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Purple reign

In dizzying swirl of purple, the 16th National Black Theatre Festival burst into action on Monday.

Stars of the stage, many of whom are also stars of TV and film, gathered under one roof and declared Winston-Salem “Black Theater Holy Ground.”

André De Shields, fresh from his Tony win for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for “Hadestown,” spontaneously led the crowd in an a capella rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” during a news conference at the Marriott on Monday afternoon.

On Monday evening, De Shields and hundreds of other theater-lovers attended the opening night gala at Benton Convention Center.

During the press conference, De Shields repeated part of his Tony acceptance speech, his three basic rules for success, plus one.

“One: Surround yourself with people whose faces light up when you walk into the room,” he said. “Two: Slowly is the fastest way to get to where you want to go. Three: The top of one mountain is the bottom of another mountain, so keep on climbing.

“And I’m adding another: God created black people, and black people created everything else.”

Kimbrough plans new memorial for fallen deputies

Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough wants to put a new memorial to fallen county officers in the Forsyth County Public Safety Center on Church Street in downtown Winston-Salem.

Currently, fallen officers are honored with rolling video on a digital board in the lobby of the building.

Kimbrough wants to use sheriff’s office money to pay for the $9,880 project that he said would be a more permanent memorial than the existing one.

He told the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners on Thursday about his idea to put the memorial on the second floor of the public safety center.

“Basically, the purpose is to form a dignified, permanent recording of sheriff’s office employees who have given the ultimate sacrifice,” Kimbrough said.

He said that it will be designed to honor the memory and commemorate the service of those county employees who died in the line of duty.

“It will be visible to all employees of the sheriff’s office, their families and guests,” he said.

The second floor was chosen because it houses the department’s administration and is where new deputies are trained.

Memorial Design of West Columbia, S.C., will design the memorial.

In a PowerPoint presentation, Kimbrough provided preliminary drawings of the planned memorial — a sizable marker that features a flag and badge.

The flag would be encased in glass, with the badge attached to the glass. The names of fallen officers would be etched on the badge. At the bottom is a “special thanks” list of names, including the county commissioners’.

Several county commissioners said they liked Kimbrough’s idea but some raised questions about the location of the memorial.

Commissioner Don Martin asked why Kimbrough didn’t want to put the memorial in the lobby or another place where it would be visible to the public, referring to the fact that the second floor has no public access.

“No public is going to see it,” Martin said.

He said the planned memorial could replace the video in the lobby, which is more open to the public.

Kimbrough said he had no problem with putting the memorial in a more public location.

“I’m not hanging my hat on a location,” Kimbrough said. “I’m just hanging my hat on the final product.”

Martin also suggested getting community donations to help pay for the memorial, as well as talking to the fallen officers’ families for their input about the best way to honor their loved ones.

Kimbrough said he is not worried about raising the nearly $10,000 if he has to get donations for the memorial.

He said he simply wanted permission to put up the memorial.

Commissioner Tonya McDaniel said she didn’t have a problem with putting “special thanks” to the commissioners because she has seen that on other plaques in county buildings.

“Now, if you raise those funds without having to utilize those funds allocated from the county, I would definitely suggest that you try to do that,” McDaniel said. “But, if this is what you want, I’m going to support you.”

Commissioner Gloria Whisenhunt also said it was important to her for the public to have access to the memorial.

“I think the second floor is a select group of folks,” Whisenhunt said.

Commissioner Dave Plyer told Kimbrough his heart is in the right place.

“From my perspective, wherever you want to put it, I think is perfectly all right,” Plyler said.

Plyler also said that if Kimbrough seeks donations, county resident would probably want to be part of his efforts.

“I certainly would like to be part of it,” he said.

Wake Forest Baptist left out of national specialty rankings in U.S. News best hospitals report

A significant change in how U.S. News & World Report measures the nation’s best hospitals has left Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center without a national top-50 specialty ranking for the first time in more than a quarter-century.

The report, released early Monday, covers 1,870 hospitals and academic medical centers for 2019-20.

It targets 16 complex specialties, procedures and conditions: cancer; cardiology & heart surgery; diabetes and endocrinology; ear, nose & throat; gastroenterology and GI surgery; geriatrics; gynecology; nephrology; neurology and neurosurgery; orthopedics; pulmonology and lung surgery; and urology.

Only 166 hospitals nationwide were ranked in at least one national top-50 specialty.

The lack of national top-50 specialty rankings for Wake Forest Baptist is significant given it had been ranked in eight for 2018-19, six for 2017-18 and five for 2016-17.

Wake Forest Baptist had 12 national specialty rankings as recently as the 2013-14 report and had at least one national specialty ranking since 1983.

U.S. News stressed in a release about the rankings that “because of changes in the methodology used to calculate this year’s Best Hospitals rankings, it advises against making comparisons to past numerical ranks.”

