The Crazy Purple Lady, Newsweek Man and W.
"I was incredibly obnoxious to him all the time," recalls former NBC News producer and documentarian Alexandra Pelosi. During the presidential campaign of 2000, then 29-year-old Pelosi followed candidate George W. Bush around the country, producing sound bites for the nightly news. "My job was to maintain NBC's relationship with Bush," she explains. But Pelosi had another side project in the works. In addition to collecting sound bites for the network, she began gathering footage of Bush using her own mini DV cam. The product is an hour and 15 minute long documentary called Journeys With George. In it, Pelosi explores the tedious life of a press pool journalist. From photo op to photo op she hops, following "the pack" of mainstream journalists shadowing Bush around the country.
There's Bush riding a snowmobile. There's Bush eating Cheetos. There's Bush ribbing Pelosi for her crush on a fellow journalist Dubya refers to simply as "Newsweek Man."
"For him to reach out to me was kind of cool," says Pelosi, who has returned the favor with a documentary that portrays Bush as a benevolent bumbler, a kinder, gentler, mouthpiece of industry who coyly avoids discussing anything of substance, preferring to instead repeat the same tired speeches at every whistle-stop. Then it's back to his campaign plane for a snack and a nap.
At one point, Pelosi asks Bush if he can sleep at night certain that all of the people he's put to death are absolutely guilty. The question gets Bush's back up a bit, and we later see him asking Pelosi why she came after him like that. For a moment, there's some tension. But soon Pelosi and the rest of pack are skipping off to another campaign stop, careful not to step on the candidate's toes.
When Maria Vallecillo started her waitressing shift at The Flying Burrito in Chapel Hill two Mondays ago, her co-worker, Carlos Villatoro, told her that his brother Julio was in the hospital--a victim of a home-invasion robbery and shooting in Durham the previous night. An hour later, Carlos got a phone call telling him that his 27-year-old brother had died of his injuries. Another man, Antonio Diaz, survived the shooting at the apartment on a dead-end street near the Few Gardens housing project in East Durham."I took Carlos home and his family was all really upset," Vallecillo says. "They don't speak English and they called me to see if I can translate. Carlos' brother was in his house that Sunday and somebody broke into the home, shot him in the head and they took clothes, because he had no money. It was really hard to explain."
While the number of homicides in Durham is holding steady--and in Raleigh, is dropping--attacks on Latinos continue. Earlier this month, the Durham cops filed more charges against three men accused of running a robbery ring that targeted Latinos. Among their 40 crimes were two home invasions in which victims were pistol-whipped.
Three years ago, Latino leaders in Durham responded to a wave of similar attacks on Spanish-speaking immigrants--many of whom live in high-crime neighborhoods and keep their money at home--with a wave of community organizing. The result was stepped-up police activity and the creation of a Latino credit union.
Ivan Parra, one of the founders of the credit union and El Centro Hispano in Durham, says that while things have improved since that time, Villatoro's death is a grim reminder that more needs to be done. "It's scary and frustrating that these same things keep happening over and over," he says.
Anti-immigrant feelings stirred up since Sept. 11 have made many Latinos wary of going to the police or testifying in court, Parra says. One thing that would help, he adds, is more bilingual officers on robbery and homicide squads. "We need to be collecting as much information as we can from members of the community to respond to the situation," Parra says. "If nothing happens, the criminals will think it's easy to kill and rob Latinos."
The credit union has helped many recent victims of robberies and homicides by collecting donations to replace stolen belongings, pay for funerals and support survivors.
At The Flying Burrito, Villatoro's co-workers have been raising money to help his family send Julio's body back to El Salvador for burial. On March 30 the restaurant hosted a benefit lunch and has to date raised $2,200.
Kim Jones, the restaurant's office manager, says she's been reminded that attacks like the one on Carlos' brother happen often in the Triangle.
"His neighborhood is known in the Latino community as the 'wicked neighborhood' because it's so unsafe," she says. "But it seems like most people just ignore these crimes."
To make a donation, stop by The Flying Burrito, 746 Airport Road in Chapel Hill, or call Phil Campbell at 967-7744.
A Capital Issue for the Capital City
The city councils of Asheville, Cary, Charlotte, Durham, Greensboro, and Winston-Salem have all adopted resolutions in favor of a moratorium on the death penalty in North Carolina. Who's missing from this list of the biggest towns in the state? The Raleigh City Council has never voted on the issue, a lacuna that moratorium proponents hope will be filled--in their favor--this year. The push for the moratorium is coming at Raleigh City Hall from two directions, you might say. Advocates from the north and west are part of the Wake County Coalition for a Moratorium Now, whose chair, Margaret Toman, was drafting a letter to council members when we talked to her last week. Toman's group last year helped put Cary on the list of municipal government backers--now up to 15 statewide, with three more small towns scheduled to vote in April--and it's looking for advocates to help the cause in the 10 other Wake municipalities as well.
