By JEFF BOBO firstname.lastname@example.org
KINGSPORT — With the help of music, dance and words of inspiration, Kingsport residents came together Sunday afternoon to celebrate their unity and their ability to work together to improve their communities. The 12th annual Community Unity celebration, organized by the South Central Kingsport Community Development Inc., was held at the Toy F. Reid Eastman Employee Center.
The event was inspired by the tragic death of 4-year-old Jalisha Ferguson, who was killed by a stray bullet while playing in her yard in 1994 when a drug deal in her neighborhood turned violent.
SCKCD board member Dr. Kenneth Calvert said during the event’s official greeting that there is much to be praised about what has been accomplished to make neighborhoods safer over the past 12 years. “Our community has become a safe community, not because of any one organization, but because of all of the organizations,” Calvert said. “One of the joys that we celebrate is that we’re able to partner together to make South Central Kingsport, and even Greater Kingsport, a safer, wonderful place to live.”
Mayor Dennis Phillips also addressed the audience in the opening greeting, noting that Kingsport continues to move forward with improvements to the South Central Kingsport community, with the latest focus being on moving people out of substandard apartments and into houses. “It takes a lot of people to pull anything together, and as long as we will keep using the ‘we’ word instead of the ‘I’ word we’ll get a lot accomplished in this community,” Phillips said.
Undoubtedly the highlight of the official greeting, however, was the presentation by Rep. Nathan Vaughn which included a song. Vaughn said the song, which opens “I am marked to serve God’s people, I am called to do his will,” was written for him, and the words exemplify the person he tries to be. “When this started many years ago there were many challenges that we faced, and there are still many challenges that we face today,” Vaughn said prior to singing his song. “But we can see progress. We can see that this celebration is an acknowledgement of a year’s worth of sacrifice and service to our community and ultimately to our nation.” But the event wasn’t so much about speeches as it was the entertainment and the celebration. Among the performers were the Community Unity Choir as well as other music groups including Exit 33, Nathan Brown and the Chosen Generation, A Few Good Men, Hallelujah Chorus and Unlimited. Dance groups included For His Glory, New Vision for Youth, and the Central Praise Dancers. Every year during the Community Unity celebration a scholarship of $500 per year for up to four years is awarded. Since 1994 the “Catch the Vision Scholarship” has been awarded to 12 graduating high school seniors. The 2007 recipient is Jessica Aldridge (whose mom accepted the award on her behalf).