Saturday, May 31, 2008

The NBA Is Back—With Carolina Pride

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 5/31/2008 No comments

I'm not going to take this opportunity to talk about the Charlotte Bobcats. Logically it is what I would do since this blog focuses on life in and around Charlotte. But the Bobcats haven't played a game in more than a month, so they're not relevant to this discussion. (One quick sidebar, though: I heard from a friend earlier today that she and some friends were waiting in line last night trying to get into Suite at Epicentre, uptown's newest club, and that the line was so long and exclusive that a couple of the Bobcats had to wait to get in. Come on now, they might not be winners but let's show our pro athletes more respect than that. Okay, back to the topic.)

The NBA is back. I've been saying that all season, and not that anyone necessarily disagreed with me, but I felt like this was shaping up to be the best season since the late 90s, when the NBA was at its peak. And this season hasn't disappointed, clearly with the two most storied franchises, the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, now set to square off in the NBA Finals.

But let's understand why this is, in case someone from the Bobcats happens to read this. To be successful and compete in the NBA today a team must have three great players. It used to be that two would suffice, but now it's three. Look at Boston, L.A., San Antonio, Detroit, Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, and Denver, to name a few. There are a couple of exceptions like Cleveland—but they have Lebron—and New Orleans—but they have a great point guard and solid lineup all the way around. Having three great players is why San Antonio has won four championships in nine years, and is why Boston went from having the worst record in the Eastern Conference last year to having the best record and winning the conference this year.

Two of the Big Three—Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett—are from S.C., my home state.

The three at Boston—Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen—were labeled the Big Three since the beginning of the season and they have lived up to their name. I'm not a Boston fan, but I'm rooting for them and am especially proud of them because two of the Big Three are from my home state of South Carolina. Garnett is from Mauldin and Allen is from Sumter. (Quick sidebar: I remember reading an article in The State (S.C.) newspaper several years ago in which the writer talked about what if Garnett, Allen, and Jermaine O'Neal, who is also from S.C., had all gone to my alma mater, the University of South Carolina. Based on their ages, they could've all played there together for two years. Ahh, what could've been. Instead, Allen went to the University of Connecticut and Garnett and O'Neal went straight to the NBA from high school.)

In fact, Allen went to my high school, Hillcrest High in Dalzell, S.C.—well, I should say I went to his high school because he's older than I am. (He was my sister's prom date—I wonder if there's anything I can find and put on eBay.) There were some great times seeing him play on the high school level. Everyone then knew he would become the player that he is today. He's had a great 11-year career. As one of the greatest pure shooters to ever play, he has a 21-point career scoring average and by the time he retires he will likely be the NBA's all-time three-point leader (he's currently second behind Reggie Miller). With Allen coming to Boston during the offseason last year, he finally has been able to play in a large market so that the world can see his skills (playing in small markets like Milwaukee and Seattle, where he spent his first 10 years, doesn't get you much television coverage outside of your region). Also, all three of Allen's sisters live in Charlotte. So there's a lot of Carolina pride in these finals.

The NBA is back because over the past couple of years teams have made the trades and spent the money to build up their rosters. There are more great players in the league than ever, but there has long been a great, talented bunch of players. The difference now is front-office execs are doing a better job. And one other very important factor to the NBA's resurgence: the implementation three years ago of the rule that requires a player coming out of high school to play at least one year of college before being eligible for the NBA Draft, which is what put a stop to the unnecessarily high number of players being drafted straight out of high school. Most of them weren't ready so they were only taking up valuable roster spots from veterans. Now if the NBA will just increase that one year college requirement to two years then we'll continue to see the league improve, not to mention great improvements in the college game.

I'll be watching the NBA Finals with my South Carolina gear on.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sex and the City—I Don’t Get It

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 5/28/2008 No comments
No pun intended with the headline.

Sex and the City opens in theaters this Friday, as I'm sure you very well know. Women around the country are behaving like geeks do over Star Trek and Lord of the Rings in anticipation. I just hope they aren't hyping themselves up for a big let down. I believe that great television shows should end as just that. Which is why I hope a Sopranos movie is never made.

Women get Carried away.

I was a fan of the television show. That's right. I'm not afraid to say it. I usually like most HBO series. But I probably watched Sex and the City for reasons different than women did. I didn't watch it for the friendship the cast portrayed, the witty banter, the fashion, or the trends the show sparked. I watched it because I liked the sex scenes. Man Law. I was, after all, a teenager when the show debuted, and I followed it through my college years.

The same reason that I, as a man, enjoyed the show differently than most women (though I'm sure many women enjoyed those scenes as well) is the reason why we men can't go with women to see the movie. And I don't think they want us to. They want to go with their girlfriends. They want to make it a girls night out. Who are we to come between a woman and her SATC?

There are group screenings and movie parties planned all around Charlotte. Some are women-invited only. But there is an "afterparty" that will bring the sexes together (who would've thought there'd be an afterparty for a movie). The event, dubbed The Sex and the City After Affair, takes place Friday, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., at LIV, which is the bottom level of HOM nightclub (116 W. 5th St.). There will be movie-inspired drinks and special giveaways. Plus, a portion of the proceeds will go to the Metrolina Aids Project, which I think is very responsible of the event organizers. Because we all know that the Sex and the City cast behaved as if STDs didn't exist.

