The Tennessean: Diane Nash merits the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but she deserves much more

Diane J. Nash arrived in Washington, D.C. in early July as a courageous one, but she stood before President Joseph R. Biden to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom July 7 as thousands.

That’s how she wanted to be acknowledged: As one woman representing many women, men, and children, almost exclusively Black, who sacrificed so much to advance the cause of freedom.

She insisted the president share her proclamation of the occasion as an honor for the thousands who made the successes of the modern Civil Rights Movement possible.

That’s the way she is. Generous. Fearless. Principled. Immovable on what is right—no matter who is wrong. That is why she is the greatest freedom fighter I have ever known. And that is why every American should know her name.”


Heritage & Honor: “Foreward”

“More than even the most moving demonstration of musicality, the sound of the world-renowned Fisk Jubilee Singers is the storied expression of slavery and servitude, of emancipation and education, and of all too often and sadly still persistent Black unfreedom. 

In a world filled with the sounds of industry and innovation, theirs is a distinctive, arguably singular sound of solemn sorrow and jubilant song. 

In the 150 years since a small group of student performers — the Original Fisk Jubilee Singers — first departed the fledgling Fisk University campus to save their school, successive bands of Jubilee Singers have given the nation and world more than mere moving music. Their spectacular, spirited a cappella of “slave songs” is the story of forbearers stretching from continental, ancient Africa through historic America, to a contemporary African Diaspora.”


Tennessee Civil Rights Trial Podcast: “Nashville Civil Rights”

Listen now to episode two of the Tennessee Civil Rights Trail podcast. Episode two focuses on Nashville’s Civil Rights history. The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development (TDTD), Travel South USA and Ingredient Creative launched the three-episode series, which features real stories from Civil Rights veterans who were there, who made a difference, and explain why what took place then is still so relevant today.

Episode two dives deep into stories at sites like the Witness Walls and Civil Rights Room at Nashville Public Library and about protestors making their voices heard and the role college students played in the movement. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. praised the Nashville sit-in movement as “the best organized and the most disciplined in the Southland.”

“You weren’t just showing up to create a ruckus. You were showing up to demonstrate to the world we are just as good as you are,” said Crystal deGregory, historian, storyteller and graduate of Fisk University.


NPT’s “Education: The Key to Freedom”

Dr. deGregory is featured in this NPT original documentary, which documents the impressive strides by former enslaved peoples to gain an education in postbellum Tennessee. Not only were thousands learning to read and write, they soon had access to higher education as several Black colleges opened across the state. Despite court-ordered desegregation efforts, the integration of public schools remains an elusive goal to this day.


Business of Fashion’s Sheena Butler: “Ralph Lauren, Race and How Fashion Can Embrace Discomfort”

DEI experts say the companies best positioned to move the industry forward on matters of equity and inclusion must be willing to accept — and even embrace — their critics. A campaign that provokes no conversation at all could be a sign a brand has set its ambitions too low.

“If there is any fashion house or corporate fashion identity that’s looking at Ralph Lauren’s situation and saying maybe I ought to not touch [race issues], then you ought to not touch it,” said Crystal deGregory, a historian and research fellow at Middle Tennessee State University’s Center for Historic Preservation, whose work has focused on HBCUs. “Because that says to me that you are not well suited to even attempt to do this well.”


The Tennessean: The Fisk Jubilee Singers’ legacy continues to inspire and thrive

Long before they were Grammy award-winning performers, the Jubilees’ melodies were once sung in cotton, sugar, rice and tobacco fields. They hummed in fire-lit, one-room slave quarters and recalled their words as they stole away to freedom.

Sarah Hannah Sheppard, the dejected mother of then-babe Ella with her at her breast, contemplated leaping to their deaths from the banks of the Cumberland River while muttering, “Befo’ I’d be a slave, I’d be buried in my grave.”

Ella was only one of the seven original troupe members born into slavery. The memory of slavery’s brutality and the surety of race hatred, violence and injustice generated warranted fears.

