Statement on White Supremacist Rallies in Shelbyville & Murfreesboro

Statement on White Supremacist Rallies in Shelbyville & Murfreesboro

Statement on White Supremacist Rallies in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro

This weekend, white supremacist groups will host rallies in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro. While Black Lives Matter Nashville (BLMN) understands why it is important to counter-protest these types of gatherings, BLMN will not participate in any counter-protest. We believe that gatherings of neo-nazis and klansmen like these distract us from the destructive ways systemic white supremacy rallies against the lives of Black and Brown folks in Middle Tennessee and this country everyday.

The white supremacists that will gather this weekend are at work in these systems year round. Our hope is that any counter-protest will extend its message to discussing the myriad ways Black people are disproportionately and negatively impacted by the systemic policies that undergird this country. With their proud displays of Confederate iconography, Shelbyville and Murfreesboro are attractive locations for groups like the League of the South. We know that they are here because they want to incite fear in our Black and Brown immigrant communities. We know that they are here because our resistance against the devaluation of our lives is growing and they feel their power to divide us being threatened. We know they are here because we live in a country that continues to scapegoat and type rural communities as centers for hate, racism, islamophobia, and fascism, but refuses to acknowledge the classist ways white supremacy is employed.

We recognize that white supremacy is not relegated to our country’s rural outskirts. Just this year Nashville openly welcomed the National convening of the Fraternal Order of Police, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and will be hosting the American Legislative Exchange Council in December (ALEC). These organizations are driven by the people who maintain the system of white supremacy by protecting murderous police, lobbying against community accountability measures like community oversight boards, rolling back regulations on equipping police departments with military grade weaponry, and legislating to increase corporate profit through the prison industrial complex. All these policies and more work together to undermine Black life.

Finally, we believe that these rallies are times for white people to step up. Although it is scary, cowering in fear, hiding behind closed businesses or relying on protection from law enforcement will not effectively combat white supremacy. For many people of color, the daily experiences of living in America offer no safe places to hide or people to call for protection. Taking the time to question your fears, unpack the ways you uphold the pillars of white supremacy and continue the difficult task of dismantling the many institutions in place that reinforce white supremacy- long after the rallies are gone- is the type of solidarity needed in these times.

Gatherings like what will occur in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro are used as scapegoats for institutions and white America at large; it becomes a chance to point fingers at the obvious racists. In reality, it is both the practice of overt and covert racism that makes these violent and hateful rallies of klansmen and neo-nazis possible. It is white America who invited them in and it is white America who has the responsibility to see them out.

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Black Lives Matter Nashville Statement Re: TBI Find MNPD Shooting of Jocques Clemmons Justifiable

On May 11, 2017, the District Attorney’s Office announced that they would not be filing charges against Officer Joshua Lippert for the death of Jocques Clemmons.  This decision comes nearly one month after the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation completed its investigation of the shooting of Jocques Clemmons by Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) Officer Joshua Lippert.

While this announcement is disheartening, we know fully the long history of charges being dropped, cases dismissed, or officers not being indicted when it comes to Black people being murdered by the police. For this reason, many in the city are not shocked, but instead angry.  Angry that despite someone being shot in the back and killed by an officer who has a record of excessive force- the officer walks free.  Angry that a police officer can murder a human being and be comforted by the fact that they will be investigated by their fellow officers in blue.  Angry that in the days leading up to the no surprise announcement, MNPD and Megan Barry have beefed up police forces all around the city to quell any form of outrage.  Angry that Chief Anderson himself stated “Nashville is not Ferguson” and yet here we are.  Jocques’ murder is a function of the continued occupation and over-policing of communities of color in Nashville. To pretend otherwise would be “morally disingenuous.”

Today Nashville, the liberal stronghold of Tennessee, joins the other numerous localities that fail to find fault or even recognize criminality in police officers when their violence and brutality takes the lives of Black people. It is troubling to imagine that an incomplete stop,  for Black people, may culminate in death at the hands of MNPD.  Community members have been warning city officials for years about the unique risks, vulnerabilities, and dangers that Black people experience at the hands of MNPD as detailed in the Driving While Black report on racial profiling in Metro Nashville.  The same police department also sought to dehumanize Jocques Clemmons following the killing by calling him a “gunman,” releasing mugshots, and obtaining a warrant to search Mr. Clemmons’ social media accounts after his death in an effort to slander his character.  Age old tactics used by police to villainize Black people.

