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OP-ED: “It City” Still Has a Lot of Hate to Cleanse

THE TENNESSEE TRIBUNE — For over 25 years the Tennessee Tribune has proudly chronicled the good things happening in North Nashville and across our city, region and state. Over that time we’ve not ignored or tried to pretend that ugly, vile things weren’t also occurring, and when necessary we stood up and identified them. But we’ve always spent a lot more time emphasizing the good things, celebrating the accomplishments, and noting the firsts and breakthroughs than we have reporting about the negative and backward elements that remain in our midst.

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By Rosetta Miller Perry

For over 25 years the Tennessee Tribune has proudly chronicled the good things happening in North Nashville and across our city, region and state. Over that time we’ve not ignored or tried to pretend that ugly, vile things weren’t also occurring, and when necessary we stood up and identified them. But we’ve always spent a lot more time emphasizing the good things, celebrating the accomplishments, and noting the firsts and breakthroughs than we have reporting about the negative and backward elements that remain in our midst.

But sometimes we have to stand up and say there are certain things that must be eradicated and eliminated if Nashville is ever going to truly be the kind of place that deserves to be branded the “It City.” It has be the kind of place where people both in and out of power publicly let it be known certain views are not welcome in our midst, and that any and all forms of bigotry and hatred will not be tolerated. Whatever you may think as a private citizen is your business, but if you espouse hatred, racism, sexism, any form of religious bigotry or homophobia, you speak for yourself, and do not represent the Nashville that we want to see and celebrate.

Some of the reaction last week to Zulfat Suara’s candidacy for Metro Council should be an embarrassment to any and all Nashville citizens who claim they believe in human dignity, equal justice and Civil Rights. The fact that a Nigerian woman who also happens to be a Muslim has decided to run for public office is apparently too much for the bigots, racists, and just plain morons to handle. Never mind she has the perfect legal right to run for public office,. or that she’s entitled to do so as a citizen of this city. The bigots are out in force, with comments like “You will never, ever be on Metro Nashville Council. I am on a personal mission to stop it and make sure it does not happen. I will make sure of it.  I’ve got your picture. I’ve got your face. and everyone is going to know to not vote for you.”

Or this piece of brilliant advocacy from another enlightened soul who says “Just like Christian’s (sic) in your home country, Muslims are not welcome here.” Suara’s home nation of Nigeria has more Christians than any other African nation, but of course this idiot either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about that fact. Suara is also dealing with people stealing or damaging her campaign signs. While she’s alerted law enforcement about these threats, she’s  going to continue her campaign, and the Tennessee Tribune says to her “don’t let the racists and bigots drive you out.”

We agree with her when she says “I hope people will stand up and say this is not our Nashville.” Yes, everyone including her opponents and people of good will across the city irregardless of race, faith, gender or sexual orientation should stand up and say there’s no place in our city for the kind of garbage that has surfaced online, and especially on the websites and walls of bigots who thrive on stirring up hate and negativity, especially in places like Twitter where they can hide behind phony names and fake identities.

Stephanie Teatro, who co-directs the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition and its political arm — TIRRC Votes, which recently endorsed Suara — said in a Nashville Scene article that Muslims, immigrants and Black women face a backlash when they decide to step up and run for public office. “Zulfat happens to be all three,” she said. So she wasn’t surprised that Suara is facing major harassment as she seeks one of five at-large Metro Council seats.  “The only way we’re going to get to the other side of this political moment where people feel emboldened to be so hateful is to have effective and capable leaders like Zulfat,” Teatro added. “The most powerful rebuke to any of these xenophobic activists is for her to win a countywide election.”

The Tribune commends Suara for trying to remain positive. “For every bad comment, there’s 1,000 positive comments,: she has said. “For every nasty encounter — someone looking at me funny — there’s 100 more that have embraced me.” “I truly want to give back to this city, and I believe I have the means to do that. Nashville has been very welcoming. I hope that those that have never met me will not let a few people make them unwelcoming. I hope people will stand up and say, ‘This is not our Nashville.’ ”

We stand solidly behind her, and defend her right to run for Metro Council, and we also ask where is the public condemnation of these actions by those in power? Silence by implication is agreement, and while we don’t think the vast majority of people in power in Nashville back this type of vicious hatred, there should be unanimous and widespread response to it. Don’t let the voices of hatred and bigotry seem to be consensus by not responding. You don’t have to be a supporter of Suara to condemn the ignorant and bigoted response she’s gotten from that segment of the population that hates anyone who isn’t white, male, and fits their definition of an American. 

