Wednesday, December 28, 2011

To the Family of Lorraine Worley Perry:

Please accept my deepest and heartfelt comfort about the death of Lorraine. I was saddened to hear about her untimely death. I always remember the years we spent at Douglass with Lorraine and James, especially in English class, and the many high school activities that we all attended. Lorraine was very funny and warm and kind.

With deepest sympathy,
Dr. Rosemary Gray
1964 GraduateDouglass High School
Kingsport, Tennessee

Sunday, December 11, 2011

In Defense of Dr. Umar Johnson's Recent Appearance in Riverview

The letter below is a foreword to the 'Letter to the Editor' below to the Kingsport Times-News, which was rejected for length..


I read Doug's letter.

This is why I responded to Joy's letter. I do not depend on the regional community nor have I for my career as I have found the same climate and atmosphere and environment expressed in Doug's letter, a contradiction of the objective of Joy's letter. Dr. Cathy most likely was looking and left for the same reason-a more welcoming environment for Black professionals or Black people in general. Many Black people in the Southwest Virginia-Northeast Tennessee area are too satisfied with their status quo and appear to not understand that we need the leadership re-born that was provided by Mr. Gill during the time that I attended public schools there, in addition to the many teachers who spoke up and spoke out to keep Black families and Black students focused on the prize: to learn our lessons and become independent. (We have some but not enough.) All of our lessons were not always found in our books. Our Black leaders, ministers, and educators back then, modeled what they "preached" by their actions. For those of us who observed, that is the only reason we are making it through life's journey. To be clear, I appreciate those who are currently working for and in the area for the Black community-we just keep backing up instead of joining the "global community". Nationally, and most likely locally, the Black community has the most unemployed and the most undereducated in most communities, and we are focused on not speaking up until it is too late are disclaiming association with those Black professionals like the invited speaker I address in the attached letter to the editor. You have to work inside community systems and governments and not look for the leadership of those who focus on "show and tell". We can do better than that. For example, how many in the area are working with the public schools for parent education of the current parents and for current student education, including working to recruit and retain minority educators? Our Black students need role models in our school systems. Education is the key to allowing our Black students to rise.

I have attached my letter. If you choose to print it, please include the thoughts above as a foreword. My letter was denied because it was too long. However, I wrote what I wanted to say and would not have shortened it.

Rosemary (Gray)

The following is a "Letter to the Editor" of the Kingsport Times-News, which was rejected for length. It is printed below in its entirety.

Dear Editor,

I read the open letter “TO OUR FELLOW ALUMNI, FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS IN THE DOUGLASS-RIVERVIEW-SOUTH CENTRAL COMMUNITY” by Virginia Hankins, President of the Sons and Daughters of Douglass” and did some research on Dr. Umar Abdullah-Johnson, a Nationally Certified School Psychologist, a blood relative of Frederick Douglass, a great Black abolitionist and orator and the choice for the name of the local school for African Americans in Kingsport and for all who would attend Douglass from the local towns and cities in the region. Dr. Abdullah-Johnson’s biography is listed below:


Umar Abdullah-Johnson is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist who practices privately throughout Pennsylvania and lectures throughout the country. Umar is a blood relative of Frederick Douglass, the great Black abolitionist and orator. As a school psychologist Umar evaluates children ages 3-21 in an effort to determine if they have educational disabilities and a need for special education services. Umar is considered a national expert on learning disabilities and their effect on Black children, as well an expert on helping schools and parents modify challenging behaviors that can ultimately lead to disruptive behavior disorder diagnoses in Black boys.

As a child therapist, Umar specializes in working with at-risk, violent, suicidal and depressed African-American boys and girls. For five years he served as the youngest of five African-American male school psychologists in the 5th largest public school district in America – The School District of Philadelphia. Umar has received commendations for his volunteer work throughout the Pan-African community, and has been a featured guest on various Black talk shows throughout the United States. In addition to his media appearances, Umar is a highly sought after motivational and informational speaker who has presented at workshops, conferences, awards ceremonies, graduations and expert panels throughout the country. As an educator, psychologist, therapist and historian, Umar is considered an authority on the education of African-American children and on mental health in the Black community.

