Kyasia Scott is a freshman at Tennessee State University. Although her college journey is just beginning, she already has plans to enter the medical profession, return to her hometown of Johnson City, and give back to her community.
Clara Hughes of Oliver Springs is 101 years old and has broken barriers as a black woman. She was a maintenance supervisor at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge for more than 30 years and became the first African-American woman to serve on its union board. And she is still active in her church and community.
They may be at different stages of life, but their accomplishments are always noticed. Hughes and Scott will be among 13 winners of the 13th DAPS Awards presented by AHERN magazine on Friday.
Angela Dennis of Knox News will receive the Journalist of the Year award. Hailing from Knoxville, Dennis explores the intersection of race and equity. She has reported on efforts to reduce gun violence and shared the stories of families affected by it, profiled activist Nzinga “Z” Bayano Amani and she reported on Hughes earlier this year. .
Established in 2009, the DAPS Awards recognize Black professionals, students, pastors, ministries, and businesses in and around East Tennessee for their achievements and contributions to the community.
Recipients are selected based on criteria such as community and church involvement, organizational affiliations and accomplishments.
“People’s attention has not been focused on these people,” AHERN President Reverend Harold Middlebrook told Knox News.
“We used to sing a song in the old black church (with the lyrics) ‘Give them their flowers while they live,'” he added. And that is what AHERN does.
A crying voice of the achievements, aspirations and desires of African Americans
The Awards Banquet is an annual celebration of what AHERN Magazine does each month. The magazine shares positive stories and helpful information throughout East Tennessee about African American health, education, and religious news.
What would become AHERN began as a hobby for the Reverend Roger Mills in Johnson City. The operation was a “one-man show” and served as a newsletter for local churches.
The newsletter spread, and Mills enlisted the help of other pastors and writers. AHERN then adopted a magazine style, filling its pages with the current achievements of black people whose names had not made the front page of their local newspapers.
“When you spotlight people from Kingsport or Johnson City or Elizabethton or Oak Ridge, it says to others, ‘Hey, there’s something going on over there that maybe I need to tune into'” , noted Middlebrook.
Thus, AHERN began to reach Chattanooga and Bristol. It found its way to Kentucky, Virginia and across North Carolina. Mills says the magazine now circulates in 18 to 20 states, recently picking up subscriptions in Washington, DC, and even New Jersey.
The magazine goes beyond black excellence. It has also partnered with health organizations to share information about issues affecting black communities, such as diabetes, and ways to help keep communities healthy. It has partnered with Horizon Bank to help readers learn how to invest for their future.
Reporters, writers and the board produce AHERN as volunteers; they receive no compensation. All funds raised are donated to the magazine. But they do it because they understand its importance.
Middlebrook believes AHERN has the potential to become a major conduit for the voices, aspirations, and desires of African Americans in East Tennessee and beyond, much like what Ebony and Jet magazines did when from their launch in the 1940s and 1950s. In fact, Mills started modeling the size of Jet’s summary magazine a few years ago.
“We’re trying to make it one big voice,” Mills said. “Our biggest effort now is to get them not just to hear but also to move.”
Strive to inspire younger generations to succeed and give back
For Mills and Middlebrook, the intent behind AHERN and the DAPS Awards is not just to highlight achievement, but also to motivate readers and younger generations to achieve greatness, especially when negative stories and portrayals are regularly covered.
“Our kids can do it, but if they don’t have the role models in front of them, they don’t have the motivating people in front of them, so they start saying, ‘well, nothing is expected of me'” , Middlebrook said.
This is why Angela Dennis’ work caught Mills’ attention. “She tells our story,” he said. He admires the fact that she is from East Tennessee and uses her platform to share stories and issues regarding black communities that are often overlooked.
Mills noted that this was the first time that AHERN and the awards banquet had received major media coverage – although he had contacted publications in the past.
The added coverage of cheering people like Dennis and those who serve the community helps extend the reach of AHERN’s mission. And this year’s awards will welcome past DAPS winners as the keynote speaker, emcee and soloist for the evening.
“The hope is that young people will see this side and I hope some of them will come forward and say take it to greater heights so that when these old people are gone it will still be there,” Middlebrook said.
Here is the full list of 13e Annual DAPS Award Winners
- Pastor AHERN of the year: The Reverend Dr. John Butler, Pastor, Clinton Chapel AME Zion Church, Knoxville
- AHERN Educator of the Year: The Rev. Dr. Linda Calvert, Vice President for Grants Administration and Development at Northeast State University, Blountville, Tennessee
- AHERN student of the year: Kyasia Scott, Freshman, Tennessee State University, Nashville, Tennessee
- AHERN company of the year: WJBE, Joe Armstrong, owner, Knoxville
- AHERN Ministry of the Year: Good Samaritan Outreach, Van Dobbins, Kingsport, Tennessee
- AHERN Reporter of the Year: Angela Dennis, Knoxville News Sentinel, and Tearse Smith, WATE News
- AHERN Hall of Legacy inductees: Louise Warmley, 102, Harriman, Tennessee; Clara Hughes, 101, Oliver Springs, Tennessee; Marshall Mills, sports, (posthumous), Morristown, Tennessee; Bobby Hill, sports, Durham, North Carolina.
- AHERN Advocacy Award for Community Service: Phyllis Nichols, CEO, Knoxville Urban League, Knoxville
- HR Mills Black Culture Awards: Swift Memorial Museum, Rogersville, Tennessee.
Devarrick Turner is a trending reporter for Knox News. He can be contacted by email at email@example.com. Follow Devarrick on Twitter @dturner1208. Enjoy exclusive content and premium benefits while supporting strong local journalism by subscribing to knoxnews.com/subscribe.