Anna Gibbs

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Poverty strikes the Popp & Martin Student Union

On Friday, Nov. 11, the Multicultural Resource Center hosted its annual poverty simulation in the Popp & Martin Student Union. Kimberly Turner, director of the Multicultural Resource Center, has been involved with the poverty simulation program for over two years.

“The object of this experience is to sensitize participants to the day-to-day realities of life faced by people with low-incomes and to motivate us to become involved in activities which help to reduce poverty in this country,” said Turner.

Participants are first assigned to a family and given information including their income, possessions and bills. Then the family will attempt to survive four 15-minute weeks of poverty by maneuvering through the community resources. Volunteers act out roles such as banker, pawn broker, police officer, utility collector, teacher, employer and more.

As the “month” progresses, students rush to exchange monopoly money for transportation passes, meet with their social services case worker, attend work, or get the kids to school, all while trying to “pay the bills.” Meanwhile, the loan collector turns over several clusters of chairs, which represents families being evicted from their homes as a consequence for failing to “pay the bills.”

Over-turned chairs representing a family evicted from their home. Photo by Annie Gibbs.
Over-turned chairs representing a family evicted from their home. Photo by Annie Gibbs.

“The hardest part is getting everything done,” said Angel Carter, a freshman participant. “We didn’t eat the whole time, and my kids were in jail.”

At the conclusion of the simulation, students gather around Adjunct Faculty member Dante Bryant with the school of social work. Students share the frustrations they faced within the simulated world. Many felt they couldn’t succeed because the lack of time and resources such as money and transportation. Bryant responds with a fresh dose of reality on poverty happening in the world around us.

Bryant explains that the frustrating limitations of the simulation are the stark reality for the 32.9 million United States citizens who are affected by poverty. Transportation constraints, low wages and lack of inexpensive resources are just a few of the barriers that impoverished community members must overcome. Bryant also shares that most people are likely to remain in the socioeconomic class they are born into.

“This the next generation coming into the workforce,” said Bryant. “These are our next politicians, lawyers, teachers, and police officers. If we can help to educate them on all of these difference social spheres and how they impact people, then we are likely to have a positive impact when they go into the workforce.”

Volunteers Mastewal Gezahegn and Victor Mack believe that all UNC Charlotte students should be required to participate in the poverty simulation. Bryant says that if all students were required to attend this program, along with other topics of the same nature, it would positively change the campus environment and give students a new frame for their education.

“For me, it was really an eye-opener,” said freshman participant Mikalah Hall. “Everybody should have to do this.”

‘Sigh No More,’ music lovers


Photos by Benjamin Robson.

North Carolina concert-goers have been experiencing the effects of the controversial state law known as HB2 or the “bathroom bill,” which is being criticized as ‘anti-LGBT.’ Although HB2 implements many policies, the new law is raising the most contention for stating that transgender people must use the bathroom of their birth gender, rather than their gender identity.

Bruce Springsteen and member of The Beatles Ringo Starr have both cancelled their North Carolina shows in public protest of the law. But sigh no more music lovers, Mumford & Sons decided to take the stage of Charlotte’s Time Warner Cable Arena on Thursday in order to express their views in person amid a stunning performance.

The band opened the sold-out show with 2015 single “Snake Eyes” and followed it with two songs from older albums, including their 2009 hit “Little Lion Man.” Between songs, lead vocalist Marcus Mumford spoke to the audience on behalf of the band to stand against recent intolerance.

“I think that we’ve sort of been feeling an underlying culture of fear that’s creeping into things, where we live and where you guys are,” said Mumford. “And we just want to stand and celebrate really the American values of justice and love. So we’re going to have a justice and love festival with you tonight.”

Mumford went on to say that all of the show’s profits would be donated to a local LGBT organization, a statement which was also published Wednesday via the band’s Facebook page and website.

Mumford gave an inspiring message, but the band’s love centered philosophy was best expressed through the London-based quartet’s remarkable performance. The 20 song setlist kept the entire arena engaged and on their toes with unexpected stunts throughout the show.

The audience was asked to take out lighters or cellphones for the performance of the song “Believe,” creating a radiant backdrop for the band’s electric sound. Later on, the band moved to a smaller stage on the opposite end of the arena to deliver an intimate feeling acoustic set.

But perhaps the biggest highlight of the show was during the performance of “Ditmas.” Mumford left the stage to make his way through the lower aisles of the arena guided by security. He finished his walkabout by heading back to the stage through the standing-only floor section, engulfed into the crowd of fans reaching toward him.

Songs were brought to life by keyboardist Ben Lovett, guitarist Winston Marshall and bassist Ted Dwane. The band played a satisfying mix of music, featuring songs from their newest, more alternative-rock sounding album, “Wilder Mind,” as well as from more folk-inspired albums “Babel” and “Sigh No More.”

