June 2016 Issue

  • Seeing the Star City Shine

     

    A historic election took place on May 3. Roanoke City residents voted Sherman P. Lea Sr. as mayor and Anita James Price as vice mayor. I sat down and talked with each of these multi-term members of Roanoke City Council about their thoughts on the Star City of the South, where it shines and what direction it needs to go.

    Why did you initially decide to run for political office?

    Lea: I have always had the attitude that if you want something done, you have to do it yourself.  And when I moved here from Danville I was in an appointed position.  I was on the board for the Redevelopment and Housing Commission.  After serving there for a couple of years I moved to Roanoke. I served on the PTA and later became interested in serving on the Roanoke City School Board.  I was then appointed to the School Board and served there for five years.  Of course as a school board member, you are constantly meeting with city council. I felt like working on council, which is the governing body of the city, I could have a lot more input in terms of funding and the things we can do for schools. So it was a challenge and something I saw as a move up. There were also things
    within the community that caught my interest – one in particular being Victory Stadium.  And so, I set out to run for council to save Victory Stadium.

    Price: Deciding to initially run came after much soul searching and checking in with my family!  I never really had a desire to run for a public office – however, I have always had a drive to help others and to help where needed.  I served as president of Roanoke Education Association for a number of years and began to truly understand how the political process affects every aspect of our lives. During that tenure, I had opportunities to interact with the school board, city council and Virginia’s General Assembly.  Through those experiences, I was able to better understand that to evoke change, you have to be not only in the room, but at the table.   I was encouraged by several folks to run for city council and was pleasantly surprised when I won my first primary in 2008.

    On May 3, you were elected as Roanoke’s second African American mayor. How does that make you feel?

    Lea: First of all, it is an honor to come behind Rev. Noel Taylor. I am excited for reasons other than the fact that I am the second African American mayor. I hope what my election does is  encourage young African American males, letting them know that they can be mayor or aspire even higher.  Work hard. Stay in school. Become connected in the community, and they can do it. That is what is important regarding the election – that it gives young people hope and aspirations to do things in their community. To become involved.

    It is constantly mentioned that you are the first African American female on Roanoke City Council and now the first African American female as vice mayor. What does this historical fact mean to you?

    Price: To be honest, I am still processing just what that means and allowing it to really sink in.  For a time, I didn’t really want to dwell on the fact that I am the first African American female on city council, because it reminded me of a time when a supervisor told me I was lucky I was black because Roanoke was looking for black teachers.  I took offense to that and told her I certainly hoped she would hire me because I am a good teacher, not for the color of my skin.  I still believe that a person should be evaluated or accepted on their merit – not to obtain some quota.  But I do humbly accept the awesome recognition that I am a first! That in itself is not to be taken lightly and is a responsibility that I accept with great humility.  The fact that I will be recorded in the history of Roanoke is so overwhelming, and I don’t want to allow myself to be caught up in the “hype.”  It is my prayer and desire that my service on Roanoke City Council has recorded that I made a difference for the advancement of our city and its people – it’s not about me, but what I can do to encourage others.

    Do you feel Roanoke is headed in the right direction considering you are only the second African American mayor?

    Lea: I feel it is. I feel we are a progressive city in many aspects, especially when it comes to elected officials.  Roanoke has had a history of having minorities, especially African Americans, in high office.  We have Anita Price my colleague as vice mayor. There’s an elected African American sheriff, we have an African American commissioner of revenue, clerk of the circuit court, police chief and [have had] at least two African American school superintendents. I think we have had a history of being progressive when it comes to local officials, but I would like to see us improve when it comes to that area. But I am pleased with where we are as a city in regards to that, and I feel it is incumbent for us to continue to pave the way to those that will come behind us. To make sure that we are committed in service and conduct ourselves in a way in which people won’t necessarily look at the color of your skin, but look at your character and personality and your willingness to improve the quality of life within your tenure.

    Do you feel Roanoke is headed in the right direction considering you are the only African American female on city council?

    Price: It is my prayer – as I had hoped it would be with this past election – that another African American woman would join me on council, and I certainly hope that will not be much longer!  Progress is coming, but it can be slow to change.  At least there will be one more woman on council this go round and I am thankful for that.  But, as I said before, in order to make a change for the better, you have to be at the table.  The dynamics of council have changed, but additional representation is needed of other minority groups.  We’re not quite there yet, but thank God we aren’t where we used to be.