Ben Harder, U.S. News’ managing editor and chief of health analysis, said the drop in rankings for hospitals such as Wake Forest Baptist, “does not reflect a change in performance, but truly a change in methodology on our part.”

The biggest change is that hospitals rated as a top-50 specialty center are now considered as a “national referral center.”

“The top-50 specialty ratings are important for a small number of niche patients who need national expertise,” Harder said.

“These are centers where patients and family members would consider going out-of-state or out-of-region for care, and be willing to go out-of-network for the level of care.”

U.S. News said the methodology change “enhanced the way we account for differences in patient populations, and how those differences affect hospitals’ performance, and incorporated additional patient-centered measures reflecting patient satisfaction and how often patients go directly home from the hospital.”

Harder stressed that Wake Forest Baptist “did not perform at a lower level in the current report than in previous years.”

Wake Forest Baptist said in a statement its cancer, geriatrics and neurology and neurosurgery were listed as “high performing” on a national level.

While acknowledging the changes in how the rankings are calculated, Wake Forest Baptist said “we are actively seeking further information to understand whether this is responsible for the change in our standings.”

“While this is a change in U.S. News’ rankings, Wake Forest Baptist is the same high-quality-focused health care providers today as it was yesterday.”

Baptist’s rank slides

Wake Forest Baptist slid from a No. 2 ranking within North Carolina in 2018-19 to No. 5 for 2019-20.

Wake Forest Baptist has touted for years its high ranking in the U.S. News reports as verification of the quality of its services and patient care.

The report lists rankings in nine surgery and repair procedures, including aortic valve, heart bypass, colon cancer, COPD, hip and knee replacement and lung cancer.

Wake Forest Baptist ranked as “high performing” within its home state in eight procedures and conditions. He said only about 100 hospitals nationwide had that category level of high performing that also includes Cone Health in Greensboro.

Duke University Hospital remained first in the state, being nationally ranked in 10 adult specialties, down from 13 a year ago.

However, Duke was not ranked among the nation’s top 20 hospitals for the first time in several years.

UNC Hospitals, No. 2 in the state, was nationally ranked in five adult categories.

As has been the pattern for U.S. News for several years, the rankings tilted again toward academic medical centers in North Carolina and nationally.

Just one non-academic medical center in N.C., Cone, received a national ranking.

“It is great to receive this affirmation of the truly exceptional care that we provide at Cone Health,” said Dr. Bruce Swords, Cone’s chief physician executive.

Overall, Cone was ranked sixth in North Carolina, while Forsyth Medical Center was 15th out of 18 hospitals.

Forsyth did not provide comment on the latest U.S. News ratings.

2 accused of tying up, gagging and killing a man face a Forsyth County judge. Woman got about $500 in the robbery, police say.

Two people made their first appearances Monday on murder charges in the death of a 69-year-old Winston-Salem man whose body was found bound and gagged in his apartment late last year.

On Friday, Lessie Denise Graves, 41, of the 1500 block of Woods Road, and Nathan Carlos Gilmore, 29, of the 1400 block of East 23rd Street, were both charged with murder. Winston-Salem police served the two with the arrest warrants at the Forsyth County Jail just after 3 p.m. Friday. The two were being held on criminal charges stemming from allegations that they kidnapped the man and that Graves robbed him.

They are accused of killing James Herbert McCormick, who lived at 3954 Sugar Creek Drive, on Dec. 30, 2018. On that date, Winston-Salem police officers went to McCormick’s apartment after acquaintances were unable to get in contact with him for several days.

According to an autopsy report, McCormick died from a lack of oxygen. Police found McCormick’s body covered with a sheet on the floor of a bedroom, an autopsy report said. An electrical cord bound his wrists behind his back, and his feet were bound with another cord. McCormick had a sock in his mouth, compressing his tongue against the roof of his mouth and blocking his airway, the autopsy report said. A second sock around his face helped secure the first sock. The socks restricted airflow, causing asphyxia and his death.

Chief District Judge Lisa Menefee appointed the capital defender’s office to represent Graves and Gilmore. If convicted, the maximum sentences they could face are either life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty.

Winston-Salem police have said Graves and Gilmore knew McCormick but have not publicly provided details about what that relationship entailed. Lt. Gregory Dorn of the Winston-Salem Police Department has previously said that McCormick was last seen alive on Dec. 23.

The report said McCormick had scattered scrapes and bruises on his arms and legs and possible bruising on the left side of his forehead.

The medical examiner’s office concluded that McCormick’s death was a homicide.

Graves is also charged with first-degree kidnapping and common-law robbery. Gilmore is charged with kidnapping. According to an arrest warrant, Graves is alleged to have taken a wallet, keys, a Social Security card and a cellphone that all had a total value of $500.

Graves and Gilmore are both being held in the Forsyth County Jail with no bond allowed. They are scheduled to appear in Forsyth District Court on Aug. 15.

Forsyth County Sheriff's Office