Sunday, July 13, 2014

Pictures from the 2014 Douglass-Slater Banquet


Pictures from the 2014 Douglass-Slater Alumni Picnic


2014 Douglass-Slater Reunion: Loving Memories, Forging Tomorrows

Friends, family and loved ones gathered to enjoy each other's company, at the 2014 edition of the Douglass-Slater Reunion.

The get-together every two years, reunites students from Bristol's two former African-American high schools, Douglass High School in Bristol, Virginia and Slater High School in Bristol, Tennessee.

The two schools held separate reunions for a while.. Douglass' started around 1976, and Slater's began around 1978.

Margo White is the president of the Douglass Alumni association for 2014.. Tommy McDaniel is Slater's alumni president.

"These reunions are special, because they bring back and emphasize our roots and our heritage," McDaniel says. "Friends and families get to come together and have fun, just like we did when we were in school. Those loving memories are important."

Both Douglass and Slater began joint reunions in 2000, and the histories of the two schools are very similar. Though less than a mile apart, the only thing that physically separates them is the Tennessee-Virginia state line. Other than that, students and families from both schools all know each other, and did, back when.

"Times were hard back in the 1940's, 50's and 60's," says McDaniel, himself a 10-year veteran of Slater, starting school there in 1956. "We didn't have much. Some of the students who came to the schools did have food to eat. The biggest meals they had, were at school. That meant a lot to them and it makes their return to these school reunions even more special. Everybody formed a special bond that was never broken."

"Family" was the key word back then, even though McDaniel says, it was never emphasized. It was just always present.

"Teachers at both schools took care of their students, and in many cases, students took care of students," he remembers. "Even past that, parents took care of their kids and then they took care of other parents' kids, too. All we had were families that knew each other and loved each other."

"We are a close-knit group, and that togetherness has lasted for generations."

At the 2014 Reunion picnic held at Steele Creek Park, those former students and families enjoyed bingo, card games, bean toss, and of course, good food. There was plenty of reminiscing and kidding around, but it was with a guarded optimism.

"Our school reunions are not like Dobyns-Bennett or Science Hill or Tennessee High (where McDaniel graduated in '67)," he says. "Unlike them, we, as African-American high school alumni have a finite number of alumni. Every year, those schools get to add to their alumni base with new seniors graduating. We don't have that luxury. Our numbers have been dropping ever since integration in 1965. Every year, we have dozens of black alumni who will not see the next school reunion, and there are no graduating seniors to replenish the alumni numbers."

Therefore, these reunions have a two-fold purpose.

"First and foremost," McDaniel says, "we have to get our descendants, the younger people involved in remembering the heritage of the schools. It's vitally important to pass along the schools' histories to the younger generation. We absolutely have to bring them on board and stress the importance of remembering where they came from. Our history is their history. The sad fact is, we don't have people here today, that were here laughing and joking around back in 2012. It's a challenge to involve young people in something most of them have no interest in, but our challenge is clear.

The Douglass-Slater Banquet is where the next part of the reunion's purpose becomes clear.

"The next thing we have to do is enjoy the time that we as former students have together," says McDaniel. "Nobody knows but if this is the last time we see each other. At the banquet, we get to dress up in theme clothing and have a good time, appreciating each other's company. We want our folks to have a good time at the banquet because we get to honor our alumni members, celebrate those who have achieved above and beyond the goals we set for ourselves, and award our scholarships to the young descendants who we hope, will carry on the banner.

Acknowledging that everybody looks a little different now, McDaniel says the way they were all raised, shaped backgrounds that will never change.

"Although we may live apart, we are still together as alumni," he says. "We still love each other like we did when we went through those school doors for the last time. "That's what binds us together.. keeps us as one."


Friday, July 19, 2013

An Open Letter from Andre Canty

I’m not surprised by the verdict regarding George Zimmerman’s murder of Trayvon Martin. I wasn’t surprised because in my lifetime, I’ve only remember one case that a White person got off by unjustly killing a Black person. Unfortunately, I saw Trayvon’s body, but what I saw was a kid with skinny jeans and a hoodie that looked more hipster than thug. When I was in high school, I looked more menacing if you went by appearance alone.

I was Trayvon Martin in 2002. At 17 years old in Knoxville, TN, I had baggy clothes, cornrowed braids, often seen with no shirt at sport practices, and rarely smiled standing at 6’1 and 170lbs. I rarely even talked to anyone outside my friends, which may have been cause for suspicion as society view introversion as something wrong. I ran track, but also played football, where I can be violent legally. I was also an honor roll student, painfully shy, never suspended from school, never took drugs or alcohol, attended school almost all the time, and helped my grandfather in the yard every weekend. With all of that said, I’m convinced that I too would’ve been shot dead in Sanford, FL by a self-proclaimed neighborhood watchman as Trayvon for looking worse than him, despite of my clean record and grades. I’m convinced that my killer would’ve been found not-guilty because from my skin and my age because I embodied what they fear the most. By appearance, I was a thug and up to no good. In reality, I wore those clothes because rappers wore them. I wore cornrowed braids because Allen Iverson and the group Outkast had them. What I wore was not evident that I was a thug; it was evident that I followed popular culture. Though I lived the All-American life, I didn’t have the All-American image.

The murder and the verdict proved that Black males were born suspicious. Black masculinity is what some fear the most. Fear is why we have to go way out our way to be as approachable and as safe as possible. A flawed society and system are reasons why I have to appear safe. Black masculinity is why there are systems in place to bring us down, which is why Trayvon was doomed before he was born.

There always has to be some reason why a Black male dies at a young age. If a Black male dies, you often see gangs or drugs as the main factors to their demise as if he provoked his own death. The same has been said against Trayvon. By his appearance alone, he was destined to die? He only defended himself against a man stalking him, but since Trayvon chose to fight, he somehow chose his fate.