    What would you like to see improve in Roanoke?

    Lea: I would like to see us improve the poverty rate in our city. I have been concerned with the number of homeless children that we have. We have over 70 percent of our students who are getting free and reduced lunch; that’s a concern. I hope we can work to improve that. I realize that sitting on council, we are not able to do that alone. It is going to take us coming together and partnering with local agencies while collaborating [efforts] in order to make this happen. And I hope that it improves, especially as it concerns the children who don’t have a place to live. We can do better than that. And I am hoping that we will.

    Price: Equity and equality for all – throughout the city.  Unfortunately, we still have poverty in our city.  We are all aware of the impact of poverty not just on the individual but its implications across all lines – economically and quality of life.  I want to see improvements for all of our citizens no matter what quadrant of the city a person lives in.  I would also like to see more racial diversity in our neighborhoods.  A certain area of a city should not be automatically defined as being dominated by one racial group. 

    What would be your first step to combat the above?

    Lea: To make sure we create jobs. To give the parents of those students an opportunity to work, by making sure we have a trained work force, a work force that will meet the criteria of the companies that are coming in the area. We need to do all that we can here in the city to make sure we can create jobs to give people that chance to [regain] self-esteem and to be able to provide for their families. Also, continuing an open dialogue with those agencies like Goodwill and Rescue Mission, which assist those persons with a place to live.

    Price: Somehow we must have an open honest dialogue on addressing equity.  I’m with groups that address this issue, such as Points of Diversity.  The good thing is that it is not still the “elephant in the room” that no one wants to acknowledge.  We are blessed to have organizations that do recognize the need to address poverty.

    If you had a magic wand, what’s one thing you would do for the city – regardless of how much it would cost or how ridiculous of an idea?

    Lea: I would provide all the homeless children a wholesome place to live.  And to also provide those that want to work, a job. And find a means to get them a job.

    Price: That every child had everything they needed to be successful.  That would include good food and fresh produce (a decent affordable grocery store within every neighborhood).  That each child lived in warm, decent housing and did not live with the worry of where they will sleep at night. That all our neighborhoods and streets are well-kept, proudly displayed and beautiful. That magic wand would just do everything to make the entire city clean and maintained. And then for fun, for the younger folks – a Dave & Buster’s!

    What do you think about the diversity in Roanoke?

    Lea: Although we have 105 different nationalities in Roanoke, I think diversity is something we can improve on. [Even when observing city appointments] we have a number of boards and commissions, but we don’t have much diversity on them. It starts with us as leaders. It is something we can work toward, because it is important.  It’s important that citizens see that we are diverse in what we do, especially for our young people. It starts with us as a governing body. There is still work to be done.  I am a little frustrated at times when see a lot of activities that are going on in our community and I don’t see a lot of diversity. For example, on the weekends, in downtown [I notice] sometimes at concerts and other events. I think if it wasn’t for events like the Henry Street Festival we would be lacking in a lot of areas as it relates to different cultures and groups that come into our city. We are working on it and we are doing a good job. I am pleased with what we are doing at the Berglund Center. But I think we can improve. As leaders of the community we have to stay vigilant, to make sure we do what we can do. We decide who is going to be on these boards and commissions.  It starts there. We want that to permeate down into our schools, in our education system. We can improve, especially with African American male teachers.  They need more presence in our schools. For that matter, more minority teachers in general.  I don’t see enough minority teachers in the school system, and there should be.

    Price: It’s exciting to see the changes in diversity over the past 35-plus years.  When I first moved here in the late ’70s, I remember thinking, “Not many folks look like me in this city.”  When I was teaching at Patrick Henry High School, Roanoke received immigrants from Bosnia; then at Round Hill Elementary, we had children from Sudan, Haiti, Mexico and many other places.  So fortunately, the diversity of our city has changed. Local Colors started with a handful of nations – now ambassador Pearl Fu reports over 105 nationalities are represented in the Roanoke Valley!  I think that is a strong testament that we, as a community, are warm and welcoming to people of every race, nationality and creed. 

