Saturday, April 18, 2015

Tribe track teams pull off sweep of Big 7/IMAC titles


KINGSPORT — On a night when one of the greatest track athletes in Dobyns-Bennett history was honored, the D-B girls and boys swept the team titles in the Big 7/IMAC track meet at the Dan Crowe/Tom Coughenour Track.

Friday saw the return of former Indians standout Andre Releford, who was the Tennessee 100-yard dash champion in 1971, ’72 and ’73. He helped lead the D-B to boys state track championships in 1971 and ’72.

“Coming back here is such a thrill,” said Releford, who now lives in Blacksburg, Va. “I just wanted to say thank you to all the people who supported me when I was here at Dobyns-Bennett.”

The Tribe girls won the team title with 114.5 points. Morristown West (110) was second ahead of third-place Science Hill (109). D-B’s boys posted a 114-105 win over Science Hill with Daniel Boone third (102).

D-B’s Bryce Barrett — after a Releford-like outing — was named the meet’s most outstanding performer. Barrett won the 200 (22.51), and 400 meters (49.68) and finished second in the 100 (11.06). He also ran a leg on the Indians’ winning 4x400 relay.

He posted personal-best times in all three of his individual races.

“The competition was really good in all the races tonight,” Barrett said. “I was just trying to beat whoever I was running against.
“To earn this award is an extreme honor considering all the good athletes here tonight.”

Morristown West’s Jessica Lord was named the meet’s most outstanding female runner after victories in the 400 (59.24) and 800 (2:24.75). She also ran the anchor leg on the Lady Trojans’ winning 4x800 r e l a y.

“I was really happy for our relay team,” said Lord, a sophomore. “In the 400, I just had a burst of energy and that got me through that race. In the 800, I just got mad at myself because I thought I could be running faster. I started kicking and just went for it.”

Daniel Boone standout Adam Barnard, the defending state 1,600-meter champion, put on a show from start to finish in his specialty. Barnard blistered the track to easily take the event title in a stellar time of 4:14.14.

“It was a little different strategy tonight,” said Barnard, who also won the state cross country individual crown last fall. “Usually I just hang back and use my kick at the end. Tonight I went hard from the very start. That pace pulls my teammates along and they run fast, too, so that’s a good thing.”

Barnard was named the meet’s most outstanding male runner.

The Indians’ Alijah Dunn exploded off the board and had a leap of 46-7 in the triple jump. That distance was the best recorded in the state so far this season.

“My first jump was 46-3 so I knew I had it in me,” said Dunn, named the meet’s most outstanding male in field events. “I moved to a shorter board and felt more comfortable. That was the key.”

D-B’s Sasha Morrisette was named the meet’s most outstanding female in field events after winning the long jump (15-5) and triple jump (35-4¼). She also finished fourth in the high jump.

Science Hill sophomore Halle Hausman had another showdown with the Wilson twins from Morristown West. Last Saturday, Hausman outkicked Cherie and Chantal in the 1,600 meters at the Frank Carver meet for an impressive win, and she repeated the performance Friday night.

Using a withering kick over the final 200 meters, Hausman crossed the finish line first in a time of 5:11.50, ahead of runner-up Cherie Wilson (5:13.15) and third-place finisher Chantal Wilson (5:14.11).

Friday, April 17, 2015

"They are Just Like Us": Ministers' Fashion Show in Johnson City

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."

Monday, April 13, 2015

Douglass Alumni Board Meeting Scheduled

The Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni Association will meet Saturday, April 18, 2015, at 1: 00 p.m., at the V. O. Dobbins, SR. complex.

Please plan to attend... we will be discussing the plans for the reunion for this year.

---Douglass Releford, President
    Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni Association, Inc.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

East Tennessee Black Schools Closing 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, March 25, 2015

Will There Be A 2015 Douglass Reunion?

That's the question the Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni Board of Directors  is pondering right now.

Not many people are responding whether or not they're coming to the reunion, planned for the upcoming July 4th weekend, according to board president Douglas Releford.

