The TEA on the Voter Restoration Bill

A felony conviction is life changing, and that’s putting it mildly. Imprisonment, restitution, and stigma are almost insurmountable obstacles for a formerly incarcerated person. The ways in which a conviction of this magnitude disrupts one’s life does not conclude at the end of a jail sentence or probation. Some states strip away the opportunity to own a gun, to travel out of the country, to work for certain employers, or to receive public assistance such as housing or grants for higher education.

In many ways, the most egregious of these losses is the loss of the right to vote. Voting provides a voice to the otherwise voiceless. It ensures that the will of the people gets reflected in the laws and policies that dictate everything from school funding and sidewalks to tax reform and anti-discrimination in public services.

Formerly incarcerated individuals who have arguably been among the most affected by the decisions of elected officials are cut off from the very process that protects their interests. In Tennessee, more than 421,000 people have completed their sentences and, while they go to work, pay taxes and contribute to their communities in a number of meaningful ways, they are denied access to the voting booth. Tennessee has the fourth highest disenfranchisement rate in the country and consistently ranks last in voter participation. Voter suppression and other tactics make it difficult to vote in Tennessee. Most concerning are the well-known statistics surrounding the incarceration rates for people of color and the affect that has on these communities. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, 37% of all federally incarcerated individuals are African-American, an astounding figure considering that African-Americans make up only 13% of the population.

The revocation of voting rights for those who have been incarcerated touches the black population in proportions that are not seen in any other racial demographic. In essence, a larger percentage of black people than any other race are legally kept from the voting booth as continued punishment for an offense for which they have already served a sentence. In fact, 1 in 5 African Americans cannot vote in Tennessee due to a past felony conviction. It begs the question: is the revocation of voting rights an ethical, reasonable, or even pragmatic punishment for those who have committed felonies? 

In Tennessee, those who have been incarcerated are not given the opportunity to restore that right unless they take steps to navigate a convoluted restoration process. The process includes financial requirements that are prohibitive for many people. Tennessee is the only state in the country that requires all court-ordered child support to be paid as a condition of having one’s voting rights restored. This sends yet another signal that we value those who have the means to pay for their freedom rather than providing access equitably.  

The Equity Alliance believes in fair and equal access to the ballot box for all eligible voters. That’s why TEA, along with with several advocacy organizations, such as the ACLU, Americans For Prosperity, Project Return, and Think Tennessee support a new bill that would make the voter restoration process much easier. The bill removes financial obligations and streamlines the administrative process. It puts the burden on the State rather than the individual.

On Wednesday, the Tennessee State Senate will vote on Senate Bill 0589/House Bill 0547, a bill that will move Tennessee one step closer to making it easier for those who have paid their debt to society to vote. It is imperative that Tennesseans hold elected officials responsible and support this bill. The erosion of voting rights for any demographic is unjust, and it is especially troubling when minority communities are disproportionately affected. We will be at the hearing on Wednesday, March 20th at 8:45am, and we hope you’ll join us. You can also call the State Senators on the committee. It takes action from all of us.

The Equity Alliance Joins Legislators, Matthew Charles, Advocates to Discuss New Bills that Will Restore Voting Rights to Tennesseans with Felony Convictions

NASHVILLE, TN – On Wednesday, February 13th, at 2:45 pm, lawmakers, Matthew Charles, advocates and re-entry experts will gather at the Tennessee State Capitol complex in Nashville to discuss new bills (SB 589 / HB 547) that will streamline the voting rights restoration process to Tennesseans with felony convictions who have completed their sentences.

The roundtable will feature the bill sponsors, State Senator Steven Dickerson and State Representative Michael Curcio, alongside Matthew Charles, a formerly-incarcerated activist who was recently released under the First Step Act, as well as prominent advocates and prisoner re-entry experts from The Equity Alliance, the ACLU of Tennessee, and Project Return. Over the course of the roundtable, participants will discuss the substance of the legislation, its potential to limit bureaucratic interference in the rights restoration process, and its impact on formerly incarcerated people living in Tennessee.

