Monday, October 24, 2011

An Open Letter to the Community



The Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni Executive Board is aware of an appearance scheduled for early November in Kingsport and Johnson City of Dr. Umar Abdullah Johnson, descendant of Frederick Douglass, a name we hold dear to our hearts, as our former School is named in his honor.

While we acknowledge the historical lineage of Dr. Johnson with Frederick Douglass, after further and careful examination of Dr. Johnson's views on race relations and black/white society, we the Sons and Daughters of Douglass Executive Board, on behalf of our alumni, feel that his appearance would not be appropriate for our approval and support.

Therefore, the Sons and Daughters of Douglass, Inc (also known as the Douglass Alumni Association - Kingsport) will NOT be a participant in Dr. Johnson's appearance, nor do we endorse, approve of, or otherwise support his appearance for our community or our children.

We also need to make mention that Sons and Daughters of Douglass, Inc (also known as the Douglass Alumni Association - Kingsport) has no control over the Douglass Community Room, nor the V.O. Dobbins Sr. Complex that it is housed in, including the ballfield, gymnasiums, rooms and offices. We are tenants in the building and we are governed by the same rules and regulations as all the other tenants.

Respectfully Submitted
Virginia (Jenny) Hankins, President
Sons and Daughters of Douglass, Inc.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Umoja Festival: Event growing into new downtown venue


NET News Service

JOHNSON CITY — The Umoja Festival may be 15 years old, but it was held at Freedom Hall Civic Center through 2009, so the festival is only two years into its life as a downtown Johnson City festival. And it continues to grow into its new surroundings.

Umoja Festival organizers came away from last weekend’s event happy with things, said Ralph Davis, Umoja Committee chairman. The festivities brought in thousands of people for live music, food, arts and crafts, a 5K run, a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, storytelling, kids’ events and more.

The festival promotes unity and cultural diversity; the word “umoja” is Swahili for “unity.” While the Umoja organization largely comes from the black community, the festival prides itself on making everyone feel welcome and on offering something to interest everybody.

“We were pleased,” Davis said. “We thought the festival on a whole was very good. We didn’t have any major incidents that we heard about, the weather held off and was beautiful, and the firstever road race was a great success. We were really happy with that for our first time out.

“We feel like moving to downtown was the move we needed to make, but we’re still in that learning curve. It may take two or three more years to get everything the way it needs to be, but overall I think this year was great, and we had great response from the people about it.”

As for overall festival attendance, organizers had estimated 30,000 as last year’s figure, but it’s largely a guessing game and Davis said they’re waiting for some more data for this time around.

“We were pleased with the crowds Friday and Saturday nights,” he said. “The Saturday daytime crowd wasn’t what we wanted it to be, but the night crowds brought it back up.

“We’ve got some surveys out to help us do some counting, so we may know a little more when we see those. But it’s hard to gauge attendance if you don’t have ticket sales to go on.”

The festival headliners — Shirley Murdock and Zapp Band on Friday night and Chocolate Buttermilk and Con Funk Shun on Saturday night — drew rave reviews.

Music included national acts as well as local ones, plus a stage geared toward a younger audience. Davis said the Young Adult Stage was a success, and they plan to bring that back next year, “with a little tweaking.”

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Vendors, musicians offer good time at Umoja Festival


NET News Service

JOHNSON CITY — When people show up for the Umoja Festival, they expect sights, sounds and a good time. Vendors like Nema Saho and musicians like the 4.0 Band supply those key festival qualities to give everyone just what they’re asking for when they step onto the streets of downtown Johnson City.

Saturday’s festivities provided a welcome home party of sorts for Cybil Holman and her family. Originally from Johnson City, Holman’s visit from Murfreesboro coincided with Umoja for the second time.

“I still feel like it’s home,” she said. “I think the Umoja Festival brings a lot of people here and there is something here for the entire family.”

Music is just one part of the family-friendly atmosphere. The 4.0 Band made its public debut at Umoja cranking out an array of funk tunes inspired by bands of the past. Avery Deakins, the group’s youngest member at 15 years old, is broadening his horizons by performing a type of music he’s always liked, but hadn’t played much of on his electric guitar. Deakins said the band practiced for months to give people an entertaining set of groove records.

