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.