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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