Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Take a Breath

I have said repeatedly you don't know me until you know me and then let me know what you think, be honest, be frank and be kind.  Any criticism should come from love and from that comes growth but not in America we just shame, blame, scold and walk away. Working out great.

As I wrote about the recent comments from two women about what it is like to be a face of color be in business or education there is a long road ahead for equity and parity both in gender and race.  But again there is a massive rainbow here and we have not done well finding the pot of gold for any of those who travel along it.  Dorothy may have clicked her heels three times to find her home over the rainbow but for the woman who played her she never made it home in one piece, we do that, kill or be killed; Survival of the fittest, only the strongest survive.  We get it, we really do.

When I gave a friend, who is black, Radley Balko's articles and books on Warrior Cops and the racism endemic in the criminal justice system he was amazed.  He had no idea that over 1,000 people a year die at the hands of police, George Floyd only one of them.  His Mother is a 911 Operator and she has never discussed her job or her role in how these calls literally are the life and death of many who are the first responders on the other end. But you are right, I am White and should not teach anyone of any color other than my own about my own experience in said system, nor hear of others and in turn share that in any way that is to inform, educate and bring change.  Thank you.  And guess what? I won't.  I have finally realized sitting in house arrest about how I mocked Nashville and its racism and poverty and values that seemed resistant to growth, to change, to be less religious and more open and then I sat down and realized how Seattle, the good white liberal town was not much different, white privilege is well for the privileged. And by that we mean never had a bad thing ever happen to them ever.  Not all white people are so fortunate but our color at times makes us invisible to those in power until they choose to see it.   And we can choose at any time to see color and just add that to the list of things we note and then we can choose to know them. Fuck that its hard I just want to be with the people who get me and my people. Thanks I am stupid and privileged. Oh how fragile I am!!

In public education, most of the schools are run by faces of color, many Teachers are faces of color, much of the staff are also very much a reflection of the school's population.  And this varies by district and in each district each neighborhood they too add  color or lack thereof but that is about segregation in another way, economic and the taxes and costs of home that legally separate the have's from the have nots.  To overcome that since Seattle had ended Affirmative Action which required quotas and numbers, we created a false culture of education. There were/are or have been schools that existed to reach any face and all types of learners, schools that were African American Academy's, Interagency' Academy's and their focus on the kids who needed alternative support, the American Indian Academy, the Seahawks Academy, the Center School, the varying high schools with Academic Achievement, International Baccalaureate Programs, the World School of multicultural languages, and on and on with all kinds of methods and concepts to show how progressive, liberal and good they were.  They have the same in Nashville and they are all dumpsters, and the kids garbage bags. Some are better quality and are compostable and recyclable and are largely white with high achieving faces of color to round out the program. The focus on Sports and the never ending bullshit that makes it the leveler of equality by enabling boys to believe that sports will open the door to a better life.  Yes, been to an NFL Draft?  It is a slave auction just without whips.  There are no professions apparently open to faces of color other than entertainment and athletics, good to know says, Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

We have good Teachers, we have bad. We have good Administrators, we have bad, but we have one thing in common, nothing is good about public education as it stands today. Sorry but they are all just shitty as hell, from the politics to the course work they are horrific.   I have had conversations with a young black girl who works in my coffee shop, she is lovely. She never heard of the 4 Girls in the Church of Alabama or of Emmett Till. So much for Jersey City schools being quality that answered all I need to know before I ever set foot in one.

  The endless amount of faces of color who have seemingly never heard of many things until pop culture embraces it never ceases to amaze me. And much of that goes for other faces less of color. We live a me me world.    It is as if intellectual curiousity is for freaks of nature who don't deserve respect or attention and that is when I realized why people hate me.  In the last 10 years in schools I have been accused of slapping a kid because he was black, he later retracted it but after putting me through hell and massive legal bills and I am not alone.  I have been called racist more times than I can count, had money stolen, been verbally abused and had shit thrown out me while kids laughed.  And like a true Masochist I went back for no reason other than I could and thought it will be different next time.  I recall when a Principal came in and said I was reading racist material to a class, it was an editorial by Bob Herbert in the New York Times and the importance of children of color getting into higher education; he has written a book on the subject, and that when I showed him both the article and the photo of Mr. Herbert it was snatched from my hand and never heard about it again. This a class that the former Teacher had quit, the long term sub also quit as the children were having sex in the classroom. Yes, in the classroom; It was a portable and there was a room divider and they would go behind that and have sex.  They were 7th graders.  And there were more stories like this in Seattle, the circle jerk film that circulated in another middle school leading the Police to come and the boys returning to class.  The boys in a high school raping a special needs girl in a toilet, the boy in a high achieving high school raping a student on a field trip and having done it another middle school the year before.  Do I need to add that all of these are children of color and yet you keep hoping and trying that maybe one voice will reach them.  Apparently it was because none did? No face of color seemingly did either and they were there, so explain that to me,  I can wait.

Now I have many horror stories about other kids not black but largely they share one thing in common, they are poor, they are angry and they are in public schools.

The ending of public schools began when the President Voodoo Reagan began to cut funding in his smaller Government concept that has dominated the GOP playbook for decades, it masks classism, racism, arrogance, ignorance and general disregard for the concept of Democracy.  It is not just fueled in racism but it is the biggest burner in the stove.  So when I read books calling all white people fragile and therefore racist I want to say, "You don't know me and you generalize, you know like if I said all Black kids are crazy."  Given my experience I could say it's valid,  but you see I actually vest and talk and try to connect and try to learn and teach simultaneously.  So when you hear the phrase, "I can't breathe." Know that many before and after have said the same, at the hands of law enforcement. This white teacher reads and actually wants this to stop and has for years.  I have seen the affects of the broken families, the crime, the pain on the faces of children and I want that to stop too.  But instead I will stop teaching, I will do something white, whatever the fuck that is.


Three Words. 70 Cases. The Tragic History of ‘I Can’t Breathe.’
The deaths of Eric Garner in New York and George Floyd in Minnesota created national outrage over the use of deadly police restraints. There were many others you didn’t hear about.

By Mike Baker, Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, Manny Fernandez and Michael LaForgia
The New York Times
June 29, 2020

As the sun began to rise on a sweltering summer morning in Las Vegas last year, a police officer spotted Byron Williams bicycling along a road west of downtown.

The bike did not have a light on it, so officers flipped on their siren and shouted for him to stop. Mr. Williams fled through a vacant lot and over a wall before complying with orders to drop face down in the dirt, where officers used their hands and knees to pin him down. “I can’t breathe,” he gasped. He repeated it 17 times before he later lapsed into unconsciousness and died.

Eric Garner, another black man, had said the same three anguished words in 2014 after a police officer who had stopped him for selling untaxed cigarettes held him in a chokehold on a New York sidewalk. “I can’t breathe,” George Floyd pleaded in May, appealing to the Minneapolis police officer who responded to reports of a phony $20 bill and planted a knee in the back of his neck until his life had slipped away.

Mr. Floyd’s dying words have prompted a national outcry over law enforcement’s deadly toll on African-American people, and they have united much of the country in a sense of outrage that a police officer would not heed a man’s appeal for something as basic as air.

But while the cases of Mr. Garner and Mr. Floyd shocked the nation, dozens of other incidents with a remarkable common denominator have gone widely unacknowledged. Over the past decade, The New York Times found, at least 70 people have died in law enforcement custody after saying the same words — “I can’t breathe.” The dead ranged in age from 19 to 65. The majority of them had been stopped or held over nonviolent infractions, 911 calls about suspicious behavior, or concerns about their mental health. More than half were black.

Dozens of videos, court documents, autopsies and police reports reviewed in these cases — involving a range of people who died in confrontations with officers on the street, in local jails or in their homes — show a pattern of aggressive tactics that ignored prevailing safety precautions while embracing dubious science that suggested that people pleading for air do not need urgent intervention.

In some of the “I can’t breathe” cases, officers restrained detainees by the neck, hogtied them, Tased them multiple times or covered their heads with mesh hoods designed to prevent spitting or biting. Most frequently, officers pushed them face down on the ground and held them prone with their body weight.

Not all of the cases involved police restraints. Some were deaths that occurred after detainees’ protests that they could not breathe — perhaps because of a medical problem or drug intoxication — were discounted or ignored. Some people pleaded for hours for help before they died.

Among those who died after declaring “I can’t breathe” were a chemical engineer in Mississippi, a former real estate agent in California, a meat salesman in Florida and a drummer at a church in Washington State. One was an active-duty soldier who had survived two tours in Iraq. One was a registered nurse. One was a doctor.

In nearly half of the cases The Times reviewed, the people who died after being restrained, including Mr. Williams, were already at risk as a result of drug intoxication. Others were having a mental health episode or medical issues such as pneumonia or heart failure. Some of them presented a significant challenge to officers, fleeing or fighting.

Departments across the United States have banned some of the most dangerous restraint techniques, such as hogtying, and restricted the use of others, including chokeholds, to only the most extreme circumstances — those moments when officers are in fear for their lives. They have for years warned officers about the risks of moves such as facedown compression holds. But the restraints continue to be used as a result of poor training, gaps in policies or the reality that officers sometimes struggle with people who fight hard and threaten to overpower them.

Many of the cases suggest a widespread belief that persists in departments across the country that a person being detained who says “I can’t breathe” is lying or exaggerating, even if multiple officers are using pressure to restrain the person. Police officers, who for generations have been taught that a person who can talk can also breathe, regularly cited that bit of conventional wisdom to dismiss complaints of arrestees who were dying in front of them, records and interviews show.

That dubious claim was photocopied and posted on a bulletin board at the Montgomery County Jail in Dayton, Ohio, in 2018. “If you can talk then you obviously can [expletive] breathe,” the sign said.

Federal officials have long warned about factors that can cause suffocations in custody, and for the past five years, a federal law has required local police agencies to report all in-custody deaths to the Justice Department or face the loss of federal law enforcement funding.

But the Justice Department, under both President Barack Obama and President Trump, has been slow to enforce the law, the agency’s inspector general found in a 2018 report. Though there has been only scattershot reporting by departments, not a single dollar has been withheld.

Autopsies have repeatedly identified links between the actions of officers and the deaths of detainees who struggled for air, even when other medical issues such as heart disease and drug use were contributing or primary factors. But government investigations often found that the detainees were acting erratically or aggressively and that the officers were therefore justified in their actions.

Only a small fraction of officers have faced criminal charges, and almost none have been convicted.

