Wednesday, June 27, 2012

If you think interest in social media is slowing down, don't hold your breath. When I'm out at social and networking events, conversations often turn to what we're doing on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and other social media tools. Maybe that's more so a reflection of the circles I run in. But the people at NASCAR are putting social media on the fast track in a major way. NASCAR and Hewlett-Packard have announced plans to build the NASCAR Fan and Media Engagement Center at the racing league's marketing communications and digital media offices in NASCAR Plaza in Charlotte. It will "enable the sport to better serve the industry, media and fans through a platform that facilitates near-real-time response to traditional, digital and social media," the companies said in a press release.

NASCAR Plaza in Uptown. Credit:

The 500-square-foot, glass-enclosed center will be outfitted with state-of-the-art touch screens, television monitors, and multiple-seated viewing areas. The center will, reportedly, be the first of its kind for a sports league. It's slated for initial testing in October, with a full rollout expected by the start of the 2013 season in February. NASCAR plans to staff it about 18 hours a day. I can't say for sure if this is related, but NASCAR currently has a half-dozen job openings in its digital media department in Charlotte.

The planned NASCAR Fan and Media Engagement Center. Credit: NASCAR/HP

Sunday, June 24, 2012

I was surfing through my Twitter timeline Friday night when I saw someone tweet about Church Girls Rock at Have Life Church. Both the name of the event and church sounded interesting, so I looked around the web to learn more about them (see, I'm not always partying on a Friday night). Have Life is a burgeoning church and ministry in Charlotte, and it held Church Girls Rock Weekend this weekend (#ChurchGirlsRock), featuring speakers, concerts, and sermons over three days. I told a friend about it Friday night, saying it sounded like something she'd be interested in attending. She then looked them up herself and sent me the link to a great YouTube video.

Pastor Shomari White, of Have Life, preached a series last month on "Love, Sex & Relationships." That's not an uncommon theme in church sermons today; in fact, it's probably becoming more prevalent as churches try to combat the images of this increasingly sexual world we live in. In the 11-minute video the church posted, Pastor White addresses the pitfalls of sinful sexual activity and premarital sex, and when he's not making you laugh or gasp in the sermon, he's probably making you think about your wrongdoings.

He spares no one, from teens ("It's better for me to shock them than you to be shocked to find out your daughter is being passed around by the football team.") to adults ("Don't cry another day that some dude you slept with dumped you. He's a sinner and that's what sinners are supposed to do. Don't be mad that you went half on a baby with a dummy.") to senior citizens ("You think you put grandma in the retirement home to knit sweaters; she's dropping it like it's hot.").

Do yourself a favor and watch this video.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Creative Loafing, Charlotte's alternative weekly newspaper, published its 25th Anniversary Edition this week, celebrating its "relationship with Charlotte over the past quarter-century." In the process, its editorial staff combed through its catalog of hundreds of issues and thousands of stories to select "the 25 most important stories in CL's history." Creative Loafing also debuted a new logo and redesign with this issue.

I haven't written for CL since last summer, but I was pleased to learn today that a story I wrote two and a half years ago made the 25th anniversary list. It's the cover story I wrote in November 2009 on the ten-year anniversary of former Carolina Panthers player Rae Carruth hiring hitmen to shoot and kill his pregnant girlfriend, Cherica Adams. Even though it's a tragic tale, it's one of my favorite stories I've ever written. I was able to tell the story of the criminal circumstances that took place on a night in 1999 in Charlotte; the nationally televised trial and media circus that followed, which many of you still remember; what Rae had been doing in prison over all these years; what his attorney thought about the case years later; and, most importantly, how Chancellor, the son of Rae and the late Cherica, born with cerebral palsy, has been raised by her mother.

