Megan Bird

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Megan is the News Editor for the Niner Times. She is a sophomore Political Science and Spanish double major. Megan is from Charlottesville, Virginia. She can be reached at news@ninertimes.com

UNC Charlotte student announces candidacy for county commissioner

A second UNC Charlotte student is vying for local office.

Cade Lee announced his candidacy for the District 3 seat of the Mecklenburg County Commissioners on July 15. Lee is a Political Science and International Studies double major from Raleigh. He announced his bid for public office just two months after Gabe Cartagena, also a rising senior at UNC Charlotte, declared his candidacy for Charlotte City Council.

If electected, Lee will serve on the nine-member Board of County Commissioners that acts as the governing body of Mecklenburg County. Six commissioners are elected by district and three commissioners serve at-large. The Board is in charge of the annual county budget, setting the property tax rate and establishing priorities on community needs. According to Lee, those needs are political accountability, education, affordable housing and environmental policies.

Lee is challenging incumbent Democrat George Dunlap, who has served six terms and currently serves as the chairman. Despite Dunlap’s long-time hold over the seat, Lee remains hopeful. He says citizens in District 3 are disillusioned with Dunlap and that he violated state law when he discussed changes to the budget away from public view.

They will face off in the primary on March 3, when voters will also elect their preferred presidential candidate. Lee says he’s hopeful that this will increase voter turnout, which was a mere 11,000 last year in a district of nearly 100,000.

Lee gave up a managerial position at Amelie’s Bakery in order to focus on politics, something he says he first became interested in after the 2016 presidential election. He currently serves as chairman of the College Chapters of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP and founded UNC Charlotte’s chapter of March for Our Lives, an organization that advocates for greater gun regulation. Like Cartagena, he was inspired to run after the  April 30 shooting on UNC Charlotte’s campus. 

It was mostly because after the shooting the president of the [Charlotte] NAACP and I sent out emails to all local elected officials to discuss gun violence, but we didn’t even hear back from half… This year, [Charlotte is] expected to double the amount of homicides that occurred last year, and all but two so far have been committed with a firearm. It’s such a controversial topic that [elected officials are] afraid of how it’s going to affect their votes. We need progressive leaders that are not afraid to stand up for issues that are affecting our community,” said Lee.

Another one of those issues that politicians won’t touch, according to Lee, is modern-day school segregation. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district is the most segregated in North Carolina, and Lee wants to tackle it with a new busing system. He says the system must be fair and observe reasonable transportation time.

“Students shouldn’t be around people who only look like them, especially when we have such a culture of white privilege,” explained Lee. 

The rising senior also wants to expand Charlotte’s greenways. He points out that despite the 2008 greenway plan calling for 129 miles by 2018, Mecklenburg County currently has 47 miles of existing greenway.

If elected in the March 3 primary, Lee will move on to the general election on Nov. 3, 2020.

Cartagena and Lee both believe that judging political experience based on age is equivalent to judging someone’s experience based on the color of their skin. If elected, they would be the youngest members serving for their respective organizations.

After nearly 50 years, Moore Hall comes down

After nearly 50 years of towering over South Village, demolition on Moore Hall has officially begun.

Moore and Sanford will be replaced with a combined residence hall known as Phase XVI. The new building will offer a low-cost alternative to students but a modern addition to campus. The 58.5 million dollar project will be approximately 157,000 square feet with 682 beds and group shower/restroom facilities, according to Associate Director of Capital Projects Jeanine Bachtel. It will be designed by the same company that created Levine Hall, KWK Architects. 

“The new residence hall will be traditional rooms for two students. These will be priced at the lower end of the price range for on-campus housing to help students who are on a tight budget. However, the new hall will be first class in every way with plenty of daylight, study areas, convenient laundry, lounges and meeting rooms. The same level of amenities could not be achieved in a renovated high rise,” Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Philip Jones told the Niner Times in Feb. 2018. 

Demolition began on July 2 and will take 8-10 weeks. Sanford Hall will remain open until Phase XVI is completed and open for residents. Construction of the new residence hall is scheduled from Oct. 2019 until June 2021 and will open in the fall of 2021.

In the meantime, Bachtel says, “The construction site will be fenced off from the surrounding Sanford and Levine Residence Halls which will be occupied during construction.” 

In December 2019, concern rose after Housing and Residence Life issued a statement warning students to find back up housing plans in case on-campus space filled up. In Jan. 2019, the Niner Times confirmed that housing had reached 99 percent capacity.

John Storch, Director for Facilities and Planning of Housing and Residence Life, assured students that everyone who applied for on-campus housing prior to June 1 will be assigned a room for the 2019 fall semester.

The loss of Moore Hall has been planned for in our occupancy projections during the planning of the Housing Master Plan build-out,” explained Storch. “Housing has had occupancy changes up and down throughout the entire implementation of the Housing Master Plan as buildings were demolished or renovated.  The students who lived in Moore Hall last year were transitioned into other housing spaces for the spring and were given priority to return for this academic year before we begin placing new admitted/transfer students for this fall. Students who wanted to continue to live with us have already selected the room they wanted to live in that was available in our inventory.” 

Student, bartender and city council candidate Gabe Cartagena

It is not abnormal for a student at UNC Charlotte to work full-time while pursuing their Bachelor’s degree. As a bartender who works night shifts, senior Gabe Cartagena is familiar with that struggle. What’s far less common — and in fact, unprecedented — is launching your own campaign for city council at the same time.

On May 24 Cartagena filed papers to officially run for the District 4 seat of Charlotte City Council, previously held by Democrat Greg Phipps. Since then, Cartagena has been outspoken about abortion, race relations, gun control, and immigration, largely taking to Twitter as his political platform. He has also called for an early voting site on the UNC Charlotte campus and holster monitors for CMPD officers.

News Editor Megan Bird sat down with Cartagena to discuss his background, life as a student, response to April 30 and visions for the future. If elected, Cartagena would be the youngest person and only Latino on the Council.

 

This interview has been edited and condensed.

 

Bird: Let’s start out with an introduction. Can you describe yourself and tell us a little about your interests besides politics?

