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Friday, February 29, 2008

Two Gospel Singers Hope To Have Professional Careers


KINGSPORT — Laynette Alley and Huetta Isom will take the next step towards what they hope will be a professional gospel singing career when they perform in concert Sunday at Central Baptist Church.

Laynette Alley (left) and Huetta Isom will perform together at 4 p.m., Sunday at Central Baptist Church, Kingsport.


The concert will be recorded on video, which will subsequently be sent to the Bobby Jones Gospel program, which airs on BET. Those associated with the gospel program have shown in interest in the duo as has Music House Production in Nashville.
“I have recently felt that singing was the ministry that God was calling me to,” said Alley in a prepared statement. “I just want to sing and give glory to God.”
For Isom, singing “is my way of spreading God’s word to others.”
The two have performed as soloists but are performing together for the concert, “Unveiled Praise,” which begins at 4 p.m., with the Gospel Soul Lifters from Rockwood, Tenn., as guests.
The concert is sponsored by the Kingsport Cultural Diversity Team Inc. Allen Faulkerson, president of the Kingsport Cultural Diversity Team, serves as the duo’s manager.
Laynette Bly Alley first began singing as a child in the choir at her former church Lyons Chapel A.M.E. Church and while a student at Volunteer High School. In 1990, she married Reginald Q. Alley, and they became parents of a son in 1997. She is now a member of Calvary Church, Boones Creek.
Huetta Jane Collre Isom began singing with her three siblings and parents. She is the mother of four sons and a member of Jubilee World Outreach Ministries where she is a member of the praise team and choir. She has participated in gospel music workshops led by leading performers.
Admission to Sunday’s concert is free, but a love offering will be received.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Name Game--What Would You Name the New Homes Development in Riverview?

Of course, nobody asked us..

But, if they did, and if you could pick a name..

What would you name the area of the new Riverview development being built by the HOPE VI grant, where the Historic Riverview Apartments once stood?

Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority Director Terry Cunningham says, the Riverview Residents Association relayed that any new name should definitely have the name "Riverview" in it.

That is a good thing. We've lost the apartments.. if we lose the name, we've lost our identity.

So, that being already decided.. what new name should go along with "Riverview?", because the new homes are not considered apartments.

When our beloved Bessie Hipps named the new area for African-Americans between the Eastman and the Brickyard in Kingsport many years ago, little did she know the name "Riverview" would come to mean "a remarkable little community that raised doctors, lawyers, teachers, educators, politicians, authors, chemists, biologists, ministers, PH-D's, doctorates, pharmacists, computer technicians, and community leaders.. who all stood steadfastly in the face of numerous challenges to black sovereignty.

Over the years, the name "Riverview" in Kingsport also became associated with bad elements like drug dealing and other vices that all neighborhoods experience from time to time. Still there were good people in Riverview; the BAD people moved in on the GOOD people already there. It wasn't until a concerted effort began by longtime residents and citizens to rid Riverview of those bad elements, and despite the naysayers, the community began to stand tall as one that beat the odds.

Today, the term Riverview stands for the rebirth of Kingsport's African-American community. Although considered the showplace of South Central Kingsport, little Riverview is rapidly becoming a source of pride in upper East Tennessee. The phrase "I am from RIVERVIEW" is, and always has been, something to be proud of.. it's even become somewhat fashionable in circles.

The Historic Riverview Apartments are gone, so, the question is: if you had a suggestion as to the name of the new HOPE VI development being built in their place, what would it be?

Several quick choices come to mind: "Riverview Place," "Riverview Homes," "The Homes at Riverview," "Riverview Manor." The choices are endless.

Please send your suggestions to me at our new web address: Any name variation can be submitted, again, as long as "Riverview" is in it.

Give it serious thought, and send me your suggestions.. We will take the most popular suggestion and submit that to the proper people, so that your voice can be heard.

Again, send them to:

Monday, February 25, 2008

Curry In Hospital; Condition Uncertain

Longtime Riverview resident Horace V. Curry is in the hospital in Chattanooga, with an unknown illness.

Curry, who lives in Chattanooga, was admitted to Parkridge Medical Center a few days ago.. he is in the Medical Intensive Care Unit (M.I.C.U).

His room in the M.I.C.U is sterile-free, and when I visited him, I was required to put on rubber gloves, a nose and mouth mask, and a sterility gown. The door is inside a vacuum-compressed chamber that has to be zipped and unzipped upon entering or leaving.

Curry is in good spirits, although it is difficult for him to speak clearly. He clearly knew who I was, though.

We talked about how he's doing ("getting better," he says) and how good the nurses are taking care of him ("pretty good" was the response). When I told him they'd torn down all the Riverview Apartments for the new HOPE VI development, he said "now Calvin.. how in the world are they gonna get all those people back in there?" I said, "many of them are supposed to be moving back when the new homes are built."

"I hope so," he replied.

Right now, Curry can only have two visitors, and the hours in the M.I.C.U are from 5 to 5:20 PM and from 9 to 9:20 PM daily, and he seems happy to have visitors. Flowers and plants are not permitted in the unit, but he can have get-well cards.

If you'd like to send him a card, send it to:

Horace V. Curry
c/o Parkridge Medical Center
2333 McCallie Avenue
Chattanooga, Tennessee 37404

Students showcase dangerousNegro line

ETSU Students with Black Affairs Association showcased dangerousNegro's fashion line.

By Johnathan Thacker
Picture Credit: Travis Brown/East Tennessean


The first Hip-Hop Fashion Show at ETSU was held Friday, as the last event of African American Arts Week. Prior to the show, a lecture was given by Demetrius Walker, co-owner of dangerousNegro clothing line.

If the name dangerousNegro stirs feelings of uneasiness then it has done its job, according to Walker.
"The name gets attention but it also has a message behind it, like everything we do," said Walker.

The name originated as a term the government used to brand certain Civil Rights leaders such as A. Philip Randolph and Martin Luther King, Jr.
A disdain for complacency is why the government deemed them dangerous, and the same concept is the theme of the dangerousNegro clothing line.

