Thursday, October 11, 2012

Cowardly racism needs to be defeated

Re. Mr. Releford’s letter, fortunately the KKK has always been a minority and may they become more so.

I’m concerned about the less extreme and unorganized old Southern racism that hides under tea party and mainline Republican ideology to condemn President Obama just because he’s half African black.

In the ’60s, these people would have voted Democratic. Such cowardly racism like that of the KKK needs to be defeated in every public forum, Nov. 6 especially.

America deserves better than bigoted intolerance and coldhearted indifference to the poor and true middle class.

C.P. Kestner

Writing about diversity sparks anonymous letters

Just like Barbara Brown, I too received some anonymous letters filled with hate after I wrote a letter to the editor about diversity in Kingsport. None of the letters were signed, and all the postmarks were not from this area. They were telling me that the KKK was still around, and if I knew what was good for me, to keep quiet.

And on Bill Bovender’s column, I could not believe he was telling the miners that the fault of the coal shutdown was the president’s, when in the next few days the Times-News reported that the owners of the coal mines were telling their own people that they had a stockpile, and needed to work it down.

Most Americans should have studied their local history and government lessons and know that the president cannot pass laws. It’s up to Congress.

So if you want something done, get Mr. Roe to do something instead of faulting our president.

Douglas S. Releford

Monday, August 20, 2012

Election Changes






From Douglass Releford

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Haven't we seen this before?

This "Letter to the Editor" was published on Sunday, August 4, 2012 by the Kingsport Times-News:

Minority using threats to bully majority

Aside from the question of same-sex marriage, it seems to me that a minority group of people are saying "You shall agree with us, or we will take away your livelihood." Isn't that how Adolf Hitler got started?

(Name withheld by Editor

Read this very closely.
Weren't the majority of white Americans, saying the same thing during the 1950's and 60's about the struggle of African-Americans boycotting white businesses in the South, while struggling for equality?

Just sayin'


Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Nashville All-American and aspiring NFL player bring class action suit against popular TV series for intentional exclusion of persons of color

Nashville, TN — Today, Nashville residents Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson, an All-American football player and an aspiring National Football League player, respectively, filed a lawsuit against the popular ABC reality television programs “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” for intentional exclusion of persons of color over the course of 23 seasons. The men, both of whom are African-American, are requesting class action status for the case.

“I only wanted a fair shot at the part. Looking back at how I was treated at the casting call last year, it was clear that that wasn’t possible—I never even had a chance,” Mr. Claybrooks told reporters at a press conference held just one block from Hotel Indigo, where aspiring Bachelors had gathered for a Nashville casting call last year.

“I knew at the time that there had never been a non-white Bachelor before, but I thought that a minority candidate with my qualifications would at least be considered,” added Mr. Johnson. “In reality, it seems they never seriously looked at non-white candidates.”

Never, over 10 years and a combined total of 23 seasons of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” has either show featured a single person of color—whether African American, Latino, Asian, or any other minority race or ethnicity—in the central role of the “Bachelor” or “Bachelorette.” In 16 seasons of “The Bachelor” and seven seasons of “The Bachelorette,” every person featured in the lead role on either show has been white.

The plaintiffs are suing American Broadcast Companies, Inc., Warner Horizon Television, Inc., Next Entertainment, Inc., NZK Productions, Inc., and Michael Fleiss, the executive producer of the franchise, on behalf of all other persons of color who have applied for the role of the Bachelor or Bachelorette but been denied equal opportunity for selection on the basis of race. The case alleges that the Defendants violated both federal and California laws intended to guarantee equal opportunity in business, commerce, and media regardless of one’s skin color.

“With this case we expect to bring about change in one of America’s leading reality TV shows by achieving fair competition and inclusion going forward,“ said co-counsel Cyrus Mehri of the DC-based firm Mehri & Skalet, PLLC. “The Bachelor series is an example of purposeful segregation in the media that perpetuates stereotypes, and robs persons of color of opportunities in the entertainment industry.”

Other lawyers representing the plaintiffs are Nashville-based George Barrett of Barrett Johnston, LLC, and Byron Perkins of Perkins-Law, LLC, based in Birmingham, Alabama.

The plaintiffs are seeking an injunction requiring the Defendants to adopt appropriate policies with regard to choosing a Bachelor or Bachelorette, and requiring Defendants to consider at least one person of color as a finalist for the role each season, in addition to nominal and punitive damages.

In recent years, the absence of Bachelors and Bachelorettes of color on the two shows has been well-documented in the media and is the subject of frequent commentary—including in the Los Angeles Times, the Daily Beast, the Huffington Post and The Grio. Yet, creator Michael Fleiss (one of the named Defendants) has responded to the outcry with callous disregard, telling Entertainment Weekly, “We always want to cast for ethnic diversity. It's just that for whatever reason, they don't come forward. I wish they would.”