So ladies, go and enjoy your movie and your time with your girls. And I guess we men will just have to kill time at the gentlemen's clubs until you're done. Man Law.

Monday, May 26, 2008

A Bubbling Fashion Scene In Charlotte?

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 5/26/2008 No comments
As Charlotte continues to grow, it's only natural that the cultural amenities we enjoy would expand as well. Our restaurant scene is starting to rival other major cities. Our nightlife offerings have come a long way in the last couple of years. And now it appears that fashion is the next to rise.

A sign that a fashion scene is developing in Charlotte is the number of fashion shows we're starting to have here. I sort of stumbled upon one last summer that I really enjoyed. And since then there have been several well-produced, well-attended fashion shows around the city.

Next up is "Got Beauty? Got Fashion? Rock It!" presented by KMB Marketing. The event takes place this Thursday, 7 p.m.-midnight, at The Grape at Northlake Mall (my end of town, yes!). You can expect a mini fashion show featuring local models wearing pieces by T-Simone Designs, which is a line by local designer Tenisha Campbell. The fashion show is just part of the fashion and beauty inspired event. And in addition to the free gift bags and free hors d'oeuvres, admission to the event is free also. I don't know about you, but I like to be in a roomful of models. Man Law. And these types of events usually attract beautiful onlookers.

There was, from what I've been told, a pretty good fashion show held last month at the Levine Museum of the New South. I missed it because I was out of town.

Charlotte is also a part of the Urban Fashion Week network, with a week of events being held here in the fall. The inaugural Charlotte Urban Fashion Week was held in October. CUFW also holds several fashion events and casting calls throughout the year, and there was one earlier this month. Then there's Charlotte North Carolina Fashion Week, which I've only recently learned of and believe is completely unrelated to Charlotte Urban Fashion Week. CNCFW is scheduled for September 18-20 at the Blake Hotel, and according to its website it will feature runway shows, industry workshops, vendors, and entertainment. It will also be hosting an Industry Night mixer June 4, 6-10 p.m., at Woods on South.

And lastly, a couple of local fashion magazines have recently popped up: Charlotte Style Magazine and Blu Magazine. I'm very critical of magazines so I'll reserve judgement and give these new pubs time to develop.

You may read all of this and say that what we're experiencing in Charlotte pales in comparison to other cities. You're probably right. But I say it's progress. Plus, good fashion is something we can all benefit from. As Deion Sanders says, "If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you play good. And if you play good, they pay good."

Random Notes From Race Day

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 5/26/2008 No comments
I captured this while sitting in traffic. Gotta love that sign.

I attended the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway yesterday. Here are some things that stood out from my experience.
  • The traffic will make you never want to drive again. I went to the October race at Lowe's so I knew what to expect this time. It's just unavoidable when there are 160,000 people headed to one place.
  • A lot of guys are walking around without shirts.
  • If people aren't drinking beer, they're drinking energy drinks. Is this because Dale Jr. is now sponsored by AMP?
  • We all know this, but I'm reminded of it when I go to a race. Everything has a sponsor, so there are company logos everywhere. This is, after all, the Coca-Cola 600, which is held at Lowe's Motor Speedway as part of the Sprint Cup series.
  • Not only do you see corporate signage everywhere around you, but it's above you also. All day small engine planes are flying with advertising banners attached to them.
  • NASCAR is very patriotic and since this is Memorial Day weekend there are a number of tributes to military men and women and veterans during the pre-race activities. Hearing "Taps" played is a touching moment that reminds you of how many soldiers have given their lives. And the four fighter jets that flew over at the end of "The Star-Spangled Banner" is equally poignant. Plus, the sea of red, white, and blue helped drown out all of the Confederate flags that are rampant amongst fans.
  • There are a lot of women dressed in "club clothes": fancy tops, tight jeans, and heels. I don't blame you, girl. Nab yourself a NASCAR driver and you'll never have to work another day in your life. Just enjoy your life in that big house on Lake Norman.
  • While I'm no expert on this, there appear to be a lot of fake breasts. I don't blame you, girl...
  • NASCAR is a male-dominated sport, of course, but there are plenty of women working in the industry, from members of the race teams to NASCAR reps to track security and service personnel.
  • Where are the black people?
  • Yao Ming is a giant. I knew he was 7 ft. 5 in. but it wasn't until he walked past me that I felt short, and I'm fairly tall myself. In the corner of my eye, no lie, I thought someone was walking on stilts. I turned, realized what was happening, and said, "That's Yao Ming!" He was wearing a Beijing Olympics shirt and was surrounded by an army of people, towering over them all, as he made his way through pit row.
  • I agree with fans that a race is more exciting in person—the sound, the speed, the wrecks—but I just don't ever think I'll become a fan.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Uptown Has a HOM and Now a Suite

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 5/23/2008 No comments
HOM (pronounced Home) has been open for several months now and for months I've been saying it's the nicest, trendiest nightclub in uptown. I'm sure most would agree. It took the crown from Forum. But now there's a new club that's gunning for the top spot. Suite has its grand opening tonight.

Suite is the latest venue to open inside the Epicentre (Whiskey River, Dale Jr.'s bar, opened last month) and the plush nightclub and lounge is holding a two-part grand opening tonight and tomorrow night. I think Charlotte will be impressed. Get a feel for Suite by visiting its website.

Get ready to dance, ladies.