Common, Mos Def, Wyclef and other celebrities have been seen wearing dangerousNegro shirts. Since starting the company in December 2005, Walker has traveled to schools across the country and discussed entrepreneurship with students of all ages.
Noticing a rise in the popularity of shirts with what Walker referred to as "ignorant messages like Dopeman, or I got it for Cheap," he began developing a clothing line to present positive messages.

"Clothes are the first thing you notice when you see someone, so we want to put forth something uplifting," he said.

After attending Vanderbilt, Walker graduated and entered the corporate world working for Dell.
Working within corporate America, he came to view it as a modern day plantation system.
"In my heart, I feel it's slavery," said Walker.
His employers viewed him not as Demetrius Walker, but as worker number 40991.

He continued to grow increasingly miserable "working the fields on corporate America's plantation."
The breaking point occurred when a supervisor chastised him for not taking care of a task during his break time.
His supervisor said, "When you are in this office, I own you."
Walker quit immediately.
"I saw this old slave auction flier from a newspaper from 1859," Walker said. "Valuable young negros, field hands, with no fault. It cost $1,600 to buy a man in the prime of his life. If you adjust that for inflation, that comes to around $32,500. Today, a résumé serves the same purpose as a modern day slave flier.

"We get brainwashed into thinking we go to school to find some glorious plantation to work on for 40 years then retire," said Walker, "but how fun is it going to be playing basketball when you're 72? Going shopping with the Louis Vuitton bag on the walker?"

Encouraging others to use their talent to the fullest, he discussed several key elements in starting a new business. "If you want to start a business disinfecting stripper poles, find out how and go for it," he said.
"Your network is your net worth," he said. "It helps to be friends with entrepreneurially minded people."

He also suggested being observant, and noticing what the corporation you work at does that makes it successful and allows them to issue paychecks every two weeks.
"You will probably have to work for a corporation for awhile to get money to start your own company," he said. "But you should set a date in the future. Save up enough, and make your run from the plantation."

Walker told students to use their potential. "The only person who can stop you is yourself."
Following a catered reception, the Black Affairs Association (BAA) presented the Hip-Hop Fashion show. A red carpet had been placed parting the crowd, with strobe lights along the runway.
DJ Nize provided the soundtrack for the evening while Devin Logan hosted the festivities.

Students in BAA served as the models. The first round featured a wide variety of styles being displayed ranging from Hollister to gold spandex pants. One participant even sprayed her hair pink to match an outfit.
The models changed into their clothes for the second round and with the crowd having tripled since his lecture, Walker briefly recapped some of what he had mentioned earlier for the benefit of the new arrivals.

The second round showcased some items from the dangerousNegro line. Some of the sayings featured on the shirts included "Educated black man - take one home today," "Smart is the new gangsta," "Power to the people" and "Young gifted black."
While the models prepared for the final round, Devin Logan read a list of fashion rules for dressing at ETSU. Some of the tips included "If you only have two teeth, neither should be gold," "Do not wear flip flops in the snow" and "Don't suck your gut in. If you're a size 16, please do not wear a size 7."

The final category was "grown and sexy" and consisted of evening and formal wear. Three-piece, pin-striped suits and formal dresses made up the majority of items showcased.
The ceremony ended with BAA president Ash-Lee Henderson presenting advisor Lettee Harris with a bouquet and thanking her for helping to make African American Arts Week a success.

Community Unity Day: Vaughn Presents SCKCD State Grant To Continue Community Unity Efforts

‘We are so very proud to have had the opportunity to be in a community that embraces the diversity of this community.’
— Nathan Vaughn

Jeff Bobo — State Rep. Nathan Vaughn speaks during the 13th annual Community Unity event Sunday in Kingsport.



KINGSPORT — Thirteen turned out to be the lucky number Sunday for the 13th annual Community Unity Celebration as state Rep. Nathan Vaughn presented event organizers with a state grant to help ensure that programs bringing together Kingsport residents will continue in the future.
There were several presentations during the event held at the Toy F. Reid Employee Center. But entertainment was the main order of business Sunday evening and included Christian music performed by the Community Unity Choir, the Towne Squares, Unveiled Praise, the Tri-Cities Mass Choir and saxophonist Danny Williams Jr.
The event is sponsored every year by the South Central Kingsport Community Development Inc. and 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. Ferguson would have graduated high school this year.
The intent of the Community Unity Celebration — aside from providing an enjoyable evening of live music — is to remind people that although they may be separated by neighborhoods or cultural differences, they should still share the same goal of making Kingsport the safest and most prosperous city for everyone who lives there.

“We have accomplished a lot in 13 years, and that has a lot to do with communities and the city coming together,” Kingsport Mayor Dennis Phillips said during Sunday’s event. “We want Kingsport to be a city that you’re proud to live in, and I think we’ve made a lot of strides. It’s only because the people have come together to work with each other and make this the city it is.”
As part of the Community Unity Celebration every year the SCKCD gives away a scholarship, and this year’s recipient is Dobyns-Bennett student Christina Hooker. SCKCD board member Linda Kincaid noted that Hooker’s goal is to open a chain of full service day spas and beauty salons, but first she plans to attend Northeast State Community College.
Kincaid also praised Hooker for earning nearly 1,500 hours of training in cosmetology, which she plans to put to use while supporting herself through college. Hooker will be the first person to graduate from Dobyns-Bennett with a cosmetology license.

Among the other Unity Award recipients this year were Ida Machen who shares her musical talent every year during the celebration; Calvin Sneed who was praised for his efforts as a historian; and the Kingsport Police Department.
“Many of the citizens who live in Riverview saw a major difference in the climate and the protection that occurred,” said SCKCD board chairman Dr. Kenneth Calvert. “The violence that used to be every day no longer existed. ... A lot of organizations and groups came together to make the peace effort possible.
“But there was one group out there on the main line while most of us were sleeping, and that group was the Kingsport Police Department.

