Sunday, November 2, 2014

In the current issue of Creative Loafing (Oct. 30-Nov. 5), is one of the most important and, in my opinion, most impactful stories I've ever written. It's the cover story and is titled, "Black-ish: An introspective look at why the African-American cultural scene struggles to thrive in Charlotte," and you can read it by clicking here. Since the story was published a few days ago, I've received (and observed) lots of feedback in person, via emails, in the web version's comments section, and mostly, of course, on social media--Facebook and Twitter to be specific.

I don't have much to add here other than to say that if you haven't read the story yet, I hope that you will. It's 3,500 words, so it's a long read, but I think you will find it to be engaging. I know that many people aren't comfortable talking about issues dealing with race--at least not in public--but if we don't have those discussions then we won't understand each other, and we certainly won't make progress as a society. I've been pleased with the enlightened conversations that have been going on so far from readers of the story.

And as I referenced in the guest column I wrote for Creative Loafing, which was published a week earlier and served as a bit of a preview to the feature story (click here to read the column; it offers a great narrative of Charlotte's Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard), I had been reluctant to write about race throughout my career as a journalist. But I realized that this was a story I needed to tell: how social segregation and lack of ownership are stifling Charlotte's African-American cultural scene--from young professionals to business owners--and the impacts that has on the city as a whole.

I believe you'll realize that this story is about much more than race. It's about how we relate to each other as human beings, and whether we are living up to the ideals we profess.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Anthony Hamilton has released his first-ever Christmas album today. Titled Home For The Holidays, it's 14 songs that are a combination of the Grammy Award-winning singer covering holiday classics and performing original songs (six originals). He has guest appearances by Chaka Khan, Gavin DeGraw, and ZZ Ward, which reflect the many different sounds the album has, but it all comes together in a cohesive and soulful manner.

Home For The Holidays track listing:

1.  It’s Christmas
2.  Spend Christmas With You
3.  Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto
4.  Little Drummer Boy (Interlude)
5.  Little Drummer Boy
6.  Home For The Holidays feat. Gavin DeGraw
7.  ’Tis The Season
8.  What Do The Lonely Do At Christmas
9.  Coming Home
10. Away In A Manger (Interlude)
11. Away In A Manger feat. ZZ Ward
12. Please Come Home For Christmas
13. The Christmas Song feat. Chaka Khan
14. Spirit Of Love

I plan to buy the album by the Charlotte native, and so far this morning I've been streaming it on Spotify, which I've embedded below.

My first impressions of the album are that it's soulful, at times traditional and at times contemporary, with blends of R&B, blues, and gospel. My early favorites are track 9, "Coming Home," and track 14, "Spirit Of Love," which are both original songs. As for covers, my favorite so far is track 8, "What Do The Lonely Do At Christmas."

You can purchase the new album today on Amazon or iTunes for $9.99. I'm old-school when it comes to buying music--I still buy CDs--so I'll be copping it from Best Buy or Target (and then ripping it to MP3's later).

Also, the HamFam will be happy to know that Anthony is embarking on a 17-city Home For The Holidays Tour, beginning November 27 in Dallas and ending December 21 in Wallingford, Connecticut. The Carolinas dates are December 2 in Greenville, SC, December 3 in Durham, and December 12 in North Myrtle Beach.

For all things A.Ham, visit, Twitter @HamiltonAnthony, Facebook AnthonyHamiltonMusic, and Instagram @AnthonyHamiltonOfficial.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Charlotte has a lot of great restaurants. I do a pretty good job of keeping up with what's what, what's hot, what's new, and so on within the dining scene. But because there are so many great choices nowadays, it often takes a long time for me to make a return visit to a restaurant that is absolutely worthy of repeat visits.

This past week was a busy one for me, but fortunately, among other things, a few of the appointments on my calendar included dining spots.

On Tuesday, I met a friend for lunch at The Liberty. I love the burgers there, but prior to a few days ago, I don't think I'd eaten at The Liberty in more than a year. Well, it's about to get high again on my radar after the meal I had. I started with the fried pickles--the decision inspired by my radio show appearance the day before in which the topic of who has the best fried pickles in Charlotte came up. And my entree was The Carolina Pig Burger, made of Berkshire pork and black Angus beef with pepper jack, candied smoked bacon, chipotle aioli, and tomato jam.

Wednesday was highlighted by the second installment of the Dusk Till Dawn Social Series, which is Charlotte magazine's new monthly event. It took place at Eight Sushi and Asian Kitchen, a new restaurant and bar at NC Music Factory. We had a great time that evening, and even though I didn't eat, I enjoyed drinks there.

Thursday was another great day, kicked off with some exciting morning meetings. And after attending a private reception that evening for the new Microsoft store opening at SouthPark Mall, I had the pleasure of joining friends of a friend for dinner at Del Frisco's. I ordered the pan-roasted chicken breast, served with lemon rice and Provencal sauce. And the sides we had (prepared in sharing-size portions) were cabbage and chateau potatoes. I was in the presence of some esteemed guests, so I didn't take any pics of my food. You know, as Childish Gambino rapped, "We don't take pictures. When you're rich, you just see it again."

