People are getting excited about commemorating the 50th anniversary of the closing of the schools, with an historic event called the "Great Golden Gathering - 2015," that remembers the good times and the wonderful educations we and our ancestors received, from the best schools in the region.
The Organizational Committee made up of representatives from the various alumni groups has been been meeting since March 7th, discussing ways to make the Great Golden Gathering memorable for both the schools' alumni, their descendants, and their respective communities. There were 15 former African-American schools from Knoxville through the Tri-Cities into Southwest Virginia. Although there are some alumni organizations that have not been directly involved, nonetheless they are still included because, by default, they are one of the African-American schools. Pray, the Organizational Committee does not want to leave any alumni associations out, and any schools not contacted yet, are encouraged to please join the Committee. All opinions and suggestions are welcome. There are no bad ideas... all are suggestions to help make the Big Reunion a big success.
Most of the beloved schools closed for integration in 1965 (Swift in 1963, and Douglass-Kingsport 1966), and their combined alumni associations are planning a huge and historic reunion, to reconnect former students who interacted athletically, academically and socially when those schools were the backbone of our communities. These were 15 African-American schools with fine teachers, who instructed us with loving care. These schools were the solid rocks of our communities, and by the grace of God, all or most are still standing today. Many are used as offices, some are community centers much like their roles of yesteryear, some are apartments, but some are empty shells. Sadly, a few are in fear of the wrecking ball.
LOCATION AND SCHEDULE
The historic "Great Golden Gathering - 2015" will be Friday August 28, Saturday August 29, and Sunday August 30, 2015. The location will be the Holiday Inn-Bristol Convention Center, 3005 Linden Drive, Bristol, VA 24202. The phone number is (276) 466-4100. We have a special discounted room rate for folks who are spending the night (s).. just mention that you're attending the "Great Golden Gathering - 2015" and you'll get the special room rate.
DIRECTIONS TO THE LOCATION
Bristol Holiday Inn - Bristol Conference Center
3005 Linden Avenue
Bristol, VA 24202
Room rate for the Great Golden Gathering 2015 is $89.00 per night for a single/2 queen beds room.
From the South End of Bristol, these are directions for coming up I-81 from the I-26 junction, beginning at Mile Marker 57:
Coming up I-81, at Mile Marker 75, cross into Virginia.
In Virginia, TAKE Exit 7 (Old Airport Road-Bonham Road)---you'll actually pass the big Holiday Inn on the left, right beside the freeway.
Go to the red light, and TURN LEFT.
Go under the freeway, through the next red light, go past the IHOP sign on the left, and CROSS the little bridge.
TURN LEFT AT THE NEXT STREET onto Linden
Avenue (watch for the big "Bristol Commons" store signs and also the road construction there).
Go to the end of Linden Avenue, and the Holiday Inn-Conference Center is on the left---the biggest
From the north end of Bristol, these are directions for coming down I-81:
Coming down I-81 South, TAKE exit 7 (Old Airport Road-Bonham Road).
At the end of the exit ramp at the red light, TURN RIGHT. Go past the IHOP sign on the left and CROSS the little bridge.
TURN LEFT AT THE NEXT STREET onto Linden Avenue (watch for the big Bristol Commons store signs, and also the road construction there).
Go to the end of Linden Avenue, and the Holiday Inn-Conference Center is on the left -- the biggest building around).
Plans are for a meet-and-greet session for all the alumni on Friday the 28th.... fun and games, and/or a picnic with school displays of memorabilia on Saturday afternoon the 29th.... a huge banquet event with speakers on Saturday night the 29th.... and a special church service on Sunday the 30th. Events on any given day are subject to change and modification.
