SOT Meet Series

The Monday Meet series features conversations with people with strong ties to  North Carolina who have compelling personal stories. Host Frank Stasio talks with a range of people about their life, work, and how the two intersect.

Renee Fink survived the German invasion of the Netherlands by hiding with a Catholic family for the duration of the war.
Holocaust Speakers Bureau

Renée Fink was born two years before WWII to Jewish parents in the Netherlands. In 1940 when the Germans invaded Holland, life did not change dramatically for Fink’s family, at least not right away.

Carolyn Coleman serves on the NAACP National Board of Directors and as the First Vice President of the North Carolina NAACP
NAACP

Carolyn Coleman got her first taste of community activism as a young girl in a segregated community in Savannah, Georgia. She and her mother went door-to-door collecting signatures to advocate for neighborhood improvements. She continued to work for civil rights and social justice for close to six decades.

While much of the country was suffering during the Great Depression, Nathan Garrett’s family found a safe haven in Durham, North Carolina. At the time the city was fertile ground for the African American entrepreneur, and the Garrett family ran the local pharmacy. Nathan learned the ropes of running a business, and he fondly remembers a community that was proud and self-sustaining. He eventually left Durham to attend Yale University, where he was part of the largest influx of African American students the university had known: a class of four.

Photo of Mia Ives-Rublee with her dog Vezzini
Chris Riggs / Courtesy Mia Ives-Rublee

Mia Ives-Rublee grew up surrounded by adults who were worried about her well-being. She has Osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic bone disorder more commonly known as brittle bone disease, and uses a wheelchair to get around. 

Ashely Evans / Western Carolina University

Kevin Rumley had a near-picturesque upbringing that he describes being like a 1950s Disney movie. Growing up in Fairfax, Virginia, Rumley and his two brothers played music, rollerbladed and skateboarded on the halfpipe their dad built them.

Sonny Kelly on stage
Huth Photography/Courtesy of Sonny Kelly

North Carolina playwright, actor and teacher Sonny Kelly has made it his mission in life to inspire others. He aims to use performance and ministry to connect with people, especially marginalized kids. As a young man in the U.S. Air Force, Kelly felt like he had no real purpose or direction in his life.

Courtesy of Chuck Liddy

Chuck Liddy stumbled into a career as a photojournalist after he found out he could walk into  high school football games for free if he had a camera around his neck. But the photography enthusiast had already converted a bathroom in his house into a darkroom and enjoyed experimenting with the camera his dad had taken into the Vietnam War. Once Liddy was on staff at a newspaper, he began a career of taking risks and adopting the new technology of the day, from digital cameras to drones.

Ernest Grant standing at a podium.
Courtesy of the American Nurses Association

As a boy Ernest Grant was enchanted by the nurses who attended his church in Swannanoa, a small area in western North Carolina. He often overheard them talking about their work at a local tuberculosis sanitarium and vividly remembers their stories of caring for patients.

a photo of Frances Mayes
Will Garin

Frances Mayes’ travels and triumphs are chronicled in her memoir “Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy.” On a whim, she finds herself in Italy and purchases a villa that she must restore. Her tales were immortalized in the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun,” a loose interpretation of the memoir which earned actress Diane Lane a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Mayes.

Anabel Rosa
Courtesy of Anabel Rosa

The relationship between the United States and its territory of Puerto Rico is complicated — and Anabel Rosa is stuck right in the middle of it. When she was a girl growing up in Puerto Rico, she dreamed of living in the mainland U.S. As a teenager, she gave up her quinceañera for a trip to New York City.

Sylvia Freeman

Jaki Shelton Green spent her childhood with her nose in a book knowing there was a great big world that awaited her. A native of Orange County, North Carolina, Green was a fidgety child and her grandmother’s solution was to give her a writing pad. This simple gesture meant to keep her still in church, blossomed into a lifelong journey. 

a photo of Iris Yang
Iris Yang

Iris Yang grew up in China with two parents who were high-achieving educators. They wanted her to be a good student and successful woman, and their passion was biology. She aimed to please them and followed their suggested path.

 

Yang was one of a few students accepted to the China-United States Biochemistry Examination and Application program, and at 23, she was sent to America with a borrowed $500 and poor English. She went on to study molecular biology and worked with researchers at the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She made her parents proud, but she could not let go of a deep-seated desire to pursue one of her first loves: literature.

Teenage photo of Cash Michaels
Courtesy of Cash Michaels

Cash Michaels is known for sharing the African-American perspective on news stories around North Carolina. He has been a newspaper journalist since the 1980s and writes for six African-American papers around the state. 

Courtesy of Jose Galvez

José Gálvez was a 10-year-old shoe-shine boy when he first stepped foot in the newsroom of the Arizona Daily Star. His entry into that building was his first step in a decades-long career as a photojournalist that would eventually earn him a Pulitzer Prize for public service journalism. His winning series, like much of his work, showed the positive and mundane side of life in Latino communities in America.

Tara Dunsmore is a nurse who uses ink to heal.
Courtesy of Tara Dunsmore

Tara Dunsmore is a nurse by trade, but after her own experience with breast cancer, she found a new way to help others heal: tattoos. After undergoing a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction, Dunsmore uncovered a gap in the healing process: how to recreate a realistic-looking nipple. 

Dr. Charles Van Der Horst speaking at 2017 ID Week.
Courtesy of Charles Van Der Horst

Throughout his career, Dr. Charles van der Horst has always prioritized close relationships with his patients. He was on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic in the state and opened up an AIDS ward at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the 1980s. 