    What three words would you use to describe Roanoke?

    Lea: Growing. Caring. Scenic.

    Price: Vibrant. Evolving. Promising.

  • Painting's journey births a lasting legacy

    Most of us are familiar with the expression, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Well, it turns out a picture can also be responsible for creating a legacy. That is, when the aforementioned legacy is the Legacy Museum of African American History, and the picture is the oil painting “Lord Plant My Feet on Higher Ground.”

    The painting was commissioned by the Lynchburg NAACP in 1982 in order to honor leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, both local and national. Separated into three panels, the painting has 75 people who, with the guide, can be located by their names. Some are familiar faces; all made their own unique contributions to the era. 

    Once completed by Ann van de Graaf in 1993, the painting spent several years adorning the walls of City Hall.  However, it was eventually removed. The community realized that there wasn’t another befitting location, and fundraisers ensued. Thus, the Legacy Museum of African American History was born.

    Aptly located in Lynchburg’s historic district, the Victorian-style building was renovated to become visitor-friendly while maintaining the beauty of its past.  The doors opened in June 2000. The original exhibits focused on health and education, but throughout the years the museum has continuously highlighted different components of the African American culture. The themes have varied from slavery and the Civil War, to sports, family, politics and religion.

    The latest exhibit has musical roots. “The Rhythms of Yesterday and Today,” as the title suggests, is a lesson in the history of music. The timeline display begins in 1899 and ends in present time. Period attire, vintage radios, record players, black and white pictures, and even a classic eight-track cassette player lend authenticity to the visual presentation. If it were not for the “Do Not Touch” sign, my fingers would have been delighted to caress the only genuine phonograph I had the pleasure of seeing in real life.

    One particular scene caught my eye. As I took in the sight of the Juke Joint paraphernalia, I could picture the couples dancing, hear the petty arguments over the card and dice games, and almost smell the stench of moonshine and cigar smoke. That was their place to escape, the place where being black was a term of endearment and not an insult. There they could relax as equals without the fear of being persecuted for the color of their skin.

    The museum’s mission is not only that of enrichment, but also education. While popular among Lynchburg’s elder population and tourists, the museum has unfortunately seen a recent decline in younger visitors. Local field trips are no longer as common as they once were. Undeterred, the museum has found ways to engage the community through its diverse array of programs and lectures. In addition to workshops that aim to spread knowledge of Kwanzaa, they also host guest speakers and authors for book signings. The museum participates annually in the local celebration of Juneteenth. 

    Juneteenth is not highlighted in many standard school curricula, making outside education necessary. Also referred to as Freedom Day, Juneteenth is a nationally-recognized holiday that celebrates the announcement of the abolishment of slavery. This year will mark the 151st commemoration.  Originally on June 19, Juneteenth is generally celebrated on the third Saturday in June. President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, stating that all slaves were to be free by January 1, 1863. However, it was over two years later before word of the emancipation reached Texas. 

    On that day, June 19, the slaves celebrated their new-found freedom. For this reason, many African Americans feel a more genuine connection with Juneteenth than Independence Day, as slaves had no concept of freedom in 1776. So, much like Fourth-of-July gatherings, communities host annual Juneteenth celebrations. Locally, each year has a different theme. This year, the Lynchburg celebration will be held June 18 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Hunton-Randolph Community Center, 1120 12th St. The spotlight will be on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), with an emphasis on family fun challenge games. Traditionally, the program has also consisted of the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, singing of spirituals and hymns, poetry, interpretive dance and fellowship.

    The transition from slavery to freedom was not easy, and the wounds inflicted on an entire race can still be felt today. Without an adequate knowledge of where one comes from, one cannot truly know oneself. And one can’t truly enjoy freedom without understanding what a lack of freedom entailed. The Legacy Museum proves that Black History Month can be every month. After all, black history is America’s history.

    The museum is currently
    accepting donations to support daily operations. You may visit
    www.legacymuseum.org or call (434) 845-3455 for admission and booking information.

  • Helping children gain skills for success

    India-born Roanoker Shila Patolia has toyed with the idea of opening a Kumon Center since 2003. That dream finally became a reality when she opened a local franchise on March 21.

