A Black History Interview Series will be held throughout the coming month by East Tennessee State University’s Mary V. Jordan Multicultural Center.
In commemoration of Black History Month, these five interviews with local African American leaders will be available for the campus community and the public on the Multicultural Center’s website and social media platforms. A new interview will be posted each Friday at noon.
This Friday, Adam Dickson will be interviewed by Frida Uwimana of ETSU’s College of Business and Technology. Dickson is an adjunct instructor at ETSU, where he teaches “Black American Political Thought.” He supervises Johnson City’s Langston Center, a cultural facility promoting multicultural awareness and workforce development through arts, education and leadership activities. He also serves as an alderman for the town of Jonesborough, and his leadership was instrumental in the designation of University Parkway in Johnson City as a memorial highway in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
John Russaw, who started school at ETSU in 1964 as the school’s first Black football player, will be interviewed by Calvin Claggett on Friday, Feb. 19. Russaw broke barriers while amassing a stellar athletic career at ETSU, where he graduated with a degree in education. He worked as a public safety officer for the Tennessee Valley Authority for many years before retiring. During the next chapter of his life, he worked as a substitute teacher and spent a decade as housing manager at Bethel Housing, a housing unit for the elderly in Jonesborough.
Lottie Ryans’ interview will be featured on Friday, Feb. 26. Ryans, an alumna of Science Hill High School and the University of Tennessee, worked for 32 years in telecommunications, retiring in 2015 after serving as vice president and general manager for CenturyLink’s Western North Carolina/Tennessee Division. She was also a partner in Perfectly Planned, an event company, for three years. Her civic history includes three terms on the Johnson City Board of Education, where she served as board chair and as a Tennessee School Board Association master board member. She was appointed by former Gov. Bill Haslam to serve two years on the State Workforce Board, and she was chair of the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce and Washington County Economic Development Council. Ryans still helps set high benchmarks for Johnson City Schools and other districts as director of workforce and literacy initiatives for the First Tennessee Development District. Ryans will be interviewed by Katherine Saliba, a graduate assistant for programming and outreach in the Multicultural Center at ETSU.
Tybre Faw will be interviewed by Justin Guillory on Friday, March 5. The 13-year-old Liberty Bell Middle School student first learned about the late Congressman John Lewis after taking an interest in civil rights history from reading library books and participating in a school play on Martin Luther King Jr. in the second grade. He traveled to meet Lewis in Selma, Alabama, in March 2018 and was befriended by the civil rights leader, who asked the young Johnson City resident to help lead a commemorative walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, which Lewis crossed in 1965 in support of African Americans’ right to vote. Faw was asked to read the poem “Invictus” at Lewis’ funeral in July 2020, and last month, he attended the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in Washington, D.C. Scholastic Books will soon publish a book which will talk about King’s relationship with Lewis, as well as Lewis’ relationship with Faw. Justin Guillory is coordinator of student access and leader development in the Multicultural Center.
To watch the interviews, visit the Multicultural Center’s website.