Monthly Archives: November 2016

The Power of Local History

SEABROOK SAYS: Our article writer today is Amanda Holland, the new director for the Kessell History Center located in the Loray Mill.   I know you will find her article an enjoyable read.  In a minute or two, you will learn a lot about the folks and organizations that created success at the Loray.  NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

In 1929, all eyes were on Gastonia, North Carolina. As the “Spindle City” was on strike, the country, and many parts of the world, watched to see how the strikers and officials worked things out. Once again, all eyes are on Gastonia, North Carolina, this fall. A community has come together to celebrate its history that has for so long not been shared or discussed. I am, of course, talking about the Loray Mill and mill village renovations, and the opening of the Alfred C. Kessell History Center at Loray Mill.

The History Center displays a permanent exhibit on the history of the mill, including the 1929 and 1934 strikes, Firestone’s long and impressive legacy, and the community that rallied together to save the mill from demolition. Today, the History Center and renovated mill represent revitalization of an area of town long forgotten. History isn’t always pretty, neat and tied with a bow. But there is beauty in that. Being able to learn where we as a society have come is crucial to understanding where we are heading. Many locals are unaware of Loray Mill’s story in entirety. It’s time to change that and celebrate our local history. For some who walk in the History Center doors, they are reliving their working years, not to mention having their experiences validated by having it preserved. Some are learning what it was like for their parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents to work at the mill. The Loray/Firestone Mill represents so much for so many people. From a community feeling at work to a neighborhood full of people who looked out for one another, it is rare when I hear something negative about the mill, company, or co-workers. Many thank me, yet it’s important to note that this has been a tremendous group effort.

If it weren’t for Firestone deciding to donate the mill to Preservation North Carolina in the mid-1990s, if it weren’t for Lucy Penegar and Jennie Stultz rallying volunteers or educating the community on the importance of the mill, if it weren’t for Rick Kessell wanting to honor his father and grandfather who each had long legacies working at the mill, if it weren’t for UNC Chapel Hill working tirelessly on research, exhibit design, and “Digital Loray”… then the History Center and the spotlight on the mill’s history wouldn’t be the full brightness it is today.  Such a group effort is a testament to the power of local history. These are all locals striving to preserve, present and celebrate local history. It isn’t always glamorous, but it does not have to be. What it does have to be, however, is explanatory, educational and validating for those impacted. Gastonia, North Carolina is historically important, and should be celebrated as such.

There is no other time than now to research, engage, and celebrate our collective history and narratives. The Alfred C. Kessell History Center’s role is to help people better understand the history of Loray/Firestone Mill. My hope is that people will repeatedly visit, learn something new each time, and feel good about the community in which they live.

Amanda Holland
Director, Kessell History Center
Loray Mill, Gastonia, NC

Gaston Together- Be Engaged

SEABROOK SAYS: Future leadership is an absolute essential if Gaston County is to move ahead.  Gaston Together is right now creating a plan that begins community-wide action on November 15th.  Please encourage the younger generation (ages25-40) to engage now.  Connect with Donna Lockett.  NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

In 1997, a group of community leaders with foresight decided to launch a unique concept in Gaston County. A non-profit organization was developed with a mission that would tackle big Community Challenges by engaging the citizenry and working to avoid duplication of efforts in our community.  Gaston Together:  Communities of Excellence grew out of this effort.

Over the last nineteen years, Gaston Together has addressed many such challenges in our community. Some “solutions” have remained under its administration such as the “Pride in Gaston Traveling Tour” for third graders and the Gaston County MLK Unity Awards (honoring citizens in our county who build bridges of unity across lines of race, religion, gender, culture and geography in Gaston County.)  Others, such as “Keeping Families Intact”, now the Resource Connection at the YMCA , were transferred to other entities for sustainability.

One initiative developed by Gaston Together in its very beginning and still going strong today is the Gaston Clergy & Citizens Coalition (GC3.) The GC3 is a non-denominational ministerial association that provides faith-based leadership to address community issues.  Recently, they have created and signed a covenant with Law Enforcement in Gaston County including the Sheriff, the Chiefs of the County and all municipal police departments. The idea behind the covenant is to be proactive in Gaston County instead of reactive to community unrest; to develop a closer working relationship among clergy and law enforcement in Gaston County in an effort to prevent local protest events such as those experienced nationally.  Significant pro-active events since then have included a clergy/law enforcement breakfast to encourage relationship building, a gathering at the MLK Plaza to thank and pray for police following recent violence against police across our country, and a clergy specific police academy developed by the Gastonia Police Department.  Twenty-five Clergy members will take part in the training this fall.

