Beat from the Street (8/26/2015)

By Larisa Karr, Arts and Features Editor
lakarr@unca.edu

8/26/2015

Photo by Blake Willis

Sandra Meares, civil rights activist originally from Decatur, Alabama

Why did you choose to participate in this? “I fight for women’s equal rights all the way across the board. I’m hosting the topless rally here in Pritchard Park and I do this in places like Key West, Ohio, and New Orleans. I believe that a woman should be able to make her own choices. If she wants to take off her top, I believe it should be allowed. I don’t believe that a man in a suit should be able to tell me what I can and cannot wear.”

How did you go about organizing this? “Me and Jeff Johnson went to WWNC and paid for the radio ads. We paid for everything. We don’t ever accept any donations, no money. We just aired it on the radio for a week.”

When you first started organizing this, were you nervous or scared? “No, no. I’m a cancer survivor and I believe that I ought to be able to express myself. In my hometown, we have a problem right now where women are being asked to cover up or leave certain parks or doctor’s offices if they’re breastfeeding their babies and I don’t feel that that’s right.”

“If a man can take off his shirt off, then I should be able to take my shirt off. As long as I’m not being lewd and lascivious, you know. The kids don’t notice.”

Of all the places that you’ve organized and rallied, where would say that you’ve had the most negative reception and the most positive reception? “It would have to be Asheville. When I first started this, I got detained by the police and asked to put on my shirt. But then we went in full force and were just determined to make this work. Now, we’re accepted. People don’t honk their horns. They don’t care. There aren’t as many people taking pictures as there used to be. You’re going to get good and bad everywhere you go. But, some people just don’t agree. They get brought up not to agree.”

How would you say the overall women’s lib movement is going? “I think it’s more positive. There are 32 states where topless is allowed.”

If you were to say three things or people that inspire you, what/who would you choose? “I would say most definitely Jeff Johnson, the host of the rally. I would also say my girls (the other activists) and my mom.”

Photo by Blake Willis

Marie Nunalee, employee at Spiritex, originally from Wilmington

How would you describe your style? “I tend to wear a lot of work boots because I’m on my feet 10 hours a day and I have to have supportive shoes. I always go with brown belts, which are a long-time habit. I’m definitely a minimalist and I keep it pretty clean.”

If you were to describe your style in three words, what would you say? “That’s a tough one. I guess minimal and androgynous, more or less.”

What do you think about Asheville? “I’ve lived here for about two years and I like what it has to offer because you can pretty much be yourself here. I find that the people who treat you like you are in a fishbowl are the people who don’t live here. They’re our bread and butter in this town. You can’t forget that, on the other hand. So you just have to say to them, ‘Congratulations, you’re here. I hope you enjoy the time you have here. Spend your money here. Yes, I’m not happy about the rent.’ There are a lot of other factors beyond that besides the tourism, though.”

In terms of creativity, what inspires you, whether it be movies, books, or a person? “Well, I’m a writer and I tend to write prose poetry. Lydia Davis is a huge favorite of mine along with Mary Gaitskill. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of Mary Oliver. She writes a lot of nature poetry. I’m also a huge fan of Annie Dillard. It’s tough because there’s so much inspiration to draw, like St. Vincent and Siouxsie Sioux.”

Photo by Blake Willis

Kelly’e West, employee at Ritz-Carlton hotel, furniture builder and upholsterer, originally from Asheville

Where did you move? “I moved to Atlanta for college and then to L.A. and then back to Atlanta, where I’m currently a resident. I definitely realized how much a product of my hometown I am. When I tell people that I’m from here, they will usually say, ‘Well, that explains a lot.’ Asheville is definitely an impression.”

If you were to describe your style, what words would you use? “I don’t know. I’ve always been more attracted to punk style. I like to invest in quality pieces too but on-sale quality pieces. It’s eclectic. I’ve always had a really hard time describing my style because it’s never consistent. The only thing that’s consistent is just being inconsistent, really.”

If you were to cite a creative inspirations, what/who would it be? “I have a tattoo of a quote from one of my favorite poets, Arthur Rimbaud: ‘Everything became shadow and ardent aquarium.’ That line is stuck with me forever. I’m inspired by my hometown and by so many different things and places. Like everybody does, I draw inspiration from all over. I like Matisse, artist-wise. He’s one of my favorites.”

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