In the Community

Black History Month at the Library

In honor of Black History Month, staff at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library have some suggested reading (and viewing) to help you learn about and explore the people and moments that have shaped our collective past.

HistoryMakers

Check out The HistoryMakers Digital Archive, an oral history collection highlighting the accomplishments of individual African Americans and African-American-led groups and movements.  It is unique among collections of African American heritage because of its large and varied scope, with interviewees from across the United States, from a variety of fields, and with memories stretching from the 1890s to the present.


book a girl stands.jpg

Adult Nonfiction


book underground railroad.jpg

Adult Fiction

  • Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, the story of a young slave woman’s bid to escape the Antebellum South, won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

  • Jesmyn Ward won the 2017 National Book Award for Fiction for Sing, Unburied, Sing, an exploration of history and racism through the lens of a multiracial family in the rural South.

  • Another Brooklyn, by Jacqueline Woodson, was a 2016 National Book Award finalist; it is a picture of life for a young African American woman growing up in Brooklyn in the 1970s.

  • Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers, winner of the 2017 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, tells the story of a Cameroonian immigrant’s pursuit of the American dream in Harlem in 2007.


book long way down.jpg

Young Adult Fiction and Nonfiction

  • Jason Reynold’s Long Way Down, longlisted for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, takes place during an elevator ride of a 15-year-old boy determined to avenge his brother’s shooting death. 

  • Monster, Walter Dean Myer’s classic, tackles issues of race, class, gender and the judicial system with a 16-year-old black teen on trial for murder.

  • Dreamland Burning, by Jennifer Latham, tells intersecting stories of present-day Tulsa, Oklahoma and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921.

  • Tony Medina’s I Am Alfonso Jones is a tale of police brutality and Black Lives Matter told in graphic novel format.  

  • Presented in graphic novel format, the March Trilogy is Congressman John Lewis’ narrative of his experiences in the civil rights movement.


book stella by starlight.jpg

Pre-Teen Fiction and Nonfiction


book march forward.jpg

Picture Books

In the Resources section of our website you’ll find Books & Authors, where you can browse the complete list of winners of the Coretta Scott King Award, which recognizes African American authors and illustrators who express the African American experience in works for young people.

book the youngest marcher.jpg

Introduce little ones to important figures in African American history with picture books like: 

Meet Your Neighbors: The Milledges

Photo courtesy Sarah Milledge

Photo courtesy Sarah Milledge

In 2011, when Sarah Milledge (née McAuliffe), now 37, met Jermaine Milledge, now 34, the disparity in their lives couldn’t be greater. She came from a small town. He came from a big city. Sarah is Caucasian and petite and loves to talk. Jermaine is 6’7”, was working on a Master’s Degree (she had her BA), is African-American and doesn’t love to talk. He is also a few years her junior.

“It was like ‘yin and yang,’ “said Jermaine.

What they did share was a common employer (State of Michigan); the fact that both had lost their fathers at an early age and, most importantly, that both are blind. Sarah suddenly lost her vision from Type I diabetes at the age of 23. Jermaine has been visually impaired since birth.

What they found, together, was love, commonality, a life dedicated to promoting awareness of the possibilities for those experiencing vision loss (and other disabilities) and the importance of community, diversity, and inclusion.

Together, they have a handful of degrees, certifications, sit on several state boards and have significant job experiences to their credit. (They both also sit on the town’s Diversity Council). Moving to Matthews four years ago for work has been a blessing. They recently purchased a new home in town which they share with Sarah’s Yellow Labrador, Echo, 12.

“Community is huge,” said Sarah. “We get a lot of help from a lot of people in Matthews. We love Matthews.”

Today, the pair knows they are role models for others with challenging disabilities. “It’s not something I tried to be,” said Jermaine, “but you just become that by having certain successes. You kind of become a trailblazer in a way. To show people that you can succeed despite barriers.”

“We advocate every day for ourselves and our clients who are also visually impaired,” said Sarah. “Living in a world with disability – that won’t stop. We’re always setting goals; I think we have empathy. We know what it’s like to be misrepresented; to overcome barriers.”

In the end, it is their love and connection that will remain. “I absolutely love my husband,” said Sarah. “We work so well together as a team…. There was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. We have climbed the mountain. We feel like we have an army around us with family and friends.”

From the Schools: How Students are Becoming More Politically Involved

Student involvement is significant for this reason: the next generation of Matthews’ leaders, who may now be sitting in a math class, could one day be elected to Town Council.

On January 28th, the annual Charlotte Women’s March rallied up in Charlotte, North Carolina, with participants holding up slogans and attentively listening to the day’s speakers. This was a community of people coming together to raise awareness about their concerns regarding equal rights. What many may have been surprised to see was the large amount of student-aged participants at the March.

“I was blown away by the amount of people under the age of 18 who attended.” said Carmel Christian senior, John. “It was so cool to see and meet people who were forming their own opinions about real issues and being passionate enough to make a stand,” he said.

Now more than ever, students in Matthews, North Carolina, have the means to become more politically aware and involved within their community.