Many critics doubted whether the Epicentre would live up to its promise. Some said the developers were trying to do the impossible inside a single entertainment complex. The downside I see is that each venue is opening separately as it is completed so that's preventing the complex from making one big bang (several parts of the Epicentre are still under construction). But by the end of the year, the Epicentre just might be the go-to place in uptown. Two of the venues to come that I'm looking forward to are the movie theater and bowling alley, both of which are said to be upscale and both of which are what uptown is currently lacking.

When Light Rail Gets Heavy

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 5/23/2008 1 comment
I rode the light rail last night to Speed Street. As is recommended by the city, I usually take the light rail whenever there's a big event going on downtown. I save time and money by not having to navigate through crowded and closed off streets, searching for parking garages that haven't reached capacity. I usually get on at the East/West Boulevard stop in South End (it makes it convenient to stop by Nikko for a drink on your way back). My friend and I did that last night and when the train arrived it was packed like sardines. But we, like everyone else, wiggled our way on. I've experienced similar crowds during CIAA week and Bobcats home games, but I think last night's crowd of people heading to Speed Street took the cake.

But at least it's not as bad as it is in Japan (see video below).

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

It's NASCAR Season

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 5/21/2008 No comments
Git 'r done! For some reason that phrase always comes to mind when I think about NASCAR.

We're at the height of NASCAR season this week, with the All-Star race held last Saturday at Lowe's Motor Speedway and the Coca-Cola 600 taking place there this Sunday. It's this week in between that fans enjoy most, and the annual Food Lion Speed Street festival is the highlight. It runs tomorrow through Saturday and will be taking over the streets of uptown. This is one of the largest, if not the largest, annual festivals in Charlotte, with a reported attendance of more than 400,000 people last year.

NASCAR fans go to see the cars and memorabilia and for the chance to get an autograph from a popular driver. If you're not a race fan, you might want to go for the live music. There are three stages that will feature more than 30 acts. This year's line-up seems to have a little more soul with the highlight being Jagged Edge's performance scheduled for Thursday at 9:30 p.m. on the Coca-Cola Stage. Fellow R&B singer and Rock Hill native Rudy Currence performs on the same stage earlier in the evening at 5:30 p.m. UnCommon Jazz and R&B cover band U-Neek Flavur both perform on Saturday. Admission to the festivities is free. Click here for more details on Speed Street.

I'm currently working on a magazine feature on a NASCAR team and that has allowed me to spend time around the sport this week. I'll wrap up my reporting by attending the race on Sunday. That's a Memorial Day weekend tradition for many of the 100,000-plus fans who'll be there. I don't ever see myself becoming an actual fan of racing but the more I cover it and the more I learn about it, the more I've come to appreciate it. The drivers and their teams work really hard, and their fans are very loyal. What more could you ask for in a sport? And at the race, the food and beer will be free flowing. What more could you ask for at a game?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Do You Know Who's Been In Our Backyard?

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 5/18/2008 No comments
Across the country, people are realizing that Charlotte is the "It" place for African-Americans. We consistently rank in the top-three among cities attracting the most African-Americans, primarily young professionals. So it is no wonder why we're seeing a growing number of conferences and conventions coming to this city that appeal to that demographic. But I'm starting to wonder why those events haven't been making a bigger splash.

Everyone, by now, knows about CIAA and the impact its tournament has had on Charlotte during the last three years it's been held here. We've embraced it and it has embraced us, and the historically black conference has signed on to come back for another three years. But the CIAA Tournament is different. There are a hundred parties and events that take place around it—most of them not sanctioned by CIAA—so you would have to be living under a rock in Rock Hill not to know that the tournament is held here during the last week of February.

But there have been a handful of other African-American related events that have come to town with much less fanfare and recognition, two of which I've blogged about recently. The Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference was here for four days, wrapping up yesterday, and last month, the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network presented the "Get Your Money Right: Hip-Hop Summit on Financial Empowerment," a one-day event on the campus of Johnson C. Smith University. Also in October, the National Association of Black Female Executives in Music and Entertainment held its International Women's Leadership Summit here for four days. How many of you were aware that all of these events came to Charlotte?

We're talking business here.

The great thing about Charlotte is that these conferences can come here and essentially have the city to themselves for the duration of their events. It's not like Atlanta where there can be four big conferences going on at the same time in one hotel. While I assume the organizers of these events are attracted by what Charlotte has to offer, I think they've failed to realize what it takes to engage the local community, to make everyday people--the ones they're supposedly here to serve—aware of what they're doing. They can bring all of the celebrities and high-profile people they like--and they have—but what good is it if a large segment of the public doesn't know about the event until after it has passed?

I've talked to countless people who weren't aware that the aforementioned conferences were in town (again, not including CIAA). There's usually very little news coverage of the events while they're here and oftentimes that is too late for someone who might be interested in attending. So when I go to some of the events, I'm often left thinking how nice it would've been if more people would've been there. How nice it would've been if more people knew about it.

So here's my advice to out-of-town organizers. When you're bringing your wonderful conference to Charlotte, you're going to need to do more than schmooze with the local executives and corporate sponsors that you're happy to be in front of. Stop preaching to the choir and turn around and face the congregation. As a matter of fact, rather than me just using that as an analogy, you might want to actually consider spreading the word to area black churches that you're coming. See that's the thing. When you're in Charlotte you must do as Charlotteans do. You'll also need to reach out to the many young professional organizations here—and there are a lot of them because there are a lot of us. And when an organization like the Charlotte Area Association of Black Journalists (my group) reaches out to you months in advance and says that its members represent all of the major media outlets in the area, you might want to get back to them.