Cartagena: I am 21 and a political science major. I work as a bartender full time as well as going to school full time. I don’t have a lot in the way of free time because I’m working nights and have class during the day. I guess my form of entertainment for myself is consuming food. The ‘what you do for fun’ question always gets me a little off guard because most of my life is spent doing some sort of community organizing; that’s what I do. I like to exist in my community. I like to be an active member of my community. So I guess what I find the most fulfilling in my life and therefore what I find fun is actively organizing and playing a part in the city.

Bird: Now that you’ve brought us to that topic, what has your involvement been in organizing within Charlotte?

Cartagena: So I started organizing here actually before I moved here. When I was a senior in high school I got involved with a presidential campaign that at the time was polling around four percent. I did what I could to volunteer, tabling at Food Truck Friday when I wasn’t even old enough to vote. But that presidential candidate ended up doing pretty well;  his name was Bernie Sanders. I met with the state director and she gave me a chance to meet with and speak for Senator Sanders, and that’s where people in Charlotte came to actually know me. Later on, I did organizing work with the party. I was elected as the 3rd Vice Chair for the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party right after being elected to the 2016 Democratic National Convention. I’ve been in and out with other liberal and progressive groups in the city but haven’t been able to do very serious organizing work over the past year because I actually had to spend a lot of time working on my GPA. I had briefly considered running for City Council about a year ago actually before I really realized what my junior year was going to take out of me. But you know, then April 30 happened.

Bird: Just to backtrack a little bit, you mentioned that you moved to Charlotte. So where did you grow up and how long have you been living in Charlotte?

Cartagena: Whenever someone asks me where I grew up I say North Carolina because I have moved around North Carolina the vast majority of my life. I lived in Florida for some time and lived in Washington State, but within NC I lived in Stanly County, Burke County, Catawba County, Mecklenburg County and Gaston County. I went to high school in Gastonia, middle school in Stanly County and elementary school in Catawba County.

Bird: That’s quite a list.

Cartagena: Yeah I’m from North Carolina but I do consider myself to be a Charlottean. I’ve been here for four years now and I understand that’s not a very long time, but it’s four of my most important developmental years I’d like to say. And so who I am as a result is because of Charlotte.

Bird: So did you move here for school?

Cartagena: Yeah, I really chose UNC Charlotte because I wanted to live in Charlotte.

Bird: And why did you decide to run for City Council?

Cartagena: I care a lot about things like zoning, housing and attracting jobs to Charlotte and early childhood education. But on a more philosophical level,  I’m really running because I’m disappointed in the condition of our government. The obsession over national level media and then the subsequent neglect of our local politics has led to people running for office and winning who either don’t actually represent the community well, aren’t prepared for office or aren’t in it for the right reasons. I’ll readily admit that I understand there’s a level of ego that goes into all politics, but especially in the city of Charlotte, it seems that all too often it’s all about ego. I’m not okay with that. I think that mindset has led to complacency and inaction and this collective mentality from legislators at all levels that you can do or not do whatever you would like because so long as you are registered for the correct party, there will be no repercussions for it. And now there’s an empty seat because the incumbent has retired, so really we have to ask ourselves the question “if not me, who?” and “if not now, when?” as much of a cliché as that is. I also want to represent the 29,000 students in the University area because the city looks at us as temporary residents and ignores us. No one has stepped up to actually be our voice.

Bird: So just to summarize, would you say your main reasons for running are the state of politics today, complacency and inaction?

Cartagena: Those would definitely be my main reasons. I could sit down and go on and on and on for hours about all of the reasons, but those are definitely my main ones.

Bird: You briefly mentioned before the events of April 30. Can you tell us about the organization that you formed in response? Was it your idea?

Cartagena: It was my idea. The idea of Real Change Now was a response to a quote from Susan Harden, District 5 Mecklenburg County Commissioner, from the Rally for Remembrance. Susan said that in order for us to actually effect change, we have to get out and vote. I was mad at that statement. I sat there and I looked at five people whom I had voted for sit there and tell me that in order to solve my problems I needed to vote. My response was, well I did vote and I voted for you so what are you going to do about it? So I tweeted at her and she responded asking for a list of wants, needs and demands which I didn’t think she actually expected to be done. So I tweeted back and I said, yeah, okay, I’m going to make you a list of wants, needs and demands and I’m going to give it to you at the next Commissioners meeting. She retweeted that and essentially said okay. And I was like well shit, I have to do this. And so I tweeted out a call for action and asked for people to come out and share their ideas for how we can actually stop this. I didn’t know what to expect, but on about 12 hours notice at 9 AM on the day after the Rally for Remembrance, there were about 12 people who showed up to the room and we all worked anywhere between 9 and 13 hours. Most of these people were people I’d never met before.

Bird: How many students do you have now?

Cartagena: I believe 60, but they’re not all students.

Bird: So it’s open to the community?

Cartagena: Yeah. So I actually have a few faculty and staff members from UNC Charlotte as well as a teacher from CMS.

Bird: What is the organization’s goal?

Cartagena: We have a broadly stated goal to combat gun violence in our community. So we look at violence as, generally speaking, a public policy issue. We are very concerned about the social situations that surround gun violence. So we want to actually come up with nuanced and tangible policy changes at every level of government to actually enact what we are dubbing “real change.” We get a lot of rhetoric from politicians who say either “guns don’t kill people; people kill people” or “it’s people that are using the guns to kill people.” It’s a circular debate about whether or not guns are a problem. And so we want to take a step back and think, yeah, okay. People kill people; that’s true. But people kill people with guns. So what can we do to stop people from killing people with guns? What can we realistically do at every level of government to stop this? The surrounding issues are things like economic anxiety, early childhood education and the ability for people to actually express their emotions and not use violence as a form of expression. So I think what the city can do, what the School Board can do, what the County Commission can do is circumvent the state because the state is not acting and the state probably won’t act. We want to work with smaller levels of government to enact real policies because we’re really tired of empty rhetoric.

Bird: So whether gun control is one of your main issues or not, what would you say are your three main issues concerning Charlotte?

