By Carly Brantmeyer
Carrboro Commons Photo Editor
From rattlesnake to alligator meat, Cliff Collins, owner of Cliff’s Meat Market in Carrboro, sells every kind of meat you could dream of, and on Feb. 22 he received a Pauli Murray Human Relations Award.
The ceremony at New Hope Elementary School in Chapel Hill recognized a youth, a business and an individual who epitomized the legacy of Pauli Murray as a social justice advocate. Collins, a 60-year-old Chatham County resident, was recognized in the business category for Cliff’s Meat Market, which he founded in 1973 on 100 West Main St.
Tim Peck, 53, a general contractor and plumber for Peck and Artisans in Carrboro, nominated Collins for the award after witnessing Collins’ interaction and involvement with the Hispanic population during the 2008 presidential election.
“Cliff has really reached out to the Hispanic community,” Peck said. “He feels like they’re family, and he looks out for them.”
When Peck first entered Cliff’s Meat Market, he noticed Collins’ Spanish-friendly atmosphere, complete with Spanish labels, such as “Fruta y Vegetales” hanging above baskets of fresh fruit and vegetables. Peck also noticed a taco stand that Collins supported on his property during the election, in hopes that the Hispanic vendor would make extra money to provide for his family.
“The taco stand at my place added a little spice of life to downtown Carrboro,” Collins said. He said that he strives to make his store feel family-oriented and welcoming. Collins wants to learn more of the Spanish language and wants the Hispanic population to learn his.
With a booming business now in its 36th year, Collins expanded his staff to include Hispanic employees and developed meaningful friendships with his Hispanic customers. Tolo, a 31-year-old Hispanic employee at Cliff’s Meat Market, said he enjoys working at the store because he is able to provide for his family.
“Cliff is [a] good person,” said Tolo, who has worked for Collins for 13 years and who lives in Chapel Hill.
The Pauli Murray Award honors Murray’s life by recognizing those who have fostered and promoted human rights, diversity and equality in Orange County. Peck said the way Cliff lives his life reflects Murray’s character.
Barry Jacobs, chairman of the Orange County Board of Commissioners, spoke Sunday about the life and legacy of Murray. Born in 1910, Murray was an African-American female who grew up in Durham. She risked her life as a sit-in activist in communities that were opposed to racial change. Despite the adversities she faced because of her race, Murray persevered and became a poet, lawyer, writer, teacher and ordained priest.
The Sunday ceremony highlighted the importance of how extraordinary so-called ordinary people can be. The Guiding Lights of St. John Holiness Church performed four soulful musical selections. N.C. State Senator Ellie Kinnaird, relatives of Pauli Murray and Orange County Board of Commissioners members were in attendance.
Collins hopes to continue to serve the Carrboro community however he can, to honor the legacy of Murray. “There’s a whole lot more behind winning the award than just winning it. It’s living it, and it’s been a joy living it, and it will continue to be so,” Collins said.
Collins’ expertise is not solely limited to meat. He remembers names, faces, stories and facts about his customers, and is an encyclopedia of knowledge. “I tell my customers where to fix their cars, where to buy new shoes and what restaurants are good,” Collins said. When it comes to Carrboro, the meat market owner knows what’s in, what’s out and where to get it.
Chapel Hill native Cheryl Edwards, 51, has been coming to Cliff’s Meat Market since she was a young girl.
“He’s always very friendly, and you get good quality meat,” Edwards said, explaining why she has returned to the store for so many years.
Meat market customers can attest to the fact that the loyal store owner helps his customers and individuals in the Carrboro community however he can. Collins recalls a customer who was a minister who came in years ago and told him, “You know what? You’re doing the best ministry in this store that anyone could do in their life, and you’re doing it every day.”