By Vivian Shipe
KNOXVILLE, TN — Cecily Tyson refused to act in any role that degraded her people, Martin Luther Ling and Malcolm X pushed for recognition and equality, and Bobby Seale, Huey P. Newton, and Elbert Howard created the Black Panther Party to make Black Pride, community, and civil rights a priority. Tyson, who recently passed away at the beautiful age of 96, was blacklisted many times for years for refusing to play roles that did not uplift her race and others like King and Malcolm, were were hated and scorned for their outspoken ways and refusal to be politically correct or silent about the oppression and injustices experienced by their people. They all had a mindset to see their
people rise. As did they…so do Constance Every and Cynthia Finch. They are fiery, they are bold and confident, they are unapologetically Black and Proud and are driven to see all their brothers and sisters rise.
Constance Every is a mighty force with a following that will bring thousands at her call. Founder of Sleeves4Needs, a mobilized unit that goes into the poorest communities to provide free food, clothing, and resources, Every, a military veteran, also works with Black Coffee Justice and Black Lives Matter and led the Juneteenth rally that drew over 5000 into Knoxville and also led the collaborative painting of the Black Lives Matter mural back in the summer. Never afraid to enter a battle, Every recently led a caravan from East Tennessee to a peaceful protest in Nashville to protest the injustices of racial and systemic oppression and the attacks on people of color. She is currently looking at the homeless and their inability to receive the stimulus checks and how to combat that.
Also as powerful with a voice and following that reaches across the country is Cynthia Thomas Finch. Finch, a retired clinician with over 30 years experience, has organized covid -19 testing sites in the inner city testing over over a thousand since the pandemic began and co founded the powerful Faith Leaders Initiative, a group created to educate Faith Leaders in Knoxville about the COVID-19 pandemic and how to best protect their congregation. That organization is now 180 members strong and reaches across the nation. Well ahead of the announcement by President Biden to call for all retired nurses and other medical leaders to join the fight to get people vaccinated , Finch and members of the initiative, most recently stood on the steps of the Jacob Community Building in Knoxville to announce the formation of the African American Health Care Clinician Workgroup; an army of African American medical professionals ready to be deployed to administer the covid-19 vaccine. Most recently Finch developed the “list” which are the names of the most elderly over 75 and she is working with the Knox County Health Department to make sure every Black elder is not left out or pushed to the back of the line as the vaccine becomes available in Knoxville.
Both Finch and Every will tell you; their mission is to raise up, protect, and educate the African American Community which they are determined will no longer be left off.
Like King and Malcolm, two opposites, one strong mission. A cord not easily broken.