1. March:Basketball tournaments canceled
Both the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament and an early round of the NCAA Final Four tournament were scheduled for the Greensboro Coliseum in March. But play never started on the third day of the ACC contest as, one by one, all of the major tournaments were shut down. By April, the decision to cancel the Final Four had been made.
2. March:Tanger Center misses Opening Day
One of the first casualties of the pandemic was the Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Greensboro, a 3,000-seat theater with an $85 million price tag. It had been scheduled to open on March 20 with a performance by Josh Groban, followed by an ambitious slate of Broadway plays and concerts. The space still has not opened, but events are scheduled beginning April 2021.
3. March: Schools go remote
Locally and across the nation, schools moved to online models in the spring and continued as they entered their fall semesters. Guilford and Forsyth counties decided to start with more than two months of online schooling while many area colleges and universities moved forward with a hybrid model. As many parents struggled to juggle childcare while working from home, conversations about whether to send their children back to the classrooms proved a difficult topic. Some higher education institutions in the Triad that had students return to campus saw positive COVID cases climb in the late fall, but none reached the thousands of cases seen at other schools across the state.
4. March: Hydroxychloroquine
In the early weeks of the pandemic, an online theory about a drug used to combat malaria became mainstream. Though it had side effects that included heart palpitations and even death, hydroxychloroquine was approved by the FDA on March 30 for emergency use authorization against coronavirus cases. In May, President Trump told a TV reporter that he was taking it as a precaution against getting the virus.
5. March:TCB goes digital only
After our March 26 edition, Triad City Beat ceased print publication for nine weeks in response to the pandemic, posting daily online at triad-city-beat.com. From Brian Clarey’s March 26 Editor’s Notebook: “The truth: We barely have enough advertising to support a print product. And even if we were to make one, would there be anyone out there to pick it up?” Print publication would resume with the June 4 issue.
6. March: COVID spread through county jails
In New York City on March 18, the chief medical officer for the city’s jail system warned: “A storm is coming,” describing the spread of coronavirus through the jails as “a public health disaster unfolding before our eyes.” Within days, 287 residents and 406 staffers had tested positive. Sheriffs, judges and district attorneys in North Carolina’s largest counties partially heeded the lesson by identifying low-risk offenders for release. Less effort was put forward to control the spread of the virus in Alamance County, where Sheriff Terry Johnson refused to enforce a state ban on racing events with spectators at Ace Speedway, and in September, 99 residents tested positive for COVID in an outbreak at the jail. By late December, 68 residents were infected with COVID at the Forsyth County jail, making it the second largest outbreak in a county jail after Mecklenburg County.
7. March:Locals make masks
Initiatives to provide Triad residents with face masks begin. Mask the City, a partnership between Winston-Salem and Renfro corporation, a Mount-Airy based sock manufacturer, aimed to provide everyone in the city with a mask. Hudson’s Hill, a clothing store in downtown Greensboro, made 10,000 face masks for frontline healthcare workers. Project Mask WS, with the help of more than 2,000 volunteers, provided more than 110,000 masks in the area. Guilford Mask Project, operated by Northwest Guilford High School senior Jana Yan, extended their reach, donating masks not only to the Triad but to people in countries such as Uganda, Micronesia and Greece. Individual efforts added thousands more as the masks became ubiquitous in our lives.
To tamp down on the community spread of COVID, local governments issued ordinances and suggestions to limit gatherings of people in indoor and outdoor spaces to no more than 10 people. An ordinance issued by NC Gov. Roy Cooper on March 20 stated that farmers markets were in the same classification as grocery stores and could remain open. Market communications from Greensboro’s Corner Farmers Market and Winston-Salem’s Cobblestone Farmers Market via email and social media encouraged people to pre-order and utilize the drive-up pick-up option. City-run markets in Greensboro and Winston-Salem were closed until mid-May.
9. March: New restaurants open during the pandemic
Operating as a supper club for over two years, Machete opened in the former Crafted, Art of the Street Food in Greensboro’s LoFi neighborhood just ahead of the pandemic, and Sage Mule, a bakery and bistro, opened right next door. Oh Goodness Bakery shifted its low-carb and gluten-free baked goods wholesale business model into a retail storefront in Greensboro in July. In Winston-Salem, the owners of Slice of Napoli and Smoke City Meats put all of their savings, hopes and dreams into opening, so there was no waiting for the pandemic to end. Meanwhile, Providence Restaurant moved out of the DoubleTree Inn on University Parkway in Winston-Salem to take over culinary operations at Tanglewood Park in Clemmons in late September.
10. March: Abortion clinic arrests
Over the course of several Saturdays, pro-life activists would show up outside A Woman’s Choice in Greensboro to try to harass women seeking abortions. On March 23, Greensboro and Guilford County jointly issued a stay-at-home order to combat the spread of the virus. In the next week, 11 men were arrested for protesting the clinic in defiance of the stay-at-home order. The men filed a federal lawsuit claiming their First Amendment rights were violated. Eventually, Gov. Roy Cooper’s emergency order was modified to include exemptions for worship and First Amendment activities, and the plaintiffs dropped the lawsuit, claiming victory.
11. April:Furniture market canceled
High Point International Furniture Market canceled its spring 2020 event after initially postponing it until July. Eventually the fall 2020 market was canceled as well. The market has been running in the Triad’s third city for more than 100 years; the spring and fall installments are the No. 1 and No. 2 events in the state in terms of economic impact, combining for $6.69 billion. The 2021 spring market has been moved to June.
12. April:COVID testing begins
In April, COVID testing began in earnest in the Triad. Outside of medical facilities and national chain drugstores, Guilford and Forsyth counties opened permanent and pop-up free testing sites at government buildings, churches and other locales. Eventually, a testing facility in Greensboro was established at the Coliseum Complex, where it remains.