And last but not least, my lunch on Friday was amazing. I had the privilege of sampling several of the items on Nan and Byron's new fall menu. I had the "Cutting Board," which is an array of artisan cheeses and meats, the Burrata salad, Porcini mushroom ravioli, sushi grade tuna tartare, and braised pork belly.

I haven't gone into much detail about each of the menu items here, but just rest assure that everything was delish! Certainly worth writing home about (or blogging about). And frankly, I just wanted to take a little time to tip my cap to these great restaurants that I, coincidentally, ate at this past week. Trust me, my typical week of meals doesn't look like this.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

I was a guest on Charlotte Talks on WFAE 90.7 FM yesterday morning, alongside fellow writer/journalist (and friend) Sarah Crosland. The show's topic was Stuff All Charlotteans Should Do, and it was derived from Sarah's new book, 100 Things to Do in Charlotte Before You Die, and Charlotte magazine's August cover story, "50 Things Every Charlottean Should Do," of which I was one of the writers.

During the hour-long radio show, host Mike Collins asked us about many of the numerous activities, events, and places that made our respective publications' lists. He engaged us in conversations that shed insight into just how vibrant this city is--the many great places to eat, drink, play, explore, be entertained, and more. It was fun talking about things to do in Charlotte, which is something I often do both in my work and personal life.

You can listen to the podcast of the October 13 episode by clicking here (or here on iTunes).

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

I had the privilege of writing about Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s newest milestone for the October issue of Charlotte magazine. Titled "Junior Turns 40," it's about, well, Junior turning 40 years old. But if you've gotten the chance to read the eight-page feature (the print issue came out about three weeks ago, the story went online two weeks ago), then you know the story is about much more than a birthday. It's about how much Dale Jr. means to this area (he's got a bar at the EpiCentre, his dad's got a roller coaster at Carowinds, to put each of them mildly), how much this area means to him (he still resides in his hometown of Mooresville), and sprinkled in between are anecdotes about how he's worth $300 million, has his name attached to more brands than Disney, and has been the most popular driver for more years than you have fingers.

But if you've paid close attention to the story, then you've also realized that it's both a reflection of how Junior has grown and evolved over the years, just as any of us hope we are as we reach our 30th, 40th, 50th birthdays, etc.; and how the Charlotte area, including Mooresville, has grown and evolved with him. And, as the story illustrates, he's such a down-to-earth, humble person, that he'll even stop outside of his favorite hometown pizza joint to help a lady whose car won't start.

Since the story came out, I've received some of the most flattering feedback I've ever gotten during my career as a writer. One of the best came in the form of a tweet from Dale Jr.'s sister, Kelley Earnhardt:

And I've received several emails from readers, expressing how much they enjoyed the story. Here are a couple:
Great work on the Dale Jr. piece. I really liked the ending about the billboard. Among many great insights, this was the best: "For years, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was famous because of his father. But time does funny things, and now that he’s older, the shift is apparent: These youngsters standing in front of the car only know who Senior is because they know who Junior is." I'm fairly certain every NASCAR writer is going to write a "Dale Jr. is 40" piece and frankly they shouldn't bother after this one.
I wanted to take the time to say I thoroughly enjoyed the recent article you authored about Dale Earnhardt Jr. Given his iconic stature, there is no shortage of articles about Dale, but there is a shortage of well written or insightful articles. I found yours to be both. You touched upon so many facets and nuances that I believe others miss, or dismiss, in their attempts to grab headlines or create them with their words.

Okay, enough of my victory lap (pun intended).

Now, Junior's big day is upon us. His birthday is this Friday, October 10, the day before he competes in the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, his hometown track. My guess is that what he wants most for his birthday is to win the race Saturday night, to put himself in better contention to win the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup (the championship), which would be his first.

But he's probably been celebrating all week. According to a post on Whisky River's Facebook page, there was a surprise party for him Monday night:

And even Dale Jr. shared a photo from the private party:

On Thursday, his girlfriend Amy Reimann is competing in the Better Half Dash, the annual fundraising competition in which the wives and girlfriends of several NASCAR drivers, crew chiefs, and team owners drive race cars. You can bet Dale Jr. will be there to cheer on his better half. And on Saturday afternoon, the speedway is throwing the Dale Jr. Birthday Pit Party.

And just imagine all of the celebrations we aren't privy to! Though, Dale Jr. has revealed some of his gifts on Twitter, @DaleJr.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Your Chance to Own a Piece of 'Homeland'

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 10/06/2014 No comments
Although it's a fictional television show, reality set in last night for many of us Homeland fans who live in Charlotte. The realization that now that the critically acclaimed, award-winning Showtime series has kicked off its fourth season, we will no longer have the pleasure of spotting the Queen City throughout the episodes. As most locals know, since Homeland's inception, the show has largely been filmed in Charlotte, which was used as a stand-in for Washington, D.C. (remember that time "I Sat at the Bar with Carrie and Brody"). We learned in the spring that the series would be moving production out of Charlotte and into Cape Town, South Africa for this season.