Worse yet, Officer Lippert is STILL employed by MNPD and free to continue his well documented pattern of  excessive use of force on other members of this community.  Many of us are not safe while he is still employed, hiding behind a shield and carrying a gun  Unfortunately, the death of Jocques Clemmons is only one instance of excessive force, in a city where according to data produced by Metro Legal in response to a civil rights lawsuit, roughly 700 complaints are filed per year against MNPD.  The majority of these complaints go without discipline.  It is past time for the COMMUNITY to have oversight and for the city to do something about MNPD other than offer the department more money, continue to host townhalls, visit Black barbershops to talk, and deliver lip service. If the city of Nashville, its council members, and police department are serious about making our city safer for ALL citizens they will strongly and visibly support the following demands created by community members who organized to form the Justice For Jocques Coalition together with Clemmons’ family members:

  • Release of the police incident report documenting police action in the immediate aftermath of the murder
  • Immediate termination of Officer Joshua Lippert
  • Make public police policies regarding how/why  officers are terminated
  • Institute a people-organized Community Oversight Board with independent investigatory power
  • Terminate the security contract between MNPD and MDHA

These demands are only what an initial step towards justice for Jocques Clemmons looks like.  We recognize that even if all of the demands are met, it is still no victory for communities of color. For communities of color, there is no victory in police violence- there is only justice through accountability and shifting our ideologies and practices on policing to ensure that these killings never happen again.  We fully acknowledge that these demands will never bring Jocques Clemmons back home.  A mother is left without her child, sisters without a brother, and children without their father.  A family left trying to cope, knowing that they are up against a system that historically does not lose.  These are the devastating realities that create trauma and distrust in Black communities.  

In these times, and considering the history of violence in this country- a history that some of us are reminded of daily- hope seems hard to find.  Justice seems unreachable.  But we push back and we fight for justice, we fight to keep hope, realizing that these things, that justice and hope are intimately tied to our humanity.  The moment that we stop fighting for justice, we lose our humanity.  Jocques Clemmons should be alive today. And through the trauma and anger, we will continue to fight for justice.   

Rest in Power, Jocques.

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Rest In Power: Jocques Scott Clemmons

Tonight we lift up the name JOCQUES SCOTT CLEMMONS of Nashville who was shot and killed by police today in Cayce Homes. All too often, traffic stops end up deadly for black people #DrivingWhileBlack. A passed stop sign yields flashing blue lights and our hearts race as our palms begin to sweat and fear kicks in, not knowing if today, if this time will be the day. We center and uplift the grieving family of JOCQUES and the community of Cayce Homes that witnessed his murder. We will not stop saying his name- reaffirming his humanity each time. We are often stripped of our humanity when killed by the police and portrayed to be criminals, defiant of “authority”, violent- none of which are a death sentence. JOCQUES was a human being, born flesh and blood who was loved by his family, not unlike many of us. This could have been any of us tonight. Many of us are grieving, many of us are angry. We have every right to be. You are affirmed in being angry and in being heartbroken.

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We reject any narrative that will be spun by local news sources that paint JOCQUES as anything other than a human being. A human being who lived, and breathed, and smiled and whose life was stolen today. Stolen by a system that often goes unchecked, with no impunity. “When crime is organized enough, it isn’t even illegal”. It becomes systemic and is ingrained in the very fabric of our society in the form of laws and policies and the enforcement of these laws and policies. News reports will soon follow. Push back. Push back. Push back. Push back for JOCQUES’ humanity. Push back for JOCQUES’ family. Push back for our folks. We must love and protect one another.

And now JOCQUES SCOTT CLEMMONS is #JocquesScottClemmons joining countless others whose lives were stolen.  #NotAGunman

-BLM Nashville

On Fundraising

This month, Black Lives Matter Nashville started our first large scale fundraiser. We’re so grateful to those who have already donated and are happy to say that we’ve already raised over $6,000. However, we still have a long way to reach our $100,000 goal.

That figure may seem daunting right now, but we’re certain that our community has the potential to take us there. You may rightfully ask yourself why we are asking for so much, and we respect that curiosity. After hours of deliberation, the leadership core decided that $100,000 will adequately fund full-time organizers, space, and operations for one year.