13. April:COVID’s toll atTyson Foods
The spread of COVID through Tyson Foods’ massive Wilkesboro chicken processing plant rippled through refugee communities in Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point, causing sickness and death. In mid-April, five Bhutanese workers who carpooled together from High Point to Wilkesboro contracted COVID, and one was hospitalized. About a week later, the NC Department of Health and Human Services confirmed an outbreak at the plant. All told, 570 workers tested positive for COVID at the Wilkesboro plant. At least five people who were either workers or family members of workers passed away.
In April, the former Cone Center for Women’s Health off of Green Valley Road in Greensboro was converted into a COVID field hospital. The location had been closed since February when a new women’s hospital opened, and the space was quickly used to house the most severe COVID cases. In early December, hospital staff sounded the alarm that the number of beds were dwindling at the center and throughout the healthcare system because of COVID.
15. April: Domestic violence increases
In Greensboro and High Point, the number of domestic assault and violence reports to police went up for the month of March this year compared to 2019. Advocates said stay-at-home orders could have caused victims to have to stay for prolonged periods of time with abusive partners, and the economic downturn can cause abusive situations to get worse.
16. May:Faces of the Pandemic
A month before the statewide mask mandate went into order, photographers Owens Daniels and Todd Turner combed through Winston-Salem and Greensboro, photographing citizens wearing masks and holding messages of hope and inspiration.
After a back-and forth between President Trump and Gov. Roy Cooper, the RNC, scheduled for August in Charlotte, was relocated to Jacksonville, Fla. Cooper insisted on masks, but the president felt otherwise. By the end of July, the Jacksonville events had been canceled too.
18. June: Gyms begin to open
As the pandemic raged on, the question of which businesses were considered essential came into play. In June and July, many fitness centers and gyms decided to open their doors back up to the public, citing a letter by the NC attorney general. The letter stated that gyms would be allowed to open if “prescribed by or directed by a medical professional.” The only problem was that gyms then cited HIPAA as the reason they couldn’t actually ask patrons whether they were there because of a doctor’s note or not. What ensued was hundreds of people taking advantage of gyms — most without masks while working out.
19. June: Triad legacy restaurants close
Under Phase Two of Gov. Roy Cooper’s reopening plan, restaurants have been able to operate at 50% capacity since May 22. It has not been a solution for many restaurants to survive at half capacity. Winston-Salem’s Mary’s Gourmet Diner permanently closed just shy of 20 years of service while Lighthouse restaurant closed after 66 years. In June, both Southern Lights Bistro shuttered after 35 years and Smith Street Diner closed after 15 years of service in Greensboro. After 28 years, Greensboro’s Jack’s Corner closed permanently in October. Before the pandemic is over, it’s estimated that 80% of restaurants will not survive.
20. July: Magnolia Birth Center closing
After three years in business, Greensboro’s Magnolia Birth Center shut its doors amid financial stress, the ongoing pandemic and an expiring contract with a supervising physician. The birth center was one of the only locations in the area with practicing midwives. Under North Carolina law, midwives can only practice under the supervision of a licensed physician and the former supervising physician, Dr. Richard Taavon, said he wouldn’t be able to renew his relationship because the center was too busy. However, staff at the center alleged the real reason was because the birth center competes with Wendover OBGYN, a larger medical facility. The center closed in July.
21. July: Downtown streets open for dining
Downtown Winston-Salem partnership led the Triad with the introduction of the Streatery, an event created to close off downtown streets to encourage safety distanced outdoor dining. In late July, due to its success, more dates were scheduled and Trade Street was folded into the experience in August and September. The same concept in Greensboro, called Open Streets, began in August, and continued every Friday and Saturday until the end of December.
22. July: Victory gardening makes a comeback
During World War I and World War II, people were encouraged to plant victory gardens to offset food shortages and to boost national morale. In 2020, folks planted gardens out of boredom and to keep their minds off the changing social and political climates.
23. August: Love and family in the time of corona
In 2020, families moved festivities online via Zoom, ushering in a new era of family traditions. Shaheen Towles and her husband Nick had to do an about-face and change their 2020 nuptial plans to accommodate COVID. After a whirlwind engagement in August 2019, the pair planned to wed at Milton Rhodes Center in Winston-Salem on Easter weekend when COVID trumped their plans. John Yeagley and Frank Vagnone of Winston-Salem had no immediate plans to get married when COVID hit, but the pandemic intensified their desire to join together in matrimony.
24. September: Marty Kotis billboards
The strange billboards started showing up in early September on the electronic slabs that face parts of Battleground in Greensboro. Owned by local developer Marty Kotis, the cryptic messages stated things like, “ “Science is not political,” “Your governor is in control. Listen and comply” and “Where’s the logic?” According to an interview with the Carolina Journal, Kotis said the campaign was about “pinning Cooper down on scientific reasoning” and the business owner took issue with the governor’s reopening of some businesses like gyms, churches and bowling alleys while other entities like movie theaters and bars that Kotis owns remained closed. Still, the messages reached hundreds of people a day and went up at a time when COVID cases were surging.
25. September:Lee Enterprises buys local dailies, then lays off staff
Lee Enterprises, the company that bought the News & Record and the Winston-Salem Journal from BH Media In January, laid off about a third of the editorial staff at each paper after the coronavirus set in. The cuts decimated the ranks of working journalists in the state’s third-largest market during an election and a pandemic.
26. September: Celebrations/festivals move online
Rather than allowing people to gather in large groups, events involving mass gatherings were held virtually this year instead. The NC Folk Festival, which is normally held in downtown Greensboro, took place as a three-day virtual concert series this year, featuring pre-recorded musical performances livestreamed from the festival’s Facebook page. National Dance Day, also held in downtown Greensboro, was made of live performances filmed by Paul Byun and posted to YouTube. NC A&T University hosted the Greatest Homecoming on Earth as a virtual experience with online activities and events, including #StayAtHomecoming. The Ramkat bar and live music venue in Winston-Salem continued to provide entertainment to the community by hosting Home Sweet Home: Live at the Ramkat, an ongoing concert series of pre-recorded musical performances. Local universities hosted virtual commencements featuring pre-recorded guest speakers honoring December graduates.
