You probably already know this. But when someone in Appalachia or the Deep South says to you, “You’ve been telling stories again,” they’re basically telling you that you’re lying.
But the story I’m going to tell at 6:30 pm tomorrow, Tuesday, January 26 is as true as memory allows. I’ve never told it before. I’ll be telling it for the first time ever during a special event called Local Live(s) on my wonderful Charlotte, North Carolina NPR Station WFAE-FM. Please click https://www.eventbrite.com/e/local-lives-wfae-tickets-134280846627?aff=storytellerpromo to get your ticket for the event, only $5.00 plus a $1.94 handling fee. Tickets are limited.
The story takes place in the town of Roanoke Rapids, in that part of North Carolina we call “Down East,” in the late 1970s. I was there working as an organizer for the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (ACTWU).
Back then, Roanoke Rapids was the second largest textile mill town in the United States (the first was Kannapolis, North Carolina) with some 3,500 rank and file workers in seven mills. The mills were all owned by the J.P. Stevens Company, at the time the second largest textile corporation in the world. The union was fighting to get a contract and was having a hard time of is. The portrayal of this historic labor struggle in the movie Norma Rae starring Sally Field, isn’t completely accurate, but it definitely catches the spirit of these courageous workers.
Contrary to rumor, I am not the model for the Jewish organizer played by the late Ron Leibman in the film. As it happens, I got to town just a little bit after the movie ended. That’s when I met and became friends with Louis Harrell.
I’m still putting the story together with elements that may or may not include the Roanoke River, cotton mills, Brown Lung disease, the 1934 General Strike, coal miners, cotton dust, graveyard shift, pall bearers, porch swings and how I came to write my song “Go To Work On Monday.” Even I won’t know how the story ends until I tell it to you tomorrow evening.
Click https://www.eventbrite.com/e/local-lives-wfae-tickets-134280846627?aff=storytellerpromo to listen and find out why I’m still telling stories.
ABOUT LOCAL LIVES
Local Live(s) is a storytelling event focused on deepening the connection between journalists and the communities they serve. And it’s all virtual, so you can watch and participate from the comfort of your couch. They’ll be live music and fantastic true stories from journalists and local legends. Get your tickets and more info here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/local-lives-wfae-tickets-134280846627?aff=storytellerpromo