While activism is something that everyone should feel able to participate in, real organizing is demanding work. You may only see us when we’re marching in the streets, but there’s a lot of work that happens behind the scenes, including: emails, phone calls, letter writing, interviews, etc. The leadership core has been dedicated to building leadership and organizing for the past two years while maintaining jobs and/or school work. As we progress, it’s important for us to have dedicated staff members to do the day to day work of BLM. While we could hire an “intern” or someone part-time, we believe that this work is critical to transforming our city and feel that people should be compensated fairly for their work and provided benefits, thus we are looking for $80,000 to pay two full-time organizers.

Currently BLM holds meetings and events in a variety of spaces: churches, schools, or sometimes our own homes. While we are eternally grateful for the kindness we’ve been shown by community members who open their doors for us, we know that it’s about time for us to have a (semi-permanent) physical space of our own. We’ve crunched some numbers and looked at a few rental properties in North Nashville. That’s how we came up with the number $9600 including rent and utilities for one year. In addition to being functional for meetings and organizing, our own physical space would be a symbol to the black community of Nashville that BLM stands with you, for you, and next to you.

In addition to finding time and space to run BLM Nashville, the leadership core also uses their own money to fund its operations. The food for meetings, the art supplies for direct actions, software, security, travel and accommodations are usually paid for by the personal funds of the leadership core.  We expect to use about $10,000 in operating expenses in 2017, and would love for the collective wealth of our community to participate in funding these expenses.  We want this movement to be led and supported by the community of Nashville.

Click here to help fund the growth of Black Lives Matter Nashville.

A Statement to the Tennessean on MNPD “Saying No to TBI Inquiries of Police Shootings”

Recently Stacey Barchenger of the Tennessean requested that the Nashville Chapter of Black Lives Matter comment on Metro Nashville Police Department’s (MNPD) position on a bill currently being debated in the state legislature on requiring all incidents of police shootings resulting in the death of civilians to be investigated by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI). MNPD rejected the idea of having the TBI investigate these incidents citing having more local knowledge, being able to respond faster, and that they could be more transparent with the people of Nashville if the TBI was not involved. BLM Nashville’s full statement is here:

“Metro Nashville Police Department refusing to give the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) authority to investigate incidents where police officers kill civilians illustrates the state of denial that our police department is currently operating under. Harassment, misinformation, and distrust of the police are already major problems in Black and highly policed communities.To hide under the guise of preventing misinformation and distrust implies positive community-police interactions are occurring in the first place. The Nashville Chapter of Black Lives Matter recently submitted a request to the Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section in the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the administration of MNPD’s Operation Safer Streets program. Our preliminary findings indicate that Operation Safer Streets selectively and overwhelmingly targets communities of color, with more than 16,000 motorists and residents stopped by this program from January 2014-May 2015. More than 80% of those stopped were not arrested and the majority of the targeted areas, at minimum 26 neighborhoods, were predominantly African American. Most of the other targeted areas were neighborhoods comprised of Latinos and non-white immigrant residents. The insinuation that further scrutiny, transparency, and accountability from an external agency would make concerns about misinformation and distrust worse is absurd. If Nashville PD is following proper procedure and fully investigating cases then there should be no harm in additional oversight from the TBI.”

You can read the full article in the Tennessean here.

Blackness Shatters Any and Everything That Divides Us: An Open Letter to Nashville by Jessica Sutton

Photo by Mallory Burns

Photo by Mallory Burns

There is a righteous rage that builds on the inside of us manifesting in the screaming of “BLACK LIVES MATTER!” It is the culmination of sadness and hurt from seeing our brothers and sisters be murdered by a power above the law and the anger that results when you realize that not only does society perpetuate this but also a very powerful long-standing system that operates as a well-oiled machine. This system has evolved overtime to perpetuate these murders and the criminalization of black bodies ensuring that the cycle of poverty, violence, and process of gentrification work as efficiently and insidiously as possible. There are people who support this system, whose power and profit thrive from its efficiency and they are unable and/or unwilling to see the lives who suffer under its suffocating and murderous effects. We can’t breathe. It is our intention to tear it down. It is our intention to create a system—a community for us, by us, built on a foundation of liberation and love, not on a deeply rooted foundation of capitalism, colonialism, and supremacy. This is the beginning of what our revolution looks like.

