Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Duke Blue Devils lost to the Louisville Cardinals this evening, thus concluding a great era in college sports: the end of Sonya Curry rooting for her sons at NCAA basketball games.

More than four years ago, I wrote a fairly simple blog post here on Grown People Talking, titled "Two Things I Realized About Sonya Curry." In that February 2009 post, I was pointing out how Mrs. Curry was a favorite for TV sports crews to give camera time to while in the stands at her son Stephen Curry's Davidson College basketball games. Stephen entered the NBA Draft later that year and has since embarked on a stellar career with the Golden State Warriors.

Meanwhile, the next Curry son, Seth, who back in 2009 was a dazzling freshman at Liberty University, would eventually transfer to Duke. After he sat out the mandatory season as required when athletes transfer colleges, he began making an impact with the Blue Devils, particularly the last two seasons and especially this season.

So for much of the last five years--since Stephen's sophomore season (2007-08) when he became a national sensation, through Seth's senior season this year, we've gotten to see frequent glimpses of the First Lady of Charlotte's most admirable sports family during nationally televised games. Sadly, that ended this evening, with this being Seth's final college game and no more Curry sons behind him to play college hoops.

This gif of a screenshot of Sonya Curry in the stands during an ESPN-televised Duke game last month quickly went viral. Credit:

That blog post I wrote about Mrs. Curry back in 2009 is the third-most-viewed Grown People Talking blog post of all-time. It's regularly among the most-visited posts month after month, especially during the college basketball season, with major spikes over the years during days when one of the Curry boys played televised games. Tens of thousands of people have made their way to my blog simply because they Googled Sonya Curry.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Fantasia is gearing up for the release of her fourth album, Side Effects of You, which is scheduled to hit stores April 23. Pre-orders for the album began last week (iTunes and Amazon). With her album being less than a month away, you can expect to see the High Point native/Charlotte resident on plenty of media outlets promoting it. And I have a few words of advice for her: Put the focus on your music, not your personal life.

Fantasia has had lots of well-documented hardships, drama, and turmoil in her life, and she's always been rather honest and open about it. It was fine when she discussed those issues on her first two albums, because not only did she gain tremendous notoriety from winning American Idol in 2004, but her story and triumph over tragedy were among the things fans endeared most about her, in addition to her soul-stirring voice.

But now Tasia's a superstar, who's been in the public eye for nearly a decade. And too often now, when she's working on new projects, the media coverage and attention she receives is more about her personal life than her work. When she was about to release her last album, Back To Me, in August 2010, two weeks before the actual release date she was hospitalized for what was described as a suicide attempt via a medication overdose. That crisis overshadowed her album, and the two years that followed brought tabloid and gossip website reports about her alleged affair with a married man and the pregnancy that resulted from it.

Fantasia worked with Charlotte trainer Sonya McRoberts to drop the baby weight.

Now that Fantasia's going full force into the spotlight this spring to promote her new album--and looking the best she's looked in years--journalists and bloggers are going to want to ask her the same questions over and over about her personal life. She should be experienced in handling media by now, and should address those questions a couple of times, get them out of the way, and for the next six months only talk about her music. And that advice is coming from me, a journalist who doesn't like it when interviewees dodge or deflect questions.

Fantasia talked about her personal life and recent turmoil in the April 2013 cover story of Sister 2 Sister magazine.

When she stopped in Greenville, South Carolina on Friday, she spoke to one of the local news stations. The interview she gave could've basically been the same as the ones she gave nearly three years ago as "she battled back" from turmoil. She needs to be telling her fans why they should buy her new album and what it sounds like; not what she's been through again and again. If she's really got her life together this time, it'll show in her work.

Media will give her all the camera time and print pages she wants if she's willing to dish the dirt on her personal life. But that's not going to help her sell albums. It didn't the last time.

If anything, she should do what many of her peers in the industry do these days: shun traditional media and instead use social media to get her message out. She does, after all, have more than 3 million fans on Facebook. And that message should be about her new music, which if her first single "Lose To Win" is any indication, she's got a good album on the way. I'm particularly interested in hearing track five from the 13-song album. It's titled "Without Me" and features Kelly Rowland and Missy Elliot.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

People have had gripes with their governments since the beginning of civilized societies. But I would think criticism of government is at an all-time high, whether it's people complaining about government on the federal, state, or local level. All we seem to hear is that government is too big, meanwhile things like sequestration are happening and budgets for important programs are getting cut along with jobs. But there's one thing in Charlotte, and in North Carolina as a whole, I don't seem to notice people being too concerned about: the fact that all the liquor stores are government-run.