In the case of Mr. Williams in Las Vegas last year, Police Department investigators determined that the officers did not violate the law. But the death triggered immediate changes, said Lt. Erik Lloyd of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s force investigations team.

Officers are not medical doctors and may believe that someone who says “I can’t breathe” may be trying to escape, he said.

To alleviate potential dangers, officers are told now to promptly get detainees off their stomachs and onto their sides — or up to a sitting or standing position. They are also told to call for medical help if someone has distressed breathing.

“Since the death of Mr. Williams, our department has been extremely aware of someone saying, ‘I can’t breathe,’” Lieutenant Lloyd said. “We have changed the attitude of patrol officers.”

For the relatives of many of the men and women who died under similar circumstances in police custody, watching the video of Mr. Floyd’s arrest in Minneapolis has felt painfully familiar. Silvia Soto’s husband, Marshall Miles, died in 2018 in Sacramento County, Calif., after being pinned down by sheriff’s deputies at a jail. She said she had been feeling both heartbroken and comforted amid the national outrage.

“I don’t feel alone anymore,” Ms. Soto said.
‘You want to kill me?’

While there have been dozens of “I can’t breathe” deaths over the past decade, the emergence of body cameras and surveillance footage has eliminated the invisibility that once shrouded many of these deaths.

Videos from Mr. Garner’s death galvanized changes in neck restraint policies around the country, but problematic techniques for restraining people did not go away. In the six years since then, more than 40 people have died after warning, “I can’t breathe.”

Less than three months after Mr. Garner died, police officers went out to a tidy stucco home near Glendale, Ariz., to investigate a report of a couple arguing.

The officers found Balantine Mbegbu seated in a leather chair with his dinner. Both Mr. Mbegbu and his wife assured them that no argument had taken place. According to police reports, Mr. Mbegbu became indignant when they refused to leave.

“Why are you guys here?” he said, his voice rising. “You want to kill me?”

When he tried to stand, the officers slammed him to the floor, punched him in the head and shot him with a Taser. With Mr. Mbegbu on his stomach, officers put knees on his back and neck.

As his wife, Ngozi Mbegbu, watched them pile on top of her husband, she heard him say, “I can’t breathe. I’m dying,” according to a sworn statement she made. Records show he vomited, began foaming at the mouth, stopped breathing and was pronounced dead.

The county prosecutor’s office determined that “the officers did not commit any act that warrants criminal prosecution.”

Cases in which detainees protested that they could not breathe, before dying, continued to occur. Their words could be heard on audio or video recordings, or were otherwise documented in official witness statements or reports.

In 2015, Calvon Reid died in Coconut Creek, Fla., after officers fired 10 shots at him with a Taser.

In 2016, Fermin Vincent Valenzuela was asphyxiated after police officers in Anaheim, Calif., put him in a neck hold while trying to arrest him. His family won a $13 million jury verdict.

In 2017, Hector Arreola died in Columbus, Ga., after officers forced him to the ground, cuffed his hands behind him and leaned on his back, with one officer brushing off his complaints: “He’s fine,” he said.

In 2018, Cristobal Solano was arrested in Tustin, Calif., and then died after at least seven deputies worked together to subdue him on the floor of a holding cell, some with their knees on his back.

In 2019, Vicente Villela died in an Albuquerque jail after telling guards who were holding him down with their knees that he could not breathe. “Right, because they’re having to hold you down,” one of the guards said.

Then last week, the Police Department in Tucson, Ariz., released video of an encounter on April 21 with Carlos Ingram Lopez, who was naked and behaving erratically when officers forced him to lie face down on the floor of a garage with his hands handcuffed behind his back. Part of the time, Mr. Lopez’s head was covered with a blanket and a hood. He was held down for 12 minutes, crying for air, for water and for his grandmother. Then he, too, died.
‘If you can talk you can breathe’

One of the reasons such cases keep occurring may be the persistent belief on the part of police officers that a detainee who is complaining that he cannot breathe is breathing enough to talk.

Edward Flynn, the former police chief in Milwaukee, said in a deposition in 2014 that this idea was once part of training for officers there and persisted as a “common understanding” even if it was wrong. Other departments have told their officers the same thing, records show, and the notion shows up often in interactions with detainees.

“If you’re talking, you’re breathing — I don’t want to hear it,” a sheriff’s deputy told Willie Ray Banks, who was struggling for air after officers in Granite Shoals, Texas, restrained and Tased him in 2011.

But the medical facts are more complicated. While it may technically be true that someone speaking is passing air through the windpipe, Dr. Carl Wigren, an independent pathologist, said that even someone able to mutter a phrase such as “I can’t breathe” may not be able to take the full breaths needed to take in sufficient oxygen to maintain life.

The “if you can talk” notion has persisted even in places like the jail in Montgomery County, Ohio, which had to pay a $3.5 million settlement last year in connection with the 2012 death of an inmate named Robert Richardson, who had been jailed for failing to show up for a child support hearing.

A fellow inmate called for help after Mr. Richardson, 28, had what was described as a possible seizure. Sheriff’s deputies cuffed his hands behind his back and restrained him face down on the floor, pushing on his back and shoulders, and eventually on his head and neck, according to court documents.

Witnesses said Mr. Richardson repeatedly told deputies he could not breathe, until, after 22 minutes, he stopped moving. He was pronounced dead less than an hour later.

It was that jail facility where, six years later, the photocopied sign about being able to breathe if you could talk was posted on the bulletin board.
‘We literally had to sit there and watch my brother die’

Police officers often failed to seek prompt medical attention when a detainee expressed problems breathing, and that has proved to be a factor in several deaths. In some of these cases, the person in custody had recently been Tased or restrained, but other times they were suffering from acute disorders, such as lung infections, and languished for hours. Often, this appeared to be because officers did not take the detainees’ claims seriously.

When 40-year-old Rodney Brown told police officers in Cleveland he could not breathe after being Tased multiple times during a struggle in 2010, one of them responded: “So? Who gives a [expletive]?”

One of the police officers radioed for paramedics but later said he did so only because it was a required procedure when someone had been Tased; he did not convey that Mr. Brown had claimed he could not breathe.

A lawyer for the city in that case told a panel of judges that the officers did not have the medical expertise to know when someone was in a medical crisis or simply exhausted from a vigorous fight, according to an audio recording.

Another troubling case occurred in March 2019 when the police in Montebello, Calif., were called to the home of David Minassian, 39, a former vice president at a property management firm who had suffered a heroin overdose.

His older sister, Maro Minassian, a certified emergency medical technician, had given her brother a dose of naloxone, a medication that reverses the effects of opiate overdoses. He jolted awake but still appeared to have fluid in his lungs, and she dialed 911, anxious to get him to a hospital.

But it was the police, not paramedics, who arrived next. Ms. Minassian said three Montebello officers entered her family’s home as her brother was flailing on the floor.

At least two of the officers slammed him to the ground and put their knees into his back as they tried to cuff him, Ms. Minassian said, and remained on top of him until he stopped talking. “I told them, ‘My brother can’t breathe,’” Ms. Minassian said through tears. “We literally had to sit there and watch my brother die.”
‘Please take the mask off’

Despite years of concerns about some of the potentially dangerous techniques used to subdue people in custody, law enforcement agents have continued to use them.

In the 2018 case involving Ms. Soto’s husband, Marshall Miles, officers struggled to get him into jail after arresting him on suspicion of vandalism and public intoxication.

The Sheriff’s Department had produced training materials as early as 2004 warning about the dangers of suffocation when people were restrained face down or hogtied with their hands and feet linked behind their backs.

But those warnings apparently went unheeded. Mr. Miles, 36, was hogtied while being brought in by the California Highway Patrol, even though the Sheriff’s Department, which runs the jail, no longer allowed the restraint. Deputies removed him from the hogtie but held him face down for more than 15 minutes as he repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe.” They then carried him handcuffed and shackled to a cell, where at least three deputies put their weight on his facedown body while he groaned ever more faintly. About two minutes later, he fell silent and then stopped breathing, according to video of the death.

An autopsy concluded that he died from a combination of physical exertion, mixed drug intoxication and restraint by law enforcement. Hogtie restraints were used in four other deaths over the past decade that were examined by The Times.

Another technique used in a series of cases with fatal outcomes, including at least two this year, has been the use of hoods or masks designed to prevent people from spitting on or biting officers. Law enforcement agencies around the world have grappled with whether to use them to protect officers despite concerns about whether the masks are safe.

Video from 2012 shows how one of the masks was used on James W. Brown, an Army sergeant stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso who had a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. Sergeant Brown, 26, was supposed to serve a two-day sentence at the county jail for a drunken-driving conviction, but officials said he became aggressive after learning he would be jailed longer.

With his hands cuffed behind him, Sergeant Brown can be seen in a video seated in a chair, surrounded by guards in riot gear holding him down. Deputies had placed a mesh-style mask over the lower half of his face, and he wore it for more than five minutes before telling the guards and a medical worker that he could not breathe.

“Please take the mask off,” Sergeant Brown pleads. “I cannot breathe. Please!”

He passed out shortly afterward, and he was pronounced dead the next day. A county autopsy ruled that his death was caused by a sickle-cell crisis — natural causes — but a forensic pathologist later hired by the county concluded that his blood condition had been exacerbated by the restraint procedures.

Sergeant Brown’s relatives sued El Paso County, the jail and 10 officers for wrongful death and other claims. The case was later settled.

“I feel like they treated him like he was less than an animal,” said Sergeant Brown’s mother, Dinetta Scott. “Who treats somebody like that?”




Two Races Two Cities

In America there are only two colors, black and white.  There are no rainbows or people of "other" colors, other sexualities and other religions.  We are apparently either Christian or not.  Just not Christian.  We have no ethnic distinctions, no cultural components, no other languages no other issues  of import than the relationship, or lack thereof, between Black and White citizens of America.  Oh yes citizens as there are no immigrants, no forced labor agreements, no other situations and circumstances in America that define history other than Slavery. No other discrimination, oppression, hate, or any other pain other than the pain of the Black Citizen at the hands of the White Citizen.  We have no other history, no other narrative, no other perspective in which to gain insight that we may have many many other problems that our largely white patriarchy of history, all wrapped up in a document called the Constitution.  A document that despite the first proclamation about being free and the whole separation of Church and State, it really was  secretly the Bible, just without fun stories to lend the reasoning behind the laws and beliefs stated in said document.

