by Sayaka Matsuoka, Brian Clarey, Nicole Zelniker, James Douglas

As we look back on 2021, it’s easy to point out all of the dark spots: the ongoing pandemic, continued police brutality against Black and Brown people, rising inequality, gerrymandering and housing crises. But some bright moments emerged as well. Communities banded together to look out for each other, new business ventures took off and powerful forces were met with unyielding efforts by everyday people. All in all, it was a bleak 365 days, but progress isn’t a straight line and the few redeeming moments helped remind us at TCB that we are not alone. Here’s a look back at the 100 people, places and things that influenced our little corner of the world this year.

PEOPLE

1. The NC Seditionists (NC)

In January, 147 Republicans in Congress voted to overturn the results of the 2020 Election; seven of them were from NC: Dan Bishop, Ted Budd, Madison Cawthorn, Virginia Foxx, Richard Hudson, Gregory Murphy and David Rouzer. In February, Sen. Thom Tillis voted against impeachment of the treasonous president in the Senate. In the House, among the 197 “nay” votes for Trump’s impeachment, were NC Republicans Bishop, Budd, Cawthorn, Foxx, Hudson and Rouzer, joined by Rep. Patrick McHenry.

2. Derwin Montgomery resigns from Bethesda (W-S)

The former Winston-Salem city council member and NC House representative resigned as executive director of the Bethesda Center for the Homeless Inc. in January of this year. Montgomery became the center’s executive director in 2014 and was on city council from 2009-18.

3. Anita Sharpe spreads misinformation (GSO)

Guilford County School Board member Anita Sharpe drew fire in January for spreading misinformation on her Facebook page, specifically a video full of lies about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s laptop, which was stolen during the Jan. 6 insurrection (No. 57). We asked her to resign. We’re still waiting to hear back.

4. Denise Gabriel resigns (GSO)

Denise Gabriel (right) speaking with Preston Lane. (screenshot)

A tenured associate professor at the UNCG School of Theatre, Denise Gabriel resigned from her position in January amid accusations of sexual misconduct, after Title IX complaints, witness statements and, possibly, an internal investigation — the university declined to give a specific reason for her departure. Gabriel worked closely with Preston Lane, former UNCG adjunct professor and artistic director of Triad Stage, who was also accused of sexual misconduct and resigned from Triad Stage in 2020.

5. Sen. Richard Burr won’t run again (NC)

Sen. Richard Burr (R) announced that he would not run in 2022 almost immediately after winning re-election in 2016 — the man who once called himself the most conservative member of the Senate did not fit in with the new crop of Trump people. But he did virtually nothing to stop Trump until February, when he was one of 57 Senators to vote for impeachment after Trump’s Insurrection (No. 57) on Jan. 6. It wasn’t enough. Trump has endorsed Rep. Ted Budd (R) for his seat.

6. Bentley Tanner goes to the Super Bowl (GSO)

It’s been a big year for NCA&T. Then-senior Bentley Tanner made his now-alma mater proud when he appeared as a dancer in the Super Bowl halftime show alongside The Weeknd in February. Tanner, who has been performing in various capacities since he was a child, told TCB that, “While I’m not an experienced professional dancer, I am capable of dancing when I want to.”

7. Tasha Thomas case (GSO)

When Tasharra Thomas died at the age of 33 in a Greensboro jail, her mother, Rochelle Thomas-Boyd, was desperate to get the word out. Official records state that Thomas died of infective endocarditis, or an infection in her heart that can damage other organs. Thomas-Boyd, though, has voiced her disbelief at this explanation and has rallied activists to demand further investigation, however the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office denies allegations of abuse. A meeting between Guilford County Sheriff Danny Rogers and Thomas’ mother also became public in February this year.

8. NC Proud Boy (W-S)

Local asshole Charles Donohoe was acting president of the Piedmont NC chapter of the Proud Boys when Trump’s Insurrection (No. 57) went down on Jan. 6. After his Kernersville arrest in March — for conspiring to interfere with law enforcement and obstructing the certification of the presidential election — Second and Green Tavern in Winston-Salem, where Donohoe once worked, was falsely accused of hosting a fundraiser for him. Donohoe remains in federal prison, awaiting trial.

9. Sam Fribush and Charlie Hunter GSO)

Charlie Hunter playing as part of the Sam Fribush Trio playing at the Ramkat in March 2021 (photo still by Andy Tennille)

The acclaimed guitarist Charlie Hunter moved to Greensboro pre-panny, back in 2019. During the lockdown, he started woodshedding with local pianist Sam Fribush, who had fled New Orleans during the pandemic’s worst days. The result was the Sam Fribush Organ Trio, with a new album and a string of live shows in March. Before the end of the year Fribush would become a member of Raleigh band Hiss Golden Messenger, while Hunter would anchor a Tuesday-night residency at the Flat Iron.

10. TCB staff changes (Triad)

After seven years of service, TCB Senior Editor Jordan Green left the paper in March for a gig covering right-wing extremism for the Raw Story. With his exit, Sayaka Matsuoka ascended to managing editor, and Nicole Zelniker came on as a staffer. Longtime Art Director Rob Paquette also moved on in 2021, creating space for new hire Charlie Marion.

11. Dr. Carrie Rosario demands respect (GSO)

During an exchange in April, which soon went viral, Dr. Carrie Rosario put former Greensboro Zoning Commission member Tony Collins in his place. Rosario repeatedly asked Collins to refer to her as “Dr. Rosario,” which Collins did not, prompting the rest of the members to remove Collins from the commission. Collins is a partner in Collins & Gaylon General Contractors in Greensboro.

12. Rhiannon Giddens’ new album (GSO)

Greensboro’s Rhiannon Giddens was supposed to open the Tanger Center in 2020 with a starring role in Porgy and Bess. Instead she fell in love with multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi. The two rode out the pandemic in Ireland where they recorded Calling Me Home, released in April.

