The Equity Alliance makes CARES Act spending recommendations to Mayor Cooper

Statewide non-profit offers framework for protecting working families, voters, minority small businesses and vulnerable populations

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Leaders with The Equity Alliance, a statewide non-profit focused on the civic and economic empowerment of the black community, offered Mayor John Cooper guidance on spending the $121 million of the city’s share of federal CARES Act funding for economic recovery.

In a memo delivered to a working group of community leaders Tuesday, The Equity Alliance Co-Executive Director Charlane Oliver outlined suggested spending to support economically vulnerable and at-risk members of the community. The recommendations included:

  • Increased funding for elections, including PPE for poll workers, bus fare for those without transportation, and more polling locations in minority neighborhoods;
  • Funding for Black-owned businesses, particularly owners with past criminal histories,  whose Small Business Administration loans were denied;
  • Direct payments to struggling working families to recoup unexpected household expenses;
  • Rent and mortgage relief payments for terminated and furloughed workers;
  • Stipends for temporary healthcare plans and COVID-19 testing fees;
  • 14-day quarantine housing and additional halfway houses for recently released prisoners due to Covid-19.

Oliver, a member of Cooper’s working group to address CARES Act spending, said black and immigrant residents, working people, and the economically disadvantaged have been among the hardest hit in Nashville during the economic downturn.

“To jumpstart our local economy, we believe in putting resources directly in people’s hands who have been most impacted. Mayor Cooper has an opportunity to right some past wrongs of previous Administrations by directing these funds to be spent to ensure that Black residents are neither disenfranchised from their civic right to vote nor left behind in the economic recovery. With Black Nashvillians making up 28% of the city’s population, we expect the CARES Act funds to be equitably and proportionately distributed to us,” Oliver said.

The Equity Alliance has been busy responding to economic inequities statewide in the aftermath of tornadoes that destroyed portions of both Nashville and Chattanooga. In addition to distributing more than $19,000 in cash assistance, the group has led efforts to educate homeowners in predominantly Black North Nashville with professional advice on the value of their damaged property. The organization also offered economic relief to black families in Chattanooga struggling to pay insurance premiums after the Easter Sunday tornado.

“The economic downturn brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequities in already distressed communities. This is a unique time in Nashville’s history, and it calls for bold leadership and unprecedented shifts in how we uplift historically black neighborhoods which were already struggling that will have the hardest time recovering from this pandemic,” said Tequila Johnson, co-executive director of The Equity Alliance.

The Equity Alliance’s recommendations to Mayor Cooper can be found here.

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About The Equity Alliance: Founded in November 2016 by six black women, the mission of The Equity Alliance is to proactively advocate for African Americans and other communities of color to have a fair and just opportunity at realizing the American dream. We are a Nashville-based 501(c)3 nonpartisan non-profit organization that seeks to equip citizens with tools and strategies to engage in the civic process and empower them to take action on issues affecting their daily lives. Learn more at www.theequityalliance.org or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

The Equity Alliance files lawsuit to expand absentee voting in Tennessee amid COVID-19

Lawsuit seeks to ensure voters can vote safely by mail in the upcoming elections and ensure ballots count

For Immediate Release
May 1, 2020

In the midst of a global pandemic, The Equity Alliance, in partnership with Campaign Legal Center (CLC) and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, filed a lawsuit today on behalf of two qualified voters and organizations whose many members are not eligible for vote by mail under current law, but wish to avoid exposing themselves or elderly family members to coronavirus.

Other plaintiffs include five organizations facing restrictions preventing them from carrying out necessary voter engagement activities for their members and the community in 2020. Under Tennessee law, the organizations can be punished for giving voters unsolicited requests for an absentee ballot with up to 11 months and 29 days in prison, a fine of up to $2,500, or both.

Typically, Tennesseans have cast their ballots largely in person. Recently, the rapid shift towards voting by mail has revealed how unprepared Tennessee is to ensure all absentee ballots are counted in the upcoming elections. The state gives election officials discretion to reject absentee ballots when elections officials decide, in their judgment, that the voter’s signature on their ballot doesn’t match the voter’s signature on file with the voter registration. This “matching” process is unreliable and prone to mistakes, and because the state does not give voters any opportunity to fix apparent problems with their ballot, leads to disenfranchisement.

The following statement is from The Equity Alliance Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director Charlane Oliver on A. Phillip Randolph Institute v. Hargett. The Equity Alliance is an organizational plaintiff in the suit.

