Monday, July 28, 2008

Culture and Spirituality On a Summer Day

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 7/28/2008 No comments

It’s amazing the things you can see and do when you get out on a Saturday afternoon. I don’t get out much on Saturday afternoons—especially during the summer heat—but I did over the weekend. And I’m glad I did.

I work with a youth group and I took two of the kids out to a couple of things I thought would be good for them to experience. I wasn’t exactly sure if they would enjoy it—as teenagers their biggest concern is usually whether girls are gonna be there or not—but I knew the events would be culturally rewarding.

First, we went to the Family Cultural Appreciation Day at the Afro-American Cultural Center. It’s an annual one-day festival the center puts on in July. They open the place up so people can tour the art exhibits and there were several vendors and activities outside. Because it was hot out—and I’m lazy—I copped a nice seat in the shade at the outdoor amphitheater and watched the various performances.

African dance groups showcased their skills, reminding me that the dances they do aren’t all that different from what we see in hip-hop videos. The drums they dance to are similar as well. A Latin dance group and a Latin band performed also. The young fellas I brought with me watched for a little bit, then they walked around, looking for girls I’m sure. There were people there of all ages.

We stayed for about an hour and a half, and then headed over to Area 15 in NoDa. There’s an International Art Market held there every Saturday, from 4 to 10 p.m. We arrived around 5, which I figured would be too early for this type of event so I didn’t expect to see many people there. We walked around the communal art space. It’s a cool and eclectic place. It’s probably even better in the evening when more people are there and the live music is going. There’s art on display, some for sale. Then there’s the Area 15 Buick parked on the front lawn. It’s a piece of art itself, with ceramic fish scales and fins, looking like something a 1980s Aqua Man would drive.

Throw some Ds on that, on that!

We were actually about to leave when I saw a sign on the sidewalk that said “24-7. Come on in.” I realized this was the same 24-7 I had assigned a story on last year when I was an associate editor for Charlotte magazine. At the time, I had received an email about events going on at 24-7 and asked the writer to check it out and see if it was worth doing a story on. She did and came back in awe. So she wrote the story (click here to read it) and while editing it I remember saying that I wanted to check this place out for myself. It may have taken me seven months, and I came across it by accident, but I found it. Or maybe it found me.

24-7 is an urban prayer room in NoDa. (Photo by Chris Edwards/Charlotte magazine)

Before I describe 24-7, let me first say that it’s hard to describe. It’s the kind of place you really must experience for yourself. It’s run by a nonprofit organization and is labeled as an urban prayer room. While it’s definitely a spiritual place, I wouldn’t exactly call it a religious institution. It’s a place you go to connect in any way you see fit—pray, meditate, read, converse, draw, etc. From the floor to the walls are scriptures and words of wisdom drawn or painted just about everywhere you look in the dimly lit space. (“If you seek with all your heart, you will find me” —God.)

There are several booths in which you can sit and partake in some type of activity. Many have portable DVD players with headphones for you to watch videos. I watched about 15 minutes of one that explained what it means to be a disciple. It was pretty interesting. Some of the stations have art supplies so that you can express how you’re feeling. Others have post-it notes for you to leave messages or write the name of a person you would like to be prayed for. There’s also a booth dedicated to Villa Heights. It explains the work 24-7 members are doing to help the neighborhood bounce back from crime and poverty.

One of the things I liked most about 24-7 is how you’re free to roam and experience the place. No one came up to us asking any questions or offering any reading material. Religion and spirituality can be touchy subjects with most people. But this place is meant for you to discover whatever you’re meant to—if you’re meant to. I highly recommend you visit 24-7, even if it’s just to see something different than you’re used to.

Open Mon-Sat., 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
514 E. Fifteenth St.


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