Oh okay, now we get it.

Friday, May 16, 2008

GPT Interviews 9th Wonder (Part One)

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 5/16/2008 No comments
Grammy award-winning hip-hop producer and North Carolina native 9th Wonder is in Charlotte tonight for a party he’s DJing at Woods on South (click here for details). caught up with the hip-hop head. Here, in part one of the interview, he shares his thoughts on the current state of hip-hop music and culture. He also says if you’re in your mid-20s to late-30s, which he defines as the “true school” generation, you should be appreciating the hip-hop you grew up on—and stop requesting Soulja Boy in the clubs.

GrownPeopleTalking: Do you think that a challenge with hip-hop is that it doesn’t mature? Say when you reach a certain age you feel as if the music is too young for you?
9th Wonder: I think hip-hop back in the early 90s was mature. A lot of us grew up in Southern black Christian homes, and a lot of the music we listened to had a backdrop of jazz records—A Tribe Called Quest, Brand Nubian. The music we listened to was mature. If you look at some of the records that we listened to, “Slow Down” by Brand Nubian was a song about women needing to slow down and stop tricking themselves out. When does that ever get out of style? I was listening to Public Enemy when I was 13 years old. Public Enemy made Black Power albums. When does that ever go out of style?

GPT: Do you think we’ve gone away from that, or is it just not getting played?
9th: It’s just not getting played, man. We haven’t gone away from that. The same people who feel [hip-hop] has gone away from that, who feel like they’re too old to listen to hip-hop, request Soulja Boy at parties. Does that make sense? We live in a society where you get a good paying job and you have kids, then you say ‘I’m too grown for that.’ Too grown for what? That’s the music of your childhood. You can’t deny your childhood. You can’t deny what made who you are. We say we’re grown and we don’t listen to hip-hop records [anymore], but the way we act, the way we talk—when you call somebody and they say ‘I’m at the crib.’ Where does ‘crib’ come from? Like when you call somebody and say whatcha doing, and they say ‘I ain’t doing nothing. Just chilling.’ Chilling? Where does that come from? It doesn’t come from soul records; it comes from rap records. So no matter how much we try to separate ourselves from hip-hop because we claim to be grown, we still are the first hip-hop generation. And we will never get away from that. It’s just not getting played. Some people come to these parties and hear me play records they haven’t heard in so long. They’ll here me play Chubb Rock’s “Treat ‘Em Right” and look at me funny, like ‘I can’t believe he’s playing this song. I’ve kind of forgotten how to dance to this song.’

GPT: So we can have an appreciation for the good hip-hop music from the mid to late 80s and the early 90s, but what about current good music in hip-hop? Does it exist?
9th: It does, but a lot of it is in places where we, as an age group, don’t go. Like getting on the Net and surfing for good music is something that most 30 year olds in the South don’t do. So a lot of the music that’s good, they might miss it. The only good music they think exists is what’s in their face—either on radio or on TV. They know Kanye exists, they know Common exists, they know Lupe exists, they know Talib Kweli exists—kind of, sort of. Just think about the people who are just now being turned on to Raheem DeVaughn. How long have you been listening to Raheem DeVaughn?

GPT: At least three years.

9th: And how long have you been trying to put people on to Raheem DeVaughn?
GPT: About three years.

9th: And how long have they been listening to you?
GPT: Not until “Customer” came out.

9th: Exactly. It’s like you can try to turn people on to good music, but they won’t turn the corner until it’s played on the radio all the time or TV. Some people need that. They need that validation. I was DJing parties earlier this year, and I would play the Erykah Badu record, “Honey,” that I [produced]. I would play it and people would ask ‘What’s that?’ And I’d say it’s that new Erykah Badu. They’d say, ‘Oh okay,’ then walk away. It wasn’t until it started getting played on the radio and TV that people started going, ‘That’s Erykah Badu, Honey, wooooo!’

GPT: Seeing as the music industry is struggling, how can we turn this corner? How can we get out of this hip-hop recession? Because not only is the music industry struggling saleswise, but hip-hop is hurting more than them all.
9th: Right. You know why hip-hop is struggling? Because it’s the only music genre, it seems like, that does not respect its elders. They’re starting to do it with the whole [VH1] Hip Hop Honors. But that’s once a year, dude. We as black people don’t know how to make what we do classic and traditional. We’re so in love with what’s going on now, what’s hot now. Rock music doesn’t do that. I was watching an HD channel one time and I saw a Motley Crue concert. That thing was so jam packed, and they were performing songs they hadn’t done in 20 years. We don’t know how to do that. We don’t know how to make the things we create classic. If we start our own infrastructure, then we don’t have to worry about the hip-hop that we grew up on dying.

GPT: I think it’s a situation where hip-hop artists, once they reach 30 or 35, and you can use Jay-Z as an example, felt like they had to retire because they saw no rappers seeing success at that age. MC Lyte, Salt-n-Pepa, Big Daddy Kane—all of them kind of disappeared once they reached that age. But you are now starting to see these same artists tour again. But it still has a long way to go. Do you agree?
9th: Yeah, they’re doing shows but they’re still not performing for kids. If there are kids at their shows, the parents brought them. The number one show right now for black people ages 28 to 39 is New Edition. New Edition is our Frankie Beverly and Maze. We’re going to be seeing New Edition out there until they turn 50.

