February 2017 Issue

  • Race and race relations following a contentious presidential election

    “Maybe by blatantly exposing our differences, the election results will provide us the opportunity to bond over common ground.”

    The United States always has been disjointed. Whether it be by race, gender, or class, the qualities that separate us also have prevented the progression of equality. This divide is not new to minorities. We are constantly aware of that line. We live there. However, on the heels of the presidential election, that divide is now visible to many non-minorities as well. There seems to be a permanent sense of disbelief from voters whose candidate did not win. They are angry. They are afraid. They are nearing the minority side of the line. And we welcome them. Now that they too know what it is like to have no voice, perhaps we can lend ours. Maybe by blatantly exposing our differences, the election results will provide us the opportunity to bond over common ground. All of us have a stake in the future of this country. We have hope.

    To discuss ways of facilitating this dialogue, who better to weigh in than Lynchburg’s social activist Leslie King? As a consultant, King wears many hats, and is especially skillful at working with organizations to bring about change through community development and engagement as well as non-profit capacity building. Most recently, she worked with the Ohio health department on the mortality rates of black infants. In some Ohio communities, the mortality of black infants is the same as in some third-world countries. King says these statistics transcend educational and economic status. Therefore, the problem is not just about education or wealth. “We’re working to figure out why so we can work to change the outcome,” she says. As a strategist, King develops the best ways to implement the needed changes in any given field.

    Q: “Change” is a word we hear often in relation to politics. Candidates tend to use the promise of change in their platform. So let us address the elephant in the room. What are your thoughts about the current political climate?

    A: It’s interesting because I did a presentation at Penn State last year (on this subject). Students were talking about the election and the state of democracy. There seemed to be some disdain. They commented that Trump didn’t represent America. My response was that I think Trump is as American as apple pie. He is a product of this country, of our history, of the truths that people are afraid to wrestle with. In some ways, I wasn’t surprised that he won. I think it illuminated what is going on in our society, and what has been going on for generations. Now we can’t continue to hold on to the illusion of unity, without addressing the difficult issues. Now we are forced to have that dialogue. In many ways that is what I assist communities in doing, just on a larger scale. But those conversations must be in the smaller localities as well. Change is not a one-time push button. It’s going to take time. The process will need to be ongoing to have lasting results. Superficial symbolism needs to be replaced by genuine acts of substance.

    Q: February is Black History Month. Do you think it’s damaging to limit black history to one month a year?

    A: I think Black History Month is vital. Ideally, it wouldn’t be necessary and black history would be woven into the school curriculum all year. However, that isn’t the case. So, it’s important that we take that time to learn about the past. We need to know the contributions that our ancestors made to this country and the future generations deserve to know about the work we are doing right now. I just started working on a local chapter of The Association for the Study of African American Life and History. The national organization was founded by Carter G. Woodson, who also created Black History Month, which was originally only a week. He recognized the value that history plays in one’s identity. To know who you are you need to know where you come from. I think Americans in general don’t really appreciate history. Maybe if we can understand and genuinely face the past, we can understand not only where we are right now, but how we got here as a society. And we do need to expand on what is being taught. There is more to it than the same figures and leaders being referenced every year. There are men and women who are never mentioned. Particularly black women are left out of the narrative. That needs to change. And black history isn’t just important to black people. It’s important to everyone, because it’s also America’s history.

    Q: You are in partnership with Many Voices-One Community. Tell us more about that. 

