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An oddly named civic organization takes a path in need of help

After a while, those rectangular Adopt-a-Street signs, scattered as they were along Winston-Salem’s roadsides, tend to become part of the landscape.

Their design, set in a silhouette of the city skyline, intentionally incorporates street signs, and their green, black and white color scheme appears to be meant to blend into the natural surroundings. Stand out without sticking out.

Often Adopt-a-Street signs are affixed to utility poles or placed in the ground near other ubiquitous signs — speed limit, yield, crosswalk — that most of us barely notice.

And when was the last time anyone noticed the names of individual sponsors? Other than members of civic service organizations willing to spend Saturday mornings picking up trash?

But one such sponsor tag line, on an Adopt-a-Street sign in the 1400 block of North Liberty Street, deserves a second (or third) look: The Triad NC Socialist Rifle Association.

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You don’t see it every day.

Policy not considered

The 1400s block, in case you missed it, is home to three dilapidated buildings that the City Council voted 7-1 to demolish.

At one time, the block was home to thriving businesses owned by black entrepreneurs. Now, however, they are dangerous with collapsing roofs, sinking floors and load-bearing walls inside.

“There were people illegally in the building doing drugs and other things,” Chris Murphy, the city’s planning director, told the council.

The commerce across the street is centered around a couple of convenience stores where, if we’re being honest, prominent signs prohibiting loitering, public drinking and drug use are mostly ignored.

City efforts, including the construction of the nearby Liberty Street Urban Farmer’s Market, have helped some but not with long-standing effect.

To put it bluntly, the 1400 block of North Liberty can use all the help and attention it can get.

So any organization willing to invest the time and energy into “adopting” that particular stretch of road should be applauded for the effort.

Even if its name – The Triad NC Socialist Rifle Association – sounds a bit strange.

The gun-loving socialist, at first blush, seems to belong in such classic oxymorons as giant prawns, old news, and working holidays.

It must be a joke anyway. Someone with a keen sense of humor who quickly pulls off the good folks of Keep Winston-Salem Beautiful who run the clean street program.

“Well no. They are an active bunch,” said George Stilphen, the coordinator of Keep Winston-Salem Beautiful.

Stilphen, responsible for screening and approving applications, is not in the business of turning away willing volunteers.

Usually, the list of organizations looking to adopt the city’s streets includes fraternities (AKA), churches (Solid Rock Baptist), community groups (Cub Scout troops), and energetic individuals.

Personal feelings, political leanings, unintentional bias, or even unusual-sounding names do not affect the application process.

“Well, we wouldn’t approve a Ku Klux Klan application,” Stilphen said.

‘Social Welfare Organisation’

When the question came, Stilphen did what he always does. He took a quick look and learned that the Socialist Rifle Association is indeed a federally recognized non-profit organization active throughout the country.

“Aside from that, I know as much about them as you do,” he said of the Socialist Rifle Association.

Which, at this point, isn’t much.

Group leaders do not use their legal names on promotional materials or contact information. Instead, they opt for first names or nicknames: Killashandra, for example, is listed as the national president of the group, which was founded in 2017 in Wichita, Kansas.

And so far, at least, they’re not good at checking or returning messages.

“In this role (sic) they build relationships between the SRA and community partners, as well as facilitate media messaging,” reads a post from Lucas, the organization’s director of communications.

The Socialist Rifle Association, in its promotional materials, bills itself as “a social welfare organization dedicated to the education and advocacy of all aspects of self-defense and community advocacy” and indicates that activities such as horticulture and the community landscaping are encouraged.

To co-opt a phrase, the SRA is “hard 2A” – firmly in favor of the Second Amendment.

“We recognize all aspects of self-advocacy and community advocacy to include topics such as firearms, disaster relief, medicine, logistics, agriculture, general survival skills, and other activities needed to unify and strengthen communities against adversity of life under capitalism. We seek, support and promote an inclusive, safe and healthy gun culture in America to combat the toxic, right-wing and exclusionary gun culture in place today.”

On the upside, the Socialist Rifle Association has never been accused of, say, fomenting an insurrection, attempting to overturn an election, or attempting to kidnap the governor of a large Midwestern state.

Locally, since the Triad chapter of the Social Rifle Association adopted a rough stretch of North Liberty Street, the SRA has to this day fulfilled its end of the agreement.

“I don’t know much about it,” Stilphen said. “They come out three or four times a year. They do a good job.”

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