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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Celebrating HOPE: Free Workshops Continue Kingsport’s Black History Month celebration



Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

A series of free workshops designed to highlight that message continue Kingsport’s Black History Month celebration. The HOPE (Help Our Potential Evolve) workshops will be held from noon to 3 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 19 at the Kingsport Renaissance Center.

“We have a lot of talent here in Kingsport and people don’t always get to see it. This is an opportunity to showcase some of those artists and to help kids realize that potential in themselves,” said HOPE founder and event organizer Stella Robinette.

The event is open to the public and, although it is geared toward elementary, middle and high school students, all ages are invited and encouraged to attend.

HOPE got its start when Robinette approached the Kingsport Parks and Recreation Department about helping create some special activities for youth during Black History Month.

“I started at the Civic Auditorium and we had a movie workshop, an African cuisine class, drumming and storytelling. The kids also made a quilt from the storytelling,” Robinette recalled.

“It was so successful that I wanted to keep it going, so I started asking others to get involved and we formed a committee and it’s grown every year,” she said.

Building on the workshops that are most popular each year, the committee seeks to find new activities and programs to share.

This year’s topics include everything from music and storytelling to African cuisine.

Richie Hicks will present a drumming workshop, and perennial favorite Gerri Harrison will return for a cooking and tasting class on African cuisine. A drama workshop will also be presented by Arts4Kids and Starr Releford. Former teacher Jill Ellis will tell stories, and the Boys & Girls Club will be on hand for face painting.

New this year is a Michael Jackson Wii competition with four prizes in various age groups.

“We’re going to split the age groups and the winner in the groups can win a $100 gift card,” Robinette said.

An art exhibit, showcasing local artists, remains on display on the second floor of the Renaissance Center.

“I wanted to show off some of our local artists. Some are folks who live away from here now, others are still here. We have art from one 15-year-old that I found on Facebook,” Robinette said.

Robinette said sharing his art is at the very core of what HOPE is all about.

“That’s exactly what we’re about. He has great potential, but he had never displayed his art anywhere. That is one of the goals with this, to get kids who think they don’t have the potential to step up and start hanging their art down here,” she said.

That will be one of Robinette’s key focuses for 2012, as she searches to shine the light on other artists who may go unnoticed and to keep HOPE alive.

“A lot of the credit goes to our sponsors — Eastman Chemical Company, Food City, Tri-Summit Bank, Regions Bank, the City of Kingsport’s Cultural Arts and Parks and Rec departments. Without them, I couldn’t do anything,” Robinette said.

To find out more about the workshops, call (423) 392-8414 or visit