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INTERVIEW: ASHLEY PEREIRA (survivor of “Alabama pastor who raped teen gets probation” story)

ASHLEY PEREIRA was raped by ex-Jason Greathouse in Alabama at 14, and her parents pushed her to marry him. They are now divorced. He just was let off with no jail time. They both now live in Tennessee (him in HENDERSONVILLE) and she’s forced to share custody of their child with him, while he doesn’t pay any child support.

PODCAST. FULL EPISODE.

OPINION: Pay Attention When Women of Color Disappear Too, Not Just the Gabby Petitos

by Ali Pensky

It is necessary to hold space and grieve for Gabby Petito while also recognizing that if Petito was Black, Latina, Asian, or Indigenous, the disappearance would not have garnered nearly as much attention.

Petito does not deserve any more collective advocacy, resources, and outrage than the thousands of other missing women in the United States.

Many people see a friend, a sister, an aunt, a mother, a grandmother, themselves, or a combination of these — in Petito. The story of a missing woman likely abused by her romantic partner is more relatable than it should be.

But why has this missing woman gone viral?

Gwen Ifill, who was a Black American journalist, author and newscaster, coined the term “Missing White Woman Syndrome” to bring attention to the media’s tendency to give extensive coverage to white, upper-middle class missing women — and little coverage to women of color, who go missing at much higher rates than white women. This dangerous practice creates the idea of “worthy” and “unworthy” victims.

The single mother, the sex worker, the woman who runs away, the nurse, the woman with an addiction, the houseless woman, the school teacher, the unemployed woman, and the woman who stays with her abuser for years, all deserve for their cases to be addressed with urgency. They are all worthy victims.

Mary Johnson, a Native American woman from the Tulalip reservation in Marysville, Washington, was reported missing on December 9th, 2020. Late last week, around the same time that Petito’s case began making headlines, the FBI put out a reward for whoever can help find the person or persons involved with Johnson’s disappearance. Though Johnson has been missing for almost a year longer than Petito, and her case has a reward tied to it, she is far less known than Petito.

The fact that Johnson’s case has made headlines and has a $10,000 reward attached to it is unusual, as the issue of missing Indigenous women has been pushed aside and underfunded by the government and media for years. Law enforcement’s lack of action gets blamed on legal complications such as jurisdiction. State and federal data regarding missing Native American women is not comprehensive, which is why The Sovereign Bodies Institute started doing their own research.

Black women also disappear at higher rates than white women, and often they are categorized as runaways, shifting the blame onto the missing woman as an individual, rather than making her safety a priority for law enforcement. The “Black and Missing Foundation” reports that “nearly forty percent of reported missing persons are persons of color, yet Black people make up only thirteen percent of the population.”

The FBI, major news outlets, youtubers, twitter users, and tik tok users alike have contributed to turning women like Gabby Petito into the “worthy” victim. Petito is a worthy victim, and so are the endless amount of women who don’t make the headlines, or whose cases are not even filed.

Ali Pensky is a resident of Knoxville, and a sophomore in college at Appalachian State University.

Tennessee Can Do Better for Women

Adrienne Pakis-Gillon knows about women in politics, from the passage of the 19th amendment to her disappointment with the representation of women in our GOP majority legislature. Ladies, can’t we do better for women and children in Tennessee?

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

The Case Against Rep. John Deberry Jr.

For a long time Tennessee Democrats have been calling for Rep. John Deberry Jr. to have the “D” next to his name removed for consistently siding with Republicans against them on many key issues. This week the Tennessee Democratic Party Executive Committee finally took that action and voted 41-18 with 2 abstentions to do just that.

Many have expressed relief, saying Deberry’s longtime support for the Tennessee Republican agenda has warranted removal for some time. Some have expressed skepticism, saying it should be up to the voters to decide.

Republicans such as Speaker Cameron Sexton have seized on the opportunity to attack Democrats, saying this shows they’re inflexible in their beliefs and calling out TNDP chair Mary Mancini on Twitter.

It’s no surprise Republicans would rush to Deberry’s defense. They’ve regularly expressed gratitude to Deberry for standing with them on their anti-LGBT legislation, their anti-Reproductive rights bills, Governor Bill Lee’s public school-harming vouchers, and Secretary Tre Hargett’s voter registration criminalization bill to name a few.

They’ve even run ads in support of him. (“You tha man”, guys? Really?)

There are so many instances of Deberry standing with Republicans against progressive ideals that it’s hard to keep track – but that’s what we’re here for. Let’s take a trip down memory lane.

On Lee’s public school-harming vouchers, Deberry was the lone Democrat to vote for the bill, which passed 50-48 after a 49-49 tie was held open for 35 minutes while disgraced former speaker Glen Casada (and likely Governor Lee) handed out goodies to convince people to switch, including MILITARY PROMOTIONS.