    Japanese mathematics instructor Toru Kumon developed the Kumon method in 1954 as a way to help his son, Takeshi, improve in math. The method is comprised of a series of daily worksheets that help students progress incrementally from basic pencil skills to calculus.

    The method was so successful that Takeshi was doing calculus problems by sixth grade. Kumon’s wife opened the first Kumon Center in 1956. In 1991, a reading program was developed, moving students from pencil skills to Shakespeare with the same incremental method.

    Today, Kumon is the largest after-school learning program in the world, with more than four million students enrolled across forty-eight countries and six continents. The Roanoke franchise is one of more than 2,800 in the United States and Canada.

    Before beginning in Kumon, students take a placement test. The goal is to start at a comfortable level, where they can complete the work on their own with ease. Patolia says this ensures that there are no “learning gaps.” It also gives students confidence, since they succeed from the start.

    Once a student’s starting point is determined, the child is given homework of one worksheet set per day, or two if enrolled in both math and reading. Although it may seem like this puts a lot of extra work and pressure on students, Patolia says the worksheets only take 15 to 20 minutes per day per subject. Most of the worksheets provide examples of how to complete the problems, which helps students become self-learners.

    Twice a week, students go to the Kumon Center for class time. They drop off completed homework for checking and look over any returned assignments, before doing their worksheets at the Center. Once they finish, staff at the center check work for accuracy and students work to correct any mistakes. Then they are given the next set of worksheets to complete at home.

    The class time process takes a total of about thirty minutes, or an hour if a student is enrolled in both math and reading. Patolia and her staff are there to offer guidance as needed, but if a student has truly mastered the concept, they shouldn’t need any. In fact, students do not progress to the next level until they can complete each worksheet independently, accurately and quickly. 

    Because of the individualized nature of the Kumon program, it can help almost any child succeed, even from as young as 3. Students who struggle or are behind often catch or surpass their classmates in as little as a year. Likewise, students who are at or above grade level will be challenged to reach their potential. In fact, students who stay in Kumon for several years are generally one to two grades ahead of their classmates. Timothy Cerniglia, a Kumon instructor from Pheonix, Ariz., says the program provides wonderful preparation for college.

    “If you are strong in reading and math, there is really no college major you cannot pursue. Life is like a long hallway of doors which lead to opportunities. If you are not good at math/reading, those doors are locked to you. Can’t do algebra or calculus? The doors labeled engineering, physics and finance are locked. Can’t read or write at a high level? Locked doors at journalism and many of the social sciences,” Cerniglia said.

    Patolia says she originally had the idea to open a Kumon Center when there wasn’t one close enough for her children to attend. But they were young and she was working full time. The timing just wasn’t right.

    But when her employer closed two years ago, she began pondering the thought again, and began the process last year.

    She described the process of becoming a Kumon-certified instructor as “rigorous.” In order to maintain her certification, she will need to continually seek professional development credits, which often entails traveling. This month she will travel to New Jersey, and she commutes to North Carolina once a month.

    Patolia, who spent 17 years as an
    electrical design engineer, admits she was a little nervous about running the business side of things. But her strong desire to help others, and her husband’s
    encouragement, has helped her not worry about that.

    “I’ve always wanted to provide a service to kids in the community.  Even if I just break even, providing this service will be great,” she said.

    She is working to carry out the Kumon mission statement: “By discovering the potential of each individual and developing his or her ability to the maximum, we aim to foster sound, capable people and thus contribute to the global community.”

    Since opening the Kumon Center, located in Cave Spring Corners, Patolia has hired several staff and has an enrollment of about 90. Some of the students are transfers from other branches that were farther away, but others are entirely new to the program.

    “I love doing this. I love to help children. Some of the kids were really struggling before coming to Kumon. To see a smile on their face, on their parent’s face, makes my day,” she said.

     

    Kumon of Roanoke

    3939 Brambleton Ave. SW Roanoke, VA 24018
    (540) 562-8000
    (540) 529-0257
    www.kumon.com/ROANOKE


    Facebook: Kumon
          (Roanoke)
    facebook.com/kumonofroanoke

  • Understanding your health

    Do you sometimes forget why you walked in to a room or where you last put your keys? It certainly happens to all of us, but there are several things you can do to improve your memory.

