Behailu Academy’s awards go to Thomas Davis, Stuart Scott

The Charlotte Observer
City News
Saturday, November 22, 2014

Behailu Academy, a nonprofit after-school creative arts enrichment program, held its first Mosaic Awards ceremony and fundraiser Nov. 14 at Carolina Golf Club on Old Steele Creek Road.

At the Mosaic Awards, there was food, entertainment and a silent auction of Behailu’s students’ artwork. The painting on the right is titled Different Perspectives.

At the Mosaic Awards, there was food, entertainment and a silent auction of Behailu’s students’ artwork. The painting on the right is titled Different Perspectives.

Two of the awards recipients have been involved with Behailu from the beginning. They are Thomas Davis, Carolina Panthers linebacker and founder of the Thomas Davis Defending Dreams Foundation. The other honoree is ESPN SportsCenter anchor Stuart Scott.

When accepting his award, Davis said, “The past doesn’t determine the future. … I’m living proof that it’s not where you start that determines where you finish.”

The Davis family also donated $15,000 to the transitional housing program.

The Scott family accepted the award on behalf of Stuart Scott. Due to his long battle with cancer and ongoing treatment, he was unable to attend.

His sister, Susan Scott, of Durham said, “Young people everywhere deserve to have the experiences we’ve had. … Stuart would have said Behailu represents everything that’s important to him.”

The third honoree of the evening was the 2014 Burroughs Wellcome Fund N.C. Teacher of the Year James Ford, a ninth-grade, social studies teacher at Garinger. He got involved with Behailu 1 1/2 years ago and now serves on the board.

Ford said he likes to help kids who have been “written off and labeled and help them see themselves” beyond the stereotypes.

About Behailu he said, “There’s so much that doesn’t get taught in the classroom and at home. … Through the arts, they free themselves and learn more than they’ve ever set out to know about who they are and what they want out of life.”

More than 200 people attended the awards banquet, which raised $35,000 for the current creative arts program and a future transitional living housing program for young male adults who’ve graduated from Behailu. The housing program is expected to begin in 2015.

Since opening in October 2012, the program boasts a 100 percent graduation rate. The program is open to middle and high school students in Charlotte.

Deedee Mills, Behailu’s founder, said students in the program have found their voice.

Deedee Mills, left, stands with Behailu students as they read their thoughts about Behailu on colorfully decorated, paper hands. The hands were displayed on every table in the country club. Areanna Townsend is holding the mic and reading a poem she wrote about Behailu.

Deedee Mills, left, stands with Behailu students as they read their thoughts about Behailu on colorfully decorated, paper hands. The hands were displayed on every table in the country club. Areanna Townsend is holding the mic and reading a poem she wrote about Behailu.

Garinger High School 11th-grader Areanna Townsend proudly stood in front of Mosaic Award attendees and expressed how Behailu Academy affected her.

“We paint our joy on the walls,” she said.

Another 11th-grader from Garinger, Charles Holland privately said, “When I am fighting with family and friends and when I feel misunderstood, I have Behailu.”

Similar sentiments were voiced throughout the night by Behailu’s students.

Director Lori Krzeszewski said they hosted the recent event to change more lives and recognize other difference-makers in the community.

Krzeszewski held the mic and tried to gain composure for her final speech. With glassy eyes and tear-stained cheeks, she talked about what Behailu had meant.

“To be at a place where children don’t want to go home, it’s a beautiful problem,” she said. “However, we need to do more. What do you say when a kid tells you, I don’t have anywhere to stay.

“I can’t get rid of these kids. … There’s a big need to serve them and their families beyond what we are doing now. We hope to build a community center in NoDa to support all ages, from toddlers to grandparents. This is going to happen.”

Krzeszewski optimistically glanced at Mills and said, “Deedee and I always say that if you keep doing the right thing for the right reasons, doors will open.”