One of the final speakers of the evening was Vaughn who presented Calvert and the SCKCD a check for $7,500 in grant funding from the Tennessee Community Enhancement program. Vaughn said the funds will help the SCKCD “continue the great work you do for this community. ”
“I can remember 13 years ago when this effort was first started and I can remember many of the attitudes that brought about the need for this celebration,” Vaughn said. “Sometimes in the midst of turmoil there is good reason to celebrate. This has been 13 years, and many would say that 13 is not a very good number.
“But I’m here to tell you that 13 is a very lucky number for this community. We are so very proud to have had the opportunity to be in a community that embraces the diversity of this community. ”

Sunday, February 24, 2008


Final rehearsal for the annual Community Unity Celebration was held Saturday at the Eastman Employee Center. The program will be held from 4 to 5:30 p.m. today at the center. The event culminates the observance of Black History Month.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Evangelist Elizabeth Ann Carr Passing--Newport News, VA

Evangelist Elizabeth Ann Carr
(January 5, 1943 - February 19, 2008)

Evangelist Elizabeth Ann Carr, 65, went home to be with the Lord Feb. 19, 2008. Born in Johnson City, Tenn., she moved to Newport News, Va., where she resided until her death.

She attended public schools in Tennessee, and later received training from the then Hampton Institute in the medical/nursing field. She was employed at Whitaker Memorial Hospital until its closing.

Elizabeth loved the Lord and maintained her stewardship at Straight Gate and Narrow Way Holiness in the Lord Jesus Christ, Hampton, Va., under her husband/Pastor Elder Lee Carr.

Evangelist Carr will be greatly missed by her husband, daughter and a host of family and friends.

Viewing for Evangelist Carr will be held 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a wake service from 3 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, at Cooke Bros. Funeral Chapel, 1601 27th St., Newport News. A funeral service will be held noon Monday, Feb. 25, at the funeral home. Interment will follow at Hampton Memorial Gardens. The family request that any monetary donations be made to Elder Lee Carr, 1605 Chestnut Ave., Newport News.

Professional services are being handled by the staff of Cooke Bros. Funeral Chapel.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Upcoming Singing Event on March 2nd!

This concert is coming up on March 2nd.. Both Laynette Alley and Huetta Isom are marvelous, accomplished singers who have excelled in their singing talents. Both have sung separately, but have never sung TOGETHER. This event will showcase two singers that have excellent singing careers ahead of them, and this is your time to hear them together.


Just imagine.. in a few short years, we may see them on "Bobby Jones Gospel," "American Idol," or another popular network TV show, and we can look back and say.. I knew them back when.. they're from RIVERVIEW!"
See you at the concert!

Kingsport's Gentle Giant: The City's First Black Police Officer


--By Calvin Sneed

"We always treated each other as police officers with respect. I may have been black and they might have been white, but we all had one goal.. to control crime and gain the respect of the people."

The time is 1970. Kingsport had just taken a huge step in the history of law enforcement in Upper East Tennessee. The police department had just put the first African-American officer on the force and on the streets of one of Tennessee's most progressive cities.

Today, James Snapp is reflective on his seven and a half years as a black police officer in the Kingsport Police Department. "After I got out of the Navy, Kingsport resident Richard Clark told me the city was looking specifically to hire a black police officer. That kind of job had always appealed to me, so I went down and talked with Ralph Deal, the police chief at the time. He set up the training and firing range testing for me.. I passed, and was sworn in right after that."

"The pay was low, by all standards," James says. "But somehow back in those days, you could make the $5,000 yearly starting salary go a long way, because you got a raise in six months. We didn't feel back, though.. the starting salary of a police officer in Los Angeles at the time was $12,000, but I always thought Los Angeles was too far away from home."

"I really didn't have any reservations about being the first black police officer in Kingsport," says James, "but the police department seemed to have more reservations than I did. Kingsport had just integrated it school system four years prior (in 1966), and they were pretty cautious about hiring a person of color."

"They must have had a lot of confidence in me, though," says James, "because after I was sworn in, I immediately got the title of full-fledged Police Officer. Most rookie officers had to work the jail first to get oriented to the system, filling out paperwork and such as that. We didn't have that many cars out on the road, and most of the officers shared cars in a two-man shift. For about a year, my partner was John Anderson and we became really good friends. Later on, we both had children about the same age, and our kids would play together."


"I can't say that I ran into too much prejudice in my years on the force," says James. "It did pop up from time to time, but it was never directed at me. As a sign of the times, mostly I just let it ride by me, and that way, it wouldn't create any trouble. We all had great chemistry, and we all knew that each one of us would lay down our lives for each other."

"Out in the field, suprisingly enough, it went pretty smooth, too," James remembers. "Most people didn't seem to notice that it was a black man in uniform writing them a ticket, or helping them with directions or information. Of course, every once in a while, some drunk would let loose with a racial slur, but I still had a job to do. Sometimes you would hear the "N" word from a drunk, but never from anybody sober. It was just part of the job, so with me it just went in one ear and out the other. I really didn't have that much trouble with it."


Officer Snapp remembers one crime case that he solved by just being observant and on top of his game. "One day in 1972, because of a shortage of officers on the job one day, I was patrolling in a car by myself, and the call went out about an armed robbery at the old Lynn Garden Drug Store. The BOLO (Be On The Lookout) described the car the two robbers escaped in, as an old pink Volkswagen with no windows and no doors on it. Well earlier that week, I had been on a drug raid in the Highland area, and I just happened to remember the house where the drug bust had been. I remembered some pink Volkswagen car doors leaning up against the outside wall of the house towards the back. I went back up to Highland near the Jefferson School, located the house, and sure enough, those pink Volkswagen doors were still there. I played a hunch, and there the two robbers were, fitting the same description that had gone out on the radio. I called in for backup, wrapped my service pistol in a blanket, and pulled my shotgun. I knocked on the door, confronted the suspects, and stuck my shotgun right up at one of them's chin and told him not to move. By the time my backups arrived, I had the situation already under control. When they were searched, one of them still had some of the drug store drugs in his pocket and some of the money they'd took. We recovered everything at that point."

"It was all just part of the job."


James Snapp left the Kingsport Police Department in 1978. "I really missed it for a very long time," he remembers. "We had a lot of camraderie back then, and I still see some of the guys I worked with, from time to time."

