April 2018 Issue

  • Roanoke City Council Candidates


    Bill Bestpitch, 66, is seeking a fourth term on Roanoke City Council. He has been elected for three terms in the past, in the years 2000, 2010 and 2014.  Bestpitch wants to continue to bring forth change to the City of Roanoke.  Bestpitch holds a Master of Social Work and retired from the field after years of serving the community in various non-profit organizations.  His work has aided in returning children to their families and resolving needs in the home in order to keep the family unit intact.  Bestpitch moved from Richmond 28 years ago in hopes for a better life and says he has found just that here in Roanoke.  He says the city is moving in the right direction and wants to keep momentum going into the future.  His focus is on long-term financial security for the city and he says it is important to be mindful of balancing the budget while not over taxing and overcharging city residents. Bestpitch also will continue to focus on the development of the innovation corridor downtown and support educational opportunities including the Research Institute partnership with Virginia Tech, Jefferson College and Radford University. This project is anticipated to bring about 3,500 undergraduates within the next few years and will serve as a huge driver for the city for years to come. Bestpitch says he will remain committed to listening to business owners and citizens, the folks who make up the City of Roanoke. He will continue to develop partnerships to maintain the forward progress taking place in Roanoke.

    Joe Cobb, 55, has many years of experience pastoring in ministry, the arts and serving the homeless. A former clergy member, Cobb currently works as the outreach coordinator at Roanoke’s Highland Park Elementary School. Cobb has fashioned his life around social justice.  His mission is to advocate for all, to provide a voice for equality, regardless of race, sexual or gender orientation as well as age.  His experience in social justice and drive for equality are the main reasons he decided to seek a seat on Roanoke City Council.   Cobb says he also is running for council because of his love for the city.  “Roanoke welcomed me when I was a stranger, gave me a home and opportunity to thrive,” he says. If elected he intends to work hard to see that everyone has the same chance through business, education, job training and better health opportunities. He also wants to see improved access to the arts and culture.  A remodel of the city is in order with inclusion of diversity with focus on development of the social infrastructure, Cobb says. He also sees the potential Roanoke has through its people and the many gifts, talents and shared ideas they possess that can be brought together to address the challenges. He intends to bridge the gap between the people of the city and council to make the issues of the people heard.   He says he wants the people to know “I am accessible to them, and I will work with respect and advocate for what they want to see done.  I will work to overcome injustice and find creative solutions to issues that are dear to citizens of Roanoke,” says Cobb. Cobb loves Roanoke, and because of this love he wants to make it a better place. He says his years of experience serving the city in various roles and his feverous drive for equality and social justice are strong attributes.

    Shawn Hunter, 49, is president of Peacemakers, a local community organization striving to end violence in the City of Roanoke.  He has served the homeless, ex-offenders and disenfranchised for over 11 years helping them to find homes and employment.  He even pushed for the “Ban the Box” law in Roanoke in 2016, eliminating the questioning of whether a person had been convicted of a crime before even being interviewed.  This would end up giving more ex-offenders a better chance at gaining employment necessary to re-enter society.  Hunter decided to run for council because those are the people he wants to represent and those currently seated on council, in his opinion, just do not look like the disenfranchised he is so passionate about.  “The focus of the council now has been on rebuilding Downtown Roanoke while the neighborhoods are falling deeper and deeper into poverty, crime and violence” he says. “There has to be a change!”  He says it is time for fresh people with fresh ideas on council and thinks he is one of those people with plans of action in hand and ready to go.  With over 17 murders alone last year in Roanoke, his number one issue is to stop the gun violence in the city and he has devised a 21st century action plan.   He also has a plan to develop public transportation to create more jobs and help those without a mode of transportation to maintain employment outside of the city’s public transport schedule.  Hunter has a great desire to create opportunities for everyone.  He says he’s passionate about the fact that everyone should be able to exhibit their gifts, get a decent paying job and have the opportunity to live well in a safe place. “I am a non-traditional man and I can relate to anyone,” he says. “ If I’m elected and cannot make an impact within the first two years of my term I will humbly bow my head and resign.”

