Very simply, we are a volunteer organization that seeks to build unity within our community through activities, projects, partnerships and collaborations which lift up and celebrate diversity, inclusion and appreciation, and respect for our differences.
We welcome your interest and invite you to contact us if you would like to join our efforts.
The organization was established in 2008 by then city mayor, Barbara “Sami” Barile as the Mayor’s Task Force on Diversity. In 2010 we became part of the Rose Center family of organizations and changed our name to Morristown’s Task Force on Diversity.
Although we are not operated by city government, we continue to maintain significant connection with that entity and see our work within the context of building awareness and relationships within our community as public service and commitment to justice. We believe this is best done by celebrating the gifts that the diversity of our population provides.
Opening ourselves to learn about others and be able to celebrate differences is especially important for our population and history.
To acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of our community and to promote acceptance and understanding among its residents.
To make Morristown a city where all individuals are equally valued solely “by the content of their character,” and are welcomed and celebrated for the uniqueness they contribute to the community.
Our slogan is “…Promoting unity within the community”
To download a brochure describing our projects and events, click here
The ethnic basis of Morristown, the county seat of Hamblen County, is that 80% of our population traces its heritage to Europe, primarily Scotland, Ireland and England. 16% of our population is Spanish-speaking with origins in the Southern Hemisphere. 4% of the population counts its heritage as primarily African-American.
Interestingly, one hundred forty years ago, Hamblen County had a significant number of free, black landowners. And, our community remembers with both nostalgia and some pride, those years when Morristown College, a historic and important black college, was vibrant and active. The college was founded in 1881 by the national Freedman’s Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The school was renamed Knoxville College-Morristown in 1989 and closed in 1994.
A cooperative plan by the city and developers is in the works to convert Judson’s Hill, the old Morristown College campus, into a combined use area for different kinds of housing, shops and a community center. The plan is to find ways of preserving and incorporating the heritage of Morristown College into the plan.
All of this is to say that relationships between all people of color and white residents in Hamblen County have been complex. Black residents of Morristown knew and experienced the same prejudice and denial of civil rights that is part of our nation’s history. At the same time, planted in this region, was both a lifestyle and an institution that created opportunity and trained its students for success and position in the larger society. It was, quite literally, a light shining from a hill – Judson’s Hill.
The rapid growth of the Spanish-speaking population in Hamblen County has brought some of the same incorporation issues that can be found in other parts of the country. Likewise, our community is enriched and broadened in learning about the different cultural features of one another.
The economic bases of our community until the late 1940’s were twofold. They were farming (especially tobacco growing) and small, family-owned businesses. Light industrial manufacturing began to arrive after WWII.
The greatest growth happened in the 1970’s and 1980’s as international businesses began establishing manufacturing plants here. Now, seventeen different countries are represented in our industrial base. When one goes to the grocery store, one hears different languages and sees products from around the world. Our health system is populated by professionals who come from around the world.
With such a significant portion of our population having roots outside our community, it would be easy to assume that there are few issues of inclusion in our community. But as elsewhere, there are faces and voices that are not heard often in governance, leadership or decision making. As elsewhere, there are some who can celebrate the differences in people and others who cannot.
We believe that recognizing the culture and differences of our people creates a mechanism for greater understanding and appreciation. Finding ways to gather and learn about others lowers the level of fear and suspicion and adds both depth and breadth to our community.
Sometimes, confrontation about issues related to intolerance is essential. However, we believe that in the longer term, celebrating our gifts, our histories, our experiences and our cultures opens pathways to long-lasting cooperation and the kind of deep respect that benefit all.
So…this Task Force is composed of a group of people who see building relationships, cultural awareness and diversity as adding value and strength to our community. We are a stronger, fairer, more cooperative and healthier community when we can work and play and learn together.
Music • MLK Essay Contest Winners • Prizes • Community Award Winners
Keynote Speaker: Renee Kessler, Executive Director of Beck Culture Center, Knoxville, TN
Time : Doors open at 7:00 am, Breakfast Program starts at 7:30 am.
Place: First United Methodist Church, Morristown, TN
Ticket Price: $15.00 ($10.00 for students and Veterans) Tickets can be bought at the door.
January 31st – February 3, 2020
As an opening to Black History Month, Morristown’s Task Force on Diversity, Hamblen County Schools, From Africa to Appalachia and the Morristown Senior Center are partnering to bring Joan Browning to Morristown in a return visit, Ms. Browning was involved in sit-ins and was a Freedom Rider in 1961. Over a four day period, from January 31st – February 3, 2020, Ms Browning will visit several schools, Walters State Community College, 1st United Methodist Church and other gatherings at which she will speak about her experiences as a college student who was deeply invested in the Civil Rights Movement of the early 1960’s.
January 24, 2020
On January 24, 2020, Rose Center invites Lakeway residents to immerse themselves in the vibrant sounds of the Middle East with a Music at the Rose performance by Sawt al-Wadi, formerly known as the University of Tennessee Middle East Ensemble, directed by ensemble member, Dr. Lillie Gordon.
Regarding the concert, Dr. Gordon continues, “Audiences can expect to hear a combination of vocal and instrumental pieces from different countries and communities in the region. Our group features a combination of historic Arab instruments, such as the ‘ud (short-necked lute) and darabukkah (goblet-shaped drum), and European instruments such as the violin and accordion. Our repertoire includes everything from songs featured in classic movies to art pieces to contemporary popular songs. Some of our repertoire is intended for careful listening, while other pieces are vivacious and may even inspire our audience members to dance.”
Tickets for the concert are $10 in advance through 5 PM, January 23rd, then $12 at the door. The concert will take place in Prater Hall with table seating. Guests are permitted to bring their favorite beverages and delicious snacks. Music at the Rose is generously supported by the Friends of Music at the Rose and a grant from the East Tennessee Foundation. Additional sponsorship opportunities are available. Inquiries should be directed to the Rose Center Business Office, 423-581-4330.