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'A voice for the black community': Artists finish new mural in downtown Greensboro

GREENSBORO The new mural outside downtown’s Elsewhere museum and artist residency displays more than its creators’ artistic talent.

It tells a story.

A group of 11 artists, most of them black, created the expansive mural with acrylic exterior house paint on plywood that covers the storefront at 606 S. Elm St.

They came at the invitation of Elsewhere Executive Director Matthew Giddings, who provided paint and made sure artists got paid.

Artists named it “Inspire Change for a Collaborative Future.”

And they completed it in less than four days this week.

“I’m really overwhelmed with the final product,” artist Darlene McClinton, who led the effort, said Friday as she watched passersby pose for photos.

It joins murals on plywood up and down Elm Street, created when protests began locally and nationwide over police brutality of black people and the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd. He died at the hands of police officers there on Memorial Day.

“What I would love for this mural to do is to be a voice for the black community,” McClinton said.

This expansive mural depicts the life of a black woman, from childhood to adulthood. Against a yellow background, a young girl reaches up to grab a seed that becomes a white flower, symbolizing innocence and purity.

“She doesn’t know about racism,” McClinton said. “She doesn’t realize that the color of her skin will later be an issue.”

The next image portrays her as a middle-school student with a red flower, starting to see police brutality and negative images of black people in the media and news.

She becomes a young adult, with her fist raised, a symbol of awakening consciousness.

The last image shows her as an adult, looking back at her life.

A large, colorful carved butterfly stands in the center, with smaller butterflies throughout the work.

“Butterflies represent change and transformation,” McClinton said.

Flower petals have been created from foam spray, adding to the mural’s 3-D look.

Artists wanted the mural to be interactive, so that passersby would stop to pose for photos in front of it as they did Friday.

McClinton said she doesn’t know how long the mural will remain in front of Elsewhere.

She hopes it stays in the city, perhaps at UNCG’s Weatherspoon Art Museum.

“I am hoping this mural can educate and inspire people, which it does,” McClinton said. “Even if we’re going through a tough time right now, with black people being killed because of the color of their skin, even if it comes from a source of pain, we still have pride. We are still resilient people.”

Greensboro's Pulpit Forum calls for change in policing, minority contracts and schools.

GREENSBORO The Rev. Steve Allen of Shiloh Baptist Church understands the anger ignited by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in the custody of Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day, sparking protests across the county and demands for police reform and racial justice.

Yet Allen and other spiritual leaders of Greensboro’s Pulpit Forum made a point to present their recommendations to the city of Greensboro “with love” Friday.

“We can’t control anger,” Allen said. “Anger is the voice of people who are tired of being ignored.”

At a Pulpit Forum news conference Friday at downtown’s Governmental Plaza downtown, a handful of ministers broke down their concerns, each of which came with recommendations, and many of which they’ve called for in the past.

The Rev. Wesley Morris of Faith Community Church, who stood alongside protesters in recent weeks, said, “At my heart, I am a pastor. I know that it is high time for what is in our heart at this moment to be known to the community.”

Police brutality and “the lack of transparency and proper oversight of such matters” was the first concern the faith leaders addressed.

Earlier in the week, Police Chief Brian James announced department policy modifications, including the banning of choke and strangle holds.

Allen said the group commends the work James is doing.

“We believe he has the right heart,” Allen said. “We believe he understands the problems of the community. And we believe he needs to have time to try to bring about the changes that need to be made.”

Though steps are being made in the right direction, the Pulpit Forum said, more needs to be done, including the request to immediately settle the case of Marcus Smith, a black man who died in the custody of Greensboro police officers who hogtied him in 2018.

“It is only by the grace of God that this young man’s death did not become the flashpoint for the wildfire of rage, angst and destruction that is now engulfing our nation,” the Rev. Nelson Johnson said.

Johnson said the city should acknowledge and apologize for the role the police department played in the 1979 Greensboro Massacre. The violent broad-daylight clash between weapon-carrying white supremacists and a protest group left five anti-Ku Klux Klan marchers dead and 10 others wounded, including Johnson. Police were nowhere in sight.

Moving forward, the Pulpit Forum recommends the city work with the community to establish a citizen police review board.

The ministers also touched on the local economic inequalities for minority-owned businesses. The Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise was established in Greensboro in 1986, but Allen cited a disparity study conducted that covered fiscal years 2011 to 2016.

The study revealed that the city awarded Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise firms only 4.94% of prime contracts during that time.

“White firms have received 95% of all contracts awarded by the city,” Allen said.

The Pulpit Forum recommends the city immediately adopt and implement the recommendations of disparity studies and also award 35% to 40% of all city contracts to black-owned companies.

The pastors urged Guilford County commissioners to “do justice to our children and their schools,” calling it “fiscally irresponsible and morally reprehensible to deprive children of a sound education today and a bright economic future tomorrow.”

Increased funding for school repairs, mental-health offerings, technology and enrichment activities were among the group’s recommendations.

“We have been going to City Hall, going to county commissioners for the last several years, really bringing all of the needs and demands of the people,” Allen said.

“For some reason, they want to continue business as usual,” he said. “If business as usual continues, you see what happens. You’re witnessing that all over this nation. The people are tired.”

Check out the full list of concerns and recommendations of Greensboro’s Pulpit Forum.

An interesting article in today's newspaper

No help: NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace’s role as an activist has won him fans but not sponsors. Page B3

Families question high number of COVID-19 cases, 12 deaths, at Greensboro nursing center

GREENSBORO — Maple Grove Health and Rehabilitation Center had recently come under investigation by state health officials after questions arose about the number of cases being reported there.

Now, new data is shedding light on the huge gap in what the facility is reporting.

On Friday, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services said 57 people — eight staff members and 49 residents — at the facility at 308 W. Meadowview Road have tested positive for the highly contagious virus and 12 residents have died.

On Tuesday, data from state health officials showed only 11 residents at Maple Grove had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by this new strain of coronavirus.

The report also said that no staff members had contracted the virus and no deaths were reported.

Despite numerous attempts by the News & Record, Maple Grove officials haven’t offered any reason for the disparity.

Nonetheless, Maple Grove is now classified by state health officials as having an ongoing COVID-19 outbreak — one of seven such congregate-living facilities in Guilford County.

The low number of cases Maple Grove had reported were called into question after Cathy Hartman — whose grandmother, 88-year-old Nellie Smith, died there last week — came forward with evidence that there may be other unreported cases.

“How did the numbers change so significantly from just two days ago to now?” Hartman asked Friday. “Is my grandmother one of those? ... As far as we knew, she was not considered a COVID death.”

Smith was at the facility recovering from a stroke in February, Hartman said.

According to Hartman, the doctor who signed her grandmother’s death certificate wasn’t aware she tested positive for COVID-19 two days before her death.

The doctor told Hartman he hadn’t seen her recent medical records, which are kept at the facility.

Hartman said she has now been told the death certificate will be revised to include COVID-19 as a cause of death.

“I’m just flabbergasted now at the changes in these numbers in just two days,” Hartman said. “I’m glad they’re being accurate. But it’s just a little too late.”

Denise Lentz of Greensboro said her 80-year-old mother, a resident of Maple Grove since January, is now in the hospital fighting for her life. Her mother was tested for coronavirus on May 29.

On Thursday morning, she was taken to the emergency room at Moses Cone Hospital.

“I was appalled to know” the latest numbers of positive COVID-19 cases and deaths of Maple Grove residents, Lentz said by phone Friday evening. “I don’t get how it happened.”

Families of Maple Grove residents have received at least two letters, Lentz said, about the number of cases at the facility. She said they fall significantly short of the numbers reported Friday by state health officials.

Now, Lentz waits for news about her mother’s condition between calls to nurses. She said her mother was later transferred to the former Women’s Hospital, a Cone Health facility designated for treatment for only the sickest of COVID-19 patients.

“What I want to know is why did (Maple Grove) misrepresent their numbers?” Lentz asked. “Aren’t they supposed to be doing everything they can to prevent this?”

As coronavirus cases spike, officials say NC is in ‘first wave,’ needs to flatten curve

RALEIGH — North Carolina is experiencing its “first wave” of coronavirus cases as the percentage of people infected with the respiratory disease continues to rise, according to the the state’s top health official.

“That timing is very much linked to the last two to three weeks,” said N.C. Secretary of Health Mandy Cohen at a news conference Friday. “It’s very much linked to when we started reopening.”

The state’s rate of coronavirus cases remains among the highest in the country and has continued to rise, she said.

Testing has reached record levels statewide, Cohen added, so more positive cases would be expected. But she said that’s not the only reason for the spike. The disease is growing through communal spread.

North Carolina began its first phase of a three-part plan to reopen the state on May 8. Cohen said the state “flattened the curve” — or didn’t see an early surge — to suggest the recent increase is a new escalation.

“This isn’t a second wave. This for us is a first,” Cohen said. “I think this is our first experience at an increase. It reminds us that this virus is here and we have to live with this virus, because we don’t have a vaccine. We don’t have a cure.”

Gov. Roy Cooper said Friday he has not made a decision about moving into the next stage of reopening the state, calling the COVID-19 numbers “sobering.”

Cooper eased restrictions on May 22, entering Phase Two of the state’s plan. A transition to Phase Three, or an interim stage Cooper calls Phase 2.5, could come June 26.

Cooper said Friday his administration has not made a decision on the June 26 date but said it’s still on the table.

“I know people are tired of this virus,” he said. “It’s been hard on everybody. But it’s still deadly.”

Positive COVID-19 tests stand at 10% of all results, Cohen said, and she wants it to drop closer to 5%.

The total number of cases in North Carolina passed 40,000 on Friday, marking an important milestone.

And on four days this week, cases have exceeded 1,000.

“It’s the pace of the increase that is concerning,” Cohen said.

A week ago, Cooper vetoed the bill that would have allowed bars to reopen and restaurants to double capacity.

This week, the legislature passed a new bill that is a combination of the bar bill that also would reopen gyms. That bill is on Cooper’s desk awaiting his signature or veto.

Cooper said he will review the legislation about reopening bars and gyms and said, “obviously we would rather do it through an executive order.”

Cooper has said that officials look at data daily and want to look at trends over a period of time before they are “comfortable to turn that dimmer switch up just a little” and loosen more restrictions.