    Djuna Osborne, 42, a licensed social worker is running for City Council after last year’s race for Delegate.  She says running for Delegate prepared her for the City Council race.  Osborne has been a social worker for more than 12 years working with disadvantaged youth and adults in a variety of settings.  She became a social worker, she says, because she is passionate about people who are marginalized.  As a licensed social worker, Osborne has the opportunity to work in different arenas, not just with families but also, legal and judicial systems, and doctors on behalf of her clients.  Her passion, academic training and well-rounded professional experience, make her a great candidate for office, and will provide a platform for her to advocate on a larger scale, she says. She cares for the people of Roanoke and has a passion to serve them while establishing direct contact with them.  One of her key issues is the access to care due to transportation.  Therefore, she says, the public transportation system needs to be strengthened so people will have access to better health care as well as access to jobs outside of the current bus service hours.

    “People need to feel safe, secure – secure economically.  If people can get to work to provide for themselves, both crime and gun violence alone would be reduced,” Osborne says. She also desires to bridge the gap between the northwest and southwest areas of the city to promote equalization and thinks neighborhoods would be strengthened through those connections.  She says transportation is the answer to bridging that gap.  With her ability to problem solve Osborne will bring to the council a more wholistic planning experience.  She ultimately desires to serve with care by listening and making herself accessible to the people, even if she cannot solve all of their problems, just to let them know that they matter in important to her.  “I believe that everyone deserves dignity, access and opportunity,” she notes.  And using her problem-solving skills she intends to make those strategies tangible to help create values and opportunities for the people of the city.

    Grover Price, 37, director of Roanoke Role Modelz, is running for a seat on City Council to bring forth change.  He founded Roanoke Role Modelz in 2013 and two years later, he founded the Hope Center, now located on 11th Street.  Within these two programs he and his team mentor youth through scouting programs, Big Brothers/Sisters, sports and other activities as well as feed the homeless, give away clothes and food and hold various outreach community events.  The best part about it all, Price says, is that none of what they do is government funded, but rather community funded. Price is dedicated, so much so that the community reaches out to him on a daily basis related to issues pursuing change.  For this reason, Price decided to run for office. “I want to have the power and ability to not just be a voice for the community but also to be able to create the change that the people want to see.” He says there has never been anyone like him to run for council, someone who has seen the things he has seen and knows the things he knows about the community, because he actually lives the life.  By running for council, he hopes to bring balance to the city, building one thing then moving on to the next.  The sole focus the past few years has been on building up the downtown and the greenways, and now he hopes to see them accessible to everyone.  His intends to invest in the youth, especially in the inner city.  He would like to see a community center for all youth no matter what their financial status or class.  In addition, he would like to incorporate summer jobs for them to teach them how to earn at a young age and to keep them off the streets.  Price says that he isn’t looking for a power trip in running for council but wants to represent those not represented.  He says he will never turn a blind-eye to the struggle.  “I am not a politician,” he says. “I am a common man running for the common people.”

    Robert Jeffrey Jr., 48, grew up in Roanoke. Along the way, he says, “I encountered a lot of great people whom I admired and showed me how to serve our community. There were teachers, community leaders, parents, who really took the time to show people that this city is a fantastic place to grow up, raise and protect our children, and show the beauty of our future.”

    “I see some of those great things happening, but there are areas of our community that are not seeing the vision and fruits the great City of Roanoke has to offer. The youth are the future, yet we as a city are not truly investing in our kids,” says Jeffrey. “Vocational programs need to be re-implemented in the schools. Our young adults have the option to go to college or to the military. There are those who want to go to work…that’s an option that we also should prepare our children to do – to enter the workforce. We as a community need to prepare our children to make sure they can be qualified employees in our Roanoke economy,” Jeffrey says. 

