Coalition Gearing Up for Voting Rights Restoration Push in Tennessee
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.
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.
Nonprofit Co-Founder Charlane Oliver Assumes New, Full-Time Leadership Role
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.
Co-founder and Executive Director Charlane Oliver talked with Lulu Garcia-Navarro, host of NPR Weekend Edition, about how Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election targeted African American voters
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Equity Alliance today announced it is expanding its board of directors with the appointment of four new members. Joining The Equity Alliance board are:
André Anderson, Jr., personal chief of staff to Bishop Joseph W. Walker, III, of the historic Mt. Zion Baptist Church;
Kelby House Garner, Ed.D., Executive Principal for Metro Nashville Public Schools Virtual School;
Shawn Joseph, Ed.D., former MNPS superintendent and associate professor of educational leadership and policy studies at Fordham University; and
Sylvia Rapoport, founding president of the Centennial Park Conservancy.
Charlane Oliver, co-founder of the Nashville-based nonprofit focused on voting rights advocacy and increasing civic engagement in communities of color, said these board additions mark an important moment for The Equity Alliance, which is approaching its third year of operation.
“These new members are exceptional leaders in Nashville who support the empowerment of black citizens and bring a special talent, dynamic energy and valuable perspective to our voter engagement work,” Oliver said. “As we enter a new season of growth and statewide expansion, The Equity Alliance is fortunate to have them on our team to develop robust programming for the 2020 Census and elections, strengthen our issue advocacy platform, and expand the electorate to be more inclusive for black and brown Tennesseans.”
About The Equity Alliance’s new board members:
Andre’ Anderson serves as personal chief of staff to Bishop Joseph W. Walker, III, at the historic Mt. Zion Baptist Church, where he manages the day-to-day operations of the executive office of the 30,000-member congregation. In September 2019, he launched The Siraaj Agency, a boutique consulting firm specializing in event planning, public relations and consumer engagement. He has provided strategic services for clients and national influencers, including former presidents, cabinet secretaries, members of Congress, local and national elected officials, civil rights activists, faith-based and nonprofit leaders across the country.
Dr. Kelby House Garner, a native of Brownsville, Tenn. and resident of Nashville since 1998, is a true servant leader with a passion for serving the community. Dr. House Garner currently serves as the Executive Principal for Metro Nashville Public Schools Virtual School. She also serves as an adjunct professor at Tennessee State University and Trevecca Nazarene University. House Garner studied educational leadership, earning both an Educational Specialist and Doctor of Education degree. She is a member of Olive Branch Church and the Nashville Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Dr. Shawn Joseph currently serves as a visiting associate professor at Fordham University’s graduate school of education. His passion for equity and social justice has led him to serve in a number of positions in the world of education. He has been an English teacher, school administrator, central office administrator and superintendent in Maryland, Delaware and Tennessee. His work as the superintendent of Metro Nashville Public Schools resulted in schools that are more equitable and accelerated growth for all student groups in both reading and mathematics.
An award-winning educator, published author and researcher, Dr. Joseph’s focus centers on leading for equity, governance and the superintendency. He earned a doctoral degree in educational administration and policy studies from The George Washington University and a master’s degree from The Johns Hopkins University. His bachelor’s degree is from Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, America’s oldest Historically Black College.
Sylvia Rapoport, born and raised in Nashville, is the Founding President of Centennial Park Conservancy, where she has increased the organization’s operating budget more than ten-fold and was responsible for launching two of the Nashville community’s free programs for families: Musicians Corner and Kidsville at the Parthenon. Additionally, she led a $30 million capital campaign to revitalize Centennial Park. Rapoport also serves in Congressman Jim Cooper’s office as a Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform Fellow. She has served in volunteer leadership roles for more than 20 organizations including the Anti-Defamation League, Boston Children’s Museum, Nashville Children’s Theatre, Jewish Foundation of Middle Tennessee and the National Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Foundation. She studied art and history at the University of London with graduate work at Brandeis University.
These four exceptional leaders will join the organization’s current board members, who include: Isaac Addae, Honorable Christiane Buggs, Tequila Johnson, Dustin Jones, Honorable Kyontzé Toombs, and Mariah Williams.
NASHVILLE — The Equity Alliance applauded a federal judge’s decision to block a Tennessee law restricting the rights of voter registration groups from taking effect.
In her opinion granting an injunction, U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger wrote: “There is simply no basis in the record for concluding that the Act will provide much benefit to Tennesseans, and even less reason to think that any benefit will come close to outweighing the harms to Tennesseans (and non-Tennesseans) who merely wish to exercise their core constitutional rights of participating in the political process by encouraging voter registration.”
The Equity Alliance issued a statement after her ruling:
We are overjoyed by U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger’s decision to block Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s law that unfairly imposes criminal and civil penalties on groups who engage in constitutionally protected voter registration. Judge Trauger saw this baseless and unconstitutional law for what it truly is: voter suppression in its ugliest form.