His diverse array of past presentations and keynotes have included such topics as: Special Education Law, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Black Boys, Black-on-Black Violence, Post-Traumatic Slavery Disorder, Classroom Management for Teachers, What’s Wrong with Special Education, Marcus Garvey & Frederick Douglass in Black History, Effective Parenting Practices, The College Application Process, Understanding Depression in Black Children, The Over-identification of Black Children as Mentally Retarded and Learning Disabled, Black Male-Female Relationships, and Preparing Black Teenagers for Success. Umar is founder and Chief Scout Master for the Emmett Till, Hector Peterson and Scottsboro Boys Pan-African Boys Scouts Program and the Queen Nzingah, Harriet Tubman and Birmingham Four Pan-African Girl Scouts Program; both of which are independent African mentorship programs for youth.

Umar is former Minister of Education for the Marcus Garvey Movement, the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League. Umar is a writer, political scientist, and consultant to families, educators, mental health professionals and charter schools throughout the country. Umar currently hosts a psycho-educational community lecture series at the African-American Museum in Philadelphia. As one of the most popular faces and voices on the east coast focusing upon the proper development of African & African-American children, 33-year-old Umar is a fast rising star in the field of Black psychology and education. With a speaking style many consider reminiscent of his late ancestor, Frederick Douglass, Umar possesses the rare ability to hold an audience spellbound for hours as he unleashes a barrage of facts, statistics and practical information that leaves viewers in awe for weeks after his presentations. Umar has presented before embassies, museums, schools, universities, churches, correctional facilities, stadiums, international audiences and at community centers. As he is known to say after lectures when questioned about his speaking ability, Umar attributes his oratorical talent to the “Almighty Creator, and My African Ancestors who work through me. I simply open my mouth and their message comes out.”

In 2011, I am appalled and amazed that in a society of free speech; 1st Amendment rights; and with American children being number 14, 15, and 25 in the world in reading, science, and math respectively; having 16 per cent unemployment in the Black community; and, with full knowledge and experience with the state of denial about the Black-on-Black racism and in fighting in the Black community, that we are sent a letter apologizing for, distancing ourselves from, a speaker who is a descendant of Frederick Douglass, one who fought for the rights of the African American community to be free to become educated enough to be able to learn reading, writing, science, and mathematics and become a Barack Obama, a Herman Cain, and a Michelle Obama or a Marion Wright Edelman. As one who has worked for inclusion in the community, and specifically with the African American community, and in the communities of Northeast and West Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and Louisiana, working to give back-the lessons that we should all have taken away from our “Douglass High School, our ‘Center not Complex’ of learning during segregation.

This is the real world. It takes a “village” to raise a child, not “big ‘I’s” and “little ‘You’s’”, as many in the African American community who have benefited from Douglass may have forgotten or become when we do not acknowledge our African American children who are suicidal, depressed, hyperactive, and, to be clear, with mental health problems. To paraphrase the main theme in Bill Cosby’s reflections in his book, Come on People, as he reviews the state of the African American community, we need to give back by our words and deeds for the education of our Black youth and confront the mental health problems in the African American community that continue to plague many young people and adults.

I applaud the sponsor of Dr. Umar Abdullah-Johnson as a step in the right direction to say, “Come on Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia”. Let this speaker be a catalyst to wake up the African American community, especially Douglass Alums who well know that we were more than sports and fashion shows as students of Mr. Dobbins, Mr. Gill, Mr. Young, Coach Deering, Mr. Baylor, Mr. Hendricks, Mrs. Cox, Mrs. Dobbins, Mrs. Ellis, Mr. Thomas, and countless other teachers who instilled in us to give back, and most of all, to learn to read, to think, to write, and do math, including general math, algebra, geometry, and who started us in class wherever we were but, unlike today, took us where we needed to go to learn the lessons from each class.