GPT: How can we get the younger generation connected to it?
9th: It’s up to us. It’s up to us, as parents. The reason it’s a 60-year-old and a 16-year-old at the same Rolling Stone concert is because that’s all that 16-year-old heard that 60-year-old parent or grandparent playing. The problem now is that we got 35 year olds wanting to do the Soulja Boy [dance]. Who’s leading who? You come over to my house, with my kids, you’re going to listen to what daddy’s listening to. Daddy’s listening to New Edition, Soul 4 Real, Soul 2 Soul, Intro, Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam, A Tribe Called Quest—anything that’s from that era that’s safe for kids to listen to.

GPT: Recently we’ve seen hip-hop artists like Snoop Dogg, Diddy, Ice Cube, and others showing themselves as fathers, whereas before it seemed to be something they would hide. For a while, every rapper we saw came across as if he was single and just partied all the time. What do you think sparked this change?
9th: They ain’t got no choice. They’re getting older. Nobody was prepared for hip-hop to grow up or that it would go this far. When we turn 50 years old, who do you think we’re going to see in our concerts? Not Soulja Boy.

GPT: You use Soulja Boy a lot as an example, but in all fairness to him he’s the face of this current music we’re hearing because he’s had the most success with it. His dance took the world by storm. I think it’s a good thing and a bad thing. It’s a good thing because he’s a kid who’s making music for kids. It’s a bad thing because it’s dominating the music.
9th: I agree with that wholeheartedly. Because just like they have Soulja Boy we had Humpty Hump and that was a stupid dance, too. The problem with Soulja Boy is—and it’s not that what he’s doing is the problem—but the problem is that in our generation we never made the one-hit wonder the face of the music. We had some stupid songs. We had “Doo-Doo Brown,” but we didn’t put them on magazine covers. Humpty Hump was a stupid dance but Digital Underground was a dope group. But the one-hit wonder dude was not the high representation of hip-hop music. Soulja Boy is becoming the face of hip-hop music and that’s dangerous.

Stay tuned for part two of this interview, where 9th Wonder discusses the Carolinas’ impact on hip-hop, which artists he’s currently working with, and the status of his relationship with Little Brother.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

So Oprah's Not Coming...

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 5/14/2008 No comments
This is an update from a previous blog post.

Oprah Winfrey won't be in attendance when her company, Harpo Inc., is honored as company of the year this Friday during the four-day Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference that kicked off today in Charlotte. I know you're disappointed. But the Big O is on the cover of Black Enterprise's June issue and several of the magazine's staff will be in town. Maybe you can channel her through the six degrees of separation.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Prime Time Love

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 5/13/2008 1 comment
There's a new reality show that I'm a fan of: Deion & Pilar: Prime Time Love. I just finished watching the fifth episode. It airs Tuesdays, 10:30 p.m. on Oxygen. (I can watch a show on Oxygen when it features a great former athlete. Man Law.) The show stars Deion and Pilar Sanders and their three children who are all seven and under (there are also periodic appearances by Deion's two older children from his first marriage). This show is another in the new trend of reality shows portraying families from the hip-hop generation, which I'm happy to see. Those include shows with Salt & Pepa, Snoop Dogg, and Rev. Run. But this is the first one that I'm aware of that stars an athlete.

Rather than elaborate on what I like about the show, I'll just say a few things: Deion is as charismatic and funny as you'd expect him to be; Pilar is hot—so hot that it's hard to believe she has three kids; their house is ridiculously big—so big that Deion rides around it on a scooter (it also seems to be because he has bad knees); the show is a little scripted, as are most reality shows, but not nearly as scripted as Snoop Dogg's Fatherhood.

Now, here's a list of Charlotte celebrities and their spouses who I think would make for good reality television:
  • Steve and Angie Smith: The Carolina Panthers star has three young children and seems to have mellowed over the last couple of years. It would be interesting to see how things are around his house, especially when his team is struggling.
  • Larry and Shelly Brown: The new Charlotte Bobcats head coach and his wife will be treated like royalty, at least for now, as they settle in to their new home in Charlotte.
  • Anthony and Tarsha McMillan Hamilton: The soulful R&B crooner is a family man who loves his hometown. Cameras following him around would find him at places you wouldn't expect to see a celebrity of his stature. It would also be fun to see him in the studio with A-list artists and his wife, who's a singer as well.
  • Ric and Tiffany VanDemark Flair: Now that the Nature Boy is "retired," he should have more time on his hands to run around places yelling wooooooo!
  • Jeff and Ingrid Vandebosch Gordon: NASCAR drivers are known for having hot wives, and Jeff's model spouse takes the checkered flag.
Perhaps I should start pitching these shows to networks.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Will Oprah Come To Charlotte?

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 5/11/2008 No comments
It looks like the Big O may be coming to the QC. It's being reported that Oprah Winfrey's company Harpo Inc. has been named Black Enterprise's company of the year. The Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference is being held in Charlotte this week, May 14-17, and Oprah will be honored at an event on Friday. But the report of Oprah being honored doesn't clearly say that she will be in attendance (being a journalist has made me a skeptic). I could easily see some other executive from Harpo accepting the award, which would be understandable since it is in fact the company that's being honored, and Oprah's time is in such high demand. But she may very well show up at the Westin Friday (I'll update you if I'm able to confirm it).

