Psychologist calls on African Americans to ‘take pride in race’

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UT’s McClung Museum was packed with students ready to hear Dr. Umar Johnson’s lecture Pan-Afrikenism, about the rise, fall and redemption of Africa for the Africans Movement, on Wednesday. The clinical psychologist, educator and political scientist called on all African Americans to take pride in their race as part of the Pan-Africanism movement.

Johnson’s lecture challenged African American’s to ban together and appreciate their culture rather than deny it. He stated that in today’s times, many African’s are trying to run away from who they are.

“Before anything else, you are African,” he said. “Until you become proud of what you are, you’ll never fight to protect it.”

During his lecture, he addressed issues including multiculturalism, racism and the war on the African American image. In particular, he spoke to the problems with the thought that we live in a post-racial society.

Johnson partially blames African Americans for their stagnant place on the social ladder because of their promotion of “gangster rap” and the illegal actions inferred in the music. However, he described the post-racial society belief as a lie with continued apathy towards acts of racism in both personal and business relations.

“The new racism is to act like there is no racism,” he said. “When you see (racism) but don’t act, you are guilty.”

Further, he believes that the reason some African Americans attempt to disown their cultural heritage is to try to be accepted in white culture.

“There is something slavery did to you,” he said. “(Slavery) made you comfortable seeing yourself disrespected.”

“Dr. Umar was dynamic throughout his lecture and invoked a lot of agreement, especially by seemingly giving a voice to the African Americans who silence their struggles with racism,” said Hoor Temuri, a freshman business major.

Johnson urged African American’s to value their unique contributions to world history and American history. He cited the courage of African American icons such as Martin Luther King, Jr.; Malcolm X; Marcus Garvey; Harriet Tubman; and his own blood relative, Frederick Douglass.

“Blackness is not based on your color, it is based on the blood in your veins: the DNA,” he said. “In order to be African, it’s not just having the DNA or the ancestry. To be an African you have to psychologically identify as such.”

Austin Pirkle also contributed to this story

Featured image by Austin Pirkle

Edited by Hannah Hunnicutt

Board of Education rejects cultural competency resolution

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The Knox County Board of Education met on Wednesday to discuss several issues still plaguing the school system. The most notable topic was the failure of the Cultural Competency Training (CCT), a cultural competency resolution.

The resolution includes forcing school employees to go through a training system in order to “have a better understanding of how students act around school,” said school board student representative Sydney Gabrielson.

Betsy Hobkirk, an elementary art teacher at West Hills Elementary School, expressed her passion for teaching and brought up some changes that could possibly lay the foundation for CCT, such as smaller classroom sizes and more adults in the school.

Other teachers voiced their opinions on their displeasure with the lack of disciplinary options for students. Many teachers do not want to send their students to the PAC room, similar to an in school suspension, because they would rather work through problems with a hands on approach.

Hobkirk believes that students are now becoming discouraged to show emotion.

“Students struggle in all aspects of life,” she said. “Instead of punishing children for not doing work, find out what’s going on in their life.”

Knoxville resident and resolution supporter Steve Rodgers announced that they have requested training for all surrounding schools, not just certain districts.

Board of Education members were split on opinions towards this resolution. One of the board members’ biggest concerns is the lack of acknowledgment behind the program. Gloria Deathridge, a spectator of the meeting, said that the resolution has “been watered down to basically nothing.”

Board chair member Doug Harris said that the resolution is a “good faith effort (…) but we’re jumping ahead on this.”

Some board members believed that this was too pre-mature and there was not enough detail for a contract of this magnitude to be signed, while others were adamant about bringing this to fruition and working out the kinks when they came along. In the end, the resolution plan failed, with only two “yes” votes; six “no” votes; and one extension vote.

Kyle Furman also contributed to this story

Edited by Hannah Hunnicutt

Former UT scientist calls for climate change action

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Dr. Dan Terpstra, climate change activist and retired UT senior scientist, issued a call to action and a reevaluation of opinions at the East Tennessee History Center Wednesday while speaking at this month’s Books Sandwiched In. Terpstra advocated for a social tipping point he believes is necessary to end the climate crisis.

“Your generation is the one that is going to deal with the consequences of climate change,” he said, “so it’s up to you to figure out how to get those of us in the power structure accountable. This is your fight.”

As climate change begins to make more noise on the world stage, Terpstra urged those who disregard the controversial issue to look at science.

“98 percent of the climate scientists say unequivocally that (climate change) is happening. It’s been turned into an ideological, political hot potato in the U.S. and it doesn’t need to be. The science is clear,” he said.

While discussing the book This Changes Everything: Capitalism Versus Climate Change by Naomi Klein, Terpstra covered issues that he and the author identify as major climate problems. Klein identifies climate change as a holistic issue to be dealt with. However, Terpstra noted his specific concern with fossil fuels.

“The way we use energy is what drives our relationship to climate change. I’m in the place where I feel like fossil fuels trump everything. That’s what we have to deal with somehow if we’re going to get our hands around this whole issue of how we are going to slow climate change.”