    “I also believe that our children should be safe and healthy in our community. Schools need to be a haven for our children, but I do not feel we need to turn it into a prison. As a businessperson, I would like to make sure we assist our small businesses in our community with avenues of additional training and access to resources, he adds. “Currently, the Roanoke Economic Development office is understaffed and needs an additional specialist to support the needs of businesses they currently are unable to reach because of their workload.

    “I want folks to know I’m a very passionate person about the work I do and how I do it. I’m very committed to serving the community of Roanoke on City Council, and I promise I will fight for our community and its citizens.”


    Candidates for Roanoke City Council

  • Stedman Speaks: To Buy or Not to Buy…What to Consider before Taking the Plunge

    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.

    They say that timing is everything. This can be especially true when it comes to buying a home. In today’s housing market, the choices are limited and rates are on the rise. But this doesn’t mean you should hold off on buying a home – or does it? Here are some factors to help you decide if it’s the right time to buy.

    Q: What are the top three things I should consider to help me decide if it’s the right time to buy a home?
    SP: The biggest factor is your budget. It takes a lot of planning and discipline to save for a down payment. Plus, you need to ensure you have additional savings on hand in case of an emergency. If you don’t have these things in order, it’s probably wise to hold off on buying a home. Another is your credit score. This number, along with other factors, helps determine your interest rate and loan amount. You don’t need perfect credit to buy a home, but there are steps you can take to improve your score if it’s not where it needs to be. Finally, look at your timeline. Are you currently renting? It might be wise to review the parameters of your lease to avoid extra fees. Are you relocating or will you need to work around school schedules? These are all factors to consider before jumping into the home-buying journey.

    Q: I keep hearing that I should buy now because rates are rising. Is this true?
    SP: Some things are simply out of your control when buying a home. Rising interest rates is one of them. While it’s true that rates are increasing, this doesn’t mean you should rush into buying a home. Settling on the wrong home or buying when you’re not financially prepared could be costly mistakes. Don’t let the fear of rising rates be your deciding factor. Working with a local mortgage expert can be a great way to understand how the fluctuating rates impact your mortgage and your finances in the long run.

    Q: What else should I look into before deciding if I should buy a home?
    SP: Make sure you approach the house-hunting process with realistic expectations. While you might love the idea of a renovated kitchen, backyard pool, and five spacious bedrooms, all of these things might not fit within your budget. Decide what features are most important to you and which ones you can compromise on. Not only will this make the hunt more focused and productive, you’ll rest easier knowing you found a home that meets your needs. This doesn’t mean you have to settle either. If you find that homes in your desired area are just beyond your budget, consider taking more time to save or shift focus to a different area that’s more affordable. 

    Q: I already have debt and buying a home means I’ll incur more. Should this stop me?
    SP: Not necessarily. Lenders will review a variety of factors when considering whether you qualify for a mortgage. One of them is your debt-to-income ratio, which compares your debt to how much income you earn. In general, you’ll have a tough time qualifying for a mortgage if this ratio exceeds 43 percent. This is why having a household budget and a strategy in place for tackling debt are crucial when considering if it’s the right time to buy a home. Your budget will determine if taking on a mortgage is a wise financial decision and if you should give yourself more time to pay down debt before you buy.

    Q: Okay, I’m ready to buy a home. What’s my first step?
    SP: The first step is to get pre-approved for a mortgage. This tells you the amount you qualify for and signals to sellers that you’re prepared to buy a home. If you’re not quite ready for this first step but eager to buy a home, give it time. With proper planning and education, the prospect of buying a home could be just around the bend. And your local financial institution is prepared to be your guide whenever you’re ready to begin the journey to homeownership.