27. October: Movie theaters struggle to stay afloat
After forced closures in March due to the state entering Phase I in response to the coronavirus, movie theaters were allowed to reopen on Oct. 2 with occupancy limits and other restrictions. Regal Cinemas forewent the reopening and closed all locations on Oct. 8 in response to “an increasingly challenging theatrical landscape and sustained key market closures.” A/perture Cinema and RiverRun Film Festival resorted to virtual screenings and private theater rentals, allowing safe viewing.
28. October:Trump tests positive for coronavirus
President Trump, who had been downplaying the danger of the coronavirus, tested positive around Oct. 2 and was brought immediately to Walter Reed Medical Center, where he received treatment for three days before returning to the White House. The news came amid a flurry of positive tests among the president’s inner circle throughout the fall, including First Lady Melania Trump and their son Barron, Ben Carson, Sen. Thom Tillis, Mark Meadows and more than 30 other Republicans and presidential advisors.
29. October: Carolina Classic becomes a drive-thru
Fair food is the only reason why some people go to the annual event. The new Carolina Classic Fair Carolina Classic Drive-Thru gave area patrons an alternative to the formerly named Dixie Classic Fair. The original event scheduled for Oct. 2-11 was canceled in late July by the city, and on Oct. 1-4, favorite fair foods were available for purchase from over a dozen past fair vendors. Despite wait times up to five hours long and narrow routes in and out of the fairgrounds, the event was considered a success with more than 11,000 visitors.
30. November: Forsyth County evictions/CDC moratorium
Early on in the pandemic, Chief Justice Cheri Beasley put a halt to evictions; the sheriffs of both Guilford and Forsyth counties said they would not execute any writs of possession. However, by November, evictions were being processed in Forsyth County while their counterparts in Guilford County still abstained. A CDC order which should have protected tenants went largely ignored by landlords, clerks of court, judges and sheriff’s deputies who all said that the responsibility to follow the CDC moratorium didn’t fall on them. Housing advocates, who protested the evictions in December, said they had documented 2,000 eviction hearing in Forsyth County since courts reopened on June 22.
31. December: To-go cocktailstake off
In late December, Gov. Roy Cooper signed an executive order authorizing the sale of “cocktails to-go” from North Carolina restaurants and bars. The order instructs the ABC commission to allow bars, restaurants, private clubs and certain other permitted sellers to sell mixed beverages, or cocktails on-site or ordered for delivery. The cocktails must be the same size as standard mixed-drink beverage purchased for consumption on the premises and bars and restaurants cannot expand their mixed beverage menu to sell multiple drinks in one container.
32. December: Bar owners struggle
Executive Order No. 118 issued on March 17 by Gov. Roy Cooper required restaurants, bars and taverns to shut their doors due to coronavirus safety concerns. Executive Order No. 169 became effective on Oct. 2 which allowed bars to open and operate at 30 percent capacity. A lawsuit, filed Dec. 23 in Carteret County against Gov. Roy Cooper, included four bar owners as plaintiffs from Forsyth County and two from Guilford County who claim the executive orders affecting bars and certain private bar permit holders made it “unprofitable to operate” and that each plaintiff has “suffered financial damages due to the closing” of their business.
33. December:First coronavirus vaccines arrive in NC
The first 146,800 doses of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine began arriving in North Carolina in late December, followed by 175,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine. Phase 1a is for healthcare workers and long-term care staff and residents. Vaccine rollout should last at least until the end of March 2021.
34. February: Charles Bess and the Woolworth sit-ins
In pre-pandemic news, one of our most popular stories of the year proved to be a profile of Greensboro native Charles Bess, otherwise known as the “man behind the counter.” Bess, who is 82 years old, was the fifth individual in the now-famous picture of the A&T Four at the Woolworth counter during the Greensboro sit-ins. Bess recounted his time working at the diner when the historic protests took place. The piece ran in the Bitter Southerner in February and even made it into a New York Times newsletter.
Before the national conversation around racial injustice was reignited by the death of George Floyd this year, a local group of activists and educators in Greensboro were working to honor a Black man who was lynched in the city in the years following the Civil War. According to efforts by the Guilford County Remembrance Project, Eugene Hairston was just a teenager, no more than 17- or 18-years old when he was killed after being accused of rape.
After footage of the police murder of George Floyd went viral on social media, the first Triad protests in response were held in Greensboro and Winston-Salem. Winston-Salem’s street protest went down peacefully. In the afternoon, a Greensboro protest group marched down Gate City Boulevard and shut down Interstate 40 for a time. That evening, a peaceful second protest in downtown Greensboro took a violent turn when many windows were smashed and some businesses looted, while police in riot gear deployed pepper-spray pellets. Triad City Beat reporters livestreamed both Greensboro events, the first in a trend that would continue throughout the summer.
37. May:Takeover protests
A new protest technique emerged in the Triad: the retail takeover. Free Dope Major, aka Anthony Morgan, with his crew The 3, staged small-scale occupations on Battleground Avenue and Friendly Center, among others. Sayaka Matsuoka captured a protest in Winston-Salem that took over the Thruway Shopping Center in June and also led to protests at Mayor Allen Joines’s house.
Police in North Carolina frequently used pepper spray and other less-than-lethal munitions against Black Lives Matter protesters, while armed white men got a pass, even though NC has a law on the books against carrying dangerous weapons at demonstrations. One glaring example was Jason Passmore, a right-wing militia activist with ties with white supremacists who came to Greensboro with a small group of armed men during the first couple nights of protests. Passmore disclosed that his crew was carrying concealed handguns when police deployed a chemical vapor against protesters on the first night of protests in Greensboro, and then was photographed a block away from protesters on the second night. On the third night, Passmore’s crew again brought firearms to downtown Greensboro, also violating a curfew, after posting on Facebook: “So antifa, BLM and the rest of your bitches — see you at 8:05 p.m. on Elm Street?” On July 21, Passmore showed up with his crew at a protest near the Confederate monument in Lexington equipped with ballistic vest, rifle magazines and handheld two-way radios.
