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One enlightened evening

Poetry reading celebrates National American Indian Heritage Month


The best storytellers put it all out there. The good, the bad and the beautiful. The truth. They make us laugh. They make us cry. And, perhaps the most lasting of all, they make us think. 

 Such was the case on a Friday evening earlier this month at the Summertime Road home of Darlene and Mike Ransom. 

 As a celebration of National American Indian Heritage Month, Darlene Ransom conceived the idea of hosting a poetry reading featuring the works of her friend Jinnie Lowery. 

 A Lumbee daughter of Robeson County sharecroppers who grew up to be the CEO of a nonprofit group, Lowery is now retired and sharing written reminiscences of days past and present. Themes include the wonders of rising early to toiling in the family garden. 

A roomful of appreciative friends encompassed actors, artists and academics. A fascinating assembly of change-makers, to be sure. The other common link: Many had appeared in Cape Fear Regional Theatre’s 2019 ground-breaking “lumBEES: Women of the Dark Water,” produced by Darlene Holmes Ransom with her friend and mentor, the late Bo Thorp. 

Throughout the evening, there were heartfelt memories shared about Thorp, too, who lived just down the street.   

Dr. David Oxendine, a professor at UNC-Pembroke who directed the BEES when the show came to Givens Performing Arts Center, regaled with stories of his years directing the outdoor drama “Strike At The Wind” – and a movie career that included appearances in “Big” starring Tom Hanks and “Working Girl” with Harrison Ford. 

The evening also was cause to celebrate the birthday of LaVern S. OxenDine, aka “Mr. Fayetteville,” for his contagious smile and promotion of the city via videos, photos and his own brand of storytelling on social media tagged #lavernsworld. 

With a near full moon and Jupiter lighting up the sky – casting its glow on the home with fairytale-like details and exquisite landscape – the irony of the evening could not be denied. 

Twenty years ago, this same home was targeted by hate mongers and became the center of a U.S. Department of Justice investigation. In the middle of the night, a teepee, or tipi, was erected on the front lawn, car windows were shattered and urine was poured on the vehicle door handles. 

During the same week, more than 500 Vaseline-coated plastic forks were stuck into the dirt. The Ransoms (Mike is an insurance company executive and agencies owner) were told the act symbolized “you’re done.” Darlene Ransom – who worked for years as the director of the Office of Indian Education for Cumberland County Schools and as a respected social worker – said one person was convicted of “racial intimidation” and sentenced to community service, even though the acts were clearly done by many. No apology was ever given. 

As the group of friends recounted that fateful time, three words echoed in the room. 

“We’re still here.” 

Fayetteville, National American Indian Heritage Month, poetry reading, artists,