Category: Diversity

Abomination to Advocation

Reverend Alaina Cobb has experienced hate from a young age due to her identity. After seeing what the culture she was raised in looked like, she knew she had to do something. Her activism grows from her experiences growing up, but mostly from her children, fueling her to fight for others and their ability to be “fully human.”  As a mother, as a reverend, and as a fighter, Alaina Cobb is changing the world around her.

Meet the Storytellers

Allie Schrenker

Allie Schrenker is a committed athlete majoring in Communication and Creative Writing at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with plans to graduate in May 2019. She is an international rugby player and an editor for UTC’s literary journal. She is currently pursuing a career in photojournalism and can be reached at


Samantha Sargent

Samantha Sargent is a senior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Originally from Memphis, TN, she came to Chattanooga to study Communication and Sociology. Sargent wishes to use this degree to pursue a career in digital media. Contact her at

Princess Petrus

Princess Petrus is a junior at UT Chattanooga studying Communication and Spanish. She enjoys photojournalism and uses her skill to convey social problems through visual images. Petrus has a passion for learning other people’s stories and aims to connect with those around her. Contact her at rkt446@mocs.utc.


Katie Raabe

Katie Raabe is a Communication major and International Studies minor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga planning to graduate in May 2019. With a focus in Creative Writing, Katie is passionate about people and telling their stories in expressive and visual forms. Contact her at



Barber Kings – Chattanooga One Snip at a Time


Chris Palmer edges a clients hair on September 10, 2018 (Photo by Troy Stolt).

Barber Kings, a well-known barber shop on MLK Boulevard in Chattanooga, Tenn., creates a space where area neighborhoods find community.

Established in 2013 by owner Victor Bronson, Barber Kings has been a place where the people of the MLK Neighborhood Association frequent on a daily basis.

Not only can people walk in to receive a professional cut or shave from one of their barbers, they can also come in to spend hours of time with their neighbors.




According to Master Barber Chris Palmer, Barber Kings is a place to not only receive a good haircut, but also a good conversation. By growing up spending time in barber shops himself, Palmer understands the effect a barber shop can have on people.

“As a kid, going to the barber shop was like going on a field trip. It was a place to sit and listen, to have conversations with the barber and the people who lived in this community,” Palmer said.  

By having a personal experience and understanding of the effects a barber shop can have on someone, Palmer and the other barbers work hard to make this shop a place for community.

Messiah waits for a haircut at Barber Kings on Martin Luther King Boulevard on September 8, 2018 (Photo by Troy Stolt).

“We try to make this a place where boys can learn how to become young men,” Palmer said, “We want to be there to help mentor the children that come and sit in our chairs.”

Even with all of their passion for their work and the people they encounter, Barber Kings recently changed locations due to the gentrification of MLK Boulevard.

The landscape of MLK and the neighborhood has drastically changed over the years. What used to be a street made up of predominantly black business owners has been flooded with people from the nearby neighborhoods and has changed to appeal and conform to a younger, middle-class taste.


Terrance Bragg cuts a client’s hair at Barber Kings on Martin Luther King Blvd on September 8, 2018 (Photo by Troy Stolt).

These changes have allowed new shops, bars and restaurants to open up along MLK Boulevard as well as allow more college students, tourists and locals enjoy what this part of Chattanooga has to offer. The new businesses like OddStory Brewing Company, 2 Sons Kitchen and Market, Hutton & Smith Brewing, and The Camp House to name a few, fall under the category of change on this street. Unfortunately, because of this change, Barber Kings could no longer stay in their previous location on MLK.

With these changes, Barber Kings had to face the choice of leaving a neighborhood they had spent years building a community with or work hard to stay and continue being involved with their neighborhood.

The shop ended up remaining on MLK, but changing locations to a little ways down the road. Barber Kings is currently located next door to Hutton & Smith Brewing and across the street from Champy’s Restaurant at 517 East Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Terrance Bragg shaves his face with a straight edge razor on September 10, 2018 (Photo by Troy Stolt).

Having been around this community for many years, the barbers have seen shops come and go. They are aware of these changes, but they are prepared to face them together and adapt how they see fit.

“I know lots of families who have moved out of this neighborhood. They talk about the way things used to be around here, how it made them strong,” Palmer said.

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Terrance Bragg finishes a clients hair September 6th, 2018. Jessica Boggs

By seeing other businesses let these changes move them out, Palmer and the shop understand how different this neighborhood used to be. However, it is also important to them to be a part of this newly formed community inhabiting the neighborhood.

The Barber kings staff cut clients hair on September 7, 2018 (Photo by Troy Stolt).

“These are the streets that musicians like Bessie Smith and James Brown used to roam. As this neighborhood experiences a shift from gentrification, it’s important to us to be an example for other ethnic owned businesses in this community. We don’t want to lose that history,” Palmer said.

Barber Kings is a business that does not let gentrification force them out of a place they call home. These barbers and this company represent strength, community and history in an important part of the city of Chattanooga.



Meet the Storytellers:


Troy Stolt

Troy Stolt is a student photojournalist based out of Chattanooga Tennessee, where he is the photo editor of the UTC student newspaper, the University Echo, he has experience covering news, sports, in the creation of multimedia, studio portraits as well as making featured photos. His work has also been published University relations,, and the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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Abigail Frazier

Abigail Frazier is a senior communications major at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She works for the student newspaper, The University Echo, as the News Editor. Frazier hopes to pursue print journalism or an online publication in News Media.



Jessica Boggs

Jessica Boggs, Senior at UTC, is pursuing a degree in Communication and minoring in International Relations. She is an experienced international photojournalist as well as feature photographer for The Echo. Jessica is passionate about speaking for those without a voice through the lens of a camera.




Copyright 2018, Rising Rock Media, all rights reserved.




Small Battles

Cameron Mulienberg’s perspective on striving for inclusivity in Highland Park.

About the Storyteller

Small Battles was created by Kristjan Grimson. This multi-media piece was made in COMM 4750, Photojournalism 2, during the Fall 2017 semester. In December 2017, he received his B.A in Communication from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Invitation Only: Black Girl in a White World

JJ Dunigan is a senior at GPS.
JJ Dunigan is a senior at GPS. (Photo by Erica Roberts)

Girls Preparatory School, also known as GPS, is an all-girls private school in Chattanooga Tennessee. Since GPS is a private school, students must pay a tuition in order to enroll in the school. GPS girls are typically stereotyped using two characteristics: caucasian and wealthy. What does it look like to go to a school where you do not fit those stereotypes?

Continue reading “Invitation Only: Black Girl in a White World”

One Immigrant: The Story of Celeste Varagona

One Immigrant: The Story of Celeste Varagona tells the life story of Italian immigrant, Celeste Varagona. Ms. Varagona teaches piano and lives in Oak Ridge, TN. She regularly  travels to Chattanooga for piano competitions.

About the Storyteller

Rachel McIntyre Smith.
Rachel McIntyre Smith

One Immigrant: The Story of Celeste Varagona was created by Rachel McIntyre Smith. This multi-media piece was made in COMM 4750, Photojournalism 2, during the Fall 2017 semester.

Rachel McIntyre Smith is a junior Communications and Spanish major at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She is a member of the Brock Scholars program and serves as the student trustee on the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees. After graduation she hopes to pursue a career in songwriting.

Copyright 2017, Rachel McIntyre Smith, all rights reserved.