Chapel Hill rallygoers use words as ammunition for stricter gun control

By Chris Cotillo

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Among the hundreds gathered to rally for gun control in Polk Place on Thursday afternoon, dozens held signs.

“I don’t hate guns, I just like kids more,” one read. Another noted that “math is the only thing students should fear in school.” Some were simple (“Enough.”), some were personal (“I vote in one year. Be ready.”), and some were a bit more radical (“Disarm the police!”).

But one sign, held by a young African-American man who would only identify himself as a UNC Chapel Hill sophomore named Jimmy, got the most attention with his sign. It read, “Gun control equals slavery. F*** that.”

At first, Jimmy stood in the back of a large crowd gathered to listen to local politicians, student leaders and survivors of last month’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Then he realized he wasn’t being seen enough. So about midway through the two-hour speech, he went toward the South Building, turned around, and made his message visible to a crowd that had spent the last hour shifting back and forth between sobbing at emotional testimonies and chanting for change.

As it turned out, Jimmy’s sign served as a provocative prop designed to cause discussions and arguments with other rallygoers. And as Jimmy soon proved with the dozen or so gun control advocates who approached him, it worked.

“Honestly, I don’t care about the sign,” Jimmy said. “I don’t even care about the argument on the sign. The thing that I came here to do is to let people know that most gun owners don’t value bullets more than people’s lives. We want to find a solution as well.”

Curiosity over sign creates thought-provoking conversations

Andrew Bryant and Connor Schorer, two freshmen at UNC-CH, attended the rally for the same reason as almost everyone else in attendance: to advocate for stricter gun laws in the wake of the Parkland shooting. They were surprised to see someone holding a sign like Jimmy’s and decided to approach him.

“The sign did its job,” Parker said. “It was provocative and encouraged me to go over and ask him what the hell he was talking about.”

Parker and Schorer were among a group of seven arguing with Jimmy, who had by that point gained a couple of supporters himself. Both said that their conversation was intellectually stimulating, but criticized Jimmy for not being able to support his claims.

“He went back on himself a lot,” Schorer said. “At one point he said opposing stricter gun control laws would save lives but that it wouldn’t stop anything. Later he said that if it saved any lives, he’d give his gun up.”

Jimmy set up shop to the left of the speakers at the South Building, with rallygoers confronting him every couple of minutes. While he said some protestors had gotten “heated” during their conversations, he said that the arguments were generally productive.

“Not everyone is going to agree all the time,” Jimmy said. “There are going to be situations where some people just don’t see a potential solution until after it’s enacted and works. I do think that, in an age where people are becoming more and more isolated and separated, it’s valuable to have one-on-one conversations. It can break down a lot of things you wouldn’t be able to break down on YouTube or Twitter.”

Bryant seemed to find the conversations helpful as well.

“It’s very hard to think of an answer [about guns] because it requires so much knowledge and research that not all of us have the time to devote to that,” Bryant said. “I like that I actually got to talk it out with someone I disagreed with. I think that’s a productive way to deal with this problem.”

Shootings in America far too common in comparison to some countries

For students like Jimmy, Bryant and Schorer, the debate on gun control has always been a part of life in America. College students today have been alive for seven of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history, with current seniors at the school having been in college for five shootings that have killed a total of 163 people over the last four years.

But for UNC-CH senior Shubhang Mehta, who was raised in Melbourne, Australia, the thought of a school shooter never crossed his mind.

“Never, mate. Never,” Mehta said. “You come to a country like America and come to a university and hear these other shooters at different universities and different high schools. It’s scary to think that any one day, someone could come shoot up where you go to school.”

Australia has some of the strictest gun laws in the world, largely due to legislation introduced after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre that restricted the private ownership of semi-automatic and pump-action weapons. Some have suggested that the U.S. enact similar strict legislation, an argument that Mehta agrees with despite the large difference in population size between the two nations.