Cartagena: This is gonna be one of the hardest questions for me to answer consistently because every day I want to talk about ten different things. What I’m really going to talk about in this campaign is affordable housing and everything that surrounds that: zoning, development, land use and cost of living. I think that our ability to exist in the city is inseparable from the affordability of our homes. When housing prices go up and wages don’t go up with that, we start to see more and more social anxiety and worse living conditions.

I also want to talk about transportation and connectivity. I think that part of having a healthy community and city is being able to commute reasonably quickly and affordably. So my most comprehensive plans will probably be about transportation. I want to drastically reduce the prices of weekly, monthly and annual passes for the light rail to as low of a cost as the city can afford. I have no issue with a premium for tourists or the rate for single day passes. But I think it is a little ridiculous that our weekly, monthly and annual passes don’t actually save you a lot of money. There’s no reason why a commuter in Charlotte should be paying more than $50 for transportation for a year because that’s essentially the same rate as before.  

So the third issue is probably going to be job acquisition, so recruiting employers to Charlotte who are ready and willing to employ the workforce that exists here. That also means expanding the workforce that exists here by improving our education programs and making sure that if you were born here, you will receive an education that is competitive. Because if you live in Charlotte, if you’re born in Charlotte or if you’re educated in Charlotte and you would like to stay in Charlotte to work, then you should be able to work at the finance firms that exist here. If Amazon came, we should have a ready and available workforce for Amazon. We need to prepare them with the foundation that they need to actually step out into the competitive Charlotte economy. We have the fastest growing economies in the United States and we need to be ready for that.

Bird: I just have two more questions here before we finish up. You talk a lot about the issue of equity on your Twitter, and I saw one tweet in particular where you said, “I’m a gay brown man who grew up in the South.” How has your identity affected your decision to run and your policy choices now?

Cartagena: I was born in a multilingual household. My family has both been very, very poor and pretty well off. I don’t think at any point we’ve ever been particularly wealthy. Growing up, I’ve faced different types of adversity depending on where I was living. In Catawba County, I faced much more discrimination for being Latino then I ever did for being queer. When I moved to Stanly County, people would literally stop me and pray for me because I was gay. I experienced a lot of the general bullying both from my peers and from the adults around me. People literally looked at me and called me an abomination. So with how I’ve grown up, I think we should take seriously the claim that all of us are born equal, and we should take seriously the claim that all of us deserve the best that this society can give us. So whenever I talk about equity and whenever I talk about my vision for this city or the state or the country, I’m talking about a place where you can go to school and exist. You shouldn’t be singled out for something that you cannot control. Oftentimes what that translates into is that you’re paid less because you’re black; you’re paid less because you’re a woman. You’re looked at as lesser because how we’ve been trained our whole lives is that if you are not the caricature of a great white well-to-do guy, then somehow you don’t deserve the same amount. And that is wrong for me and that influences every decision that I make and intend to make.

Bird: Thank you for speaking about your experience with discrimination; I know that can be hard. So lastly, what would you say to someone who might tell you you are too young or inexperienced for the position?

Cartagena: I mean if people think I’m too young or inexperienced they’re probably not going to vote for me anyway. If my age is what makes me too inexperienced then that same argument can be applied to one of my opponents for being a woman, or one of my other opponents for being black. It’s the same argument and if someone in Charlotte actually tries that argument with me, I just don’t think it will go over well.

 

Cartagena will first face a primary on September 10, followed by a primary runoff on October 8 and finally the general election for mayor and all 11 seats on November 5.

 

 

 

 

 

The three-letter controversy: Drop the ‘UNC’

Recent debate at UNC Charlotte has largely centered on the issue of names. From the controversial “Jerry Richardson” stadium to the University’s very own name, students are expressing their discontent.

The longtime movement to drop the “UNC” is back with force after NBA player Joe Harris mistakenly pledged his trophy to the “University of Charlotte” for letting him practice in their gym. This time, students are signing a petition to show Chancellor Dubois and the Board of Trustees that they’re serious.

The petition, created anonymously on Change.org, implores the Board of Trustees to “Remove the ‘UNC’ from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.” It currently has 2,484 signatures with a goal of 2,500.

The petition includes a long explanation for the #droptheUNC movement.

The author claims that “UNC” stunts the University’s success. Although UNC Charlotte is the fastest growing institution in the UNC system, it is often mistaken for a satellite campus of UNC Chapel Hill or a community college because of the ending “CC.” The creator of the petition acknowledges that “UNC” helped to establish UNC Charlotte during its early years; however, now “it’s unnecessary and confusing.”

For years, students and alumni have expressed their support for the name change through social media. Today, multiple Twitter accounts have formed in support of the name change, including University of Charlotte, Name Confusion Log and 49 Shades of Drop the UNC. The popular account Agent49, with over 2,000 followers, is also an advocate for the movement.

On Reddit, students and alumni are more divided. Many complain about the confusion with UNC Chapel Hill, while others point out that the association bolsters UNC Charlotte’s prestige.

UNC Charlotte adopted the three letters when it was absorbed into the UNC system in 1965. Previously known as Charlotte College, the General Assembly approved the name change and it remains fixed in Chapter 116 of the North Carolina General Statutes. According to the Chancellor’s office, “Changing the name of UNC Charlotte would require the support of the University’s Board of Trustees and the UNC System Board of Governors before making a request of the General Assembly.”

7 schools in the UNC system carry the “UNC”; 10 do not.

The Chancellor has not commented on this recent push to change the name, but it appears he hasn’t changed his stance since 2018 when he told the Student Senate, “I’ve been passively against it since 2005 when I became chancellor.”

Buffie Stephens, Director of Issues Management and Media Relations, confirmed that “The University is not engaged in any initiative to change the name of UNC Charlotte.”

The student government association will conduct a poll on March 26 and 27 to gauge student opinion on the matter. Until then, the “UNC” remains.

Lynching display outside of Rowe Recital Hall

On Dec. 11, someone used a noose to hang what appears to be a sculpture of a white body dangling from a tree. The display is clearly intended to depict a lynching. According to an email that UNC Charlotte sent to all students and staff, the Department of Police and Public Safety conducted an investigation and determined that the display was a end-of-semester art project submitted by a student of color. It is still unclear whether the student was permitted to publicly display the art project and why the student chose to do so. The hanging object has since been removed.