Come on, people. If we start backing up, we will never go forward. Out of respect for the historical significance and parallel to our alma mater, I urge the citizens, both Black and White to attend the presentation of Dr. Abdullah-Johnson and engage in a dialogue that will help the mental health of our area youth. We are living in an era that needs ideas on how to assist young people with depression and thoughts of suicide because of bullying, both by adults and young people, and we need ideas on how to stop the sexual assaults that are ignored in the African American community because of the state of generational denial in the African American community.

The use of this “gang” mentality to avoid a discussion of the African American psyche needs to stop. We are living in the 21st Century, not the 20th Century. This letter is an insult to Carter G. Woodson, author of The Miseducation of the Negro, the hard work in the community by W.E.B Dubois, and Booker T. Washington. Do we even know statistically how many children, or even care enough, to investigate how many in our African American “Douglass” community youth have considered suicide and depression? Are we afraid to give back by confronting these issues? Have the values that we were taught at Douglass come down to a letter that disrespects our past rather than helps our future? I hope not. Come on, people! We have come too far, still have much further to go, than to start backing up. I applaud this dialogue to help our youth and all youth who are depressed and consider suicide or disruptive behavior as the only options for living. The most abused and neglected citizens in our society, who are often helpless at the hands of their predators, are our children. Expect the best rather than focus on the negative. My hope is for an “open letter” of a call to action to help our youth, schools, and parents with the behaviors of our children that are often the results of mental health issues brought on by the “ills” of our society on our children, specifically the African American children in our community..

Dr. Rosemary Gray
1964 Douglass High School Graduate
Daughter of Late Janie Gray, Gate City; Thurman Gray, Jacksonville, Florida

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Superintendent of schools

Just when you think Kingsport has changed from the norm and is ready to compete with Johnson City, what happens?  The Kingsport School Board comes along and slap you in the face.

They went out of their way to name Mr. Arnold the interim Superintendent. I have nothing against Mr. Arnold, but we already have an assistant superintendent by the name of Dr. Cathy.

But I guess because he is a Black man, the school board felt like they did not want a person of color leading our great school system, even if it is only an interim basic.

Kingsport has some industries that are dealing in the global market, but when it comes to leadership abilities in Kingsport, they still want to do things the "good old boys" way.

With all the annexations that Kingsport is doing, I think it is time for a change in the way we elect our Board of Mayor and Aldermen.  I think it is time we go to a ward system or a district system.

This will be the only way every community will have a voice.

Douglas S. Releford

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bring Southwest to Tri-Cities Regional

It is a great thing that Tri-Cities Regional Airport is attempting to add service to Dallas. What would be even better is if they could bring Southwest Airlines to the area. Not only would we get the best-rated carrier, but we would also have the added bonus of flying without those baggage fees. I hope they will pull out all the stops and get even our local elected officials involved to bring Southwest Airlines to the Tri-Cities. 

Joseph M. Comage
Mount Carmel

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Downtown carbonite plant a bad idea

In response to the article about Rep. Shipley pushing for a carbonite plant, do we really want the first carbonite plant on Earth to be located in downtown Kingsport? Why would anyone in their right mind want to be a guinea pig for the manufacturing of such a new, uncharted product? It seems ridiculous that Rep. Shipley would even consider Kingsport for a plant that produces a product that is stripped of mercury and other harmful substances. Where will these byproducts go? Into our water? Into the already noxious air that we are forced to breathe downtown? We need another air pollutant in Kingsport like we need another hole.

Without proof that the process of manufacturing carbonite is safe for the environment, I don’t think we should be considering putting it so close to a populated area, let alone our beautiful downtown. Stick it out someplace away from people until we find out what the byproducts are going to do to us. I can just see the headlines in 10 or 20 years: “It seemed like a good idea at the time” or “What were we thinking?”

Patti Lawrence

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Who Knew?

