February is recognized and celebrated as Black History Month, where we pause and take some time to acknowledge the contributions made by African Americans throughout the history of our nation, as well as here locally, in Roanoke. There is much to celebrate and honor—the contributions of such local notables as Mayor Noel C. Taylor and Principal Lucy Addison are but two examples worthy of such recognition. In this post, however, I would like to take a few moments and recognize those in our community who are currently making history. Not surprisingly, there are many, so those that follow are a representative list not an exhaustive one, and I apologize to those not included.
Star City Shout-Out
For the past several months we have been recognizing the contributions of residents in our community via a social media campaign known as Star City Shout-Out. Many of those featured have been Black youth from our community. Most recently, Jayveon Tucker—a Sophomore at Patrick Henry High School, a youth leader, community volunteer and civil rights activist. The campaign has also included John Miller-Penn, Brianna Wilson, Yolanda Joseph, Angela Grace Penn, Kennady Wade, Alexandra Rogers, Daphnie Joseph, London Paige, Treya Gunn, Safiya Wimberley, Joshua Elliott, and Christion Bryant. These youth, are scholars, athletes, thespians, entrepreneurs, activists, and leaders. All are making history in our community and no doubt will continue to contribute in great ways in the years ahead.
Arts and Culture
Roanoke is well known as the regional center for arts and culture and is home to a vibrant Black arts and culture scene. This was most recently on display with the "We are Art" rap cypher--a collaboration of a collection of incredibly talented artists, the Grandin Theater, Feeding Southwest Virginia Community Solutions Center, and the City Libraries. This latest display of talent joins other contributions by local artists such as the “End Racism Now” mural painted on Campbell Avenue this past summer, the annual Take Back Our Yard Street Festival organized by Roanoke’s Tommy Page, performances by a number of spoken word artists including Ashley Rhame, Monique “The Plus” Poet, and others, and so much more. Black culture is alive and well in Roanoke, and continues to add vibrancy to our City.
Along with the youth noted earlier and the artists mentioned above, there is an ever-growing number of Black leaders in our community, taking their place in shaping our City. Some are business leaders, some community activists, and others lead congregations and organizations, each making their contribution. Xavier Duckett with his youth development program at Humble Hustle and its associated clothing line Hmble Hstle, Ashley Pannell and her girl empowerment program, Pretty Humble, Cheryl Mosley with the Feeding Southwest Virginia Community Solutions Center and owner of Delish! Sweets and Treats, Charles Wilson, Jr., Lead Pastor at the Hill Church, and Jordan Bell, neighborhood activist and local historian are just a few of these notable leaders. There are many, many more!
While we are right to celebrate those African Americans that long ago made history and helped build this nation and community, we are privileged to be living among so many in our community that are writing today’s history. That is something worth recognizing and celebrating!
— Bob Cowell