Bridging to Thriving Communities: The Power of Arts and Entertainment – ep.133

Restorative Justice – ep.133
April 18, 2024
Fostering Synergy: Bridging DEI through Collaboration” – ep.135
May 2, 2024

Step into the vibrant world of community-building with Bridging Communities: The Power of Arts and Entertainment. In The Jali Podcast, we uncover inspiring stories of individuals like Necola Adams, who are making a difference in their communities through creativity and collaboration. Join us as we explore how arts and entertainment events transcend barriers, foster a sense of belonging, and ignite a spirit of engagement. Discover the transformative impact of building bridges and celebrating diversity in places like Merced, CA. Get ready to be inspired, uplifted, and motivated to create positive change in your own community. Welcome to a world where art meets activism, and together, we build a brighter future for all.

Melyssa Barrett:  Welcome to the Jali Podcast. I’m your host, Melissa Barrett. This podcast is for those who are interested in the conversation around equity, diversity, and inclusion. Each week, I’ll be interviewing a guest who has something special to share or is actively part of building solutions in the space. Let’s get started.

This week, I’m excited because I get to talk to my friend and my sister, Nicola Adams. We have the honor of talking on the day of my late husband’s birthday, and she knew him well. So this will be a tribute to Peter Barrett, but Nicola is a brilliant woman who wears many hats. She is a community advocate amongst the least of things, but one who is constantly giving back and propelling the community forward. If you are discouraged with your community, exhausted from the work that needs to be done, listen to this episode and let her tell you about her involvement and how she focuses on creating a thriving community. She even hit on why youth should vote, how everyone has the same things in common, and her focus on people and succession. You don’t want to miss this one. Join me. Yes, it is Peter Barrett’s birthday today. Bless his soul. Yes. So happy birthday to the jolly

Necola Adams:  Happy birthday, brother Pete. Sometimes it just seems like weird that he’s not here. You know what I mean?

Melyssa Barrett:  Oh, yes. I know what you mean.

Necola Adams:  I mean, you’re his wife, but Yeah, but I’m like his baby sister.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yes, indeed. It is always an experience, but I try to focus on his birthday rather than the day of his death. So for me, it’s a much happier occasion than marking the death.

Necola Adams:  Yes. And all the things I’m like, he was so wise in so many things. I’m like, this is the thing that got me when I met Pete. Right? Like my brother of the heart. So when I mentioned my brother Pete, people think that’s my brother, brother, right? Yes. But he’s, he’s the brother of my heart. But he could see something and tell you exactly what part of Africa came from.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yes.

Necola Adams:  And then tell you the whole history around it. I’m just like,

Melyssa Barrett:  Wow,

Necola Adams:  I’ve never met anyone who could do that before.

Melyssa Barrett:  And by memory, it wasn’t even, he went and looked things up. It was like, I literally, I’m telling you, I remember this so clearly. I had a new manager. It was like an SVP of, I don’t know where I was at the time, business intelligence and whatever. And I’m telling you, I came home and I said, Hey, I have a new manager. And he was like, what’s his name? I said, Sylvia Tavares. And he gave me the entire history of the Tavares family, where they came from Africa, how they came through Massachusetts. I was like, how do you just know that off the top of your head,

Necola Adams:  Not just encyclopedia, but a walking historian, right?

Melyssa Barrett:  Yes, yes.

Necola Adams:  I never saw Pete look up anything.

Melyssa Barrett:  Oh, he looked up a lot of stuff, but I’m telling you, it was like, it was like he absorbed it like a stunt did. Yeah. It was amazing.

Necola Adams:  So it’s just like I never saw him look up anything with me. I’m like, he just spread it out and they’re from blah, blah, blah, and that’s their tattoo or that’s their mark. And I was just like, wow.

Melyssa Barrett:

Yeah, he was incredible. Incredible. It’s incredible.

Necola Adams:

He was, and then you know what his spirit still lives on because we talk about him and other people talk about him and celebrate him. So he touched so many lives with his knowledge, but just with the person that he was just a loving person accepting just incredibly funny.

Melyssa Barrett:  Well, he thought he was funny.

Necola Adams:  We know he had some dry jokes, but

Melyssa Barrett:  Yes, yes. No, I mean, the jolly, I’m telling you, when I think about an oral tradition storyteller, and they say that when a storyteller dies, it’s like the equivalent of a library being burned. There’s so much in his head that, I mean, I marvel when I think about the brain and how much you can absorb and have in there and recall and all of that. I mean, some people are just incredibly amazing at what they have in them, and it’s such a treasure that when they’re gone, you literally feel the gap.

Necola Adams:  Yes, yes. The big loss. I got one back in there. It’s my husband, Steve.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yes.

