Although he is not a student, Galesburg resident and elder Tyson Haywood has been a part of the Knox community longer than most. But if students know him at all, they have probably only heard his voice.
Haywood — a radio host, traveling preacher and born-again Christian — has been a lot of places, but it is both Galesburg and Knox that he calls home. Frequenting the campus for his weekly radio show and occasionally shooting a game of pool at the Taylor Lounge, he treads the line between the Galesburg community and the Knox campus.
Indeed, he hopes to erase that line altogether.
“This separation stuff I don’t like, you know,” he said. “If I could do something to help bring people together … then I’ll do that. I’m just here to try to help.”
This desire to bring people together from the community is related to the amiable beginnings of his relationship with Knox 26 years ago.
Before Haywood started his show, WVKC was located in the basement of Whiting Hall, a building on Simmons Street that once served as an all-women’s dormitory, but was later turned into an apartment complex. Haywood recalls that the station broadcast a modest 10 watts then — quite small in comparison to the 1,000 watts the station now boasts.
One night, when Haywood happened to be tuned into WVKC, the program director at the time was broadcasting a jazz show. Haywood, being a self-proclaimed “jazz head” at the time, decided to call up the station and compliment the student’s choice of music.
“What happened was … I called him up and said, ‘Man that’s some bad stuff you playin’,’ and he said, ‘Thanks. Would you like to come up?’ And I said, ‘Are you real?’” Haywood said. “He was such a nice guy.”
Endeared to Haywood, the student asked him if he would like to have his own radio show. Haywood, who was already interested in broadcasting gospel music, happily obliged. He has been with WVKC ever since, and now broadcasts to over 35,000 listeners each week.
“I thank the Lord for Knox for these 26 years that we’re able to continue this radio program,” he said.
This positive history between Haywood and Knox is one reason why he hopes to involve Knox in Gospel Fest, an annual celebration of gospel music in Galesburg every February (Black History Month). In its fifth year, the festival brings in gospel singers and choirs from all over the country to perform. Last year, the festival was held at the Orpheum Theatre. This year, however, Haywood is aiming for Knox to sponsor it.
Haywood was not able to disclose too much information about the plans with Knox, as the specifics are not determined yet. However, he said that the event will include the local church choir from Bethesda Baptist Church, as well as Chicago-based gospel singer Cynthia Eubanks. He is also determined to make it free for all students.
“I think it’s fitting … to give [students] the opportunity, if they don’t go to church, to let me bring the church to them,” Haywood said, “and if you don’t want to hear preaching, well, then I can bring something else to you. And most people like music, so I can do that.”