    A: Originally, it was a partnership between the city of Lynchburg and several community leaders. In 2007 it was formed in response to a specific incident. There was a black man (Clarence Beard) who died while in the custody of white police officers. There also were other events that had racial undertones. People were upset, so a group of them approached the city. The city realized something had to be done. That something was Many Voices-One Community. There were over 1,000 people involved in small group discussions that happened citywide. Many positive initiatives were born of that, namely The Beacon of Hope. The Beacon of Hope works with Lynchburg City Schools offering mentoring. They introduce elementary school children to the path of college and offer scholarships to high schoolers who cannot afford tuition. They also collaborate with local business to offer internships so there is an opportunity to gain real life experience in the workplace. Last November MVOC hosted the Fourth Annual Race, Poverty, and Social Justice Conference. Again, this was another way to continue the dialogue and expand the effort for change. This year there were more college-age attendants than in the past and that is encouraging. They are willing to show up and voice their concerns, and listen to others. We had workshops that not only dealt with racial issues, but also health issues and wealth building. There is a 24-percent poverty rate here. We address that. We have had art-themed sessions. You don’t always see results of your efforts right away, but I know our work is making a difference…connections are being made…collaborations are happening… progress is being made. We do have many voices, but we are one community.

    Q: Are there any political aspirations in your future by chance?

    A: I am not sure what the future may hold. At this point, I'm focused on community building through engagement, education and developing other leaders. That being said I'm not ruling out the possibility.

    To Contact Leslie King email: LeslieKing@POBox.com


  • Stedman Speaks: Tips on managing your finances in the digital world

    Stedman Payne is an experienced financial professional who serves as Member One’s Market Executive in the Lynchburg area. His financial educational series offers tips for making smart decisions when it comes to managing your finances.

    Millions of people have embraced the convenience and benefits of managing their finances online. However, if you have not taken the plunge into this digital land yet, you may have some questions about how it works, if it is safe and why it could be better than traditional methods. 

    Q: How can managing my money online be just as safe as the more traditional ways of banking like stopping by a branch?

    SP: There are several ways managing your finances online can actually be just as safe as doing it in person. First, you have full access to your account information at any time, empowering you to monitor transactions and report any suspicious activity immediately. Online transactions are safe because the information is encrypted, making it harder for thieves to steal sensitive data. When banking online, always type the financial institution’s web address rather than clicking on a link that could be a rogue, copycat website. Also make sure that the web address starts with “https”—the “s” stands for “secure” and means that it’s a protected connection.

    Q: What are financial institutions doing to secure my account?

    SP: Financial institutions must adhere to many federal laws and regulations to keep consumers’ information confidential, both online and offline, which helps ensure that your information is safe and secure. Financial institutions regularly monitor account activity and will contact you if they notice any suspicious activity. Most institutions also offer features to help secure your account such as purchase alerts that notify you when certain activity, such as a dollar amount transaction, occurs. If you still want to know more about what your financial institution is doing to protect your personal information, ask to see their privacy policy.

    Q: What are some features of online banking that could make my life easier?

    SP: If you are tired of searching for a stamp every month to pay your utility bill, try online bill pay. It is free and you do not have to pay for a stamp. You can even set it up to automatically pay each month. Online banking can make budgeting easier by allowing you to track expenses. You can easily see every transaction within minutes after it occurs and tally up how much you are spending on certain items each month. Then you can develop strategies to cut expenses. Making a transfer between a checking, savings or loan account via online banking is quick and easy and a great way to watch your savings grow or loan balance decrease. One of the best things about online banking is that everything is literally right at your fingertips whenever you need it.

    Q: I am so used to regular banking (in-person or visiting a branch). How do you suggest I get started with online banking?

    SP: To access all of the features that online banking has to offer, you will have to set up a login and password. Reach out to your financial institution for instructions on how to do this. Once you log in, click around and you’ll quickly see how convenient it is to have all your account information so easily accessible. Try out something simple like transferring money between accounts. If you have a goal of saving for a down payment on a home or vehicle, determine how much of your monthly budget you can allot to this expense and schedule a recurring transfer from your checking account to savings. You’ll be amazed at how quickly this can add up when you don’t even have to think about depositing the money manually every month. Of course, you can always reach out to your financial institution by phone or in person, and they employees there will be happy to help guide you through the online banking process. 

    Watch out for Stedman Payne’s column in the next edition of ColorsVA for more useful financial tips.

  • Roanoke pair keeping HOPE alive in northwest neighborhoods

    The holidays have passed, but one pivotal principle of the Advent season remains relevant — hope. The Advent season naturally takes on a religious connotation, but it is possible to engage the idea of hope universally. A Roanoke mother and son have done just that.

