OP-ED: “To Stop The Violence, Make People In The Community Feel Valued”

TN Congressional Candidate Nathaniel Doss on How to Help Stop the Violence in Tennessee

Recently the community was challenged to tell our elected officials what assistance we would like from them. This is an intricate question that requires us to also pull back the layers to a historically uncomfortable position. None of the violence we are seeing is new. None of the outrage from the community is new. Most recently we saw a heinous crime committed against seven women at a celebration for our community. This act of violence left me shaken to my core not only because of the personal attachment to one of the victims but because, as a man, I was taught my main responsibility was to protect the matriarch of the family.

I felt that I had personally failed those women; like WE failed them.

Changing a culture is never easy, especially one living with generational PTSD. We have suffered from eras of trauma. Due to the constant trauma that we have begun associating with the “Black experience” we have become desensitized to the social negative reinforcements that control society. These constructs are the checks put in place to discourage crime. When an individual feels as if they have nothing to lose, there are really no limits to their depravity.

When a group of people recognizes that imprisonment is routine and commonplace, it becomes an expected outcome. When, as a people, we have seen horrors firsthand and not just heard about them in stories, those horrors are as easily dealt as they are received.

We must make our people understand that they have value to our community.

We must get our young people to understand that not only is their life important but who they will be in our community in the future is important as well.

We must cultivate and grow empathy again despite the horrors we have seen.

That lack of empathy was what made shooting into a crowd of women and children at a peaceful event, a reasonable action for a traumatized mind. Empathy and love must be taught as early and with as much emphasis as potty training, colors, and shapes.

Conversely, we speak of culture change, and it is admittedly a dire need; however how can we begin to change a culture of a group of people with unmet basic needs? How shall you preach to a man that is hungry? How can you hope to correct a child who does not have a safe place to rest?

Until those basic needs are met, we cannot hope to make any change. We MUST address the needs first.

We have to tap those resources that are available to meet those needs and we must start early. Exposure to a different possible outcome is key. What if instead of watching numerous relatives and friends be incarcerated, it was more common to see numerous friends and family graduate? We must normalize success and growth. We must celebrate and incentivize it, if necessary.

Actions that will begin the change are true community policing, access to nutrition, and home ownership for people employed in our community. We have community policing some may say, and we do to an extent. Let’s intensify our efforts at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga and Chattanooga State Community College so we can recruit members of the community. In Chattanooga we had an era that was successful with this, no matter the reason it ceased. It needs to be reinstated with a deliberate and focused effort.

As someone stated at the meeting Dr. Mackey organized, we also need social workers to work directly with our Chattanooga Police department. That means increasing their budget to employ said social workers that would work shoulder to shoulder with our police department protecting our city 24 hours a day. Allowing our police to focus their efforts more on the ilk that plagues our community.

I read today, “Teach a man to fish after you give him a fish. Learning anything on a hungry stomach is less likely to be retained.” I couldn’t agree more, we have children going to school hungry and coming home to hunger. In many areas of Chattanooga where minorities reside there is a lack of suitable access to nutrition. A hungry child will not concentrate in school or behave in the community. Their main concern is rectifying that hunger if only for today. I believe we must partner with businesses, and social development departments at all three municipalities: City, County, and State, in order to ensure that we do not have a health crisis and that grocery stores are accessible in every community.

As I have been walking around this summer introducing myself and listening to the community, I listened as many were fearful of their community losing its identity. Many spoke of not wanting the perceived crime that comes with “affordable housing’’ i.e. apartment complexes. I sympathize with their fears and understand because I live within their community and have seen violence on my own street. We need to partner with developers, the city, the county, and community associations so we can best add homeownership to our underserved communities without changing the dynamics of that community.

We must educate our neighbors; affordable housing no longer looks like their homes. It will not have the same spacing in between homes and may not remotely resemble their homes in appearance. What it will do is bring hard working people that want to break generational cycles; people that want to add value to a community because they have a direct interest in doing so.

We must make home ownership accessible and a reality for those that may not have seen this as a possibility. This may mean creative lending and alternative credit scoring. There may be fear of perceived risk, but the payout is more than worth it. What better way to ensure a thriving community and thus a swift investment return? Ownership in any form creates pride and stewardship.

You take care of what is yours; that goes for houses, communities, and people no matter your socio-economic class.

We must challenge ourselves to partner with unions, business partners, our educational institutions to provide and help prepare workers for more careers and not just dead-end employment. Meaningful employment, safety, ready access to nutrition, flourishing schools, and homeownership will be impactful when adding Pride, thus changing the culture. Our community has worked hard to improve the starting pay with City employment and attract employers such as Volkswagen, Amazon, and many others.

Productivity is directly affected by stable homes and the provision of basic needs. It’s all a cycle of growth. We all have an impact to make, some know right away and others as they grow into their calling. The Black community has managed to struggle through all these years, but it is like a doctor concentrating on the symptoms and not the cause. It is past time to cure the disease that is eating away at our community. 