Mike Brown and Eric Garner exposed the evils of our reality and put them on the conscience of the world. It served as a catalyst, forcing us to also look in our own backyard—Nashville, the “it city”. The reality is that Ferguson is everywhere. The same issues that plague communities like Ferguson are also here in our beloved Nashville. Yes we have racial profiling in Nashville. Yes Nashville Police Department owns millions of dollars worth of military gear. Yes gentrification is pushing people of color and poor people out. Yes our communities are heavily policed. Yes in Nashville there is disproportionate amount of incarcerated blacks in the for-profit prison system—CCA, the largest in the nation is headquartered right here in. This is where we began working to direct the energy from the protests towards change in Nashville and perhaps the nation.

The complexity and power of this system is daunting and scares some of us. Some are so fearful, they would rather remain quiet and urge others to remain quiet. For some, it is a “don’t upset massa” mentality—respectability politics so deeply engrained that we identify with it as self. Some are so overwhelmed, they are paralyzed with defeat because where do you even start in trying to dismantle something so complex and big. Voting alone won’t work, a one-day boycott won’t work, and policy changes are hard to come by. And this is where the attendance numbers in some of the marches and meetings begins to drop–people realize how big this is and think maybe their marching won’t help. I implore you to not grow weary in well doing. You are the very people we want to empower, we need you! So the protesting is the beginning of what dismantling this system looks like for some. For others, it is as far as it goes because after realizing what they’re up against, hope is lost. History shows us where bucking the system gets you. The marching is the tears, the anger, the hurt, and the desire for change put to action. It is a public lament. It is a moral outcry and a call to arms for people in both a liberation movement and the dismantling of systems and institutions designed to oppress and reap profit. After over 300 hundred of years of oppression and conditioning, it is the waking up of a people.

The protesting is also the coming together of a people. In our space, we exchange love through tear filled eyes, soul filled hugs, and smiles. To be holding hands with gang members, scientists, children, college students, rappers, LGBQT folks, ministers, professors, cosmetologists, of all races and creeds- we celebrate our differences in this safe space. This is the beginning of what love and community look like. We come together, we see ourselves in one another. We cry. We scream. We march. We beat the drums and call on the names of our freedom fighter elders and ancestors, we see one another. We cry out the names of the slain.

It is a very spiritual experience. Other aspects of this movement cannot be contained by the constraints of diction. It cannot be spoken. It is felt and sensed so deeply that our souls ache—it is real. It is our Blackness. Sometimes it is realized after the protest ends and we go back to the tranquil solitude of our homes and the post-traumatic stress disorder hits and we buckle to our knees. The incessant tears fall and you try to take it all in and process it. The love, the hurt, the Blackness, the glimpses of the dead bodies lying on the street, the people murdered in cold blood in the sanctity of a church in Charleston, the strange fruit that hangs from trees in the Dominican Republic, the heart breaking comments on social networks and news posts, the riot gear, the hate, the racism, the hurt and anger resulting from church leaders and community leaders you look up to telling you to calm down and be quiet, the realization that people have died for something like this already and yet here we are, the realization that you are the hope and the dream of the slave, the tale of two Nashvilles separated by Charlotte Pike and pushing you out because of the growth of the “it” city and gentrification- the weight of it all is too much. The love and the Blackness shatter any and every thing that divides us. It is beautiful and lovely and scary and it is freedom. It is finding strength in one another. And in those moments we are one voice, one people, unified in a liberation movement.

We want Nashville to know that we will not be pacified by strategically planned political moves to keep us quiet. Calling town hall meetings to deliver empty promises, from a pulpit, to push a political agenda and hand out “vote for me” cards afterwards will not work. Calling for certain clergy members and community leaders to keep us quiet will not work, it is an abuse of power to control the hearts of people by using these trusted leaders and those who disseminate the teachings of sacred texts. Handing us hot chocolate to change the narrative of a protest to that of friendly cops and witless protestors will not stop us. The lack of understanding our movement and the beauty in the absence of specific leaders will not stop us—we are all leaders so you cannot pick a few of us off and think we will die—we multiply. We are our brother’s and sister’s keeper. Politicians pushing an agenda fueled by twisted motives and passive aggressive tactics will not work. Pushing respectability politics to discredit us will not work. Having America’s favorite police chief write a letter defending our actions will not quiet us. It will not quiet us because this is bigger than commerce, this is bigger than politics, this is bigger than ending discriminatory policing, this is our fight for freedom. See us. See our humanity.