     

    First, it is important to focus on improving your brain health. To do this, you have to improve your overall health, meaning your physical, mental and social well-being. For your physical health, make sure to eat a diet full of vitamins and nutrients, exercise regularly and, if you smoke, quit immediately.

    For your mental and social well-being, social engagement and intellectual stimulation are a must. Working, volunteering, listening to music, reading, writing, doing some sort of art or learning anything new are all associated with better cognitive function.

    Lastly, chronic conditions such as vascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol affect the way your mind functions, so make sure you work with your physician to get any of these conditions under control. 

    It can be scary when your memory starts to lapse, and as you age, it can become harder for your brain to create a new memory. If you are having trouble remembering daily tasks, talk with your health care provider and try some of these tips:

    Develop habits and routines that are easy to follow.

    Always place your wallet, keys and other important items in the same spot.

    Write a to-do list and check off items as you do them.

    Write down your appointments and other activities in a planner book or calendar. Keep it in an obvious place, such as beside your bed.

    Allow yourself the time to do the things you need to do, and don’t feel rushed or let other people rush you.

    Keep a dictionary close by if you have trouble remembering words.

    Play games such as crossword puzzles, board games, or even video games that were created to challenge the mind. This helps keep the nerve cells in the brain active.

    If you live alone, make an effort to visit and talk with friends and family members.

     

    Keeping your brain active and sharp will not only improve your memory but it will help ward off depression and anxiety, and slow down the onset and progression of dementia.

    For more information, talk with
    your primary care provider or
    visit CarilionClinic.org.

  • Find authentic hispanic cuiseine at Amaya’s Deli

    Roanoke is full of ethnic grocery stores selling a wide variety of items; one in particular has a restaurant located inside. La Bodeguita Hispana, a small Hispanic grocery store located on Williamson Road, is keeping a secret, a delicious secret named Amaya’s Deli.

    Whenever I visited this store the restaurant was closed, until two years ago when the Amaya family opened the now-popular food spot. Amaya’s Deli is a family business; the current owners are the fourth ones to try their hand at the small kitchen in the bodeguita, and they have lasted the longest.

    José, Nidia and their son Jefrin make up the Honduran family, and it is easy to notice that they take pride in their business. Jefrin, who is translating for his father, tells me that the Amayas relocated to Roanoke 21 years ago for a position that José Amaya was offered. He had always wanted to own his own restaurant and after working for other people for so many years, he jumped once the opportunity arose to lease the space inside La Bodeguita Hispana.

    The first thing you notice is the wide variety of things for sale and also the smells of food cooking. All around people are conversing, everyone seems to be regulars, and we notice that every table has a glass of horchata. Later we find out that this is because there are free refills, a definite selling point for Amaya’s.

    The restaurant has six booths topped with salt, pepper and a bottle of hot sauce. To the left are shelves full of freshly baked bread and a cappuccino machine, and to the right is a butcher counter. You place your order at the counter from a menu that is in English on one side and Spanish on the other, designed by Jefrin Amaya. My dining companion and I take a seat after ordering and watch the soccer that is playing on the TVs.

    My companion orders horchata since it is so obviously the drink of choice. It looks milky and you expect a creamy texture but it is not thick; we detect hints of cinnamon and a very sweet and almond-like flavor. I wanted a definition and upon Googling found that it is made with cold milk, vanilla and cinnamon, and that these are key ingredients in all Latin cultures where the drink is common. My companion says “it’s like a dessert in a glass.” If you are not in the mood for horchata, other drink options are: Pepsi, Coke, bottled water and juices including watermelon and tamarind. Jefrin Amaya offers us a taste of the tamarind juice and while good, it was a little sour and we could see why the horchata is a favorite.

    When our food arrives, we are pleased that it is hot and in substantial portions. Both meals are served with refried beans, rice and salad and you can also add either tortillas or plantains. A small plate for sharing is brought out as well. We immediately notice that the refried beans have a different color and flavor than standard “Tex Mex” that you find at most Mexican restaurants. Jefrin Amaya explains “it is because those places use a mix of different types of beans but Amaya’s uses a red bean, which explains the color and mild sweetness.”  The rice is also red, cooked well and contains a small amount of mixed-in peas and carrots.

