Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Jocelyn Ellis, one of the most talented and creative musicians I've come across in Charlotte, released a new video this week for her single, "System Distortion." She continues to bend/blend genres in her music, and offers an intriguing visual with the video.

I ran into Jocelyn at a party Saturday night, and after talking to her for a few minutes I told her I was going to have to go through my CDs when I got home and break out the EP she released a few years ago ("If Cupid Had A Girlfriend" has always been one of my favorite songs by her). She's continued to put out great work since then, including speaking and performing at TEDxCharlotte earlier this year. Now, she's gearing up for the release of her debut album, Life Of A Hologram, on November 18, of which "System Distortion" is the first single.

Support good music, and keep up with Jocelyn online:

Monday, September 23, 2013

I didn't know what coal ash was until I met Rhiannon Fionn a few years ago. That's part of the problem, and she's part of the solution. Rhiannon, or Rhi as many call her, is an independent journalist who lived in Charlotte for several years before relocating to Seattle, and who has spent years reporting on the environmental issues and health problems being caused by coal ash. Now, she and her team are seeking your help as they raise funds to complete a documentary they've been traveling the country to film as part of their "Coal Ash Chronicles" project.

Coal ash is formed after coal is burned to generate electricity, which is a process done by many utility and energy companies. Coal ash is said to be this country's second-largest, mostly unregulated waste stream, and the materials contain heavy metals and radioactive elements, which often end up in the air, rivers, and lakes.

Credit: Coal Ash Chronicles

Rhi has been writing about this problem and doing investigative reporting on it for years. Locally, you may have seen her stories on coal ash in Creative Loafing, as well as an award-winning article she wrote for Charlotte magazine.

After traveling with a group to Washington D.C. to educate Congressional representatives about coal ash and how it's affecting communities, Rhi created Coal Ash Chronicles. Now, her team, which consists of about 20 contributors and volunteers, including other Charlotte-based journalists, photographers, videographers, and creative types like Desiree Kane and Kevin Beaty, as well as others from around the country.

They've recently launched an Indiegogo campaign, with the goal of raising $50,000 to complete their documentary. Watch the seven-and-a-half-minute video below, which shows people telling compassionate stories of how coal ash has affected their lives.

Rhi has put more than 60,000 miles on her car as she's traveled the country documenting these stories. She's stopping in Charlotte this week to host an event about the documentary (details below).

Support Coal Ash Chronicles
Meet the Coal Ash Chronicles Crew
Thursday, September 26
Come out and meet Rhiannon Fionn and several members of the film crew, and learn more about the documentary and the impact of coal ash. Cupcrazed Cupcake Bar is supplying tasty cupcakes, and there'll be music and a cash bar. 6 p.m. Free. Dilworth Billiards, 300 E. Tremont Ave.,

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

For the last few months, one each week, CNN has been unveiling its 2013 CNN Heroes--"everyday people changing the world." Thousands of submissions were sent in from around the globe, and 24 people have been chosen as heroes (a few more are left to be revealed). This week's CNN Hero is Robin Emmons, founder and executive director of Sow Much Good, a nonprofit organization that's working to eliminate urban food deserts in Charlotte by providing access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and educating people about healthy lifestyles, among other things.

I've seen and read about Robin's work for the last couple of years, and she and her team have done a great job of spreading their message and reaching the people who most need their help. But as the CNN article on Robin points out, more than 72,000 people in Charlotte lack access to fresh produce. So she has a lot of ground to cover, just in this city alone. And they're doing it. The video below shows a few examples of how Sow Much Good, now with 200 volunteers, has grown more than 26,000 pounds of fresh produce for local underserved communities.

It's one thing to not eat healthy because that's your choice, but it's another to eat unhealthy foods because you can't afford or don't have access to better food. That's often the case for people in low-income neighborhoods, who end up eating most of their meals from dollar menus at fast food restaurants, and do much of their grocery shopping at gas station convenience stores.

