Sunday, January 10, 2016

On His Day: Events in Upper East Tennessee Commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday, January 18, 2016

Please attend the only area parade for Dr. King that is held on his day, Monday, January 18, 2016... this in Kingsport:

Click on the poster to make it larger

Also in Kingsport on MLK Day, the New Vision Youth MLK Day Luncheon, 1 PM at the Riverview Community Room, Wheatley Street, Kingsport.  Menu:  homemade spaghetti, bread, salad and drinks (drinks provided by the Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni Association, Inc.)

6 PM, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Candlelight Vigil, sponsored by New Vision Youth.  The Gazebo, Glen Bruce Park, Kingsport between the Public Library and the Church Circle.  Please bring a candle to honor Dr. King's memory.


In Johnson City at the Carver Rec Center, these events are happening on MLK Day, Monday, January 18, 2016:

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Story Time:  9 AM to 1 PM, open to all ages.  Youth will enjoy stories, arts and crafts, and music.  Lunch will be provided.  This program is provided in partnership with East Tennessee State University's Office of Multi-Cultural Affairs.

Blood Drive, 1 PM to 5 PM, ages 18 and older.  Giving blood is a great act of service and one way that citizens can honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Dinner, 6 PM, open to all ages.  Join the Carver Staff in celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


In Abingdon, VA, the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Parade will be held on Saturday, January 16, 2016.  The march begins at the Charles Wesley United Methodist Church and continues on to the Abingdon United Methodist Church, where there will be a program and reception.  The march begins at 1:30 and the program begins at 2 PM.  This year's theme is "Celebration Amidst Frustration -- Where Are Race Relations Today?"  Let us join together and be part of the solution!  For more information, please call 276-476-3191.


In Morristown, TN, the 2016 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Breakfast and Celebration will be held on Monday, January 18, 2016 at the Family Activities Center at the First Presbyterian Church, 600 West Main Street, Morristown, TN 37814, 423-586-4281.  The doors open at 7 AM, the breakfast begins at 7:30 AM.  The program that includes community awards, breakfast and the MLK essay contest winner begins at 7:30 AM.  The program features guest speaker Navy Reserve Force Master Chief  C. J. Mitchell, PhD.


If you know of other services, programs and commemorations for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, please let me know!

Calvin Sneed

Monday, November 30, 2015

Love of music carries JC native around the world

This story courtesy the Kingsport Times-News


NET News Service

   As a multi-instrumentalist, Johnson City native Andrew Brady is a man of many talents that have taken him across the country and the world.

But it was his love of playing the bassoon that carried him to the firstchair seat of one of the most prestigious symphony orchestras in the country.

Brady picked up his first instrument, a saxophone, for his middle school band class at Indian Trail Middle school. Throughout the years, Brady would try all sorts of instruments ranging from the flute to the tuba, but it was the bassoon that really caught his eye — and ears.
“I thought it looked cool, because I was at this band clinic in Kingsport,” he said, laughing. “I ended up loving (the bassoon).”

And his preference for the bassoon worked in favor with his career goals. Wanting a career in orchestra, Brady knew the saxophone wouldn’t carry him far, since few orchestral pieces have saxophone parts. After graduating from Science Hill in 2009, he moved across the country to study bassoon performance at Colburn in California.

His travels didn’t stop there, though. Immediately after graduating, he took a job playing for the Louisiana Philharmonic in New Orleans. He’s been to Europe three times in the past two years and played at the Carnegie three times in the past year alone.

“As musicians, you never really get to choose where you’re going to live, so you have to go where the jobs are,” he said. “Of course I’m always grateful to come home, but I love to travel.”

When the job in Atlanta opened, Brady applied and went through a long process of auditions and trials before he was officially selected for the spot a few weeks ago and plans to make the move from New Orleans over the next few months. 
Brady said he is happy with his new placement, and said he thinks that the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra will be a good place for him to grow as a musician for the next few years.

Not to mention, this new job will shave his drive time back to Johnson City by about six hours.

“I'm extremely happy that Atlanta worked out so I could see my family,” he said.

