Thanks to YOU, we’re 80–and still growing . . .

…Throughout the nation including Hawaii and Alaska–The Roanoke Tribune remains in the same original family and still with the same purpose, under current editor, second generation Claudia A. Whitworth: (*To promote self-esteem, *to encourage respect–for self and for the differences in others; and to be instrumental in fostering subsequent lasting vehicles through which diverse peoples can consistently unite on some regular, common basis.

I am blessed to have been involved in a few during my tenure at the helm that began in 1971 in this most unique City of Roanoke, following my father’s auto accident from which he never returned to The Trib. I actually had no intentions of assuming such critical sole responsibility, having experienced several years of experience on other Black newspapers in Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, and at The New York Age in “the Big Apple.” But this was only as a linotype operator in composition rooms, in order to hopefully return to assist my dad. It was my appointed SCORE representative, a retired president from Stone Printing Co. at the time, who convinced me to try to hold on–and I’m still holding on to date–thanks to YOU–through readership, advertising, public service announcements and all other means of steady support, especially after realizing the amazing “Power of the Press!

“Stan the Man” was the first to join me from the beginning while on Henry Street–and remains a key component to date! Other current family staff members include my daughter, Eva Shaw-Gill, assisted by two of her triplets–daughter, Klaudia and son Kenneth (when possible as both are currently taking classes at Virginia Western. The third, Kaitlyn, is a student at an HBCU in Florida.

“Trusty employees, Leslie Terry and Rico Robertson complete the current in-house Tribune staff that from the beginning has been and remains flanked with weekly volunteers who assist with weekly mail-out, beginning on Henry Street with David Dickey. Also starting with us on Henry Street was Richard Jones whose mother “Moma Jones,” also played an integral part while at the old First Baptist Church on Jefferson Street.

Upon relocating to the present Melrose location another dimension was added to fulfilling my original purpose of “encouraging respect for self and especially for the differences in others that resulted from a special Martin Luther King presentation at the theatre at Crossroads Mall. It was following this presentation that Minister Kirk Ballin, then pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Church, formed a gathering in the downtown Public Library that met weekly thereafter for the next ten years starting at his church and eventually gaining power and prestige relocating later to The Roanoke Tribune’s neutral location. This powerful weekly open-door gathering soon began to increasingly included professionals from all walks of life–to include one special unexpected visit by members of the KKK explaining their misunderstood purposes. At least (if not more) impressive was the reverse of a “mal-practice” decision made by a Judge during a court session in a small town in Virginia near the WVA boarder.

“Racism is a disease that affects people in society in a conscious or unconscious way,” began each weekly session that often included different professional local and/or out of town/state participants. “Denial of the problem prevents its adequate solution, perpetuates the disease and undermines the self-esteem of victims and perpetrators alike. Only through sharing feelings and experiences can mistrust turn into friendship, respect and ultimate trust and love.

Indelible in my mind will ever be the reminder during an NNPA National meeting in Washington, DC while on Henry Street, that I would never make it with my “good news” paper, following my challenging their consistent “Horror & Bloody” front Pages. Well Roanoke, we have proven them WRONG! I am practically the only one of them left and the ONLY one in Virginia that survived through the Black Crash of that era–for which The Roanoke Tribune was honored in Richmond by the Virginia State Library with Daphne Reid as hostess.

Unfortunately, however although the oldest continuous Black Newspaper in the Commonwealth, our records date back successively only through 1980 (with a couple of rare exceptions damaged during the total bulldozing of the plant on Henry Street by the City of Roanoke (with NO prior warning) during the summer of 1983) in the name of “revitalization”–which remains untouched to date! This we survived from having placed a new “photo-setter” machine in my father’s bedroom while he was in my care, as suggested by a friend that I would not have to remain through late hours on “The Yard” as Henry Street was affectionately know.

It’s biggest detriment: we have so little recorded Black History, currently being replaced by “Oral History”–which sometimes may, has had, and will continue to include some questionable accounts.

Most Importantly now is the accumulation of written Local Black History! Let’s organize a conserted effort to collect, and KEEP the records straight-–for posterity!