Henry Street Festival

HSHF 2009

by Angela Bennett, STAR co-founder

The Henry Street Heritage Festival is the premier event of the Harrison Museum of African American Culture. The public festival celebrates the history, culture, heritage, and arts of African Americans. Festival goers will find a diverse offering of arts and entertainment in which to participate including national and local talent; educational and historical exhibits; interactive children’s area; as well as arts and crafts from a wide range of vendors, community organizations, and merchants.
I remember when I relocated back to Roanoke after being in California for years.  I arrived just as Summer turns to Fall.  No one knew that I had returned and I remember thinking, ”It is about time for the Henry Street Festival.”  I went to that festival feeling disconnected from my community because I had been gone for so long.  During the course of the event, I connected with community leaders, trailblazers, and high school friends.  Not only did I feel a connection to my community during and after the event; I was able to create new connections with other people that had the same passion as I do.
The history that emerges from the past is what we draw on to create a better future.  Our culture displays the very things that make us unique and binds us to the entire human race. Our heritage is very important and to share that value with others is strengthening to our spirit and soul.  I love the diversity within my culture and my heritage, most of all I love to celebrate that diversity and embrace the similarities of African Americans.
To learn about another race, culture, religion, etc. other than our own is an enriching process, I hope that you will take time to come out and see the dancers, listen to the music, enjoy the food, and most of all broaden your horizon.  The 20th Annual Henry Street Heritage Festival will be held on September 26th, 2009 in Elmwood Park in downtown Roanoke. The festival is from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm.

STAR will be partnering with the Conflict & Resolution Center at the festival to help kids create a Peace by Piece quilt. Come by our table and bring your young ones to each create their own ‘square’ highlighting their idea of peace in the world.

LINK: http://www.harrisonmuseum.com/henrystreet.html




August 31, 2009 at 12:53 am Leave a comment

Join us Monday at 1:30, Beth Israel Synagogue



Graffiti has come to symbolize much over decades of existence – urban blight, juvenile delinquency, and eventually –thanks to talents like Keith Haring, Basquiat and others that followed– even a popular form of subversive art – an upside, to be sure.

But that’s not the kind of upside I want to discuss here.

Because the darker side of graffiti, the kind with expressions of hatred, symbolizes something deeply troubling in our culture. And this week, it showed up right here inRoanoke.

Racial slurs were painted on the Horizon Health Care building, along with anti-semitic slurs on the doors of Beth Israel Synagogue (not to mention several tire slashings in Old Southwest). No arrests have been made.

To even try and write about this under a perky headline is difficult, because I wish with all my heart that things like this never happened at all, anywhere. Some might say that they are only words, but if you’ve ever been on the wrong end of them, you know it’s much more than that. It’s a terrifying reminder that, even though we have laws that say otherwise, there are those out there who would hate you for who you are, not for what you do. This is an utterly hopeless feeling, and it lurks inside millions of us every day who are trying desperately to embrace the shining American ideal of celebrated diversity, and to believe that it could actually be true. All it takes is one scrawled word to shatter that hope.

Fortunately, I am able to report that something good does seem to be happening in Roanoke as a result of these crimes. People are coming together. First it was to repair damaged property, and now it’s to repair the more lasting violations. They are focusing on what they have in common rather than how they are different. They are finding comfort in surprising places. This is all good…better than good. It’s brought about a sort of healing that can transcend the original transgression.

You have an opportunity to be a part of that healing.

On Monday at 1:30 pm, Beth Israel’s Rabbi Werbin will be leading a service for citizens of all denominations to stand together and pray for the peace to overcome prejudices. As someone who grew up worshipping in Beth Israel, I have no more reason to be there than anyone in our community who would support those whose rights have been psychologically, spiritually and emotionally threatened. The Reverend Stephen Stanley of Christ Episcopal Church has sent out a letter asking all Roanokers to congregate at Beth Israel on Monday. As Stanley says,

‘it is the moral obligation of the religious community of Roanoke and all citizens to stand with the victims of hatred and destruction’. He urges us to ‘preach and teach our children to live as the whole family of God and work together to overcome hatred and violence and advocate for peace and religious freedom for all Americans, and all people, as God has called us to do.’