The Tribune doesn’t think those comments represent the Nashville we know and love. But they represent voices in Nashville we’ve been battling against throughout our existence. These are people who repeatedly try to  marginalize the voices of women, of Blacks and other people of color as well as the poor. They want to keep things the way they were centuries ago. These people know that in 2019 their views aren’t considered tolerable, so they mostly keep them to themselves, at least until something or someone comes along that brings them out of the sewers where they normally reside. This time it’s the Metro Council candidacy of Zulfat Suara. Tomorrow it may be something else.

But we say enough, and we also say let everyone who’s sick of this kind of bigoted nonsense speak out against it, and let these people know they not only don’t run anything, but they can’t decide who can run for political office based on their bigoted reading of the law. It’s just a matter of simple justice and fairness. Best wishes to Zulfat Suara, and be strong. There are lots of good people out here behind you.

This article originally appeared in The Tennessee Tribune.

Activism

EDITORIAL: Don’t Let Politicians Decide the Future of Journalism – Why We Oppose SB 911

Redirecting the $25 million to advertising or outreach on the many issues these communities now face is the best use of state funds. Create mandates that steer a fairer share of marketing dollars for issues like the drought, housing, wildfires, climate change, or health care to our media sector and that will reach the underserved audiences the state needs to reach, rather than wasting time and money on a costly administrative process in the name of ethnic media.

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As advocates of the ethnic media sector, we work with ethnic media practitioners every day. Among our top objections to SB 911 is that it promotes a one-size-fits all model to local and ethnic journalism.
As advocates of the ethnic media sector, we work with ethnic media practitioners every day. Among our top objections to SB 911 is that it promotes a one-size-fits all model to local and ethnic journalism.

By Regina Brown Wilson and Sandy Close

What could go wrong when politicians in Sacramento decide the future of  journalism?

The California Legislature could soon provide the answer. SB 911 — authored by Senator Steve Glazer – is the subject of a debate on how $25 million in state surplus funds should be distributed to local and ethnic journalism. If it is passed, we believe the bill would drive a stake in the heart of the independent ethnic media sector.

Ethnic media takes pride in being rooted in their communities and sounding an independent advocacy voice — accountable to the communities ​they serve. Back in 1827 the mission statement of Freedom Journal was proudly this: “We wish to plead our own cause, too long have others spoken for us.”

As advocates of the ethnic media sector, we work with ethnic media practitioners every day. Among our top objections to SB 911 is that it promotes a one-size-fits all model to local and ethnic journalism.

In fact, for many decades, most ethnic media have operated as for-profit businesses. You can see on ​the mastheads — Sentinel, Voice, Guardian, Crusader — the call to our communities. Mainstream media has often disparaged ethnic media ​as advocacy media,​without understanding the unique role we play for our readers.

SB 911 is promoting a “nonprofit” model that would expressly forbid ethnic media from endorsing political candidates or lobbying for or against proposed legislation. It would silence ​them!

SB 911 establishes a board of political appointees to administer state money that would be costly and time consuming to set up and would wind up determining the criteria for how government doles out support for local journalism for years to come. Ethnic media might have two representatives on that board. But the majority on the pane​l would have no direct knowledge of the unique role of ethnic media or how ​they work. The last thing ethnic media needs are people with little experience in their communities determining what kind of media those communities need.

This scheme puts ethnic media in a competition to gain the approval of a board of political appointees. ​They would end up dependent on this board. In fact, ​they would end up dependent on grants or government agencies instead of local communities that have long supported ​them.

As currently written, the bill would allow media startups – including many in the nonprofit space – that have operated for only one or two years to qualify for support. This language fails to acknowledge the contributions made by established media that have worked for decades to serve their communities and sustain themselves.

SB 911 shines a spotlight on the dire straits many ethnic media find themselves in, especially following the business shutdowns from the pandemic, inflation, and a possible recession, let alone the demands of adapting to the digital world. But we’re not prepared to greenlight the bill as currently written for the sake of whatever share of the $25 million the board bestows to individual outlets after their own admin costs are met.

