Category Archives: Bella Features

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.

Help Save the Next Girl

Crimes against women are a serious issue. Instead of facing the facts and trying to do something about it, most people turn the other way and blame the victim herself. One of the major issues is girls and women being kidnapped. No one wants to be that girl or women being pulled into a car by a stranger who saw you standing alone. No one wants to be the parent who has to wake up one morning and find that their child never came home, and not knowing if they will be found. This is where Help Save the Next Girl comes in.

Help Save the Next Girl is a not for profit organization that was founded by Gil and Dan Harrington. They were encouraged to start this organization after the kidnapping and murder of their daughter, Morgan. Through Facebook and Twitter, Help Save the Next Girl shares information as quickly as possible so they can spread information of safety, and try to prevent future crimes. They help to spread the news that someone is missing so more people know. Working with Take Back the Night rallies, they bring awareness to college campuses about the existing women’s issues. They have even spoken for Southwest Virginia’s Girl Scouts of America. Help Save the Next Girl has many chapters both on and off Facebook. They currently have 16 college chapters; 24 high school chapters; five middle school chapters; and five other chapters.

Gil Harrington and Jane Lillian Vance, one of Morgan’s last professors, wrote the book Morgan Harrington Murdered Dead and for Good: A Mother’s Quest to Find a Serial Killer and Healing. With journal-like entries from Gil, a few from Dan, and Morgan’s brother, Alex, the process of dealing with a loved one missing is shown. They talk of their worries and thoughts that they experienced through the horrifying ordeal through everything from Morgan’s purse being found to her body being found. This book goes through the process of looking for Morgan with the police department and the community, when they found her, and the aftermath for the family as well as when they found out about a possible suspect.

Morgan’s last words to her mother were, “241, Mama.” ‘241’ is used often throughout this book as well as seen on their website. 241 stands for unconditional love and, as Gil explains, it’s for “I love you TOO much, FORever, and ONCE beyond forever.”

See their website for more information and to see their list of safety tips.

Written by Samantha Fantozzi

Home Equity Basics from Member One

Your home improvement to-do list is a mile long, but you’re lacking the funds to get anything done. Sound familiar? Since the likelihood of stumbling upon a pot of gold is none, consider tapping into your home equity—the difference between what your property is worth and what you still owe on your mortgage. Read on to learn more about how to leverage your home’s hidden value.

Do the math. Home equity is calculated by looking at the value of your home and subtracting the amount you owe on any mortgages. Let’s say your home is valued at $200,000, and you owe $150,000 on your mortgage. That means you have $50,000 in equity you could potentially use to fund a renovation.

Know the difference. With a home equity loan, you receive the money you’re borrowing in a lump sum payment. It usually has a fixed rate and is often best for large, one-time expenses like a new roof. A home equity line of credit (HELOC) operates more like a credit card in that you can draw money as needed from an available maximum amount. This is best for ongoing expenses that require spending flexibility.

Shop around. You have to apply for a home equity loan or line of credit through a financial institution that offers it. As with any loan, shop around for the rate and features that fit your financial situation. It’s important to understand that committing to a home equity loan or line of credit means you’re using your home as collateral—if you don’t repay the loan, it could go into default, and you could risk losing your home. Make sure you understand the terms and only borrow the amount you can afford.

Budget accordingly. One of the most common ways to use a loan or line of credit is for renovations because they add even more value to your home. You can also use it for things you might not expect like college tuition, debt consolidation, or unexpected medical costs. Whatever you decide to fund, make sure it fits your budget. If your income is unstable and you can’t keep up with the payments, it’s probably not a good idea to incur more debt. If you don’t need to borrow much money or you’re just going to use this for basic day-to-day expenses, it might be wise to consider different options—such as a credit card—or reevaluate your spending habits.

A Good Cry by Nikki Giovanni

Poet, activist, and educator, Nikki Giovanni’s fiery, humorous, and reflective voice has long inspired artists, educated readers, and informed our national consciousness. Her newest poetry collection, A Good Cry: What We Learn from Tears and Laughter (October 24), is deeply personal and has been described as her most intimate collection. With selections like Surveillance, she recalls the violence that permeated her early years. She pays tribute to her grandparents in Baby West, and examines the history of the objects we treasure in Heritage. A Good Cry observes and celebrates the depth of emotions that accompany the trials and triumphs we face in life.

Giovanni believes that it is important that we learn to cry and laugh. In a time when there are so many things to distract us from feeling anything right at our fingertips, we often lose the opportunity to learn from what we feel and move forward together.

“Americans don’t cry,” she explains. “Your mother will die and someone will say, ‘It will be all right.’ But it won’t be. Man or woman, black or white, you are sad and your heart got broken. You should be able to cry. We have to allow ourselves to face that pain and embrace it. Embrace the people whom we love and the people with whom we feel we can share. You get tired of people saying, ‘I’m really strong, so it doesn’t matter.’ All of our emotions matter.”

