Sunday, July 29, 2012

Long before Charlotte set its sights on hosting the 2012 Democratic National Convention, it focused on other lofty goals like landing an NFL franchise. As you know, the city accomplished that when the Carolina Panthers were born in 1995. On this day, July 29, of that year, the Panthers and the Jacksonville Jaguars, the NFL's other expansion team, played each other in each team's first-ever preseason game. That contest was the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio and the Panthers won 20-14. In honor of this day, NFL Films put together a great video recapping that game (click here to watch -- it wouldn't allow me to embed). It also digs back into the vaults to include footage of the NFL commissioner announcing that the Carolina Panthers had been unanimously selected as a new franchise, how Charlotteans rejoiced, and shows team owner Jerry Richardson thanking all of the people in Charlotte and the Carolinas who bought those 40,000 PSLs (personal seat licenses) for the inaugural season.

The 1995 Carolina Panthers.

If you want to do some more reminiscing on that inaugural Panthers team, click here to read the article I wrote two years ago for the "Where Are They Now?" August 2010 issue of Charlotte magazine. I gave updates on all 25 starters and the head coach of that 1995 team.

Now as for the current Panthers team, they play their first preseason game of the 2012 season on Saturday, August 11, at 7 p.m., against the Houston Texans at Bank of America Stadium. A week earlier, on Saturday, August 4, the Panthers host their annual Fan Fest. The all-day event is free and open to the public, and will feature the Blue 5K Road Race, interactive games, face painting, visits by the TopCats and Sir Purr, and a team practice with your favorite players like Cam Newton, Steve Smith, and Jon Beason.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Carolina Panthers center Ryan Kalil took out a full-page ad in today's The Charlotte Observer, explaining "Why the Carolina Panthers will win Super Bowl XLVII."

It's a bold prediction by Kalil, and is one that's been reported on throughout the day by many news outlets, including ESPN, Los Angeles TimesYahoo Sports, and New York Daily News. His name has also been a top trending topic on Twitter all day. In an article separate from the paid advertisement, Kalil told the Observer his decision to craft the verbiage for the ad "was one of those things I was literally up all night and I was thinking about it, and just went to my computer and started writing."

I'm not sure how much a full-page ad in the Observer costs (I tried to calculate it but it was confusing), but it's certainly something Kalil can easily afford. It was nearly one year ago when he signed a contract extension with the Panthers, worth $49 million over six years, making him the highest paid center in the NFL. Rich guy or not, I respect Kalil for putting his money where his mouth is. Now, let's see if his teammates will help him make good on his deposit by getting the Panthers, who finished 6-10 last season, to Super Bowl 47 in February in New Orleans. The team begins training camp this Friday at Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Charlotte-based product development company Enventys, which has been garnering notoriety lately for its invention platform and social community Edison Nation, is one of 12 finalists from around the country competing in an innovation competition sponsored by Red Bull. For 72 hours, from Thursday (yesterday) till Sunday, the teams are competing in Red Bull Creation, where they're tasked with building the concept they created during the "Bullduino" opening round, except this time it's a live buildoff. Below is a video of the concept submitted by the Enventys team, who are calling themselves Designated Drinkers. It features many of their staffers enjoying the "ultimate covert office break and party area" in a fictional (ideal) day at their Uptown office.

You can watch the Charlotte team's live stream at until the competition ends Sunday at 9 p.m.

Beginning Wednesday, July 25, you'll be able to vote on your favorite teams and their creations. Red Bull will award a $5,000 Teamʼs Choice Award and a $5,000 Peopleʼs Choice Award. The winner of the Teamʼs Choice and top three teams from the Peopleʼs Choice will compete in the 2012 World Maker Faire, taking place in September in New York City. For more details on Red Bull Creation, and where you'll vote next week, visit

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Charlotte-based singer Chantaul Williams is competing tonight on BET's 106 & Park "Wild Out Wednesday" competition. She earned her spot on the nationally televised show after beating out more than 70 contestants in the Blaze the Stage showcase when it stopped in Charlotte in May.

On 106 & Park, which airs 6-8 p.m, Chantaul will compete against Gwen Bunn of Decatur, Georgia, and Sheleah Monea of Boston. You can vote for your favorite contestant by visiting

Learn more about the 20-year-old singer at and @TheRealChantaul on Twitter. She introduces herself in the video below and asks for your vote. The video below that one shows her performing at a Charlotte show in March, where she sings her original song "Take Me Away." It's undeniable that Chantaul has a great voice.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

It comes around twice a year, when dudes can take their chicks out somewhere nice to dine in Charlotte without feeling like they're encroaching on their Air-Jordan-sneaker or PS3-game money. LOL. That's one way to look at it, but the semi-annual Queen's Feast: Charlotte Restaurant Week returns for its summer 2012 edition Friday, July 20 and runs through Sunday, July 29. Since launching in 2008, each installment of CRW has featured a record-high number of participating restaurants--and it's the same case this time with a record 107 restaurants in seven counties.