Industry insiders further contradict Fleiss’s statements, telling the Los Angeles Times, “producers had little interest in pursuing a more diverse cast, and were unwilling to vary the chemistry of a hugely popular series and wary of a potential controversy stemming from an interracial romance.”

The next season of “The Bachelorette” is scheduled to start on May 14, 2012. Emily Maynard, the Bachelorette selected for the show’s upcoming eighth season, is white.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Trayvon Martin, My Son, and the Black Male Code

AP National Writer

PHILADELPHIA — I thought my son would be much older before I had to tell him about the Black Male Code. He’s only 12, still sleeping with stuffed animals, still afraid of the dark. But after the Trayvon Martin tragedy, I needed to explain to my child that soon people might be afraid of him.

We were in the car on the way to school when a story about Martin came on the radio. “The guy who killed him should get arrested. The dead guy was unarmed!” my son said after hearing that neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman had claimed self-defense in the shooting in Sanford, Fla.

We listened to the rest of the story, describing how Zimmerman had spotted Martin, who was 17, walking home from the store on a rainy night, the hood of his sweatshirt pulled over his head. When it was over, I turned off the radio and told my son about the rules he needs to follow to avoid becoming another Trayvon Martin — a black male who Zimmerman assumed was “suspicious” and “up to no good.”

As I explained it, the Code goes like this:
Always pay close attention to your surroundings, son, especially if you are in an affluent neighborhood where black folks are few. Understand that even though you are not a criminal, some people might assume you are, especially if you are wearing certain clothes.

Never argue with police, but protect your dignity and take pride in humility. When confronted by someone with a badge or a gun, do not flee, fight, or put your hands anywhere other than up.

Please don’t assume, son, that all white people view you as a threat. America is better than that. Suspicion and bitterness can imprison you. But as a black male, you must go above and beyond to show strangers what type of person you really are.

I was far from alone in laying out these instructions. Across the country this week, parents were talking to their children, especially their black sons, about the Code. It’s a talk the black community has passed down for generations, an oral tradition from the days when an errant remark could easily cost black people their job, their freedom, or sometimes their life.

After Trayvon Martin was killed, Al Dotson Jr., a lawyer in Miami and chairman of the 100 Black Men of America organization, told his 14-year-old son that he should be aware of his surroundings, and of the fact that people might view him differently “because he’s blessed to be an African-American.”

“It requires a sixth sense that not everyone needs to have,” Dotson said.

Dotson, 51, remembers receiving his own instructions as a youth, and hearing them evolve over time.

His grandparents told Dotson that when dealing with authority figures, make it clear you are no threat at all — an attitude verging on submissive. Later, Dotson’s parents told him to respond with respect and not be combative.

Today, Dotson tells his children that they should always be respectful, but should not tolerate being disrespected — which would have been recklessly bold in his grandparents’ era.

Yet Dotson still has fears for the safety of his children, “about them understanding who they are and where they are, and how to respond to the environment they are in.”

But what about that long road traveled, which took a black man all the way to the White House? I can hear some of my white friends now: What evidence is there that Trayvon Martin caught George Zimmerman’s attention — and his bullet — because of his race? Lynching is a relic of the past, so why are you teaching your son to be paranoid?

There is a difference between paranoia and protection. Much evidence shows that black males face unique risks: Psychological studies indicate they are often perceived as threatening; here in Philadelphia, police stop-and-frisk tactics overwhelmingly target African-Americans, according to a lawsuit settled by the city; research suggests that people are more likely to believe a poorly seen object is a gun if it’s held by a black person.

Yes, it was way back in 1955 when 14-year-old Emmett Till was murdered in Mississippi for flirting with a white woman. But it was last Wednesday when a white Mississippi teenager pleaded guilty to murder for seeking out a black victim, coming across a man named James C. Anderson, and running him over with his pickup truck.

Faced with this information, I’m doing what any responsible parent would do: Teaching my son how to protect himself.

I am 6-4 and more than 200 pounds, son. You probably will be too. Depending on how we dress, act and speak, people might make bad assumptions about us. That doesn’t mean they must be racist; it means they must be human.

Let me tell you a story, son, about a time when I forgot the Code.

One morning I left our car at the shop for repairs. I was walking home through our suburban neighborhood, wearing a black sweatsuit with the hood pulled over my head.

From two blocks away, I saw your mother pull out of our driveway and roll towards me. When she stopped next to me, her brown face was full of laughter.

“When I saw you from up the street,” your mother told me, “I said to myself, what is that guy doing in our neighborhood?”

