Ryan Pitkin


Brutal ‘Dragon Tattoo’ adaptation hits America

The dedicated Blomkvist keeps writing long after his fingers have lost feeling. Photo/ MCT Campus

At one point in David Fincher’s new movie “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” a police officer asks  bad girl-hacker-heroine Lisbeth Salander when she last ate before showing her some pictures of old crime scenes. “It’s better to see what you’re about to see on an empty stomach,” he says. I would give the same advice to anyone going to see this movie.

The story follows disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) as he tries to help Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), the head of a Swedish corporation, solve a decades-old mystery with the help of Salander (Rooney Mara), a young private investigator with major social problems.

Fincher’s new take on Stieg Larsson’s bestselling novel earns every bit of its R rating. The darkness of scenes depicting brutal rapes and kitten mutilation makes it your last option when bringing a girl on a first date. If you are an adult and can handle such things, I suggest checking this movie out as soon as possible.

While many novels-turned-movies leave fans arguing over which one is better (Into the Wild, No Country for Old Men), this one also has a Denmark version from 2009 with a cult following of its own.

I will be honest; as much as I try to be hip enough to watch movies with subtitles, I think it takes a bit away from the experience. There are certain subtle aspects of a movie like body language and facial expressions that can subconsciously add a lot to the story. These aspects can get lost when you’re busy reading the script below the screen, no matter how good of a reader you are.

That being said, it wasn’t long into the movie before I realized I could really use some subtitles for the English being spoken in this version. Maybe it’s the weather in Sweden or just the fact that other countries have IKEAs now too, but people don’t exactly seem to speak cheerfully or even understandably. Of course, I am speaking about movie characters and don’t want to judge the people of that country based on a movie in which the actors speak a different language than them.

The star of the movie is undoubtedly Rooney Mara, who plays Lisbeth Salander. She looks just a tad bit different than her Ivy League role as Mark Zuckerberg’s soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend in Social Network. One worry I had going into the movie was whether Rooney would be able to portray the more human side of Salander, which can be done easily in the books by a mind-reading narrator. Rooney does a great job, however, of showing that Salander truly cares for a very select few beyond her hardcore exterior.

Rooney Mara stars in Columbia Pictures' "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." (Merrick Morton/Courtesy Columbia Pictures/MCT)

Fincher also handles the jumps between present time and flashbacks beautifully. With the change in lighting and accompaniment of narration, Fincher didn’t make it confusing as to which scenes were set in the sixties and which were happening now. That’s easy enough, but the best thing Fincher did in this regard was made sure that the flashbacks stayed exactly that: flashes.

Fincher didn’t spend too much time at once in the past or even give the old characters spoken dialogue, which makes all the difference when trying to give the viewer a sense of memory. In a mystery such as this one, every detail is a key. When the crime happened forty years ago, sometimes those keys can be lost in the mind.

The title sequence is perhaps the oddest part of the movie, with a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” done by Trent Reznor of the Nine Inch Nails and Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs blasting to graphics of humans and computers dipped in some sort of shiny oil. It threw me off just a bit but it was more entertaining than Fincher’s opening to his last movie, Social Network. I will take a weird, gothic mind trip over a far too long-winded run through Harvard’s campus any day.

I can’t speak for fans of the Denmark film, but this movie (an adaptation, not a remake) will not displease fans of the novels. I could only find one or two plot lines that strayed from the storytelling of the book in miniscule and irrelevant ways. It is only unfortunate that Larsson left this Earth so early and won’t be able to spin any more stories using these great characters. It is only so fortunate for Fincher that Larsson left two more great Salander books to be made into movie magic before his untimely death in 2004.

Black Keys’ ‘El Camino’ shows band’s growth

The misleading cover of The Black Keys' new album.

I’m not going to do what you all think I’m going to do. A lesser man would spend this entire article talking about why The Black Keys suck.

Why they use to be great when they released “The Big Come Up,” their debut album that sounded like it was recorded in a garage. Say that the fact that they will more than likely sellout both (yes 2) shows at Madison Square Garden this March means they’ve sold out in all senses of the word.

But I hate those people as much as you do.

Black Keys have struck gold with their new album “El Camino,” which hit stores on Dec. 6, 2011. This album, their seventh, brings their style full circle and the attention they’ve garnered from it is well-deserved.

The band recorded the album at lead singer Dan Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound Studio in Nashville, Tennessee, where they relocated from their hometown in Akron, Ohio in mid-2010.

They brought in Danger Mouse, renowned producer and one half of the group Gnarls Barkley, to produce the album.

Mouse has worked with The Black Keys before on their 2009 album, “Attack and Release,” and the hit single “Tighten Up” from 2010’s “Brothers” album.

“El Camino” leads off with their first single from the record, “Lonely Boy.”

It is easy to see from the jump that this album will get people out of their seats with a fast rhythm that differs a bit from their last album, which featured some slow songs that the band had problems playing live at times.

If you’re not sure how to dance to this song, check out the video. It went viral right out of the gates.

Black Keys – \”Lonely Boy\”

The Keys keep the momentum going into the second and third tracks, “Dead and Gone” and “Gold on the Ceiling,” respectively.

These songs, as well as the rest of the album, lend more credit to blues, rock and gospel of the mid-20th century than anything that has been recently released. As the cliché goes, they just don’t make them like this anymore.

You may have heard the blues and rock descriptions regarding The Black Keys before, but the gospel approach is new. While not religious in nature, most songs feature bacground singing from Leisa Hans, Heather Rigdon and/or Ashley Wilcoxson. I use the term background singing loosely, because it is these women’s soulful voices that boost a lot of the songs on “El Camino” from listening pleasure to experience.

A highlight of the album, and of the entire 2011 music scene, is “Little Black Submarines.” Auerbach shows he’s not afraid of playing slow songs with two full verses of a ghostly acoustic song that is so beautifully written you may have to listen to it twice before moving on.

The song doesn’t end when you think it’s going to, and anyone who skips through is missing out on the type of no-holds-barred finish that leaves a guy in his car feeling he’s at a packed show.

Danger Mouse also is listed as a co-writer for the entire “El Camino” album. In December, drummer Patrick Carney told the New York Times, “It took us a long time to be able to trust somebody like that and not be arrogant little kids about it.”

The newfound maturity shows throughout the record. The sounds have grown with the artists and this album shows what the band has been working towards as they’ve progressed over the last decade.

Although the musical maturity has grown, the band has shown they are the same old pair of guys you can relate to.

Songs like “Run Right Back” and “Mind Eraser” tell familiar stories of their weaknesses with women. The hilarious video for “Lonely Boy” (it’s almost as funny as “Tighten Up”) makes it easy to see that this band doesn’t take themselves too seriously.

It’s this kind of attitude that has them on the cover of the new Rolling Stone while the band they were opening up for two years ago, Kings of Leon, is nowhere to be found.

