Ether Jackson prepares to celebrate her 98th birthday with Executive Director Renee Kesler. Photos by Vivian Shipe

By Vivian Shipe

KNOXVILLE, TN — It was one of the most glamorous social events and well attended parties of the year.

The Annual Christmas Gala held by the Beck Cultural  Exchange Center drew hundreds to the festive event. Shuttle buses brought the guest to the Beck Mansion as over flow

Beck party attendees City Council member and 2019 Knoxville Mayoral Candidate Marshall Stair and First Tennessee Bank Executive Joshalyn Hundley.

parking was needed. Upon arrival, the guest received royal treatment from the minute they walked through the double doors into the foyer. Every room was immaculately decorated and sumptuous food flowed from several stations provided by one of Knoxville’s finest caterers, Karen Harden.The party was also a celebration of first in the African American community,  a historic  birthday was recognized, and  announcements of events that will propel the center into the international scene over the next two years brought applause several times during the evening.

First, those in attendance were introduced to Cassius Cash and his wife Vonda. Mr. Cash is the first African American to serve as the Superintendent of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park.

Those in attendance also rose to their feet to acknowledge and honor Ether Jackson and celebrate her 98th birthday. Ms. Jackson has served the Beck

Superintendent of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park Mr. Cassius Cash and his wife Vonda.

for many years, traveling faithfully  to the center, sometimes two and three times a week, to carefully cut out the obituaries of African Americans who pass in Knoxville to preserve their records.

During the celebration, Reverend Renee Kesler, Executive Director of the Beck, announced

plans to bring the Knoxville born, internationally known, Delaney Brothers art collection from across America and Paris France, to Knoxville to permanently reside in the Beck museum. This would mean Knoxville will have the largest collection of Delaney art in the world. Plans were also announced concerning  the creation of the Culture Corridor in Knoxville with The Beck Center as the center. There was

Author Bob Booker signing copies of books he has written.

also information shared about an International Art Symposium to be held in Knoxville in February 2020 with the Beck playing a prominent part.

Along with these announcements was a book signing held in the library by local author Bob Booker whose book “ The Heat of a  Red Summer: Race Rioting in 1919”  will be re- released  next year as part of the nation wide recognition of the 100 year anniversary of the summer race riots that occurred around the country in

the summer of 1919, one hundred years ago.

Following the recognitions and accolades; the dance floor was opened up and the DJ played the latest and the greatest sounds as the guests danced into the night.