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5 Things to Know: Civil Rights Icon Sarah Stevenson Passes Away at 97

...and four more stories from Sept. 24-30, 2023

Sarah Stevenson smiles while sitting on a bus with others
Sarah Stevenson on her way to tour the Stevenson Apartments at Brightwalk, named in her honor in 2017. (Video still)

Civil Rights Icon Sarah Stevenson Passes Away at 97

Charlotte lost one of its strongest civil rights icons on Tuesday, as news broke that longtime educator and community leader Sarah Stevenson passed away at 97 years old.

The first of 14 children, Sarah Mingo was born in Heath Springs, South Carolina, on Oct. 26, 1925. Forced to leave high school without a diploma, she moved to Charlotte and worked as a housekeeper in Charlotte Memorial Hospital, where she met her husband, Robert Louis Stevenson.

In 1970, she moved from Cherry to the Beatties Ford Road corridor, where she taught at a day-care center, worked at the Charlotte Area Fund and established a mediation program for the city, now known as the Community Relations Committee. Her activism to acquire uniforms for one of her sons’ school band led to her role in merging the black and white PTAs within CMS before courts forced the school district to desegregate.

Sarah Stevenson served on the CMS Board of Education from 1980-1988. In 1980, she co-founded the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Forum, and has since helped launch the Sarah and Samuel Stevenson Scholarship Fund in honor of her youngest son who passed away in 2006 as well as the South African Students Scholarships, which helps two students from South Africa attend Johnson C. Smith University every year.

Sarah Stevenson (second from left) with CMS students in the 1980s.

Sarah Stevenson is one of six leaders of the Historic West End community included in a mural at the West End Fresh Seafood Market on Beatties Ford Road in 2021 done by local artist Abel Jackson.

MTC Moves to Control CATS

The Metrolina Transportation Commission (MTC), a policy board made up of municipal officials from around Mecklenburg County that has a responsibility to review and recommend all long-range public transportation plans for the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS), is demanding more authority over CATS following more than a year of struggles at the public transit organization.

City of Charlotte staff and Charlotte City Council have long overseen operations at CATS.

The committee now wants independent governance over CATS, laying out four amendments to the current interlocal agreement that would allow the MTC to select and evaluate the CATS CEO and revise the CATS budget process, among other changes.

The letter was signed by Mecklenburg County commissioner Leigh Altman as well as the mayors of each municipality within Mecklenburg County save for Charlotte Mayor and MTC representative Vi Lyles.

At its monthly strategy session on Thursday, Lyles acknowledged that she had received the letter and announced that it would be discussed at the October MTC meeting, as the agenda had already been put together for this week’s meeting.

Carter Work Project Returns to Charlotte

For the first time in 36 years, the Carter Work Project — a partnership between Habitat for Humanity, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter — will return to Charlotte, as volunteers will spend the next week building a 39-home affordable housing development called Meadows at Plato Price in west Charlotte.

The project aims to create opportunities for affordable homeownership in an area of Charlotte where the homeownership rate (26%) falls far below the county average (57%), according to Habitat for Humanity of the Charlotte Region. It will be the first Carter Work Project development since 2019, ending a four-year COVID hiatus.

A drone shot looking down on a clear plot of land with the Charlotte skyline in the background
The site of The Meadows at Plato Price development in west Charlotte. (Photo courtesy of Habitat for Humanity Charlotte Region)

From Oct. 1-6, future homeowners and hundreds of other volunteers from Charlotte will build 20 homes on nine acres of land off Morris Field Drive that formerly housed the all-Black Plato Price School, a transformative education and civic space for the Black community in the early 1900s through the mid-’60s. Plato Price School was closed in 1966 as part of the county’s desegregation plan.

Habitat for Humanity of the Charlotte Region broke ground on the project on Sept. 8, 2021. With
seven homes already under construction, the entire 39-home project is expected to be completed by early 2025.

“The Carter Work Project was last held in Charlotte 36 years ago, not long after the city demolished Plato Price School,” said Habitat for Humanity CEO Jonathan Reckford at a press conference in west Charlotte last year. “It is striking and significant to have the opportunity to rebuild and revitalize an area that was once an important keystone for the Black community in Charlotte.”

The $7.8-million Meadows at Plato Price development is estimated to be Habitat for Humanity of the Charlotte Region’s largest to date. The city of Charlotte donated the land for the project and matched Ally Charitable Foundation’s principal investment of $1 million to help fund it.

Plant Joy Set to Close Camp North End Stall

Popular vegan eatery Plant Joy announced over Instagram on Thursday that it will close its food stall in Camp North End after nearly three years in the location.

“We planted here, we grew here, we experienced and gave so much joy here,” wrote owner Julia Simon. “And we made some dang good food too.”

Julia Simon smiles as she poses outside of Plant Joy at Camp North End
Julia Simon outside of the Plant Joy food stall at Camp North End. (Courtesy of Julia Simon)

The post also announced a replacement, as Soul Miner’s Garden, which formerly operated only as a food truck, will be taking the Plant Joy space over following its mid-October closing. Like Plant Joy, Soul Miner’s Garden is 100% vegan.

“We are truly leaving this gorgeous space in the best & most capable hands as we hand off the torch to our sisters at @soulminersgarden,” Thursday’s post reads.

As for the future of Simon’s business, Thursday’s post asked fans to stay tuned. In our June feature story about Simon’s sale of her meal-prep and delivery service Nourish, she said she planned to use some of the capital from the sale to explore new options for Plant Joy, including potentially opening a larger space or turning it into more of a commissary-style kitchen concept.

QC Jam Session Moves to Neighborhood Theatre

Local independent music promoter MaxxMusic announced Friday that the second annual Queen City Jam Session will take place next month, moving from NoDa Brewing Co. where it was held in 2022 to Neighborhood Theatre due to ongoing construction at the original site behind the brewery.

The inaugural event was named Best Festival in North Carolina by Queen City Nerve readers last year and dubbed the Best New Music Event by critics in the 2022 Best in the Nest issue.

A look down from a drone at a stage at nighttime with hundreds of people gathered in front of it while the city is miles away in the background.
A look down at the stage during the Queen City Jam Session in 2022. (Photo by Jeff Hahne)

“With construction continuing at Noda Brewing Company this fall, we didn’t want to delay bringing back Queen City Jam Session for a second year,” MaxxMusic founder Gregg McCraw said in a release on Friday. “Last year’s festival was a lot of hard work done by a lot of people and it’s important that we keep the brand alive so we can continue showcasing, not only national artists, but local and regional talent, as well.”

Scheduled for Oct. 20-22, this year’s lineup is set to include Leftover Salmon, Anders Osborne, Bully, Maggie Rose, Jack & Adam Lawrence w/ the Charlotte Bluegrass Allstars, Book & Falco playing Jerry Garcia, Shannon Whitworth & Woody Platt, as well as local and regional artists like Akita, Alright and Cuzco.

Ticket prices range from $25 to $115.

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