But Toman's group isn't well-represented in South Raleigh, meaning it hasn't attracted many African-American supporters. That's why she's so excited that the Rev. Joe Connelly is starting a South Raleigh Coalition. Connelly, whose business card lists him as "Pastor & Chief Dreamer" of Celebration UMC Church, 2808 South Wilmington St., "is a real dynamo," Toman says.
"We need to do a lot of education with the Southeast Raleigh population," Connelly himself says. "In the first place, we need to educate the community on what the moratorium is--and that it isn't about whether you're for or against the death penalty." Moratorium advocates argue that, in North Carolina as elsewhere in the country, capital punishment is meted out in biased fashion, with race and the ability to pay for a good lawyer the biggest factors in whether a murderer is executed or given a life sentence instead. Even supporters of capital punishment should expect it to be fair, they say.
Connelly's group meets next on Friday, April 8 at noon at the church--right by Andrews Market, you can't miss it, he says--and the church will show the movie Hurricane, about the murder conviction of boxer Ruben "Hurricane" Carter, later overturned, on April 24 at 7:30 p.m.
Toman's letter, meanwhile, is expected to initiate a process that will see Mayor Charles Meeker refer the question to the city's Human Resources & Human Relations Advisory Commission, a group of 18 people idled during the Fetzer-Coble years. Indeed, the last time the HR&HR commission tried to do anything, back in '96, it resulted in an official city policy that all the advisory commissions were to stop offering advice unless asked for it by the council. (The issue, back then, was the decision of the Wake school board to quit naming schools after people--e.g., Broughton HS, Sanderson HS--without ever having named one for a black person.)
With Meeker's election, the advisory councils are again able to advise on their own, but just to underline the point, the HR&HR Commission will be asked to give the moratorium issue a full airing around town before the council votes, Toman says. Neither she nor Connelly has polled the eight council members on the question thus far.
The ultimate objective is to persuade the N.C. General Assembly to enact a moratorium on executions in 2003, its next "long session."
Beam Us to Some New Parks, Raleigh
A heads-up to anyone in Raleigh who wants a park. Or a program in a park. Or just some special glade, forest or rolling pasture protected from the bulldozers. The city will be rewriting its comprehensive plan for parks and recreation over the next year, and the time for citizens to say what they want starts now. Right now, in fact. The nonprofit group People for Parks notes that the push, push, push folks have been making for more citizen involvement in parks planning has yielded "only two" public meetings on the new comp-plan, and they are: (1) Wednesday, April 3, 7 p.m. at the Raleigh Convention and Conference Center, on facilities for central and south Raleigh; and (2) Thursday, April 4, 7 p.m. at Lynn Road Elementary School, for North Raleigh facilities.Now, you'd think that parks people and the city's parks and recreation department would be the closest of buds, but those who followed the battle over Pullen Park last year and the recent throwdown at Moore Square know that ain't necessarily so. Thus, Marsha Presnell-Jennette, a card-carrying parks person, wants people to understand that the department is lobbied actively and regularly by the organized youth sports leagues (Little League, the Capital Area Soccer League, etcetera). The leagues want regulation sports facilities and lots of them. On the other hand, if your tastes run to verdant meadows, say, or a place to rollerblade, don't assume the department is going to put any in the comp-plan "if you don't show up and say so," she warns.
"The danger is that the elderly, people who enjoy passive recreation and people who just want something a little different will be left out," Presnell-Jennette says.
The comp-plan hasn't been revised in a decade, according to Jamie Ramsey, People for Parks executive director. Once it's redone, anything that's not in it is going to be tough to get. "In short, the comp plan rules," a Ramsey e-mail advises.
So here's one idea Ramsey's throwing out early: If the state really does close Dorothea Dix Hospital and sells off the land--as the Easley administration is apparently intent on doing--Raleigh should step in and buy some of it for parkland. Nearby Pullen Park, the city's old jewel, is full to overflowing a lot of the time. Buy some of the "beautiful land" on the other side of Western Boulevard, she suggests, and thereby link Pullen, the main N.C. State campus, the new Centennial campus, the Farmers Market and South Raleigh.
Wow. Put it all together with the people-mover in N.C. State's master plan, and--no, that's way too cool for Raleigh. Isn't it? If you can't make the meetings, comments can be sent in writing to firstname.lastname@example.org or conveyed via the regular meetings of the city's Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, which usually meets at Jaycee Park, 2405 Wade Ave., on the third Thursday of the month, 5:30 p.m.
Send all digs, ribs, jabs, barbs and tips to: email@example.com or call David Madison at 286-1972 ext. 154.
Trotline is illustrated by V.C. Rogers.