All posts by Hayleigh Worgan

Bella Finds: Supernatural Kitchen!

Spring and Easter are right around the corner, and bring cupcakes and goodies along with them! Supernatural Kitchen offers plant-based food coloring with no artificial colors. Just mix the vegan and gluten free powder in some water, and you’re good to go! Color icing, cookie mix, and cake batter to make your deserts fun and festive. And to top off those goodies add some of their soy-free, plant-based sprinkles. Choose ‘white sequins’ for a simple toping, or ‘rainbow starfetti’ for a fun and colorful addition. You can order from their website, www.supernaturalkitchen.com, where they also offer recipes for Ombre pancakes, Sunny Day cake, and even a tip on how to make your morning toast more fun!

Written by Samantha Fantozzi

Women’s History Month: Brenda Hale

March is Women’s History Month. Although women have come a long way since the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920 and the Voting Rights Act was signed into law in 1965, we still have a long way to go on the path to equality. This means equality that does not discriminate based on gender, race, sexual orientation, class, ethnicity, or religion. Locally, there are many amazing women who are working hard to eradicate the practices that lead to oppression in these areas. What they have in common is a shared desire to help individuals in a community come together, care for one another, and help each other succeed. This month, we’d like to focus on one of those women specifically: Roanoke NAACP President, Brenda Hale.

Hale has had a passion for helping others since she was nine years old. Raised by her great uncle and aunt in Bridgeport, Connecticut, she went everywhere with them as a child.

“They taught me everything. I like to help people, and she taught me how to take pride in my work. No matter what you do, no matter what you become, be the best you can be,” she recalls.

That is a lesson Hale has carried with her throughout her life. As a veteran and a nurse, she has always been a resource for the people around her. It is no surprise that her history of helping others led her to the critical roles she plays today. From sit-ins at Bob Goodlatte’s office calling for action to strengthen voter protections to an appearance at the first Women’s March in 2017, Hale illustrates that she truly cares about the people she meets and represents.

Around the Roanoke Valley, and the nation, we are all beginning to have difficult conversations involving the qualities that make us all unique human beings. We don’t always meet people who agree with us, but it is possible to work towards solutions with those people. Hale approaches those discussions like peeling back the layers of an onion.

“Once you peel back the first layer, there is something of substance underneath. You may start out with socioeconomic conditions, but you’re going to hit other layers. One of those layers will be racism. One will be education. There are so many layers to what is going on right now, and you constantly have to be peeling them back. I’m not afraid to peel back the layers and have the conversations we need to move forward,” she explains.

Although it may seem easier to avoid those conversations, that attitude can often cause more damage than the discomfort is worth. One of the dangers of complacency is that these issues continue to be swept under the rug until resentment reaches a boiling point. People often reference Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his “I Have a Dream” speech when they call for peace. Hale wants them to know that there are multiple facets to that dream.

“It may have started out with economic empowerment and the right to vote. The thing of the matter is each community needs to be the beloved community he talked about. Everyone needs to be working. It can’t take just one person. It takes all of us being willing to have talks and dialogue and to work on those multiple layers,” she adds.

Perhaps this is most eloquently represented in Dr. King’s own family, and with one of Hale’s role models, Coretta Scott King.

“[She] was the glue who held her family together. Women have always been that. She was a mother, wife; she had to be a doctor, nurse, and a psychologist. If you’re taking care of the whole family you have to wear a lot of hats. She was a civil rights icon. She stepped it up further, and she loved people,” Hale says.

Hale continues to exhibit many of those qualities in her own life. At 72 years old, she is not slowing down. She is still a caregiver, and well respected within the region for community service. Additionally, she is serving her seventh term as the President of the Roanoke NAACP, and she remains actively invested in each member, especially the young people.

“We work as a team, the the Youth Council is our shining baby. We have almost 85 now, and every year we graduate about 30-34 kids. We keep filling it back up,” she says.