In Seattle and in Nashville, two cities of which I am more than familiar it took me awhile to realize how racist and oppressive the two cities are, just one wraps itself with a blue ribbon the other red, but both share a common passive aggressive nature that dominates the landscape and the dialogue of its residents.

Seattle people shut you down when you don't preach the speech, Nashville preaches the speech and then shut you down regardless.  They don't have time for that dissension or disagreement and while Seattle pretends to they don't either it just takes more ad hominem attacks and rebukes with a better vocabulary to get there.  Nashvillians just go, "I have never heard that before" and that ends that.


Right now we are on a race to the finish line and that is the irony, the line is never crossed. We just reach it but then the white line is never ever crossed as the white power that holds it in place just move it ever so slightly to make it impossible to ever determine a winner and we can't have any one winner as then what? All the other racers might have a shot? Fuck that.

I read these two articles and the first article is from the Business Journal, the woman interviewed perhaps says the most salient issues regarding how Black Lives should matter.  Many of  her ideas and thoughts are not new but the points are right on the money. Oh yes we will come back to that one.  And sadly I have heard  many of them before with another ## movement, MeToo. Irony that it was a Black woman who came up with that moniker and it was culturally appropriated and led to the movement that was to stop Sexual Harassment and abuse in the workplace.  How is that working out? I am a little distracted now by new demands that are well the same as the other ones.   Remember the histrionics about the children in cages?  What about that?  Oh wait DACA was resolved by the Supreme Court for now?  How about Women's Movement and Gun Violence? What happened there? I bet those kids from Stoneyman Douglas miss school now?  Just not the gun and the Cop running in the opposite direction when the shooting began.  Oh wait that is why we wanted Police and guns in school until we didn't.

Sunday marked the end of Pride and how did that work out? Well the Supreme Court upheld the law regarding discrimination by applying it to those whose sexuality is an issue when it comes to firing or not hiring those who may fall under the ever increasing moniker LGBQTI.  Seriously how many letters does it take to say "I am not a heterosexual" Oh wait it takes fourteen other pronouns or words to simply say that phrase.  Okay then, cis gendered binary capital Q. What.the.fuck.ever.

Let's talk about Judaism, Islam and that whole thing. Remember that one that gave us immense laws to observe, stalk, prey and know all about those people from the far away lands that destroyed America on 9/11. Did we win that war?  Is that war still going on? How did that work out? How is that Middle East Peace thing going? Oh wait Kushner is on Covid now or is he?  Is Covid still a thing?

Guess what America we are the shiny key nation. I used to say that in Nashville as I never saw or heard anything like the endless bragging, boasting and idiocy that I did there. I never met anyone who seemed to have focus or the ability to follow through, maintain consistency or have any long range plans, methods in which to attain said goals or well have sense, yes sense of any kind. I took it at first due to the lack of education and the focus on the Bible but they couldn't even follow through with the Bible shit, they barely stayed at one Church long enough to remember the Pastor's name let alone their fellow congregants.  So I realized that once I left that it was everywhere.  Watching a new version of Occupy Wall Street only now at the Mayor's residence here in New York made me laugh, yep, its Occupy in duplicate. The endless daily marches that happen are not as covered in the news unless someone loses an eye and that is because violence here is on the rise thanks to the whole Cops are bad shit so let's stab, shoot and harm as many as possible and settle those scores.  As the summer is barely underway, we have a holiday this week with endless problems from fireworks to budget issues, and now thanks again to the South and West, my former two homes, Covid is back (it never left) but they prove once again you just can't have anything nice, and the white Daddies are taking away our privileges.

I have lived up and down the West Coast, the South as in Tennessee and Texas and now here in the East Coast there are distinctly different attitudes when it comes to social mores. People are in your face here they just wear masks while doing so.  We are way more money oriented and that professional skill set may explain why we just jumped in without question in the beginning and then like everywhere else went off the deep end when the leash was released, we lost our collective minds, but we will be masked up and wearing space suits if it meant we would be safe from the killer Covid. For all our arrogance here we are oddly compliant.   Its the money and education thing that much I am sure.  Note that Seattle and San Francisco have massive homeless issues, largely young kids and legal pot that helps in their migrant crisis.  They just don't cage them - yet.


Nashville nonprofit leader: ‘I don’t feel welcome in my own city’
The Equity Alliance

Nashville, TN
By Marq Burnett – Reporter, Nashville Business Journal
Jun 11, 2020,

Charlane Oliver is the co-founder and co-executive director of The Equity Alliance, a Nashville nonprofit focused on civic engagement in communities of color.

As a part of our coverage of the civil unrest around the country following the killing of George Floyd, we've asked several business and community leaders for their thoughts on the role Nashville's business community should play in helping end systemic racism. Oliver's responses (edited for length and clarity) are below; more responses will be featured in the June 12 weekly edition of the Nashville Business Journal.

What would you like to see happen next in Nashville? What role do you think the local business community can play in helping end systemic racism? What are some actionable steps?

If we want to talk about real change and what the business community can do, we have to put our money where our mouth is. Sending out emails through your company’s email list is great, but it has to be more than just that. You have to show solidarity in your budget.

As a black community, we have been distressed economically. Structural racism lives in budgets and policies. When it comes to the business community, I would hope that every single business that is predominantly white-led, if you have a white CEO, that you are looking internally at your HR policies to see how you are showing up for black people in your workspace. Not just providing diversity, equity and inclusion training. But what does your board of shareholders look like? Do you have any black people on your board of shareholders? And do you have more than one, because we shall not be tokenized.

Secondly, what does your executive senior leadership look like? Do an analysis of that. Put us in positions of real power, and not just making us the diversity, equity and inclusion officer. We know about more than just race. We are qualified for positions. Set a standard to have a percentage of your hiring and your workforce be black people. Set a percentage of your sponsorship budget that you will donate to and sponsor events from black-led organizations.

For the larger Nashville community, Metro schools have about 84,000 students, and 70% are black students. Our schools are severely underfunded year after year. That’s racism. We are increasing police budgets every year, but we are not increasing education budgets. That is systemic racism that feeds the school-to-prison pipeline. So we need to take a hard look at what we are funding. …

We need to be paying our workers, our essential workers, because black folks are getting the coronavirus. Black people have been living in a pandemic called racism since 1619 when we came across the ocean. The other pandemic we’re in is disproportionately impacting black people in a way that is getting us sicker because of underlying health conditions. But we’re also getting sicker because we are the essential workforce, having to go and be your paid hourly workers. Are you paying a livable wage? Pay your workers a living wage. Give them stock options. Share the wealth. …

If you want to be totally honest, let’s take this phone call for example. Institutions consistently ask black people to take our humanity and our trauma and lay it out for people without compensation. Our intellectual capital deserves compensation.

How have I experienced racism? It’s one of the reasons I avoid downtown. Why? Because it is not welcoming. Downtown on Broadway and around Second Avenue is not a welcoming place. We call ourselves a welcoming city for immigrants and outsiders alike. We call ourselves the ‘It City.’ Public officials have changed and transformed downtown in such a way that it is only white. White establishments on Broadway. Tourism is only for white folks. That’s the message that you’re sending.

When I was in college when I moved here, downtown was the happening place. There was no Gulch. Second Avenue had all the clubs and bars. It was a place I wanted to go to. We hung out there a lot. Every weekend, we went to Second Avenue. But now, I can’t tell you the last time I walked up and down Second Avenue and felt like it was my city. It’s a totally different feel and vibe to go down there now. That was done deliberately. …

But I would say that the way I feel racism is that I don’t feel welcome in my own city. I don’t. The other thing is, we have closed gathering spaces for black folks in town. Why does South Nashville have a Plaza Mariachi, but North Nashville doesn’t have anything? We don’t have a place to gather and celebrate our culture. We’ve been asking for something like that for years. North Nashville doesn’t have commercial establishments to enjoy. We have to go across town to Green Hills or Opry Mills to go shopping, or to get something other than fast food. That’s racism. The gentrification is racism. The way they’ve thrown up these tall and skinnies. There are many ways that Nashville is showing itself to be racist. Have we ever had a black mayor? We have to look at things through a racial equity lens in this city, and we do not do that well. When we talk about putting people on boards and appointing people to committees, you have to do that through a racial-equity lens. The people who are most directly impacted should be leading the charge. But we always see the same faces.

What concerns you about Nashville’s ability to confront these issues? What makes you hopeful?

What concerns me about Nashville being able to confront these issues is that the same people we are asking to change the system are the same people who created it. That’s what concerns me. They’re not willing to give up power. We’re fighting the same issues of the 60s and 70s. Nashville is more segregated in our schools than ever before. We’ve been begging, pleading to fund public schools. But where’s the political will? …

What makes me hopeful? The uprising that I’m seeing across this world of people that are standing up for black lives. That makes me so proud to be a black person. I’m wearing a shirt today that says, "America will never be great until black people are free." Until we recognize our freedom, the prosperity of this city and of this nation runs through the city that built it, which is black people, we can never live up to our wildest dreams. Until we do the work of recognizing and apologizing for racism, institutionalized oppression and slavery, we can never find a pathway forward.

All black people want is to be equal. Black people just want to be treated like everyone else in this country. Stop putting roadblocks in our way. Stop creating policies that kill us and oppress us. Let black people lead for once. But what gives me hope is more people are recognizing the role they may have played in being complicit in upholding a system of white supremacy. I am hopeful that we can now make some changes. This feels different. This uprising feels much different than two years ago or three years ago, or even eight years ago, when Trayvon Martin was killed. More people are paying attention. People are fed up –– not just black people –– with a system that continually rewards the haves, and punishes the have nots. Amazon made billions of dollars during a pandemic while people are being laid off. That doesn't resonate well with people who want to feed their families and who want financial independence. They cannot get ahead, save for retirement, put their kids through college, they can't do the normal things that are a part of the American Dream. We are robbing millions of people of the American Dream in this country, and they are fed up. I’m glad about it. It’s time to root out the people who have been upholding the system.

____


Now on this essay,  I have tried to reach out to the author, but with no response.  I asked her this question:  If black students cannot learn from white educators then should be have color based education and in turn all white people go through bias training and in turn all curriculum taught, discipline established that explains all the ways a person can be different in behavior regardless of color when their extrinsic circumstances are either vastly different or equally the same.  And to say that a student of color cannot learn from a Teacher of another color then how is that teaching tolerance, acceptance for either?  


