Tennessee Ranks High in Outrageous Number of Children with Incarcerated Parent(s)

The TENNESSEE prison pipeline is looking for a few good mother and children STAYWOKE

Volume & Light Nashville

I know too many children with at least one incarcerated parent. And, unfortunately, Nashville schools are teeming with children living in situations with one or both parents in jail or prison. While MNPS has yet to capture the data identifying the number of children affected, I am told the issue is on the district’s radar. Until then, organizations like Free Hearts is determined to do something about it.

Walking the Walk

headshot-1-hi-res Free Hearts executive director Dawn Harrington 

Free Hearts provides education, support, and advocacy to incarcerated moms and children of incarcerated parents. According to Free Hearts executive director Dawn Harrington, Tennessee is one of the leaders in the nation with an inflated number of children with incarcerated parents.

Tennessee’s prison system is doing a great job of meeting and exceeding bed fulfillment projections, doing so at the expense of whole families and communities, particularly those of color. For this reason, Free Hearts is leading a unique effort to…

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6 Flags Over Jesus-Mission of Mercy

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In Medicaid, dental care for adult beneficiaries is optional and is often one of the first benefits eliminated amid state budget constraints. While 47 states and Washington, DC offer some dental benefit to Medicaid-enrolled adults, only 32 cover services beyond emergency care, and only 16 offer comprehensive dental coverage. Inadequate access to dental services can lead to high rates of dental disease, costly oral health-related hospital visits, and missed work days {medicaid.gov}.

20170210_043957This past Friday and Saturday the Mid-South Mission of Mercy held a free dental clinic at Bellevue Baptist Church. Those who do not receive Obama care are without dental and vision insurance.  Activists and organizers work from small donations. A couple of BLMM activists and their family members attended this Free Dental Clinic fo treatment and to evaluate the process.  It was akin to a roller coaster.  Waking up at 3 am to travel to the mega-church all the way to Cordova was the easiest part of the beginning of an epic journey for free dental care.

Standing in line didn’t seem so hard, but for one person who had Lupus, it was challenging a time. It was only 2 hours until the doors opened at 6:00 am. I didn’t seem like a long time since it was for a worthwhile cause. When the temperature dropped, significantly this began not be such a great idea, not to mention there were 497 people who had arrived a few hours before us. Some of them had chairs and had camped out for these free dental services.

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Many people were just happy to know that they were in the top 500.  Suddenly, a kind lady passed out arm bands letting us know the first 1200 would be seen.  Overcoming the freezing temperature with Community Coffee, things began to look up. The line was moving forward to a giant heated tent.  As we approached, excitement could be felt by everyone.  Realizing everyone was here for the same reason, swap stories with each other. The friendly chit chatter was interrupted by a disgruntled woman, wanting join the conversation.  She was upset because no one was talking to her.  Many mentally ill people were seeking services, and this situation became frustrating for those who were not.   An elderly man began to talk to the woman, and suddenly the energy outside the church was transformed with positivity.

A man appeared and start requesting that all women with children come with him.  It felt like the scene from the “Titanic” because one woman said, “I should have brought my child.”  As we moved closer to the tent, another man asked all the disabled and elderly people to come with him. Two hours felt like five until a nice lady began passing out breakfast foods, juice, and more coffee.  We were almost to the front of the line of the giant heated tent when an altercation broke out between the Copeland Security employee and a seemingly veteran/mentally ill man.  This was ironic because there was a large police presence.  There should have been people trained to deal with such situations. The situation was diffused quickly, but one could only wonder why mentally ill people don’t receive free dental care.

Finally, we made it on the ride inside of the Tent.  One person shouted, “Hallelujah thank you, Jesus.” We were greeted with smiles and welcomes from the Mercy volunteers. We began to thaw out and seated at exactly 8:45 am.  We could only wonder if this would this be worth the wait, as we were asked which services we desired, and were separated by category. They even had an unsure category.  While filling out the paperwork, various volunteers had signs on their shirts that read “Can I pray for you?”  A nice gentleman named Ben Taylor thanked us for coming and added though we were here to get dental service that there were some people who wanna pray for us. Just as we need dental care, we need spiritual care. No one objected.  A gentleman walked up and sat down next to a man and asked: “Do you know if you are going to heaven?”