"For some reason, we just can't get the alumni to contact us to let us know if they'll be coming to the event this summer," Releford says.  "We have heard from a few people, but not nearly enough that would justify even the minimum of what we would plan for.  We've been pleading with folks to let us know.  We can't plan anything unless we get an estimate of how many will attend."

Releford says, PLANNING is the key word, because as in years past, most of the Douglass alumni have waited until two weeks to a month before the reunion to say they're coming.  That, he says, throws a wrench into the planning process.

"Food has to be ordered several months in advance," he says.  "Don't forget... we're talking about the 4th of July weekend.  Food vendors are going to be very busy preparing food for many other events going on at the same time, even trays of cold cuts from the area deli's and grocery stores have to be ordered.. drinks have to be bought.  If you wait until June and tell us you're coming, people we've already called and reserved food, will already have commitments to other people and other groups for the 4th of July.

"If we give the food vendors a set number and more people come than they're prepared for, there's a good chance some folks won't eat," Releford says.

"We just can't wait until the last minute."

An extra treat for the Douglass Reunion this time, is something the event has not done in a long time.  A planned picnic, but this one to Bays Mountain Park, Kingsport's quiet, peaceful, environmental crown jewel, 3 miles from Riverview, that for many people will be a reunion with their childhoods.

No doubt, the 4th of July weekend will be busy for the park.

That event to entertain the Douglass alumni, Releford says, cannot be planned or even booked, unless the folks at the park are given an estimate of how many alumni will attend.

Down in Riverview, there's an even more pressing need to know the numbers.

"There's tents, tables and chairs," Releford added.  "If we have one number and more people come, the tables and chairs they are to use, could have been sent somewhere else already.  Facilities have to be either rented, brought over, or set up, with the number of people you expect.  If the people that provide those facilities have got something else going on that's been booked several months in advance and more people come to the reunion than you've heard from, you're just out of luck."

In that event, he says, people who've waited until the last minute will be mad if they come and there aren't enough facilities to handle them.  And he says unfortunately, they'll be mad at the alumni board for creating the problem of not providing enough.

It's a problem, Releford says, that could be avoided, if everybody who's coming to the reunion, let the alumni board know way in advance they're coming.

Further compounding the problem.. the numbers are slowly dwindling for Douglass alumni.

"Our people are passing away fast," says Releford.  "Every year, we lose many alumni who have always come to reunions, and we plead with folks to come home and fellowship with each other.  Any reunion you go to, could be anybody's last reunion.  It could be the last time you see someone you grew up with, that you went to school with, hung out with, went to church with.  You just never know these days."

Releford says, the board has made many attempts to contact folks to find out their reunion status.  "We've put it on our website, we've put it on Facebook, we've put it in church bulletins, we've asked around at birthday celebrations, we've even tried just word of mouth," he laments.  "As we always do, we sent out a mailer to all of the alumni addresses we have on file, since the last reunion.  Half of the mailings came back with no forwarding address, meaning.... we wasted alumni funds on stamps that went nowhere."

To the alumni base, Releford says:  "We don't know where you are, unless you tell us."

Releford offers a quick, easy solution to the problem of knowing how many to count for at this year's reunion.  "Just let us know," he says.  "I would rather have people let us know right now, way in advance that they're coming.  Then if, for whatever reason they cannot attend, all we have to do is call the vendors and scale back our numbers.  That food and facilities can go somewhere else."

If you are coming to the 2015 Douglass School Reunion, please let the alumni board know at either of these two email addresses: or


You can even call the Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni office in Kingsport at (423) 343-9544 and leave a message.

Releford says the 2015 reunion is in dire straits, unless alumni step to the plate, and do the right thing.

"If we don't hear from enough folks," he says sadly, "the 2013 reunion may have been the last one."

New Vision Youth Fundraiser

We will be having a Breakfast Fundraiser on Saturday March 28 from 8-11AM at the Bethel AME Zion Church in Kingsport.

We will be serving Biscuits and Gravy, Eggs, Sausage, Milk, Orange Juice and Coffee.

All proceeds goes toward our educational fun trip to Bahamas.

