People are angry. People are frustrated; and rightly so. As a Nashville native, I’ve observed a growing divide between the haves and have nots that manifests as displacement of people of color, poor people, and people who are not politically-connected. Now there is an accentuated racial divide, with systemic racism backing up those with privilege more than ever before. This frustration—if not addressed—will only grow worse.
In my latest Tennessean editorial, It’s time to create a better “Nashville Way” that truly works for everyone, I talk about how things were in this city for my mother and father, who were, in retrospect, the working poor. They managed, by sheer will coupled with a desire to see their children realize their dreams, to produce and nurture my brother, sister, and me, the first generation in our immediate family to even finish high school. We’ve each stacked up a few degrees between us since then, but they pale in comparison to the values my parents taught; the main one being to always look out for “the least of these.”
Like many Black people with good friends who—according to the social construct of “race” that defines the hierarchy of priority in America—would be classified as “White,” my phone and texts have been blown up lately. In the wake of global protests over the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, lie the unmasked remains of the structural foundation of inequity that governs American society. It’s not just a national phenomenon, however.
It’s a Nashville one.
Everyone is asking, “What can we do?” For some, that means, “I really want to fix things.” For others, it can mean, “What can we do to shut these people up?” The answer is clear, and—interestingly—the same:
Fix the problems. Correct the inequities. Bring about a healing.
Healing the structural racism and inequities in our city is not going to be an easy job, nor will it happen overnight. It requires commitment and vision; commitment of time, resources, and money. It also requires acknowledging something that has been psychologically jettisoned into outer space for too long: Nashville, we have a problem.
We can all see it now. Thousands are continually protesting. Various Grassroots and corporate entities alike are all scrambling for ways to bring about equity. My elders and mentors years ago taught me to never bring a critique without offering a plan, so instead of criticizing, I decided to create something.
I present to you The Infinity Plan.
The Infinity Plan, issued by The Infinity Center, is a comprehensive, city-wide roadmap that addresses major issues which city leaders have sent mixed messages on, including the re-opening of Metro Nashville Public Schools. City leaders are overwhelmed, and it’s understandable. We have the impact of the Tornadoes, then COVID-19, the closing of schools, and a whopping 34 percent increase in property taxes. Nashville has been through the wringer, and everyday people don’t feel their voices are being heard.
We keep seeing tons of committees being formed, loaded with politically-connected people, and yet, no results. This is one clear, strategic set of solutions we think people who want to see substantive Change—especially for Black lives—can get behind to implement.
The plan addresses five major areas: Policing, Public Schools, Tornado and COVID-19 Resource Allocation, Affordable Housing, and Black representation in The Arts.
The full, comprehensive plan is available for download below. The format is as follows:
- Each area will be explored with a question that defines the issue, followed by an answer to the issue.
- Following the answer is a chart graphic that defines the issue, the Infinity Plan proposed solution, and the magic answer: who will pay for the solution.
- Following the graph is a step-by-step skeletal implementation plan—to make things easier. Infinity Center staff is available for all aspects of implementation.
These are the 5 areas of immediate need, with proposed solutions. In the actual plan and the Infographic, there is an exhaustive degree of detail, for the policy wonks among you. If you feel them, move on them. If you don’t, create something new and put something even better into the world.
- METRO NASHVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT (MNPD): Defunding, Disfunction, and Dissection: The Roadmap for a New Chief and Infrastructure. A community-process is needed, with a broad spectrum of voices, instead of the “usual suspects.” Recommendation: Select a Police Chief with a commitment to Policing reform.
- METRO NASHVILLE PUBLIC SCHOOLS (MNPS): The School has Left The Building—and it should, even more so. Recommendation: Turn houses of faith, libraries, and community centers into satellite locations for distance learning options for the fall semester.
- TORNADO/COVID-19 RELIEF: Priorities for assisting recovery; Uses and Non-Abuses of $100 Million Dollars in Federal Funds that, incidentally, must be used or returned by December, 2020. Recommendation: De-Politicize and distribute $100 Million dollars before having to return the federal funds. Unlike other committee plans, the solution in The Infinity Plan has been selected from specific parameters outlined in the CARES Act funding guidelines and intersects with the recommendations for MNPS.
- INNOVATIVE HOUSING: Building a new model for Accessible, Affordable Communities that defy Gentrification. Recommendation: Prevent gentrification by building innovative model communities with available landowners/partners. One Infinity Way is a “Proof of Concept” sustainability model, to be built to provide housing for Creatives, Artists, and Teachers, particularly those who have been displaced in North Nashville.
- THE ARTS: Creating an environment where Black voices are not only heard, but amplified and empowered. Recommendation: Engage, amplify, and–most importantly–compensate local Black voices in the arts. We want to expand on our creative class that gives us vision for the next generation who want to make Nashville their home, but can’t afford to live here due to lack of consistent opportunities.
I invite you to spend some time exploring The Infinity Plan, and if it resonates in your spirit, act on the recommendations outlined.
A CALL TO ACTION
“How can I help?” I’m so glad you asked. Here’s how you can help move this plan forward:
- Download the Infographic– Follow the instructions and share the link with 5 friends.
- Download the detailed plan– Share the link with your online circles or direct them to this page.
- Call your elected officials, the mayor’s office, and metro schools. Let them know you support The Infinity Plan.
- Make a personal donation to The One Infinity Way Vision- We’re not just going to talk. We’re going to put some skin—and land—into the progress game. Invite your family, friends, bosses, board members, professional athletes, corporate leaders and more to join you in being a part of the Change.
We have a unique window opening in Nashville: an opportunity to correct past and present wrongs by providing equity with priority, backed by political will. The promise of Nashville was that we would have a city for everyone—a message I personally helped to craft as a Senior Advisor on the most recent Mayoral campaign. That promise has not been realized, so I’m offering a plan that is of The People, by The People, and for The People; a vision with some very practical ways The People can now take up the charge to deliver on all the promise Nashville holds.
If the city is now in the hands of the people to lead, then I’ll take those odds. I was born and raised in this city. My wife and I both went to Public Schools, as have all five of our children. When we had the option to leave Nashville, we made a conscious decision to place our roots even deeper into the ground here. I’ve lived a life of community and institution building, and I know how strong Nashville folks have been, going back to before the hashtags begin.
It’s time for The People to lead the next level of this movement because, as the great Civil Rights hero Ella Baker once reminded us, “Strong people do not need strong leaders.”
Let’s go, Nashville. We can do this. Right now.