Celebrating the Tryon Allstars, Nina Simone this Black History Month

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Tryon All-Stars team from 1949. (Photo courtesy of Chris Bartol)

The Tryon Allstars team from 1949. (Photo courtesy of Chris Bartol)

The Upstairs Gallery and Tryon Fine Arts Center have decided this year to celebrate black history by honoring Tryon’s great black residents.

The Tryon Fine Arts Center kicks off Black History Month on Saturday, Jan. 31 by exhibiting the history of the Tryon Allstars, a baseball team who had been playing in a cow field near Harmon Field called Barbers Field until Jesse Ziglar purchased land now known as Ziglar Field for black children to play in the times of segregation. Blacks were not allowed at Harmon Field at that time as well as many other spots and businesses in Tryon.

Many players of the Tryon Allstars went on to play in professional Negro baseball leagues. The town dedicated the field, formerly known as “The Bottoms,” located at the corner of East Howard and Vaughn Streets in 2006 to officially name it Ziglar Field after Jesse Ziglar.

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Several of the survivors of the original Tryon Allstars 1949 team were honored at the 2006 dedication, which then included Fred Counts, who attended the event but is now deceased, Edgar Hannon, Johnny Miller, Paris Mims, Haywood Hannon, Ned Payne, Alfred Payne, Alfred “Gabby” Miller and Ulysses Counts.

Survivors in 2006 of Tryon Allstars after the 1949 team included Cleo Booker, Charlie Miller, Jim Proctor, Charlie Proctor, Donald Carson, George Miller Jr., Bobby Ray Miller, Charles Harris and Willie June Whitmire.

Tryon Arts and Crafts officials say there are three survivors remaining today of the Tryon Allstars and are currently scheduling them to visit for a sit down interview sometime in February for those who may be able to attend.

Tryon Fine Arts Center will have exhibits honoring the Tryon Allstar players at a kick-off event on Saturday, Jan. 31 from 5-7 p.m. The free event is open to everyone. Tryon Fine Arts Center will also be celebrating the same exhibits next week when Tryon Elementary School students will visit to learn about the Tryon Allstars and Nina Simone, legendary jazz singer and pianist who was born and raised in Tryon as Eunice Waymon before becoming a world famous singer, songwriter and civil rights activist. Natalie Douglas, award winning cabaret singer and educator, will perform a tribute to nina simone on Friday, Feb. 6 at 8 p.m. She is also presenting a one hour show for students at 1 p.m.

The Upstairs Artspace will be celebrating Nina Simone’s history, also kicking off on Saturday, Jan. 31 at an opening reception from 5-8 p.m. with the Nina Simone Project: Celebrating Black History Month and Tryon’s High Priestess of Soul.

The event will include Asheville artist Valeria Watson Doost, with reimagining the interior of Waymon’s Tryon home where she grew up.

A free jazz concert is also scheduled for Feb. 21, Eunice Waymon/Nina Simone’s birthday at the Roseland Community Center featuring the MPP Band.

Charleston artist Leigh Magar will also celebrate Simone’s legacy with a display of headdresses and accessories inspired by Simone. The artist also will perform a Nina Simone birthday dance to Nina Simone songs on Feb. 21.

The Upstairs will also include exhibits Sights Unforeseen by Asheville artist Linda Larsen, including paintings contemplating slavery and the Middle Passage and a series of sculptures exploring the American prison system and the disproportionately large population of African American inmates.

The opening reception will occur on the same night as the opening reception for the Tryon Fine Arts Center’s exhibit on the Tryon All Stars, the semi-pro baseball team that played at Ziglar Field from 1946 to 1968.

Simone’s birthday, February 21, will feature two events: Madame Magar will dance at the gallery in her honor and later that evening the MPP band, featuring William Hannon, Valentino Burroughs, Marquis Forney, and the vocal talents of Angela Counts-Logan will perform at the Roseland Community Center, 56 Peake St., Tryon. There also will be a Feb. 26 panel discussion on Nina Simone’s legacy in her hometown. The talk will feature Dr. Joseph Fox of Warren Wilson College; Dr. Warren Carson, interim vice chancellor of USC Upstate; and Frances Fox, Nina Simone’s sister.

The celebration also will include an African Wrapped Dolls workshop with artist Valeria Watson on March 6, and Cooking with Soul with Chef Hanan Shabazz and Chef Brit Castaneda on March 7. Updates and details on the schedule of events will be released in coming weeks.

Admission to all of the events is free, thanks to the PCCF Community Matters grant.