For his future, Brady said that he sees himself continuing his orchestral career over the next few years, spending more hours working offstage than onstage. In addition to several hours of practice a day, Brady said a lot of his time is spent making reeds for his bassoon.

“It’s not just going to rehearsal,” Brady said. “You have to be so prepared and maintain that high quality. It’s more hours of work than when people come in for an hour-and-a-half concert.”

But he wouldn’t have it any other way. Looking back, Brady remembers playing at Carnegie Hall with the Science Hill band. After playing on the same stage as a professional, he sees how far he’s come as a musician.

“It's been a surreal experience,” he said, adding, “It’s not really something I expected to happen.”

Monday, June 1, 2015

Information About the Great Golden Gathering - 2015

Word is getting around about the big reunion between all the former African-American high schools later this summer.

People are getting excited about commemorating the 50th anniversary of the closing of the schools, with an historic event called the "Great Golden Gathering - 2015," that remembers the good times and the wonderful educations we and our ancestors received, from the best schools in the region.

The Organizational Committee made up of representatives from the various alumni groups has been been meeting since March 7th, discussing ways to make the Great Golden Gathering a memorable one for both the schools' alumni, their descendants, and their respective communities.  Although there are some organizations that have not been directly involved, nonetheless they are still included because, by default, they are one of the African-American schools.  Pray, the Organizational Committee does not want to leave any alumni associations out, and any schools not contacted yet, are encouraged to please join the Committee.  All opinions and suggestions are welcome.  There are no bad ideas...  all are suggestions to help make the Big Reunion a big success.


Most of the beloved schools closed for integration in 1965 (Swift in 1963, and Douglass-Kingsport 1966), and their combined alumni associations are planning a huge and historic reunion, to reconnect former students who interacted athletically, academically and socially when those schools were the backbone of our communities.  These were African-American schools with fine teachers, who instructed us with loving care.  These schools were the solid rocks of our communities, and by the grace of God, all or most are still standing today.  Many are used as offices, some are community centers much like their roles of yesteryear, some are apartments, but some are empty shells.  Sadly, a few are in fear of the wrecking ball. 


The historic "Great Golden Gathering - 2015" will be Friday August 28, Saturday August 29, and Sunday August 30, 2015.  The location will be the Holiday Inn-Bristol Convention Center, 3005 Linden Drive, Bristol, VA 24202.  The phone number is (276) 466-4100.  We have a special discounted room rate for folks who are spending the night (s).. just mention that you're attending the "Great Golden Gathering - 2015" and you'll get the special room rate.

Plans are for a meet-and-greet session for all the alumni on Friday the 28th.... a picnic with school displays of memorabilia on Saturday afternoon the 29th.... a huge banquet event with speakers on Saturday night the 29th.... and a special church service on Sunday the 30th.  Events on any given day are subject to change and modification. 


The cost to attend is $100 dollars per person, with a $25 dollar non-refundable deposit due by June 15th (this helps us secure the venue, food accomodations, entertainment, etc.), but if you want to pay the whole amount, that would be wonderful and helpful.  The $25 dollar deposit will be deducted from the $100 dollars, leaving only a balance of $75 dollars per person.  Please make your check out to "Great Golden Gathering 2015" and mail it to Great Golden Gathering - 2015, 810 North Hill Drive, Johnson City, TN 37604.  Your name (s) will be placed on the master list, to be checked off on the day of registration.


Our committees are working on the programs for this historic one-of-a-kind event, including souvenir programs and historic commemorative tee-shirts that can be purchased, along with grab-bags full of free items.  We are also looking for corporate sponsorships to handle certain aspects of the event.  The banquet will feature speakers and historic addresses, fitting tributes to the legacies of the finest schools in the region. 


The 50th anniversary of any event is special.  These were African-American schools with fine teachers, who instructed us with care and prepared us for the unknown.. a world struggling to accept us as the intelligent people we are.  Our most important Big Reunion goal is to pass this part of our histories to our young people, to pick up the charge and carry the banners of our schools into the next generation.  Our alumni numbers at all of our our beloved schools is dwindling fast, and we don't have a moment to lose.  The Great Golden Gathering - 2015 may be the last and only time that all of us can be together to celebrate the one thing that binds us all.. our friendships and our common school bonds.


