All posts by Michael McLendon

Angela Rye Inspires Attendees to Take Political Action At Annual Scholarship Fundraiser Honoring Outstanding Women

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Political commentator and analyst Angela Rye served as the special guest for this year’s Women of Legend and Merit Awards Dinner at Tennessee State University, as part of the TSU Women’s Center’s effort to celebrate Women’s History Month.

Rye, who offers regular on-air commentary for several media outlets including BET, CNN, MSNBC, and TV One, spoke briefly from the podium and then participated in a seated interview-style presentation. She answered questions from various attendees, including TSU President Glenda Glover and addressed several issues, such as affirmative action, the legitimacy of legacy admissions and the need for a black agenda.

“I want to help establish what a black agenda should look like, not just for 2020, but ongoing,” Rye said.  “Do you all know that before the Emancipation Proclamation, every year black folks met to talk about our political agenda? The last time we did that collectively, where there was a lot of attention drawn to it, was in 1972 in Gary, Indiana.”

During a light-hearted moment towards the end of the conversation, Glover suggested a petition be started for Rye to run for president.  She encouraged the audience with the chant, “Run! Angie Run! Run! Angie Run!”

Angela Rye

“You want me to run right out that door,” Rye jokingly replied.

Seanne Wilson, chairperson of the event, which took place in Kean Hall Auditorium, said the annual awards dinner raises money for student scholarships and highlights the careers of women she hopes her students will emulate.

“As we know, this is the year of the woman, and women are being more vocal, and we are owning who we are. It’s very important with us attempting to educate these young ladies, that they are aware of opportunities and not afraid to speak out and to speak up for their rights,” said Wilson, who serves as coordinator of the TSU Women’s Center.

According to Wilson, the center is a “safe zone” for women at TSU who experience issues such as fear, anxiety and depression, as well as domestic violence, homelessness and the lack of food.

Lyric Carter, a freshman civil engineering major who serves as a work-study student for the Women’s Center, said she was inspired by Rye’s comments.

” If we don’t speak for us, who is going to speak for us,” Carter said.

Vivian Wilhoite, Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County property accessor and a former Women of Legend and Merit honoree, said the event is important because it celebrates the women.

“We do not do enough to recognize women in the various areas of the world, whether it be in business or leadership or government or strong women committed to different topics and issues,” she said.  “I really think there are so many women doing so many different things, and we really cannot do enough to honor them.”

Several women where  honored during this year’s event including: Veronica Marable Johnson, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce New Member Representative; Dr. Robbie Melton, TSU interim dean of the Graduate School; Karen Johnson, Davidson County Register of Deeds; Attorney Cynthia Fitzgerald; Attorney Joy Kimbrough; Dr. Judy Cummings, Pastor of New Covenant Christian Church; and Zaya Mouto, a sophomore Business Administration major who received the “Rising Star” Award.

For more information about how to support the TSU Women’s Center, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/womenscenter/

Editors Note: Featured photo by Ramona Whitworth Wiggins

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

With more than 7,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

Political Analyst Angela Rye To Speak at TSU Women’s Center Scholarship Fundraising Affair

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Political Commentator and Analyst Angela Rye will serve as the keynote speaker for this year’s Women of Legend and Merit Awards Dinner at Tennessee State University on March 19 as part of the TSU Women’s Center’s effort to celebrate Women’s History Month.

Rye, who offers regular on-air commentary for several media outlets including BET, CNN, MSNBC, and TV One, will speak about “Making An Impact Economically, Civically, and Politically.” The event is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Kean Hall on the main campus.

Seanne Wilson, chairperson of the event, which raises money for student scholarships, said she hopes Rye’s visit will inspire young women at TSU to be more aware of the power of their voice. 

“As we know, this is the year of the woman, and women are being more vocal and we are owning who we are. It’s very important with us attempting to educate these young ladies, that they are aware of opportunities and not afraid to speak out and to speak up for their rights,” said Wilson, who serves as coordinator of the TSU Women’s Center.