It was so cool to see and meet people who were forming their own opinions about real issues and being passionate enough to make a stand.
— John, high school senior

With the recent shooting at David W. Butler High School, conversation about gun control has been amplified locally. “I wanted to do something with all the intense emotions I was feeling about what happened and to turn my anger into something productive,” said Butler High School junior, Hope, explaining her response to the shooting. Because of her desire to make her voice heard, Hope took the initiative and reached out to a representative through NCgv.org, an organizational group against gun violence in North Carolina. Once a meeting is facilitated, she will be able to formally discuss her concerns regarding gun-control with a Country Representative.

In light of Hope’s actions to make a difference, a similar trend has been seen of student participation within the political world, a realm that has been traditionally occupied by adults. Mecklenburg County Commissioner in district six, Susan McDowell-Rodriguez, has noticed this upswing of student involvement. “I have gotten to speak to kids at Butler, Providence, and South Meck {high schools}.” she said. Following the Parkland shooting, Rodriguez notes that, “like the kids in Parkland who raised awareness, the kids in Charlotte-Mecklenburg have {raised awareness} as well.”

Photo by Joanna Albanese Schimizzi

Photo by Joanna Albanese Schimizzi

Within her role as County Commissioner, she has witnessed how students have helped at organizational and precinct meetings by “handing out literature, going door to door- things like that.” According to Rodriguez, the types of students who are getting involved are a mixed bag. “I think it has been a lot of females, there are a number of guys as well, but it’s about 60/40.... all different kinds of kids,” she said.

The question posed to Rodriguez is, can the students who are getting involved actually make a real impact? The most effective way that students can be recognized, according to Rodriguez, is, “when kids show up for stuff and ask questions at Town Council meetings- {the students} who have researched and thought about issues- I think it’s super powerful,” she said.

As well, Rodriguez believes that students play a large role in reminding those of voting age the significance of their vote. “Kids can be very powerful with reminding adults about things concerning the future, like gun control and the environment,” she said. The overall benefit of student involvement is that is it adds to the amount of people who genuinely care about politics. “I think anytime we can get people more involved, it is a good thing- starting them young is great because it increases participation in the future.” Rodriguez said.

I think anytime we can get people more involved, it is a good thing- starting them young is great because it increases participation in the future.
— Susan Rodriguez McDowell

As a final note, Rodriguez emphasizes that one of the most important things a student can do is to, “combat apathy,” meaning to fight against an attitude of not caring. “A lot of people are apathetic about politics- they think, ‘oh well,’ and lose interest,” said Rodriguez. A way to change this attitude is to have open conversations about politics. For students, they should have those important discussions about more serious topics, like gun control. “Tell them why things matter to you- they [will] think about things differently,” she said.

“It’s about the future and it’s about these kids who are coming up,” concludes Rodriguez. Student involvement is significant for this reason: the next generation of Matthews’ leaders, who may now be sitting in a math class, could one day be elected to Town Council. We should recognize the power of the student voice, as it is the voice of tomorrow.

Meet Your Neighbors: Caren Carr and Tony DiRamio

We had to make a decision. I didn’t know how much time we’ve got. People say, ‘Why did you get married, you could go so soon!’ But, it doesn’t matter. We can have happiness.
— Tony DiRamio
Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Approximately, five years ago and within a one-year span, Caren Carr’s spouse of 16 years and Tony DiRamio’s spouse of 42 years passed on after struggling with terminal illnesses.

As a Catholic and a Jew, respectively, neither Tony, now 77, nor Caren, now 67, knew the other except in passing at the monthly Hospice and Pallative Care Charlotte Region Support (HPCCR) Group meetings. With family in various places across the country, neither had local relatives to count on. More importantly, both had just experienced the grief of losing long-time loves, and both already had long-established full lives in Matthews.

So, when the support group ended, in early 2015, Tony attempted to continue getting the group together – this time, at a local restaurant. Only Caren showed up. The meal lasted a full two hours with much discussion, reminiscences, and reflections on loss and grief.

Six weeks later, they went on a joint transatlantic cruise ship together. Six months later, after dating exclusively, Tony asked for Caren’s hand in marriage.  “I was very surprised,” said Caren of the proposal. “I said, ‘you don’t have to tell me tonight,’ ” said Tony. “I didn’t [answer] him right away,” reflected Caren.

“After being married for 42 years, it was kind of lonely living in the house,” said Tony. “I didn’t [just] want to live with someone. I wanted a long-term commitment. I’d been married my whole life and I had a lot of life ahead of me,” said Tony.

“We weren’t looking for this, but we had something in common because we’d had loss,” Caren said. “I started being his friend; he started being my friend.”

tony and caren by cyma shapiro 2.jpg

While they considered an elaborate wedding, a suggestion at the county clerk’s office to keep their names made them consider an easier path – finding a judge or magistrate available immediately and determined by day. “I said, ‘let’s get married tomorrow,’ ” said Tony. The pair went to a jewelry store that afternoon to pick out rings and asked a neighbor and her husband to stand as witnesses for them.

The next day, they visited the magistrate (working) in the local jail. They brought $20 in cash to pay for the ceremony. The neighbor brought a cake from Publix. They were married on October 28, 2015.

