July 2017 Issue

  • Roanoke Spanish business translating language into strong business model

    “One of the most rewarding aspects of this business is showing people how to use the tools they already have…and watching them broaden their cultural and global understanding.”

    The conception of Elda Stanco Downey’s business all started over a bottle of wine. She was a Spanish Professor at Roanoke College but was on maternity leave with her second son around the summer of 2013. Stanco Downey had entertained the idea of quitting to build a language service for the community. She just had to prepare her husband for her decision. One evening after the children went to bed, Elda sat with her husband and sipping wine.

    She explained to her husband a vision of a business she could build from the ground up: a Spanish language service that would provide anything from one-on-one tutoring to language and culture consulting for companies wanting to broaden their market. With the aid of a second bottle of wine, Elda’s husband mulled over her business proposal. Like many of Elda’s endeavors and community projects, he supported the foundation of Roanoke Spanish.

    Roanoke Spanish incorporated on December 3, 2013, and now offers translation, interpreting, cultural training for the workplace, individual tutoring, as well as partnerships with local charities and non-profits such as the Virginia Latino Higher Education Network (VALHEN). The business rents out space through the Co-Lab at both the Grandin and Patrick Henry building locations.

    “One of the most rewarding aspects of this business is showing people how to use the tools they already have…and watching them broaden their cultural and global understanding,” Elda says.

    Elda’s cultural and global understanding stems from her upbringing. She was born in Caracas, Venezuela, to a racially diverse family. Elda attributes her work ethic, business practices and motivation to her parents.

    Elda says her parents always pushed her to excel. From early on she knew she would come to the United States to get her education just as her older siblings had. She credits her family for much of her drive, love of education and knack for business.

    “My father is a business man. Throughout my childhood, he always had a few business ventures on the side but still found the time to uphold his civic duty,” says Elda. “And I think that’s where I learned it from.” Following her father’s example, Elda is now on the local Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce.

    “I love what I do. When I have the freedom to dictate what I do, it no longer feels like work,” she says. “I have an incredible support system, a phenomenal husband.”

    Elda left Venezuela to attend the University of Chicago to study psychology and Spanish literature. She later attended Brown University where she earned a Masters and PhD in Spanish literature. She still keeps in contact with her Hispanic studies professor, Julio Ortega from Brown who has served as a mentor.

    “There is something unique about Elda and her capacity to interact with students
    in a one-to-one relation. That is, she believes in her students, and communicates the rare talent of teaching with gusto,” Ortega says. “She is lady with command. I believe she has a lot to give and much space to grow as a natural leader.”

    Elda moved to Roanoke in 2004 where she joined Hollins University. In 2010, she accepted a job teaching at Roanoke College, where she met a fellow Venezuelan, Iris Myers. Myers is a professor of Spanish and the director of the Language Resource Center.

    At Roanoke College, Myers and Stanco Downey go beyond the Roanoke Spanish curriculum to learn about their students and use real examples from the students’ lives and inside jokes to make the content relatable. The staff is not afraid to laugh with the students and to build strong connections with them.

    Christine Lockheart Poarch is a local attorney and mother who uses Roanoke Spanish’s translation services at Poarch Law.

    “The best quality about Elda is her humility and her ability to flexibly adapt to challenges and different personality types and learning styles and still deliver really transforming language education. You can't put a price on that when you're trying to tell a story through an interpreter or hoping that the heart of what your client has written comes across on the page,” Poarch says. “The same goes for the highly technical publications and training resources some of our clients need and that we use Roanoke Spanish to provide. Roanoke Spanish pays attention to the nuance of tiny cultural linguistic differences that really matter in huge ways for our clients.”

    Poarch’s three young daughters also utilize Roanoke Spanish. “I couldn't have picked a better partner for that education for my kids than Roanoke Spanish. She's doing way more than vocabulary or verb conjugation.  She's changing the way their brains process language.  She makes sense out of something that can be very intimidating,” she adds. “Iris has a natural warmth that my children, who take Spanish weekly from either Elda or Iris, immediately responded to when they met her.”

    Additionally, Elda teaches Spanish courses at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute and she is a board member for both Local Colors and United Way. Every Friday she leads a Spanish circle for those wanting to practice their fluency. Last June, she gave the presentation, “How I Got the Hole in My Shoe” for Ted Talks in Richmond, which challenges the idiom of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes and, instead, suggests walking alongside someone in your own shoes.