On Thursday, October 10, CNN will reveal the Top 10 CNN Heroes of the year, with each receiving $50,000. As you've likely seen in years past, the top 10 will be featured on the CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute telecast this fall, and the person selected as CNN Hero of the Year will receive an additional $250,000 to continue his/her work. During the tribute show, the heroes are each introduced by celebrities.

Let's hope that Robin Emmons is selected as one of the top 10. But even being chosen as one of the 24 heroes is already an incredible accomplishment. Get all the details by visiting

Sow Much Good,,,

Friday, September 13, 2013

Levine Museum of the New South recently opened a new series titled, Destination Freedom: Civil Rights Struggles Then and Now, that will feature several different exhibits and programs over the next two years. The first three exhibits are on display now, and I had the opportunity to check them out a few weeks ago during a members' preview. The museum is holding an official kickoff event this Sunday, September 15 that you should check out. And even if you can't make it out that day, you'll want to make plans to visit the museum in coming months.

Destination Freedom is Levine Museum's commemoration of several important milestones in the Civil Rights Movement that are each approaching 50th anniversaries between 2013 and 2015: The March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech (August 28, 1963); the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and murder of four young girls in Birmingham (September 15, 1963); the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ended segregation in public places (July 2, 1964); and the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (August 6, 1965). Those historical moments alone signify the importance of the exhibits, but as Levine Museum so greatly does with many of its exhibits over the years, it's presenting them in though-provoking ways along with scheduled events, corresponding programs, and dialogue sessions.

This Sunday is the Destination Freedom Kickoff, an event that's free and open to the public, beginning at 3 p.m. There'll be a panel discussion featuring David Forbes, SNCC member, Raleigh Hall of Fame inductee; Juan Carlos-Ramos, United for the Dream; Dorothy Counts-Scoggins, 1957 desegregation of Harding High School; Tiffany Flowers, director at KIPP Charlotte; and Joshua Burford, LGBT historian researcher, UNCC Multicultural Affairs; and will be moderated by Irving Joyner, NCCU legal scholar and Legal Eagle Review co-host. After the panel discussion, you'll get to enjoy a reception with entertainment by Latanya Johnson and the Sycamore Project, and tour the new exhibits.

Then at 6 p.m., at First United Presbyterian Church, which is directly across the street, the museum is presenting a keynote address by Diane Nash. Nash is a Civil Rights activist and co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (I learned a lot about SNCC during my Afro-American Studies classes in college), and she'll reflect on 1963 and the lessons for today.

Sunday's activities are free, but reservations are requested at 704-333-1887 ext. 501 or

If you can't attend on Sunday, you should make a point to visit the Destination Freedom exhibits soon. Whenever I experience these kinds of things, they always remind me how important history is to what we encounter today. These exhibits, in particular, will show you how much progress in racial equality this country has made over the last 50 years. And while it would be natural to focus on the work that still needs to be done or to complain about things that still aren't fair, I'm inspired by the incredible hurdles and hardships that people before me overcame--it took people of all walks of life to work together--which makes many of the problems we face as a society today seem petty and disrespectful to the path that's been laid before us.

I was also inspired from talking to a teenager at the preview event a few weeks ago. She's a high school senior who participated in "A Ride for Understanding," the four-day, four-city Civil Rights bus tour across the Southeast that Levine Museum took 15 students on over the summer. Part of their experience is documented in the View from the Other Side exhibit that's featured in Destination Freedom. I was inspired by my conversation with the young lady because she, who's white, took an interest in a part of history that's far too often described as "Black History" when it is more American history than just about anything else. Plus, she reminds us that kids today don't harbor the same feelings about race that their parents and grandparents might. They're growing up having friends of all colors, listening to the same music, and sharing similar experiences. So they shouldn't be saddled with views that have been skewed by things they'll never have to experience. These exhibits help them realize how fortunate they are, but also why justice and equality are things that have to be tended to in order to be ensured and preserved.

The exhibits currently on display in Destination Freedom: Civil Rights Struggles Then and Now:

Network of Mutuality: 50 Years Post-Birmingham
(on display until December 1, 2013)
Synopsis: Featuring provocative works by leading contemporary artists and designers, who carefully examine the various social conditions and components that energized the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, as well as continue the dialogue of race and equality in today's society.