He replied, “Yes because I do good deeds take care of my family.”

He then told him  “No man will get to heaven unless he believes and confess and admits that Jesus is his Savior, and according to the Bible, GOD LOVES U.”

He went on to tell him that “the consequences of sin are death & that is what separates us from death. So that’s why God sent Jesus, he is alive today.”

He then asked, “Does that make sense to you?”  

He said, “Yes, are you ready for him to be your Lord & Savior?”

At that point, I suddenly realized I needed to find a bathroom. They had porta potties, but with the near freezing temperatures, I was not going to be able to use one. On a mission for mercy to make my way into the building, I began to pray that I could get inside a real bathroom without incident.  As I walked to the door a lady with a smile greeted me and asked me where I was going.“I need to use a bathroom.”  She said, “Come with me, I will show you where it is.” My prayer had been answered.  After relieving myself, I made my way back to the tent feeling like a new person.  

Someone spoke on the mic about unity and going to the Lord because he provides all of our needs. Knowing that I needed a root canal, I was shocked to find out that they had dentists performing them onsite.  Walking into Bellevue Baptist building was like a “dental Disneyland.” The first section was for children decorated in superhero pictures.  Volunteers were gracious.  They immediately began taking our vitals, the process of seeing a dentist had begun, but not before someone brought us all lunch. This hospitality sent heart-filling warmth throughout the gigantic gymnasium. After getting our X-rays, we were then sent to have our gums numbed. Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell entered with bodyguards.  He did not interact with the people or his constituents who had been waiting outside all morning but offered a big smile for the cameras as if he were responsible for sponsoring the event.

The hygienist was very gentle and kind. It was reassuring to know that the process was almost over, so we all thought.  After consulting with a dentist, she said, “You’re going to need a root canal, but the tooth was so close to the bone. It may be a waste to do a root canal.”   She assured me the two dentists were the best who would perform my root canal.  Not sure what she meant by that.  The only teeth I had ever had pulled were my wisdom teeth. I had no intention of having any teeth pulled.

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I waited another hour because the volunteers were changing shift.  I became anxious and impatient because all I wanted was to fill the chipped hole in my tooth.  

The majority of the people receiving services were black folks. The majority of the dentist and professional staff were not black.  In fact, I don’t think I counted more than ten black dentists in the entire building. With such a high demand for dentistry needed why aren’t more blacks aren’t in this field and what programs exist in Shelby County to encourage more black dentist?

20170210_125718My root canal which would have cost $400.00 minus the crown, if I had gotten elsewhere.   I was glad to get a root canal, so I thought.  Michael James, a young black resident, told me he is going to be doing my root canal. Something about his energy was different from everyone else. He didn’t talk to me about Jesus or even offer to pray for me like everyone else. He didn’t even smile.  All of a sudden he tried to put something on my tooth.  The tooth broke. The numbing stuff had worn off I felt the pain. I began to get frantic because he was not gentle like all of the other people.  I was about to cry, but then another man came over and said, “We are not going to be able to save your tooth.” I started to get angry because I didn’t sign up for them to break my tooth or an extraction.  I signed up for a filling and was hoping to get a cleaning if they had time.  If only I had dental insurance and had been getting my teeth cared for on a regular I would not be going through this experience.

Immediately I asked for someone in charge. I came in with a tooth, and I intended to leave with a tooth I didn’t care if it was free. I felt like I had been at the top of the roller coaster and being dropped.  My heart sank, and I began to pray. Two black security guards walked up.  Before they could say anything to me a nice Iranian man came and said, “I will take care of you. Come with me we will have to pull your tooth, but I will personally make sure you leave with a tooth. Because the tooth is broken, it must come out.” I didn’t believe a word he was saying, but he was so nice and convincing, and when he said you are blessed, I knew I could trust him.

