As Éponine in NC Theatre’s Les Misérables last yearby Jessie AmmonsHome, to English Bernhardt, conjures a few specific places. Namely, afternoons at Jubala Coffee, where the Ravenscroft grad often spent afternoons studying; and North Carolina Theatre, where she spent countless hours over many years. “I love the people there so much,” says the 19-year-old NC Theatre Conservatory alumna. She remembers rehearsing for her roles as Éponine in Les Misérables and Annie in Annie, soaking in the wisdom of her seasoned Broadway castmates. “I’d be the Raleigh girl and all of these people would come in from New York,” she recalls. “It’s kind of crazy that now I’m considered one of the out-of-towners.”That’s because Bernhardt has been living in New York City since early this spring (where, for the record, she has yet to find a coffee shop she prefers over Jubala). After graduating a year ago, she spent a semester as a musical theater major at Elon University before New York came knocking: She was offered a role in a production’s workshop, which is akin to a TV show’s pilot episodes. “People always say New York will always be there,” Bernhardt says. “Well, so will school.” She left Elon, at least for now, to pursue her dream in the big city. She’ll continue to take online classes so that if she decides to return to her degree, she won’t be too far behind. “I have always loved theater and I’ve known that’s what I’ve wanted to do for as long as I remember. You kind of have to take it and run with it.”It’s a leap of faith, but one she feels well-prepared for. “Through NC Theatre bringing in so many wonderful people from New York over the years to do shows, I feel like I already have a pretty good network” there, Bernhardt says. And while the plan is to plug in to the New York scene as much as she can for the foreseeable future, it was a no-brainer for the actress and singer to audition for NC Theatre’s latest production, Next to Normal. The Pulitzer Prize-winning musical portrays a mother struggling with bi-polar disorder and the effect that her illness has on her family. “This show and this role is one I’ve wanted to do for a long time – and I get a little slice of home for a few weeks.”Bernhardt has been home since late April, but show rehearsals began much earlier. To prepare, she and castmate Lauren Kennedy (who plays mother to Bernhardt’s daughter), would sometimes practice lines on the phone. Kennedy, another Raleigh native and seasoned actress, takes regular trips to New York, so the two often met for a quick cup of coffee and to talk Next to Normal shop. “That’s the thing, the theater world is such a small world,” Bernhardt says. “Especially in New York, the best people in the world are there … but at the same time, it’s still a fairly small community. It’s nice to have familiar faces.”She’s glad to be surrounded by a few of those faces for a monthlong homecoming. “I’ve grown up with NC Theatre,” she says. “I love coming back and I love working here. I’m just so excited.”See English Bernhardt in North Carolina Theatre’s production of Next to Normal. The show runs May 1 – 10 in the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater of the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts. Learn more and buy tickets at nctheatre.com.
by Kaitlyn Goalenillustrations by Emily BrooksAs soon as the weather warms, the wanderlust kicks in. Maybe it’s an evolutionary side effect, something about the biological need to migrate. Maybe it’s just the result of being cooped up all winter. Whatever the reason, when the mercury rises, so does a yearning to cover new ground.A three-week vacation to an exotic locale isn’t always in the cards, but with a car, Google Maps, and a good appetite, a good trip can be no more than a 10-minute drive away. We’ve rounded up five different food-focused itineraries within a short drive of Raleigh, from an afternoon of Indian food to a weekend in one of our coolest burgeoning food cities.CARY12 miles from downtown Raleigh; one afternoon Raleigh’s best-known exurb is not top-of-mind for most when it comes to planning a day trip. In fact, we know more than a few Raleighites who would scoff at the suggestion. But those willing to stable their high horse will discover that there’s way more to Cary than chain stores, particularly when it comes to food.Those in the know head to East Chatham Street, where a constellation of Indian restaurants and shops cover much of that country’s cuisine, from the biryani of the Hyderabad to the vegetarian buffets of the South.Start at Biryani Maxx Indian Cuisine, a humble canteen of a spot that opened last fall with a menu dedicated to the eponymous Hyderabadi rice dish. Lunchtime brings a packed house of RTP businesspeople and locals, many of whom opt for a thali – the traditional Indian version of a lunch tray – piled high with the lentil dish daal, naan bread, and the house specialty, biryani, a fragrant rice dish studded with vegetables and meat. The goat biryani in particular is rich, aromatic, and delightfully spicy.Then head over to Patel Brothers, a grocery store where you can load up on Indian ingredients. Aisles lined with dozens of types of dry lentils, the clarified butter known as ghee, prepackaged samosa pastries, and more offer plenty of cooking inspiration.For dinner, head to Sri Meenakshi Bhavan, a brand new restaurant that specializes in the vegetarian cuisine of South India. Freshly steamed idli (rice and lentil cakes), oversize, paper-thin lentil and rice crepes called dosas filled with spiced potatoes, and coconut-laden cauliflower korma (a typical Southern slow-braised sauce with yogurt) render meat completely unnecessary. Do not leave without ordering the mango lassi, a type of yogurt-based smoothie – simply the best we’ve ever had.Finish your adventure at Mithai House of Indian Desserts, which stocks traditional Bengali sweets. Our suggestion: grab an assorted pack of cardamom-spiced cookie-like treats from the case and take it with you for the drive back.HILLSBOROUGH38 miles from downtown Raleigh; one afternoon and evening Sleepy, quaint, and just a short drive from Durham, Hillsborough is home to a thriving community of creatives, which, in turn, has fed a tight-knit