Posted in Achievements and Awards, Charlotte Observer, Education, Entertainment/Creative Arts, Events and Galas, Newspaper, Philanthropy, Traditional Journalism | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Burmese store owner keeps strong ties to culture, those who need help

The Charlotte Observer
South Charlotte News (North Division)
Saturday, November 15, 2014

Thanei Taithio proudly stands behind the counter at his convenience store, Taithio Family Store on the corner of Richland Drive and Monroe Road, greeting customers in their native tongue – Burmese and Chin.

Thanei Taithio said the most challenging thing about resettling in the United States was learning to budget money. Families lived in large-extended family, communal homes, and household budgets didn’t exist in Burma.

Thanei Taithio said the most challenging thing about resettling in the United States was learning to budget money. Families lived in large-extended family, communal homes, and household budgets didn’t exist in Burma.

He opened the predominantly Burmese ethnic store three years ago. He said he’d always wanted to open his own business.

“If you work hard and stay healthy, this is the land of opportunity,” he said.

Taithio knows. He’s lived where there was no opportunity.

He grew up in northwestern Myanmar, formerly Burma, in the Chin State in a town called Falam. It is a metropolitan area but is too small to be classified as a city. It’s a site where roughly 100 villages converge to do business. There, he studied theology at Zomi Theological College, married his wife, Manghrin, and they had their firstborn son, Zalan Luai Taithio.

In August 1988, after years of ethnic minorities being suppressed under the reign of Ne Win, student democratic groups led an uprising known as “8888.”

The groups demanded restoration of democratic government. The effort failed and resulted in continued military reign. Many ethnic minorities were killed for having democratic affiliation.

Taithio said, at age 22, he had been part of Falam’s democratic student group and had to flee with his brother, Run Bik.

Taithio had to leave behind his wife and child, and he and his brother moved to nearby Mizoram, India. Taithio lived there for three years. His family joined him in 1992, and they moved to New Delhi a year later.

There he found work as an interpreter and translator for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. He worked and studied theology at Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and he came to the United States in 2001.

“When I was young, in Burma, we couldn’t hope; we didn’t know where our next meal would come from, and we were dependent on our parents,” he said. “India was worse. Our future there was uncertain.

“Here, we have a chance to grow, and our children can prosper.”

Taithio, 49, has lived in Charlotte since June 2006. He has three sons and rents a house near Fairview and Providence roads.

Before opening his store, he worked as a caseworker at two refugee resettlement agencies, Interfaith Refugee Missionary in New Bern – their first home in the U.S. – and Carolina Refugee Resettlement Agency in Charlotte.

“I was very happy to help them settle here, find jobs and enroll their children in school,” Taithio said. “I could help them, because I know what it feels like to be there – feeling stuck in-between and suspicious.”

Taithio said he has helped approximately 2,000 Burmese refugees settle in Charlotte.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In 2013, he said he decided to concentrate on building his business and spending more time with his family. However, he still helps the community.

“I have a family of five (Burmese refugees) staying in my home now while they wait for their apartment to be ready,” he said.

He also has worked to create a Chin Christian service at Park Road Baptist Church every Sunday and established the Chin Community of North Carolina, which he said will hold a Chin New Year in Charlotte in October 2015.

“I want my children to know where they come from. We are American citizens, but we are also Asian. And that’s important,” he said.

Fellow Burmese families enter the family store. The adults look through rows filled with rice steamers, fish broth, sesame and bean nut snack packs, and candied dried fruit. One young mother approached the counter with government paperwork. She needed Taithio’s help filling it out.

“I still help people, when they need it. They know they are always welcome here,” he said. “That’s another reason I opened this store, to give them the sights and scents of home.”

Posted in Business, Charlotte Observer, Civic and Government News, Human Interest, Human Rights, Newspaper, Philanthropy, Traditional Journalism | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Hip-hop culture finds ‘Next Level’ in Bangladesh

The Charlotte Observer
City News
Saturday, November 15, 2014

Singer, songwriter and beatmaker JocElyn ellis and professional DJ Andre “A-Minor” Barden recently traveled to Bangladesh to teach hip-hop.