    The Hope Center serves the Northwest neighborhoods of Roanoke. Started in November 2015, the Hope Center was the result of the combined efforts of mother and son duo Darlene Lewis and Grover Price. Both Lewis and Price spent years in community service, and Lewis sees the Hope Center as a culmination of those labors. Price says the Hope Center was born from a previous non-profit he started, Roanoke Role Modelz, aimed toward assisting the children of the community. Price touts Roanoke Role Modelz as a sort of mix between the Boys and Girls Club and the Boy Scouts. He created the center in response to unmet needs of the community, he says. “I grew up in the area, and I just noticed a lot of things were being neglected,” he adds. “A lot of focus and a lot of attention was not being paid to the people in the community. So, we wanted to try to figure out a way to fill some of those voids over in northwest.”

    Lewis, a licensed minister since 1994 said her passion focuses on adult ministry and service. After helping at an event held by Roanoke Role Modelz, Lewis says she knew she had to do something for the community. “I just knew in my spirit that we were supposed to open up the Hope Center in this building,” she adds. “Opening the door here was just, I think, a combination of all the things I’ve gone through.” 

    The mother and son’s passions for adults and kids respectively, helped to form the foundation of the Hope Center. It is a multipurpose facility serving the community in several ways. “We cater to the community as a whole. We brought the community in and we let them tell us what they need and what they want to see done,” Price says. Their programs and activities include community lunches, care and shelter for the homeless, after school programs, family activities, counseling and job coaching. Additionally, Lewis says the Hope Center enlists the aid of the community for monthly neighborhood cleanups that cover a 12–14 block radius.

    “We have actually been able to accomplish a lot of things in the last year,” Price says. “We always want to try to build on what we started– to reach as many people as we can possibly reach.” Though there are many programs that make up the Hope Center mission, the approach remains personal. “I listen to them; I talk to them; and I encourage them,” Lewis says. With the range activities run out of the Hope Center, the expectation of a large staff to meet these needs would seem to be apparent. However, Price and Lewis are the only staff members. “My mom and I probably work about 50-70 hours a week,” Price says. They also serve on the six-member board as director and treasurer, respectively. Much of the help and support for the center comes from a pool of volunteers within the community.

    Aside from expanding into different neighborhoods and starting new programs and activities, Price hopes to take on more staff. “It’s a community center and it takes the community for it to run. We can’t do it on our own.” Despite donations from the community, the operation runs largely “out of pocket,” according to Lewis. Price says Hope Center has received no financial help from the city. He wants to supplement their fundraising efforts with a stream of funding from other sources. “There are some things we want to be able to do, we just don’t have the funding or the support,” Price says.

    Lewis thinks the humble financial situation has given Hope Center a degree of authenticity. She does not want to present the center in a manner that presents a false and impressive picture to please potential donors. “We don’t want to feel like we have to sell our souls to get money,” Lewis says. Although the financial picture for the Hope is modest, Lewis’ optimism and faith remain constant. She admits that she finds herself asking, “How are we going to do it?” However, when Hope Center manages to add another facility for community gatherings, to aid in providing employment for more than 200 people and help to acquire housing for more than 60 people, Lewis often responds, “Wow! Did we do that?”

    “If we are in the place that God told me to be in, and if I’m doing what he sets me to do, then my trust has to be in him. He’s the only reason I opened the door,” Lewis says. She expressed a great degree of pride in the work her son is doing in the community. “I am extremely excited about what God has done in his life and is doing even now,” she says. Her greatest desire for the Hope Center is that through its operations and programs, it lives up to its name and truly provides people with hope. “I want us to get in there and really, really touch the people.” 

  • Scholar of the Month: Laure’aja Ortiz

    At seventeen, Salem High School senior Laure’aja Ortiz already has a powerful work ethic and understands who she is. However, that did not come easy. Her grandmother is German and her grandfather is African American; her mother was born in Germany. Growing up, Laure’aja had a difficult time embracing the different cultures reflected within her blended ethnicity. “I didn’t really know who I was. I thought I had to sit in one category,” she says. “As I’ve matured, I figured out that I don’t have to be in any one category. I can just be myself.”

