Left to right:
Ellen Clarke, Co-Director ABCCM to bring adult education opportunities to inmates in jail, founder Women at Risk, Executive Director at Western Carolinians for Criminal Justice.
Jim Barrett, Executive Director of Pisgah Legal Services, and on staff for more than 30 years.
Deborah Miles, Director of Center for Diversity, a founder Stone Soup.
Jeff Fobes, current publisher of “Mountain Express,” published “Green Line.”
Gaylen Ehrlichman, Health Promotion Manager with the Buncombe County Department of Health.
Ann Von Brock, Rape Crisis volunteer, Director of Helpmate, Special Projects Manager with United Way.[John Hayes, President of Asheville NAACP since 1999, President and CEO of WRES FM 100.7. Not able to be present.]
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead
Towards the end of last Wednesday night’s program on “Social Activism & Social Agencies” in Asheville in the 1980s, after the panelists had all spoken, special guest Carolyn Wallace, one of the original worker-owners of Stone Soup and the first director of Manna Food Bank, stood to speak. Though she admitted Margaret Mead’s quote had often been used, she could think of no better words to represent the life’s work that each panelist had just presented and the effect of their work on Asheville.Would you be interested in volunteering to work the phones for our Rape Crisis Center? Would you take a battered woman, whom you did not know, home with you so that she had a safe place for the night? Would you work to create safe places for battered women? Why would anyone care if inmates at the Buncombe County Jail had books to read? Or what would bring someone to envision a program to help inmates get their GEDs? Why would a lawyer give a flip if low-income people had access to legal council? Or if they had housing, or care if the housing was safe? How much money could a lawyer make by working to stop unnecessary evictions and foreclosures? Would you take off after college and head to a place you didn’t know, to work with people you didn’t know, to help the people in that town have better lives? Could you work for not much pay long hours of hard work to help that vision? Would you love the city you live in enough to start up a small monthly newspaper to give a voice other than what a corporate run newspaper gives?
Why should a young Health Services Department employee in the early 80s–who knew no gay people and certainly didn’t know anyone with AIDS–care? When there was no precedent, why did she think she even needed to do something when a young man came to her office and said, “I have AIDS. What are you going to do about it?” What on earth brought her to say, “Will you help me figure out what we can do?”
Scott Dedman had a word for us all in the end. “Activism. I’ve been thinking about that word. Activism . . .Just being active isn’t enough. You have to make sure you’re serving. Doing good, not just being active.”
We welcome all comments from people who worked in social activism and social agencies in Asheville in the 1980s. We also welcome all comments from any who attended the evening.
Photographs by Brenda Murphree, Friend of the North Carolina Room
Post by Zoe Rhine, North Carolina Room Librarian