OPEN DOORS III: Breaking Barriers through Music

Blue 5 Restaurant

312 Second Street, SW – Roanoke

Thursday, April 29, 2010

7:00 – 8:30 PM

By Jane Rorrer

            Have you ever thought about how tolerance and inclusion are treated in the music business?  From country to hip-hop, musical themes, lyrics and artists can break down barriers related to diversity in our communities.

            On Thursday, April 29, 2010, S.T.A.R., the Spirit of Tolerance and Art in the Region, a subgroup of Creative Connectors, hosts the third in a series of Open Doors events about diversity which will focus on how music plays a role in diversity.

            Music is an important part of people’s lives in many cultures and the creation, performance, definition and delivery varies by culture and social context.  Musicologist Jean-Jacques Nattiz once said, “’The border between music and noise is always culturally defined — which implies that, even within a single society, this border does not always pass through the same place; in short, there is rarely a consensus….By all accounts there is no single and intercultural universal concept defining what music might be, except that it is sound through time.’”

            Join area musicians along with music executive Bruce Houghton of Skyline Music, radio program director and show host Sara “Ripley” McClune of 101.5 The Music Place, and Cyrus Pace from Roanoke City Public Schools at Blue 5 Restaurant in Roanoke for a lively discussion about music and the role it plays in building a community. Susanna Rinehart, associate professor in the Department of Theatre and Cinema at Virginia Tech, will again facilitate our discussion.

               S.T.A.R. is one of four initiatives from the Creative Community Leadership Project (CCLP) in cooperation with the City of Roanoke and the Creative Class Group, founded by author and lecturer Richard Florida.  The premise behind CCLP is that an area’s success is dependent upon how fully it values, engages, and includes the rich diversity of its population.   

The event, in cooperation with Down by Downtown:  A Celebration of Music April 28th – May 1st, in the Red Room of Blue 5 Restaurant, is free and open to the public.  A cash bar will be provided.

This is the last in a series of three discussions about diversity and inclusion.  Open Doors I:  A Conversation about the Dynamics of Difference, was held at The Shenandoah Club, and Open Doors II:  Awaking the Sleeping Giant, was held at The Claude Moore Education Complex.


April 25, 2010 at 9:44 pm Leave a comment

Join the movement: BRIDGEWALK

Sunday, March 28, 2010, 3:00 PM

From the railroad tracks to the Henry Street bridge,

together we will transform the historical barriers that once divided us

into new symbols of unity and promise 

WHAT: BridgeWalk

WHO:  Faith communities, civic groups, neighborhood organizations and anyone passionate about promoting tolerance, diversity and understanding in an ever-evolving community

WHERE: Downtown Roanoke. Walk begins at the O. Winston Link Museum,

101 Shenandoah Avenue (see full route below)

WHEN: Sunday, March 28, 2010, beginning at 3:00 P.M.

WHY: It started with an idea, simple, beautiful and rich with symbolism.

A Walk.  Together. An experience of shared joy and reflection.  

From the railroad tracks to the Henry Street Bridge, together we will transform the historical barriers that once divided us into new symbols of unity and promise. Local dignitaries will offer brief, inspirational remarks at points along the way.

The Route:

Meet at O.Winston Link Museum at 3 pm

Walk across Williamson Road bridge

Pass in front of the Taubman Museum to Salem Avenue

Follow Salem Avenue to Railway Walk

Follow Railway Walk to Martin Luther King, Jr. Bridge (on Henry Street)

Closing, reflection at Martin Luther King, Jr. Bridge

Walk takes approx. 20 min. to complete and is wheelchair accessible.

Unity through Diversity. The Power of Peace.

Learn more: or fan/befriend S.T.A.R. on Facebook.

Questions? Email or

March 18, 2010 at 9:15 pm Leave a comment

Join us for OPEN DOORS II: Awaking the Sleeping Giant

The Claude Moore Education Complex

109 1st Street, NW ~ Roanoke, Virginia

Thursday ~ February 11, 2010

7:00 PM ~ 8:30 PM

By Jane Rorrer

What are Roanoke and New River Valley high school students saying about diversity, inclusion, and difference?  Find out on Thursday, February 11, 2010, when S.T.A.R., the Spirit of Tolerance and Art in the Region, a subgroup of Creative Connectors, invites you to the second in a series of Open Doors events to discuss and examine the broad range of differences that can strengthen a community.

            S.T.A.R. is one of four initiatives from the Creative Community Leadership Project (CCLP) in cooperation with the City of Roanoke and the Creative Class Group, founded by author and lecturer Richard Florida.  The premise behind CCLP is that an area’s success is dependent upon how fully it values, engages, and includes the rich diversity of its population.