Necola Adams:  He just absorbs so much. I mean, when we talk about my husband, I’m like, yeah, I tell people he speaks eight languages also. I’ve taught including Mandarin Chinese to get us. I’m like, it’s so much medical knowledge and all this stuff. So yes, I So get living with a walking library.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yes. Well, now I know why you and Pete connected so well.

That’s awesome. Yes. That’s pretty good. So enough about Peter Barrett who will live on as the jolly, and most people know, the Jolly podcast is kind of the head nod to him to continue to connect and focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, all of those things. We need to tell our stories. We need people to hear our stories. So I want to start out talking to you though about how you became the woman you are today. Because first of all, I don’t even know how you got to Merced. I’ve known you for years, and so I’m like, how did it all start?

Necola Adams:  Well, my grandmother’s brother, so my grand uncle and my grand aunt, my grand uncle was born in 1902. So it was my grandmother, my mother’s mother’s biological brother. His wife was born in 1890 in Texas, both from the south. They moved from the south to Caat, California, which was a migration for a lot of black people coming from Oak, Oklahoma, Arkansas in the thirties. And so a lot of people don’t know about that little town in the Mojave Desert called Kopra Imperial Valley. And so my mother was born there, and my uncle was a minister. He’d been a minister since 1924 at the age of 22. And that’s a whole story that we could talk about. He ran moonshine for his grandfather. Oh, yeah. Oh yeah. He ran moonshine hung out at my grandfather’s great-grandfather’s Ju joint back in the woods. Yeah, all that color, purple stuff. Yes, it was real. And so they brought my mother here to Merced when she was 13, and she met my father who was from Los Spanish, and he was living raised by his grandfather. And so my father’s grandfather was from Canada, so he was French Canadian. And so him and my mom met I guess high school, some kind of thing, some dance, something. And they had me, I was number one. And so I’m number one out a five with my mother. And then my father has two more. So I’m the oldest out of seven.

Oh, wow. Yeah. So I’m like five foot one. I’m like Tina Marie, 5 1, 200 pounds of fun. I like fun.

Melyssa Barrett:  You are too much.

Necola Adams:  So my siblings are all taller than me, and my baby brother is six six.

Melyssa Barrett:  Oh my goodness.

Necola Adams:  So I just told him, God gave me all the good stuff, the personality, everything. And so there wasn’t much left for you guys. So it was just height. The more that came along, the taller you got,

Melyssa Barrett:  It’s fully concentrated in Nikola,

Necola Adams:  Fully concentrated. So yeah, my family’s been here since then. My children are here, my grandchildren are here. So we are very connected to this community,

Melyssa Barrett:  And we’re going to spend some time on the community because you are not only a community advocate, but you spend a lot of time on the political side as well as just working between public and private sectors running for city council. I mean, you are all in when it comes to making the world a better place. So what’s your focus and how do you, in a place, I mean a lot of people may not even know where Merced is. How do you make an impact in a community that is typically, I mean, it probably was much more rural than it is today, but how do you impact that community and how do you feel like that’s going? You pull a lot out of your toolkit.

Necola Adams:  I do, but I remember growing up in my community and see, a lot of people don’t really talk about all the history. They want to talk about the good parts, but they leave out those bad parts or the parts that they don’t want to see. And so I grew up in Merced when Merced was segregated. And so it was just like living in Mississippi. South side was all African-American black people. We had some Hispanic people, a few poor white people lived over there, but we couldn’t live past the railroad tracks in Merced. There was a time when you went downtown to go clothes shopping with your kids. Black children could not try the clothes on because white people didn’t want their kids to try clothes on after you. So when people think California was all integrated and we were just everybody kumbaya, that’s not true.

And so I grew up in that area, era. I was one of the first kids bust when they started busing in our community. So I remember all of that, but I remember that also how our community, the black community was more connected than it is now. And so I remember also my uncle who raised me, he raised my mother, he raised me. He was called the bishop of Merced. So he was connected with the entire community, not just ours. And so they called him the bishop of Merced. And we would have any given Sunday missionaries from Haiti, from China, Papa, new Guinea, sitting at our kitchen table. We lived in the parsonage where the part of the table was up against the wall because it didn’t fit really. So you only had really a couple of chairs around sitting drinking coffee. And I’m listening to these people and they’re white, they’re black, they’re everything.

And so I got this rich, how do I say it? This rich lessons and diversity and inclusion. Before we were doing diversity inclusion and does that make sense? Yes. And so our church would go to Hispanic churches, planada and other places. And the only thing in English in that church was my uncle preaching and our choir s singing it. We would go out to what we called the road camps back in the seventies before they had ’em, the little lockup jails offsite. And we would have, the mission sisters would have service with those people that were in road camp, and I would play piano, or Sharon would play piano. We were taking lessons from Dennis Brown. And so I start piano lessons at four. And so we would go out there and we would play for them, those old hymns and things. So I’ve got this sense of you put back into your community because you can’t just talk about the bad things that in your community or the wrongs that the community is doing to you or to your culture.