If you take a look at his supposed drug use, remember that the last three of our U.S. Presidents smoked weed AND cocaine. President George W. Bush was arrested for a DUI. Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger smoked weed. Using drugs is not a factor; it’s a Black male using drugs that’s the problem. Even with Trayvon’s not so squeaky clean record in school, it was impossible for Zimmerman to be aware of that on that day. What Zimmerman perceived is what many perceived: a walking monster.

The fact is that teenagers often do dumb things. We’ve all done it; however, those dumb things should not be cause for murder. Teenagers do dumb things, and then they grow up, and start to do less dumb things.

Trayvon did what you’re taught to do and that was self-defense. The case also proves that Black males cannot engage in self-defense because it will always be their fault.

A Black death is always arguable. Thus is why there are so many reasons as to why he and many like him should’ve died. It is why I know that if I were killed in the same manner some would believe that it was my destiny because of the body I’m in and where I come from. When Emmitt Till’s killers were acquitted, one of the jurors said “If we hadn't stopped to drink pop, it wouldn't have taken that long.” There isn’t much difference with Emmitt and Trayvon. No matter how Black males strive to be a productive member in society, that same society will strive to condemn you, so what can we possibly do to not seem like a threat?

Most importantly, the law that made this case crazy in the first place is right here in our backyard. The ‘Stand Your Ground’ exists in Tennessee and was lobbied by the National Rifle Association. If anything is to be done, it is to strive to have that law taken away. That law and the verdict just gave some open season to shoot anyone for any perceived threat. I for one will not stand for it because there will be more Zimmermans birthed and more Trayvons killed.

---Andre Canty, Knoxville

Saturday, July 14, 2012

2012 Slater H.S. Business Meeting: An Alumni Association in Search of a President

"It's been a good ride. Everybody has cooperated, and we've been fine."

Those words from Slate Alumni President John Hogans, upon his last reunion as head of the Slater High School Alumni Association of Bristol, Tennessee.

Hogans is stepping down after almost 16 years leading the Slate Alumni through parades, meetings, gatherings and banquets, partnered with its Bristol, Virginia counterpart, Douglass High School.

"Every time you have one of these reunions, there are little glitches that have to be worked out at the last minute, but everything runs pretty smoothly. Our joint banquet was well attended, and we appreciate our Slater family coming out to celebrate our heritage."

Click here to see a slideshow of the 2012 Douglass-Slater Reunion Banquet.

Hogans was especially complimentary of the enthusiasm of the Slater Alumni who attended the 2012 business meeting, just before the Reunion Banquet.

Click here to see a slideshow of the 2012 Slater High School Business Meeting.

"The excitement of the business meeting was evident in the factc that the group wanted to continue the reunion," he says, "even though they don't have a president. That enthusiam is good, and we're hoping to find a president soon."

Because no one stepped forward at the business meeting to volunteer to be Slater's next president, Hogans, whose term doesn't officially expire for another few months, will reach out into the Slater alumni community at a later date.

"It's a good thing to reach out to the younger people, the descendants of Slater graduates," he says. "Our numbers of actual graduates are dwindling and getting shorter. IT would be only a while that we, the older ones, won't be here anymore, and somebody has to step up and take over, if there's going to be a continuation."

Hogans says, once a president is found, the announcement will be made during the alumni association's mailings in October.

"I would encourage everybody to come and help, and to be enthusiastic," he says. "We have to keep the school spirit built up among our descendants, so that Slater High School's memory will stay alive."

The Douglass H.S. Bristol Business Meeting - Banquet: "A Really Good Turnout"

A packed house greeted the officers of the Douglass High School Alumni group, meeting in Bristol, Virginia on Saturday, July 7, 2012.

"We actually had a really good turnout," says Alumni president Fred Delaney. "We covered a lot of issues, and the business discussion went smoothly."

Click here to see a slideshow of the Douglass High School-Bristol VA 2012 Business Meeting.

The alumni budget was discussed, and among the issues that came up, was continuing the reunion and preparing to meet again in two years.

"Continuing the reunion was actually the first thing we talked about," Delaney says. "Our members want that, and so we'll have one, two years from now."

Another hot topic was the invitation to join in a gathering of all alumni associations representing African-American schools in the Tri-State region. Douglass alumni members were quite excited about that. Details of that discussion will be forthcoming in another story on this webpage.

Douglass High School in Bristol, Virginia always holds its reunion with nearby Slater High School in Bristol, Tennessee. The once-bitter enemies now hold joint events, including the alumni banquet.

Click here to see a slideshow of the 2012 Douglass-Slater Reunion Banquet.

"It was even a full house for the banquet," Delaney noted. We expected 140 alumni members to to be there, and we actually had a few more than that."

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Welcome to the Douglass-Slater webpage!

Hello, and welcome to the webpage dedicated to news and information of the Douglass High School Alumni in Bristol, Virginia, and the Slater High School Alumni in Bristol, Tennessee, and neighborhood news from Bristol, TN/VA.

I am currently compiling an email list of all Douglass-Slater Alumni and residents of the Bristol African-American community, to be able to keep everybody informed of news, current events, information and pictures from their community.

When I have the list, I will establish an email log, to which I can send out mass emails to everybody on the list, letting you know when there is something on the wabpage worthy of your attention.

In the meantime, if you have news of the community and news of the schools that you need to share with others in the neighborhoods and the alumni community, please send that to me at:

Again, thanks for checking us out, and just in case I don't have your email address, go ahead and again, send it to me at:

Thanks again, and welcome aboard!

Calvin Sneed