Last week, we had four people in the same hospital: a hit and run, a baby born early, and two broken bodies driven to madness by broken minds. I cannot fathom what it would be like to feel my flesh and bones give way to a rush of metal, to give birth to a child without a home, to be haunted by voices no one else hears. I walked the sterile, weaving, windowless hallways feeling heavy, reminding myself I cannot fix people.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 28, 2016
What Does the “State of Metro” Look Like From Below?
What: Silent Vigil and “The People’s State of Metro” Press Conference
When: Friday, April 29, 11:30 a.m. (vigil) and 12:30 p.m. (press conference)
Where: Ascend Amphitheater, 301 1st Ave. South
Nashville, Tenn. — This Friday, April 29, more than 150 people from across Nashville will join with homeless camp residents and local organizers active in struggles for social, economic, and racial justice to hold a silent vigil during the Mayor’s State of Metro address. The purpose of this vigil (and the press conference following it) is to highlight the contrasts between the rapidly booming “It City” and the daily struggles for survival experienced by tens of thousands of Nashvillians who are not reaping the benefits of Nashville’s growth. By gathering during and after the Mayor’s State of Metro address, organizers will invite city leaders and stakeholders to place people over profit by building a Nashville that truly benefits all of its residents, especially those who continue to struggle in the shadows of the city’s progress.
The vigil to be held during the Mayor’s State of Metro address will highlight the fact that Metro continues to move forward with the dismantling of the encampment at Fort Negley despite the fact that some residents still have no place to go. In the absence of (1) land for authorized encampments that adequately address all unhoused persons’ shelter needs, and (2) a comprehensive affordable housing plan (0-60% Davidson County Median Income)—both of which residents and advocates demanded on April 15 at a rally at City Hall—the displacement of the residents at Fort Negley and other encampments is an insufficient and immoral response to Metro’s affordable housing crisis.
“If we don’t stand up now, then we’ll all fall together,” says Ray Telford, a homeless camp resident in Nashville. “It’s not just about Fort Negley—it’s about all of us. Where are people supposed to go? It’s going to take all of us to change this and we’ve got to unite and raise our voices. We need to be heard.”
While housing advocates have expressed appreciation for Mayor Barry’s recently announced $10 million addition to the Barnes Housing Trust Fund, they have also made clear that $10 million does not come close to the $125 million that housing experts have recommended be added to the housing trust fund in order to adequately address Nashville’s affordable housing crisis.
“We are at a critical moment in Nashville’s history as a city,” says housing expert and Vanderbilt University professor Jim Fraser. “While some people are benefitting from the upscale development around town, many Nashvillians have seen their wages stagnate while housing values have far outpaced what they can afford. This is not a new problem. We know that many people, upon whose backs this city’s prosperity has been built, are struggling everyday to makes ends meet. The provision of safe, decent affordable housing for all people living in Nashville must be a priority.”
Following the Mayor’s address, organizers will hold “The People’s State of Metro” press conference. Because homelessness, housing, and criminalization are deeply intertwined with issues of workers’ rights, fair wages, economic and racial justice, mass incarceration, healthcare, immigrant and refugee rights, and other struggles for dignity and survival, The People’s State of Metro press conference will bring together leaders from these issues and movements to proclaim loud and clear what the “state of Metro” looks like from the underside of our city.
The People’s State of Metro press conference will highlight the critical importance of prioritizing “People Over Profit.” A Nashville to celebrate, organizers will argue, is one that incorporates at every level a priority for all of its people before it secures profits for high-end and entertainment development. It is possible to develop a city in a way that benefits its most vulnerable and historically exploited and ignored residents, but organizers will provide evidence for the fact that the current “State of Metro,” where one in five residents lives below the poverty line, looks different from the perspective of those left out of its recent successes and growth. A Nashville that actually holds people over profit is a Nashville that benefits all of us.
Schedule of Events:
11:30 a.m. – Silent Vigil outside of Ascend Amphitheater
12:30 p.m. – The People’s State of Metro Press Conference on the public lawn adjacent to Ascend Amphitheater