public defender’s office.

In 2015, the GSA earmarked nearly $93 million for site preparation, design, and construction in its $947 million courthouse investment plan. An additional $11 million had been earmarked for the Greenville facility in 2004. In 2013, the federal government paid a little more than $4 million for the site bounded by East North Street, North Irvine Street, East Coffee Street, and North Spring Street.

Talk of a new federal courthouse in Greenville started in the late 1990s. The current courthouse, built in 1937, was too small, forcing many agencies to lease space in other locations.

When the new courthouse is completed, the Clement F. Haynsworth Federal Building will be utilized by the Court of Appeals and Bankruptcy Court as well as federal agencies currently located in leased space in the area.

Brasfield & Gorrie LLC is the construction manager as constructor. HBRA Architects Inc. is the lead design architect.

Threats over ‘Drag Queen Story Hour’ prompt extra security


Greenville County deputies are taking extra safety measures ahead of a controversial story time at the Five Forks Library.

According to the Sheriff’s office Facebook page, deputies received information about multiple threats made on social media regarding the Drag Queen Story Hour.

The event is scheduled for Sunday, February 17 from 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. at the Five Forks Branch Library on Sunnydale Drive in Simpsonville.

To ensure the safety and security of all people attending or present during the event, the sheriff’s office is going to be on site enforcing the following safety measures.


-There will be no bags of any kind allowed on the property of the library.

-Anyone wishing to assemble must use the designated areas in the parking lot in an effort to not block or interfere with library patrons.

-Expect heavy traffic congestion during the above time period.

-No parking on Woodruff Road, Sunnydale Drive or Dusty Lane. Deputies and Troopers from the Highway Patrol will be providing traffic control and enforcement.

-Only residents of Mcrae place will be allowed on Sunnydale Drive (beyond the library)

-No weapons of any kind will be allowed on the library’s property.

-Reminder that State Law prohibits the wearing of a mask to include bandanas, to conceal a person’s identity.

-Reminder that the FAA prohibits flying drones over crowds without a permit.

Forum highlights gentrification, affordable housing problems

Nicholtown Missionary Baptist Church hosted a forum on gentrification and affordable housing on Feb. 6. Photo/Will Crooks

A presentation on gentrification and affordable housing turned into a lively discussion Wednesday in the heart of a small, traditionally black community in Greenville — Nicholtown Missionary Baptist Church.

Nicholtown Missionary, which was founded in 1937, has made a name for itself in the small community. One year ago, the church took in residents who were evicted from the Economy Inn on Augusta Road after it was condemned by county inspectors.

In 2016, the church’s pastor — Darian Blue — received attention after writing a short essay titled “One Greenville, Two Realities” on LinkedIn about the contrast between the blossoming economy downtown and nearby predominantly black communities.

“While there is a special ambiance in Downtown Greenville, less than 2 miles down the street, there are families who feel like their lives are irreparable,” Blue wrote. “While there are healthy options for food in Downtown Greenville, less than 2 miles up the road I have to go to a community that is considered a ‘food desert.’”

None of these issues are new to the residents of Nicholtown.

Susan McLarty, coordinator for the Greenville Homeless Alliance, presented statistics on gentrification and affordable housing at Nicholtown Missionary on Feb. 6.

“The 2010 Census data indicated at that time, the African-American population had decreased by 8 percent between 2000 and 2010 in the city of Greenville. Is that news to anyone in here?” McLarty asked the audience, most of whom shook their heads.

Census data show that it isn’t simply an influx of white residents moving into the city and skewing the demographics — there are actually fewer black residents in the city limits than there were 20 years ago, even in the midst of Greenville’s growing population.

In 2000, black residents made up 34 percent of the city of Greenville’s population. In 2010, they dropped to 30 percent, and now, the Census’ American Community Survey estimates black residents make up less than 26 percent of the city’s population.

The actual number of black residents is estimated to have dropped more than 13 percent since 2000, even while Census data estimate the city’s population grew by more than 10,000 as of 2017.

McLarty said Greenville’s affordable housing report showed that residents of the county needed to earn at least $30,000 annually as a household to be able to have housing options.

“In the city, that’s about $60,000,” McLarty said.

McLarty said there was an excess of 800 affordable homes in 2000 — homes that residents earning less than $20,000 annually could afford. Now, the city and county are looking at a shortfall of about 12,000 affordable homes — a gap that McLarty said is growing by about 550 homes annually.

“Just for the city alone, it’s a $250 million challenge, and we’ve put $3.5 million in,” McLarty said. “And our federal dollars — and that’s what most cities have relied upon — those have been decreasing for quite some time.”

Both Greenville city and county officials have recently introduced measures to reduce the shortfall — the city has put $3.5 million in its various affordable housing programs, to include the Greenville Housing Authority. The county committed $1 million every year for five years for affordable housing programs — the money comes from a settlement with Prisma Health in which the county will receive $1 million every year for 20 years.

“It’s a start,” McLarty said. “We would love to see the city and county put annual recurring [affordable housing] funds in the budget.”

One member of the audience, Zelma Kendrick, said her biggest problem is feeling like she’s forced to stagnate at a certain income, because if she tries to move up in pay, she immediately loses any affordable housing benefits she was getting while still being unable to afford rent and utilities.

“The problem that you have when you receive that type of assistance, it makes you want to take a low-paying job because if you take a higher-paying job, they’re going to kick you off of the program, and you’re not going to be able to afford your rent,” Kendrick said.

That phenomenon, called the “cliff effect,” occurs when a person’s income increases enough to make them ineligible for government aid but doesn’t increase enough to make up for the benefits they lose.