 

Lynching depiction outside of Rowe

 

Although conceivably unrelated, the display came a day after the Student Government Association released a statement regarding the “Silent Sam” statue. The SGA sided with the UNC Chapel Hill Student Government in condemning the Board of Trustees’ decision to reinstall the confederate statue after it was toppled by students last year. UNC Charlotte Student Body President Niayai Lavien wrote, “Silent Sam was not simply a statue, but a source of harm and discomfort for students of color through its history on their campus.”

 

Lynching depiction outside of Rowe

 

UNC Charlotte stated, “The representation of a figure being lynched is hurtful, threatening and offensive.”

This article will be updated as more details are revealed about the situation.

A Sponge’s Impact: Reflecting on ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’

Millennial humor is a strange thing; just take a look at the most recent memes and you will quickly see how absurd, chaotic and seemingly random our sense of humor is. Why is that? The Nickelodeon animated series “SpongeBob SquarePants” has to play some role in the formation of who we are as a generation. A cartoon based around a talking sea sponge who lives in a pineapple and works as a fry cook is a wild concept for a television series, but the jokes that come from the individual episodes shine a light on where our humor comes from. Even as adults, the millennial generation just can’t seem to move past this iconic series as reaction images and memes from the show seem to pop up constantly on our social media timelines. There are also plenty of quotes that find themselves in conversation and in social media bios.

Following the death of “SpongeBob” creator Stephen Hillenburg on Nov. 26, the Internet created countless tributes and many shared how they were personally impacted by the series and its band of lovable characters. To pay tribute to Hillenburg and the wonderful world he created and its timeless legacy, four Niner Times editors have selected their favorite episodes to share just what this sea sponge means to them.

Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon/Viacom Media Networks.

“Pizza Delivery”

Adulthood is finally realizing that not only is Squidward justified in his anger, but that you may also be Squidward yourself. There’s nothing more relaxing to me than going home after a long day of school and work, but it isn’t always that simple. In this classic episode, SpongeBob and Squidward are tasked with delivering a pizza, which Mr. Krabs has suddenly decided to start selling as a means to make more money. Being that this is “SpongeBob SquarePants,” Squidward is relentlessly tortured throughout the episode during what should have been a simple delivery by the two losing their boat and ending up in an undersea tornado. Between the “Krusty Krab Pizza” song that SpongeBob sings and Squidward’s desperation to eat said pizza after becoming lost, there are so many hilarious moments and jokes packed into this episode. The standout line and my personal favorite quote comes as they finally reach the customer’s house and realize they have forgotten one important part of his order: “How am I supposed to eat this pizza without my drink?!” This just adds to the absurdity of the episode and the series as a whole. And who could forget the “big, beautiful, old rock” that the “pioneers used to ride for miles?”

Jeffrey Kopp, Editor-in-Chief

Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon/Viacom Media Networks.

“Rock Bottom”

The greatest SpongeBob episodes are nonsensical, clever, and, yes, social commentaries. The astutely named “Rock Bottom” from the first season meets all of these requirements in the weirdest way. It starts when Patrick and SpongeBob take the wrong bus on the way home and end up in Rock Bottom, the abyssal zone of the ocean. They are coming from Glove World…yep, a glove-themed amusement park. Patrick immediately catches the next bus home, leaving SpongeBob to fend for himself in the dark, strange area. After numerous unsuccessful attempts to get on the bus, SpongeBob goes to the bus station where he waits for hours, only to be told the next bus won’t arrive until the morning. He goes back outside and meets a frightening anglerfish who appears to only communicate through spitting noises. SpongeBob tries to speak with him, but the anglerfish can’t understand his “accent” — speaking without spitting. SpongeBob grows increasingly frustrated and wary of the fish, but in the end, he is the one to retrieve SpongeBob’s balloon from Glove World, which ultimately helps him float home.

The best part of this episode is the concept of Glove World, made even funnier because it takes no real role in the plot. Patrick and Spongebob could have been coming from anywhere — the store, a friend’s house, etcetera. Why include this random aspect of the episode? Perhaps the obsession with anything glove-shaped is a commentary on consumerism, just as the bus station could be a criticism of bureaucracy or the interaction with the spitting anglerfish an analogy to xenophobia. Or perhaps it is just SpongeBob, and we need not take the talking sea sponge and starfish that wear clothes and go to a beach in the ocean at anything other than face value.

-Megan Bird, News Editor

Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon/Viacom Media Networks.

“Club SpongeBob”

Almost every episode from the first three seasons of SpongeBob are iconic, classic pieces of cinematic history. And while I believe they, as a whole, form one of the many foundational chains in the block of what established our generation’s sense of humor, a personal favorite episode of mine would have to be the “Club SpongeBob.” This episode is among one of my top ranks because it is utterly ridiculous. It also features some of the most iconic jokes of the entire series. The flawed, absurd and ludicrous logic presented in it makes absolutely no sense and it sets the stage for a downright comical experience. Why do SpongeBob and Patrick spend an entirety of three days stuck in “Club SpongeBob” without asking for help? Why do they listen to a “Magic Conch Shell” toy, and why do they literally nothing to get out of the forest, just because it told them to? How does that plan even work? How does there just so happen to be a plane overhead that releases food magically into a perfect picnic around them? Just when you think the episode has finally reached its climax with a park ranger coming in to save them and no more idiocy can be had, said ranger also ends up being a follower of the Magic Conch and has brought along his own. Squidward seems to be the only sane voice of reason in this episode, and watching him get driven to the brink of insanity by SpongeBob and Patrick’s shrewd logic actually working for their benefit is what really cranks up the humor in this episode.

I felt like I spiritually related to Squidward throughout this entire episode, from the start when he gets offended by SpongeBob and Patrick not letting him into their club to the end when he gets riled up trying to understand how everyone except for him is getting good favors from this “all-knowing shell.” The script is incredible; the jokes are incredible; everything about this episode is just incredible. Sometimes I too find myself wanting to ask the Magic Conch for advice on my life.

