Author Archives: heatherandolina

In Memory of Dr. Brent Kennedy, Founder of the MHA.

Published by:

  • By Scott Withrow:
  • Dr. Brent Kennedy was a force—an outgoing and energetic person–who grew up in the small mountain town of Wise, Virginia. He attended Clinch Valley College and the University of Tennessee and gained a Ph. D. in Mass Communications. He worked in health care, non-profit fundraising and other fields, but it is through his Melungeon research that he became known to the world. His book, The Melungeons: The Resurrection of a Proud People, authored with his spouse Robyn and first published in 1996, made Brent the prime mover behind the recent revival of Melungeon identity. It all began when Brent’s research revealed that his family was Melungeon. His Melungeon Research Committee and the book spurred wide interest and was catalyst for much more.
  • Out of this growing interest in Melungeons came meetings known from the beginning as “unions.” Brent and organizers of the First Union expected perhaps 50 attendees when they met in July 1997 at Clinch Valley College (now the University of Virginia’s College at Wise). Surprising to everyone, the meeting in the picnic area turned into a three-day conference with close to 600 people attending! The unions continued under the leadership of Brent and others and continues today—the next meeting the 25th Melungeon Union, is planned for 2021. Thanks to Brent Kennedy and those early organizers, Melungeons gained a voice.
  • The word Melungeon was no longer an epithet but a badge of honor. The story spread in ripples across the Internet and helped reveal the real melting-pot that is America. On December 17, 2005 Brent suffered a devastating stroke. The doctors didn’t think he would survive, but Robyn knew his determination and provided loving care for him over the years. Brent, voiceless and confined to a scooter, was as aware as ever, continuing to communicate by various devices and by computer. With Robyn’s assistance, he attended unions when he could, and many enjoyed being with him at the 22nd Union at Big Stone Gap in 2018 where he was awarded a plaque for his foundational role in Melungeon history and research and the Melungeon Heritage Association.
  • Brent would tell you himself that he never claimed to be a historian, but, we know now that much of what he wrote was correct. Most importantly, he wrote from the heart and with courage, and he lived with courage. People may remember his charisma, his energy, his intuition, his generosity, and his dedication to Melungeon identity, but, for many, it was his courage that stands out—his courage to explore Melungeon identity and his courage to survive.
  • His obituary says it best: “The world indeed has lost a beautiful soul. But Brent has fulfilled his commitment to leave this world in a better place than the way he found it. His legacy will certainly live on through all those he has touched. ” Due to the ongoing pandemic, a Celebration of Life Memorial Service will be scheduled at a later date. For the full obituary and arrangements go to the link below.
  • https://www.sturgillfuneral.com/obituary/brent-kennedy#:~:text=N.%20Brent%20Kennedy%20III%2C%20T,heaven’s%20rock%20and%20roll%20band

Episode Seven of the Melungeon Voices Podcast

Published by:

Episode Seven, the season finale episode of Melungeon Voices Podcast is now available! We wrap up the season with Wayne Winkler, Author, Public Radio Station Manager and former Melungeon Heritage Association President. Wayne discusses his book “Beyond the Sunset” about the Melungeon outdoor drama, Walk Toward the Sunset, and its significance on the Melungeon people back then, as well as today. You can listen now to our seventh and final episode as well as all the other episodes at the Spotify, Apple podcasts, and Google podcasts links below!
Spotifyhttps://open.spotify.com/show/1Mqn5xt423FR6LmL5LLR0L

Apple Podcast/iTunes https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/melungeon-voices/id1517233900
Google Podcasts/Android https://podcasts.google.com/?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly9hbmNob3IuZm0vcy8yNGQ1ODFlOC9wb2RjYXN0L3Jzcw%3D%3D



Episode Six is Now Available!

Published by:

Episode Six of the Melungeon Voices Podcast is now available. In this episode we interview Internationally acclaimed Gullah/Geechee artist, speaker, and Pan African Culture Heritage Fellow, Sonja Griffin Evans. She shares her beautiful and unique Gullah/Geechee heritage, and its influence on her artwork. She also discusses what inspires her, and how her cultural roots from the past impacts her work and the message it will send to future generations. Below are the links to listen to the podcast. Enjoy!

Spotifyhttps://open.spotify.com/show/1Mqn5xt423FR6LmL5LLR0L

Apple Podcast/iTunes https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/melungeon-voices/id1517233900
Google Podcasts/Android https://podcasts.google.com/?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly9hbmNob3IuZm0vcy8yNGQ1ODFlOC9wb2RjYXN0L3Jzcw%3D%3D

Episode Five of Melungeon Voices Podcast is Available Now!

Published by:

Episode Five of the Melungeon Voices Podcast is now available. In this episode we interview Software Engineer, Genealogist, and DNA Analyst Robert Wells. With over twenty years of experience in software engineering, his experience with analysis in solving complex problems, has given him an unique perspective in analyzing DNA. Robert began his genealogical journey in 2010, and has been able to breakdown brick walls in his family ancestry using DNA. In my interview with Robert he shares insider tips and a road map on how to follow your genealogical path. You can listen and subscribe at the links below! Enjoy! 

Spotifyhttps://open.spotify.com/show/1Mqn5xt423FR6LmL5LLR0L

Apple Podcast/iTunes https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/melungeon-voices/id1517233900
Google Podcasts/Android https://podcasts.google.com/?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly9hbmNob3IuZm0vcy8yNGQ1ODFlOC9wb2RjYXN0L3Jzcw%3D%3D

Melungeon Voices Podcast

Published by:

Episodes Three and Four are now available on the Melungeon Voices Podcast. Episode Three features Bill Gipson, who talks about the migration of the Gipson/Gibson families into Appalachia, and Episode Four features Paul Johnson, who discusses his recent research on Sarah Stanley Grimke and her connection to a mixed ethnic Carolina Coastal Plantation family. Check them out at the links below! Enjoy!

Spotifyhttps://open.spotify.com/show/1Mqn5xt423FR6LmL5LLR0L

Apple Podcast/iTunes https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/melungeon-voices/id1517233900
Google Podcasts/Android https://podcasts.google.com/?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly9hbmNob3IuZm0vcy8yNGQ1ODFlOC9wb2RjYXN0L3Jzcw%3D%3D

Second Episode of the Melungeon Voices Podcast

Published by:

Episode Two of the Melungeon Voices podcast is now available! In this episode we talk with District Court Judge, MHA member, and Author Beverly Scarlett. She shares her personal journey in discovering her Melungeon ancestry which began with a mysterious family photo and later developed into her deep genealogical family research which has inspired her new book due out this summer. Don’t forget to subscribe on Spotify, Apple podcast, and Google podcast.

Episode One Debuts on Melungeon Voices Podcast

Published by:

The debut episode of Melungeon Voices featuring Documentarian and Historian Frederick Murphy, is available on Spotify, Apple Podcast/iTunes, and Google Podcasts/Android. Check it out at the links below!

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/1Mqn5xt423FR6LmL5LLR0L

Apple Podcast/iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/melungeon-voices/id1517233900
Google Podcasts/Android: https://podcasts.google.com/?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly9hbmNob3IuZm0vcy8yNGQ1ODFlOC9wb2RjYXN0L3Jzcw%3D%3D