“And then also in the housing authority part, there’s a big gap. And people wonder how people become homeless — the gap comes because they will not pay rent for two units at the same time. So it’s virtually impossible to move from one unit over into another unit,” Kendrick said. “I haven’t been able to do it successfully, and I’ve been in the program since I was 17 years old.”

Jalen Elrod, first vice chair of the Greenville County Democratic Party, said they will continue to host presentations and discussions on these issues in Greenville.

“We know that this issue disproportionately and almost exclusively impacts the black community. And as we look at our history as a people, going back to a Reconstruction, we know that the black church has been the focal point of our community and that any change, any progress that we’ve made as a community, has been centered in the black church,” Elrod said. “While it’s great that we express this among each other, I think we’re all in agreement, this is an issue and we’re preaching to the choir.”

Elrod encouraged the audience to attend city and county council meetings and to contact their representatives.

“We need to take this same outrage, this same passion and energy, and we need to go to every City Council meeting and we need to go to every County Council meeting, and we need to be beating down the doors of those who represent us at the state,” Elrod said.

Paul’s Pick: An afternoon of beautiful music

The Herring Chamber Ensemble is getting back to the essentials: love, faith and nature. Photo provided.

The Herring Chamber Ensemble’s annual Greenville concert draws inspiration from the essentials of life, with shimmering choral pieces that reflect on love, faith, and nature.

The 24-voice ensemble, widely recognized for its superb sound and musicality, offers only one Greenville performance every year. This year’s concert takes place at 3 p.m. Feb. 17 at Furman University’s Daniel Memorial Chapel.

Bingham Vick Jr., the group’s longtime conductor, will occupy the podium.

Among the featured works will be a 2017 piece by Dan Forrest, the Greenville-based composer whose works have earned international acclaim.

Profound and playful

True to form, the ensemble will spotlight both the profound and the playful, ending with a set of lighter pieces, including a vocalized “William Tell Overture” – or at least the concluding musical episode associated with “The Lone Ranger.”

“The program has got something for everybody,” Vick said. “We’ve got some rich music and some more lighthearted material.”

The first half of the concert includes relatively short works that focus on “the nature of things: the experience of walking in the woods, the nature of faith, the nature of unconditional love, the nature of Christian hospitality,” Vick said.

A walk in the woods

The opening piece, “Come to the Woods,” features a text by naturalist John Muir and music by the young American composer Jake Runestad.

The Herring Chamber Ensemble will perform its winter concert at 3 p.m. Feb. 17 in Daniel Chapel at Furman University. Photo provided.

“It’s a beautiful piece that captures the spirit of taking a walk in the forest as a storm erupts,” Vick said. “When the storm passes, there’s an overwhelming sense of peace.”

Norwegian composer Kim Andre Arnesen’s “Even When He Is Silent,” a testament of faith, uses words believed to have been found on the wall of a concentration camp: “I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining. I believe in love even when I feel it not. I believe in God even when He is silent.”

Unconditional Love

Forrest’s piece, “The Sun Never Says to the Earth,” comes from a larger choral work premiered in 2017 by the Greenville Chorale. The work’s theme is unconditional love. Forrest dedicated the piece to his wife. In this version of the work, solo cellist Yuriy Leonovich will be the accompanist.

Other composers on the program include Paul Hindemith and Eric Whitacre. Pianist Nancy L. Smith will accompany several pieces.

Among the lighter works: Whitacre’s setting of three Ogden Nash poems, composer William Bergsma’s three pieces centering on riddles, and John Wykoff’s setting of a folk song, “I Got a Hog and a Pig.”

The group always concludes its winter concert with Steven Sametz’s “I Have Had Singing.”

The ensemble serves as the core of the 160-voice Greenville Chorale. Many of the ensemble’s members are active local musicians: church soloists, choir directors, and voice teachers.

“These singers really have exceptional voices and have a tremendous enthusiasm for choral chamber music,” Vick said.

The program will be repeated Feb. 24 in the Lowcountry on John’s Island.

If you go

What: The Herring Chamber Ensemble’s 22nd Annual Winter Concert

When: 3 p.m. Feb. 17

Where: Charles E. Daniel Memorial Chapel at Furman University

Tickets: $15 students; $30 adults

Info: 864-467-3000 or www.peacecenter.org (Tickets sold by the Peace Center)

Three Of A Kind


The Jon Stickley Trio are acoustic daredevils

There are really good guitarists, and then there is Jon Stickley. His speed, precision and control on the acoustic six-string are all astonishing, but it’s not just about flash; Stickley is just as fond of strong melody as he is a dazzling solo. Mixing classical, jazz and bluegrass on his instrument, Stickley is a wonder, and what’s perhaps most fascinating about his band, the Jon Stickley Trio, is that he found two other players who are every bit his equal on their respective instruments.

Violinist Lyndsay Pruett can, and often does, stand toe-to-toe with Stickley onstage; watching the two of them duel their way through the band’s repertoire (three albums and an EP since 2012) is one of the most thrilling high-wire experiences in acoustic music.

Up until 2018, the foundation for Stickley and Pruett’s melodic back-and-forth was drummer Patrick Armitage. But early last year, Armitage left the band and was replaced by Hunter Deacon, a classically-trained percussionist who had dipped his toes in all sorts of different genres. Stickley says that that change has opened up new worlds for the trio.

“Our old drummer was a killer, pocket-groove based drummer,” Stickley says, ‘but we wanted to go more in an improvisational, free-flowing direction, with the same kind of groove we’ve always had. Hunter has played rock, he’s played jazz, he’s played Meters-style stuff, and he fits as an equal third as far as the creativity goes.”