Focus On Justice
(on display until January 26, 2014)
Synopsis: Curated by photographer Byron Baldwin, the exhibit includes photographs documenting the regional Civil Rights Movement as seen through the eyes of Carolina photographers Don Sturkey, Bruce Roberts, James Peeler, Cecil Williams, and others.

View from the Other Side
(on display until February 2, 2014)
Synopsis: Artists and students present works informed and inspired by issues of civil and human rights. Featuring pieces from local artists TJ Reddy, Rosalia Torres-Weiner, Mikale Kwiatkowski, and Antoine Williams, along with pieces from Performance Learning Center and History Active students.

Levine Museum of the New South, 200 E. Seventh St., 704-333-1887,, Twitter @LevineMuseum.

You know those "The Most Interesting Man In the World" commercials by Dos Equis, right? The beer maker launched the campaign several years ago, and the commercials continue to be clever and funny. Like how the most interesting man: "In a past life, he was himself;" and "If opportunity knocks and he's not home, opportunity waits." I've never encountered anyone quite like that, but throughout my career as a journalist, I've met a lot of very interesting people. And recent experiences lead me to say that Felix Sabates Is the Most Interesting Man In Charlotte.

Many of you might know Felix primarily for two things: his Mercedes-Benz dealership in south Charlotte and his part ownership in NASCAR team Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. I interviewed him about his views on the current state of NASCAR, for an article that appears in the September/October 2013 issue of Where Charlotte.

But if you ever have the opportunity to interview Felix Sabates, it's all the stuff you likely won't include in your article that makes him so interesting. He told me fascinating stories about his relationships with other NASCAR team owners and executives over the years, his relationship with Michael Jordan, the condo he owns in Miami across the street from where the Heat play, his run-ins with Dennis Rodman, and more. He tells these stories so randomly, yet matter-of-factly, you could listen to him talk for hours. He doesn't mince words, yet he's very likeable. I bet he's the life of parties, and I'd sure love to hang out with him. Someone needs to write a book on this guy.

And aside from all the anecdotes you'll get from the stories he shares, his own story is fascinating. He was born into wealth in Cuba because his family owned many businesses there, but they lost it all when he was a teenager due to Fidel Castro's dictatorship. Felix came to the U.S. at age 16, and a few years later settled into Charlotte, where he's lived since 1963. He went from working as a parking lot attendant and washing cars during those early years, to becoming a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist. In addition to his car businesses and sports teams affiliations, he also owns a company that builds yachts.

I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't always drink beer, but when he does, he prefers Dos Equis.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I came across the link to this YouTube video just now on Twitter, and as a proud University of South Carolina alum and Gamecock fan I think this is awesome.

While not as extreme, I can relate to the decor. The walls in my home office are painted garnet and are adorned with Gamecock memorabilia. Go Cocks!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The annual Charlotte Sunset Jazz Festival takes place this weekend, offering you two days of fun and great music. Friday, September 13 features an indoor concert by Roy Ayers at Knight Theater in Uptown, for which there's an admission cost. And Saturday features the all-day, outdoor free concert at Symphony Park in SouthPark. The Charlotte Sunset Jazz Festival, now in its 22nd year and put on by Pride Magazine, is one of the signature events in the Queen City that help mark the unofficial beginning of fall.

Ayers is a soul and jazz legend from Los Angeles, who's considered by many to be the godfather of neo-soul. His more than 40 years as a musician, composer, and producer has influenced many contemporary artists in jazz, R&B, and hip hop. You can see him live this Friday, 8 p.m. at Knight Theater (430 S. Tryon St.). Tickets are $30-$59.50, available at

Roy Ayers. Credit: Facebook

Saturday's festival features fun for the whole family, and with it being free to attend makes it a true community event. You'll want to bring folding chairs and blankets (picnic baskets are allowed too) and grab a good spot on the lawn at Symphony Park (4400 Sharon Road)  for what should be great weather on Saturday. The concert lineup includes: saxophonist Dante Lewis (headliner), jazz bands Groove 8, Bam-Jazz, and Los Trabucos (Afro-Cuban), and vocalist Robyn Springer. The event begins at 2 p.m.