“Tennessee voters should not be forced to choose between their own personal safety and participating in our democratic process. Our state needs to adapt to the current environment brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Our organization wants to be able to proactively assist voters with voting by absentee ballot without the threat of criminal prosecution. We are in unprecedented circumstances that call for state officials to implement safer and secure approaches  t  ensure democracy is preserved in the Volunteer State.”

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Read more about why we need to expand absentee voting during a pandemic.

The Equity Alliance delivers financial support to Chattanooga tornado victims

Statewide non-profit offers support to working-class families

For Immediate Release
April 29, 2020

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – The Equity Alliance delivered financial support and supplies to four Chattanooga families in the East Brainerd area that lost their homes and belongings in the Easter Sunday tornado. 

Residents of Middle and Southeast Tennessee have been hard hit by tornadoes and bad weather this spring. The Equity Alliance, a statewide non-profit, has marshaled efforts in Nashville and now Chattanooga to bring storm victims relief in predominantly black neighborhoods. Today’s recipient families in Chattanooga are currently displaced and living in hotels, rental properties, and a shelter.

The Equity Alliance leaders said natural disasters typically have a more devastating effect on the finances and quality of life of working-class families. These hardships are compounded by the financial downturn associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This is a very difficult time for working-class families in Tennessee. Our communities have been destroyed by storms, and we live with the constant threat of sickness due to the pandemic. Those factors compounded by a historically bad economy means working people in Tennessee need help,” said Tequila Johnson, co-founder and co-executive director of The Equity Alliance.

Johnson added that in the aftermath of natural disasters, homeowners in economically disadvantaged areas are sometimes targeted by predatory real estate investors looking to buy damaged homes for well below market price. The Equity Alliance has built a network of property appraisers, mortgage bankers, real estate agents and other professionals to help homeowners make informed decisions.

“It is important that we level the playing field for every storm victim,” Johnson said. “Homeowners need to understand their options before making a decision to sell their property. We can connect Tennesseans in need with the right professionals so that they can make informed decisions.”

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Our tornado relief efforts began with helping our North Nashville residents after the March 3rd tornado, but when a tornado ripped through Chattanooga over Easter weekend, we jumped into action to help out there as well. Our team was on the ground today distributing help to those that have been displaced, and checking in on the residents’ needs.

Our movement is bigger than Nashville, we are here to help communities of color all across Tennessee. If you or someone you know is needing assistance from the North Nashville tornado or the Chattanooga tornado, please have them fill out the Tornado Relief request form.

Watch the reaction of a Chattanooga families as we gifted them with $1,000 check and supplies to weather the COVID-19 crisis.

On The Front Lines

We’ve been on the front lines since disaster struck on March 3rd. Here’s what we’ve been up to.

It’s been a little over a month since the March 3rd tornadoes ripped through North Nashville and parts of Middle Tennessee. I wanted to update you on what we’ve been working on since we sprung into action on Super Tuesday. 

Many of us are anxious about the COVID-19 pandemic that is crippling our healthcare system and our economy. Now more than ever it is critical to support our work to keep Gov. Bill Lee, Secretary Tre Hargett and state lawmakers accountable to the ever-changing dire needs our people face.

This is not the first time we’ve faced crisis and, through it all, we can build power together and demand that African Americans and other communities of color have a fair and just economic opportunities at realizing the American dream. 

TEA has built a track record responding to uncertainty with this infallible truth: power belongs to the People. 

That’s why TEA has been #OnTheFrontLines during this current crisis. Even in the midst of a Safe-At-Home order, we’ve shifted our outreach strategies and tactics to meet continual community needs. Here’s a review of what we’ve accomplished this month:

And this was just in the past 30 days.

But we know the road to recovery will be long as we face an impending economic downturn. That’s exactly why we were founded – to work with you, together, to build power for our people, for the long haul. That’s our model and will always be the way we do this thing: together.

We need your support. The 3rd Annual Black Women’s Empowerment Brunch is scheduled for July 25, 2020 where we will honor Black women #OnTheFrontLines. We would love for you to be involved now: pledge to sponsor a table, invite your friends and colleagues, or make a donation today.

I know these are uncertain times, but TEA is steadfast in what we’ve always set out to do. You can count on us to be #OnTheFrontLines, and we’ll stay there with your continued support. 

Yours in the movement, 

Charlane 

North Nashville Cleanup, Canvass and Homeowner Meetings Scheduled to Assist Tornado Victims

Call to action for attorneys, real estate and insurance professionals to advise residents

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For media inquiries contact Clint Brewer at (615) 668-4535 or clintbrewer@imperiumstrategiesllc.com.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In the wake of the devastating tornadoes that ripped through Nashville, The Equity Alliance is organizing two events to assist North Nashville residents in reclaiming their neighborhoods and protecting their property.