Who knew?

Eliminate ear mites. All it takes is a few drops of Wesson Corn Oil in
your cat's ear. Massage it in, then clean with a cotton ball. Repeat daily
for 3 days. The oil soothes the cat's skin, smothers the mites, and
accelerates healing.
Kills fleas instantly. Dawn Dishwashing Liquid does the trick. Add a few
drops to your dog's bath and shampoo the animal thoroughly. Rinse well to avoid skin irritations. Good-bye fleas.

Rainy day cure for dog odor: Next time your dog comes in from the rain, simply wipe down the animal with Bounce or any dryer sheet, instantly making your dog smell springtime fresh.

Did you know that drinking two glasses of Gatorade can relieve headache pain almost immediately-without the unpleasant side effects caused by traditional pain relievers?
Did you know that Colgate Toothpaste makes an excellent salve for burns?
Before you head to the drugstore for a high-priced inhaler filled with
mysterious chemicals, try chewing on a couple of curiously strong Altoids peppermints. They'll clear up your stuffed nose.
Achy muscles from a bout of the flu? Mix 1 tablespoon horseradish in 1 cup of olive oil. Let the mixture sit for 30 minutes, then apply it as a
massage oil for instant relief for aching muscles.

Sore throat? Just mix 1/4 cup of vinegar with 1/4 cup of honey and take 1 tablespoon six times a day. The vinegar kills the bacteria.

Cure urinary tract infections with Alka-Seltzer. Just dissolve two tablets
in a glass of water and drink it at the onset of the symptoms.
Alka-Seltzer begins eliminating urinary tract infections almost
instantly-even though the product was never been advertised for this use.

Honey remedy for skin blemishes...cover the blemish with a dab of honey and place a Band-Aid over it. Honey kills the bacteria, keeps the skin sterile, and speeds healing. Works overnight.
Listerine therapy for toenail fungus: Get rid of unsightly toenail fungus
by soaking your toes in Listerine Mouthwash. The powerful antiseptic
leaves your toenails looking healthy again.

Easy eyeglass prevent the screws in eyeglasses from
loosening, apply a small drop of Maybelline Crystal Clear Nail Polish to
the threads of the screws before tightening them.
Cleaning liquid that doubles as bug killer...if menacing bees, wasps,
hornets, or yellow jackets get in your home and you can't find the
insecticide, try a spray of Formula 409. Insects drop to the ground
Smart splinter remover: Just pour a drop of Elmer's Glue-All over the
splinter, let dry, and peel the dried glue off the skin. The splinter
sticks to the dried glue.

Hunt's Tomato Paste boil cure...cover the boil with Hunt's Tomato Paste as a compress. The acids from the tomatoes soothe the pain and bring the boil to a head. 
Balm for broken disinfect a broken blister, dab on a few
drops of Listerine, a powerful antiseptic.

Vinegar to heal bruises...soak a cotton ball in white vinegar and apply it
to the bruise for 1 hour. The vinegar reduces the blueness and speeds up the healing process.

Quaker Oats for fast pain's not for breakfast any more! Mix 2
cups of Quaker Oats and 1 cup of water in a bowl and warm in the microwave for 1 minute, cool slightly, and apply the mixture to your hands for soothing relief from arthritis pain.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

New Douglass School Spirit Online Store Grand Opening!

Time to show your school spirit.  Please check the column to the right.

We have now opened the official Douglass School Apparel and Souvenir Store.  It is an online store, and the majority of the profits go to your Douglass Alumni Association, the Sons and Daughters of Douglass, headquartered in our Riverview community in Kingsport.

We offer T-shirts, sweat shirts, hoodies, baseball caps, polo, golf shirts and other clothing for men, women, junior girls, boys and girls... to mugs, travel mugs, water bottles.. even stadium seats, blankets and scarves that you can show off at athletic events you attend.  EVEN PAJAMA PANTS.  Yes, pajama pants for women (I think men could wear them, too hehe!).