“I think there’s truth in the argument that gun control works,” Mehta said. “To any Australian, it’s second nature to say you shouldn’t have guns.”

Now in his third year at UNC-CH, Mehta is subject to the ongoing gun debate just like those who grew up in the U.S. He said his friends at home would be shocked to see how much of a hot-button issue guns are here.

“They’d honestly react the same way as me,” Mehta said. The fact that people have to have this discussion and that it’s such a lively discussion with such equal sides…it’s just ridiculous.”

As school shootings continue to increase throughout the years, so do the amount of people standing up for stricter gun control, creating a movement for change.

“You are making a difference,” Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger told the gathered crowd Thursday. “Now keep going.”

Edited by Brittney Robinson





No yoga partner, no worries. Goats may be available at your next workout

By Jackeline Lizama

You won’t believe this workout until you see it. Goat yoga is the latest exercise trend that everyone wants to be a part of, especially yoga enthusiasts.

On the weekends, people line up at a farm with mats in hand, ready to start their yoga class. Except, this class won’t start until the Nigerian Dwarf goats walk in. No, the goats don’t actually do yoga but they do a few stretches that look like they are.

From the moment you step onto the Hux Family Farm in Durham, you can hear the sounds of ducks quacking, horses neighing and sheep bleating. You will even see bunnies that are so fluffy they look like cotton balls with a hidden face.

As people pass the entry gate, goats crowd around and stare at them with their beady eyes, wondering what or who just entered into their domain. They will continue to sniff anyone, anywhere, searching for food.

The Nigerian Dwarf goats are a friendly miniature goat breed. This is their way of welcoming newcomers, even if it does come off somewhat strange.

The goats and sheep are free to roam around the guests. Not to mention, other goats eating, cuddling and jumping around. It only takes a few seconds before they forget you’re there and move on to the next person, and the entire cycle of welcoming starts over.

Is goat yoga really a thing? What are people saying?

The first time Sophie Davis, a student from North Carolina State University, did yoga at the farm one of the goats kept jumping.

“It would get like two feet in the air to get on top of you,” Davis said. “It was so cute.”

Davis has participated in the goat yoga class three times and is now looking to work at the farm with the goats.

With these goats you never know what to expect, one moment they’re taking a nap and the next they’re running around with pieces of carrot in their mouths.

“I think they are hyper for like ten minutes at a time and then they’re like goodnight,” Davis said.

The class is like no other. Half the class is doing yoga poses while the other half is laughing so hard they can hardly keep their balance. The goats will run between people’s legs, chew on their hair and even climb on their back to cuddle and take a short nap.

OK, but how did an idea like this even get started in the first place?

Farm owner, Matthew Hux, says he and his wife have had the farm for nearly four years and got the goats as part of their homestead. They primarily raised the goats for dairy and used the milk to make cheese, yogurt and even ice cream until they realized the goats had a lot more to offer.

“We ended up having really friendly goats…so we wanted to share that with people,” Hux said. “We heard about goat yoga in Oregon and we decided to try it out.”

The idea of goat yoga came from a woman in Albany, Oregon, named Lainey Morse. She started doing therapy with her goats after a recent divorce and illness. Morse found the goats to be therapeutic and soon began her own goat yoga classes.

Goat yoga has since snowballed into a global sensation with classes starting everywhere, including Hux Family Farm.

Amanda Hux, Matthew’s wife, started her own meditation with the goats and saw a video of goat yoga being done in several other places.

“I was like ‘Oh! We can do that, too!’” Hux said. “So that’s why we started this.”

The first three goat yoga classes filled up immediately and were a success, so Hux and his wife decided to keep the classes going. Participants are so fascinated by the goats they cannot help but laugh when a goat stands on their back as they do a Downward-Facing Dog. The classes are held nearly every Saturday and Sunday, and cost $20 for an hour of fun.

