This past weekend, the Jack Yates National Alumni Association (JYNAA) and the dynamic 90th Anniversary Gala Committee, delivered a stellar 90th Anniversary Celebration for the historic Jack Yates High School, and they did it in true JY fashion – first class excellence.
The theme for the three-day celebration, held June 24-26, was “90 Years: Building and Sustaining A Legacy One Brick at a Time,” and the milestone celebration proved to be a tremendous success for the hundreds of graduates, friends, organizers and supporters who planned and participated in the overall festivities.
The proceeds from all of the events will fund education programs, literacy initiatives and scholarships for deserving college-bound students. The JYNAA promotes and funds programs that provide guidance and leadership direction for positive change, seeking to make a positive difference within the lives at Jack Yates High School and the Third Ward community.
All of the events held this past weekend were well-attended and supported.
On Friday, June 24th, the JYNAA hosted the 90th Anniversary Celebration Gala at the Power Center. Nearly 800 attendees enjoyed the black-tie event that featured graduates from the 1930s to present day. Yates graduate and TV One “NewsOne Now” host Roland Martin served as the emcee of the gala and entertained the attendees and kept the event lively and festive. Martin conducted a JYNAA membership drive towards the close of the gala, where over 125 attendees filled out applications to become new members of the JYNAA.
On Saturday, June 25th, the JYNAA hosted the 2nd Annual Edward B. “Doc” Evans Crimson and Gold on the Green Golf Classic at Southwyck Golf Club in Pearland, Texas.
To conclude the 90th Anniversary Celebration festivities, many Yates graduates and members of the JYNAA attended an “Old-Fashioned Sunday Morning Worship Service” on Sunday, June 26th at the historic Antioch Missionary Baptist Church – the original home of and first church pastored by the late Rev. John Henry “Jack” Yates from 1868 to 1891.
John Henry «Jack» Yates, who became a successful minister, businessman, community leader and educator, was born a slave and learned to read, write and acquire the skills of carpentry. When African Americans received word they had been set free on June 19, 1865, also known as Juneteenth, Yates moved his family to Houston. Yates ended up leading a major effort to raise money towards the purchase of a piece of land where African Americans could celebrate Juneteenth, and their newfound freedom from slavery for years to come. Yates bought land, in what is now known as Third Ward, and named it Emancipation Park in honor of their newly received freedom. Yates became the founding pastor of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, the first Black Baptist church in Houston in January 1866. By 1875, Yates had led his Antioch congregation, almost all of whom were former slaves, to erect a brick church building and to become extremely influential in the political, social and cultural life of Black Houston. He also became the dynamic leader of early Freedmen’s Town, where he built churches, businesses and a school. Along with his work as a minister, Yates was also a pioneer in education. When the Federal government set up Freedmen’s Bureau schools in churches in Houston, Yates volunteered Antioch as one of the school sites. Yates also helped to bring the first Baptist college to Texas, Bishop Academy, an institution that prepared students for employment in trades, business and ministry. He died in 1897, and is buried in College Park Cemetery in Houston.
Now located in the heart of Third Ward, Jack Yates High has remained a staple in the Greater Houston area. Jack Yates High has produced a number of successful community leaders, educators, scholars, entertainers, athletes, business and civic leaders; but it is the man, for whom the school is named after, that is worthy of constant remembrance, celebration and historical preservation.
The pride and legacy of attending a historic, 90-year-old school, named after such a powerful and influential figure like John Henry “Jack” Yates, is one of the primary reasons organizers felt it important enough to have a celebration like the one held this past weekend.
The JYNAA has discussed having several other events for the remainder of the 2016 calendar year as well, and the Forward Times will keep its readers up to date on any future events.
The JYNAA officers are Reginald Phillips, President; Carolyn Scantlebury, Sr. Vice President; Kathy Thompson, Recording Secretary; Amie Johnson, Corresponding Secretary; Anthony Stewart, Sr., Treasurer; Stacy Rayon, Financial Secretary; Dr. Pamela Boveland, Parliamentarian; Debra Smith-Stevens, Sqt.at Arms; Redell Ellis, Historian; Sister Mama Sonya Chaplin; Fred Harris, Outreach; Pierce Lee Stewart, Sr., VP-Government; Karolyn Williams, VP-Fundraising; John Smith, Jr., VP-Public Relations; Deberah Joseph, VP-Student Director an Dr. Carolyn Evans-Shabazz, VP-Education.
The Board of Directors are Ralph Cooper, Santana Dotson, J. Robert Jones, Dr. Robert McGee, Erskine Moorehead, Dr. Ronald Moore and Georgia Provost.
The 90th Anniversary Gala Committee was led by Debra Stevens-Smith, who is serving as Chairperson. The other committee members include Sandra Auzene, Dr. Pamela Boveland, Marie Celestine, Sister Momma Sonya Chaplin, Patricia Denkins, Dr. Carolyn Evans-Shabazz, Fred Harris, Amie Johnson, J. Robert Jones, Reggie Phillips, Georgia Provost, Carolyn Scantlebury, Anthony Stewart, Kathy Thompson and Karolyn Williams.