    Laure’aja was born in Roanoke and grew up in Salem. In Roanoke, she attended Roanoke Academy for Math and Science and Westside Elementary. After moving to Salem, she went to West Salem Elementary and Andrew Lewis Middle School. Currently she attends Salem High School, where she maintains a 3.98 GPA. She will graduate this year with an International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma with several college credit hours already under her belt thanks to the dual enrollment program through Virginia Western Community College. “I liked the idea of a challenge,” she says about her decision to go the IB route. “I don't get too much enjoyment out of classes that are a breeze to sit through because that's really boring. I also wanted to be able to broaden my spectrum of learning.” Of course, the chance to get a head start on college credits is an added bonus.

    She noted time management is the staple of academic success and completing assignments over time instead of waiting until the last minute has really helped her. When she gets home from school, she relaxes for about an hour before starting on her assignments. Then she allots an hour for each subject, focusing on assignments in correlation to how soon they are due. Studying is very important although she acknowledges some classes require more preparation. She must study harder for history since it relies heavily on memorization. In classes based on patterns, such as math, science, or music, she says she is able to do well by paying attention to lectures and reviewing materials covered during class later in the evening.

    Her favorite part about school is the challenging educational route she has taken and the social environment it has added to her life. “The friendships and memories that I have made through school is what made me fall in love with school in the first place,” she says. Laure’aja and her friends have created a support system where they can encourage and build off each other’s success. “When I see them doing well, it motivates me and when they see me doing well it motivates them.” She understands that some people do not have that type of support and are surrounded by negativity, which makes her even more fortunate to have her friends.

    For students who do not have a good support system and are looking to do better in school, she offers this advice: “You have to look within yourself and find what motivates you to be a better person, a better student, or whatever it is you want to be, and strive for greatness.” Not too long ago, she read a success book that helped her tremendously. “It helped me find motivation within myself at a time when I was hard on myself,” she says. “You can’t be too hard on yourself.”

    Laure’aja has developed many friendships through The Pride of Salem marching band. Over the years, her leadership role in band has grown. This year she is a five-star general and flute section leader. Band has taught her how to be a more positive and encouraging person and she is grateful to work with such a dedicated and diligent group of people. She also participates in several school clubs, including Tri-M Musical Honor Society, National Honor Society, German National Honor Society and the German Club. And when she gets the chance, she always is up for doing volunteer work.

    Laure’aja will be the first person in her family to pursue higher education. Her family always has supported her and helped her get to where she wants to be. She deeply admires her grandmother, an independent woman who has fought for her family livelihood and for Laure’aja future. Her grandmother’s independence and strength are qualities Laure’aja strives to emanate. Right now, she is still deciding on which college to attend. University of North Texas is her first choice because she feels it is a melting pot of cultures and backgrounds, one of her top requirements. She desires to be surrounded by a diverse range of ambitious people that challenge her values and opinions while also spurring her on to greatness.

    After graduating college, Laure’aja sees herself eventually becoming an airplane pilot, touring and exploring the world. For a hard-working young lady like her, the sky is truly the limit.

  • Carbon Monoxide can be deadly

    Have you ever stopped to think about carbon monoxide in your home? If you are like most people, you probably have not.
    However, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), each year more than 400 Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning not linked to fires, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room and more than 4,000 are hospitalized.
    It is something you need to think about, especially this time of year when the temperatures drop.

    What is Carbon Monoxide?
    Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas. The fumes are produced when you burn fuel in everyday items such as oil or gas furnaces, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges and vehicles. If the fumes are allowed to build up indoors or other enclosed spaces, it can poison you, your loved ones and even your pets. By being aware of the symptoms and taking some basic precautions, you can protect your family from carbon monoxide poisoning.