“We worked our fingers to the bone during long, long, practices,” he said. “I’m more nervous about equipment malfunctioning than us. We’ve got it down pat. Unless something explodes, I think we’ll be fine.”

The 4.0 Band blasted out renditions of “Brick House,” “Mustang Sally,” plus Kool & The Gang’s “Fresh.”

Umoja attendees looking to wander around rather than watch entertainers from a lawn chair in front of the stage may have searched through the piles of African fabrics under Saho’s tent at the corner of North Roan and East Main streets. The Gambia, West Africa native travels to different parts of the country to gather authentic crafts like masks, handbags, clothing and beads. He says traveling to diverse festivals like Umoja enable him to present his wares to a new set of customers who are mixed in age and ethnicity.

Holman, like other festivalgoers, combined the two elements of performers and vendors, and spent the day in a watch-and-shop routine. She had already purchased a pair of earrings and said she wouldn’t leave without buying a few CD’s. Holman’s family also watched the parade Saturday morning.

“Festivals bring you different experiences because you meet a lot of people good and bad, but mostly good,” Saho said. “Umoja is interesting because you have such a variety. I get a chance to teach people about each other because while you are traveling, you’re still learning.”

Friday, August 12, 2011

Umoja ‘a festival for everyone’


NET News Service

JOHNSON CITY — It’s unity in the community. That’s what the 15th annual Umoja Festival hopes to bring to downtown Johnson City.

The festival starts today at 3 p.m. with an opening ceremony and call to the drums, featuring Shaka Zulu and the Zulu Connection, on the Main Stage at Fountain Square. Then it’s music all night plus a host of other festivities throughout downtown today and Saturday.

Umoja promotes unity and cultural diversity. It originates from Johnson City’s black community but, as Umoja Chairman Ralph Davis emphasizes, “It’s a festival for everyone.”

Admission is free. There will be music on the Youth Stage at Roan Street and on the Main Stage. People can see both local and national talent, with headliners Shirley Murdock and Zapp Band tonight, then Chocolate Buttermilk and Con Funk Shun on Saturday night.

The weather report calls for a high of 85 degrees today, mostly sunny, with not much chance of rain during a pleasant evening. For Saturday, there’s a 40 percent chance of late-evening thundershowers, so people should come prepared.

Wristbands to bring beer on the streets (in a plastic cup) cost $3 per night and can be purchased at all downtown clubs. People are required to keep their beer within festival boundaries, which are clearly marked. Friends of Olde Downtowne is in charge of wristbands.

Festivalgoers are reminded not to bring backpacks or glass bottles, and pets are not allowed.

The festival will be highlighted by the Kings of the Blacktop 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament in the parking lot on Spring and Tipton streets. It will be going on each evening, with a cash prize to the winner. East Tennessee State University great Tim Smith is giving a pre-tournament free clinic for ages 16 and under at 5:30 p.m. at the tournament site.

The Umoja Unity Race 5K is tonight starting at 7:30 near the Main Stage, and runners will go up into the Historic Tree Streets before returning to the start/finish.

“We’ve had a tremendous response for the 5K and Kings of the Blacktop,” Davis said. “We hope those events turn out great.”

The Umoja Parade will take place Saturday starting at 10 a.m. at Carver Park and will finish at Fountain Square. U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st District, will lead the parade in a limousine provided by The Charles. The parade is a tradition of the festival and always highlights the African dancing and drumming of Shaka Zulu and the Zulu Connection, stilt walking, dancing and drumming along Main Street.

The Children’s Carnival takes place Saturday from 4 to 9 p.m. at Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church. There will also be graffiti art on display and a graffiti artist who will give a demonstration.

As always, Umoja will offer a health fair Saturday starting about 10 a.m. with free medical screenings.

A hot wing-eating contest will take place Saturday about 5 p.m. in front of the Youth Stage. Elmer Washington, a festival organizer and co-owner of Taste Budz, will provide the wings, and he’ll be adding some extra kick to how he usually serves them.