            Our focused interactive discussion is aimed at pursuing the themes which emerged in our November conversation, while also engaging local youth in discussing difference.  The event will feature the winner of our recent youth writing competition, Seth Anderson, a junior at Patrick Henry High School and author of “The Village by the Hill.”  High school students in the Roanoke City school system were asked to submit literary pieces, ranging from poetry to essays, on the topic of inclusion, diversity, and difference.   The winners were chosen at the recent Roanoke Regional Writers Conference at Hollins University.  Emily Cilek, also a junior at Patrick Henry, received the second place award.  Both Anderson and Cilek captured the essence of the topic in their writings with compelling passion and creativity.  S.T.A.R. presented Anderson with a $100 cash prize and Cilek won $50.

Contemporary teenage subculture consists of distinct styles, behaviors, and interests. Today’s young people are more likely to face the challenges of interacting and working with people different from themselves both in their education and in the work force.  They need to be exposed to learning tools, community connections, and lifelong influences in their journey. 

Susanna Rinehart, a professor of theatre at Virginia Tech, will once again facilitate the conversation.  Rinehart has extensive experience in the development, coordination, and facilitation of a broad range of programs and initiatives aimed at creating diversity awareness and understanding. 

            The event, in partnership with the Marginal Arts Festival, is free, open to the public, and a cash bar will be available.  Parking is available on the street at no charge or for a $2 flat fee directly behind the Claude More Complex or in adjacent parking garage.   The last discussion of the series will be on Thursday, April 29, 2010, at Blue 5 Restaurant in Roanoke. 


February 7, 2010 at 3:12 pm Leave a comment

STAR High School Writing Contest on the subject of inclusion, diversity and difference.

Here is the first place entry for your reading pleasure. We will be posting the second place winner next month, and honorable mentions in the months to come, so stay tuned!

First Place Winner: Seth Anderson, Junior, Patrick Henry High School

The Village by the Hill

It was a curious sight, to say the least.

            Beneath a sky verging on perfect, lay a lush grassy knoll, which would fit the same description. Resting on its crest stood a behemoth, a mammoth creature so vast that its figure alone covered nearly all the landscape below it in shadow. 

            In the darkness beneath the hill, the faint outlines of cottages could be seen just penetrating the powerful presence. From these scant forms arose others, tinier still, that clambered out to see what caused their sudden lapse in vision. As they took sight of the mysterious creature approaching, the sound of screams began to fill the clear blue skies.

            The thing loomed closer, and as it did, the miniature residents of the darkened cottages observed that it shared many qualities similar to them. It had two arms, as well as two legs, and wore garments in the same tradition that they did. In fact, its facial features were practically identical to those of every man and woman in its presence: ears, eyes, mouth, and a nose. Its hand was clenched shut, as if holding something of immense value, and sealed so tightly it would seem no force could wrench it open.

            But alas, its size! It must have been eighty, if not ninety times the size of the largest villager! In fact, it was so gargantuan, that in one step, it shook the entire village, (not to mention the hill which it lay beneath) to its core. For the first time in many a peaceful year, the village looked not into the face of a man, but the harbinger of its demise.

            Commands could be heard flying on the wings of the wind in the proximity of the small town. As soon as these were uttered, action followed suit. A handful of small, darkened beings broke free of the boundaries of shadow and entered once again into the realm of light. They carried with them strange instruments of destruction, powerful enough to kill one of their own within but a second.

            Cracks erupted in a cacophony of sound, rendering all other noises incomprehensible. The massive being showed signs of alarm, as it felt small drops sprinkle over its skin as if it was in the center of a great tempest. Confused and disoriented, the creature laid itself on the ground, closing the great glass domes of its eyes.

            The crackling sound was replaced with one of a far greater magnitude, that of the behemoth comforting itself. Its murmurs shattered the windows of the houses nearby, and caused many to grasp their heads to prevent the ringing that now took hold. After what may have spanned minutes or years, the scene lay silent, not a person remained standing.

            For perhaps centuries, the village by the hill lay covered in shadow, its memory fading with the ebb and flow of generations. The world surrounding it advanced and digressed, froze and melted, and continued its cycles with no concern as to the happenings of the hill. The virgin patch of land may as well have never existed.

            On a day as eventful as any other (which is to say not at all), the sun rose into the satin sky above the forgotten place, having little to no worry of any cloud intercepting its great trajectory. All lay silent as the air brightened, the grass danced with the wind, and the people remained sleeping. The wind lapped over their faces, caressing their still bodies with the carpeting comfort they had been accustomed to for so many ages.

