Home Local News Metro Nashville Minority Caucus holds in-person Reception    

Metro Nashville Minority Caucus holds in-person Reception    

by Cass Teague
Metro Nashville Council Minority Caucus members

The Metro Nashville Council Minority Caucus held its annual reception at Belmont University Thursday, February 23, in person for the first time since 2020. This year’s theme was “Back to the Future: Moving Forward,” and the keynote speaker was State Senator Raumesh Akbari.

Councilperson Joy Styles served as MC, and began by thanking local musician Damien Horne. Styles introduced Belmont President Dr. L. Gregory Jones, who noted the new partnership between Belmont and Fisk Universities around Social Justice. Invocation, with prayer by Jefferson Street Baptist Church Associate Minister Nikki Harris-Tolliver, along with Islamic prayer and message by Kasar Abdulla, was introduced by Minority Caucus Vice-Chair Antoinette Lee. Councilperson Jennifer Gamble thanked and recognized the sponsors for the event, following the Pledge of Allegiance led by Councilperson Styles.

Councilpersons Brandon Taylor and Joy Styles then presented the WINS, or the gains made by the Minority Caucus over the preceding year. Taylor noted the naming of the Rip Patton Transit Center, the Diane Nash Plaza, John Lewis Way, and other recent accomplishments. Styles noted the successful hosting of the more than 200 delegates of the National Black Caucus of Elected Officials, and spending initiatives made possible through the American Rescue Plan, including the $10 million for Burris Hall at Fisk University, among others.

Councilperson Sharon Hurt gave a stirring and heartfelt introduction to this year’s Pioneer Award recipient, former Councilperson and State Senator Brenda Gilmore, noting her grace, power, and kindness. Councilperson Kyontze Toombs presented the Trailblazer Award to rising State Senator Charlane Oliver. Minority Caucus Chair Delisha Porterfield presented the Chair’s Award to Metro Human Relations Commissioner and transgender rights advocate Dr. Marisa Richmond, who stated “it is wrong to criminalize people for love.”

Councilperson Zulfat Suara had the pleasure of introducing the keynote Speaker Senator Raumesh Akbari, noting that Akbari also adheres to the three R’s, the three principles she finds necessary for effective public service: Respect for Self, Respect for Others, and Responsibility.

Senator Akbari addressed the audience with a message about legacy, the leaders who came before us, and paved the way for the present and future leadership. Her examples were women who had been pioneers in political endeavors, such as the Honorable Shirley Chisholm (the first black woman elected to the United States Congress, in 1968), Senator Thelma Harper (the first African-American woman state senator in Tennessee and the longest-serving female state senator in Tennessee history), Representative Barbara Cooper (in office from 1996 until her untimely passing on  October 25, 2022), and Senator Ophelia Ford (2005–2014), and United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Akbari noted that Justice Brown Jackson had famously said, “In my family we went from segregation to the supreme court in one generation,” while Akbari witnessed that “I went from segregation to the Tennessee senate in one generation.”  Her question to the gathering: “What are we willing to do to ensure our future generations? What we do right now matters.”

Chairperson Porterfield closed the event, thanking Belmont, especially Joyce Searcy, and former Councilperson Jerry Maynard, who “birthed this event,” and named the 62 past and present ethnic minority persons who have served on the Metro Nashville Council.

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