It is how do I establish bridges to talk about the issues in our community, but also be able to bring things back to make it to where we connect and we make things better for the whole. And so that’s what I do now. Yes. I ran for city council in 19 94, 20 16. I’m the first black woman to ever run for mayor of this city in the history of our county, the first black woman. And so there’s a lot of things that I still do. I’m an elected delegate for assembly District 27. I’m serving my third term. And again, it’s about how can we make our community better and leave a lasting legacy and positive ways for the future to be able to build them.

Melyssa Barrett:  And everything you’re talking about is on my heart from a Kwanza perspective. Those are all the principles that I talk about every day. So notice you’ve talked about unity, you’ve talked about cooperative economics. I mean, all of the things that you do, you are living and breathing every one of those principles every day, which leaving the world better than when it, all of those things. I mean, if we could literally have people focus on that every day happy day, you would be a completely different society.

Necola Adams:  Totally. Totally. And there’s sacrifices in doing that, right? Absolutely. I have five children. I have three girls, two boys, 11 grandchildren. Half my grandchildren are grown, which I can’t even believe that time just gets away from you. But I remember my oldest daughter telling me once, and this was probably about seven years ago maybe, right? And she’s 40, and she said, mom, because I was getting ready to go do something, always going to a meeting, always doing something. And she said, mom, I think you love the community more than us. And I really kind of went, and then I thought about it for a moment and I said, no, mha. I said, because I love you so much. I’m trying to make the community better for you and for your children. And so I understand that it is taking time away from my family, but I also understand my family has better opportunities and I living in a better space than I did because of the time I put in my community.

And so with each game, there are sacrifices. And so I hope I look back and I go, I hope I didn’t sacrifice too much of my family. I hope I didn’t sacrifice too much of my grandchildren. Because when I look at things, I’m like, this is about them. This is about those other people’s families. This is about those people who hate what I look like. Whatever. I don’t care. This is about making things better for your children because I understand if things are better, then you can start working on those issues better than. And so if they’re better than for everyone, then we don’t have the better than. And a teacher in college said this once, an old man, and a lot of people thought he was kind of little rough, but he said something once in college, and I was doing history. I wanted to be a history teacher. And as you see, that didn’t pan out, but that’s okay.

Melyssa Barrett:  I think you teaching all the time,

Necola Adams:  You really are. Our lives are open books, right? Yes. And so he said, everybody always wants to get ahead, get ahead, get ahead. He said, get ahead of the who, because in order for you to get ahead, somebody has to be behind. And that just made too much sense to me. And so it’s like I don’t look at life as trying to get ahead in life. I look at how can we make life quality of life for all of those around us, whether we know them or not, whether they like us or not. Because when life is better for people, people are happier and they don’t care about at that point your color or your culture or whether you come from the other side of the border or not. And so when we look at those things, those things, we start seeing the improvement in the way we treat people.

Because when you can dehumanize someone, then you can do anything you want to do and you don’t feel any recourse or you don’t feel any regret or anything about doing that to, and that’s why slavery can last so long, because they said that we were not humans. We had no souls. But then when you start looking at people and you’re going, these are really people, how do I treat people on a humanistic level? So that’s what I try. I try to talk to people. And even when people talk about, oh, those people, people, I’m like, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. We are those people because all of our ancestors came from somewhere. Absolutely. So we have to look at now how do we move forward in the conversations to ways that connect us together? That’s what I look at.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yeah. Well, and so let’s talk about, I’m going to go there to the political realm because you are so versed in it, and I know you do so much when it comes to voting and trying to help people understand why they should vote, especially our youth.

Necola Adams:  Yes. Oh my God, yes. They don’t understand. People are making decisions for their lives for the next 10 years when they get out on their own, and they’re like, well, how come we can’t do this? Or Why do we have to pay for this? I’m like, you didn’t vote when you were 18 years old, so now you’ve got to live with it until you’re 22 or 26 years old. And at that time, you want to buy your house. You want more pay. You want things to be a little better in your life than you thought it would be. Things are good when you’re living with your parents, and you can complain about as much as you want because you’re still going to have a roof over your head. You’re still going to have food on your table, and you’re still going to have a transportation to get to where you want to get.