For more information, contact the Organizational Committee at or call (423) 847-5139.

Please put the historic Great Golden Gathering event on your late August calendar.  We may not have another chance at history.

                                               SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA

Bland High School, Big Stone Gap, VA
Douglass High School, Bristol, VA
Slater High School, Bristol, TN
Douglas High School, Elizabethton, TN
Douglass High School, Kingsport, TN
Langston High School, Johnson City, TN
Swift College High School, Rogersville, TN
Arty-Lee High School, Dante, VA
George Clem High School, Greeneville, TN
Morristown College West High School, Morristown, TN
Tanner High School, Newport, TN
Nelson-Merry High School, Jefferson City, TN
Austin High School, Knoxville, Tn
....And all of the associated African-American Elementary Schools in the area, who graduated  students to attend these distinguished High Schools....

Monday, May 4, 2015

Big Reunion and Homecoming: "The Golden Gathering 2015"

Plans are underway for all alumni of the former African-American schools in upper East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, to have one huge Reunion, called "The Golden Gathering 2015."  

The reunion commemorates the 50th golden anniversary of the closing of our black schools in 1965. We hope to honor the traditions we practiced, the educations we shared, the athletic/academic competitions we loved, and the social lives that bonded us together over the years.

The date of the Golden Gathering 2015 event is Saturday, August 29, 2015, place and the program to be announced. All programs on that day will revolve around a huge banquet on the night of August 29th.

Alumni and descendants of the following schools are invited:

Bland High School, Big Stone Gap, VA
Douglass High School, Bristol, VA
Slater High School, Bristol, Tennessee
Langston High School, Johnson City, TN
Douglas High School, Elizabethton, TN
Booker T. Washington Elementary School, Jonesborough, TN
Douglass High School, Kingsport, TN
George Clem High School, Greeneville, TN
Swift High School, Rogersville, TN
Tanner High School, Newport, TN
Morristown West High School, Morristown, TN
Nelson-Merry High School, Jefferson City, TN
Austin High School, Knoxville, TN All elementary schools who sent children to the above schools

The organizational committee for the Golden Gathering 2015 has been meeting since March, to plan the individual programs for the event. Below are minutes from the meeting of April 11, 2015:

Big Reunion Progress Meeting:
Carver Recreation Center, Johnson City, TN
April 11, 2015
Persons Present: Calvin Sneed; Carolyn Trammell-Cox; Georgia Gillespie; Sandra (Dawson) Nuttall; Nancy Rhea Robinson; William (Bill) Coleman, Jr.; Barbara Love Watterson; Henry Wisdom; Carla Forney; Michael L. Young; Brenda A. Charles; Nancy G. Howard; Norman Howard; Roland Dykes, III; Elva L. Morrison; Sue Gilispie;  Renea G. Hall; Lawrence R. Bell, Jr.; Shirley Gammon Bell.
Meeting opened at 11:15 AM, April 11, 2015, with prayer by Carolyn Cox.
Calvin Sneed advised that last meeting (March 7, 2015) notes have been posted on the Website.  He has called J.C. Press to speak with Johnny Malloy about tracking progress/history of schools and upcoming 2015 combined reunion.
Robert Dykes III (Tanner High) spoke of efforts to reclaim/restore Tanner HS, which was damaged during a past tornado.
Calvin related that Langston, Clem, & Tanner are all attempting to reclaim their buildings. City leaders are not concerned, so we must keep these visions in the forefront.  He gave info as to how Kingsport was able to get Douglass Community Center.  Douglass was a Rosenwald school, as was Tanner and the Langston Gymnasium.  These buildings represent histories of the Black community.  This Big Reunion is about rekindling our histories, preserving them, and passing them on to our descendents.