39. June: April Parker returns to the streets
It’s been a busy year for artist-activist April Parker. Starting with a socially-distanced car protest that made its way through the city, Parker used her new partnership with Elsewhere Museum to shed light on systemic inequalities in the arts and beyond. She organized a benefit concert for the Historic Magnolia House and in a daring display of activism, posed atop a plinth where a Confederate monument used to stand in Greenhill Cemetery. The work is a direct continuation of her years of action as an organizer for Black Lives Matter Greensboro and the Queer People of Color Collective.
40. June: Tasha Thomas
Since 33-year-old Tasha Thomas was found unresponsive in her cell on May 2, 2018, her family has questioned the circumstances surrounding her death. In August 2018, a medical examiner ruled that Thomas’ death was caused by “sepsis due to infective endocarditis due to chronic injection drug use.” After George Floyd’s death, dozens of family members and supporters gathered outside the jail to remember Thomas. In December, the N&R reported on a wrongful death lawsuit calls into question the medical examiner’s report. The suit claims that photos of Thomas’ body show that her nipples were ripped off and there were unexplained bruises and contusions on her body.
In June, during the first round of street protests in downtown Greensboro, Triad City Beat found evidence that the Greensboro Police Department deployed teargas and pepper spray balls at protesters. Several teargas canisters as well as broken and whole pepper bullet casings were found in locations around downtown Greensboro, providing clarity to a muddled narrative from the police department.
42. June: BLM murals and street art
An influx of street art, including a mural reading “One Love” in downtown Greensboro caused a bit of a stir this summer. The murals were largely created by Black artists on the boards used to protect downtown businesses from supposed rioters. Many were preserved in the weeks following the protests and some were packed to go to the Smithsonian History Museum. The “One Love” street mural drew criticism from some activists who said the sentiment was too flowery and disingenuous.
43. June:John Neville
The December 2019 death of John Neville, a 56-year-old Black man from Greensboro booked into the Forsyth County jail, escaped public notice for months until the Winston-Salem Journal and News & Observer published accounts in late June 2020. In early July, District Attorney Jim O’Neill announced involuntary manslaughter charges against five detention officers and a nurse employed by WellPath. An autopsy revealed that the cause of Neville’s death — “complications of positional and compressional asphyxia during prone restraint” — bore striking similarities to that of Marcus Deon Smith who at the hands of police in Greensboro in 2018. And video released by order of a judge showed that Neville uttered words that eerily echoed those of George Floyd: “Mama,” and, “I can’t breathe.”
44. June: Triad Abolition Project creates change
As activists across the country mobilized in support of Black and Brown individuals victimized and killed by law enforcement, a core group in Winston-Salem worked tirelessly to create change locally. The Triad Abolition Project occupied Bailey Park for 49 days, demanding accountability and clarity in the death of John Neville. Because of their direct action, the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office banned the use of bent-leg prone restraint — the method that led to Neville’s death.
45. June:Triad City Beat goes Black
In June, just a few days ahead of the AP Stylebook, TCB made the style change from “black” to “Black” when using the term as a race descriptor. We also updated “Brown,” but not “white,” because it does not convey any sense of meaning..
46. July: Greensboro Confederate monument toppled
Following the death of George Floyd, Confederate monuments came down across the state, sometimes toppled by protesters, as in Raleigh, and sometime expeditiously removed by city governments, as in Wilmington and Salisbury. In Greensboro, an unidentified group of antiracists tore down a Confederate monument owned by Sons of Confederate Veterans in Green Hill Cemetery.
47. July: Juneteenth becomes official holiday in Greensboro
On July 21, the Greensboro City Council unanimously approved Juneteenth, the commemoration of the end of slavery in America, as a paid holiday for employees beginning in 2021. The move came after years of work by local activists to have the holiday recognized by the city.
Eight weeks after protests commenced across North Carolina in response to the death of George Floyd, Black firefighters at the Winston-Salem Fire Department joined the call for racial justice. The firefighters called attention to a climate of racism in the fire department, including an incident when a gorilla mask was left on the Black firefighter’s desk, and another when a white firefighter tied nooses during a ropes class. Social media posts show white captains expressing hostility towards Black Lives Matter protesters and sympathy for the Confederacy. The city hired an outside consultant to conduct a climate study and is currently investigating grievances filed by the Black firefighters.
49. September: Locals start movement fighting sexual assault
A group of sexual assault survivors started a movement in Greensboro over the summer by sharing their personal trauma via Instagram and Facebook. The grassroots movement spawned offshoots in cities across the state and led to demands for accountability from individuals and establishments alike. It eventually became part of the NC Protection Alliance.
50. October: A decade of police misconduct in the Triad
In the past 10 years, 25 people have been killed by law enforcement officers in Guilford and Forsyth counties. That’s what our article, which came out in October, found after weeks of combing through old news reports and databases. The piece dove into cases in which actions by law enforcement officers in both counties led to the deaths of many individuals.
51. October: Graham protesters pepper-sprayed
When Rev. Greg Drumwright announced a march to the polls in Graham scheduled for Oct. 31, the biggest worry was that right-wing vigilantes inspired by President Trump would disrupt voting. But the counter-protesters received forewarning from the Graham police to move across the street. Almost immediately after marchers knelt in the street in front of the Confederate monument for 8 minutes and 46 minutes to honor George Floyd, police started pepper-spraying the crowd, including children, resulting in vomiting and causing a woman to experience a seizure and fall out of her motorized scooter. The Graham police and Alamance County sheriff’s deputies arrested 23 people, including a reporter for the Alamance News. The police violence drew national headlines, and condemnation from Gov. Roy Cooper.