"I watch the "Cops" TV show occasionally," he says with a nostalgic smile. "It does bring back memories, but it seems to be more concentrated on drug busts, drug possession and drug activities now. Cops are more "by the book" now with all the new technology at their disposal. Back then, we didn't have laptops in the cars, digital hookups, and record displays at the touch of a button. Our lives and our well-being depended on the spoken word between you, your dispatcher and your fellow officers. We had to be extremely careful."

"Back then, people understood we had jobs to do," James remembers, "and there was a lot more respect for the police officer. They understood that we had jobs to do, and that we were people, too, just like them. It was a good relationship, and the fact that one of the officers was black, never seemed to bother most people. We were community-friendly, and that motivated the department. Kingsport has had a couple of African-American officers since I left, and the situation is changing for the better."


"Drugs was just getting a toe-hold in the community when I was on the force," James says. "There were neighborhoods that were problem areas, Riverview, Highland, Borden Village. I am proud that Riverview has gotten a better grip on solving its drug problem, and I hope the other areas can regain control of their areas. If you run the drug dealers and abusers out of one area, they'll always just run somewhere else, and it's a problem for police officers. They can't do it without community involvement, because just about every crime we have nowadays, is related to the abuse of illegal drugs."

Advice that Kingsport's first African-American police officer would give to prospective police applicants? "Just remember the public service that you would be performing," says James Snapp. "Remember control, benevolence, and how you would want to be treated as a person. The person you're dealing with, deserves that same respect."

"If you treat 'em right, they'll have that remembrance from then on," he says. "People have feelings, and as a police officer, you cannot trample on those feelings."

James Henry Kyle Passing

ROGERSVILLE — James Henry Kyle, 82, of Rogersville, returned to his father in Heaven on Tuesday (Feb. 19, 2008) after an extended illness.
Henry was a very active member of Hasson Street Christian Church as long as his health permitted. Henry served his country by enlisting in the U.S. Army where he was a sharp shooter. He served his time in the Philippines and New Guinea.
Henry retired from the Tennessee Valley Authority after 36 years of service. He was an avid walker and helped many people in the community. He attended Swift High School and graduated from Swift College and the Brick Mason School in Virginia.
His parents, Riley and Della Blevins Kyle; son-in-law, Donnie Brice, Sr.; and one brother, Robert Kyle preceded Mr. Kyle in death.
Henry leaves to cherish his memory his wife, Imogene Kyle of the home; children, Della Tate (Jerry), Jimmy Kyle, Aaron Kyle (Cecily), Janet Kyle Olen (Thomas),
Linda Kyle Brice and Nathan Kyle; one uncle, William “Ted” Blevins; grandchildren, Jerry and Calvin Tate, Terry, Jacquelyn and Aaron Kyle, Jr., Donnie Brice, Jr., and Sasha Brice, Megan and Kesha Kyle; six great-grandchildren; and a host of other relatives and friends.
The family will receive friends from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Hasson Street Christian Church.
Funeral services will follow at 3 p.m. with the Rev. Roy Charles officiating. Following the funeral services, the Hawkins County Color Guard and the Tennessee Army National Guard will conduct military honors at Mitchell Crest Cemetery.
Colboch-Price Funeral Home in Rogersville is serving the Kyle family.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Black History Month Event at the Kingsport Civic Auditorium



Right, Cosmetologist Lavonda Harris ties a traditional African headscarf for Isabella Reeves Monday at the Kingsport Parks and Recreation event in recognition of Black History Month at the Civic Auditorium. The event showcased members of the black business community along with traditional food, dress and music. Below, Gerry Harrison serves peanut soup. At lower right, Ritchie Hicks shows Emily Cross how to play the conga drums.

Monday, February 18, 2008

And then.. they were gone....

The demolition of the Historic Riverview Apartments is finished..



All that is left, is to haul away the debris of what is left of the 68 year old apartments, that have been home to hundreds of families over the years..

Next year, the 12-million dollar HOPE VI Redevelopment Project, along with four homes from Hope Build, will occupy the land the Apartments once stood on.

Until then, the land will be an open field, much like it was back in the 1930's, during the time it was the chemical dumpsite for surrounding industries.

In the PHOTO GALLERY, are pictures from the finishing demolition, some of them by Willie Hodges, who stopped by just as the excavator was finishing up the tearing down of the final apartments still standing.. Willie also gave a VIDEO NARRATIVE of what he was observing as the final apartments came down (you'll need the Adobe Flash Player to see that).. also, there are historical BEFORE and AFTER pictures of the apartments.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Black History Month Event To Be Held

• KINGSPORT — The City of Kingsport Parks and Recreation Division will host an all-day interactive event in recognition of Black History Month at the Civic Auditorium at 1550 Fort Henry Drive beginning at 12 noon Monday. Participants will be able to sample foods representative of the African-American culture, interact in a hands-on exhibit that highlights history, arts, and crafts, hear popular poems and music, and read biographies of local role models and leaders who have made a recognizable difference in the community. For more information, contact event coordinator Stella Robinette at (423) 392-4726 or (423) 246-4201.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Douglass-Riverview Videos with the Adobe Flash Player

We don't get a lot of hits to the videos in the PHOTO GALLERY on your website, and it's probably because folks don't know how to access the Flash Player. Most new computers automatically come with the Flash Player (it's easier to access than Windows Media and cheaper than Real Player). It's the video version of the Adobe PDF written program, and it's very good with quick and easy videos. To get the Adobe Flash Player installed on your computer:

1. Go to
2. Then, click on "downloads" in the menu row.
3. Then, click on the link "Get Adobe Flash Player." (it's
the red tag link on the right, with a scripted "F."
4. Then, click on "Install."

Just follow the instructions once you've gotten that far.

I think a lot of folks are missing out on videos that will really take you to the scene of some memorable moments in our community, because they don't have the Flash Player. Please download it; it doesn't take up much memory, and it will also help you get other videos from other websites, too. If you have any questions, please let me know.


A Bite Out Of Bygone--The Historic Riverview Apartments Are Almost Gone


Randy Dickenson, with D.H. Griffin, steers his demolition equipment to take another ‘Jaws’-sized bite out of Apartments 49 through 56, the last standing units at Riverview Apartments, as a pedestrian walks by on Thursday. D.H. Griffin began demolition on the last apartments Thursday and plans to have it knocked down by the end of the day today.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Ebony Club Is Coming Back!