On Nov. 4, the two went to the country as part of Next Level, an international cultural exchange initiative created by UNC Chapel Hill’s music professor Mark Katz. The program selects U.S. hip-hop artists to travel with one of six residency teams to Bosnia-Herzegovina/Montenegro, India, Serbia, Bangladesh, Senegal and Zimbabwe. Each residency team contains 4-5 DJs, emcees, beatmakers and dancers.

Their job is to teach hip-hop technical and creative skills, while also discussing and exemplifying conflict resolution strategies and U.S. diplomacy to international youths.

Courtesy of jocElyn ellis JocElyn ellis said her album, “Life of a Hologram,” was a two-year project that reflects a time in her life when she was trying to find herself. A singer, songwriter and beatmaker, Ellis recently traveled to Bangladesh to teach hip-hop as part of the Next Level program.

Courtesy of jocElyn ellis
JocElyn ellis said her album, “Life of a Hologram,” was a two-year project that reflects a time in her life when she was trying to find herself. A singer, songwriter and beatmaker, Ellis recently traveled to Bangladesh to teach hip-hop as part of the Next Level program.

JocElyn ellis is a 27-year-old banking professional who lives in north Charlotte and has been singing and playing piano since childhood. She composed her first song at age 12 and started playing in a band, D4G, at age 16.

She moved to Charlotte from Durham at age 18 to attend UNC Charlotte, where she graduated in 2009 with a degree in international business. Ellis released her first solo album, “Life of a Hologram,” in November 2013.

She calls her music neon folk – a mixture of urban, electronic and folk music. Ellis said her beats and musical baselines are inspired by hip-hop, and that influence came from her mentor and album co-executive producer Benie Beatz.

“Hip-hop represents something that transcends cultures,” she said. “It’s the unification of something so ingrained in all of us.”

Ellis said she hopes to spread a message of love, unity and authenticity.

“It’s all about vibe,” Ellis said. “ The truth of what the moment means to you, and you have to live and embrace that moment.”

Barden, 30, got into music after he was hurt during a college wrestling match at UNC Chapel Hill. He said he started working as a music promoter; then, in 2007, he was asked to help deejay at UNC’s Rams Head Dining Hall.

COURTESY OF DJ ANDRE “A-MINOR” BARDEN “Music allows me to speak more clearly than I do a lot of the time,” DJ Andre “A-Minor” Barden said. Barden says he doesn’t like to be the center of attention, but through the Next Level program, he was recently able to travel to Bangladesh to teach hip-hop.

COURTESY OF DJ ANDRE “A-MINOR” BARDEN
“Music allows me to speak more clearly than I do a lot of the time,” DJ Andre “A-Minor” Barden said. Barden says he doesn’t like to be the center of attention, but through the Next Level program, he was recently able to travel to Bangladesh to teach hip-hop.

“I accidentally blended two songs together,” he said. “ After that, I got lost in the music for hours.”

Barden became a success on the local club scene and left school. In 2010, he performed well in hip-hop competitions, such as the Winston Salem Hip-Hop Summit and Red Bull Thre3Style battle in Charlotte. He then became part of Jukebox Heroes DJ Crew, a community of DJs from across the state.

In 2011, Barden gave his demo to Katz for one of the professor’s music classes. Katz then offered a music class on the art and culture of the DJ, and he asked Barden to co-teach the class. Since spring 2013, Barden has co-taught three classes.

Barden has lived in Charlotte the past two years. He regularly works as one of the Charlotte Hornet’s digital DJs.

“There’s not much in the world like music,” said Barden, who lives in Plaza Midwood. “You don’t even have to speak the same language to understand it or to connect through it.”

Barden said he will teach some technical aspects of his craft on the trip, but it’s important not to get consumed by the rules.