52. November: Guilford College changes spark protests
In early November, students, faculty and alumni protested announced changes by administrators at Guilford College. The changes included the terminations of 15 tenured professors and a cut to almost half of the school’s majors. Those opposed to the changes said that if the administration followed through that the core identity and mission of the Quaker school would be at stake.
53. December: Siblings targeted by anti-BLM violence
Siblings Olivia Pugh, Nova Tempest and their 17-year-old brother were driving to a dentist appointment in Lewisville in early December when 55-year-old white man Rod Steven Sturdy began aggressively tailing them after spotting the hand-drawn signs they placed in the rear window to express support for Black Lives Matter. When they arrived at the dentist office, Sturdy reportedly punched the younger brother and Pugh, and told Pugh, “Fuck you, bitch, and fuck all that [N-word] Black lives bullshit.” Sturdy faces misdemeanor charges of simple assault and assault on a female.
54. December: Marcus Deon Smith
Marcus Deon Smith died at the hands of the Greensboro police in September 2018. He became the focal point for a renewed set of demands by activists in Greensboro under the umbrella of Greensboro Rising after the death of George Floyd in May 2020. Smith’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court in April 2019. To date, Greensboro City Council has not met one of the primary demands of the protesters — to make amends to Smith’s family by settling the lawsuit.
55. December: Triad City Beat joins fight for courtroom access
In December, TCB Senior Editor Jordan Green, along with a reporter from the News & Observer and the publisher of the Alamance News, were denied courtroom access to a sentencing of a protest-related case. All three papers petitioned for access before the bulk of the protest-related arrests made it to court, supported by the Society of Professional Journalists and an amicus brief from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, among other entities. Alamance courts are scheduled to open Jan. 13.
56. January: Brian James becomes Greensboro police chief
Just before the pandemic would radically alter his department’s mission, and Black Lives Matter protests would escalate its push against law enforcement, Brian James became Greensboro’s police chief — an A&T grad with more than 20 years on the force. Around 2006, long-term staffers remembered, James was part of a controversy regarding former chief David Wray, which was extensively documented before everyone forgot about it.
57. January: A new, Triad-wide 6th Congressional District
After years in the courts and in front of three-judge panels, North Carolina’s illegal Congressional gerrymander was (somewhat) rectified. Among the new temporary districts was the 6th, which now covers all three of the Triad’s major cities — Greensboro, High Point and Winston-Salem. After the redistricting, Rep. Mark Walker (R) announced he would not run for re-election in 2020. After a contentious primary, Kathy Manning (D) won the seat in November.
58. February: Trump survives impeachment
Amid growing whispers of the novel coronavirus and more than a month after being impeached in the House, Trump survived a Senate impeachment trial for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, with the vote falling mostly along party lines. If anyone can remember back that far, the trial was about collusion with Russia, and stalling a Congressional investigation of said collusion.
59. February: Presidential candidates come to the Triad
Presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg stopped by the Cadillac Service Garage on Feb. 13 in Greensboro to campaign. Bloomberg cited his experience as former Mayor of New York City, saying of Trump, “He’s from New York and I’m from New York. And I know how to deal with New York bullies.” The Triad also hosted visits by Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders.
60. February: US Senate race
In February, a shadowy GOP group put out ads supporting Erica Smith, a Black Democratic candidate for US Senate who currently serves in the NC Senate, touting her support for the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. Democratic voters, sensing that Smith was the opponent Republican incumbent Thom Tillis wanted, voted decisively in favor Cal Cunningham, a moderate white military veteran. During the general election, Cunningham was revealed to have exchanged a series of steamy texts with a woman who was not his wife. Worse for him, when the scandal broke, Cunningham acted like it was no big deal and refused to talk about it. In so doing, he fumbled the ball in what was considered the most crucial US Senate race, losing to a historically unpopular Republican incumbent and dashing hopes for the Democrats to retake control of the Senate.
61. March: Winston-Salem City Council election
Winston-Salem Salem’s election for mayor and city council was over long before Nov. 3. Incumbents, including Mayor Allen Joines, easily dispatched challengers who took aim at the city’s economic and racial stratification. In the Southwest Ward, Kevin Mundy defeated a more progressive opponent to replace Dan Besse, and Barbara Burke prevailed in the Northeast Ward to fill the seat left by her late mother-in-law Vivian Burke. Progressives dissatisfied with the Democratic primary backed write-in campaigns by Paula McCoy in the Northeast Ward and Michael Banner in the East Ward, but they failed to gain traction in the general election.
62. May: Guilford County school bond
In May, the Guilford County commissioners voted to put a $300 million bond for school improvements on the November ballot. The total amount was a drastic reduction from the $1.6 billion that the school board had requested. Voters approved the school bond on Election Day.
63. May:Louis De Joy and the post office
Before President Trump named the Greensboro businessman to postmaster general in May, Louis DeJoy and his wife Dr. Adlona Wos were already darlings of the right, hosting weighty Republican fundraisers in their Irving Park home that once belonged to industrialist Herman Cone. It seemed as if DeJoy, ever a party loyalist, was hired to gum up the works for mail-in voting, which he did by removing sorting machines, cutting hours and changing longstanding policies. Things still are not right with the US mail.
64. September: Mail-in voting ramps up
Almost as soon as the pandemic hit, election officials began preparing for a massive ramp-up of mail-in voting. North Carolina was the first state to mail out absentee ballots, beginning in early September. Voters might not have noticed, but there were pitched court battles over issues like correcting missing witness information and the deadline for returning ballots, pitting the State Board of Elections under the control of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper against the Republican-controlled legislature. The reason for the fight was not hard to discern: Statewide, Black voters — who tend to support Democratic candidates — were four times more likely to have their ballots set aside because of deficiencies.