Wilson said an increasing number of young women in the Nashville community have expressed interest in attending this year’s event because of Rye.

“I think that a lot of women, whether they are in politics or not, will feel coached and mentored by her, or feel empowered by her.  And empowering women is something that the Women’s Center attempts to do,” Wilson said. “There are so many people out there who are interested in how we have gotten into this political climate.  How did we get here? And how do we fix the problems that we see?”

According to Wilson, the Women’s Center is a “safe zone” for women at TSU who experience issues such as fear, anxiety and depression, as well as domestic violence, homelessness and the lack of food. She said this year for Women’s History Month, the Women’s Center hopes to inspire students by bringing numerous professional women to campus, including judges, political figures, entrepreneurs, chief executive officers, and international women of distinction.

Several women will be honored during this year’s event including: Veronica Marable Johnson, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce New Member Representative; Dr. Robbie Melton, TSU interim dean of the Graduate School; Karen Johnson, Davidson County Register of Deeds; Attorney Cynthia Fitzgerald; Attorney Joy Kimbrough; Dr. Judy Cummings, Pastor of New Covenant Christian Church; and Zaya Mouto, a sophomore Business Administration major who will receive the “Rising Star” Award.

To purchase tickets for the March 19 awards dinner or learn more about the Women’s Center, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/legendandmerit/.

‘Let My People Vote,’ TSU Students Host Forum To Address Voter Suppression

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University students in the College of Public Service hosted a forum recently to have a candid discussion about voter suppression.

‘Let My People Vote’ Poster (Submitted Photo)

The forum on Feb. 27 at the university’s Avon Williams Campus included a panel discussion, as well as a screening of “Let My People Vote,” an award-winning short documentary about voter suppression.

Keturah Barnett, a student in the Master of Public Administration Program at the university and cofounder of the Know Your Rights Program, said voter suppression is an issue that affects people from all walks of life.

“Voter suppression doesn’t just affect minorities.  It affects young people, students, ex-offenders and others,” she said. “When you think of voter suppression, a lot of people say that happened years ago in the 1960s during the civil rights movement, but it is still happening today.  And with the midterm elections that took place last year in 2018 in November, we saw a lot of that in state’s like Georgia and Florida.”

Keturah Barnett (Submitted Photo)

Barnett, who has worked at the Nashville Juvenile Public Defenders Office since 2016, said she hoped the event would inspire students to engage in the political process by voting, as well as challenging current laws and holding elected officials accountable.

Dr. Michael Harris, dean of the College of Public Service and a nationally-syndicated columnist, was pleased to see members of the larger Nashville community, as well as TSU students and faculty, at the screening.

“It is imperative that the College of Public Service stand at the forefront of engaging on issues related to voter suppression and access.  The history of and current efforts to suppress voters in African-American communities undermines the democratic processes black institutions, including TSU, have fought to improve and revolutionize for centuries,” Harris said. 

Dr. Anthony Campbell, assistant professor of Public Administration in the College of Public Service and the faculty member who worked with students to organize the event, stressed the importance of grappling with this issue.

Dr. Michael Harris (Submitted Photo)

“This filmmaker has developed a documentary that shows how the black vote has been suppressed in Florida for a long time and leading up to this last election, typically felons but more broadly people of color,” he said.

“Let My People Vote,” directed by Gilda Brasch, follows formerly homeless Desmond Meade, now the State Director for Florida Live Free Campaign, as he canvasses the streets of Tampa, Florida, on the last day of early voting before the 2016 presidential election.  At the time of the filming, Meade, who earned a law degree from Florida International University’s College of Law, could not vote or practice law in Florida because he has a felony.

Gilda Brasch (Submitted Photo)

Brasch’s documentary has won many awards, including the 2018 Best Short Documentary at the BronzeLens Film Festival in Atlanta and the 2018 Audience Award For Best Short Film in the Florida Film Festival.  It was also featured at the Meet The Press Film Festival  with The American Film Institute. She said she created the documentary so viewers could see what voter suppression looks like in the current political climate.

