55. Voting rights trial
North Carolina became the flashpoint for the national struggle over voting rights when the state’s election law — considered the most restrictive voting law in the country — went on trial in federal court in Winston-Salem. The Republican-controlled General Assembly pushed through the controversial legislation shortly after the US Supreme Court struck down significant portions of the Voting Rights Act requiring North Carolina and other states to get preclearance before undertaking electoral changes. Judge Thomas Schroeder has yet to decide the case, but the Advancement Project, one of the plaintiffs, predicts that: “his ruling will have sweeping consequences for the state of voting rights nationwide.”
56. Crafted/Preyer opens
The opening of Crafted: the Art of Street Food and Preyer Brewing, two adjacent businesses sharing a building, represented a significant shift not just for the LoFi neighborhood but also for downtown Greensboro more broadly. A mini parking battle with neighbors ensued after the venues opened, underscoring the changing nature of the area and the expansion of downtown off of Elm Street.
57. New York Times exposé
When a front-page Sunday New York Times investigative piece highlighted the disparate treatment of black motorists in Greensboro in late October, the city sprang into action. TCB Associate Editor Eric Ginsburg contributed research to the article, and a follow up in the New York Times quoted work by TCB Senior Editor Jordan Green. For some, the article dramatically changed the way they looked at the city’s police department and allegations of racial disparities.
58. Greensboro Massacre marker
In May, more than 35 years after the incident, a historical marker for the Nov. 3, 1979 Greensboro Massacre was unveiled not far from downtown. More than 100 people gathered to commemorate the victims of a Klan/Nazi attack on an anti-racist, communist and labor rally in the former Morningside Homes complex, including survivors of the massacre.
59. Central Carolina Worker Justice Center
In September, the Central Carolina Worker Justice Center opened on the fringes of downtown Greensboro in a building operated by the Interactive Resource Center. The worker justice center has since hosted movie screenings, meetings and other labor-oriented events in a space proponents heralded as a new organizing hub. It’s a joint project of numerous local organizations including NC Raise Up, the North Carolina AFL-CIO, Black Lives Matter, the Greensboro YWCA and more.
60. Hornets D-League
The Charlotte Hornets announced in October that it had selected Greensboro as the home for its forthcoming development league team, the Swarm. The minor-league team will play its games, beginning with next year’s season, in the Pavilion at the Greensboro Coliseum complex. It’s a big win for the city, which won out over others in both Carolinas to land the team, and for Triad basketball fans especially.
61. Greensboro College sexual harassment
The 2015-2016 school year started off a little rocky at Greensboro College as one or more first-year students allegedly sexually harassed and heckled fellow students during a performance of a play about sexual assault. The school promptly swung into action, promising a full investigation and saying it would take the matter seriously. But with the semester now over, no public announcement about the end of the school’s investigation ever came, despite a comment from the school’s spokesperson in mid-September saying a statement would arrive “fairly quick.”
62. Maya Angelou estate sale
Though the legendary writer and former Wake Forest University professor Maya Angelou passed away in 2014, her estate sale was held this August. It drew massive crowds for the multi-day event at her home not far from campus, as people traipsed through, looking for pieces of Angelou’s legacy.
63. International Market Centers aborted IPO
International Market Centers is the undisputed heavyweight in the world of furniture showroom leases, controlling 42.6 percent of real estate in High Point’s central business district, according to a 2014 analysis by TCB. So plans by the Las Vegas-based company, which is owned in part by Bain Capital, to go public were closely watched. But the company pulled back from the gambit in May, despite attracting considerable interest from investors. Company spokesperson Eden Bloss said the company’s decision was influenced by volatility in Standard & Poor’s financial ratings and a 6 percent drop in the RMZ real estate index. The company took on significant debt in August 2014 in preparation for the initial public offering. A prospectus put out by International Market Centers hints at some of the company’s challenges: “Our ability to achieve profitability is dependent on a number of risks and uncertainties, many of which are beyond our control.”