We urge the Legislature to consider far more productive ways of supporting the ethnic news sector much as it did with efforts promoting the 2020 Census when it increased the advertising dollars earmarked for ethnic media from $15 million to over $85 million, recognizing that only ethnic media could deliver truly inclusive outreach to the diverse communities that now make up the state.

Redirecting the $25 million to advertising or outreach on the many issues these communities now face is the best use of state funds. Create mandates that steer a fairer share of marketing dollars for issues like the drought, housing, wildfires, climate change, or health care to our media sector and that will reach the underserved audiences the state needs to reach, rather than wasting time and money on a costly administrative process in the name of ethnic media.

The non-profit model works well only for a small number of ethnic media news agencies; they are convenors and informers of community, they fit the category of mission-driven journalism, we applaud them for their work.

But one size does not fit all media, especially given the diversity of ethnic news outlets. Don’t ask ethnic media to transform ​themselves into a model that reduces ​their interdependence with community. “Too long have others spoken for us.” That’s what SB 911 does and why we must oppose it.

About the Authors

Regina Brown Wilson is executive director of California Black Media, the oldest advocacy organization supporting locally-owned Black media.

Sandy Close is director of Ethnic Media Services and former executive director of New America Media/Pacific News Service.

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Activism

COMMENTARY: How Dare They Deny Our Right to Vote on Public Funds

The voters never asked to weigh in on whether the A’s should be allowed at Howard Terminal. They only wanted to give an advisory vote on whether the City should spend $1 billion of public infrastructure funds for a privately owned ballpark and luxury condominium complex.

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If Oakland City Council members continue in their refusal to allow voters a say in agreeing to a bad deal, the voters always have the right to overturn the Council’s action by referendum vote.
If Oakland City Council members continue in their refusal to allow voters a say in agreeing to a bad deal, the voters always have the right to overturn the Council’s action by referendum vote. 

By Kitty Epstein

On July 5, the City Council rejected the request of Oakland voters to place a measure on the 2022 ballot to allow them to weigh in on whether the City should spend public funds on infrastructure for billionaire A’s owner John Fisher’s privately owned baseball stadium and luxury condominium project at Howard Terminal.

Along with 800 likely voters, 76% of us said ‘yes’ to a survey by a nationally acclaimed polling firm that asked if we wanted to be heard before the City spent public money on infrastructure and other costs associated with the A’s development project. We followed that by getting 12,000 signatures on petitions sent directly to the Council demanding that they place the question on the Nov. 8, 2022, ballot.

But the Council folded under the bullying tactics and rejected the ballot question with several phony excuses, including:

  • Money for the A’s is not coming out of the general fund
  • The project is too complicated for the voters to understand
  • There is no deal yet, so it is premature to ask voters their opinion

The voters never asked to weigh in on whether the A’s should be allowed at Howard Terminal. They only wanted to give an advisory vote on whether the City should spend $1 billion of public infrastructure funds for a privately owned ballpark and luxury condominium complex.

More than 100 speakers told the Council that public funds include money from the city, the county, the state, and the federal government. These are dollars that should not be committed to a ballpark and luxury condos when Oakland has surging homelessness and public safety emergencies.

In the end, the City Council gave in to construction unions who want to build the ballpark and luxury condos and they bent their collective knee to the A’s owner who doesn’t care about Oakland. By siding with billionaire Fisher and the unions, the Council let their own constituents down.

Two brave Councilmembers — Noel Gallo and Carroll Fife — favored the public’s right to vote. Councilmembers Dan Kalb, Niki Fortunato Bas, Sheng Thao, Loren Taylor, and Treva Reid ignored the pleas of their constituents and voted against placing an advisory vote on the ballot.

As an extremely disappointed voter who participated in the poll and one of the 12,000 who signed petitions supporting a right to vote, I want to make sure all Oaklanders know who let them down and what they can do about it.

Councilmembers Thao, Taylor and Reid are running for Mayor. Councilmember Bas is running for re-election. These people think voters cannot be trusted to advise on whether public money should be spent on the A’s, but they want those same voters to elect them to office.

Councilmember Fife pointed out the duplicity of their position. She said the public will have their say in November one way or another. “Even if this (ballot vote) doesn’t move forward today, it will be in front of the Oakland voters in November in the form of who they vote for, for re-election.”

I respect some important actions taken by the Council this year on issues like the business tax. However, if they can’t stand up to the construction trades leadership who are predominately white, and right-wing billionaire Fisher on this critical Oakland matter, what other negative actions will they take on similar projects and on requests from their constituents?