The Roanoke youth who participate in this program hold offices, attend quarterly meetings, and go to state and national conventions. They are allowed to wear Kente cloth stoles when they graduate.

“It doesn’t matter what you do after high school. You can go to college, the military, into a trade; whatever you decide to do, you walk into it as a leader. All I do is sit back and keep smiling. That’s our babies, look what we’ve done for our babies,” she explains.

And they are doing a lot. The NAACP’s Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) program is popular among the kids in the Roanoke NAACP unit. The yearlong achievement program is designed to “recruit, stimulate, and encourage high academic and cultural achievement among African-American high school students.” It includes 32 competitions in STEM, humanities, business, and performing, visual, and culinary arts. The Roanoke NAACP (www.naacp.org) holds a local competition for ACT-SO every year, and members often go on to compete and win medals at the national level. A few years ago, one participant brought a tuxedo with him, because he knew he was going to win.

“When he walked up on stage to receive his medal, he was the only one in a tux,” Hale recalls, smiling. “His confidence was amazing!”

Her smile lights up the room when she talks about these teenagers, recalling many by more than their name. She can tell you their interests, accomplishments, and the last time she saw or hugged them.

Hale is a role model for women (and men!) of all ages. Her willingness and ability to work with individuals and groups of diverse cultural, religious, social, economic, and political identities helps address tough issues that many women face on a daily basis. We are proud that she is part of the Roanoke community, and look forward to seeing more of her in 2018!

There are plenty of opportunities to celebrate Women’s History Month, including International Women’s Day on March 8! Visit www.internationalwomensday.com for more information on how you can be involved in their call-to-action and the effort to progress gender parity. Within the movement, there is “a strong call to #PressforProgress motivating and uniting friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act, and be gender inclusive.”

While you’re working towards gender parity, make sure you are also staying informed on factors that affect others on the struggle to equality such as race, socioeconomic conditions, religion, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Step outside your comfort zone and learn more about an issue that may not personally impact you. Doing so is a great way to honor those who came before us, and pave the way to a better future for every generation to come.

Written by Hayleigh Worgan

Playful Fitness

Don’t just exercise.  PLAY!!!

So, whatever happened to recess? Is it really true that adults can’t enjoy fitness as much as kids do?  Not at all! Here are some suggestions to inspire you to think more like an open-minded child whose only job is to play:

  1. Imagination
    Be imaginative. Yes–exercise should be a routine, but not a bore. Create/design your own routine which centers around your own interests, passions, and childhood pastimes. Throw on your favorite YouTube videos and follow along with the choreography. Or, make it a family project! Involve your kids and do games and fitness competitions around the house. For example, “Monkey in the Middle” is a ball game which improves cardio and coordination, and you only need three people to play! Take ownership of your fitness routine by creating it yourself (instead of just copying what others do). You are bound to take more pride in your daily workouts, all while being more accountable to yourself.

 

  1. Interval

As a dancer, I can’t just dance at the studio. I have to do it whenever I feel like it! This might mean sliding around the kitchen floor in-between washing and drying the dishes, or busting out a set of pliés and push-ups on the living room carpet, instead of sitting watching television on the couch. Much like eating five to six small meals a day instead of two or three, it can be equally effective to exercise in short spurts. Everyone’s metabolism is different. Everyone’s motivation is different. Do not compare yourself to your co-worker or the person doing leg press next to you at the gym. Find what works best for you and go for it!  The worst thing that can happen (and the best thing that can happen) is that you will have a good time!  Play with intervals! Over time, your energy and resourcefulness will improve.

 

  1. Intentionality

First things first…OPEN your eyes UP to PLAY! Remember that movie Hitch with Will Smith? Will Smith’s character, Alex Hitchens, has a great line, “Begin each day, as if it were on purpose.” Practice this month waking up and immediately doing something off-the-wall FUN! Practice cartwheels on the front lawn or try belly-dancing in the bathroom mirror.  In my apartment building, there are a set of stairs leading to the basement garage. Early in the mornings, my neighbors often catch glimpses of me climbing the stairs and jumping rope, as if I am training for the Rocky films. The best part is watching the surprised looks on their faces. Be intentional! Even if you look silly doing it.

