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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Van Dobbins, Jr. Wins Food Lion Award for Helping Feed the Hungry


Deborah Sabo, senior vice president of marketing for Food Lion, and V.O. Dobbins, Jr.  He is the volunteer leader of the Central Baptist church Food Ministry in Kingsport, and the 2023 recipient of the Lion Heart Volunteer Award from Food Lion

SALISBURY, N.C. — Food Lion Feeds recently honored a select group of food banks, volunteers, community leaders and associates at the eighth annual Food Lion Feeds Feedys Awards.

Among thisyear's winners, honored at a May 24 ceremony here, is a man from Kingsport: V.O. Dobbins Jr.

The event celebrates and recognizes individuals and partners who exemplify commitment and dedication to help nourish neighbors facing food insecurity. Food Lion Feeds was founded in 2014 by Food Lion to address food insecurity in the towns and cities it serves.

“We at Food Lion Feeds envision a world where no one goes hungry, where families do not have to choose between dinner and rent or gas and groceries and where everyone works together to nourish families and set them up for success,” said Kevin Durkee, manager of Food Lion Feeds. “Despite each individual and organization’s challenges, they persevere and embrace uncertainty to nourish our neighbors. As a result of their tireless work and leadership, we recognize and honor their exceptional partnership and compassionate efforts.”

This year's Lion Heart Volunteer Award went to the V.O. Dobbins Jr., a volunteer leader of the Central Baptist Church Food Ministry in Kingsport.

The program works with the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee, based in the former Sam's Club building off Exit 63 of Interstate 81 in Kingsport.

"This award recognizes an individual who demonstrates outstanding skills in coordinating and motivating groups of donors and volunteers for hunger-relief projects for the benefit of Food Lion Feeds and its partner food banks," a Food Lion news release said.

"A humble, servant leader of the Central Baptist Church Food Ministry, V.O. Dobbins Jr. has been a volunteer leader for more than 30 years. He served as the purchasing agent and food coordinator in his earlier years. Dobbins’ ability to lead, motivate, manage and inspire others allows the ministry to serve approximately 350 individuals every month through a mobile food distribution model he initiated during the pandemic.

A video about Dobbins' role in supporting hunger relief in his community is available here.  Be sure to hit the "play" button.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

OPINION: Every Black Person in Kingsport and Tri-Cities Should Attend Kingsport's Juneteenth

EDITORIAL:  As a journalist, it is taboo for me to express an opinion one way or the other about anything, but Sullivan County Commissioner Joe Carr's recent public comments at the Sullivan County Commission meeting on May 18, 2023 about Juneteenth crossed the line.  It took local African-American citizens back to a time when Jim Crow ruled, and Black citizens in the Tri-Cities were trod under the feet of White people.

Joe Carr represents Sullivan County District 9, along with Joe McMurray.  Their Sullivan County District 9 is in the map below.

In the map above, Kingsport is the area in pink, red and bright green, areas 7, 9, 10, and 11.  As you can see, District 9 (the Carr-McMurray district) in the upper left corner in pink, is the area south of the TN-VA state line, east of Gravely and Leeland Drives, over to Lynn Garden Drive and west to the Hawkins County line following the Holston River North Fork, south to Bays Mountain, then back north to loop around the Fort Robinson subdivision back over to Gravely-Leeland Drives.  In that area is all of Lynn Garden, West Kingsport, Old Kingsport and Ridgefields.

When it came to allocating local money for the celebration of the federally-recognized Juneteenth holiday at the Sullican County Commission meeting on May 18th, 2023, Joe Carr said this, in a story courtesy WJHL-TV.   Click on the arrow below:

In the picture above, Carr, whom you heard in the video is upper left, his fellow District 9 commissioner Joe McMurray (upper right) also voted against allocating money to support the celebration of the Juneteenth holiday locally.  Also voting "NO" was Herschel Glover of Bluff City District 5 (bottom left), and Jessica Means, Blountville District 6 (bottom right).

Thank goodness, the other 17 Sullivan County Commissioners voted in favor of allocating county money to celebrate the national holiday.  The allocation proposal passed 17 to 4.