Armitage was a vital component to the propulsive sound on the band’s albums, and it might seem like making a transition to a new drummer would be difficult, especially for a tight-knit trio. But Stickley says Deacon learned their old material so quickly that the transition was fairly seamless.

“It was a pretty easy, just because Hunter is so good,” he says. “He studied up hard on the old material, and he was able to play it pretty much verbatim from day one. And then we told him to put his own spin on it, which kind of refreshed it and made the old stuff more fun to play. He’s really exactly what we were looking for. We needed a little more inspiration from the percussion side of things, and that’s what we got.”

Naturally, the new blood has had an effect on the songwriting, as well. Those who go to the trio’s show at The Firmament in Greenville on Friday will hear some new material that the band is working on for a new album, material that ventures into previously unexplored territory.

“We’re using some grooves we’ve never messed with before,” Stickley says. “We’re a little bit in the dance music world, a little in the Latin world, and we’re able to experiment a lot more and hop from style to style a little more fluidly.”

And there’s no better place for the trio to break in that new material than onstage.

“We typically like to road test at least half of our new songs if we can,” Stickley says, “because as we play it live, the music really evolves through that process. So before we go do recording, we like to let the songs grow through live performance first. It’s mainly about what feels right, and the audience helps us figure that out. We pay a lot of attention to what they respond to.”

Speaking of audiences, the band has been steadily building a bigger one in Greenville. They started at smaller clubs like the Radio Room and Gottrocks and have been able to move to 600-plus capacity venues like The Firmament and The Spinning Jenny, something that Stickley says caught him off guard.

“I would say that the Greenville audience ALWAYS surprises us,” he says. “I don’t know why, exactly, but for some reason we just didn’t expect to have as much of a following as we do there. But every time we play, we have more and more people, and it’s one of the most enthusiastic, engaged crows that we play for anywhere.”

What: Jon Stickley Trio, w/ the West End String Band and Mourning Dove
Where: The Firmament, 5 Market Point Dr., Greenville
When: Friday, Feb. 15th, 8:30 p.m.
Tickets: $13-$18
Info: 864-616-5101, http://www.firmamentgvl.com/





Vincent Harris covers the local and regional music scenes for the Greenville Journal. Follow him on Facebook & Twitter @HarrisVince or write to vharris@communityjournals.com.  

February 2019 Greenville County Schools Class Acts: STUDENTS


SC Youth in Government Awards

JL Mann High Academy
Excellence in Leadership

Blake Sorrell

JL Mann High Academy


Lobbyist Award

Noah Griffith

JL Mann High Academy


Committee Chair Award

Casey Daniels

JL Mann High Academy


Outstanding Premier House Bill – PH64

Christopher Nelli, Madhav Bhat

JL Mann High Academy


Outstanding Statesman Upper Senate

Adam Shirley

JL Mann High Academy


Outstanding Statesman Upper Senate

Jordan Boehner

JL Mann High Academy


Outstanding House Bill H47

Drew Smith and Stefan Collins

JL Mann High Academy


Outstanding Attorney

Morgan Key

JL Mann High Academy


Outstanding Attorney

Ellie Logel

JL Mann High Academy



Mauldin High School

Philip T. Bradley Award

Charlotte Capers Snoad

Mauldin High School

Outstanding Statesman Upper Senate

Andrew Devito

Mauldin High School

Outstanding House Bill H48

Addison Selig and Campbell Walker

Mauldin High School

Outstanding Attorney

Chloe Newkirk

Mauldin High School

Greenville High Academy
Outstanding House Bill H62

Ainsley Woodbrown and Poe Cheney

Greenville High Academy


Outstanding House Bill H100

Ava Fisher, Reyn Wills

Greenville High Academy


Outstanding Statesman Upper House

Calvin Blessing

Greenville High Academy


Outstanding Statesman Upper House

Isabella Sheridan

Greenville High Academy


Outstanding Attorney

Brick Garne

rGreenville High Academy



Riverside High School

Advisor Award

Lindsey Beam

Riverside High School

Outstanding Senate Bill – S11

Juliana Wentz, Lily Mauro

Riverside High School

Outstanding Statesman Upper House

Jay Bhatia

Riverside High School

Outstanding Attorney

Aanem Hasnie

Riverside High School

Outstanding Attorney

Krysten Pringle

Riverside High School


Eastside High School

Outstanding Attorney

Christa Rentz-Neely

Eastside High School


Outstanding Attorney

Ava Gartman

Eastside High School



Wade Hampton High School

Outstanding Statesman Upper House

Grace Brackett

Wade Hampton High School

Outstanding Statesman Upper House

Alejandro Meija-Tejada

Wade Hampton High School

Outstanding Senate Bill – S18

Annie Benton and Hanaa Falous

Wade Hampton High School

EXILE bar to open early summer in the West End

Partners Nick McSherry and Stephen Phillips plan to open EXILE in this former dental office. Photo by Will Crooks / Greenville Journal

“If your favorite drink is a cheap beer, then we’ll have the best one for you at a good price, but if the person next to you wants the fanciest new cocktail or just a really good Manhattan, then we’ll also have you covered.”

That’s how partners Stephen Phillips and Nick McSherry describe their new bar, EXILE, opening early summer at 9 Anderson St. in Greenville’s West End.

“I want it to be a bar where all my friends can come in, and they all have very different tastes,” Phillips says.