I hope Oprah does come because I'm attending the conference, but with so many events scheduled over the four days I'm trying to figure out which ones I will go to. An event that features Oprah Winfrey is a no-brainer. There's also a town hall forum being held Thursday night that's hosted by Ed Gordon and features the Reverend Al Sharpton, Chuck D., and Kimberly Osorio as panelists. I'll be at that one, too. Click here to learn more about the conference.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Northlake Mall Has Come Into Its Own

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 5/10/2008 No comments
This is a first for me: I'm blogging live on location. I know. It's no big deal, considering that I'm just at Northlake Mall. But I have a little time to kill. And being at this mall gave me the idea to blog about it.

Northlake Mall opened in September 2005, a month after I moved to Charlotte. I remember receiving press releases and media invites at the time, but thinking what's the big deal, it's just a mall. But little did I know then that new shopping malls are a big deal nowadays. Not only is this Charlotte's newest mall, but it's likely the last one to be built here. Charlotte, like most big cities around the country, are preferring to develop their downtowns and center city areas rather than contributing to the urban sprawl we've seen for decades. (Urban sprawl is considered to be bad for the environment because it's said to lead to more pollution from commuting, and the low density kills a whole lot of trees for not a whole lot of residents). Shopping malls are being replaced by those shopping centers you see on just about every corner in urban areas. You know, the ones that always seem to have a Panera Bread, a cell phone store, a spa, a FedEx/Kinkos, a Harris Teeter, and so on.

I moved from south Charlotte to north Charlotte exactly one year ago, and before then I had only visited Northlake Mall a couple of times. But now that I live on this side of town, I come here more often. And by more often I mean about once a month, if that. I've never been a big mall person. So when I do come I usually go to a couple of my favorite stores and get what I came for. Then I'm out. I save time by not trying anything on. Man Law.

But I've been to this mall a little more often lately, having to shop for myself (had to get some spring gear), and a couple of birthdays. And I can now say that Northlake Mall has an identity. When I would come here last summer, I would be surprised that the crowds weren't larger, especially on Saturdays. But today, as was last Saturday, it's packed. Everybody from tweens, teens, young couples pushing strollers, and fashionistas rushing in to buy that outfit for tonight are here. As are the guys who come to get there mack on in the Food Court (bet you haven't heard that word in a while). These are all the people that are needed to make a mall successful.

I think it took a little while for locals to put Northlake on their radar, for it to become an option among SouthPark and Concord Mills (Eastland Mall is not really any option for most people any more). Plus many more stores and restaurants have opened around the mall, as usually occurs around malls. The P.F. Chang's seems to always be full. And across the street from the mall is a new Best Buy with a Super Target soon to be completed. I only live a little more than ten minutes from all of this and I'm really happy to see the Target coming. There are also new apartment buildings and I think maybe some condos or townhouses going up.

Well, that's all I have to say about that. Plus, I don't think I look too cool on my laptop in the Food Court. Now I'd look cooler if I was doing this at some downtown bistro or cafe, right? Yep, urban sprawl.

Friday, May 9, 2008

We're Building It, So They Should Come

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 5/09/2008 No comments
Kanye West's Glow In the Dark Tour was in town last night. Were you there? I wasn't, only because I had a previously committed engagement, Charlotte magazine's BOB Awards, which was a great event at SouthPark Mall (pick up the May issue of the magazine if you haven't yet). My brother and a couple of my friends went to the concert, though. As should be expected with a bill that features Kanye, Lupe Fiasco, Rhianna, and N.E.R.D., I heard it was an awesome show. But I also heard that Time Warner Cable Arena was far from being sold out. What a shame.

Snippet of Kanye West performing during Glow In the Dark Tour in Charlotte.

Up until a few years ago, Charlotte didn't have as nice a venue to bring in such high-profile concerts. But we do now and we should act like it. This market, for some reason, does not support hip-hop concerts very well. But we'll often complain when big shows pass us by for Greensboro, N.C. or Greenville, S.C. In fact, last month I went to Jay-Z and Mary J. Blige's Heart of the City Tour in Greensboro. A concert like that should be in Charlotte—North Carolina's largest and most urban city. But you know what, Greensboro supports its hip-hop shows, and that's why promoters continue to bring them. Not only does its area residents buy tickets, but they do it early enough so the promoter doesn't have to panic during the days leading up to the show. I saw Nas in concert here last year at Neighborhood Theatre, which is a great venue for small, intimate shows. The place only seats 1,000 people and the day of the Nas show tickets were still for sale.

The Glow In the Dark Tour is the biggest hip-hop concert that's come to Charlotte in a long time. It'll be interesting to see what comes next. Don't get your hopes up too high, though.