For many years, the Ebony Club at Dobyns-Bennett served as a social outlet for our young African-American children and youth. The club provided social awareness, spiritual guidance and an intellectual outlet for African-American students in Riverview and South Central Kingsport.

Now, former members of the club are making plans to bring it back for the enrichment of African-American students in Kingsport, but this time, encompassing youth all the way from the New Vision Youth Kids, on through middle school and into their junior and senior years at Dobyns-Bennett High School.

The Ebony Club is one of Kingsport's oldest organizations directed at African-American youth. Following in the footsteps of the Boys and Girls' Clubs, the Ebony Club began during a turbulent time at Dobyns-Bennett. Race relations had reached a boiling point, with black youth seeking an identity as they interacted with white youth. A group of black students went to D-B Science Teacher Elizabeth Dudney, who agreed to be a faculty sponsor, and the club was started.

At one time, the club boasted over 60 students, with just about every family in Riverview and South Central Kingsport represented with a child or relative in the club. Over the years, the Ebony Club stepped up its efforts to enrich the lives of its members, with the biggest focus during Black History Month. The club also sponsored many activities, including talent shows, fashion shows, door decorations at D-B during Christmas, Special Olympics activities, scholarships, and even taking programs to area schools during Black History Month.

The Ebony Club kind of died down after 2005, with its membership being hurt by the curriculum change at Dobyns-Bennett. All of a sudden, members' lives were pulled in other directions with athletics, church activities, and things designed to meet their graduation requirements. Also with the lack of a teacher sponsor, the club went dormant, but its past kept the memories alive for former members.

It's that past that organizers say, is the key to making it successful today. Below is a note from past Ebony Club president and now author and businessman Jeff Faulkerson, to recharter the club outside of D-B, and make it more of a community-based club, instead of school-based.

"It begins with an Ebony Club Reunion," says Jeff, "that would be scheduled for next year. I met with Dawnella Ellis (former DB faculty sponsor), Johnnie Mae Swaggerty (another past president) and former member Tim Hall after Saturday's Black History Month Program (at the Renaissance Center), and we decided to integrate activities planned for Ebony Club Reunion 2009 into those being planned for next year's Douglass Reunion in July 2009. We will begin by forming a small planning committee, meeting and corresponding electronically in the months leading up to the event. We decided to shelve an Ebony Club Foundation idea. It makes more sense to form an Ebony Club Alumni Association, which would be set up as a not-for-profit organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Because I have experience in this area, I will take the lead in getting and completing all of the
incorporating documents. However, I will be soliciting input from members
of the Ebony Club Reunion 2009 Planning Committee, as it relates to the
Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws."

Jeff goes on to say "I am very excited about this Ebony Club Reunion. If we're able to get the word out, we should be able to attract former members both near and far.
All we're asking them to do is join us in Kingsport every other year for a
weekend of music, dancing and socializing. I would also like for us to use
the weekend to sow positive seeds into the hearts and minds of Kingsport's
black children and youths. It would be great if we could accomplish this
using a town hall meeting format."

The three of us agreed that we want to coordinate a Fashion and Talent Show,
which was the major event for all of the clubs," says Jeff. "Douglass graduates, as well as former Ebony Clubbers, will be invited to serve as models and performers.
We will also solicit participation from children and youths."

Your Douglass Alumni website will serve as the communications specialist for the new Ebony Club, which is a natural fit.. these Ebony Club members are "the NEW Sons and Daughters of Douglass." Our up and coming youth NEED the guidance the Ebony Club can give them.

If you'd like to help coordinate efforts for the Ebony Club's rebirth in our community, or to get more information about its purpose, contact Jeff Faulkerson at, Johnnie Mae Swaggerty at, or Calvin Sneed at

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Shiloh Baptist Joins Celebration with Central Baptist of Memphis



It was a very moving experience.

Those words from members of Kingsport's Shiloh Baptist Church, who journeyed to Memphis, Tennessee to take part in the "Black History and Friends" program at the Central Baptist Church of Memphis, whose pastor is Dr. Reuben H. Greene. The theme of the event was "Preserving Our Heritage."

While in Memphis, the group took a tour of Memphis attractions, including the former Lorraine Motel downtown, where Dr. King was shot to death on a motel balcony on April 4, 1968. The motel is now the National Civil Rights Museum.

Louetta Hall says, just standing on the balcony where the civil rights leader was assassinated, one could almost imagine what happened there.. could almost feel Dr. King's spirit.. she says, she and others were almost in disbelief that his life was taken for something he believed in. She reports the museum has tried to preserve the scene exactly the way it was when Dr. King and his aides were staying there.. cigarettes in the ashtrays, coffee in cups, the same newspaper that Dr. King was reading moments before he stepped outside on the balcony.

The group also went shopping at A. Schawab's Variety Store, where Louetta says, Shiloh pastor Dr. Kenneth Calvert told them "if you can't find what you're looking for at Schawab's, you don't need it." They also took in the legendary Beale Street, nd the ducks who do their daily parade to their pond at the reknown Peabody Hotel.

Sherwood/Hiwassee Revitalization Begins With Groundbreaking

David Grace —
City officials, members of the Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority and future homeowners break ground Tuesday for the Hope VI revitalization project on Sherwood Road.

24 affordable houses will be constructed in the Sherwood/Hiwassee area.



KINGSPORT — Bridgett Jones has lived in a Kingsport apartment with her 8-year-old son for the past eight years. As a result of the city’s HOPE VI revitalization project, Jones will soon become a homeowner for the first time in her life.

“It feels great. I’m very happy that I’m going to be a homeowner,” Jones said Tuesday. “I have an 8-year-old son who’s disabled, and I’m really excited for him. It’s going to give him a chance to have things you don’t have in an apartment, like a yard.”
Jones is one of the first area residents to take advantage of the city’s HOPE VI revitalization project. The project consists of two major phases — the demolition and replacement of Riverview Apartments with 32 homes (along with six additional houses in the South Central community) and the building of 24 affordable home ownership units in the Sherwood/Hiwassee area of town.