13. Nikole Hannah-Jones turns down Knight Fellowship (NC)

The creator of the 1619 Project and possibly the most important journalist working in the US today, Hannah-Jones turned down the offer of Knight Chair at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Hussman School of Journalism after it was revealed in May that the UNC Board of Governor’s would not vote to give her tenure, under pressure from Walter Hussman himself. Hannah-Jones eventually joined forces with Ta-Nehisi Coates to create a program at Howard University instead, another big win in 2021 for HBCUs (No. TK)

14. Bryn Hermansen’s legacy (W-S)

FemFest founder Bryn Hermansen passed away in May this year from a fatal stroke at the age of 30. Months later, organizers Sarah Burns and Billie Feather put on a virtual FemFest in Hermansen’s memory. “We’ve been asking ourselves, What would Bryn do? just throughout this whole process,” Burns told TCB. “At least, I do. I think back to conversations or reread messages about what we were going to do this year.”

15. Randolph Ross Jr. and Trevor Stewart bring home the gold (GSO)

Randolph Ross Jr. and father Duane Ross celebrate after Ross Jr. qualifies for the Olympics on June 20. (photo by Erin E. Mizelle, A&T Athletics)

In June, four track and field athletes from NC A&T State University qualified for the Olympics, with two of them — Randolph Ross Jr. and Trevor Stewart — making the US team. Both men captured a spot on the 4×400-meter relay team and helped the US men’s team bring home gold medals in that race and a bronze medal in the mixed 4×400 relay. The medals were the first for A&T.

16. Patika Starr retires (GSO)

Patika Starr turned a gig at Babylon in the 1990s into a career in the flow arts that transcended — and outlasted — Greensboro’s rave scene. In June she announced her retirement from avant-garde performance to concentrate on an office job.

17. Reno Brasil sexual harassment allegations (GSO)

It’s a widely-accepted fact that the restaurant and bar industry is one of the most exploitative industries for employees. So, it wasn’t completely surprising when TCB broke the story in July about Reno Brasil, the manager of Embur Fire and Fusion in Greensboro, who was accused by several employees of sexually harassing co-workers and assaulting one. As TCB reported, Brasil had multiple inappropriate relationships with servers and habitually commented on coworkers’ and customers’ bodies. As of Dec. 20, Brasil still worked at Embur.

18. Karen Archia’s residency, first show (GSO)

Karen Archia’s new show at the Center for Visual Artists is her first solo exhibit. (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

The former People’s Perk co-owner hosted her first art exhibit in July after working as an artist resident at the Center for Visual Artists. The show included works that Archia created during her six-month residency and signified a broadening of her art practice.

19. Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson’s task force (NC)

Our state’s lieutenant governor is a college dropout who worked odd jobs before going on a televised gun rant during a Greensboro City Council Meeting to become a darling of the unhinged right. As a full-on member of the Council of State, Robinson August initiated the FACTS Task Force in August, basically an online snitch form for lunatics to report instances of “indoctrination” in our public schools. In October, during an appearance at a NC church, he referred to the state’s LGBTQ+ community as “trash.” Advocacy groups — and even some Republicans — have been calling for his resignation ever since, to no avail.

20. Michelle Kennedy leaves Greensboro city council (GSO)

Councilmember Michelle Kennedy read a statement during the June 1, 2021 Greensboro city council meeting that said the city would not be pursuing an independent investigation into the death of Marcus Smith at this time. (screenshot)

In August, at-large council member Michelle Kennedy resigned from city council during a city council meeting. Kennedy was elected in 2017 and her term was set to expire in 2022. According to some news sources, Kennedy left council to take a position as the director of Neighborhood Development at the city but others in the community cited the ongoing tension within city council with regards to the Marcus Smith case (No. 26). While on council, Kennedy was the most vocal member, even calling for an independent investigation into the case in April. Hugh Holston, the former chair of the city’s planning and zoning commission filled Kennedy’s seat after being unanimously chosen by the remaining city council members in September.

21. Kevin Kisner wins Wyndham (GSO)

One of six finalists at the 2021 Wyndham Championship, all of whom finished at -15 on the Donald Ross-designed course at Sedgefield in August, Kevin Kisner made a birdie on the second playoff hole to win the whole thing.

22. Afghani refugees arrive (Triad)

The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan spurred the migration of thousands from Afghanistan to the United States this past August. Triad locals with Afghani heritage braced themselves for the realization that they may never see the country again in their lifetimes, and groups across Greensboro prepared to take in, aid and do whatever they could for the incoming migrants.

23. Fred Cox Jr. killed (HP)

Fred Cox Jr.’s mother Tenicka Shannon speaks out during the rally for her son on June 26. (photo by Carolyn de Berry)

While Fred Cox Jr., an 18-year-old unarmed Black man, was shot and killed by a Davison County sheriff’s deputy in 2020, he was included on our list for 2021 because of the amount of activism around his death that took place this year. Cox Jr. was killed by Michael Shane Hill (No. 24) on Nov. 8, 2020 during a drive-by shooting at a church. Despite the chief medical examiner declaring Cox’s death a homicide, a grand jury failed to indict Hill. Since then, Cox’s mother, Tenicka Shannon, has employed renowned attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci — who represented the family of George Floyd — as part of her counsel. In August, the attorneys filed a civil lawsuit against the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office as well as Hill.