    Elda continues to demonstrate her commitment to serving the community through her involvement in VALHEN. She is a consulting staff member and operations director for VALHEN, a non-profit organization that helps to bridge gaps between Latino high school students and higher education. In addition to networking and improving access to resources for students, she takes is upon herself to push Latino students out of their comfort zone. “I try to give them opportunities to do things they’ve never done before,” Elda says. “Like trying new foods or experiencing different culture. Like last winter, I took them to see ‘The Nutcracker.’"

    Elda recently took the local VALHEN chapter of students out to a sushi lunch to commemorate the end of the school year. At the end of the meal, she gave the students an exercise to do for an upcoming conference. “Write down how you define community. What builds community? What tears it down? What makes up part of your community?” Then she asked each student to read what he or she had written (some in Spanish, some in English).

    “Family is an important part of community. I face different challenges everyday but I can always come home to my family at the end of the day and they are there for me,” one student read aloud. Other students opened up about experiencing racism in the classroom. “We cannot have a solid community with any kind of discrimination. I should not be treated differently because I was not born here.”

    Rising Patrick Henry High School junior Tania Garcia Jimenez, considers the VALHEN community family. “I can express myself here and be myself [with Dr. Elda and the other students] which I haven’t always been able to do,” she says. “I want a future in law, politics, civics or history, and this group is helping to make that happen.”

    When the server came back to the table with the check, she passed out fortune cookies. The students each opened their cookie to share their respective fortunes, but one particular fortune stuck out to Elda: “Good character is the true aim of education.”

    “If I can help an individual anchor themselves in the global community, I know I’ve done my job,” Elda says. “Seeing language empower my students and clients is what motivates me.”

  • Stedman Speaks: Tips for Managing Your Finances This Travel Season

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

    In the height of summer travel and vacation season, managing your finances has likely dropped a little lower on your list of priorities. While it’s good to mentally escape the daily grind, don’t let beach brain cloud your ability to remain in control of your financial well-being, especially while you’re away from your local branch or home. Here are some tips for responsible money management while you’re off on summer adventures.

    Q: How can I monitor my finances while I’m miles away from home?
    SP: One way to keep track of your money is to sign up for online banking. This gives you the option to check in on your accounts from anywhere. Online banking gives you around-the-clock access and is a great way to monitor activity, check balances, and make transactions, as well as providing other useful features that you perhaps thought had to be done in person at a branch. Contact your financial institution for instructions on how to sign up. Many financial institutions offer a mobile app, which is another great way to stay in the know about your accounts while you’re away.

    Q: Are there any precautions I should take to protect my finances while traveling?
    SP: It’s a good idea to notify your financial institution before you hit the road. Nothing could ruin a vacation faster than a lack of funds due to a limited cash supply and/or a frozen credit or debit card because of suspicious-looking account activity. Letting your financial institution know that you’ll be traveling helps keep your accounts safe and avoids interruptions in your credit or debit card services, especially if you’ll be out of the country. Many financial institutions offer a simple online form that you can complete ahead of your travel.

    Q: Is it safest to use cash, a debit card, or a credit card while traveling?
    SP: A credit card offers the most security because, unlike a debit card, it’s not linked directly to your bank account, so there’s no risk of fraudsters gaining direct access to your money. While cash can be easily stolen, it’s a good idea to keep a small amount on hand in case you encounter a merchant or service that only accepts cash. One tactic to keep cash safe is to split it up. Keep a certain amount in your wallet and another amount stashed away for later. Overall, the best approach is to carry a combination – a credit card for the majority of purchases, another card as a backup, and cash.

    Q: Is running my debit card as credit the same as simply using a credit card?
    SP: No. Opting to run your debit card as a credit transaction does not automatically turn it into a credit card. For one, you don’t build credit by using a debit card as a credit card because, unlike a credit card, you’re not using a line of credit to make purchases. While it will take a few extra days to process, funds are still withdrawn directly from your account when you run your debit card as credit, and you can’t count on the same level of fraud protection that comes with a credit card.

    Q: I can’t afford a vacation this year. What can I do to make sure I’m able to go next year?
    SP: Start saving now. Calculate how much money you’ll need to fund your vacation and determine how much you should save each month to get there. Many financial institutions offer additional, interest-earning savings accounts to help you save up for specific things such as travel or the holidays. You could also look into a short-term share certificate as a way to earn more on the money you’re saving. Invest in a certificate with an 11- or 14-month term today, and a year from now, you’ll have the money you invested, plus a little extra, to book that getaway.

