CHARLOTTE, N.C. Like Saint Francis preaching to the birds, Chris Kite extended his arms to the air and sent his words to the skies at 1 p.m. Tuesday from the corner of Brevard and Stonewall Streets.
He was the third orator of the afternoon approved by the city to address a public crowd – which consisted entirely of me – from the Speaker's Platform.
To listen, you had to cross a phalanx of police officers next to their bicycles, entering via the southeast corner of the block. Any audience would've been compelled to sit on gravel and weeds. Pristine recycling and trash bins dotted the empty lot.
I missed the first speaker of the day, whose topic was posted as “Sodomy, Abortion, Fornication.” (He left a DVD behind, but I forgot to take it.)
I arrived at the end of session two, listed as “Greenville Urban Area – Neighborhood Representative.” This turned out to be a pugnacious man in a blue shirt with “INFIDEL” on the back. He explained that Jews had lost faith in Obama, and their defection would cost him the presidency. As he finished, he thanked the nonexistent audience for attending and, perhaps sarcastically, the media for noting his remarks.
Then Kite took the stage for his allotted half-hour. He competed for attention with the portable generator supplying electricity to the amplifier, patrolling helicopters, a seething crowd of protesters of every stripe across from the NASCAR Hall of Fame and a guy with a handheld microphone who bellowed, “The DNC is the party of death! They stand for murdering little children! Obama is a communist! Communists murder children!”
Unfazed, Kite unfolded a long, winding and compelling tale about his own Mormon history and that of Green Flake, a black Mormon pioneer from North Carolina who led Brigham Young's wagons into Utah in 1847. As a counter to Clint Eastwood's much-discussed RNC monologue, he put an empty chair for Green Flake on the podium: “He and I like hearing the stories of service, family and convictions. We do not say ‘Make my day.' We say ‘Together we make our day.'.”
Sound guys handed him a bullhorn when the amp cut off briefly. Passers-by snapped photos but didn't stop. Sometimes Kite spoke; sometimes he sang: “Scandalize My Name,” “Mama Look a Boo-Boo,” a version of “Carolina in the Morning” that welcomed Barack Obama. He talked about the positive early relationship between the Catawba Nation and the Mormon Church. Mostly, he spoke about unity. (He works with Mecklenburg Ministries and knows something about that topic.)
He quit the platform with a smile, unfazed by solitude. “I enjoyed making up the script,” said Kite, who runs Life Goes On Consulting in Cornelius. “Part of it is just doing the work, not worrying about the outcome.”
He was scheduled to come back today with the Community Singers, though he said the group might end up walking and singing instead to spread a nonpartisan message about compassion for all. “The labels ‘conservative' and ‘liberal' don't really work,” he said. “People need to hear all sides.”