Entry for the contest is free, and people will be given a short amount of time, and a bottle of water, to see how many wings they can eat. The winner gets a cash prize.

For more information visit or find Umoja, Johnson City Tn on Facebook.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Appalachian Training, Central High & Bland High School 2011 Reunion

The reunions of 2011 continue, with our friends in Southwest Virginia celebrating the reunions of the old Appalachian Training School, the Central High School of Appalachia and Bland High School of Big Stone Gap, Virginia.

Please click here to go to the schools' new website!

You'll find a schedule of activities this weekend by clicking "Activities" on that page.

We also hope to have pictures from one of the celebrations, whose link will be posted on this page.

Monday, August 8, 2011

UMOJA festival unites cultures



For 15 years, the UMOJA/Unity Festival has brought diversity and entertainment to downtown Johnson City, and this year will be no exception, given the unique events and activities that are scheduled to take place.
The festival will begin on Friday, Aug. 12 and conclude on Saturday, Aug. 13.
“The festival will be 15 years old this year and the initial purpose was to bring all the different cultures and diverse ethnic groups that are in the region together,” said Ralph Davis, UMOJA chairman.
When the festival began in 1978, it was held as an annual Unity Picnic with members of the local NAACP, Concerned Citizens Group, Herb Greenlee of Carver Recreation Center and many other community residents. Unfortunately, the picnic eventually lost the interest of the community.

In 1997, some of the original founders decided to reinvent the picnic with a different format.
Since the original purpose was to blend different cultures and ethnic groups, the founders agreed on revamping and renaming the picnic the UMOJA/Unity Festival. “We have a lot of different ethnic groups and a lot of different races and we just want to bring everyone together and let everyone see what they have to offer,” Davis said.
Davis emphasized that the festival is not aimed specifically at African-Americans.
“One of the things that we always hope for is that people don’t say that this is an African-American festival. This is a unity festival, and we stress that every year,” he said.
The weekend will consist of music, food, entertainment and fun for all ages and ethnic groups.

“This is a festival for all to come out and enjoy,” Davis said. “That’s the main purpose, for everyone to come out and have a good time, listen to the good music, eat the good food and let the kids play,” he added.
Returning to the festival this year will be The Zulu Connection stilt walkers, along with storytellers from East Tennessee State University, who will spin tales at the gazebo.
Music headliners on Friday night include Shirley Murdock along with Zapp. Taking the main stage Saturday night will be Chocolate Buttermilk and Confunkshun. Comedian and DJ M.C. Lightfoot will perform both nights.
In addition to the usual events and vendors, festival attendees will have the chance to participate in some new events this year, including a “Kings of the Blacktop” threeon-three basketball tournament to be held Friday and Saturday, and a film festival, showing both days on the youth/young adult stage.
One of the most anticipated new events is a 5K run that will take place on Saturday night.
“We’ve been trying to do a run for the last few years,” Davis said.
Thanks to volunteer Charnita Hammonds, the 5K run will finally make its debut.
“She’s done a fantastic job of getting it started, so we’re really looking forward to that this year,” Davis added.
Davis gave a special thanks to the people who have attended the festival for many years and he also encourages everyone to take part in some of the new events that will be held this year.
Volunteers are still needed to help out during the festival. Anyone interested in volunteering should call Davis at (423) 426-2851.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Transient JC teen finds family on football field