Another humorous irony surrounding the album is the cover picture. One would think that a photo on the cover of an album named “El Camino” would probably depict a Chevrolet of that model.

The cover, however, shows a Chrysler Town & County van of the same type that the duo toured in during their more modest beginnings in Akron.

Auerbach has said that this was the first album that he and Carney approached without planning transitions or writing songs. This is the most ironic thing about the album because it comes off as the most polished piece of work The Keys have ever done.

The album was released to rave reviews and on Dec. 3, 2011, they became the first non-hosting act to play Saturday Night Live twice in the same year.

The band that used to tour in a Town and Country now plans to hit towns in eight countries for their 2012 tour.

Tickets are already on sale for The Black Keys’ concert at Bojangles Coliseum on March 24th, 2012. Get your seat now, just be warned; you won’t be using it much.

Charlotte-born street art movement goes international

A couple of three-year-old girls take part in the street art movement in Charlotte. Courtesy of Cult .45.

Snug Harbor is understandably a little slow on the afternoon before Thanksgiving. There are around five people at the bar drinking and laughing. A long-bearded bartender jokes about playing the neighborhood Santa last year and how he was lucky to have gotten rid of any obscene photos taken with the costume.

Two of the men at the bar don’t have drinks in front of them. They have MacBooks instead. They laugh with the bartender but for the most part keep their conversation between themselves. On their screens, they are sharing obscure art from around the world.

One has found an artist in Baltimore that uses a GPS app to trace his bike rides around the city of Baltimore. One trip’s route was made to look like a dinosaur. The other man at the bar has found pictures of a late billionaire sheik’s dying wish. The sheik has had his name dug into the desert so large that it can be seen from space.

“He could have made a reservoir with clean water in the middle of the desert,” says one of them. “Now it’s just a crappy eyesore in the middle of nowhere.” It’s obvious that both of these guys love art. What’s not obvious is that one of them is the leader of an international following that, according to him, has become the biggest street art movement in the world.

This man, who for legal reasons would like to go by “Leader of the Flock,”  (LOF) is here today with one of his confidants to talk about how they are going to spend their day. They plan on going to the friend’s nearby house and cooking up biodegradable glue before hitting some spots uptown that they’ve already scoped out.

The two men will take large printouts, mostly depicting sheep’s heads placed into propaganda posters, and paste them to city walls where they will get seen by the most people. The movement is called “Cult. 45.”

Although LOF was doing street art in and around Charlotte as far as eight years ago, Cult .45 has only been around for about a year and a half. He started to watch the way people follow trends and decided to create something depicting that. “The way things happen is usually that one person moves and we all follow, and that’s where the sheep character comes from,” he said.

As far as the art itself, LOF hopes that every person will take different things from each piece. As he speaks on the outdoor patio at Snug Harbor, a Cult .45 poster sits 20 yards away depicting a businessman with a sheep’s head holding a gun. “I didn’t put that there. I send my art out from where I live [no longer in Charlotte] and I trust that people will find a good spot for it.” The text reads, “Defend Wall Street.”

Another poster depicts hands praying and states, “Dear Lord, save us from our ability to think and make decisions. Freewill has become our downfall.”

The only message that spreads consistently through the art is the idea of equality. “It brings us all down to the same level. The people who are running things, destroying things or saving things are all people like me and you,” he said. “This just knocks ‘em down a peg.”

LOF gets most of his inspiration just from watching the news. “I see the outrage that people have against ruling factions and regimes,” he said. “You can sit at home and bitch but that’s not going to do anything.”

LOF, who is an art professor at a college somewhere in the Carolinas, also releases propaganda writings every once in a while, because “you can’t just throw art out there. Normal people won’t get it.”

One recent writing titled “Job Security,” states, “The art of the collective Cult .45 defines humanity by its failures in order to cause an outcry for change and then eventually an actual change. The placement of such work is not to defy, but to create an art gallery where before there was only unestablished space.”

Distaste for galleries is a big reason why LOF got into street art in the first place. “If you go to a gallery, you’re seeing what someone wants you to see. It’s controlled,” he said. “When it’s in the street, it’s raw. You’re not selling it and people aren’t worried about whether it’s going to match their couch.”

With street art (and one artist in particular) becoming popular around the same time that Cult .45 was created, comparisons to Banksy are inevitable. “I do hear that, but only from people who don’t know anything about street art. I just have to tell them, ‘Look at it. It’s absolutely nothing like his art,’” LOF said.

Although Cult .45 doesn’t have a website, they use Facebook and other social media sites to stay connected. “This is the largest art movement that’s ever gone on in the world because we’re all linked together instantly,” he said.

"In the Shadow of Giants," Kandahar, Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of Cult .45.

That is a tough fact to prove, and Cult .45’s Facebook has a modest 69 likes at press time, but their most recent project “In the Shadow of Giants” points to the reach that Cult .45 has.

This project, in which participants are mailed stickers of a sheep’s head as it would look on a dollar bill and told to stick them in iconic places, has produced pictures of stickers in places such as Bourbon St. in New Orleans and the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. One picture shows a sticker on an American soldier’s .50 caliber gun turret in Afghanistan.

As LOF and his friend leave Snug Harbor to get today’s work begun (they like to work in broad day because “people don’t think you’re doing anything wrong”) a strange woman with Christian music blaring and a creationist sticker on her car yells out of her window, “Sorry guys, you’ve already lost,” before speeding away.

LOF smiles and says, “Damn, I didn’t even know we had started playing the game yet.”

“Mummies of the World” invade Charlotte

A living family checks out a dead one at Discovery Place's "Mummies of the World." Photo courtesy of Discovery Place.

As I walked into Discovery Place’s “Mummies of The World” exhibit, I tried to act like a serious member of the media and pretend that I wasn’t in the midst of a complete nostalgia trip induced by walking through the kids museum to get to the entrance.

As I stood in line, I convinced myself that the lack of adults surrounding me who weren’t responsible for one or more child could be attributed to the fact that it was Saturday. Any sane, independent human over 18 would stay far away from such a place on a weekend. Even the employees seemed to be in high school. “It’s OK,” I told myself. This is a perfect place for anyone with any intellectual pride.

Then I heard the Halloween music.

It’s hard to watch an intro film that tells viewers to treat all of the mummies with the same respect that you would treat any dead person, since they were all truly “living people with friends and family at some point,” when you can already hear the ghostly synthesized music playing in the next room.

All jokes aside, “Mummies of the World” is a great exhibit. With 150 specimens and objects (not sure calling someone a specimen is “respectful”), it’s the largest collection of mummies and related artifacts in the world, according to the website. It knocks down the stereotypical image of mummies being purely Egyptian and wrapped up in something that resembles very tough toilet paper.

The exhibit features mummies from South America, the Netherlands and Egypt, among others. Some mummies were preserved intentionally and some naturally through scientific processes that were too complex for a Liberal Arts major like myself to grasp.