What this woman neglects to mention is that in order to actually test this theory we would have to establish a lab testing scenario.  So we establish a classroom with two students and we factor in with the assumptions that a white 8 year old boy and a black 8 year old boy come from similar homes environments, two parents earning a living wage, have siblings, have decent home in a descent neighborhood with little crime, parks etc, have access to healthy food and established meal schedules, sleep regularly, have health care and of course child care available after school In addition  have excellent after school activities that encourage play, cooperation, learning and whatever other type of study - secular or non - that the family engages in. Then using that parameter, that all things are equal, observe the Teacher in his/her engagement, assessment and of course instruction to the same two boys and prove she/he is a racist or not.  Yes?  No? What is it?  Then all children regardless of color must have at least two, three or no Teachers of their color or not their color and share their language, their religion, their background, their history and of course know all the narratives of the many children they teach every year and this is consistently the same every year, correct? And this is how they will learn, a panoply of Educators speaking multiple languages, have multi cultural backgrounds, have varying sexualities, faiths, and be diverse in every sense of the word. They will never go hungry, go without, have enough money, never have struggles, have pain, have a life that will affect them and everyone will just get along.  Where the fuck is this place?

I see, to understand Black people and Black Culture I have to be black.  Good to know. So teaching students I must share at least 90%, 100%, 50% of their culture in order to be effective at my job?  To understand a child's propensity for storytelling versus disruption must mean I have the ability to know my students, understand their personalities and their problems and their history and clearly it seems to assume from your essay I don't, so that must mean I am stupid. How am I a Teacher then? Oh wait I see your funding comes from the Great White Daddy, Bill Gates and his Bride, two people who have never taught in Public Schools, Bill who never went to one, let alone finish College, and don't send their children to public schools.  I see how they know what to do and how to do it.  Remember the Common Core? Is that still a thing? That was supposed to take the bait out of the race and make it common.  Worked out didn't it?

Some issues you are right on the money and that is the real problem - money or the lack thereof.  If you really want to address these problems let's look at funding and how to finance the programs we need to make these changes and in turn pay Educators a living wage commensurate with the demands you are asking an in turn pay for the training and time required to do such. And instead of bitching have your friend Bill write a big check to fund public education entirely allow Teachers, Families and Administrators work together across the board to fix their community school, and let that be the massive experiment to see if that works.  Not.going.to.happen.

And we are at the gate, the gun fires and we're off.  Or we are not as the race was called due to weather and its a storm brewing.

To understand structural racism, look to our schools
June 28, 2020
By Hannah Furfaro
Seattle Times staff reporter

Education Lab is a Seattle Times project that spotlights promising approaches to persistent challenges in public education. It is produced in partnership with the Solutions Journalism Network and is funded by a grant from the Bill &; Melinda Gates Foundation, Amazon and City University of Seattle.

It’s always time to talk about racial inequity in education.

But the police killing of George Floyd, and coronavirus school closures that may deepen vast opportunity gaps between Black and white students, are driving new conversations about how schools should confront structural racism.

Racial inequity is baked into the nation’s education system in ways big and small. Black children face the most extreme hurdles to academic success.

Within individual classrooms, teachers may mistake a Black preschooler’s chattiness for hyperactivity or bad behavior, instead of recognizing the child’s skillful storytelling abilities. Within public school districts, recruitment and hiring practices tend to leave out Black educators or pay them less than their peers. Higher education has a long history of excluding Black people entirely. Racism and hate crimes persist on many college campuses.

These inequities compound over the years when Black children and adults are in school. Some are insidious, such as false but pervasive cultural messaging that Black students are less capable learners than their peers. Others are overt: K-12 school policies allow students to be arrested on their campuses, and Black students face this fate far more often than others.

Education Lab, a project of The Seattle Times, was founded to examine how such problems are reinforced and to report evidence-based solutions that could help undo them. Here are some of the systemic ways public education creates barriers to learning for Black students.
Advertising

Academics

The idea that success comes primarily from hard work minimizes systemic problems many Black children face.

Discrimination and racial bias against Black students begins as early as preschool. Several studies bear this out, including one from last year, in which researchers reported that teachers asked to rate students’ academic abilities scored Black children far below white peers with identical scores. Such implicit bias can have serious negative consequences: Teachers tasked with recommending students for gifted and talented programs, for example, might overlook Black students who would excel. In Seattle, the Black-white divide in such programs is among the nation’s largest.

Black students tend to receive lower scores on standardized math and English tests than most other groups and are underrepresented in advanced courses.

How we got here:

Negative and racist societal messages about Black students’ academic abilities and strengths undercut their views of themselves and can hurt test performance
Educators may not recognize the strengths of Black children, such as strong oral storytelling skills, which standardized tests don’t measure
Gifted and talented programs disproportionately leave out Black students
Black students are more likely to attend schools with inexperienced or low-paid teachers

School climate is also important: Whether Black students feel safe and like they belong, or have adults they trust or who look like them at school, may affect how well they perform on assignments and standardized tests; they are more likely to enroll in honors classes, for instance, if those courses are taught by Black teachers. Seattle Public Schools has created a department devoted to the achievement of Black boys and teenagers, a population officials deem “furthest from educational justice.”

Black and Latino students are also far more likely to attend schools in low-income neighborhoods, which is tied closely to academic achievement, in part because of a lack of resources.

Black students are far less likely to have a teacher, counselor or principal who looks like them during the course of their education compared to white students.

How we got here:

Cyclical problem: Black students don’t see themselves represented at school and avoid the teaching profession
The costs of college can be prohibitive for aspiring Black teachers, keeping enrollment in teacher programs low
Teacher preparation program tests are expensive and may carry cultural biases

Discipline

Zero-tolerance discipline policies, like mandatory suspensions or expulsions for offenses that don’t include violence or drugs, fuel the school-to-prison pipeline. Such policies fall hardest on Black students: In the 2015-16 school year, for instance, Black students nationwide made up about 15 percent of public school students but 31 percent of those referred to police or arrested at school. In Seattle Public Schools last year, Black students made up half of police referrals, but only 14% of the district’s enrollment.

Black preschoolers are about 3.6 times more likely to receive at least one out-of-school suspension than white preschoolers.

How we got here:

Implicit bias among educators that assumes Black children are troublemakers
Adults view Black children as less innocent than white children
Zero-tolerance policies mandate punitive consequences for certain behavior, including minor infractions

Disproportionate rates and severity of discipline begin in preschool and extend over the years of Black children’s education. A few years ago, Education Lab took a close look at how such policies play out in schools across the Puget Sound region. The data was bleak. Discipline varies by district, but Black students were disciplined at disproportionately higher rates across the board.
Sign up for Education Lab

An easy way to stay connected to education. Delivered to your inbox Thursdays.

Black students are about 5 times more likely than white students to be detained in juvenile justice facilities and are disproportionately sent from juvenile to adult court.

How we got here:

Schools disproportionately suspend and expel Black students
Schools disproportionately refer Black students to the police
Negative relationship cycle between teachers and Black students may escalate to punishment
Zero-tolerance policies push students out of schools for days or weeks each year

The series also examined fixes, such as using in-school suspensions instead of sending children home for long periods, or keeping truant children out of court. King County court officers began using restorative justice instead of traditional prosecution with young people who commit felonies.

Higher Education

Black students face significant barriers that keep them from enrolling in college and ultimately earning a degree. It starts with their K-12 education: If schools fail to prepare them early on, they’re more likely to struggle to get in or possess study habits that allow them to persist and earn a degree. Students who go to school in low-income neighborhoods might not have the standardized test scores required for admission.

Black student enrollment in college is increasing in the U.S., but is still less common than among white students and many other racial and ethnic groups.

How we got here:

K-12 schools may not adequately prepare Black students for higher education
Policy making, such as banning affirmative action, hurts Black enrollment at four-year schools
Financial barriers, such as college application fees and testing fees, affect acceptance rates and ability to secure scholarships
Discriminatory laws and practices have excluded generations of Black students, making the “college tradition” less common among Black families

Black college students face hurdles once they enroll. Some highly selective schools use test scores for admission to certain majors, such as those in the STEM fields, which works to systemically keep out many Black students. Many predominantly white institutions also have a history and culture that makes Black students feel unwelcome.

For Black students who are accepted to college, it’s still a big challenge to complete a college degree.

How we got here:

Black students are more likely to enroll in developmental, or remedial courses, putting them behind their peers, because the K-12 education system failed to prepare them for college
Some campuses have a history or culture that may cause Black students to feel unwelcome
High costs may create extra financial burdens on Black students, who are more likely than white students to leave because of student loan debt

Black students might be excluded from study groups, have a greater chance of experiencing racism on campus or have trouble forging strong connections with faculty members, though some colleges in Washington are striving to make changes by creating programs such as the University of Washington’s Brotherhood Initiative.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Union Brothers

Growing up in a union family and being a member of a union most of my professional life I have a fairly good concept of what works and what doesn't with regards to organized labor. It is not perfect but much like the electorate you get what you vote and engage with and unions are no different.  Union Presidents are highly political and highly corrupt or not as just like any business or industry you have that mix and when you are an engaged active member of any group you keep apprised of the finances and the overall health of the organization in which you belong.  Or should.  We don't do shit.  We have such a laissez faire attitude about it all, well until it affects us personally or directly we don't give one two or three flying fucks about anything.  We are pre-occupied with our own self interests yet seem also to care what other people think....about you.   Again the self, fuck the rest of it.

Every day the social media cause du jour is  targeting some individual seen as a source of a problem and should be shamed, degraded and mocked.   Remember boycotts of businesses? Fuck that we need Target or Shinola or whatever despite their own role in many injustices.  Nope, find a person, usually a woman which has no elements of misogyny at all right? After that day of dog piling is done then onto the next day and so on and so on.  Nothing gets accomplished, someone gets fired, someone issues an apology and is contrite and then its lather, rinse, repeat, the dance moves of the Millennial. Not that oldsters are any less guilty but no one perfected this hate crime and drive by better than this group.  What they will do in the face of real change is yet to be seen and more importantly done.  To effect real change it will mean dropping the signs and actually engaging with local individuals who want to run for office, open a business, join the Chamber of Commerce or other local orgs that will enable them more access and in turn offer some availability to hear more voices to a largely singular male white choir.  Getting voices into banks, the SBA and other agencies that fund and assist small business owners of color are the key and in turn that means making friends with the Karens and their male husbands in ways that will of course be traumatizing and full of micro aggressions that you can list and compile in your daily journal to later write about and make a movie about how you could of been a better person if only they hadn't hurt your feelings.