NET News Service

JOHNSON CITY — During his senior year at Science Hill High School, Cray Brittian’s life was often compared to that of Michael Oher, the homeless teen who, with help from a coach and family who loved him, went to college on a football scholarship and on to play in the NFL.
Oher’s life story was made famous by 2009’s semi-biographical film “The Blind Side.” Brittian, whose transient life took him through no less than 14 different schools, including five other high schools before his final year at Science Hill, is on course to follow Oher’s path to college football.
He’s taken the first steps. He’s found a wealth of love and support in Johnson City. But to win the Division I football scholarship, the degree in communications and the career in public relations he dreams of, Brittian needs help with tuition at Virginia Sports Academy (VSA), a Christian training academy for collegiate athletes in need of academic coaching that comes at a cost of $5,500 a semester.
Bonnie White, coordinator of Johnson City Schools Homeless Education Program, has been Brittian’s lead advocate since he enrolled at Science Hill at the start of the last school year. And it’s White’s connections with leaders in the city’s charitable community — the Kiwanis club, a group at Eastman and Dave McAuley at Summit Leadership Foundation — that has put him close to making his fund-raising goal for his next big play in Virginia.
Arriving in Johnson City last August with his mother and a new baby brother, White said “Cray probably thought this was just another community he had to get used to.” But this time out, Brittian found a couple of things different, a team he quickly came to love like family and a place where he at last felt grounded.
With that, White said, Brittian dug in, worked hard and started making the most of his opportunities and what he, better than anyone, knows is his best shot at completing a four-year degree. He began the year with only 10 of the 26 high school credits he needed to graduate. Because of that challenge, he opted to attend class at Johnson City’s adult high school, where courses are taught via computer and students progress at their own pace under the supervision of a teacher and counselors. In May he walked the stage with Science Hill’s class of 2011 and received his diploma.
On the football field, Brittian made the starting lineup as a defensive lineman. And over the course of the season, his ability and his 6-foot, 5-inch and 250-pound frame helped Science Hill into the playoffs.
“He wasn’t the best player, again because he’s never lived anywhere long enough to have that consistent coaching it takes,” White said. “But the team loved him. His coaches loved him. Everyone loves Cray. He’s polite. He’s always there doing everything he needs to do. He’s just one of those kids you meet and you love without knowing anything else about him.”
Before the school year ended — the first entire school year Brittian had ever spent in a single school — he was preparing for college, choosing his college path and proving himself on his entrance exams. He counts the 91 percent he scored on the reading portion of his entrance exam at New River Community College in Dublin, Va., among the greatest accomplishments of his 18 years.
On Aug. 7, Brittian will leave Johnson City for Dublin where he will attend New River while living, training and honing his study skills at a nearby VSA satellite campus. “He has the drive and his coach at VSA believes,” like other, less academically motivated VSA students, Brittian could be picked up by a Division I or Division II school his first year, White said.
Brittian is shooting for Division I in his first semester. And for once, he’s excited to be leaving town. But there are people in Johnson City, particularly the Science Hill High School football team, to whom Brittian will always be grateful.
“I want to say thanks to Science Hill football, the team and all my coaches,” he said. “I just feel like Science Hill football was like family to me. I just thought this is where I needed to be. And that thought has been confirmed.”
In a short and poetic piece Brittian wrote in summary of his year in Johnson City, titled “A Place to Grow,” he described himself as a potted plant placed in a window “trapped inside” and “staring out at the world, longing for an open field where I could reach for the sky.”
“This tiny pot full of dirt of my past has led me to a place where the sun shines a little brighter and my hopes of taking root somewhere started to actually seem possible. ... I may not have roots in a town that I know like the back of my hand or friends that I can brag I have known all my life. But I have roots on this high school football field and the winds of change are coming.”
Still working to raise Brittian’s first semester tuition at VSA and additional money for the tuition and books at New River his financial aid will not cover, White asked that any others who would like to help contact Jeff and Bonnie White at 542-4221 or 607 Pine Hill Road, Elizabethton, TN 37643.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Stephen Dixon named Senior Vice President

JOHNSON CITY — Bank of Tennessee recently promoted Stephen Dixon to senior vice president.

In his position, Dixon oversees the bank’s community reinvestment activities, which include promoting and enhancing the Bank’s CRA efforts in the areas of lending, investments, services and education. He also works with area agencies as well as the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati to promote home ownership and community development.

A Clinchco, Virginia, native, Dixon has been an employee of Bank of Tennessee for more than 15 years. He is a graduate of East Tennessee State University and a member of the ETSU College of Business & Technology Hall of Fame. Dixon is a graduate of the Southeastern School of Commercial Lending at Vanderbilt University.

Dixon is a member and past president of the Optimist Club of Johnson City, board member and past president of the board of directors for the Johnson City and Washington County Boys & Girls Club, vice chair of Eastern Eight Community Development Corp., board member of Good Samaritan Ministries and treasurer of the Interfaith Hospitality Network of Greater Johnson City.