Writing about circumstances involving other people can be a tricky situation. In Surveillance, Giovanni’s mother expresses her wish for what goes on in their house to stay in their house. Finding the courage to write about that part of her life in such an open and honest way was not easy.

“I could not have written that line fifty years ago. Mommy was more interested in how she and our family were viewed. I frankly don’t care. I know I should do better, but I don’t care what people are thinking about me,” she says.

“It’s important to me that my grandmother would be proud of me if she came down from heaven,” she adds. “If mommy came down from heaven, she would say, ‘You’re exposing some of us, but it’s all right because I love you.’ It’s not important how people look at us,” she adds.

Ultimately, caring what people think about your work as a writer or artist can limit your impact. Of course, the longer you practice your art, the more chances your work has to show contradictions. For Giovanni, this is an indication of growth.

To her students, she often says, “If you’re going to be a writer or a painter, there is always going to be some contradiction in your work. If you’re always doing the same thing, you haven’t learned anything. You’re going to learn something, and you have to be willing to embrace that fact.”

A lot of meaningful work is done when you give yourself over to the joy of sharing and thinking with other people. Over the span of thirty years, Giovanni’s career has been a living testament to that idea. She wants to do good work in all of her roles, and sees that as her responsibility. The result is a unique collection that pays tribute to those who have held a special place in her life, and the reality of her own experiences—both good and bad.

“If you’re not writing, you don’t know something,” she states. “You need to go study. I’m not a novelist or a playwright. I don’t write every day, but I do read every day. I take notes sometimes. I recently pulled over to the side of the road, put my blinkers on, and wrote a poem because I could see the rhythm of a wonderful jazz piece I was listening to. I don’t put pressure on myself, but I do consider what I have learned and how I will share it.”

A Good Cry: What We Learn from Tears and Laughter will be available for purchase on October 24. For more information on where to purchase Giovanni’s work, visit www.nikki-giovanni.com.

 

Written by Hayleigh Worgan

Learning from Pet Adoption

I was featured in a video back in 2015. It was supposed to be a quick screen test for my business partner Dan Wensley. During the test, Dan kept the video running, and it turned into quite a testament to the influence pets can have on us. Sadly, this became a type of eulogy for my cat, Sydney. Shortly after making the video, Sydney developed diabetes and other complications and died on March 16, 2015. The following is an excerpt from that video, adapted for print:

Sydney

“I got Sydney, then aged one, spontaneously from Angels of Assisi in downtown Roanoke. I just popped down there, answered various questions, filled out the forms, and adopted him. He was mine.

I didn’t like cats at that time. I used to call the city to catch cats that wandered into my yard! It was all quite strange. I remember that first day when I got him, carrying him in the transportation box to various business meetings, quite at a loss on what to do with him! But I brought him home, and friends helped me get a litter box, food, toys, and a climbing tower.

Sydney

Since then, I have become one hundred percent blown away by how attached you can become to an animal. I was studying cats recently, the history of them. They weren’t pack animals. Before they were somewhat domesticated, they used to roam about on their own. I think that explains some of the mystery of their behaviors. They don’t necessarily bond in the way that some other pets do. Contrary to popular opinion, they are extremely affectionate. They like to be given attention, petted, and loved. When they’ve had enough of that, they just go off with no warning, and do their own thing. That’s what makes them tremendous I think, their little independent spirit, exploring, sleeping, and investigating for hours on end.

Sydney is the gentlest cat I have ever seen. With his sweet purring, the way he jumps on the bed and gives his soft little pushes to my face with his little head, curling up right against me. He likes to make sure his body is against mine when he sleeps. He’s never hissed, never scratched me, he’s really just totally perfect. But then he goes hunting and it’s like Jekyll and Hyde! He hasn’t lost those wild instincts.

A huge thing Sydney has taught me, is about my life with God. I’m a person who believes in Him. I think what moves me so much with Sydney is that I have nothing but affection for him. I want him to live the most exciting life possible, which he does– and I just know he’s gonna live for many years. He’s not gonna die young! But it can be heartbreaking, [when] I want to approach him, or give something to him that I know he’d like. He’s very timid, and he’ll run away. It’s like he won’t believe that what I’m going to do is a good thing. Sometimes I may believe in certain instances that God isn’t out for my good, or isn’t interested in me. And just seeing my relationship with Sydney and my desire for his best, I can’t help but think of God and me. I’m not meaning to humanize Sydney, but his lack of belief towards my goodness extended towards him is a learning experience. It’s like because of Sydney and his life with me, I can now experience so much more clearly the feeling of God being grieved when I don’t trust or respond to Him. Who would have thought that a cute little cat, adopted a whim, can have such an impact on one’s life!”