    Symptoms of Poisoning
    When you breathe carbon monoxide, it displaces oxygen in your body and keeps your organs from getting the oxygen they need to function. The main symptoms for adults — headache, dizziness and weakness — are non-specific. For kids, especially young ones who may not be able to tell you how they are feeling, watch for signs like irritability, fussiness, crying and even increased clumsiness. Symptoms can range from minor to severe, depending on how much gas has built up in your home. Other symptoms can include:

    • Chest pain
    • Impaired vision
    • Confusion
    • Nausea
    • Flu-like symptoms that go away when you leave home
    • Loss of consciousness and possible death at very high concentrations

    How to Stay Safe
    The best way to keep you and your family safe is to install battery-powered carbon monoxide detectors on every level of you home and near any sleeping areas, and do not forget to check them regularly to ensure they are working properly. Other ways to stay safe include:

    • Have your heating system, vents and chimney inspected every year by a qualified technician. 
    • In a power outage, keep your generator outside and at least 20 feet away from doors and windows. 
    • Do not run a vehicle or a generator in your garage. 
    • Do not burn anything in a stove or fireplace that is not vented. All gas appliances should also be vented properly. 
    • Never use a gas stove or oven for heat.

    What to Do If You Suspect Poisoning
    The effects of carbon monoxide on your body can be reversed if caught in time. It is important to seek help as soon as you recognize the symptoms. Get to the emergency room as quickly as you can because the longer you are exposed without treatment, the more damage it can do.
    Learn more about carbon monoxide poisoning and how to keep you and your family safe from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

    Provided by Jeremy A. Llavore, M.D.
    Family Medicine, Carilion Clinic

  • Discover the richness of Thai food at Roanoke’s City Corner 2

    Many local restaurants yearn for a downtown location that offers high visibility. The owners of City Corner 2 have been there, done that and are perfectly content with the space they occupy in a modest building in an almost industrial area of Plantation Road in Roanoke. The popular Thai food restaurant has a dedicated following.

    Owners, Pranom Nguyen and her son Meta Luangprasert, run the restaurant with Nguyen’s husband, Loi. Originally, from Thailand, they have been in the United States for about 20 years. Moving from Thailand, they ended up in Los Angeles and then to Roanoke.

    Nguyen says everyone in her family cooks. She wanted to learn more, so she went to school to become educated about food and cooking. After gaining that knowledge, she opened her first restaurant, Krua Lai Mai in Los Angeles and then City Corner in the heart of Downtown Roanoke. After relinquishing ownership of the small lunch spot in downtown, they decided to open City Corner 2 and most of their clientele followed. They have been at the Plantation Road location for about three years, and say it is working well. The standalone restaurant doubled their space and has a parking lot, and they are adamant there will be no expanding!

    A baker’s rack filled with condiments, including great sauces, greets you at the door. My husband says the sauces are so good they should be bottled and available for purchase. Our favorite is the black soy sauce and we have been unable to find it anywhere else. Trust me; it has a rich flavor and lots of umami. Other sauces include chili, sweet-and-sour and seafood.

    My family and I are no newbies to the Thai food City Corner and now City Corner 2 serves. We knew right away, what we wanted to order for lunch. We started with angel wings as an appetizer, which, according to Nguyen are a customer favorite. The menu describes the dish as “deep fried boneless wings stuffed with ground chicken, bean threads, black mushrooms, cilantro and carrots served with a side of sweet-and-sour sauce.” That is a mouthful! The presentation is very nice — pieces sliced and layered on the plate. The chicken is crisp on the outside and even though the ingredients list seems long, the flavor is very mild. The dish is about the multiple unexpected textures at play. Once you utilize the sweet-and-sour and black soy sauces, it is golden.

    We also ordered a couple of items from the Dim Sum menu. What is Dim Sum? Based on a bit of googling, I discovered it is a style of Chinese cuisine prepared as small bite-sized portions on small plates. (Thanks google!) Our pan-fried crisp dumplings looked like little purses with juicy ground chicken filling the inside. Additionally, the fried shrimp roll is a deep fried wonton wrapped around a shrimp.