This fight is far from over. If Oakland City Council members continue in their refusal to allow voters a say in agreeing to a bad deal, the voters always have the right to overturn the Council’s action by referendum vote.

That is even more likely now that the Council has added insult to injury by rejecting the right to vote and bending their knees to the whims of the A’s owner.

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Activism

COMMENTARY: Start Now to Take Back the Supreme Court 

Thanks to the anti-democratic Electoral College, Donald Trump was elected in 2016 even though almost 3 million more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell prevented the Senate from even considering President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nomination so that Trump could fill it instead—and then rushed Trump’s third justice onto the court even as voters were casting ballots to remove Trump from office.

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Ben Jealous serves as president of People for the American Way and Professor of the Practice at the University of Pennsylvania.

By Ben Jealous

Did you ever wonder whether elections really matter? Well, the Trump Supreme Court majority has answered that question for good.

Or, more accurately, they have answered it for bad.

In the term that has just ended, the new far right-wing majority on the Supreme Court went on a rampage. They have torn up decades of legal precedent to diminish Americans’ rights and legal protections. To justify the results they wanted, they lied in their rulings the way some of them lied to get on the court. It has been a shameful display of power politics disguised as judging.

Not surprisingly, the most attention has been paid to the Court majority overturning the 50-year-old Roe v. Wade decision. A constitutional right that has made a huge difference in the lives of generations of women was wiped away. The impact will be devastating and deadly.

Millions of individuals and couples dealing with unwanted pregnancies, the trauma of rape or incest, life-threatening pregnancy complications, or even a miscarriage that some intrusive government official decides is suspicious, will have their options severely limited or eliminated entirely.

We know that those restrictions and their consequences will fall most harshly on already vulnerable people, including Black people, LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, and low-income people. Already in Missouri, a major health care system will no longer treat rape victims with emergency contraception because the state abortion ban puts medical care providers at legal risk.

Anti-abortion state legislators seem to be in competition to see who can pass the most extreme, intrusive, and controlling laws. Some are even trying to limit people’s right to travel from one state to another, targeting anyone who helps a person from a state that bans abortion get care in a state that permits it. It reminds me of the old fugitive slave laws that forced free states to help slave states deny people their freedom.

Unfortunately, overturning Roe is just one of the harmful decisions handed down by the Trump Court.

The Court intervened in voting rights cases to protect gerrymandering designed to limit Black voters’ access to political power. This comes on top of other rulings gutting the Voting Rights Act.

The Trump Court went after sensible regulation of guns. The far-right justices overturned a New York law more than 100 years old that required people to show a good cause to get a permit to carry concealed firearms.

Communities that are already suffering from the effects of gun crime are likely to experience even greater violence now that the court has robbed public officials of options and given the extremist pro-gun political agenda the power of law.

The court also further dismantled the separation of church and state, which protects religious freedom and preserves equality under law for people regardless of their religious beliefs. The Trump court took a wrecking ball to this pillar of American society. It is forcing states to divert tax dollars to religious schools, like some Southern states did when they funded white evangelical segregationist academies that emerged in resistance to the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision outlawing racially segregated public schools.

This court has made it easier for public officials, like teachers, to coerce students into prayer or other religious practices. This is a very clear threat to anyone whose faith is different from the one dominant in their community or state.

In other words, the U.S. Supreme Court, which we counted on for generations to uphold civil rights and tear down obstacles to equality, is now acting as an arm of the increasingly aggressive far-right political movement.

How did we get here?

Simple.

Thanks to the anti-democratic Electoral College, Donald Trump was elected in 2016 even though almost 3 million more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell prevented the Senate from even considering President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nomination so that Trump could fill it instead—and then rushed Trump’s third justice onto the court even as voters were casting ballots to remove Trump from office.

Behind Trump and McConnell was a massively funded, decades-long campaign to build the political power to take control of the judiciary.

In other words, winning the presidency and controlling the Senate gave the far right the power to force its harmful agenda on the American public long after voters rejected Trump. Taking the Court back from the extremists who now control it will be a long-term project. It starts with this year’s elections.

Ben Jealous serves as president of People for the American Way and Professor of the Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. A New York Times best-selling author, his next book “Never Forget Our People Were Always Free” will be published by Harper Collins in December 2022. 

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