Tang Dynasty, CD Premier Concert, January 1999: Left to right: Kaiser Kuo, Ding Wu, Gu Zhong. This was the launch concert for Tang Dynasty's second album, Epic, in January 1999.
Courtesy of Kaiser Kuo

American-born Kaiser Kuo is one of the godfathers of Chinese rock. The son of Chinese immigrants, he co-founded the band Tang Dynasty in the late ‘80s. The group brought the long-haired, head-banging metal aesthetic to the Chinese scene. 

Ron Garcia-Fogarty (right) brings passion to translation and cross-cultural communications.
Courtesy of Ron Garcia-Fogarty.

Ron Garcia-Fogarty committed his life to working for social change at an early age. He started reading the newspaper regularly when he was in fourth grade living in Nicaragua during the Sandinista Revolution. He volunteered as part of the Nicaraguan Literacy Campaign, an experience that opened his eyes to realities other than his middle-class life. 

A headshot of Georgiary Bledsoe
Courtesy of Georgiary Bledsoe

From an early age, Georgiary Bledsoe aspired to a life beyond what she knew as a child. She is the youngest of 17 siblings and grew up very poor in East Saint Louis, Illinois, a city often considered one of the most dangerous in America.

14-year-old Emmett Till was murdered by white men in 1955 while visiting family in Mississippi.
Wikimedia Commons

Timothy Tyson is known as an award-winning writer and historian. His books “Blood Done Sign My Name” and “The Blood of Emmett Till” capture a point in history when the fight for civil rights fostered a South ripe with fear, violence and anger. Tyson witnessed much of this first hand as the son of Reverend Vernon Tyson, a respected leader in the fight for social justice.

Elyse Ribbons / WUNC

Vansana Nolintha was sent from Laos to live in the United States when he was just 12 years old. His parents wanted a better life for him and his sister Vanvisa who soon followed her brother to Greensboro, North Carolina. There were major hurdles right from the start. 

Courtesy of Cheetie Kumar

Cheetie Kumar grew up in Chandigarh, India with America on the mind. Her family talked often about moving overseas to pursue a fresh start in the United States. Her parents lived through Indian Partition in 1947, a bloody conflict during which Kumar’s mother lost both of her parents. For their family, moving to the U.S. was both about finding new opportunities and gaining distance from trauma. 

From law school to the judge's bench, these women have held tight to their friendship. L to R: Shamieka Rhinehart, Camille Banks-Prince, Keisha Wright Hill, Teresa Raquel Robinson Freeman
Elyse Ribbons / WUNC

The summer of 1998 was bright for Teresa Raquel Robinson Freeman, Shamieka Rhinehart, Camille Banks-Prince, and Keisha Wright Hill. They had each enrolled in law school at North Carolina Central University, and little did they know their paths were about to intersect in a way that would make them life-long friends. Affectionately calling themselves “The Golden Girls” after the popular 90s sitcom, these four women of color would endure break-ups, break downs and even death on a path that no one anticipated. That was 20 years ago. Today each is a judge. 

Courtesy of Gabrielle Calvocoressi

Gabrielle Calvocoressi was born with nystagmus, a visual condition where the eyes are constantly in spasm. It took Calvocoressi a while to learn how to walk and balance, so the young child spent a lot of time sitting on the floor, daydreaming and observing the world. 

Photo of Phaedra Boinodiris
Courtesy of Phaedra Boinodiris

Phaedra Boinodiris grew up in a family of technologists. As a kid, she and her sister tore down and rebuilt computers for fun and even designed their own games. But as they got older, they discovered the gaming world was not an inviting space for women, so they founded womengamers.com to fill that void. It grew quickly to become a well-known platform for women to review and discuss computer games.

Photo of Susan Ladd, journalist and social justice advocate.
Courtesy of Luckyshot Productions

Susan Ladd grew up in a conservative, white family who taught her that black people were dangerous and should be feared. In the early 1970s, her parents chose not to send her to the recently desegregated Little River School near her home, but instead to a makeshift “pop up” school which was quickly erected and hastily staffed so that white children could avoid attending a black school. But despite her parents’ intentions, Ladd developed an intolerance toward racism and sexism and became a defender of the underdog. 

Photo of Chef Meherwan Irani
Molly Millroy

Asheville-based chef Meherwan Irani has been nominated for three James Beard Awards and co-founded a restaurant group with his wife, but he has no formal culinary training. He started cooking Indian food as a hobby born out of frustration with the lack of good Indian food options in the United States. With guidance from his mother, Irani recreated his favorite childhood foods in his own kitchen.

 William Travis Jewelry has been a fixture in Chapel Hill for more than 15 years. Behind the success is William Travis Kukovich, an award-winning jewelry designer with a pedigree in metalsmithing. Kukovich is a fifth-generation metalsmith who became a bit of a prodigy in the jewelry industry when he won the highest award in his profession at the age of 26.

courtesy of Alfredo Hurtado

When Alfredo Hurtado signed up to become a member of an Army military police unit, he figured he would be eating donuts and sitting in cars all day. Then the Sept. 11 attacks happened. Hurtado found himself guarding the twisted, dark corridors of the Pentagon, then detaining prisoners in Afghanistan. On his next deployment, to Iraq, his convoy hit an improvised explosive device that left Hurtado injured and in pain. 

photo of singer Anthony Hamilton holding a cigar
photo LeAnn Mueller

His soulful songs may be reminiscent of Sam Cooke, but Anthony Hamilton refuses to be put in a box. He was discovered while cutting hair at a barbershop in Charlotte and was signed to Uptown Records, but it took him 10 years and several failed record deals to finally establish himself as a solo superstar.

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