Advice: Get tougher skin and arm yourself like the Police, not literally, metaphorically as you are going into battle everyday to change hearts, minds and more importantly ways.  This will be the long hard haul and you are a long haul trucker who will have to go without sleep, decent food and some sense of belonging to a club that is just like you. You will have to learn to get along with those not like you and in turn learn what they do, how they do it and why they do it. Then promptly do the same only in your way or what I call the work around.  Come in by the back door and leave by the front but you are still in the room regardless.

Now the structures of unions, of established organizations and groups with the paperwork, the tax exemptions, the rolodex and the ability to contact and effect change exist already and need fresh blood and there will be resistance but from that comes change.

The Police Unions are still one of the most well established and organized unions that exist.  They are the most resistant to change and most obstinate about it.   Funny we had no problem disbanding unions when they established equal wages, hiring targets, safe working environments all under the idea of free enterprise and a right to work mantra, yet that doesn't seem to apply to the Cops. Why is that?

Understand the history, the structure and the organization you understand the members.  The reality is that this is not going to happen.  Or it can but how you choose to do that is the key. Good luck, kids you don't have the staying power.  Its sort of like Millennials and sex and Covid you are afraid and you can't take the pressure.  Its so hard daddy!

Police chiefs and mayors push for reform. Then they run into veteran officers, unions and ‘how culture is created.’

The Washington Post
By Kimberly Kindy and Mark Berman
June 28, 2020

The push to rethink American policing since George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis in May has quickly gained traction. Cities and states have banned chokeholds and certain other uses of force, Congress is considering legislation to do the same, and some local officials have moved to reduce police funding.

But issues central to this ongoing debate — including how officers should police communities and how departments police their officers — may prove to be insulated from these policy proposals.

Police and city leaders have repeatedly adopted changes, only for these efforts to run headlong into two formidable and interconnected forces: veteran officers who resist these efforts and the powerful unions fighting discipline. This combination can make it difficult for departments to evolve, even after they publicly pledge increased training and greater accountability, former law enforcement officials and experts say.

Minneapolis’s experience shows how difficult it can be to change a police department.

Last year, after police there used fatal force in two high-profile encounters that led to protests, Mayor Jacob Frey felt he had to do something bold. Frey announced the nation’s first-ever ban on “fear-based” and “warrior-style” police training, which teaches officers that every encounter with a citizen is fraught with danger and could be fatal.

The rebellion from the police union was immediate. The group’s brash president, Lt. Robert Kroll, said he wanted officers with “ice in their veins” and was “proud to embrace” warrior training. Kroll made his own announcement: Free lessons in the aggressive, military-style policing methods were available for every Minneapolis police officer who wanted them.

Kroll’s formal training never came to pass, but around that time, warrior-style training videos were shared among the force to blunt reforms, said two officers who asked not to be named for fear of retribution.

The response highlighted what experts say are pivotal barriers to improving policing across the country, even as momentum grows for rethinking and reforming law enforcement practices.

It begins when new officers, fresh out of the academy, get some version of “the talk” when they get to a department, former police chiefs and other experts said in interviews.

“They go out on the streets with their field training officer, and the first thing they hear, and I heard the same thing: ‘That’s the academy, this is the street, kid, the real world, and things are different here,’ ” said Janee Harteau, a former Minneapolis police chief who pushed reforms when she led the department.

“That’s how culture is created,” said Harteau, who was ousted in 2017 amid an outcry after a Minneapolis police officer shot and killed a woman who had called 911.

Police union officials argue the fault is not with the officers. Jim Michels, a lawyer for the Minneapolis union, said there is no follow-through from supervisors after training. “Unless supervisors hold officers to the standards to which they have been trained, the training itself is meaningless,” he said.

Influence on rookies

When now-former officer Derek Chauvin was captured on video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for minute after minute, three other officers were present — including Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng, who both graduated from the Minneapolis Police Department’s academy last year.

They were supposed to be part of a transformative movement. Years of training changes meant Lane and Kueng would bring a guardian-style approach to their work with the community. They were supposed to be equipped with de-escalation techniques and methods to intervene when another officer used excessive force.

The rookie officers — and Tou Thao, an eight-year veteran of the force — did not stop Chauvin as he drove his knee into Floyd’s neck.

Experts said the newer style of “guardian-style” training, which has gained traction in police academies over the past five years, can be quickly superseded by the words and actions of an experienced officer showing a rookie the ropes.

They pointed to Chauvin, a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis police and a field training officer, and his encounter with Floyd as an example.

“You can spend eight months training someone, then you put them in this situation. That’s at the heart of reform,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, which works with police departments. “You can get everything right in training, then you have this guy.”

A newer officer out with their field training officer is “supposed to respect what he’s doing,” Wexler said. “A 19-year veteran is revered.”

It was Lane’s fourth shift patrolling the streets of Minneapolis and Kueng’s third. The officers were all fired and face criminal charges.

Kueng’s attorney declined to comment, and attorneys for the other three men did not return calls and emails seeking comment. Kroll, the union president, initially defended all four ex-officers but condemned Chauvin’s actions in media interviews last week. He did not respond to interview requests for this story.

Michels, the Minneapolis police union lawyer, said Chauvin’s actions were “disgusting and outrageous.”

Field training officers can also be promoted despite complaints about how they police. Chauvin had at least 17 prior complaints filed against him, with just one that resulted in disciplinary action, according to department records.

“Doesn’t it seem logical that you would not put someone with that kind of record in a supervisory position?” said Timothy Bildsoe, a member of the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training, which sets training requirements for police departments in the state.

The only complaint that resulted in disciplinary actions against Chauvin came from a 30-year-old woman he pulled over in 2007, who was yanked from her vehicle and placed in the back of a patrol car for going 10 mph over the speed limit, records show.

The woman filed a complaint the next day. Investigators said Chauvin “did not have to remove the complainant from car” and that the interview could have been done “outside the vehicle,” records show.

His discipline: a letter of reprimand.

More than a decade later, Chauvin was a field training officer on the streets with rookies. Spokesmen for Medaria Arradondo, the Minneapolis police chief, declined multiple interview requests.

Police officers can get worn down by the change in police chiefs — who are often out of the job in just a few years — and a parade of new policies, said Hassan Aden, the former police chief in Greenville, N.C.

“Officers in departments that have constant change in leadership get fatigued and at some point, they develop the attitude that I’m going to outlast this,” Aden said.
Unions criticized

Since Floyd’s death, advocates for reform have taken aim at police unions and described them as obstructing change. Top police officials across the country signed an open letter this month saying “contracts and labor laws hamstring efforts to swiftly rid departments of problematic behavior.”

These unions can hinder attempts at reform, current and former police chiefs say, because they undermine attempts at accountability, including disciplining or getting rid of the “bad apples” on the force.

In Minneapolis, Kroll’s proposed warrior training last year was part of a broader pattern of pushing back against changes and critics, including denouncing Minnesota officials as “despicable” in a recent letter.

“It was open insubordination that continues,” Andrew Johnson, a city councilman, said of Kroll’s push for the warrior training. “If that’s the culture, you have to wonder how effective new training and reforms are going to be.”

In Minneapolis, Arradondo announced two weeks after Floyd’s death that he was walking away from contract negotiations with the police union. Arradondo said he’d return to the table with outside experts to help him strip away provisions allowing rogue officers to remain on the force. His biggest gripe: binding third-party arbitration.

“There is nothing more debilitating to a chief . . . than when you have grounds to terminate an officer for misconduct and you are dealing with a third-party mechanism that allows for that employee to not only be back on your department but to be patrolling in your communities,” Arrandondo said recently.

Michels, the lawyer for the police union, responded on Facebook that the laws that govern arbitration for officers are no different than they are for any other public employee in the state.

Through arbitration, when police chiefs seek to fire or discipline an officer, the union can appeal that decision — which leads to an arbitrator being picked to make the final call. Former police chiefs say this dilutes their authority and weakens their ability to improve departments.

“They don’t stand up and support you when you fired the bad cop,” Harteau said of the police union in Minneapolis. “Instead they grieve it, get his job back, praise themselves and tell the officers, ‘We’re the only ones who care about you . . . we’ve got your back.’ That’s a huge hurdle.”

In Minneapolis, arbitration can be a lengthy process.

Two Minneapolis police officers who work in a majority black community were fired last year for decorating a Christmas tree in 2018 with a malt liquor can, a cup from Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and a pack of Newport cigarettes.

The day after images surfaced on social media, Frey, the Democratic mayor, condemned the incident as “racist” and “despicable” and said the officers would be fired within the day. Instead, the firings took months. A year and a half later, the case is still tied up in arbitration.

In nearly half of the cases in Minneapolis, firings are overturned, the police union and city officials said.

A 2017 Washington Post investigation found that dozens of the country’s largest police departments were forced to rehire nearly one-quarter of officers who were fired for misconduct and appealed.

Stephen Rushin, an associate law professor at Loyola University Chicago, reviewed more than 650 police union contracts.

Rushin found that most departments let officers facing discipline have multiple levels of review, including an appeal to an arbitrator — who then had “significant authority to re-litigate the factual and legal grounds for disciplinary action,” he wrote in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review last year.

Each layer of review given to officers might be defensible on its own, but “may combine to create a formidable barrier to officer accountability,” he wrote.

“If you’re ordered to rehire an officer who’s dangerous, who’s dishonest, who can’t testify as a witness . . . that’s a danger to the entire public,” Rushin, whose father was a police officer, said in an interview.

Michels, the union lawyer, defended arbitration. “It’s easier to blame arbitration than to look in the mirror,” Michels said. “When management loses a case, it’s because they either failed to prove their case or they have failed to adequately discipline the employee before it was raised to the situation that is being arbitrated.”

Because of state labor laws, arbitrators must also look at past disciplinary measures that were taken when officers committed similar offenses, said Peter Ginder, a former Minneapolis deputy city attorney who negotiated contracts with the police union. The purpose is to make sure discipline is meted out evenly, and not used as a weapon against an employee a boss doesn’t like, or is discriminating against due to their race, gender or sexual orientation.

That makes it difficult for a new police chief, who wants to turn around the department, to take more aggressive action.

“The city can’t discipline because it has never disciplined,” said Dave Bicking with the Minneapolis-based Communities United Against Police Brutality. “It’s a Catch-22.”