Click here to read that story from 2009. Click here to read what CL's Senior Editor Matt Brunson wrote in this week's issue about my story and the paper's original coverage of the Carruth case.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Forbes has published its annual list of The World's 100 Highest-Paid Athletes, ranking sports figures based on the money they've raked in over the last 12 months, between June 2011 and June 2012. Boxers take the top two spots: Floyd Mayweather Jr. at No. 1 with $85 million and the guy people have been wanting him to fight for two years now, Manny Pacquiao, at No. 2 with $62 million. Rounding out the top five are Tiger Woods at No. 3 with $59.4 million, LeBron James at No. 4 with $53 million, and Roger Federer at No. 5 at $52.7 million.

Forbes explains that the earning figures it compiled include salaries, bonuses, prize money, appearance fees, licensing, and endorsement income. So there are a number of ways athletes become filthy rich. All of Mayweather's $85 mil came from what he made in the ring, considering he owns his own fight promotion company, while $45 mil of Federer's $52.7 mil came from endorsements, so he made most of his fortune away from the court.

The business magazine also points out that 30 NFL players made the list of 100 highest-paid athletes, which is more than any other sport, but an anomaly this year because many NFL players, it reports, had bonuses delayed until the summer of 2011 that normally would have been paid in March due to the NFL lockout. Plus, several players had their 2012 salaries converted into signing bonuses and paid out in March to alleviate team’s salary cap issues. As a result, of those high-earning NFLers, four are Carolina Panthers: defensive end Charles Johnson at No. 15 with $34.4 million, linebacker Jon Beason at No. 56 with $21.4 million, running back DeAngelo Williams at No. 66 with $19.9 million, and center Ryan Kalil at No. 71 with $19.4 million (the NFL's highest paid center).

Charles Johnson, photographed with a kid at his football camp last week, is the highest paid athlete in Charlotte over the past year and No. 15 in the world. Credit: @randywattson

Also in relation to Charlotte, there are four NASCAR drivers on the list who call this area home. Dale Earnhardt Jr. at No. 23 with $28.2 million (making him NASCAR's top-earning driver thanks largely to $15 million in endorsements), Jeff Gordon at No. 42 with $23.6 million ($10 million in endorsements), Tony Stewart at No. 47 with $22.3 million ($7 million in endorsements), and Jimmie Johnson at No. 53 with $21.5 million ($7 million in endorsements). It's also worth noting that three of these four drivers, with the exception of Stewart, are a part of the Hendrick Motorsports team.

So, there are a total of eight Charlotte-area athletes on the list via the Panthers and NASCAR (but no Charlotte Bobcats). As I often say, there's a lot of money in this town.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

If you experience extra traffic or difficulty finding parking in Uptown Charlotte over the next couple of days, it's for one reason: American Idol. Charlotte is the third of seven cities to host auditions for American Idol Season 12; the others being Los Angeles, San Antonio, Newark, Chicago, New Orleans, and Oklahoma City. So with Charlotte being the only Southeastern city, you can expect singers to travel from several surrounding states. I'm predicting here and now that the next American Idol winner will come from these Charlotte auditions, even though we'll have to wait until January before the season begins airing. Registration for Season 12 auditions, which is required to participate, is taking place today and tomorrow (Sunday, June 17 and Monday, June 18) at Time Warner Cable Arena, 333 E. Trade St., and the auditions are being held Tuesday.

An Idol hopeful displays his badge of honor after traveling to Charlotte to audition. 

Local news outlets are reporting that lines began forming outside the arena at four o'clock this morning (The Charlotte Observer, WBTV, WCNC, News14). Even though there are more than a dozen talent and singing shows on major television networks, Idol continues to attract some of the largest crowds for their auditions. American Idol Season 10 winner Scotty McCreery will join Ryan Seacrest in greeting this year's hopefuls on Tuesday. McCreery is a native of Garner, North Carolina near Raleigh.