24. Michael Shane Hill, wandering cop (HP)

Michael Shane Hill shot and killed Fred Cox Jr. (No. 23) on Nov. 8, 2020 while he and Cox were attending a memorial. TCB’s reporting uncovered that Hill is a “wandering cop,” or an officer who is fired by or leaves a law enforcement agency, only to hop to another one. Hill, who is currently still employed by the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office, has previously worked for the Kernersville Police Department as well as the Salisbury Police Department. During the end of his tenure with Kernersville PD in September 2011, Hill was suspended with pay and then resigned. The reason for his suspension is not public record. Hill then went on to work at Salisbury PD until January 2019. Then, in February 2020, Hill was demoted, less than nine months before he killed Cox Jr.

25. Ily Ivashka wins W-S Open (W-S)

Ily Avashka, of Belarus, defeated Sweden’s Mikael Ymer to win the 2021 Winston-Salem Open tennis tournament in August at Wake Forest University. The doubles title was won by Marcelo Arévalo of El Salvador and Matwé Middelkoop of Holland.

26. Marcus Smith case continues (GSO)

Three years after the death of their son, Mary and George Smith continue to fight for justice. This year, the family and its supporters pushed the city of Greensboro to settle the civil suit to no avail. The ongoing legal proceedings brought out further information about police misconduct in the city including the fact that police mostly hogtied Black and female victims prior to Smith’s death. Then in September, the family and the wider Greensboro community, sent a letter to the Department of Justice, asking them to conduct an investigation “into racially and sexually discriminatory policing” by the GPD. The suit is ongoing.

27. The Harris Teeter lady (GSO)

It wasn’t a great year for common sense. Nurses and other healthcare workers protested outside of their workplaces (No. 79) against the vaccine and parents showed up at school board meetings (No. 74), citing that critical race theory was somehow racist. But one of the most public and visceral examples of pandemic-induced nonsense came in the form of a middle-aged white lady in a Harris Teeter who began yelling at other customers and management while checking out in September. Despite a mask mandate for the city, the woman entered and successfully shopped at the grocery store without one, making it all the way to checkout before another customer pointed out her gaffe. What ensued was several minutes of the woman screaming profanities at virtually everyone around her.

28. Tabitha Brown goes viral (Triad)

While she may not exactly be from the Triad, Tabitha Brown is close enough that we like to count her as our own. The vegan influencer is originally from Eden and skyrocketed to fame during the pandemic, amassing close to five million followers on TikTok and four million on Instagram. In September, Brown visited the Carolina Theatre in Greensboro as part of her book tour. Brown also signifies the Triad’s growing enthusiasm for vegan culture, as noted in No. 55.

29. JR Smith enrolls at NCA&T (GSO)

Two-time NBA champion JR Smith enrolled at NCA&T for the fall semester in August to pursue a degree in liberal studies and to play not basketball, but golf. He made his debut that month at the Phoenix Invitational, hosted by Elon University at Alamance Country Club, finishing 81 out of 84 players. Smith was originally slated to attend the University of North Carolina in 2004 when he was drafted to the NBA. As of the end of the semester, he has a 4.0 GPA.

30. Marty Kotis’ gaffe (Triad)

Let’s give the Greensboro developer and self-appointed street-art guru his due here: Marty Kotis almost always makes the Triad 100. In 2021, besides bankrolling a few dozen murals around the area, Kotis made the news in November when, as a member of the UNC Chapel Hill Board of Trustees, suggesting that the state’s flagship university stop using “race, sex, color or ethnicity” when evaluating prospective students.

31. Mitch Easter and the Let’s Active Tribute (W-S)

Studio owner, producer and musician Mitch Easter has been based in the Triad area for four decades. Early producer of R.E.M., Easter was included in our list because of a tribute show for his Winston-Salem based band Let’s Active, held at the Ramkat (No. 39) in November.

32. Joseph Lopez killed (GSO)

Joe Lopez kneels next to his son Joseph Lopez’s grave on Dec. 6. Lopez was shot and killed by a Greensboro police officer on Nov. 19 after more than 20 officers responded to a 911 call where Lopez was allegedly living. Three weeks later, his father says he needs to know why his son was killed. (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

In mid-November, Joseph Lopez was shot and killed by a Greensboro police officer while allegedly running out from behind a shed. Since then, his father, Joe Lopez, has been fighting to get more details into his son’s death. Lopez had a history of bipolar disorder and was not armed when he was shot and killed.

33. Kalvin Michael Smith seeks justice (W-S)

Kalvin Michael Smith’s attorneys filed a new motion this December to exonerate Smith five years after he was released on a technicality in 2016. Smith was convicted of assaulting Jill Marker on Silas Creek Parkway in 1995. The motion, filed by attorneys with Duke University’s Wrongful Convictions Clinic, cites new evidence and a new witness.

34. Signe Waller Fox dies (GSO)

Signe Waller Foxworth and friend Kay Doost read along with a statement about the Greensboro Massacre in 2018. (photo by Jordan Green)

Social justice icon Signe Waller Foxworth passed away in December at the age of 83. Foxworth was a survivor of the 1979 Greensboro Massacre, when the Klu Klux Klan killed five and injured ten marchers. Her husband, Jim Waller, was killed in the massacre. Since then, Waller Foxworth has continued to be active in the community and wrote a book called Love and Revolution about the massacre.

35. Mark Meadows should go fuck himself (NC)

Mark Meadows, who moved to western NC from Tampa, Fla. to win his congressional seat before moving to Washington, DC to insert his nose up Trump’s ass, is a genuine insurrectionist (No. 57) and seditionist who actively worked to overturn a free and fair election by spreading lies and exerting political pressure. In December, our publisher invited him to go fuck himself.

PLACES

36. Ghost kitchens take over (Triad)

MrBeast’s ghost kitchen caper is all about quantity over quality, at least according to our reporter. MrBreast, or Jimmy Donaldson, opened Beast Burger in late December as a ghost kitchen, which is when a restaurant leases a commercial kitchen only for delivery. In a TCB review published in January, Nikki Miller-Ka called the food “palatable,” but unseasoned and mediocre.