64. Coltrane festival
The smooth jazz and R&B that typifies the lineup at the John Coltrane International Jazz & Blues Festival is the musical equivalent of cheap, Chinese imports in the furniture industry — it’s what the current market demands. Still, there were moments at this year’s festival in High Point when artists referenced the iconoclastic legacy of the city’s native son — Poncho Sanchez’s sincere tribute with “Giant Steps,” bassist Marcus Miller’s spiritual depth in his composition “Gorée,” Snarky Puppy’s heady experimentation and the NC Coltrane All Stars’ celebratory rendition of “Body and Soul.”
65. RiverRun/Phuzz Phest
The two festivals have been running concurrently in the month of April in Winston-Salem for five years now. While Phuzz celebrates the local sound in the clubs around town, RiverRun lends weight to the city’s reputation for the arts in the more highbrow theaters and gathering spaces. The weekend when they converge is the most exciting in the city.
66. US Figure Skating Nationals
For eight days in January, the best American skaters convened in Greensboro. Winners included Jason Brown, men’s singles, and Ashley Wagner, women’s singles.
67. National Black Theatre Festival
The National Black Theatre Festival comes to Winston-Salem every two years, with dozens of performances and artists ranging from seasoned pros to experimental scenes. In August, the city gave off the vibe of the Harlem Renaissance.
68. USA Olympics Gymnastics Championships
Over six days in June, elite US athletes, many of them bound for the Olympics next year, competed at the Greensboro Coliseum.
69. National Folk Festival
For a glorious weekend in September, the north end of downtown Greensboro played host to the International Folk Festival, the first in a three-year booking. Behind headliner Mavis Staples, scores of acts graced a half-dozen stages with highlight performances from Rhiannon Giddens (See No. 1), New Orleans piano professor Henry Butler, bluesman Marquise Knox and more.
70. Trans rights
The high profile enjoyed by “Orange Is the New Black” actress Laverne Cox — who visited Wake Forest University in October — and Caitlyn Jenner’s public transition lifted trans rights to new prominence across the country in 2015. NC Trans Pride held its second annual statewide trans gathering at Caldcleugh Multicultural Arts Center in Greensboro in September. And in November, members of the trans community and supporters protested Greene Street Club in Greensboro after Jonathan Green, a young, gender-nonconforming person, was ejected from the club after attempting to use the women’s bathroom.
71. Participatory budgeting
The city of Greensboro implemented participatory budgeting in 2015, following a split vote by city council the previous October to adopt the program. Some of the ideas put forward during public-input meetings to determine how to spend $100,000 in each of the city’s five city council districts include embedding light reflectors along bike lanes and installing stone chess tables in neighborhood parks. Residents will get to vote on how to spend the money in May 2016, around the same time city council finalizes the budget.
72. Winston-Salem bond projects
In 2015, Winston-Salem residents began to see the results of $139.2 million bond that was approved in November 2014. In late August, City Manager Lee Garrity announced an aggressive schedule to begin spending funds on police district stations, a sprayground, lazy river and observation deck at local parks, and sidewalk and greenway construction in outlying areas of the city, complementing the city’s impressive downtown renaissance.
73. Immigrant ID
Greensboro stood out as progressive beacon in a state that has taken a hard turn to the right in the past five years in two respects (see Item No. 86). In September, faith leaders joined Greensboro and Burlington police officials in a press conference called by FaithAction International to support the use of immigrant IDs. Rep. Debra Conrad, a Winston-Salem Republican, was among the cosponsors of a bill with the Orwellian title the Protect North Carolina Act that made it illegal for municipalities to recognize the IDs. The following month, in what must either be considered a monumental act of vindictiveness or naked pandering to his conservative base, Gov. Pat McCrory came to Greensboro to sign the bill into law.
74. Sex trafficking
Anna Malika, a young woman in Greensboro who survived sex trafficking, has become an advocate for women who have been victimized by educating law-enforcement officers and advocating for legislative reform. She told her story to TCB intern Sayaka Matsuoka in June. Rachel Parker, the anti-sex-trafficking program manager at World Relief High Point, said that large events like the High Point Furniture Market and the ACC men’s basketball tournament tend to drive spikes in sex trafficking because of a temporary boom in the population.