“If people are interested in voting rights, followed the recent midterm elections and saw what happened to Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum, then when they watch ‘Let My People Vote’ they will actually get an opportunity to see real people at the polling places having their votes surpressed,” she said.

Brasch said she was shocked by how quickly she found examples of people being turned around at the polls.

“We just got out of the rental van, and turned the camera on, and we got all those testimonies immediately in the space of probably 45 minutes to an hour.  It’s not like we had to go stand out there for hours.  It’s immediate in these districts,” she said.

Martesha Johnson (Submitted Photo)

Immediately following the screening, students hosted a panel to discuss the issue.  Panel members included: Metropolitan Nashville Public Defender Martesha Johnson, Davidson County Election Commisioner A.J. Starling, Project Return Associate Director Elizabeth Hayes and others.

Barnett  said the goal of the event was to provide a forum for a conversation they believe is timely and necessary.

“Voting is a fundamental right for everybody.  It is something that any American should be able to do without being hassled,” she said.  “Going to the polls should be just as easy as going to the grocery store.”


Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

With more than 7,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

New Link Allows TSU Family To Track Progress of Health Sciences Building Construction

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – TSU officials are excited about a new link that will give the university’s alumni and constituents an opportunity to monitor the construction process of its new Health Sciences Building.

“Many of our alums don’t get to the campus throughout the year because they live all over the country. I thought giving them an opportunity to see this facility evolve would be a benefit to them, so they can watch the evolution of the campus,” said Dr. Curtis Johnson, Chief of Staff. 

Johnson said HOAR Construction, the company responsible for building the facility, installed the camera, which will monitor the 18 to 24 month construction project.

“It updates itself every 15 minutes, but you can also do a six-day review.  It can go back six days and play forward for you to see the progress,” he said.

Dr. Ronald Barredo, interim dean of the College of Health Sciences, said viewing the development of the new facility is a positive sign of the college’s growth.

“I am excited to witness the steady progress that is being made in constructing the new Health Sciences Building. This project will not only bring together a number of excellent programs under one roof – Nursing, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Cardiorespiratory Care, and Health Information Management – but will also be a hub for collaborative practice, community service, and clinical research,” he said.

Hannah Brown, president of the Student Occupational Therapy Association, said although she will have graduated when the new building opens, she will return as alum to see the impact it will have on educating future health professionals at TSU.

“The new building is a great addition to the campus. The added space will help promote interprofessionalism among the programs housed in the building and will provide a larger space for clinical simulations and laboratory experiences that are essential in professional practice,” said Brown, who is pursuing a Master in Occupational Therapy degree.

TSU National Alumni Association President Joni McReynolds said she thinks providing a link for alums to monitor the construction is a wonderful idea.

 “I would encourage all alumni to look at the link and see how progress is being made, and I will do my best to send it around to my executive board, and to all alums we have the ability to contact,” she said.

TSU Nashville Alumni Chapter President Dwight Beard echoed McReynolds’ comments.

“I think it’s a great initiative.  I am excited about it. It’s going to bring in new students, and it’s going to create new opportunities,” he said.

Braxton Simpson, a sophomore agricultural sciences major who serves as the student trustee on the TSU Board of Trustees, said having the ability to monitor the progress of the construction will have a tremendous impact because of the large numbers of health science students at TSU.

“I think it’s very important that students and faculty… have the opportunity to track the progress of something that is going to be so instrumental to the students at Tennessee State University,” she said.

Construction progress of the new health sciences building at Tennessee State University can be viewed at the following link: https://app.truelook.com/?u=hj1548695954

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

With more than 7,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU Alums Publish Children’s Book To Honor Fellow Alum and Buffalo Soldier William McBryar

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University Alums Deontae Henderson and Brandon Van Leer recently collaborated to produce a children’s book honoring the life and legacy of fellow TSU Alum, Buffalo Soldier and Medal of Honor Recipient Lt. William McBryar.