There is no limit to how much you can order, because each item is made when you order.  All orders are shipped to U.S. post office addresses, and there is a small shipping fee.  Expect your genuine Douglass School merchandise to arrive in 5 to 10 days.

We are working on including many items with our new official name: Sons and Daughters of Douglass.  Those items should be in the School Store by Wednesday, May 18th.   It's the ultimate way to show off your exclusive Douglass School spirit.

Order now, and strut your new items at the Reunion!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Black history programs were great

Thank you for the programs everyone had for Black History Month. My thanks to the gospel fest. I really enjoyed the praise dancers, solos, church choirs and of course the prayers. Also thanks to Xavier Hall, emcee. It was just an evening of laughter and praising the Lord. If you have not seen or heard the comedy of Mr. Hall, you are missing a lot of laughter.

This is the same young man that first brought over 500 people together for an evening of recognizing our people and the things they had accomplished.

Again Kingsport Arts, thank you for an evening’s enjoyment. This program was great.

Lillian Leeper
Church Hill

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Thanks for support

I thank the following for their help and support for New Vision Youth MLK Unity Day supper and candlelight vigil events: KHRA, Edna Potts, Julie Douglass, Alvisia Blye-Vista, Joane Jones, Community Care Mary Beatty president of Riverview Association, Riverview Boys and Girls Club, Friends of Distinction: Martha Harper, Mary Jane Treece, Mary Ann Gullette, John Bradford, Shelia Releford, Tina Releford, Barbara Greene, Pam Swagerty, Tina Glover, Carolyn Goodwin, Marsha Patrick, Kandy Davis, Lisa Williamson, City of Kingsport Parks and Recreation Christy Leonard, James (Moore), Henry, Chasity Smiley, Tish Hayes, Pastor Geraldine Swagerty, Chuck Lollar, Dennis Lytle, New Vision Youth Kids and parents Veronica Camp, Ronald Mitchell, Wendy Himmelwright, WJHL, Kingsport Times-News, Jeannie Hodges, the Rev. Lawrence Myrick, Calvin Sneed, Erica Yoon, Stephanie McClellan, South Central Kingsport Weed-n-Seed, Soto family, Bobby Lane, Hope Six, Youth Build, and the community for coming together making these events a success.

Thanks to all and see you all next year.

Johnnie Mae Swagerty

Thanks, volunteers

Thanks to all the churches, volunteers, businesses, organizations, individuals, schools, youth and everyone for donations and volunteering time to the Kitchen of Hope. Your support and thoughtfulness is very appreciated.

I know all you volunteers have put in countless hours to the Kitchen of Hope, and I appreciate each of you for taking your time to support and help out. And I think all the people who come to the Kitchen of Hope to eat.

If it weren’t for the volunteers who help and the donations that come in, we could not make it. I didn’t want to name everyone because I know I would leave somebody’s name, organization or church out. But a gracious thanks to all volunteers and community donations.

Pastor Geraldine Swagerty

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Black History Month offers lessons for all of us


Black history is a subject too interesting and vast to be confined to a single month, much less the shortest one. But brief as the month is, it does represent a chance to bear witness, if only in a small way, to the progress, richness and diversity of African-American achievement.

It was during the 1920s that Carter Woodson, a premier black historian, first put forward his idea of a Negro History Week. Woodson saw the celebration as a way to advance the idea of African history as a form of black cultural empowerment and emancipation.

In his view, the knowledge and dissemination of African history would, “besides building self-esteem among blacks, help eliminate prejudice among whites.”

He aimed, he wrote, both “to inculcate in the mind of the youth of African blood an appreciation of what their race has thought and felt and done” and to publicize the facts of the black among whites, so that “the Negro may enjoy a larger share of the privileges of democracy as a result of the recognition of his worth.”