Currently, 320,000 Tennesseans with felony convictions, more than 8 percent of the state’s total voting age population, are disenfranchised by the onerous restoration process despite having already served their time and successfully completed their parole and/or probation.

The roundtable will be moderated by Colin Weaver, Director of State Affairs for Secure Democracy. Roundtable participants include:

  • Tennessee State Senator Steve Dickerson
  • Tennessee State Representative Michael Curcio (opening remarks)
  • Matthew Charles, formerly-incarcerated activist released from prison under the First Step Act
  • Tori Venable, State Director at Americans for Prosperity Tennessee
  • Hedy Weinberg, Executive Director of ACLU of Tennessee
  • Tequila Johnson, Co-Founder and Vice President of The Equity Alliance (opening remarks)
  • Bettie Kirkland, Executive Director of Project Return

The roundtable will be open to the press and the public.

WHAT:  Roundtable on Restoring Voting Rights to Tennesseans With Felony Convictions

WHERE: Cordell Hull Building, 425 5th Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37243

     Room information: Conference Room 5C, 5th Floor

WHEN:  2:45 – 3:30 pm, February 13, 2019

   

Phil Bredesen to attend Black Women’s Roundtable Sept. 19

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 17, 2018

Contact: Kyonzte Toombs, Esq.

615-971-6786, theequityalliancefund@gmail.com

 

– MEDIA ADVISORY –

Black Women to Sound Off on Roe v. Wade, Issues with Phil Bredesen

The Equity Alliance Fund to gather 30 voters for Black Women’s Roundtable Sept. 19

WHO:                Governor Phil Bredesen

Kyonzte Toombs, The Equity Alliance Fund Board President

Charlane Oliver, The Equity Alliance Board President

30 black women voters

WHAT:              Black Women’s Policy Roundtable. In an effort to leverage our collective voice for the November midterm election in Tennessee, The Equity Alliance Fund – the 501(c)4 advocacy affiliate of The Equity Alliance – and its Black Women for Tennessee coalition is hosting a Black Women’s Policy Roundtable with Governor Phil Bredesen, candidate for U.S. Senate. The roundtable will gather 30 college-educated, black women registered voters to sound off on issues of concern to them and how they want to see their issues championed by Gov. Bredesen, if elected.

WHEN:              Wednesday, September 19, 2018 – 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.

WHERE:            Urban League of Middle Tennessee, 50 Vantage Way, Suite 201, Nashville, TN 37228

WHY:                 As one of the largest and most loyal voting blocs, black women in Tennessee refuse to have their vote and their voice taken for granted. The central issue will be women’s health and reproductive rights and the vulnerability of Roe v. Wade if Judge Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Viewpoints shared will be related The Equity Alliance’s Fund Four-Point Policy Agenda: Economic Equality, Education, Criminal Justice Reform, and Voting Rights/Protecting the Ballot. This is the second of two events scheduled with the Bredesen campaign. The first took place on Saturday, July 14 at City Winery, where Gov. Bredesen addressed an audience of more than 400 black women and community leaders at the inaugural Black Women’s Empowerment Brunch hosted by The Equity Alliance.

About Black Women for Tennessee

Black Women for Tennessee is a statewide nonpartisan coalition consisting of 25 black-women-led and women-led organizations and more than 600 individual black women committed join forces to register voters, inform voters, and get voters to the polls for the November 2018 midterm election. Learn more at theequityalliance.org/blackwomenfortn.

About The Equity Alliance Fund

The Equity Alliance Fund is the 501(c)4 affiliate issues advocacy organization for The Equity Alliance, a Nashville-based 501(c)3 nonprofit 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. Our work focuses on Voter Registration, Voter Education, Voter Restoration, Election Protection, Civic Leadership, and Voting Rights Policy. Learn more at theequityalliance.org.

This is a closed, private event. Invitation only.

###

Distractions


Photo: The Tennessean

Today, the Davidson County Election Commission voted 5-0 to clear the way for a referendum on the November 6th ballot for a community oversight board. This is a result of the months-long hard work by the Community Oversight Now coalition to add a Metro charter amendment for police accountability. After two black men – Jocques Clemmons and Daniel Hambrick – were gunned down in the back by two white Metro Nashville Police officers within 18 months, the public has once again called for police accountability.