Nate Doss is running for congress as a Democrat in Tennessee’s 3rd District. LEARN MORE.

Organizer Justin Jones on the RUN-OVER-A-PROTESTER Bill

“If something does happen to me, bring my casket outside the Capitol.” Activist Justin Jones on the RUN-OVER-A-PROTESTOR bill now revived by Lt. Gov. McNally, Gov. Bill Lee, and the Tennessee Republican Party.

 

OPINION: The Death of Anthony Thompson Jr. Was Avoidable

Opinion by Ali Pensky of Knoxville, TN

I am not a detective or a lawyer, but as a human being, I watched the video of seventeen-year-old Anthony Thompson Junior being shot and killed in his high school’s bathroom, and I have questions. As the officers approached Anthony, he begged, “WAIT” six times. By the time he could muster up another “WAIT” the officer had already shot him to the ground, and then, proceeded to handcuff him.  

As I watched the comment section of WBIR’s Facebook Live, many people wrote something like, “What did you expect? He brought a gun to school.” And then I thought of sixteen-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant who was killed by the police, and how people claim the shooting was justified because she had a knife and was in a fight.  

Too many police have proven to America that they will not do anything to deescalate a tough situation besides shooting their guns at children, so why are we still funding them at the rate we do? 

 It seems obvious that more money should be given to social services that will help with issues such as addiction, homelessness, and mental health. It seems obvious that police across the country need sufficient bias training. So why is the idea of defunding the police so threatening to so many white people? It is because this country only actually polices some people, and those who are not controlled, and in fact benefit from the current system of policing, want the system to stay the way it is. I am a white girl from an upper-middle-class neighborhood in Knoxville who went to a private high school. If a kid I knew was accused of hitting his girlfriend, he would probably get his friends’ dad who is a lawyer to make it go away. He would not get shot in the bathroom of his school, like Anthony Thompson junior. That is white privilege. That is why the killing of Anthony Thompson junior is absolutely not justifiable. 

The question of why the DA spent an hour going over tapes of Anthony’s girlfriend accusing him of abuse, is part of a larger issue. While an accusation of domestic abuse is serious, it has nothing to do with Anthony being shot to death by a police officer in his own school’s bathroom. The question of why Anthony was portrayed as a school shooter and portrayed as having shot the officer when both accusations are false is part of a larger issueThe picture that was painted of Anthony before the bodycam footage of the shooting was even released is disturbing and manipulative. It puts systemic racism on display. 

I have no doubt that the officers in that bathroom felt they were in danger, but in what universe does the officer deserve more sympathy than the dead seventeen-year-old? We need to dismantle that universe because it appears to have become our reality.  

I will never fully understand what it means to be a part of the Austin East community. But I stand with them and I believe the death of Anthony Thompson Junior was avoidable. I do not have answers on how to dismantle this broken system or make Knoxville safe for everyone, but if you are privileged enough to do so like myself, donate to the Austin East Foundation, which aims to help AE receive the same educational opportunities as other Knox County students. Purchase something on the AE’s staff wish list on Amazon. Support one of the local restaurants that are donating their proceeds to AE, such as Hard Knox Pizza or Likewise Coffee. Go to a protest led by Constance Every. Take a stance.

The “Third Death Penalty” is NO MORE in Tennessee

“TODAY MERCY WON. People told us this was impossible, but No Exceptions Prison Collective rejected that.” Rev. Jeannie Alexander celebrates a huge win in the Senate — after 6 years of work and input from 1500 prisoners, a life sentence with parole went from 51 yrs to 25 yrs before parole eligibility.

Not only was this a win, but it was a bipartisan blowout, 26-4. Sen. Bowling (R) was the lead sponsor, co-sponsored by Senators Gilmore (D) and Roberts (R), soon to be joined by Sen. Yager (R).

 

Tennessee Bar Association RIPS Rep. Rudd and the GOP

Rep. Tim Rudd and the Republicans are trying to remove a respected judge who ruled in a way they didn’t like – to let us all vote safely in a pandemic. Because, you know, Republicans don’t like when people vote. Yesterday the Democrats gave a press conference, and the Tennessee Bar Association has now issued a statement shredding the resolution and accurately pointing out how it threatened the separation of powers this country was founded on. Read their statement below.

By Barry Kolar on Mar 2, 2021. Originally posted on the Tennessee Bar Association’s Law Blog

NASHVILLE, March 2, 2021 — Since 1881, the Tennessee Bar Association (TBA) has represented the entire spectrum of the Tennessee legal community, from plaintiff and defense attorneys to judges, government and legal services attorneys, corporate counsel, and many attorneys residing outside the State who retain an interest in the Tennessee legal profession.The TBA is a strong advocate for the profession and the development and maintenance of our justice system. This statement is not intended to be political or partisan, but instead one of extreme concern and caution related to the fundamental importance of the separation of powers and maintaining an independent judiciary in the State of Tennessee. We believe House Resolution 23 (HR 23) will have a chilling effect on the administration of justice in our State, and threatens the bedrock principle of separation of powers, which lies at the core of Tennessee’s system of government.