North Carolina and Charlotte have several ties to Idol over the years. Raleigh native Clay Aiken was a student at UNC Charlotte when he auditioned for Season 2, eventually finishing second and becoming one of the most commercially successful Idol contestants. Fantasia Barrino was an unknown 20-year-old from High Point when she went on to win Season 3 of Idol in 2004. Soon after she moved to Charlotte, where she continues to reside. There have been several other North Carolinians who have become Idol finalists, like Chris Daughtry. And more recently there was Brittany Kerr, the Charlotte Bobcats dancer (Lady Cats), who made it to the Hollywood rounds of Idol last season. She auditioned in Savannah last year, which aired this past January, and now auditions are taking place on her home court. Though it appears that based on her recent Twitter posts that she's not trying out for the Lady Cats this year (auditions were held yesterday)--perhaps she's moving on to pursue her signing aspirations.

Back in 2008, I lobbied for American Idol to hold auditions in Charlotte--and by that I mean I wrote a blog post. It's nice to see they finally listened, and this week the Queen City is holding auditions for the first time ever.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Hip Hop Caucus Charlotte Leadership Committee is holding a volunteer training session for the 2012 Respect My Vote! campaign this Saturday, June 16, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Urban League of Central Carolinas (740 W. Fifth St.). This is your opportunity to get involved in the community and have a positive impact on voter turnout in this fall's election.

The Hip Hop Caucus is a national nonprofit organization, based in Washington D.C., and Respect My Vote! is its nonpartisan voter registration, mobilization, and education campaign targeting young people between the ages of 18 and 40, supported by a national coalition of two dozen organizations as well as leadership committees in cities like Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, and more. It doesn't matter what political party you support, whether you lean left or right, if you value the importance of voting and educating yourself on candidates and policies, then you should register to be a volunteer to help spread that message to others. Respect My Vote! isn't about telling people who to vote for, but to encourage them to vote and helping them to register--millions of people don't exercise this important constitutional right, especially young adults.

The Hip Hop Caucus Charlotte will hold some exciting and informative community events in the coming months (some hosted by celebrities) that you can be part of the planning for. Click here to sign up for Saturday's volunteer training. I hope to see you there.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: The Dark Knight Rises

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 6/13/2012 No comments
Dale Earnhardt Jr. as The Dark Knight? Nah, he's too nice of a guy. But that won't stop him from driving his No. 88 Chevrolet in a special paint scheme this weekend, inspired by The Dark Knight Rises, the third and final installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy (in theaters July 20). NASCAR is the king of sports marketing, and Dale Jr. is its prince, continuing to be one of the most sponsored and endorsed drivers, just as he has been for more than a decade in NASCAR's top series.

One of Dale Jr.'s top sponsors is Diet Mountain Dew (, which shares naming rights on his car with the U.S. National Guard. Mountain Dew has a large partnership with The Dark Knight Rises--beginning Monday you'll be able to purchase Mountain Dew Dark Berry, a limited-time-only flavor, as well as special 16-ounce cans of Mountain Dew that feature the bat symbol ( The day before, this Sunday, Dale Jr. will drive The Dark Knight Rises-themed car at the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway (noon on TNT).

He actually unveiled the car two and a half weeks ago at the Hendrick Motorsports Fan Fest, which took place during Charlotte's race weeks. The blacked-out racecar features the Bat Shield on the hood, and Batman and Bane, Gotham City’s newest villain, on either side. In this video below, you can watch how the car was wrapped at Hendrick.

Points-wise, Dale Jr. is having a great season, currently in second place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings, thanks to five top-five finishes and 11 top-10s this season. At this rate, he's a shoe-in to make the Chase this fall, but he continues to drive under a dark cloud, having not won a race in four years. In fact, the last time he took home the checkered flag in a Sprint Cup race was June 15, 2008 at Michigan International Speedway, the same track he's competing at this weekend. Sunday is not only race day, it's also Father's Day, and since he'll forever be known as his father's son, this would be the perfect time for him to end his 143-race winless streak. The late, great Dale Sr., of course, was known as The Intimidator and drove his black No. 3 Chevrolet for several years. With Dale Jr. driving a black Chevy on Father's Day, perhaps he can channel the spirit of his dad's winning ways--and The Dark Knight Rises to victory.