 

Last, but not least, when you exercise and play, do it in familiar spaces and places. Look for areas that are filled with acceptance, love, encouragement, and accountability. (Hint: that place is not always at your house or at the local gym). Put some nostalgia in your program! Imagine your own schoolyard recess field.
If you don’t find it immediately, keep looking!  You will find it. You are the most motivated in familiar places where you garner the most support. No matter where that spot is, remember to PLAY. Being a child is at the core of who we all are anyway.

 

Written by Bryan Christon

Heart Health Awareness Month

February is American Heart Month. According to the CDC, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. One in every three deaths is from heart disease and stroke, equal to 2,200 deaths per day. Fortunately, there are ways to help prevent fatal complications from heart disease and stroke. The American Heart Association lists several of these on their website, including:

Eat Smart: You can’t eat perfect foods all the time, but you can make healthier choices more often. Did you know that some single-serving fruits and veggies can actually be cheaper than vending machine snacks? Buy in bulk, freeze excess servings, and watch videos on how to prepare healthy snacks using a variety of produce. Check out healthyforgood.heart.org for several heart-healthy recipes that you and your family will enjoy!

Move More: You’ve probably heard that the ideal goal is to move at least 150 minutes each week. However, if that seems to daunting, try smaller time frames first. Look for ways in your day to move more. Sometimes it means taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or incorporating 10-minute arm workouts at your desk with small weights. Every small decision you make to move adds up fast.

Be Well: Occasionally, we forget the combatting stress is a battle we must fight daily to keep our bodies healthy. Talk to your doctor and make sure you are getting enough sleep. Set aside moments in the day that you will not give into the urge to check social media. This would also be a great time to research the free yoga classes around Roanoke and learn to practice mindfulness. Make it a priority to take care of yourself.

The American Heart Association works year-round to reduce fatalities related to heart disease and stroke by providing preventative education, support, and funding for research. Generous volunteers and donors in the community help make that happen. Consider making a donation of time or money to help support their mission of building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Visit www.heart.org for more information.

Winter Skin Care on a Budget

It’s no secret that winter weather can be hard on your skin. One of the reasons is that we often forget to change up our routines to accommodate the change in temperatures. Harsh chemicals used to reduce natural oils in the summer can cause more damage in the winter. Our diets can also greatly impact our skin. With many of the winter holidays behind us, it is time to refocus on what we are putting into and on our bodies, and how those things are adding up to create the perfect storm. Here are a few of our favorite products for correcting and preventing dry skin damage:

Coconut Oil
Cold weather can be very hard on your hair, specifically on your scalp. Sometimes over-the-counter dandruff shampoos don’t help with dandruff, and occasionally they can even make it worse. Dr. Axe (www.draxe.com) says that adding five drops of essential oils like lavender, wintergreen, thyme, or tea tree to two teaspoons of coconut oil and massaging it into your scalp after washing your hair can be a great intensive dandruff treatment! Do this 2-3 times per week to keep your scalp moisturized and your hair feeling soft!
You can also apply coconut oil to your skin at night before going to bed. Be aware, however, that the oil may transfer to your sheets. So you may want to cover the affected area before calling it a night.

Eat Right
By now, you probably know that staying hydrated in the winter is important. You know that you should be drinking water like it’s your second job, and maybe even that a humidifier in your bedroom can help keep your skin hydrated. But did you know that what you eat matters too? That New Years resolution to eat right (and maybe add a few juices into your diet) can help in more ways than one. Fruits like watermelon and apples and vegetables like cucumbers and carrots contain a lot of water. Let them help you get the moisture your body needs to be healthy and comfortable.