The mid-century modern, 2,400-square-foot former dental office is under construction and will be transformed into a relaxed bar environment where everyone should feel comfortable, regardless of cocktail knowledge or experience, and even those not drinking alcohol will have a variety of mocktails to choose from.

Phillips, who helped launch The Anchorage cocktail program and currently works at Birds Fly South Ale Project, and McSherry, also known for his time as manager at The Anchorage and Restaurant 17, have teamed up with financial investors and bar staff who share their vision.

Their goal is to take all the best elements of comfort from a dive bar and mix them will the classy elements of a brand-new cocktail bar. The décor, with vintage furniture and fixtures sourced through Shop.WHIM, will look as though the bar has existed for decades without the dingy wear-and-tear.

Phillips captures his vision this way: “A bar can be dark without being ‘sketchy.’ It can have the best glassware, lighting, and art without being pretentious and showing off. It is possible to have low lighting, old furniture, rock and roll, and gold rimmed coupe glasses in the same space.”

The name, EXILE, has a three-fold meaning. First, it comes from Phillips’s experience leaving his home in Wisconsin where he no longer had any ties and moving to Greenville.

“I grew to love the city and wanted to be a part of it instead of just, like, not fitting in or something, or really play a role in this incredibly fast-growing city that has a lot of people moving here that want to change its culture,” Phillips says. “Let’s be a part of it.”

Secondly, Phillips and his current staff have all experienced some resistance while trying to implement their vision in bars that weren’t their own. In EXILE, they’ve found a place to express themselves.

“Well, why if we’re all good at this, why can’t we get it to happen,” Phillips says of the joint thought process. “Well, we’ll just go exile ourselves on this little island and see what happens, and if we can just do together maybe we can do it.”

The core staff of four to five bartenders will be equally skilled in crafting cocktails and providing a high level of hospitality and will rotate serving on the floor and behind the bar.

Lastly, the location on the edge of the West End, with onsite parking, is just far enough removed from the main drag to be distinct.

“You can definitely walk there, but you’re not going to stumble in,” McSherry says.

The menu will feature roughly 15 classic cocktails and a dozen more specialty cocktails. Bar snacks and other hand-helds will be provided by chef Alex George of Golden Brown and Delicious. Quality of both drinks and food is a priority for the team.

“I want it to be normal to have organic food. I want it to be normal to get an affordable, really well-made Old Fashioned,” Phillips says. “It shouldn’t be a big deal to get a correctly made a classic drink.”

Southernside residents fear impacts of coal tar


By Andrew Moore and Cindy Landrum

Photo of Cordell Lomax by Will Crooks

Cordell Lomax knew his way around the bottoms behind what is now Legacy Charter Elementary School and just how far he could go before he encountered coal tar that came from the manufactured gas plant at East Bramlette Road and West Washington Street.

“That was my playground,” said Lomax, now 79.

But sometimes as he ran and played, he ventured too far — the proof, a black goo that wouldn’t come off his shoes or clothes, and earned him a whoopin’ when he got back home.

The manufactured gas plant transformed coal into gas for heating and lighting Greenville’s homes and businesses. This process produced coal tar, a thick black liquid that contains hundreds of chemical compounds, including carcinogens such as benzene.

The gas plant closed in 1952 and was mostly demolished six years later, but during its 35 years of operation, it released coal tar-containing wastewater into a network of drainage ditches and eventually contaminated a former landfill site on an adjoining property, according to public documents.

Southernside community leaders and environmental justice advocates are pushing for Duke Energy — and state regulators — to move more aggressively to clean up the lingering pollutants from the plant that ceased operation six decades ago, and in a way that doesn’t pose a risk to the environment or the community’s redevelopment.

Photo of Mary Duckett by Will Crooks

“It is imperative that it be cleaned up,” said Mary Duckett, a longtime Southernside resident and president of Southernside Neighborhoods in Action.

Duke, which was the plant’s primary owner and operator, is working with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control and the property’s current owner, CSX Transportation Inc., to investigate and remediate the contamination, according to Ryan Mosier, spokesman for the Charlotte, North Carolina-based utility.

Mosier said Duke has spent $6.7 million on the properties since the early 1990s.

“We’re closely managing the whole process through repeated monitoring, routine water testing, and coordination with DHEC,” Mosier wrote in an email to the Greenville Journal. “We hope the substantial investments we’re making at the site to ensure the public’s continued well-being demonstrate this commitment.”

State health officials say the contaminants pose no threat to public health or water supplies.

Photo of Michael Corley by Will Crooks

Michael Corley, an attorney for the South Carolina Environmental Law Project, called the site “a decades-long insult” to the predominantly low-income, African-American community in which it is located.

“I think almost everything about the way that this site has been managed can be attributed to the nature of the neighborhood where it is located,” Corley said. “This site is the epitome of an environmental justice issue, from the fact that it has persisted for so long, to the fact that it is even now unlabeled and unmaintained. Without question, this wouldn’t be the case in a more affluent community.”

Dumping ground

Southernside has historically been Greenville’s dumping ground, both figuratively and literally.

Photo of Rev. Stacey Mills by Will Crooks

“That’s no secret to anybody who has lived in this community,” said the Rev. Stacey Mills, pastor at Mountain View Baptist Church, a 111-year-old congregation on Cagle Street in what is known as Newtown.

Hundreds of families, mostly domestic and blue-collar workers, once lived in quadraplexes, duplexes, and shantylike houses.

“These are the people who took care of the wealthy in our community, but they lived in conditions where not only did you have contamination from the gas plant, you had coal from the train, soot from the refuse facilities,” he said. “This was the last stop on the line and it is literally on the other side of the tracks.”

