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Negro History Week was launched in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, an early scholar of African-American history. Now, nearly 90 years later, it has become a monthlong event, celebrated each February to recognize the accomplishments and culture of African-Americans and promote awareness of black history.
To commemorate this very important part of our nation’s history, our region will host several events this month.
• Eastman Chemical Co. will sponsor a lecture on Feb. 25 with Dr. Benjamin Carson as keynote speaker.
Carson, who will present “America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great,” will speak at 7 p.m. in the Toy F. Reid Employee Center. Admission is free. Carson had a childhood dream of becoming a physician. Growing up in a single parent home with dire poverty, Carson’s mother, with only a third-grade education, challenged her sons to strive for excellence.
Carson persevered and today is a full professor of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery and pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He has directed pediatric neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center for over a quarter of a century.
He became the inaugural recipient of a professorship dedicated in his name in May 2008.
Some of Carson’s career highlights include the first separation of craniopagus (Siamese) twins joined at the back of the head in 1987; the first completely successful separation of type-2 vertical craniopagus twins in 1997 in South Africa; and the first successful placement of an intrauterine shunt for a hydrocephalic twin.
Carson holds more than 60 honorary doctorate degrees. He was appointed in 2004 by President George W. Bush to serve on the President’s Council on Bioethics. He is a highly regarded motivational speaker who has addressed various audiences from school systems and civic groups to corporations and the President’s National Prayer Breakfast.
In 2001, Carson was named by CNN and TIME Magazine as one of the nation’s 20 foremost physicians and scientists. That same year, he was selected by the Library of Congress as one of 89 “Living Legends” on the occasion of its 200th anniversary. He is also the recipient of the 2006 Spingarn Medal which is the highest honor bestowed by the NAACP.
In February 2008, Dr. Carson was presented with the Ford’s Theatre Lincoln Medal by President Bush at the White House. In June 2008, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by the president, which is the highest civilian honor in the land.
In June 2013, after 40 years of medical endeavors, Carson retired and today serves as professor emeritus of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University.
In addition to writing a weekly opinion column for The Washington Times, Carson is a FOX News contributor and is currently working on his newest book, “One Nation,” scheduled for release in May.
Today, Carson tells his audiences that the keys to a life of satisfaction, accomplishment and peace lie within one’s ability to discover his or her potential for excellence; the acquisition of knowledge to develop it; and the willingness to help others.
Carson says “education is liberation” and introduces young people to the wealth of opportunities and lifestyles that exist in intellectual pursuits, far beyond the narrow world of sports and entertainment, which, he believes, are mistakenly glorified in today’s celebrity culture.
Other local Black History Month events include:
• East Tennessee State University’s Black Faculty and Staff Association will host a banquet and presentation by the Rev. Robert Jones Sr. at 6 p.m., Feb. 8, in the ballroom of the D.P. Culp University Center. Tickets are $35 for adults and $10 for children through age 12. Call (423) 833-4979.
• Virginia Highlands Community College will screen films that chronicle the history of the Civil Rights Movement in America. Films will be shown at 7 p.m. each Tuesday in February in the Executive Auditorium of the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon, Va.: “Slavery by Another Name” on Feb. 11; “The Loving Story” on Feb. 18; and “Freedom Riders” on Feb. 25. Admission to all films is free.
• The high-energy Sogbety Diomande troupe will perform at 7 p.m., Feb. 11, at Northeast State Community College’s Wellmont Regional Center for the Performing Arts on the main campus, 2425 Highway 75, adjacent to Tri-Cities Regional Airport. The event will feature a night of West African drumming and dance with colorful costumes, masks and native rhythms and songs. The production is part of Northeast State’s commemoration of Black History Month. For more information, call (423) 279-7669 or email jpkel? ly@NortheastState.edu? .
• New Vision Youth, in partnership with South Central Kingsport Development, Riverview Resident Association, Riverview Boys and Girls Club and Kingsport Parks and Recreation, will host its annual free soul food gathering from 5 to 7 p.m., Feb. 14, at the KHRA’s Riverview Community Room on Wheatley Street.
New Vision Youth will host “Get on the Bus,” a trip to the Nathanael Greene Museum in Greeneville. The event is free. Meet at the V.O. Dobbins Sr. Complex parking lot, 301 Louis St., at 10 a.m., Feb. 15. Lunch at Ryan’s will follow the tour.
New Vision Youth will also hold its annual Black History Program at 6 p.m., Feb. 16, at LampLight Theatre on Broad Street in Kingsport with entertainment by Billy Wayne and Tainted Saints, Witness, Full Gospel Mission Choir, L3ministries, Anointed Grace, Bethel A.M.E. Zion Choir, saxophonist Casey McClintock and a New Vision Youth Drama presentation of “Who Am I?” This event will honor Kingsport’s Golden Corral, Applebee’s, Giuseppe's, Jill Ellis, Mary Hamilton, Sandy Peters of TitleMax on East Stone Drive and LampLight Theatre. For more information about any of New Vision Youth’s events, call Johnnie Mae Swagerty at (423) 429-7553 or Jaquetta Hale at (423) 579-4651.
• John Simms, internationally recognized as a “painter of heirlooms,” will be the featured artist during Black History Month at the Kingsport Renaissance Center. A special event with Simms will be held from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., Feb. 19, in the Kingsport Renaissance Center Main Gallery. During the event, youth with an interest in art are encouraged to meet Simms, who will talk about how his childhood talent was almost extinguished. Simms will also give brief critiques for youth who bring portfolios. In addition to the critiques, he will also give a docent tour of his exhibit at the Renaissance Center beginning at 5:30 p.m.