            It was without warning that the wind began to increase its force, evolving from a simple breeze to a complex series of gusts and billows. As the power increased, a direction became clear: a funnel was forming over the gaping mouth of the mammoth creature.

            It was a reckoning force, one that devastated many of the cottages in the village. Almost every roof was thrown into the air, as if weighing less that a feather. Doors were wrenched off the hinges, while trees were uprooted from the ground they had claimed for their own.

            The precious debris circled indefinitely above the behemoth, slowly lowering into the abyss that was its mouth. The objects finally entered with no struggle, surrendering what would be their final battle to the insides of the mysterious being. The gale stopped: all was again calm.

            Or so it seemed. Only seconds later, a noise so great, so impossibly powerful erupted across the landscape, reminiscing to that one that had happened so many years before. It had been a yawn for the ages. The massive creature twitched, and then, for the first time in eons, stood.

            Chaos erupted. Moments after this awakening, the tiny figures began to rise as well. It took many minutes, even hours for them to grasp their strange surroundings. As dreaded realization set in, panic could be felt collectively across every waking one. Their home had been destroyed.

            Torment, rage, and fear were among the tamer notes of the screams that lit up the already bright sky. Their effects were widespread, as the wind began to gust in response, and the grass danced a primal, violent tango. Amidst all the horrific chaos, the only still object was the behemoth.

            One by one, the crazed denizens of the village turned to focus their stares on the giant. Whether man, woman, or child, hatred burned with the intensity of a thousand flames in their eyes. (It should here be noted that such heightened states of emotion can instigate an inhuman power in those of which it possesses, as this is an explanation for the events that follow).

            Before the beast could utter a sound, waves of villagers began to climb its vast expanse, viciously tearing off chunks of flesh as they rose. They conquered the massive pillars of legs with ease, leaving behind nothing but bone. As they approached the mountain that was its torso, the demon did nothing but stare at them with a blank expression.

            This violent conquest continued, resulting in events so gruesome that they should not be written in this language, for fear of tarnishing it. Let it only be known that this mysterious and enormous creature met a horribly slow and excruciating end, and put up no sign of a struggle.

            By the time the bloodthirsty monsters reached the head of the giant, they were slowed by oceans of tears that washed them away. This could not stop them however, and within hours, the beast was dead. Finished.

            As the rapturous creatures celebrated their victory, they began uttering primeval growls, reveling in the rain of blood and flesh that ensued. Perhaps it was only the wind that could observe a tiny object fall out of what was left of the majestic creature’s hand. As it blew away from the demonic processions below, it was sprinkled with the mist of a tear. The olive branch would never see its carrier again.

January 23, 2010 at 6:38 pm 3 comments

Wine, Wonder, Slavery & Art

STAR Supports Taubman Museum’s “Wine and Wonder” program, THURSDAY, DECEMBER 3RD at 5:30 PM

 By Bruce Bryan

Each Thursday night at 5:30, those interested gather at Norah’s Café in the lobby of the Taubman Museum of Art in Downtown Roanoke to discuss piece of art in the collection of the museum.  Believe it or not, this is a FREE event.  That’s right…the education, the admission, the interesting discussion and even a typical visit to see the actual work in person is all included.  If you want to snack on a delicious treat or taste a wonderful glass of wine you can certainly do so.

 The twist this time is that in December B. Scott Crawford, Director of Education – Taubman Museum of Art, will be examining pieces that help us understand diversity, acceptance and openness to a wide range of cultures.  Specifically on Thursday Night December 3rd, we’ll be looking at a piece from the mid forties called “The Cotton Pickers”.  It will be fascinating and you’ll really enjoy the exchange.

 Wine and Wonder has been going on since last winter and it is one of the true hidden gems in Roanoke.  I’ve been to over a dozen of the evenings and I have ALWAYS learned a lot and been glad I went.  Scott does a wonderful job making the pieces approachable and bringing information to people with a wide range of experiences and exposure to art.  He never makes me feel stupid for my lack of knowledge and he always presents a welcome that is warm and genuine.

 If you’ve been before, make it a point to kick off the December STAR diversity series on Thursday Night the 3rd.  If you’ve never been, I promise your brain cells will be exercised and you’ll appreciate one of the treasures inside one of Roanoke’s best treasures.

 Plan to join us!

