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“HEARING THE CALL” TO ADDRESS RACISM IN KNOXVILLE

“HEARING THE CALL”

TO ADDRESS RACISM IN KNOXVILLE

by
Ali Pensky
As the nation hones in on the United States Capitol riot hearings and the ongoing and increasing threat of the Delta variant, the city of Knoxville is having its own crisis.
On the night of July 27th, a small group of protesters marched to Knoxville’s City Council Building. Walking down the middle of Gay Street, young protesters could be seen with Black Lives Matter flags and heard chanting “Anthony Thompson Junior.” This protest comes four months after Anthony was killed by a police officer in the Austin East high schools’ bathroom.
Constance Every, local advocate and Chairwoman of Knoxville’s Sleeves4Needs nonprofit, posted to social media earlier that morning that she will “never” forget what happened to Anthony. Additionally, last night’s protest comes just days after Tyler Whetstone of the Knoxville News Sentinel broke a series of stories about a “deep-seated problem at the Knoxville Police Department.”
The problem is racism. The Knoxville News Sentinel interviewed six KPD officers about their experiences at the department with racism, exposing that racist behavior in the department is not just common – it’s also covered up.
Amelia Parker, a Councilperson, created her own bill in an effort to enforce a zero tolerance policy for racism within the city’s government. On the night of July 27th at the City Council Building, her bill was voted on. Instead of the zero tolerance bill, however, a substitute bill was passed. Speaking with the group of protesters after the meeting, Councilwoman Parker says:
“Tonight was frustrating… the substitute motion was sent to me by email about an hour before the City Council Meeting… I knew this was an attempt to circumvent my efforts, but that’s okay. At least we had a conversation. It’s rough being a minority voice in a space.”
Though the language in the substitute bill was similar to the original, it lacked the “zero tolerance” component. Also on the night of the 27th, a task force was named with the goal of creating economic equality for Black people in Knoxville. The task force is called the “African American Equity Restoration Task Force.” The poverty rate among Black people in Knoxville is roughly 40%. Outside of the City Council building, protesters expressed their anger over the fact that a task force created to support Black residents is comprised of mostly white residents.
Reverend Calvin Taylor Skinner was among the protesters on Tuesday. Skinner ran for mayor in 2019, though he lost to current Mayor Indya Kincannon. Skinner, along with Every and five others, was arrested at the City Council Building months earlier and charged with disrupting the meeting. Reverend Skinner uses his faith to support, uplift and change the city of Knoxville.
Towards the end of the night, Reverend Skinner took the bull horn and made compelling remarks about Knoxville’s current state of emergency, and Knoxville’s potential. Keep in mind that last week the 27th deadly shooting of 2021 occurred within city limits.

Skinner yelled, “I hope this spreads all around the world. Ya’ll have to know what’s happening in Knoxville. They are erasing a whole people. While we stand here now, a whole people is being put out and erased. Enough is enough.” He ended by saying, “Knoxville can be the model city. The nation is looking for a model community that will stand firm for justice— that will stand firm for revolution, that will stand firm for healing. Can you hear the call?”

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The primaries are nearing. August 11th is the first day of Knoxville’s early voting period, August 24th is the final day to request an absentee ballot, August 26th is the final day of the early voting period, and August 31st is Election Day.
Ali Pensky is a resident of Knoxville, and a sophomore in College at Appalachian State University.

The Subtle Racism of Media Framing after the Atlanta Anti-Asian Hate Crime

“A lot of The New York Times and Washington Post articles are using language like ‘The authorities are still determining if this was racially motivated.’ To me, that’s just as hurtful” as Sen. Marsha Blackburn’s racist tweets.

Dr. Stephanie Kang of API Middle Tennessee on the subtle racism of how the media has framed the Atlanta hate crime against Asian-Americans.

Full podcast interview with Dr. Stephanie Kang, Joseph Gutierrez, and Kit Canlas of API Middle TN available on Apple Podcasts, and wherever else you like to listen.

Support API Middle Tennessee here

If you identify as API, join their processing space on Monday here.

 

 

Full livestream available here:

Sen Kelsey Shamed for Voting Against Black History Month Education

YESTERDAY: Senator Brian Kelsey voted against Senator Katrina Robinson’s bill to add more substance & positivity to the black history curriculum in Tennessee schools.