-Pooja Pasupula, Photo Coordinator

Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon/Viacom Media Networks.

“Band Geeks”

Long before I even started marching band in high school, “Band Geeks” stood as my favorite episode of “SpongeBob SquarePants.” It has humor all throughout, with standout moments like Patrick’s inquiry on whether mayonnaise was classified as an instrument, which alone may be the series’ most iconic line. I think what pushes it to the top, though, is the spotlight on Squidward, and not just that, but the fact that the main gang of characters rally behind him, resulting in the episode ending in his favor (which I think is the only time that ever happens for him in the entire series). The episode also makes use of pretty much all of the major characters as well as side ones like Plankton, Mrs. Puff, Pearl and even Larry the Lobster. Watching the group fail miserably at trying to be musicians is hilarious throughout, though when they come together at the end, it results in one of the greatest moments in television history. The performance of “Sweet Victory” (David Glen Eisley) is just so out of left field and amazing that it remains just as iconic to this day. Overall, this episode excels at incorporating the whole cast, solid band humor, the greatest halftime performance of all-time, and the sweet satisfaction of Squidward’s rare success being rubbed in Squilliam Fancyson’s face.

-Noah Howell, Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor

To be Lumbee and American

“A lot of people don’t realize Natives are all around you; it’s like we’re hidden in plain sight.”

Brittany Hunt, a PhD student in curriculum and instruction at UNC Charlotte, speaks frankly about what it means to be Native. She answers questions about her background with a clear, serious voice and prideful eyes.

Hunt is a member of the Lumbee Tribe, the largest tribe in North Carolina and east of the Mississippi River. Its 60,000 members are concentrated in Robeson County near the Lumber River. The Lumbee name is well known in North Carolina, but beyond state borders, the tribe is largely unknown.

Brittany Hunt

The federal government is in part culpable for this; it has denied federal recognition to the Lumbee Tribe since 1888. The 1956 Lumbee Act acknowledges the nation as Native but still precludes them from receiving benefits normally enjoyed by those tribes who are federally recognized. This means that although Lumbee people are Native according to their culture, birth certificates and language, they cannot claim their ethnicity on federal forms or job applications.

Hunt says, “Recognition is not about proving to the world that we’re Native because we already know and believe that we are. But it gives certain political advantages.”

These privileges include things like preference on applications, scholarships, service through the Indian Health Service and the right to operate a casino. Despite the benefits, there is disagreement within the Lumbee community about the importance of federal recognition.

“We have done a lot of things to deserve federal recognition, but we didn’t do these things in order to get recognized…it’s superficial,” explains junior architecture major, Samuel Woods.

Woods speaks softly and intentionally. He is passionate about activism within his tribe. “It’s important to check people on their stuff,” he explains, regarding misconceptions and stereotypes of Native culture.

Samuel Woods

To date, 573 tribes are federally recognized while 200 are not. The Cherokee are the only federally recognized tribe in North Carolina while the other seven only have state recognition. North Carolina recognized the Lumbee Tribe in 1885 when they were known as the Croatan. Part of why the federal government refuses to grant these benefits to the Lumbee people and so many other groups is because of ambiguity in their history.

As Hunt explains, “The government committed paper genocide against Natives and many ended up losing their heritage. The government requires you prove history on paper. They strip you of this history and then expect you to prove it with records.”

Some allege that the tribe originated from the Lost Colony of Roanoke, although Hunt says this has been disproved. According to the Lumbee website, they are an amalgamation of various Siouan, Algonquian and Iroquoian speaking tribes.

Hence, the federal government struggles to define who is “Native enough” in the Lumbee community and who deserves the benefits that accompany recognition.

Defining Lumbee, however, goes far beyond the purview of the government.

“It’s ironic that the government is trying to define being Native when if they felt at all what it’s like to be Native they would know it doesn’t have to do with blood. We don’t have a long known history in comparison to other tribes, but that does not mean we don’t have the same sense of identity,” says sophomore Biology major Soleil Maynor.

Maynor speaks openly and fervently about her tribe. Her thoughtful answers and small nods indicate that she wants you to listen to what she has to say.  

“…and it kind of revalidates to me that race is a social construct.” she concludes.

Soleil Maynor

One could define being Lumbee by its traditions. The tribe hosts a Lumbee homecoming each July for about 10,000 people. Religion is also extremely important for them; some maintain those that they practiced before colonization while many others are Christian.

For members of the tribe, it seems that the definition of Lumbee is simple. “If you’re raised in the Lumbee community, you know what it means to be Lumbee, and you are Lumbee.” explains Maynor.

In the 1920s, anthropologist Carl Seltzer attempted to define “Native” by measuring physical characteristics of the Lumbee people. He put pencils in people’s hair and concluded that if the pencil fell, that person was Native. He only found that 22 out of the 209 people he studied fit his definition of “Native.”

Hunt explains, “It’s almost impossible for us to be Native to outsiders because people have misconceptions of what Native looks like. They think it is long, straight dark hair, high cheekbones and brown eyes.”

Language is perhaps one of the most distinctive attributes of a Lumbee person. Although their original language is lost, in part due to its criminalization at one point, they speak a unique dialect. Many perceive it as a Southern accent, but as Hunt says, “It’s much more than that. When I hear a Lumbee speak, I would know she’s Lumbee.”

Maynor agrees. “I could overhear someone talking and know right away that they’re Lumbee.” she said.

Because the dialect is so strong, many Lumbee people learn to downplay their accents.

“I know that code switching is common, but it’s sad for me when [my accent] is perceived as dumb, even by people in the community. A lot of people don’t see it as a dialect; they see it as speaking incorrectly. My aunt has lived in Charlotte for over 30 years and she doesn’t speak in our dialect at all and sometimes she even corrects me.” said Maynor.

Lumbee people also extract much of their identity from their land. They are highly concentrated in Robeson County, which is among the most dangerous and impoverished in the state. Because the area creates such a strong sense of community, it can be difficult to leave.

Woods says that 75 percent of his friends were Lumbee before coming to UNC Charlotte, where he only knows a few other Native people.