The outdoor concert at Symphony Park. Credit:

The festivities on Saturday also include a "Best Dressed At The Fest Contest," vendors, and prize giveaways. For more details, visit

Monday, September 9, 2013

My First Time: Lazy 5 Ranch In Mooresville

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 9/09/2013 No comments
I've been hearing about Lazy 5 Ranch for several years now and finally made the 40-minute drive to the animal farm in Mooresville yesterday. Andrea and I went, and even though I knew enough about it to know what to expect, there's nothing like experiencing it for yourself. With this being the end of summer and fall soon upon us, now is as good a time (and weather) as any for you to visit.

Lazy 5 Ranch is a privately owned and operated attraction in Mooresville that's open daily to the public. It features more than 750 animals from six continents, and you get to see them while riding along a three-and-a-half-mile safari trail. You can choose to drive the trail in your own car, or ride one of the wagons, which depart at scheduled times. We drove, which I think enhances the fun because you can go at your own pace (assuming there's not a lot of cars on the trail).

You have the option of feeding the animals (all except for the "cows with the long horns, buffalo, or the zebra" as the instructions state--I assume they're the really mean ones). You do that after purchasing a bucket of feed. While driving along the trail, you're not allowed to get out of the car (you don't really want to), but it truly is like a safari ride. You'll pass many exotic animals. And not just pass them--they'll come up to your car windows. These animals know that the sight of cars means that chances are a bucket of food will soon be dangling out of the window. The alpaca seem to be the greediest--it's funny how intuitive they are to the sound of windows rolling down. And it can be a little frightening to see some of the large animals approach your car, but that adds to the fun.

The safari trail is undoubtedly the most popular attraction, but Lazy 5 is also home to petting areas (where you can walk around and get close to animals), a playground, picnic area, gift shop, and a few snack options like an ice cream stand. It's fun for the whole family, and is also a great date option. I'll let these photos I took with my Windows Phone tell the rest of the story.

The sight of one of the animals inspired this tweet from me yesterday (ode to the Geico "Hump Day" commercial):

Lazy 5 Ranch is open year-round. Hours: Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. until 1 hour before sunset; Sunday 1 p.m. until 1 hour before sunset. General admission: adults, $9.50; children (ages 2-11) and seniors, $6.50; feed available for $3 per bucket. Admission with wagon ride (includes feed): adults, $14.50; children and seniors, $9.50. Only cash is accepted, no debit or credit cards.

Lazy 5 Ranch, 15100 Mooresville Rd., Mooresville, 704-663-5100,, Facebook.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Jay Z announced the North American leg of his Magna Carter World Tour today, a schedule of 34 dates in 33 cities (he's performing in his native Brooklyn twice). This Stateside tour--plus two Canadian dates--comes after his international run; it kicks off November 30 in St. Paul, Minnesota, and runs for two full months before wrapping up January 31 in State College, Pennsylvania. Close to home, this tour is doing something I don't recall a major hip hop concert arena tour ever doing: it's coming to both Charlotte and Greensboro.

The Magna Carter World Tour will stop into Time Warner Cable Arena in Uptown Charlotte on Saturday, January 4 (we get a weekend date!) and travels up to Greensboro Coliseum the next night. Despite Charlotte being the larger city and more of an attractive destination, Greensboro has a richer history of hip hop concert tour promoters choosing it over Charlotte. Most large hip hop arena tours--those going to 15,000-seat arenas or larger--usually only make one stop in North Carolina, and in fact tend to have one stop total between the two Carolinas. The notion is that people from around North Carolina will make the drive to the select city, as well as people from parts of South Carolina (South Carolinians also often go to the Atlanta tour stops).