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


  • Gas Stations & Convenience Stores: Businesses that make South Asians millionaires

    In the Roanoke Valley and surrounding areas, there is a rich and diverse community of people from all over the world. They live here, work here and raise their children here. Some, however, have gone beyond the work place. They have invested in the community by owning businesses. They create employment, offer goods and services and become a fixture in the landscape where we live. Many of these people left their own countries to find the kind of success that would have been more challenging for them back home.

    From the South Asian community – which includes the countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – our area has hotel owners, doctors, lawyers and other well-educated, successful and affluent individuals. This article, however, focuses on that small group of South Asians who own and operate smaller businesses. They are the men and women who have put all they have into small shops, convenience stores and gas stations. There are so many across the country that South-Asian-run convenience stores have long since become a Hollywood stereotype. But why is that?

    To begin with, South Asian countries like India have not yet experienced the takeover of large-chain department stores. Malls are few and far between. Instead, small shops and markets are everywhere. It is a common occupational choice among many to own small businesses in these countries, even if the shop is only the size of a tabletop.

    Already coming from a culture of small-shop entrepreneurship, many have seen the opportunities and possibilities America has to offer to those who invest, sacrifice and work hard. With a pioneer spirit, they leave behind everything they’ve ever known. They leave their families – even spouses and children – to come here and establish themselves in the unforgiving and un-prestigious business of gas stations and convenience stores.

    Take for example Atul Patel, who traveled to America for the first time in 1989. Today, Atul owns 10 stores in Roanoke, as well as Howard Johnsons in Salem. He’s retired and happy in the knowledge that all his hard work has provided advanced American educations and brighter futures for his children. When he was starting out, however, life wasn’t as comfortable. He left his wife behind in India, and therefore, was not there for the birth of his first child. He wasn’t even able to meet his daughter for the first time until she was three. But he persevered; working long hours in his first store to pay back those who had invested in his first purchase. He bought a second store, then another as the years went by. Today, he’s known as the “Godfather” of convenience stores in the area. That is because South Asians have a strong sense of community and family. Many who come here to go into the small-shop business do so with the help of friends and family pitching in to make the purchase. In turn, once that person is successful, he or she has is then in a position to help the next one. In this manner, Atul Patel not only helped his own family, but he also helped to settle 28 more families in Roanoke and surrounding areas. Many of the stores in our area are owned by Atul Patel, his family and his friends.

    They include The Happy Shopper on Gus Nicks Boulevard, the Nu Deli Mart on Shennandoah Avenue, both owned by Atul’s sister, Purnina Patel, and her husband. The Patels were both well educated, and came from India where they had owned a manufacturing business. The opportunities in American convenience stores, however, still seemed better. With the help of Atul and others, they bought their first store here in 1997. Purnina tells stories of spending so many hours in the stores when her children were young that they were practically raised behind the counter. It’s even where they did their homework. Today the children are grown, educated and ready for bright futures in prestigious jobs. Though they urge their parents to retire, the Patels still spend hours in their stores, making their livelihood. Hard work and sacrifice has been their way. Purnina Patel commented on how the next generation doesn’t seem to have the same willingness or appreciation for such hard work. But that’s what all the hard work is for…so life for the next generation will be better.

    Not all stores in the area are owned by people whose stories began long ago. Not all who come here to enter this business do so with the help of the network created by Atul Patel. Not all the owners have yet reaped the rewards of their hard work. Some are just starting, having more recently begun the long struggle.

    At the Big Lick General Store and Grill on Tazewell Avenue, Daud Jan and his young family are still trying to establish themselves. With the same sense of determination and sacrifice, Jan has the hope that he, too, will be able to make the small-shop business the road to his family’s brighter future.

    No matter where you go across Southwest Virginia, as well as the rest of the country, your chances of seeing South Asian faces behind the counters of gas stations and convenience stores is great, and it’s because they’re onto something. They see a successful future where many Americans see last resort employment for the uneducated.

    But they have proven that the seemingly unremarkable occupation of convenience store work and ownership is anything but an unworthy stereotype. It was the smartest move they ever made. Many with higher educations willingly turned from careers in their fields of study to reap the rewards this industry has to offer. They’ve been able to move their families to another country, educate their children and retire very comfortably. In addition, many have been able to help other families to do the same. It’s the very definition of living the American dream. All it takes is the ostensibly forgotten formula of sacrifice, community and hard work.