Women who lived there knew when to hang laundry out on the line to dry so their clean clothes wouldn’t get covered in black soot, he said. The nearby Reedy River served as the textile industry’s sewer, sometimes changing color depending on which dye was used that day.

“My swimming pool was the Reedy River. My playground was that tar,” Lomax said. “Do I feel dumped on? Yeah, I feel dumped on. But we had no money. If you got no money, you still get dumped on.”

A better tomorrow    

But there’s a renewed hope in Southernside thanks to the efforts of community leaders and plans for Unity Park, the city’s new multimillion-dollar park west of downtown that borders Southernside and West Greenville.

Mountain View Baptist, which has been buying up property around it for two decades, is in the process of developing a master plan that includes affordable housing, a child development center, a fresh market, and a fitness facility that could benefit from people who visit the park and the Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail, Mills said.

“The church has always been a central part of the uplift of the people in the community,” he said. “At the heart of it, Mountain View’s vision provides economic development and affordable healthy living options not afforded to lower- and moderate-income neighborhoods in the Southernside community.

Mills said the church supports Duckett’s efforts to get the coal tar cleaned up.

Carcinogen cleanup 

Early site investigations conducted at the former gas plant site found soil and groundwater contamination in the form of elevated concentrations of volatile organic compounds, semivolatile organic compounds, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, and metals, some of which are known to cause cancer, records show.

Between 2001 and 2002, Duke Energy excavated about 61,000 tons of contaminated soil and debris at the former gas plant, according to Mosier. About half of that material was treated and then returned to the site, while the remaining excavated areas were backfilled with 38,000 tons of clean soil from off-site sources.

Corley, however, said Duke Energy performed only a “limited cleanup” of the site, ignoring contaminated groundwater and leaving toxic chemicals in the soil.

“While a great deal of coal tar was removed, this cleanup didn’t even have the purpose of removing it all. It was meant only to eliminate any immediate threat to human health,” Corley said. “The depth of the excavation was limited and even within the limited footprint, liquid coal sludge was left in the ground.”

A previous site report by Duke said groundwater remediation at the former gas plant site would be “counterproductive” as the water would become recontaminated upon migrating into the adjoining property. It also acknowledges remaining contamination in the site’s soil. The contaminants, however, are reportedly buried 3 feet deep and don’t pose a health risk to the surrounding community.

Work in progress

Mosier said Duke Energy’s assessment and remediation of the former gas plant is “largely complete,” with only one of the site’s nine permanent groundwater monitoring wells exceeding regulatory criteria.

Duke Energy is now expanding its efforts to sample and plan for any work needed at the former landfill, according to Mosier.

The unpermitted landfill was developed by a local contractor in 1988 but closed by CSX several years later after state and federal regulators discovered it was located within a wetlands system and in violation of the Clean Water Act.

In 1994, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and DHEC requested that CSX conduct an environmental assessment of the landfill site. The assessment revealed tarlike substances and high concentrations of lead in the groundwater beneath the former landfill and surrounding wetlands system.

In a statement, the company said, “CSX is committed to protecting public health and safeguarding the environment in communities where we operate. CSX is cooperating with Duke Energy so that it can respond to environmental conditions associated with a former manufactured gas plant.”

Don Siron, assistant bureau chief of DHEC’s Bureau of Land and Waste Management, said assessment and remediation efforts along Bramlette Road are ongoing but that groundwater contamination trends have been either stable or decreasing at both properties since sampling began in 1999.

He added that some groundwater contaminants exceed water-quality standards, but most aren’t at levels high enough to pose a direct health risk.

“The contamination at this property is not at the surface, so direct exposure is unlikely, multiple well surveys show there are no drinking-water wells within a half-mile of the site, and no homes exist on the properties, making vapor intrusion a nonissue,” Siron said.

Testing the water

Duke Energy operates 25 groundwater monitoring wells across the former gas plant site and adjoining property in order to record contamination levels, according to Mosier. The results are submitted to DHEC on a quarterly basis as part of a voluntary cleanup contract the company signed in 2016.

Corley said he appreciates Duke Energy’s willingness to voluntarily explore cleanup options, but he maintains that the company’s current monitoring program isn’t sufficient to determine whether groundwater contamination is being discharged from the wetlands into the Reedy River, a waterway that’s historically struggled with industrial contamination.

“The sampling wells on site are not adequate to establish where the contamination is and where it is moving,” Corley said. “Assumptions have been made as to the direction and distance of contamination migration, and some of them are concerning. This is especially true considering that at least 50 years passed between the time contamination was released and when the first assessment was made. In any direction you could point from the original contamination source, questions remain.”

Previous site assessments found that contaminants in the former landfill and wetlands are mostly nonmobile and have no impact on plants or animals.

An elevated rail line and embankment create a barrier between the wetlands and nearby Reedy River, but a manmade canal near the property directs overflow water into the river during periods of heavy rainfall. Records show CSX tested surface water samples from the canal during early site assessments but detected no contamination.

Duke also recently tested groundwater, surface water, and sediment samples from along the Reedy River and detected no elevated concentrations of contaminants, according to Siron.

“If newly collected data were to suggest conditions that could pose a threat to public health or the surrounding environment, DHEC would immediately take protective measures,” he said.

Growing concern

Mayor Knox White said any environmental hazard that affects or could affect the Reedy River is a concern to the city.

He said improving the river’s health is one of the city’s top priorities in Unity Park. The plan is to create a more natural course for the river, which was straightened in the 1930s, by sculpting the bank. By doing so, floodwater will spread out and slow down. Riparian vegetation would serve as a natural filter, improving the quality of the water of the Reedy.