Interactive features throughout the exhibit include time-lapse videos of a rabbit, a rat, a pumpkin and strawberries decomposing. A knob under the screen governs the time lapse, and I’m pretty sure the five-year-old boy who hijacked the controls for about 15 minutes is still having nightmares now.

One unexpected emotion I felt from viewing all of the mummies was a content feeling regarding the fact that I was born in the late 20th century. The oldest any of these people were when they died, whether naturally or not, was between 30 and 50. Also, one would be hard-pressed to find a body in the exhibit taller than 5 feet 6 inches. I know I didn’t see one. If I was alive in ancient Egypt I would be a giant looming over everyone as I dealt with a midlife crisis.

Scientists working on these mummies use CT scans and other new technology to discover things about the mummies that would never be known unless you were to tear the “specimen” apart. A woman with crossed arms was found to be holding a baby tooth in each hand. “The Zweeloo Woman,” found in a Netherlands peat bog, had such well-preserved intestines that her last meal

of porridge of millet, rye, barley, oats and blackberries could be discerned. I had no idea that Trader Joe’s was even around then.

As I made my rounds and tried to act like an adult amidst the dark, gloomy halls of the dead, I came across a mummy with a fully erect penis, fully preserved.

I decided this was my test of maturity and tried to handle it responsibly. As I took notes about the history of this find, I heard a woman laughing uncontrollably behind me. I glanced back to see an adult woman. No kids. Here with a friend. She even looked like someone with a social life, who doesn’t spend every Saturday in children’s museums or at a movie theater by herself. Seeing this woman giggle as if she was the same age as most of the bored kids around us lifted a weight off of my shoulders that let me enjoy the rest of the exhibit with no insecurities.

This woman, however, is not the one I fell in love with. My love story begins with an ancient Peruvian woman with long black hair, still intact. She had mysterious tattoos below her lips and above each breast. She was wearing some sort of tunic that I’m sure would have smelled great if she wasn’t behind glass. I have a thing for hipsters.

One of the most prized pieces of this collection is the Detmold Child, a mummified infant that was somewhere around eight to ten months old when he or she died. The mummy is 6,500 years old. It looks like something out of a horror movie, with it’s skin seemingly melting off of it’s forehead. I’m contemplating keeping a picture of it in my wallet for the next time someone tries to show me their baby picture.

“Mummies of the World,” is a great way to spend a couple hours. The exhibit will run until April 8, 2012. While Discovery Place as a whole has lost some of its flair since my days as a child, their exhibitions are consistently some of the most interesting and educational events in Charlotte.

J. Edgar: The Love Story That Never Was

Clint Eastwood wrote and directed a biopic about the late FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, getting Leonardo DiCaprio to play the lead role, both young and old. Why do they even carry through with the actual Oscars ceremony anymore?

To add to the Oscar-bait, “J. Edgar” was written by Dustin Lance Black, best known for writing the Oscar-winning screenplay for “Milk”, the story of California’s first openly gay elected official. He has spun a very different story for this one, a story of one of Washington’s most notorious administrators for decades, and perhaps the most closeted gay non-elected official in history.

For the most part, the story is a love tale that revolves around three of J. Edgar Hoover’s closest – and oddest – relationships. The main object of his affection being Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer), his deputy who only agrees to accept the position if Hoover promises they will never miss lunch or dinner together for as long as they are partners. The relationship grows deeper as the story builds and one can only squirm at the awkwardness of seeing two people in love but not able to express it, even in private.

Hammer and DiCaprio (from left) as Tolson and Hoover. Photo/MCT Campus

One of the biggest reasons for this, other than the obvious social expectations of the mid-20th century, is Hoover’s mother. The man holds on to a fondness for his mother that borders on disturbing and still lives with her long after he has become an iconic figure in Washington. He not only resides with her but remains in a sort of child-mother relationship with the woman. When she tells him at one point, “I’d rather have a dead son than a daffodil for a son,” the viewer feels the pain with Hoover realizing he could never make both the people he cares about happy.

Naomi Watts, one of the most underrated actresses in Hollywood, plays a quiet but powerful role as Helen Gandy, Hoover’s secretary of 54 years. After Hoover promptly proposes to her after three dates, she tells him she’s not interested in getting married and is only interested in work. He then just as promptly hires her as his secretary and she is by his side from then on. Watts uses the “less-is-more” approach to make the viewer want to know more about her character. One has to wonder what secrets she struggles with in such a closed-minded society that may contribute to her lack of a social life.

Although this is the sympathetic half of the story, there is also the ever-looming crisis that is Hoover’s career, not to mention his all-around personality. The way Hoover handles such infamous events as the Lindbergh kidnapping, the killing of John Dillinger and his relationships with any of the six presidents that sat during his tenure can only be defined as childish. His hatred for such iconic figures as John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. are so far off from the way these people are rightly remembered now that it’s very difficult to feel sorry for the man’s personal problems.

Eastwood does a great job of storytelling throughout the film. His depictions of 1930’s America show a tumultuous place where, in Hoover’s mind, domestic communists are ready to bomb the entire country to kingdom come at any turn. His quickness to take anything progressive and label it communist is a recognizable trait in an era where Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh rule the airwaves.

Not many of Hoover’s higher ups agree with this way of seeing things, so to deal with threats to his power he compiles a secret file. This collection of paperwork with all the “immoral” secrets of top government officials and playmakers including King, Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt and others, would make Julian Assange drop to his knees. It is this file that is symbolic of the life that Hoover led, keeping secrets that never really mattered because nobody ever knew them.

UNC Charlotte student builds awareness with HPV study

Jocie Sweeney, a doctoral student studying clinical health psychology at UNC Charlotte, launched a new two-part research study regarding human papilloma virus (HPV) risk reduction and prevention among college-age women using student interventions.

“Ultimately the goal is to reduce the risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and cancers such as cervical cancer, vulva cancer, anal and neck cancers,” said Rick McAnulty, clinical psychologist and associate professor of psychology at UNC Charlotte. “This could be huge.”

“What’s new about this is that we already have interventions out there for HIV, we have interventions for syphilis and a lot of the more well known STIs,” said Sweeney. “HPV is the most common STI right now and there are not interventions tailored towards targeting behaviors specific to HPV.”

About 20 million Americans are currently infected with HPV, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. At least 50 percent of sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives. Sweeney is out to change that. “It is so transmissible that you have to act a little differently to prevent it compared to some of the other STIs,” she said.

Once students were recruited to participate in the study, 66 women in all, the first step was the actual intervention. This included an hour long group discussion. Sweeney provided information to the participants about HPV, including symptoms, preventative measures and how it affects the body. Participants can also share their own experiences if they have any or clear up any misconceptions they had.

“What’s important about Jocie’s study is that she is doing evaluations before and after the interventions. She will find what type of sexual risk taking is occurring before the interventions and then we will come back later and find out if they are still taking the same kind of risks,” said McAnulty, committee chairman for this study and Sweeney’s mentor for the past six years.