    My companion decided on the Pollo Asada, or grilled chicken. The bone-in chicken is very tender with a little spice and a lot of flavor, grilled on a flat top. He opted for the homemade tortilla accompaniment; they look fluffy but they are very dense. Prior to our food arriving, my companion notices the curtido in large jars on half the tables, and this is an instant addition to his meal. Every culture has a version of this condiment, a spicy pickled mixture of jalapenos, onions, carrots and cabbage. Please understand that the food is delicious on its own but this will definitely add heat to the meal if that’s what you desire.

    I ordered the Fried Fish, as this is the dish that caused us to select the restaurant. One of our friends, another local business owner, enjoyed it so much that he took a picture and told us we had to go and experience it. This full bone-in tilapia has flaky meat and a delicious crispy skin that is not at all oily. I find a lot of times fried fish can be overcooked and I was pleased this was not the case. A lime is served on the side to squeeze over the meal and it definitely brings out the flavors. The plantains are sliced and lightly fried and the sauce served with them is easily compared to a creamy ketchup. I feel this is an appropriate condiment because the plantains taste a lot like fries with just a hint of sweetness. Everything on my plate has very clean flavors; you don’t question what something is, and everything is easily identified.

    At Amaya’s everyone is very accommodating. “All of our business comes from people recommending us. We always try to take care of our customers…if people ask for extra sauce or something, we don’t charge for that. People keep coming back because our food is authentic,” says Jefrin Amaya. They would really like to have the opportunity to expand inside of the store by adding a couple more booths, and they have also thought about a standalone restaurant.

    Photography by Xavier Duckett

    The restaurant, located at 5225 Williamson Road, is open every day from 9 a.m to 9 p.m., but their busiest times are on the weekends, Mondays and Tuesdays. Visit Amaya’s Deli for a taste of authentic Hispanic cuisine from a very talented Honduran family. Authenticity dictates that you order the most popular menu item, Pollo con Tajada, a traditional
    Honduran dish. If you are unable to eat inside the restaurant, call for take-out at (540) 892-6976.

  • Publisher's Note

    “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes them where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.”

    - Rosalynn Carter

     

    “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus, but a molder of consensus.”

    - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

     

    I moved back to Southwest Virginia more than two years ago.  When I came back, I envisioned a homecoming of old friends, and a community of family and love that I witnessed when I was a young adult.

    I have seen elders and leaders in my community provide guidance on how I should make life decisions, and how I will make an impact on my community and provide positive energy for my children and my children’s children. 

    I remember the time I met with the late great Rev. Dr. Noel C. Taylor, the first African American mayor in Roanoke. I was graduating from Hampton University in 1992, and I was deciding whether I should move to Seattle, or make roots in Roanoke and build my family here.  I will never forget what he told me: “Do you want to be a big fish in a small pond or do you want to be a small fish in a big pond?” Of course I told him, “I want to be a fish in a big pond.” He told me that whatever pond you dive into, “Make a difference. That’s what leaders do!”

    I never forgot those words. You see, I love Roanoke. I truly love Roanoke. I love everything about it. No, we are not a metropolitan city. No, we do not have a major sports team (except if you count Virginia Tech), but our hearts are full of love, admiration for our city. I hear people talk about how they wish they left, but I always see the same people walking downtown at Elmwood Park enjoying the summer festivals and seeing their children laugh and play with one another. I yearn for the promise of leadership to guide this city and community to higher heights.

    This spring, Roanoke has elected our second African American mayor, Sherman Lea Sr., and our first African American female vice mayor, Anita Price. In our June issue, writer Kianna Wade sits down with her mother and Lea, Price, to discuss their outlook on Roanoke’s future.  Their election is a historic time for the City of Roanoke. I congratulate the both of them! I hope they put their positive energy into the city government to handle the current issues of economic development and unemployment.  They, along with the rest of the city council, must provide guidance and innovative solutions to the problems that plague our community.

    Our community is looking for solutions, and we continue to be disappointed by the promises of politicians. The hope of children continues to be vanquished. I, like the rest of us, look for our city to truly be the Star City of the South once again.


    Enjoy!

    Robert L. Jeffrey Jr.

    Publisher

     

     

     

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