65. September:White power salutes at Trump parades
Taking a cue from a “Trump convoy” in Portland, Ore., Trump supporters organized parades in North Carolina in September to express their enthusiasm for the president. During a parade convened by neo-Confederate leader Gary Williamson, two men in separate trucks shouted “white power” in response to a Black Lives Matter sign held by professor Megan Squire in Elon on Sept. 19. The following weekend, a man yelled “Heil Hitler” and gave a straight-arm Nazi salute as a “Trump Train” caravan passed a group of Black Lives Matter protesters in Hillsborough.
66. October: Trump encourages Republican poll watchers
During his Sept. 8 campaign stop at Smith Reynolds Airport, President Trump predicted that Democrats would try to steal the election, instructing his supporters to “be poll watchers when you go there” and “watch all the thieving and stealing and robbing they do.” On the first day of early voting, in October, a designated Republican poll observer stared down a first-time Latinx voter in line at the UNCG polling place as Siembra NC filmed a video to promote early voting. Guilford County Elections Director Charlie Collicutt said he received an unprecedented number of complaints about poll observers, mainly focused on people failing to wear masks, but also in one instance, improperly observing a poll book while a voter was checking in.
Using footage from protests and political campaigns, documentarian Nat Frum worked to capture North State politics this November. While in Graham during the I Am Change Legacy March to the Polls, Frum was pepper-sprayed and later talked about the hostile nature of some of the protests he attended. Frum hopes to release the film in February or March 2021.
68. October: Common comes to Greensboro
Rapper Common visited the Hayes-Taylor YMCA in Greensboro on Oct. 28 as part of the Biden/Harris campaign to canvass and encourage individuals to vote. Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, state Rep. Amos Quick and lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Yvonne Lewis Holley were also in attendance.
69. November:North Carolina’s political realignment
While Donald Trump carried the state, his margin narrowed significantly compared to the 2016 race against Hillary Clinton. The election provided a startling glimpse into the state’s political future. Guilford and Forsyth, the urban core of the Triad, turned a deeper shade of blue. That in itself was not a surprise — the trend has been underway since at least 2008. What was surprising is that Republican-leaning suburban counties like Alamance, Johnston and Cabarrus became significantly more friendly to Democratic candidates. Meanwhile, the opposite trend is taking place in rural counties in the coastal plain and Sandhills region. Counties like Robeson that were once Democratic strongholds yielded big gains for Republican candidates.
70. November: Guilford County Commission flips blue
Three seats on the Guilford County Commission flipped from red to blue on election night, securing a 7-2 Democratic majority. Democrats James Upchurch, Carly Cooke and Mary Beth Murphy beat Republicans Jim Davis, Troy Lawson and Alan Branson respectively. Both the county commission and the school board are now majority Democratic.
71. November:Local reflect on Kamala Harris win
Democratic candidate Joseph Biden was elected president on Nov. 3, making Sen. Kamala Harris the first woman of color to be elected vice president. Harris, who is African-American and of Asian descent, found many supporters among locals who said that seeing a woman of color ascend to the White House was historic and moving.
72. November: Alan Branson protests election results
Republican Guilford County Commissioner Alan Branson, the incumbent who faced Democratic challenger Mary Beth Murphy, challenged the results of the election in the weeks following Nov. 3. Branson, who was trailing by 18 votes on election night, asked for a recount, which then increased his deficit to 72 votes. Branson cited “questionable absentee mail-in ballots” and appealed to the Guilford County Board of Elections, which dismissed his protest. Branson then appealed to the State Board of Elections, which also dismissed him. Branson conceded on Dec. 22.
73. December:The North Carolina seditionists
After the Electoral College had cast its votes for Joe Biden, 126 House Republicans joined a Texas lawsuit against five key swing states, seeking a judicial nullification of votes in those states — which is literally sedition. NC conspirators included local reps Mark Walker, Ted Budd and Virginia Foxx. From our editorial: “They and their colleagues have no business being anywhere near the halls of government. And all North Carolinians — nay, all Americans — would be safer if these enemies of the people were in jail.”
ODDS AND ENDS
74. January: US National Ice Skating Championship in Greensboro
Just weeks before the panic of the pandemic hit the Triad, hundreds of spectators got together to see the best ice skaters from around the country compete in the national ice-skating championship at the Greensboro Coliseum. Just a few weeks later, the ACC tournament would be cancelled in the same arena due to the virus. Two-time world champion and then-number one in the world Nathan Chen ended up cleaning up, taking home the gold medal for the fourth time.
75. January: Masked Night Watch crusader
A masked crusader took up the crime-fighting mantle in Winston-Salem in the earlier part of the year, patrolling the streets of downtown while wearing all black and a ski mask with large reflective goggles. Night Watch, as he called himself, helped those who are homeless, and explained that the issue speaks to him personally because he has family members who are homeless. A number of social media posts describe how he helped someone figure out a bus route or chased away kids who were making noise on top of a parking deck.
76. February: Triad City Beat turns 6
In February, TCB celebrated six years of publication, with plans on having an anniversary party in March. That, of course, never happened. But watch for our seven-year anniversary event in the spring.
77. February: Chronic flooding
Smoke from unprecedented fires darkened the skies over northern California and Oregon, and hurricanes ravaged southwestern Louisiana, but North Carolina largely escaped extreme weather in 2020. That’s in contrast to a 2018 tornado that ripped through east Greensboro, and hurricanes that battered the North Carolina coast in 2018 and 2019. History suggests 2020 was a weather anomaly, and cities like Greensboro and Winston-Salem should brace for more years like 2018 and 2019, with heavy rainfall causing flooding and trees to topple as roots lose purchase from saturated ground. City officials in Greensboro got attention in February when they candidly addressed the issue. “The climate change issue is affecting us,” Assistant Water Resources Director Kristine Williams said. “We are seeing more frequent and intense rainfall.”
78. February:Weatherspoon To the Hoop exhibit
UNCG’s Weatherspoon Art Museum opened To the Hoop, an art exhibit dedicated to the artistry of basketball and its history as part of American culture. The exhibition featured artists from around the world, like Jeff Koons. André Leon Gray, an artist from Raleigh, contributed a work called “Black Magic,” highlighting the significance of basketball in Black communities. The basketballs that made up the basketball pyramid in the center of the gallery have since been donated to local rec centers or YMCAs.