On Tuesday morning, the Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority held a groundbreaking ceremony for the Sherwood/Hiwassee phase of the project.
City Manager John Campbell said you can’t have a great city unless you have great neighborhoods.
“One of the great thrills has been working with this HOPE VI project. One early life lesson I learned was growing up in a great neighborhood in Kingsport, and my wife spent the first seven to eight years of her life on the other side of Sherwood,” Campbell said. “It’s great to be able to do something back in this particular area.”
Helen Bunting, who was born in Riverview and lived there for the past 10 years, said she hopes to purchase one of the houses along Sherwood.
“They’re going to be nice, but everybody’s going to miss the (Riverview) apartments,” Bunting said.
HOPE VI Director Doris Ladd said all of houses along Sherwood/Hiwassee are expected to be built by September. The houses will be approximately 1,400 square feet and cost in the $130,000 range.
Ladd said the houses will be a story and a half; brick with vinyl siding in Colonial and Craftsman style; three bedroom, two bath; with a storage unit in the back yard.
The KHRA offered the houses to several hundred people — first to the residents of Riverview who were displaced by the demolition, then to other housing authority residents, then Section 8 residents, and finally those on the KHRA’s waiting list.
Ladd said five people have passed all of the hurdles and have applications for approval. One has been approved, and the KHRA is “pretty confident” the other four will be as well.
Down payment assistance and low-interest to zero-interest loans are available, based on income levels and if you’ve not owned a home in the past three years, Ladd said, noting the biggest hurdle has been with financial institutions looking at applicants’ credit rating, which is not in the KHRA’s control.
The HOPE VI project began about two years ago when the city applied for a HOPE VI revitalization grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In October 2006, the city received $11.9 million in HOPE VI funds, and since then KHRA officials have been working on the project.
The entire HOPE VI project — both construction projects, the opening of the HOPE VI/Fresh Start office, and the purchase of property along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive — is estimated to cost at least $30 million. The $11.9 million grant is just part of the funding needed to complete the project.
The money will also be used for a new development along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive to house satellite offices for the Boys and Girls Club, a Kingsport Police Department substation, the Weed and Seed office, and Carver Library — all of which were located in the Riverview Apartments complex.
Demolition of the Riverview Apartments began earlier this month, with the contractors having up to 120 days to complete the work. New home construction in the Riverview community will begin in early 2009.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Carl Leeper, Jr. Passing

CHURCH HILL — Carl Leeper, Jr., 70, of 129 Ford Lane, went home to be with the Lord Feb. 9, 2008 at Wellmont Hospice House following a long battle with canc e r.
Carl was a native of Big Stone Gap, Va., and had spent most of his life in Church Hill. He was a retired employee of Tennessee Eastman and owned and operated Leeper Small Engine Sales and Repair. He was vice president of the New Canton Utility-District. He found a new church home at Wells Chapel Church in Pennington Gap, Va. with it's loving membership.
He is preceded in death by his parents, Carl, Sr., and Lucille Sanders Leeper; sisters, Frances Rivers and Helen Leeper; brothers, Robert “Sandy” Leeper, Charles Leeper and Lawrence Leeper.
He is survived by his loving wife of 51 years, Zeola Leeper, Church Hill; daugher and son-in-law, Robin and Charlie Morgan, Kingsport; two sons, Keith Leeper, Johnson City and Randy Leeper, Rogersville; three devoted granddaughters, April Morgan, Rashea Morgan and Briana Leeper; two brothers, Nelson Leeper, Waco, Tex. and Donnie Leeper, Morristown; two very extraordinary sisters-in-law, Louise Washington, Elk Grove, Calif. and Thelma Dulaney, Knoxville; two wonderful aunts and uncles, Leon and Lula Leeper, Philadelphia, Pa.; and from his boyhood hometown of Big Stone Gap, Va., Randall and Viola Simpson; many wonderful nieces, nephews, neighbors and friends that he loved and who have been of comfort during his illness.
The family would like to express their deepest appreciation to Hospice Service and nurses Renae, Rebecca and Mitzi, in addition to many other caregivers during this time of need.
Calling hours are from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Johnson Funeral Home, and anytime at the residence.
Services will be conducted Wednesday at 8 p.m. in the funeral home chapel with the Rev. Pamela Hoard officiating.
Graveside services will be conducted Thursday at 11 a.m. at Church Hill Memory Gardens.
Pallbearers will be James Leeper, Mark Beatty, Bruce Leeper, Larry Maness, Steven Maness and Greg Maness.
Honorary bearers will be Ozine Bly, Evin Collins, Richard Ford, William Lyons, Jr. and Danny Rector.
To leave an online message or sign the guest registry for the Leeper family, please visit us @
Johnson Funeral Home is serving the Leeper family.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Demolition Continues at the Historic Riverview Apartments

Less than a week after demolition began at the Historic Riverview Apartments, signs of the times are already visible.


Gone now is the unit that once housed Apartments 81 to 86 at the corner of Louis and Douglass Streets, and the unit directly beside it that once housed the next set of apartments, 87 to 92. Only the foundations remain of the former Apartments that once stood there. Eventually, the foundations, too will be dug up and hauled off. Also gone is the Historic Carver Library, whose mightly steeple was scheduled to be saved.

Also gone now is the unit that once housed Apartments 25 to 32 on MLK/Lincoln Street. That unit was the beginning one that started the demolition last Saturday, February 2nd in front of former apartment residents, Riverview residents and business and community leaders in Kingsport.

"The demolition is a two-fold process," says Chris Scissom, one of the demolition project managers for the D.H. Griffin Wrecking Company. "First, we have to do the environmental effects, because there is some asbestos involved. The asbestos in the concrete flooring has to be removed carefully first, hauled away and environmentally disposed of. Then, we strip the buildings out and tear them down with the excavator."

"While we are doing that," says Mr. Scissom, "we will separate the recyclables. My company, D.H. Griffin is a 'green' company.. we like to recycle as much as we can, the brick, the metal, the steel, the word and the other things that are recyclable.
The concrete below can be remade into a road bed for example, or beneficial fill in a low-lying area."