Joe Carr's comments caused a firestorm around the state.  I'm in the media, and my email blew up the night of the commission meeting.  Every television station, newspaper and radio station that has a news format repeated his comments.  It even made NATIONAL headlines.  In my opinion, Joe Carr caused himself a ton of problems, and brought embarrassment to the place at one point, we all called "HOME."

The Kingsport Times-News weighed in heavily against his comments in this editorial on May 24th:

"It is an embarrassment that four Sullivan County commissioners opposed the county’s participation in the federal Juneteenth holiday as the majority approved it.

Kingsport Commissioner Joe Carr said he would not support making Juneteenth a county holiday because it is a “woke holiday” and “we shouldn’t give these people an inch.” Carr was joined in opposing the holiday by Commissioners Hershel Glover, Joe McMurray and Jessica Means.

“No one in Sullivan County is in favor of this, almost nobody,” Carr said.

We beg to differ. The service of these commissioners is to be appreciated, but clearly they are among those who don’t fully understand the holiday. We refer them to one of the most prestigious conservative think tanks, the Heritage Foundation, and Kay Coles James, emeritus trustee and former Heritage president. Following are her remarks that originally appeared in the Washington Times in 2021.

“Juneteenth — the annual observance celebrating the end of slavery in the United States in 1865 — is a holiday that many Americans haven’t heard of until recently. That has caused some to wonder if it’s just some new ‘woke’ holiday invented by Marxist academics, the creators of the historically inaccurate 1619 Project, or some other group on the left. It is not.

“Juneteenth has been celebrated since 1866, mostly by Black Americans; yet it’s a day that’s worthy of celebration by every American as it represents a critical turning point in American history, not just Black history. It is the day that we as a people finally began to live up to one of the greatest principles we professed: a nation devoted to liberty for all.

“Juneteenth — June 19, 1865 — was the day Union soldiers enforced President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and freed all remaining slaves in Texas. Also called Freedom Day and Emancipation Day, Juneteenth evolved from a Texas celebration to a celebration of the end of slavery throughout the United States.

“While some will undoubtedly use Juneteenth to push their ‘Hate America’ agenda and racial division, Juneteenth has always been a day for recognizing America as an exceptional nation — a nation that, though flawed, was built on humanity’s highest ideals and endowed with a constitutional framework that allowed us to right our wrongs throughout our history.

“Juneteenth also presents a teachable moment for our young people. It’s an opportunity to tell our youth the larger story of the history of slavery in America — not to shame or to divide, but to put it in its proper context as a considerable and formative part of American history that it truly was. Slavery was a part of who we were back then, and ridding ourselves of it and working toward equality for all is an integral part of who we have become. That history (and all too often, a lack of knowledge of it) still informs the debates we have today.

“Juneteenth also gives us the opportunity to talk about how the principles of the founding — perfect principles espoused by imperfect people — and our constitutional order led this republic to ultimately fight against and reject slavery, and later, against segregation and the practice of separate but equal. By having more complete discussions with our young people about such a critical part of our history and by teaching it factually but also within the context of American idealism, we can begin to wrest this issue from those who constantly try to use race as a wedge to divide Americans.

“Every nation has scars from its past, but we can use Juneteenth as a way to acknowledge our past faults, help heal current divisions, and move toward a future as a nation more united. Let us look at Juneteenth just as we look at Independence Day — as a great turning point for freedom in our nation’s history, and one where we were willing to pay a heavy price to ultimately live out our highest ideals."


Not to mention, Letters to the Editor of the Kingsport Times-News in the following days:


Regarding the article about Sullivan County Commissioner Joe Carr referring to the Juneteenth holiday as being a “woke holiday" and that no one in Sullivan County supports it, he couldn't have made a more ignorant statement about the reason for and the support of this holiday.  Juneteenth is not woke. It is a celebration for the independence of our black citizens from the institution of slavery. This is surely no less significant than the U.S. holiday of July 4th celebrating the independence of the colonies from British control.  The fact that Mr. Carr refers to this holiday as a woke holiday attempts to undermine the legitimacy of this event and attempts to further cloud this nation’s ugly history of racism.  Thank you, Times News, for reporting this story and letting Sullivan County voters know about the opinions of our local politicians. It gives me hope that 17 of Mr. Carr’s fellow commissioners voted in support of this new holiday.