    I normally order green curry, which is not spicy, but this time I decided on the red. It has a bit of heat, but not overwhelmingly so, due to the sweetness of the coconut milk based broth. The fare is served in a bowl full of vegetables with a side of white rice and two vegetable egg rolls. The consistency is creamy but still a bit broth-like, meaning it is not so rich you cannot finish it. One of my favorite things is the julienned bamboo shoots because of the unusual texture they add. Also included in this flavor and texture filled dish are green beans and tender chicken. A spoonful of the broth with some chicken and bamboo shoots, along with the rice, is the perfect bite.

    Every time we eat Thai food, my teenage daughter orders chicken pad Thai, and this time was no exception. Ever informative, Jaylen says the carrots, cabbage, bean sprouts and chopped peanuts add just the right amount of texture to the plate full of noodles and chicken. A squeeze of lime and some of the black soy sauce add to the tanginess.

    My husband Kirk ordered fried pork over rice. The pork comes hot with plenty of rice and hot sauce on the side — hot sauce so spicy you must consume it with caution. Actually, the sweet heat turns into a slow after burn. The pork is boneless and cut into bite-size chunks, the texture is similar to that of teriyaki chicken sticks, crisp on the outside and tender and moist inside. The rice is cooked well and clumps for easy chopstick eating.

    Try the Thai tea when you visit. It is sweet iced tea with a creamy orange color reminiscent of dreamsicle. Evaporated milk gives it creaminess. The flavor is very tea forward, probably due to the black tea used in brewing. They also serve green tea, light green in color but just as creamy as the Thai tea. The taste of the green tea was not as tea forward as the Thai tea, and at first, you think the flavor is minty, but there is no mint to be found. The green tea was Kirk’s and Jaylen’s favorite. It reminded them of a green tea Frappuccino from Starbucks, only better.

    Make it your business to try City Corner 2. You will enjoy ingredients ordered straight from Thailand, and food cooked fresh that arrives hot. The restaurant is located at 3005 Plantation Road in Roanoke. Dine in or call 540.362.0570 for takeout from 11 a.m.–9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

  • Editor's Note

    To MY President Barack Obama:

    Throughout the day as I sit at my desk, I stare at a picture of you waving to the crowd the night you became president of the United States of America. Words below your picture read: DESTINY … Our Destiny is not written for us, but by us. You have indeed proven that sir. I have watched you in amazement, awing at your ability to keep your cool in some not so cool situations. Your composure in pressure cooker blowing conditions has caused me to reflect often on a Peter Marshall quote: “When we long for life without difficulty, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.” I know you get my drift.

    My President, you were never too concerned with proving you were worthy to be president that you forgot how to be presidential. You maintained dignity and decorum, choosing to take a higher path and continue on your own quest. I loved that about you. Destiny, My President. Destiny! Even on those occasions when folks who are supposed to be helping to shape the future of this nation, setting the tone for others to follow got up in your face, called you names including tar baby, liar and I’m sure the n-word — governors, congressmen, senators, oh my — you remained cool. Destiny, My President, Destiny!

    On the table in my family room is the book “Yes We Can,” by Scout Tufankjian, the story of your historic journey from junior senator to president. By now you should be able to tell, you made me proud, My President. There is a particular passage in the book that resonates with me. “I run to give my children and their children the same chances that someone, somewhere gave me…. And I run to keep the promise of the United States of America alive for all those who still hunger for opportunity and thirst for equality and long to believe again.” Wow, My President, I, too, yearn for that — the same chances, the opportunity and equality for this and future generations. You proved that no dream is beyond our grasp if we reach for it and fight for it and work for it. You did that My President with such sophistication.

    While many find it hard to give you your just due, I’m hopeful history books won’t let us down. My President, I believe strongly your record will show you were mighty skillful at the job, although you never boasted about your accomplishments. You proved it’s not about politics but more about basic human decency. The words of an old gospel hymn titled “May the Work I’ve Done, Speak for Me,” will tell your story, My President. You aspired to put people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids. You did that! You came into the presidency to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace. You did that! You aimed to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth — that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, We Can! You did all of that My President!


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