Discussion pursued regarding the mission for Committees:
Members should take information from meeting(s) and disseminate amongst our Alumni Associations.
Event:  Saturday, August 29, 2015 = Banquet.. What would be a good venue?  What should we set as the Cost ($)?.
We need to form a Site Committee...
Nancy Howard suggested that each School Reunion Group provide a list or numbers of attendees at their last Reunion... some sort of poll for each of our groups to determine about how many persons "might" attend.  Norman Howard stated that we need to work through our standing community structures, i.e.; the Black Churches.
Calvin urged that we need to set up Committees today: Marketing/Public Affairs; Location/Site, Finance; Entertainment; etc...
Volunteers (?) were appointed for the Location/Site Committee: Doug Releford (Kgpt), Henry Wisdom (Bristol/Slater), and Mary Alexander (Langston).  Site recommendations are needed within the next two weeks (by May 2nd.).
Norman Howard related that we need to think about this being a Family event - to plan for bringing kids, and entire families.
Nancy Howard noted that we need to focus on celebrating those who attended one of the Black institutions, Maybe other activities could be incorporated to others from the larger community.
Henry Wisdom stated he had already called Mary Alexander... they will meet within this week to work on the location/site... He also agreed that we need to use the Black churches to help promote the event.
Carla Forney suggested that perhaps we can work through the Ministers Alliance.
Nancy Howard added that we do need to focus on Our stories as a region, but perhaps we could plan a series of events for each city to bring the individual impact on those specific cities.
Calvin stated we had originally thought about one day, but it seems like we need to think about two days (Sat/Sun)... maybe a picnic and a Banquet on Saturday, then a large Church event (?) on Sunday...?
Nancy responded that she agrees with a Saturday gathering to celebrate the 50th year, but each city/school should focus on their own activities in their individual cities and communities.
Calvin related that the original idea was to celebrate what we all had experienced together from the entire region.
Barbara Watterson thinks we would have better success in bringing all the schools together.
Calvin asked; let's get our Entertainment Committee together:  He appointed Carla Forney, Barbara Watterson, Brenda Charles, Vivian Releford, and Stella Gudger as members of this committee.
Norman Howard stated that our history has been an oral history.  Perhaps we could get media to document historical storytelling, interviews, etc...
Calvin related that we could go to the JC Press and WJHL to see if they will support the effort.  We could also consider asking this business to sponsor a part of the Reunion.
Calvin stated that he would work with Norman Howard on the Marketing Committee.
Nancy Howard thought that we should develop a script or memo to ensure that we are all speaking from the same sheet.  Calvin agreed, We need to have a script in place by the end of April, to send out to Churches...
Carolyn T. Cox stated that each Reunion Group needs to (soon) get a head count of potential attendees to forward to the Location/Site Committee.  Calvin replied that we intend to ask Churches, Alumni Groups, etc., to develop potential attendees.  We will need to have a firm number by the 1st of July.
Carla Forney asked if there are officers for this group (Big Reunion)?.
Calvin Sneed was nominated as Chair.
Finance/Treasury Committee: B. Watterson, N. Robinson, Carolyn Cox
Sue Greenlee asked how are we going to get the word out and will it be via a letter, flyers, etc.?
Mike Young suggested that perhaps we can send out an Introductory Letter to announce the event... advise the planned event., then follow up with a Detailed Letter.  Calvin agreed - he will do that - he'll send out the Intro Letter to the Ministerial Alliance, etc...
Next Meeting date: Saturday May 2, 2015, at 11:00.  All Committee Reports are due on this date.
Closing prayer was offered by Henry Wisdom.


Friday, April 17, 2015

"They're Just Like Us" - Ministers Fashion Show

It was a fashion show, more unique in the terms of the models themselves and not so much their what they were wearing.

Local ministers were the featured attractions at the first annual Ministers Fashion Show in Johnson City.

The idea of a fashion show focusing on local preachers, grew from an idea at the St. Paul A.M.E. Zion Church in Johnson City, where Barbara Watterson is a member.

"We were meeting at the church one day in the Missionary Society," she says, "trying to figure out 'what kind of program could we do that we haven't done before?'  I thank God that the idea just popped into my head 'well, why don't we do a fashion show with the ministers.. maybe let them model their finest clothes?'  The other church members looked me like I was crazy.  I reminded them that we were looking for something that had never been done before."