To be specific, in North Carolina, liquor stores, or retail spirit stores as they're called, are operated by Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) boards in individual counties. So in Charlotte, the liquor stores are ran by the Mecklenburg County ABC Board--there are currently 24 stores throughout the county. If you live here, I'm sure I'm not telling you anything you don't know. Well, you might not know the legalities of it, but you know that any time you want to buy a bottle of liquor from retail--your favorite vodka, tequila, gin, rum, or the like--you have to get it from a store with the big, illuminated ABC Spirits sign.

 Credit: My Windows Phone

This is the first state I've lived in where the liquor stores are government-run, even if it is on the county level, and I've just always thought that was weird. And this is coming from a guy who grew up in South Carolina where we have some of the most archaic laws, commonly referred to as blue laws. But even in the Palmetto State, liquor stores are owned by private business owners, even if there are tough restrictions on what times liquor can be sold.

This evening, I made a quick stop into the ABC store that's only about five minutes from my house. It's one of the newest in the city and is located across the street from a Walmart. Whenever I'm in there (which isn't too often, but hey, what if I go every day--mind your business), I always think about how liquor sales is such big business. And how come the conservatives or, better yet, people like the Tea Partiers, aren't complaining that government is taking away money that should be going to small business owners? Yeah, I know Meck ABC loves to tout how much of its profits go back into the community. But Americans care more about capitalism. Or is it okay for our liquor stores to be socialists?

Fancy display I saw inside the ABC store this evening. Credit: My Windows Phone

The one thing I will say that I'm pleased with that's a direct result of the ABC stores here being run by the government, is that they're some of the cleanest, well-maintained businesses you'll find. And they're usually placed in appropriate locations, oftentimes in or near shopping centers. Basically what I'm saying is we don't have to worry about having filthy, corner liquor stores in the hood.

The ABC boards were established in North Carolina in the 1930s, but in this new era we're living in when government officials can't decide on budgets, and people are saying that government is too big, maybe county governments in North Carolina should have one less thing to be responsible for. And the liquor stores should be returned to the people. Who's going to drink to that?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The two largest cities in North Carolina continue to be among the fastest growing in the country, in terms of population percentage increase. This week, Forbes published its list of the 10 Fastest-Growing Cities In the U.S. (and the 10 Slowest-Growing), with Raleigh ranking as the fastest growing and Charlotte coming in fifth. In between them, Austin, Texas is ranked second, Las Vegas is third, and Orlando is fourth.

Forbes explains how it analyzed the data, which was recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau. Some of the cities' growth have been impacted by economic factors such as the housing market and job sectors. The cities' populations are grouped into their respective metropolitan statistical areas--MSAs encompass the populations of the smaller surrounding cities and towns. So for Charlotte, the MSA includes Gastonia and Rock Hill, among others. According to Forbes:

No. 1: Raleigh, NC, Metropolitan Statistical Area
2012 population: 1,188,564
Growth since 2000: 47.8%
Growth since 2011: 2.2%
Rank in 2011-2012: No. 3

No. 5: Charlotte, NC-SC
2012 population: 2,296,569
Growth since 2000: 32.8%
Growth since 2011: 1.7%
Rank in 2011-2012: No. 9

Forbes ran a bland photo of Uptown Charlotte's skyline. They should've hit up my buddy, photographer Jon Strayhorn of Media Arts Collective, to get a great shot like this.

Cleveland ranks as the slowest growing U.S. city, with Detroit, not surprisingly, coming in a close second, followed by Buffalo and Pittsburgh. All four of these cities have decreased in population since 2000.

Charlotte has ranked high on the fastest-growing cities lists since I've lived here. And over the past year, all it takes is a drive through neighborhoods like South End and Plaza Midwood to see the many new apartments being built, and in south Charlotte where subdivisions are being expanded and/or entirely new ones are being constructed with hundreds of houses (evident in this July 2012 article I wrote for Charlotte magazine).