The children’s book, Young William, provides a poetic depiction of McBryar’s journey from childhood to becoming a military hero.

McBryar, who served with the 25th Infantry in the Spanish-American war and fought at El Caney, Cuba, also saw action in the Philippine Insurrection before demobilizing in San Francisco.

Henderson, the book’s author and a 2018 graduate of TSU, said McBryar’s story is a tale that should be shared with all children.

TSU Alum Deontae Henderson at his book signing at the Southern Methodist University Barnes and Noble in Dallas.

“William McBryar, if you look him up, is one of those guys you don’t believe existed. He was a real superhero. He fought through disease. He graduated in his 70s. He was in the war until his 60s. He got in the war at a young age. He fought in three wars. He survived them. He got a Purple Heart, and he saved his regiment,” Henderson said. “We have Iron Man, the Hulk and Batman and all these guys, but if you want a realistic superhero, he is the perfect example of that.”

In 1934 at the age of 73, McBryar graduated from TSU, then known as Tennessee Agriculture and Industrial State College, with an agriculture degree. He died in 1941 at the age of 80, and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Last spring a number of lawmakers, military officials, and TSU officials gathered for a special ceremony for the unveiling of a historical marker honoring McBryar. The marker is located outside Kean Hall on the university’s main campus.

Van Leer, the book’s illustrator, said he felt honored to be part of such a meaningful project.

“We wanted this book to be one of those books that children remember from when they were in kindergarten and preschool, where they can enjoy a fun story and learn about their history at the same time,” he said.

TSU Alum Brandon Van Leer will display his art Thursday at the Main Street Gallery for Black Excellence: The Art Show.

Also a 2018 graduate of TSU, Van Leer’s work often reflects his love for culture as well as his alma mater. He has produced portraits of TSU luminaries, such as pioneering heart surgeon and civil rights activist Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr., and Tuskegee Airman Lt. Joseph White.

“I was honored in both approaches to be commissioned by my alma mater to have the opportunity to spread my talents in a way that will forever live on at TSU,” he said.

Henderson, who became a “#1 International Best Selling Author” with the success of his second book, The Hungriest Pirate,” said Young William will soon be available at the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum in Houston, Texas, where he spoke about the project in December. He said because of the historical nature of Lt. McBryar’s story, he wanted to make sure it rhymed and was fun for children to read.

“Your child is going to go to class anyway and learn about George Washington, Christopher Columbus and all these people who are a part of American History. Young William is just as important as them,” he said. “The only difference his name got pretty much covered up because he happened to be a black man during a time period when we weren’t celebrated.”

Van Leer, owner of the graphic design company, Rezilient Media, will share a collection of his work this Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Main Street Gallery. The event, Black Excellence: The Art Show, is free and open to the public. He said it will feature portraits of inspiring African-Americans, as well as the unveiling of new art.

Although Van Leer comes from a family of artists, he credits the TSU Art Department for playing a huge role in his success.

“My professors in the art department really helped me grow. They helped me think outside the box and draw bigger using different techniques,” he said. “They are like a family over there so I still go back and talk to them.”

Henderson’s newest book, Kid Smoove, features a 14-year-old superhero with the ability to teleport who is forced to balance life as an iconic hero with doing school work and being an everyday teenager.

Henderson echoed Van Leer’s sentiment that Tennessee State University provided a rich environment for his development.

“Anyone at TSU is fortunate because being at an HBCU is a different environment,” he said. “You see President Glenda Glover. You see NBA Player Robert Covington come through. You see yourself who is a writer who gets to write for the paper for the school. Just seeing all that, that was an inspiration for me.”

 

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

With more than 7,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

 

TSU Faculty and Staff Celebrate Giving With ‘Sweet Talk’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The Tennessee State University Department of Dental Hygiene received special recognition at the university’s “Sweet Talk” event, along with the Office of Events Management and the Department of Residence Life.