But once you leave that secure environment, the world is a whole new place. It’s kind of like going from grade school where you were with your friends since preschool and kindergarten until fifth grade, and then you get into junior high to high school, and you’re with this whole pool of people that come from every other school, and you’re trying to figure out where you fit in. Your friends might’ve went to a different school. You got to try to make new friends. But it’s a whole new thing. And that’s how it is when you become adult and get out in the world, you got to figure it out. And so there’s already kind of a roadmap because you had your voice. You kind of set the roadmap. You have a say in your roadmap. And so most kids don’t understand at 17 years old, you can register to vote if the elections are coming up by the time you’re 18. And so us going on those high school campuses talking about the real issues, because all they hear is secondhand stuff. It’s kind of like, excuse me for bringing this up, but it’s kind like sex education in sixth grade, from your friends or from the teacher. You’re going to get bad information from your friends,

Melyssa Barrett:  Right? The

Necola Adams:  Teachers got the,

Melyssa Barrett:  Oh, yes, I remember those days. You’re taking me back now. Let’s pause for a moment. We’ll be right back.

Necola Adams:  So again, take part in your life. And so voting is our voice. And I grew up, and I talk about my grand uncle, Reverend tc, win a lot. My uncle actually went to Selma to be with Dr. King in the march with the Ministers. So my family has always been a part of the system saying, Hey, use your voice. Because they came up when they couldn’t vote, they came up through the Jim Crow laws. And so in my house, my house wasn’t one of those that really didn’t talk about it, because a lot of people didn’t talk about it because it was so painful. They talked about it, especially my grand aunt. I used to call her grandma. Grandma knew about a lot of stuff. And I mean, her family had been through a lot in Texas from her father being murdered by a white mom to one of her brothers being struck by lightning coming across the field and killed. Yeah. Yes. So there’s a lot of history. And she really did not trust white people. And so it was really interesting when I got with my husband, because she was a hundred years old at my wedding, and she loved my Steve. My Steve was like it for her. And then when she got the dementia, she started thinking back. Those old stuff started coming back. But before that, Steve was it.

Melyssa Barrett:  And for the audience, Steve is white.

Necola Adams:  My husband is very white, my husband is a European is European. You can get Italian, French, all of that. Just European, European, like 100% SP sunscreen when he goes outside.

Melyssa Barrett:  He’s amazing. So take us to, so you grow up in Merced, you get involved, you pick a career, and then you decide that you are going to get involved, but you do more than get involved. I think one of the big questions is in an area like yours, because I think there’s a lot of people that are moving to more, we’ll call it suburban areas or rural areas. How do you create thriving communities in those areas?

Necola Adams:  Merced, it was historically a rural area. We have a lot of almond trees, a lot of pistachios now are becoming big, but we also have the new issues seeing California, uc, Merced. And so connecting with those administrators and the professors, because a lot of people at uc, Merced call me the unofficial student because I’m on campus a lot. I get invited to a lot of things by the students. I stay involved. I stay open-minded. But I got to say, I had mentors starting from the time I was young. I’ve had people putting things into my life. And then when I became an adult, and I got to say, you know what? Wasn’t always a good kid. I got to tell you, I was the fighter. I’m like, every time you turn around, I’m in the principal’s office for fighting. You look at me wrong. You say something stupid.

We’re fighting because that’s the way I grew up. And so when I became an adult, and actually I probably was in my late twenties, early thirties, women, other women started taking me under their wings. Ida Johnson, Ida Johnson saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. And this is the thing we have to do, is we have to start looking at those things in women that seeing beyond that facade, that first impression thing, and seeing the possibilities of their lives. And Ida’s husband, Larry had been my ninth grade principal. And honestly, I think Larry suspended me a third of the school year.

Melyssa Barrett:  I’m sure it was deserved.

Necola Adams:  It was very deserved, very deserved. I’m not going to say it wasn’t very, very deserved. And so Ida took me home with her once, and Larry saw me. And when I left, Ida later told me, Larry told her, Ida, I don’t think you should be hanging with her. That’s a bad girl. And Ida said, Larry, I’m going to give her a chance, and if she shows me something different, he said, I’ll leave her alone. And I became friends, and we were best friends for 18 years. And she introduced me into the legal women voters and to friends of the library. And I met this other incredible woman by the name of Susan Walsh, Dr. Susan Walsh. And Susan, when she retired from Mercer College, retired as president of Mercer College. And Susan, one of the ladies in legal women voters said, Susan, input Susan into Nico Nicola. So she taught me about the legal women voters.

I already knew how important voting was because I grew up with that, but she showed me the other parts and connected so much more for me to the League of Women Voters. And so Ida was the first black president for the League of Women Voters in our county, and she served one term. Years later, I became the second black president of the League of Women Voters. And I served two terms. And under one of my terms, we did the library study to keep our library open and get monies towards our libraries. So that was very, very important because you don’t have a library. You don’t have books that kids can check out and read for free. And we know that a lot of the libraries and the schools have to dwindle down. And so this was very, very important because this is the next generation, and if they can’t read, they can’t do anything else.

