Featured NewsTracker

State NAACP Prez: Butt’s Comments Out of Line With TN’s Improving Image

A top leader in the Tennessee NAACP believes the recent controversy over Rep. Sheila Butt’s “NAAWP” comment reflects poorly on the whole state — and that’s a shame because much progress has been made over time to rehabilitate the Volunteer State’s hillbilly image.

During the NAACP’s 14th Annual Legislative “Day on the Hill” this week, state conference president Gloria J. Sweet-Love told TNReport that encouraging strides have been made to overcome national perceptions of Tennessee as a “backwards state” liberally populated by “hick folks that run moonshine.”

Tennessee has also progressed toward better understanding between white and black communities to the point that the state currently enjoys “very good race relations,” she said.

And that’s one of the reasons Sweet-Love said she was “discouraged” that a prominent political leader like Butt would be appear oblivious to how her comments on Facebook, and explanations for her behavior afterward, might be perceived by a wider audience.

“In 2015, it really bothers me that we have a Tennessee elected person that would make that comment,” Sweet-Love said of Butt’s posting back in January of a comment to a Facebook thread suggesting a need for a “Council on Christian Relations” and a “NAAWP.”

Butt, a Republican from Columbia and the House majority party’s floor leader, made her remarks as an apparent expression of solidarity with criticism of a national Islamic group’s call for Republican presidential contenders to “Engage Muslim Voters.”

Butt said later that she was unaware the NAAWP was once a white supremacist group. She said she instead meant for the “WP” in the acronym she “made up” to denote “Western Principles” or “Western Peoples,” but not “White People.”

Butt told members of the General Assembly on Feb. 26 that her Facebook comment was “meant to be inclusive of every gender, culture and religion.”

Sweet-Love said she’s hopeful Butt will ultimately sit down with some of the people who took offense to what she said and “have some conversations” about “what is appropriate.”

Sweet-Love explained that the “colored people” in National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is in fact meant to include people of all colors — including white. The NAACP, founded in 1909, included “more white folks than black folks,” and the organization’s governing boards at the local, state and national levels have “a diverse number of people.”

“I don’t think she knows that in our organization, colored people come in all colors — from the beginning, and now,” Sweet-Love said.

She said her organization had received many requests for comment, but has declined to make an official statement because they feel like “those kinds of things don’t really rise to the occasion where we need to spend our time.”

However, the whole episode has been evidence of the communication problem in the information age, Sweet-Love said. “The internet has allowed us to say a lot of things that we wouldn’t normally say to people face-to-face.”

Sweet-Love pointed to comments like Butt’s — “from people in leadership” — as one reason for why they still see comments such as those made in a recently surfaced video of a University of Oklahoma fraternity singing a racist song.

“We’re about racial reconciliation, we’ve always been that way,” Sweet-Love said, adding the NAACP “will continue to keep the high road.”

Press Releases

TN NAACP to Host 68th Annual Convention, Civil Rights Advocacy Conference in Nashville Sept 18-20

Press release from state Rep. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville; September 12, 2014:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (September 12, 2014) – On Thursday September 18-Saturday 20, 2014 the NAACP Tennessee State Convention will host its 68th Annual State Convention and Civil Rights Advocacy Conference in Nashville, TN. Over 300 volunteers from across the State of Tennessee will participate in this three day leadership and motivational training. Our even will culminate with the Freedom Awards Banquet on Saturday September 20, 2014.The theme for the conference is “All in for Justice & Equality.”

WHO: Tennessee NAACP Conference
WHAT: 68th Annual Tennessee NAACP State Convention & Civil Rights Advocacy Training Conference
WHEN: Thursday, September 18th through Saturday, September 20th
WHERE: Various locations throughout Nashville

The conference begins on Thursday, September 19, 2014 with the Faith Leaders Forums/ Community Day at the Temple Church, 3610 Kings Lane. The Faith Leaders Forum begins at 8:30am. Rev Dr. William Barber, President, North Carolina NAACP is the featured speaker for the Religious Affairs/Membership Luncheon. Dr. Baber will also lead a “Teach In” at 10:30 a.m. about “Moral Mondays”. The evening will end with a Mass Meeting/Memorial Services & Soul Food Dinner with the John Faison, Senior Pastor, of Watson Grove Baptist Church. The public is encouraged to bring can goods to the Mass Meeting which will be distributed to the needy in the city of Nashville.