Watterson says, a few minutes went by, "and then something must have clicked.  Somebody said 'well, let's try it, let's go for it."

"I guess the rest is fashion history."

Although scheduling and frequent problems with the weather abounded, the idea of showcasing ministers in a setting other than the church pulpit, was something that made the fashion show concept an intriguing one.

"We see them when we need prayer, we see them when they're preaching the Gospel," Watterson says, "we see them comforting the families at funerals, and joining couples in holy matrimony.  But we never see them as people, as human beings.  Don't forget.. that was the beauty of Jesus.  He was the Son of God, sent down from Heaven to walk among us, to live among us, to be One with us.  He rejoiced with us, He cried with us, He suffered with us.  He did that while he was ONE of us."

"Our ministers are people, too," she continued.  "They want to get out and be amongst the people and be involved in things in the community, but we don't ever think to ask them.  We don't ever want to bother them with things in the community because we don't think they would be interested, but they just might be.  They have lives, too.  I think it's beautiful when we can showcase our ministers in a positive light away from the church."

The fashion show was just the ticket for that.

Participating were the Reverend Irving H. Greene, pastor of the Robinson Memorial AME Zion Church in Bluff City...... the Reverend George Kukubor, pastor of the White Memorial AME Zion Church in Middlesboro, Kentucky.... Bishop Dr. Amos W. Gbaq, Sr., of the International Christian Fellowship of Johnson City..... Pastor James Reddick of the Hood Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church and Presiding Elder of the Johnson City District.... and the Reverend Dr. James A. Snapp, pastor of the Jones Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church in Greeneville.

Reverend Greene was first on the runway.   His first ensemble consisted of a pure wool black business suit by Oleg Cassini, surrounding a gray dress shirt by John W. Norstram.  The tie was a 100% silk handmade tie, with a polka-dot pocket piece.  His black dress shoes were made by Stacy Adams, and he was supported by a brass duckbill cane.  Reverend Greene topped it all off with a short bring black felt hat, from Knox of 5th Avenue.

To the delight of the audience, he proclaimed that he "is about His Father's Business."

Next on the runway, Reverend Kukubor is a native of Ghana.  His dress outfit is a Soldier of Ashanti Golden Stool, him being a Holy Man of the Golden Stool.

Ghana is one of Africa's most developed countries, with a predominately Christian religious background, with Muslim also practiced.

The audience was mesmerized by the strikingly beautiful suit modeled by the Middlesboro minister.

Next up, Bishop Gbaq claims the African nations of Liberia and Ghana in his history, as well as Johnson City, Tennessee.

The audience was astounded and excited to learn that the Bishop "made everything that he wore in the fashion show."

Pastor Reddick's ensemble consisted of a single-breasted suit with brown stripes.  It was complimented with matching tie and matching shoes.

The suit is by Alan Lebow, tailored for Blakely Mitchell.

The special shoes are from Allen Edmons by Winhall.

Pastor Reddick considers himself "fit to be a part of the crowd."

Finally, the Reverend Dr. Snapp made his way down the runway.  He wore a black and grey long coat suit, made by Giorgio Capella.

His hat was fashioned by Lite Felt, and the custom shoes were made by Nunn Bush.

Reverend Snapp took time to thank the audience for coming out and more so, for allowing all of the preachers to be themselves.  That was representative of all the members of the clergy in the fashion show.

An extra added treat for the event, was the "presentations" by "T.D. Jakes" portrayed by Eric Black...  "Creflo Dollar" played by Anthony Hill, and "Fred Price" was Angelo Newman.  All of the "presentations" were about money, and all of them created laughter and "amen's" from the audience.

"We didn't want ministers playing ministers," says Watterson.  "These are just lay people, hard workers in their churches.  We wanted to have a little levity that folks could identify with, during the break while the ministers changed into their other fashions."

The ministers in their second set of clothes were also hits with the group as well.  Afterwards, a wonderful meal awaited the audience members in a spirit of fellowship remeniscent of many church gatherings.