And so again, these two women are very influential and instrumental in the person who I am today. I was already working in the schools as a volunteer parent and stuff, and I did that for 18 years. But the other part of it in the community, they opened my eyes, showed me what it was, and literally I just took off running with it. It’s like, oh, oh, okay. Let’s do this. Let’s do this. Let’s figure out ways how to connect us better together. Let’s figure out ways how we can sit and talk about things. There was a whole lot of things going on even before George Floyd. And so I actually connected with the police department and said, Hey, can we do a whole forum on race relations in our community? And so we had Dr. Nigel Hadden from the UDC, we had a lot of other people that were there, and the place was full to talk about our communities and the different stereotypes about our communities, but how we can also overcome those stereotypes and people just talking about their stories, their stories, and how a lot of our stories are the same stories, literally.

And then when you look at the bottom line, we all want the same thing. We all want to feel safe. We all want to be healthy, have access to medical care, quality, medical care. We all want to be economically stable. We want our kids to have the best to be able to go to school or trade school to be able to have a prosperous and productive future in our society. I mean, literally, those are the five things that come out of almost every single conversation, no matter what culture or community you live in. And it’s okay. So we know that this is the same. So how can we connect together to make sure our communities are getting the same thing and feeling the same way, and we’re talking to each other and going, Hey, we’ve got a missing part over here. Well over here. How can we help you over here?

How can we help you over here? And so I connected with Minister a Luna over at the United Methodist Church, and she actually started the food bank, actually, I connected her with Ag Link, and that connected her with a lot of food boxes and stuff. They can give out chores during Covid. So they fed over 200,000 families during Covid. Oh, wow. And I was one of the drivers. So I did a lot of the people who were shut-ins, the elderlys people with cancer. So I would borrow Juul’s van and I’d load it up with 67, 70 boxes, and I had that many stops. Wow. What was left over? We would go out and I said, Hey, there’s these apartment complex of farm workers. Let’s go out there. So we’d load a van, go out there. I learned how to speak a little Spanish free food. Come on over.

Yes. And I’ve got to tell you, if you want to have a very good feeling about the world, go out and feed people that you don’t even know. And so when we talk about, and I know a lot of people, I don’t call myself a Christian anymore. I call myself a believer. There’s just too many stuff. And that’s a whole nother show. A lot of boxes. A lot of boxes. A lot of boxes. And so helping her out, being able to get back to the community and several other communities, we traveled to Las Banis, they traveled to Mariposa being able to help out those communities, which connects you to your community. So now you’re doing this connectivity again. And so out of that, then we did the Enough Festival. And so 2019, right before Covid came along, and that was nasty 2019, our country was divided, our communities were divided.

I saw friends stop talking to people to each other. I’m like, and somebody even told me that they knew of a husband and wife that got divorced over it. It was just bad, bad, bad, bad. Yeah. And so my thing was, I was sitting in bed and I was praying, and I was like, my was so heavy for our country. And I said, Lord, what is it that I can do for my community to help connect us back together? And so literally, you see those movies where it runs to this site really fast, and it comes back and it shoots to this site really fast. And it’s like super fast motion. It was going through my head, and all I could see was trees. That’s all I could see. And then you hear me right now, I hear God speaking in my head. They said, Livingston has the Sweet Potato Festival, but sweet potatoes don’t grow in every part of the county. Los Spanish has Tomato Festival, but tomatoes don’t grow in every part of the county. In your county, almonds, walnut and pistachios grow in every single part of your county, have a nut festival. And I was like, okay. I had no clue to what I was doing, how to start it, nothing. So the first person I called Susan Walsh, Hey, Susan, I want to have a nut festival. What do you think, Nicole? What do you want to have? I want to have an October. It’s June. You can’t do it.

You can’t raise enough money. Wait till next year. Wait till next year. So I was like, something wouldn’t let me leave it alone. So I called my friend Dr. Kim McMillan, she’s a playwright, and she’s done festivals in the Bay Area. So I said, Hey, Kim. I said, Hey, I’m thinking about doing this nut festival. You want to be a part of it? She goes, Nicole, I don’t think you should do it. You don’t have enough time to put it on. And she’s like, I’m getting all of these notes, right? She’s like, you got to have medical staff and you got to have this, and you got to have that. So as she’s telling me this, and my mind is taking notes of what she’s saying. And so then it was like I ran into a friend, Gwen Hagerman, and she was really acquaintance, and Gwen had worked for the County Times newspaper.

And I said, Hey, Gwen, we were talking, and I just brought up the idea of a enough festival. And she said, Nicole, I think you should do it. I’m a graphic artist. I used to have a business in San Jose. I’ll do all the graphics for you. I was like, and then I just sold a house to this lady named Cynthia Adams. We got along because our last names were Adams, but she’s a white lady, an older retired nurse, just moved here from Monterey. And I said, I’m going to do enough festival because I think that’s a fabulous idea. I’d like to be part of that. You only need two yeses, right? And then Rick, Vicky Underwood, one of the ladies in my church, her mother had just passed away. Vicky was really grieving, and I think she just needed something to do. And she says, I’ll pass out your flyers for you.