Courtesy of B. Scott Crawford, Director of Education

Taubman Museum of Art

 About the Chosen Painting:

The Cotton Pickers

Thomas Hart Benton

Ca. 1943

In The Cotton Pickers, Thomas Hart Benton reacts to and against modern artistic movements including Cubism and Futurism as he embraces and idealizes an agrarian setting.  In the painting Benton depicts what could be interpreted as an African-American family unit, including older son, younger son, mother, father, and possibly a grandmother or grandfather, working in a cotton field in the south.  The work is contemporary to the period, thus suggesting the family is a group of sharecroppers, possibly tenant farmers.  From a compositional perspective, the work beautifully captures many of Benton’s defining characteristics, including color and a neo-mannerist form.  The work also reflects Benton’s regional approach to his subject matter.  Typical of Benton the work is agrarian in nature and set in the South.  The depiction of the primary worker in the foreground, with no tension in his face, no sweat on his brow, suggests an idealized setting, reinforcing a notion that agrarian life is superior to urban, modern life.  Warm, soft colors reinforce this almost utopian vision.

 However, the work serves as a wonderful launch pad to discuss race relations in the South, and the US, on the eve of the Civil Rights Movement that would begin a decade or so after the painting was completed.  While idealized in nature, with no social commentary on the plight of the sharecropper being suggested directly, the tension underlying this tranquil scene cannot go unnoticed.  Set within an historical context, Jim Crow, the Great Migration, and economic disparity lay just beneath the surface of this tranquil scene.

November 19, 2009 at 2:46 pm Leave a comment

OPEN DOOR SERIES begins this Thursday, Nov. 12 at The Shenandoah Club


A conversation about the dynamics of difference  

The Shenandoah Club 

24 Franklin Road ~ Roanoke, Virginia 

Thursday ~ November 12, 2009      7:00 PM – 8:30 PM  

 The world in which we live and work today is increasingly diverse.  We all want to be treated with respect, valued and welcomed in our environment — be it the neighborhood in which we live or the office in which we work.   S.T.A.R., The Spirit of Tolerance and Art in the Region, a subgroup of Creative Connectors, invites you to our first Open Doors event to discuss and examine the broad range of differences that can strengthen a community rather than weaken it.  We envision a community under one umbrella that goes beyond tolerance of difference to one of inclusive excellence and community engagement.  An area’s success is dependent upon how fully it values, engages, and includes the rich diversity of its citizens. 

S.T.A.R. is one of four initiatives from the Creative Community Leadership Project (CCLP) in cooperation with the City of Roanoke and the Creative Class Group.  The CCLP’s methods and goals were developed around the creative class theory pioneered by Richard Florida, one of the world’s leading public intellectuals on economic competitiveness and the author of the best selling books, The Rise of the Creative Class and Who’s Your City.  Our team is made up of a group of citizens from the Roanoke and New River Valleys who have voluntarily come together to increase our community’s knowledge and understanding of our diverse society.   

Join us for this interactive discussion as we seek a broader and deeper understanding of the nature and impact of difference, gain insight into subtle biases and assumptions in language and behavior, and reflect on our ability to live and communicate effectively with difference.   

Susanna Rinehart, Director of Education for Diversity and Inclusion in the Office of Equity and Inclusion at Virginia Tech, will facilitate this spirited conversation.  Rinehart is responsible for providing leadership, vision, and direction to the development, coordination, and facilitation of a broad range of programs and initiatives designed to expand Virginia Tech’s commitment to being an inclusive, diverse, and engaged learning, living, and working environment — including the creation of a diversity development institute for faculty and staff.  She is also engaged with the development of the University’s 2008-2012 Diversity Strategic Plan. 

The event is free, open to the public, and the first in a series.  The next two conversations are scheduled for Thursday, February 11, 2010, at the Claude Moore Center in Roanoke, and on Thursday, April 29, 2010, at the Blue 5 Restaurant in Roanoke.

November 6, 2009 at 1:50 am Leave a comment

Pride in the Park, Sunday, Sept 20th

By STAR co-founder,  Joe Cobb

The first Pride Festival I ever attended was Pride in the Park in Roanoke, Virginia in September 2001.  I was considering moving to the area and a friend recommended I check out the community and attend some of the Pride events to meet people and see if this was a community I could thrive in.

I attended the Pride Prom at the Unitarian Universalist Church, and then, a week later, the Pride dinner and auction at the same location.  I met many amazing people there, including my partner, James.  The next day, I attended Pride in the Park and fell in love with the beautiful setting of Highland Park, and the friendly and safe space created by the festival planners.

Much has happened since those days.  I moved to Roanoke in October of that year.  My partner James and I have a wonderful family of two teenagers and a toddler.  I’m serving as the Provisional Pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of the Blue Ridge.  I’ve discovered a community in Roanoke and this region dedicated to building inclusive community.