As we said in our statement last week, we support a community oversight board for Nashville. But not everyone thinks so. The Nashville Fraternal Order of Police challenged the validity of the petition signatures today. Now that the ballot measure will go forward, they, yet again, intend to block citizens from engaging in the civic process by appealing the election commission’s decision.

We call these distractions.

On the state level, Governor Bill Haslam granted clemency to four Tennessee inmates last month. Meanwhile, he continues to ignore the national and local outcry to grant clemency for Cyntoia Brown. In response, we sent him this letter.

Does Gov. Haslam think we’ll forget about Cyntoia Brown? We call BS on these distractions.

Yesterday, President Donald Trump called his former White House aide – and the highest ranking black woman on his staff – a “lowlife” “dog.” He continues to ratchet up dog whistle rhetoric directed toward blacks and women. Stay woke, because that same day, Ben Carson, his Secretary of Housing and Urban Development pushed to bring back housing discrimination and segregation.

Again, the president’s tweets are all distractions.

Our recent political climate has been frustrating, to say the least. We get it. You’re feeling hopeless, indifferent, angry, and even defeated.

Stay woke. Be vigilant. Be encouraged. There’s a way out of this, and that’s to vote. Vote out those elected officials who don’t represent your values or value black lives. We want all people of color to have a fair and just opportunity at realizing the American dream. But we know the current status quo can’t continue.

Stay focused. November is coming.

Statement on Daniel Hambrick Fatal Officer-Involved Shooting

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 10, 2018

Like many others in the Nashville community, we were disturbed and outraged at the video released by Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk of the fatal officer-involved shooting of Daniel Hambrick. The killing of black men and women at the hands of police is a serious matter, as it conjures up a decades-long history of Jim Crow era state-sanctioned racial violence by police in predominantly black communities.

There have been two officer-involved shootings less than two years apart under Chief Steve Anderson’s leadership. Countless other incidents and formal complaints involving black Nashvillians have previously gone unresolved or ignored. The community continues to be distrustful of his leadership based on his refusal or willful neglect to correct and rectify past grievances by residents. In order for any healing and trust to be restored, or for any effective change in policy to occur within the Metro Nashville Police Department, Chief Anderson must not be at the helm. Therefore, we call for Chief Anderson to step down, and if this does not happen, we call on Mayor David Briley to immediately remove him from his position. We also demand that individuals from marginalized communities in Nashville have input in the selection of a new chief.

The Equity Alliance aims 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. We applaud Nashvillians who use tools readily available to them to be engaged in the civic process. This includes the right to petition, the right to peacefully assemble, meeting with their appointed and elected officials and voting, to name a few. When local government impedes on our ability to be engaged citizens, we find this deeply problematic.

In the year leading up to Daniel Hambrick’s death, community groups, constituents and grieving families repeatedly sought meetings with Chief Anderson, only to be turned away and blacklisted. When Gideon’s Army released the evidence-based “Driving While Black” report, it was met with criticism and called “morally disingenuous” by Chief Anderson. When initial efforts to create a community oversight board were launched, local government officials conspired to bring the New York-based Policing Project to Nashville to diminish these efforts. When the Community Oversight Now coalition delivered to Metropolitan Clerk Elizabeth Waites twice the number of petition signatures required to place a proposed charter amendment on the November 6th ballot, she refused to do her job — paid by taxpayers — to certify the petitions. This act of defiance was met with no reprimand or accountability.

These are not merely isolated incidents. But rather collective evidence of a local government that has gone rogue from the people it’s supposed to serve. This is wrong.

During Mayor David Briley’s press conference, he called for a comprehensive review of policing practices. While we appreciate his commitment to working with community leaders to bring police oversight – a stark contrast from the previous administration, we believe his proposal to bring the Policing Project to Nashville falls short. Not only does this undermine the credible work that has already been done by local black-led community organizations, but the optics of this decision sends a message that local black-led groups cannot be trusted with resources to solve our own community issues. Therefore, we stand in solidarity with Community Oversight Now to support a community oversight board in Nashville and urge Mayor Briley to do the same. The signatures of more than 8,200 residents should not be ignored. This is what the people want.