Rapid population growth is why it's important that a city like Charlotte is forward-thinking in its city planning, particularly as it pertains to roads and public transportation (i.e. light rail and streetcar), as well as job growth and the types of industries city leaders try to lure here.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Attention literary lovers and aspiring authors: Pride Public Relations is sponsoring a "Charlotte Book Chat" this Saturday, March 23, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Barnes and Noble at Carolina Place Mall (11025 Carolina Place Parkway). The event will be hosted by New York Times Best-Selling Author Omar Tyree, who resides in Charlotte, and will feature a group of local authors: Kenston Griffin, Cheris Hodges, Brian Willis, and Glen Wright.

“This event is an opportunity to celebrate and support the talented authors we have here in Charlotte,” Nepherterra Estrada, partner and director of public relations at Pride Public Relations, said in a statement. “We have a wealth of literary talent in our community, which is why this event has such a stellar line up."

Omar Tyree

Attendees will be able to purchase books on a variety of topics, ranging from financial empowerment to romance; they'll also have a chance to talk one-on-one with the authors, and have their books autographed. The authors will also share their perspectives on a number of issues during the chat with Omar.

I had the opportunity to meet and interview Omar for an article a few years ago, and I know Cheris and Brian personally. This should be a worthwhile event.

About the Authors

Omar Tyree is a best-selling author, lecturer, consultant, and entrepreneur who has written more than 16 books that have sold nearly 2 million copies worldwide. He has been recognized as one of the most renowned contemporary commercial writers. He is a 2011 NAACP Image Award recipient for Outstanding Literary Work in Fiction, and a 2006 Phillis Wheatley Award winner for Body of Work in Fiction.

Kenston Griffin is a nationally known motivational speaker and the author of three successful books: New Days, New Ideas; If Better is Possible, Good is No Longer an Option; and Your Turning Point Starts Now. He is the founder and currently serves as CEO of Dream Builders Communication, Inc

Cheris Hodges is the author of Recipe for Desire and a dozen other books, and is currently working on two new ones. She's a South Carolina native who graduated from Johnson C. Smith University in 1999, all while working on her first novel. Although she lives in Charlotte, she sticks to her South Carolina roots in her novel A Love of Her Own, setting it in Columbia.

Brian Willis is the author of Help! I’m Drowning in Debt, is the chair of the Economic Empowerment at 100 Black Men of America, and is a speaker at Wealth Builders Consulting. His book shares stories of his experiences during his 20-year journey as a financial advisor and credit specialist, and offers words of wisdom that are designed to help readers through their journey toward better credit and financial management.

Glen Wright II is the co-author of The Financial Shepherd, a book written to help readers overcome obstacles of financial despair, to abandon old habits and to adopt new ways of thinking about money. He founded Worth Financial Advisory Group, which has offices in Charlotte, Detroit, and Nashville.

Friday, March 15, 2013

It's a great time to be an aspiring actor in Charlotte. The Tona B. Dahlquist Casting Company, which handles local casting for the Showtime hit television series Homeland and the new Cinemax series Banshee, is opening its call for extras for the next seasons of both of those shows as well as a new one: Sleepy Hollow, the TV pilot adaptation of famed short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" being attempted by FOX. The story is perhaps most known to audiences today from the 1999 box-office hit that starred Johnny Depp.

Producers of Sleepy Hollow (TV), reportedly, have cast Orlando Jones, Katia Winter, and Nicole Beharie in lead roles so far. Locations in Salisbury have been confirmed for filming, potentially as early as next week.

Actress Katia Winter recently starred in season 7 of Dexter on Showtime. Credit:

As for Banshee, a show that I've watched each week since it debuted in January, the season finale airs tonight on Skinemax, I mean Cinemax. Tona B. Dahlquist Casting is seeking submissions for extras for season two. The company has also stated that it will be announcing local casting needs for Homeland season 3 soon.

You can keep up with the latest by visiting the Tona B. Dahlquist Casting Facebook page, as well the Charlotte Regional Film Commission's website, particularly the film news section.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pepsi released a video yesterday of NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon playing a prank on a used car salesman. Jeff undergoes a disguise by a professional makeover artist--makeup, hair, fake skin--to shield his real identity. Then when he goes to test drive a 2009 Chevy Camaro, he takes the salesman on a wild ride, reaching top speeds, and performing incredible stunts.