food scene. In addition to its status as a destination-worthy dinner spot, the tiny town features an exceptional no-frills wing joint and the best Bloody Mary for miles.You’ll find the latter at La Place Louisiana Cookery, worth the drive for brunch. One of the owners hails from Louisiana, and he pays homage to his origins with classics like boudin balls, po’ boys and red beans and rice. Back to that Bloody Mary: customize your own by choosing from three different mixes, plus garnishes that range from a run-of-the-mill celery stalk to a house-smoked oyster.But don’t fill up, because you’ll want to sample the chicken wings (plus the holy trinity of fried things: pickles, tots, and fries) at The Wooden Nickel Pub next door. Crisp and fiery hot (if you order them “frickin’ nickel” style, like we did), these wings put the soggy bar snacks of your college years to shame.Work off your morning meals with a stroll along the Riverwalk, nearly 2 miles of trail that winds along the Eno River. Then stop in at Restaurante Ixtapa, a family-run Mexican spot that makes everything, including their corn tortillas, from scratch. Resist the urge to order everything and settle for a sope (ground beef) or a lengua (tongue) taco, because you have one last meal ahead of you: Panciuto.Far more ambitious than its location would suggest, Panciuto has some of the best Italian-inspired dishes in the area, thanks to chef Aaron Vandemark’s thoughtful approach to hyper-local ingredients. A fiery squid-ink spaghetti, for instance, is nestled around shrimp meatballs, locally foraged stinging nettles, and is doused in a pork broth; ricotta gnocchi co-mingles with grilled beet tops.KINSTON80 miles from downtown Raleigh; one full day As recently as a decade ago, Kinston was the kind of town you’d drive through without even stopping for gum. But thanks to a few culinary-minded pioneers, Kinston has become a cultural capital of eastern North Carolina, drawing regional and national attention.Vivian Howard and Ben Knight are at the epicenter of this change. The New York City-trained chef and her husband own Chef and the Farmer, an upmarket spot that celebrates the local growers with dishes like boiled peanut “risotto,” which is embraced by the smokiness of Benton’s bacon. Vivian has amplified her reach through her TV show, A Chef’s Life, which airs on PBS and spotlights the culinary community that she inhabits.Plan ahead to make a reservation for dinner here; or, if you can’t get a table, head to Vivian’s second project, Boiler Room Oyster Bar. It features exceptionally delicious burgers and steamed, fresh-from-the-coast seafood.But arrive early for a BBQ lunch at Kings Restaurant’s flagship location and try the signature dish, the Pig in a Puppy. This gargantuan special updates the classic pulled pork sandwich by ditching the white bread and stuffing hand-chopped pork barbecue into an oversize hushpuppy.Digest that behemoth with the help of a beer at Mother Earth Brewing, then take a tour of their impressively eco-conscious facilities. Solar panels power the place, while rainwater is collected in a cistern to be reused.WILMINGTON133 miles from downtown Raleigh; one weekend The primary draw of this waterfront town is the beach, of course. It’s a fact that has kept Wilmington’s food scene somewhat stagnant, since longstanding seafood shacks with oceanfront views can detract attention away from out-of-date menus (we’re looking at you, over-breaded calamari with cocktail sauce). But the tide might be slowly shifting, with a few new options for exactly the type of beach food we crave: fresh, ingredient-driven, and delicious.Blue Surf Cafe, an all-day spot that opened almost 2 years ago, certainly fits that bill. Think breakfast sandwiches with feta and arugula, spinach salad with roasted tomato vinaigrette, and mojo pork with coconut rice.Then there’s Rx Restaurant and Bar, which has raised the dinner bar with dishes like pan-roasted quail with johnnycakes, or local triggerfish over split pea risotto. The chef, James Doss, is an alumnus of Sean Brock’s Husk in Charleston, and his devotion to using pristine ingredients shines through the ever-changing menu.Those who’d prefer to cook their own dinner should head to Seaview Crab Company, a seafood purveyor with multiple locations, slinging crab, fish, and shellfish just hours out of the water. The last time we were there, the coolers were stocked with North Carolina tilefish, monkfish, and royal red shrimp.Don’t pack up your beach chairs without a final cocktail at King Neptune Restaurant. Yes, it’s pirate-themed, and yes, there’s that calamari we railed against, but the drinks are strong and the ambiance reminds you that you’re on a vacation.GREENVILLE, S.C.264 miles from downtown Raleigh; one weekendThis South Carolina city is in the middle of a metamorphosis, stepping out of Charleston’s shadow to find its own cultural footing. The city’s Main Street is a beauty, encompassing a 40-foot waterfall and plenty of high-end boutiques. A spate of new restaurants have opened in the last two years and many more are slated for the next two, making this leafy, pedestrian-friendly place a city to watch.Kick off your day with an expertly rendered cappuccino at the just-opened The Village Grind. The design is as exquisite as the coffee, with blonde wood paneling the walls and deeply colored rugs anchoring a handful of chairs scattered around the room.Passerelle Bistro harnesses the magic of French cooking with a loyally bistro-centric menu. Beautifully composed salads make use of local ingredients, while classic French dishes like cassoulet are given Southern context, swapping white beans for locally available limas.For a postprandial drink, take to the roof at SIP Tasting Room and Rooftop Lounge, an alfresco wine bar that also features pitcher cocktails and beer. Lounge on one of the outdoor couches for excellent people-watching.And before you head to bed, visit the new late-night taco takeout window, Ventana Magica. Open from 10:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. on the weekends, this casual outpost is quickly garnering a following for chile con queso nachos loaded with pickled onions, chipotle-lime sour cream, and cilantro.