All in all, a wonderful, different kind of gathering that Watterson wants to do again, given how well received this first event was.  She wants to involve the women leaders in the churches for the next one.

"Our ministers looked so good in their robes and their dress outfits," she says.  "They're sharp dressers because of their upbringings."

Given the weather reschedulings, "the Lord just makes a way," she proclaimed. "If He wants it done, it just gets done in His Way. The people enjoyed the fellowship and seeing their ministers as people."

"Let them be in the limelight.. let them be seen as people just like everybody else."

Sunday, March 29, 2015

East Tennessee Black Schools Closings' 50th Anniversary: And The Reunion of the Ages in August!


A few key things were happening during the Civil Rights Movement in 1965.

African-Americans marched for the right to vote.  Their hearts were in it, but their community was not.

Black met white on a four-lane bridge in Selma, Alabama, and although the blood was red that flowed that March day 50 years ago, African-Americans did get the constitutional right to vote.

Almost 450 miles to the northeast, integration meant the end of African-American schools in upper East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.  It meant the end of segregation, but it also spelled the end of close relationships between black teachers and black students and the relationships those schools had with each other.

It was the end of the Bland High School in Big Stone Gap, Virginia.... Douglass High School in Bristol, Virginia.... Slater High School in Bristol, Tennessee.... Douglass High School in Kingsport, Tennessee.... Langston High School and the associated elementary schools in Johnson City, Tennessee.... Douglas High School in Elizabethton, Tennessee... Booker T. Washington Elementary School in Jonesborough, Tennessee....  George Clem High School in Greeneville, Tennessee.... Swift High School in Rogersville, Tennessee.... Morristown College High School in Morristown, Tennessee.... and Tanner High School in Newport, Tennessee.

The closings ripped the heart out of the African-American communities in those cities.

The void was filled by reunions held every two years between the individual black school alumni associations.  Alumni of the schools came from miles around to get together and reminisce about "the good ole days" and catch up with each other's lives.

But there has always been one resounding message at all of the reunions.

Wouldn't it be beautiful to have one big, giant reunion between all of the former African-American high schools in Upper East Tennessee?  A chance to relive some of the old rivalries, yet celebrate the wonderful friendships and kindred spirits that hundreds of students all shared back in the day.

The summer of 2015 will be the 50th anniversary of the closing of most of the African-American schools, from Knoxville to Bristol... from Newport to Big Stone.

Efforts are now underway to plan for that huge reunion in late August.  The date has been set for SATURDAY, AUGUST 29TH, the location to be announced.
The first planning meeting between members from some of the former schools' alumni associations was very productive.  Efforts are underway to contact other associations, to also get them involved in the planning process, with the ultimate goal... TO SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT THE UPCOMING BIG REUNION IN LATE AUGUST!

"I value the future and the need for people to know where we came from," says Vivian Releford, president of the Douglass Alumni Association, Bristol, VA.  "As a people, we have lost our self-esteem.  Our kids don't know how to stand up and be proud of who they are.  We have not done a good job of teaching them to be proud of their heritage, which includes the education that their ancestors received."

"That's why this big reunion is so important."

"Coming back together to share memories of what we went through back then, is a wonderful idea," said Sue Greenlee Gilispie of the Booker T. Washington Elementary School Alumni Association in Jonesborough.  "All of our teachers at the schools had cherished personal relationships with their students... we all shared that.  This reunion will reinforce that training with the alumni that are left, plus shed some light on what our young people need, as they prepare their own histories."

"I was in the last class at Slater," remembered Lawrence Bell, Jr., president of the Slater High School Alumni Association in Bristol, VA.  "We love our reunions, and we also love the friendships that we forged with other schools through athletic and academic competitions.  The social interaction was undeniably strong.  Integration was great....I don't want to go back.  At the same time, it was hurtful in a lot of ways.  This big reunion is a good thing, to reminisce and fellowship with people we all have something in common with.  It will show our communities that we survived.... we endured.... we perserved.... WE MADE IT WORK."