  • ColorsVA highlights second anniversary with focus on some of its most impactful stories

    ColorsVA is thrilled to be celebrating its second anniversary. In honor of this occasion, we would like to focus on a few stories we found particularly interesting during our first year.

    Last July Nakesha Moore introduced us to India Watson, an up-and-coming fashion designer out of Lynchburg. This past year has been a huge for her and her fashion label, House of Laposh. She juggled wedding and prom orders, styled a celebrity, participated in RVA Fashion Week and learned more about herself as a person, businessperson and advocate for the LGBTQ community.

    “I don’t know how I managed to get every single task done, but I did it gracefully,” said Watson. “All the stress pays off once I see the smiles on my clients’ faces.”

    The future looks extremely bright for Watson. Her major goal for 2017 was to be featured in her local newspaper, and she accomplished that. “These goals are more than just getting a spread in a newspaper or cover of a magazine,” she said. “This is way bigger. I look at this as a movement – to inspire those with big dreams in a small city, to shed light on an existing TRANS community that has been here, and to give hope to those who have lost it all. Everyday people tell me I’ve inspired them. That alone tells me I’m doing my job.”

    In September 2016, we read the touching story of Alexis Murphy, the 17-year-old young woman from Nelson County, who went missing on August 3, 2013. Murphy would have been 21 this year.

    In February, we learned about the Hope Center and the wonderful work they are doing in the northwest community of Roanoke. There have been many changes at the center since that story ran. The summer sun has allowed the children at the Hope Center to grow their own vegetables, including tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and cabbage. In addition, they also are learning about entrepreneurship by running a lemonade stand. They make the product themselves, sell and manage all aspects of the business. The children made $40 after expenses on the first day of operation. Later in the summer, volunteers plan to take the children to the bank to begin learning about money and finances. For the second year in a row, the center is offering Camp Hope, a summer feeding program. About 25-50 kids come each day to eat breakfast and lunch, with activities between meals.

    There have been classes in art, sewing and cake decorating, as well as outings to places like the library and the movies. The center also just had their second annual Hope Festival with 600 people in attendance. Probably the biggest change at the Hope Center is the Cup of Hope Café. Located directly next door to the center, the profits from the café help finance the work of the Hope Center. They also have added a teen room. Unfortunately, there have been numerous instances of shootings in the Northwest community. Therefore, the Hope Center’s services for adults often take the form of a listening ear or shoulder on which to cry. “We’ve gone to the people who’ve been affected. We’ve sat with them, talked to them, prayed with them. We try to let people know there’s still hope, even in the midst of the things they’ve been going through,” said Darlene Lewis, center co-director.

    The last story we are highlighting in our year-end review is Badges and Barbers. In April Jeremy Angione introduced us to the Badges and Barbers program offered through the Lynchburg Police Department.

    Currently, Badges and Barbers is on hiatus. The first two sessions of the program were highly successful, but some of the resources that made them possible (such as clipper donations) have dried up. The police department has not given up on the program, but is focusing on other efforts for now.

    Those other efforts include a partnership with the Boys & Girls Club to run Fun Fridays, where teams of officers interact, play games, mentor and serve lunch to students at both the Madison Street and Dearington campuses. Additionally, they are running Badges for Baseball, where officers interact with and mentor students while coaching basic baseball skills. In the fall, they have a similar program called Badges for Basketball. 

    “It’s been exciting to see the officers engage with the next generation that will work and shape this city. It’s even greater to be out on a call or even be off duty and run into students that we are investing in year to year,” said Sergeant Lucas Bryan. Bryan said ColorsVA readers can follow their Facebook page (www.facebook.com/badgesandbarbers) to see how they can get involved in the future. “We’ve discussed branching out to multiple local businesses — not just barbershops — for the purpose of engaging more students and fostering relationships that keep our graduating students in the area after college,” he said.

    There is no possible way to sum up a year in a single article. However, from just this short recap, we hope you can see how diverse and broad our coverage has been. We have featured many stories from all cultures, backgrounds and walks of life. Some have been informative, others enlightening, inspiring, even gut-wrenching. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our stories as much as we’ve enjoyed bringing them to you. We can’t wait to see what the next year has in store!