Well, after three years of calling Charlotte home, a television production as big as this one surely accumulates a lot of stuff. And now, you can own a piece of Homeland stuff.

A "Homeland Sale" is being held on October 10 and 11, beginning at 7:30 a.m. each day, taking place at a large warehouse located at 6935 Reames Road in Charlotte, which had been converted into a soundstage by Homeland's producers. According to the advertisement, thousands of items from the show's production are for sale, including furniture, housewares, electronics, office supplies, clothing, construction materials, tools, hardware, and more.

Back to the show, last night was a special two-episode premiere that revealed a lot of what we can expect (and the always unexpected) this season from Carrie, Saul, and the gang. And the Twitterverse was fixated on how much Carrie's baby from Brody actually looks like the fictional father.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Rapper, actor, poet, and author Common was the speaker at the second annual Gantt Symposium last night. The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture brought in the Chicago star who spoke to a sold-out audience at the Knight Theater across the street. The topic of his talk was "Greatness" and he both inspired it and exemplified it.

Many hip-hop fans have followed Common's work for two decades, from his iconic 1994 song "I Used to Love H.E.R." to his 2005 classic, multi-Grammy-nominated album Be to his recently released album Nobody's Smiling. And we know he's always been a "conscious" artist, one whose songs are filled with messages about struggles, love, and prevalent social issues. We've also witnessed his movie career take off, including roles in Smokin' Aces, Wanted, Just Wright, and several others (he also has a role in the upcoming Oprah Winfrey-produced Selma).

My camera phone had trouble adjusting to the theater's darkness, but you get the picture.

And after last night, Common proved he could have a successful career as a public speaker. His prominent message was that each person should: "Find your path, believe in your path, and live your path." And he illustrated it with stories from his life: when he was a ball boy for the Chicago Bulls at age 12; how a school lesson about the death of Emmett Till forever changed him; the role his mother, an educator, played in his life and when he told her he wanted to drop out of Florida A&M University to pursue a career as a rapper; being heartbroken after his breakup with Erykah Badu; the highs and lows of his music and acting careers; and so on.

Each of those anecdotes was compelling, he was extremely engaging, oftentimes funny, and came across like a common man despite his star power. One memorable line was when he said he realized that he needed to "stop dimming his light" for people. His message of greatness and how it's in all of us, was truly inspiring.

Also, being the quintessential lyricist he is, before he began his talk, he freestyled a rap. An actual freestyle, meaning he spoke lyrics off the top of his head. "To prove that this is a real freestyle, somebody give me a word to begin with," Common said. Someone yelled, "intrigue," and that's what he built his two-minute freestyle around, while also shouting out several Charlotte references (including Mert's, Beatties Ford Road, Wells Fargo, and Queen Charlotte). Luckily, @raej captured the video on her phone, which you can watch below.

After Common's 45-minute talk, he was joined on stage by Harvey Gantt for a Q&A, where the Charlotte icon and former mayor asked questions about the generational gap and the importance of education.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

ICYMI, earlier this week, Money magazine published its annual package of stories and rankings comprising its "Best Places to Live in America." Among the 2014 lists is the "Best Big-City Bargains," and coming in at No. 1 is Charlotte, which you likely agree with if you live here. Nos. 2-5 are Phoenix, Fort Worth, Boston, and Chicago. The Time Inc.-owned publication describes its methodology for determining the list:
To create this list of best-value big-city neighborhoods, we ranked places with over 500,000 in population on housing affordability, economic strength, home price forecasts, and livability using data from NeighborhoodScout, OnBoard Informatics, and CoreLogic. Then we looked for promising, well-priced neighborhoods in our top 10 locales.
It highlights two thriving Charlotte neighborhoods in particular: Plaza Midwood, writing, "Just 10 minutes by car from the center of Charlotte, this artsy, bike-friendly neighborhood is an interesting mix of the gritty and the pretty;" and Mountain Island Lake, "Convenient to the soon-to-be-completed I-485 beltway, Mountain Island Lake features pretty, spacious homes." I live in the less glamorous section of the Mountain Island area, but about five minutes north of me is the community Money is referring to, which really is a hidden gem in Charlotte (and maybe in five years I'll be able to afford to live there).

In addition to Best Big-City Bargains, Money, in the October 2014 issue, also profiles the 50 Best Small Cities, Best Places to Be Rich and Single, Top Earning Towns, and Best Places to Find a New Job.

Kendra James, whom some of you might remember from the Bad Girls Club reality TV show (or you may have partied with her in clubs), is attempting to make some major changes in her life. She wants to shed her bad girl image for good and start making better decisions, and she feels that building a relationship with God and surrounding herself with positive people is how she'll get there. This Sunday, she's getting baptized at Elevation Church. She told me all about her emotional and spiritual journey, during my interview with her for Creative Loafing, which you can read about: "Kendra James: From ‘Bad Girl’ to baptism."

