Program Report: The Carolina Theatre -Rebecca Newton

The last Rotary speaker to close out February was a rather fitting one.

After being introduced by Rotarian Rory Gillis, The Carolina Theater CEO and President since 2017, Rebecca Newton, shared with members what the historic entertainment venue has been up to recently.

A connoisseur of entertainment, Newton got her start with the Hayti Heritage Center in 1980 and after a stint there, worked in the “internet world” before transitioning over to the Carolina Theater. The theater turned 94-years-old in February.

Since 2018, the theater has screened nearly 500 films and sold 50,000 tickets which reflects the solid foundation it is on.

But in addition to screenings, Newton encouraged club members to experience some of the historical exhibits the theater is hosting as part of its arts outreach. These include an exhibit in the main lobby entitled A Century Downtown that focuses on artists and films that have been at the Carolina through the years as well as how the venue and downtown Durham have changed over time. Another exhibit Newton highlighted is the Confronting Change exhibit being hosted on the second balcony level and spotlights the 1960s desegregation of the Carolina and the community.

“Community engagement, like the exhibits,” Newton said, “is what makes the Carolina such a treasure.”  Other ways the Carolina interacts with the community include the RETRO series, one of the largest repertory film programs in the nation, in which classic silver screen films and rare cult classics are screened and take attendees back in time with researched information about the movies and how they resonate in popular culture.

“It’s one of the biggest things we do at the Carolina,” Newton said about the RETRO Film Series which has introduced an entirely new generation of moviegoers to classics.

Other ways the theater is reaching out to the community includes hosting a church on Sundays, acting as a community gathering space, hosting a family Saturday series and hosting school visits.

Ellen Stone, senior director of development at the Carolina, joined Newton and spoke on how the theater has hosted school programs for 23 years through arts education, arts integration and arts exposure.

The school programs tie school curriculum and performance to make learning more interesting.  The theater recently had an event for displaced residents at McDougald that saw so many attendees that it had to be moved to a bigger theater to seat everyone.

“We want youth to appreciate and experience the arts,” Stone said. “It’s impactful and fun to watch.”  While Arts Discovery is free to attendees, it costs the theater $108,000 and is often underwritten by community partners to help pay.

The events help the theater reach more than 12,000 students each year over the past few years with 15,000 youth being welcomed into the theater’s education and community engagement programming since 2018.

Newton has spent the last 6 months working on the Carolina’s strategic plan leading up to its centennial in February 2026.

With more tickets being sold in the first half of this fiscal year than all of last year, the Carolina Theater is well situated heading into its second century.

Submitted by Carlton Koonce

Program Report: Rotarian and former NC Supreme Court Justice Willis Whichard on Civility in Public Discourse

As I was preparing to write this report, I did two things, the first I’m not proud of and the second I hope I can persuade everyone reading this to do.

First, I sent a snarky reply to a Facebook post of a former student of mine who is at the opposite end of the political scale from me.

There’s a lot of that kind of thing going on, I’m afraid…on the internet, on TV, in the newspapers and sometimes at the dinner table.

The second thing I did was read the speech that Justice Whichard delivered to us on Civility. Because there were so many people who requested copies of it, Executive Secretary Sharon distributed it to the entire Rotary mailing list with Justice Whichard’s permission. Even though it triggered my shame for being uncivil on Facebook, I have to say that this was one of the most moving and well prepared presentations I have heard in all my years as a Rotarian and it was made by a guy whose list of accomplishments have left him nothing further to prove.

Why was it so good and why does it deserve to be read? First, Justice Whichard is a great storyteller and examples he gave range from the tragic (Hamilton’s death at the hands of Burr) to the merely discourteous (Obama called a liar during a State-of-the-Union.) There were stories of reconciliation (Jefferson and Adams) and stories of the warm relationships of political opponents (Reagan and Tripp O’Neil.) He included stories from his own political history of opposition and reconciliation as well.

He invoked names from more recent North Carolina history to counter a growing trend of anti-intellectualism including Frank Graham, Bill Friday and Bill Aycock, to make the point that the Jeffersonian answer to objectionable speech is more and better speech, not repression of speech.

He also quotes the Czech dissident, statesman and writer, Vaclav Havel, to make the point that the fullest purpose of civil discourse is to educate ourselves as well as others.