A massive cleanup and canvassing operation to protect the hardest hit areas in North Nashville will take place Sunday, March 8. More than 300 volunteers have already signed up to walk door-to-door to take inventory of the damages of each home and clean up debris.

The event is an effort to inform local homeowners and tenants of the organization’s community event taking place the following day to help them navigate their options for rebuilding their properties.

“It is important that residents in North Nashville understand their options before making decisions about their damaged homes and properties, “said TEA Co-Founder and Executive Director Charlane Oliver. “We have already witnessed first-hand elderly residents and others getting quick offers on the street by individuals looking to make a profit from their misfortune. We are asking for the professionals in relevant fields to offer their time pro-bono to these citizens to help them make the best decisions about their property.”

WHAT: North Nashville community clean up and canvass followed by homeowner’s meetings

WHEN:

  • Cleanup and Canvass – Sunday, March 8, 3 p.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Homeowner’s Meetings – Monday, March 9, 12 p.m. and 6 p.m.

WHERE: Lee Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, 1200 Dr DB Todd Jr Blvd, Nashville, TN 37208

WHO:

  • Councilwoman Kyonzte Toombs, District 2 (Homeowner’s Meetings)
  • Councilwoman At-Large Zulfat Suara (Homeowner’s Meetings)
  • Gene Burse, AICP, Metro Planning Department
  • Kelly Bonadies, DeLisa Guerrier, and Lee Mollette – real estate developers
  • Miranda Christy, Christopher Cotton, Jennifer Horne, Marcus Shute – attorneys
  • Jeff McGruder, Pinnacle Financial Partners
  • Jason Egly, Farmers Insurance Agency

Childcare, language interpretation services, and food will be provided.

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About The Equity Alliance:

Founded in November 2016 by six black women, the mission of The Equity Alliance is to proactively advocate for African Americans and other communities of color to have a fair and just opportunity at realizing the American dream. We are a Nashville-based 501(c)3 nonpartisan non-profit organization that seeks to equip citizens with tools and strategies to engage in the civic process and empower them to take action on issues affecting their daily lives. Learn more at www.theequityalliance.org or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

We’re Hiring!

Our TEAm is growing! We’re looking for dynamic, bold leaders to fill the following positions: Administrative Assistant, Statewide Organizer, Advocacy Campaign Manager, and Communications Intern. Check out our Jobs & Internships page for full descriptions.

Interested applicants are encouraged to apply by January 27, 2020 and submit a resume and cover letter to jobs@theequityalliance.org.

Voting Rights Advocate Desmond Meade to Share Experience from Florida’s Historic Ballot Initiative

Coalition Gearing Up for Voting Rights Restoration Push in Tennessee

Let my people vote: Desmond Meade, Time magazine’s 100 most influential Americans in 2018, led the effort in Florida to end voting discrimination against returning voters.

NASHVILLE — A diverse coalition that’s urging lawmakers to end voting discrimination against people with felony convictions will hear from a national voting rights advocate on the issue Nov. 22 at 5:30 p.m. at The Lab at 624-A Jefferson Street. 

Desmond Meade — a formerly homeless returning citizen who overcame many obstacles to eventually become the President of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC), Chair of Floridians for a Fair Democracy and a graduate of Florida International University College of Law — will share lessons from his successful advocacy in Florida. Meade led the charge to pass Amendment 4 in Florida last year, which laid the foundation to restore voting rights for 1.4 million Floridians.

The nonpartisan coalition meeting with Meade includes a wide variety of power players, such as The Equity Alliance, ACLU of Tennessee, and Americans for Prosperity. The coalition seeks to reform Tennessee’s laws to enhance successful reentry, reduce recidivism and increase public safety.

“There’s a lot of work being done to end voting discrimination against people with felony convictions who have served their time,” said Tequila Johnson, co-founder of The Equity Alliance. “We’re closer than ever before to restoring voting rights to men and women who’ve turned their lives around and been contributing members of their community.”

The Equity Alliance event, casually titled “Cocktails and Conversations,” will also feature a panel of advocates, legislators and activists. The panel will include State Rep. Harold Love, Jr.; Shanna Singh Hughey, executive director of Think Tennessee; Larry Turnley, formerly incarcerated person and violence interruptor with Gideon’s Army; and moderated by Charlane Oliver, co-founder and executive director of The Equity Alliance. The event will be hosted by Fox 17 journalist Harriet Wallace.