So in four months, I went out. I didn’t know how to do a sponsor letter. I didn’t know how to do anything. I’m praying, doing everything. God gave me everything. I went out and did a sponsor letter letter. Cynthia and I went out on a weird freak rainstorm day, and we were going to head link and it was closed, and I just seen a little sign down the street, and this is like ko. And I said, I’m just going to keep driving. Cynthia’s just riding. So she’s not saying anything, right? Where are we going? And I see Harris Wolf, almonds, the gates are open. So I drive into Harris Wolf almonds. I go to the desk. I have a sponsorship letter in my hand, and I said, hi, my name is Nicole Adams. And Cynthia introduces herself, and she goes, we’re kind of like the Adam Sisters, right?

Few years too late of each other, older than me. And I said, is your manager in to the lady? And he’s standing right there. And I said, hi, my name’s Nicole Adams. And I said, we’re putting a Merc. It’s first annual Mercer County Nut Festival. We’d like to know if you’d be a sponsor. He goes, I’ll give you a thousand dollars. Whoa, nice. So don’t tell me that’s not a God. Because normally I’ve been back out there and the gates are closed. So he sent us our first thousand dollars I I was looking at the nut people, so I’m going to these nut people. But then it’s like, I see. And it’s really interesting because almost everyone turned me down. I see mentor haulers, because I’m going to mentor intern nuts. They do pistachios. Down the street is mentor haulers. I go out there, I meet Kevin. Kevin says, yeah, I’ll give you $1,500. So literally four months. We raised $16,000. I worked on getting vendors. We had 32 vendors. We put it on, it was attended by 1600. Let’s see. Yeah, 1,675 people. We have clickers at the gate. That was our first year. And I’m glad I didn’t listen to the naysayers, because next year was Covid.

Melyssa Barrett:  Oh, that’s right. Yeah.

Necola Adams:  Yes. Oh my goodness. The way it never would’ve happened, never would’ve happened. And because we did it, our congressman Jim Costa, literally read a little resolution about the Nut Festival after we had the first one. He was there on the floor of Congress. So we are in the congressional records of the Mercer County Net Festival with all four of our names on that. Wow. So it’s pretty cool. And I didn’t even know they presented it to me for a year. I didn’t even open the box. I was just like, oh, that’s nice. I work to do. Coke came, and one day I’m opening the box. I sell real estate. So I’m a real estate agent for a C 21 select. And I’m opening the box and I look at it, and then I look at it. I was like, oh, starts off with,

Melyssa Barrett:  Oh my gosh. Oh my.

Necola Adams:  We one skipped, this will be our first fourth one, October 19th, but last year we had over 7,000 people attend the Mercer County Nut Festival, and we had over 102 vendors. So a lot of people are hearing about it now. We have people come as far as LA for the Nut Festival. Wow. Yeah. They had heard about us. And so this year we got people coming from Spain. They’ve already confirmed it. Hey, we want to be there. We got people coming from New York City. I mean, it’s growing big. So we expect to have between 10 and 12,000 people this year. Like the Coachella of nuts. It’s going to be the Coachella Hug Nuts. It’s a huge bus one. But I tell people, I run into other festival people, and I go to the Alman Conference and I go to the Ag Expo and I talk to people. This is where I get my vendors, but I also tell ’em about the Nut Festival. And I’m like, it’s so funny because I go this last one with my golden braids, my blonde braids, and it was kind of cool. People just kind of looked at you like, oh, you’re not best old lady. Yes, I am.

But we are just growing by leaps and bounds. And we’re a 5 0 1 C3. So we’re a nonprofit and we’re a foundation because what we do is we celebrate the one Almond and P professional industry, then we educate the public on the process from grow to table. So there’s a whole educational building. So you can come in there, you can see how they’re shaking off the trees, pollinated everything. We have B people there with BI, so they can see what’s going on inside. But yes, and then we give back to the community and the former sponsorships and scholarships to organizations that work with youth 13 to 17 only through educational arts programs. Because we realize not every child or parent can afford to go to say if they wanted to take dance lessons or if they wanted to go to take a class on civil engineering, that they can afford it, or they want to learn how to play saxophone and they can’t afford the instrument.

