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 currently working toward 501c status.
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.
If you know someone who has made significant and public contributions in any of the following categories, we invite you to nominate that person by virtue of a letter of recommendation. Members of the Task Force will review every nomination and select the honorees. They will be presented with their award at the 2022 MLK Community Breakfast and Celebration on Monday, January 17, 2022.
The awards and criteria are as follows:
2022 MLK Community Building Award:
- Nominees should be persons who have made significant contributions in building a sense of unity among Hamblen County citizens.
- Nominees should have publicly demonstrated their ability in building a stronger, more inclusive community through identifiable activities and programs.
2022 MLK Award for Advancing Cultural Awareness
- Nominees should demonstrate both an appreciation for diversity and inclusion and possess and use his/her/their skills in building and maintaining harmonious cross-cultural relationships through cultural activities or programs.
- Nominees shall have accomplished specific cultural initiatives that foster Dr. King’s vision of unity among people of diverse backgrounds.
2022 Martin Luther King, Jr. Award for Service and Advocacy
- Nominees should be persons engaged in providing services and/or advocacy for the human rights of those marginalized because of poverty, race or ethnicity, national origin, gender, age or any other reason.
- Nominees shall have publicly demonstrated and accomplished goals which have given voice and visibility to those who are marginalized.
Send the name of the nominee, the award you believe he or she deserves, his or her contact information and a letter of recommendation to
Dr. Alpha Alexander
230 Montrose Ave
Morristown, TN 37813-5259
The deadline for receiving nominations is January 7, 2022
The Mobile Food Pantry hosted by Second Harvest, HOLA Lakeway, the Hamblen County Chapter of the NAACP and Morristown’s Task Force on Diversity distributed 300 food boxes on November 2nd! Thank you helpers and distributors! There were a number of young people from Second Harvest who cheered our hearts! The event was held at the offices of HOLA Lakeway. The next Mobile Food Bank will be held on December 7. Below are some photos from November.
Tentative Future Dates
for Morristown TN
January 4, 2022
Feb 1, 2022
March 1, 2022
April 5, 2022
June 7, 2022