Despite a general lack of optimism toward the trip, the band of singers was soon named “Jubilee Singers.” Their name was a biblical reference to the Jewish year of Jubilee in the Book of Leviticus (25:8-17).


NPT’s “Walk Together Children: The 150th Anniversary of the Fisk Jubilee Singers”

Dr. deGregory is featured in this NPT original documentary, in which Dr. Paul T. Kwami and his students pay tribute to the original nine members of the Fisk Jubilee Singers. Organized as a choral ensemble in 1871 to perform and raise money to support Fisk University, the Fisk Jubilee Singers celebrated their 150th Anniversary on Oct. 6, 2021.


deGregory consultant for NPR’s Radio Special: “Three Castles and the Music CIty”

150 years later, the journey of the Fisk Jubilee Singers continues. Immerse yourself in the music and voices of the original emissaries in the one-hour special “Three Castles and the Music City” on 90.3, WPLN News. Narrator Destiny Birdsong is joined by members of the current Fisk Jubilee Singers ensemble, featuring old and new performances, as well as a collaboration with Adia Victoria and original music composed by Bryson Finney.


NPT’s “Facing North: Jefferson Street, Nashville”

Dr. deGregory is featured in this NPT original documentary, which explores the untold stories of a Nashville community struggling to preserve its vibrant African American culture. Jefferson Street, once the northern boundary of Nashville, was a beacon for African Americans from the early 1800s through the 1950s. It offered sanctuary for runaway slaves after the Civil War; the promise of education with the establishment of three iconic HBCUs; spiritual support at some of the oldest black churches in Tennessee; a flourishing entertainment scene drawing world-renowned stars; and a model for student sit-ins during the Civil Rights Movement.


The Tennessean’s Tamburin: “New Fisk president wants to move on after scandal: ‘I don’t plan to lose ground'”

Fisk graduate and researcher Crystal de Gregory said HBCUs across the country are seeing an uptick in enrollment and donations lately, as the Black Lives Matter movement has surged.

She said continued commitment from Fisk supporters is necessary to ensure long-term momentum.

“Optimism is only as good as the actions which accompany the outlook,” said de Gregory, a research fellow at Middle Tennessee State University. “Fisk needs a proactive board, engaged alumni, appreciated faculty and staff, an excited student body, a visionary leader-president, and yes, more and more fundraising successes.”


Market Watch’s Berman: ‘This is monumental’: Kamala Harris is the first VP to graduate from a Historically Black College

deGregory, both an alumna and a former employee at various HBCUs, said “we would expect that Harris would be able to transfer some of her advocacy for HBCUs as pronounced in her presidential campaign,” to her role as the vice president.

“Especially given that if the Biden-Harris ticket is to be successful it will be successful in no small measure due to the support of Black women, many of them HBCU graduates and others of them members of Black Greek letter sororities,” deGregory predicted in August. Ultimately, Black women voted for Biden and Harris in higher numbers than almost any other demographic group.


NPR’s Siner: “What Will Fisk University Take Away From Its Presidential Shakeup?”

“We are all deeply invested in the fate and the future of Fisk. And we all want what’s best for her,” DeGregory says.

For Black institutions, DeGregory says, any misstep often leads to white people dismissing the whole organization, if not disparaging the entire race. So many alumni think what’s best for Fisk is to close this chapter on President Rome quickly, she says. Many have expressed relief that the controversy seems to be over, at least on the school’s part.

But in this case, DeGregory says the Fisk community would benefit from dwelling in the discomfort — because of the seriousness of the allegations, and the fact that they were against the university’s top official. What to do about potentially bad-behaving powerful people is a dilemma that many schools have had to face, including others in the past several weeks.

Though Fisk hasn’t commented on the specifics of this situation, DeGregory says it speaks volumes to her that the school quickly cut ties.

“What that leads to is an awareness that whether or not these allegations are true, that they are true in many other instances, and that they will be taken seriously and not merely dismissed because of the people involved in the allegation,” she says.

“I believe that you can want the best for a place and understand that the pursuit of its best takes you through an uncomfortable time.”

Fisk University should focus on the future, she says, but this chapter is still an important part of its story.