TODAY: We asked him about it — while he was on an elevator full of black women.

 

Biden Won, But So Did White Supremacy

Yes, President Trump is finally out of office, but with 72 million Americans showing up to vote for him after four years, who is really the winner of the 2020 election? Anna and Aftyn look past the presidential victory, highlighting the role of white women in maintaining white supremacy at the ballot box this cycle.

“White Women’s Support for Trump Remains High in 2020 Election”

The 53 percent issue

AOC Interview in NY Times

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

A Confederate General’s Descendant on Reckoning with Monuments

We hear “Erasing history” and “destroying our heritage” but what does one family member raised in the South and great-grandson of a revered Confederate General think about the removal of a monument from the public square? Louis Rice joins to discuss.

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

TN Senate Candidate GLENN SCRUGGS

Assistant Police Chief Glenn Scruggs on his opponent Senator Gardenhire’s “FRIED CHICKEN” comments and more.

PODCAST

HOLLER PODCAST – History of the UDC with Dr. Karen Cox

Kanew interviews Dr. Karen Cox, author of Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture, about the political and social influence The UDC had on the South and how we’re still fighting against their racist ideology today.

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

OP-ED: “AMERICA KNEW” (Police Brutality Videos Are Not An Excuse, ESPECIALLY IN TENNESSEE)

“AMERICA KNEW”

(Police Brutality Videos Are Not An Excuse, ESPECIALLY IN TENNESSEE)

By Betsy Thorpe

“Thank Goodness Everyone Has Cell Phones Now and Are Recording Acts of Vigilantism and Police Brutality, because now we see it, so now we know, and now we can change things.”

At least, that seems to be the prevailing opinion of many people.

And while I’m glad white people are now taking police violence against black people seriously, how can you help change the future if you don’t know history, or if you don’t trust what the victims are saying about an evil you are trying to eradicate?

Throughout our history, white people have privileged myths propagated by white culture over the voices and experiential knowledge of Black people.

Even now, I see this new narrative about the prevalence of video developing to explain why white people have remained clueless about what has been happening to Black people.

That’s a cop-out. It’s a false narrative that white people did not know how bad things were for Black people prior to cell phones and social media.

Take the case of Ell Persons, a 52-year-old black woodcutter from Memphis, Tennessee who was lynched on May 22, 1917 after being accused of killing a 15-year-old white girl. A detailed eye-witness account of his torture and execution was picked up by the Associated Press and published in newspapers throughout the country.

People from Washington D.C. to San Francisco were shocked by the story that appeared on the pages of their local newspaper.

One widespread misconception about Jim Crow era lynchings is that they were spur of the moment events, conducted at night, by masked good ole’ boys on horseback, brandishing jugs of whiskey, as they take a victory lap around a hanging tree after watching their victim die.  As evil as that image is, what really happened is far more dangerous and disturbing.

The real masterminds of terror created a system of racially motivated violence to keep Black people enslaved through fear. They were elected officials, judges, professionals, business leaders, clergymen and educators. The system relied heavily on the cooperation of law enforcement officers.

Elle Persons was not lynched at night. He was not hung from a tree.

No.

He was the main attraction in a public spectacle, planned by some of the most prominent men in Memphis. At 9:30 in the morning of May 22, 1917, more than fifteen thousand sightseers and revelers cheered when he was chained to a tree, doused in oil, and burned alive.

From the year 1882 through 1968 at least 3,446 Black men, women and children were lynched in the United States.

What is so striking to me is how similar the national reaction to Ell Person’s lynching is to the George Floyd murder 130 years later.

One eyewitness recorded Floyd’s arrest and murder with a cell-phone camera. The person who recorded the murder captured the sight of three other officers standing by and doing nothing during the eight minutes and forty-six seconds George Floyd struggled to stay alive.

At least one reporter was at Person’s murder, noting all the witnesses and recording in words for the whole nation to read how Persons died.

The first Tennessee branch of the NAACP was established in Memphis on June 6, just two weeks after Ell Persons was lynched. In the months that followed national membership in the organization increased ten-fold, from a group of 9,000 members to a force 90,000 strong. Similarly, anger over the murder of George Floyd sparked mainstream support and enthusiasm for the Black Lives Matter movement.  Calls for the arrest of all four officers and demands for police reform was immediately heard from across the land.

