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 Task Force on Diversity. We are now a 501(c )(3) Public foundation.
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.
Promoting unity within the community
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.
Beginning in late April of this year and extending through May, the Rose Center, MTFD, the Citizen-Tribune, Tennessee Arts Commission and HOLA Lakeway cooperated to sponsor a series of events celebrating the gifts of Hispanic culture.
Latin Fusion,an exhibit of fine art provided by several Latino artists opened in the main gallery of the Rose Center.
Another part of the series was devoted to learning about the life and plight of those who were part of the Bracero Program, a federal work program which operated in our country between 1942 and 1964. A display of the farm implements and posters used in the Bracero Program were part of the exhibit, Bittersweet Harvest, which remained at the Rose Center throughout the month of May.
There were two, separately scheduled, community discussions, one in English and one in Spanish. The title of both discussions was “Life on the Fence.” Dr DeAnna Pendry and Christina Barroso from the University of Tennessee shared historic information about the place of Hispanic people as U. S. workers and immigrants from 1843 through the Bracero Program. Present were members of families whose parents were part of that program. They talked about that experience. Then the discussion progressed to issues facing Latino families in the Lakeway region today.
In late May, fourteen bi-lingual, local young people were involved in the dramatic production of Esperanza Rising, an adaptation of the book by Pam Munoz Ryan. The play was directed by Pedro Tomas, who lectures in the University of Tennessee Department of Foreign Languages. The story is about a wealthy Mexican girl whose privileged existence is shattered when tragedy strikes, and she and her mother must flee to California. Forced to work in a migrant labor camp. Set in the turbulent 1930’s, Esperanza Rising is a poetic tale of a young girl’s triumph over adversity. The production was performed four times on the weekend of May 29 and May 30.
Lastly, Knoxville Mayor, Madeline Rogero was the speaker at the last event of the month. She spoke of her work with Caesar Chavez in the early 1970’s, a movement that finally brought Congressional legislators of both parties to pass legislation to address the inhumane conditions and treatment of migrant workers across the nation.
The Morristown Task Force on Diversity cordially invites residents of the Lakeway area to a Community Celebration of the continuing influence and legacy of the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday, January 18, 2016.
The Breakfast and Celebration will be held at First Presbyterian Church Family Life Center, 600 W Main Street, Morristown, Tennessee. (Directions to the church)
Doors open at 7am with the buffet breakfast catered by Jersey Girl. See Ticket Information below.
The program begins at 7:30 am and includes music, a keynote address and awards honoring members of our community who reflect the ongoing work of Dr. King. There will be two community awards given:
- The 2016 MLK Award for Advancing Cultural Awareness
- The 2016 Martin Luther King Jr Award for Service and Advocacy
In addition, Morristown Task Force on Diversity, Hamblen County Schools and the local newspaper, The Citizen-Tribune, are co-sponsoring the annual essay contest. Winners in four categories will be presented their awards at the breakfast. Detailed information about the essay contest can be found on the drop-down menu under 2016 Essay Contest.
The program will conclude by 9am in order to allow those who attend and who wish to participate in the Annual March in Dandridge to take part in that event.
TICKET INFORMATION: Tickets for adults are $15. Student tickets are $10. Tickets for Veterans are $10. One only need to show one’s card at the door.
To Pick Up in Person: Tickets are available at Rose Center, at the office of the Citizen-Tribune or from members of the Task Force.
To Reserve Tickets and Pick Up at the door: Tickets may also be reserved and picked up at the door by going to the menu tab “Contact Us” and send us a reservation request. The deadline for reservations is January 11, 2016.
To Communicate with Someone in Person: If you have questions and wish to speak with someone from the group, click the tab marked Mailing Address and Phone Numbers just below the Contact Us tab. There you will find several avenues for making personal contact.
We believe that the work of Dr. King is not something that is restricted to the past. There are people all around us who reflect the legacy of Dr. King in the work and service they give to others every day.
Each year, Morristown’s Task Force on Diversity solicits nominations from area residents for three community awards. We want to help lift up those whose unselfish service shines as reminders that the ongoing work of bringing hope and justice into the world is our calling. The photos below showing 2016 winners were taken by Chuck Hale and published in the Citizen Tribune, January 19, 2016