WRAL’s Monica Laliberte poses with Idle, a Golden and Labrador Retriever cross at WRAL’s gardens in Raleigh.by Mimi Montgomeryphotograph by Travis Long“If I could have 12 dogs, I would.”– Monica Laliberte, WRAL 5 on Your Side reporter and Canine Companions for Independence volunteerYou probably know Monica Laliberte as the face of WRAL’s 5 On Your Side, fighting for the rights of consumers. Fewer know that when she’s off duty, Laliberte fights for another cause: the rights of people with disabilities to live independent lives. For the past 11 years, she has been a volunteer trainer for Canine Companions for Independence, a nonprofit that provides assistance dogs.In her early reporting days, Laliberte covered a piece on assistance dogs and was instantly intrigued. “I thought this was a great thing that my whole family could be a part of that was charitable,” she says. They tried it and were hooked – her family recently started training their seventh puppy.Each Canine Companion volunteer undergoes a rigid screening process and is educated on how to properly train an assistance dog. Then they receive a puppy from the organization’s California headquarters (usually either a golden retriever, labrador, or a mix) and train it for 18 to 20 months on socialization, commands, and manners. Once the puppy graduates, it’s sent “off to college,” as Laliberte puts it, where the dog works with professional trainers for six to 10 months on everything from how to open and close drawers to how to retrieve things out of the fridge. It’s an intense process. “These dogs pretty much have to be perfect,” she says.Of course, each dog’s graduation comes with a bit of heartache. “We cry our eyes out every time,” she says. “It’s kind of like giving up a child.” But she knows each puppy will go on to serve a huge purpose. “I think it’s so fulfilling…to see how these dogs change people’s lives. How they not only just help people to function in everyday life (but also) the social interaction that that dog can provide people – it’s just huge.”
We thank the following local retailers for providing the clothing for this photo shoot:Kannon’s ClothingLiles Clothing StudioLumina ClothingPeter MillarRaleigh DenimSaks Fifth AvenueStyle assistant: Sarah Osborne creative direction and words byJesma Reynoldsphotographs by Tim LytvinenkoImprobable, but not impossible. That was the prediction when the Raleigh Gaelic Athletic Assocation’s Cú Chullain team considered its chances of winning before travelling to Boston over Labor Day weekend to compete in the North American Finals for Gaelic football. Against all odds, the fledgling Raleigh club captured the Junior B title, defeating opponents from the Cayman Islands, San Diego, and Washington, D.C. in the process. It was the latest unlikely outcome for the Raleigh team.In the spring of 2012, when Detroit native Steven Shannon taped up posters in Triangle-area pubs to generate interest in Irish field sports – Gaelic football and hurling – he never imagined that a mere two years later it would lead to a thriving association that could hold its own against established clubs from larger U.S. cities, clubs that traditionally field teams loaded with Irish talent. But one of the results of the economic growth in the Triangle has been the influx of international workers who come to work for universities and multinational companies, and are looking for an outlet in competitive sports.Dara Ó’Hannaidh is one whose job brought him Stateside. A telecom network engineer for Ericsson, he has played Gaelic football since he was 5, and missed the camraderie and level of play from his homeland. Other players have similar stories. Many grew up playing in Ireland where county teams are highly competitive and demanding, typically training 5 to 6 days a week. Though it’s a strictly amateur sport, Ó’Hannaidh says there is a level of “real fanaticism.” He, by the way, also won this year’s national competition in kick fada, or long distance kicking, and represented North America in the All-Ireland kick fada competition against 30 other kickers from around the globe in September.It’s easy to see why there’s so much passion for Gaelic football. The sport is fast-paced, rough, and exciting to watch. National Geographic recently named the All-Ireland Senior Championship finals played in Dublin’s Croke Park as one of the top 10 things to do when visiting. Often described as a mix between soccer and rugby, Gaelic football involves advancing the ball by hand-passing and kicking it towards a goal. Hurling, for its part, is one of the oldest (dating back 3,000 years) and fastest field sports. Players use a wooden flat-headed bat called a hurley to hurl or knock a baseball-like ball called a sliothar down the pitch and into the net.Currently, the Raleigh Gaelic Athletic Association boasts nearly 300 hurling and footballing members, both men and women, and is in the process of forming new teams at UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State. Though it relies on its Irish members for expertise, both sports appeal to American athletes who have grown up playing soccer, lacrosse, rugby and other field sports. Members actively recruit new talent, expecially at cultural events like the Irish Music Festival and Raleigh’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. When they’re not practicing or playing in tournaments, teammates frequently gather at one of the local pubs to watch competitions telecast from Ireland.Walter was so enchanted to learn about the presence of Gaelic football and hurling in the Triangle that we asked players from the victorious Cú Chullain team to model classic sportswear from local retailers. The results exceeded our improbable dreams. Though the players are rough-and-tumble on the pitch, we think they cleaned up rather nicely for the photographs.For more information about Raleigh’s GAA, go to www.raleighgaa.com.from left Joe Nett: Check Travel Blazer, $495; Denim Twill Dress Shirt from the Pick Stitch Collection, $198; Cashmere Oxford Stripe Tie in Serrano, $195; Burnished Calf Belt with Contrast Stitching in Chocolate, $145; Burnished Penny loafer, $495; Sateen Stretch Five Pocket Pant