NAACP: Zimmerman's Arrest A Turning Point

Calvin, Prosecutor Angela Corey just announced that George Zimmerman will be arrested and charged with murder. Over the past six weeks you joined our tireless call for George Zimmerman's arrest, and now we can take solace in knowing the wheels of justice are moving and the voices of millions of Americans have been heard. Your hard work, petitions, and prayers contributed to this moment. The arrest of George Zimmerman will not heal the hole that Trayvon's murder left in our hearts. It will not bring him back to his family, nor will it bring back the countless other young, black victims of similar crimes. But Zimmerman's arrest can serve as a turning point. As we have seen, the system does not always work perfectly. But we have shown that when we stand together as a nation we can compel it to work. For the NAACP, this case has always been about justice, fairness, and the rule of law. We anticipate and expect a thorough federal investigation of the Sanford Police Department and its role in exacerbating this tragedy. In the weeks since Trayvon's death, we have stood up to say our sons and daughters will not be victims of such senseless crimes, our nieces and nephews will not be taken from us far too soon, and our grandchildren will not be forced to walk the streets wondering, "What if?" At this moment we can declare, "Trayvon is the last one." Elected officials, law enforcement officers, and our nation as a whole must understand that racial profiling and the official neglect of the murders of young men of color will not be tolerated. Together we can make sure the world we leave to all of the Trayvons in our lives is a better and safer place. We must build a movement to push our nation forward. Please take a moment to sign our name wall in memory of Trayvon, and to stand with us in securing justice for our children. In doing so, we each are committing that we will ensure all our children will be treated fairly and protected by those who have sworn they will do just that: Thank you for your support, Ben Benjamin Todd Jealous President & CEO NAACP

Friday, March 2, 2012

Willie Horton made special impact


By Terry Foster, Detroit News

During the late 1960s in Detroit, Willie Horton helped to bridge the black and white communities. (Detroit News file photo)My assignment was to write — in the spirit of Black History Month — about the athlete that had the greatest impact on me growing up.

The choice was easy: Willie Horton.

The former Tigers slugger — currently a member of the team's front office —was a hero for his playing ability and his influence. His legs and arms churned in perfect symphony to produce towering home runs that rattled the wooden, green left-field seats at Tiger Stadium. He embraced his community so deeply that he was willing to sacrifice his safety to quell the race riots in 1967. And he was no stranger to inner-city Detroit during regular visits to barber shops and grocery stores.

It meant a lot seeing Horton in a barber chair in a rundown shop off Dexter. But that chair became a throne as Horton sat with a black and white smock tucked into his dress shirt.

Summer to Remember

All the kids in my neighborhood wanted to be Horton. That's why we hiked our pants up, dug into the batter's box and held our bats high, imitating his stance. He was a hero because he could play. He was a hero because he was from Detroit.

And he was a hero because he was black.

In 1968, during a time of racial divide and mistrust, Horton hit 36 home runs and had 85 RBIs and finished fourth in the American League MVP voting.
There were few black heroes in Major League Baseball then.

There was pitcher Earl Wilson, who won 22 games in 1967. And pinch-hit king Gates Brown. But we saw Horton play every day. And, the most exciting moments in 1968 came when you'd hear: "Due up, Al Kaline, Norm Cash and Willie Horton."

The Tigers won the World Series that season, and it was the first time I'd seen blacks and whites hug one another.

Horton himself was inspired by second baseman Jake Wood to play for the Tigers. Horton's father respected Wood, who was among the first black players for the Tigers.

"When you play (baseball), you don't think about all the other things," Horton said. "But once you get involved in the community you start to understand the history and where I could get involved in the black community in Detroit."

Act of Courage

During the riots, it was terrifying for me to see helicopters hovering over our house. The corner store owned by Mr. Solomon was looted and burned. We heard gunfire every night. It was blacks against whites, and the fabric of our own neighborhoods was ripped apart.

When the riots started, Horton, dressed in his Tigers uniform, ran into a crowd on a humid July evening, trying to settle things down.
Word about Horton's efforts spread through our neighborhood.

"I went down there to calm the place," Horton said. "I realized that people were concerned with Willie Horton's safety.

"That was something. You don't know why you are put in that position."
Horton was in that position because of baseball. Because of his desire to succeed.

"There is no more pressure on today's athletes than there was on us," Lions Hall of Famer cornerback Lem Barney said. "Be humble and act like you've done it before. Perform with sportsmanship and don't act like you're better than anyone else."

That's the definition of a hero.

That's the definition of Willie Horton.
(313) 222-1494

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Photo ID laws enacted to keep minorities, poor from voting

Ms. Kincaid is a community activist from Kingsport.


Voting is one of our most fundamental rights afforded us by the Constitution. Each and every citizen has a duty to guard, protect, and defend this right even if it means our life.

Many of our forefathers, both black and white, gave their lives to protect this right, and it now appears that our elected officials are attempting to take this right from some of our most vulnerable citizens: minorities, elderly, the poor, and others.

Throughout the history of federal voting rights legislation, there has been a constant need to strengthen these laws as corrupt politicians and others have found ways to violate the basic rights of the people.