That one North Carolina city has long been Greensboro. My hypothesis has always been that in the past tour promoters found Greensboro to be a stronger selling point for hip hop concerts, thanks largely to numerous colleges being located in the area. And for whatever reasons, in the past hip hop fans in Charlotte didn't tend to buy concert tickets in advance at the large numbers promoters wanna see.

I've seen Jay Z in concert twice in recent years, and both times I had to drive to Greensboro: his 2008 tour with Mary J. Blige, and his 2011 tour with Kanye West (not to mention, last weekend I went to Philadelphia for the music festival Jay Z curates). Speaking of Kanye, he announced his own tour yesterday, The Yeezus Tour. Kendrick Lamar will be his opening act. That tour isn't coming to either of the Carolinas though. The closest stop to Charlotte is Atlanta. The last time Kanye came to Charlotte was to Time Warner Cable Arena in 2008.

I'm happy that I'll be able to see Jay Z in Charlotte this time. And I'm extremely surprised that he's coming here in addition to playing in Greensboro. The two cities are about an hour and 45 minutes apart, which looks to be the shortest distance between any of the cities he's taking the tour to, except for, maybe, cities in California--he's playing five cities in that state on consecutive nights. But come on, that's Cali. It has a population the size of many countries.

I'm curious to see whether the two North Carolina shows sell out. One thing is for sure, if you plan to go, you need to be aggressive next week when tickets go on sale. When tickets for popular concerts go on sale online, people often complain that they can't find any available tickets on the official seller's website within minutes of the sale start time. In addition to ticket brokers snatching up a lot of them to later resell at higher prices on sites like StubHub and Craigslist, I learned from a 60 Minutes segment (and this NPR story) that there usually aren't nearly as many tickets on sale to the public on the start date as you might think. Oftentimes, only about 20 percent of the tickets are available because the majority have already been sold days before through presale via the ticket site, artist fan clubs, and credit card promotions.

Live Nation is producing the Magna Carter World Tour, and tickets for all dates will go on sale Thursday, September 12 at 10 a.m. (EST) at and But pay attention to the presale info. You can sign up now for early access to presale tickets that will be available on Wednesday, September 11; there's also a presale offer available that day through Facebook. And if you're a Citi card member, you can buy presale tickets beginning Monday, September 9 at 10 a.m. through Citi’s Private Pass Program. If you haven't learned from past experiences, those presale options are where a lot of the tickets, particularly the best seats, are snatched up.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Many of you know Anthony Hamilton for his love songs, ballads, and soul-stirring music. But if you've followed his career since the early days, you'll recall that in addition to being nominated for Grammys, going platinum, and selling out concerts, he's always been a sought-after hook singer. And by that, I mean singing the choruses on rap songs. In fact, his first hit song was the 2002 collaboration with Nappy Roots on the rap song "Po' Folks." Two years later, he assisted Jadakiss on one of the biggest songs of The LOX member's career, "Why."

The rap collaborations have continued over the years, with A-Ham singing hooks for everyone from Common to Nas to Twista to Young Jeezy. For his latest collaboration, he brings it home to his native Charlotte, with Ed D. Kane, an artist on Anthony's own label, Mister's Music. The song is titled "Da Streets" and the video was released a few days ago.

Charlotteans Ed D. Kane and Anthony Hamilton.

The video was shot in "da streets" of Charlotte, literally, featuring gritty scenes paired with news footage of controversial national stories and civil rights issues. The visuals are to match the song's message, and you could say that it follows in the vein of the aforementioned "Po' Folks" and "Why." Unfortunately, "Da Streets" falls short in its efforts. Ed D. Kane's lyrics aren't strong enough in this song, and his profanity is a distraction. I applaud when rappers add substance to their music, but this song isn't quite "conscious" music because his attempt to bring attention to issues like drugs and violence could be confused with glorifying them. However, I do like when Ed D. Kane says, "You know you know better. Done been selling crack out your mama's house."

Anthony nails the hook, as usual. And it's good to see him continuing to rep his old hood--Beatties Ford Road, West Charlotte. I'm sure the locals surrounding him in the video appreciate the love.

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