in Espresso, $145. Peter Millar and Kannon’s Clothing. Colin Keenan: jeans: Graham Original Raw, $285; Burgundy welt-pocket button down shirt, $185; Moss Wool Pullover, $235; Canvas Osaka 1 Pocket Denim Jacket, $330. Raleigh Denim. Dermott McElhennon: Wool/Cashmere Peacoat with Oversize Lapels and Shearling Collar by Theory, $795; Wool V-Neck Sweater in Eclipse by Theory, $235; Cotton Sportshirt in Powder Blue by Theory, $225; “The Graduate” Tailored Leg Denim in medium wash by Adriano Goldschmeid, $188. Saks Fifth Avenue. Mark O’Hagan: Italian Merino Venezia Stripe Quarter-Zip Sweater, $225; Plaid Dress Shirt from the Pick Stitch Collection, $168; Turin Quilted Coat, $395; Pebble Brain Nubuck Leather Belt, $145; Nubuck Tie Driver loafers in Chocolate $245; Nanoluxe Corduroy Pant, $145. Peter Millar and Kannon’s Clothing. Dara Ó’Hannaih: Double Breasted Wool Topcoat in Red by Versace, $1295; Mongolian Cashmere Turtleneck in Navy by Saks Fifth Avenue Men’s Collection, $498; “Byron” Straight Leg Dark Wash Denim in Latour by Hudson, $195; Merino Scarf in Red by Saks Fifth Avenue Men’s Collection, $128. Saks Fifth Avenue. Sven Johnson: 100% Wool Gray Deconstructed Field Blazer $TBA; Vance 2 5/8” Narrow Tie, $48; Red and blue pocket square, Made in SC, $3; 440 Gentleman Supply Suspensers, $88; The Fremont Navy micro dot button down shirt, $98; 100% cotton smoke grey twill Chadbourn chino $108; Luke Vintage Fedora by Yellow 108, $80. Lumina Clothing.Ciaran Harris: Blue cotton jacket; The Graham Connor plaid poplin button down shirt, $98; Currituck 1 3/4” bow tie, rectangle cut, $42; 100% cotton navy deconstructed blazer, debuting winter 2014; White Oak® Cone Mills® Selvedge denim, straight Ayden jean, $158.Lumina Clothing.STEVEN SHANNON: Circle of Gentlemen Sport Coat with windcheater lining, $1050; Circle of Gentlemen plaid cotton shirt , $270; Hiltl brushed cotton jeans, $245. Liles Clothing Studio
Lauren Hood, owner of Progeny, a children’s toy and clothing store on Bickett Blvd. in Raleigh“What I put in the store is what I would want to put on my own children.” – Lauren Hood, owner, Progenyby Mimi Montgomeryphotograph by Travis LongWhen Lauren Hood became a mother, she discovered it wasn’t easy in Raleigh to find anything but straightforwardly traditional children’s clothes for her daughter Lila. A trip to to New York sparked an idea: To bring the fashion-forward children’s clothing she could find there back to North Carolina. Three months later, in March 2014, Hood opened Progeny in Five Points.The bright, open space is filled with chic children’s clothes, accessories, and furniture. “My stuff’s just a little bit different,” says Hood. “I love smocked dresses and bows just as much as everybody else, but I wanted it to be a little edgier.” She makes a point to carry brands that are eco-friendly, organic, and well-made, ensuring a piece that will last the wear and tear of a child’s life. Always, she has Lila in mind.“She’s like my little muse,” Hood says with a laugh. “She’s way better dressed than I am.”Soon after Hood opened her business, customers began asking if she could help them design their children’s nurseries, bedrooms, and playrooms. Half of her business now comes from children’s interiors. “It is exciting because there’s nobody doing children’s design work” in Raleigh, she says. “I love that, and it’s super fun.” She recently began sharing her store with Rider Hall Interiors, an interior design company owned by Caroline Kadis and Heather Watkins. The space now offers a wider range of art and home goods and accessories, making it a stop for parents as well as their children. “I feel like this has been good for Raleigh, just to have something a little bit different,” Hood says. “From ten years ago until now, things have changed dramatically. I think this store has truly helped a lot of people branch out.”209 Bickett Blvd.; progenyshoppe.com
Travel Style Tryon Palace
The stories Moiwai shares were first recited to him over 50 years ago as a little boy. He remembers being enthralled by the knowledge and wisdom his grandmother shared with him while he came of age. “Grand Mam Ma say …” is Moiwai’s enduring overture to the tales he shares from this ancient, Confucian-like wellspring about any thoughtful matter, great or small. Her legacy lives on in stories and in food.“Grand Mam Ma say, Ba-le-ma bi-la-meh-hema!, which in the Mende language means, ‘Remember your food!’” The college-educated man delights in the wisdom of the beloved elder who guides him, even today.Turns out, a lot of the people in Moiwai’s homeland remembered that sage advice, even when they were in chains. During the transatlantic slave trade, many of them – the Gullah people in particular – were stolen away from their villages to South Carolina and Georgia because of their knowledge of rice cultivation.Some believe that rice and music are linked, that one may have begot the other. They point to the goblet-shaped mortar used throughout West Africa to clean grains – and the deep resonant sound it can create when struck with a pestle – as the djembe’s possible inspiration.Sending a messageMoiwai inspects a cylindrical-shaped kinkine drum that he has covered with skins, one goat, the other calf. Moiwai soaked the skins overnight to make them easier to work with before placing them over the drum shell openings and weaving them in place with rope. Hair remains on their surface.He talks about the instrument while he works.“The name of the drum depends on where you are,” he says. “There’s the Mali influence, the French influence, and the Mandé influence. Mbe is the Mandé word for drum. It has always brought people together. When you strike it, it sends a message. When you want people in one village to know something is happening, you just hit it. The way you strike it, the pattern that you play, can tell that someone just died. The way you hit it can tell that someone has been born, or that it is time to come together.”Moiwai uses four metal rings to hold the skins in place with a series of rope loops. Two rings are placed on either side of the drum. One is placed inside of the curled outer ring of the skin. The other ring is placed on top of the skin, “like a hat,” Moiwai says. Then he takes a long piece of rope and runs it up and down on both sides of the drum.After the skins are woven onto the top of the drums, Moiwai ties them and puts them outside on his balcony for several days, depending on the weather, to dry. Then he’ll pull the ropes in earnest to tighten their skins, and let the drums settle outside. He’ll use a broken piece of glass to shave the skins’ hair, and tighten them once more. Then he will play it for a few days to help the skin settle in place.It’s important to have enough rope left over after the initial weaving, he says, so there’s enough left for tuning.