From late May of 1917 through July of that year protests, and riots erupted in racially divided cities. The deadliest of the race-related riots was a series of fiery outbreaks in East St. Louis Illinois. The first disturbances occurred in late May just one week after the lynching in Memphis. They finally ended on July 2.  An estimated two hundred and fifty Black people were killed in the East St. Louis riots.

On July 28 of 1917, the NAACP organized the Silent Protest Parade. Approximately ten thousand Black men, women and children marched along Fifth Avenue in New York City to protest lynchings and other acts of discrimination and oppression inflicted against Black people in America.  It was the largest mass demonstration for Civil Rights the country had ever seen.

The wave of protests and marches that continue to surge across the nation since the murder of George Floyd mirrors what happened after the lynching of Ell Persons in 1917.

As evidenced with the murder of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta by a police officer last week, certain officers feel no matter how many people are watching they are above the law and that it is safe for them to use excessive force. It was the same in 1917, when self-appointed law and order vigilantes and the law enforcement officers who helped them knew they were safe to use third degree tactics to torture and kill in public.

Especially in the state of Tennessee.

The protests against racially motivated violence in Tennessee carried on through the end of 1917 and into the beginning of the new year as two more barbaric lynchings stained the reputation of the state. Reports that on Sunday December 2 a Black man named Lation Scott was mutilated and burned at the stake in front of white Sunday School children made national news. Two months later, on February 8, near the small town of Estill Springs another Black man named Jim Mcllherron was burned alive in front of a crowd of five thousand onlookers, some coming from as far as fifty miles away just to watch him suffer and  die.

Public fury  was so  great after Estelle Springs that one syndicated newspaper reporter was compelled  to pen a blistering condemnation of the state of Tennessee:

“Americans who are denouncing the Prussian Huns as the most cruel and inhuman murderers should take a squint at Tennessee. No diabolical Hun ever did anything worse than torture a human being with hot irons and burn him at the stake.”

In a silent march in Nashville on February 19, 1918 two thousand Black men marched four abreast from the YMCA on Fourth Avenue up what is now Charlotte Avenue to Capitol Hill where three of their leaders entered the Capitol building. The leaders met Governor Rye and other elected officials. One leader told the assemblage that the Black man in the South was the most endangered being alive, another stated that “a man’s chance is all that is wanted.” But it was one plea to the governor of Tennessee that most resembles the demands we hear from activists today.

They petitioned the governor to do something about the official dereliction of law enforcement and allow officers of the law to be held accountable for participating and or enabling the murder of Black people in Tennessee.

The press was present during this meeting between Black leaders and the Governor of Tennessee. A transcript of their dialogue was printed on the pages of both the Nashville Banner and the Nashville Globe.

So, as you can see, acts of racially motivated violence have been reported time and again by whatever media was available at the time.  Right-minded people have sounded the alarm.  Over and over. They have marched, protested, and held public vigils for more than a hundred years.

So, while it is quite true that “this has been going on forever”, and it is also true that “we now have phone cameras to record it,” it’s not true that we didn’t know.

America knew.

And it continued to know throughout the twentieth century. Funereal photos in Jet Magazine of Emett Till’s brutalized body lying in his coffin, news stories of  young Black people in the Children’s March in Birmingham Alabama being attacked by dogs and with firehoses, live television coverage of the wake after Dr. King’s assassination, the list goes on. Sadly, there are just too many names to name.

What bothers me about the “now is different just because it is recorded” false narrative is that it implies that if we had only known, we would have done something.  But that is simply not true, because we did know.

History teaches me to be wary of the assumption that this time will be different.  If we cannot own our responsibility for not having effected change when we knew about it before, why should we assume that this time will be different?

We must be much more honest with ourselves about our failings to fix things when we knew about them before, in order to be more determined and effective in our efforts this time around.

—-

Betsy Thorpe is a member of the Nashville Historic, Inc,  the Tennessee Supreme Court Historical Society, and Power Together Tennessee. Betsy is also part of the national criminal justice reform organization REFORM Alliance and is an active honorary member of the International Society of Women Educators, Delta Kappa Gamma.

Betsy works part time as a legal research assistant. She conducts research for a small criminal defense law firm that serves some of the most vulnerable and underrepresented populations in rural Tennessee.