"You have to know your building," according to Mr. Scissom. "There's a process, which might look difficult to somebody not familiar with it. Every building has its own personality, its own character and quirks, and you gotta be aware of safety factors while sorting your debris piles. For example, 'if I take THIS down, will the roof sit up so I can take down or peel other things within the building that won't damage the recyclables inside or outside."

Mr. Scissom admits there is a lot of sadness associated with the tearing down of the Historic Riverview Apartments. "Remember when your son took his first steps" he relates. "You have the memories of that, even though the place where he did that, is no longer standing. But you always that focal point where that building existed, so you can look over and say 'that's where Jimmy took that step. These buildings (pointing to the Riverview Apartments) are going away, but that memory is going to always be there. You've only lost the focal point."

He also acknowledged that a lot of people want to keep a brick memento from the apartment they once lived in. "I've given away a couple of hundred already," Mr. Scissom says, "even a couple for Kingsport Mayor Dennis Phillips. It's very important to the residents. As for me, I'm a little detached from the buildings myself, until you speak to the public about it. Once you speak to them, you do get a little attached to them because you understand where they are coming from and what the buildings mean to them. It is important to them, and now it is important to us as contractors. We'll stop what we're doing, to save a little piece for them. Despite the job we have to do, it's important for us as workers to be gracious to the community.

But one thing's for sure, says Mr. Scissom.

"Once (the apartments) are torn down and the debris hauled away. they're gone forever. All that will be left will be the memories 'over there where those new houses are, that's where we used to live."

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Daughters of Elks Dunbar Temple #344 Emma V. Kelly Day

In June of 1902, women were not given much thought as to responsibility, except to keep house and raise the kids. In fact, most men were afraid of women, especially giving them any kind of authority outside of the household.


Emma V. Kelly had other ideas.

On the 13th of that month in 1902, Mrs. Kelly called together 13 women in Norfolk, Virginia began what was to be an uphill battle in the mobilization of Black women everywhere.

That work, coming on the heels of the "First Century" of Black freedom from slavery, stands as the solvent "right arm" of the world's largest African-American fraternal order came together for the first time.

Mrs. Kelly is the Mother of the Daughters of Elks auxilliary to the Improved Benevolent Protective Order of Elks of the world, of which the Dunbar Temple #344 in Kingsport, Tennessee is a proud member.

Fast forward to February 8th, 2008, as the Kingsport chapter gathered to celebrate the legacy of Emma Virginia Kelly. The event was held at the Clinch Mountain Elks Lodge on Martin Luther King Drive/Lincoln Street in Riverview-Kingsport. Mrs. Kelly demonstrated, as various speakers put it, "unyielding determination and genius" in guiding the organization to its present status and recognition in the Riverview community.

The program began with words of welcome from Daughter Ruler Kathryn C. White, followed by a song "Holy Is The Lamb," from Daughter Martha Harper

In the first tribute to founder Kelly, Flossie Maxwell spoke of those original 13 members, which quickly grew to 86 members. With less than 20 dollars in its treasury, the Daughters of Elks boasts 65,000 members; 16 of those in Kingsport as members of the Dunbar Temple #344.

After a Riverview community favorite "I Cried My Last Tear" by P.G.D.R. Dana Skaggs, Daughter Sandra Bly reminded the audience that founder Kelly was the organizer BY HERSELF of the Daughters' first constitution and their first publication.

Daughter V. Valanna Benson, who also serves as the chapter chaplain, sang to the group, and Daughter Johnnie Mae Swaggerty White, told of how Mrs. Kelly was bound and determined to change the second-class status of women around, by making a difference in the lives of others.. a work that would endear her to thousands.

Mrs. Kelly was "The Wind Beneath My Wings" to many African-American women, as sung by Daughter Dana Skaggs, and then the group listened as Daughter Ruler Kathryn C. White compared her work with what is going on over in the Riverview Apartments right now.. their demolition that begun last week, signals the moving foward of the organization.. "that which does not destroy us, makes us stronger."

After the "Ode To Emma Kelly," the audience was treated to finger sandwiches, cake, fruit and punch.

Mrs. Kelly died in 1932 and was known as "Mother Kelly" by her thousands of daughters. She left an indelible mark on the organization that beats within the hearts of her followers, many of whom live in Rivervew and South Central Kingsport. As a community, we stand with the Daughters of Elks, Dunbar Temple #344 as they honor the founder of their organization with "Emma V. Kelly Day."

Members of the Daughters of Elks Dunbar Temple #344 are Daughter Ruler Kathyrn C. White.. Vice Daughter Ruler Barbara Greene.. Assistant Daughter Ruler Jerrie Welch.. Daughter Joyce Tartar, Financial Secretary.. Daughter Mary Lee Henry, Treasurer.. Daughter Sheila Leeper, Trustee.. Daughter Martha Harper, Trustee.. Daughter Doris Rogers, Trustee.. Daughter Cora Davis, Secretary.. Daughter Walanna Benson, Chaplain.. Daughter Jennie Ruth Hughes, Escort.. Daughter Joan Scott, Doorkeeper.. Daughter Johnnie Mae Swaggerty, Organist.. Daughter Dana Skaggs, Daughter Flossie Maxwell, and Daughter Sandra Bly.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Historic Riverview Apartments Demolition Ceremony

The spirits of togetherness, friendship, comradery, and love brought the former residents of the Historic Riverview Apartments together on Saturday, February 2nd to watch the demolition process begin, that will replace them.


As much as the event was held to celebrate the legacy of the Apartments, it also served as a means of just getting the folks in the Riverview-South Central Kingsport neighborhood in one room for an ole-fashioned get-together, reminiscent of the community activities we all had, in times gone by.

Spirits were high, laughter was plenty, and many thoughts were shared on the histories of the Apartments during the program at the V.O. Dobbins Sr. Community Center in Riverview, with an eye toward the future.

The Douglass High School Alumni Chorus got the standing-room only audience of over 200 people get the mood in a festive mood with songs that included "This Little Light of Mine," a favorite of Mrs. Gladys Bly, another long-time Apartment resident. The Chorus capped off with the singing of the Douglass School Song, always a crowd favorite.