The Equity Alliance’s Tequila Johnson Awarded Roddenberry Fellowship

Tequila Johnson, 2020 Roddenberry Fellow

NASHVILLE — Tequila Johnson, co-founder of The Equity Alliance and director of the Tennessee Black Voter Project, has won the prestigious Roddenberry Fellowship, a 12-month program for American leaders who are working to promote a more tolerant and inclusive society.

The program comes with a $50,000 award for fellows to take an existing initiative to the next level or launch a new program.

Johnson said the funding will be used to amplify and expand The Equity Alliance’s Black Citizenship in Action Tennessee project. Black Citizenship in Action Tennessee will include local community outreach and mobilization opportunities along with civic and voter engagement trainings that build power in Black communities by deepening a shared understanding of people’s rights as citizens.

“Black people have a right to be in this country and a right to fair representation. Every attack on voting rights and blatant voter suppression limits our self determination and withholds power from underserved Black communities,” Johnson said. “These attacks undermine our very citizenship and it is a major problem that I am committed to solving.”

Johnson is one of 18 Roddenberry Fellows chosen for 2020 after a six-month review of applications, which numbered in the thousands. To qualify, fellows must be working on a project, organization or initiative with direct impact on immigrant & refugee rights, civil rights, LGBTQIA+ and women’s rights, or environmental protection.

In addition to funding, fellows receive one-on-one professional coaching and development opportunities; virtual collaboration sessions to provide ongoing advisement, support and connections; and access to network of peers and allies who share resources, expertise and support.

The Roddenberry Foundation funds initiatives that offer opportunities for original thinkers and innovators from all walks of life to pursue significant, lasting change. Named after Gene Roddenberry, creator of the Star Trek series, the foundation was founded in 2010 by Gene’s son Rod to build on his father’s legacy and philosophy of inclusion, diversity and respect for life to drive social change.

The Equity Alliance Hires Executive Director

Nonprofit Co-Founder Charlane Oliver Assumes New, Full-Time Leadership Role

Charlane Oliver is the new full-time executive director for The Equity Alliance

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (November 4, 2019) — On the heels of gaining national notoriety in 2019 for scoring a legal victory against the state’s voter registration criminalization law, The Equity Alliance today announced co-founder Charlane Oliver as the nonprofit’s founding executive director. The board of directors approved the move by unanimous vote.

Oliver previously served as the board chair for the past three years since its inception. Under her leadership, she has catapulted the organization into an award-winning, nationally-recognized, influential powerhouse. 

In 2018, the organization led a statewide coalition that registered 91,000 black and brown Tennesseans to vote and increased black voter turnout by 413 percent for the November midterms. In 2019, the organization’s 501(c)4 — The Equity Alliance Fund — joined forces with two of the most powerful grassroots organizations in Nashville to form the Nashville Justice League and elect the most diverse Metro Council in the city’s history. Of their 15 endorsements, 13 Metro Council candidates won, including a board member from The Equity Alliance. 

Oliver’s appointment comes as The Equity Alliance, a Nashville-based grassroots nonprofit focused on voting rights advocacy and increasing civic engagement in communities of color, prepares to celebrate its third anniversary and expand its statewide presence. 

“I am extremely excited and humbled at the opportunity to pour my passion, time and talent into an organization that I helped build,” Oliver said. “The Equity Alliance has been able to leverage 100 percent volunteer capacity and strong community support to establish ourselves as a trusted and respected voice for the black community on voting rights issues and racial equity issues. Now it’s time to take our work to the next level, and I’m ready for the challenge.”

Oliver brings more than 14 years of award-winning experience in nonprofit management, civil service, communications, community relations, and movement building strategies. In her new role, she will lead the development and implementation of programming for civic education, community organizing, Census awareness, leadership development and issue advocacy. 

Prior to becoming The Equity Alliance’s executive director, Oliver served in U.S. Congressman Jim Cooper’s Nashville office as a community liaison and communications strategist. She spearheaded Project Register, a nonpartisan voter registration initiative that engaged more than 215 Middle Tennessee companies to encourage online voter registration among their employees.

Oliver currently serves on board of directors for the Metro Nashville Emergency 911 Communications District Board, Purpose Preparatory Academy, and Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee. 

A native of Little Rock, Arkansas, Oliver graduated from Vanderbilt University with a B.S. in human and organizational development and holds a Master of Public Administration from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. She has called Tennessee home for the past 18 years.