37. Bull City Ciderworks opens (GSO)

Durham-based Bull City Ciderworks, known for its alcoholic apple ciders made with genuine apple, opened a bar in Greensboro this January in the space formerly occupied by Gibb’s Hundred Brewing. Owner John Clowney told TCB, “A driving force of what we’re doing is showcasing cider that isn’t sugary or super sweet.” Despite COVID the bar’s soft and hard openings both went well, and the bar has continued to thrive.

38. Greensboro Urban Loop (GSO)

Otherwise known as Interstate 840, Greensboro’s Urban Loop neared completion in February with an extension across the north side of the city to North Elm Street. Paving on the next section, which should cross Yanceyville Street, is already set to begin.

39. Winston-Salem’s secret tacquiera (W-S)

Winston-Salem’s secret tacquiera opened this past January, but by March, the family behind the business was fighting for their livelihood after a neighbor reported them to the city. Leydi Lopez and her family started El Sabor Tabasqueno out of their home, advertising through social media. Lopez’s friend has since started a GoFundMe for the family.

40. Ramkat (W-S)

After a devastating 2020, Winston-Salem’s premiere live-music venue reopened in April with strict COVID protocols — vaccine cards required — raising the bar for nightlife safety in the Triad.

41. Hiatt Street mobile home park (GSO)

The residents of the mobile home park on Hiatt Street in Greensboro, otherwise known as the Jamison Mobile Home Park, have been fighting to stay in their homes for months ever since they got notice in May that the land they lived on was being rezoned for a multi-unit apartment complex. So far, the residents have been unsuccessful in negotiating with the land owner, Lynne Anderson of Family Properties or Jerry Wass of Owl’s Roost Properties, the potential buyer. On Dec. 15, Yes! Weekly reported that the residents have until the “end of the Spring 2022 school semester” before the residents have to leave.

42. Beef Burger closes (GSO)

After serving customers for 60 years, Beef Burger — the last remaining Biff-Burger in the country, according to the company’s website — closed in May of this year. Rumors of the restaurant potentially closing took off on social media, prompting hundreds of customers to flock to the store just days before the business officially announced its closure. The company began as a chain of drive-up burger stands in the mid-1950s and donned its signature “roto-broiler” which cooked patties as they spun on a rotating broiler.

43. Weaver Academy (GSO)

Since August, three cars have crashed into the building housing the arts magnet high school in downtown Greensboro. The city has placed steel and concrete barriers at the T-shaped intersection.

44. Parkland and Mount Tabor High School shootings (W-S)

Gun violence is rising across the nation and in Winston-Salem (No. 78), and this was reflected in a spike in school shootings in 2021. A record number of school shootings occurred nationally between August and September, which included shootings at Mount Tabor and Parkland. The Mount Tabor shooting included one student death, while no fatalities were reported in the Parkland shooting.

45. Wherehouse becomes West Salem (W-S)

A new foyer at the West Salem Art Hotel painted by Laura Lashley. (courtesy photo)

The former Wherehouse Art Hotel in Winston-Salem reopened this year as the West Salem Art Hotel. Founder Haydee Thompson relocated, rebranded and recreated the same magic through artist collaborations and creatives pieces, some of which appear as part of the rooms. In September, Thompson told TCB, “The purpose was to help promote artists and sell art and kind of be a living art gallery. Artful lodging and lodging for art.”

46. Essential Hemp raided (GSO)

In September, Essential Hemp and OG Hustler Smoke Shop in Greensboro were raided by Greensboro police, who executed search warrants and seized more than $50,000 in product. Many of the items confiscated by law enforcement were Delta-8 THC products which are sold at shops throughout the city. Hector Sanchez, the owner of Essential Hemp was also arrested and charged. In late December, all charges against Sanchez were dismissed in court.

47. Little Light Soup Co. opens (GSO)

Caitlyn Ryan is the owner of Little Light Bread & Soup Co., a new restaurant that brings a sense of community to home-cooked meals.

While multiple restaurants came and went this past year, Little Light Soup Co., which opened in September, hasn’t gotten nearly the amount of attention it deserves which is why we added it to our list. The little shop, tucked into a strip mall off of Yanceyville Street in Greensboro isn’t the fanciest of digs but offers quality Italian homecooked meals and a charity model to help hungry folks stay well-fed.

48. New Guilford County Animal Shelter opens (GSO)

In October, Guilford County got a brand new animal shelter. The facility, which totaled $15 million, spans 33,000 square feet and has the capacity to house 550 cats and dogs. The building also includes six dog adoption areas and two cat adoption areas. The facility is located at 980 Guilford College Road.

49. Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts (GSO)

The March 2020 opening of the Tanger Center in downtown Greensboro was a casualty of the pandemic. But it finally opened in October with the Broadway touring production of Wicked. The facility has already justified its existence by boosting downtown Greensboro’s economy and bringing more culture to the city.

50. Finnigan’s Wake closes (W-S)

Finnigan’s Wake was one of the first businesses in downtown Winston-Salem that marked the revival of the area. (photo by James Douglas)

The longtime staple of Trade Street closed in October on Halloween. Part of the initial revitalization of downtown Winston-Salem, Finnigan’s Wake was frequented by locals, tourists, college students and a steady stream of loyal regulars, making it a prime meeting place in downtown Winston-Salem. The Irish pub was known for its late-night food and drink, annual St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and the charitable events it sponsored. Spearheaded by owner Philip Kirby, each season could expect a fundraiser for causes such as St. Baldricks, homeless outreach, and a “Giving” tree each year that allowed customers to participate in finding needed items for local families in need. It is included on this list because of its importance in the downtown culture and as the most recent casualty of the pandemic and the current economic state (No. 54) of the service industry.