  • Scholar of the Month: Josett Gravely

    Theodore Roosevelt said, “Knowing what’s right doesn’t mean much unless you do what’s right.” The scholar of month, Josett Gravely, is a person who not only speaks her mind but also puts her foot on the pavement. Gravely is a young activist in the making. In a time when teens are voicing their views on serious topics such as gun violence, inequality and healthcare, she speaks with authority and ensures her message is built on the truth.

    Gravely is a senior at Christiansburg High School. She comes from a large family – six sisters and two brothers. “I like how close we are,” says Gravely. “Even though my older siblings moved away, they still come back.” Gravely is the youngest girl. She says holidays are big, and loves how the distance does not stop them from keeping up with each other. Her mother Lisa Harris passed away 11 years ago, and every year her family honors her life. “The song that reminds me of my mother the most is ‘Golden’ by Jill Scott,” she says. “When I hear it, it gives me joy.” Gravely recently got two tattoos to memorialize her mother.  She says she is grateful for her grandmother, because she has become more of a mother figure in her life.

    As a 12th grader Gravely maintains a 3.5 grade point average. However, it has not been easy. While she loves being a senior, the beginning of the year was difficult due to the heavy course load. Things have improved. “I’ve been able to interact with new people,” says Gravely. “For example my friend Bailey. I knew her since we were little but we didn’t become close till recently.” Gravely says she and Bailey have shared “precious moments.” Bailey held her hand when she got the tattoos.

    Just as friends and family have been there for Gravely, she has been there for others. “I love helping people and putting a smile on people’s faces,” says Gravely. She interns at the middle school, works part time at Macado’s and holds leadership roles in school clubs. Gravely is the president of the Black Student Awareness Club. “We want people to be aware of what is going on in the world,” says Gravely, “what is and what isn’t benefiting people of color.” Under her leadership, the club had a meeting with school faculty about the use of the N-word among the student body. Gravely is a leader in the Christiansburg Mentor Program, where she pairs incoming freshmen with upper-class mentors. “They give advice to them, what they should and shouldn’t do,” says Gravely. When she isn’t working, Gravely is a student representative for the student body at school board meetings.

    In the fall Gravely will attend Radford University. In addition to the school offering classes in her area of study, it allows her to stay close to home, she says. “I’ll live on campus, but I want to make sure I’m here for my grandmother, brother and father,” says Gravely. Given her resume of involvement in history, it is no doubt that Gravely will continue to develop her leadership skills in college.

    “I maintain the desire to keep doing great things because I want my mom to be proud of me,” says Gravely. “I know she is looking down and watching all the time. I want to try to do stuff that would put a smile on her face.” Gravely also says she looks up the iconic Cicely Tyson. “I remember seeing her in a movie and everyone was just in awe of her, and I listened to what she was saying in that moment,” says Gravely. Josett Gravely is a young woman who reminds the world to value your own opinion and voice.  She is a leader who has an important message to share.

  • A Look at Your Health: Minority Cancer Awareness Week

    Cancer is a generic term for a large group of diseases characterized by the growth of abnormal cells beyond their usual boundaries. These cells can invade adjoining parts of the body and/or spread to other organs. Cancer can occur due to a myriad of factors, including changes to things like genes that control the ways our cells function, hormones and immune conditions. External factors, such as tobacco use, an infectious organism, radiation and an unhealthy diet can cause cancer.

    Cancer affects unique populations differently. According to the American Cancer Society, cancer mortality is higher among men than women. Minority groups in the United States also are at a greater risk. For African Americans, the death rate for all cancers combined is 24 and 14 percent higher in men and women, respectively, than in Caucasian populations. Hispanic groups also have a 22 percent higher death rate.

    These disparities are mostly due to inequitable access to opportunities and resources such as education, housing, work and overall standard of living, as well as barriers to high-quality cancer prevention, early detection and treatment information and services.

    Cancer can be preventable if it is caused by external factors, which is why Minority Cancer Awareness Week (April 8–14) is so important. Understanding lifestyle risk factors is the best tool to protect yourself and your family. Here are some tips to help you get started.