Don’t Forget Sunscreen
Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean that your skin can’t be damaged by UVA and UVB rays. Even if the sun doesn’t seem as bright, rays penetrating the clouds can reach your skin. Obagi Medical Skin care products are a great way to protect your skin against the harmful effects of sun exposure. We especially love their Tinted Sun Shield SPF 50 line, available in cool and warm shades for different skin tones. For harsh winter weather, you may also enjoy their HydraFactor Broad Spectrum SPF 30. This sunscreen is a dual-function moisturizer with soothing ingredients. Regardless of which sunscreen you choose, make sure to reapply it every two hours of exposure throughout the day. Check out Obagi’s website (www.obagi.com) for more information on where to find their impressive line of skin care products locally.

Choose Wisely
Some face cleansers have ingredients that strip your skin of moisture. Read the labels, and make sure that what you are putting on your skin (aka the largest organ in your body) will not damage it even further. Look for all natural products and those with soothing ingredients, like oatmeal. We love Briar Mountain Farms (www.briarmtnfarm.com). Their goat’s milk soap is great for sensitive skin (and they are local!). Their soap contains high amounts of proteins, vitamins, and minerals. With plenty of scents to choose from, you can’t go wrong!

Treat Yourself!
Schedule a facial with a skin care professional. If you can’t do that, treat yourself to a facial mask twice a week at home. Our editor uses Innisfree It’s Real Squeeze mask sheets (found on Amazon) and loves them! Choose from trouble care, moisturizing, brightening, and nutritious options. Infused with a blend of herb complex water and ingredients from nature, this real mask adds vitality and energy to your skin.

Extraordinary Women: Xe Jah’Twi

Her voice makes every conversation pause in a venue. Xe Jah’Twi, or Xena, is a lead vocalist with Vibe Riot, an East Coast Indie band with a Bluesy Funk Ragga Rock sound unlike anyone else. She gives her best to every performance, and what results is a remarkable presentation indicative of both her talent and her natural chemistry with the band. Of course, long before Xena took the stage with Vibe Riot, music was her passion.

As a child, Xena watched her father become an integral part of the music world while working in promotions. She fell in love with music in the 1980s, specifically Salt-N-Pepa. Their strong personalities as women, the rapping, the music, the female DJ—to Xena, they had everything.

Dancing began to call to her as well, and ultimately solidified her connection to the art.

“I wanted so badly to be a background dancer,” she recalls. “but I was too shy to bring it up.”

Xena met Jaewar, Vibe Riot’s frontman, while living in New York. At the time, she was a student, working hard to provide for her two children. She received a phone call from a friend asking if she wanted to contribute vocals to a song. Xena did a little research on the band and agreed.

Melody Robbins Photography

“I said, ‘If I do this in the first take, you guys owe me something. I want a treehouse in Haiti and some sushi.’ And I did it. The next time I heard from Jae was when the record was done, and the second time was when I came to Virginia to do the video. When we saw each other, it was like we never dropped the ball. With your best friend, it’s always a comfortable situation.”

Jaewar and Xena started exchanging ideas, and the encouragement helped her overcome any of the remaining hurdles that often accompany shyness.

To see her on stage now, you would never know that this dynamic performer was once too shy to be a background dancer. She fits perfectly into Vibe Riot’s family of compassionate and outgoing band members.

“I’m just me,” she says. “Xena means hospitality. When you have people who are accepting of you, it helps bring that out. That would be the one trait all have that is the same. We are just personable people.”

Prior to performing, she interacts with fans and makes real connections. When she returns to the stage, it is not only with the support of her fellow musicians, but of everyone else in the building. The positive energy creates a relaxing environment so the performers and the audience can truly vibe out to the music.

“We tell stories and talk about the political atmosphere to a certain degree. We show the cohesiveness and people coming from different backgrounds. It’s not the typical hip hop you would hear. The sound is different. It connects to heartbeat of a person,” she explains.