51. News & Record building back up for sale (GSO)

A sale for the six-acre property in downtown Greensboro that sits at 200 E. Market Street fell through earlier this year, leaving one of the most expensive lots in town abandoned. A November report by TCB found that the property, which has a tax value of $9.4 million though it an active brownfield, was littered with trash and graffiti.

52. Magnolia House reopens as B&B (GSO)

Magnolia House director Natalia Miller stands under the new sign that’s been installed outside of the motel. The sign is a replica of the one that was there when the house was a Green Book site for Black travelers in the ’50s. Half of the original sign is now installed next to the front desk in the motel. (photo by Carolyn de Berry)

After several years of renovations and fundraising, the historic Green Book site reopened as a bed and breakfast in early December. The Historic Magnolia House currently has four bedrooms that are ready to be reserved by guests, each with a different theme corresponding with a guest who stayed at the house in the past.

53. The Megasite (Triad)

We’ve been writing about the Guilford-Randolph Megasite since 2017, when whispers of an electric car factory reached our ears. But it wasn’t until December that the deal was finalized: A Toyota facility that manufactures car batteries, bringing almost 2,000 jobs and more than $1 billion in investment.

54. Greensboro Social District (GSO)

In late December, Greensboro city council passed an ordinance that creates a “social district” in the city’s downtown. The ordinance, which passed 7-2, it allows for customers to walk around with open containers of alcohol including wine, beer and mixed drinks that have been purchased from area bars or restaurants. The district will open in March 2022 and spans from First National Bank Field on the north end of downtown and to Gate City Boulevard. Center City Park is not in the district, but LeBauer Park will be included.

THINGS

55. The great labor shortage (NC)

Early in 2021, rumors spread of labor shortages in multiple industries. More and more people weren’t returning to the old jobs that they had before the pandemic, and employers of many working-class jobs were having trouble filling those empty spots. Accusations of laziness abounded. As the year progressed and unemployment benefits and emergency funds for workers dried up, many saw that the expectation of people returning to old jobs “once the free money runs out” turned out to be wrong. The commonality of open positions is, by and large, jobs that do not pay enough to provide a living wage or benefits, and workers are going to those available jobs that offer more.

56. Vegetarian and vegan food takes off (Triad)

Taylor Dankovich and Kyle Grimsely started Claude’s Vegan Castle to offer home-cooked options for vegans in Greensboro. (courtesy photo)

It’s been a big year for herbivores. For years, the only vegetarian option in the Triad was Boba House in Greensboro and Mozzarella Fellas in Winston-Salem. However, early this year, Mike’s Vegan Cookout, based out of Burlington, started making its rounds to the Triad and Mozzarella Fellas converted to an all-plant based menu and rebranded as Dom’s. An old High Point Chinese takeout place, Dragon City, changed to an all-vegetarian menu and Claude’s Vegan Castle opened their food stall in October. The owner of Dom’s, Brian Ricciardi, is also poised to open a vegan restaurant, Radici, in Greensboro in early 2022.

57. Results of the 2020 Census (NC)

Despite a global pandemic, the decennial Census was able to be completed last year, the results of which created huge changes this year. One of the biggest effects of the new numbers was the addition of a House seat in North Carolina, which means more representation for the state, but just another opportunity for gerrymandering districts (No. 84). The Census also showed a huge shift in racial demographics for the state and the Triad which is now more diverse. Guilford County, for the first time ever is now majority-minority.

58. Trump’s Insurrection (NC)

More than a thousand people stormed the US Capitol in January, at the behest of President Trump, his chief of staff Mark Meadows (No. 32) and perhaps hundreds of other co-conspirators including members of law enforcement and military, elected officials and other criminals. Among them were several North Carolinians, including Donnie Loftis (R-Gaston) who was sworn in as a state rep in October, chosen by the Gaston Republicans to replace Rep. Dana Bumgardner, who died.

59. COVID-19 vaccines (NC)

Diana Giraldo of Wake Forest, NC gets her COVID-19 vaccine at the FEMA-supported mass vaccination site at Four Seasons Town Centre in March. (photo by Carolyn de Berry)

COVID vaccines became widely available to the public starting in January, with frontline workers and medical staff first in line. Kids over the age of 12 became eligible for vaccines beginning in May and children as young as 5 can get vaccinated as of November. Some people who want the vaccine, however, cannot get them for medical reasons or are not as well protected because of immune conditions. “It’s super important people get vaccinated because of populations that are at risk or can’t get vaccinated,” said Jillian Staiti, who has MS and who had been on certain immunosuppressant medications. “I feel like people forget that.”

60. Forsyth County jail COVID-19 cases (W-S)

An outbreak at the Forsyth County jail began in November 2020 and resulted in 237 COVID-19 cases by January 2021, nearly 13 percent of the population. This was second in North Carolina only to the Mecklenburg County Detention Center, which had 278 cases and one death. At the same time, Guilford County had 26 positive cases among inmates. In both Forsyth and Guilford County jails, new residents were quarantined for 14 days and all residents wore masks at the time.

61. Anti-LGBTQ wedding venue (W-S)

(L-R) Brianna May and Kasey Mayfield were denied service at Warehouse on Ivy in Winston-Salem last year because they are gay. Now, they’re speaking out to raise awareness for equality. (courtesy photo)

At the beginning of the year in January, a local same-sex couple made the news after they were denied service by the Warehouse on Ivy, an event space in downtown Winston-Salem. The couple’s story went viral and prompted boycotts of the business and an outpouring of support from the community. Conversations about non-discrimination ordinances (No. 61) also joined the mix and a few months later, Brianna May and Kasey Mayfield told their story in their own words in an issue of TCB.