When asked later about the event, Tony joked to friends that they “had about six hundred people [in attendance], but most of them were wearing orange suits!”

And, in answer to people’s judgment about their marrying again so soon, or even at all, after the loss of spouses, Tony is clear: “The grief is still there. Just because we got married doesn’t mean that we don’t have feelings [about our previous lives],” he said, noting that they both had good marriages. “We go thru a process; we talk about it sometimes. There are still certain things you have to get over.”

We weren’t looking for this, but we had something in common because we’d had loss.
— Caren Carr

Having lived for a few years in Caren’s old home, last January, they moved into their new home, together. Now, they share a love of travel, of going out to restaurants, and of living in Florida for a few months/year each winter. They also share religious traditions and visits to their respective houses of worship.

“In older age, it’s different than when you are younger,” said Tony.  “We had to make a decision. I didn’t know how much time we’ve got. People say, ‘Why did you get married, you could go so soon!’ But, it doesn’t matter. We can have happiness.”

“We’ve been married four years. I’m happy,” he said. “It’s very difficult to change a lot of habits. She has her [ways]; I have mine,” said Tony, stating that in the end, they “work it out.”

“But, it’s a really happy story,” added Caren.

At their passing, the couple will bequeath money to HPCCR. “We’re so grateful for meeting and for the care our spouses got,” said Caren.

Journalism Classes: Giving High School Students a Relevant Voice

High school and middle school journalism classes go beyond reporting and play a large role in developing well-informed, future citizens who know how to navigate difficult topics.

covenant day.jpg

In a culture that puts so much emphasis on individuality, students today have become more and more aware of themselves and how they fit into the world around them. In our corner of the world, Matthews, NC, students have an excellent outlet for self-expression in journalism in the classes offered at Carmel Christian High School and Covenant Day Middle School.

Not only do high school and middle school journalism courses give students a voice to report on what is relevant to them, they also help to inform them on what they are speaking on and how to best articulate it.

A high school class that gives an idea of what journalism entails, Carmel Christian High School has provided its second year of journalism with journalism and creative writing teacher, Jennifer Dixon, who teaches students the different aspects of journalism through the units of photojournalism, headlining, writing captions, and law and ethics. This class mirrors a real-life news organization with a student-run news website. For the 48 journalism students at Carmel Christian, there are two levels that are divided into different classes: a Journalism 1 course, for beginners, and a Journalism 2 course, for those who have already completed one year of journalism.

In the pursuit of truth, journalism keeps those in power honest. It is especially important in teaching students about the freedom of the press and that they have the constitutional right to have their voice represented.

This separation exists as a division of labor, placing 39 of the total students as writers in Journalism 1 and the remaining nine students as editors in Journalism 2. Those in Journalism 1 function under a “spiral curriculum” that continuously revisits each topic taught, each revisit becomes more in-depth during the course of the year. As well, they learn to take assignments and develop their voice in articles. Those in Journalism 2 practice more freedom in reporting for their student news. Journalism 2 is like a “life lab,” according to Dixon, where “[students] manage our website, they set the direction of the website, and do a lot of editing- they also do a lot of news writing and recording.”

“Journalism helps you gain more knowledge about the press and what's going on in today's society and how it all works,” said Journalism 1 senior at Carmel Christian, Tyler Caldwell.

carmel christian.jpg

An imperative part of this course is how it teaches students the critical role that journalism plays within society. In the pursuit of truth, journalism keeps those in power honest. It is especially important in teaching students about the freedom of the press and that they have the constitutional right to have their voice represented.

“The most significant thing I can teach them is that they have the power to communicate and the power to understand and the power to play a critical role in our democracy,” said Dixon.

According to second-year journalism student at Carmel Christian, Kat Uribe, Carmel Christian’s journalism class, “ is valuable to our school because we do not have any electives that help us to express ourselves- most of them are not something you can be an individual in. Finding your voice is something teenagers appreciate, we always want to express ourselves. In journalism, you have more freedom to express yourselves; it is age appropriate.”

According to Covenant Day Middle School coach, history teacher, and now journalism teacher, Zach Turner, the school’s first journalism course was started this year in the 7th grade. At present, there are four participating students. His class has focused on writing, grabbing the attention of the reader, and answering the 5 W’s (who, what, when, where, how, why). As of now, his class has moved on from the basics of writing to a radio reporting unit, where they are hoping to be able to record short news reports.

As with Dixon, Turner sees the value in teaching middle schoolers journalism because it shows them, “what is actually going on.”

While teaching, Turner has noticed how his students have taken interest in current events saying that, “There are times we will be watching or reading an article and the students are blown away by some of the things going on in today’s world – good and bad.”

Although Turner’s class is less focused on the formalities of journalism, as it is at a middle school level, he finds that his students are eager to give it a try. “They don’t care about the history or the tech right now – they just want to write or read news.” The class exercises their reporting abilities by writing about current school news, such as the middle school play, retreats, and sports.

As one of the students…I can say we are lucky to have teachers here in Matthews who are willing to give students a way for students to express themselves. I can truly say that it has helped me grow both as a writer and as a person.