“In any kind of traditional weaving – like hammocks – the rope goes through the loops twice because it’s going to allow the rope to move more freely in those loops,” he says as he works. “You go under two ropes, over one, under one, and then twist it and pull it. If you do that it gives you the shape of a diamond.”Before long, Moiwai has three horizontal rows of diamonds that circle the barrel of the drum. The diamonds tighten the skin until it’s pulled taut. “That’s the tuning,” Moiwai says.The finished drum produces a startling variety of sounds. To the uninitiated, it can sound as if more than one person is playing.“If you give life to the djembe, it becomes a living entity in the sense that it has magical powers, even for a child,” Moiwai says as he works on the kindergartner’s little drum. “I’m just one of the spirits who makes it a djembe. There’s the spirit of the tree, the spirit of the animal, and the spirit of the music. As the maker and how you pull the djembe, you bring that spirit.”Making the djembe talk“What was surprising was the sound that came from it,” says Durham’s Khalid Abdul N’Faly Saleem, an African music specialist who is considered one of the djembe’s premier ambassadors. He has served for more than 30 years on the music faculty of the American Dance Festival, and was a founding member and first musical director of the Chuck Davis African American Dance Ensemble.Braima Moiwai studied with Saleem in the 1980s, but he credits Fahali Igbo, another musician who worked with Davis’s AADE, with teaching him the finer points of building djembe drums.Khalid Abdul N’Faly SaleemNevertheless, Saleem has done as much as anyone else to spread the music of the djembe far and wide. He first heard the instrument in the early 1960s at Madison Square Garden’s Felt Forum. “The type of sound that it produced, the range of the sound, the brightness, the excitement of it, especially with the orchestra” hooked him, he says. Saleem, 66, is a beloved figure in the African dance world. Gracious and modest, even while onstage performing, Saleem embodies the Malinke people of Mali who say that a skilled djembe drummer is one who “can make the djembe talk.” He has had a powerful influence on the development of the djembe and played throughout Asia, including Japan and Korea. In 1982, Saleem and dance titan Davis moved to Durham and got busy generating interest in the art form. The duo traveled throughout the Triangle, all over the state, and into other Southern states. And while Davis demonstrated the joy of dance, Saleem was like the Johnny Appleseed of the African djembe; a pioneer for the instrument’s acceptance in the South no less; a land where at one point in its history, a black man owning a drum was guilty of an offense punishable by death. Saleem also taught community classes at a local elementary school and at his former West Durham home. He helped to launch the careers of a great many djembefolas, storytellers, and dancers who were his students, and he made the Bull City one of the nation’s African drum capitals that continues to attract other world-class djembefolas from all over the world: Pline Mounzeo from Congo, Osei Appiagyei of Ghana, Teli Shabu from Liberia, and Cheikh Dieng from Senegal. Modibo Keita, Fahali Igbo, and Akunda Lumumba from Detroit have made Durham their home; so have Fred Strauther from east St. Louis, and Bradley Simmons from Brooklyn. Homegrown virtuosos like Atiba Rorie and Bashir Shakur make the community even richer. Saleem made significant changes to the djembe’s tuning system that have been universally adopted. Though he first heard the drum played professionally at Madison Square Garden, he had seen the drum before, usually at antique stores. The instruments were typically in bad shape. When the African musicians brought their instruments over, Saleem noticed that instead of using rings and ropes, the skins were sewn into place with strips of rawhide. Sometimes the drummers used pegs and wedges that were placed between the rawhide and drum surface to tighten the skin, but then had to use a hot plate or other heating source to keep the skin taut. “One day I decided that I wanted to devise a no-hole system and one that didn’t use the sewing method,” Saleem said. Apparently others were thinking the same thing. Another African American drum legend, “Chief Commander” Ebenezer Obey, is widely credited with developing the new system for building and tuning the djembe. “We must have been in a parallel universe, thinking the same thing,” Saleem said about the recently deceased Obey’s innovative effort. Saleem said it was in the 1970s when he first tried using bands of wood and rope to tighten the drum skin. Then he started thinking about the construction of conga drums and tried using coat hangers to make the rings of the drum before relying on galvanized steel. “Now people think it’s from Africa,” Saleem said with a wry smile, “There’s no ‘Mali roping system.’ They got it from us.” Braima Moiwai Braima Moiwai and the djembeby Thomasi McDonaldphotographs by Peter HoffmanSierra Leone, West Africa, Dodo village, 1965: It is a land of cascading rolling hills. To get there, travel eastward from the Atlantic Ocean, journey through virgin forests dotted with oil palm and cotton, shade cocoa, coffee, and upland rice fields; scaling a topography like a series of steps. By the time you reach the highest plateau in the village of Dodo, some 250 miles inland and two miles above sea level, you can spot the borders of Guinea and Liberia.It is up there, nestled in a rainforest, that a drummer stands among the mbelay and njile trees and begins to play. The drum in his hands is the djembe, pronounced “jem-bay.” It is goblet-shaped, rope-tuned, membrane-covered, and carved from a hardwood tree. The man is called a djembefola, one who plays the djembe.Braima Moiwai, who has lived in Durham for the past 30 years, grew up in Dodo village and remembers this man, his music, and its significance. “Based on the patterns the drummer plays, the entire village would know if someone had died, or had been born, if there was a naming ceremony, a rite of passage, or if slave catchers were nearby,” he says. “Back during slavery, Dodo village was the place where people who lived in the other villages would come to hide.”The djembe, arguably the most iconic instrument on the African continent, dates its origins to the 12th century in Mali, West Africa. According to Mali’s Bambara people, the name djembe comes from the saying, “anke djé, anke bé,” which translates to “everyone gather in peace.” In the Bambara language, djé is the verb for “gather” and bé translates as “peace.”Moiwai’s fore-parents migrated from Mali to the forest region of Sierra Leone in 1557. He grew up listening to the call of the djembe. Now, decades later and 4,500 miles away, he builds them, he plays them, and he tells their stories.Master storyteller, capable musicianOn a sunny, late June morning in West Durham, Moiwai, 55, is stirred awake, not by the call of the drum, but by a clock radio that rouses him to the sounds of WUNC. The voice of Donald Trump, the Republican Party’s then-presumptive nominee, is explaining why Britain’s exit from the European Union is a good thing, and that America needs to secure its borders.Moiwai sighs and starts his day. He will spend the morning repairing and completing three drums: a dark-wood djembe from Senegal that’s more than 30 years old, a small brown-wood djembe he’s making for a kindergartner, and a kinkine, the smallest of the three drums that make up the djembe’s bass accompaniment in West African music orchestrations.Dressed in a blue striped mudcloth dashiki and colorful trousers he calls his “djembe pants,” Moiwai gets to work on his second-floor balcony, surrounded by drums from Ghana, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, and Sierra Leone. He has been building djembes for more than two decades, and rarely sells them. Instead he uses them as teaching tools.Sharing his culture by building drums, playing their music, and telling stories has enabled him to make a modest living in America, where he has raised two children who are now grown. For the past 30 years, he has put on a rough-hewn dashiki, matching pants, brogues, and a wide-brimmed, conical straw hat, stuffed his battered blue Volvo with djembe and djun djun drums, and driven across the southeastern United States to perform for audiences and students of all ages in classrooms, community centers, colleges, former slave plantations, hospitals, and informal settings.Braima MoiwaiWhen he performs, he becomes the music; dancing and telling stories with a wide grin and eyes that light up, bringing to mind a modern-day Anancy – the famed trickster of West African lore. “Man, I grew up in a village, and when I came to America that village jumped out of me!” he says with a big grin.
At this time of year, as families gather to give thanks, time is allowed to slow down, and memories of people and seasons past can bring meaning to the present. Here, three locals share some of their favorite Thanksgiving memories. Saying graceby Leslie Logan, third generation member of the Logan’s Garden Shop familyThe Logan Thanksgiving table was always full. Not just with food, but with people! Robert Logan Sr. and Helen Logan (Grandma and Paw Paw) had six children, all of whom grew up and had families of their own. When we came together, there was a pile of us. The food was always amazing, everything from Grandma’s turkey-and-dressing and Aunt Rita’s sweet potato casserole to Aunt Debby’s delicious new funky recipes she would add to the table each year from some fancy magazine. The atmosphere was loud – mostly because of the cackling laughter, and random singing, and detailed recollections of family gatherings past. At times it turned into a roar. But you could be assured that once “grace” was said, the room would go quiet – except of course for the “yum”s and “ooooo”s as we stuffed our bellies. After the meal the boys would go throw the football, or maybe come back in later to watch football. And the cackling would resume. My favorite Thanksgiving memory with the Logan family is the last one where we were all together. There were so many of us we could hardly fit in one room for the blessing. So, we decided to make a circle around the perimeter of the room. We held hands as antsy little ones squirmed and begged to eat, and we took a moment to just be silent. Instead of a traditional “saying of grace” before the meal, we went around that huge circle and everyone shared something they were truly thankful for – even the little ones. What a beautiful blessing it was on that Thanksgiving Day. There was so much gratefulness and so much fullness as we looked around the room at three generations of Logans. We mentioned the ones no longer with us, and how grateful we are for the years when they were there. Tears welled up; we were all moved by that moment of unified gratitude for overwhelming grace that has been poured out on this family. To actually say grace, to speak of the power of it and acknowledge its truth in the faces of the ones you love, is to experience its presence fully and realize that grace is a person that has been holding hands with you all along the way. We’ve all grown up and now have our own tables to decorate. Some cousins are far away, and the whole lot of us aren’t able to be in one place and time anymore most holidays. But there can be no question that the “grace” we spoke of that day has followed us year after year, from generation to generation. And the roots that have been established have held us strong toward the things that matter most. Because more than turkey dinners