79. February: Pop-up restaurants take over the Triad
Pop-ups — or temporary dining experiences — which tend to focus on farm-to-table cuisine in unexpected spaces started off with a bang at the beginning of the year. Will Sanders and his wife Alex Hensleigh took this concept and brought it to fruition in 2017 when they created Moontide Sundries, a pop-up supper club they operated out of their home in Greensboro. Ashley Armstrong, co-owner of Forsyth Seafood Market and Café, founded the Table Experience and has partnered with area chefs, talented culinarians, photographers and mixologists. Other pop-ups involving local chef Clyde Singleton at Hoots Beer Co. and Monstercade in Winston-Salem are still on-going. Machete, which found a brick and mortar this past year, also started as a pop-up.
80. February: Greensboro breweries close
When Gibbs Hundred Brewing Co. and Preyer Brewing opened in 2014 and 2015 in downtown Greensboro, they joined Natty Greene’s Brewing Co., the oldest brewery in the Gate City, and signaled the boom of the craft beer industry scene in the Triad. But on Feb. 5 Natty Greene’s announced on Facebook that it was closing its brewery at the end of the month while keeping the restaurant open. A short while later, Preyer closed, followed by the shuttering of Gibbs Hundred in September.
81. March:Winston-Salem 5 case revisited
It was a sensational crime story in Winston-Salem: Nathaniel Jones, a beloved gas station owner, was found dead in his garage, a victim of a brutal beating, in November 2002. Jones’ grandson, Chris Paul — then a star basketball player at West Forsyth High School — scored 61 points two days later, one for every year of his grandfather’s life. He would go on to play for Wake Forest University and the NBA. Five Black boys, 14- and 15-years-old at the time, were convicted of Jones’ murder. But on March 15, 2020, the NC Innocence Inquiry Commission issued a finding of “sufficient evidence of factual innocence to merit judicial review” for Nathaniel Cauthen, Rayshawn Banner, Christopher Bryant and Jermal Tolliver. (Dorrell Brayboy, the fifth defendant, was fatally stabbed following his release from prison.) The decision means the state courts will convene a special session of superior court in Forsyth County next year to consider evidence, potentially clearing a path for the four men’s exoneration. During the hearings in March 2020, a white woman gave dramatic testimony, recanting her previous statements that had incriminated the defendants.
82. May: Crystal Towers sale stalled
In 2018, the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem announced it was putting the Crystal Towers public housing community on the market. The announcement about the downtown sale prompted concerns about gentrification, with the agency already planning to relocate residents due to the impending demolition of Cleveland Avenue Homes and the potential buyer planning to replace Crystal Towers with high-end housing. Residents responded by organizing as Crystal Towers United to push back on demeaning regulations. As of May, the request to sell the building was awaiting approval from the US Department of Housing & Urban Development’s Special Applications Center in Chicago. During a recent protest against evictions, housing advocate Dan Rose attributed the stalled sale to the residents’ tenacious organizing.
83. June: Perry Pitts fights to be released
Perry Pitts went to prison as a result of a dubious conviction for drug possession after his arrest at Piedmont Circle Apartments in Winston-Salem in April 2017. A prison psychologist described Pitts as “developmentally delayed” and was “at risk for exploitation by other offenders.” In May 2020, Pitts was transferred into Neuse Correctional Institution, the state prison hardest hit by COVID. Based on Pitts’ history of asthma, hypertension, seizures and obesity, he partially met the state’s criteria for early release. But to be considered, he would have to be at least 50 years old, and Pitts was only 49. And he would have to be scheduled for release in 2021, and Pitts is scheduled for release in 2022. Pitts’ lawyer has appealed to the courts to grant her client early release based on grounds of unreasonable search and seizure, and cruel and unusual punishment, but none have been successful to date.
84. July: Food entrepreneurs sell plates
Selling plates of food is a time-honored tradition where many entrepreneurs get their start. Home cooks and out-of-work culinary professionals solicit donations to test recipes, sell hot meals and cookbooks to their friends and neighbors without paying the rent of high-overhead commercial kitchens. Anthony Kellum, Monique Miller and Terrell Anistad use their social networks to create opportunities to make a flexible income at home as a major factor to make the business of selling plates successful. Tré Shawn Legette, a Winston-Salem-based vegan home chef self-published a digital cookbook, The Beginner’s Dozen: Recipes for Transitioning Vegans Vol. 1 in December.
85. August: A&T alum creates ‘Genesis’ film
Former NC A&T University professor and alum Philip Page released his first short film, “Genesis,”to the festival circuit. The film follows the creation of the world through the eyes of a Black woman. For the film, Page enlisted the help of Aggies Desiree Dixon, a professional dancer who has danced for artists Robin Thicke and Saweetie, Bethany Anderson, a creative director based in Las Vegas, and Ja’Nyla Thompson, Page’s former student for the film’s creation. Vanessa Ferguson, another Aggie whose musical talents landed her in the Top Eight during Season 12 of “The Voice,” scored the film. “Genesis”has been chosen as an official selection in the Afrikana Independent Film Festival, Raleigh Film & Art Festival and more.
86. August: Jim Herman wins Wyndham Championship
Greensboro’s Wyndham PGA Championship was held, as usual, at Sedgefield Country Club in August, but without spectators and most media. American Jim Herman won, finishing the weekend at 21 under par and moving from No. 192 to 54 in the FedEx Cup standings. He would finish the year at 173.
87. August:Chadwick Boseman passes
Actor Chadwick Boseman passed away on Aug. 28 after a four-year battle with colon cancer, breaking the hearts of Black Panther fans everywhere, like Acme Comics proprietor Jermaine Exum. Boseman’s death was such a shock because no one but his inner circle knew he suffered from the disease. Boseman was known for his portrayal of Black men in powerful roles, most notably as King T’Challa. Boseman’s final film, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, was released to Netflix on Dec. 18.