GOV. LEE’S WILDLY HYPOCRITICAL “RACE, JUSTICE, EQUALITY” EMAIL TO STATE EMPLOYEES

A state employee has forwarded us an email that apparently just went out to all state employees from Governor lee that touches on “race, justice, and equality”.

We’ve included it below in its entirety.

In it, Lee claims he’s “engaging with minority leaders”, yet he has blockaded a public plaza and turned his troopers the protestors who have been sleeping outside the capitol for 10 days straight. Dozens of peaceful protestors have been arrested, and JUST TODAY his sent his troopers after them for no reason yet again.

He also claims to care about “serving” the minority community… yet he won’t support removing the KKK GRAND WIZARD BUST from the capitol, and just chickened out of ending KKK GRAND WIZARD DAY, which he promised to do.

Not only that, but his party just KILLED AN AMENDMENT that would’ve given ALL state employees the same raise he himself is scheduled to get in this next budget – instead choosing to send hundreds of millions of dollars to the “RAINY DAY FUND” which already has over $1 BILLION in it.

These are the facts.

Below is the email in its entirety, and below that is a note from the state employee who sent it, which we ask you to read as well.

Here’s the key section from Lee’s email:

“Our goal is not only to create a safe work environment but also an environment where employees thrive. Events over the last few weeks have spurred many conversations in our country around race, justice and equality. I am using this time to further engage with minority leaders and faith leaders to evaluate just how we are serving every Tennessean and how we can improve.

I have asked Commissioner Williams and the Tennessee Department of Human Resources to build a framework for strengthening efforts around the minority experience in our workplace. This is an opportunity to ensure working with the State of Tennessee is an edifying and equitable experience for every single employee who has chosen the calling of public service.

Despite the uncertainty of the times, I know that our state’s workforce is highly equipped for this season. Maria and I are thankful to serve with you and I hope to be able to resume department visits, soon.”

And here are the thoughts of the state employee:

“These are the thoughts I cannot let go of today since reading that email. Who are these minority leaders he’s expecting to engage with, if not the folks that have been waiting peacefully outside the Capitol for weeks?

How can working at the State ever be an “edifying and equitable experience” if being a Tennessean isn’t one?

As a State employee one of my objective duties set by the Governor’s office is to improve safety. We learn about and apply new, proven safety tactics as soon as we hear about them so we can save more lives.

Why isn’t the Governor also guided by this principle when people are outside his office chanting “I can’t breathe”?

I don’t want HR to make an “effort around the minority experience”. I want systemic changes that can start with decisions from the Governor that will save lives.

Well said. To let Lee know how you feel, Holler at him HERE.

P.S.

Lee is handpicking who he meets with. He has been running and hiding from black voters…

…and ignoring black legislators pleading for inclusion.

 

TODAY’S HOLLER: TN GOP DISHONOR’S GAY BLACK TEEN’S MEMORY

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TODAY’S HOLLER:

TN GOP DISHONORS BLACK TEEN’S MEMORY: Talk about hypocrisy… TN Republicans have ignored the sins of confederate generals & KKK GRAND WIZARDS CHILD SEX ABUSERS, protecting their legacy with statues and holidays — yet they tried to to define a gay black 17 year-old girl who was shot to death -Ashanti Posey – by one unproven accusation, and refused to back a resolution honoring her on the house floor. Non-Facebook Link


Rep. Mike Stewart called it “the most astonishing vote I’ve ever seen”.

Rep. London Lamar: “That was one of the most immoral votes I’ve seen in my short time as a legislator.” ‬

‬Senator Jeff Yarbro called it “INDECENT” on Channel 5.

Rep. Gloria Johnson: “If you think that they did this for any other reason [other than] because she is black and gay, you’re sadly mistaken. They are bigots.”

