Bouts and Brawls for Charity Y’all
The Black-N-Bluegrass Rollergirls of Northern Kentucky use their sport to assist nonprofits.

The Black-N-Bluegrass RollerGirls of Northern Kentucky are taking time off the rink and from their day jobs to help local organizations. The team members are joining forces to raise awareness and funding for organizations like Cinderella’s Closet, The Freestore Foodback and The Spina Bifida Coalition of Cincinnati.

“We have big hits and big hearts,” says Richelle “Silverose” Davis, team captain and marketing director for BBRG. “We believe in giving back to the community.”

Skaters volunteer by reading to local children at Latonia Elementary or painting faces at festivals. Their latest venture is a junior league to introduce kids to the sport of roller derby.

The women participate in a full-contact brutal sport that they mostly fund themselves and have relied on volunteers and fans to make the BBRG possible. Through the 300-plus hours of volunteering each season, the BBRGs are paying it forward and making a difference in the community.

“Volunteering and bringing awareness and involvement—that is better than the game itself. That is truly what it is all about,” says Deborah “Neva Shakeababy” Scheibly, BBRG jammer (the scoring skater).

The BBRG has been sponsoring Spina Bifida Coalition of Cincinnati for more than three years and have lead the coalition’s annual Walk and Roll event for four years. “I have been a fan of the BBRG from the start and one day they showed up at the walk,” says Jeremy Moses, SBCC volunteer.

“When I first joined BBRG, I thought I was just going to play another sport, but it turned out to be so much more,” says Neva Shakeababy. “We are not just a bunch of bruisers. We just have big hearts… You don’t even have to skate to raise awareness. [You] just [need to] want to get involved.”

Band of Brothers
Northern Kentucky Brotherhood Singers do old-school a cappella the right way

To see the Northern Kentucky Brotherhood Singers perform is certainly an experience. One of the Brothers merely has to utter the words: “Hit something,” for them all to join in, their voices weaving in and out, creating a perfectly harmonious melody. Sam Norris, one of the newest members, sings with his eyes gently closed, marveling at the sheer awesomeness of their intermingling voices. The rest of the Brothers alternate between smiling and swaying in time with the tune, happy to be a part of one of the region’s only a cappella groups.

Dressed in a variety of slimming black or white suits the majority of the time, the Brothers perform in venues of all sorts for all occasions—everything from birthday parties to performing the national anthem at local professional sporting events, and even making an appearance in the movie Easy Rider 2: The Ride Back. “[The movie] was a lot of fun. It took all day for a one-minute part,” says Eric Riley, a member of the Brotherhood Singers, as he laughs at the memory of trying to perform a song at an outdoor shoot close to Springfield, Ohio in 2007. “Every time we got started, a plane would fly over and [the director would say] ‘Cut! Cut!’ … but it was a really rewarding experience.”

In addition to local events, the troupe has been on international tours, taking 17 trips to Spain alone. They also made an extended appearance in Russia through a grant program sponsored by several organizations, including the Library of Congress. “It was amazing,” says Norris in an awestruck voice as he remembers their welcome in Russia.

While they sing well and often—enough to be full-time singers—the Brothers all consider their group to be an extracurricular activity of sorts. During the workweek, they shed their musical personas and morph into security personnel, an employee of the Safety Department of Cincinnati and retired professionals. Even though they only do this on the side, they have no trouble learning new music in just one rehearsal. However, it takes a little longer to fine-tune. “It’ll take us 15 minutes to learn it,” says Riley. “Then it’ll take up to two years to perfect it … put it in the Brotherhood style [and] add the Brotherhood flavor.”

The Brothers describe their style as old-school a cappella, but with some slight changes; they’re not afraid to mix up songs as they see fit. “Our flavor is each individual’s personality,” says Ric Jennings, the founder of the Northern Kentucky Brotherhood Singers. The group specializes in gospel music, but each member can bring other musical styles to their weekly practice. If they are performing at an event, they will branch out to almost any song that the audience requests, giving an interesting twist to classic favorites.

Their performances typically last anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes and they perform about 15 songs, depending on the lineup. The Brothers don’t like to hog the stage, though. They enjoy giving the show a little pizzazz by inviting up random audience members to the stage. The Brothers have also participated in competitions in the past. As one of eight regional winners in the Harmony Sweepstakes in 2011, they ventured to the San Francisco area to compete in the national tournament. They didn’t win, but don’t regret the experience. “The reason we did it was to spread the gospel,” says Stace Darden, the member who handles the website and social media for the group. “We wanted to spread our message.”