This course helps to both develop a student’s voice as well as equipping them with skills that they will use later on in life. The skills that are taught are applicable to interacting within a work environment, especially to those who may consider journalism as a possible career path after high school.

Dixon emphasizes, “They learn a lot of things that translate to the workplace, like collaboration, how to handle disappointment, and how to creatively solve problems.” Even at the middle school level, Turner reflects similarly that his course, “teaches working under pressure which is a skill everyone needs- no texting, no calling, you have to do it face to face for the most part. I feel like that is lacking in a lot of people today – that personal, one-on-one, look-you-in-the-eye and talk part of communicating.”

High school and middle school journalism classes go beyond reporting what people may except, like the latest results of a sports game or the student honor role- they play a large role in developing well-informed, future citizens who know how to navigate difficult topics and address them consciously.

As one of the students in Carmel Christian’s journalism class, I can say we are lucky to have teachers here in Matthews who are willing to give students a way for students to express themselves. I can truly say that it has helped me grow both as a writer and as a person.

At the Bus Stop: Waiting on the Bus

As we examine transit in Matthews, there is a lot of overlap with the comprehensive work of Sustain Charlotte. While their focus is on Charlotte itself, Matthews can benefit from some of their approaches.

One Sustain Charlotte activity, Walk2Transit, is a simple bus stop audit. Walk2Transit provides a method of grading bus stops from various perspectives (such as ease of getting to the stop, comfort while waiting on the bus, etc.) aids in better design of future stops. According to Meg Fencil, Sustain Charlotte Program Director, “80% of ‘all-purpose’ riders reach their bus stops on foot. If we want more people to choose to ride transit, they need to feel safe and comfortable walking to and from bus stops.“

Although photos only provide limited information, below are a few of the bus stops in Matthews. How would they score on a Walk2Transit audit? Which stops feel well designed? Which could use improvement? Does a comfortable bus stop encourage greater public transit use?

Coming Out in Matthews

...we have a unique experience, and that’s not something to be overlooked or made unimportant.
— Alex Brookins
Photo courtesy Alex Brookins

Photo courtesy Alex Brookins

When Alexander Brookins openly began his transition four years ago, both his Providence High School administrators and his family and their friends did not know how to cope.

His parents anguished over how they might best respond to his needs.

His teachers did not know what pronoun to use with him or what bathroom to offer him. They also did not have a vehicle for his subsequent request to change his name legally.

Alex was adjusting to his new public gender identity while many of his friends were also coming into their own undefined identities and sexualities; a few were just “coming out.”

Everyone needed support; most especially the kids.

Also at Providence in 2015 were senior Derby Belser and her then-girlfriend, Kelly Berenfeld, a sophomore. While they didn’t walk down the hallways holding hands or show “PDA” (public displays of affection), they did tell their friends and family and posted their relationship status on social media. One of the very few gay couples to openly come out in high school in Matthews, they now both consider themselves unexpected role models.

According to several educators, these young adults have changed the landscape of how these issues are addressed in school. Kids, now young adults, who, in openly exploring their sexuality and questioning concepts of gender, started a broader public discussion.

Society is progressing. Matthews is, as well, especially being so close to Charlotte... I’m glad that we were able to pioneer in our high school and set the example.
— Kelly Berenfeld

“In high school, they are trying to figure out who they are and how they identify,” said Gender-Sexuality Alliance (GSA) Advisor Sharon Walker, who came onboard in 2006. “The population you would see in August would be different than May,” she explained. “The stigma about talking about these issues 20 years ago doesn’t exist today. And, when you take away that stigma, it takes away the ‘charge.’ ”

“It’s important for adults who work with students to just be aware of new studies and new information coming out about these students,” she said. “There are so many different ways that students identify [themselves]. The fluidity of that is different than [a generation ago],” she said.

To stay abreast of trends and an increasing amount of information, Sharon regularly attends conferences and diversity workshops and takes the GSA group each year to the Carolina Conference for Queer Youth/Queer Conference at UNCC.

Derby Belser and Kelly Berenfeld.  Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Derby Belser and Kelly Berenfeld. Photo by Cyma Shapiro

While adults in the oldest generations might be struggling for ways to cope with these changing mores, those in the youngest generations and the adults working with them have increasingly developed a vernacular and support systems designed to provide comfort and guidance.

“I believe, in the last five years, [all of this has] become a much more relevant conversation,” said PHS’s guidance counselor, Lindsay Walker. “Our Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) has become a very supportive group on campus. Students have become much more aware of the LBGT community – it’s a more comfortable conversation. The students are more supportive of all [of the] students.”

I think that Matthews is being forced in a new direction. When Christians support the community, a whole lot changes. If there’s a change, I think the whole society will change.
— Derby Belser

Initially, the Providence High School club was called the “Ally Club” (as in, a person who supports someone else). About one year later, the group became the GSA. The original handful of kids were “quiet, timid, sullen,” said Sharon. “I was very concerned about these youth,” she said, adding that many of the original participating students were faced with bullying of all kinds.