“THIS IS MY DAUGHTER! THIS IS A HUMAN BEING! NOT A DRUG DEALER!” Ashanti Posey’s mother Amber Posey showed up at the Capitol to show William Lamberth & the GOP the humanity behind the 17 year old girl they slandered and refused to honor. Non-Facebook Link

BLACK CAUCUS ASKS FOR “INCLUSION” (and gets called racist for it: “HOW MANY PEOPLE OF COLOR HAD INPUT THAT LANDED IN THE BUDGET?” – Rep. Parkinson & the black caucus ask for “INCLUSION” in TN’s budget, telling the 99% white TN GOP it “hurts” to be consistently ignored. Non-Facebook Link

Rep. Matthew Hill got triggered. Rep. Jeremy Faison called it racist to even ask, saying there’s “Nothing remotely racist” about the GOP caucus– so HERE’S A THREAD WE MADE OF THE GOP CAUCUS BEING SUPER RACIST, which comes from a list in a TENNESSEAN ARTICLE.

Faison is either blind, or a liar.

Worth remembering: WILLIAM LAMBERTH failed to mention he gets?from private prisons that oppose marijuana reform. ?‬ We see you, William. ‬


Here’s how they voted… “Present Not Voting” was as good as a “No”.

ALSO:

-Unlike Reps Hill & White who say they’d change their vote today, Rep. Brandon Ogles of FRANKLIN stands by his vote to help block the resolution honoring the death of 17yo Ashanti Posey… but is vague about why, other than following “his leader”. Such leadership! Non-Facebook Link

‪-IMAGES from the balcony, where protestors were arrested after Republicans rejected the resolution to honor Ashanti Posey. ‬

-Speaking of racism and statues, in NEW MEXICO a video shows Trump supporter Steven Baca shooting an anti-racist protester, Scott Williams, over one.

-Intentionally antagonistic Tennessee Republicans are being very clear that they have no use for free speech or the concerns of black people. ‬Believe them. ‬(Also: We’d bet many of these troopers have smoked weed. #AshantiPosey ‬)

-Some good news – Ohio police have issued a warrant for a Trump supporter who sucker-punched a protestor in Bethel, OHIO… Our CLIP of the incident was seen over 1 million times. Hopefully it helped.

-The State & The Feds dismiss the $25 Million medical fraud case against TN GOP Senator Steve Dickerson for an UNDISCLOSED SETTLEMENT”? ??- must be nice to benefit from the inequality in our justice system.‬ (His company was accused of DEFRAUDING HEALTH PROGRAMS for $25M using “liquid gold” urine tests.)

We talked to the TEENS FOR EQUALITY, the impressive young girls who organized the biggest march in Nashville so far. Non-Facebook Link

-‪“GOVERNOR LEE, tear down this bust.” ‬Tennessee REPUBLICAN Jason Emert calls on Lee to do the right thing to help our state heal. ‬

WATCH: “LET US IN!” After 3 days of peaceful protest, the People are kept out of the People’s Plaza (and legislature) at the Nashville Capitol by Speaker Sexton & Governor Lee, who are attempting to make this a felony. Non-Facebook Link

“You took off your sheets and put on suits but we know who you are.” –  Justin Jones — 21 were arrested.

-His first time back at the Capitol, activist Justin Jones rides up in the elevator with the TN GOP’s admitted child sex abuser Rep. David Byrd… and serenades him. ? ? ‬Non-Facebook Link

-A black security guard was killed during protests in Oakland and many said he was killed by “looters” — but the suspect is a vet with ties to the Alt-right “Boogaloo“ folks, who actually killed 2 cops. Related: Still 0 “ANTIFA”-connected arrests.

-HOUSTON. ANOTHER black man found hanging. ‬That’s 5 across the country in recent days. ‬

Good point.

-We also spoke with the lawyer for Sterling Higgins, who died in custody in UNION CITY 15 months ago. “Imagine if there was a #GeorgeFloyd grand jury and the prosecutor decided NOT TO SHOW THE VIDEO.” ?‬ — we’ve now seen video of Sterling being held by the neck for over 6 minutes. No charges were filed. PODCAST ON ITUNES.

WATCH: TN SENATE REPUBLICANS KILL 4 AMENDMENTS TO HELP REGULAR FOLKS ?

-coverage for new moms
-Support for people with disabilities to live on their own
-$150M for schools about to lay off people
-cost of living adjustment EQUAL TO Gov. Bill Lee’s for EVERY state employee

Non-Facebook Link

-ICYMI — THE SUPREME COURT has ruled sexual orientation is protected under the Civil Rights Act. ?️‍? ‬(unfortunately many in Tennessee seem prepared to ignore it)

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REP. STEVE COHEN HAS ONE: