From the 1930s to the present, five generations of Secrests, Buies, their relatives, friends and descendants have gathered at Riverton, a "suburb" of Wagram NC during summers, frequently attending the annual July 4th picnic. July 4, 2009 was no different.
What a sense of PLACE, along with a sense that our ancestors are looking down on us:
Glimpses of the Beyond.
Photos from five generations at Riverton are here. Nearby is Cypress Bend Vineyard.
I'm glad to see there is an effort to change the river's name from "Lumber," suggesting commerce, to the more poetic and historical Lumbee.
I was honored to introduce my niece, Eve Vance Fleishman, at a concert attended by 100 people at the Storytelling Art Center in Laurinburg, NC. I said Eve emerged from the womb singing, and she has been doing so ever since. Jan Schmidt recounted the evening for the Laurinburg Exchange, calling it "perfect." The concert was dedicated to the memory of my mother, Lillian Secrest Buie, Eve's "mima," who she was very close to. Eve brought happiness to my mother's final days in 2006, and gave her the peace to pass on.
A professional singer in Nashville, Eve has a new CD, "Peace or Drama." (Eve's MySpace Page.) Daniel Dennis of Prime Cut Records says of it: "With a solid lineup of self-penned and well-seasoned songs, "Peace or Drama" marks the debut of Eve Fleishman, encapsulating the serenity of Norah Jones with the swagger of Erykah Badu....This album is a joy to listen to, and with the stellar musicians creating some serious magic, this is one album that you must own."
I spent the weekend in my native Scotland County, NC. For several years, this county of just over 36,000 people has had one of the highest unemployment rates in the state (still an awful 16.6 percent). But I sense that after years of decay and despair, Scotland County, located about 20 miles south of Southern Pines and 30 miles south of Fayetteville, may be bottoming out. "We're resilient and we're coming back," one former neighbor told me tentatively. The unemployment rate has actually dropped two-tenths of a percent from its peak. The county has lost a lot of industry over the last two decades -- manufacturing, textiles, agriculture. But instead of looking to big corporations to come to town and magically fix the local economy, the county finally seems to be discovering unique assets from its own deep-rooted sense of place.
The annual storytelling festival is just one project of the Storytelling Arts Center of the Southeast, located in an old department store in downtown Laurinburg. "The mission of the Storytelling Arts Center of the Southeast is to preserve and enrich storytelling arts for people of all ages through education, performances, research, workshops and writing," according to the website, which outlines the center's various strategies.
Pinehurst, a golf, equestrian and retirement community for the wealthy, is only 25 miles away in Moore County. Benefiting from proximity, Scotland County has already established its own golfing, equestrian and retirement communities, much cheaper than what's offered in Pinehurst.
Scotland County's resilient spirit is generating some tangible byproducts. After years of losing industry, it now has some new industry to trumpet. Nature's Earth Pellets, creators of animal litter, animal bedding, and fuel pellets from recycled wood waste, has announced that it plans to invest more than $12 million and create 98 jobs over the next three years.
The county's resilience is obviously fragile, and it is still a long way from restoring the relative economic vitality it experienced decades ago. But positive steps are clearly being made, with lessons for other small communities that are hurting economically.
Here's some good news that has so far mostly been ignored by major North Carolina media: parts of the state may be insulated from the national recession as it receives a huge economic stimulus. Not enough media attention has been paid to the huge influx of more than 40,000 soldiers, civilians, contractors and their dependents to central North Carolina by 2013 as Ft. Bragg receives commands resulting from Base Realignment and Closing decisions. As many as 20,000 could arrive by fall 2011.
Vernon Jones, 46, CEO of Dekalb County, GA, is a native of Laurel Hill in Scotland County, NC. He is running for the U.S. Senate from Georgia as a conservative Democrat, for the seat held by conservative Republican Saxby Chambliss. He gave the 2008 commencement address at his alma mater, North Carolina Central University in Durham.
Trish D. from Laurinburg: "My mom and I went to see President Bill Clinton at St. Andrew's
College, on Friday, April 4th. We appreciated his ease, accessibility
and genuine concern for the middle class, education and tax reform.
Like most in attendance, I was pleased to hear that Hillary plans to
gradually remove our brigades out of Iraq. When I shook his hand after
his speech, I thanked him for giving us hope. It would be good to have
them both back on Pennsylvania Avenue."