  • Understanding Your Health: It’s Tick Season

    As the weather begins to warm up and you find yourself outside, do not forget about tick prevention. It is important to use preventive measures all year round, but especially during the hotter months (April to September).

    You might wonder why you should worry about ticks. They are a concern because they can transmit diseases when they latch onto their host’s body through feeding. Ticks are able to secrete small amounts of saliva through their feeding tube that enters the skin of the host body during the process and releases pathogens. After ticks are done feeding, they will drop off.

    The most common tick borne diseases are Lyme disease, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, anaplasmosis, Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness, Tick-Borne Relapsing Fever and tularemia. Common symptoms include:

    • Fever/Chills
    • Headache and muscle aches
    • Rash (Lyme disease usually results in a “bull’seye” rash)
    • Fatigue

    The Centers for Disease Control announced that about 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported each year. These cases of Lyme disease are most common among boys between the ages of 5 to 9 years old. June and July are when patients are most likely to contract Lyme disease.
    Before adventuring through the outdoors, make sure to use preventive measures. For instance, know where ticks usually hide (underbrush of wooded areas and tips of tall grass and weeds), use repellents with at least 20 percent DEET for your skin (use permethrin on clothing and shoes), wear long sleeve shirts and long pants, walk in the middle of trails and if possible avoid wooded and bushy areas.

    When returning home, it is helpful to bathe or shower as soon as possible. This helps to wash off any ticks that might be crawling on you. Check your entire body, especially under the arms, in and around the ears, inside belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist and the hair. Examine any gear or pets that you brought with you. Lastly, take all clothes worn and tumble dry in a dryer on high heat for about 10 minutes.

    If you find a tick on your body, use fine tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible and pull upward with pressure. Do not twist the tick; it can cause parts of the mouth to break off in the skin. After removing it, clean the site by using alcohol, iodine scrub or soap and water.

    Use precautions when disposing of the tick. Submerge it in alcohol, place it in a sealed bag, wrap tightly with tape or flush down the toilet. Do not crush it with your fingers.

    For more information, consult your physician and visit CarilionClinic.org.

  • One visit to Peter’s Seafood… You will be hooked

    Roanoke has a lot to offer in the way of Mexican, Chinese and American fare. Their associated ethnic groups often own these establishments. In larger metropolitan areas such as Washington and Baltimore, this usually is not the case. You might find a Chinese food restaurant owned by people of Hispanic descent or “typical” American food owned by Pakistanis. This is what came to mind when walking into Vietnamese-owned Peter’s Seafood located in Market Square North at the corner of Peters Creek and Williamson Roads in Roanoke County. Owner Jodie Nguyen recently has taken ownership of the restaurant that has been open for several years in Roanoke County.

    Nguyen, who moved from Texas to Roanoke in 2000, always has loved food and says this is the main reason she entered the restaurant industry. She especially enjoys seafood, so when the opportunity arose to own Peter’s, she took the bait. The small restaurant is family-owned and operated, and that was evident on the day I visited. Nguyen’s daughter was at the counter taking orders. The seafood is fresh, brought in weekly from Newport News, Portsmouth and occasionally Louisiana.

    The restaurant is small, but that by no means reflects on portion sizes. There are a few tables for dine-in guests. A hanging dry erase board shows the daily lunch and dinner specials, and a placard was in place on the day I was there announcing Virginia Blue Crabs available.

    Nguyen says the restaurant is busy all points of the day and especially during the weekends. Fried fish is popular, after all who doesn’t enjoy fried fish? You also may order seafood broiled or grilled for an additional fee. This comes in handy when you are counting calories or feeling guilty about the hushpuppies and fries you order as a side.

    The hushpuppies at Peter’s are traditional style, round and very dense. They also are flavorful and everyone knows you cannot have fish without the requisite side of hushpuppies.