Eventually, Rep. Jason Zachary flipped, the public school-harming vouchers passed, and the rollout has already been a lie and bribe-filled nightmare, causing even those who voted for it to regret it.

(Of course, that hasn’t stopped Lee from including $41 million for it in the “emergency budget”.)

On Reproductive freedom, Deberry has stood with Republicans repeatedly – even when their bills were unconstitutional, and even when they would force raped teenagers to carry their rapist’s baby to term. Deberry even went so far as to call abortion “BLACK GENOCIDE”, a phrase that will be hard to forget anytime soon.

Even on something as obviously oppressive as Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s voter registration criminalization bill, Deberry couldn’t bring himself to stand on the right side of history. He abstained, a decision which was promptly shown to be cowardly and wrongheaded when a federal judge blocked the law and ripped it apart in a scathing decision.

We spoke with Deberry at length after the fact, and he didn’t seem to understand what the law even did. Which is no excuse.

Then there are Deberry’s anti-LGBT beliefs, which have caused leading voices from the Tennessee LGBT community to speak out forcefully.

Eric Patton of the Human Rights campaign wrote to the TNDP committee before the vote, saying Deberry “consistently stood against women’s rights and LGBTQ rights”, “sponsored a bill to discriminate against LGBTQ youth and adults in matters of mental health”, and “verbally supported conversion therapy”.

Patton concluded:

“As a LGBTQ community leader, it is a clear decision to deny him the party’s support in his re-election. I strongly urge you to take appropriate action to deny his petition.
You have a say, as a party leader, who is allowed to run as a member. DeBerry has displayed time and time again that he has no regard for the party or its platform, let alone the marginalized people it stands to protect.
He shouldn’t get the help of the party. If he’s going to stand against the marginalized, he shouldn’t be standing with us.”

Republicans have been quick to knock Democrats for taking this action, but before you put any faith in the outcry, it’s important to keep in mind Republicans have done things like this before. Speaker Kent Williams was an incumbent removed by the state party. They’ve also kicked people off of ballots for not having the proper “Republican bona fides”.

(Meanwhile They’ve let admitted child sex abuser Rep. David Byrd stay in office, as well as Speaker Casada – who lied and who covered for his “N word”-using coke-snorting chief of staff, said ugly things about women, and may have framed a civil rights activist, and was removed as speaker for it… but those are stories for a different day).

Reproductive freedoms, voting rights, LGBT rights, public schools… these are not minor issues Deberry was standing with Republicans on. And as Mary Mancini said, the majority of Deberry’s campaign donations come from Republican PACs/groups/ individuals. He has a history of making large donations to Republican candidates.

The parties have the right to do these things for a reason. Deberry’s allegiance to the Republican agenda has been a useful political tool for Republicans for long enough.

VIDEO: Senator Janice Bowling Vs. Early Childhood Education

TN GOP Senator Janice Bowling says TN should encourage moms to stay home as she did rather than use federal ? to help TN families with child care.

Her message: “Parenting is not a part-time job” and ““Early Childhood Education is NOT in the best interest of the Child.” ?

Worth noting: Bowling represents the POOREST county in TN – Grundy County – yet resists helping families with daycare costs using FEDERAL ? because she believes moms should stay home and early childhood education is bad (which study after study shows it is NOT).‬ Early Childhood Education is a good thing.

Bowling clearly has no idea what it’s like to be poor in Tennessee, where we lead the nation in minimum wage jobs (because her party won’t raise it), are at the bottom in poverty, ‬#1 medical bankruptcies, etc.

People work 2 jobs and still barely get by, yet Bowling sits in judgment of them and resists helping with federal funds that are there for exactly that reason?

This is the mentality that caused us to have a $732 TANF reserve, the biggest in the country, and lose hundreds of millions in child care funds which reverted back to the federal government.

Holler at her HERE.

VIDEO: REP. CURCIO STALLS FOR BYRD

VIDEO: PROTECTING PREGNANT WORKERS

1 of 9 TN babies are born pre-term. Our Infant mortality is that of a 3rd world country. Most pregnant/new moms work. Tamara Currin of March of Dimes and Elizebeth Gedmark told the TN SENATE this week we need A PREGNANT WORKERS ACT – as 27 states have – to help moms in the workplace.

 

VIDEO: GOVERNOR LEE’S EXTREME ABORTION BILL

Watch Lee & announce his “comprehensive pro-life legislation” – despite bumbling on details.

TN Dems call it “extreme & divisive”, “unconstitutional”, say it does nothing to help TN’s health care crisis.

It will lead to costly lawsuits. TN’s maternal mortality rate is 3rd world, yet Lee refuses $1 BILLION/year in Medicaid expansion funds. That isn’t pro-life.