So I couldn't make the concert, but I had the privilege of attending the official Glow In the Dark afterparty last night at HOM (pronounced Home). It was an invitation-only party (shout out to Arthur Smith of AGS Media for getting me on the list). The afterparty was sponsored by Absolut 100, which is also the sponsor of the tour. HOM was the perfect nightclub for this. It opened last fall, in the former Menage space, and it is by far the nicest and trendiest club in Charlotte, with three posh and very different levels. If you haven't been yet you should check it out. Each time I've gone to HOM has been for special events like this, so I can't tell you would it's like on an average night, but last night was great. The organizer of the event made sure a lot of ladies got in, and the Absolut 100 girls were very impressive. Plus, there was free Absolut until midnight and the Absolut 100 girls passed out complimentary pairs of the shutter shades Kanye has made famous. (I think they're cool, but where would I wear them?)

The free Kanye West shades Absolut 100 gave out in addition to the free booze.

HOM has been a great addition to Charlotte's nightlife scene, a scene that I've seen greatly improve during the nearly three years I've lived here. There's still a lot of room for improvement, however. But if we support these venues like we should, more will come.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Will We Ever Be Post-Racial?

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 5/07/2008 1 comment

After attending an event I find interesting, I usually don’t blog about it until the following day. The common reasons are because when I get home I don’t feel like it, it’s late, and having a night to sleep on it usually gives me a fresh perspective. But I literally just got home from the events of tonight that I’m blogging about and I felt compelled to do it now.

This evening I attended Business After Five, an event for minority business owners sponsored by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Black Chamber of Commerce (CMBCC) and Charlotte Mecklenburg African American Agenda (CM3A). It was held at the Charlotte Chamber, which CMBCC created a partnership with last fall after founding in 2005. This was part of CMBCC's big membership push through its new alliance. The event was scheduled for 6-8 p.m. (though it lasted longer) and I arrived promptly at 7. I got there during the portion of the program where a few of the organizers were speaking. This apparently was after about 45 minutes or so of networking and mingling by the attendees. After the speakers, which included Terry Jones, Malcolm Graham, and Lenny Springs, the event concluded with more networking and mingling over what I must say was excellent food (mostly catered by the Coffee Cup).

All in all, it was a great event. It was heavily attended (all seats were filled and I was one of several who were standing). There was some great networking, as I left with a back pocketful of business cards and fliers. But you know, during the event, the first thing that came to mind was this: Why in 2008 is it necessary for us to have a black chamber of commerce? This question that I posed in my mind would also be introduced into a conversation later in the night, and is the reason I felt compelled to blog about it so soon after. I’m basically continuing the conversation here.

So after leaving Business After Five, which was held downtown at the Chamber of Commerce building (or should I say regular Chamber of Commerce), I met up with a couple of friends at Arpa. Try to follow me here, okay. One of those friends is a member of Good Eats! Charlotte, a local Meetup group (I blogged about Meetup a couple of weeks ago). He invited me and another one of our friends. I told him earlier in the day that I was planning to go to the chamber event but would come by afterwards, so that’s what I did. I chatted it up with my friends and a couple of the other Meetup folks, learning more about their group and how they choose different restaurants at which to eat.

Many of the Meetup folks started to leave less than an hour after I got there, including my two friends. But I wasn’t ready to go home yet. I saw two young ladies sitting at a table conversing with each other. I told them that my friends had left me and asked them if they minded if I joined them. I said, “It looks like you two are having a great conversation.” One of them said, “We’re talking about politics.” I said, “I like talking politics.” They were talking about Reverend Jeremiah Wright. So that meant the conversation was going to be about politics and race.

The three of us seemed to share similar views, but I’ll only recap what I said so that I don’t misrepresent them. Here are some of the points I made:

  • “I work in the media but I think the media has caused the Reverend Wright controversy to get entirely too much attention.”
  • “I feel bad that Obama is having to deal with this, but at the same time I wonder how much of Wright’s controversial remarks he’d been aware of while attending the church.”
  • “Obama’s speech on race following the initial outbreak of Wright’s clips of controversial remarks being shown is one of the greatest speeches I’ve ever witnessed.”
  • “Obama has talked about trying to be a post-racial candidate, but not only did that not happen, but I’m not sure if that’ll ever be possible for a black candidate.”
  • “Yesterday in North Carolina, Obama carried 92 percent of the black vote.”
  • “You know what, I was just at an event earlier this evening sponsored by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Black Chamber of Commerce. And as I was there I was asking myself, ‘Why in 2008 is it necessary for us to have a black chamber of commerce?’ The only color that should matter in business is green.”
  • “I’m not against a black chamber being formed. If they felt the need to start an organization, it must be because they felt underrepresented in the larger chamber or other segments of business.”
  • “In fact, I’m president of the Charlotte Area Association of Black Journalists, which is an affiliate chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists. We started our organization because there are so few of us in newsrooms within newspapers, magazines, and TV and radio stations. Not only do we work to ensure that African Americans are portrayed fairly and equally in the media, but we also try to encourage more African Americans to enter the field of journalism.”
  • “But you know what, I look forward to the day when a black chamber or a black journalists group isn’t needed. Or a Hispanic or Asian association, for that matter. Because every time we form one of those, we get further away from the racial unity and understanding that we claim to aspire to. Starting our ‘separate but equal’ organizations (I called it that because that’s what it seems like to me) is essentially us giving up on all races effectively working together.”

I could go on and on listing my viewpoints from the conversation with those ladies. It was a great discussion. I could also go on and on now as I continue to think about it. But I’ll call it a night for now. I’m sure I’ll revisit it sometime soon.