Noting that this population is at a higher risk for suicide (the rate is 4x higher for the LGBTQ+ population in general, and 40% of transgender individuals have attempted suicide), and because, as a counselor, she is ethically obligated to advocate for any students who are in need of services or at-risk, she became even more passionate about her work and helping keep the kids safe. “My passion comes from a point of being an advocate,” said Sharon. “I can’t educate my students if they aren’t alive.”

In the spring of 2016, following a ruling from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., CMS adopted regulations designed to allow students to use locker rooms and restrooms that fit their identity. Those regulations also permit students to use their preferred name and pronouns in yearbooks and during graduation ceremonies. That same year, gender identity was added to CMS’s bullying policy.

My passion comes from a point of being an advocate. I can’t educate my students if they aren’t alive.
— Sharon Walker

When CMS passed its new anti-bullying policy, it became necessary for teachers to address the issue and receive staff training. Although many (especially older) staff members were initially resistant to this change in societal mores – referencing faith and other personal beliefs – the PHS administration was very supportive of the students and the GSA group.

Now, Sharon’s GSA group numbers 30 to 40 students who officially join each year, with 20 to 30 students who attend weekly meetings. Student officers present a variety of topics ranging from historical perspectives to how to be with relatives during the holidays. Occasionally, speakers from Charlotte’s Time Out Youth (the area’s largest LGBTQ+ nonprofit resource center) will also provide workshops. Students also participate in Day of Silence, a campaign to raise awareness about the shame and silencing issues surrounding the LGBTQ+ community.

Across town, Butler High School’s GSA was started about ten years ago with a handful of students requesting the opportunity to just meet and talk. Now, there are 30 to 50 kids in attendance, according to GSA Adviser Marcia Smith. The group meets twice a month – once for educational purposes and the other as a social gathering.

“I think we’ve made a lot of progress,” said PHS’s Sharon Walker. “We’re here as a resource and support – part education, part advocacy, and support.“

As a junior at Providence High School, Alex became the first publicly transgender student at PHS. He was also the first Matthews student to achieve the opportunity to change his name on the school roster without a corresponding name on his birth certificate. (He later became Vice President and Co-President of the GSA group at school.)

Today, Alex understands the importance of shared experiences but does not necessarily navigate toward trans-individuals and groups. “The experience we share is grief and upset, and that’s not a really good way to build relationships,” he said, continuing: “I don’t want to be that negative…we didn’t know how to support each other. We didn’t know how to handle our own feelings, let alone help [one another].”

“I’m grateful to have this experience of being trans and having a different perspective of the world than a lot of people have,” he said. “I spent a lot of my life feeling like I’m not one thing or another – [that] we are not ‘normal,’ ” said Alex.

“But, we have a unique experience, and that’s not something to be overlooked or made unimportant.”

In the past few years, Kelly has provided guidance and support to friends and acquaintances discovering their sexuality (many of whom acknowledge that they could not share this fact with their parents).

Derby has become the chair of her college sorority’s diversity and inclusivity arm. She also recently posted a coming-out Youtube (and Facebook) video titled, “Just a Southern Gay Sorority Christian Coming Out,” which now has more than 2,000 views.

“It is important to stay actively gay and open in the community – not to show that this is a passing phase,” said Derby. “I think that Matthews is being forced in a new direction,” she added, indicating that when she lived in town, she felt judgment from her church. “When Christians support the community, a whole lot changes. If there’s a change, I think the whole society will change.”

Kelly echoes Derby’s sentiments: “Society is progressing,” she said. “Matthews is, as well, especially being so close to Charlotte... I’m glad that we were able to pioneer in our high school and set the example. I know there are a lot of people who are more comfortable being out because of us. I appreciate that we could have done that for people.”

In the end, it is Sharon Walker’s perspective that best captures the current status of this movement and group: “A lot of the students in public schools are pioneers in what this is going to look like,” said Sharon. Whether it’s HB2 (bathroom policy) or something else, she said, “this has become a much bigger conversation, and it’s only going to continue to grow.”


According to 2015 CDC data regarding LGBTQ+ students:

  • 10% were threatened or injured with a weapon on school property;

  • 34% were bullied on school property;

  • 28% were bullied online;

  • 23% of LGB students who dated during the 12 months before the survey had experienced sexual dating violence in the prior year;

  • 18% of LGB students had experienced physical dating violence;

  • 18% of LGB students had been forced to have sexual intercourse at some point in their lives.

At the Bus Stop: Understanding Public Transit in Matthews

Park and Ride center at Indpendence Pointe Parkway.

Park and Ride center at Indpendence Pointe Parkway.

The average commute time for a Matthews resident is 27.9 minutes. With a healthy economy and relatively inexpensive gas prices, it’s common to find one person per car commuters. There are, however, less stressful ways to get around. Public transportation is one such way.

Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) runs the public transportation program for the greater Charlotte area. With more than 70 routes, CATS links Uptown Charlotte to the suburbs seven days a week. Below are routes connecting to Matthews.

27 Monroe Road, runs from Uptown Charlotte down John Street in Matthews, on down Trade to loop around at Target.

51 Pineville-Matthews Road runs the length of Pineville-Matthews to the Independence Pointe Parkway Park and Ride. This route also provides service to the Levine Campus of CPCC.