    • Avoid tobacco in all its forms, including exposure to secondhand smoke.

    • Eat properly by reducing your consumption of saturated fats and red meat; limiting your intake of charbroiled foods; avoiding deep-fried foods; increasing your consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

    • Exercise regularly. It is recommended that you get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (or a combination of the two) every week.

    • Stay lean by finding out how many calories you require in a day and monitoring what you eat to not exceed your requirement.

    • Limit your alcohol intake.

    • Avoid unnecessary exposure to radiation, including unnecessary medical image studies, radon in your water and ultraviolet radiation in sunlight.

    • Avoid exposure to industrial and environmental toxins such as asbestos fibers, benzene, aromatic amines and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

    • Avoid infections that contribute to cancer including hepatitis viruses, HIV, and HPV and sexually transmitted diseases.

    • Get enough Vitamin D to slow or prevent the development of cancer.

    Talk to your primary care doctor about your family history of cancers and factors that might increase your risk of developing the disease. It is also important to discuss appropriate screening opportunities so you can stay proactive in your care. Your doctor can work with you to identify lifestyle changes that you can make to prevent certain cancers and reduce your risk.

    To learn more, visit CarilionClinic.org.

  • Chronicles of an Immigrant

    Agneris is from Venezuela, a country at the northern side of South America that offers a variety of natural habitats such as Amazon Rain Forest, plains, beaches on the islands, the Andes Mountains and Angel Falls. She grew up in the capital, Caracas, a city that has been blessed with an ideal location in a valley, good climate and proximity to the beaches. Sadly, the city has become increasingly dangerous due to the growth of its poor neighborhoods and the many citizens who live below the poverty level. Additionally, an unstable economy and political situation contribute significantly creating disparities among Caraqueños (people from Caracas) where the prevalence of crime, starvation and desperation has become a daily life struggle.

    Agneris grew up in a middle-class neighborhood with seven siblings. As a child, she was an introvert with a love for art. Some of her most precious childhood memories involve her oldest brother, Carlos, who taught her how to ride a bike, skate, dance and so much more. She often played with her cousins pretending they were grown-up with different professions such as doctors, models, engineers, lawyers.  However, Agneris always pretended to be a mother, carrying a baby doll all over the house.  Her grandma, Aracelis, who in a protective way used to tell the children and even the adults in the family, “No se dejen fregar.” Translation — do not allow anyone to take advantage of you and your good intentions.

    The family concept is central to Hispanics and extends beyond the nuclear family to include grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and neighbors. Agneris plays a prominent memory over and over in her mind. It occurred December 24 – the real gathering for all the family. As a predominantly Catholic country, Christmas festivities in Venezuela are celebrated and most resemble the dinner festivities of Thanksgiving Day in America. Her father, Ramon, was the family leader. He would plan this day with months of anticipation and would set a goal to make as many hallacas (traditional meal made of corn dough stuffed with a stew of beef, pork, chicken, raisins, capers and olives that are folded into plantain leaves, tied with strings and boiled) so he could feed everyone and have extras to give to friends and people from the community.

    Agneris remembers her father as a very kind, loving and giving person who was incredibly thankful for his family and all his children. He used to give Agneris, her brothers and sisters, advice that affected their lives. It is important for parents to talk to their children continuously and at times, be involved in their lives (a nice way to say intrusive). Ramon knew when one of his children was not feeling well, when they were in trouble and the possible reason for that, but instead of lecturing in a harsh way or telling them “there were worse things in life,” he would choose to tell them something about himself, his experiences, times when he failed, made a mistake, felt heart broken or a phrase he knew would help them for the rest of their lives. One of those phrases Agneris remembers: mija esto tambien pasara. Translation – my daughter this shall also pass.