Sunday, September 21, 2014

I Survived Hurricane Hugo -- 25 Years Ago

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 9/21/2014 No comments
This country has been devastated by several fatal and costly hurricanes over the years. Hurricane Katrina, which struck in 2005, is probably the storm that comes to mind first for most people nowadays. But if you take it back to when I was an elementary school kid in South Carolina, there was no bigger deal than Hurricane Hugo.

The category 4 hurricane touched down near Charleston just before midnight on September 21, 1989, and went on to terrorize the Carolinas on September 22, with maximum winds of 138 mph and the eye of the storm was 35 miles wide. Hugo hit South Carolina the hardest, ravishing most of the state. And as it reached Charlotte, it blew out windows from skyscrapers and toppled thousands of trees, among other damage.

This is now the 25th anniversary for what at the time was the costliest storm in the United States' history ($7 billion in damage in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, and another $3 billion in the Caribbean islands), and tragically it killed at least 41 people in this country, with more than half of the victims being in South Carolina.

Here are a few things I remember from Hurricane Hugo.

- I was nine years old, living in the small town of Rembert, SC (located in Sumter County and about 45 minutes east of Columbia). There were a lot of trees in our yard, and as my family prepared to buckle down for the storm, my mom decided to park her black Pontiac Grand Am in a different place than usual, away from most of the trees. There was only one tree in the area where she parked the car, and it was a really big tree. Surely it would sustain from the hurricane. Not! Hugo knocked that tree over smack on the middle of my mom's car, which she'd only had for about a year. It was a total loss.

- Since the hurricane hit overnight, it had pretty much passed through my town by daybreak. Walking outside in the morning and seeing the devastation was like a scene out of the movies. Debris was everywhere, countless trees uprooted, power lines laying on the ground, houses destroyed.

- Hugo knocked out our power for more than a week (I think). The first couple of days of the aftermath we stayed at home, but then as the power loss persisted, we moved to a hotel in Camden for a few days--I think power got restored there before it came back on in my rural town. Since there was no power in Rembert, there was also no water, and I remember plenty of people going to my Aunt Martha's house to get water because she had one of those old-timey wells with a manual pump.

- Schools were closed for several days. That was the fun part.

- People started selling--and wearing--"I Survived Hurricane Hugo" T-shirts.

Credit: Etsy

The Charlotte Observer and The State (Columbia) have each put together a package of news stories, photos, and accounts of people's memories from Hurricane Hugo, in honor of the 25th anniversary. Visit and

Saturday, September 20, 2014

I'm a longtime fan and watcher of NBC's Today show, and I have the series set to record on DVR. I hadn't watched yesterday's show yet, and at some point throughout the day I saw on Twitter that Jhene Aiko had performed (I love her, and I saw her perform last weekend in Atlanta). So I watched a little bit of yesterday's episode this morning, primarily fast-forwarding to get to Jhene's performance. And in the process, I came across a great segment involving the Carolina Panthers and a kid who has cerebral palsy.

Credit: Today

In the video below, you'll see what the Panthers and quarterback Cam Newton did for 13-year-old Austin Smith, who enjoys playing football and doesn't let his physical limitations stop him, including giving him and his family tickets (great seats) to this Sunday's home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. This further reiterates the influence NFL players--and most professional athletes for that matter--have on our society and on our youth in particular. Generally, these pro stars do a lot of good.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Several NFL players have spoken out against domestic violence in recent weeks, in the wake of the Ray Rice and Greg Hardy situations. And the latest to take a stance--via Twitter--is Steve Smith, who's in a rather unique position. See, Smith is a former Carolina Panthers player, as you know, and former teammate of Hardy; and he currently plays for the Baltimore Ravens, which was Rice's team until they cut the running back last week after the now-infamous inside-the-elevator video was released.

Credit: @89SteveSmith

I'm not digging in the weeds here on the NFL's domestic violence crises because it's being reported on around the clock on major news networks and publications. But I wanted to share Smith's tweets, in case you haven't seen what he posted last night. And in true Mr. Ice Up Son fashion, he didn't back down from smack talk from other tweeters. Click here to read the full thread.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

It's Charlotte's turn to be graced with the Outkast reunion tour, as the iconic hip-hop duo headlines Funk Fest Charlotte. The two-day music festival takes place Friday and Saturday, September 12 and 13 at Metrolina Expo, and while the concert lineup was announced a while ago--in addition to Outkast, there's B.O.B, Fantasia, LL Cool J, Ice Cube, The Roots, Salt-N-Pepa, and more--the show times have now been released.

Gates open 2 p.m.
Salt-N-Pepa - 4 p.m.
Fantasia - 5:30 p.m.
Doug E. Fresh - 7 p.m.
B.O.B - 8 p.m.
Outkast - 9:15 p.m.