The newest major initiative of Gaston Together is our Civic Engagement process. In an effort to attract and retain the 25 – 40 age group in our county and after several months of community review and cross-sector focus group sessions, in late fall Gaston Together will launch a community process to engage our next generation of leaders for Gaston County.  The underlying objective of this initiative, as the name implies, is to provide a vehicle for citizens- especially the next generation of leaders – to become engaged in endeavors that will improve our community’s vitality and quality of life.

These are just two specific examples of on-going Gaston Together initiatives, but there are numerous opportunities for people in this community to participate. So how can you help and what is the first step?

Find out what interests you. Whether it is just simply working with your neighbors to improve your street/neighborhood or getting involved by providing your opinions and desires to the elected leaders. Think of your county and its future; think of how it will drift if we all do nothing. We are the last county in the Charlotte Metro to experience tremendous growth. Be a part of deciding how, when and where that growth will happen. BE ENGAGED!

For more information about Gaston Together, please visit our facebook page, website: gastontogether.org, or call 704-867-9869.

Jaggy Anand
2016 Gaston Together Board Chair

 Donna Lockett
Gaston Together Executive Director

The Election Nightmare

SEABROOK SAYS: Charlie Gray is right on target. Our political and election system is a huge mess and extremely expensive. Unfortunately, what we have and use is totally outdated. Failure to improve shows the poor quality of representation by our reps in DC. NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

Every day at 10:15 am and 4:15 pm, I get a robo call on my cell phone from “unavailable”. Other times during the day, I get calls from California, New York and Nebraska. I, of course, do not answer them but it is maddening.

I understand that some people get dozens of robo calls each day. They are generally for political contributions. I have subscribed to “Do Not Call” but to no avail. It seems once you have contributed to a political candidate, which most good citizens desire to do, you are placed on a list. This list apparently becomes available to candidates and political causes from everywhere.

After November, there will be a slight break before the next election cycle begins. There seems to be a constant election, considering states offices and the House of Representatives. There is only one conclusion – our political system is broken. The elections last too long and are way too expensive. Instead of having one national primary on the same day, they are spread out from February to June. It is estimated that the democratic and republican candidates will spend over one billion dollars on each election. And in the end, who do we get – a dead-locked Federal government that cannot function.
Our constitution was drafted almost 250 years ago for 13 mostly agrarian states. It does not work for 50 diverse states in the 21st Century. Each state gets two senators, regardless of population. The president is elected by the Electoral College. This system has resulted generally in the Congress being controlled by one party and the Executive Branch by another. The Supreme Court is determined by which party gets to appoint the majority of justices, who serve for life.

Now, with constant and biased media bombardment, the population has been herded into opposing camps, resulting in bitter confrontation and more gridlock. Families and good friends are often estranged or scare to mention politics for fear of alienating someone. The whole thing is a mess and is tearing our country apart. The winner of this year’s presidency will be the candidate who gets less hate votes than the other.

Are we stuck with this terrible situation forever? What can we do? I’m afraid we will have to change our parties, our primaries and maybe our constitution. Abolishing all parties would be best and candidates could be judged on their qualification and positions. Primaries should be on the same day. Campaigns should be limited to six months, three for primary and three for general election. Campaigns should be financed by public funds, allocated by a candidate’s acceptability by the public as determined by polling data. States should be represented in Congress by population and everyone should be elected by popular vote. Gerrymandering should be prohibited and voting districts established by independent panels in each state, subject to court review to determine impartibility, political and robo calls should be prohibited.

There are many other changes that could be made to ensure our political process is fair and enjoyable for the candidates and the public. But to ignore the problem will only make it worse, leading to frustration, hate and division.

I don’t want to spend my remaining years dodging phone calls, talking about the weather and watching the hate and division grow in our country. Do you?
Let’s demand that something be done.

Charles Gray
Former attorney