What should initiate Black involvement in Nashville?

William T. Robinson, Jr.

As an African American and native of Nashville, I often contemplate on what does it take to invoke the anger of African Americans to unanimously rally together and protest especially as it relates to blatant injustices occurring in our city or state toward people of color.

As it stands now, Black participation in matters disproportionately affecting African Americans is contentious to say the least.

Now this is not ignoring or negating the progress of a handful of conscientious active grassroots African American activists and community leaders who get commendable results despite limited support among the African American community or the media in their efforts to bring attention to uplift the dignity of African Americans by advocating for their concerns. These are often unsung heroes who give generously of their time and resources but are for the most part ignored, downplayed, or overlooked by the media and the people who support they are constantly vying for to bring about needed change.

All too often, we see Blacks on the cover of community newspaper articles or magazines that we all know do very little if anything supporting the Black community or their concerns. These are people we often identify as addicted to photo opts and usually projected as our community leaders and movers by our White counterparts. You can be sure many of these appointed Black leaders are hesitant or non-committal in promoting African American concerns that may make our white counterparts uncomfortable.

I hope these pseudo leaders don’t think that All Black Nashvillians are credulous or oblivious to the calculated role some Blacks are appointed to play, to appease Whites, surreptitiously promoting them. It is no easy job being an activist or agent for change in Nashville when too often you find more Whites committed to coming to the battlefield than Blacks themselves, especially as it relates to issues impacting improprieties affecting Afri-can Americans and their communities.

Different areas with predominately Black populations have different concerns and they are not willing or supportive of the needs outside their immediate area. Thus, you have small public turnouts by Blacks on pivotal issues affecting African Americans as a whole because many don’t think it affects them personally or they are apathetic to the concerns of others when they feel complacent or feel they have personally arrived.

Nashville has its share of professional middle class and upper-class African Americans due to the accessibility to a plethora of colleges, especially four HBCUs (Tennessee State University, Fisk University, Meharry Medical College and American Baptist Seminary College). We have too many older Blacks who are comfortable and complacent, not willing to fight for those less fortunate. When it becomes all about you and not giving back to your community this empathy we are experiencing is evident. You can never rise above the status of your people collectively
Their successes, pain, or dreams should be yours. When one of us is mistreated, we all are mistreated.

A mission that should unite and collectively bring the African American community together would be the immediate removal of the Nathan Belford Forrest bust located in the Tennessee State Capital building. All people of color and seekers of justice should be challenged to collectively come together and demand the removal of the bust of Nathan Belford Forrest (First Grand Wizard of the Klux Klan and the general responsible for the massacre of more than 300 African American Union troops and their white officers when they attempted to surrender during the Battle of Fort Pillow).

It is a daily abomination and slap in the face to African Americans, by exhibiting and honoring this symbol that literally echoes “White Supremacy”. While the bust is protected by Tennessee Law, no rationalization can justify its presence.

Nashville’s true African American leaders and conscientious population should spearhead a protest immediately, pronto, ASAP to have this racist symbol of hate and divisiveness removed. We don’t have to have the permission of our white counterparts to demand respect and dignity for African Americans in this city and state. All black organizations (fraternities, sororities, social clubs civic groups, and churches) should come together in numbers, showing their unity and strength to eradicate this vestige of racism.

How our Black elected officials can walk pass the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest while going into the chambers speaks volumes on how insensitive or unaware many of them may be, by not adamantly rallying fervently for the dignity of the very people they were elected to represent.

Public officials overlooking the true meaning and significance of this bust being in our state capitol building are choosing to overlook the very people who elected them to office.

The African American community must be very vigilant in recognizing and not electing African Americans who are not responsive in supporting their concerns, especially their dignity.

If only more conscientious Black Tennesseans felt indignation for this daily abomination allowed to reside in our State Capital, then we could eradicate its presence now.

As it presently stands, we must wait on legislation to even consider the bust’s removal. Every day it is there is unacceptable and insulting to African Americans.

True justice and respect for all Tennesseans cannot prevail within the chambers when there are elected officials accepting and reluctant to remove this albatross of hate.