It’s a blustery morning and the first official Sunday of spring; Roger Howard has just finished his breakfast. He strolls into his bedroom, which is flooded with natural sunlight that makes his Rattle Snake plant and temperamental Fiddle-leaf Fig plant thrive. The atmosphere is serene, with warm, white walls ready for artwork he’s anxious to hang.
He’s a busy young man, but happy to take the time to speak with qnotes.
The 32-year-old is a graduate of North Carolina State, a new construction property manager and the Charlotte City Commissioner for Stonewall Sports, a community-based sporting organization for the LGBTQ+ community and allies.
He’s eager to share his enthusiasm, and we’re excited to explore his story.
Tell us where you were born.
Mt. Holly, N.J.
Oh, so you’re a transplant?
No. My father was in the military and stationed at Fort Dix in New Jersey at the time I was born. I’ve lived in North Carolina for over 20 years, but I’ve been in Charlotte for nine years now.
Do you have any siblings?
Yes, I have an older sister, Archella. She was named after my grandfather, Archie. We’re six years apart and she’s amazing. Her sense of humor. I think she’s the realest, funniest person on the planet and she inspires me to make the impossible possible. She’s just the best big sister. [She] keeps me grounded and rooted in what really matters in the world.
Family seems important to you. When you think of family, living or passed, does anyone in particular come to mind that you’d want to spend more time with?
My paternal grandmother, [Eva]. She passed away last May and it wasn’t until her funeral that I learned how truly powerful and impactful she was in lifting her family out of poverty. My dad and her were on a first name basis, and it makes me wonder what she sacrificed as a working parent that attributed to that. My dad grew up poor in Mississippi and not a lot has changed there as far as economic opportunity, growth and racism. But again, I would say my grandmother because of how amazing it was to hear stories [during her funeral] about all the things she did, but it also answered so many questions that I was afraid to ask when I was young. You don’t wanna pry, [but] if I could talk to her now, I’d love to know what inspired and motivated her. Obviously, being a mother was part of that, but it wasn’t just that; it was her sisters, her family, a lot of things.
Let’s talk about your involvement with Stonewall Sports.
I’m the City Commissioner at Stonewall Sports. I’m in charge of sports and programs, and I work with the Mecklenburg Parks and Recreation Department securing spaces for events. The [organization] name pays homage to the Stonewall Riots that launched the LGBT rights movement.
Considering that the Stonewall Rebellion took place in New York, do you think the name, Stonewall Sports, resonates as much in the south as it might in the north?
I don’t think as much in the south. However, I think it opens the door for folks to learn a little bit of history about the name and the impact it’s had nationwide. Being an LGBT organization and all inclusive, you want to make sure that anyone who wants to be part of something can get out there and not just be active, but mentally stimulated. The impact Stonewall Sports had on me made me want to see that continue.
What do you mean?
From a community perspective, it made me feel at home. I moved to Charlotte when I was young. When I was a 20-something [chuckling], like the average young 20-something, I spent my weekends at bars. But Stonewall [Sports] exposed me to so many people with inspiring stories that helped inspire me and [learn] your potential is only limited by the limits you set for yourself. So, being a part of that and seeing the positive impact it had on friendships was impactful. You see, so many people new to the city don’t really have any [established local friendships], and Stonewall Sports makes really solid relationships accessible.
What’s the most popular sport at your organization?
It’s a toss-up between dodgeball and kickball, our first sport here in Charlotte. But I’m a little biased because I used to be the director of the dodgeball program prior to taking on the role of commissioner. There’s something about adults being able to throw balls at each other on Sundays. You get a lot of aggression out. It’s also entertaining to watch. But, others might say volleyball.
In light of what we’ve been living through over the past year or so, has anything changed?
Yes, our current efforts in the age of COVID have required us to pivot. Pivot’s been one of my favorite words in the last year. When we were forced to cancel our spring and summer sports offerings, and so many people looked forward to having us as that go-to outlet for sports activities, things looked bleak. We just launched eSports, which stands for electronic sports. Two community members came up with the idea and created a platform that we adopted. We’re working on getting it ratified on a national level and just finished a tournament; Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo Switch.
The cool thing about eSports is that these people [gamers/participants] are already in our community; now we’re reaching new people, people who have never played traditional sports that we’re now able to connect with. Super important during Covid.
When you’re not involved in playing or organizing athletic sporting events, what’s your favorite sedentary activity?
Ooooooh, I mean there’s nothing wrong with catching a good Netflix documentary or a crime drama on Hulu. In the last year, a lot of us have had a lot of TV time, so that would probably be it; my go to on the couch — decompressing from world activity.
Maybe you’ll get to do more of that once you retire. What do you imagine for yourself once you reach the age of retirement?
It’s funny, because these conversations come up quite a bit as you get older. Honestly, I see myself somewhere tropical. If I could buy a resort somewhere tropical, like Costa Rica, living there and running it. I thrive being constantly stimulated so much that when I think of myself retired, I know I couldn’t just sit somewhere and do that. Maybe for a period of time I could not work, but I’d be daydreaming about what’s the next big thing.
Is there a next big thing on your more recent horizon?
I’m already a Certified Apartment Manager, and I’m currently in Real Estate School studying for licensure. So, I’m looking to get more into real estate.
In closing, why don’t you tell QNotes readers something very few folks know about you?
I have tattoos, and I only have them on the left side of my body. I like the yin and yang of that. I’m right handed, so I kinda’ go through the world presenting the right side of myself — that’s a choice. I work in very corporate settings and whether people want to admit it or not, perception still impacts opportunity. So if I’m in a full suit and tie, you wouldn’t even know I have a single tattoo on my body. But catch me at the beach, and there’s a full story there.
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