“I definitely feel like one percent of the population at UNC Charlotte and I definitely want to find a Native community here so I don’t have to feel like an outsider.” added Maynor.

The University does not report how many Lumbee students it has, but Native students do in fact make up less than one percent of the student body.

Discrimination is unfortunately another shared experience of Lumbee people, especially for those who leave their majority-Native hometowns.  

Maynor describes her experience of racism as, “when people ask or assume my ethnicity, and then act surprised and say ‘oh that’s so cool’ like it’s a novelty…I am the opposite of foreign because I am indigenous.”

Despite obstacles their nation has faced, the Lumbee people have not let the federal government or anyone else define them. They have shared successes, like opening the nation’s first Native university, and they have fostered a close-knit community, all without federal recognition.

When it comes down to it, Hunt says, “Lumbee is language; Lumbee is culture; Lumbee is family and Lumbee is land.”

Haven49: Worth the wait?

After three months of delays, students have finally moved into the Haven49 apartment complex. The original move-in date was pushed from Aug. 14 to Nov. 10 as the company struggled to finish construction and pass inspections. Tenants relocated to hotels, couches and homes far away from campus while they waited for the occupancy approval of their new apartments. Many accrued over $1,000 in stipend money as compensation for the major inconvenience.

Haven49 is an 887-bed/332-unit mid-rise apartment complex developed to house UNC Charlotte students. It is owned by Atlanta-based Haven Campus Communities and is the newest off-campus housing addition to the University community. The fall launch of Haven49 was widely anticipated and was to provide residents with state of the art technology and facilities, including a fitness center (which is still under construction), tanning room, resort-style pool and cabanas.

Construction workers and residents attributed the delays to poor management on behalf of Spire, the construction company that managed the project. As Haven grew more desperate, they hired outside contractors for assistance.

Many broke their leases in retaliation to the two month delay. However, none of these students have received reimbursement for the rent they already paid. Among those waiting for reimbursement is Spencer Gallimore, who filed a complaint with the NC Department of Justice claiming he is entitled to $2,700. Haven has hired a Georgia-based attorney to represent them for such rent-dispute cases.

But for those who stayed loyal to Haven, was the wait worth it?

Haven resident Gianna Agostino told the Niner Times, “There are nice parts but a lot is wrong, especially considering there were so many delays.”

Posts on the “Victims of Haven49” Facebook page, originally intended for students to commiserate and share information during the delays, have affirmed this. One of the major complaints of the group concerns trash in the hallways. Haven offers a trash collection service that has apparently been abused and left the hallways filled with garbage.

Agostino added, “My floors are scratched, my furniture is damaged and my fire alarms are faulty. The neighbors have also been rowdy and make messes with their dogs and trash.”

The “smart apartments” include an Amazon Echo, a smart HDTV and an app to control the lights, temperature and locks. Many of the “Victims of Haven49” say these features do not function properly, if at all.

As the fall semester comes to a close, many students are considering signing leases for the following year. Haven has not posted its prices yet and will not be accepting applications until December. While its amenities and technology will lure in many people, others surely will not forget the transgressions of the past few months.


Photos by Pooja Pasupula.

 

Click here for the Spanish version of this article.

Sports analyst, journalist and activist Jemele Hill

On Oct. 30, widely esteemed journalist and activist Jemele Hill inspired hundreds of Charlotte students and community members. She engaged the crowd with a broad range of topics, including her experience as a woman of color in a white-male dominated field, her work as an activist and the importance of voting.

Hill specializes in sports journalism, a field that presents obstacles for women. She got her start at the Raleigh News & Observer, then moved to Detroit Free Press and later the Orlando Sentinel. She joined ESPN in 2006, where she was a co-anchor on SportsCenter with Michael Smith. Now Hill works as a staff writer for The Atlantic.

Hill’s talk at UNC Charlotte capitalized on sexism in male-dominated fields. She told students, “People think your ability to know and understand sports is directly linked to your genitalia. As a woman, and I think this isn’t just limited to sports; a lot of times you have to show what you are so they can stop looking at you for what you aren’t.”

She explained how this constant pressure can be deleterious to a woman’s self-image. “You just have to get used to a different level of scrutiny. You can sometimes internalize that and think that you can’t make a mistake. Don’t feel that you have to be perfect because men certainly don’t feel that way.”

Sam Palian, Sports Editor for the Niner Times, says she rarely experiences sexsim in her job. Her staff is uniquely diverse, consisting of 40 percent women. However, she said, “Sometimes coaches will say ‘oh that was a great question!’ as if they are surprised. I never thought of it as sexism, but sometimes I wonder if they actually mean that was a great question.”

Hill has established herself as a controversial figure in the journalism field. In 2008, she was suspended from ESPN for comparing the Boston Celtics to Adolf Hitler. “I showed very poor judgment in the words that I used. I pride myself on an understanding of, and appreciation for, diversity — and there is no excuse for the appalling lack of sensitivity in my comments,” she said in an official statement.

Perhaps the most famous — or for some, notorious — controversy of Hill’s career was a Tweet about President Trump after the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville: Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself with other white supremacists” and “Trump is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime. He is a direct result of white supremacy. Period” she wrote. President Trump fired back, claiming that ESPN’s ratings “tanked” because of Hill.

Hill stands by her decision to criticize President Trump. She told a UNC Charlotte student, “I thought I was saying water is wet. I didn’t really think or consider that this would have a negative impact on my career. I knew it was going to put me in a difficult spot with ESPN, but I certainly didn’t think it would derail my career.”

According to Jemele Hill, a little backlash is an inherent part of journalism. “Journalists are supposed to be the disrupters. They’re supposed to be the agitators. That was why I became a journalist,” she said.

Hill left ESPN with a $5 million buyout right after the Tweet, breaking her five-year contract.

Continuing her work as an activist, Hill emphasized the importance of voting during her speech to UNC Charlotte. She referenced the Florida mayoral race between Andrew Gillum, who she supports, and Ron DeSantis as an example that every vote matters.

Hill’s speech ultimately captured what she is already known for: journalism and activism. Looking over a crowd of mostly people of color, Hill implored these students to pressure newspapers across the country to diversify. Only 16.6% of the American news workforce is made up of people of color. 82% of all sports reporters are white men.