We are not here to ask for permission. We are not here to entertain opinions. We are not here to engage in every single small battle that presents itself daily but we are here to win the war for our liberation. We are not constrained by the concept of time as we make our own schedule. This movement is organic and it is ours. We disrupt the status quo to disrupt power structures and hit where it hurts most, the pockets. Just as a school depends on students to functionally operate, an oppressive system disguised as policing, for-profit prisons, laws and propaganda perpetuating the criminalization of black and brown bodies, poverty, and homelessness depends on the complacency and submission of people to keep power and operate. When we are no longer submissive and no longer complacent, the power structure is no longer functional. Just as a car runs on gas, we know that this system also runs on the fuel of economic commerce. This upsets some Nashvillians and scares others. Your fear does not dictate what the liberation of a people will look like. Here in lies our power, the power of the people. We will not stop until we get free. We will not stop until we see concrete change in our communities, in the policing of our communities, in the distribution and access of quality healthcare within these communities, in our schools, in the for-profit prison system disproportionately imprisoning our brothers and sisters, and in the distribution of the wealth that is built with our tax dollars as well and on the backs of our ancestors. We are a generation of sleeping giants who are waking up. Woe to those who try to stop us. We find this movement for black liberation to be one worth living for. And with tears in our eyes and a charge in the deepest parts of our heart and soul, we—the young people, call you to join with us—fight with us, strategize with us, and see us. This is only the beginning. The movement was birthed out of a moment and we will not stop. I close this letter with a quote that we use to close out our protests

It is our duty to fight for freedom.

It is our duty to win.

We must love and support one another.

We have NOTHING to lose but our chains.

-Assata Shakur

Ase,

Jessica Sutton

#BlackLivesMatter: A Bibliography for the Revolution

img_black-girlreading We, at Black Lives Matter Nashville, believe we are in the midst of a revolutionary movement for black lives. We believe we are at war with systems in this country and world that demean and undermine the humanity of black people–namely, white supremacy, patriarchy, transphobia, homophobia, capitalism, and imperialism. Thus, we believe in arming ourselves for the war. And we believe there’s no better way to arm ourselves than with books. We’ve compiled a rolling bibliography of books that have been helpful for us while we conceptualize and navigate this movement. It’s rolling because there’s always more to add. Please submit more books, documentaries, links, and resources that have shaped and impacted you to blacklivesmatternashville@gmail.com.

Mass Incarceration

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Davis

Abolition Democracy: Beyond Empire, Prisons, and Torture by Angela Davis

Slavery By Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon

Autobiography/Biography/Memoir

Negroes With Guns by Robert F. Williams

The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks by Jeanne Theoharis

Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision by Barbara Ransby

Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC by Faith S. Holsaert

Angela Davis: An Autobiography by Angela Davis

A Taste of Power:  A Black Woman’s Story by Elaine Brown

The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley

Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It: The Memoir of Jo Ann Gibson Robinson by Jo Ann Robinson

Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur

Unbought and Unbossed by Shirley Chisholm

Revolutionary Suicide by Huey P. Newton

Stokely: A Life by Peniel Joseph

Ready for the Revolution: The Life and Struggles of Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) by Stokely Carmichael

Walking With the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement by John Lewis, with Michael D’Orso

Movement Histories

Negroes and the Gun: The Black Tradition of Arms by Nicolas Johnson

We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement by Akinyele Umoja

This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible by Charles E. Cobb Jr.

Sisters in the Struggle: African-American Women in the Civil Rights-Black Power Movement by Bettye Collier-Thomas and V.P. Franklin

Waiting ‘Till the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America by Peniel Joseph

Freedom North: Black Freedom Struggles Outside the South, 1940-1980 by Jeanne Theoharis and Komozi Woodard

At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance–A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power by Danielle L. McGuire

Black Against Empire: THe History and Politics of the Black Panther Party by Joshua Bloom

Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination by Alondra Nelson

Want to Start a Revolution?: Radical Women in the Black Freedom Struggle by Komozi Woodard

In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s by Clayborne Carson

The Children by David Halberstam

Christopher Columbus and the African Holocaust: Slavery and the Rise of European Capitalism by John Henrik Clarke

Documentaries/Clips

The Black Power Mixtape: 1967-1975 by Goran Olsson

The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross by Henry Louis Gates Jr.