The video has gone viral, receiving 1.8 million views on YouTube in the first 24 hours. It was reportedly shot at Troutman Motors in Concord, which isn't too far from the Hendrick Motorsports headquarters, home to Jeff's race team.

The three-minute-and-45-second video is entertaining and hilarious, even if you feel sorry for the unsuspecting salesman, but I'm not sure if the prank is real. The whole thing looks staged to the point that it makes me think the salesman was in on it. I guess the truth will surface soon. Actually, one way to find out would be if someone looked into whether or not the salesman in the video actually works at that dealership, rather than him being a paid actor the way I suspect. Whether the video is real or fake, it's getting Pepsi MAX a lot of attention, which is what the brand was going for.

You can see what others are saying about the video on Twitter by searching the #GordonTestDrive hashtag.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

While in a slumber one morning this week, I heard on the local news that Time Warner Cable Arena would be welcoming its 10 millionth guest during an upcoming event. Then last night while I was watching the Charlotte Bobcats vs. Oklahoma City Thunder game, Bobcats sideline reporter Stephanie Ready interviewed Brandon Bolin, who a few nights earlier had become that 10 millionth guy, along with his wife Alicia. Stephanie explained that when the Bolins entered the arena on Tuesday to attend the Bon Jovi concert, their lucky timing means they'll be attending many more events in the coming year--for free.


As the 10 millionth visitor to the seven-and-a-half-year-old arena, Brandon has won two tickets to every public event to be held at TWC Arena for one year, including Bobcats and Charlotte Checkers season tickets for the remainder of this season and all of next season. There are also a number of concerts scheduled at the arena in coming months that the Bolins will be treated to, including Pink, Taylor Swift, Eric Clapton, New Kids on the Block with 98 Degrees and Boyz II Men, Fleetwood Mac, Beyonce, Bruno Mars, and more.

Looks like this lucky couple will be enjoying a lot of complimentary date nights over the next year, as well as some easy cash from StubHub.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Carolina Actors Studio Theatre (CAST) is currently presenting How We Got On, an original stage play by Idris Goodwin. The play is set in the late 1980s, and is about three Midwestern teenagers who fall in love with hip hop and pursue their dreams of making it to Yo! MTV Raps and beyond. It’s described as a tale about the joy of hip hop and not letting geography or people put boundaries on your dreams.

Tickets to How We Got On are $18-$28, and there are five remaining showtimes at CAST (located at 2424 N. Davidson St., Suite 113, Charlotte, 704-455-8542):
  • Friday, March 8, 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, March 9, 8 p.m.
  • Sunday, March 10, 2:30 p.m.
  • Friday, March 15, 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, March 16, 8 p.m.
  • Sunday, March 17, 2:30 p.m.

Carolina Actors Studio Theatre rehearsal of How We Got On. Credit: Shannon J. Hager/CAST

I had the opportunity to talk to Idris by phone—he’s in Colorado where he teaches at Colorado College. I talked to him about how the play came about, why Charlotte audiences should go see it, and his thoughts on the impact hip hop has had over the last 25 years.

Playwright Idris Goodwin. Credit: Facebook

How did you come to write How We Got On?
I was enrolled in the University of Iowa’s playwright workshop a couple of years ago. It was my first semester there and I wanted to write something that reflected me, where I come from, and what I’m about. I decided to write what I know, as they say, and so I know a lot about hip hop and growing up in the Midwest as a hip hop fan. So I wanted to explore that theatrically in a way that I hadn’t seen. There’s definitely pieces of theatre that has spoken about hip hop or reflected hip hop, but I’d never seen anything set outside of an urban area, set like in the suburban Midwest, that was a coming-of-age story, that wasn’t political or wasn’t sociopolitical, that was really just sort of a traditional American coming-of-age story but done in a hip hop style.

So I wrote it, and people responded to it very well right away. It was a very quick turnaround. I had the opportunity to go to the Eugene O’Neill Theater [Young Playwrights] Festival, which is an annual development workshop for new plays, to kind of kick the tires and make them better. The play went there in 2011; then in 2012 it had a world premiere at the Actors Theatre of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky. And this year it’s in Charlotte; then it’s going to a theater in Sacramento and a theater in Boston this summer.