Dixon and his family live in Johnson City.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

‘A real honor’

Coeburn teenager named one of 10 Huggable Heroes
Each Huggable Hero will receive a $7,500 scholarship and a $2,500 cash prize to be donated to his or her charity of choice.



COEBURN — Sixteenth birthdays don’t get much sweeter than the one Deventae Mooney just celebrated.
Two days before the party celebrating his “Sweet 16,” the Coeburn High School sophomore learned that he was one of only 10 youths from the United States and Canada to be named one of 2011’s Huggable Heroes.
“I got an e-mail that said they had some exciting news for me and that I should call in. As soon as they told me, I started dancing around the house. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t wait to tell everyone,” Mooney said.
The only problem was he’d have to wait — more than a week.
“Initially, I could only tell my immediate family,” he confirmed.
Build-a-Bear Workshop received approximately 1,200 entries in the eighth annual search for Huggable Heroes, which rewards youth for giving back to their communities, their schools and the world. Over the next several months, the field was pared to 75 semifinalists, 25 finalists and eventually to the 10 Huggable Heroes announced last week.
Each of the Huggable Heroes receives a $10,000 prize — a $7,500 educational scholarship and a $2,500 cash prize from the Build-A-Bear Workshop Foundation to be donated to the charity of the hero’s choice. In addition, they will travel to Build-A-Bear Workshop World Bearquarters in St. Louis on July 20-22 to be honored for their achievements.
“I’m not sure anybody from little Coeburn, Virginia, has ever been selected for something like this. It’s a real honor,” said Mooney.
By the time Mooney actually marked his 16th birthday on June 5, the official announcement had been made, and he could finally celebrate his achievement with the rest of the world.
“They gave me a key to the town at the school’s awards ceremony. That was a big honor for me,” Mooney said.
“I don’t think a lot of people knew about all the things I’d been doing. When they read the list at the ceremony, they gave me a standing ovation. That was pretty amazing,” he said.
Coeburn High School Principal Dante Lee, who will accompany Mooney to the awards ceremony in St. Louis, and Coeburn Town Manager Loretta M. Mays were among those who believed all along that their hometown hero would be among those selected.
“I immediately knew that I wanted Mr. Lee to go with me (to St. Louis) because he was the one who got the scholarship and really got the ball rolling for me,” said Mooney, who himself wants to become a teacher and coach, and eventually a principal.
Collectively, the numbers associated with all that was donated and built by the 10 young people, ages 12 to 18, selected as the 2011 Build-A-Bear Workshop Huggable Heroes are staggering: 30,000 brown bag lunches; 10 tons of fresh produce; 29,000 books; 10,700 gift boxes; 2,500 sports uniforms; 250 soccer balls; 31 drinking wells; 18 homes; eight soccer fields; and four school libraries.
“These 10 young people elevate the bar on giving,” said Maxine Clark, Build-A-Bear Workshop founder and chief executive bear. “They selflessly accept challenges and devote their time and energy to make a difference. They demonstrate kindness, compassion and leadership and motivate grass-roots change.”
On its own, Mooney’s list of charitable works is astounding.
He volunteers as a coach and referee for youth sports, serves as the secretary of the Coeburn Little League, tutors summer school students, and has raised more than $20,000 for cancer patients and $21,000 more to benefit youth sports in his hometown.
Yet, it’s the Brown Bag Lunch Program at Friendship Baptist Church that Mooney is most passionate about. It’s the program that will benefit most from his being named a Huggable Hero.
“I’m going to donate the money ($2,500) to my church for the Brown Bag Lunch Program,” Mooney said. “We just had a meeting where we talked about not being sure how we were going to be able to do it this year, and someone made the comment that ‘If it’s meant to be done, God will provide,’ and I think he has.”
Each summer, the church prepares and delivers lunches to children in need. Mooney started volunteering with the program when he was in the sixth grade and has since had a hand in making and delivering an estimated 30,000 brown bag lunches.
“Seeing a kid standing on the porch waiting for you and knowing that your being there means that they’re going to get a lunch today — or that they’re going to eat at all that day — makes it all worthwhile,” Mooney said.
Giving back and helping others is, after all, what the Huggable Heroes program is all about.
“I think a lot of people see me as little happy Deventae. But every person has their own difficulties, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I have mine,” Mooney said.
“I get help. People take the time to help me, so I feel like I owe it to them to try to give my best to help someone else,” he said.
Before his trip to St. Louis, his first by airplane, Mooney will join some of the other Huggable Heroes on the “Tell Your Story Project.” The video clips will be available for viewing online.
To watch the clips or to learn more about the eighth class of Huggable Heroes visit the Web site at

