Black Caucus

On the history of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s bust at the TN state capitol

One of the leaders of the successful 1970s effort to place a bust of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest in the Tennessee state Capitol building tells Cari Wade Gervin – in one small part of a comprehensive review of that history, including commentary – that race was not a factor.

Kenneth P’Pool, a Sons of Confederate Veterans member who headed the group’s Forrest Bust Committee in 1973 (and who supported George Wallace for president in 1968), teamed with the state Sen. Douglas Henry, D-Nashville, and Lanier Merrit, a Civil War expert and collector, in promoting the idea — which quickly became the subject of black protests at the time that have continued today.

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Bill reducing fees for expunging criminal records becomes law

News release from House Democratic Caucus

MEMPHIS-TN State Rep. Raumesh Akbari says she’s pleased that her bill reducing the expunction fee has been signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam.  The legislation will lower the expunction fee from $350 down to $180. The new law takes effect immediately.

After the signing, Rep. Akbari, (D-District 91), said “The bottom line is this- we believe that people should not be judged for the rest of their lives for the decisions they make on their worst day.  By reducing part of the financial barrier to expunction, more ex-offenders will be able to get their lives back on track; reducing the recidivism rate and strengthening our communities.”

The bill (HB418) was co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris and is part of a criminal justice reform package spearheaded by the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators, which Rep. Akbari chairs. (Note: Lead sponsor in the Senate was Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris,)

Akbari also passed two additional expunction bills.  One (HB636) makes it easier for juveniles to get criminal records expunged.  The other (HB873) allows a person who has two convictions to get a one-time expunction of both.

Note: The AP notes in a brief on the bill that the reduction in cost from $350 to $180 doesn’t include related court costs or fees. WBBJ TV of Jackson, quoting a local lawyer, apparently does so – pegging the reduction in total costs from $450 to $270. Both stories note that the state’s law on expunging records covers only relatively minor offenses.

Rep. Brenda Gilmore seeking seat now held by Sen. Thelma Harper

State Rep. Brenda Gilmore, chair of the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators, has announced she will run next year for the Democratic nomination in Senate District 19, now held by veteran Sen. Thelma Harper, D-Nashville.

Harper, 76, who has served 27 years in the Senate, has not announced her plans on seeking another term. In a statement released after Gilmore’s announcement, Harper said she’s considering retirement but will wait until after the legislative session to decide.

Howard E. Jones Jr., pastor of Fairfield Missionary Baptist Church in Goodlettsville, announced in February that he would seek the seat if Harper decides to retire. (Note: Video of his statement, posted by the Tennessee Tribune, is HERE.)

Here’s Gilmore’s news release:

State Representative Brenda Gilmore today announces her candidacy for the 19th State Senatorial District.

“Now more than ever we need leaders with a longstanding record of giving back, listening and responding to constituents’ concerns,” Gilmore said.  “I go to work every day and listen to the concerns and frustrations of our citizens. I have been blessed with the opportunity to actually respond and make a real difference. It would be my honor to continue giving back to this community.”

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Rep. Akbari chosen as TN Black Caucus chair

News release from Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators

NASHVILLE—The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators Tuesday elected its leadership positions for the 110th General Assembly of the Tennessee House of Representatives.  Rep. Raumesh Akbari of Memphis was elected Caucus Chair by acclimation.

Rep. Akbari (House District 91) replaces Nashville Rep. Brenda Gilmore, who did not run for re-election.

Following the vote, Rep. Akbari thanked the caucus members and vowed to continue the fight:  “I’m thankful to colleagues for their support in electing me chair of the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators.  As a caucus, we represent all three grand divisions, and urban and rural districts, it’s this collective perspective that gives us strength.  Working together, we will aggressively fight for our legislative agenda and for African Americans across this state.  I’m thankful to the leadership of Chairlady Gilmore, and I am looking forward to working with the new members of the board.”

Other positions elected Tuesday were as follows:

  • Caucus Vice-Chair—Rep. JoAnne Favors of Chattanooga
  • Caucus Treasurer—Rep. Johnnie Turner of Memphis
  • Caucus Secretary—Rep. Barbara Cooper of Memphis
  • Parliamentarian—Rep. Joe Towns Jr. of Memphis
  • Sergeant-At-Arms—Rep. Antonio Parkinson of Memphis
  • Chaplin—Rep. Johnny Shaw of Bolivar

Black Caucus urges Haslam to diversify cabinet

The legislature’s Black Caucus is urging Gov. Bill Haslam to diversify his cabinet and offering to help him find qualified appointees. At one point, Haslam had three black cabinet members, but all have resigned – the last being Human Services Commissioner Raquel Hatter.

News release from Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Representative Brenda Gilmore, Chair of the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators, has sent a letter to Governor Bill Haslam calling on him to diversify his cabinet.

With the announcement of Commissioner Raquel Hatter’s forthcoming departure, it will leave the Haslam 20+ member cabinet with only one commissioner who is not white and none who are African American.

“The leadership of the cabinet should be diverse and reflect the broad range of all that Tennessee has to offer.  This is not only about diversity. It is also about making sure that the very best and most skilled individuals are in service in state government,” said Rep. Brenda Gilmore.

“The Tennessee Black Caucus believes that it is not possible that the Governor has the best talent available, if he has no African Americans in his cabinet,” said Gilmore.

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Rep. Akbari collects two awards at NBCSL conference

News release via House Democratic Caucus

NEW ORLEANS— Rep. Raumesh Akbari of Tennessee walked away with two prestigious awards from the National Black Caucus of State Legislators 40th Annual Legislative Conference in New Orleans.

Akbari was named Region IX Legislator of the Year by the NBCSL.  The Democrat from Memphis was also named Woman of the Year by the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women. In addition, Rep. Akbari was elected to the post of Treasurer of NBCSL.

Rep. Akbari is currently the Vice-Chair of the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators and was recently elected to the position of Floor Leader of the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus for the upcoming 110th General Assembly.

In other action at this year’s convention, Memphis Representative Larry Miller was named NBCSL Vice Chair for Region IV—Tennessee’s region.   Rep. Brenda Gilmore of Nashville and current chair of the Tennessee Black Caucus, and Memphis Reps. Karen Camper and G. A. Hardaway were all named Executive Members at Large.  Camper was recently re-elected Treasurer of the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus.

Tennesseans get leadership roles in National Black Caucus of State Legislators

News release from Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators

NEW ORLEANS—Several Tennessee lawmakers were elected to new leadership positions at the National Black Caucus of State Legislators 40th Annual Legislative Conference in New Orleans last week.

Rep. Raumesh Akbari of Memphis was elected as Treasurer.  Rep. Akbari is currently the Vice-Chair of the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators and was recently elected to the position of Floor Leader of the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus for the upcoming 110th General Assembly.

In other action at this year’s convention, Memphis Representative Larry Miller was named NBCSL Vice Chair for Region IV—Tennessee’s region.

Rep. Brenda Gilmore of Nashville and current chair of the Tennessee Black Caucus, and Memphis Reps. Karen Camper and G. A. Hardaway were all named Executive Members at Large.  Camper was recently re-elected Treasurer of the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus.

Commenting on Tennessee’s good showing in the NBCSL elections, Chairlady Gilmore said, “The large number of Tennessee Representatives elected to national roles within NBCSL shows the great influence that African-American lawmakers from this state are having on the national stage.”