I tried Levant Mediterranean Cuisine for the first time recently. It has intriguing decor and great ambiance, and is one of several newcomers to Charlotte Restaurant Week.

There are more than a dozen first-time restaurants participating, several of which have opened within the past year like 5Church, e2 Emeril's Eatery, Levant Mediterranean Cuisine, Bernardin's at Ratcliffe, Delta's, Blackthorne Restaurant & Bar, and more. Charlotte Restaurant Week features the same deal you love: a prix-fixe, three-course dinner for $30 per person (not including tax and tip); and many restaurants will throw in a fourth course and/or glass of wine.

I was invited to a chef's table event last month at Bernardin's, which opened about eight months ago in the historic Ratcliffe building in Uptown. The goat cheese tart was one of several delicious courses we enjoyed. 

According to Hensley Fontana Public Relations & Marketing, which owns and manages the execution of the event, 120,000 dinners were served during Charlotte Restaurant Week's winter edition in January.

Keep in mind that it's best that you make advance reservations at these restaurants during CRW, and the weekend times fill up fastest. For complete details, including the list of participating restaurants and the descriptions of the prix-fixe menu each of them is serving, visit

I dined at Campania Italian Café in Davidson during CRW in January and highly recommend it as an intimate date spot.

All photos above by my camera phone.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Social Media Charlotte is holding its monthly breakfast meeting and networking event this Thursday, July 12 and I'm one member of a four-person panel who'll speak. The topic is "Targeting Diverse Audiences: A Discussion on Inclusive Marketing and Social Media," and the event takes place 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. at Queen City Q, 225 E. Sixth St. The cost to attend is $20 in advance, or $25 at the door.

Jenifer Daniels will moderate the discussion between the panelists, which include Brant Aycock, Ana Lucia Divins, Brandi Williams, and me. We'll talk about the importance of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and religion in your social media marketing efforts.

Click here for more details on the event and for the panelists' bios. Hope to see you there. You can follow along with the discussion using the #SMCLT hashtag.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Two exhibits, each representing African-American culture and history, have recently opened at Uptown Charlotte museums. I had the privilege of checking out both of them—Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial at Mint Museum Uptown and America I AM: The African American Imprint at The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. I'm sharing my thoughts on each exhibit in separate blog posts. Below is about Dial's.

Before I walked through Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial, I wasn't familiar with the artist or his work, so I really didn't know what to expect. I didn't know I would see glimpses of my early childhood in rural South Carolina.

Dial is a self-taught artist who was born, raised, and has lived his entire life in rural Alabama. He's 84 years old now, and he was practically an elder gentleman when his art was discovered about 25 years ago, subsequently becoming a part of exhibits in the 1990s through today. He spent several decades doing what most blacks in the South of his generation did—worked on farms, in fields, and later in factories. Born a year before The Great Depression and living through Jim Crow and poverty, as you could imagine, he had very little opportunity for a formal education.

His story is what makes his artwork so amazing, to see how he's able to express social, political, cultural, and religious messages in such thought-provoking ways. He made masterpieces out of what's commonly referred to as "yard art," with many of his sculptures and large paintings comprised of materials that are usually relegated to landfills. Those scraps of wood, metal, and plastic reminded me of what I would often see throughout the acreage of my grandparents' yard in Rembert, South Carolina, when I was about five or six years old in the mid-1980s and my siblings and I would roam around the yard finding anything to play with, throwing stuff at chickens to make them scatter.

You find those scraps in Dial's pieces such as "The Beginning of Life in the Yellow Jungle" (2003), a 75-foot-by-112-foot painting made from plastic soda bottles, clothing, bedding, wire, metal, a doll, rubber glove, turtle shell, artificial flowers, and other materials on canvas. And in one of his most recognizable pieces, "Don't Matter How Raggly the Flag, It Still Got to Tie Us Together" (2003), a 71-foot-by-114-foot painting made from mattress coils, chicken wire, clothing, can lids, metal, plastic twine, wire, and more. The description accompanying it reads, in part: "In this piece, the image of a torn and ravaged United States flag symbolizes the struggle underlying American history and the quest for freedom, liberty, and equality. Created just after the start of the Iraq War, the painting is also a commentary on human conflict that turns the flag's patriotic red and white into festoons of bloody bandages on a gory battlefield."

"Don't Matter How Raggly the Flag..." is one of more than 30 Dial pieces on display.

Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial is on display until September 30 at Mint Museum Uptown, 500 S. Tryon St.,
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