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Look to Art and Face-to-Face Conversations in 2017 

Real Talk

Everybody knows it's a bad idea to sit alone staring at a computer screen, reading the comments sections of news websites. But we still do it. And in them we find some of the vilest words and ideas that human beings are capable of thinking and expressing.

On Sunday, Feb. 12, I made the mistake of reading the comments section below news stories about the Moral March in Raleigh, and noticed the repeated use the word "thug," which has pretty much become a direct stand-in for the "N" word over the past several years. It's the word of choice for those who show a palpable disdain for people of color — and for the people who march hand-in-hand with people of color in peaceful demonstrations against the erosion of decency and justice in our city, state and nation. For this reason, I think it is time that we retire the word "thug." There are plenty of perfectly good synonyms for it. We won't be banning the word from the pages of Creative Loafing (not yet, anyway) when it's used in proper context, but I will personally discourage it.

What I won't be discouraging is soulful, intelligent and precise dialogue about the arts and politics in Charlotte. In this week's cover story, Kia O. Moore looks at how artists are continuing a positive, though sometimes uncomfortable dialogue about race and diversity in the wake of the September uprising and HB2 controversy that put a global spotlight on Charlotte.

Kia has chosen five activist-artists to watch in 2017. These people are creating works of art that spark conversations and show a different Charlotte from the one we saw in national and international news accounts. Theirs is a Charlotte that is much more than just a city of bankers, fundamentalists, NASCAR fans and angry racists and homophobes. It is a city full of young people, many of them millennials, who have transformed Charlotte into a vibrant, multicultural hub of creativity in the Southeast.

One of those artists, rapper La La Specific, tells Moore that the September uprising had been a long time coming. "What surprised me was that the city did not explode in more of an outrage," she says in "Dark Matter: 5 Charlotte Artists Who Will Not Be Ignored in 2017." "Although the national news media created a narrative that portrayed the city in shambles, it wasn't. I'm proud of Charlotte for that."

La La Specific and many of her fellow activist-artists believe the uprising was necessary, but that it is now time for healing and art-making. Noele Lofton and her partner Leara McKinney have launched the UrbanZüe Art Gallery, a series of events designed, she tells Moore, to "promote staying positive in the community and reminding people we have to stick together and uplift the community through the arts and by sharing our talents."

Some folks in Charlotte have been promoting that kind of creativity for decades. In the music section, Jay Ahuja, the executive producer of a new documentary, Live from the Double Door Inn, writes about the scores of musicians, both local and national, who have graced the stage of the storied blues club that closed earlier this year after 43 years. Ahuja and his production team talked to several of the musicians and regulars who have frequented the club over the past four decades to see shows ranging from blues and jazz to country, rock and music from other parts of the world.

"You look at the pictures on the wall. You don't even need to say anything, you just look at the pictures . . ." guitarist Tinsley Ellis says in Ahuja's story about the making of the documentary, "How to Make a Movie Rock and Roll."

When I was reading those comments on news websites over the weekend, I did notice a few people expressing love for those who marched hand-in-hand with their brothers and sisters in Raleigh. Those comments were made by the kind of people you might see at places like the already-missed Double Door Inn, or at the McColl Center, or at a coffee shop in NoDa — places where ideas are bounced around in real time among real people, not on a computer screen by someone sitting alone and isolated.

And that's what this week's CL is all about: Getting out and talking with real people about real things that you can do about real actions, positive or negative. It's about the very human act of creating.

mkemp@clclt.com

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