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Jr. Toppers Youth Football will hold registrations on Saturday, June 6 and Saturday, June 18 at Legion Recreation Center.

Jr. Toppers will offer 5-6 tackle, 7-8 tackle, 9-10 tackle and 11-12 tackle teams will be conducting registrations for the upcoming Fall 2011 season.
This will be the first season that Jr. Toppers has offered 5 and 6 year old tackle. Age cut off is July 31, 2011.

Registration fee is still only $50.00 per child.

The summer practices will start July 25 and the season will end late October or early November.
Most games played on Saturdays in the fall.

Friday, April 22, 2011


Sunday, March 6, 2011


Black Violin Concert, Johnson City, TN

Black Violin performed to a sold out crowd at the Science Hill Auditorium Sunday February 27, 2011. A lot of positive feed back from the community was received by the Umoja Members. The concert was definitely unique with the style and high energy as Wil B and Kev exercised their skills.

To see a slideshow of the Black Violin Concert, please click here. Pictures courtesy HIS PRODUCTION TOO.

ETSU Black Faculty Banquet

To see a slideshow of the banquet, please click here. Pictures courtesy His Photography Too.

ETSU Black Faculty and Staff Association held their annual Black Heritage Banquet on Feb 12, 2011. The following individuals were honored:

Black Pioneers of ETSU

1st Black student/graduate (1955):  Eugene P. Caruthers

1st Black undergraduate students (1958)  Elizabeth Watkins Crawford, Clarence McKinney, George Nichols, Mary Luellen Owens Wagner.

1st Black faculty member:  Howard Young (Dept. of English)

1st Black Staff (1915):  Chef Hyder Bundy (Dinning Services)

Black Pioneers of James H. Quillen College of Medicine
First Black Graduates Male and Female:  Dr. Gregory Patterson (1983), Dr. Emma Thompson (1984)

First Black Faculty Member:  Dr. Elton G. Fennel -Family Medicine/Obstetrician & Gynecologist

Black Pioneers of ETSU Athletics

First Black athlete (basketball):  James Thomas (Tommy Woods (1964)

First Black Athlete (football):  Johnny Russaw (1964)

First Black Head Coach (women basketball):  Karen Kemp (1994)

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Young Ambassador has ties to Riverview

 Hunter Muller has been chosen to represent Tennessee as an ambassador to Europe. This entails travel and study in England, France, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Switzerland. After being invited, Hunter passed an interview that confirmed this honor.

Hunter Muller is the son of Pepper Muller and the grandson of Gary and Valorie (Davis) Thompson.  He is a sophomore at Volunteer High School.

Some of Hunter's past accomplishments include winning the National History Award Winner, the Tennessee Academic Award, the Citizenship Award, an award from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and several ACE awards. Hunter is also a member of Who's Who Among American High School Students. He has been recognized by the United States Achievement Academy.

Hunter received a personal letter from the President, as a winner of the Outstanding Academic Excellence Award.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Lost holiday forces reshuffling of Johnson City MLK Day observances


NET News Service

JOHNSON CITY — With the Johnson City Board of Education’s decision to begin making up snow days on Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday forcing a last-minute rescheduling of two children’s activities planned at the Carver Recreation Center, reaction from the community’s MLK Day Steering Committee and others was mixed Wednesday.

Herb Greenlee, supervisor of the recreation center that has historically served as a hub of activity for the city’s black community, said Wednesday that tentative plans are to move both the student research presentations and African-American storytelling previously planned for 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday to Tuesday afternoon “somewhere in the 4 to 6 time block.”