“The founding purpose of DJing is no rules,” he said. “The most important part is learning to read the floor. … You have to be a sociologist without a degree, read and react.”

Next Level was funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in September 2013.

Katz said he applied for the grant because he’d been teaching hip-hop classes and using the genre to reach out to minorities and the poor.

“The program the State Department was advertising complemented what I was already doing, so I decided to apply,” he said.

The Bangladesh residency program takes place through Nov. 17. Calvin Hayes, cultural affairs officer of the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka, is helping coordinate Next Level’s cultural connections and facilitate workshops.

“This is the first time ever a group of American hip-hop artists have visited Bangladesh,” Hayes said. “This is sure to break barriers and forge new bonds.”

Posted in Charlotte Observer, Entertainment/Creative Arts, Events and Galas, Human Rights, Newspaper, Philanthropy, Traditional Journalism | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Company Takes Old Shipping Containers to New Level

SpareFoot
The SpareFoot Blog
Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Boxman-Pic3

Courtesy of Boxman Studios

 

From the moment you pass through the standard brick-front façade—the face of every building at Woodland Business Park in Charlotte, NC—and enter Boxman Studios, you step into the experience.

Boxman-Pic1A shipping container frame used as a canvas for graffiti art by local artists hangs in the waiting area. Reception desks are outfitted with the ends of shipping container, and the walls in the office corridor pay homage to Malcolm McLean, a North Carolina native known as the “father” of the shipping container.

 

Around the world, ship, rail and truck cargo such as food, furniture and electronics is stored and transported in these hulking metal boxes.

 

‘Experiences Are Paramount’

In essence, every product made by Boxman Studios pays homage to McLean. The company’s decommissioned shipping containers usually are stripped to the bones and revamped into chic, modern spaces used as venues for various events and trade shows; retail pop-up stores; and semi-permanent and permanent buildings.

Founder and CEO David Campbell said: “The shipping container is the starting point. … Experiences are paramount.”

This business-to-business company understands that in order to make its clients happy, satisfaction is the ultimate goal. Satisfaction at Boxman Studios means creating environments that draw people in and encourage interaction, such as The Field House, designed for Korean automaker Hyundai.

Boxman Studios Hyundai

Courtesy of Boxman Studios

 

Boxman Studios created this college football venue for Hyundai.

Revving Up for Hyundai

Jim Mitchem, marketing director at Boxman Studios, said the company’s relationship with Hyundai began in 2013. Hyundai wanted to create the ultimate college football fan experience as part of its “Show Your Loyalty” campaign.

Boxman Studios produced several hospitality venues that had easy-to-interchange football branding elements, as well as a lounge with flat-screen TVs and gaming areas. The venues were equipped with RFID technology so fans could share their experiences via social media.

The ultimate fan experience ultimately was successful, and Hyundai renewed the campaign again this football season. This is just one of the many examples of Boxman Studios taking a brand’s idea and turning it into a one-of-a-kind space.

Inside Job

All of the work, whether it’s for Hyundai, Google, BMW, Hewlett-Packard and Nike or other clients, is done in-house.

After the sales team wraps up a deal and project managers are assigned, the design team enters the picture. Two designers create a layout for the project that fits the client’s demands, while also adhering to safety standards.

Next, the containers are geared toward the project’s specs. The entire transformation process happens inside the company’s 66,000-square-foot warehouse at Woodland Park. The manufacturing team consists of experts in motorsports, carpentry, automotive design, construction and Hollywood set design.

Oreo Trending Vending Lounge

Courtesy of Boxman Studios

Boxman Studios built the Oreo Trending Vending Lounge.

Skyrocketing Revenue

The Boxman Studios formula has paid off. The company saw its revenue soar 3,074 percent in three years, from $136,194 in 2010 to $4.3 million in 2013; Inc. magazine ranked the company 120th on its most recent list of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S.

All of the company’s success stems from a reusable steel box and one man’s tenacity to turn it into something useful.