The presentation of a beautiful plaque was presented to your website manager by Mrs. Louetta Hall. The plaque was given by Helen Bunting and Raymond Helton, appreciative of the Sons and Daughters of Douglass website (Thank so much, Helen & Raymond!--Calvin)

Among the people who could not attend, was Mrs. Mamie Gillenwater, the Riverview Apartments' oldest resident. She sent a note that was read to the group, saying she misses the friendships in the Apartments, and cried when we took her picture for "The Archives For Riverview" at Thanksgiving. She says, she is looking forward to moving back into her new home in Riverview when it is finished. Statements were also read from Tennessee State Representative Nathan Vaughn, who had a prior commitment. He told the group "I am very proud of the community and its move forward to making Kingsport the best place to live for all of its citizens." The Shirley Powers family of Chattanooga, also sent greetings through thoughts, prayers, saying it was a blessing and a privilege to have lived among the good friends and neighbors in the Apartments. Former Riverview resident Donald Hickman of Knoxville sent a very heartfelt note, that mentioned the importance of remembering the "small things" sometimes overlooked in life, like loving your children, supporting your grandchildren.. taking time to get medical checkups, stay in touch with friends and family, and keeping the legacy of Riverview alive.

Executive Director Terry Cunningham with the Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority thanked the group and the community for all of its support during the HOPE VI revitilization process. He also spoke of the sometimes difficult relocation process and how returning families will be able to enjoy the new homes they'll be occupying in the future.

Kingpsport Mayor Dennis Phillips told the group the Riverview Community has been ignored long enough, in the history of Kingsport. He said residents can always look back on the legacy of the Riverview Aparments, but at the same time, look forward to living in homes built to today's standards. He also of his upbringing in a small North Carolina community, saying he could relate to the giving spirit of the Riverview Community reaching out to help one another.

Dean Reynolds, field representative for U.S. Congressman David Davis, R-1st District Tennessee, told the group the congressman is very proud of the Riverview Community, saying with the building of 120 new housing units with the HOPE VI grant, "there are 120 opportunities for residents to enjoy." He promised the community that any questions they have about the project, Congressman Davis will get the answers they need.

The New Vision Youth presented a meaningful and moving sketch, that chronicled the evolution of the Riverview Community. Riverview's future generation proved that it is getting itself ready to pick up the torch of the community's heritage and run with it, through renditions of home life in the Apartments.

After a moving number "I Cried My Last Tear," by Dana Skaggs dedicated to the legacy of the Riverview Apartments, the group adjourned to Booker Street, to await the Beginning of the End for the Historic Riverview Apartments.

It was a slow march across the street. Folks at the beginning of the group sang "Amazing Grace" as they walked.. others just tried to remember the many times they walked this same route through the apartments to go outside and play when they lived there.. to go next door to another apartment to visit a relative, or an ailing neighbor.. to go next door to borrow some sugar, or to take some canned tomatos or pickles to a neighbor.

After a short speech saluting the Historic Apartments and the significance of the occasion in the history of Kingsport and the Tri-Cities, the experienced demolition crew from the D.H Griffin Wrecking Company swung into action..

The demolition crane engine was turned on, and the wrecking bucket was aimed at Apartments 26 and 27. The roof was the first to be punched in, then ripped out. Dust flew everywhere. Some folks who knew of the asbestos the Apartments contain, promised not to stay on site long; their fears were later dashed, when they learned that a required asbestos removal and safe transport away, had already been conducted on this particular unit. As a result, no asbestoes was released into the air, because it was not present here anymore.

The children, especially the boys, marveled at the destructive power of the demolition crane, completely unaware that they were witnesses to history. Boys are always fascinated by cranes, wrecking balls and bulldozers; many girls could care less. Their parents and the adults present, were also fascinated by what they were witnessing, but the historic significance was not lost on them.. they had known people in Apartments 26 and 27.. many times, they had visited them there.

The words "sad occasion" was a familiar refrain from people, as the moment sank in.. the Historic Riverview Apartments were indeed coming down. None present thought they would ever see this moment, after it had been talked about for years, finalized the past few months, and finally memorialized at this very moment.

Although tears were plentiful, smiles of hope were even more prevalent. Folks talked about the good times they had here, and also talked about the new homes to be built for the low income residents returning. Of course, the rumor that the homes would only be available for Eastman employees once again surfaced, BUT THIS RUMOR IS NOT TRUE. Only residents who have moved out and would like to return, once their low income and work status is verified, are eligible to return, THUS, EASTMAN EMPLOYEES WILL NOT QUALIFY FOR THE NEW HOUSING, BECAUSE THEY MAKE TOO MUCH MONEY.

Although conversations continued during the wrecking crane's work, those talks were interrupted whenever the crane bucket found a soft spot in the unit, where the bricks would tumble, the lumber would crunch, and the scrap metal would clank. All eyes would then be focused on the demolition area, until the noise subsided.

The demolition crew from D.H. Griffin was, and is being very careful in leaving some bricks intact, for folks who want them. In fact, all during the demolition process, the crew will be collecting bricks for residents and interested people who have requested them; that number now stands at a thousand requests so far! Johnnie Mae Swaggerty, who has been collecting names, says she has gotten requests from as far away as California, Oregon, Atlanta, New York, and North Carolina for bricks.. Everybody from former residents, to Kingsport residents, to Kingsport Mayor Dennis Phillips, to local city, state and federal legislators, to executives from Kingsport's business community have requested bricks from the Historic Riverview Apartments. The Douglass High School Alumni Association has requested 200 bricks to be engraved with the names of local pillars of the Riverview Community.

Many people seemed to not want to leave the demolition site, even after the crane ended this first run at tearing down the Apartments. It's no secret that the Apartments were a gathering place for residents, friends and neighbors, and even at this historic time, that fact was not lost on folks who just wanted to linger a while longer.

Menawhile, others had already gone back to the V.O. Dobbins Sr. Community Center, the Douglass Gym, to have cake, chips and refreshments, and reflect on what they had just witnessed. The stories of the Apartments and the community continued to circulate among the people, as they will for many years.

"I cried my last tear..
For Riverview was home.

And now it will be missed..

So Dear God we pray,
when the last brick is down..

There will be still be,
a new Riverview around..

--Johnnie Mae Swaggerty, Apts. 79 and 46