The most recent addition to the farm family includes two baby goats, Blaze and Maverick. These goat babies will come out with their tiny wagging tails. At first, these miniature animals look like they have no control over their legs since they won’t ever stop jumping, but that’s how every goat is as a baby.

From the moment the goats are born, they get completely accustomed to the people who treat and handle them. Once the goats are older and exposed to different people they will remain calm.

Goat yoga is more than stretching muscles and petting goats, it provides therapy to those who least expect it. In other words, it’s just plain happiness. Jeff Zimmerman, one of the yoga participants, said he came to the class after his wife had seen the event on Facebook and encouraged him to go with her.

“It was a little odd having a goat on me, but it was a lot of fun.” said Zimmerman. “We had a good time.”

If goat yoga isn’t surprising enough, there’s more

Hux Family Farm doesn’t limit itself to just yoga, it also offers classes of meditation and therapy with goats. “We’re also working on getting our horses to therapy status. Then we can help and engage with everybody.” Matthew Hux said. “That is our main mission here.”

Once the yoga class is over, everyone plays and takes selfies with the goats. Even if people don’t want to participate in the yoga, it can still be lots of fun to watch.

The best part of this unique experience is that the goats are completely unaware of how happy they make people. As everyone walked out of the farm, they all left with smiles on their faces and waved goodbye to their furry, four-legged friends.

Edited by Brittney Robinson


Questions of racism and equality over possible Carrboro name change

By Jess Gaul

In 1978, Randee Haven-O’Donnell looked down from the plane and saw the diverse North Carolina landscape for the first time.

After whipping past the Outer Banks, Haven-O’Donnell suddenly saw the lush Piedmont covered in pine trees.

“I said, ‘This is special. It feels like home,’” said Haven-O’Donnell, a member of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen.

As North Carolina transplants, Haven-O’Donnell and her husband Gerry O’Donnell settled in Carrboro. The couple lived in The Chateau Apartments with their lab, Bessie. N.C. 54 had only two lanes. Each morning, they woke up with a view of idyllic Lloyd Farm.

“We’d wake up in the morning to cows, and it was perfect,” Haven-O’Donnell said.

Today, Carrboro is regarded as a beacon of progressivism and equality. In 1995, the town elected the state’s first openly gay mayor and the first lesbian police chief in 1998. It was also the first North Carolina municipality to provide benefits to same-sex couples.

But, like any other place, Carrboro has a past.

Exploring the Cities Controversial Beginnings

Some have called it Chapel Hill’s “even more liberal” neighbor. The unique atmosphere of inclusion and diversity is one that defines the town of Carrboro and makes its namesake surprising — because it’s named for Julian Shakespeare Carr, an infamous white supremacist and industrialist from the early 20th century.

Today, walking down Weaver Street on a sunny Sunday afternoon, you’ll be met with what appears to be an escape, an oasis, a community of completely individual and unique members.

The cow population has probably dwindled, but it still feels just as quaint and idyllic. Musicians plunk away for the enjoyment of the public. Young families enjoy local shopping and a healthy meal. And there are dogs — so many dogs.

 This isn’t the first time that Carrboro’s name has been a hot topic. Carrboro first existed as the unincorporated community of West End. The community was then named Lloydville in 1900, after Chapel Hill businessman Thomas F. Lloyd.

The town was also briefly named Venable, after University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill chemistry professor, Francis Venable. But after two years, Julian Carr requested the name be changed to “Carrsboro” in exchange for electricity provided by the Durham Hosiery Mill, which Carr operated beginning in 1898.

June 2, 1913, was the erection of Silent Sam, the infamous monument of a Confederate soldier on the UNC-CH campus. Carr was famously known for speaking about whipping a female slave following the Battle of Appomattox.

Carr never lived in Carrboro. Like any historical figure, his identities were complicated — he celebrated a massacre of black people in Wilmington in 1898, was a private in the Confederate Army and endorsed the Ku Klux Klan.