62. Non-discrimination ordinances (Triad)

Greensboro passed a non-discrimination ordinance in January, which bans discrimination based on certain hairstyles and protects LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination. This is after a 2020 bill banning local governments from enacting such ordinances expired. Greensboro’s policy had previously protected LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination based on “sexual orientation, gender expression or gender identity,” but was expanded this year to protect against discrimination based on “hair texture and hairstyles that are commonly associated with race or national origin.” Activists in Winston-Salem passed a similar ordinance in March after seeing it passed in Greensboro.

63. Amazon protest (GSO)

Renee Wimbish protests outside of the Amazon facility in Kernersville on Feb. 20 (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

As part of the first-ever attempt by Amazon workers to unionize, supporters showed up outside of the Amazon warehouse in Kernersville in early February to support workers and educate about the unionization process. In the end, the effort failed by prompted local and national conversations about workers’ rights and collective bargaining.

64. Judas and the Black Messiah’s Triad connections (Triad)

As Judas and the Black Messiah hit theaters and captivated audiences earlier this year, two Triad natives found themselves connected the movie. Afika Nxumalo, originally from Greensboro, was chosen as one of the artists’ whose song was featured in the film’s trailer. His song, “Chosen,” debuted in a trailer in February. In April, TCB interviewed Lady Jess, a UNCSA alumna, who was tapped to serve as the concertmaster for the film, which was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

65. ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament (GSO)

Duke’s Mark Williams (15) heads up to shoot as Louisville’s Jae’Lyn Withers (24) defends during the first half of Duke’s game against Louisville in the second round of the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament in Greensboro, N.C., Wednesday, March 10, 2021.

The ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament returned to the Greensboro Coliseum in March after getting canceled after Day 2 in 2020, just after the panamanama dropped. This year, a hot Duke team was forced to forfeit their run on Day 3 after a few positive COVID tests, while Virginia had to withdraw on Day 4 after a positive result on the team. Georgia Tech beat Florida State in a final game featuring two teams that only played one game apiece to get there. In October, the ACC began plans to move its home office out of Greensboro, where it has been since the conference was founded at Starmount in 1953.

66. Agapion settlement (GSO)

According to reporting by Yes! Weekly, the city of Greensboro quietly settled with the Agapion family and their business, Arco, for approximately $200,000 in March. Reporting from 2019 by TCB found that in total, the Agapions owed about $700,000 in fines. The family is notorious in the city for being the owners of the Summit-Cone Apartments where five Congolese refugee children died due to a fire in 2018.

67. Asian hate crimes (NC)

In March, a white man went on a killing spree in Atlanta, shooting up three massage parlors, killing eight individuals — many of them Asian. Much like with the murder of George Floyd in 2020, this event spurred a national conversation of awareness around racism against Asians and prompted solidarity efforts like the one by PAVE NC, started by two Greensboro locals. The organization aims to tell the stories of local Asian Americans to better educate the community about the diversity of Asian American identity.

68. Purple streetlights (NC)

Those purple streetlights

Some NC streetlights began turning purple this year, with photos of the eerie glow turning up all over social media. In March, Duke Energy tweeted an explanation: a manufacturer defect that causes the lights “to transition from white to purple over time,” along with a link for people to report them for replacement.

69. Israel-Palestine conflict (Triad)

When the Israeli government stormed the al-Aqsa mosque in May, ahead of both Ramadan and Israel Day, Hamas retaliated with rockets and Triad locals took to the streets to protest the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Maitha Ali, one of the protest organizers in Greensboro, told TCB, “The protests are to support and stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people. When it comes to standing in solidarity, we’re not here to say that Jews don’t have any historical or religious connection with Palestine; they do. We’re just here to say that those connections don’t justify a violent, supremacist state.”

70. Anti-trans bills (NC)

In May, a series of anti-trans bills in the NC House and Senate threatened to prevent transgender individuals from accessing healthcare or transitioning. By the time this happened, conservatives had already introduced close to 100 bills targeting the trans community across 30 states. North Carolina’s HB 358 banned trans teens from playing on high school sports teams that matched the gender identity while SB 514 threatened to deny gender-affirming healthcare to transgender people under the age of 21 and required teachers to out trans students and legalize conversion therapy. SB 515 would have allowed doctors to discriminate against transgender patients. None of these bills passed, but activists remain worried that similar bills could pass in the future.

71. Colonial Pipeline (GSO)

An unknown hacker made Colonial Pipeline Co. the victim of a ransomware attack this past May. Colonial, which is the operator of a 5,500-mile long pipeline, part of which passes through Greensboro, was forced to temporarily cease operations which caused some people to assume there was a gas shortage and line up to fill their tanks.

72. First Triad Comic Con (HP)

High Point’s Black-owned EastGate Comics hosted the first annual Triad Comic Con in May 2021. Vendors sold their own merchandise and attendees arrived dressed as all sorts of characters, from their favorite superhero franchises or childhood cartoons. EastGate Comics employee Daryl Cullins told TCB, “We wanted to bring something back to the Triad. High Point hasn’t had a steady comic shop in over ten years. We’ve been in business for three years, and we’re still growing.”

73. Affordable housing (W-S)

The affordable housing crisis in Winston-Salem reached a critical point this year, as it has across the country. Housing was an issue before COVID, and rents went up across the country 10 percent between June 2020 and June 2021. Developers are looking for ways to build more units, such as converting old motels, and the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem is looking to add units in East Winston. Some government grants have come through this year to help, such as a grant for people living with HIV and AIDS in Winston-Salem.

74. Evictions (NC)

Evictions continued this year despite the federal eviction moratorium. Originally set to expire in June, the moratorium was extended several times throughout the year, but many Triad locals were evicted anyway. In Winston-Salem, there were 226 landlord-tenant cases during the 2020-21 fiscal year, up from 56 the year prior. More than 100 were evictions. Rachael Fern, an activist with Housing Justice Now, told TCB, “That moratorium from the beginning has been so incredibly puny and has put so much burden on people in crisis to educate themselves. You aren’t just automatically covered under that. It’s on you, the tenant, to provide this declaration.”