In a speech at Hampton Institute in 1921, Woodson addressed the issue head on: “We have a wonderful history behind us,” he told his listeners. “(But) ... if you are unable to demonstrate to the world that you have this record, the world will say to you, ‘You are not worthy to enjoy the blessings of democracy or anything else.’ They will say to you, ‘Who are you, anyway? Your ancestors have never controlled empires or kingdoms and most of your race have contributed little or nothing to science and philosophy and mathematics.’

“So far as you know, they have not; but if you will read the history of Africa, the history of your ancestors’ people of whom you should feel proud, you will realize that they have a history that is worthwhile.

“They have traditions ... of which you can boast and upon which you can base a claim for a right to a share in the blessings of democracy.

“Let us, then, study ... this history ... with the understanding that we are not, after all, an inferior people. We are going back to that beautiful history and it is going to inspire us to greater achievements. It is not going to be long before we can sing the story to the outside world as to convince it of the value of our history ... and we are going to be recognized as men.”

Many decades have passed since Woodson spoke those words. But the pride and the passion in them are as fresh today as they were 90 years ago.

The week-long celebration Woodson first envisioned has become a month-long period for Americans of all races to reflect on the history and teachings of African-Americans whose contributions are still too little known and appreciated.

Along those lines, there is an African proverb that seems especially appropriate for this time of year: “Know your history,” it urges, “and you will always be wise.”

Good advice, that. Indeed the collective history of the African-American community contains invaluable lessons for us all.

Monday, January 17, 2011

It’s up to each of us to bring King’s dream to fruition


Today marks the national observance of the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. In a noonday parade in Kingsport, King’s legacy of nonviolence in the pursuit of justice will be remembered and extolled, as it rightly should.

But if the civil rights leader were alive today, he would surely urge those who seek to honor him and that struggle to make this a day of action, rather than a day of rest and recollection.

That’s not to say there hasn’t been progress, for, of course, there has been. If nothing else, the election of Barack Obama is evidence of that. But there are abundant examples of progress beyond the political and symbolic.

In Dr. King’s time, census statistics revealed that nearly nine of every 10 blacks lived in poverty. Today, more than 40 percent of blacks are solidly middle class. And college attendance rates for blacks are now indistinguishable from whites. Indeed, in many ways, the progress has been so dramatic it tends to obscure the extent of a bigotry that was once a condition of life — and not just in the Jim Crow South.

The world of segregated bathrooms and lunch counters King helped to abolish is as remote in time to the average schoolchild of today as Lincoln’s assassination or the Civil War. It is a world they have seen in pictures, but can never truly know, since they did not live through it. Such is the measure of King’s success in helping to reorder society itself. King’s dream of a world in which people would be defined, “not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” is now a touchstone of modern American life.

Dr. King did more than any other single figure in American history to give that dream dimension and meaning. The Martin Luther King remembered and celebrated today is a figure dramatically invoking that dream of racial harmony at the rally on the mall in Washington, D.C. in 1963.

Virtually forgotten are the later years, after the passage of the Voting Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965, when King started to decry the huge income gaps between rich and poor and began to call for radical changes in the structure of society.

“True compassion,” he said, “is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

All too soon, however, Dr. King’s exhortations would be silenced by an assassin’s bullet in 1968. He was just 39.

From noon until 1 p.m. today, the 11th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Parade will be held in downtown Kingsport.

The event will begin at the intersection of East Sevier and Center Street (Rikki Rhoton Allstate Insurance Co.’s parking lot) and conclude at Shelby Street at the city parking lot between Kingsport City Hall and the Justice Center.

The theme of the parade is summed up in three words: “Remember! Celebrate! Act!” Parade sponsors include Eastman Chemical Company, Food City, Office Depot, Joshua Generation, My Brother’s Keeper, Putting Babies First and the Upper East Tennessee Human Development Agency.

In these local ceremonies as well as many others, we honor the icon that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has become. But hero worship was never King’s interest. Changing society was. His life was all too brief, but the dream he had goes on. More than four decades after his tragic and untimely death, it’s up to each of us to do our part in making that dream a living reality.