“It’s the next step in reclaiming the river,” White said.

The river work is included in the first phase of Unity Park, estimated to cost nearly $41.2 million.

See something, do nothing?  

As part of its ongoing assessment of the Bramlette site, Duke Energy is installing seven additional monitoring wells near the former landfill to better determine the source, nature, and extent of groundwater contamination, according to Mosier.

Mosier said Duke Energy would consider additional site assessments and remediation efforts once the current investigation has concluded.

Corley said he’s troubled that Duke, or its consultants, have been laying the groundwork for years to reach a conclusion that no cleanup is required, even before the site has been adequately tested.

“Almost every document submitted to DHEC by Duke includes broad, unsupported statements implying or expressing that natural attenuation is the answer,” he said.

Natural attenuation is a remediation strategy that would require Duke Energy to keep a watchful eye on the former landfill site but essentially do nothing, allowing the environment to naturally break down chemical pollution in the groundwater and soil. This strategy would likely take several years to decades to remediate the site, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Many of Duke Energy’s previous site assessments suggest natural attenuation to be the preferred remediation strategy for the landfill site, because excavation of the affected soils and sediments would likely result in “severe damage” to the surrounding wetland environment and mobilization of contaminants.

Too early for answers

Corley, however, said there are still too many unknowns about the property for the company to even consider potential cleanup strategies.

“We do not know whether this site is actively discharging into the Reedy River, or to what extent, and we don’t know what parts of the site contain liquid coal sludge. Yet natural attenuation is regularly suggested,” Corley said. “Our focus now is on effective participation in the cleanup planning process, so that the eventual outcome is one that wouldn’t lead to contemplation of legal action.”

He added that public involvement is “critical” going forward, because the voluntary cleanup contract between the state and Duke Energy allows the company to “set the terms for what testing is to occur and where, and in most cases, the state only steps in when a significant failure is apparent.”

“Under the circumstances, accountability and attention are vital,” Corley said.

Siron said a voluntary cleanup contract is DHEC’s “preferred procedure” for managing sites like those along Bramlette Road.

The agency held its last public meeting regarding both properties in 2016, with staff discussing the history and status of the contamination and what work would be conducted under the voluntary cleanup contract.

“DHEC will have more community involvement upon completion of the assessment and before a remedy for the site is selected,” Siron said.

Duckett said she knows what her community wants — for the coal tar to be cleaned up. “My generation had no idea of the danger the environment had on us,” she said. “We don’t want that no more. We want the generation that grows up in the redeveloped Southernside to grow up in a neighborhood that has a good quality of life and is safe and healthy.”

Congratulations to Lekesa P. Whitner the 107.3 JAMZ Upstate Black History Maker for February 14th!

Audio provided by 107.3 JAMZ

Mrs. Lekesa P. Whitner in her position her role as the Supportive Services Manager for the Northside Development Group serves as the community quarterback for all 1,800 families that reside on the Northside. As a long term resident of Spartanburg, Lekesa has seen both the changes and the economic development in the city. Lekesa is currently the Supportive Services Manager at Northside Development Group (NDG) and is an adjunct professor at SCC. In my role at NDG she provides financial literacy, homeownership skills, employment opportunities and access to countless other resources to the 1,800 families that live on the Northside.

Three years ago as The Northside Development Group began work to bring the Start:ME program to the Northside resident. The Start:ME program, developed by the College of Business at Emory University, is a 14-week course in Micro Entrepreneurship (ME) designed to help people start small businesses in their communities by providing knowledge, networks and capital to aspiring entrepreneurs. Start:ME is a 14-week business development accelerator. Entrepreneurs receive 42 hours of classroom training, access to networking opportunities, access to capital and assigned a business coach. Lekesa spearheaded the processes for selection the participants and managing the entire administration of the program from the beginning to the end, including communications, meals, special events, facilities and anything else that came up. We are entering our third year of the Start:ME program. Since its inception Start:ME has impacted over 45 different businesses and 2 have recently opened their brick and mortar locations.

Lekesa Whitner has been an integral partner and advocate for the creation and implementation of the Northside Construction Pipeline Project. There were many key players that were a part of the Construction Pipeline program including Northside Development Group, Spartanburg Community College, SC Works, Upstate Workforce Board, Spartanburg, Regional Healthcare System. The original project’s goal was twofold: Increase the number of skilled construction workers in the community while also improving the number of Northside residents with well-paying jobs. The project has been so successful it has attracted additional community partners, including both the City of Spartanburg and the Spartanburg Chamber of Commerce (OneSpartanburg). And it is now being replicated in an effort to expand the concept throughout the county.
Mrs. Whitner has spent many hours providing outreach services through her service organizations Children and Choices. Her organization offers a free haircuts and hair styles annually in December in one of our highest priority communities. The name of the event is “Merry Clippers” which, through partnering with local barbers and stylists, provided 222 haircuts or styles for those children in need and Children and Choices, a nonprofit which emphasizes education while empowering mothers to become better. December 2018 made 6 years of our way of saying Thank you to the citizens of Spartanburg. Lastly, through the L.P. Whitner Education fund, Mrs. Whitner seeks to assist high school graduates by paying for the SAT test, caps and gowns and assisting with college preparedness.
Lekesa is the administrative assistant for Pastor Richard Williams at Vision of Faith Christian Ministry where she loves to serve. She is also the Youth leader for 16 teenagers.
Lekesa was 2015 recipient of the Wheeler award, 2017 S.P.A.R.T.A (Sisters Partnering And Releasing True Anointing) Valedictorian award, she is a 2012 Grassroots Leadership graduate, 2014 Spartanburg County Citizen Academy Graduate, and 2017 City of Spartanburg Citizen Academy graduate. In 2017 Lekesa spoke on numerous panels and was an alumni spotlight for Grassroots Leadership Development Institute.
She also serves on the Children & Choices – Founder / CEO, Upstate Fatherhood Coalition Advisory Committee, the Forrester Center board, Women Giving’s Board, Spartanburg Chamber Advisory Board for OneSpartanburg and the Breakfast for Professional Women. She loves serving her community and is an active volunteer.
Lekesa was a 2017 nominate for Career Woman of the year from BPW Spartanburg. Lekesa also received a plaque for her community support and leadership from the Upstate Fatherhood Coalition.

