In honor of Black History Month, Mayor John Cooper has been spotlighting African American community leaders who have made a positive change in their local communities through leadership, mentorship, and service.
Each day during the month of February, Mayor Cooper’s Office of Neighborhoods and Community Engagement has highlighted the biography and achievements of an individual who reflects one or more of the goals of the administration, including working to improve the quality of life for Nashville’s residents, enhancing citizen engagement throughout our communities, and empowering residents to take steps to improve their neighborhoods.
“Black history is Nashville’s history, and this February, we’re going to pay tribute to the tremendous contributions that African American Nashvillians have made over generations of triumph and tribulation,” said Mayor Cooper. “I look forward to celebrating Black History Month by celebrating the fabulous achievements of the many wonderful community leaders who have helped our city achieve the progress and growth we enjoy today.”
Some of the leaders spotlighted include:
Brenda Morrow is the President of the Edgehill Apartments Residents Association and Director of Organized Neighbors of Edgehill and the United Way Family Resource Center in Edgehill. Morrow has been the voice for the Edgehill community for a very long time and she like all the people in Edgehill care about their community.
Dr. T. B. Boyd III, the fourth generation of black Baptist leaders in his family, was head of the National Baptist Publishing Board until he announced his retirement and transition to Chairman Emeritus status in October 2017. His daughter Ms. LaDonna Boyd is named as the President/CEO and Chairman of the Board of R.H. Boyd Publishing Corporation. Ms. Boyd carries on the legacy of the corporation, founded in 1896, for its fifth generation of being the leader in providing Christian and inspirational resources for African American churches and communities across the country, which provides the Congress with educational programs and materials. The oldest and largest religious publisher in the U.S., the National Baptist Publishing Board is also the annual sponsor of the Congress’s summer convention.
American Baptist College – under the watchful eye of Dr. Forrest Harris, Sr. who was appointed to President of American Baptist College in 1999. ABC has educated Civil Rights champions, national leaders and Christian ministers. The school’s history during the 1960s and 1970s was filled with civil rights champions, national leaders and Christian ministers. Students from American Baptist College, such as Julius Scruggs, Bernard Lafayette, James Bevel, William Barbee and John Lewis served on the front line of the Nashville sit-ins for justice and change. Under the tutelage of then Professor J.F. Grimmett, Kelly Miller Smith, and Dr. C.T. Vivian, many students sat down at local lunch counters, dramatically altering the quality of life for African Americans living in the South. They sat, marched, and persevered through arrests and beatings before they were victorious in pursuit of justice and human rights. The campus itself was a popular command post for organizing and training students for social justice causes throughout the city at the time. Several students from that period have gone on to become major names in civil rights history and American politics (e.g., Congressman John Lewis, Dr. Bernard Lafayette, Dr. Julius Scruggs). At the time, members of the Nashville Student Movement referred to the college as the “Holy Hill”.
Under the leadership of Dr. Glenda Baskin Glover, Tennessee State University is a world-class faculty which teaches students how to apply what they learn in the classroom to real-world situations. Dr. Glover assumed the presidency of TSU on January 2, 2013. Under her leadership, she lives by the student-centered philosophy, and holding steadfast to the motto of “Think. Work. Serve.”
Chakita Patterson is the founder of a Nashville tour company. She thrives off developing tours that raise awareness and spark conversations about black history, equity, and inclusion. She is a former educator turned entrepreneur. She noticed a huge disparity when it came to the exposure of black history, businesses, and culture in Nashville and decided to be a part of the solution. So, she created UNITED STREET TOURS, to spotlight black excellence in the community. She is currently serving as Nashville’s Historical Commissioner because of her extraordinary skill set uncovering women’s history, the history of the Civil Rights Movement, blues music history, slave history, and much more in Nashville.
Garlinda Burton works with staff and constituents to develop devotional, educational, and worship resources to support laity and clergy and other church leaders in tearing down walls of racial, cultural and tribal divisions and to foster Christian community and social justice. A deaconess in The United Methodist Church, Garlinda has more than 30 years of experience as a writer, editor, producer, and trainer around issues of intercultural competency, racial justice, and gender justice. She is also committed to helping the church engage and nurture children, youth, and young adults as positive and powerful change agents for the cause of Jesus Christ.
Lagra Newman, founder and head of school at Purpose Preparatory Academy, leads one of the highest performing elementary schools in Tennessee. Purpose Prep, a public, non-selective charter school, educates children predominately within the North Nashville community and focuses on strong literacy acquisition. A staunch advocate for underserved communities, Ms. Newman is deeply committed to ensuring that all children have access to quality education. Lagra began her career as an inner-city teacher for Teach for America (TFA) where she taught fifth grade at 109th Street Elementary School in the Watts community of Los Angeles. She then recruited teachers for TFA in Atlanta and then served as an instructional coach at an elementary school in Washington, D.C. Undergoing a competitive fellowship with Boston-based nonprofit Building Excellent Schools in 2011 led Lagra back to Nashville, Tenn. Lagra was a participant in the third annual School Leaders of Color cohort at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. She is a great example of how intentional leadership can transform the lives of students.
For the rest of the community leaders, please visit the Mayor Cooper’s Office of Neighborhoods and Community Engagement website at https://www.nashville.gov/Mayors-Office/Neighborhoods-and-Community-Engagement.aspx.