The 2000 presidential election brought about tremendous outrage over the antiquated technology and the lack of institutional control in our election process. This outrage led to the landmark legislation the Help America Vote Act in 2002. Many states began making sweeping changes to their election laws under the pretext of preventing voter fraud and safeguarding election integrity, only to find these laws were being used to suppress the vote of certain citizens.

In 2011, states including Tennessee passed measures making it harder to vote for some Americans, particularly minorities, the elderly, and the poor. Senate bill 16 sponsored by Sen. Bill Ketron in the Tennessee Senate states that “voters must show one form of identification that bears the name and photograph of the voter.”

I believe the notion that people are voting fraudulently (no evidence in Tennessee) is simply an act to disenfranchise and marginalize voters. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2002 established a Voter Access and Integrity Initiative and made only 26 fraud convictions between 2002-2005.

I believe the purpose of this voter suppressive behavior is designed to support conservative organizations such as the American Legislative Exchange Council and its ideological agenda that attempts to remove potential Democratic voters from the voting process.

Why is voter suppression such a hot button issue with minorities, the elderly and the poor? Could it be that voter suppression was designed as a strategy to influence the outcome of an election by discouraging or preventing people from exercising their right to vote? Perhaps it is because the tactics used can range from minor dirty tricks all the way to blatantly illegal activities that prevent potential voters from casting ballots.

Whatever the reason, voter suppression is wrong.

Why the tirade about voter suppression laws now? Thirty states have enacted photo ID laws, and their opponents believe these laws disproportionately affect minority and elderly voters. Many of these individuals don’t normally maintain driver’s licenses and must obtain photo ID for the express purpose of voting. This can be a real hardship because of the cost and the inconvenience to obtain them.

An example of voter suppression in Tennessee involved a 96-year-old black lady (Dorothy Cooper) who was denied a photo ID because she did not have her marriage certificate. She armed herself with other identification but was denied an ID card because her maiden name was on her birth certificate. Is this protecting Ms. Cooper’s right of a citizen to vote?

It is approximately 13.8 miles from Kingsport to the Department of Safety building in Blountville. How many of the poor can travel this far or take the time, from a minimum wage job, to travel this distance? This photo ID law was never about protecting citizens from fraudulent votes, but about suppressing minority and elderly votes.

How can our current lawmakers make this law go away? The obvious way is to repeal it. However, for now, I propose the state find space in Kingsport and once a week provide these photo IDs. I am confident Kingsport can help develop a mechanism to make this a reality.

I have a valid driver’s license and a voter registration card and transportation in order to exercise my right to vote. Should not all citizens have the right to obtain these documents in order to participate in a fair and representative election?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Gentle Reminder about Website Pictures

A gentle reminder that all of the pictures on your Douglass website are licensed by the website administrator.

Please see the note about that in the left-hand column.

The pictures are for your private use only, and cannot be copied and used in a public setting or on another website, without express permission from the Sons and Daughters of Douglass website administrator.

Permission is grantable, as long as credit is given to the Sons and Daughters of Douglass website.

The reason we do this, is so that our pictures will not be found on questionable websites for unscrupulous purposes. The licensing is as legal as a copyright, and only includes the pictures taken by the website photographer, and historical photos in the possession of the administrator. The Douglass website owns the pictures it takes, and permission to use them in a public setting, has to be given before they are used, with credit given back to where they originated.

The licensing DOES NOT include pictures that come from social media like Facebook.

The licensing of pictures also does not include photos from the Kingsport Times-News, which has its own copyright on its pictures, of which, we have the paper's permission to reprint their pictures and stories.

Violations will be.... well, let's just say, they will be addressed promptly.

Please contack the administrator at if you have any questions.

Monday, February 20, 2012

JaMichael Mills


Bill Lane is a Times-News sports writer.
E-mail him at

Born: Sept. 1, 1974 Where: Morristown Residence: Kingsport High Schools/Colleges: Dobyns-Bennett, Hargrave Military Academy/Providence University, Pensacola Junior College, Sullivan Junior College

THEN: The Mills family’s change of residence in the late 1980s steered the career of a remarkable athlete in a different direction. JaMichael Mills, a quarterback, had showed interest in football until moving to Kingsport.

Suddenly, it was another sport for him.

“Football was big in Jefferson County,” Mills said, “and it was my first love. Once we came to Kingsport, I became interested in basketball.” Mills contributed big to an aggregate 69-1 record in the eighth and ninth grades at John Sevier Middle School. He was already dunking the ball. At Dobyns-Bennett, he got promoted from the B-team to the varsity midway through his freshman year and the rebuilding Indians managed an 18-14 record. The next two seasons were among D-B’s all-time best. The Indians, ranked No. 1 in the Class AAA state poll both times, had records of 33-4 and 35-2.

He transferred to Hargrave Military Academy as a senior and played on a team that finished 35-5.

The 6-foot-3, 170-pound post/wing averaged 15 points and nine rebounds as a sophomore and 19.7 points and 11 rebounds as a junior playing in a platoon system.