Sunday, June 28, 2020

Markers Do Not Suffice

When I first moved to Nashville in June of 2016, I was optimistic.  I wanted to leave the trauma of Seattle behind, begin restoration of my deteriorating teeth and maybe just maybe find a home.  By the end of 2019 I could not wait to leave and my subsequent trips in 2020 were marked by a Tornado and by Covid firmly convincing me that leaving there was the best thing I could have ever done.

Three weeks into living in Nashville I had an exchange waiting for Thai food at one of the supposed great places in Nashville that much like the rest of the recommendations and promises were just that false and insincere, but there I met a transplant from New York who said to me as we got our food and began to part, "You will not be here four years from now."  I laughed and thought he may be wrong or right it was early days yet and like that encounter I never set foot in that restaurant again nor  ever encountered him again either.  And that was like many of my encounters in Nashville, fleeting, frustrating, hopeful and downright bleak.   The few that I met towards the end of my time there I have never spoken to again, not an email to inquire about my health, my well being or anything about my state of mind during this perhaps the most stressful one anyone anywhere is experiencing.   And while I think that is actually quite commonplace anywhere else I find it most telling that in the buckle of the belt of the bible belting South, Nashville prides itself on its friendly outgoing nature.  As I look back that myth of hospitality can go the way of the wind along with other such fraudulent proclamations as Southern Belle and Gentlemen.  The women I met were cum dumpster and there was never a Gentleman within Covid spitting yards that ever encountered.  My favorite still was the Doctor from Vanderbilt who hit on me in my home, while assessing the value of my belongings and telling me his wife would not care if he had a lover.  Really? What he thought I thought of that was not of import, and that was the reality of the men in Nashville, they had no interest in what any woman thought as well again, we are just cum dumpsters.

I walked a great deal in Nashville being carless and knew the city better than some of the locals and clearly more than most of the transplants who relocated there as it was the "it" city with jobs aplenty for anyone willing to "work hard." Ah yes another myth that lends itself to the concept of American Exceptionalism. Well we have certainly found that not to be true haven't we? And on many street corners, buildings and parks there were markers that noted the significance of that place in history in relationship to Nashville.  While the original Woolworths stood untouched, the original Department Store once central to the core of the city stood now as lofts and the rest of the city in transition from a little big town to a bigger little town the markers there stood as well.  I doubt one single person ever read them and at times I used to think of them as warnings that if you too stayed too long you may end up having one placed to note your irrelevance.  My favorite were two markers noting the former location of two Gay bars run by black residents that were eventually burned to the ground and now a parking lot sits with a fake prohibition saloon talking its place.  Really two gay bars? The ones they had were largely marginalized and the others were strictly for Bridezillas and hardly a welcoming place for anyone in search of community.  In fact one of the ones by my home where I spent my first Pride in Nashville is now gone, the other still there I am sure hidden from view.  I went a few times and never felt welcomed there either. And that marked my time in Nashville, feeling very unwelcome.

It was not until I left that I understood the history and reasoning behind the South that they have a Code of Honor and a misplaced sense of history that again revolves around religion as they are the "chosen people."  But there are other myths about the South and war that dominate history and in turn often are overlooked as to why it happened and why the South cling to the ideals that are now over 150 years old. But in the South that was not the first war they fought and that link to the Revolution plays a great deal in determining the cultural mindset and core values prevalent in the South and nowhere does it seem to be finally having a reckoning as it is today.  Churches were bombed, children killed, adults killed and beaten. Homes and towns set afire, men and women killed in their homes all of it under the fear of civil rights and equality and today of all day's the awakening came at the death of a man who lived in all places the North.  So if one of the 1000's that die at the hands of Police every year for the past five years (if not for many more)  this one was not in vain and he will never have a marker in any of cities that have many about those who walked, who sat in, who protested and who died by mobs for their deaths will be mentioned in passing in books unread or ignored like the signs as they always have.


When I read about how American's attitudes were changing, my first thought was: What took you the fuck so long?   Again me being a history teacher, child of first born Immigrant and another the child of one during WWII where the horrors of not being "pure white" or chosen as the Japanese believed perhaps may have something to do with my "awakening" from birth.  But then time passes and the people in your life are reflections of you and your beliefs, its a nice bubblelator which allows a sense of moral and intellectual superiority.   Then I encountered first hand the system of justice and the medical industrial complex in ways that we think do not exist or do but that it was rare and on most cases deserved. Really? Then the idea of innocent until proven guilty was proven to me first hand that is another myth on the ever increasing list of ones associated with equality and democracy.  The Teacher of history got schooled real fast.  I began to see up front the absurdity, then I began to read and research all the varying injustices that plague the American Judicial system. It is one thing to be against Capital Punishment it is another to realize how prevalent it is and how random it is performed  until you live somewhere where it is openly practiced and done regardless of how the rest of America sees it.  And that is when I learned in Tennessee that despite all the Churches and Bibles in hand that the South sees the world different.  That Christianity is a dish served along side biscuits and sweet tea, all with a smile and a dose of passive aggressiveness.  And then once I saw that ugly in my face I had to examine myself and my bubble in hard light.  And yes Seattle is not better, not worse it just prefers coffee over tea.  The schools are horrific, racist, segregated, the people elitist and white and money is the one shared value that crosses the Mason-Dixon line in perfection.   Where Women are fat, funky and hairy in Seattle, the Southern woman is smooth, slick, stupid and can suck cock better than any sex worker.  Are not all women? But not the Belle, as they are Ladies, but they are too they just don't have conventional sex until marriage. And the men with all their faux demeanors from those in Seattle who claim to be "Feminists"  are just raging assholes, the difference in Nashville they are just less educated.  And when you realize how similar they are you realize that America has not changed one minute over the decades of protest, of laws and wars and promises to be better, to do better.  We are all abused spouses who just take it and stay with regardless of what end of the fist you are on.  We have not changed one iota when it comes to the sexes and their roles and identities in the 21st Century.

Look at "social" media, the endless bullying, the obsession with "Karen's" as representation of all things racist. Funny all women, all the time and not a man among them except unless in the company of a Karen.  Wow, outing, demeaning and shaming is a pass time shared now across the races.  Fuck you, no fuck you.  Fuck you again and lather, rinse, repeat.  Do you feel better about yourself? I did not when I would walk into every school and hate myself at the end of the day subjecting myself to kids so angry so troubled that I was in denial about how bad it was and this was in Seattle.  There were no fewer sexual assaults, scandals, shootings and violence, it was just swaddled in a liberal ethos and then I went to Nashville to get the pathos.  I truly hated myself there. As it was there I truly saw the history of America and how that became the present. Again, lather, rinse, repeat.  The legacy of a black community in Tulsa came to light over Trump's visit and the date that was marked in Texas history called Juneteenth.  Again not a date of note, now today it is one of import, yes a day that finally someone told the truth that the Slaves were freed.  A day in Texas freeing those already free. And this brings me to Tulsa, not the only black community destroyed by angry white mobs - Springfield, Slocum, Colfax, Wilmington,  Elaine, and Rosewood.  Even Atlanta had burned.  So will these other towns be forgotten like the thousands of others killed before Mr. Floyd?  People do die and they are murdered and often forgotten with no marker to designate their death or even their life.

I studied history too long and with the idea of teaching others about the legacy of this place, some their only home, some their new home but the idea to know where you came from can tell you where you are going is one I have never lost be it personally or professionally.  That said I realize that we all will have left is a marker with our identity as to how it is seen by others, Mother, Sister, Wife, Daughter.  For some we will have nothing but time on earth. But walk through a graveyard and read them and what does it tell you about them? Not much as a life cannot be placed on a marker and when I read those in the South I knew that it was just one part of a story created by the people who decide who gets them and why.  Be it guilt, be it significance, be it of import it says nothing about anyone or how they got there and more importantly why.   No marker will ever suffice to replace the narrative that is a life.  And in reality this applies to the Statues that are being torn down at a rapid clip. There is little there to even tell you who they were that deserved the mention and who paid for it, approved it why it is there, and they have been ignored there for decades.  No one cared until they did and then again someone died, a woman, over tearing one down.  Really?  Is there a marker there now marking her death or life and why it happened? So keep on keeping on with your hateful dog piling, holding, mocking those whom you do not agree, you do not know but you feel morally superior in doing so. Funny I bet those who destroyed lives and towns felt the same way.  See we share more then we think and that is what is really fucking scary.  Its how I felt in Nashville, afraid and angry.  I don't live there anymore and there will never be a marker acknowledging that and for that it is one thing I am glad of.   Nothing will change in Nashville and that much I know but I am not the only one. As I said at the top of this I left before a Tornado ripped up North Nashville, once again reminding everyone that nothing is permanent and it all returns to the land.  Irony that for black faces that seems to be a consistent, so perhaps this may be different.  But again we have done this dance before. Don't underestimate being angry and afraid.







History Repeats Itself in North Nashville

Fifty years after I-40’s construction, a cycle of poverty and displacement churns again in 37208
Steven Hale | Nashville Scene
Jun 7, 2018 5 AM


By the time you read this, Lashananda Kee will have left.

The house on the 1500 block of 14th Avenue North where she has lived with her children and grandchildren is being sold out from under them, and they were the last ones to know it.

“We didn’t even know that the landlord was selling the house,” says Kee, who is 39. She’s sitting on her front stoop holding an unlit cigarette as the afternoon sun beats down on North Nashville. Her grandson, 3-year-old Jeremiah, occasionally peeks out the front door and waves.

“He’s been selling this house since September, and we just found out in December, around Christmastime, when we got a whole lot of people coming in and out of our house talking about how he was selling the house. We didn’t know nothing about it.”

The matter ended up in court, she says, and a judge gave the family two months to leave. On this afternoon, just days before the May 25 deadline, the house is nearly empty. Inside, part of the hallway ceiling is caving in — something Kee says her landlord hasn’t bothered to address. Online listings market the house as suitable for gutting or tearing down. But at $675 a month, it was a place Kee could afford while living on government assistance — although toward the end of the month she has to ask around for help feeding the kids. Now she’s moving the family to Dothan, Ala.

“I’m from Nashville, Tennessee,” says Kee. “I don’t know anything about Dothan. I just found somewhere cheaper where I can live and won’t get thrown out of my house. Nashville, for a two-bedroom, it’s $1,200 dollars.”

372080061Lashananda Kee with daughter Zaquita and grandchildren Jeremiah, Marcus and Quinton outside their home on 14th Avenue NorthPhoto: Daniel MeigsKee grew up in this area, like her mother and her mother’s mother. Along with her two youngest children — a 6-year-old and a 9-year-old — she also has custody of her 22-year-old daughter’s four children, all of them 10 or younger. She doesn’t know the 22-year-old’s whereabouts anymore.

