The scene in January was the looming dining room of Spice Street in Chapel Hill, and the atmosphere was warmer than any of Giorgio’s spices. The Independent was honoring the winners of last year’s Citizen’s Awards and the Indies, our Triangle arts awards, and there was an air of appreciation all around. Artists like Andre Leon Gray and musician/educators like Stanley Baird talked about how much their work means to them, and how much it meant to be recognized for it. Community leaders like Janet Colm of Planned Parenthood and activist attorney Lewis Pitts expressed much the same thing. The room hushed as former linebacker Earl Matlock, who teaches inner-city teens how to run a garden, had to stop and wipe tears from his eyes.

Being involved in the community, helping bring recognition to people who are enriching the Triangle, are among the Independent’s most important reasons for being. We want to be a conduit, a connection between artists and new audiences, helping both grow while enriching the lives of all of us who live here. We want to be a place where readers know they can turn to learn about people who are doing important–and otherwise unheralded–work in all parts of the community. And we want to be a place where readers can express their own feelings–in letters, in poems, in guest columns, in essays in the Front Porch.

We hope this year’s edition of the Indies awards does all that. Some of the winners were among the suggestions we received from readers. Others were brought to us by a panel from across the community that helped make the final decisions. The winners range from poet/activist Dasan Ahanu to N.C. State dance master Robin Harris to the politically savvy artist/lobbyists with Arts NC.

Says olufunke moses, our arts and entertainment editor: “The people we settled on were people who were doing it more than just because it was their job. They were pushing the envelope, finding new ways, being magnificent.”

Our efforts to connect with readers and the community continue. Next month, copies of the Independent will have a readers’ survey to let you tell us the features you like and don’t like about the paper and the things you think we ought to be doing but aren’t. We’d appreciate it if you’d take the time to fill it out.

Our endorsements issue, in which we make recommendations in all local and state races in the Triangle, is July 14.

You also may have noticed the ads we’re running for our first (annual?) Dog Days of Summer issue, where we’re asking readers of the pet-owning persuasion to send us 500-word essays about their particular beasts (not just dogs). We’ll pick the most entertaining ones and publish them in our Aug. 4 edition. The deadline is July 9; send your submissions (and pictures) to, or mail them to Dog Days, The Independent, P.O. Box 2690, Durham, N.C., 27715.

And, given the tremendous response we had to our showings of About Baghdad (more than 1,300 people saw the film), we’re looking into starting a film series this fall that would bring documentaries and political films to the Triangle that otherwise wouldn’t get a showing here. Stay tuned for that (and for an announcement in the next week or two about another showing of About Baghdad in Raleigh next month).

Finally, there will be some big changes to the Independent in August. We’re redesigning the paper, making it easier to read and navigate and adding some features we think will make it even more useful, effective and entertaining.

We hope you’ll stay in touch. And we’d love to see you next January to share the warmth when we honor the winners of this year’s Indies and Citizen’s Awards.