52x Idlewild Road Express runs Independence to the northern most corner of Matthews, at Idlewild Road and Margaret Wallace (this stop is on the Charlotte Side of Idlewild).

64x Independence Blvd. Express, an express bus that runs down Independence to Matthews and back to Uptown.

65x Matthews Express, which runs from Uptown, down John to Trade, up Independence Pointe Parkway (at Target) and down Sam Newell to Independence Pointe Parkway.

Bus stop on Trade Street in downtown Matthews.

Bus stop on Trade Street in downtown Matthews.

Martin Luther King Jr. March in Matthews

Yesterday, January 20, 2019, community members gathered at Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the third annual march from the church to Town Hall. The celebration and walk was originally organized in 2017 by then-Commissioner Reverend Larry Whitley following his successful efforts in 2016 to have the town recognize MLK Day as a town holiday. The walk has grown each year, with town leaders, staff, and many community members participating.

After a documentary about Dr. King, Pastor Whitley, Dr. Chuck Wilson, Mayor Paul Bailey, and Chief Clark Pennington (following a police escort) led the walk from Mount Moriah Church to Town Hall. At the destination, Pastor Whitley, Dr. Chuck Wilson (Matthews United Methodist Church), Mayor Paul Bailey, Nate Huggins (Blessed Assurance Adult Day Care), and Stelli Meyers, a youth representative from Matthews Presbyterian Church spoke on the significance of Dr. King and the importance of continuing his legacy.

Text placeholder (1).png

Meet your Neighbors: Jeff Turk

There are universal experiences, but viewing it through the unique lens of the Jewish experience, around the world, does give greater understanding, great empathy and greater connection with [all] our neighbors.
Photo of Jeff Turk by Cyma Shapiro

Photo of Jeff Turk by Cyma Shapiro

When long-time Matthews resident and a recent Matthews 101 graduate, Jeff Turk, co-chair of the Charlotte Jewish Film Festival Screening Committee, attends the opening of the upcoming festival, he will again “kvell” (Yiddish for “feel happy and proud”) that another year of Jewish movie going-greats will again be offered in the city.

Now, in its fifteenth year, the festival will offer thirteen films between February 9 and March 3. More than 5,000 film-goers are expected to attend. Five writers/directors/actors will also be present to promote and lead discussions regarding some of the films. This year’s biggest draw will be former Houston Astros player, Josh Zeib – on hand for one of the movies.

As co-chair, Jeff and 15 others work year-round to find and screen films, concentrating on the months between June and October. At the end of this period, they will have vetted and watched 200 films, paring them down to what they believe will be the “best” choices available.

For Jeff, the current president of the Board of Directors of the Levine Jewish Community Center (JCC), this involvement, and decades of prior significant volunteer service, provides the satisfaction that comes from both building bridges in the community and helping present the Jewish experience. He has also volunteered his time with various other arts organizations. The film festival remains a long-time endeavor and one in which he’s especially proud.

“There are universal experiences,” said Jeff, “but viewing it through the unique lens of the Jewish experience, around the world, does give greater understanding, great empathy and greater connection with [all] our neighbors.”

“The film festival provides illuminating cultural opportunities….stories with universal appeal, (but) with a Jewish (slant),” he said. “I’d like to reach out to the greater community to become an audience member. Because anybody who has an interest in good films, other cultures and religion, will have a real appreciation for [this]…It really does illuminate the Jewish experience and, I hope, it makes a positive impact on our community.”

For more information, e-mail cjff@charlottejcc.org

Gina Spriggs: Conjuring the Magick of Matthews

I’m not ashamed to be psychic, I’m not ashamed to be fluid,” she explains. “There’s no reason for me to cower or to hide…. And, I think that when people see that, it gives them permission to do that [too].
— Gina Spriggs
Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

When Matthews resident Gina Spriggs, 56, was very young and living in New York City, she began recognizing her innate and intuitive gifts. She easily saw other peoples’ essence and was one with those resonating on higher planes. Mentioning an “imaginary friend” to her mother one day, she was sent “directly to a shrink.” The assessment? All she wanted was to “get attention.”

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

At age 16, she began reading tarot cards to friends and family – a far-reaching, rooted love that grounds her to this day - it is what she does best - and remains a fundamental staple in her life and the life of others. (Today, she’s earned the title of Master Tarologist.)

For decades she did all this work “on the sneak.” However, in her 30s, she came in contact with a Master Tarologist – and for the first time, she found others with similar (and more experienced) gifts. They became her teachers.

During her pregnancy with her daughter, Gianna Medora Spriggs-MacDonald, now 24, she began to develop a distinct sense of smell. She assumed it came with being pregnant. She later learned that it is her daughter with a heightened sense of medical intuitive smell.

By the time she’d moved down south in 2007, she felt it was time to get real with herself and start anew. Gone were her second husband, and the remainder of her attempts to hide her truths.  She said she “came out of the psychic closet; came out of many closets.” A flower had bloomed.