"We all have a story," relayed Mary Alexander with the Langston Heritage Group of Johnson City.  "Our stories are all interwoven with each other.  Through this big reunion, we need to let people know that our stories are important to our communities.  If we don't tell those stories, they die with us.  When we get together for this reunion, those stories live on.... when we tell those stories to our young people, they will know how special our histories are... how they are part of those histories."

"I see a Tri-State history," she went on.  "It just blows my mind, the potential of a reunion like this.  I think this is so exciting.  We've got something to show off.  It's our histories, our collective histories.  Everybody needs to be a part of this.  I just can't wait.  I love it, LOVE IT.  We are important!  We matter.  OUR HISTORIES MATTER!"

"My grandson came in the other day," remembers Brenda Akins Charles, also with the Langston Heritage Group, "and he says 'Me-me... did you have white friends back then?'  I said, 'of course, I had white friends.  I guess he was expecting me to say 'no.'  This is why the idea of a big reunion is important.  What must other young people think about our history?  This is a chance to show the young people what we did, how we did it, and why it's important to them."

"50 years is an anniversary worth celebrating," said Doug Releford, president of the Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni Association in Kingsport.  "Our numbers are dropping fast.  Our past is going away just as fast.  If 50 years of celebrating voting rights is important down in Selma, Alabama for the country, remembering our black schools that closed 50 years ago, is also important to us here in our corner of the world."

"My dream has always been to have a big reunion like this," says Barbara Love-Watterson with Langston.  "Doug Releford can back me up on this.. we tried to get the idea of a big reunion going, but it never got off the ground.  Then I spoke to Calvin and he got excited, which made me excited about it again.  Our children have lost their heritage.. they don't know who they are or where they came from, they don't know their backgrounds.  Nobody teaches the importance of family histories in school, so we have to do that job ourselves."

"This big reunion is the first step in doing that."

Jeanette Clark from the Douglas Alumni Association in Elizabethton sees the Big Reunion as bringing together old friends and reinforcing the black communities the alumni all represent.  "By discussing and remembering what our heritages are about, it's a reaffirmation of our values.  Although we have our individual reunions, our children don't seem interested.  It'd be hard to ignore a reunion of this magnitude."

"This reunion takes us to the next level," she says.  "It re-ignites the soul.. it fires us up.  The communities we live in, will see how important this is to us, and they will want to take part.  Our young people will want to join in, because they'll see how important it is to us.  The extra items is, they will see how important it is to THEM.  There's no way to ignore it."

"This big reunion is necessary," the group collectively agreed.

The group went ahead and set a date for the gathering.  It will be Saturday, August 29th, with an alternate date of Saturday, September 12th.  The thought, group members decided, would be a central location easy for people to get to, that has adequate overnight lodging if folks need that.  Specific events that day, will also be decided later, with the thoughts ranging from active displays from each school of academic competitions, to notable speakers from the era.

Discussed locations include places that both allow liquor and those that do not.  They include the banquet room at the United Methodist Church in Blountville, the assembly area at Northeast State, Meadowview Conference Center in Kingsport, the Doubletree Hotel in Johnson City, Freedom Hall and the Millineum Center both in Johnson City.  Ms. Clark pointed out that the event is about unity, not about where it is.. that "we're coming together as a people to fellowship, to reunion and to celebrate our previous pasts.  The Big Reunion itself is the motivating factor for attending, not where it's being held.   Mary Alexander volunteered to scout out several locations and report back to the group's next meeting.

At the close of this first meeting, Calvin Sneed of the Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni Association, Kingsport, reminded the group of its charge.... to take the enthusiasm from the group and spread it among their various alumni association members to get people to attend, and to also contact and encourage the boards of other black school alumni associations to attend the Reunion organizational meetings, so that everybody will have a voice.  Sneed said the focus of the group is "not what we cannot do, but what we CAN do.  Any suggestion is workable and everybody's ideas count."



Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Special Honor for the Former Swift High School and College

The former Swift High School and College, Rogersville, TN is being honored in a special way.

Please click here to read about the honor for our neighbors and friends in Rogersville!