When Sydney died, I never would have expected the sense of loss I felt. I know this sounds silly, he is just a cat after all. As I said before, when I adopted Sydney I didn’t even like cats! However, on March 19, 2017, I was ready to adopt another cat.

Willow

I went to Petco, with my friend Ben, because they provide cats from Angels of Assisi. They had just one cat, Willow. Ben picked him up, cuddled him, and said, “He’s the one for you, River!” He was sure of it. So, I trusted Ben and we got Willow. It turns out Willow was a cat I met at Angels a few weeks earlier, when I was cat browsing, before he was moved to Petco!

Boy, could one cat be so different from another! The vet says Willow is “type A” personality, and feisty too! Unlike Sydney, who delicately nibbled on his food throughout the day, Willow sounds like a piglet when he eats and never has enough. He’s already on a weight loss diet!

Willow

Willow quickly won the hearts of many at The Aurora Studios in Downtown Roanoke, where I bring him to the office with me. He is an easygoing cat, riding in his carrier to work on the handlebars of my bicycle, like nothing out of the ordinary is happening!

I still miss Sydney. Writing this article is the first time I have looked at photos of him since he died. And I threw out everything that was his after he died. I just kept the photos. But now Willow lives with me and I love him.

River and Willow

Angels of Assisi have been wonderful throughout. If you can have a pet, please do consider adopting one from Angels. They have many available, and are terrific at helping you choose one that has the personality that suits you. Who knows what wonderful impact that cuddly bundle of sweet personality and mystery will have on you?

Visit www.angelsofassisi.org for more information on animals you can help through donations, adoption, and volunteering.

 

 

Written by River Laker

Virginia Western Community Arboretum

The Virginia Western Community Arboretum began 24 years ago when the state college allowed use of the property with the understanding that it would be developed and maintained using private donated funds. The grounds have one full-time and one part-time staff member, and they rely on volunteer assistance to accomplish the many tasks that face them throughout the growing season.
“Our volunteer program is vital to us because of our limited budget,” explains Clark BeCraft. “Right now we have twelve regular volunteers who come out weekly and help us in the gardens. We have six tour guide volunteers that help us with groups that come into the Arboretum.”
Tour guide volunteers also help out with children’s tours, and will often provide assistance with activities like a scavenger hunt or a learning activity with the children that is related to nature or gardening. Additionally, the Arboretum hosts horticulture students though a program that allows them to complete a one semester internship there.
The garden helper is one of their most popular volunteer opportunities. Garden helpers visit the Arboretum twice a week during growing season, and work closely with an Arboretum tech, Sarah Isley, to care for the plants.
“There is no specific skill set needed,” adds Clark. “We help you identify weeds and instruct you on how to plant things if that is part of the task for the day. Sarah and I work with [volunteers] to answer any questions they have.”
A majority of the current volunteers are retirement age, but the Arboretum is open to all volunteers ages 16 and up. Although they have a need for volunteers who can work during the week, they are open to setting up times for those who work on weekdays to volunteer on occasional Saturdays or evenings if there is enough interest. Every volunteer is required to complete a background check as they are acting as an agent of the college.
“Our volunteers look forward to coming to the Arboretum to work. For many, it is the highlight of their week. They enjoy working in the gardens because it is for the community, but also an opportunity to come out and fellowship with one another. We look at it as getting work done, but it is also a nice way for our volunteers to spend time together and work in the gardens,” says Clark.
If you’ve ever visited any of their gardens, you know that the community effort results in an unforgettable experience. That effort includes a partnership with the Roanoke Master Gardeners, who have worked with the Virginia Western Community Arboretum since 2008. In 2016, the Arboretum logged over 700 volunteer hours, showing that the volunteer program is an essential part of their success in serving the community. Many of the volunteers are Friends of the Arboretum as well, contributing both time and money to maintaining the location.
You can also support the Arboretum by attending one of their events. They will offer a Garden Tour to the Gardens of Pennsylvania and Delaware featuring Longwood Gardens September 7-9, and host a Fall Accent Plant Sale on September 23 from 10am-1pm.
To learn more about the Virginia Western Community Arboretum, and volunteer opportunities, please visit www.virginiawester.edu/arboretum

Bella Sips: Sloshies

The temperatures are climbing, and we find ourselves longing for a nice cold drink under an umbrella by the water. If it’s your day to relax, or you’d like to try a new drink by the lake with your friends, Sloshies: 102 Boozy Cocktails Straight from the Freezer has you covered! With everything from tart drinks like Whiskey Smashed, to spiced drinks like High on the Hog, your experience is destined to be unforgettable!

Whiskey Smashed
Give your party an extra kick with this smashing combination of small-batch Kentucky bourbon on top of a citrus blend and minty frozen love.