While she had worked in retail for 29 years, she was also exploring her unique gifts at her home, at others’ stores and at her (now-closed) office in Matthews. She was featured at and hosted psychic fairs. Continuing to hone her craft through study with Masters, she found a perfect melding of traditions by combining her intuition and clairvoyance with her tarot cards (supported by numerological, astrological and elemental methodologies). She is also a futurist (able to predict the future).

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Today, she’s the proud owner of one of NoDa’s newest retail store. The metaphysical shop, Curio, Craft & Conjure, opened this past July with her daughter, now energy healer, Gianna. The store is infused with the principles of magick.

Magick (ma·gick) NOUN: The art of co-creating your desires by alchemically influencing outcomes through petition, ritual, and prayer.

“In looking at our specific demographic, we found that Charlotte’s spiritual and creative community thrives the closer you get to the city,” she said. “The creative energy flowing through NoDa made opening a store here an obvious choice.”

The duo’s work is intended to honor each individual’s gifts and help others claim their own power. 

“I’m not ashamed to be psychic, I’m not ashamed to be fluid,” she explains. “There’s no reason for me to cower or to hide…. And, I think that when people see that, it gives them permission to do that [too]. I don’t think people should wait until they are 56 [to find themselves].”

Gina offers clairvoyance, intuitive work, and tarot card readings, Gianna has blended her own unique combination of energy work/clearing/intuitive work for clients.

The many unique goods offered include custom carved candles (based on your intentions), crystals, stones, herbs, honey spells, tarot cards, feathers, masks (honoring ancestors), joss paper/ancestor money, essential oils, curio water, gourd shakers, incense…."You go home with magick to go!” said Gina. 

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Gina said the store represents a melting pot of many disparate schools of thought and practice: Jewish mysticism, medicine women, Wiccan, pagan, hoodoo, and Santeria to name a few.

Hoodoo: traditional black American folk spirituality that developed from a number of West African spiritual traditions and beliefs.

“What we have is this melting pot magick,” she proudly states, referencing both her family background and unit and the store itself.

Gina is the author of several books including The Intuitive Tarot Workbook and Dirty Laundry. She leads workshops and has written articles for magazines. More than 12,000 people have taken her online Daily Om Tarot Training Program. She is an ordained High Priestess in healing faith.

“This is not a job for us,” she says. “This is how we live.”

The People of Matthews: Dr. Chuck Wilson

We asked a few people who work for the community of Matthews to share their thoughts and hopes for 2019. Here’s what Dr. Chuck Wilson, pastor of Matthews United Methodist Church, told us:

Photo courtesy Matthews United Methodist Church

Photo courtesy Matthews United Methodist Church

  • I want to work much harder at remembering names and forgetting slights.

  •  I want to move from destructive criticism towards redemptive engagement.

  •  I want my spouse to marvel at how much better we are at listening than early in our marriage.

  •  I want to be increasingly less quarrelsome, sarcastic, and easily offended.

  • I want to think about fixing people less and loving people more.

  •  I want to do everything I can to NOT do unnecessary damage to a person’s reputation.

The People of Matthews: Mayor Pro Tem John Higdon

We asked a few people who work for the community of Matthews to share their thoughts and hopes for 2019. Here’s what Mayor Pro Tem John Higdon told us:

Photo from    MatthewsNC.gov

Photo from MatthewsNC.gov

Do you have a New Year's resolution? Here is a clichéd response, but one I really hope I can follow through on - I want to take better care of my health through a concerted effort to exercise more in 2019.  My hectic schedule makes that difficult sometimes. 

What do you hope for in the new year? Less dissension.  I don't think I have seen America more divided in my lifetime, and the vitriol is particularly nasty from just about every political viewpoint.  I would like to see us listen to each other more instead of shouting one another down, and really try to find some common ground.  

What do you want to leave behind in the old year? The stalemate the town has with CMS.  We need to expand our schools or build new ones, and I favor a CMS solution rather than other options.  We have started meeting and communicating respectfully with one another.  That is a good first step. 

What do you see foresee for Matthews in the coming year? Through decades of careful planning we have built a wonderful town and now it seems everyone wants to live here.  We need to very carefully manage future growth in our few remaining large tracts of land and infill projects.  Making sure our infrastructure keeps pace with other growth will be a continuing challenge.  This past year we have witnessed lots of input from the public.  I feel confident that will continue in 2019, and that is a good thing.

Chief Clark Pennington: Year One Leading the Matthews Police

Clark A. Pennington began his job on January 2, 2018 as the new Chief of the Matthews Police Department, replacing retired Chief Rob Hunter. Born in Delaware and raised in Las Vegas, Chief Pennington was taught the “Do unto others” doctrine early in his childhood. That philosophy continues guide his decision-making and doctrine of leadership.

During his previous 25 years of law enforcement service - 20 years of which included rising through the ranks at the Frederick, MD police department -  Pennington graduated from Mount Saint Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, MD, with a degree in Criminal Justice (2010) and went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Management from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD (2012). Pennington was also an adjunct Criminal Justice Professor at Hood College, Frederick Community College, and Mount Saint Mary’s University.

He recently reflected back on his first year of service in Matthews:

chief a.jpg

You have such an outstanding and lengthy history both with the military and with public service?  Has this always been a love and a passion?

I have always been drawn to public service and a profession in law enforcement.  I am the fourth generation in my family who has served in some form of the profession.  My great grandfather, grandfather, and father all served as constables in Pennsylvania.

From very early on, I recognized I liked being the one that people turned to for help.  Probably because I enjoyed providing some service to those that were struggling or felt victimized.  I do not like to see others being taken advantage of and want to do my part to help where I can.

When I graduated from high school, I did not feel college was right for me at that time.  I also knew that staying in Vegas and working until I was 21 years old and eligible for a career in law enforcement, was not productive or the best choice.  I joined the US Army to gain additional life experience and show a commitment to something bigger than me. I knew early on through examples set for me by family and friends in the profession that sacrifice and commitment was something that is expected in my chosen career path.  

In 1998, I was hired by the Frederick Police Department in Frederick, MD.  Over the next 20 years, I was extremely blessed to have competent and qualified leaders above me.  Many of those leaders pushed me further than I ever expected to go.

You state that your promotion and employment as Police Chief of Matthews is the culmination of your career. Can you say more about this?

I have always wanted to serve and learn from those in leadership positions.  In my 26+ years in the law enforcement profession, I have been fortunate enough to serve under some very capable and confident men and women.  I learned early on that we are able to take something away from each person we are afforded the opportunity to work with.

Being appointed as the Chief is a culmination of a career where I have learned from successful encounters and some not so successful.  The opportunity to serve as Chief came at a point…that I felt I could apply those important lessons learned to help develop other leaders and enrich the lives of individuals to help build a better organization and create a caring environment.

What hopes did you have for the job?

My hopes for the job are that I can be productive as the Chief and help to maintain, and even grow (to) incorporate technology to enhance the services provided to our residents, visitors, and business owners.  I hope to continue building an organization of leaders who have a service heart, ensuring our agency is serving and working with businesses, residents, and nonprofit organizations to enhance our community both financially and in areas of improving our quality of life.  

Image via    Town of Matthews
Matthews is a very progressive community and places high demands on its police department. Learning the expectations of the residents and businesses is important to ensure we are meeting those and enhancing the quality of life

What are some of the challenges you have faced?

I don’t think the challenges in Matthews are unique to Matthews.  Crime reduction and reducing the fear of crime is always at the forefront of a chief’s desires…Any time a new leader steps into an agency he/she is challenged with learning the culture of the agency and community you are entering.  Matthews is a very progressive community and places high demands on its police department. Learning the expectations of the residents and businesses is important to ensure we are meeting those and enhancing the quality of life. Any changes made in the agency must enhance the services provided without the reducing services expected or letting the community down on their expectations is important.

What are some of your accomplishments so far?

Met one on one with each and every employee of the agency; undertook a reorganization and distribution of workload among division commanders; began a comprehensive review of all policies and assigning each policy to a division commander for review and updating.  (We reviewed and/or made changes to our Use of Force Policy, Internal Affairs Policy, and Sexual Harassment and Hostile Work Environment Policy.) Conducted a 100% inventory and accountability review of evidence and seized property accounting for all items seized or taken into custody by the agency. Opened lines of communication between divisions and incorporated crime analysis into our deployment strategies, allowing us to target areas of the town that are experiencing the highest impact of crime or quality of life issues. Entered into a partnership with Carmel Christian School to hire and train a School Resource Officer; promoted two new sergeants. Began a more transparent use of social media to communicate with our public on crime issues, and arrests.

What are some of your shorter and longer goals?

One short-term goal is to train each member of the agency on Problem Oriented Policing and Intelligence led policing strategies.  The ultimate goal is to use each and every employee as a mini crime-analyst and use problem-solving strategies to provide long term solutions to identified community issues.  

What else would you like people to know about you?

In my off time I enjoy spending time with my three sons (Ethan, who is 16, and twins, Brady and Collin, who are 13).  We like to hunt, fish, boat and travel. I enjoy riding my motorcycle and clearing my head on a long ride.

Matthews has undergone some rapid changes in recent years and there will be many more in the years to come.  In light of this, how do you see your role?

I think instituting community and problem-solving policing and intelligence-led policing philosophies into the department will enhance the services we already provide and elevate our abilities to reduce crime and improve the quality of life in our community.

The People of Matthews: Resolution Edition

A few familiar faces from around Matthews shared their thoughts and hopes for 2019:

resolution dickens.jpg

"Less screen time. I do think it's addictive and distracting. More time to focus on who and what is important "

~Dr. Steven Dickens, Starr & Dickens Orthodontics

paulette.jpg

"I never have specific [resolutions] like weight loss, etc, because they don't seem to work out. I constantly strive to be a better person, though, aiming to be more tolerant and understanding of others.”

~Paulette Wilkes, Market Manager, Matthews Farmer's Market

resolutions mark.jpg

"This coming new year, I commit myself to making each moment count with the ones I love. I would also love to make at least one positive life changing decision in 2019."

~Mark Frye, manager, Trade Street Jewelers