    The Venezuelan educational system improved with the oil boom of the 1970s. The literacy rate in Venezuela is 91 percent. Agneris completed her studies and worked as an executive assistant at a bank. Living in the over-populated city of Caracas was not easy. The historic quarter is extremely dangerous after dark and visitors and citizens alike are advised not to wear or carry expensive jewelry, watches or cameras. Armed robberies happen often. People who drive cars are continually advised to lock their doors as car-jackings are common occurrences. Despite all those facts, Agneris enjoyed the variety of museums, restaurants and lively night life. She was content and later met Angel, another Venezuelan, who she fell in love with and married.

    In 1997 she became a mom, her childhood dream realized with the birth of her son, Andres. Agneris devoted her time to motherhood despite how underestimated and consuming it could be at times. She and her family were very happy in Caracas. She wanted to see her child grow up as she did, surrounded by love and experiencing the magic of family gatherings, visits from grandpa and grandma, to ride the Caracas Metro (a mass rapid transit system that connects the greater part of the city).  She wanted to take him on walks to Parque Nacional El Ávila, like New York’s Central Park), cruise through the city streets of Plaza Bolivar and experience the diversity of colors exhibited by the hundreds of blue and yellow macaws that gather in the heart of the city center.

    Coming to North America was not an easy step for Agneris. She never envisioned leaving Venezuela, but unfortunately Angel’s mother, Maria, was battling cancer and had been taken to America for further treatment. Agneris and Angel planned a visit to the U.S. to spend time with Maria. They came to Roanoke in 1999 thinking they would return to Caracas in a couple of months.  Little did they know their stay would be extended since Maria’s condition worsened, and Angel did not want to leave his mother’s side. Agneris returned to Caracas and left Andres, his dad and family in Virginia. Upon returning to Caracas, Agneris felt lost, as if her soul had split. She could not be happy in Caracas being far from Angel and Andres. She began to reflect on the freedom she experienced in Virginia. She could not leave her home on her own in Caracas as she did in Virginia and without these freedoms life became more complicated, anxiety increased and the sense that she was never safe made it difficult to enjoy life.  In less than two months Agneris was planning to return to Roanoke, but this time when she packed her suitcase, she had a strong feeling that she was not going to return to Caracas. With that in mind, she tried to pack su vida en una maleta (her life in a suitcase). It was an impossible task with insurmountable sorrow. How does someone take a lifetime, break it down and compartmentalize it all?  What formula do you use to discern what are the most important and precious items from your life? How do you select a mere 50 pounds and shove it into a suitcase?

    Many years have passed since she returned to Roanoke. During that time the couple welcomed daughter, Andreina and started a family restaurant. Agneris and Angel hope their children will carry on family traditions by sharing insightful stories of family members in Venezuela and making traditional dishes like the breakfasts Agneris’ mother used to make every Sunday morning: escado frito con areas, which is fried fish with arepas.  Arepas are a cornmeal patty traditional from Venezuela.

    Agneris remains in contact with family in Venezuela and Argentina. She says the death of her father Ramon, left a deep hole in her heart because she could not travel to see him due to the long wait for her legalization in America. However, when sad days evade her mind, she recalls her father’s words: “Mija esto tambien pasara”.   

  • Black Panther

    A young black boy sits in the movie theater. He spends the last of his pocket money on overpriced popcorn and drink combo to snack on while there. He has on the comic book cape of his hero. Cosplay (costume play) in public has never been cool, but this is a special occasion. He is surrounded by friends and loved ones who equally share this enthusiasm after years of coming to the movies, watching actors in awe as they portray superhuman beings. After conscious daydreams and pretend play of white actors with super powers galore fill deeply his imagination, this time is different. This time he’s no longer imagining things. In this moment at the movies he sees not a reason to play pretend. He sees himself. Representation matters. Identity and self-reflection are key elements in the theme of this cinematic brilliance of “Black Panther.”