Gates open 1 p.m.
95 South and 69 Boyz - 3 p.m.
112 - 4 p.m.
War - 5:30 p.m.
The Roots - 7 p.m.
Ice Cube - 8:30 p.m.
LL Cool J - 10 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased online: general admission, one-day pass, $65; two-day pass, $100; VIP packages are available as well. Go to for complete details. You can also visit my Dusk Till Dawn blog later this week for a list of parties in Charlotte this weekend, including the official Funk Fest after-party, as this music festival is expected to bring a lot of excitement and out-of-towners to the city.

Now, for a little bit of good news involving the NFL. A press conference was held this morning at West Charlotte High School to announce that the school will receive a new synthetic turf football field, as the result of a $200,000 grant from the Carolina Panthers through the NFL Foundation Grassroots Program. The program has helped build or renovate 290 football fields in underserved neighborhoods around the country since 1998.

This is just the latest form of community, corporate, and financial support West Charlotte High has received as numerous efforts are underway to help turnaround this once-reputable school that saw its academics and student population's well-being plummet in recent years. Project L.I.F.T. (Leadership and Investment For Transformation ) has led or coordinated many of these efforts at the high school as well as its eight feeder schools (elementary and middle), all located in Charlotte's westside.

Photos by Jarvis Holliday

There was a lot of positive energy at the press conference this morning. Of course there were officials representing Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, the Panthers, and sponsors, including CMS' Superintendent Heath Morrison and Duke Energy Foundation president Richard "Stick" Williams, but what thrilled me the most was to see the involvement of students in the ceremony. This, after all, is who the initiative will positively impact the most, and it gives them another reason to be proud of their school and to believe that the community cares. Members of the West Charlotte High marching band played, the cheerleaders cheered, and several of the football players were there. There was also a group of student journalists conducting interviews.

West Charlotte student journalists. 

Sir Purr is excited (as always).

The refurbished football field will not only be used by the high school students but by recreational programs from the community as well.

Friday, September 5, 2014

On my Dusk Till Dawn blog, each week I compile a list of social events and parties that are going on throughout Charlotte--there truly is a lot to do around here (check out this weekend's list of more than 20 events). But sometimes you need to participate in something that enriches you--your soul, your life, your career, your community. And there are a couple of events taking place this Saturday, September 6 in Charlotte that will help you do just that. Each is free and open to the public.

GoodCamp: A Social Good Unconference
9 a.m.-2 p.m. | Packard Place, 222 S. Church St.
GoodCamp is a user-generated (you pitch ideas; participants decide) "unconference" focusing on creating effective communications for social good. The organizers say that staff members, volunteers, and board members for nonprofits, foundations, philanthropic organizations, and governmental organizations will have the most to gain from attending. Visit for more details and to register to attend.

Seconnd Annual Men's Summit
4-7 p.m. | Carole Hoefener Center, 610 E. Seventh St.
It’s an evening of empowerment, dialog, and tributes with special guests Senator Joel Ford, Dr. Tommy Watson, and Willie Ratchford. Presented by Suit Up Charlotte, an organization whose mission is to serve and inspire men in transition; to provide support that will result in more stable, confident, and stronger men, fathers, leaders, and families within our communities. Click here to register.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

There are a few things a young man learns early on about dating: make sure your car is clean before you pick her up, keep gum in your pocket, and be prepared to pay for the date. Doesn't matter if he's 16 or 46, he follows those simple (unwritten) rules.

Now, we men sometimes experience a date night in which the woman pays, and that's like winning $100 from a scratch-off lottery ticket--it doesn't happen often (and you've already spent a lot during previous attempts), but you cherish it when it does.

Well, apparently September is "Take a Man on a Date" Month. It's exactly how it sounds, and it seems to be something new for this year. It's gaining steam on social media, of course, including plenty of people making fun of it. You can keep up with the tweets here.

What's also interesting is that this new, month-long "holiday" appears to have been started by a singles group from the LDS Church (also known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints a.k.a. Mormon Church). So the Mormons have sparked the latest dating trend, eh?

Whatever its origins, we'll take it. In the words of Aloe Blacc: I'm the man, I'm the man, I'm the man!

Follow me on Twitter @HollidayInk, like Grown People Talking on Facebook.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Six months to the day after announcing that the CIAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament would remain in Charlotte for the next six years, conference officials and their partners are holding their next press conference, themed as "New Day-New Event." The press event will take place Wednesday, September 3 at 1:45 p.m. at Time Warner Cable Arena, and the public will be able to watch it via live stream at

The press conference will provide updates on the weeklong tournament, which in 2015 will take place February 23-28, giving more details on the new partnership between the CIAA, City of Charlotte, and the Charlotte Hornets. CIAA Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams, Charlotte Mayor Dan Clodfelter, Mecklenburg County Commission Chair Trevor Fuller, Hornets President Fred Whitfield, and CRVA CEO Tom Murray are scheduled to speak, discussing topics such as tournament ticket sales, hotel availability, VIP experiences in Time Warner Cable Arena, and official CIAA events, according to the press release I received.