Each area achieved 100 percent participation in the university’s annual faculty and staff giving campaign, which raises money to benefit TSU students.

Sonya Smith, assistant director of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving, thanks ‘Sweet Talk’ attendees for giving as part of faculty and staff giving campaign.

“Some made direct deposits. Some made one-time gifts. But what matters most is the sacrifice,” said Sonya Smith, assistant director of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving and chair of the campaign. “Whatever your sacrifice is, we just ask you to be a part of the faculty and staff campaign.”

The event, which took place Feb. 14 on the Avon Williams Campus, provided an opportunity for campus employees to enjoy delicious pastries and discuss the importance of supporting students beyond the classroom.

Smith expressed her gratitude to the campaign co-chairs and various contributors for exceeding their goal of $155,000 for the 2017-2018 fiscal year by raising $161,763.  She said the goal for the current fiscal year is to raise $175,000. The campaign has raised $136,000 of that amount.

Rosalyn Word, a faculty member in the Department of Dental Hygiene and a co-chair of the faculty and staff annual giving campaign, expressed excitement about the effects of increased giving in dental hygiene.

Department of Dental Hygiene Faculty and Staff Members

“One of the things that we have been able to do in the Department of Dental Hygiene is establish a dental hygiene academic scholarship. The first year we were able to award one $1,000 scholarship to a deserving student,” Word said. “This year we were able to award two $1,000 scholarships to our dental hygiene students. I am really excited about that initiative, and we hope to be able to carry this legacy on, and keep this scholarship going.”

Eloise Alexis, associate vice president for Institutional Advancement, said Sweet Talk provides an opportunity for her staff to say thank you to participants and ask attendees to rally others to support students.

“The amazing thing about faculty and staff in this initiative is that, not only do they give of themselves all day and everyday in the classroom and as staff by supporting our students in the campus environment, they also give back to Tennessee State University from their hard earned resources to Tennessee State,” Alexis said.

Office of Events Management and Conference Services Administration and Staff Members

Trudie Thomas, coordinator for the Honors College and a co-chair of the campaign, said Sweet Talk helps a lot of students who really need support to attend the university.

“I like to give because it helps the university, and it has an impact on some child’s life. When I was in school tuition was $65 a quarter,” said Thomas, who graduated from TSU in 1972. “I give because I see the need, especially with black students right now. Education is an investment.”

“Sweet Talk” Committee Members show off variety of tasty desserts prepared by TSU Alum Alexis Hughes-Williams, Owner of Something Sweet, LLC.

TSU Alumna Alexis Hughes-Williams, owner of Something Sweet, LLC, provided a variety of colorful desserts for the event. Hughes-Williams, who graduated in 2011 with a degree in business/marketing, said Sweet Talk provided the perfect opportunity for her “virtual pop-up shop” to collaborate with the university.

With the deadline for reaching this year’s goal being June 30, Smith encourages faculty and staff to continue giving. For more information about how to participate in the campaign, call (615) 963-2936.

 

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

With more than 7,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

President Glover Shares Inspiring Message at 7th Annual Prayer Service

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University President Glenda Glover encouraged faith-based leaders and residents from across the city of Nashville at the 7th Annual Presidential Prayer Service to persevere in spite of storms.

“The storm will pass over,” said Dr. Glover, addressing the attendees gathered at Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church on Jan. 9. “We used to sing a song that says, ‘The storm is passing over. I can feel a peace down in my soul.'”

Glover served as the keynote speaker for the service, which featured a diverse group of spiritual leaders, some traveling from as far as Memphis to be a part of the program.

“As we start another semester, another year at TSU, we start it with prayer. We start it with thanks, and indeed, I am truly thankful to God for blessing me to lead such an amazing university,” she said.

TSU students Jaquel Maise and Ismael Turner participate in prayer service. (photo by Emmanuel Freeman, TSU Media Relations)

Several dignitaries and public officials shared greetings including Nashville Mayor David Briley, who spoke about TSU’s significance to the city of Nashville.