88. October:Rich Girls Museum opens in Greensboro
Rich Girls Museum became the first “selfie museum” in the Triad after opening on Oct. 22. The museum features eight uniquely designed rooms in which visitors can take photos for social media and is an extension of the Rich Girls Collection clothing line, situated in the front of the museum so visitors can purchase an outfit before their photoshoot. Since opening, Rich Girls Museum has surpassed 14,000 Instagram followers.
89. October: Anna Dominguez’s death raises questions
In a year when Black, Brown and queer people raised uncompromising demands for police and prison abolition, the death of a queer Latinx woman in the Guilford County jail might have been expected to cause a bigger stir. The circumstances surrounding 24-year-old Anna Dominguez’s death are troubling: Found asleep in a car late at night by a Greensboro police officer, Dominguez was taken to Moses Cone Hospital for medical care, but then was released and taken to the jail in downtown Greensboro. At the time of her booking, Dominguez was so intoxicated that staff was reportedly unable to understand her speech. The attorney for the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office acknowledged that staff failed to monitor Dominguez every 15 minutes, allowing up to 46 minutes to elapse while she slept.
90. October: Mike’s Vegan Cookout takes off
One of the best things that has come out of the pandemic is the dogged persistence and creativity of local entrepreneurs. In April, Mike Roach embarked on a food journey to create a vegan cookout food truck in the midst of a pandemic. Roach, who had no previous food experience, has expanded the business to two food trucks that operate in the Triad/Triangle and the Charlotte areas. The truck, which uses popular brands like Beyond Meat, is immensely popular, with many of is customers singing its praises on social media. The lines sometimes snake around the parking lots where the trucks set up shop, but the flavorful burgers and hotdogs are worth the wait.
91. November:Guilford courthouse shooting
Three men were shot during an argument that moved from the Eugene Street entrance to the Guilford County Courthouse across the street to the sheriff’s office on Nov. 16. One of the men, 20-year-old Avion Imeen McLean of Lumberton, succumbed to his injuries. Gunfire struck both the courthouse and the sheriff’s office, and deputies pulled an injured person into the sheriff’s office and the courthouse was briefly locked down. At least one person, 18-year-old Sterling Jaisean Tyler of High Point, has been charged.
92. November: Koury wins rezoning fight
In mid-November, the Greensboro city council voted 7-2 to approve a rezoning request by the Koury Corp. to build a 480-unit luxury apartment complex off Cone Boulevard in Greensboro. The request was fiercely opposed by area residents who said that the new development would cause traffic concerns and fundamentally change the character of the neighborhood.
93. November: Greensboro chef Mark Freedman is killed
In early November, Greensboro chef and restaurateur Mark Freedman was found shot to death in his car in his restaurant’s parking lot. Freedman lived in Greensboro for over 40 years and owned three restaurants in the area during that time. Mark’s on Westover and Mark’s Restaurant on Dolley Madison Road are both known for their commitment to high-quality, fine-dining cuisine and service. The restaurateur was a familiar face among professional culinarians in the Triad food scene. At press time, the crime is still unsolved.
94. November: Preston Laneousted from Triad Stage
As a playwright, director and co-founder of Triad Stage, Preston Lane was one of Greensboro’s towering cultural figures. He was also exploiting his position as artistic director at the theater and adjunct instructor at UNCG to commit sexual assault, according to at least one man who spoke to Triad City Beat on condition of anonymity. The man and three others reported experiences of sexual assault to two board members and an outside lawyer hired to conduct an internal review of the claims over the summer. Lane, who has denied any wrongdoing, submitted his letter of resignation to Triad Stage’s board of directors on Nov. 9.
95. December: Greensboro creates transgender taskforce
The expiration of a ban on LGBTQ protections enacted by House Bill 142 set the stage for Greensboro city staff to create a transgender taskforce that would work to ensure equity for transgender residents. The task force would be comprised of transgender individuals, with preference given to Black and Brown people. The move was applauded by many in the community, including at-large city council member Michelle Kennedy, who worked to create the task force.
96. December: Homicide rates spike
Homicides have increased drastically in the Triad’s biggest cities, part of a national trend, with 61 homicides so far in Greensboro and 27 in Winston-Salem, the most ever for each city. In December, Greensboro police Chief Brian James addressed the issue in a statement, pledging more police patrols but also acknowledging the limitations of policing. “While police are responsible for responding to violent crime, we as a community must address those factors that lead to violent crime,” he said. “Many of those factors are rooted in access to employment, housing, education, healthcare and mental health care to name a few.”
97. December:Bennett College closer to becoming accredited again
After two years of its accreditation status being up in the air, Bennett College was granted candidate status by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools and is poised to gain full accreditation from TRACS. The candidacy status allows Bennett accreditation privileges, such as access to federal funding.
98. December: Winston-Salem wedding venue protests
In late December, social media posts promoting a boycotting against a Winston-Salem wedding venue began to circulate after a lesbian couple shared that they were rejected from hosting their wedding there. The Warehouse on Ivy, located in downtown, saw their Yelp and Google reviews plummet after activists and LGBTQ+ allies flooded the venue’s social media with negative reviews. According to a report by the Winston-Salem Journal, a representative of the venue said that they wouldn’t host same-sex couples due to their Christian values. The venue’s social media accounts have since been taken down.
99. December: Cosmic alignment
On Dec. 21, the winter solstice, Jupiter and Saturn approached each other in the night sky, the closest the two planets have been since the 1600s, appearing as a single entity to the naked eye.
100. December: Urban loop and Salem Parkway
Construction continued on the urban loop around Greensboro, Interstate 840, which now reaches to Elm Street in the North. In Winston-Salem, completion of the Salem Parkway and overpasses at Liberty and Cherry Streets brought business back to the Old Salem neighborhood and restored connection to downtown.