Photo by Jon Strayhorn/Media Arts Collective

In 2014, the CIAA Tournament completed its 69th year, with Charlotte being its home for the last nine years, and during its time here has experienced phenomenal growth. The weeklong festivities, which in addition to the 20-plus college basketball games held over several days between the 12 men’s and 12 women’s teams of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, are highlighted by the more than 200 parties and social events that go on that week, mostly unaffiliated with the CIAA but put on by independent party promoters and event planners. The events draw tens of thousands of visitors to Charlotte that week, including dozens of celebrities, and has close to a $50 million economic impact on the city annually.

The Charlotte Post published an article in July that said Bojangles' Coliseum could become a second site for the basketball tournament, specifically that the first two days of games, which are usually poorly attended, would be held there, while the Thursday-Saturday games, which typically get great attendance, would continue at Time Warner Cable Arena. I think that makes sense from a logistical standpoint, but the downside is that for those two days it would move the games away from Uptown, which is the center of all the CIAA-related action. One of the great things about the tournament's location, as it has been the last several years, is that you can park in Uptown (or take the light rail there) and walk to everything--the arena, convention center, hotels, and the majority of restaurants, bars, and nightclubs.

Another issue of contention for the CIAA is control over hotel rooms. Its commissioner has stated in the past that they want to receive contracts for large blocks of rooms at many Charlotte hotels so that they can better serve their fans, alumni, teams, and partners. If granted, it would be similar to what the Democratic National Convention had in 2012, which would allow them to handle room reservations and then turn over any remaining rooms back to the hotels by a specified date. This would also help prevent price gouging that tends to go on in regards to hotel room rates that week. February/early March is a slow time for hotels here, but the week of the CIAA Tournament often sees rooms go for two or three times the normal rates, and they still tend to sell out.

Founded in 1912, the CIAA is the nation's first African-American athletic conference, and it represents rich tradition and history for African-Americans who have graduated from its colleges and played on its sports teams over the last 100 years. Some students are now the third or fourth generation in their family to attend a CIAA school, dating back to a time when blacks were denied admission to most colleges in this country. Today's 12 CIAA schools are: Bowie State University, Chowan University, Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, Johnson C. Smith University, The Lincoln University of Pennsylvania, Livingstone College, Saint Augustine's University, Shaw University, Virginia State University, Virginia Union University, and Winston-Salem State University. 

You can keep up with the CIAA on social media:,

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

​Whether unemployed or unhappy with the job you currently have, you (or someone you know) are probably looking for work. Well, put your suit in the cleaners, print copies of your resume, and get ready for this upcoming opportunity. Mecklenburg County is hosting a job fair on Tuesday, September 9, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Grady Cole Center (310 N. Kings Dr.).

The county is hiring for several positions, including library aide and assistant, IT programmers, vendor managers, social workers, nurses, maintenance and operations assistants, recreation specialists, and more. Click here for more details on the job fair, and you can find a list of current job openings here, which you can apply for online.

Mecklenburg County, which is comprised of Charlotte, Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, Matthews, Mint Hill, and Pineville, surpassed one million residents in population last year, with the Queen City accounting for about 80 percent of that.

Friday, August 22, 2014

It's back-to-school time in Charlotte, as Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools students officially say goodbye to summer, and return to learning on Monday, August 25. Below is a handful of great community initiatives (of which I know organizers personally, and commend them for giving back), that are making the start of the school year better and brighter for our youth.

Please support these causes and spread the word!

Cuttin' Class - Community Hair Cutting Day
Saturday, August 23 | 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Park West Barber College, 3120 Wilkinson Blvd.
Just as they've done each year, the owners and staff of No Grease Barbershops are converging at one location and offering free hair cuts on the Saturday before kids go back to school. The free hair cut day will also include giveaways of book bags and school supplies. Boys grades K-12 are welcomed. Presented by No Grease, Inc. and The IT Factor Media Group., Facebook event.

Hair-A-Thon Community Back-to-School Event
Saturday, August 23 | Begins at 9 a.m.
Pure Body Salon & Spa, 2415 Tuckaseegee Rd.
Young girls can come get pretty in time to start school, as this salon is offering free hair services to the first 60 girls, ages 5-13. They will also be given free school supplies and other goodies.

West Fest
Saturday, August 23 | noon-6 p.m.
West Charlotte High School, 2219 Senior Dr.
This was a popular, annual summer festival on Charlotte's west side in the 1990s, and after a long hiatus, Project L.I.F.T. brought it back last year. This year's family friendly, free event will feature an appearance and performance by ABC Family star and “Just a Kiss” recording artist Mishon, as well as performances by local and regional R&B, jazz, gospel, dance, and hip hop artists, and the West Charlotte High School band. There will also be vendors, a resource fair, health screenings by Novant Healthcare, food, games, prize giveaways, and more.,

Million Father March
Monday, August 25
Your child's school
The Million Father March is a nationwide initiative to encourage more fathers, particularly African-Americans, to become more involved in their children's education. The effort is kicked off each year by a campaign to get men in local communities to escort kids to the first day of school. And for the second consecutive year, Project L.I.F.T. is organizing it for seven CMS Schools: West Charlotte High School, Allenbrook Elementary, Statesville Road Elementary, Walter G. Byers School, Bruns Academy, Druid Hills Academy, and Ranson IB Middle School. Charlotte volunteers are being asked to sign up by visiting, and the day will also include distributing of school supplies.