20170210_132146We went to another part of the church where impressions for dentures and other moldings were being made. The ride was almost over.  When I saw that they were making teeth in the church.  He made a molding for my teeth and said, “Come with me we now have to take you to surgery.”  I felt helpless but I was willing to follow him to hell as long as he didn’t take me near the guy who was doing the root canals. He then took me to an older dentist who re-numbed my gums. It was like getting on another ride that I knew I shouldn’t be getting on, but I had to according to the Iranian dentist who said, “I was blessed.”  All of a sudden he couldn’t get the tooth out it broke again from the root and then he began asking the assistant to hand him instruments that weren’t big enough next thing I knew my mouth was being hammered.  Literally, he was hammering my tooth.  He said, “You have good bone structure.”  I began to pray because I knew I was going to die at Bellevue Baptist Church.  All of a sudden he said, “you made me sweat, but I got it.”  He began stitching my gum up.  Then he said, “No, I don’t like that one let me re-stitch it.”  He laughed, and I sighed and vowed to never get on this ride again.  Hallelujah, thank you, Jesus. I was ok.

16729146_1875404049372373_6630635323341186872_nThey explained my temporary tooth would be ready the next day by 10 am.  It was time to exit this place. They provided me with free pain pills and antibiotics, and I left thinking I have to come back again.  When I arrived at 10 am the next morning, I was greeted by friendly smiling faces and the Iranian dentist Dr. Hassan Bashiri the man in the blue scrubs who had rescued me the day before.  I discovered more about how long he had been doing dental work and felt a sense of pride knowing that he was a Maxillofacial Prosthodontist which is a sub-specialty of dentistry.  Originally from Illinois, he practices in Arkansas but travels all over the world doing God’s work and it had to be divine intervention that brought him to me the day before. He fitted me for my temporary replacement tooth and did not allow me to leave until it was perfect. He said he was a perfectionist.  I told him me too that’s why I had to have a tooth and will be getting a permanent implant at some point.  He reassured that even though this was temporary it would last for years.

When I looked in the mirror I could not tell which tooth was the fake one because it looked identical to the others. I was shocked to know as much pain as I was in the day before that he could put something there even though my mouth had not healed and it looked good.  He said this will keep my teeth from shifting and explained how to care for it until I get a permanent implant. He then sent me to get my teeth cleaned which I really needed. Greeted by Tera another Mission of Mercy Volunteer, she said, “Can I pray for you?”  I did not resist.  Something about all the constant prayer in the past 24 hours was comforting. Almost in tears from the generosity of all these different spirits, I could not allow one negative encounter to form my opinion of this free dental clinic.   We were cold.  They gave us coffee. We weren’t extremely hungry, but they fed us twice.  I needed to use a real bathroom. I was permitted to do so I could maintain my dignity. I was in distress and they comforted me.  My tooth was broken. It was almost fixed by probably one of the best dentist in the world. Dr. Bashiri was right. I am blessed.  The Mid-South Mission of Mercy provided different experiences for each individual this past weekend, and it would behoove other churches to try to offer similar services to the community because they not only saved teeth. They spread love in a city filled with so much distress.  After everything we had been through all we could say was Hallelujah thank you, Jesus.

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So how does a free dental clinic relate to black lives matter Memphis?

Dentistry just like social justice work is a challenging field which sometimes requires unconventional tactics to bring about desirable end results. Sometimes we have to hammer so hard. It hurts to get the perfect results.  Sometimes we have to allow strangers to love us and pray for us even if we don’t believe it will work. Sometimes we have to trust a complete stranger who says that we are blessed and know that we can find a solution to a problem. All of the work that was done was to bring us a step closer to the promise land. Many people don’t believe in God or Jesus, but the faith of others is enough to bring us one step closer to our Hallelujah moment.  Sometimes we have to let go of our hurt and fear and allow people who don’t know us to guide us and reshape our opinions.  We must learn to open our hearts, love and trust people even if it hurts. Our legislators also should listen to the need and implement more affordable dental insurance for those who can’t afford it. Memphis is a city full of hate, and if we are not careful it will continue to be passed on to our generations, and if we do better it may be a challenging procedure, but we can overcome each obstacle with patience, love, pain, dedication, and perseverance where we can all reach that Hallelujah thank you Jesus moment. 