“Our defensive pressure was everything,” Mills said. “It generated most of our points.

“Coach (Steve) Shipley had a good system. He could get the effort out of us every night. He kept us all tightly wound and on the same page. He was one of the best X’s and O’s men in the game and had us prepared for everything.”

D-B’s outlook was bright upon Contributed photo arrival at the 1992 state tournament in Murfreesboro. In the first round, the Indians defeated Haywood County by 11 points despite an 18-point first quarter by future NBA player Tony Delk.

The D-B lineup also included Fred Smith and Mike Piazza, who shared time at point guard; Ricky Hale at center, and Ryan Black and Shane Carnes at guards, with Demar Lewis subbing in.

Misfortune struck in the second round against Brainerd. Mills, while attempting to block a shot, was undercut and went crashing to the floor. He suffered a broken left wrist.

"It was all Coach Shipley could do to keep me out of the game,” Mills said. “We’d put it all on the line to get there. I felt that if I couldn’t score, I could still make my presence known by playing defense.

“We were counting on being there maybe even twice more but there was no guarantee. No team is ever the same but we expected to play in Murfreesboro again.”

It did turn out that way. Mills, who could make the transition from post to guard, and his teammates returned to the big show in 1993. Black, Carnes and Smith were joined in the interchangeable lineup by Todd Corum and super sub Corky Blye. Ryan Wagner also got key minutes spelling Smith at the point. With four starters returning, D-B was ranked No. 1 all season. Its five-guard set dominated the opposition. “It was three quarters and out for the starters in most of our games,” Mills said. “We won the Arby’s Classic that season.”

An upset loss to Science Hill in the Region 1 tournament at Rogersville didn’t halt D-B’s march on Murfreesboro. The Indians got back on track with a substate win over Lenoir City, whose star was Travis Cozart. “We got an ugly draw at state and had to face Memphis Fairley in the opening round,” Mills said. “We felt all along we were going to win it. Losing was not an option. We were going to come home as state champions. But Fairley had other ideas. “Sylvester Ford, a 6-7 point guard, was the featured player in a huge lineup. We got behind and had to foul to catch up.
Fairley won 75-60.”

The Tribe might have been able to make it to state again with this team but Mills went to Hargrave at Chatham, Va., and Carnes transferred to Oak Hill Academy. “I never took school seriously,” Mills said. “At Hargrave, I learned how to study and picked up my grades.” Mills and Carnes, after playing for different colleges, were eventually reunited at Sullivan Junior College in Louisville, Ky. At Pensacola Junior College, Mills had a stellar year, averaging 15 points at shooting guard on a team ranked No. 1 in the nation. Mills developed his game playing three summers for the AAU Tennessee Travelers. Two of his teammates were Ron Mercer (Boston Celtics) and Drew Maddux (Vanderbilt), who today is coaching Nashville CPS — the state’s top-ranked Class AA team. “I played against some of the best competition the country had to offer,” Mills said. “Delk, Ford, Allen Iverson, Jerry Stackhouse, Ray Allen and Vincent Rainey were among them.” Mills, a fireballing left-hander, enjoyed baseball but couldn’t find the time to play at D-B because of AAU events.

NOW: Mills has just returned to Kingsport from Atlanta, where he worked in the mortgage business until the housing market went south. He wants his son, 12-year-old JaSun, to grow up here.

Mills’ mother, Janet Russaw, teaches fourth grade at Lincoln Elementary. His late father Tony, who stood 6-6, was the first black student to receive an athletic scholarship at Carson-Newman College. He coached basketball at Morristown West.

JaMichael’s sister also was a star player. Jocelyn “Josh” Mills, who scored 44 points and got 22 rebounds in her first varsity game at Jefferson County, became a 2,000-point scorer in high school after transferring to D-B. The 5-11 Mills was a four-year starter and All-Southeastern Conference performer at the University of Kentucky. Two years ago, she was chosen Kentucky’s Female Player of the Decade. She is a vice principal in Louisville

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Step Afrika! dances into Northeast State

Northeast State Community College will welcome Step Afrika! to campus Feb. 17 for a night of traditional African step dancing.

The free performance begins at 7 p.m. in the Wellmont Regional Center for the Performing Arts on the college’s main campus, 2425 Highway 75, adjacent to Tri-Cities Regional Airport in Blountville.

Step Afrika! is the only professional dance company in the world dedicated to the tradition of stepping. The company is critically acclaimed for its efforts to promote an understanding of and appreciation for stepping and the tradition’s use as an educational tool worldwide.

Founded in 1994 by current Executive Director C. Brian Williams, Step Afrika! began as a cross-cultural exchange program with the Soweto Dance Theatre of Johannesburg, South Africa. As a young graduate of Howard University in 1991, Williams traveled to southern Africa through the late Rev. Leon Sullivan’s International Foundation for Education and SelfHelp.