Our hearts and deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of Daniel Hambrick and hope that justice is served for them.

 

###

Nashville Voter Guide released for Aug. 2 election

THE EQUITY ALLIANCE RELEASES THE NASHVILLE VOTER GUIDE 
Free, nonpartisan, public resource for the August 2nd election is available at http://www.nashvillevoterguide.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JUNE 29, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (June 29, 2018) – Tennessee ranks 50th in voter turnout and 40th in voter registration. In Davidson County, communities of color live in precincts with the lowest voter turnout. Determined to flip these statistics, The Equity Alliance was founded in 2017 to increase minority voter participation and civic engagement. Today, after registering more than 250 new voters for the May 1 election, the nonprofit released the second installment of the Nashville Voter Guide for the entire Davidson County community.

The Nashville Voter Guide is a comprehensive, free, and nonpartisan public resource for Nashville voters to make an informed decision in the voting booth on Election Day. The guide includes unbiased candidate profiles, roles of each elected office, polling locations and hours, voter ID requirements, transit referendum information and much more.

“We are so excited about bringing this vital community resource and educational tool to Davidson County voters,” said Charlane Oliver, board president and founder of The Equity Alliance. “We are delighted to work with our community partners to ensure this public resource gets into the hands of those who need it most. We’ve spent a lot of time registering people to vote, and now we want to make sure those voters are equipped with knowledge to make an informed decision in the voting booth.”

As part of their voter education and engagement focus, The Equity Alliance released its inaugural voter guide for the May 1st election with more than 1,775 downloads and 2,000 hard copies distributed. The501(c)3 nonprofit has plans to produce a voter guide for the November 6 election.

“One of the biggest hurdles to voter turnout is a lack of awareness of upcoming elections and access to available information on the candidates,” said Oliver. “We have talked with many constituents who say they don’t know who to vote for. Right now, the stakes are too high in our city for us to simply rely on a D or an R behind someone’s name and check a box. With this guide, we’re putting the power back into the people’s hands.”

The guide is available for download at www.nashvillevoterguide.com. For more information, contact info@theequityalliance.org.

Fully Funding Metro Nashville Schools

shutterstock_267596153

The Equity Alliance advocates for African Americans and other communities of color to have a fair and just opportunity to realize the American dream. There is nothing more foundational to American success than obtaining a high-quality education. A free and public education should be the birthright for every child in our city.

Metro Nashville Public Schools serves 71% minority students with African Americans consisting of 42% of this population. If our goal is to ensure Nashville’s children have the best head start in life, then the equitable distribution of resources for public schools is a universal start. If Nashville is to really be the It City, we MUST be deliberate in supporting all communities, especially those who have historically been overlooked. This cannot happen if our schools are forced to continue operating without being fully funded.

MNPS will experience a budget shortfall for the 2018-19 school year. This is happening at a time when corporate interests are being catered to using taxpayer dollars, and the misappropriation of funds leads to high-dollar economic investments that benefit the few.

The proposed budget for MNPS is an additional $45 million, but Metro is offering $5 million to operate next year. In the past, Nashville’s public school system made up about 50% of the city’s budget. The proposal set to go before the Metro Council this month leaves schools at close to 41%. In fact, a piece of school property will be sold for $13 million to even meet that percentage. Schools are closing, academic programs are being cut, and even the free school lunch program is seeing major reductions if this happens. At a time when corporations and private entities are being financially supported by our city, why should our public schools be begging for coins?

Nashville’s children should have access to the best possible education, and Superintendent Dr. Shawn Joseph needs the support of the school board, Metro Council, and Mayor’s office to lead the district’s academic progress.

On Tuesday, the Metro Council will be taking public comments on the proposed budget. We urge our elected officials to find more funding for our schools.