Even my best effort can only make this report a pale reflection of the speech, so again I urge you to read it. If you’ve lost track of it, you can click here and get it.  I would also suggest reading the two articles from last May’s Rotarian Magazine, the first on Civility and the second on the Four Way Test. These were recommended by Dallas Stallings in his introduction to this series of programs during the previous meeting. Dallas also introduced Justice Whichard, although this was hardly needed.

This will be a hard act to follow but anyone who was skeptical about how good a program about civility could be, will be looking forward to next week’s program featuring Christopher and David Gergen and with Sam Miglarese wrapping it up on week three.

Submitted by Jay Zenner

Program Report: The Helius Foundation – Geraud Staton

President Todd Taylor celebrated “Jewish Awareness Day”, as a tribute to Rotary’s ecumenicism, and Vince Simonetti’s as the best (and possibly only) tuba museum in the world. (Peter Morcombe won the raffle, the fourth time in two years. Investigations are continuing…)

Geraud Staton, President of the HELIUS Foundation, with his wife as a guest, was introduced to a full Rotary house by Julie Wells.

HELIUS was founded in 2015 as a new way to help poor black entrepreneurs in Durham.  Durham has a history of black affluence. At the beginning of the 20th century, the city had the highest number of black millionaires per capita in the country. But now 22% of African Americans in Durham live below the poverty line. (Not that these two numbers are incompatible, as the current debate on income inequality shows.) 

HELIUS aims to help poor people who are already engaged in some entrepreneurial activity to expand and consolidate it.  The aim is to encourage social mobility in a region where it is low.  There are many reasons that Durham lags. Redlining and intentional racism are two. But perhaps more important is the effect of repeated setbacks. Geraud told the story of psychologist Martin Seligman and his poor dogs, severely shocked into “learned helplessness” — not that we need suffering canines to know that repeated failure can deter.

HELIUS is successfully countering these bad effects.  They begin with a ten-week program for all, followed by individualized help. HELIUS has a 91% success rate; 64% end the program earning a fair living wage. HELIUS has worked with small enterprises like the teashop Jeddah’s Tea to improve business practice and reduce debt.

In answer to questions, Geraud responded:

Q: What do you think about reparations because of the wealth difference between whites and blacks A: It could work if done properly. Q: How do you choose clients? Poor people, already engaged in “potentially legal” business of some sort. Q: Where does capital from. A: Do not borrow if possible. better to start small. “Kiva Trustee” gives small loans $2-19K. Q: How do you get clients? Almost always by referral. HELIUS is funded by donations: foundations; most now are from corporations – who hire many of our clients. Q: Do you have a list of good ideas? Yes! Q: What is your oldest business? A: 7-year-old company, floundering at first, now OK. Our participants range in age from 14-71 (the latter an artist).

Submitted by JS

Christmas 2019 Musical Program


Rotarians and Guests at Monday’s Holiday Celebration were treated to a very special presentation by students and staff from R.N Harris Integrated Arts/Core Knowledge Magnet School. Introduced by Rotarian Steed Rollins, Jeremy Tucker, new Director of Arts Programs for Durham Public Schools, spoke of the school’s focus on “integrating all subjects with music, dance, drama, visual and literary arts to engage every student in memorable learning.” The program, which Tucker referred to as the A+ program, “essentially ‘levels the playing field’ for all students that attend RN Harris.”

5th grade violin students performing with their teacher Ann Bauer opened the performances. They began with simple exercises between themselves and the teacher and gradually moved to more complex melodies and rhythms. This use of “Suzuki Method” techniques allows students with varying training to experience success in playing from the very beginning.

Student singers and dancers presented music and dance selections from Frozen, which Tucker explained was based on Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Snow Queen” and the ballet “The Nutcracker.” The program closed with a demonstration of the Samba dance rooted in the Brazilian Culture and the Mamba which is based in the Cuban culture. Dance Teacher, Toya Chinfloo and Music Teacher, Elizabeth Vick, directed the music and dance selections.

The enthusiasm, joy and focus of these young people under the direction of their teachers was thrilling and heart warming. As a former Music Teacher, who taught this level in public schools for a short time before moving on to another career, I know how difficult it can be to achieve the level of accomplishment we saw today. I’m also aware, as an amateur musician, how much it means to experience the success that these young people have achieved. It showed on their faces!