Information is collected at three separate points, said Sweeney. The participants’ behavior was evaluated right before the intervention. Immediately after the intervention she collected information to find out whether the knowledge was conveyed correctly. Then the participants’ behaviors will be evaluated once again 28 days after the intervention.

“That’s when we find out the major questions. Did they retain the knowledge? Did their behavior stay the same? Are they safer?” said Sweeney.

Data collection for this study began in mid-September 2011 and participants have already been through the intervention phase. Sweeney was surprised at some of the things she learned. “I was struck by how little college students know about HPV.”

The experience level of students is also alarming to Sweeney. “It’s surprising the amount of women who have never had a Pap smear. People get HPV confused with HIV. Getting STI testing done in general is not common. Most women say they’ve never bought a condom. They wait until they’re in the moment and if the guy doesn’t have one it’s too late.”

This study, which is Sweeney’s dissertation, has been her brainchild for the past two years. “I had known people affected by abnormal Pap smears. I read some things and decided that this is not outside of what’s important.”

Sweeney credits her research assistant (RA), a UNC Charlotte senior named Anam Barakzia, with most of her success. “She deserves an award. She is the most amazing RA in the world and I could not have done anything I’ve done without her.”

Sweeney has completed all of her coursework and should wrap this study up by Dec. 2, 2011. “It’s real now and it seems like there will actually be an end.”

Musician Sets Up Shop in NoDa

Davie and Lisa Dirt, Chop Shop newlyweds. Courtesy of NoDaNites.

Music lovers in Charlotte now have a new place to go to catch their favorite local bands in a trendy, homey spot.

The Chop Shop is the newest addition to the NoDa art district’s list of popular concert venues. In the spirit of NoDa’s roots, the new bar/performance area is a bit off the beaten path. It was built within the old Newco Warehouses, also now occupied by Ultimate Gym and Hackerspace Charlotte. To find it, curious concertgoers must traverse past Cabo Fish Taco on 35th Street and cross over the train tracks. While the chain link fence you must enter to get to Chop Shop might not be the most welcoming thing in the world, it definitely adds to the feel that you’ve found something special.

The first thing one notices when entering The Chop Shop is the open space. There is a lot of room to move around. The stage is in the front and the bar is in the back. Between the two, there are a few tables, bars to keep your drinks on, old-kegs-turned-stools and a couple pool tables. Other than that, the huge room is yours to dance in as you please.

The bar was opened in mid-2011 by Jay Tilyard, with help from others, after not getting exactly what he wanted while playing around town with his band, a 20+ member group named Iron Cordoba. “We would come and just take a place over. We would redecorate it. We’d bring a crowd of heavy drinkers. After doing a couple of those just rolling around we begun to get more detailed. We really needed a place of our own.”

Although Iron Cordoba has only been able to get together and play once since Tilyard set up shop, their inspired ideas are what builds the communal feeling within The Chop Shop. “I wanted a place that has an atmosphere as opposed to coming in, looking at the stage and leaving. Just like Cordoba, it’s about getting as many people who are strange and might not usually get along to hang out and realize that they can get along.”

Perhaps the best additions to that atmosphere are the gigantic projection screens behind the stage. Nothing could be cooler than watching one of your favorite local rock bands kill a set with two humongous versions of Reservoir Dogs playing behind them. “When bands are playing they have free reign over what is playing behind them. When nobody’s on stage the staff just throws on whatever. We play everything from oddball movies nobody’s heard of to blockbusters,” said Tilyard. Some movies seen playing in the last few months include the 1996 cult classic “The Craft”, the bowling comedy “Kingpin” and just about everything Tarantino.

Scott Padgett, drummer for local band Dirtbag Love Affair (DLA), thinks that Tilyard’s background is the reason bands like playing his shop so much. “He’s a musician himself so he knows exactly what we need,” he said.

Padgett also likes the assurance that Tilyard, who gives bands 100 percent of the money made at the door after expenses, has the band’s best interests at heart. “It’s the little things they take care of that make it good for us on our end. A lot of the other guys are just focused on selling liquor.”

DLA likes The Chop Shop so much that guitarist Davie Dirt decided that he would marry his longtime girlfriend, Lisa, there on Oct. 30, 2011. “Jay is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met at any venue,” said Dirt. Other factors also played a part in his decision-making. “They have clean bathrooms, and that’s pretty important when you’re getting married.”

Five bands played throughout the wedding, including DLA. “I loved it. The wife didn’t like that we were going to play our own wedding at first but she ended up having a great time.”

Other bands that played included Evelynn Rose, Ultralush and Chapel Grove. “Every set went perfect. This wasn’t their first barbeque so they all showed up and brought their A game.” Dirt wasn’t simply using an expression. Barbecue and other food was brought in from the neighboring Jack Beagle’s.

As for what’s next, Tilyard is just trying to get the word out that The Chop Shop is not only there for concerts and performance art. “Just because there’s not a show doesn’t mean there’s not a bar down here,” he said. He is quick to point out that the projection screens are perfect for Panthers games and the atmosphere is comfortably laid back. “As long as you’re wearing shoes and you cover your privates, that’s really all I ask.”

Soledad O’Brien Speaks at Student Union

Courtesy of Eden Creamer

Soledad O’Brien, CNN anchor and special correspondent, spoke to a crowd of about 1,400 in the Student Union’s multipurpose room on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011.

The seating at the lecture was mostly on a first-come first-choice basis and some people started waiting as early as 5:30 p.m. for the doors to open at 6:45 p.m. The speakers began at about 7:45 p.m.

After short introductions from Dr. Arthur R. Jackson, vice chancellor for student affairs, and Jack Randolph, a UNC Charlotte junior with the Distinguished Speakers Forum, O’Brien took the stage to a standing ovation to deliver her lecture, titled “Diversity: On TV, Behind the Scenes and in Our Lives.”

O’Brien, a CNN anchor since 2003 who is widely recognized for her contributions to “Black in America” and “Latino in America,” was the honoree and first recipient of the Soledad O’Brien Freedom’s Voice Award from the Morehouse School of Medicine in 2008. The NAACP honored her with it’s President’s Award in 2007 for her humanitarian efforts and journalistic excellence.

O’Brien told many stories throughout her speech, which lasted about 40 minutes, before the Q&A session opened. The session, which lasted just over 20 minutes and was open to anyone who had a question, included inquiries from a Niner Times representative, undergrad students of varying majors and Kimberly Best, a Charlotte district court judge who asked a question about the disproportionate amount of African Americans in the criminal justice system.

Although some of O’Brien’s stories overlapped with ones she had already told in her book, “The Next Big Story: My Journey Through the Land of Possibilities,” her angles were mostly original and she slanted some of her material for a college-aged audience.

After telling the story of holding and studying Martin Luther King Jr.’s personal papers, she made one of multiple pleas to the students attending the lecture.