Make Your Voice Heard

Metro Council Meeting
Tuesday, June 5
6:30 p.m.
Metro Courthouse Building
1 Public Square, Nashville, TN 37201 – 2nd Floor

Email Metro Council Members

TEAm Meeting: Faith-Based Political Engagement – May 29, 2018

“Faith-Based Political Engagement”

As a recap to Soul to the Polls and as we gear up for the next August midterm election, local prominent faith leaders will share about the importance of “Faith-Based Political Engagement” and their experience partnering with The Equity Alliance for Souls to the Polls. This month’s TEAm meeting will be a call to action for other faith leaders (of any denomination) to get involved with nonpartisan voter registration and turnout.

The Equity Alliance board members will also share upcoming initiatives and opportunities that guests in attendance can participate in for the August 2nd election. Come prepared to take action and get to work!

SPEAKERS:
Pastor James Turner, II, New Hope Missionary Baptist Church and President of Interdenominational Ministers Fellowship (IMF)
Pastor John Faison, Sr., Watson Grove Baptist Church
Bishop Joseph Walker, III, Mt. Zion Baptist Church

Free and open to the public.

RSVP: info@theequityallliance.org


The Equity Alliance hosts a TEAm meeting on the last Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. at Lee Chapel AME Church. Meetings are open to the public and interested volunteers.

The Equity Alliance & IMF to host free “Voting is LIT” Community Block Party April 21

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

THE EQUITY ALLIANCE & THE INTERDENOMINATIONAL MINISTER’S FELLOWSHIP TO HOST “VOTING IS LIT” COMMUNITY BLOCK PARTY

Nonprofit aims to increase African-American turnout during first Saturday of early voting April 21

Nashville, Tenn. (APRIL 9, 2018) – On the heels of releasing its inaugural Nashville Voter Guide with more than 929 downloads in its first two weeks, The Equity Alliance is now gearing up for its Community Block Party to energize the community during the May 1 primary election early voting period. The “Voting is Lit” Community Block Party will be held Saturday, April 21 from Noon to 4 p.m. at Hartman Park Community Center, located at 2801 Tucker Road near the Bordeaux Library precinct.

The event will include a kid’s corner, live performances, a Greek showcase and stroll off featuring local fraternities and sororities, music, food and a party bus to shuttle attendees to go vote at the Bordeaux Library. Robert “Black Rob” Higgins will be hosting along with local 92Q on-air personality DJ C-Wiz.

29597590_2033312933549452_8223284710093094912_n.png

“There are several reasons that hinder voter turnout in Nashville, including lack of education and awareness of who’s on the ballot,” said The Equity Alliance Founder and Board President Charlane Oliver, “One of the steps we took this year was to educate the community by releasing the 2018 Nashville Voter Guide. The next step is to engage the community with programs and events like this one.”

Early voting has its advantages. Citizens can vote at any early voting location that is most convenient and can vote during a time that best fits their personal schedule. Through their partnership with the Interdenominational Minister’s Fellowship (IMF) to launch Souls to the Polls, The Equity Alliance will shuttle attendees to vote at the Bordeaux Library precinct throughout the event.

“Research has shown that when poll parties are held near a voting precinct in a predominantly African-American neighborhood, voter turnout is likely to increase,” says Tequila Johnson, The Equity Alliance co-founder, vice president and event organizer. “We are so appreciative of organizations like IMF. The support of the Nashville churches and other organizations across the city has been vital to our mission to build coalitions and alliances.”

The mission of The Equity Alliance is to increase minority voter participation and foster civic engagement. Tennessee ranks 50th in voter turnout and 40th in voter registration. In Davidson County, people of color live in precincts with the lowest voter turnout.

The event is free and open to the public.

For more information on this event, to become a volunteer or to learn more about The Equity Alliance, please visit, www.theequityalliance.org or email info@theequityalliance.org.

###

About The Equity Alliance

Established in January 2017, The Equity Alliance proactively advocates for communities of color to have a fair and just opportunity at realizing the American dream. As a Nashville-based, nonpartisan, 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, The Equity Alliance equips citizens with tools and strategies to engage in the civic process and empower them to take action on issues affecting their daily lives. Our work is achieved through four areas: Voter Registration, Voter Education, Voter Restoration, and Voting Rights. Learn more at www.theequityalliance.org or follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

30725529_2039733149574097_2472130506393649152_o