A typical hip hop audience might not be large consumers of theatre. What have you experienced with audiences so far?
Primarily speaking, this play is for a theatre-going audience. Now, there have been some non-theatre goers who have trickled in because they’re like, ‘This is a play about hip hop, about ’88, about Yo! MTV Raps.’ There’s a connection there. When I was in Louisville, I had great conversations with people who had never been to the Actors Theatre before and came because of the show specifically. But by and large it’s a traditional theatre-going audience. The play is written with that in mind. Ultimately, I’m just trying to share the things that I think are beautiful about hip hop culture. But what’s at the root of it is a story about friendship, about young artists—it has a hip hop rhythm to it—but ultimately it’s a story like any other play. At its core it’s about something really central, really universal. For me, the hip hop is what makes it different, what makes it unique, what makes it like not every other play that’s on the American stage right now.

I’ve seen photos of the set. It’s very nostalgic. Is that what you were going for?
Guys my age and older—I’m 35. I was born in ’77 and I remember all of this stuff because hip hop has always been around. As I’ve grown I’ve sort of mirrored hip hop’s growth as well. And ’88 is like that golden era for hip hop purists. So I knew that working with those iconic songs, symbols like the boombox—I knew that would conjure up people’s memories like, ‘Wow, I remember that. I was there when that was new.’ We see that sort of nostalgia on VH1 specials or on certain albums, but on the American theatre stage we don’t see it very much. I feel like for those who are of that era and who remember that era, it’ll be a nice surprise. And even those who aren’t from that era, it can remind them of where this comes from. The play also kind of gives a history lesson too—educates folks on things they might not have thought of. People see two turntables and a mic, but they don’t really know how that works. It was important to put those things on the stage and have them be central to the story.

What do you think of the impact of hip hop since that era?
The play is set in 1988 for a reason. That was the year Yo! MTV Raps hit the world, and that took hip hop out of just the New York boroughs and urban populated areas, and brought it to the world. I’ve heard the theory that the reason Barack Obama is president has something to do with hip hop. I don’t disagree with that. Hip hop at its root is a challenge to cultural norms, it is a challenge to a homogeneous White America. It’s basically saying that we can be multiracial, that we can use multiple types of slang, we can be full of contradiction, and we can be loud, and that we can express ourselves. People think that hip hop is just a black, street thing, but you have kids all over the world who are [breakdancing], who are making beats and chopping up samples, and all this kind of stuff. It’s deeper than just 50 Cent on the cover of [a hip hop] magazine with a bulletproof vest on. It’s deeper than that; it’s a whole ethos. It’s a whole way of approaching life and other people. Ultimately it’s bringing people together.

Right now I’m teaching a hip hop class at Colorado College, which is a small, liberal arts college in Colorado Springs, Colorado. This is a largely white city, it’s a largely white student body. My hip hop classes are packed and a lot of them are really impressed; a lot of them are really diving right into it with verve. I’ve seen the power of it everywhere. To the same degree that there are things we don’t like about hip hop, those things are minimal in comparison to the positive impact that it’s had. It’s deep and it’s not going anywhere. It’s only going to continue to grow and morph and change. Hip hop is so large and multifaceted. It’s so all-encompassing.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

For the March/April 2013 issue of Where Charlotte, I wrote about five local musicians who are worth your time and attention. They are jazz bands 5th And York and the Ziad Jazz Quartet, country band Jeff Luckadoo & Southern Wave, hip hop duo Brody & Choch, and rock band Simplified. You've likely heard of at least one of them. Learn more about them by picking up the current issue of Where Charlotte, which is distributed for free and can be find in newsstands in Uptown, and at hotels, visitors centers, and several attractions like museums. You can also read the article online by visiting, and then clicking on the magazine cover in the left column where it says "Read Where Charlotte" (that takes you to a digital file where you can flip through the pages of the complete issue).

Follow Where Charlotte at and

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Anthony Hamilton has concluded his second annual "Big Payback Week of Service," in which he spent the week giving back to his hometown. Anthony made stops at several Charlotte charities and nonprofit organizations, donating tens of thousands of dollars, truckloads of food, and clothing. He talked about it yesterday on Charlotte Today on WCNC (NBC Charlotte).

For his charitable deeds, February 27 was proclaimed Anthony Hamilton Day by Mayor Anthony Foxx and the City of Charlotte.
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