My October story for Buncombe County for the Urban News looks at cultural identity as expressed by the WRES Sweet 16 Banquet Honoring Elder Hayes and the 2017 RAICES Summer Camp. I am posting the WRES text this week, and will post an expanded version of the RAICES story next week. Too much goodness for one post!
With over 200 people in attendance, the WRES Banquet celebrated 16 years of Asheville’s only African American radio station and 40 years of community service by Elder John R. Hayes. In addition to being a co-founder of WRES and the Empowerment Resource Center, Hayes founded and led the Hillcrest Enrichment program and Hillcrest High Steppers team, and served as president of the NAACP. Elizabeth White got the idea for the event after attending a funeral. “Like the old saying, it’s good to give flowers to people while they can smell them, I think that we need to show that we appreciate each other more,” she says. She wanted Hayes to have the opportunity to hear the accolades others have for him. After convening a planning team that included Randy Weston and Ami Worthen, White and her team made her idea into a reality.
The banquet, held at AB Tech, featured gospel music from Carluse Baird, the Weston Brothers, and the Smith Sisters. The emcee was Dr. John Grant of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church. Delicious food was provided by Circle B BBQ. There was a slideshow with photos from Hayes’ work over the years. The night closed with a rousing performance by members of the Hillcrest High Steppers.
Dixon, another station co-founder who was honored at the banquet for her years of volunteer service, said the event was an opportunity to celebrate the history and accomplishments of the black community. “Hayes has better grasp on black history in Asheville than most people because he realizes the importance of it,” she explained. She hopes this looking back will inspire work that is happening today, because ‘history is being made now, it’s what you do as you live.”
The banquet was a joyful opportunity for community members to connect. “It brought people together – the atmosphere was so inviting,” said White. “People were so glad to see each other that they were mingling and talking like time didn’t mean anything. They felt good being there.”
Photos of John and Becky Hayes and the Hiillcrest High Steppers by Andre Daugherty. Photo of Ms. Sophie by me. Click here to see more of Andre’s WRES banquet photos.
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Being a part of the organizing team for the WRES banquet was one of the most satisfying volunteer projects I have done this year. In addition to the elation of helping to manifest such a joyful event, I was grateful to learn more about Hayes’ work with the Hillcrest Enrichment Program, and the depth of it’s impact. Many of Asheville’s African American leaders credit that program and Elder Hayes for playing a key role on their path to success. Terry Bellamy and Sheneika Smith are two that come to mind. In a recent interview on the Waters & Harvey Show, Tracey Greene-Washington, co-founder of CoThinkk, named Hayes’ influence as one of the main reasons she has pursued a path of service and social change. It is worth noting the the curriculum that Hayes used focused heavily on history and cultural identity.
I also want to give Hayes and Dixon and the supporters of WRES a big round of applause for maintaining the station for over a decade and a half! As Ms. Dixon explained to me, they started WRES with the goal of sharing information that would enhance the economic, physical and spiritual health of their community. Tune in to 100.7 FM sometime and you’ll hear the evidence that they are still living that mission, while also playing awesome music.
That’s it for today! Don’t forget to check out my events calendar, which I will be updating regularly. Thanks for reading.
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