“I think that the question, especially for the students in the audience tonight, is ‘What are you being ordained to do?’ or ‘What is your passion?’ and not only ‘How do you succeed in that passion?’ but also ‘How are you going to bring others along with you?’ because ultimately I think that you have to come to the understanding that it’s not about you. It’s always much bigger than the individual.”

Courtesy of Eden Creamer

O’Brien spoke heavily about using journalism to bring others along and “move the needle,” a phrase she used many times throughout the night when speaking about creating change and making a difference. She retold a story from her book about watching her black Cuban mother stick around during an altercation between one of the very few black kids at her school and the principal after being told to keep moving.

“I remember thinking that being the person who is telegraphing to this kid, ‘I am here to be a witness of what is happening here’ was very powerful. Just by the virtue of refusing to move on when you’re told to do so, there was power in that. There is power in being a witness and people deserve to have someone stand up for them, if only to record what is going to happen.”

O’Brien also used stories of her mother throughout the night to pepper multiple moments of comic relief throughout her lecture. She also joked about her own motherhood, having birthed two daughters and two sons.

She recalled being told after the Asian tsunami in 2004 that she wouldn’t want to cover that story because she is a mother. “I had just had my twins and now had four children under four years old, so I told them, ‘Put me on a plane! Nobody in this entire company wants to be on a plane to Thailand more than me.” She covered that story and also reported from the aftermaths of Hurricane Katrina and the Haiti earthquake.

O’Brien used some of her experiences during these tragic moments to send a message to the students listening to her speech. She used the example of an ambulance driver in New Orleans telling her after Katrina hit that there was a lesson in the entire thing, that nobody was going to save anyone.

“I remember being taken aback and horrified by that. Then as I thought about it, I thought there was something almost freeing in that. It was applicable to how we have to think about our futures, which is if no one is coming to get you then you have to save yourself. Maybe that’s not a terrifying phrase, maybe it’s inspiring. We’re responsible for our own success. We’re responsible for the success of our own communities. If we care about them, we will make them work.”

Before the event ended, members of the crowd who had purchased golden tickets were able to go on stage to take a picture with O’Brien or have her sign a copy of her book. Students without the “gold passes” also lined up for a chance to meet the renowned speaker as time permitted.

O’Brien received perhaps the warmest welcome from alumnae and active members of Delta Sigma Theta, a sorority that she joined before dropping out of Harvard as a premed student to pursue a journalism career. She later returned and received her degree.

The women could be distinguished throughout the audience by their overwhelmingly red attire, and representatives of the sorority presented O’Brien with two gifts at the end of the evening. She made comments throughout the night of the warm welcome she received at the airport from her fellow alumnae, calling them “the most huggingest group of people in the world.”

Courtesy of Eden Creamer

O’Brien answered questions from students and others following her speech:

On making a change:

“If you want to fly under the radar then do exactly nothing. Congratulations, you will have accomplished nothing. One of the things that I really got from all of these docs that we did about Dr. King was the bravery of the regular man. There really are the opportunities every day to do something. To advocate for something. To stand for something. Every single day you have a chance to say, ‘Ya know, that is not OK.’ I think we have to stop thinking in terms of leadership as in, ‘When is the next Dr. King going to come,’ and start thinking that we are that. Not just African Americans but all of us have an opportunity to be those leaders.”

On Twitter:

“I don’t think it changes journalism. I think what it does is it adds another dynamic. To me, journalism is about going to find the stories, interviewing people and trying to find out the truth – or a version of the truth because sometimes the truth has six different sides. Twitter doesn’t change that or lower the bar. For me it just changes the way I can reach people, talk about my stories, get feedback, get ideas. It can help shape what I’m covering. But the basic tenets of journalism do not change.”

On racism today:

“Things have improved. At the same time we have a ways to go. Right after President Obama was elected people would say we’re ‘post-racial.’ I didn’t even know what that meant. Black people aren’t black people anymore? I believe in the power of having a conversation. I believe in someone saying ‘This is my experience,’ and another person saying ‘I completely disagree with your experience because this is my experience.’ Saying there’s no conversation because it’s not necessary is not a winning strategy.”

On facing challenges:

“I don’t like to talk about my challenges because my challenges were so minor. My parents [a black Hispanic woman and a white Australian man] would walk down the street together and people would spit on them. So someone saying something mean to me just doesn’t really compare. I didn’t realize until I got older the way that people would try to define you and place you. My parents instilled in me that sense of who I was before I really even knew that I needed that.”

49er Experience gives students new internship opportunities

A group of UNC Charlotte faculty and senior staff are launching a three-tier “49er Democracy Experience” leading up to the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Charlotte in September 2012.

The opportunity, which will take place during the spring, summer and fall semesters of 2012, will include a “political convention curriculum” of more than 100 courses, internships, scholarships, volunteering opportunities and multiple speakers at policy forums, according to Eric Heberlig, co-chair of 49er Democracy Experience.

“We are looking for ways to engage our students and the community to understand why the convention is here, what it means for Charlotte and what it means to the presidential election process,” said Heberlig.

The new curriculum is mostly made up of classes that are already offered at the school, said Heberlig. It simply highlights which classes would be smart to take if you are interested in learning more about the political convention process. The list of classes covers a broad range of subjects from obvious ones like comparative politics to abstract classes such as philosophy of war and peace.

Putting the list together was a three step process. First, the public relations department developed a list of faculty members who have teaching or volunteering experience in fields related to the convention. “Those teachers were told if you teach classes in this field this is your opportunity to spotlight them,” said Heberlig.

Next, members of Heberlig’s committee, mostly department chairs, gave a similar list of classes. Finally, members simply scrolled down a list of classes offered in the spring and handpicked the ones that fit the criteria.

As for internships, the committee is taking advantage of any themes related to the political convention, said Heberlig. Students who participate in internships during the fall will be involved with planning and the organizational aspect of the convention.

As for the fall, when the convention will actually happen, it is still unclear what students’ exact responsibilities will be. “The DNC Hosting Committee hasn’t promised that anybody will have passes to the event, but with what we know from past experience, people will have access,” he said. For the most part, interns will be involved outside the event, helping delegates get settled in to the city and helping the media with setting up.

During the summer semesters, original classes will be offered at Center City Campus that revolve around the political convention. “These classes will cover different aspects of the convention, from the team sport that politics has become today to what it means to run a ‘green convention,’” said Heberlig.

Most importantly, the location of these classes will give the students access to speakers who are playing a huge role in the convention. “Having the class at Center City will let members of the DNC Hosting Committee and other community leaders just walk over and share their expertise with students,” he said.

The last main aspect of the 49er Democracy Experience will be public policy forums. UNC Charlotte is working with multiple colleges in the area to host nationally-known speakers at a number of different venues, according to Heberlig. These colleges include Johnson C. Smith University, Wingate, Winthrop and Central Piedmont Community College.