This year, I am honored to be one of thirty Creative Connectors, a project of Richard Florida’s Creative Class, and we have created four initiatives devoted to strengthening the fabric of community in the region.  I’m on the S.T.A.R. initiative which is the “Spirit of Tolerance and Arts in the Region”.  One of our goals is support existing events dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusive community.

That’s why we’ll be present at this year’s 20th annual Pride in the Park Festival on Sunday, September 20 in Elmwood Park.  We’ll be collaborating with the Conflict Resolution Center in presenting “Peace by Piece”, a quilt project for children who are dedicated to making a creative expression of their belief in peace.  The Metropolitan Community Church will be hosting a Pride Worship Celebration at 10:00 am at the lower stage near Franklin Road, and opening ceremonies for the festival begin at 11:00 a.m.  The festival runs throughout the day until 6:00 p.m.

As I reflect on what Pride means to me, I celebrate through song: 

Singing My Pride
Music is one of the heartbeats of my life.  Music has lulled me to sleep in the night.  Music has given me hope when the darkness was heavy.  Music has awakened me to all that is possible.  Music has helped me soar. 
Music helps me remember who I am and why I am here.  Music is a source of pride, strength, courage and love.  As the GLBT community prepares to celebrate the 20th annual Pride in the Park Festival in Roanoke ( <> ), I want to share with you some of the songs that are special to me and how they inspire me to be who I am called to be.  I also invite you to reflect on the songs that inspire you.  How do they help you be all you can be?
Proud by Heather Small, is a song I originally heard on a Queer as Folk soundtrack.  Asking, “what have you done today to make you feel proud?”, I felt an invitation to ask myself, in every moment of life, what I can do to make this world more welcoming, inclusive, equal and just.  When I witness the courage of so many who, day in and day out, live their lives with a spirit of love and grace, I am touched to be part of a community devoted to expanding love.
I’m Coming Out, sung by Diana Ross, makes me celebrate the gift of coming out.  I began the coming out process when I was 36, and had to work through alot of questions about identity, sexuality, guilt and shame, before emerging in a place to celebrate who I am.  This song is one of my “anthems” of personal celebration.
When Gloria Gaynor launches into I Will Survive, I think about all I and so many have survived in seeking to live authentic and honest lives.  Though this song is a call to stand up for ourselves and not let others take advantage, I often insert “fear” as the exited lover, reminding myself that fear’s power over me is limited and limiting.  As I continue to free myself of fear, I open myself to growth.
In the early stages of coming out, I attended a retreat at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico, led by the gay writer and activist Chris Glaser.  The focus of the retreat was an exploration of the writings of Henri Nouwen, a catholic priest and writer on the spiritual life.  During the course of the retreat, Chris introduced me to a song, with new words added to the familiar tune Morning Has Broken.  The lyrics were penned by Holly Whitcomb:
I am the glory
I am the blessed
Body and Soul–
None other like me
I am precious–
Gift of creation
Honored and whole.
This song became a mantra for me as I moved through shame and guilt to a place of peace about who I am as a spiritual and sexual being.
The musical “Rent” produced a number of fantastic songs, and Seasons of Love became one of my favorites for its celebration of the moment, and the minutes, and the friendships that keep us sane and connected in our lives. 
For Good, from the musical “Wicked”, is a duet sung by Glinda and Elphaba, a journey of their lives together, and how in the end, they can say to each other, “because I knew you, I have been changed for good”.  Part of my pride journey is remembering and celebrating the people who have walked with me in struggles and joys.  I am grateful for each one and thankful.
Finally, the song that touches my heart more deeply than any, especially considering my Kansas roots and my love for the importance of living our dreams, is Over the Rainbow.  When I heard the recording of Judy Garland singing this in her Carnegie Hall concert, I was touched by her vulnerability.  There is an awareness, that even when life throws us curves, and we feel as though the challenges are too great to overcome, there is hope. 
“When happy little bluebirds fly
above the rainbow,
why, oh why, can’t I?”
Happy Pride to all!  And keep singing!      

Rev. Joe Cobb
Provisional Pastor, Metropolitan Community Church of the Blue Ridge

September 13, 2009 at 6:28 pm Leave a comment

Older Posts


MAY - Local Colors... JUNE - Juneteenth... JULY - On The Edge (Floyd, VA)... AUG - Steppin' Out (Blacksburg, VA)... SEPT - Henry Street Festival, Pride Parade... OCT - Bridgewalk, Latino Festival... NOV -Open Doors Series.... DEC - Taubman Museum/Wine and Wonder... JAN - Writer's Series... FEB - Harrison Museum - Black History Month... MAR -Interfaith Event... APR/MAY - Down by Downtown STAR Festival