Our legislators should listen to the needs of their constituents and provide dental insurance for those who can’t afford dental services. Memphis is a city full of hate.  If we are not careful, it will continue to be passed on to our generations. Although it may be challenging, if we create a better process, we can overcome each obstacle with patience, love, dedication, and perseverance where we can all reach that Hallelujah thank you Jesus moment. Six Flags over Jesus. 

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State of Memphis-Are We There Yet?

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On February 9, 2017, Mayor Jim Strickland gave his “Sate of the City” address at Impact Baptist Church located in the Frayser community. During his address he spoke of leaving community centers open longer, crime prevention and reduction, homicides, and the addition of new police officers. He did not answer any questions from the public but was very happy to speak with the local media.  Councilman Berlin Boyd also seems to enjoy talking to the news media, but not to the constituents with questions.  When Black Lives Matter Memphis asked the Mayor about adding light rail to establish mass transit, he began talking about Memphis Area Transit Area and buses. It was clear that the mayor has not given serious consideration to an effective light rail system to bring Memphis into the 21st Century. He is working on a 3.0 plan designed for the next 30 years.  If mass transit is not in the plan, it is obvious he does not understand his plan has already failed disenfranchised people throughout the city.

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If we compare Memphis to Atlanta’s or St. Louis’s, populations, they are comparable.  Atlanta implemented mass transit trains through MARTA and established a mass transit system in 1979. St. Louis put their light rail train system in place 16 years ago. One significant difference is Memphis has just as much square footage as New York City, but we do not have mass transit. Our city population of 650,000 is greater than St. Louis’s 350,000 and Atlanta’s 447,000.  Essentially this means with the right mass transit system, Memphis could double its population in the next 30 years and not only lead the South as a distribution hub, but a viable sustainable city full productive of black folks.   The right incentives and ‘state-of-the-art’ mass transit will guarantee employment and the ability for workers to travel freely. The level a city moves daily determines the growth and wealth for all people including the poor.  Without the implementation of a light rail, poverty will continue to increase and crime will surge.

20170209_124226With regards to the issues of public safety and crime Mayor Strickland is convinced by adding more police officers our city will become safer. Hogwash. Poverty is Memphis’ biggest demon. Until we reduce poverty, crime will continue to rise. One proven fact is where people are employed and mobile there is less crime.  The majority of poor people in Memphis are confined to their communities which do not offer employment or a living wage. Economic segregation is the biggest disparity in Memphis and the “state” of Memphis is dismal for those who are not included in the decision-making process which affects all of our city.  The mayor was excited about the billions of dollars being spent on the Pinch District and St. Jude’s contribution, but the 3.0 plan only exemplifies the undeniable fact that most of the citizens who pay taxes will not be able to enjoy or even seek employment in the Pinch district without reliable affordable transportation.

cc7_0380_bob_wenner_paul_young_sq-thumb400x400Community Development Director Paul Young agrees that a mass transit light rail system would be a benefit to the city, but expressed concerns of how it would be financed.  When a BLMM activist suggested making Trump pay for the infrastructure of light rail, he smiled but did not think it is plausible. BLMM also suggested a small toll charge from West Memphis Arkansas and Southaven Mississippi would be a thought since our city has allowed these cities to drain Memphis, and take our jobs and revenue solely to profit their states.