The cost to attend is $100 dollars per person, with a $25 dollar non-refundable deposit that helps us secure the venue, food accomodations, entertainment, etc. The $25 dollar deposit will be deducted from the $100 dollars, leaving only a balance of $75 dollars per person. The entire $100 is due by August 15th. Please make your check out to "Great Golden Gathering 2015" and mail it to Great Golden Gathering - 2015, c/o Barbara Watterson, 810 North Hill Drive, Johnson City, TN 37604. Your name (s) will be placed on the master list, to be checked off on the day of registration, and you will be given an arm band to wear, guaranteeing your admittance to the individual events of the big Reunion.
100% of your registration fee goes to fund the Great Golden Gathering 2015. The event is open only to alumni of the 15 former African-American schools of upper East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia and/or their descendants.
Individual events like the Banquet are not separated from the rest of the Reunion, i.e. no individual tickets for the Banquet will be sold. Admittance is by pre-registration only. This is only fair to those alumni who have already pre-registered.
We have invited the Reverend Jesse Jackson to speak at the banquet program, and he has graciously accepted the invitation and will be with us in Bristol on Saturday night. Also attending will be Mrs. Gloria Sweet-Love, the president of the Tennessee NAACP. Both will speak to the legacies of the African-American schools from Knoxville to Tri-Cities and into Southwest Virginia. We have extended an invitation to the Honorable John Lewis of Georgia to attend and speak at the banquet program, and are hoping he can fit our event into his busy schedule.. Both Congressman Lewis and Rev. Jackson are Civil Rights icons, and both marched on either side of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Congressman Lewis, along with Hosea Williams led a peaceful group of 600 protestors across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama 50 years ago who were marching for voting rights and were met by state troopers with batons and billy clubs. The confrontation is forever known as "Bloody Sunday." The Reverend Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition's Operation Push has always and still continues to seek justice and equality for the disadvantaged and people of color. Reverend Jackson has long been the man whose mediation efforts have led to great compromise among differing factions; hence his status as "The Great Unifier."
We plan to honor these three Civil Rights pioneers during the banquet for their diligence, guidance, gentle patience and immeasurable contributions to the Civil Rights Movement. During a ceremony fitting of this monumental occasion, all three will be presented with a memorable trophy, on behalf of a respectful and grateful alumni gathering. We pray that Congressman Lewis' schedule will allow him to attend.
Our committees are working on the programs for this historic one-of-a-kind event, including souvenir programs and historic commemorative tee-shirts that can be purchased, along with grab-bags full of free items. We are also looking for corporate sponsorships to handle certain aspects of the event. The banquet will be fitting tributes to the legacies of the finest schools in the region.
The 50th anniversary of any event is special. These were African-American schools with fine teachers, who instructed us with care and prepared us for the unknown.. a world struggling to accept us as the intelligent people we are. Our most important Big Reunion goal is to pass this part of our histories to our young people, to pick up the charge and carry the banners of our schools into the next generation. Our alumni numbers at all of our our beloved schools is dwindling fast, and we don't have a moment to lose. The Great Golden Gathering - 2015 may be the last and only time that all of us can be together to celebrate the one thing that binds us all.. our friendships and our common school bonds.
For more information, contact the Organizational Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling Calvin Sneed at (423) 847-5139.
Please put the historic Great Golden Gathering event on your late August calendar. We may not have another chance at history.
THE 15 AFRICAN-AMERICAN HIGH SCHOOLS OF UPPER EAST TENNESSEE -
Bland High School, Big Stone Gap, VA (Central High School & Appalachia Training School)
Douglass High School, Bristol, VA
Slater High School, Bristol, TN
Douglas High School, Elizabethton, TN
Douglass High School, Kingsport, TN
Langston High School, Johnson City, TN
Swift College High School, Rogersville, TN
Arty-Lee High School, Dante, VA
George Clem High School, Greeneville, TN
Morristown College West High School, Morristown, TN
Tanner High School, Newport, TN
Nelson-Merry High School, Jefferson City, TN
Austin High School, Knoxville, Tn
....And all of the associated African-American Elementary Schools in the area, who graduated students to attend these distinguished High Schools....