I loved writing this story about four awesome people, alumni of both the NRV Roller Girls & Virginia Tech. Stephanie Beeman, Kacey Huntington Cappallo, Tori Elmore & Jen Stern are killing it in their professional lives and on the track as derby skaters.
They inspire me and encapsulate what I love about roller derby.
Read the story at Virginia Tech Magazine.
In 1979, Roanoke was a blue-collar New South city built around the Norfolk & Western railroad. The city core was decaying as businesses and residents moved outward to suburbs and adjacent counties.
Today, the Star City has become what so many cities of its size, geography, and history want to be. It’s burgeoning, chock full of craft beer, and eminently welcoming to outdoorsy Millennials. As small cities struggle to retain young people, Roanoke is attracting them.
How did this happen? And what does downtown’s transformation mean for nearby neighborhoods like historic Gainsboro?
Read the full story at CityLab.
The Daily Yonder is a web publication that is aimed at the 55 million people who live in the rural United States. It’s been published on the web since 2007 by the Center for Rural Strategies, a non-profit media organization based in Whitesburg, Kentucky, and Knoxville, Tennessee.
I started writing for the Yonder in August, with stories that included reactions to white supremacy rallies in small towns and rural areas, as well as a preview and recap of how rural areas played into the 2017 Virginia governor’s race.
Here are some recent stories, all of which have been subsequently re-published at 100 Days in Appalachia:
– How #NoHateInMyHoller became a war cry for Appalachia: An interview with Eastern Kentucky artist Lacy Hale
– Policing white-supremacist rallies: Lessons from small-town America
– “Margins matter”: How rural voters could tip the scales in Virginia’s governors race (spoiler: they didn’t)
– GOP’s rural numbers in Virginia slip only slightly from 2016
Roanoke has successfully reinvented itself from a gritty blue-collar railroad hub into a burgeoning, craft-beer soaked, millennial-friendly outdoor mountain town with a cool, freshly restored downtown.
In doing so it has become a model for small cities in Appalachia and the South looking to transcend outdated community narratives. But Roanoke still faces significant challenges in spreading that new prosperity to neighborhoods that have been hit by generations of segregation, deepening economic inequality, a powerful business class with outsized influence on city politics, & a legacy of disruption via urban renewal.
Roanoke’s challenges are those of many other New South towns that also struggle with historic economic immobility. I wrote for Scalawag about the Star City’s struggles, largely through the past and present of its public schools.
This story should have run in May, but apparently slipped through the cracks. It’s got such great musicians in it — Twilight Fauna, Anna & Elizabeth, Tyler Hughes & Sam Gleaves, Byron Mack, Panopticon and more —
that I posted it on Medium, even if it’s a few months after the fact.
West Virginia’s 3rd congressional district went 73/23 for Trump over Clinton last year, but Democrat Nick Rahall held that seat up through 2014. With the seat open again (Evan Jenkins is running for Senate), I wrote about how Democrats are trying to engage voters and address the real challenges of poverty & economic disruption there (including at least two who are doing so by running for the Republican nomination).
My story for the New Republic looks at several present and past Democrats in the district (including some current Republicans) who are now maneuvering for the open seat. The story focuses largely on Richard Ojeda, a veteran and state senator who supported Trump in 2016 but is building a campaign that combines his brawling anti-establishment style with a generally progressive platform.
Before West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, the US nearly had Westsylvania, Transylvania & Franklin.
This story, for Blue Ridge Country, is about the wild, unruly period between the end of the War for Independence & the writing of the US Constitution that saw Appalachian statehood movements that fell just short.
Step over step. Step over step.
My dad was a lifetime runner, & I aim to follow in his steps. That’s part of why Mirna Valerio’s story resonates deeply with me. She’s using running as an avenue to lifelong fitness, and inspiring a ton of people along the way. She’s awesome.
Her memoir, “A Beautiful Work in Progress,” was released in October. I caught up with her for Blue Ridge Outdoors.
For more than three decades the Park + Backstreet Cafe were cornerstones of Roanoke’s gay bar scene. Hell, it wasn’t just LGBT folks, either: When I moved to Roanoke in 2003, punk bands would drink at the Backstreet, go down & play a show at then-boozeless Factory 324 (former Iroquois), and then half the crowd would go to dance afterward at the Park.
The Park continues to operate as a dance club, but the ownership changes there in 2015 + this year’s change from the Backstreet Cafe into the Front Row mark the end of a particular era for Roanoke’s gay bars, and the beginning of something new.
I wrote about the history & changes for Vice’s Munchies.