75. Critical race theory and school board protests (Triad)

Protesters held signs that read “Freedom to choose” and “Mask vaccine test mandates are child abuse” outside of the Aug. 10 school board meeting. (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

In June, a local group of vocal conservatives ramped up their efforts, gathering outside of school board meetings to protest critical race theory, or CRT. As TCB has reported in the past, CRT is a college-level platform that acknowledges that racism is systemic, institutional and pervades virtually every aspect of American society. In response to national calls by conservatives to “outlaw CRT,” the local group Take Back Our Schools, showed up at school board meetings, banged on windows and threatened the Black superintendent through online messages. The same group protested in August against mask mandates as well.

76. Specialty coffee comes to Greensboro (GSO)

Their mission is to serve high-quality, well-crafted coffee in an ethical way. These days, the two are serving up coffee every Sunday at Double Oaks Bed and Breakfast for their brunch events. (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

While vegetarians and vegans applauded the expansion of their options this year (No. 55), coffee lovers also had reasons to celebrate in 2021. In Greensboro, former Tate Street Coffee manager Austin Jeffries and friend Gray Johnston started Borough Coffee in June, becoming one of the city’s first specialty coffee businesses. Loom Coffee Co. also started their roasting business, eventually partnering with Borough, expanding the city’s specialty coffee options.

77. Greensboro city elections delayed (GSO)

City council decided to delay their own election in June, scheduled to be held in 2021, until new districts could be drawn from the 2020 Census (No. 56).

78. Composting services (GSO)

Sun and Soil Farm is collecting food scraps from customers in 5-gallon buckets to turn into compost for their farm. (courtesy photo)

Sun and Soil Farm owners Brittany Peters and Richard Raggi expanded into composting in July this past year, becoming the first commercial composting service in the area. Customers pay $15 to enroll in the program and get a five-gallon bucket to fill. When they bring it back to the farmer’s market full of compost, they pay a few bucks to swap their bucket for a clean one. Peters and Raggi’s business has inspired other local farms to start similar programs.

79. Gun violence (NC)

Gun violence spiked in the Triad this year, especially in Winston-Salem including at Winston-Salem schools in August and September (No. 43). Organizations like Cure Violence, an international organization with branches in Greensboro and Winston-Salem as of this year, have stepped up their efforts to curb gun violence by addressing systemic issues. The organization views gun violence as an epidemic and has used tactics such as sending a mediator to victim’s homes to speak to the families and eliminate the threat of retaliatory violence. “We have to be able to be trusted by our community because we have to have uncomfortable conversations,” said Ingram Bell, the program manager for Gate City Coalition, the Greensboro branch of Cure Violence. “We go where most police officers can’t because they don’t trust the police.” In addition to organizations working to combat gun violence, artist Kyle Holbrook created a mural to the downtown arts scene, depicting a peace sign and the words “Stop gun violence.”

80. Vaccine protests (Triad)

As vaccines became more widely available to people across the country (No. 58), anti-vaxxers came out to protest a growing number of vaccine mandates. One protest, which took place across North Carolina over the course of several days in August, protested vaccine requirements for healthcare workers. Protesters gathered at major hospital systems in Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Charlotte, Durham and Goldsboro. Many of the protesters were not healthcare workers.

81. Freedom Fridge opens (GSO)

The city’s first Freedom Fridge is located in the parking lot of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in the Warnersville neighborhood. (photo by Sayaka Matsuoka)

As families and individuals struggled to pay rent and afford groceries in the midst of the pandemic, a local group in Greensboro kicked off the idea to create a “Freedom Fridge” or a community fridge that anyone could use. The fridge, which opened in September, is stocked by volunteers and community members with things like fresh produce, meat, pantry items and more.

82. Alcohol shortage (Triad)

Worsened by production shortfalls caused by the pandemic in most industries, the state and local alcohol commissions saw their fair share of shortages in 2021. This included a massive lack of inventory within the bar and restaurant industry as well as local ABC stores. The official response from the state commission and local head of Triad ABC were the same; glass shortages, labor issues, distribution issues from distillers, and high demand. The head of the state ABC commission, Zander Guy, resigned in September after TCB’s article outlining the commission’s past history of accusations of malfeasance was published. The shortage is still ongoing, most notably within the Triad ABC distributorship. Governor Cooper appointed a new chairman earlier this month.

83. The Demon Deacon mural (W-S)

Nicholas Schmidt’s mural depicted Wake Forest’s Demon Deacon as a robber baron stepping on houses. The mural was deemed too “political” and was painted over this week. (courtesy photo)

In September, local artist Nicholas Schmidt took to social media after his mural depicting the Wake Forest University Demon Deacon as a robber baron was painted over during Mural Fest. Schmidt, who eventually found a new home for the piece, called the act a “corporate censorship of art.”

84. UNCSA sexual assaults (W-S)

A lawsuit filed in October alleges sexual abuse of minors in the 1970s and ’80s at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. The lawsuit also alleges battery by an instructor and negligence on the part of the administration. One of the plaintiffs in the current lawsuit, Christopher Soderlund, had previously filed a lawsuit in 1995 against the school, but the lawsuit failed to go anywhere.

85. Redistricting (NC)

It took almost 10 years of court battles and decisions by three-judge panels to finally rectify our state’s illegal districts, giving us fair representation in the House for exactly one cycle. The new districts were drawn in November, and immediately ran afoul of the people, enough so that our primary, normally held in March, has been moved to May. Our state House districts aren’t much better, cracking Greensboro into three pieces and giving Republicans a disproportionate majority of seats.