Jemele Hill has made it a priority to change these numbers by boldly integrating activism with sports journalism. Hill closed with a quote from Ida B. Wells that sums up this drive for change: “I’d rather go down in history as one lone Negro who dared to tell the government that it had done a dastardly thing than to save my skin by taking back what I said.”

On-campus arrest

On Monday, Oct. 29, a 25-year-old black male was arrested and taken into custody for allegedly selling drugs and trespassing on campus. A video from the popular Snapchat account only_49ers showed seven police officers drag the man off of a bench and wrestle him to the ground.

UNC Charlotte Chief of Police Jeffrey Baker said that the man was “combative and impaired on drugs.” So much so, in fact, that the jail required his hospitalization before commitment into the facility.

Video courtesy of only_49ers via Snapchat.

Chief Baker defended the presence of the seven officers, explaining, “We use as many officers as possible to safely take an individual into custody, especially when a subject is impaired on drugs.”

The non-student also came into trouble for trespassing on campus several months ago.

Butler High School student fatally shot

On Monday morning, a student at Butler High School in Matthews was shot during a fight with another student. The victim, 16-year-old Bobby McKeithen, was transported to Carolinas Medical Center where he eventually died. The assailant, 16-year-old Jatwan Cuffie, was taken into police custody.

The altercation occurred in a crowded hallway. An anonymous source who was friends with McKeithen told the Niner Times that the fight had been scheduled for that morning after one of the students allegedly attacked the other over the weekend.

Police apprehended the gun and placed the school on a brief lock-down. Parents gathered outside of the school hoping to take their children home. A video posted by Butler student Josua Cherry showed students gathered in the hallway yelling “Let us out.”

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox commented, “We’re incredibly sad and we’re sorry for this family, but we’re also sorry for the young person who thought the only way to solve this problem was with a gun.”

Man behind the pipe bombs is a former UNC Charlotte soccer player

Since Monday, more than a dozen pipe bomb packages have been sent to prominent critics of President Trump. Cesar Sayoc Jr., 56, of Aventura, Florida, was taken into custody Friday morning by F.B.I. agents for the wave of mail bombs. WSOC Channel 9 confirmed that Sayoc played soccer for UNC Charlotte in 1983.

Among the recipients were former President Obama, former Vice President Biden and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. All of the packages contained the return address of South Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

None of the devices exploded. There is some question as to whether they were poorly manufactured or never intended to detonate.

Sayoc, a registered Republican, has posted photos wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat and his white van is plastered with Trump stickers. He appears to run a pro-Republican Twitter account in the name of Cesar Altieri. Among other anti-Democrat propaganda, the account advocates the false claim that the survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting are actors.

Sayoc was charged with five federal crimes, including mailing an incendiary device and threatening a former president. He faces up to 58 years in prison according to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He will be prosecuted in New York City following an initial appearance in Florida.

Sayoc already has a criminal history with over 10 charges dating to 1991. The charges include felony theft, drug and fraud charges. In 2002 Sayoc threatened to bomb Florida Power and Light, stating “it would be worse than September 11.”

The suspect was identified from a fingerprint and several traces of DNA left behind on the envelopes. He crafted the bombs from PVC pipe, batteries, a small clock and wiring.

President Trump’s reactions to the bombs have been fickle. Just today, he complained that the “‘bomb’ stuff” has deterred Republican voters but later celebrated on Twitter all of those who helped solve the mystery.

Guide to the midterm elections

The 2018 midterm elections have been especially contentious as Democrats gear up to take back Congress and Republicans hope to maintain their hold. There are currently 69 highly competitive seats across the country, and the Democrats need 23 of those in order to secure a majority in the House. Democrats must defend 26 Senate seats while Republicans must maintain 9.

On average, at least half of Americans never make it to the polls, and those who do are often blindsided by confusing wording or unrecognizable names. If you are registered to vote in the UNC Charlotte area, you will elect a congressperson, a state senator, a North Carolina house representative and a justice to the North Carolina Supreme Court. Everyone registered to vote in North Carolina will vote on six constitutional amendments.

Early voting continues through Nov. 3 and Election Day is Nov. 6 with polls open from 6:30 a.m to 7:30 p.m. Prepare yourself now with this summary of what will be on the ballot for most Charlotte residents.

Referenda

The General Assembly has proposed six amendments to the North Carolina Constitution, all of which have received considerable criticism for intentional vague wording. They include an income tax cap, expansion of victims’ rights, protection of the right to hunt and fish, change in procedures for appointments to elections board, change in judicial selection procedures for midterm vacancies and voter ID requirement.

The Income Tax Cap Amendment proposes to reduce the maximum allowable income tax rate in North Carolina from 10 percent to 7 percent. It does not change the current individual income tax rate of 5.499 percent nor the current corporate income tax rate of 3 percent. Income taxes are one of the ways state government raises the money to pay for core services such as public education, public health and public safety. Supporters claim the state has been operating well so far with the current rate; opposers say education will lose funding and that it does not provide exceptions for times of crisis.

The Marsy’s Law Victims’ Rights Amendment is intended to strengthen protections for victims of crime and to ensure the enforcement of these rights. It would broaden the base of currently protected victims to include all who were personally victimized. According to the N.C. Constitutional Amendments Publication Commission, the additional rights would be: “To be treated with dignity and respect. Reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of a proceeding, upon request. To be present at any proceeding, upon request. To be reasonably heard at additional kinds of court hearings. Restitution in a reasonably timely manner, when ordered by the court. Information about the crime, upon request. To reasonably confer with the prosecutor.” The public fiscal note that accompanied this legislation estimates that these changes would cost about $11 million per year, although the amendment does not specify where the money would come from. Supporters say it is a bipartisan effort to protect victims while opposers claim it would slow down court proceedings.

The Right to Hunt and Fish Amendment would protect the right of the people to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife using “traditional methods,” although these methods are not defined. Hunters would still be subject to wildlife conservation and management laws. Supporters say that both practices have decreased drastically. Opponents say it is simply an attempt to draw Republicans to vote.

