Pitts returned to Friendship, where his mother was born, to talk to residents about the upcoming presidential election. The piece, titled “In North Carolina, It’s Comfort Food, Uncomfortable Conversations,” highlights the divide among voters in what’s considered to be a pivotal swing state.
“15 electoral votes, the swing state of North Carolina, now the front line of this year’s political battleground,” he said. “North Carolina won’t be won or lost with big rallies or in big cities but in small towns like Apex. Communities like Friendship.”
Pitts showed his love for the area, spent time at Dallas Famous Chicken n’ Biscuits on East Williams Street, strolled through downtown Apex and visited his family’s history. He pointed out a great aunt’s house – “Looks exactly the same” – as he drove around.
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“Friendship is home to my family where dirt roads and dignity once intersected,” he said.
In his book, “Step Out on Nothing,” he describes spending his summers in Apex and Friendship with his grandmother, “a spit of a town with two churches, no more than 500 houses and not a single traffic light.”
At Dallas Famous Chicken n’ Biscuits, a place known for its home-cooked Southern food, he found voters on both sides of both policial persuasions. Most seem frustrated with the options on the ballot. One diner described voting for “the lesser of two evils.” Another said, “We don’t talk politics because we know some people think different, so we don’t want to hurt anybody.”
The 10-minute segment, part of the newsmagazine’s “Inside the Final 30” election countdown series, spent time in other parts of the state, including Greensboro and Charlotte. Pitts mentioned the recent vandalism at Orange County’s GOP headquarters and the protests in Charlotte following a police-involved shooting.
But he spent considerable time at the restaurant, talking to white and black voters dining at the restaurant and the Spanish-speaking workers behind the counter.
In a poignant moment, he visited his mother’s grave in the family cemetery. “In the South, certainly here in Friendship, people don’t so much visit the graveyard to grieve but to talk. To visit family,” he said.
When his mother was born in Friendship, the area was predominantly black and rural, said Pitts. Now, the area has become populated with new homes and more affluent residents, he said. He wondered what his mother would think of the election.
Following the broadcast, Pitts tweeted, “I love being in Apex. Great folk. Fondest memories of Friendship.”