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution

Angela Davis on Violence Concerning Violence

Theory/Philosophy/Feminism/Masculinity

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon

Black Skin, White Masks by Frantz Fanon

Black Power and Black Theology by James Cone

The Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire

Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment by Patricia Hill Collins

All About Love: New Vision by bell hooks

Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom by bell hooks

Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. by Bobby Seale

The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love by bell hooks

Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde

New Black Man by Mark Anthony Neal

How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America by Kiese Laymon

Black Fire: An Anthology of Afro-AMerican Writing edited by LeRoi Jones and Larry Neal

Fiction

Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements by Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown Meridian by Alice Walker

AN OPEN LETTER RESPONSE TO COUNCILMAN JERRY MAYNARD

The letter below was written in response to Metro Nashville At-Large Councilman Jerry Maynard’s email to Justice For Jefferson on May 12, 2015.

Maynard to Justice for Jefferson Street: 'What the hell have you done?'

fetuga                                                                   al_maynard_jerry

Dear Councilman Maynard:

I read your response email to the Justice for Jefferson Street group and it broke my heart on so many levels. I was disgusted, honestly, and felt like your tone was arrogant, degrading, defensive and highly insensitive. Think what you may, Councilman Maynard, but many of us voted for you, and the way you address constituents in this email is completely unprofessional.

Your response, in my humble opinion, is extremely binary—you egregiously cast blame on your own constituents who are expressing their disdain for a $25 million dollar “urban renewal” project that, according to the stages of gentrification as identified by research, will ultimately end in the removal of black business owners and residents from our beloved historic Jefferson Street.

Placing blame (‘Look what I have done, you useless constituents!’) promotes a culture of victimization—we are not victims,we are empowered voters. We are not in competition with you, you represent us and, though you made it so with the way you chose to respond, it really just wasn’t (and isn’t) about you. This is not the time to beat your chest or tell us how your truck is bigger than ours.

What we need is reconciliation, not retaliation. Understanding, not finger pointing.

First,my response to your email:

1. I have two questions for you. If Justice for Jefferson Street does not represent your community, what community do you represent? You, sir, are our councilman at-large—we areas much a part of your community as those who agree with your position on this matter. To exclude a group because they do not agree with you is both discriminatory and undemocratic.

My next question is: How do you really know what “your community” represents in relation to this issue? You never asked. I personally have never received a call from you, a survey monkey or an invitation to a forum.

2. Just because you were not invited to the backdoor meetings does not mean there were no backdoor meetings. This was a top-down decision imposed on residents and business owners in the community whether they agreed or not.

3. Regardless of what we each think the issue is, we clearly both agree that there is, in fact, an issue. So, councilman, will you just vote yes without taking the time to do your job of listening to and engaging the citizens who will be mostly affected?

4. Imposing the headquarters on a community in the name of building “relationships” between citizens and police without ever talking with the citizens is definitely a strong arm and, when there is so much resistance to an idea, it can do nothing but damage the little trust we have (if any at all) in our city government or in this justice system that is experientially and statistically known to exploit and oppress blacks.

The decision to place the police headquarters on our street was nothing less than another example of our choke-hold domination culture that does whatever it will to black people and black communities, to poor people and poor communities—this is also known as white supremacy.

5. Do you really believe that black Nashville,the potential and actual Jefferson Street business owners, is solely the agent of its own suffering? Do you really think WE are the cause of the black disinvestment to which you refer? You imply that the blacks of historic Jefferson Street have not been and are not currently victims of systemic racialized exploitation.

Your politics of blame is rather disengaging and over-simplistic when we know that Jefferson Street was an economically viable area with Fisk and its Jubilee Singers, restaurants,an ice cream shop, the first black fire hall in the country, Brown’s Hotel and the many venues that attracted the likes of Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald. How in the world do you sleep at night,blaming the victims for their ultimate decline?

Let’s keep it real and talk about what really destroyed Jefferson Street. Surely you already know; I will keep this brief.

It has been a long time government strategy to destroy black businesses and communities by demolishing them, using eminent domain to reclaim private property for government initiated development projects. Our once proud and vibrant communities, like North Nashville and even Edgehill have been intentionally replaced by freeways, expressways and public housing units.

So what happened to Jefferson Street? The initial disinvestment and abandonment was spurred by the environmental injustice of Interstate 40 which blocked business traffic by cutting through the street. By the time businesses and homes were torn down and roads were blocked off for construction, over 120 businesses on Jefferson Street were forced to close and blacks were displaced from the cultural nexus of Jefferson Street.