    The response to Marvel’s “Black Panther” is more than just a commercial success. It’s a culmination of cinema-graphic excellence, storytelling and cultural nuance. In the opening of the movie, you see posters of Public Enemy, Huey Newton (one of the co-founders of the Black Panther Party) and frequent cultural relics throughout the film. Parallel to these Easter eggs, is the story framework beginning in the city of Oakland., CA, for two mirrored events in history. One being the birthplace of “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler, while the second is where the Black Panther Party for Self Defense happened. The historical references set a lively pace for the motion picture, only accelerating and expanding to a more deeply rooted issue of African and African-American dissonance.

    Enter Killmonger, the Black American mercenary whose colorful rage extends massively outside the lines. Played by Michael B. Jordan, Killmonger is the main antagonist in the movie and perhaps the greatest villain ever to enter the Marvel Comic universe. After creating a pack with arms dealer Ulysses Klaue, he, like his father before him, travels on a mission to utilize the optimum tools of Wakanda, known as Vibranium, to free and provide support for the millions of people around who look like him and are suffering.

    To say the least, there’s an abundance of passion within the Killmonger character. He is brutal, enthusiastic, fearless and firm within his beliefs. But this is by no random coincidence. Imagine the walk within his shoes, coming home to find his father dead upon the apartment floor. Audiences saw this young boy holding in his arms the last beats of his father’s heart. Fatherless, a sad reality black boys and girls all over the world know too well. Consequently, this tragedy is what ultimately morphed Erik Stevens into the draconian Killmonger. Similar to black and brown youth, Erik was a product of his environment. He grew hard and cold-hearted because the world can be a devastating tundra for people of color. And, though millions are unable to enjoy in first person the fantasy spectacle tied to the Marvel Universe, their stories are echoes of Erik’s and far from the realm of make-believe.

    “People die every day,” is a line from the conversation Erik has with his father after he defeated T’Challa, the new king of Wakanda for the throne. Shamefully, when Killmonger visits the celestial plains as the new Black Panther he is not greeted among the other warrior panthers. Instead he is returned to the painful memory when he was a boy to converse with his deceased father. His father says, “They will say that you are lost.” Erik replies, “But I’m right here.” Erik’s “lost” association originates from differing ideologies within the black utopia. Retrospectively, Wakanda has been sitting idle through history while the world around it agonizes. Slavery itself could have been prevented, but Wakanda elected not to interfere. Of course, Killmonger to the Wakandans appears off course. Simply because he understands the pain of living in a world ruled by, as Shuri would suggest “colonizers.” Erik almost possess divine right for his feelings. Anger, betrayal, loneliness, isolation – he’s just an outsider to Wakanda but remember it was this great African nation who first abandoned him. Now weathered down into nothing more than a stray imbedded with hopes of seeing a Wakandan sunset.

    Here the identity crisis between T’Challa and his cousin Killmonger emerges. T’Challa has been groomed with an isolationist ideology of the Wakandan nation. However, what is amiable about the arch of his character is that he does, at the very least, question the traditional views of his homeland. T’Challa is a representation of “conventional” Africans. Countering this, Killmonger is by birth a Wakandan citizen, but he was taken from his homeland to live life overseas. The rejection of western philosophy focuses him on the mission only of preservation, but expansion of those who look like him. Contextually, you could compare these two to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, but that would be too Meta. The challenge is to see how they  philosophies and if there is a difference whether your skin was blackened under the African sun or the American sun.

    Ryan Coogler does a profound job in the arena of subliminal messaging. Viewing the movie trailers, its apparent Ulysses Klaue and Killmonger have teamed up, and perhaps Klaue is the main antagonist within the film. After all, he is a white, aggressive, European male, money hungry and with an explicit appetite for violence. That seems appropriate. However, Killmonger and not Klaue is who proves to be the real test for The Blank Panther. The internal trauma overshadows the external one while confronting the dissonance between Africans and Black Americans. Tribeless, language adaptors, akatas (cotton pickers), just a few of the less than pleasant verbiage I personally experienced as a teenager for “native Africans.” African booty-scratcher, constant flicks of the tongues and blacky are just some of the same harmful language my teenage self is guilty of expounding. All ignorant, all attacks on black self-esteem.