Steve Rowland,  Kingsport


I know and like Bob Arrington. Bob and I differ on many issues, and that's OK. However, Bob's opinion piece on May 26 was on target.  Our country is being divided by grievances which we seek to use to impose personal views on others. Many base decisions and actions on hateful opinions, personal viewpoints and conspiracy theories instead of an understanding and civil discussion of facts.  Juneteenth is a holiday honoring the freeing of enslaved people in our country from bondage. This has nothing to do with "woke." It has everything to do with many of our citizens being granted the same freedom and rights as every other citizen of this great country.  Every person should celebrate Juneteenth, and indeed, every elected official who believes in the principles on which our beloved country was founded. Thanks, Bob, for making that truth perfectly clear.

Rick Toomey,  Kingsport


I am embarrassed for Sullivan County Commissioner Joe Carr for his lack of compassion and poor leadership represented by his recent comments opposing the approval of Juneteenth as an official county holiday.  “No one in Sullivan County is in favor of this....”  Did Mr. Carr talk to EVERY citizen in the county?  Not me.  Not everyone at our church I spoke to yesterday. We all favor the holiday designation.  Instead of representing ALL citizens of the county, Mr. Carr prefers to use the bullhorn of his commissioner seat to label “others” while promoting division.  It appears to be a battle cry — publicly displaying his simple lack of understanding of the words “insurrection” and “to be awake.”  Who are “these” people who should “not be given an inch”?  What does that even mean?  Are they citizens who understand history? Clearly, Mr. Carr does not.  And he does not represent the citizens of the county with the dignity we expect of an elected official.

Bob Warner,   Blountville


These were just a sampling of the opinions that our neighbors in Kingsport have expressed, regarding Joe Carr's comments and the votes of three of his fellow Sullivan County commissioners.

Now I'll weigh in.  These are my own opinions.  I don't ask that you accept them... I only ask that you give them thought.

As the historian of the Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni Association, I, too echo the letters to the editor and the editorial from the newspaper.  I was shocked and taken aback by what Carr said.  For a split second, I thought "wait a minute... Carr and McMurray represent KINGSPORT?  Kingsport is my town.  It's MY town.  It's where I grew up.  My parents raised a family in the 1960's and 70's there.  My daddy was proud to have a little business among the Black businesses based in Riverview.   My father's parents raised a son in the 1930's, 40's and 50's and lived among turn-of-the-century family members whose 1900's pre-Kingsport ancestry dates back to Rotherwood Heights and the Rotherwood slave plantation of the 1800's.  

Part of my heart is in Kingsport.   I will consciously or unconsciously defend Juneteenth, the day that your ancestors and my ancestors were freed from Egypt-like bondage.  Juneteenth is the biggest thing we African-American all share as a people.  I will defend that celebration without even thinking about it.  Some legislators in Florida that subscribe to the "woke" theory (again... whatever that is) would feel that particular historical heritage should not be taught in school---that's another story and another fight.  

I love the people in my town, all of them.  I respect even the small number I've had disagreements with over the years.  Those disagreements made me value other peoples' opinions and I respect them for at least having an opinion, even though I might differ with them.  I love them and today I consider them close friends.  

So what part of Carr's Kingsport am I missing?  Why are we at this point?

All of that being said, Joe Carr's comments are indefensible.  WE are the "THOSE PEOPLE" he is referring to.  His African-American neighbors in Kingsport.  People of a different color and heritage who live within 3 to 5 miles of him.  On a large scale, we're talking every Black person in Kingsport, Bristol, Johnson City, Sullivan County, upper East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia within 50 miles of him.  On a small scale, the small number of Black people in Kingsport who will all come together individually to celebrate the freeing of our ancestors, along with White people who see the need to celebrate along with us.  

People, Carr's comments are a rallying cry that racism is not dead.. some 21st-century politicians, both nationally and locally have seemingly endorsed the bringing back of racism from the Jim Crow era with a vengeance.. that racism is still here now, living amongst us like a cancer that will never die.   We must stand together in the face of this resurgence of hate.  We must fight it ever anew anywhere and any time it rears its ugly head.  We cannot let comments like Joe Carr's go unchallenged.  If you do not fight the cancer, it spreads.  And we have to fight the fight, with White people on our side.  We can no longer fight it alone... we have to have the Dr. King kind of help.. non-violent, but concentrated, standing-together HELP.