Article VI, Section 6 of the Tennessee Constitution provides a process for removing judges and attorneys for the state from office for cause. HR 23 appears to be the first time the legislature has used Article VI, Section 6 of the Tennessee Constitution to begin the removal process of a judge from office for cause based on rulings in a judicial proceeding. After a thorough review of HR 23 and the underlying case, the TBA has significant concerns about the resolution’s impact on the constitutional separation of powers in our three branches of government. As stated in the Preamble to Rule 10 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, “[a]n independent, fair and impartial judiciary is indispensable to our system of justice.” Judges should decide matters based on a thorough analysis and interpretation of the law without concern for the decision’s potential political implications.

Article VI, Section 6 is not a tool used as a matter of course, and we respectfully believe that the legislature should not use it in this circumstance. The TBA is concerned that HR 23, if successful, will create a precedent that any time a judge rules against the state, or on a statute, or renders a politically unpopular decision, that decision could potentially trigger legislative removal proceedings against that judge. This also results in the potential for removing a judge any time a ruling is overturned on appeal, when in fact the act of the appeal is a clear measure that the legal process is working appropriately.

Tennessee law provides for multiple avenues to hold judges accountable should that prove necessary. One such avenue, the Board of Judicial Conduct, was created by the legislature itself. The board provides an orderly and efficient method for inquiring into, among other things, the fitness of judges, a judge’s manner of performance of duty, and the judge’s commission of any act that reflects unfavorably upon the judiciary or that may adversely affect the administration of justice. The board is comprised of 16 members, eight of which are appointed by the speakers of the Senate and House, respectively.

Further, the judicial system has in place an appeals process. The state utilized the appeals process in the matters outlined in HR 23. Ultimately, the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned Chancellor Lyle’s temporary injunction, although one justice did agree with her.

The people act as another vehicle for judicial accountability. Article VI, Section 4 of the Tennessee Constitution provides that “…the Judges of the Circuit and Chancery Courts, and of other Inferior Courts, shall be elected by the qualified voters of the district or circuit to which they are to be assigned.” Chancellor Lyle, like many other judges across this state, is an elected judge. She will stand for reelection and face a decision on her continued tenure by the voters in her district. The voters in her district should exercise their judgment about whether or not she should remain in office. Reasonable minds can and will continue to disagree with judicial decisions even in cases like this one of first impression. The remedies related to those disagreements lie in the appellate process and at the voting booth.

Processes currently exist as a check on all judges, and those processes work. We strongly encourage members of the General Assembly and the citizens of this state to utilize the appeals process, make complaints to the Board of Judicial Conduct when necessary, and exercise their right to vote. We also urge the General Assembly to reconsider HR 23 and its impact on an impartial, independent judiciary.

How MNPD Responds to Drugs Versus Bombs

“I’d like to see some level of acknowledgment from Metropolitan Nashville Police Department that if it had been drugs instead of bombs that would have triggered different levels of alarm.”
 
Nashville Council Member Bob Mendes on how MNPD was tipped off about the bomber 16 months ago but did nothing.

PODCAST available on Apple Podcasts, and wherever else you like to listen.

 

Nashville Bombing as an Indictment of Metro Nashville Police Department

“Second Avenue is a crater because police treated a white 63-year-old differently than a 34-year-old Muslim…it’s an incredible indictment of MNPD.”
 
Former Federal Prosecutor Alex Little on how the bomber’s girlfriend told MNPD he had been attempting bombmaking 16 months ago but did nothing.

PODCAST available on Apple Podcasts, and wherever else you like to listen.

The Power of Restoring Voting Rights

Your favorite democracy duo is back with another electric episode featuring Desmond Meade of Florida Rights Restoration and The Equity Alliance Direct Impact Fellows: Terrance Simpson, Big Fridge, Robert Sherrill, and Daniel Westbrooks. Participants share how their personal stories of challenge and triumph have led them to be community leaders, entrepreneurs, and voting rights restoration advocates.

Charlane and Tequila are Co-Founders and Co-Executive Directors of The Equity Alliance.

Porch Politics is recorded LIVE from our porch every other Thursday at 6 pm CT. You can stream it on The Tennessee Holler or wait for it to drop as a podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever else you like to listen.

Pushing Belmont to Divest from CoreCivic

Safara Parrott of Be Better Belmont on how the ties between Belmont and CoreCivic were born out of a long history of profit and racist complicity.

FULL PODCAST available on Apple Podcasts, and wherever else you like to listen.

Kelley Henry and The Pervis Payne Case

Attorney Kelley Henry joins Pastor Kevin Riggs and Kevin Sage to discuss her work as a Death Row Attorney, specifically with the urgent Pervis Payne case.

For more information on how to help Pervis Payne’s case, click here.

FULL PODCAST available on Apple Podcasts, and wherever else you like to listen.