UNC Charlotte has also teamed up with The Washington Center to offer 10 free scholarships to students who want to attend the DNC. Five of these will be given to students who want to travel to Tampa to attend the Republican National Convention, but these students will have to pay for their own transportation to Tampa.

Heberlig is hoping Charlotte’s own convention will attract more than only Democratic-minded students. “Republican students will be interested, not because they support Obama but because they’ll understand that this is an opportunity to be involved in one of the major political events of the year.” He pointed out that out-of-state students are being charged $4,000 by other institutions to come to Charlotte for this event.

A special website will be launched on Nov. 11, 2011 to help put all of this information into one place as it is constantly changing, according to Heberlig. “It will be a one stop communication device for the UNC Charlotte community but also for the public to find out what’s happening. A lot of national and international people will be coming here and needing answers. One of the main goals of UNC Charlotte will be to educate the international community, which has no idea about this city.”

Author and filmmaker Malinda Lowery comes to UNC Charlotte to speak about the Lumbee Indian Tribe

Dr. Malinda Maynor Lowery will be visiting UNC Charlotte to show her short film, “Real Indian,” and read excerpts from her latest book in the Student Union movie theater Monday, Nov. 14, 2011.

Lowery, a member of the Lumbee Tribe, has produced three documentary films about Native American issues as well as published several articles about American Indian migration and identity, school desegregation and religious music. She will also be taking questions after the presentation.

Her latest book, “Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South: Race, Identity, and the Making of a Nation,” has been called an “important new book” by the North Carolina Historical Review. “[The book is] a masterful discussion…that will be the standard treatment for decades to come.”

According to the inside flap of her book, Maynor describes how “between Reconstruction and the 1950’s, the Lumbee crafted and maintained a distinct identity in an era defined by racial segregation in the South and paternalistic policies for Indians throughout the nation.”

North Carolina’s Lumbee Tribe is the largest Native American tribe east of the Mississippi River with 50,000 enrolled members, according to Maynor. The tribe’s ancestral lands are known to be in Robeson County, the largest county in North Carolina, according to its website. It is located about 120 miles southeast of Charlotte.

Lowery studied at Harvard as an undergrad before earning a doctorate in history at UNC Chapel Hill. She returned to Harvard in 2006 as the first of two Native American tenure-track professors there. Shortly before releasing “Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South,” Lowery accepted a job at UNC Chapel Hill and now teaches the only course based around Lumbee history in the United States.

Robeson County remains a very vital bloodline for Lowery and her family. Shortly after arriving in Chapel Hill, Lowery told a school website the story of her parents driving nearly 100 miles from their home in Durham to give birth to their daughter in 1973.

Lowery and her husband did the same thing before giving birth to her daughter in 2007. They were in Robeson County to produce an outdoor drama, “Strike at the Wind,” and stuck around until the baby came. “My husband and I just didn’t feel comfortable having her born up in Cambridge, Massachusetts,” she told the site.

In April 2011, Lowery introduced her book to a crowd of about 85 at UNC Pembroke, a university in Robeson County. At the speech she informed the audience of the four layers of identity among the Lumbee: kinship, place, tribe and race.

“The story I tell in this book is not always pretty,” she told the crowd, which included her husband, parents, two sisters and many of her friends. “It’s about how a group of Native Americans carved out a place for themselves with an iron-sided wall in place between the races.”


Lowery speaks on…

The following quotes are from Lowery’s book, “Lumbee Indians and the Jim Crow South: Race, Identity, and the Making of a Nation.”


“Indian – and American – identity often involves conflicts, threats, selfishness, and silences as much as trust, loyalty, sacrifice, and freedom.”


“I use ‘Indian’ and ‘Native American’ interchangeably because I grew up calling myself an Indian, and I have since come to see how the term ‘Native American’ also acknowledges a group’s status as the original inhabitants of a place.


“I was taught that our mixed racial ancestry doesn’t make us any less Indian; an outsider who marries in is able to stay in because he or she can live with and even adopt the symbols and attitudes that Lumbees have used to maintain our communities.”


“Few Indian children had access to a school bus, but the Pembroke graded school did have a sturdy brick building, evincing their modest prosperity compared to more isolated communities.”


“The 1900 census for Robeson County reveals that there were more Indians and blacks in the county than whites. This reality indicates why Democrats believed they had to use a campaign of terror to win support at the polls.”





Alt. Lede

Renowned Lumbee Indian historian Dr. Malinda Lowery will visit UNC Charlotte Nov. 14th, 2011 to show one of her films, read excerpts from her newest book and take questions from students.


Google Maps

Robeson County Website

Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South: race, identity, and the making of a nation. By Malinda Maynor Lowery

Class website: http://lumbee.web.unc.edu/2010/04/20/dr-malinda-maynor-lowery-teaching-lumbee-history-at-unc/

Lecture Article: http://lumbee.web.unc.edu/2010/04/20/dr-malinda-maynor-lowerys-lecture-at-unc-pembroke/


Renowned Lumbee Indian historian giving props to east coast’s biggest tribe (Very hip)

Dr. Lowery speaks about the history in her blood

Other story ideas:

Lumbee population at UNC Charlotte


CNN Anchor Soledad O’Brien to discuss diversity at UNC Charlotte

Soledad O'Brien, a previous Harvard student, dropped out of college at the age of 21 to pursue a career in journalism. Photo courtesy of UNC Charlotte

The Campus Activities Board (CAB) hosts CNN anchor and correspondent Soledad O’Brien Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011, in the Student Union’s multipurpose room for her lecture “Diversity: On TV, Behind the Scenes and in Our Lives.”

Tickets to the event are free for students and are available now at the Halton Arena Box Office. Tickets are $10 for faculty and staff and $15 for the public. They can be purchased at the box office, by phone or online. The Multicultural Resource Center (MRC), Distinguished Speakers Forum and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life are also co-sponsoring the event.

O’Brien served as anchor of CNN’s “American Morning” from 2003-06, and was recently announced as the new CNN anchor from 7 to 9 a.m. when “Morning” was canceled. CNN is reportedly hoping O’Brien can help their ratings after taking regular beatings from competing morning shows.

O’Brien has also been in the news lately after a recent interview with Michael Arrington, founder of TechCrunch.com and a well known member of technology media. In the interview, Arrington told O’Brien that he doesn’t know of any black entrepreneurs in the tech industry. He then stated that he firmly believes that in Silicon Valley, “you can become very successful based on your brain size and how you use it.”

As the media began to discuss the racial implications of Arrington’s comments, he wrote a blog titled “Sh*t, I’m a Racist,” in which he accuses O’Brien and her producers of seeking “gotcha” moments and “lying to the people they interview.”

O’Brien responded in a blog post for CNNMoney.com in which she claimed that she was focusing on a group of entrepreneurs participating in the NewMe accelerator, the first of its kind to focus on entrepreneurs of color, and that the story would continue to focus on those “inspirational figures.”

O’Brien insisted that she did not ambush Arrington. “I don’t think he is a racist. He’s a realist,” she wrote.

