John Hayes - 3
John R. Hayes at WRES 100.7 FM, 2017. Photo by Makeda Sandford.

People close to me know that I am an avid listener to WRES 100.7 FM. I love the gospel, soul, and R&B music they play, and I enjoy the DJs and talk shows. Tuning in comforts me and gives me joy. John R. Hayes is the heart of WRES, which he runs with Sophie Dixon and support from Randy Weston and other loyal volunteers. Last year I helped organize a banquet to celebrate Elder Hayes and WRES’s 16th anniversary. You can click here to read the great story Alli Marshall wrote for Mountain Xpress in advance of that event.

I stop by the station on a regular basis to chat with Elder Hayes and Ms. Sophie. A recent visit was particularly poignant, as Hayes had been away for a few weeks due to medical issues. We talked about many things, especially the Hillcrest High Steppers majorettes and drum corps, which Hayes led, and the positive impact it had on participants.

Hillcrest High Steppers, year TBD. From the collection of John R. Hayes.

“It wasn’t just about the drums,” Hayes explained. “Because what we used it for was to let them know they had a gift. And that gift…the Bible says your gift will make room for you. That’s the thing, is that you have some worth in you, and it didn’t just happen.”

“The day the doctor hit you on your butt and you hollered, and you sucked in air, when you sucked in air, you sucked in a purpose from God at the same time.”

“There’s nobody on this earth without a purpose…You have to nurture that purpose. What did Paul say to Timothy? Stir up the gift. Where is it? It’s in you. You have to stir it up, you have to study to show yourself a workman who need not be ashamed, and find the word of truth. Where is the truth? It’s in you.”

“But you have to find it. I had to find it.”

And find it he has. To be honest, I struggle with believing in my worth and purpose. That day, Elder’s words, and the passion they were spoken with, deeply moved me.

May we have fierce, loving faith in ourselves and others.

promise, darold, rachel
Promyss Watley, Darold and Rachel Cuba, all part of the Baird Family Reunion, and hosts of the 1st WNC Wikipedia Record-and-Edit-a-Thon

WNC Wikipedia Record-and-Edit-a-Thon
The first WNC Wikipedia Record-and-Edit-a-Thon, which was held last Saturday, was a great success. Organized by the 121st Baird Family Reunion with support from AfroCROWD, UNC Asheville’s Center for Diversity Education, The Color of Asheville, and others, the intent was to build momentum to shift the overwhelmingly white male focus of Wikipedia entries. (Less than 10% of Wikipedia editors are women.) Everyone in attendance was empowered with new skills and understandings about how Wikipedia works.

The black Baird Family includes descendants of people who were enslaved by the white Baird and Vance families (including Zebulon Baird Vance). Their stories have been mostly invisible in WNC, while the memorialized names of enslavers are woven into our everyday lives – Woodfin, Patton, Merrimon, etc. I even lived for years on Baird Street, completely ignorant of the history of the name. Fortunately, there are plans for public events during the 122nd Baird Family Reunion that will help to expand narratives and knowledge.

When I can find the time, I want to contribute to the Asheville Wikipedia entry, which made me angry and sad as I skimmed it and saw the obvious omissions and bias there. A few searches made it clear that Wikipedia has a dearth of history and information related to diverse cultures in our region. As we undertake this work, I’ll note that folks at the Edit-a-Thon shared that there is a real issue with pushback and harassment of people, especially women, who attempt to shift biased narratives on Wikipedia. That’s why teaming up with a group like AfroCROWD or Art+Feminism is a good idea. Stay tuned for info on more local Wiki stuff, which will hopefully include the founding of chapters of one of both of those groups. The collective narrative is crucial!

friend, clifford cotton, sasha mitchell
Clifford Cotton, center, shared his oral history at the WNC Edit-a-Thon. Pictured with his son Christopher Cotton and Sasha Mitchell of The Color of Asheville.

Prison Strike
Hopefully you have heard about the Prison Strike which began on August 21. You can click here to read Teen Vogue‘s Labor Day story about the strike. Excerpt: “The fact that there are human beings housed in cages who are forced to work for slave wages is completely unacceptable by any metric, and fixing (if not completely abolishing) this wretched system should be a priority for those who consider themselves part of the labor movement, or on the right side of history.”


The Asheville Goombay Festival is this weekend, September 7-9. Click here for details.

Patron Gathering
If you are one of the kind people who generously give a monthly contribution in support of these posts via my Patreon page, or if you’ve ever given a donation through PayPal or a credit card, you should have received an email with an invitation to a gathering later this month. If you did not get that email, let me know and I’ll give you the details.

Anyone who becomes a Patreon patron or makes a donation between now and September 21 will receive an invitation to the gathering.

Peace and love. 


3 thoughts on “Purpose

  1. It would be awesome to see some of these photos of the High Steppers framed at the entrance to the Hillcrest community center. Just last week I was looking at all the trophies in the trophy case, but nothing has been added to the case for 10-20 years and the trophies don’t do much to inspire and honor…in my opinion.

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