Tucker emphasized that “the integrated arts approach is an interdisciplinary collaboration that realizes that all children are artists and that art can be used to strengthen all learning as well as provide social and emotional support for all students that attend RN Harris.” Tucker thanked the Teachers and Principals of RN Harris as well as Deputy Superintendent of Academic Services, Dr. Nakia Hardy and Assistant Superintendent of Specialized Services, Dr. Deborah Pitman who also attended. He closed by quoting an RN Harris student who said, “The arts allow me to express myself in ways that otherwise would not be possible. I am allowed to do it freely.”

Submitted by Doug Butler

MLK Day of Service Meal Packing January 20th

Join us on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, January 20, 2020.  Over 300 volunteers will work together to package 130,000+ meals to be distributed in Durham, Orange, Wake, and Johnston Counties through the Interfaith Food Shuttle. This project is a collaboration between 15 District 7710 Rotary Clubs, Duke University, Interfaith Food Shuttle, and Duke School.

***Children – families are welcome!  If your child is under 7 years of age do not include them in your volunteer total as they will work with an adult on the same job. Children over 7 years of age can work independently with adult supervision. Indicate the ages of the children in your sign up.

We will also be collecting non-perishable items to stock the pantries at Durham Tech and NC Central University.  Most needed items are canned beans, peanut butter, breakfast items, canned fruit in 100% fruit juice or water, personal hygiene items, and healthy snacks.

Click here to sign up.

Contact Joyce McKinney with any questions, (919)308-2176.

Date: 01/20/2020 (Mon.)Location: Duke School

3716 Erwin Rd, Durham, NC 27705


Wrap-up from the Durham 150 Celebration from Discover Durham

Welcome to the Supporters of Durham 150 newsletter, designed to keep those interested in Durham’s sesquicentennial updated on all the planning activities surrounding the yearlong commemoration.

“I Choose Durham” Performance Video

Those of you who attended the Durham 150 Closing Ceremony on November 2 got to experience the first-ever performance of a new Durham anthem, titled “I Choose Durham.” It was an incredible final moment of the program, with the crowd standing, clapping and singing right along with the performers on stage.

For those of you who were unable to make it to DPAC for the Closing Ceremony, and for anyone who would like to relive the moment all over again, we produced a video from the live footage captured by UNC-TV and livestreamed by ABC11. The video description includes a long list of those who deserve credit for their work in bringing this project to fruition. A special thank you goes to our anthem supporter, The William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust, for making our vision for the anthem come to life.

Part of the vision of the anthem is for it to be a tribute to Durham, a song that we hear playing and everyone singing for years to come. If you would like permission to use the anthem as part of your own performance or event, contact us at We would love to find as many opportunities for it to play as possible.

Durham 150 Merch Makes for Great Gifts!

If you and your loved ones haven’t already purchased any Durham 150 gear, we have t-shirts, hats, magnets, and stickers available at The items make for great holiday gifts! Get yours before the store closes in the coming months!

150 Events and Counting

Y’all did it! Last month, we reached our goal of featuring 150+ community-led sesquicentennial-related events this calendar year. We’ve been blown away by the creativity, diversity, and meaningfulness of so many of the projects and events. Many thanks for bringing our vision to life, including the grant sponsors who made it happen: The A.J Fletcher Foundation, The Rotary Clubs of Durham, and Wexford Science + Technology and Ventas.

Follow along our social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) as we close out the year by posting photos from some of the events that took place.

Historical Note

Did you know Durham has more state historic sites than any other county in North Carolina? What’s more, all three of the sites host annual holiday events that are not to be missed this time of year.

Here are more details pulled from the Duke Homestead website:

This year, for the City’s 150th anniversary, the sites invite you to join their Christmas programs, “Spirit, Sacrifice, and Celebration.” See how the lives of past Durhamites transformed dramatically in the decade leading up to Durham’s founding. Visitors can learn about the culture of enslaved people at Christmas at Historic Stagville in 1860, acquire information about the compromises local families made in the midst of the American Civil War in 1864, and discover post-war celebration and growth at the start of Durham’s famed industrial founding at Duke Homestead in 1870. At Bennett Place, visitors can witness how Christmas was celebrated in the Piedmont Carolinas during the American Civil War or take a special guided tour by candlelight around the farm.

In addition to the Duke Homestead website, you can also find more information on the Historic Stagville website and the Bennett Place website.

Do you have a friend, family member or colleague who would be interested in receiving these Durham 150 newsletters? Let them know they can subscribe to updates on Durham 150 here.

Shelly Green & Patrick Mucklow
Co-Chairs, Durham 150