So we’ve given to the Lions Club, the little Junior Lions Club. We’ve given to several other organizations, Mercer Cultural Arts Center, so for their summer programs, summer youth programs. And so we want to be able to help those kids who are kind of falling through the cracks where their parents may be middle income, but they still have paycheck to paycheck. Or those kids who are kind of falling through the cracks where maybe their parents are at home or parent or guardian is not there and they can’t afford it. And so we don’t want that age bracket to get lost because in our county, you age out of almost every single afterschool program by the time you’re 13 years old. And so we know that what happens is the gangs are waiting for you because they know you are only safe till you’re 13. And when you have nothing to do, 13 to 17 years old, there’s a whole lot of trouble you can get into that will mess up your future. And so what we want to do is put kids on their positive path to a productive future in life for themselves and for our communities.

Melyssa Barrett:  I love that. I mean, it is so interesting to me because you literally, as I asked you about kind of thriving community, you have hit on education, law enforcement, spirituality, and then youth engagement, which is so powerful, and I love that. And so now we’re talking about the Nut festival, but what’s unique about you is you don’t go, Hey, we’re going to throw a nut festival to fundraise so that we can give back through scholarships and sponsorships. You say, oh, now we’re going to do another festival to fundraise for the Nut festival. So how does that work?

Necola Adams:  So actually, I wanted to do this for a while. I wanted to put on a jazz festival for Merced. And so I know that jazz incorporates so many other genres of music into it. And so we are putting in a jazz festival, which is the first fundraiser for the Nut Festival. And so I’m allowed to be able to mention these people that we have at the jazz festival this year. So we have, I can mention five, and we’re working on some more. We have the main ingredient. We have Jesse J, who is a bad saxophonist. If you ever hear her, you got to look her up. We have Slave, the Group Slave, we got Greg Chambers, who is another, he’s a smooth jazz saxophonist. Amazing. We got Ms. Chalet. We are working on Tom Brown, the one who does Jamaican Funk. We are working on surface only. You can make me happy. Happy, yes. And we’re working on the leasing of Vogue.

Melyssa Barrett:  Oh, nice. Hold

Necola Adams:  On. Do your love. Yeah, hold on. Do your love.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yeah. You’re not going to get me singing.

Necola Adams:  You got the Hold on. Yes.

Melyssa Barrett:  I love it. So when is the jazz festival going to be?

Necola Adams:  It is July 6th and seventh here in Merced at Courthouse Park. That’s on 20th and m. And 20th. We’re going to have it completely fenced in. Gated tickets go on sale next week. $45 for general public, 65 for VIP. We got two whole days of music food festival. Yes. We also got cabanas. So the cabanas start off at $500. Those are, you got your tables, you get several drinks with that. You got the nice leather couches. So yes.

Melyssa Barrett:  Wow, that’s amazing.

Necola Adams:  And you’re going to do it. Do it. Right.

Melyssa Barrett:  Alright, Merced, we see you.

Necola Adams:  Yes. Go big go. Right. And I’m like, this is only the first, because I’m working with the promoter, Michael White, who Michael is fabulous. And he is been doing this for over 30 years. So I met someone, actually, you and I met him, someone while you and I were at our friend’s memorial service. And so Bruce’s memorial service, and I met this gentleman, remember we were all sitting there. Oh, you know what? That was a fabulous service by the way, area. Did him good. Did him so well. And I was like, I think I might want to go out this way, because it was, let’s

Melyssa Barrett:  Give him some love. Bruce Kalin.

Necola Adams:  Yes. Lots of love. And I’m like, he had fabulous tastes. If y’all didn’t know him, y’all missed out on a brilliant, beautiful human being. But he went out just with the jazz and the food, and there was nothing said about it. It was a real celebration. And so I met this gentleman named Michael, who I talked about. He does small little venues, and I talked to him about the jazz festival, and he goes, I got a guy for you. You need to meet. And Michael was so excited about my vision that he hooked me up with Michael White. And when Mike called me, he said, I need to talk to you. And we just hit it off. And when I said, this is what I want to do, he is like, oh, yes. So him and I have been putting this together for the last couple of months, and it’s going to be fabulous. When I talked to the chief of police about this, because we have a new chief of police, he came from Modesto. He was on it. Let’s do this. I was just like, yes, it’s going to be fabulous. So if you can make it out. And I have to tell you, most of these people have never ever been to the Central Valley. You have never seen ’em in Stockton, Modesto, Fresno, tulle, or any of the casinos around. So this will be the first where they will have been.

Melyssa Barrett:  That’s

Necola Adams:  Awesome. So y’all come on out.

Melyssa Barrett:  And I love that you’re circling kind of the full circle of arts and entertainment on the thriving community, because I can’t even tell you how many people I talk to in the Valley and they’re like, there’s nothing to do here. So they’re constantly going to the Bay Area or somewhere else. And it’s wonderful when we have arts and entertainment so that we can fully engage with all of our senses to really kind of create the community, the culture, really, of the community that we want.