While in Africa, Williams came across the South African gumboot dance — an art form created by mineworkers which greatly resembled the stepping he had learned at Howard University. He later met three members of the Soweto Dance Theatre. Together, they created the Step Afrika! International Cultural Festival, the first known attempt to link the people who practice stepping in America with Gumboot dance performers in Africa.

The first festival was held in 1994, just six months after the election of Nelson Mandela as president of a free and Democratic Republic of South Africa. Two years later they launched Step Afrika!’s first program in the United States.

Stepping is a unique dance tradition created by African-American college students. In stepping, the body is used as an instrument to create intricate rhythms and sounds through a combination of footsteps, claps and spoken word. The tradition grew out of the song and dance rituals practiced by historically African-American fraternities and sororities in the early 1900s.

Stepping comes from a long and rich tradition in African-based communities using movement, words and sounds to communicate allegiance to a group.

Step Afrika! reaches tens of thousands of Americans each year and has performed on prestigious stages in North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. January of 2000 saw the first production of Step Afrika! at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, as a part of the Imagination Celebration Series. Step Afrika! conducts an annual 50-city tour of American colleges and universities from Maine to Mississippi.

The production is part of Northeast State’s commemoration of Black History Month throughout February.

For more information, call (423) 279-7669 or email

Friday, February 10, 2012

Black Students Score Above the National Average in More than 3,000 Schools

(Chicago, IL, March 1 2012) - African American students are driving positive academic change in some public schools nationwide, says Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu, national education consultant and author of the newly released There Is Nothing Wrong With Black Students. In fact, Black students in more than 3,000 schools are performing well above the national average.

There are eight million African American students nationwide: 7.5 million attend public schools, 400,000 attend private schools, and 100,000 are homeschooled. Of the 7.5 million public school students, 90 percent (6.75 million) attend regular schools, and ten percent attend accelerated magnet schools. Kunjufu spotlights the great strides being made in some regular public schools because he says, "This marginalized population has been the most neglected. I want all children to succeed, but I focus on the 6.75 million African American children in regular public schools because they lack both choice and a voice."

Kunjufu, who logs several days a week working with schools in some of the most underserved communities nationwide, says educators at the forefront of change are modeling innovative approaches, including:

Culturally relevant curriculum design and Africentric charter schools
Single gender classrooms and schools
Improved teacher quality
Pedagogy adapted to the learning styles of students
Strong academic leadership from principals
Block scheduling and attention to time on task.

Illustrating the goal of academic parity, Kunjufu says there is virtually no racial gap between Black and White homeschooled students. In grades K-12, both groups scored, on average, in the 87th percentile in reading. In math, Whites scored in the 82nd percentile while Blacks scored in the 77th percentile.

Two of the great turnaround stories in African American male education have occurred in single gender schools. Kunjufu says Eagles Academy (New York) and Urban Prep (Chicago) are outstanding schools that bring out the full potential of this population. Eagles students consistently outperform their peers in state-wide exams. Urban Prep has the distinction of all of their graduates being accepted into four-year colleges.

African American charter schools, notable for their use of Africentric curricula, have produced a 1.5 percent or greater annual increase in academic achievement. An 80 percent or higher graduation rate is the norm at these schools.

"When they have the same access to a quality education as their peers in private schools, home schools, and wealthy public schools, Black students are well able to overcome any challenge," says Kunjufu.

There Is Nothing Wrong offers educational models of excellence, resources, best practices, and hope for educators who are dedicated to improving academic outcomes for Black students.

For additional information, contact 1-800-552-1991, Fax# (708) 672-0466. P.O. Box 1799, Chicago Heights, IL 60412. Website:, Email:

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Board Meeting Notification

Greetings alumni board members,

I hope this note finds all of you doing well. I have called a meeting for February 25, 2012 at the V.O. Dobbins center, Eastman Room. The usual time will be for 1:00 p.m. I hope everyone can make it because your input is important to this organization and greatly appreciated. Let's do a covered dish to start the new year. Mark your calendars.

I am looking forward to seeing you all there.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Thanks, Rev. Collins

I thank the Rev. Ron Collins and his organization for the great work on the MLK march. It’s always a success. I enjoy marching in it. I like the way he let everyone march no matter their color or religion. We marched to the police station for a fellowship talk, and Mr. Nathan Vaughn did a nice speech. The Rev. Collins is truly a man of equality and love. I do appreciate him and what he does in Kingsport. And many blessings to Ms. Johnnie Mae Swaggerty and the New Vision Youth. She is a shining star to the youth and the seniors and the community. I've watched over nine years the events she does in the community. I don't know how she does it. I've asked around and people say she's in their organizations in Kingsport and keeps going and doing good works. I've never seen a youth group stay together that long and how Ms. Swagerty takes time out with other people and support them. I hope the community and Kingsport gives her thanks and hugs. My name is Doretha Everhart of Elizabethton, Tenn. I just had to write. Keep up the good work.