    Here is a little known fact about the origin of hush puppies. The name hush puppy originated with hunters and fishermen who would fry up some of the batter, usually cornmeal, they used to coat their own food. They would then feed that to the dogs to “hush the puppies” during meals or fish fries.
    The menu at Peter’s is full of combination platters that come with two sides. A variety of fish is available to order including tilapia, whiting, croaker and catfish. Also on the menu are shrimp, scallops, oysters and crawfish, when in season.
    Kirk, my normal dining partner, chose the tilapia meal with sides of fried okra and broccoli. An array of sauces are available. We order to go. When we get home, Kirk removes his desired food from the Styrofoam containers. The two cornmeal fried tilapia filets are large and still hot. The fish is flaky and crisp, the batter well seasoned, and happily, he finds no bones. His fried okra is prepared just right – crisp and hot. The broccoli is a bit overcooked, but Kirk still finds it satisfying. My meal of whiting comes with two large filets. I opt for the hushpuppies and green beans as sides. The whiting is fried in a cornmeal batter, and contains a few bones. The green beans are a little buttery and contain bits of chopped onion.
    On a random Thursday, I chose to pick up a Fried Shrimp Platter meal just for myself. The platter comes with eight fried shrimp and two sides. I chose fried rice and hush puppies. Again, the food was still hot when I arrive home. That provides additional confirmation the food is cooked fresh to order. The shrimp, large and lightly battered, are crisp and there is just enough batter to give the shrimp an enjoyable texture. The rice is buttery in flavor and missing, to my delight, the traditional cooked peas and carrots. Instead, the rice contains fried onion and egg, which add a semi-sweetness to this side dish.
    Soft crabs are available when in season. I am not a fan of this crustacean and don’t understand the appeal. In my mind, a shell is not meant to be eaten, so it brings to mind the KFC commercials showing actors proclaiming, “I ate the bones!”
    On many occasions, we have bought a pound or two of fried Whiting or Tilapia, which is priced accordingly. Fresh fish to take home to cook is available for purchase. If you are ordering a large quantify for a fish fry, a special order might be required. If it’s a fish fry you’re having, please feel free to invite me and I will bring the malt vinegar!
    If you want to enjoy a taste of the sea at a low price, head over to 7232 Williamson Road in Roanoke. The menu is listed on their website, making it easy to select your meal and to call ahead. The number is 540.366.7585 for takeout during business hours, Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Peter’s is a great place for seafood, and locally owned. Let the record show that I have no issues with a chain restaurant – they have their place in this economy. However, when the option avails itself to eat fresh seafood that is delicious and at the same time you can support a fellow member of your community, Peter’s is the place to go.

  • Publisher's Note: It's Our Anniversary!

    Success isn’t about how much money you make, It’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.  Michelle Obama

    Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

    Two years ago, I moved back home to Roanoke and was thinking what am I going to do here? I left Seattle after 22 years and wanted to come back to a place that brought great childhood memories and life changing experiences.

    My mother and I moved into an area of Roanoke, which at the time we were the only black people on the block. I remember coming home with mom from one of her events and arriving to find the front door open. It was dark and my mother immediately called the police. We went inside when the police arrived, and discovered our entire house trashed. The paint stored in the basement splashed all over the place. The “N” word written on our walls. Everything breakable was broken.

    That night my mother’s friends urged us to leave our home and stay somewhere else, but my mother said we are staying here. “This is our home and we are not going anywhere.” My mother is one of the sweetest women I have ever known, but she has the persistence and the strength of granite. I am so ever thankful she instilled that in me. She taught me to tackle my struggles even when others are still in need. Always keep your head high and be proud of who and what you are – one of God’s precious children.

    This month, we at ColorsVA magazine are celebrating our second anniversary. It’s a proud achievement for our staff and readers because it didn’t come easy. After owning publications in Seattle, coming home and starting a magazine that highlights different communities of color in Southwest Virginia is challenging. We have progressed since I was young, when ignorant racist individuals vandalized my home, but our reality is we still live in a community and society where issues remain.

    However, we are blessed to have advertisers who believe in diversity and see value to market its goods and services in our community. To all advertisers and organizations that trust in what we are doing, WE THANK YOU!

    We want our readers and supporters to know we would not have gone this far without your words of expression encouraging us to “keep doing the good work” and “you are needed here” that energize and motivate our work.
    To my staff, I truly appreciate each of you and I am deeply honored you decided to take this journey with me. I know the pay sucks and the hours are long, but the work you have done has been extraordinary!

    On August 12, we will celebrate our second anniversary at Charter Hall, top floor in the Downtown Roanoke market building. The celebration also is a fundraiser for Blue Ridge Literacy, a wonderful non-profit organization that has done tremendous work in our community. We hope you will attend. Moreover, we hope you continue to read and learn about the amazing things taking place in this great community in Southwest Virginia. I’m so glad to be back home!

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