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Page history last edited by Sunchai Hamcumpai 12 years, 8 months ago

Early NCC Newsletter




-----Original Message-----
From: Allen Hallmark [hallmark@mind.net]
Sent: Thu 6/10/2010 12:13 PM
To: Shannon Carter
Subject: Norris Community Club memories
Dear Shannon,
Thanks so very much for sharing all of these wonderful links.  You have been
doing extraordinary work toward putting together a history of the Norris Community
and the club that tried to bring it out of the 19th century.
We'll speak by phone soon, but I wanted to share some initial thoughts with you:

Several of the articles state that the NCC was founded in 1975 and that was
probably when official papers were notarized, but as Billy Reed's hand-written notes
in one of the links you sent me indicate, the first meeting of the club was 7.2.73.
I came to Commerce as a student in September 1973 and I'm not sure when I started
attending NCC meetings, but it probably wasn't until late 1973 or sometime in 1974.
Because I had been involved in "The Movement" as we referred to the
anti-Vietnam War, pro-Civil Rights, pro-women's rights, environmental preservation,
etc. movement, before I came to Commerce, I wanted to find out if there was some kind
of movement in Commerce.  I began exploring the town on my bicycle and when I crossed
the railroad tracks into the black part of town, I was appalled.  Probably on my
second or third tour of that neighborhood, I found a tiny little building on a
residential street that was too small to be a home.  Perhaps it had a "Norris
Community Club" sign on it or a notice of when the meetings were held, or else I
asked around and was told about the club and when it met.

I just showed up at a meeting and my entrance pretty much put a stop to all
conversation for a couple of minutes.  As I recall, they tried to ignore me as much
as possible for the first couple of meetings, but I kept attending and gradually the
ice melted and trust began to be built.

The members were very interested in improving the infrastructure of their
community -- the streets were unpaved, the water and sewerage systems were either
often non-functioning or non-existent.  Despite the fact that the community was
within the city limits of Commerce, it was not receiving any city services with the
exception of police, who came to arrest the youth from time to time.

Because I had some journalism skills and organizational skills, I offered ideas
about how to get the word out to the community and to the Commerce population at
large about what the conditions were like there.
As I recall, I wrote newsletters on behalf of the club (the one from one of the
links appears to be a newsletter that I wrote on my personal electric typewriter).  I
also went to the local newspaper in Commerce and spoke with the editors and tried to
convince them to cover the issues raised by the NCC.  As I recall, I wrote some
articles that were printed by the Commerce paper pretty much as I wrote them but
without a byline.
Then, the NCC decided that in order to get the white people of Commerce to take
notice of the Norris Community, we needed to get a black person elected to the city
council.  Billy or others approached Ivory Moore, who was the new dean of students at
ETSU and he agreed to run for city council.
We then launched a big campaign to get the residents of the Norris Community to
register to vote because very few of them had ever registered or voted in any
election.  I had a VW bus in those days and I recall hauling many residents downtown
to get them registered and to get them familiar with where they would need to go to
vote when the election came around because many were afraid that they would get in
trouble with the white folks if they even registered to vote.
Then, on election day, I made many, many trips back and forth from the Norris
Community to city hall taking black folks to cast their ballots in the election as
did other NCC members with cars, I'm sure.    And Ivory Moore won a seat on the
council.  Oh joyous day!
I also should tell you that my master's thesis was to be about how the people of
the Norris Community got their news.  I devised a very long survey for people to
answer and then I went and knocked on a large percentage of doors in the community. 
A note says that I had 117 household responding out of 156 total approached.  I have
only a summary of my results.

I took a box full of my work on the thesis with me to Medford figuring I would
finish writing the second draft of the thesis and get my thesis after the move, but,
of course, I got too busy being a reporter and a father and I never opened that box
up again until many years later.  I think I tossed out all but the summary which I
found this morning.  I'll scan copies of the pages that I have and email them to you
in a few days because you might find the results of the survey interesting.  I don't
have the first draft of my thesis or at least I can't find it so far.

Gotta go.  Talk to you soon.



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