Terpstra further noted Klein’s opposition to globalization and unregulated free trade of capitalism.

“First world nations started exporting their manufacturing, and along with their manufacturing they started exporting their pollution, and therefore also exporting their guilt,” he said.

Terpstra mentioned several economic policies that prevent the U.S. from doing more about climate change. He cited TransCanada’s current lawsuit against the U.S. for $15 billion over trade loss because of the Keystone XL Pipeline. The basis for the suit lies in a clause that is present in the North American Free Trade Agreement about enacting policies that restrict trade.

“Love of place has to trump love of corporation,” said Terpstra. “We have created a crisis by not acting.”

“In years past the answer would have been something like drive a Prius, change your lightbulb, weather strip your windows. These days, everything has shifted. We have to go beyond that. We have to act collectively in community otherwise we aren’t going to have the power to change institutions, only lightbulbs.”

Executive director of Tennessee Clean Water Network Renée Victoria Hoyos will lead the discussion about the novel Cool It!: The Skeptical Environmentalists Guide to Global Warming by Bjørn Lombørg at 12 p.m. on Feb. 17 at the East Tennessee History Center.

Featured image courtesy of

Edited by Hannah Hunnicutt

McClung Museum curator discusses Civil War history

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Knoxville had little fire in the Civil War fight until people were forced to choose a side, according to Joan Markel, UT McClung Museum’s curator of Civil War history. For the first half of the war, the city of Knoxville sided with the Confederacy until Union troops moved in and its alliance reverted back to the North.

“It wasn’t our fight, but it became our fight,” Markel said.

Markel addressed approximately 80 guests at the afternoon lecture on Sunday, Jan. 24. The lecture was a part of the McClung Museum’s 6th annual Civil War Lecture series titled “An All-American City Endures: Knoxvillians at War 1860-1865.”

Since 1995, Markel has been compiling a database from census data, deeds, taxes, birth records, death records and historical letters from the Civil War. Markel has also been working alongside the East Tennessee Civil War Alliance and University of Tennessee Honors Students to transcribe regimental records.

The fact-filled lecture provided a substantial overview of the data Markel used to uncover 300 accounts of Knoxville residents who participated in Civil War activities.

Because there are more complete, historical records, the lecture focused on white male land owners. However, there were special cases where Markel managed to uncover accounts of both African Americans and women.

One of the only accounts Markel had of an African American woman was that of Knoxville’s first African American school teacher Laura Ann Scott Cansler. Records of “She-Rebels,” or staunch southern women who taunted Union soldiers, were also identified.

Markel believes that it is important for students to know about Civil War history.

“I think that human nature is such that democracies have to be about compromise and when you reach a point when you aren’t willing to talk to the other side, serious things can happen,” Markel said.

Markel hopes that the Civil War Alliance and UT’s Honors Students will help garner more insight into local Civil War figures.

The next lecture in the Civil War series, Politicians and Lawmakers: Attempting to Maintain Control, will be on Sunday, Feb. 21 at 2 p.m. in the McClung Museum auditorium.

Featured image by Thomas Delgado

Edited by Hannah Hunnicutt and Jessica Carr

TNJN Kitchen: Easy holiday treats

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The holiday season has officially begun! It’s the time of year for ice skating, Christmas movies and Secret Santa parties! With the stress of finals upon us at last, there’s no better way to relax and take a break from studying than making delicious holiday treats. I’ve created a few recipes that are not only cheap and easy to make, but perfect for any occasion, whether it’s a party with friends or a long study marathon!

Peppermint Chocolate Pretzels

What you need:

  • Baker’s Chocolate
  • Peppermint sticks OR crushed peppermint
  • Pretzels


First, put peppermint sticks in a plastic bag and crush. Crush into small chunks or a fine power, whichever size you like best. Then, pour the crushed peppermint into a bowl and set aside. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate in microwave OR put solid chocolate over low heat and stir until melted. Once the chocolate is melted, grab your pretzels. Dip the pretzels into the chocolate first, then into the crushed peppermint and set aside for the chocolate to harden. Enjoy!


  • The best method to crush peppermint is using a small hammer, but if not, a metal spoon will also work.
  • Be careful to stir chocolate or it can scald the bottom of the bowl or pan.
  • Pretzel sticks are the easiest to dip into the chocolate.


Warm “Christmas in a Cup” Drink

What you need:

  • 1 bottle cranberry juice (approx. 32 ounces)
  • 1 can pineapple juice (approx. 32 ounces)
  • 1/3 cup red-hot candies
  • 1 or 2 cinnamon sticks
  • Whipped cream (Optional)


Put all ingredients into crockpot and cook on low 2-5 hours. If no crockpot is available, combine all ingredients into microwave-safe bowl and cook approximately 10 minutes or until red-hot candies have fully dissolved. Serve with a ladle and enjoy!


  • If you want a spicier kick, add more red-hot candies.
  • Try topping with whipped cream to get a richer flavor.


Featured image by Hannah Mills

Edited by Taylor Owens