10 years ago, the tagline “Feel free” was launched for the Town of Carrboro.

We’ve had the same slogan for a decade in Carrboro.

It was an optimistic slogan. The background about its development includes this: that in discussions with town residents, “a recurrent theme emerged about a feeling of optimism, encouragement, a lack of judgment – and as a result of being unencumbered, inspired to take risks – not in a dangerous way, but more along the lines that this is a place where more is possible than you imagined.”

I have to admit: when I heard that the town was considering changing its slogan, I initially thought “Why?” But then I read the rationale behind the change – that “freedom for some is not freedom for all – and that Black Americans continue to struggle for freedom, justice and equity as they face the toll of everyday racism.”

That makes a lot of sense to me, and I appreciate the thought and care that staff has put into thinking about a phrase that appears on town material both offline and online.

The new slogan “Feel Free to Be” reminds me of the Marlo Thomas song “Free to Be You and Me.” That song, released on the same-named album from 1972, is pretty iconic.

The notes for the meeting tonight note that the new tagline is supposed to convey that Carrboro “is a community that encourages people to express themselves authentically. This is a place where you can discover your “true” self — the part of you that reflects your authentic passions and interests and find a more fulfilling life.”

Given the absolutely horrific and mind-boggling and absolutely discriminatory things going on at state-level in NC right now – it’s great to live in a town that values authentic expression.

To be a community where we “feel free to be” one must also act – and we encourage Carrboro to continue to take positions on topics that are important to our community. For instance:

We can’t be a place “to be” if housing costs drive out all but the most affluent members of our community.

We can’t be a place “to be” if we’re car-centric and our trails remain inaccessible to many.

We can’t be a place “to be” if we make decisions by listening only to the loudest voices in the room. Or the voices that can show up repeatedly to every meeting. (Many of us have small kids or work shifts or take care of relatives.)

And we can’t be a place “to be” if we ignore the needs of community members who aren’t eligible to vote in local elections—children, international students and faculty members, and undocumented people.

I love living in Carrboro. But living in Carrboro in 2023 requires decisive action, not just words. Only then can we all “feel free to be.”

In the last municipal election cycle, we helped increase turnout by over 20 percent. We're all volunteers who care deeply about Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and we're working to make Chapel Hill and Carrboro more vibrant, accessible, fun, and sustainable.  Please consider a small donation to help us keep our digital lights on, host events, and hire students to do data deep-dives.

Melody Kramer is a Peabody-award winning journalist whose work has appeared on NPR and member stations around the country, as well as in publications ranging from National Geographic to Esquire Magazine....