Lekesa is the first woman of color to run for Mayor in the City of Spartanburg during the 2017 local election.

Lekesa Whitner is the wife of Mr. Ray Anthony Whitner since June of 2013 and the mother of two wonderful daughters.

Lekesa Whitner earned a diploma in Computer Operations and an Associate in Arts from Spartanburg Community College. She later went on to further her education an earn Bachelors of Business Administration at Limestone College along with a minor in Computer Applications. She later returned to Limestone to earn her Masters of Business Administration. She is currently enrolled at Liberty University Doctoral Program.  Her major is Doctorate Strategic Leadership. She has always been an advocate of education and is well aware of the importance of having an education.  Lekesa was a high school dropout.

In her spare time, Lekesa enjoys roller skating, spending time with family, friends, and her church family.

Lekesa is guided by: “If you build the people, you grow the city!”

Please join us in congratulating this 2019 Upstate Black History Maker!

Sponsored by:

Community helps raise more than $18 million

Photo provided by United Way of Greenville County

Donors and volunteers with the United Way of Greenville County came together Tuesday to celebrate the impact the organization has had on the Upstate community.

At the Community Awards Celebration, members and businesses from the community were recognized for helping the organization raise $18,236,845 in 2018.

The funding comes from a number of resources, including United Way’s endowment and both community and federal grants. It is also a result of gifts from individual supporters not connected with a workplace campaign.

“While the money is impressive, the work that it enables in our community is most important,” said United Way of Greenville County President and CEO Meghan Barp. “Thank you for continuing to join us in the fight for education, income and health for all.”

Last year, United Way activated 13,000 volunteers to give their time to improve the community, contributing 45,000 volunteer hours with an estimated value of $1.1 million in impact.

Honors Presented at Community Awards Celebration 

  • Photo provided by United Way of Greenville County

    The Spirit Award to Diana Watson for her work leading this year’s campaign, during which she led volunteers on tours of 70 United Way partner agencies.

  • The Advocate of the Year Award to Greenville Chamber President and CEO Carlos Phillips for his leadership and advocacy behind the successful passage of legislation expanding the list of non-violent, low-level offenses eligible for expungement.
  • The Corporate Volunteerism Award to Michelin North America for contributing 1,177 volunteer hours in Greenville County.
  • The Campaign Award of Excellence to 358 companies
  • The Chairman’s Award to 142 companies
  • The Campaign Award of Advancement to 133 companies for achieving a 25 increase in
    employee giving or a 25 percent increase in employee participation.
  • #1 Awards were presented to companies whose outstanding support of United Way placed them first in total employee contributions:
    2 to 24 Employees: Easlan Capital Inc., raising $42,325
    25 to 99 Employees: UBS Financial Services, raising $93,409
    100–199 Employees: AMECO, raising $131,442
    200–499 Employees: UPS Inside Sales, raising $193,816
    500–1,000 Employees: Nutra Manufacturing, raising $127,000
  • The Top 10 Overall Campaigns (combined employee and corporate gifts) were also recognized.
    • They are: Fluor Corporation at $2,678,912, followed by Michelin North America, Prisma Health (formerly Greenville Health System), GE, Greenville County Schools, Publix Super Markets, Bon Secours St. Francis Health System, TD Bank, UPS and County of Greenville.

Sound Bites: February 13, 2019


WHO: The Get Right Band (album release show), w/ Sister Ivy
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15
WHERE: Gottrocks, 200 Eisenhower Drive, Greenville

Asheville, North Carolina’s Get Right Band has built its reputation onstage, playing loose-limbed, expansive jam-style rock with a funky foundation. It’s a style that lends itself to live performance, especially when it comes time for the trio to improvise over a killer groove. Which is why up until now, it was somewhat confusing that the band had put out four studio albums but not a live album. That problem has been solved by the release of “Live in Asheville,” a 13-track dose of what The Get Right Band does best. “It’s something we’ve been talking about for a while,” says singer/guitarist Silas Durocher. “Recording in the studio is really fun for us, but you’re always trying to compensate for the fact that there’s not an audience there. You don’t have that energy that the audience feeds you. There are other advantages to recording, but that’s one of the big disadvantages. A lot of times we’re recording songs that we’ve been playing live and we’re looking for a way to make it engaging without that energy. So it made sense of us to capture the straight-up live experience.”


