Free Daily Headlines


Set your text size: A A A

HMS celebrates Ninth Avenue School Day

Nationally recognized artist Frankie Zombie helped Hendersonville Middle School students celebrate Ninth Avenue School Day. Nationally recognized artist Frankie Zombie helped Hendersonville Middle School students celebrate Ninth Avenue School Day.

On Friday Hendersonville Middle School students decked out in blue and gold instead of Bearcat red and white huddled around a neon-streaked Dodge Challenger parked in front of their school, awestruck by its bold style, vivid colors and dancing geometric patterns.

Seated atop the car was nationally recognized artist Frankie Zombie, encouraging students to draw from their circle of influence to tap into their ideas and dreams. Zombie, whose niece Kaliyah is a 7th grader at HMS, was an invited guest to the school’s third annual observation of “Ninth Avenue School Day.”

Proclaimed as such by Hendersonville Mayor Barbara Volk in 2006, Feb. 18 is a day HMS celebrates its history as the site of the Ninth Avenue School – dedicated on October 28, 1951 as a consolidated school for Black American students in Henderson, Polk and Transylvania counties.

From 1951 to 1965, the Ninth Avenue School was a segregated school for African-American students, before area schools were integrated in 1965. Hendersonville Middle School was built on and around the original Ninth Avenue School building, and the historical marker still stands on North Main Street.

On Friday, the whole school swapped their Bearcat red and white for the Tiger blue and gold, and kicked off the day with a walking pep rally headed by the HMS cheer team and Ninth Avenue alum Jasper Hopper, who led students in singing the Tiger’s fight song. In class, students watched video interviews of Ninth Avenue alumni sharing their stories, and worked on content-driven classwork with a focus on Black History Month.

HMS principal Joni Allison said the school has taken on the tradition of honoring Ninth Avenue School Day to inspire students to value history and to learn from it in meaningful, real-world ways. This year, that also included a visit from Zombie, who shared with students that Black history isn’t just about what can be read in textbooks.

“It’s important for you to see examples in your life of what you can do and what you can be,” said Zombie, who is a native of New York but raised nearby in Spartanburg, S.C.

“Anything we can do to increase opportunity and exposure for our children makes the learning that much more exciting," Allison said. “It’s important for kids to not only see influencers and grab inspiration from social media and TV and movies, but to know that they can physically see it in person in their communities,” added Zombie.

As an artist, Zombie has worked with stars like Pharrell Williams, John Legend and Miley Cyrus and has created accessory lines with Urban Outfitters and Adidas.
“Had it not been for cousins, moms, dads, and teachers — heroes in my eyes — I would not be where I am today,” Zombie said, his hand on his chest.

“So, my biggest message is to listen to those who are trying to guide and help you, mentally, physically, and spiritually,” he said. “You don’t need to listen to those on the left or the right telling you that you can’t do what you dream to do - try everything you’ve always wanted to try. Start now.”

Zombie said it remains important to him to focus on “community” as a way to stay grounded while inspiring the next generation.

“This is what it’s about,” he said. “We are here to be a service and inspiration to others.”