Pigging Out at Bull & Barrister

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 6/13/2012 No comments
There aren't many restaurants (not counting fast food) where I live in northwest Charlotte, in the Coulwood/Mountain Island Lake area. But there is a good neighborhood restaurant and bar here that I don't frequent enough: Bull & Barrister. I ate dinner there last evening, and each time I go I try something different on the menu. I ordered the Pulled Pork Platter, which is 24-hour slow roasted and covered in sweet barbecue sauce. Two sides come with this entree so I chose the baked mac 'n cheese and the loaded baked potato. And because I love them, I ordered an additional side--the sweet potato waffle fries.

I was in food heaven. The pulled pork was very tender and flavorful, which isn't always the case at restaurants that don't specialize in barbecue. Everything was good, and I couldn't eat it all so I got a to-go box, which I will be opening up shortly for lunch. I also ordered dessert to go: the Barrister Chocolate Tower, a large slice of chocolate cake that was very rich and moist. Once again, surprisingly good.

If you're ever in the area, you should give Bull & Barrister a try. It's less than 20 minutes from Uptown up Brookshire Freeway, and only 10 minutes from Northlake Mall down I-485. There are great daily food and drink specials, such as half-price wine and 69-cent oysters on Mondays, 50-cent wings on Tuesdays, and half-price appetizers on Wednesdays.

Bull & Barrister Draft House and Grille, inside Callabridge Commons, 3615 Mount Holly-Huntersville Road, 704-971-3313,

Friday, June 8, 2012

There are people who live in parts of this country, particularly the Midwest, West, or even far Northeast, who don't know much about southern states and cities because they've never visited the region. Some of those people are the ones who confuse Charlotte with Charleston. Sure, the first five letters of the cities' names are the same and they're both in the Carolinas, but, as you know, one is in North Carolina and the other is in South Carolina. And as landscapes, tourist attractions, and prevalent industries go, they couldn't be more different. To put it simply, Charlotte is more of a southern metropolitan city whose downtown boasts skyscrapers, condos, headquarters of large companies, and professional sports teams; Charleston is an historic coastal city with beaches, plantation-style homes, and revered for its food and arts festivals. I know I'm just summing up those cities very briefly and that they each have so much more to offer, but I've never thought the two cities had a whole lot in common.

Then I learned there's one thing Charleston has that I already knew Charlotte possesses: a burgeoning technology industry.

Fast Company published an article this week titled, "Introducing "Silicon Harbor": Charleston, SC, Home Of TwitPic And Amazon's CreateSpace," where it illustrates how and why Charleston is one of the top-10 fastest growing cities for software and Internet technology, despite being the 75th largest metro area in the U.S. "TwitPic and Amazon's CreateSpace count among the household names to emerge from Charleston. Additional prominent companies with footprints in the city include Blackbaud, Boeing, and Google," the article states.

It also goes on to describe some of the prominent tech startups and partnerships in Charleston. But you know what, Charlotte has many comparable entities:

Now, there are a couple of things Charlotte can learn from Charleston in terms of growing its tech community. For starters, Charleston has given itself a cool name for the industry: "Silicon Harbor." Charlotte needs a moniker too. Any suggestions? How about "Silicon Bank"? Secondly, Charlotte needs to land a large technology company. Sure, Apple has built a new data center in Maiden, about 45 minutes northwest of Charlotte, and Google built a data center in Lenoir, but those are both large facilities mainly used to house servers. We need a large tech company in Charlotte, proper, where developers go to work every day. Charleston specifically uses state tax incentives and grant programs to target tech companies. But one area where Charlotte has an advantage, we have a lot more access to venture capital because of all of the current and former banking executives that live here and have started investment funds. Securing sources for capital is essential to startups' survival.