    Thankfully, none of this speech is within the film, but the overarching theme that these portray are identical to the struggle of African and African Americans universally. A lack of harmony that is essential to the model of the movie only to be resolved when it is too late.

    Someone asked me what I thought when Killmonger threw T’Challa down the waterfall in defeat. My response was simple. “Of course that was going to happen.” The very speech that Killmonger gives before their confrontation was frightening enough. The fire in each word said loud and proud by Michael B. Jordan burned like wildfire. That fire was fueled by a determination to aid those of less fortune and in this battle T’Challa was a breathing Wakandan way of life that needed extinguishing. You cannot beat someone who is that focused or that passionate. That fight was over before things ever got physical. However, on the flip side, that is the reason T’Challa became victorious in the end. He was willing to change his, as well as his nations views on separation. T’Challa rightfully won the mantle of “Black Panther” because he eventually was able to look at Erik Killmonger and see more than an enemy.

    Assata Shakur once said, “Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who are oppressing them.” Killmonger was right in philosophy but incorrect in his practice which led to his demise. Had he not succumbed to such vengeful tactics perhaps a different story would have been told and perhaps he could have seen more than just one Wakandan sunset. Less we not forget T’Challa too went through his transformation in Marvel’s “Civil War” when he was obsessed with avenging the death of his father, former King T’Chaka. Fortunately, his blind rage dissipated, Killmonger’s did not, and for that, he paid the ultimate price.

    “Throw me in the ocean, like my ancestors, cause they knew death was better than bondage.” Erik Killmonger has been critically acclaimed as one of the greatest villains in the MCU, but that’s because he and villain are not synonymous. Killmonger is a powerful rendition of black pain. A neglected wound across communities and an intense fight to see that wound healed once and for all. Is that so incorrect? How wrong exactly was Killmonger? And if T’Challa was blessed with redemption against a vengeful nature then why not N’Jadaka (The birth name of Killmonger)? I agree that rage should not be the sole source of fuel for any movement. But given the trials Erik had to endure to get to where he was, surely, he had room for forgiveness. To see the bright potential of this groundbreaking character snuffed out was heartbreaking. Because as he took in that sun set his father promised him for the first time, he simultaneously was taking in his last.

    Inspiring and masterful are just a few words in an endless ocean that best describe this movie. I’d like to personally thank Ryan Coogler for his immaculate depiction of blacks as superheroes. So young boys and girls, all across the globe, no longer have to compromise their complexion to feel empowered.

  • A note from the publisher

    On May 1, voters in the City of Roanoke will decide the leadership of the “Star City of the South.” Seven candidates are vying for three seats on Roanoke City Council. The candidates vary in race, culture, gender and sexual orientation. In this month’s issue of ColorsVA, the candidates were invited to answer questions regarding their campaign platforms, as a way to show case their issues and to give insight about why they decided to run. All but one candidate decided to participate and that is fine. I, Robert Jeffrey, am one of the candidates.

    I appreciate the other candidates’ enthusiasm to offer their service to the community to improve the quality of life and potentially become an even greater asset to the city. I respect their willingness to use this publication to express their views despite the fact that I own the publication. The candidates’ words are their words and all of them had final say in the final editing of the story.

    I respect the candidates – that all of them found the courage and resolve to run for city council. It’s a thankless job. No matter what decision or position you stand on there will be someone opposed. It takes thick skin to handle the naysayers, and it takes patience to listen to the community. So, to all of the candidates, thank you for sharing your thoughts and vision. To whomever wins, please take the council role with enthusiasm and passion. The great people of Roanoke deserve it.


    Getting it right…
    In last month’s edition, Deena Sasser was misidentified. She is the curator and historian at the Virginia Museum of Transportation.

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