David Campbell, the founder and CEO, stumbled across an article on refurbished shipping containers in 2009. Within a few months, he’d bought one and started having it cut open and built into … something interesting.

Campbell said: “At first, I just thought, ‘If I can at least make something fun for tailgating at [Carolina] Panthers games, I can justify buying it to my wife.’”

Although he never got his own tailgating experience, Campbell’s company has gone on to create cutting-edge experiences for football fans and many other consumers.

Boxman-Pic5

“Experiences are the most influential part in all our lives,” Campbell said. “That’s why our constant catchphrase here is ‘This is how what you do affects me.’”

Posted in Achievements and Awards, Brand Journalism, Business, Professional Blog, SpareFoot, Sports | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Lancaster County 1-percent sales tax referendum on the ballot

The Charlotte Observer
South Charlotte News (York, Steele Creek, Indian Land)
Sunday, November 02, 2014

Lancaster County voters will decide this week whether they want to continue a one-percent sales and use tax.

The new tax would begin in 2016 and last for up to seven years. The sales tax would pay for:

  • Upgrading the public safety radio system.
  •  Upgrading Lancaster County Library structures and systems.
  •  Resurfacing state and county roads.
  • And to create a forensics crime laboratory for the sheriff’s office.

The curent 1-percent sales tax was approved in November 2008 and will expire at the end of 2015. The proceeds pay for the 33-million-dollar, newly-constructed courthouse.

The proposed sales tax would not increase the current 7-percent sales tax in Lancaster County. However, if approved, it would continue the 7-percent tax from 2016 up to 2023 and cover the new projects.

The county also will sell bonds worth $16.5 million. The sales and use tax money would pay-off the bond/bonds principal and interest. The bond money will allow the county to quickly start some projects instead of waiting years for the money. The bond money would be spent this way:

  • $12 million for resurfacing roads.
  • $4.5 million for upgrades to the public safety radio system.

The sales and use tax money would break down like this:

  • $238,000 for the forensics crime laboratory.
  • $3 million for completion of the public safety radio system.
  • $8 million for Lancaster County library upgrades.
  • $14 million for completion of the road resurfacing project.

The total cost for all projects is $41,738,000.

Projects needed

According to Indian Land Fire Chief Joe Pezzuti, upgrading the public safety radio system is crucial.

“We have spotty service at best in the Panhandle (Indian Land),” said Pezzuti, 55, who lives in Sun City.

“These (improvements) may mean more to the Panhandle than all of Lancaster County … I can name numerous incidents where we’ve needed to communicate with bordering cities and counties and couldn’t because the system is outdated.”

The proposed $7.5 million covers the cost of a new public safety radio system for law enforcement, emergency medical agencies and fire services. The funding includes cost for a radio system engineer to determine the most effective and cost efficient radio system for the county.

The $26 million dollars proposed for road resurfacing improves roads from the Panhandle south to the county line. The bond money will resurface a collection of the worst roads. Some of the roads on the bond list include: Indian Land’s Little River Road, Henry Harris Road and South Winds Drive.

The proposed money for the forensics crime lab would give the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office the ability to process drugs and forensics evidence locally instead of sending material to the State Law Enforcement Division in Columbia.

Public comment

The public had until May of this year to submit comments to the Capital Project Sales Tax Commission and the projects included in the final proposal were agreed upon in September.

The ballot states that a ‘yes’ votes “in favor of imposing the tax for the stated purposes and authorizing the issuance and sale of bonds in connection therewith.”

S.C. District 16 Representative Greg Gregory has lived in Lancaster for 41 years. He said he believes the reauthorization of the sales tax has merit. “The best thing about a sales tax is it is equitable. Property tax is not. This proposal allows all projects to be paid for by all the people, plus North Carolinians shopping in Indian Land. In York County, 40 percent of the funds for its “Pennies” projects have been contributed by outsiders.”

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