This is a giant win for voting rights advocates who fight to ensure that every citizen has a voice.
Make no mistake about it, this victory is a result of the unstoppable work of The Equity Alliance, a Black-led organization, and the Tennessee Black Voter Project, which submitted about 91,000 voter registration forms for Black and brown Tennesseans in 2018. We are relentless and unapologetic in our pursuit of a fair and just America for all Black citizens.
Having persevered through 400 years of slavery, Jim Crow laws, and oppressive segregation, black people’s ability to vote and exercise free agency in this country is directly tied to our full personhood, dignity and humanity.
Today’s victory underscores the need for The Equity Alliance to fight back against attacks on our voting rights. We hope Secretary of State Tre Hargett reads every word of this opinion and heeds the court’s advice to make voter registration simpler in Tennessee and to work with voter registration groups who are protected by the U.S. Constitution.
We applaud Judge Trauger’s ruling and look forward to getting back to the necessary work of registering Black voters and advocating for their voting rights.
NASHVILLE – The Equity Alliance, a plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a state law targeting voter registration drives with penalties and fines, issued a statement today following U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger’s ruling against the state of Tennessee. In a 63-page opinion, Judge Trauger denied the state’s motion to dismiss the case — allowing the case to proceed.
Charlane Oliver, president and co-founder of The Equity Alliance:
Judge Aleta Trauger’s ruling in favor of proceeding with The Equity Alliance’s lawsuit against Secretary Tre Hargett’s voter supression law affirms the argument we’ve been making all along. If additional training is needed, the state should have produced new instructions for groups that believe in the power of voter registration. The state should be investing its resources in improving our low voter participation rates instead of suppressing voters. Tennesseans do not want or need a burdensome law that slaps well-meaning groups like The Equity Alliance with irrational $10,000 fines or puts our organizers in jail for making mistakes on forms. While today’s ruling against the state is a victory, we know there is a long path ahead for this lawsuit to prevail and for voter registration groups to receive justice.
Nashville will soon choose candidates to lead our city for the next four years. And as all the candidates will tell you: our city’s future is at stake and YOU have the power to decide which candidate’s vision is best for your family and our community.
Early voting starts July 12 at the Howard Office Building downtown and goes until July 27. Election Day is Aug. 1.
To help with your voting decision, The Equity Alliance is proud to provide you our 2019 Nashville Voter Guide — a free, nonpartisan, public resource for Nashville voters to make an informed choice on Election Day.
In this guide, you’ll find unbiased candidate profiles, websites where you can find more candidate information, a description of what each elected office does, polling locations and hours, voter ID requirements, a description of Davidson County’s new voting machines, a reminder to fill out your Census form next year and much more.
Thank you to our community partners, DENOR Brands and Public Relations and 529 Graphics, our volunteers and distribution partners for making the 2019 Nashville Voter Guidea quality product and resource for our community.
Happy Juneteenth! Today is our Independence Day! A day to celebrate and reflect.
The Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery in the United States on January 1, 1863, but it was not until June 19, 1865, two and a half years later, that word reached Galveston, Texas that slavery had been abolished.
While this country has come a long way since June 1865, the work to ensure that Black people can exercise our full rights as citizens to shape this democracy to its fullest potential still remains.
That’s why today we are proud to announce our partnership with 12 Black-led organizations across the country and our national partners, Black Progressive Action Coalition (BPAC) and BlackPAC, to launch Black Citizenship In Action.
Over the next two years in states across the country, from Michigan to California and from Louisiana to Ohio, local partners like The Equity Alliance will hold local events that deepen our community’s shared understanding of our past and present, our rights as citizens, sharpen our analysis of the political landscape in which we are operating, and collectively develop winning strategies to demand a country that values our lives and strives toward justice and equality.
Saturday, July 20, 2019 | 11:00 AM – 1 PM | Rocketown
Prepare to be wowed at this year’s Black Women’s Empowerment Brunch for an inspiring, high-energy fundraiser hosted by 92Q’s radio personality Sissy Brown and featuring live music, a spoken word performance by artist Tia Smedley and a powerful keynote speaker.
The event will also feature a live auction with art donated by acclaimed Nashville painter James Threalkill.
Attendees will enjoy a plated meal, mimosas, a cash bar, networking and great conversation — all for a great cause. Proceeds are tax-deductible and help support our programs and initiatives.
Last year’s sold-out event brought together more than 400 community leaders, corporate executives, elected officials and black women from all walks of life to honor the contributions black women are making to politics, government and society.
Join us to honor black women as Pioneers in Politics and Unsung Sheroes!
Empowerment Brunch General Admission – $100 Empowerment Brunch ticket holders will be treated to entertainment, engaging speakers, a plated brunch, mimosas and networking with inspiring black women.
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