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Federal funds were appropriated in the past for Memphis’ mass transit, but the city chose to spend it on developing Shelby Farms, defective Trolleys, and the GreenLine bike trail.  The fact of the matter is the people making the decisions which affect black folks clearly don’t care about transportation in Memphis because they appropriate funds to corporations and hospitals, but refuse to break bread with the tax base who pays not only city but county taxes.

ron-garrison3_20170127170708333_7171680_ver1-0_640_360Recently the MATA director was caught up in a soliciting prostitution sting which led to his resignation.  This could be a clear indication as to why the Crosstown 31 was removed.  The leadership in this city must learn to make policies and decisions that do not adversely affect the majority and make wise decisions that will make the city better for everyone.  Sometimes our leaders forget that the majority of Memphis is impoverished and those people household incorporated less than $10,000.00 a year in income.  While the “green line” is a great resource for those who can afford bikes and recreation, a light rail system would have been more beneficial to those who need employment.  mata

Hopefully, the city will keep the majority of the citizens in mind the next time federal subsidies are given to Memphis for a capital project, our city will develop and construct an up to date mass transit system. Contrary to the Mayor’s optimism about the “state” of Memphis, public opinion might equate to this   -Black Folks are in trouble and we need help because city and county’s decisions reiterate that they are more concerned about attracting tourists and least concerned with providing and developing a light rail system which would allow the city to be more accessible to all citizens and visitors.  Are we there yet?  This is the current state of Memphis, immobile and underrepresented. #staywoke #blacklivesmattermemphis.

 

The Cost of Devos..Lamar You Gotta Go

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On Monday, January 30, 2017, United Education Association and Black Lives Matter Memphis and several organizations held a rally and demonstration outside the Federal Building in opposition of Trump’s Secretary of Education.  The crowd of 100 plus educators, parents and concerned citizens voiced their dissent in hopes that Senator Lamar Alexander would deviate from his party lines and put education first.  The Federal Building is not accustomed to having citizens’ protest and BLM Memphis organizer P. Moses stated “Since Trump wants to shake up the Federal government it’s only appropriate that we respond with non-conventional responses to ensure our voice is not lost. We must hold all elected officials accountable, and we will keep our focus on the federal government.”

BLM Memphis’ Brown vs. Board Committee Chairwoman, Tikeila Rucker, held a press conference during the rally and discussed the importance of public education as well as this position being maintained by a qualified individual, which is not Devos.  Rucker, president of the Shelby County Teacher’s Association has rallied in Washington DC with other educators to protect public education. Different participants at the rally voiced their disapproval of Devos through a megaphone. One educator Kirby stated “Devos supports charter schools and in Michigan, she managed to turn 80% of the schools into a for-profit business.  Other teachers expressed concerns about competency. Devos does not know the difference between “proficiency” and “growth.”  Her ignorance of key terminology in public education illustrates her incompetence and Trump’s disdain for public education.

The crowd remained energized while chanting “Toss Devos” “What Do We Do When Education is Under Attack, STAND UP AND FIGHT BACK!”  Dedicated teachers vowed to stay until 6 pm to give other teachers a chance to get off work so their voices could be heard. The group then took to Front Street and walked down the sidewalk chanting “Vote No of You Gotta Go.” directed to Alexander. When participants made it to the doors of the Clifford-Odell Federal Building a call was made to Senator Lamar Alexander’s office so he could hear his constituents loud and clear.  Apparently, he did not understand the constituents cries of Shelby County and the seriousness about this vote He voted down party lines and confirmed Devos yesterday.

 

Participants vowed to immediately begin a search for a new senator to replace Alexander. He has held public office over 40 years and was the former governor of Tennessee. Moses stated, “The biggest problem with government people make careers out of positions and forget about the people the represent.” The crowd concluded by circling the federal building chanting “This is what Democracy Looks Like!” and vow to remove Senator Lamar Alexander from office.

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Black Lives Matter Memphis is currently seeking dedicated leaders and prepares to vette more progressive candidates in upcoming elections to help bring about legislative change on a local, state, and federal levels. All person’s seeking consideration should email professional bios and resume to info@blacklivesmattermemphis.org. All persons who promote progressive change should submit regardless of age, gender, sex, race, religion, or color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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