Now, those are some words for all to see.

Hope to see you there.


Beth Israel Synagogue 

920 Franklin Rd SW

Roanoke, VA 24016-4333
(540) 343-0289


The Upside is a weekly column for SCH by Sharon Rapoport

July 30, 2009 at 9:59 pm Leave a comment

Steppin’ Out in August

You won’t find a more diverse event in August than ‘Steppin Out’ in Blacksburg, featuring food, crafts, art and music from a range of ethnicities and traditions. This annual street festival will be held Friday and Saturday, August 7th and 8th, 10 AM -10 PM. This year’s program features over 150 artists and crafts people from around the United States selling unique handcrafted items. Fascinating street performances, three stages of continuous live music and so much more!  Downtown Blacksburg merchants will be holding their annual clearance sidewalk sales and local restaurants will be selling some of your favorite festival foods. Admission and parking is free and the Blacksburg Transit will be running complimentary bus shuttle service from various parking areas.  For more information visit  http://www.downtownblacksburg.com/steppin_out.aspx or contact the Downtown Merchants of Blacksburg by phone (540-951-8454) or by e-mail (dmob@DowntownBlacksburg.com). S.T.A.R. is pleased to highlight Steppin’ Out as its August event and one of our own members, Cyrus Pace, will be performing on August 7th with the Jordan Harman band.  Step on out and join us in  downtown Blacksburg for this eclectic event!     

steppin out

steppin out

July 28, 2009 at 7:08 pm Leave a comment

Juneteenth Post-script

The Juneteenth festival in downtown Roanoke was a great time – diverse crowd, great music, and plenty of summer heat. We discovered that there were other Juneteenth festivals going on the same day – one large on at Booker T. Washington memorial, in fact – and hundreds all over the country. One couldn’t help but reflect back on the particular history of this event and it’s new significance now that we have an African-American president! Was it our imagination, or did the crowds have an extra bounce in their step due to this amazing reality. Check back often for updates on July’s highlighted STAR event….

June 22, 2009 at 9:55 pm Leave a comment

JUNETEENTH Freedom Festival, this Saturday June 20th


June the 19th has been a special day for me since 2003. It was the day the adoption of my third child – Timothy – became official.  He would be my son forever, from that day forward.
Long before that day had meaning for me, it had special meaning for many others.  You see, even though President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had been in effect since January 1, 1863, word had not reached Texas.  In 1865 slavery was a common practice in that large state.  Union General Gordon Granger and the 2,000 soldiers working with him came into Galveston, Texas and released the slaves into freedom on June 19th.  They were some of the last slaves to be set free.

The celebration continues 144 years later each June 19th only with the special name “Juneteenth”.  Virginia is one of 26 state recognizing it as a state holiday.  Here in Roanoke, there are actually a number of opportunities to enjoy and recognize this momentous occasion.  Hopefully you will consider breaking away from your crowded schedule to check out some of the fun here in the Valley.  You’ll likely meet new people and enjoy some new experiences.

This month STAR, one of four Community Connector Programs, is highlighting the Juneteenth Events in our area.  STAR is celebrating the Spirit of Tolerance & Arts in the Region and we hope you’ll join us this June.

June 15, 2009 at 6:46 pm 1 comment



We are a group of citizens who have come together to promote tolerance and diversity in the Roanoke region. We are doing this through the arts, and through various monthly events. Our upcoming highlight event for June is the Juneteenth festival, held on June 13 and June 2oth.  For more details, go to the Juneteenth link on the right column of this web page. STAR_FINAL

May 28, 2009 at 7:46 pm 1 comment

Newer 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