The concert ended on a lively note as the crowd moved to high-energy songs “I Will Wait” and “The Wolf.” The evening was made memorable through both the band’s performance as well as their message of acceptance. Perhaps other musicians will follow suit, despite recent political controversy, and say “The Show Must Go On,” rather than leaving North Carolina music lovers hanging up to dry.

Charlotte is just one of the band’s stops on their “An Arrow Through the Heartland” tour, which is being supported with music from Blake Mills. For more information on the band and tour dates, visit http://www.mumfordandsons.com/.

Spring tree planting event offers ‘re-leaf’ from campus construction

Around 150 trees were planted by faculty and student volunteers near the South Village Parking Deck April 5 during the Spring Tree Planting event put on by the UNC Charlotte Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling (OWRR). This event is one of three events taking place in April being sponsored by the OWRR in celebration of Earth Month.

The event was estimated to last for around two hours, during which students and faculty were invited to help plant trees on a volunteer-basis. UNC Charlotte Chancellor Phillip Dubois authorized 90 minutes of release time for employees who wanted to contribute.

According to UNC Charlotte Landscape Specialist Bart Davis, some of the tree varieties planted were Willow Oak, Shumard Oak, Virginia Pine and Magnolia.  Davis said that apart from being ‘good trees,’ availability played a big role in the selection of the trees. Additionally, these tree species were chosen because of the shade and screening they provide.

“The biggest benefits is the replacement of the trees that have been cut down during construction, which helps maintain our status as a Tree Campus USA,” said Amelia Fisher, participation contact for this event as well as construction and demolition recycling coordinator and waste contract administrator.

Tree Campus USA is a national program launched in 2008 sponsored by Arbor Day Foundation that assists universities in establishing and sustaining campus forests. In 2015, UNC Charlotte joined more than 240 campuses nationwide by meeting five standards developed to promote healthy trees and student involvement.

Frank Hogan. Photo by Anna Gibbs.
Frank Hogan. Photo by Anna Gibbs.

Business and Technology Applications Analyst Frank Hogan was able to take time off from his job in student affairs and plant some trees. According to the event website, department supervisor approval is required for faculty and staff members to participate in these Earth Month events.

“I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors,” said Hogan when asked what inspired him to volunteer at this event. “And you can actually watch the trees grow. So in five years, I can come back to campus and see the trees that I’ve planted myself.”

The next events happening in the Earth Month trio are the Spring Campus Cleanup April 13 and the Earth Day Festival April 20. More information on these events can be found here: http://facilities.uncc.edu/our-services/general-services/recycling/news-and-events/campus-clean.

Magic Mike turns skeptics into believers

There are very few things I can think of that are more frightening than trying to impress a room full of college students. And if I had to make a list titled “The Least Likely Things to Excite College Students,” magic would handily make the top three. And so I entered Cone Center and filled in my front-row seat in McKnight Hall with a very cynical mindset, anticipating enduring an hour as long as that clichéd endless kerchief that some guy with too much hair gel won’t stop pulling out of his sleeve.

Am I the only magic Grinch out there? I doubt it, and American magician and illusionist Mike Super himself even acknowledges people’s skeptical attitude towards magic.

“Because my last name is Super, people are rolling their eyes before the show starts,” said Super in a brief interview after the show. “And then I love to come out and they’re actually surprised when they have fun…that’s my favorite part about performing.”

Photo by Anna Gibbs
Photo by Anna Gibbs

Well, Magic Mike, you read my mind. By the time Super’s show was over, I didn’t know what was up or down anymore. Super put on an entertaining show by involving students in his comedy-filled spectacle of illusions and tricks which left the audience wide-eyed and mouths gaping.

Super seized the crowds attention with his unique style of performing, which involved everything from time-travel tricks to predicting the culprit in a “Clue”-themed bit. Through “lavenous” inside jokes and audience assistance, everyone in the room was able to be an active participant in the show.

Photo by Anna Gibbs
Photo by Anna Gibbs

Possibly the most memorable was his “controversial” Voodoo trick, which Super previously performed on America’s Got Talent. During this trick, an audience participant was brought to the stage and instructed to close his eyes so that he would be unaware of what Super was doing. Super then begun manipulating a Voodoo doll in order to get physical results from the participant.

After Super momentarily lit the Voodoo doll’s hands on fire, he revealed to a shocked audience that the participant’s hands were left with black ash on them. As the bit’s finale, Super pricked the doll’s bottom with a large pin. Right on cue, the student immediately jumped out of his seat, backside in hand, with a bewildered look on his face.

