Op-Ed: Occupation is Not Safety

by Rhiana Anthony

This editorial is a calling out to call-in and hold the people who hold power in this city accountable for the realities they create. I first heard about the series of altercations that took place within the Cayce community through the Tennessean. As I read through the story, I was immediately disheartened and infuriated by the state violence that the residents of Cayce would be subjected to in the coming days and weeks. I do not use the word violence lightly. Any practice or strategy that justifies dehumanization and implies racist assumptions of criminality is violence. The plan that has been devised to make Cayce “safer” is really just police occupation and state-sanctioned surveillance. The coded word “resources” is flippantly being used to describe the installation of 150 surveillance cameras, monitoring by an MNPD helicopter, and a substantial increase in police presence. Although it was an unfortunate occurrence in the community, the aggressive infiltration of MNPD in Cayce is exaggerated and reactionary.

What has been most upsetting to me is the hypocritical politics of Mayor Megan Barry throughout this whole ordeal. Mayor Barry ran her mayoral campaign on the backs of Nashville progressives, organizers, and activists that wanted to see a new Nashville. A change from business as usual. Barry has talked a good game, so far but is beginning to engage in behaviors that look a lot like the old establishment. In Mayor Barry’s progressive election campaign and platform, she vowed that she would look at policing and criminal justice differently. A standing room only crowd witnessed this at the Nashville Mayoral Forum hosted by the Nashville to End the New Jim Crow in April 2015. Barry describes how she felt as she read Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow” as “eye-opening” and condemned “the systematic way that the criminal justice system has failed African-Americans.” She went on to talk about how officials like her had the power to remove as much bias as possible and should use it. Mayor Barry used her power irresponsibly this week. In reaction to the events of the Cayce incident, Mayor Barry articulates in the press conference that she would support prosecution to the fullest extent of the law for run-ins with law enforcement. She continues to verbally cosign the problematic strategies and tactics of the Metro Nashville Police Department. This misaligns with a lot of the ideals and values that she has proclaimed to purport.

This is in the context of a lot of politics that are currently operating in Nashville and around the country centered on disproportionate policing of black and brown bodies, the dissolution of public housing, and gentrification. The fair housing wars are escalating and the city government is on the wrong side of it targeting Nashville’s poorest and blackest. Nashville’s government needs a moral readjustment. What officials say and do in meetings and forums must materialize in practice and policy. Our lives depend on your integrity.

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IMG_8129.jpgRhiana Anthony, M. Ed., is a youth trauma and grief specialist and member of Black Lives Matter Nashville. Rhiana has a Masters in Community Development and Action from Vanderbilt University.

BLM Nashville Statement on Library Meeting Space Cancellation 

After several months of meeting at the North Branch library, on Wednesday (2/19), the Nashville Chapter of Black Lives Matter was contacted through email and by phone that library administrators received complaints regarding BLM’s policy of general meetings being open to black and non-black people of color only. Although meeting rooms are available to local organizations for use of a “cultural” nature, we were informed that “due to the library policy of open meetings for meeting room use,” all future meetings held at the library would be cancelled.” Ironically, all cancelled dates were in February during Black History Month. The Nashville Chapter of BLM has this policy in place to center the voices and experiences of people of color that have historically been excluded or segregated within supposedly public spaces. Black and/or people of color only spaces are often questioned and viewed with suspicion, though there is seldom any interrogation of white-only board rooms and staffs. However, we view these spaces as integral to healing and community building, particularly to those who have experienced racialized violence and ardently maintain this policy as imperative to the work and mission of BLM. 
We understand and even honor the importance of the library as an invaluable site of accessible information, community events, and safe space, often especially for disenfranchised people without homes and people of color, but if it cannot or will not support our values we will continue to meet elsewhere.

TNTJ Trans Identities Teach-In Saturday 2/13

Instead of our regularly schedule general body meeting, please join the BLM fam this Saturday at TNTJ’s Trans-Identities Teach-IN (FREE EVENT). We think this is extremely important to attend because ALL black lives matter!! Please find information below. See you there! 

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The Tennessee Trans Journey Project, in association with the Nashville Human Rights Campaign and the Vanderbilt Students of Nonviolence, is presenting a Teach-In on Trans Identities at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, in Furman Hall, Room 114. Our keynote speaker will be Dr. Erin Swenson. (http://erinswenson.com/info/biography.html) Dr. Swenson will be presenting her talk, “If Anybody Asks You Who I Am: Confessions of a Transgender Troublemaker.”
There will be presentations introducing trans identities, both binary and nonbinary, challenges facing the trans community, intersectionality and black trans women, trans healthcare issues and allyship both individual and institutional, as well as a panel discussion with the presenters. There will be catering with vegan and kosher options.

There is no cost for the event, though donations to TNTJ will be gladly accepted.

LOCATION AND PARKING INFORMATION:
The event will be in Furman Hall room 114, on the Vanderbilt campus, near the intersection of Terrace Place and 21st Ave (see wall post with map). Two-hour metered street parking is available in this area (see map).