and yummy recipes, the love of a family and the chords of faith that bind us together are the things that truly fill our bellies and satisfy our souls.Carrying on the tradition by L. Howard Brooks Jr.Growing up in the South means family is important, and family traditions are even more important. I was lucky enough to have two, great extended families. My mom’s family was from High Point, N.C., and we always celebrated Christmas in High Point. The Christmas celebration was always very nice and much more formal. My dad’s family was from Wilson, N.C., and we always celebrated Thanksgiving in Wilson. The Thanksgiving celebration was always more casual. My dad died when I was five years old; however, my mom made a point of keeping us connected with my dad’s family. It was important for her to maintain those relationships, but more important to introduce my brother and me to the very special Brooks family. My dad had 11 brothers and sisters. There were seven girls and five boys. They grew up in a small, two bedroom house on Gold Street in Wilson right next to Atlantic Christian College (now Barton College). As the story goes, they were the smartest kids in the school. They were all engaged: loved to spend time together and loved to debate anything from the best barbeque to the best sports team. Three of the four boys put themselves through Duke University and Duke University Law School, so their debating skills were sharp and their wits were quick. We always looked forward to our annual trip to Wilson. As far back as I can remember, my mom, my brother, and I would set out for Wilson around 10 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning. It was never early enough. Some families gather for Christmas or Easter. Not the Brookses. It was always Thanksgiving. Rain or shine, it was always the most festive day of the year. Turkey, country ham, lima beans, mashed potatoes, dressing, asparagus casserole, and tipsy cake. There was food everywhere, and tables and chairs in every room. I remember feeling so at home and so thankful. I can smell the food; I can hear the laughing; I can feel the love. We always have 50 – 70 people celebrating family, celebrating Thanksgiving, happy to be together. I am 53 now. I have three kids and the Thanksgiving tradition continues: My Aunt Jack and Uncle Dick got too old to host our Thanksgiving celebration, so nine years ago my wife and I took over the tradition. My wife is from Wilson, so it was not hard to convince her that hosting 70 people on a Thursday afternoon was normal. We have moved it to Raleigh, but the tradition continues. We have added oysters, and my daughter makes sausage balls, but everything else is the same. We are older and move slower, but we still laugh, love, and are thankful for our family. There is only one surviving sibling, but the cousins carry on the tradition. Over the years, the guest list has been extended to include neighbors and friends, which is the Brooks way: Everybody is welcome and included. After lunch we have the traditional family football game. Grown-ups versus kids. The grown-ups always win, but winning is not the point. Being together and celebrating family is Thanksgiving. I hope my kids will continue the tradition.The Switchby Pamela D. EvansIn the ’70s, my next-door neighbor Ellie Doyle was frantically preparing for the arrival of her younger sister and her four children. Everything had to be perfect, for the “perfect” younger sister was arriving at RDU airport late that afternoon. Dinner was to be ready when they walked in the door. Before Ellie left for the airport, she placed a 20-pound turkey, covered with a foil tent, in the oven. Her two young teenagers, Maura and Chipper, were instructed to baste that turkey every 15 minutes. What she did not know was that I had asked Maura and Chipper to let me know when their mother cooked a turkey. I did not tell them the reason for this request. This was, after all, a top-secret mission, and the element of surprise was imperative to its success! Ellie pulled out of the driveway heading to RDU, and I received the call to start the mission! Our local grocer, Bobby Mears, had no Cornish hens, but he dug through the new arrival of chickens and found the “perfect” one-and-a-half-pound fryer. It looked like it had just hatched! I ran to Ellie’s with my little chicken and my roaster. I placed her turkey on my roaster and placed my chicken on her roaster, covered with her aluminum foil tent. “Operation Switch” was on! Back at home, I put Ellie’s 20-pound turkey in my oven and basted it every 15 minutes. After all, this had to be the “perfect” turkey. My first hint of what happened next was when my kitchen door was flung open by two frantic teenagers yelling “Mrs.Evans, we need Mom’s turkey NOW!” I grabbed it out of the oven and across the yard we ran. Ellie was standing in her kitchen and did not speak – or could not speak. I removed my shriveled-up fryer from her roaster, and replaced it with her 20-pound, perfectly basted turkey. We did have a laugh about it … later. Ellie told me she’d run in her house ahead of her guests to check the turkey. When she removed it from the oven and looked under the foil tent, she could not breathe. She thought she had had a stroke. It just did not compute! Maura and Chipper were yelling, “Mom, we kept basting the turkey and it kept shrinking!” The rest of the story: Four months later, on my birthday, I received a beautiful cake from the local bakery. There was no note included. When I called the bakery to inquire who had sent the lovely cake, they said they could not tell. I decided to cut myself a slice, but to my amazement the knife bounced back. It was not a cake, but a beautifully decorated block of foam rubber. Of course, I knew who sent it, but never told Ellie I had received the cake. Ellie never ’fessed up. We remained friends and had many laughs about the turkey – but never the cake. Ellie and Dr. Ray Doyle are no longer with us. I cherish the memories of being a young mother and living next door to the Doyles. Thanksgiving is a time for enjoying friends and family. Enjoy sharing the memories, and who knows, you might experience “The Switch”!