VIDEO: Rep. Gloria Johnson Says Extend Paid Leave to ALL Working Tennesseans

Democratic legislators Rep. Gloria Johnson & State Senator Sara Kyle had a bill last session to bring paid family leave to all Tennesseans, but were LAUGHED OUT OF COMMITTEE by Republican reps Rep. John Holsclaw Jr. & Rep. Clark Boyd.

Now Governor Lee has announced he’ll be extending it to all state employees, although he did NOT have paid leave for employees at his own company.

WATCH Gloria Johnson say all employees should enjoy paid leave, which is required by almost every other country in the world.

White “Office of Minority Health Disparities” Board Rejects Grant For “Too Raw” Instagram Post?

Kristin Mejia-Green’s application for a $10,000 grant to help address Tennessee’s maternal mortality crisis was recently rejected by the Office of Minority Health Disparities Elimination, allegedly on the basis of an Instagram post found to be “offensive” and “lacking inclusivity” by an all- or mostly-white committee, according to an Instagram video Mejia-Green made recently.

A health crisis is raging in Tennessee on many levels, but particularly when it comes to maternal mortality in the black community. Even Republican representative Ryan Williams recently said Tennessee is “like a third world country” when it comes to maternal mortality, comparing us to Ecuador.

To help address the issue among African-American mothers in Tennessee Kristin Mejia-Green applied for a $10,000 grant she planned to use to train and build “birth teams” around black mothers – “a birth doula, a post-partem doula, and a laceration counselor” – because, she says, “Every time we’re talking about post-partem and breastfeeding a little too late.”

Mejia-Green points to Tennessee’s own statistics and numbers, as well as ideas coming from the maternal and infant mortality report, to underscore the fact that her ideas and suggested trainings come right from the state’s own research.

A recent report showing “85% of maternal deaths in Tennessee were preventable” backs up what she’s saying.

It’s also worth noting many of the deaths happened because the mothers were cut off from health insurance sooner than they should have been, mainly because Tennessee is one of just a handful of states that tragically has not yet expanded Medicaid, and as a result loses over $1 BILLION each year.

REJECTION LETTER

Rejection Letter from Office of Minority Health Disparities Elimination

Mejia-Green says she was surprised her grant was rejected, because she had spent months getting the application right, and she became even more devastated when she learned from a non-white employee of the Office of Minority Health Disparities Elimination that the rejection came after white decision-makers deemed too offensive a social media post depicting breastfeeding and talking about how black women used to help each other breastfeed during times of slavery.

Here’s the “offensive” post:

The caption reads:

Before we were stolen from our homeland and made to serve those incapable of serving themselves, we served each other. Before we were torn from our families to care for families that treated us as their pets, we raised each other’s babies. Breastfeeding wasn’t a one woman job. Toddlers belonged to the neighbors while mom recovered. The village made sure the village thrived. WHY DO WE NEED #BLACKBREASTFEEDINGWEEK?! Our magic is responsible for the health of the people in charge of the very systems created to dismantle our communities. We nursed the U.S. Now it’s time to nurse US! This week is about reclaiming our health and seeing our sisters in a light we don’t often see them in. Support matters. Representation matters. Our goal at Homeland Heart is to bring the village right to your living room. Need help?! Reach out. We got you, family ❤️ #blackbreastfeedingweek#homelandheart #ittakesavillage#supportchangeseverything#supportmatters#representationmatters #blackmoms

According to Mejia-Green, the person of color she contacted at the Office of Minority Health Disparities Elimination told her the post was found to be offensive by decision makers who “don’t look like us” – meaning are white.

In other words, despite the names of officials listed on the Office’s site, which appear to be mainly people of color, the actual decision-makers for Grants and money-related issues run through a white panel.

To confirm, we reached out to the Office of Minority Health Disparities to ask two questions:

1) Why was the post offensive?

2) Who makes the decisions?

This is the carefully-worded statement sent back to us by Elizabeth Hart, Associate Director of Communication at the TN Department of Health:

“The Tennessee Department of Health reviews grants throughout the year in several of our program areas, including the Office of Minority Health and Disparities Elimination. When evaluating applications from organizations requesting funding, we do conduct additional research on the organization with a focus on criteria including feasibility of the proposal, evidence base, the infrastructure of the organization and ability to implement the proposal and plans for sustainability of the proposed project. If an applicant’s proposal is not approved by the review committee, the applicant is encouraged to resubmit during the current or a future grant cycle.”

In other words, of the 2 questions we asked, they answered neither – nor did they choose to do so when we followed up.

As Kristin says:

“Oh the irony- the people making decision sat the Office of Minority Health Disparities Elimination, aren’t even minorities… there are other people in charge of who’s important enough to save.”

This is Elizabeth Hart’s contact info, if you’re interested in hollering at her: 615-741-3446 & Elizabeth.Hart@tn.gov

And to chip in and support Homeland Heart’s efforts to address maternal mortality among African-American mothers in Tennessee: HomelandHeartTN@Gmail.com & @HomelandHeartTn

Here’s their donate link.