New season for Chronicle, other community mainstays

The new Forsyth County Central Library

New season for Chronicle, other community mainstays
December 28
05:00 2017

2017 started with President Barack Obama, beloved leader of the United States, adored by the black community, leaving that office. Donald Trump won the Electoral College but not the popular vote. Many people didn’t think Trump would replace Obama, who said Obama was not born in the United States.

Amid that scenario, the biggest overhaul of bus routes in Winston-Salem Transit Authority’s history began on Jan. 2. There are 30 newly drawn bus routes with more than 1,000 bus stops. The routes have been redesigned to cut down on ride time and include new crosstown routes. Winston-Salem Transit Authority (WSTA) Director Art Barnes said the first day went smoothly for bus drivers. Throughout 2017, the bus routes were tweaked.

The fee for riding the bus remains $1. However, the fee changed for riders of Trans-AID, which gives on-demand bus rides to qualified handicapped riders. WSTA rates rose in October from 50 cents to $1 and eliminated the Medicaid exemption that let most riders use it for free. Medicaid continues to fully cover rides for medical purposes.

WSTA was facing a projected $1.8 million budget deficit for the next fiscal year.

The Chronicle also made news this year. Founder and longtime Publisher Ernie Pitt sold the city’s oldest community newspaper in April after founding it in September 1974. The community paper and Pitt were well known as fighters for the underdog and professionalism. Pitt, 71, graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a journalism degree.

Pitt, under the company name Winston-Salem Chronicle Publishing Co., sold the paper to two young Winston-Salem City Council members, James Taylor Jr. and Derwin Montgomery, who promised to uphold the integrity of The Chronicle. The purchasing company, Chronicle Media Group LLC, moved from The Chronicle’s longtime building at 617 N. Liberty St. to its present location at 1300 E. Fifth St., near Martin Luther King Dr.

Before the sale of The Chronicle, Forsyth County was hit hard with news of the death of longtime Forsyth County Commissioner Walter Marshall, 74, who passed away on Feb. 22. His death was sudden. The Chronicle had just featured him for Black History Month earlier in February.

Before he retired and became a commissioner, Marshall was a teacher and activist. Marshall was local the NAACP president and on went on to serve on the school board and Board of County Commissioners after he led several lawsuits as NAACP president in the 1980s that affected both bodies.

Two longtime leaders of recreation centers in Winston-Salem retired. Art Blevins, former Hanes Hosiery Community Center supervisor, and Ben Piggott, former senior supervisor of the Carl H. Russell Sr. Community Center, say they will continue to lead their signature activities, however. For example, though retired, Piggott led the effort for the Peace Toys for War Toys toy exchange earlier this month.

There was a war of sorts at Salem College.

In April, students at the liberal arts college for women founded in 1772 held a week-long sit-in protest demanding President Lorraine Sterrit and the Board of Trustees address a 10-page list of demands. According to those who started the sit-in on a daily basis, students of color and other minorities have to deal with racist comments from students and even professors in the classroom setting.

The protest ended after the board of trustees and students sat down to discuss the list of demands.

CEO of the Winston-Salem Urban League,, James Perry, ignited the local conversation this summer when he released his collection of data, “The State of Black Winston-Salem.”

The 25-page report has been in the works since 2015. The Urban League describes the report:

“Stunningly, the report shows that black residents in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County earn only 62 cents for each dollar made by white residents. Black residents in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County have a homeownership rate that is half that of white residents. Black residents are half as likely to have access to healthy food. Black residents have a death rate 1.25 times that of white residents.

“Arrests of black residents for nonviolent traffic offenses in Winston-Salem occur at a rate approximately 1.4 percent more frequent than for white residents.

“Most shocking, perhaps, are the education indices. Forsyth County black third-graders are approximately 60 percent less likely to read at grade level than white third-graders.”

The National Black Theatre Festival, produced by the N.C. Black Repertory Company, made a splash again. It comes every two years to Winston-Salem and did not disappoint this year. It was one of the most successful festivals in the , N.C. Black Repertory Company’s history, festival leaders said. Also, by partnering with several major health organizations in Winston-Salem, as well as multiple ministries, to address health disparities within the African-American community, 2017 NBTF sponsored a health fair. The Forsyth County Central Library reopened this year in August after closing its doors for nearly three years for remodeling. It closed in October 2014 to begin renovations. The project, which cost $28 million, added more than 20,000 square feet to the original structure and helped push the county’s largest library into the future.

New faces moved into leadership this year.

Assistant Chief Catrina A. Thompson became the city’s 15th chief of the Winston-Salem Police Department. Thompson, 49, has spent her entire career with the Winston-Salem Police Department. A native of Detroit, she joined the local police department in 1994. And Stan Law, a native of Charlotte, become the first African-American to serve as president and chief executive of the 16-branch YMCA of Northwest North Carolina, including the Winston Lake YMCA, which has faced obstacles lately, including financial.

Another venue that has faced obstacles is Liberty Street Market. The market, which originally opened in October 2014 with a variety of famers and other vendors, closed the following year after low vendor and customer turnout. After that, the city continued to rent it out for various events.

This year, the city accepted an unsolicited proposal from RaVonda Dalton-Rann’s R and Company LLC, to once again hold a farmers market there under a six-month trial period, which ran out on Oct. 31.  She opted not to renew the contract, citing the increasing growth of her event planning business. The city will continue to rent out the Market for various events.

Chronicle reporter Todd Luck reported that after many years of debate, Forsyth County commissioners voted to move forward with plans to build a new courthouse on Chestnut Street to replace the aging Hall of Justice.

The historic vote took place during the commissioner’s Aug. 17 meeting. The total cost of the project is estimated to be $126.8 million.

Well, 2018 is an election year, and several people announced their intentions to run for offices.

*North Ward Winston-Salem Council Member Denise “D.D.” Adams and teacher Jenny Marshall said they are running as Democrats for the 5th District of the U.S. House of Representatives. The seat is currently held by Republican U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx.

*Law enforcement expert Bobby Kimbrough said he is running as a Democrat for the Forsyth County Sheriff position. The current sheriff is William T. Schatzman.

*Tony Burton, chief executive officer of Northwest Child Development Centers Inc., Winston-Salem, said he is running for Forsyth County Commissioner of District A.  The district, which is largely African-American, is currently represented by Commissioners Everette Witherspoon and Fleming El-Amin.

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Donna Rogers

Donna Rogers

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