by Settle Monroephotograph by Christer BergConnection and community are at the heart of Chris Budnick’s work. Like many of the men and women who come to his organization for help overcoming homelessness and addiction, the executive director of Healing Transitions in Raleigh says his path to a meaningful and productive life came with challenges. His early years were difficult. Budnick suffered a head injury as a young child, and his father left his family when he was a teenager. By the time he was 12 years old, Budnick was regularly using drugs and alcohol and suffering frequent bouts of depression. He attended his first 12-step meeting at 16, and by 19 he had completed an intensive inpatient, rehabilitation, and treatment program. As a teenager, fresh out of rehab, he could not have imagined that one day he would lead hundreds of men and women to a path of purpose and hope. Today, Healing Transitions (formerly known as The Healing Place) has become one of the nation’s flagship programs for men and women battling addiction and homelessness by providing shelter, food, and therapeutic support.Budnick has been with the organization since its inception in 2001, and became its executive director last year. He also works as an adjunct professor in N.C. State’s department of social work, and helps run Recovery Communities of North Carolina, an organization that holds events promoting recovery, community, and awareness. Budnick is quick to point out that his path to leadership has been bolstered by many “guardian angels” along the way. A framed photograph of a middle-aged man with a hearty smile sits on the bookshelf in his office. “This is Bernie,” says Budnick. “I had just gotten out of treatment, and he hired me to work in his restaurant. It was my first day of work, and out of the blue, he turned to me and said, ‘I am 14 years sober. Today I can look people in the eyes.’” Bernie’s commitment to his own recovery provided a much needed safe place for Budnick during one of the turning points of his life. “There have been others,” Budnick continues, “People who took a chance on me and folks who hired me and believed in me.” Budnick extends this same grace and trust to the Healing Transitions participants and alumni with whom he works. “The men and women who go through the Healing Transitions program are some of the most determined and generous people you will ever meet.” He beams with the pride of a father as he describes the monthly Transition Ceremonies for participants who have successfully completed the rigorous multi-track and peer-led program.“The men and women who go through the Healing Transitions program are some of the most determined and generous people you will ever meet.” -Chris Budnick The organization offers three main services at both its men’s and women’s campuses: overnight emergency shelter, non-medical detoxification, and a social model recovery program. The social model program is based on peer accountability and includes earned privileges in exchange for added responsibilities. The organization has been successful. Despite rapid local population growth, Healing Transitions and its partners have helped to reduce the Wake County homeless population by 25 percent, Budnick says. He’s also proud to point out that more than 70 percent of graduates are still in recovery after a year. Operating with a $3.5 million budget, the nonprofit is now a proud living wage organization, meaning that each of its 50 staff members earn at least $13.50 per hour. Most are Healing Transitions alumni, and about 70 percent are in recovery. Budnick takes great pride in his staff. “Having men and women come back to Healing Transitions to work inspires the folks working the program. It shows them what is possible.” The organization also benefits the entire community, Budnick says. “People in recovery pay taxes. The folks who have completed our program are dedicated to giving back. They volunteer. People in recovery are less dependent on emergency room visits and less likely to end up incarcerated … They become citizens who contribute to our community.” He also cites less tangible benefits, including a safe and revitalized downtown ripe for business development and real estate growth. As he looks to the future, Budnick says he plans to grow long-term community connections and boost addiction advocacy and awareness. In the meantime, the participants continue to inspire his work. Jessie Bennett, a student at N.C. State and the father of two young children, completed the program in 2013. He says Budnick’s humble leadership approach has been a large factor in his own personal success. “I admire Chris’s desire to make everyone feel important and everyone’s voice heard. He leads by example, and he never talks down to anyone. He is always striving to help everyone become the best they can be and more.” Budnick, an avid reader whose latest favorite book is Simon Sinek’s Leaders Eat Last, says being a leader means always pushing himself to improve. “I want to create opportunities for the people at Healing Transitions to grow. I want for our participants to be a part of the conversations we’re having. We must treat them as resources and not as objects. We ask our participants to embark on a huge journey of self-improvement, and we must be willing to do the same.”
Members of the Triangle Troglodytes pose for a photograph at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh.“There’s usually more than one way to get through something.”–Ken Walsh, Triangle Troglodytes vice-chairby Jessie Ammonsphotograph by Travis LongWhen can we go underground again? asks the Triangle Troglodytes tagline. The answer? “About every other month or so,” says group chair Mark Daughtridge. This band of spelunkers – hobbyist cavers all – organizes trips to nearby caves, which in this region usually means Virginia and West Virginia. In between, they hold monthly open meetings at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, where members socialize, learn, and practice their skills. Recently, one item on the evening’s agenda was “drilling holes into concrete,” Daughtridge recounted jovially. Such bolting is serious, actually: a key skill for navigating challenging caves. Despite the occasional power tools, these gatherings are friendly. Truly all are welcome, regardless of experience. When a newcomer asks about tight, dark spaces, Daughtridge reassures: “It’s generally not as scary as people think it would be,” he says. When in doubt, he recommends sending a taller, heartier caver in ahead of you. “I’m great to go with beginners,” pipes up vice-chair Ken Walsh, who is more than 6 feet tall. “If I can fit, you know you’ll fit.” In all seriousness, “I’ve never had anyone be freaked out and decide they didn’t want to go farther in the cave,” Daughtridge says. “If anything, most people really feel pretty adventurous.” Adventurous is the common denominator of this diverse group. Of the Tri Trogs’ 35 or so active members, ages range from 2 (cavers sometimes bring their children along) to 83. “We have a surprising number of Ph.D.s,” Daughtridge says, plus electrical engineers, college students, and people who “happen to move here from a place that had more caves than we do.” Rock climbing and diving are frequent gateway hobbies, he says. And there are also always just plain curious outdoorsfolk.