Necola Adams:  And that you look at, what are the two things that really bring people together is food and music. And I’m like, I go to places. I like going to the Hmong Festival. I don’t understand a lot of the words, but I love the music. And there’s so many people there from other cultures other than the monk culture of community. And so taking place in that. And there are people that go to some of the Hispanic festivals, and I’ve been to some of those, right? And you pick up on some words, but the music is just like, you’re just getting into it and the food. So this is a way also, not just a fundraising for the Nut festival, but connecting people together, not just in our community, but bringing other communities here from Stockton, from Fresno, from Modesto, from maybe even Sacramento, who knows to our community saying, Hey, we’re here, but we are together. We are together. And it’s Central Valley coming together in one house. So I love it. And I’ve got plans for other artists. And so we were trying to get Maya, but we didn’t book her fast enough.

Melyssa Barrett:  Okay,

Necola Adams:  Well, big

Melyssa Barrett:  Things to come. Big things to come.

Necola Adams:  Big things to come. You know what, when you do it for the right reason, it works. I had someone tell me once, and this is true, when I first said, I’m going to put on the nut festival, before we even put the first one up, they said, oh, and these are farmers. Some are farmers, but they own the restaurant. They said, we thought about doing it, but we couldn’t figure out how to make money on it. And in my mindset, that’s why you couldn’t do it because you were doing it for the wrong reason. You weren’t doing it for the people. You were doing it to make money. And everybody, including myself, are all volunteers at the Nut festival. None of us get paid. My board, I have a great board. Jerome Raspberry, Dr. Wanda, Patrick, April Ratliff, Gwen Hagerman, Jeremy Jenkins, Alexandra. I have a great board.

We have a SAEM who is a new member of the board, who is our secretary. We have Jeb who’s coming in on the board. So we have a really good board that works. And it’s nice because I got one year left as president, an organizer. I said, I’m going to do this for five years. Set the ground foundation. So I designed actually our logo, registered trademark it. I made as a nonprofit that I made as a foundation. And so all of these things are set up for this to go for the next 40, 50 years. But I understand that if you stay in control of something, people constantly now depend on that one person to be that or do that, and something happens to you and it stops. So here now, I’m mentoring other people to take different parts of what I started, because for the last couple of years, I’ve put together 90% of this. And so now other people are doing the vendors. I just do the sponsors. I’m training them how to take over the things that I did. And then mentoring people. I have a vice president now mentoring people to be the president. And so next year it’ll be my last year, and I’ll step down and someone else will step up. Kind of reminds me of when I was in the, what was that? The Council for Negro Women. And so yeah, the motto was, one steps Down. One Steps Up.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yes. Well, and I think sometimes we forget about that. We’re so used to like, no, I can do this. But the succession

Necola Adams:  That’s it

Melyssa Barrett:  Is so important. And I think we don’t, my father used to always tell me that when I worked in corporate, he said, nobody’s going to give you a job you’re not doing. If you want to step up, if you want to be in a new position, you have to be doing that job already. And I think when we think about succession, I love the fact that you brought mentorship in here. I was just talking last month, I mentioned Ida b Jones was one of my first mentors. And so we have IDAs in common.

Necola Adams:  IDAs, yes.

Melyssa Barrett:  And she was amazing. I don’t know where she is now, but I wish I could talk to her. We fell out of touch. And the last I knew, I think she was in Nevada, but

Necola Adams:  Girl, Facebook, almost everybody on Facebook look up.

Melyssa Barrett:  She’s not on Facebook. But I can’t underestimate the impact of succession, succession planning. So I mean, kudos to you because I think we do forget about the legacy effect. You don’t want to be in control forever. You want other people to be able to come in and modify the vision so that it can continues to live and breathe and feed the community. So I just love all that you’re doing for your community. So incredible. And I hope and pray that other people listening to this don’t just hear you talking about the Nut festival, but they hear you talking about how to create a thriving community. I mean, obviously small businesses are involved. I mean, you have engaged literally every part of the community, whether it’s public, private, corporate education. I mean, you have literally touched every component. So I just so appreciate you spending this time with me. I feel like we’ve barely even scratched the surface of some of the other stuff we could be talking about. True. So we will definitely have you back, because we could go on and on in all sorts of different directions on some of the things that you do. But thank you so much for joining me today on this special day for a conversation on the Jolly Podcast.

Necola Adams:  Thank you for having me. And I’m honored that it’s on my brother’s birthday.

Melyssa Barrett:  It seems so appropriate, doesn’t it? Right,

Necola Adams:  Right, right. I mean, he would’ve loved this.

Melyssa Barrett:  Oh yeah.

Necola Adams:  He would’ve loved it.Melyssa Barrett:  Definitely. Thanks for joining me on the Jali Podcast. Please subscribe so you won’t miss an episode. See you next week.