“It is pretty clear, I think, that no other institution of higher learning has created more leaders in this community than Tennessee State University,” he said. “There are thousands of engineers, teachers, business leaders and scientists that have graduated from Tennessee State University just in my lifetime that have certainly changed this city.”

Other attendees included Bishop Joseph Walker III, pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church; State Rep. Harold Love, Jr.; Minister Samuel X of Muhammad’s Mosque #60; Rabbi Philip Rice of Congregation Micah; and Father Dexter Brewer of Christ the King Catholic Church.

Following Glover’s address, several ministers offered prayer regarding several areas, including peace, the global community, the Nashville community, children and youth and the TSU community.

The prayers concluded with Dr. Forrest Harris, president of American Baptist College, praying fervently for Dr. Glover as various ministers gathered around her in a display of unity and support.

Rev. Aaron X. Marble, pastor of Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church, presided over the program.

The service was followed by a breakfast in the lower auditorium of the church that was open to the public.

 

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

With more than 7,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU Employee Wilson Lee’s Woodcarvings Featured at Nashville Airport

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Wilson Lee Jr. vividly remembers the Smithsonian Institute approaching him about his artwork as an undergraduate student at Mississippi Valley State University.

“One day I was sitting outside under a cottonwood tree, and a man walks up and says, ‘I am looking for Wilson Lee. Are you Wilson Lee?’ And I say, ‘What do you want with him?’ And he says, ‘I am a researcher from the Smithsonian Institute. I’ve already talked to his father. Now I want to talk to him about his carvings.’ So he showed me his credentials, and from there I did a show with the American Folklore Festival. All of this is while I am in college.”

Lee is director of the Tennessee State University One Stop Shop.  His celebrated woodcarvings are currently featured at the Nashville International Airport (BNA) as part of the 2018 Flying Solo Winter Exhibitions. Lee said he grew up in Greenville, Mississippi, going from his bedroom to his father’s woodworking shop where they restored antique furniture.

Wilson Lee Jr., director of TSU One Stop Shop

“We basically worked for the rich land owners in the Delta, so my upbringing was quite different from a lot of other African Americans in the Delta,” he said. “I knew the difference between walnut, mahogany, oak, pine and various fine woods at a very early age.”

That early training provided Lee with the foundational skills he has used to create a lifetime of art, such as that featured in Back to Now, the collection of his work on display at BNA.

“There is so much going on in the country now that reminds me of what I have already gone through,” he said. “So what I did for this show was select work from the late 60s and the late 70s and from 2018.”

The exhibit, which runs through February 24 in the Concourse C Waiting Lounge, features eight of Lee’s carvings, touching on topics ranging from gentrification to the spirit world. He said his work often speaks about injustice and is rooted in his rich heritage and culture.

Wilson Lee Jr.’s woodcarving, We Are One, which is featured in his collection Back to Now at the Nashville International Airport in the Concourse C Waiting Lounge.

“I have never been afraid to speak about injustice, and I’ve never been afraid to create work about injustice,” he said. “The fall out from that is that you won’t be listed in some settings. You won’t be invited to some places. But that’s just the price that you pay if you are willing to go this route.“

Mary Grissim, curator of arts at BNA, said the Flying Solo Exhibit features five Tennessee artists and will last three months.

“Wilson’s art was selected because, one, woodcarving is not that common. We don’t see a lot of entries in that area, so his was very unique in that respect,” she said. “The quality of his work is outstanding, and what I love about this program is that of the 14 million people who pass through our airport yearly, I would say the majority of these people aren’t exposed to art. They don’t go to art museums. They aren’t hanging out in art galleries. So for many of these people, this is their first exposure to fine art.”

Grissim said one of the major purposes of featuring art in airports is to distract people from the personal challenges many of them grapple with as they travel.

Mary Grissom, curator for arts at the Nashville International Airport.