As well as being an anchor, O’Brien has been on the scene for some of the most tragic moments of college student’s lives today. She reported from the aftermaths of the Thailand tsunami in 2004, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Haiti earthquake in 2010.

O’Brien speaks about all of those experiences and more in her book, “The Next Big Story: My Journey Through the Land of Possibilities.” In the book, she discusses matters of disaster, government response, hopelessness and the people who drop everything to help.

O’Brien has also directed award-winning documentaries that focus on race, education, diversity, identity, humanitarianism and change. Her CNN specials, “Black In America” and “Latino In America” have made her a beloved but controversial figure in American journalism. She was named Journalist of the Year in 2010 by the National Association of Black Journalists and received the Excellence in Leadership and Community Service Award from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute in 2009.

O’Brien was born to two immigrant parents, a black mother from Cuba and a white father from Australia. She writes in her book about growing up mixed in a small, rich, white suburb named Smithtown in Long Island, NY. “Sometimes people looked at [me and my siblings] as if we had two heads and were completely out of place. We always ignored them,” she wrote.

Soledad speaks on…

The following quotes are from her book, “The Next Big Story: My Journey of Possibilities”

Reporting on aftermaths (as opposed to sitting in the storm like Anderson Cooper):

“In life, we are all passengers on a plane. You get to choose exit row, window, or the aisle. I like the aisle. Let the superhero with the cape make the call on when to wrench open the door. I’m just fine organizing the departure of the passengers.”

Her parents:

“Smithtown was [my parent’s] storied American dream: Immigrant parents get an education, work hard, plant a flag in a suburban wonderland, then have a pile of kids, whose achievements sparkle like sunspots on an asphalt driveway.”


“I have my own perspective to contribute, my own job to do, and I am going to do it if it kills me. And it just might.”

Government response:

“I’m here to tell you that fire alarms sometimes go off and the fire trucks don’t always pull up…I’ve seen it happen many times. America seems particularly disappointing when it fails you because the pile of promises is stacked so high.”

Being criticized:

“The folks that chanted ‘biracial whore for the white man’s media,’ even they didn’t make me feel this way. I would just laugh. Biracial, sure, whore, not exactly, white man’s media, totally! Whatever. But Reverend Jesse Jackson says, ‘I don’t count’?”

UNC Charlotte names Wilhelm new Vice Chancellor of Research

UNC Charlotte recently named Robert Wilhelm the vice chancellor of research and economic development on campus.

Wilhelm will be replacing Stephen Moshier, who served as vice chancellor of research and federal relations and is retiring at the end of the year. Wilhelm was appointed to the new position in August and he began work on Aug. 15, 2011, but approvals from the Board of Governors were not passed until mid-October.

Wilhelm has been a mechanical engineering and engineering science professor at UNC Charlotte for many years as well as holding other prestigious positions. In 2005, he became the executive director of the Charlotte Research Institute (CRI). He has also held the title of associate provost for strategic-research partnerships since 2009.

After working closely with Moshier for many years, Wilhelm’s job now is to continue to advance the quality, diversity and growth of research on campus, he said. “We need to do that in a way that continues to support both the academic activities on campus but also our collaborators both within the media community and around the country, around the world even.”

“One of my interests in beginning this job is to focus on translating research results into applications, whether they are in the economic community or political community.”

There are many teams with different goals within the research community of this campus, from teams that write new proposals for research projects to teams that manage the different financial regulations that must be adhered to in terms of funding for projects.

“With me taking on this position, I will integrate the work of the CRI into all of this work that is happening already, so we will continue to promote growth, focus on the areas of this university that have key strengths and make the campus accessible to those business and institutional partners in the region, around the country and around the world,” said Wilhelm.

One of Wilhelm’s visions of that accessibility came in the form of the PORTAL building, a $26 million building that he conceived and will be constructed on the Charlotte Research Institute Campus on the southwest corner of N. Tryon St. and Institute Circle. The name stands for Partnership, Outreach and Research for Accelerated Learning.

According to Wilhelm, the university has a large menu of offerings that stem from its research facilities. “We have a number of different efforts within the university and CRI to connect with partners in different ways. In some cases it would have to do with students working on projects with companies as part of their coursework, faculty members serving as expert consultants to help with challenges that institutions face or joint research projects with companies in the area.”

Wilhelm’s idea was to make a place for all of these projects to integrate. “The PORTAL building gives us a chance to bring that activity together in a gathering place to make it very visible both in terms of the faculty and students who are working with our collaborators but also to make it visible to those collaborators in the region,” he said.

“This university has always had a strong commitment to partnership in the regional community and it really goes back to the earliest days of the university. What we’ve heard from the business and economic communities around Charlotte is that they would like the university to continue to grow and connect with the businesses and institutions in the region to make a difference in terms of economic growth.”

The PORTAL building is one more step towards that goal, he said. “In the end this will all positively impact the learning opportunities for students in a big way…and that is really the long term plan for this building.”

Beyond all the businesses and institutions Wilhelm collaborates with, the former professor still values his relationships with students very highly.  In the summer of 2011, he spent a month hiking through Alaska with the Levine Scholars class of 2015. “It went great,” Wilhelm said of the trip. “The students all learned quite a lot. It was an interesting time for me. It was nice to be out in the big country like that for a long period of time and to spend concentrated time with students.”

This passion connects to Wilhelm’s first order of business while becoming accommodated to his named position. “The first thing that I am working on doing is listening and learning about the expertise that exists within the research and economic development organization. I also need to be aware of the concerns and interests of all of the faculty and students that I serve. That’s been a big part of my effort as I’ve begun this job.”

UNC Charlotte student wins Obama Nobel Peace Prize money from President Obama

The Society for Hispanic Engineers pose for a group photo. Second from the right is Jenny Saldago, the recipient of President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize money, which will be used for her UNC Charlotte tuition. Photo courtesy of Jenny Saldago

UNC Charlotte junior Jenny Salgado joined an exclusive list of only 12 national recipients of a scholarship that stems from President Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize money that he won in 2009.

Obama made a $125,000 donation the Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF) shortly after winning the prize, and they decided to invest it in scholarships for students in the science, technology, engineering and math fields.The HSF is among 10 charities that Obama donated all of his $1.4 million cash award to.

Other charities benefiting from donations include the United Negro College Fund, the Appalachian Leadership and Education Foundation and the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund. In a statement released by the White House in March 2010, shortly after he divided the money between the 10 charities, Obama said, “These organizations do extraordinary work in the United States and abroad helping students, veterans and countless others in need. I’m proud to support their work.”

This is the second class of 12 participants, of which Salgado is the only student from the Carolinas. She has received $2,500 of the money already and will receive the same amount for her senior year as long as her GPA stays above 3.0.

Salgado, vice president of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), applied for a scholarship from the HSF and received an acceptance letter while she was in Seattle over the summer participating in a co-op program for The Boeing Company. “I had no idea about the Nobel prize money. I just thought the scholarship was named after [Obama].”