The Fast Company article talks about how software developers, engineers, and other techies are moving to Charleston because they're finding it to be a great place to live. That's the same case with Charlotte, as is illustrated in the video below on the tech community by the Charlotte in 2012 Convention Host Committee, as part of their Carolina Stories series.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Truck Hop?

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 6/07/2012 No comments
Apparently there was a "Truck Hop" event recently in Charlotte. This truck has better dance moves than I do. LOL.

Monday, June 4, 2012

If you've been watching the new season of The Bachelorette, which was filmed largely in Charlotte, perhaps you've caught the reality show dating bug. If so, you could be in luck with one of two casting/recruiting events this week.

Thursday, June 7
The Bachelor Casting Call at Suite
This Thursday during the popular Alive After Five event, producers from The Bachelor will hold an open casting call for single women, taking place 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Suite, 210 E. Trade St., at the EpiCentre. Think the odds won't be in your favor to make the cut for the ABC reality show? Keep in mind that Emily Maynard from Charlotte, who's currently starring in The Bachelorette, not only was a contestant on The Bachelor in 2011 but was the eventual winner (though her and Bachelor Brad Womack soon broke up).

Saturday, June 9
Celebrity Matchmaker Seeking Single Black Men
Celebrity matchmaker Jasmine Diaz is coming to Charlotte to recruit the city’s most eligible, single, successful African-American men. If you’re single and looking, and between the ages of 35 and 45, this will be your opportunity to connect with the matchmaker for free. The Shawn Mackenzi Agency, a Los Angeles-based matchmaking company that specializes in matching affluent African-Americans and Latinos, is hosting a special recruiting session that will be taped for a new reality series being produced by Comcast Entertainment Studios / NBCUniversal. The event takes place this Saturday, 1 p.m., at Aloft Charlotte Uptown Hotel. 210 E. Trade St., at the EpiCentre. Click here to RSVP.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Be a Harambee Reader to Children this Summer

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 6/01/2012 1 comment
About six months ago I learned of a great nonprofit organization in Charlotte called Freedom School Partners. FSP helps children succeed in school and in life by offering educational enrichment programs, and it partners with numerous community organizations. Notably, it offers the Children Defense Fund's Freedom Schools summer programs to improve academic achievement, reduce dropout rates, and inspire the love of reading.

There's a way you can contribute by giving just a little bit of your time. Freedom School Partners is seeking members of the community to come read aloud at Harambee (Kiswahili for “Let’s Pull Together”). You'd help children in the summer programs start a day off right by being a Harambee Reader and sharing the gift of reading with them. All you have to do is volunteer 30 minutes of your time to read to a group of Freedom School scholars, ages five to 14 years old. The reading time is offered between Tuesdays and Fridays, 8:30-9 a.m., during the six-week program, June 18 to July 27. You only have to pick one time to come out--or more if you'd like. There are 25 locations around Charlotte to choose from, so you'll likely find one that's close to where you live or work.

FSP can provide you with a book or you can bring your own. You can also share a little about yourself, maybe talk about the work you do, tell them why reading is important and fun--anything to help motivate and inspire them.

The summer Freedom School locations are: Allenbrook Elementary, Ashley Park PreK-8 School, Avondale Presbyterian Church, Bethlehem Center at Winterfield Elementary, Billingsville Elementary, Bruns Academy, W.G. Byers School, Christ Lutheran Church, CN Jenkins Presbyterian Church, Druid Hills Academy, Eastover Elementary, Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, The Grove, Highland Renaissance Academy, Johnson C. Smith University, Montclaire Elementary, Providence Day School, Quail Hollow Middle, Ranson Middle, Sedgefield Elementary, Seigle Point, Shalom Park, Statesville Elementary, Thomasboro Academy, and UNC Charlotte.

Click here to become a Harambee Reader. There you'll find a Google calendar where you can select a site and date to read. Then you'll need to email Kim Dickerson, Harambee coordinator, at with your selection to sign up.

I'm signing up and I hope you will too!

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