Atlanta Voice Special “#Election2020: Women power ‘More Perfect Union’ during night 3 of virtual DNC”

Harris, born in Oakland, the daughter of immigrants, a historically black college graduate of Howard University, Divine Nine member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., said, “the litmus test for America is how we are treating black women.”

Dressed in wine, and flanked by six flags, she centered Black women in the earliest minutes of her remarks. On the heels of the 100th anniversary of the passage of the amendment affording women the right to vote, Harris ought not just for their votes, but for a seat at the table. Mary Church Terrell. Fannie Lou Hamer. Diane Nash. Mary McLeod Bethune. Constance Baker-Motley. Shirley Chislom. She spoke their names.

Harris’ mother Shyamala Gopalan Harris had come to America to cure cancer but died of it in 2009.

“Oh, how I wish she were here tonight,” Harris said. “But I know she’s looking down on me from above.”


Atlanta Voice Special ‘Congressman John Lewis remembered in Selma, Alabama with carriage ride across Edmund Pettus Bridge’

With a top hat held high to his breast, the tradition connected him — and through him, all of us — to free and enslaved black hack drivers of yesteryears long ago.

“Stand there. Stand there, boy,” directed the driver to his laboring horses once on the foot of the bridge on the other side.

Alabama State Troopers, like the Bloody Sunday of 1965, met Lewis once more. This time there were no billy clubs, no water hoses, or no dogs.

Does that mean things have changed? Of course.

But so bloody is the stain of white supremacy that Lewis’ lifetime of good trouble has not, even on the second Sunday following his death, yet compelled the state and citizenry of Alabama to dump the name of its white supremacist “Grand Dragon” of the Ku Klux Klan bridge namesake into the depths of the river it crosses over.

Until it does, and even if it does, Alabama—and America too—haven’t changed enough.


Atlanta Voice Special ‘Enduring Legacies — The painful truth behind their smiles’

Don’t let the condolences of enemies of Black equality, Black joy, and of Black life fool you: efforts to topple white supremacy were not then, are not now, and will never be interpreted as “good trouble.”

Over a half-century since Vivian and Lewis sat-in, freedom-rode and took a knee against systemic racism, a new generation of black activists are fighting against the very same evils—as well as so many more.

Let that sink in.


University of The Bahamas-North’s Sustainable Grand Bahama Conference 2020

Titled, “We Saved Ourselves: Social Media’s Role in Response, Recovery and Reckoning During and After Dorian.” It is a retrospective storytelling of my social media experiences during and after Hurricane Dorian on Grand Bahama. In revisiting the role of social media in response, recovery, and reckoning, it is my hope that it leaves more questions than answers—about what we did wrong versus right, as well as what we left undone. Although it is not intended to be an indictment on failures—whether of plans or to plan—the people of Grand Bahama and the Abacos deserve the truth told of what they endured, what they lost, and of all they are yet overcoming.


Research explores Sexism in the Rev. Dr. King’s World House

“Sexism in the Rev. Dr. King’s World House: Women and the Global Vision of Martin Luther King Jr.” Reclaiming the Great World House: The Global Vision of Martin Luther King, Jr. Vicki L. Crawford and Lewis V. Baldwin, eds. University of Georgia Press. 2019.

Martin Luther King, Jr. lived and functioned in an era during which the realities of gender identity, male authority, separate domains for men and women, patriarchy and sexism as well as the ensuing subordination and marginalization of women were well-established; and he, despite his growing commitment to equal rights, social justice, and peace, did not escape the culture that produced him nor seductive call of the male privilege he resultantly enjoyed. This chapter explores King’s sexist tendencies as well as how they shaped and informed both his world house vision, and his efforts to translate that vision into practical reality. To examine these constructs, attention is devoted to the impact of his upbringing on his emerging sense of gender roles for men and women, to his ambivalent attitude toward and sometimes strained relationships with female activists amid the context of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, to his dealings with female activists, admirers, and supporters from other parts of the globe, and to his absence of attention to sexism and the overall status of women in his articulation and pursuit of his vision of “the great world house.”