In closing (for now), if we ever want to truly be a post-racial society in America, we still have a lot of work to do. And it has to start with open and honest conversations. Maybe like this one.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Fantasia and Young Dro...I Didn't Know

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 5/05/2008 7 comments
I'm a hip-hop aficionado. I stay abreast with what's going on in the music and culture. I usually know the hot new music on mixtapes. I read Vibe and XXL each month. I check the Billboard charts each week. And I get a lot of my daily news from One of my favorite segments on the website is the weekly "Mixtape Monday" column. But today's column caught me off guard.

As I was reading the interview with Young Dro, I came across this line: "In the DVD's trailer, we see Dro talk to Tip via computer video hookup, touch the town with wife Fantasia and lay vocals in the lab." Now those of you who aren't up on hip-hop slang, "wife" means she's his girlfriend (I know what you're thinking: why didn't they just say girlfriend then). Usually the term that's used is "wifey" (makes more sense now, right?).

But this is the first I've heard of a relationship between Fantasia, the High Point native who lives in Charlotte, and Young Dro, who's Atlanta to the core. I did a quick Google search and it revealed several stories and rumors about the two that started surfacing on gossip sites in November. The first photos of them together that I could find were posted online in March. So it looks like it's official. They obviously aren't front-page news like a relationship between Jay-Z and Beyonce, but I think they are equally a good couple.

Fantasia is one of the best voices in R&B, who was discovered by American Idol, of course. Young Dro, one of the best B-list rappers out who could become an A-lister if his upcoming sophomore album lives up to its potential, was put on by T.I. Dro's breakout hit in 2006 was "Shoulder Lean" (again, more info for those of you who may not be as hip-hop savvy).

And you know, the best thing about this couple is that they look like a good match (read between the lines on that one). Now we should probably come up with a cool couple's name for them, like Jayonce, Bennifer, and TomKat. Got any suggestions?

Time for the 'Best' Party

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 5/05/2008 No comments
The May issue of Charlotte magazine has been on newsstands for a couple of weeks now. If you've purchased a copy then you know that it's the magazine's annual Best Of the Best (BOB) issue. If you haven't gotten it, go get it. This one issue will tell you more about Charlotte than any other. Read about the winners of more than 250 categories regarding the best in shopping, dining, nightlife, sports, people, and more.

And the best part of the ordeal is the BOB Awards. It's the party the magazine sponsors each year in conjunction with the issue. It's taking place this Thursday, May 8, 6-9 p.m. at SouthPark Mall. Click here to learn more about the event, including which restaurants will be there serving samples of their popular dishes, and to purchase advance tickets.

I worked on the Best Of feature, which spans more than 25 pages. And in the spirit of this heightened political season, I officially endorse this party. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Big Banks: Please Save Our Women

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 5/01/2008 1 comment
If you're new to Charlotte, it won't take you long to realize that this is a bank town. We're the number two financial city in terms of assets, second only to New York. Most of this is due to Bank of America and Wachovia being headquartered here. You likely know the story of how the two banks employ about 35,000 people in the area. But did you know that more than 80,000 people are employed locally in the finance industry as a whole? Not only is about half of that number bank employees, but the other half are jobs that are created largely because of the banks' presence: insurance, investments, mortgage lenders, etc.

So with the ongoing bad news about the banks' financial state, I'm concerned. In the last two weeks, Bank of America has reported that its first quarter earnings fell 77 percent, while Wachovia reported that it lost $393 million during the first quarter of this year. And in the past week, both banks have coincidentally received big fines or penalties for having programs that violated SEC laws. When companies are losing hundreds of millions of dollars, people are soon to follow. I'm concerned that if things don't turn around soon, the banks will be forced to conduct big layoffs (some have already been announced in recent months). And when people get laid off, they often move away in search of new jobs, especially if they moved here because of the job in the first place. I'm afraid that would mean scores of young ladies would be leaving Charlotte.

In late 2005, about four months after I moved to Charlotte, I was working on an article on speed dating. As part of the research, I attended two different speed dating events. I didn't go as a journalist. I went as a "regular" person, so I signed up and attended like everyone else. One of the speed dating events I enjoyed more than the other. In that particular one, what I remember most was that about half of the dozen or so women I "dated" that night (each date lasted 5 minutes) worked for either Bank of America or Wachovia. I learned this because one of the standard questions you ask or are asked during you five-minute interview—because that's what it felt like, an interview, but it was fun—is where do you work.

Since that time, as I've gotten to know Charlotte—its people and places—better, I've come to realize how much the banks mean to this city. I'm not going to go on and on about the jobs they create, the philanthropy they do, or their overall impact (BofA and Wachovia are singlehandedly responsible for the growth and development downtown has experienced). I only care about the ladies we could potentially lose. What would the nightclubs and after-work social scene be like without the chicks from the red and blue banks? The young professional women who line the bars and meet in groups. I don't even want to think about it.

Barack Obama's In Charlotte Tomorrow

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 5/01/2008 No comments
If you've been dying to see the rock star in person, here's your chance. Democratic presidential front-runner Barack Obama will be appearing in Charlotte Friday, May 2 for a rally at Cricket Arena. Doors open at 3:30 p.m. and the event begins at 5:30.

Admission is free, but tickets are required. Click here to sign up for an e-ticket. The website also lists about ten public places in the area (primarily libraries) where you can also pick up tickets.
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