“She’s on drugs so bad, I don’t know where she is,” Kee says.

The neighborhood is changing in some ways, but in other ways, she says, it’s not so different from how it was when she was coming up. Kee says she’s seen people killed, shot at and, in one instance, “a woman get her head busted with a brick over drugs.”

This is 37208, the heart of historically black North Nashville and a community in which Nashville’s proud progress has often had a poisonous side. The local and federal government’s treatment of North Nashville for at least a century has ranged from neglect to outright racist hostility. Around 50 years ago, the construction of Interstate 40 displaced more than a thousand black residents, destroyed a business and cultural district on Jefferson Street that was thriving against all odds, and slashed across the neighborhood of the 37208 ZIP code, cutting it in half.

Now, some 150 years after freed slaves began settling here, the cycle of displacement is churning again. Gentrification driven by Nashville’s ascendancy as a New South metropolis is uprooting scores of black families and sending shock waves through a community that has rarely known stability. All the while, the poisoned tree has borne fruit. North Nashville is plagued by a lack of opportunity and scant public investment, and alongside its rich cultural history is a history of poverty, crime, violence, aggressive policing and mass incarceration. A Brookings Institution study released in March looking at people born between 1980 and 1986 found that in the 37208 ZIP code, 1 out of every 7 people of that generation found themselves imprisoned in their 30s. That’s the highest rate in the country.

From her stoop, Kee points up and down the street at houses that have been sold, the families who had been renting them put out with little warning.

“They’re pushing all the black people out and putting all the white people in, and it’s not fair. Y’all just pushing us out of our domain and where we live and what we know.”

Later, she adds, “I don’t think it’s fair, and something needs to be done about it, but who am I?”

South of the house that will be her home for just a few more days, past another home for sale and another new build, the street runs into a thicket of trees with the interstate looming on the other side.

The Rev. Ed Sanders says he “stopped in Nashville for two years, 45 years ago.”

Born and raised in Memphis, where he was pastored by famed civil rights leader James Lawson, Sanders left Tennessee for school but came to Nashville in the early 1970s to work at Fisk University. In 1981 he founded Metro Interdenominational Church, and he has spent the decades since leading his congregation and devoting himself to, among other things, providing care and services to people with HIV and AIDS.

The church still sits on Eleventh Avenue North where it was built almost 40 years ago, although it has recently gained some tall-and-skinny neighbors — trendy new homes in various stages of construction are visible from the church’s property. The memory of segregation is never far away. Buena Vista Park is adjacent to the church, but in the neighborhood it’s known as White City Park. City leaders closed its public pool in the 1960s rather than being forced to allow African-Americans to swim in it.

On a rainy May morning, Sanders is sitting in the empty sanctuary, talking about America’s oldest disease, racism. He speaks in a deep voice, the kind that carries wisdom picked up over decades.

“The metaphor that I use in relationship to what has happened to this community is very much one that I relate to how HIV works,” he says. “If you think of it in terms of HIV — and I want to call the virus racism, classism — if you end up being infected by the virus, if it goes untreated, then that’s when it can evolve to where you have AIDS. When you get AIDS, what that means is that your immune system has become so compromised that it makes you vulnerable to opportunistic diseases that otherwise you would never be vulnerable to. I often describe what’s going on with gentrification exactly that way. The immune system of our communities was undermined and destroyed.”

That diagnosis can be made quite convincingly, even without reference to slavery and the racist terrorism that followed its abolition. Like black communities in cities across the country, starting in the 1930s, North Nashville was subject to a racist housing policy that would later become known as “redlining.” So-called “security maps” adopted by the Federal Housing Administration color-coded neighborhoods, with red representing areas that were “hazardous” for lenders. These areas were almost invariably poor and black. The practice meant not only that African-Americans were largely excluded from homeownership and the chance to accumulate wealth through it, but also that any investment in their neighborhoods was discouraged by the FHA — the very agency that could ensure it.

We are still living in the society that those old redlining maps helped shape. In 2017, economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago released an analysis of the 1930s maps showing that lower-graded neighborhoods experienced an increase in racial segregation that began to decline as late as 1970. In lower-graded areas, they also found evidence of a decline in home ownership, house values and credit scores that “persists today.”

Holc ScanA "security map" of Nashville produced by the Home Owners' Loan Corporation ca. 1935https://dsl.richmond.edu/panorama/redlining/But even as redlining and Jim Crow laws waged war on the economic health and physical well-being of African-Americans, the main thoroughfare in North Nashville became a vibrant street that African-Americans in Nashville could proudly call their own.

“Jefferson Street was something very special in the middle of Jim Crow,” says Dr. Learotha Williams, an associate professor of African-American and public history at Tennessee State University, who runs the North Nashville Heritage Project. “But it wasn’t like these folks had a choice, because this was all that they had. So they made it something almost magical.”

Some of that magic is commemorated at Jefferson Street Sound, Lorenzo Washington’s “mini-museum” of the street’s history. Inside an unassuming white house near the intersection of Jefferson and 21st Avenue North, Washington preserves the memory of a strip that sizzled with R&B and jazz music emanating from clubs like the Del Morocco and Club Baron — clubs that hosted artists like Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, Little Richard and Marion James. Washington laughs as he recalls how he met his first wife during the street’s heyday: She and some friends were walking down Jefferson, trying to thumb a ride to the Del Morocco, and he picked them up.

An essay on the history of Jefferson Street written by Fisk University professor and Tennessee Historical Commission chair Reavis Mitchell Jr. describes how the street evolved. What was once a wagon road on which newly freed African-American women and children could be seen walking to a so-called “contraband camp” at Fort Gillem — the site where Fisk would later be established — became a thriving business and entertainment district.

“In the age of Jim Crow, black Nashvillians filled the Ritz Theater to enjoy first release movies, where they were free to enter through the front door and sit in the main audience,” writes Mitchell.

The street also had department stores operated by Jewish merchants, and even some with integrated staffs.

“The life-affirming bustle along Jefferson Street flowed through bakeries, hardware stores, service or gasoline stations, dry cleaning establishments (some of which offered made-to-order men’s apparel), insurance agencies, and shoe shops,” Mitchell writes.

The corridor was, and still is, home to African-American colleges like Meharry Medical College, what would become Tennessee State University and Fisk University, the latter of which would provide an academic home for figures like the writer and scholar W.E.B. Du Bois, pioneering investigative journalist Ida B. Wells and civil rights leaders like Diane Nash and John Lewis.

At the same time, white political leaders were becoming increasingly preoccupied with eliminating urban “blight.” In Nashville, federally backed urban renewal projects — a redevelopment campaign that writer James Baldwin famously referred to as “Negro removal” — and the ostensibly anti-poverty Model Cities program sparked political and legal resistance from African-American communities.

But the cataclysmic event for North Nashville was the construction of I-40. It ripped through the 37208 ZIP code as the result of a deliberate calculation that black neighborhoods — and the culture and community within them — were more disposable than white enclaves. This was not unique to Nashville. In his book The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, Richard Rothstein writes that interstate construction was a popular slum-clearance tactic. He quotes Alfred Johnson, a leading lobbyist involved in the writing of the 1956 Federal Highway Act, recalling that some local government officials “expressed the view in the mid-1950s that the urban Interstates would give them a good opportunity to get rid of the local ‘niggertown.’ ”

Discussion of potential interstate routes across Tennessee began in the 1940s and continued through the ’50s and ’60s. In his book The Nashville Way: Racial Etiquette and the Struggle for Social Justice in a Southern City, historian Benjamin Houston writes that one possible I-40 route was abandoned because it veered too close to Belle Meade, the tony suburban home of the city’s white elite, and threatened Vanderbilt University and Baptist Hospital. Another route that followed Charlotte Pike was more appealing, Houston writes, because it avoided Centennial Park and Baptist Hospital and allowed for the use of “the widened streets as physical dividers between white and black neighborhoods, a tactic frequently employed at the time in Nashville and elsewhere.”

That route gained momentum despite some logistical and engineering concerns. Then something changed. Houston writes that what happened next is “murky,” but that at some point in 1955 or 1956, a new route was chosen — it would parallel Charlotte before making a sharp turn near 28th Avenue and tearing into North Nashville.

“None of the plans nor their implications were discussed with local residents, even though the route would virtually disembowel North Nashville,” Houston writes.

By 1967, a largely African-American 40-member group of community leaders called the I-40 Steering Committee had formed to fight the route. They argued that the interstate would isolate many black-owned businesses and destroy many others, and also displace residents. They said a shadowy planning process had prevented affected communities from knowing the plans until it was too late. The I-40 Steering Committee filed suit over the route in 1968, represented by attorneys Avon Williams and Z. Alexander Looby — eight years earlier Looby’s house on Meharry Boulevard had been bombed by segregationists. Among the people named in the suit was then-Mayor Beverly Briley, who had been elected in 1963 and would serve until 1975.

White leaders were largely dismissive of the group’s concerns. Sam Fleming, the president of Third National Bank at the time, urged the completion of the interstate. Interviewed by The Tennessean in January 1968, while standing next to black real estate developer Inman Otey, Fleming said, “I think that one of the great things about Nashville is that we always have known that the two races can work together.

“Working together, however, does not include the indulgence of whims that might delay by a year or more the completion of I-40’s route through the city,” he added.

The steering committee took its fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where its complaints were ultimately rejected. But the group’s warnings proved prescient. According to Metro figures, 1,400 Nashvillians were displaced by the construction of I-40 and I-265 (which would become I-65). Houston writes that “the two-and-a-half-mile stretch of interstate would demolish a hundred square blocks” and lead to “the demolition of approximately 650 homes and 27 apartment buildings.” According to the Tennessee State Museum, the value of remaining housing dropped more than 30 percent.

When the Rev. Ed Sanders got to Nashville in 1972, he says “the psychological scar, the community scar, the cultural scar was still very real.” And for many in the community, it still is.

When the Scene mentions I-40 while talking by phone to 93-year-old Evelyn Suggs, a longtime resident of the area, she interjects.

“I was involved in it and want to forget it,” she says. “It was terrible. I had to fight like hell.”