WHO: Tim McWilliams
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16
WHERE: Smiley’s Acoustic Cafe, 111 Augusta St., Greenville

Photo provided by Red Rover Booking

Whether he’s playing solo, as he will be at Smiley’s Acoustic Cafe, or with his band Redleg Husky, Tim McWilliams displays a dazzling skill on the acoustic guitar, flatpicking traditional tunes and his own material like a modern-day Doc Watson. McWilliams’ grasp of the flatpicking style, and the old-school folk and bluegrass songs that employ it, are signs of a man who dove headfirst into the genre when he discovered it. “I grew up loving the electric blues stuff like Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan,” he says, “and they always talked in interviews about the delta blues singers, which led me into the fingerpicking stuff. And then one day I heard Doc Watson on public radio and loved it. I couldn’t believe that that was just ONE guitar. It sounded so powerful.” McWilliams says he likes the solo show format because it challenges him to make his own guitar sound like more than one instrument. “There’s nothing to hide behind,” he says, “so it pushes me to be rhythmic and make an acoustic guitar sound as cool as possible. It’s a challenge.”

WHO: Parris Bridge (EP release show), w/ Revel in Romance and Where’s Gavin
WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21
WHERE: Radio Room, 110 Poinsett Highway, Greenville

Photo provided

The first thing that jumps out at you about “Dreams,” the new EP by the Boiling Springs band Parris Bridge, is the production. The music, which ranges from heavy modern guitar-rock to more intimate ballads, sounds like it could be on the radio right now, and it’s thanks to a friend of the band’s named Shane Nelson, who recorded Parris Bridge at his own studio. “We’d been talking about getting over to Shane’s studio and recording a few songs,” says guitarist Joshua Bishop, “and he just became our main guy when we started recording.” But even the band was surprised with the polish that Nelson managed to put on their music. “When we heard it back and it was radio quality, that was so encouraging,” says drummer Christian Tucker. “With us being broke college students and not being able to afford to go to Nashville to record, to hear something like that was amazing.” To be honest, though, the band members are selling themselves short when they talk about the EP. Their playing is incredibly tight, and the songs all have catchy hooks and choruses, a testament to the work Parris Bridge did BEFORE going into the studio. “We spent hours and hours perfecting what we wanted to do,” Tucker says, “so that when we got into the studio, we had our rough drafts of the songs all ready.”





Vincent Harris covers the local and regional music scenes for the Greenville Journal. Follow him on Facebook & Twitter @HarrisVince or write to vharris@communityjournals.com.  

Churches: The heartbeat of African-American communities

The Rev. James Speed leads Allen Temple AME Church in positively impacting the community. Photo by Will Crooks.

The monstrosity of slavery birthed something more powerful than slaveowners could’ve ever anticipated. The church.

Black churches rose among the horrors of slavery to allow African-Americans a safe place of spiritual equality and self-expression. Today, churches in Greenville continue to be the nucleus of black communities.

Community impact

The church plays many roles in the 21st-century black community. The Rev. Darian Blue, senior pastor of Nicholtown Missionary Baptist Church, says the church today continues to act, in a sense, as a shelter from injustice and discrimination. 

“While some black churches have moved outside of the communities … it is still a place where people gather to come together, and it’s a safe place,” Blue says. “The black church is still a place that information and brotherhood is still shared.”

The Rev. Darian Blue offers a place of refuge for the Nicholtown community. Photo by Will Crooks.

In addition to being community hubs, churches serve their communities through programs dedicated to providing food, housing, and education. Social trauma, Blue says, is one area that’s too often overlooked.

“What happens when a kid gets shot down the street, but there’s no counselors in the community or there’s no trained people to help them deal with that?” Blue says. “You’re feeling all these emotions. Where do you go to get that out? You come here.”

In Greenville, Blue says gentrification is a positive thing. However, he feels nonblack individuals moving in must infuse themselves in the centerpiece of the community, which is the church. “We’re equals,” Blue says. “White isn’t better than black, and black isn’t better than white.”

The Rev. James Speed of Allen Temple AME Church describes the church as a catalyst for change in the community. “[Church] has been the nuclear point where black folk could gather and come together,” he says. “It was a place where we had corporate ownership.”

Growing up in Allen Temple, Speed saw the church’s influence within the community. “As a child coming here and being exposed to those doctors, those lawyers, those teachers, it instilled in me a desire to push forward and to do better as a person,” Speed says.

Allen Temple. Photo by Will Crooks.

The church offers a place of learning for black youth. It was there that Speed learned the importance of education, which continues to be taught today.

“The church still has that same bond, that same camaraderie, but they’re not as deep,” Speed says. “The church is the greatest gift, I believe.”

Calling them the moral conscience of the community, Speed feels churches should bring out the best in people, preserve truth, and act as catalysts for positive change. “The church has an obligation to be true,” he says.

Churches present a united voice for the black communities they serve. “We will go to City Hall, we will go to County Square, if necessary, to speak truth to power,” Speed says.

Historical significance 

In the 18th century, many African-American slaves converted to Christianity and became baptized, which symbolized membership in the body of Christ. 

Helen Lee Turner, Furman University professor of religion, says slaveowners soon realized the powerful movement taking root from the Christianity of slaves. “This implied more equality that perhaps even white Christians realized,” Turner says. 

Slaves began to recognize an identity in religion outside of slavery. “It was giving them a sense of identity that says, ‘You’re a child of God, you’re not just chattel, you’re not just property,’” she says.

Despite some slaveowners setting rules for slave worship, the African-Americans would gather in “hush harbors” to exercise religious practices. 

Photo by Will Crooks.

“Part of the reason that revival worked so well and why they planted the seed for the importance of churches in the African-American community was that they gave a place where some traditional African forms of religious expression could be worked out,” Turner says. 

African traditions including shouting, clapping, and stomping were released in some of the 18th- and 19th-century Christian revival meetings.

“This worship was a meaningful experience. It provided a place for meaningful experiences of the transcendent in the midst of the drudgery of their lives, and it became very central,” she says. “It became a new identity in freedom.”

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