by Brian Clarey
The convergence of a monthly dance party, an annual youth-voter drive and an international music festival sounded like a swell idea, but the ShoHaDaFroMoFest proved to be a tough room for the nametag set.
Inclement weather forced the Show of Hands/Dance From Above /Mosaic Festival event indoors and upstairs, to the Crown atop the Carolina Theatre in downtown Greensboro, and while the space was perhaps more intimate, it was difficult for the candidates who showed to get up close and personal with the prospective voters, as is the usual custom at Show of Hands.
Early in the night, District 3 incumbent Justin Outling posted up on the Greene Street sidewalk outside the building, all the better to push the message. His challengers in D3, Michael Picarelli and Kurt Collins, soon followed suit.
District 4’s Nancy Hoffmann spent her time by the doors, grabbing potential constituents like a candidate who had a race on the line instead of one running unopposed — which, by the way, she is.
Up in the Crown, the international flavor of the Mosaic Festival took the form of a food court featuring Ethiopian and Bhutanese cuisine, and a performance by Nigerien hip-hopper Ismo One, who killed it even though I believe he was rapping in French.
Pro tip: People from Nigeria are Nigerians. Nigeriens are from Niger.
Later, Dance from Above would lend a couple DJ sets to complete the trifecta.
It’s the sort of melding of pop culture and politics that I’ve been a fan of since I picked up that first issue of JFK Jr.’s George magazine, which the internet says came out in 1995 though it seems impossible that 20 years have passed.
A scene like this allows the candidates to relax a little, whether they intend to or not. Perhaps the informal atmosphere was what enabled District 1 candidate Dianne Bellamy-Small, who lost the seat by a dozen votes to Sharon Hightower in 2013, to tell me, while we were hanging out on the stairwell, what happened to her when she was dating a white man in 1970 while studying at community college in Brevard.
She was 19, but the man was 21, so he took umbrage when a college official gave them some trouble one night when he dropped her off at her dorm.
“He said, ‘I’m a man! You can’t tell me what to do,’” Bellamy-Small said. “I was like, ‘Wait a minute, now. They’ll kick me out of here like it was nothing.’”
Out on the sidewalk, kilted bagpipers did a warm-up wail before performing at the annual Greensboro firefighters awards, held downstairs on this same night, adding yet another facet to this Frankenstein monster.