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Best in the Nest 2020: The Best People Show Up In a Bad Year

Credit where credit is due

What the hell just happened? It seems like either 10 years ago or yesterday we were coming into the new year excited about a new Charlotte MLS team, a new Panthers head coach, or whatever big events you had planned for this year that did not come to pass. Now here we are putting out our second annual Best in the Nest issue. It’s been quite a road. 

One of my biggest pet peeves is when folks try to act like a calendar year has anything to do with the bad luck or misfortunes that a population faces. We can all act as if 2021 will be better than 2020, and there are signs that things might be turning a corner, but the truth is that the calendar doesn’t care. If we don’t learn from the mistakes of the past nine months, the past four years, the past 400 years, we’re doomed to repeat them in the short and long terms. Another trip around the sun won’t change that.

Best in the Nest
Ryan Pitkin, not the Best in the Nest.  (Photo by Ryan Solan)

However, this Gregorian measurement of time is helpful in looking back on what has already occurred, and as for the last 12 months, I think we can all agree it’s been a shitshow.

When the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced on Jan. 24 that a patient believed to be infected with “the newly discovered 2019 coronavirus,” the first in North Carolina, was in isolation at Duke University Hospital, I was skeptical that this was an issue that would affect many American lives.

As it turns out, I overestimated our country’s preparedness, our health-care system, and our potential ability to come together in the interest of public safety. To watch people willfully spread misinformation in the face of all science and data has been a truly terrifying experience. I know I’ll never think of the expression “Run Forest, Run” the same again.

After video surfaced of a police officer slowly killing George Floyd with a knee to the back of his neck over a span of 8 minutes and 46 seconds in May, I feared this was just another murder that would lead to maybe some localized protests but no action.

As it turns out, I underestimated the righteous rage with which Floyd’s killing would be met, the amount of people willing to hit the streets in support of Black lives, and the desire for change in a country built on the backs of a populace that still goes ignored or willfully underserved by powerful people.

This year has been one of extremes, and it has brought as many signs of hope as red flags for the future. To put together our second annual Best in the Nest issue at the end of such a year was a bittersweet task, and a few times early on we just about decided not to do it at all. But the truth is, the struggles of 2020 have brought out the best in so many Charlotteans, and that deserves some recognition, so the issue is coming to a delivery location near you at some point today (we were a little late getting it to print so it might be a little late getting to its final destination). 

The issue is in honor of folks like Deborah Woolard, who went from serving her homeless neighbors dinner on Sunday nights for two years to serving them dinner every single day come hell or high water. She didn’t do this because it was her job, but simply because she saw other services around town shutting down during the pandemic and knew her friends without homes would suffer.

“It’s a shame,” she told me back in April. “We shouldn’t have had to do it, but it’s our family and we’ll do whatever we can.”

As I write this on Dec. 1, Deb and her Block Love CLT team have been out on Phifer Avenue doing what they can for their homeless neighbors for 268 consecutive nights, and tonight, without fail, they’ll be there for 269. 

Best in the Nest
Deborah Woolard of Block Love CLT is the epitome of the Best in the Nest. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

There are so many stories like Deb’s that occurred in Charlotte this year — stories of folks who stepped up in a time of crisis, a time of reckoning, a time of need, and helped to fill voids, whether they be voids in time, resources or understanding.

Then there are service industry folks, faced with unforeseeable adversity that came down on them without warning. These people work in the background with no expectation of a “Thank you” for serving the millions of residents of the Charlotte-Metropolitan area. In 2020, they all took a big hit. Many are still struggling or without jobs. These folks deserve recognition.

And the creatives of Charlotte who have hunkered down during the pandemic but continued to do what they do best, whether that be making art, music, fashion or what have you. And the year has seen some amazing work from Charlotte creatives across the board. Those folks deserve recognition. 

It’s important to make clear that the point of Best in the Nest is to heap praise upon the people and things that we think other people need to know about. We are not gatekeepers by any means; we are simply observers trying our best to give credit where credit is due and show love to the folks who have made the most out of a relatively shitty year.

We know we’ve missed plenty in the issue, and we know that we’ll hear about it, but that’s the beauty of another year: Folks will keep creating and inspiring, and we will continue to tell as many of their stories as we can. But for the time being, we want to take these 64 pages to spread some recognition to folks who earned it and propped up the Queen City at a time when we needed it the most.

Become part of the Nerve: Help us continue to connect community and culture and tell the overlooked stories of everyday Charlotte. Get better connected and become a monthly donor to support our mission and opt-in to our email newsletter. If you haven’t grabbed a paper yet, stay tuned to the site for the full Best in the Nest listings. 

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