ABV: 9.77%
Glass: Up & Down
Garnish: mint leaf, lemon wheel, and a floppy hat (for you to wear)

2 3/4 ounces water
9 ounces Simple Syrup
7 1/4 ounces Mint Simple Syrup
6 ounces lemon juice
6 3/4 ounces lime juice
8 3/4 ounces Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Combine
Place the ingredients in a medium-size metal bowl and stir.

Freeze
Pour the liquid into a large freezer bag and place it in the freezer until frozen, approximately 4 hours. Alternatively, pour the liquid into an ice cream maker and proceed per the manufacturer’s instructions.

Serve
When you’re ready to drink, massage the freezer bag by hand until it’s a wet, slushy consistency. If it’s not breaking up, run the bag quickly under hot water and massage some more.

High on the Hog
Bacon is the candy of meats. It’s so delicious, we decided just to build a drink around it. Ginger, maple, and bourbon roll on your tongue while you fight the urge to just eat the bacon garnish first.

ABV: 12.78%
Glass: Up & Down
Garnish: strip of crispy bacon

27 ounces ginger ale
2 ounces Dolin Dry Vermouth de Chambéry
2  3/4 ounces Cabin Fever Maple Flavored Whisky
8  1/4 ounces Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Combine
Place the ingredients in a medium-size metal bowl and stir.

Freeze
Pour the liquid into a large freezer bag and place it in the freezer until frozen, approximately 4 hours. Alternatively, pour the liquid into an ice cream maker and proceed per the manufacturer’s instructions.

Serve
When you’re ready to drink, massage the freezer bag by hand until it’s a wet, slushy consistency. If it’s not breaking up, run the bag quickly under hot water and massage some more.

Makes at least 4 drinks.

Visit our Facebook page for details on how to win a copy of this book!

FloydFest 2017: Freedom

Where will you find your freedom on the mountain?

Will it be somewhere between the nine stages? 
A “natural amphitheater,” Streamline Stage at Hill Holler is a place to bring a blanket, lay back and relax while you take in the music. Or, dance with friends (or even by yourself!) to your favorite bands. Take in the Speakeasy Stage: an amazing covered dance space that has featured everything from the festive nature of musical performance to sword swallowing and burlesque dancing.
Of course, if quiet is what you need, seek out the Healing Arts Village for body-mind balance. Visit the Workshop Porch, hosted by Ferrum College, a space that transports audiences to the front porch music jam sessions of earlier times while artists share their music and stories to accompany it.
Take the kids to the Forever Young Stage where they can enjoy open mic sessions, Taekwondo classes, and tetherball matches, all in the main field area. FloydFest, as you may already know, is famous for the fun it offers for the entire family. Parents can enjoy the show on the Dreaming Creek Main Stage while the youngsters explore their own creativity.
And, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the Pink Floyd Garden Stage. This serene location is surrounded by trees, picnic tables, and craft beer vendors. It is the perfect place to meet new friends and spot old ones throughout the day. You don’t want to miss it at night, as it transforms under the aura of brightly colored lights to a brilliantly funky stage.
The VIP Pub Stage is for those with a backstage pass only, but Bella girls it is well worth it! Complimentary beverages, a comfortable lounge tent, and memorable performances await.

Will it be on an adventure with your FloydFest family?
FloydFest has multiple opportunities for outdoor adventure. They even have a tent dedicated to it! Sign up for one of their On the Water in Floyd Float Trips (Thursday-Sunday), the Parkway Brewing Company 5K Trail Running Race, or a guided hike. You can also join the Belcher Mountain Beatdown, a guided FloydFest 19-mile mountain bike journey (just make sure to bring your own bike and helmet!). In addition, there will be an Innova Disc Golf Tournament on Saturday! The mountain bike journey and float trips are catered, and include a small fee. Entering the 5K race, walking the Moonstomper Hiking Trail on your own, or joining a guided hike are free for FloydFest attendees.

Will it be in the performance of your new (or old) favorite artist?
Rebekah Todd & the Odyssey take the stage on Wednesday, along with talented musicians that will help you celebrate your first night on the mountain. On Thursday, enjoy Thievery Corporation, and honor artists of all ages with Girls Rock Roanoke. Friday welcomes Michael Frantz & Spearhead, Leftover Salmon, and Steel Pulse. On Saturday, Rising Appalachia (featured in this issue!) and St. Paul & the Broken Bones perform. Sunday, round out the weekend with Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives, the TSisters, and HoneyHoney. These big names are just a few of our favorites, but there is a long list available on the FloydFest website. You will be surrounded with music all weekend—and really, there is no better way to enjoy the summer.

Visit www.floydfest.com for a complete lineup, list of activities and workshops, and to purchase your tickets! Don’t forget to bring donations for Floyd’s Plenty! Food Bank. Every two nonperishable items or one jar of peanut butter donated is an entry to win a FloydFest prize pack which includes a free 5-day ticket to FloydFest 2018. We’ll see you there!