Doretha Everhart

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Medical tests do reveal problems


In response to the article: “Too many Tests?

Routine medical exams get second look.I read this article twice and I am border line on this. Yes, everyone should question medical test being done if you are not “At Risk”. But there are times good Doctors are really concern and want to know what is going on with their patient.

My child was an active child played City Recreation basketball since 5 years old, Jr. and High School basket ball and softball, also was in Pizzazi Ladies and Impact Choir at DB. The fall of 2000 first semester of school, a healthy (Not At Risk) athletic 18 year old VI college student comes into her doctor’s office and says she has blacked out twice, the coach and trainer will not let her come back to practice until they figure out why.

She was not an at risk patient, only health history she had was asthma and severe allergies. With every test she ran came back normal. She referred her to the Heart Center and they ran test and it came back normal.

Both Dr. Susanne Toyne and Dr. Brian Armstrong were not satisfied.

With persistence they continued to find out what was going on. He ordered an Electrophysiology Study and a Right Heart Catheterization on my child. Finally they found she had an anomalous left main coronary artery coming off the right coronary cusp. I was told this was a birth defect! She was also told she would not be able to play sports any more. She was sent to Duke for surgery and they repaired her problem and to this date you cannot tell she had any problems at all except for the scar as a reminder.

I praise those doctors for saving my child's life. She had to redshirt her first year in college from playing both softball and basketball. But her second year she was back on the court and field. There have been a couple college and professional basketball and football players that had the same problem. For them it was too late and they did not discover their problem until an autopsy was done.

Athletic School physicals also don’t catch everything. So to the people in Washington, please be very careful in your decision when you go to vote and make these types of decisions. Weigh all the options, encourage people to ask and question doctors on test being ordered. There are some good doctors out there.

That article really concerns me and I hope that it concerns others as well.

Charlene Hodge, Kingsport

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Belated Party: Happy Birthday, Jai-Jai!

"She touched a lot of people.. she loved being around people."

"Her spirit lives in the people whose lives she was in."

On a cool January day in 2012, Jaleisa Dulaney's friends and family got together to celebrate her 8th birthday. Wishing her "happy birthday" was a ritual every year, because the feisty Jackson School second grader loved parties and getting together with people in the Riverview community.

But this year was different.

This time, "Jai-Jai" as she was known, would not hear the "happy birthday" wishes from her friends.. she would not beam at the presents she received.. she would not taste the birthday cake with her name on it.

Jaleisa would not be here for her 8th birthday.

She celebrated this particular birthday with Jesus.

"Jai-Jai" was tragically taken from her friends and family, in a rollover automobile accident on I-26 on July 14, 2011 near the Meadowview complex south of Kingsport.

Because she was so active as a member of the New Vision Youth Kids, her passing sent waves of shock and grief through the Riverview Community.

"I can talk about it now," says her grandmother Mary Beatty. "I can talk about it now because I know where she is.. she's with the Lord. At times when I think about it, I feel sad, but because she had the ability to make you smile, I try to think about that more. Even when she did something bad and I was angry with her, I would think about something she did earlier and that would make me laugh. How could you scold her when you were laughing? She even had this funny way of laughing, that would make you laugh right along with her."

"Soon, I would forget what I was angry about."

Mary was one of many Riverview residents, who attended a special birthday party held in Jaleisa's honor at the Riverview Community Room of K.H.R.A. at the V.O. Dobbins, Sr. Complex on Saturday, January 21, 2012.

Click here to see a slide show of Jaleisa's 8th birthday party celebration. Thanks to Donna Morrisette for providing pictures of the party.

"It was hard singing 'happy birthday' and her not being there," Mary says, "but it was O.K. because I knew everybody there knew who she was and loved her."

"Everybody has their own memory of 'Jai-Jai.'"

One person considered a special friend was Michael Bell. Michael and Jaleisa were inseparable as friends in New Vision, and no where was that proven more, than at the New Vision proms that Johnnie Mae Swagerty holds every year for the children. Music, food, games, and other activities kept the kids busy.

And then, there was the dancing. For the past 3 years, Jaleisa's date has been Michael.. twirling, swinging, dipping.. they did it all.

We're told, he was devastated by her passing.

"She was the only one he ever wanted to take to the prom," remembers Mary. "He told his mama that he didn't know if he wanted to go to any more proms, because he and his brother miss her very much. They all used to play games together and it's been hard on him. She loved to dance with him, there's no secret about that, and she also loved 'Dancing with the Stars.' In fact, she always wanted to ballroom dance, and one year, I was going to sign her up for ballroom dancing. I actually went to sign her up for it, but I couldn't find the shoes that she needed, so we didn't get to sign up. We still planned to go for it, though."

At her birthday party, friends and family also lit candles in her honor.