Friday, September 19 and Saturday, September 20, events will be held at the Inn at Opryland. The theme for the day for Friday is Freedom Friday. The Labor/Human Rights Breakfast & Forum begins at 8:00am with Dr. Donna McDaniel-Mitchell, Special International Representative, LIUNA, Washington, DC. The 12:00 noon Advocacy Luncheon will feature Rev. Dr. Judy Cummings, Pastor of the New Covenant Christian Church. The evening will end with a Youth & College Town Hall Meetings at Tennessee State University Downtown, Avon Williams Building. The Youth and Town Hall Meeting is 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

The theme for Saturday is Women in NAACP (WIN) and Youth & College Day. The day begins at 7:30 am with the WIN Breakfast & Fashion Show featuring Rev. Olivia M. Cloud, Owner Garden Angel Communications. A Hat Fashion Show will be presented during the breakfast. Harriet Vaughn Wallace is the Moderator of the Hat Show. Afterwards, a series of adult and youth workshops: Game Changing Advocacy Workshops will be presented. Rev. Brandon Mason, Pastor, Praise Locus Ridge Primitive Baptist Church, Arlington, TN is the 12 noon speaker for the Youth and College Divisor. The conference closes with the Freedom Award Dinner. We are honored to have Attorney Cornell William Brooks, the new national president/CEO NAACP.

Honorary Chairs are Ms. Joelle Phillips, President of AT&T Tennessee., Mr. Bill Freeman, Chairman of Freeman Webb Inc. State Convention Honorary Program Chairs are Mr. Rob Wigington, President and CEO of the Nashville Metropolitan Airport Authority and Ms. Tina Hodges, CEO of Advance Financial.

Ms. Gloria J. Sweet-Love is the State Conference President. Dr. John E. Arradondo is the Nashville Host President. And, Rep. Brenda Gilmore is the Host Conference Chair.

Press Releases

Rep. Gilmore Hosts ‘Felony Friendly’ Job Fair

Press Release from Rep. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville; April 19, 2011:

The event dubbed a New Start: Felony Friendly Job Fair

(Nashville) — “A New Beginning” Job Fair will be held this Saturday, announced state Rep. Brenda Gilmore this week. “We’re asking that any ex-offenders in the community that are looking for a new job to come by Saturday,” Gilmore said. “Anyone interested should bring their resume, dress to impress employers and be prepared for on-the-spot interviews.” The event will be held at Hartman Park, 2801 Tucker Road in Nashville, Saturday April 23 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Attendees will also be able to learn about record expungement, restoration of voting rights, housing opportunities, driver license restoration, available legal services, and G.E.D. programs, Gilmore said. “This is a wonderful program we’ve put together that we know will help so many of our family members and friends that have had legal problems in the past,” Gilmore said. The program is sponsored by Gilmore, Councilwoman Erica Gilmore, The McGruder Family Resource Center and the NAACP.

For more information call: Brenda Gilmore at 615.876.3665; Erica Gilmore at 615.482.1187; Charles Smith at 615.228.1417 or Sheryl Allen at 615.485.6641.

Education NewsTracker

AG Opines on Memphis-Shelby School Merger Voting Issue

Only city of Memphis residents may vote in an upcoming election on whether to merge Memphis City Schools with Shelby County Schools, according to an attorney general’s opinion issued Monday.

The city has been engaged in a fierce debate over whether to combine the predominantly black city schools with the predominantly white county system since a December vote by the city school board backing the move.

Proponents, including the Memphis Branch of the NAACP, say a merger is best for children in the county and city.

“The sum of the Memphis City and Shelby County schools can be greater than its disparate, warring parts,” the Commercial Appeal’s Wendi Thomas wrote shortly after the vote.

But opponents fear the merger could hamper economic growth and encourage people to leave the area. The Tri-State Defender recently predicted that combining the school systems would  lead to “a further downward spiral of the education system and an unimaginable situation for those that remain.”

Read more:

State attorney general rules on charter surrender vote, WREG Channel 3

Tennessee AG says residents outside Memphis cannot vote on charter surrender, WMC Channel 5