Saturday, February 21, 2015



The Promise of Desegregation Leads to Oxford

By Nicole Brown,  MPA  and  Dr. Felicia McGhee, Ph.D

(February 2015)--The media has a constant flow of stories about young African-American males, but they rarely depict positive images of our black youth. For some, the Millennial generation has been defined by saggy pants and tattoos. However, one Tennessee college student is an example of all things right with this generation. The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) student Robert Fisher, was recently named a Rhodes Scholar (32 scholars were chosen out of 877 applicants). He is also one of five African-American college students who received this honor. 

Fisher is the third student from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga to earn this distinction, and the first African-American student from the university.
For the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Fisher’s accomplishments are a positive step in the university’s history. 

The desegregation of the university (formerly known as the University of Chattanooga), was recently chronicled in a documentary, “Reaching the Light: The Desegregation of the University of Chattanooga.” In 1886, black applicants Louis Gibbs and William Wilson applied to the University of Chattanooga (UC) but were denied based on race. The United States Supreme Court’s 1954 decision of Brown vs. The Board of Education recognized the struggles minorities have endured with equality and access to education.

Photos: First black applicants to the University of Chattanooga Louis Gibbs and William Wilson

Nine years after that decision, Horace Traylor, then president of Chattanooga City College (a black community college),applied to UC but was denied admission based on race. In 1963, after a second application attempt, UC admitted Traylor as the first African American student in its graduate program.
Photo Chattanooga Times Free Press: First Black student admitted and graduated from UC Horace Traylor

Generations before Fisher was born, local African American pioneers like Traylor were creating a path for a young man whose grandparents graduated from segregated schools. Now fifty years later, Robert Fisher stands on the shoulders of those pioneers.

Fisher was raised by parents who served in the military in Clarksville, Tenn. He enrolled at UTC as a Brock Scholar in Fall 2011, with a major in Political Science and minors in History and Africana Studies. The faculty, staff and students instantly recognized Fisher as the powerful representative of his generation. Fisher is completing his second term as the Student Government Association president. He has worked with three Chancellors, city and county mayors, the governor’s office and is a Presidential Fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress.

Photo from UTC: Fisher greets President Barack Obama

April 2014, Fisher was selected as a Truman scholar. He is the fourth student from UTC to receive this honor. Truman scholars are recognized for their academic success, outstanding student leadership and potential in public service leadership.
Fisher is aware of the new spotlight and has embraced the opportunity to reflect how he sees America from the Millennial perspective. During his message at the Fall 2014 commencement, Fisher challenged his peers to “Think, Talk and Act.” He stated, “Think about the systems and structures that inform--or misinform--your perspectives of other people. Talk about race, gender, sexuality, ability--because yes, all these things still matter. Act because thinking and talking without action, just leaves us with regurgitated thoughts and repeated conversations.”

Fisher will enter Oxford University in October 2015 to pursue the Master of Philosophy in Comparative Social Policy. Sixty years after the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education verdict, and 51 years after UC admitted its first African-American student, Robert Fisher, is the result of a promise fulfilled.

Authors Relevant Experience:

Nicole Brown is the Academic Advisor and Adjunct Faculty member in the Communication Department at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She is former radio personality “Khole Brown” where she worked for Brewer Media Group stations WJTT- FM and WMPZ-FM. 

Brown created UTC’s first student run, web-based radio station The Perch in 2009. She is also the executive producer of the documentary 9 United for Equality: Reflections on the Struggle for Civil Rights in Chattanooga (2014). Before joining the Communication Department full time, Brown created several diversity workshops for the University while working in the Office of Equity and Diversity.

Dr. Felicia McGhee is an Assistant Professor in the Communication Department at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. McGhee is a former reporter of WTVC- ABC affiliate, WTOK-ABC Affiliate and WHOA-ABC Affiliate. She is also the former host of Tennessee Insider, a public affairs show on WTCI- PBS affiliate.

McGhee is also the co-producer of the documentary Reaching the Light: The Story of the Desegregation of the University of Chattanooga (2012). Dr. McGhee’s research focuses on media framing of the Civil Rights Movement. She has currently published in The Alabama ReviewMobilization and Media Watch Journal.

Remembering Malcolm X 50 Years After His Assassination

A Look Back at the Charasmatic and Controversial Leader

CBS NEWS |  February 21, 2014

New York, New York--"By any means necessary!" Four words that put a huge divide among a people during one of the most turbulent times in American history, the Civil Rights Movement.

For so long as a child growing up in the late 70's, I was intrigued by the two messages for equality that were anything but equal.  Martin Luther King Jr's message of non violence, while Malcolm X who also wanted to see the injustices eliminated sought "equality "by any means necessary!"

Two foot soldiers in the war for "civil rights," but with two different approaches.   One leading a nation of "black and white standing in solidarity.  The other leading a "nation of Islam" standing in defiance.

50 years after Malcolm's assassination and MLK's historic walk across the Emund Pettus Bridge, I have truly discovered there was room for both.  Press play and watch Malcom X's daughter Attallah Shabazzz as she clarifies and defines her father's place in history as a charismatic, but controversial leader.


Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Conversation With "Sweet Gina Brown"

Black Music Month’s Featured Artist 

gina-brownOf all the performers out there, few can rock you out of your seat like the “one and only” Gina Brown! Her high energy shows have satisfied audiences from Dubai to Daphne!  That’s right, for more than 20 years she’s left adoring fans all over the world dancing in the aisles and begging for more of the “Gina Experience!" 
Anyone who knows Gina knows she’s been singing as long as she’s been talking! Some might even say this New Orleans native was “born to sing.” No one knows that more than me, Gina Brown and I have been best friends since we were 14 years old.
Through the years I’ve had the privilege of watching her career flourish.  She began performing at family functions and high school talent shows.  As an Air Force brat, she travelled the world, but she launched her professional career in Mobile, Alabama where we both grew up. We shared a chuckle recently about how she started out her professional career as a wedding singer.  “My first paying gig was singing at a wedding with vocalist Vincent White,” recalled Gina.  I only got twenty-five dollars for that gig, but at the time I was happy to have it. Honestly I love singing and I would have done it for free,” chuckled Brown. 
Though we’ve talked almost every day for the last 25 years, I recently discovered just how much I didn’t know about my longtime friend. Anyone familiar with her history knows Gina got her start in New Orleans by performing with noted jazz musicians like violinist Michael Ward.  She has also shared the stage with other noted artist such as Gerald L. Levert; Jon B, Pattie Austin, Ruben Studdard and Fantasia of American Idol, just to name a few. 
She also took it to “another level” when she formed her own band more than eight years ago. She has released a live CD –“Gina Brown and “Anutha Level”.  She also currently has two singles, “Can’t Stop Thinking of You” and the very popular “G Slide”, Gina’s own line dance produced by Southern Soul recording artist Mel Waiters.
 But, few people know one of Gina’s biggest joys comes from sharing the stage with some noted musicians whose names are no longer plastered across the marquee. “At least two times a year, my band and I visit nursing homes. It’s important to me to give back and to say thank you to those who came before me. A lot of people in those centers opened doors for me and other artists are still making a living in New Orleans today. I try to remember that anytime I step up to a microphone at the House of Blues, or during any of my other performances in the city. I’m standing on the shoulders of some giants and that’s just my way of letting them know you haven’t been forgotten and somebody still cares,” said Brown.varion-gina-brown

Another revelation about this breakthrough artist, Gina comes from a family steeped in New Orleans' musical history.  “My mother, Sandra Jones, was famous in the gospel circuit in this area.” She was a child prodigy who sung with Andre’ Crouch.  She also performed with Mahalia Jackson and became a recording artist” Brown noted.
Brown isn't the only child of music royalty who's keeping the tradition alive.  “Bourbon Street is known worldwide and there are a lot of big named artists whose children are still here. Everyone from Irma Thomas to Marva Wright, “The Queen of New Orleans Blues” her daughter Gerry McKey picked up where her mother left off. Fat’s Domino’s son also performs in New Orleans too. It’s that kind of rich heritage that can’t be ignored and continues to separate New Orleans from any other place in the world and it’s really cool to witness,” Brown said.
 New Orleans’ rich heritage is also why she jumped at the chance to join the cast of the wildly successful production of “The Joints Jumpin”! It’s a classic celebration of New Orleans rhythm and blues. For nearly three years, Gina has been part of a famous ensemble of top New Orleans singers and musicians showcasing artists like Etta James, Fats Domino, Lloyd Price, The Dixie Cups. Chart topping performers who had hits which helped “The Crescent City” define its place in world class jazz and R&B almost a century ago. “I love “The Joints Jumpin” because it reminds us of some great songwriters like Bo Dillard who wrote a couple of hits Etta James recorded including “At Last”. There’s also Alan Toussaint who still has ties to New Orleans today. He wrote a string of hits for everybody from Aaron Neville to James Brown and the Pointer Sisters. It’s that kind of history that truly makes it just a little bit more exciting to be in New Orleans than anywhere else,” exclaimed Brown.

Her love of “The Crescent City” is what naturally had Gina advocating and fighting for many of New Orleans' singers and musicians following Hurricane Katrina. Musicians like Irma Thomas, Alan Toussaint were displaced. So, Gina fought to become part of The New Orleans Musician’s Clinic. It is a healthcare program that helped struggling New Orleans musicians, singers and songwriters to get free health screening.  “That was so rewarding to actually fight for the money to make a difference in the lives of musicians who didn’t have a place to go when it came to just their health screenings, blood pressure, diabetes, regular check-ups and assistance with their medicine as the city was trying to rebuild,” said Brown.

Its' also been rewarding for me to watch as my best friend has become an outstanding teacher.  Gina has been showcased as a local judge for BET’s “Sunday Best”. It’s the Black Entertainment Television Network’s gospel version of American Idol!  Together with a panel of other seasoned industry veterans, Gina passes on solid advice to many of those kids who also dream of making it to the big time.   

She also is known to take a number of artists under her wing. “Every opportunity I get I go back and pull someone into the industry.  I try to teach them what to do and what not to do.  I have to do that because somebody helped me. I’ve worked with several artists who are making a name for themselves in the city including Franklin Davis, IV, Teresa Betts, and Anthony Bailey from The Apollo. One of my biggest success stories is Kourtney Hart.  Kourtney just signed with Jive Records,” said Brown. 
Her talent coaching skills have come in handy as the third generation of Brown family performers gets ready to take the stage.  We're talking about her daughter Tyler. “She’s only 16 and she’s already a triple threat; Tyler can sing, dance and act! Though her father wants her to pursue being a doctor or a lawyer, I want it to be her decision. But, when and if she’s ready, I’ll be here to remind her of the shoulders she’s standing on as a third generation performer in this family, plus the rich history and heritage of the city we both call home! 

To get your dose of the "Gina Brown experience” be sure to Click onto the enclosed link and website for a look at Gina Brown’s complete performance schedule at ,