“It kind of hurt our annual celebration and put a damper on us,” Greenlee said. “We’ve had kids here every afternoon for the past two or three weeks working on computers doing research on the history of King and the civil rights movement for PowerPoints and collages they present on the holiday. It’s a pretty big program. Last year we had about 150 kids. But we’ll do all of that on Tuesday.”

Greenlee was still working Wednesday afternoon to reschedule a group of storytellers from East Tennessee State University.

“We don’t know how many we’ll have, but hopefully they will be able to come,” he said.

In a specially called meeting Tuesday evening, school board members voted to make up the first of three snow days not built into the yearly school schedule on Monday’s holiday, Jan. 22 and Feb. 21. If needed, subsequent makeup days set by the board will see school in session on March 14 and April 22.

By scheduling the makeup days Tuesday while the snow was still flying, Greenlee said the board had “put the cart before the horse.”

“They just came up with a quick fix rather than waiting for the snow to clear. They’re not going to reconsider. But they should have had an alternative, a day of spring break or at the end of the school year. They had plenty of alternatives,” he said.

Adam Dickson, a leader on the local MLK Day Steering Committee, said he was made aware of the board’s consideration of the holiday prior to Tuesday’s meeting.

“(Director of Schools) Dr. (Richard) Bales assured us he would be working on structured programs focused on Dr. King and his legacy at each of the schools, and so as long as that is the case, my two cents is it’s another opportunity to emphasize Dr. King to a larger number of students and a larger segment of people,” Dickson said. “Dr. Bales contacted myself and Ralph Davis (vice president of the local NAACP) by e-mail. They were very cordial e-mails expressing his willingness to work together.

“I do encourage the board to work with the community. And I expect the school board to follow through, and it’s all going to work out for the good.”

The Rev. C.H. Charlton, pastor of Friendship Baptist Church and a former member of the school board, said he was certain the MLK and Good Friday holidays were not singled out or that there was any ill intent in the board’s action.

“Some people may think that but, being very candid, I don’t think they were trying to take anything away from the King holiday, and if they could have observed it and had Good Friday they would have. They’re both important days,” Charlton said.

“In a perfect world, it would be nice to do all the things we want to do. But their schedule is kind of tight. I’m not in the system, and I don’t know what they are looking at with their TCAP testing. But they sat down and looked at it, and these are the only days they had to make it work out right,” Charlton added.

Bales told the board members Tuesday he was brainstorming with teachers and principals about potential activities at each school to honor King, such as inviting community members to share their experiences during King’s era with students.

Charlton, who was the first African American to serve on the school board in his hometown of Radford, Va., and also served two years as Johnson City’s vice mayor, said he had not been contacted to speak at the schools but would be happy to do so if invited.

“I’m sure they are getting these things together, and this being Wednesday, they don’t have much time to do it,” Charlton said.

Mary Alexander, a former Washington County commissioner and an organizer of the community’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast, noted that Johnson City schools are not alone in the difficulty.

“They’re in a tough situation, but not only area schools have a problem with snow days. There are schools all over the Southeast that are having to make up snow days, and I believe they’re going to have more snow days to make up,” Alexander said.

Alexander also said she believes the two snow days built into the city schools’ yearly calendar are not enough.

“They have to make these days up. They have no choice. But last year should have said to the board, ‘Two snow days are not enough.’ ”

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wesley UMC to host MLK prayer breakfast

• JOHNSON CITY — A Martin Luther King Jr. prayer breakfast will be held Saturday beginning at 9:30 a.m. at Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church, 225 Wesley St., Johnson City. The theme is “We are the Dream and the Future.” The breakfast is being held in conjunction with the Centennial Celebration at East Tennessee State University. The speakers, Marisa Williams and Demtrius Lattany, are representative of families that are the second generation of students and graduates of ETSU. The ministers of music are the Chinese Church, 300 Roan St., Johnson City, and the Hopwood Christian Church, Milligan College. Tickets may be purchased at Money Services, 1111 N. Roan St., Johnson City, through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. or by contacting Angela Smith-Harris at 929-3084 or Wayne Robertson at 232-6219. Tickets will also be sold at the door.

Saturday, January 8, 2011