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There is also public parking available in the following spaces:
-Terrace Place Garage, spaces 41-92, 21st Avenue & Terrace Place (Shown here)
-Wesley Place Garage, spaces 52-170, 21st Avenue & Scarritt Place
If you have any questions or concerns about accessibility, you can call or text Carmela at (971)221-3006 or email at chillburke@gmail.comhttps://www.facebook.com/hrcnashville/
https://anchorlink.vanderbilt.edu/organization/vsn

Welcome to the Poor People’s March: Message to Nashville MLK Day

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Welcome to the poor people’s march

We are here to reclaim the legacy of MLK

We continue the fight against police brutality

against state-sanctioned killing of Black people by law enforcement

against racial profiling

WE SEE YOU OPERATION SAFER STREETS

against poverty,

against under-education

against healthcare disparities,

against for-profit prison systems

and against corrupt political systems

that continue to disproportionately affect

black people,

brown people,

poor people

immigrant people

homeless people

low-wage workers

and middle-class workers.

We are here to RECLAIM MLK!

We are taking back our freedom fighter ancestor

From commercialized community service and color-blindness

This holiday is not a celebration

But a RE-declaration

Of what MLK said before he was slain

We will not march behind the institutions that kill us

We will not march behind the govt that pushes us out

Not behind gentrification

Not behind racism

Not behind sexism

Not behind the unequal distribution of wealth

This is a take back

By the people

Welcome to the poor people’s march!

Today we mourn the loss of our ancestors

Killed while fighting for freedom

Killed by the police

Killed by lack of healthcare

Killed by homophobia and transphobia

Killed by state violence

Killed by violence in their communities

If we make you uncomfortable

GOOD

Racism, Gentrification, low-wages, Poor Schools, No healthcare

Makes us uncomfortable

Some of us DIE

Let that sink in

While we do a die in

For 4 min

To honor the fallen

Please join us

Delivered to Nashville MLK Day Marchers from Black Lives Matter Nashville organizers on January 18, 2016. Written by BLM Nashville organizer Jessica Sutton.

Black Lives Matter Nashville Organizers Draw on King’s Legacy, Join In Weekend of Regional Actions

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Monday, January 18, 2016

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

NASHVILLE, TN –Today, in celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Black Lives Matter Nashville hosted our 2nd Poor People’s March to continue to fight against police brutality, state-sanctioned killing of Black people by law enforcement, poverty, under-education, healthcare disparities, criminalization by for-profit prison systems and corrupt political systems that continue to disproportionately affect black, brown, poor and working class people.

Thirty years ago, for the first time, Americans officially observed Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a holiday commemorating the life, work and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. With the indelible support of Black women like Ella Baker and gay rights activists like Bayard Rustin, King’s philosophy of non-violent civil disobedience and direct action incited a national dialogue and political uprising that cemented a radical Black tradition of protest and dissent in the face of American racism and violence. Black people from Montgomery to Detroit rebelled against state-sanctioned disenfranchisement, segregation, and the vile and repeated murders of Blacks by the police and white supremacists vigilantes. King, and many others, lived and died working to elevate, honor, and defend the right for Black people to not only live, but also thrive in America.

In the three decades since, policymakers have waged an aggressive assault on Black people. Lawmakers have not only denied Black people fundamental rights like voting and employment, but have perniciously turned a blind eye to the violent and continuous murders of Black cisgender and transgender women, men, and children by law enforcement and racist vigilantes – effectively sanctioning the warrantless stalking, harassing, and killing of Black people in America. Drawing on the work of Dr. King, Ella Baker, and Bayard Rustin, the Black organizers of today are resisting state-sanctioned violence and calling for meaningful transformative change that reflects the needs of Black communities; change that demands a divestment in systems rooted in anti-Black racism like law enforcement and jailing and an investment in education, economic justice, and safe and just immigration into the United States.

Dr. King’s legacy, and the legacy of those who fought alongside him, is rooted in the Black radical tradition of protest and dissent, and in the half century since, we’ve seen systemic erasure of their bold and visionary work. In Nashville, we’ve seen our so-called city leaders, clergy, and government officials line up, year after year, in the city’s march to commemorate a sanitized, white-washed version of Dr. King that does nothing more than uphold status quo.

This weekend, organizers and activists committed to reclaiming, sustaining and uplifting the real legacy of MLK and the liberation of Black people, have engaged in activities to confront state violence against Black communities. From New York to Colorado, Long Beach to Washington DC, there will be no business as usual as we demand transformative change and hold accountable those who refuse us the dignity and power we deserve.  

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Activists from across the movement for Black lives are engaging in #ReclaimMLK actions around the country to call for divestment from broken criminal justice institutions that drain our communities of potential solutions. Learn more about the weekend’s events at http://www.reclaimMLK.com

#EarnThisVote: Clinton Comes to Nashville

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Friday, November 20th, the Hillary Clinton campaign visited Nashville and held a fundraising rally at the historic Fisk University. The campaign invited students from Fisk and Meharry Medical College to stand behind the stage as Clinton spoke to the crowd.

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Unknown to the campaign was that a few of the chosen Meharry medical students were also some of BLM Nashville’s own freedom fighters. These students and residents of North Nashville stood behind Clinton as she spoke and offered a silent sign of solidarity to the movement and reminded us all that, yes, even Democrats would have to #EarnThisVote.

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This comes months after the Black Lives Matter Network released a statement about endorsements and the Democratic Party:

While the Black Lives Matter Network applauds political change towards making the world safer for Black life, our only endorsement goes to the protest movement we’ve built together with Black people nationwide — not the self-interested candidates, parties, or political machine seeking our vote.

And follows the BLM Network petitioning the Democratic Party to hold a #BlackLivesMatter Debate.

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Our revolutionaries weren’t done, as they delivered a letter to Clinton as she left.

Letter
BLM Nashville affirms the statement and sentiment from the Black Lives Matter Network by demanding that all our politicians #EarnThisVote.

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.