6. The real injustice,councilman, is you asserting that “our people” refused to develop the land for fifty years. The real injustice is what we have seen happen in neighborhoods like Edgehill. The Edgehill community petitioned Metro to create local jobs, improve public transportation and help secure a grocery store that would provide healthy food options. Metro insisted there was no available space or funding. However, instead of investing in Edgehill and thus eliminating a job, transportation and food desert, Metro found a way to over-police the community and criminalize its citizens by securing both space and funds for a brand new police precinct.

To further extrapolate we can also refer to how citizens and businesses were treated around the building of the new convention center. Metro used eminent domain and even broke promises it made to the Music Hall of Fame. These are just two examples. Experience has taught many of us to be wary of our mayor’s intentions and decisions.

So you vote for the headquarters to be built on Jefferson Street, then what? You all don’t know because you don’t have a plan.

My Recommendations:

I truly appreciate the council’s efforts to beautify Jefferson Street. I have no earthly idea what you all spent that $890,000 beautification grant on and would be interested to know if it was wasted or used wisely. $25,000 for the bridge is nice too, but frankly, what you’ve done is clearly not enough for the Jefferson Street community or it would be viable again.

My recommendation, Councilman Maynard, is that we move from a politics of blame to one of accountability—this is the philosophy of Restorative justice. Let us look at accountability and see where our own responsibility lies. We then eliminate the victim and the offender, the savior and the distressed and create a situation where the community is not victimized, but empowered.

Who is initially accountable for Jefferson Street’s demise? Our government. And though none of you council members were in office in the 60’s when Interstate 40 was built and the initial harm was caused,you current members are accountable to us citizens for the revitalization of Jefferson Street. “Our people,” have held on to their homes and businesses in the Jefferson Street community for dear life. They are under-resourced, but they are holding themselves accountable and they are trying. We love our historic street and we have not given up.

The pervasive civic disinvestment in historic Jefferson Street is what ultimately keeps Jefferson Street stagnant. Placing the headquarters is not an investment, it is opportunistic. If we want true healing and relationship building, if we want to see Jefferson Street, its people and its businesses thrive, we have to move away from this top-down approach embodied in our metro bureaucracy and build a decentralized system that improves the neighborhood while creating financial, social and environmental security for the individuals that make up this neighborhood.

There is no need to reinvent the wheel. We only need to tap in to innovative campaigns that are working across the country, use the cultural and community sensitive, dynamic, creative and well developed systems of modern American reformers. We cannot just slap a ‘pretty’ police headquarters building on Jefferson Street and expect the neighborhood to magically become economically viable (Because some of the employees will eat lunch?). We must have a plan to remedy the problems of poverty and the struggling business economy.

Most Importantly (This is for you too, Mayor Dean.):

1. Development of our beloved Jefferson Street must be equitable and just, not opportunistic, exploitative or oppressive.

2. We must have a plan of action that brings together the most innovative and effective policies and practices,authentic community engagement and well planned physical development to arrive at the highest levels of benefits for the community with the least unintended consequences.

3. We need financial institutions, philanthropic organizations and especially our government to offer sufficient financial support by looking at income and asset creation, not just beautification projects.

4. All land use decisions should be visibly and measurably connected to local asset creation.

5. We need local hire and living wage provisions.

6. We need to create ways to dedicate sources of new affordable housing revenue and to use arts and culture as an economic development strategy for the area.

7. Before making any new “investment”decisions for historic Jefferson Street, we really need to conduct a thorough assessment that looks at gentrification patterns for the neighborhood. We can then create a plan to make sure the businesses and residents of the area are supported and not pushed out.

8. Lastly, we must collectively create and implement a plan that will draw capital resources to this community while not usurping community control of development, thereby facilitating the strengthening of the resident and business community.

I am writing to you first as a mom, a registered voter that votes, a community activist, and a southern black gal who loves her city. But as an expert in Restorative Justice and a student of racialized poverty and environmental injustice, I hope that you and other supporters of this plan will open your eyes and see how our community will be negatively affected by this project. I hope that you all will think critically and consciously about this issue, vote no to the Jefferson Street headquarters and come back to the table in a way that is democratic, equitable and financially supportive of Jefferson Street community members and its business owners.

If you don’t, I will be happy to organize and fight for what is truly best for Jefferson Street.

Sincerely,
Rasheedat Fetuga, proud and well-loved former MNPS Teacher
President/CEO, Gideon’s Army:Grassroots Army for Children

P.S. To all community people and other elected officials who readily supported this project without doing your research or consulting with your community or constituents, take several seats.