“It’s very similar to art in healthcare,” she said. “You can’t imagine going in a hospital that doesn’t have art in it because art is distracting you from the tension of why you are there, whether it’s for yourself or someone else. That’s what happens in airports. This would be a grim place if there wasn’t beautiful artwork.”

Lee said his work as an artist has paralleled his work in higher education.

“My whole mission in life was to work at an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). I wanted to do my whole tenure there,” he said. “I wanted to help these kids, so I just got my credentials, and that’s where I work. That’s where I play ball.”

Lee previously worked at TSU from 1991 until 1999 as the director of financial-aid. He has also worked at Jackson State University, Texas Southern University and Mississippi Valley State University.

Wilson Lee Jr. with his family at the Winter Flying Solo Reception at the Nashville International Airport.

“What I tell young people is, if you are passionate about something, do it. Do it when you don’t get paid. That is my philosophy,” he said. “Just keep doing it if you think that this is what you are here on Earth to do. Somebody has to leave a record; I leave a record in wood. Somebody’s got to say something about gentrification; I comment about it in wood. Somebody’s got to say something about the blues; I do it in wood.”

For more information about Wilson Lee Jr.: Back to Now and the 2018 Flying Solo Winter Exhibitions, visit www.flynashville.com.

 

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

With more than 7,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

Siblings Establish Endowed Scholarship At TSU To Honor Parents

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University will soon offer a new scholarship opportunity for residents of Columbia County, Georgia, thanks to Helen Young and her siblings.

The John and Adline Starks Memorial Scholarship Endowment Fund, named in honor of Young’s parents, will provide financial assistance to a student from Columbia County who wishes to attend TSU.

Young, a graduate of the University of Georgia, said they chose to establish the scholarship at TSU because of positive experiences with the university.

“I have been fortunate over the last six or seven years to attend a number of the TSU scholarship galas. I’ve been able to attend some of the homecoming festivities, and actually been able to meet some of the folks who are graduates of Tennessee State, and I have been so impressed with knowing their dedication to TSU,” she said. “They have a sense of family, and they really have a caring, it-takes-a-village approach to their education of students at TSU.”

Helen Young with her daughter Georgeanna A. Young, who graduated with a master’s of public health from TSU in August 2018.

Although John and Adline Starks are not TSU alums, Young’s daughter, Georgeanna A. Young, earned a master’s of public health from the university in August. Helen said she witnessed first hand the “vested interest” Georgeanna’s professors played in her success.

“It was just overwhelming to see that kind of emphasis put on my child,” Helen said. “I think it’s just an incredible testament to the administration at Tennessee State University, as well as the alumni.”

Betsy Jackson Mosley, executive director of the TSU Foundation, said the endowed scholarship will be awarded to students beginning in 2021.

“Endowed scholarships like this one will help students for years to come. And then they also leave a legacy for family,” Jackson said. “It’s really good that particular families who have members to attend or deep connections to TSU are able to recognize their loved ones this way and know that it will always be here.”

Helen, who along with her sister Roberta integrated the Columbia County School System in the 1960s, said her parents would have been proud to be connected to the legacy of an institution like Tennessee State University.

“I know my parents would have never been able to get into the University of Georgia when they were of age to go to college because of the color of their skin,” she said. “The only options they would have had would have been a historically black university or some small community college, maybe.”

John Henry and Adline Beatrice Starks were born and reared in rural Edgefield County South Carolina. John served in the military during WWII and was a Baptist minister. Adline, a homemaker, was a devoted wife and mother who taught her children how to work hard and lead productive lives. Helen said her parents taught them to “speak up when they saw injustice and not back down in the face of adversity.”

Helen Young serves as the assistant vice president for shared services center operations at Parallon Business Solutions, a subsidiary of Hospital Corporation of America responsible for providing services in the areas of revenue cycle, group purchasing, supply chain, technology, workforce management, and consulting services.

 

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

With more than 7,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.