For more info contact Johnnie Mae Swagerty at (423)429-7553

Friday, March 20, 2015

Douglass Alumni Gifts to Lincoln School: More Than Just Pencils And Paper

"You'd never know to look at school kids, what their real needs are."

That was the message from Sons and Daughters of Alumni president Douglas Releford, as the alumni group presented gifts to the school children of Lincoln Elementary School in Kingsport.  The gifts were in the form of items purchased with a community block grant awarded from the city to the alumni association.

"Since we're a non-profit association," Releford says, "when the city received a community block grant, we applied for part of that and was awarded $2,500.  We decided to use that to give back to children in the community by providing school supplies like pencils, paper, crayons and things like that."

It wasn't until the school provided a list of items the children needed, that Releford was taken aback.

"I was surprised by what was on the list," he remembers.  "It included things like underwear, socks, sweat shirts and pants, gloves and coats.  Most of the time, you think kids need paper, pencils, markers, posters, notebooks, erasers, rulers, things like that.  Those were on the list, too.  But then, items needed that were for comfort, actually touched the heart.  Some of these kids come to school without the basic necessary items to make them comfortable.  Feeling good in your classroom is part of the learning process.  If the child is uncomfortable, has cold hands and feet during cold weather, or on the other hand, wears clothes that generate too much heat when it's warm, they're not comfortable.  It's difficult for families on a fixed income to provide absolutely everything for their child's comfort."

"We just knew we had to do something to help these children."

For 2015, Congress has allocated $2.8 billion dollars to go for community development block grants around the country.  Although that is a reduction of $230 million dollars from last year, Kingsport received $317,466 dollars to be distributed through block grants.

The Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni Association applied for and received $2,500 of that money.

"The way community block grants work is, the group that gets one targets a need in their community," Releford says.  "The group then makes the purchases for beneficial goods or services, disburses that in the community, then is reimbursed for what they have spent, through the block grant.  This was the first time the alumni association has ever received part of a grant, so we wanted to target a specific need."

"There's no doubt that we made a good choice."

Together with alumni board members Andra Watterson and Judy Phillips, necessary clothing items were purchased at both of Kingsport's Walmart stores.

"Everything we needed was there," Watterson says.  "We bought book bags, underclothes, shirts, socks, pants, tops, and sweat shirts, along with traditional school supplies.  We even bought deodorants and hand sanitizers for the kids.  The idea was to buy items that they could use at school as well as home.  We purchased a set number of each product to make sure that we didn't miss a needed item."

Releford and his committee worked with the Lincoln principal Mrs. Shelia Newland, the school maintenance employee, and a state social worker, to identify the school children felt to be in the most need and get the necessary items in their hands.

More than 50 children benefited from the items purchased by the Sons and Daughters Alumni Association, at a cost of more than 770 dollars.

"I feel that the school kids may not have gotten this kind of assistance if we hadn't applied for and received the block grant to help them out," Releford says.  "The school was just so grateful."

Why did the alumni association pick Lincoln Elementary?

"At one time, all of the minority children in Kingsport went to Lincoln," Releford says, "having gone to Washington Elementary at first.  When that school moved, Lincoln began receiving the minority and low-income children and today, that is still the case.  We just felt that those kids would need more assistance than other kids in the city.  That's not to say that the other schools don't need the help, too, but with more of the minority and lower-income children going to Lincoln, we felt like those kids could use our help more than some of the other schools could."

This won't be the last time Lincoln gets the help.  Releford says the alumni association will use the rest of its portion of the block grant elsewhere for the kids.  "This experience has taught us that, no matter what you see on the surface, some kids need more than just pencils and paper for reading, writing and arithmetic," he says.  "They also need comfortable clothes, personal hygiene items, even little energy snacks."

"All of that helps make the learning experience in elementary school a positive one."

And the help won't stop there.

"When the city receives another community block grant, we will definitely apply for a portion of it," says Releford.  "We'll be looking for other programs that need funding in our community, and once we find it, identify it, and research them, we will use the block grant to help them along, too."

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Say No... To Tobacco!