Back-to-School Ice Cream Social
Saturday, August 30
Center of Hope
InSPIRE Charlotte, a nonprofit organization created by professional women who are single parents, are organizing an ice cream social to brighten the day of the 120 school-age children that reside at Center of Hope in Charlotte, an organization that houses and provides services to homeless women and children. The ladies from InSPIRE Charlotte will serve ice cream sundaes and deliver school supplies to the children. If you would like to contribute, you can send school supplies and/or monetary donations to InSPIRE Charlotte, attn: Mashea Miller, P.O. Box 1316 Davidson, NC 28036; or contact  the organization at

And in other back-to-school news, CMS employees received an enthusiastic boost of encouragement during their pep rally yesterday at Time Warner Cable Arena.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Gatorade released a series of commercials online yesterday for its "Sweat It. Get It" campaign, starring quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Cam Newton. The two NFL stars appear separately in the ads, which range from one minute to two minutes long. They make it difficult for unsuspecting customers to buy Gatorade at a convenience store because the men and women who attempt to purchase the sports drinks haven't sweated, which means they haven't earned it.

Cam appears in two of the commercials, while Peyton is in six--he's the consummate pitch man, isn't he? Even though there are so-called hidden cameras capturing this and it seems to be a real convenience store, like the Jeff Gordon test-drive-prank Pepsi commercial last year, my suspicions are that these are all actors; though one (and only one) of Peyton's seems real. (Jeff Gordon's commercial has gone on to get more than 40 million views, by the way.)

Watch the two commercials with the Carolina Panthers QB below, and you can view all of them at

You'll also find Cam and Peyton alongside Eli Manning, Robert Griffin III, and J.J. Watt as Gatorade's The League of Captains. Each player is a comic book character, with actual written and illustrated stories--Cam is "The Blender"--and you can purchase specially designed Gatorade bottles of the characters for a limited time.

Credits: Gatorade

And if you need more Cam in your day, watch the newest episode of "Huddle Up with Cam Newton," a five-part web series by Under Armour that shows inside looks into Cam's life, as he discusses the highs and lows. In the episode three, released today, he talks about how his college football career almost ended before it even started, including a candid moment about sitting the bench behind Tim Tebow.

Friday, August 15, 2014

At 6 p.m. yesterday (Thursday, August 14), the highly anticipated SEC Network launched. The Southeastern Conference and ESPN partnered to create this new national television network, which will provide 24/7 coverage of SEC college sports--specifically during the first year: 45 football games, 100 men's basketball games, 60 women's basketball games, 75 baseball games, 50 softball games; plus, live events, classic games, and original studio programming, they say.

Credit: Facebook

But let's keep it real. This channel has been created because college football's popularity is at an all-time high, bringing in billions of dollars a year in revenue, and the SEC has been the perennial football conference for the last decade. I'm excited that I'll get more comprehensive coverage of my South Carolina Gamecocks--we kick off the 2014 football season, on the new network, Thursday, August 28, at home against Texas A&M--but how many of us will be tuned into the channel come mid-January once football season is over? Furthermore, a lot of the big SEC football games, like Alabama vs. Auburn, Florida vs. Georgia, and LSU vs. Alabama, will continue to be shown on the major networks like CBS and ABC.

But for now, the SEC Network is making an historic debut, reportedly available in 75 million households. And in terms of projected revenue, it's the fifth-largest sports network in the country, behind ESPN, NFL Network, ESPN2, and FS1; and far ahead of its rivals, so to speak, the PAC 12 Network and Big Ten Network, which launched before it. Out the gate, the SEC Network is available on most of the major cable TV and satellite providers: AT&T U-verse, Charter Communications, Cox, DirecTV, Dish, Time Warner Cable, and Xfinity (click here to find your channel).

The network is based in Charlotte, located at ESPN's offices and studios in Ballantyne, which also produce ESPNU (the Southeastern Conference itself is headquartered in Birmingham). There's a newly assembled staff working in Ballantyne, but a lot of the broadcast coverage will also come from on-site at each of the 14 SEC schools. And the network scored a major victory when it lured legendary college football analyst Paul Finebaum to Charlotte.

Get everything you want to know about the SEC Network:

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Since debuting three weeks ago, the August issue of Charlotte magazine has been a popular topic around the city, led by its cover story on "50 Things Every Charlottean Should Do." The large feature package--encompassing 20 pages in the print issue--is a must-read whether you're a native or a newcomer or you fall somewhere in between. If you're someone who used to live in Charlotte or periodically visits the area, you'll enjoy reading this story as well.