Salgado said she was just extremely happy to be able to pay for this semester without going into debt, but when she received her check in early October it became clear that this scholarship was special. “I received a few phone calls from media outlets on one Monday. I thought it was odd because I have gotten other scholarships before and it wasn’t like this.”

After receiving a call from La Noticia, Charlotte’s Spanish-speaking newspaper, and the Charlotte Observer, her parents checked it out online. That is when she realized that she had joined an exclusive club of recipients and received money that once belonged to Obama. “This is all sort of sudden for me. There was no background information in the application so I didn’t know what I had received,” she said.

Salgado is happy that Obama is investing in the Hispanic community and the HSF in particular. “It shows that Obama has faith in their organization having the right priorities as far as helping the Hispanic youth,” she said.

“I’m glad that he wants to help the Hispanic community. There is a gap where Hispanic students should be in the science and engineering fields. As vice president of [SHPE] I notice how hard it is to recruit and there is a definite need for support.”

Salgado was born in Colombia and moved to Charlotte when she was eight years old. She is the first person in her family to go to college in the United States. She played a big role in rebuilding the SHPE when she arrived here after graduating from South Meck High School in 2009. “I checked out all of the organizations and SHPE sounded great, but there were no members.”

So she teamed up with Jose Paniagua, a Hispanic engineering student who graduated in May, to recruit and at least fill the officer positions over the summer of 2010. When they returned that fall, there were between 30 and 40 members beyond just the officers.

This year UNC Charlotte’s chapter of SHPE will be sending two representatives to the national convention in Anaheim, CA. It will be the first time a student from this school’s organization attends. “It’s a great achievement,” said Alonzo Diaz de Leon, president of SHPE and one of the planned attendees. “It shows that we are interested and that we are contributing to the organization.”

Salgado, who will take over as president next year, recruited de Leon last year to become an ambassador in the organization. “[Jenny] is so open. She sees someone walking on campus and approaches them and starts a conversation,” de Leon said. “She is very determined in life. She has a goal in line and she goes after it.”

Salgado believes that becoming an “Obama Scholar” will help increase that determination. “This puts more responsibility on me and gives me more desire,” she said. “I have always had a huge desire to help the community. Not only the Hispanic community but the overall community.”

Salgado believes that this award emphasizes her goal of using her engineering education to help people in need. “Most people just want to find a job when they graduate but I feel so differently. I really just want to work in the communities that really need help,” she said.

Although Salgado has always wanted to do projects overseas or in her home country of Colombia, where she visits every three years, she knows there is a huge need here. Although she has already worked with Duke Energy and Boeing in the past, her plans are more humble.

“With engineering you can do things. Civil engineers can solve most problems that communities have whether it’s getting water, roads, bridges, etc. Finding a job is not about the money or how big a company is, it is about who is focused on helping people.”

Her goal for the next three years is to find companies that focus strictly on helping communities. “That way I can get a head start on working with or getting to know these companies and I won’t have to settle for whatever I find when I graduate,” she said.

As for the future, de Leon sees nothing but greatness for Salgado. “She is constantly looking for new opportunities anywhere she can,” he said. “Wherever she goes, I think she’s going to do a great job. We are very proud of her.”


MRC hosts Poverty Simulation at UNC Charlotte

Asa Yoal and another participant at last year's Poverty Simulation experience what it is like to be an impoverished family in present-day United States. Photo courtesy of Vidal Dickerson

The Multicultural Resource Center (MRC) will hold a poverty simulation in Student Union multipurpose room 340 Friday, Nov. 4, 2011, beginning at 1:30 p.m.

“This simulation is designed to expose participants not only to the reality of poverty in our community, but will provide an insight into the complex world of government services and commercial enterprises that impact the poverty circle,” according to their website.

The room will be set up with tables with volunteers and faculty members representing different government entities. As each student arrives, he or she will be assigned to a certain family. The activities of that participant will vary during the simulation based on what member of a given family they are.

“You may have a single father with four children who is unemployed or a mother who is responsible for very young children and must make sure they are taken care of,” said Vidal Dickerson, director of the MRC. “The families will have to complete the simulation having to maintain their responsibilities, meaning if they’re the children they have to go to school and if they’re unemployed they need to go to the unemployment office.”

The simulation is broken into four “months” which last 15 minutes each. Students who attend school will be taught a lesson for a month and students who need to file unemployment need to wait in line and file for it during that time, said Dickerson. “The event is designed through a very specific diagram to allow families to pursue agendas over the months.”

At the end of the hour, participants will process the pieces of what they’ve learned, including what strategies they used to get through the simulation. “Believe it or not, some families resort to crime and we have a simulated role for police and public safety. Students may skip school. There are so many different scenarios,” said Dickerson.

Dickerson, who has worked with the MRC at UNC Charlotte for seven years, implemented the poverty simulation six years ago after running the same program at Fontbonne University in St. Louis, Mo., where he was director of multicultural affairs. He created a partnership with the Crisis Assistance Ministry, which helps put on the simulation.

It became so popular at UNC Charlotte that a second session has been offered for the past four years. Although it is free to participate in, students must reserve a spot in one of the sessions. Reservations stop at 80 participants per session and this number will more than likely be reached for each session, said Dickerson.

The reaction from most students who go through the simulation is to say “I didn’t know,” said Dickerson. “It’s really just a part of breaking into an awareness. When most young people picture poverty they imagine what’s presented to them, particularly in the media.”

What students don’t realize is that they have a lot in common with many people struggling with poverty on a daily basis, said Dickerson. “They see people on the streets and holding up signs without realizing that individuals struggling with serious poverty can actually have a home, they have cell phones, believe it or not.”

Students also leave feeling more informed about the monotony of poverty. “You can’t just walk up to a building and say ‘I need food stamps,’ there is paperwork involved. When they have children and have to deal with social services there are lengthy processes that are involved,” said Dickerson.

The simulation goes into the processes that relate to all of these problems, even with barriers. “Language can be a barrier, time can be a barrier. There are so many situations which create unique needs in a family’s situation and students are able to live that out. It’s very eye-opening for them,” she said.

The diagram that depicts the simulation’s setup shows the extent to which the role-playing has been thought out. Big Dave’s Pawn Shop is located next to the police station, with a jail connected. A mortgage and realty company is directly across the “street” from the homeless shelter, with a warning to have six extra chairs ready at the shelter in case people are struggling.

“It’s very important to get into the stories of the poor. I’m not saying we can ever get a full understanding unless we’ve lived it, but we need some sort of perspective if we are to be allies in providing some level of support,” said Dickerson

Lack of empathy and full understanding can sometimes be an obstacle when trying to provide equal opportunities and access to impoverished people, said Dickerson. “Many times those who are suffering are not necessarily at the table with those trying to help them. So when we talk about social justice, this allows for the infusion of perspective and opinions of the have-nots.”