"We had four candles," says New Vision Youth director Johnnie Mae Swagerty. "A birthday candle for Jaleisa, and a family candle for her loved ones. Then, we had a candle for her cousin Jalissa Ferguson (who died at the hands of a drug dealer and his stray bullet in the Riverview Apartments in 1995), and a fourth candle for the community."

Swagerty says the candlelight vigil was a moving service.

"No one spoke much during the lighting of the candles," she says, "because words just would not come. The service was very uplifting and afterwards at the party inside the Community Room, Reverend (Ricardo) Dorcean (of the Central Baptist Church) led a prayer, and everyone got to share stories, talking about the good times when she was here. In addition to the birthday cake, we had turkey and dressing, green beans, broccoli casserole, macaroni and cheese, and the local Bojangles Restaurants donated chicken and biscuits. The food was good and everybody had a good time remembering her."

The event ended with the releasing of big, purple balloons into the night air, emblazoned with the words "happy birthday," floating into the sky towards the heavens.

"It was a healing time for the community," Swagerty noted. "For the young people there, her friends, they were kinda happy about the event because it was her birthday and they knoew that if she would have been here, she would have enjoyed it. It took a load off the community's mind about the tragedy of how she left us. A lot of prayers went up and a whole lot of hugs went around that night."

"We'll never forget her, but for that night, closure came a little easier."

That thought is not lost on Grandma.

"I pray for strength every single day," Mary says. "It hits me that she's not here especially in the mornings.. that's when I would take her to the Boys & Girls Club. Then, in the late afternoons whenever I would come home from work, my TV would be on all the time. I knew she was O.K. because the TV would be home. Now when I come home, the TV is not on. It's hard because I look around for her.. I wait to hear her voice, but the air is still. I just ask God for strength, and he comes through with it every time."

"There's just so much about her that you cannot forget," says Mary. "Her smile, her trying to rap.. she enjoyed rapping.. her love of dancing, her curiosity.. she loved to ask questions. She always wanted to know about everything. When she found out what happened to her cousin Jalissa Ferguson, she had so many questions about her.. what happened, how did she get there.. would she ever get to see her? Jai-Jai was curious about everything and she asked about her cousin Jalissa even the week she passed away."

"She doesn't have to ask that question now. She finally got to see her, and Jesus Himself introduced them."

"Happy birthday, Jai-Jai. The two girls are finally together."

Friday, January 20, 2012


To an almost old person,

I never really liked the terminology "Old Person" but this makes me feel better about it.

And if you ain't one, I bet ya you know one!

I got this from an "Old Personal friend of mine"!


I'm passing this on as I did not want to be the only old person receiving it. Actually, it's not a bad thing to be called, as you will see.

•Old People are easy to spot at sporting events; during the playing of the National Anthem. Old People remove their caps and stand at attention and sing without embarrassment. They know the words and believe in them.

•Old People remember World War II, Pearl Harbor , Guadalcanal , Normandy and Hitler. They remember the Atomic Age, the Korean War, The Cold War, the Jet Age and the Moon Landing. They remember the 50 plus Peacekeeping Missions from 1945 to 2005, not to mention Vietnam.

•If you bump into an Old People on the sidewalk he will apologize. If you pass an Old Person on the street, he will nod or tip his cap to a lady. Old People trust strangers and are courtly to women.

•Old People hold the door for the next person and always, when walking, make certain the lady is on the inside for protection.

•Old People get embarrassed if someone curses in front of women and children and they don't like any filth or dirty language on TV or in movies.

•Old People have moral courage and personal integrity. They seldom brag unless it's about their children or grandchildren.

•It's the Old People who know our great country is protected, not by politicians, but by the young men and women in the military serving their country.

This country needs Old People with their work ethic, sense of responsibility, pride in their country and decent values.

We need them now more than ever.

Thank God for Old People.

Pass this on to all of the "Old People" you know.
I was taught to respect my elders. It's just getting harder to find them.

Submitted by Frank Horton

Monday, January 16, 2012

Events in Kingsport pay homage to King’s legacy

An Editorial from the Kingsport Times-News

Today marks the national observance of the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. In a noonday parade in Kingsport, a community luncheon and a candlelight vigil, King’s legacy of nonviolence in the pursuit of justice will be remembered and extolled, as it 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 Jr. 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 12th 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, H.O.P.E., and the Upper East Tennessee Human Development Agency.

A community luncheon will be held at 1:30 p.m. in the Riverview Community Room at 301 Louis St. It is sponsored by the New Vision Youth and the Kingsport Parks & Recreation Division of Community Service, in partnership with Friends of Distinction and Riverview Residents Association. In addition to the meal itself, there will be door prizes and gospel singing by Full Gospel Mission Church Gospel Choir.

This evening, beginning at 6 p.m., there will be a candlelight vigil honoring Dr. King in the parking lot of the V. O. Dobbins Sr. Complex, 301 Louis St. The theme is “Let’s Walk in Unity & Love Each Other.”

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.