The Legislative Appointments to Elections Board Amendment proposes a smaller, eight member Bipartisan Board of Ethics and Elections. North Carolina currently has a nine member Board, eight of whom are appointed by the governor, resulting in four Democrats and four Republicans. The governor also appoints the ninth member, who is not a member of a political party, from nominations provided by the other eight members. This amendment would override the Supreme Court decision to not reduce to eight members. Supporters suggest that dividing the Board on partisan lines would force them to make bipartisan decisions. Opponents worry that it will result in gridlock and eliminate representation for unaffiliated voters.

The Judicial Selection for Midterm Vacancies Amendment would change the appointment process if a judge does not complete her term. Currently, the governor chooses the replacement, but if the amendment passes, the legislature would pick two finalists from candidates reviewed by a commission and the governor would select between them. The N.C. Constitutional Amendments Publication Commission stated that it would weakens voters’ constitutional right to elect judges. Supporters claim it would reduce political considerations when choosing judges whereas opponents point out that judicial candidates would be required to lobby legislators whose laws they would eventually review.

Perhaps the most controversial of all the amendments, the Voter ID Amendment would require voters to provide photo identification before voting in person. The amendment does not specify what type of photo identification would be accepted. Supporters say it would prevent voter fraud and opponents say it would decrease voter participation by adding one more barrier to the process.

The Constitutional Amendments Publication Commission — made up of two Democrats and a Republican — typically drafts the ballot descriptions, but this year the legislature prohibited them from doing so and wrote them instead. Governor Roy Cooper and the N.C. NAACP challenged the four amendments because of their allegedly misleading wording, but the lawsuits died in the N.C. Supreme Court. An Elon University poll revealed that only 8 percent of North Carolina voters understand the amendments.

U.S. House of Representatives

Incumbent Democrat Alma Adams and Republican Paul Wright are vying for the 12th District seat to the United States House of Representatives in what has been rated as a safe Democrat race.

Congresswoman Alma Adams served for 10 years as a member of the N.C. House of Representatives before she was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2014. She has cast several key votes in the U.S. House including nay on a bill that proposed funding a border wall, limiting legal immigration, a mandatory worker verification program, allowing DACA recipients to apply for legal status and preventing separation of families at the border. Her major issues of concern include narrowing the achievement gap and supporting HBCUs, proactive environmental policies to combat climate change, expanding the Affordable Care Act, tax increases for the wealthy and tax cuts for the middle class. Adams won 85.5% of the vote in the Democratic primary.

Photo courtesy adams.house.gov

Former District Court Judge Paul Wright has run for governor, U.S. Senate and Congress from two different districts all in the past six years. This is the first time he’s won his party’s nomination. He currently lives in District 7 but is still eligible to campaign in District 12. His key issues include maintaining the right to bear arms, supporting Trump in cracking down on illegal immigration, avoiding conflict with Russia, resisting the “deChristianization” of America, reversing Obergefell v. Hodges (which legalized same-sex marriage) and prohibiting genetically modified food crops. Wright won 43.2% of the vote in the Republican primary.

Photo courtesy wrightforuscongress.com

North Carolina State Senate

Democrat Mujtaba Mohammed and Republican Richard Rivette are running for N.C. State Senate in District 38. The seat is currently held by Democratic Senator Joel Ford. Republicans have a 34-15 majority in the state senate heading into the elections.

Mujtaba Mohammed is a graduate of UNC Charlotte and a current public interest attorney. He is also a former employee of the Charlotte nonprofit Council for Children’s Rights. Mohammed is running on a platform of education, economy and equity. Specifically, he advocates early childhood programs, higher teacher pay, higher funding of education, incentives for companies to hire individuals with criminal records, a livable minimum wage, Equal Pay Act for North Carolina women, in-state tuition for undocumented students and automatic voter registration. In an unprecedented primary, Mohammed beat incumbent Senator Joel Ford with 51.9% of the vote.

Photo courtest mohammednc.com

Richard Rivette has worked in marketing, product development, branding and business development. He unsuccessfully ran against Senator Joel Ford in 2012, 2014 and 2016. Rivette is a self-described “strict Constitutionalist” who is running on a platform of “PROjobs, PROgrowth, PROcharlotte, PROnc and PROrights.” He believes that we must eliminate most taxes, maintain the current minimum wage and appoint citizen committees to help plan development in Charlotte. Rivette won as the only nominee during the Republican primary.

Photo courtesy ballotpedia.org

North Carolina House of Representatives

Democratic incumbent Carla Cunningham and Republican Geovani Sherow are competing to represent District 106 in the N.C. House of Representatives. Republicans have a 75-45 majority heading into the elections. All 120 seats are up for election.

Representative Cunningham is a registered nurse and has served five terms in the N.C. House of Representatives. She sought election to the U.S. House in 2016 but lost to incumbent Alma Adams. Cunningham supports the expansion of Medicaid, increased funding for public schools, free community college, enforcing equal pay for all citizens and increased training for employees in the criminal justice system. She won 88.9% of the vote in the primary. Cunningham also won by wide margins in the House races of 2012, 2014 and 2016.

Photo courtesy carlacunninghamnchouse.com

Geovani Sherow is UNC Charlotte graduate and current commercial contractor. He does not have any information published online for the 2018 election, but in April 2018 he told the Charlotte Observer that he supports arming school teachers and staff and breaking up the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools district. Sherow ran unopposed in the Republican primary.

Photo courtesy Mecklenburg GOP

Additionally running are Democrat Anita Earls, Republican Chris Anglin and Republican incumbent Barbara Jackson for the North Carolina Supreme Court. However, Anglin was a registered Democrat before filing as Republican for the 2018 race. There are currently four Democratic and three Republican justices.

Several local candidates are guaranteed seats because they do not face any opponents. Democrat Louis A. Trosch Jr., Democrat Karen Eady-Williams and Democrat Donnie Hoover will all retain their places in the Mecklenburg Superior Court. Democrat Garry McFadden will take over as Mecklenburg County Sheriff and Democrat Spencer Merriweather will take office as Mecklenburg County District Attorney.