TCB got a handle on the epidemic of opiate addiction, centered on the supply point of High Point but affecting people across the Triad, in 2015. The epidemic has accelerated through the over-prescription of pain pills and subsequent crackdown, leading many addicts to switch to heroin. We published a story in January about four women who struggled with heroin addiction, and followed up in September with a story about Jen McCormack, a friend of Senior Editor Jordan Green, who died after undergoing a heart attack in the Forsyth County jail while awaiting trial on prescription drug fraud charges. While the circumstances of McCormack’s death remain unclear, the story brought to light that many local jails across North Carolina do not guarantee medication-assisted therapy, which is considered the standard of care and particularly critical to the health of pregnant women.
Winston-Salem City Council approved a new ordinance regulating busking in April, but the issue was largely driven by two amateur musicians working the late-night bar crowds on West Fourth Street while pushing well-to-do residents of the Nissen Building to the brink of madness. Since the ordinance was passed, the city hasn’t seen much busking, but outdoor music is alive and well, thanks to outdoor stages at Artivity on the Green and Bailey Park, and street parties hosted by Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership.
77. Liquor house parties
High Point police put a handful of liquor-house operators in the impoverished east-central core of the city on notice in 2015 that they would be watching, responding to escalating complaints from neighbors about gunfire, loud music and cars impeding passage of emergency vehicles. The police arrested various guests traveling to and from the parties, but had difficulty finding anything to charge the operators with, and to date the city has yet to take legal action to shut the parties down.
78. The barcade
We’ve been lobbying in the pages of TCB for a barcade — an arcade for grownups with video games, pinball and table sports — almost since the beginning, but in 2015 one opened in downtown Winston-Salem in the form of a barbecue joint. Camel City BBQ Factory came online in the spring, and devoted its top floor to the enterprise.
79. Aggie football
The NC A&T University Aggies finished out the season at 9-2, and beat Alcorn State in the Georgia Dome to win the HBCU National Championship at the Celebration Bowl in December. As always, they drew a crowd during the school’s massive homecoming weekend in October.
It would be hard for any community to avoid talk of guns in 2015, a year that saw dozens of mass shootings in this country, some of which made the news. A TCB cover story in October explored suicide by gun. The General Assembly passed new gun legislation in June, an omnibus bill that legalized silencers, took the database of gun owners and concealed-carry permit holders off the public record and allowed people to bring their guns to funerals, parks and places that sell alcohol. Feel safer?
Greensboro’s signature fabric had something of a comeback year, as a pop-up museum documenting the city’s history with blue jeans and overalls went on display at the Depot during the National Folk Festival and a commitment by Wrangler to market the city as Jeansboro. Boutiques like Hudson Hill in Greensboro and Centennial Trading in Winston-Salem also sated the public’s appetite for apparel made from small-batch materials.
82. School vouchers
In July, the state Supreme Court upheld a law allowing children to use public dollars to attend private schools. This school year, High Point schools took in 167 vouchers up to $4,200 while Winston-Salem issued 190. Greensboro private schools benefited the most, with 217 students attending school on vouchers, 123 of them at the Greensboro Islamic Academy, second in the state behind Trinity Christian School in Fayetteville.
83. Rural-urban divide
At some point, the old political saying goes, you gotta dance with the people who brung ya. And because the Republican majority in the General Assembly came into power largely on votes from outside our cities, which are fairly uniformly blue, payback came in the form of a plan to redistribute sales-tax revenue from the places it was collected — cities — to rural counties with little business infrastructure. This left urban Republicans like Rep. John Blust in a quandary over a party line that adversely affected their districts.
84. Food insecurity
This is the year that the Greensboro/High Point metro area earned the infamous distinction as the region with the highest rate of food insecurity in the nation, a designation only slightly worse than where the two cities previously sat. In some regards, the title served as a wake-up call to elected officials and civically minded residents, who jumped into motion. The cities are in the process of implementing new programs, carrying out studies and brainstorming new tactics to address the deep-seated problem.