Photo by Anna Gibbs
Photo by Anna Gibbs

Super was the winner of the NBC show, “Phenomenon,” which sought find the world’s next magic superstar. He’s also performed for numerous celebrities including Ellen DeGeneres, Kim Kardashian, Jay Leno and Raven Symoné.

“Don’t limit yourself on what you think you can do,” said Super when asked what advice he had for college students. “I do card tricks for a living, which is amazing…dream really, really, really big because you will hit way more than you’re capable of. I’m living proof of it.”

Super did an excellent job of synthesizing comedy and unbelievable illusions into a Dane-Cook-meets-Houdini hybrid performance. Super was able to deliver a memorable evening, and with just a little bit of magic, he managed to turn this cynic into a believer.

You can find out more about Mike Super including tour dates, videos, and social media contact info here: http://www.mikesuper.com/

Parade of Lights illuminates Ovens Auditorium

Neon lights radiate from the columns inside the concert hall at Ovens Auditorium, green fades to blue and then to purple creating a transfixing incandescent show while patrons fill the room. As concert-goers are guided to their seats, a vendor makes his way across the room, selling glow sticks of varying size and intricacy – foreshadowing the show to come.

Parade of Lights hails from Los Angeles and is composed of members Ryan Daly, Anthony Improgo, Michelle Ashley and Randy Schulte. This is the first time the band has been to Charlotte as a complete group to perform and it one of the many stops on their current tour.

As the lights begin to dim, the members of the alt-electro band take their positions. After the crowd is hushed, the band begins to play the song “Feeling Electric” from their 2015 album.  The musicians’ dancing silhouettes are highlighted by smoke and light beams, all moving with the rhythm of the song.

Photo by Anna Gibbs
Photo by Anna Gibbs

The band goes on to play tracks “The Island” and “Burn.” The band isn’t just playing the music- they’re performing. The rhythmic beats and sounds fill the air, along with the band’s uplifting lyrics. During their performance the audience is encouraged to participate by holding their cell phone lights in the air – a possible wink to the traditional practice of holding up lighters. In an interview before the show, the band describes performing in front of an audience as “instant gratification.”

“It’s nice to see people appreciate what we do,” says Daly in an earlier interview with the Niner Times, the lead vocalist and guitarist. “There’s those 30 seconds within the song where you get so into playing that you forget everything else.”

Photo by Anna Gibbs
Photo by Anna Gibbs

Indeed, it’s easy to forget the rest of the world while watching this performance. The audience waves glow sticks in the air, which mix with the streams of light in varying colors pouring from the stage and suddenly the band name “Parade of Lights” has taken on a double meaning. The venue’s luminous atmosphere along with the energetic melody are an ode to life, an emotion-evoking experience.

“We grew up on anthems- like ‘The Breakfast Club,’ the guy gets the girl and then the sun sets,” said Improgo, the drummer of the band. “Subconsciously, that hopeful sound comes through the writing. It’s the movie.”

The band finishes the show with a song titled “Golden.” The lyrics “We’re gonna shake the ground tonight / I lose myself under the lights,” from the closing song summarize the experience of the night.

Parade of Lights is described on their website as a “360 artist” meaning that these musicians do everything from writing and producing to loading their own equipment. Being a self-produced band means more creative freedom and autonomy from the musicians. The group works to make their music versatile enough to be either “fully” performed with lights and synthetic music machines, or broken-down into minimalistic acoustic versions.

“The process is backwards,” said Daly. “We’ll mess with an idea and bounce it back and forth…The song starts on a laptop and the organic parts will come after.”

The band not only undergoes a tedious process to put out the final musical product, but the band’s sound itself has also developed over time. What started out as a very guitar-driven rock sound has transformed with the infusion of other musical influences. The current sound of Parade of Lights still holds the energy of rock music, but incorporates pop-like qualities.

Photo by Anna Gibbs
Photo by Anna Gibbs

“You’ll always excel at what you believe in,” Improgo said after being asked what advice the band with the “do-it-yourself” work ethic could offer UNC Charlotte students who are struggling to find their way in the world. “Trust your instincts,” said Daly. “If you’re not having fun doing it, it’s not what you should be doing”

The band’s passion for what they do becomes obvious during their performance and even more notable through the hard work the group puts into producing their music. The refreshingly hopeful sound and lyrics pay homage to the human spirit, an anthem to play at the end of the day while Judd Nelson throws his fist into the air.

After the completion of their current tour, the band’s main goal is to return home and begin work on their next record. You can listen to Parade of Lights’ popular songs, such as “Golden” and “Feeling Electric,” as well as remixes of the songs, on Spotify.

For more information about Parade of Lights, visit: http://www.paradeoflightsmusic.com/