Xena hopes that audiences will relate to the music, and consider the responsibility we all have as citizens to encourage authentic discourse regarding current issues.

“You see a cohesiveness and understand that communication is possible any time a group of people come together on a small scale, like a household; on a medium scale, like a band; and on a large scale, like a government. It is one of the number one factors that contributes to wellness. If you can’t respectively communicate, then how do you expect anything else to be eradicated?” she asks.

As Xena continues her journey with Vibe Riot, she is excited to be included in more of the writing process. A lyricist by nature, she is enjoying her growth as a writer as much as she treasures what they have created on their latest EP, True! Raw Honey.

This is only small taste of Xe Jah’Twi’s phenomenal and inspiring story of tenacity, strength, and talent. It is all the more reason to attend one of Vibe Riot’s upcoming performances. Get there early, and you may have a chance to hear more of her story in person!

Check out Vibe Riot’s tour schedule here for more information. Roanoke fans, get ready! Vibe Riot is scheduled to perform at Martin’s Downtown on Saturday, February 17 at 10pm.

 

Photography by Melody Robbins Photography.

Profile: Melissa Aldana

Tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana will perform at the Jefferson Center on February 17 at 7 pm and again at 9 pm. A rising tenor saxophone star, Aldana recently released her second trio album (and fourth as a leader). “Back Home” unveils a powerful musical creation by Aldana and her illustrious bandmates. Not so much reminiscent of a specific place, “Back Home” evokes something a little deeper for Aldana.

“Back Home is a tribute to Sonny Rollins, who has been a huge influence on me since I was ten years old,” she explains. “It makes a reference to the first time I heard him playing back home in Chile. I completely fell in love with the sound of his tenor. He is organic and funny. Those are some of the most important elements in music. It’s like he’s having a conversation with you, and you can hear how he’s taking risks and trying new things. Those are the elements I want to have in my own playing.”

Aldana describes her relationship with the tenor saxophone as a lifelong commitment. The journey with the instrument has allowed her to mature as an artist, and her dedication to it remains. From New York to Montreal (and around the world), she carries that pivotal moment when she first heard Sonny Rollins play with her in addition to the lessons she has learned from other artistic influences. In this way, she can allow the music she creates to tell the story of her travels, experiences, and personal growth.

On “Back Home” she includes a track called “Time” that is a “meditation on her life since departing Chile.” She has described the nostalgic track as a reflection of the last nine years of her life. As the tenor saxophone carries the listener through the ups and downs of the accumulated time, it is not hard to give over the memories of one’s own adventures. This is exactly the impact Aldana hopes to have with her work.

“I hope [the audience] has fun and goes on a trip with the music. Also, I hope they enjoy it as much as I did when I recorded the album,” she adds.

Joining Aldana for her February 17 show are Sam Harris on the piano, Thomas Crane on the drums, and Pablo Menares on the bass. Together, they project an “uncommonly full orchestral sound, rich in spiritual intensity, all in the absence of a harmony instrument.” The experience is one that Roanoke audiences are unlikely to forget, and Aldana is excited to introduce both new and returning fans to her new music.

To purchase tickets, visit www.jeffcenter.org. For more information on Melissa Aldana and how to purchase her music, go to www.melissaaldana.com.

Artists Added to the FloydFest 18 Lineup!

FloydFest has announced new additions to their lineup for FloydFest 18~Wild!

Added to the schedule are the following bands:
Leftover Salmon
Keller Williams
The National Reserve
The Broadcast
Erin & The Wildfire
Mama Said String Band
Fireside Collective
Sol Searchers
Blue Mule
The Floorboards
My Radio
Black Mountain Revival
GOTE
Morgan Wade & The Stepbrothers
Los Chupacabras

We can’t wait to see these amazing artists perform July 25-29! For more information on FloydFest (and how to purchase tickets!) visit www.floydfest.com. We’ll see you there!