Age hasn’t diminished the fire in Suggs’ voice. She says she wishes she could talk longer about the subject, but she’s overseeing a roofing project at property she owns near Jefferson Street. As old newspaper clippings show, she did fight like hell, and she extracted one of the few concessions that highway planners made to the neighborhood. At one point, the interstate plan didn’t even include an exit in North Nashville, adding insult to injury. But Suggs, armed with education in history and political science and her own studies at the public library, gave them hell until they relented.

After she confronted a visiting representative from the federal government at a public meeting, she says, he looked over to the project engineers and told them bluntly to “put the exit where she wants it.” Says Suggs, the Jefferson Street exit, No. 207, is her exit. It comes off the highway right near Albion Street, where she lives.

“I tell you, we had to fight every step of the way,” she says.

In 2012, in collaboration with the Jefferson Street United Merchants Partnership and Tennessee State University, among others, the city unveiled Gateway to Heritage Plaza at the I-40 underpass near the Jefferson Street exit. Columns beneath the interstate feature pictures and stories of people and events that, as a Metro press release put it, “have contributed to Jefferson Street’s unique place in history.”

Crystal deGregory is a scholar of black activism and historically black colleges and universities who lived in Nashville for nearly 20 years, earning history and education degrees from Vanderbilt, Tennessee State and Fisk before becoming the director of Kentucky State University’s Atwood Institute for Race, Education and the Democratic Ideal last year. She calls Gateway to Heritage Plaza lipstick on a pig.

“The history of black Nashville is relegated to the underpass of the interstate that destroyed the community,” she says. “And we’re supposed to be happy about that!”

Mindy Fullilove, a professor of urban policy and health at The New School in New York, has coined a term for the unique trauma people experience after mass-displacement events like the ones that occurred in North Nashville in the mid-20th century. She calls it “root shock.” Simply put, it is the result of seeing one’s environment devastated — whether through natural disaster, government policy or gentrification — and it is an experience she believes is underestimated.

“Buildings and neighborhoods and nations are insinuated into us by life; we are not, as we like to think, independent of them,” Fullilove writes in her 2004 book Root Shock. “We are more like Siamese twins, conjoined to the locations of our daily life, such that our emotions flow through places, just as blood flows through two interdependent people. We can, indeed, separate from our places, but it is an operation that is best done with care.”

An underlying story in the history of North Nashville over the past century is the ripping away — maliciously at times, recklessly at others — of black people’s “places.” Their “life world,” as Fullilove puts it.

“There are some things that evolved over generations in this community that are now lost,” says Sanders of Metro Interdenominational Church. “And there’s no clear evidence of how they’ll be recovered.”

He continues: “The question that people put to me sometimes when I’m very critical of what I see, they’ll say, ‘Well, what did you want, did you want it to stay a slum, did you want it to stay where things weren’t developed?’ I say, ‘No, I wanted to see it developed, but I wanted to see it developed in a way that was by and in the interests of the people who had established community there before.”

Black places and black people are disappearing again in North Nashville, demolished by development, raptured away by mass incarceration or in many cases, displaced amid gentrification. In December, The Tennessean published an analysis of new census data that showed a number of historically African-American neighborhoods had seen significant declines in their black populations over the past decade. In North Nashville, the black population dropped from 60 percent to 38 percent — the largest drop in the county.

Sekou Franklin, a Middle Tennessee State University professor and community activist, lives in 37208. The gentrification of this historically black community, he notes, has been enabled by some well-meaning black leaders who have backed pro-growth policies that haven’t resulted in equitable benefits for black Nashvillians.

“My neighborhood was historically a working-class black community, probably 95 percent,” says Sekou. “With gentrification, displacement taking place, probably greater than 50 percent of the neighborhood has flipped over or is on its way to flipping over.”

The influx of developers and home-flippers has acted as a new interstate, chewing up the vulnerable and putting immense pressure on everyone else. Franklin says that as a middle-class family with education and some good luck, he and his wife and two daughters have been able to survive the tidal wave. But the calls and letters asking him to sell his home for well below market value number near 100 at this point, he says. It’s much harder for some of his neighbors who are renters, living on a tighter budget or possibly experiencing a personal tragedy of some sort. Sekou says he knows of at least four cases in which a renter has been pushed out — one had been living there for 30 years.

When Learotha Williams first moved to Nashville, he put out a call for residents to take pictures of the built environment. He knew much of what he saw in the community even 10 years ago wouldn’t last long.

“It’s going to look completely different, it’s going to have a new identity,” William says. “And I’m cognizant of the fact that neighborhoods are like people in many ways — they’re born, they mature, and then they die or they become something else. But I feel what we have going on in North Nashville is something akin to erasure, if you will.”

In the meantime, 37208 is home to evidence of both the new abundance Nashville so loves to celebrate and the suffering it seems intent on ignoring. The ZIP code contains the decrepit house being sold out from under Lashananda Kee and her family, as well as new seven-figure brownstones.

“Poverty has been a constant feature of this community, and it sort of drives me crazy when I think about it,” Williams says. “Things come out about Nashville being the ‘It City’ and all that, and that’s all well and good. But it’s very much like in the period of the 1890s in U.S. history, where you had great displays of wealth sitting right beside unimaginable poverty.”

Kentucky State’s deGregory speaks with resigned clarity when asked about the high poverty and incarceration rates in 37208.

“For better or worse, this will not be a reality for this ZIP code for much longer,” she says. “The displacement of black people in general, and the black poor in particular, from the heart of Nashville has been in motion for well over half a century, probably approaching closer to a century at this point.”

The dynamic is so familiar here, in this country and in this neighborhood, that the winners and losers seem almost predetermined.

“For [North Nashville’s] residents, it is the weight of history, and for developers and investors it’s the wind of history,” deGregory says. “The wind is at their backs.”

The Brookings Institution study released in March highlighted the unsurprising link between a youth spent in poor, racially segregated communities and future incarceration. It also suggested that interventions early in such children’s lives can make a real difference. And in light of those factors, there is reason for both distress and hope to be found in North Nashville’s schools. These schools have a chance to do right by a new generation of black Nashvillians growing up in the wake of the city’s past failures.

Despite the significant demographic change in 37208 over the past decade — and more than half a century after desegregation — the area’s schools remain made up almost entirely of African-American students. All four of the elementary schools in the ZIP code have student populations that have been more than 90 percent black in recent years. The area’s only high school, Pearl-Cohn — which takes half its name from an old black high school and half from an old white high school — is the same.

The work being done at Pearl-Cohn, led by both students and staff, is compelling, though it also reveals the trauma many of the school’s students have experienced. Sara Amos is a full-time social worker at the school who saw her position nearly eliminated during this year’s budget crisis. She devotes most of her time to counseling sessions with students struggling with depression, anxiety, anger issues and unresolved trauma.

“I would say about 80 percent of my caseload, something those students are dealing with is having lost someone to gun violence at some point in their lives,” Amos says.

Rasheedat Fetuga, founder of Gideon’s Army — a local nonprofit focused on policing and mass incarceration — is also a regular presence at the school, where she’s worked with students and the school to reduce suspensions and expulsions and to lead students in restorative practices. Recently, after 70 students signed up to be part of a leadership team that will work with the city on reducing youth violence, Pearl-Cohn’s principal, Dr. Sonya Stewart, gave Fetuga a full day with the students for training. They explored root causes and solutions to youth violence. Among the root causes students named, Fetuga says, were lack of resources, lack of jobs and the emotional toll of displacement and upheaval.

“There’s the physical act of being displaced, but then there’s also the emotional stress of watching your community be taken over by people who don’t really care about you, how it affects you or how it will affect your community in the long run,” says Fetuga. “They don’t care about the history, and especially in North Nashville, with the rich history, it is devastating. And they feel like the city could have done something and didn’t.”

A girls’ grief group Fetuga leads recently met with the family of Akilah DaSilva, a 23-year-old victim of the April Waffle House shooting.

“Theirs was a mass shooting, but [with] the kids it is constant,” Fetuga says. “It’s constant shootings, it’s constant killings. And they were able to speak to the DaSilva family and give them encouragement, even as children, because that’s something they’ve been going through for years.”

The ZIP code is also home to Buena Vista Elementary, which appeared on a list of the lowest-performing schools in the state earlier this year. To say the deck has been stacked against the school and its students is an understatement. Nearly all Buena Vista students are poor enough to meet the state’s requirements to receive school lunch for free, and 20 to 30 percent of its students are experiencing homelessness in one form or another. (It is the zoned school for the Nashville Rescue Mission women’s shelter.) The school also has high mobility rates, meaning many students either don’t start or don’t finish the academic year there.

Metro Councilmember Freddie O’Connell, who lives in the 37208 ZIP code and represents a portion of it on the council, started getting involved at the school when he moved to the neighborhood 10 years ago. He speaks with obvious frustration about the way Metro Nashville Public Schools officials have decreased funding to Buena Vista over the past several years. A “dollop” of extra funding through Metro’s Innovation Zone a few years back, he says, allowed the school to put apprentice teachers along with lead teachers in every classroom, among other things. But those resources have been drained after the Innovation Zone was effectively dismantled.

All the more upsetting to O’Connell is the brief appearance of a charter school a few blocks away that was around only long enough to harm Buena Vista. That school, Rocketship, opened at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year, lowering Buena Vista’s projected enrollment and further draining the school of funding. But Rocketship ultimately shut down before the school year was even finished.

Amid all this, the young boys and girls of Buena Vista show up to school with burdens far too big for a backpack. The school has a Community Achieves program (as does Pearl-Cohn), which provides wraparound services — that is, assistance in all areas of a student’s life — to students and their families. Megan McGuire, the school’s site coordinator for the initiative, works to lighten the load students carry to school. Working with community partners — churches, neighborhood associations, food pantries and local businesses — she makes sure students have clothes and food, even to get them through the weekend. McGuire says incarceration inevitably comes up when her students play Monopoly in her room with their lunch buddies. The game’s “Go to Jail” square prompts students to mention family members who have been locked up.

With community partners, McGuire stresses the difference between empathy and sympathy. She urges volunteers to participate not because they feel sorry for her students, but rather because her students deserve to be invested in.

“I don’t want our kids and families defined by the external forces in their life — their socioeconomic status, the incarceration rates,” she says. “That is a reality for this neighborhood, but I think our goal at this school is that you can lay that down when you walk in the door.”

But it’s summertime now, and the hot sun is beating down on Nashville, Tenn., 37208. The students at Buena Vista and Pearl-Cohn, the youth of North Nashville, are walking out into the world with the weight of history on their backs and a stiff wind in their face.