86. NCA&T food robots (GSO)

NC A&T University is getting robots that bring food directly to students (courtesy photo)

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, A&T brought 20 food robots to campus, small, contactless, AI-powered machines that deliver food to students. Students can use the Starship app to order from Qdoba, 1891 Bistro and Paavo’s Pizza, all on campus. A&T became the first HBCU as well as the first North Carolina university to use these robots in November.

87. HPU “Unlearning Anti-Racism” event (HP)

In early November, High Point University came under fire from its student population as well as the wider community after an “unlearning anti-racism” event was discovered by the university’s Black Student Union. While school administrators noted that the event was never approved and the group that had planned to host the event wasn’t sanctioned, many students took to social media to air grievances against what they saw as a wider, racist culture pervasive on campus.

88. Wake Forest Demon Deacons Football (W-S)

The Demon Deacons had the best college football team in the Triad this year, posting their greatest season ever. They went 8-0 until a defeat by Clemson in November, finishing the season at 10-3. They play Rutgers in the Gator Bowl on Friday.

89. [email protected] opens at SECCA (W-S)

As with many other cultural institutions that reckoned with the aftermath of the George Floyd murders in 2020, the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art was no exception. One of their responses was choosing UNCG professor and artist Duane Cyrus to be a guest curator at the museum. The resulting exhibit, [email protected], which opened in November, is a powerful experience that draws together the art of several Black artists from around the globe. Cyrus had this to say about the show: “I wanted to emphasize that Black is comprised of many voices.”

90. Sewage water leak (GSO)

After the TZ Osborne wastewater plant in Greensboro leaked 1,4-Dioxane into the Haw River and Pittsboro’s drinking water in November, Pittsboro officials saw a sharp increase of the contaminant in the town’s water samples. The amount of 1,4-Dioxane found in the water was more than 2,100 times the EPA’s advisory goal. The discharge violated a Special Order between the state’s Department of Environmental Quality and Greensboro, which previously set a maximum daily level of 45 parts per billion of 1,4-Dioxane in wastewater.

91. Nurse shortage (NC)

While the shortage of workers in the hospitality industry has been well-reported (No. 54), those in the medical field are burning out too, almost two years into the pandemic. In November, TCB talked to multiple nurses who shared their personal stories of burnout and offered ways to improve the industry.

92. Alden Capital (Triad)

Hedge Fund Alden Capital made a hostile takeover bid in November for Lee Enterprise’s newspaper properties, which include the Winston-Salem Journal and Greensboro News & Record. Alden, which acquired Tribune Publishing’s news properties in 2020, has a history of “drastic payroll cuts, liquidation of assets and reduction in quality in its near-religious pursuit of profit.” After some maneuvering, Lee and its shareholders rejected the bid in December, and Alden filed suit against Lee for “improperly denying shareholders a say.”

93. Police body cam law change (NC)

A state law which went into effect in early December has made it more difficult for family members of those killed by police to access body-worn camera footage. The change was tucked into the omnibus “Criminal Justice Reform Bill” and requires individuals, like Joe Lopez (No. 33) to petition the courts to access the footage.

94. Boom Supersonic (Triad)

A new jet company making modified versions of the old Concorde is interested in developing a manufacturing site near Piedmont Triad International Airport. Greensboro media got scooped on this story by the Raleigh News & Observer, which dropped in December.

95. The Leandro decision (NC)

The Leandro case dates to 1997 in North Carolina — a judgement ruling that our state was not spending enough on public education to satisfy requirements set forth in our constitution. But resistance from the General Assembly has rendered that decision powerless. That stance became official this December when the General Assembly decreed that the courts don’t have the power to compel the legislature to act.

96. NC A&T State University and Space Force (GSO)

The country’s largest HBCU joined the US Space Force Partnership Program in December, the only university in North Carolina enrolled in the program. It creates “a pipeline for students to pursue aerospace careers upon graduating” as well as research opportunities and other partnership possibilities.

97. Pilot Mountain wildfire (W-S)

Pilot Mountain burns. (photo by Tony White)

Approximately a quarter of the Pilot Mountain State Park burned over a week-long wildfire that consumed 1,000 acres and spread across the top of the mountain, including the famous “knob.” Once known as “Jomeokee,” Pilot Mountain has long been a focal point of the Piedmont Foothills and is a popular destination for many outdoor enthusiasts from around the region. The “Grindstone Fire,” so named, escaped from a campfire in an undesignated area and spread easily due to unseasonably dry and windy conditions. By early December, the fire was 100 percent contained.

98. Abortions and CPC funding (NC)

As the Supreme Court decided a case in Mississippi that would limit abortion rights in the state and set a new precedent for others, North Carolina awarded $255,000 to the Salem Pregnancy Center in Winston-Salem. SPC is a crisis pregnancy center, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to counseling pregnant people against abortions. Many North Carolinians were distraught and angry by the restrictive laws coming out of states like Mississippi and Texas, including the five who shared their abortion stories with TCB in December.

99. Anti-Semitic fliers (GSO)

In December, anti-Semitic fliers were dumped in several Greensboro neighborhoods claiming Jews were responsible for COVID, among other outrageous and false accusations. They were eventually linked to the Goyim Defense League, a hate group from Texas.

100. Juvenile criminal expungements (NC)

An expansion to North Carolina’s Second Chance Act went live in December. The addition automatically expunges certain juvenile records going forward and allows expungements of past records for people with certain crimes listed on their juvenile records. Sen. Michael Garrett (D-Guilford), a cosponsor on the bill, told TCB,  “Sometimes folks make mistakes, and it keeps them from different opportunities. The Second Chance Act allows their records to be expunged so they don’t face those barriers for the rest of their lives.”

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