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Black Tennesseans, we need your voices for the third annual Storytellers live show

In World
May 15, 2024

In December 2023, I was hired as an opinion and engagement reporter for The Tennessean. In my position, I write a regular column, focusing on topics as varied as the failures of Metro Nashville Public Schools, the city of Nashville’s complicity in country music’s racism, and the legacy-building, game-changing work of University of South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley.

I also curate the weekly Black Tennessee Voices newsletter, wherein I highlight stories that are of particular interest to Black Tennesseans across the state.

In theory, this is one of my favorite parts the job, wherein I sift through dozens of weekly submissions and published articles from Black folks across the state, Black folks from different counties and professions and socioeconomic backgrounds. I envision the BTV newsletter like a weekly family reunion in your inbox, the chance to hear from cousins you ain’t heard from in a minute, some you’ve never met at all.

In an expansion of this work, The Tennessean will be presenting the third annual Black Tennessee Voices Storytellers Live event this September. The inaugural live program was held in 2022 at the National Museum of African American Music, when my predecessor, LeBron Hill, decided to take the stories of Black Tennesseans off the newspaper page and into a venue wherein they could be shared with other Tennesseans in person.

Black Tennessee Voices cannot exist without Black Tennessee voices

During the event’s first two years, we heard from Kennetha Patterson, the self-described Homeless CEO, who advocates for families experiencing housing insecurity through her organization Vision Heirs INC; Ashford Hughes, executive officer for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Metro Nashville Public Schools; and Jill Fitcheard, executive director of the Metro Nashville Community Oversight Board; among others.

Jill Fitcheard tells her story story during the Black Tennessee Voices event at the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville , Tenn., Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023.

Jill Fitcheard tells her story story during the Black Tennessee Voices event at the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville , Tenn., Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023.

I can’t tell you how excited I am to hear from Black Tennesseans who are leading businesses, communities and families; who see the gaps in our society and are working to fill them; who understand the value in speaking our truths. We’re already well into planning the event: Black Tennessee Voices Storyteller Live will be held on September 17, on the campus of Meharry Medical College, and I will be the evening’s host.

But there is one key part of the program that has yet to be determined.

Ashford Hughes speaks during the Black Tennessee Voices LIVE event at National Museum of African American Music in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022.

Ashford Hughes speaks during the Black Tennessee Voices LIVE event at National Museum of African American Music in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022.

There is no Black Tennessee Voices without Black Tennessee voices, and right now, we need more voices. Instead of sifting through dozens of articles and op-eds, some weeks there are only a couple. I’ve reached out on a few occasions, nudging folks to write something for us. But I also know that, as much as I have my ear to the ground and try to engage in regular conversation with the folks who are busy affecting change, there’s no way I can be aware of all that’s happening, or everyone involved.

Reach out to share your story or nominate someone you know

So with that, consider this my official plea: If you — or, perhaps, someone you know — would be willing to join our growing chorus of Black voices, please reach out. I’m currently looking for folks who will take the stage in September and share their stories live, but I’d also love to hear from people who would like to contribute to the Tennessean’s opinion page and, ultimately, be included in the weekly Black Tennessee Voices newsletter.

Kennetha Patterson speaks during the Black Tennessee Voices LIVE event at National Museum of African American Music in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022.

Kennetha Patterson speaks during the Black Tennessee Voices LIVE event at National Museum of African American Music in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022.

There’s a lot to be said about media’s whiteness and its subsequent inability to accurately tell Black stories. This is different. This is your chance to tell your story, in your words.

I hope you’ll join me.

Andrea Williams is an opinion columnist for The Tennessean and curator of the Black Tennessee Voices initiative. She has an extensive background covering country music, sports, race and society. Email her at adwilliams@tennessean.com or follow her on X (formerly known as Twitter) at @AndreaWillWrite.

Past Black Tennessee Voices Storytellers

2022: Inaugural Show

  • Alyssa Dituro has spent her career advocating for equitable learning for all, especially in early childhood.

  • Ashford Hughes, a Knoxville native and executive officer of DEI for Metro Nashville Public Schools

  • Kennetha Patterson has experienced homelessness at points in her life and calls herself the Homeless CEO

  • Revida Rahman, a Brentwood mom and local advocate for diversity. Her early childhood memories of racism modeled how she parents today

  • Marisa Richmond, a retired Middle Tennessee State University professor and Black and trans community advocate

  • Keidron Turner, a Belmont University graduate, who grew up in Pulaski, the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan

Keidron Turner speaks during the Black Tennessee Voices LIVE event at National Museum of African American Music in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022.

Keidron Turner speaks during the Black Tennessee Voices LIVE event at National Museum of African American Music in Nashville, Tenn., Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022.

2023: Second Annual Show

  • Patricia Bethel, a 1972 Lipscomb University graduate, advocate for lupus research, and project & program management senior principal consultant at NTT DATA Services

  • Jill Fitcheard, executive director, Nashville Community Oversight

  • Timothy Hughes, digital creator and second vice-president of the NAACP Nashville Branch

  • Marshall Crawford, Army veteran and CEO of The Housing Fund

  • Shanera Williamson, podcaster and founder of The Brown Mama Bear Podcast

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Black Tennessee Voices: Share your story in our third annual show

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