Get motivated.  This is an open invitation for EVERY Black person in Kingsport, Bristol, Johnson City, Elizabethton, yea EVERY Black community in upper East Tennessee Tennessee and Southwest Virginia to come to Kingsport and celebrate Juneteenth.  We need that help.   We have been challenged by a Sullivan County commissioner who let the opinions of his heart become public.  There's no taking it back, you cannot put the toothpaste back in the tube.  We cannot unhear what we have heard.  What he said was in his heart, and even apologies are difficult to accept when overt, obvious, unexplainable racism is involved. 

Juneteeth is short term, but what about long term?  We have to forgive, but can we forget?  That is an individual peace we have to make with God individually.  Only He knows in what form racism will raise its ugly head again.  And it will.

The healing begins with Juneteenth, 2023.  Come out to Kingsport's Juneteenth and show your support in the face of Carr's "misplaced comments."  Show him how wrong he is.  We faced comments like those before and only with God's Help standing together, unfortunately we will have to face them again, beyond.

---Calvin Sneed, Vice President and Historian, The Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni Association

Monday, May 22, 2023

Time is Running Out to Register for the Douglass Reunion

 Attention Douglass Alumni:

Get your hotel reservations in as soon as possible for the upcoming Douglass-Riverview Reunion at the end of next month.  Time is running out to get the special rate that we have gotten at the Fairfield Inn by Marriott in Kingsport (it's very visible from John B. Dennis Bypass and South Wilcox Drive -- I've passed by it several times).  It's a brand new hotel and you can't miss it in that area).

The rate is a flat $150 dollars per night counting the taxes, and that rate expires on May 31st.  Of course, you are free to stay at any hotel you like (there are several in that area, including Meadowview), but the special rate is only available at the Fairfield Inn by Marriott, three blocks from Meadowview.  Be sure and tell them that you are a Douglass alumnus to get the special rate.  All rooms are non-smoking.

Also, please send in your $50.00 alumni dues as soon as possible.. we need that seed money to pay for some of the activities and venues planned.  Please send your dues to:

Sons and Daughters of Douglass

301 Louis Street, Ste. 304

Kingsport, TN 37660

It will be so good to see everybody who have confirmed that they're coming.  COVID restricted our movements and kept us apart for long enough.. the Douglass Tigers are roaring back!

Act now to guarantee your good time!

Monday, May 8, 2023

Your Special Reunion Hotel Rate is Now in Effect


You can now reserve hotel rooms at the new Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott for the upcoming Sons and Daughters of Douglass Alumni Reunion!

Special room rates are reserved under the name of "Sons and Daughters of Douglass" and you have to tell them you are a Douglass alumnus.

The special rate for Douglass alumni is $129.00 without taxes... with 16.5% tax, the total is $150.00.  There are 10 rooms reserved for Douglass alumni, with king-standard beds, or 3 king beds in a suite along with a sofa.  7 of the rooms have a queen-sized bed.

All rooms are non-smoking, and are guaranteed with a credit card.

You can call right now to reserve a room, but all reservations have to be made before May 30th, or the rates go back to what they were before.  The phone number is (423) 349-8722 and again, tell them you are a Douglass alumnus to get the special rate.  Of course, you are free to call any hotel of your preference, but the special rate is only at the Fairfield Inn and Suites.

The hotel is located one block north of the John B. Dennis Bypass on South Wilcox Drive.  Directions are as follows:

When you exit on Exit 4 (Highway 93 South Wilcox Drive), go up to the red light and bear to the right onto the John B. Dennis Bypass.  Go to the top of the hill and turn left at the next red light onto South Wilcox Drive.  Go one block, and turn right on Southgate Place.... the hotel is on your left.  (To come to Riverview from there, come out of the hotel on Southgate Place, and turn right onto South Wilcox Drive.  Go to the bottom of the hill at the red light and turn right---you'll still be on South Wilcox Drive.  Follow that on up to the Eastman headquarters on your left---of course, Riverview is right behind the headquarters.