But Carr also gave land for portions of Duke University’s campus, and supported the founding of what would be known as the African American-owned North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company. He also contributed money to the North Carolina College for Negroes in Durham, which would become North Carolina Central University.

Richard Ellington, president of the Chapel Hill Historical Society and Carrboro native, said that this complexity is why it’s important to consider the context of Julian Carr.

“I see no reason to change the name of the town,” Ellington said. “The historical context is going to be forgotten. If you don’t have a past, you don’t have much of a future.”

Like any town, Carrboro has grown and shifted socially and economically. There tends to be a separation between young Carrboro transplants and the Old Carrboro community.

Celia Pierce remembers a segregated part of town, between Chapel Hill and Carrboro on Rosemary Street. She remembers separate water fountains. She remembers when her high school was integrated.

Pierce lives in “Old Carrboro,” in the home that she grew up in as a child — the same one that her mother and her grandmother grew up in, too.

“Roots go pretty deep here in Carrboro,” she said.

Pierce, while ultimately supporting a name change for the town, acknowledged that many of the young innovators in local politics tend to forget the lessons of the past.

“When you reach a certain age you come to realize that ‘OK, if we keep moving forward without nodding to the past’ … What we end up doing is kind of discarding the older people,” Pierce said. “And what I see in Carrboro is — it’s getting to the point to where older people cannot afford to live here because of the taxes.”

Changes in the makeup of Carrboro also reached its racial demographics.

“Carrboro, in 1920, was the most integrated town in North Carolina, I’ll bet,” Ellington said. And you know why? Because they were all poor, working class people. They couldn’t afford to hate each other! They had to worry about feeding their kids.

“They didn’t have the luxury of hate. It was just a fact of life — they had to help each other. It was a much smaller town, and it still had this ‘We’re all in this together’ attitude.”

Jim Porto served as the mayor of Carrboro from 1983 to 1987. A native of Columbia, South Carolina, Porto moved to the Triangle as a young adult to attend Duke University.

In April 2016, Porto sent an inquiry to the Board of Aldermen inquiring about the possibility of a name change for the town.

In his request, Porto suggested the name “Paris,” partially due to his time spent teaching in the French capital and his admiration for the city’s livability. Carrboro was also jokingly coined the “Paris of the Piedmont” in 1970 by a local reporter.

“The goal of the town is to have a little community that’s at a scale that people can feel good about,” Porto said. “We start thinking about how we can emulate our namesake.”

For Porto, a name change is an important step in propelling the town forward to its goals for the future.

“By taking a stand like this, it basically enshrines that whole notion of progressive community,” he said. “I think there is a loss of opportunity in a way for us to go beyond even what we are now, and become a national statement for what we stand for.”

Part of what drew Board of Aldermen member and Texas native, Damon Seils, to Carrboro was its reputation for being a trailblazer of progressivism. He said he thinks that focusing on changing the name could distract from other steps toward racial equity, such as fair policing and equal treatment in schools.

“I think Carrboro and the people of Carrboro over many, many years have created a community that in a lot of ways, sticks it to the reputation of Julian Carr,” Seils said. “And to me, that’s a legacy we ought to be a part of.”

In August 2017, an unknown person started an online petition to change the name of Carrboro to “Unicornboro.” The petition garnered 53 signatures. Whether the petition was serious — or in jest, as Porto speculates — is uncertain.

Additionally, a Chapel Hill High School senior wrote to the Carrboro Board of Aldermen in late January requesting that a name change be considered.

Porto, Haven-O’Donnell and Seils each acknowledged that if a name change was to occur, it would be because of a majority public opinion. The likely next step would involve some sort of community forum where citizens could discuss changing the town name.

“The work that would be needed and the attention that would be drawn to something like a name change for the town would, to be honest, distract us from what I see as the real work in advancing racial equity, which is hard and long-term, and requires a lot of energy and patience,” Seils said.

Edited by Brittney Robinson