A lot of people have shared the link to the story on social media, often commenting on how many of the 50 things they've done. Personally, I've done 46 of the things on the list during the nine years I've lived in Charlotte (today actually marks nine years ago that I moved to Charlotte from Augusta, Georgia).

Most of the activities, like "Wait in line for Price's Chicken," "Spend a day at the U.S. National Whitewater Center," and "Gain perspective at 1,625 feet," which is about hiking Crowders Mountain, illustrate just how robust and varied the list of activities are that this area has to offer. Others are more anecdotal, like "Be friendly" and "Don't assume everyone works for a bank," providing a little insight into Charlotte's culture and history, the latter of which people tend to not know much about, as this is a city filled with transplants.

I was one of eight writers to contribute to 50 Things Every Charlottean Should Do (and I'm profiled on the contributors page, pg. 14). The feature is also filled with beautiful photography.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

One of Charlotte's best restaurants is getting the national attention it deserves. The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar is featured on this week's episode of Travel Channel's Food Paradise, which premiered Tuesday night. The hour-long episode, titled Hamburger Paradise 3, showcases great burgers from restaurants around the country, from Seattle and Chicago to Philadelphia and Charlotte. Among the Cowfish burgers highlighted is the burgushi, which I once raved about.

One of the Cowfish's burgers featured on Food Paradise. Served with sweet potato fries!

The segment on Cowfish opens with the narrator proclaiming: "Fewer burger spots have a bigger buzz than Cowfish in Charlotte. It's the most popular North Carolina mash-up since tar met heels." You can watch the entire episode online by clicking here (Cowfish debuts around the 13:30 mark). You can also catch it when it re-airs on Travel Channel over the coming days by checking the channel's schedule.

In addition to the original Cowfish location in SouthPark, there's also one in Raleigh, and a location is scheduled to open this year at Universal Studios in Orlando.

Ryan Lochte ate in one sitting what you probably ate total the last three days.

The 11-time Olympic medal-winning swimmer (including five golds) shared a photo on Twitter Monday afternoon, showcasing what he was about to eat for, what I presume was, lunch. He offered the caption: "#Streamlining in preparation for my 10,000 calories. Let’s see your best pose. @swimtoday #funnestsport." It was talked about today on ESPN's Pardon The Interruption (near the end of the show, which is how I found out about it; h/t).

As most of you in Charlotte probably know, Lochte moved to the Queen City last October to train with the renowned SwimMAC Carolina and its Team Elite, which is filled with several past Olympic champions and current and future contenders.

You're wondering how far above the recommended daily caloric intake Lochte is, right? Well, according to websites like WebMD and CalorieKing, someone of Lochte's demographic (male, 6 feet, 2 inches tall, 195 pounds, age 29--he turns 30 on August 3) who lives an active lifestyle, should consume about 3,000 calories a day to maintain his weight. Of course, he's extremely active as a world-class swimmer, so it should be expected that his caloric intake would be off the charts. Professional swimmers (i.e. Michael Phelps) are known to consume high amounts of calories to keep up with the extreme amounts they burn when rigorously training.

Lochte's rather active on the social scene as well. Two Saturdays ago I spotted him, and his good friend and fellow Olympic swimmer and Charlottean Cullen Jones, at Vault nightclub at the EpiCentre. He's also a regular at Oak Room in South End. That's why back in December, on my Dusk Till Dawn blog, I included him in my year-end list of "Biggest Moments in Charlotte’s Nightlife and Social Scene in 2013."

Play hard, work hard... or as Lochte would say, jeah!

I could say, "the time has finally come" but it's more like, "man that got here quick" -- the grand opening of Charlotte Premium Outlets. The dates for the four-day grand opening celebration were announced months ago, but it's still astonishing to see this 100-store outlet mall come to fruition after only breaking ground last September. I've driven past it each of the last two weekends, where you can see it clearly from Interstate 485 (Exit 4 NC 160/Steele Creek Road). I blogged in March about how Charlotte Premium Outlets will greatly transform that part of town.

Photos credit: Facebook

The grand opening events kick off this Thursday at 10 a.m., and there'll be live bands performing over three days in the commons areas--Charlotte favorites like 5 on Sundays, Early Ray, and Hot Sauce. There will also be two prizes given away every hour between noon and 5 p.m. Plus, there will be in-store events and entertainment taking place at several of the stores, such as DJs inside the Converse, Puma, and Hilfiger stores; and gift card giveaways at Aeropostale, Eddie Bauer, J.Crew, Lane Bryant, Nike, and many others. Reality TV star, author, and entrepreneur Bethenny Frankel is scheduled to appear Saturday at the VIP Shopper Club Lounge. It's also possible that other celebrities and special guests could appear throughout the weekend.

Click here for the full schedule of grand opening events.

Charlotte Premium Outlets now has social media accounts: and; the hashtag for the grand opening is #CPOGO (stands for Charlotte Premium Outlets Grand Opening, FYI). Charlotte Premium Outlets, 5404 New Fashion Way, 704-523-8865,,

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