Monday, September 04, 2023

Op-Ed: Alice Rolli SHOULD be the City’s Next Mayor

Stephanie Johnson
by STEPHANIE JOHNSON, reposted from The Pamphleteer, Sept.4, 2023- Recently, the Tennessee Tribune came out with a hit piece against mayoral candidate Alice Rolli. The left-leaning news media in Nashville understands they have a monopoly on opinions in our town, and it’s time to break it up. The black community has constantly been used as pawns by both the left and the right and has not been able to break free from either side.

We must bend down to the left, or we are Uncle Toms. We must do everything they say, or we are sellouts. When will we truly be free? They take our labor, our votes, and our time, and we still can’t say, “What will you do for us?” without, “You must wait.” Wait for what? Wait for the next election, when, once again, we will be used as a bargaining chip, and if we don't comply then “we ain’t black”? Well, sorry to tell you, Tennessee Tribune and others: my blackness has not been and will never be contingent on my voting for you. 

This election is about needs, and my vote is a bargaining chip that demands those needs be fulfilled. If you cannot fulfill them, then I cannot and will not vote for you. The black community needs good schools, a food revival, safe communities, and, most of all, we need our voices heard. 

Rosetta Miller-Perry of the Tennessee Tribune thinks Freddie O’Connell is the best choice for Nashville because he cares about crime and has been honorable in her eyes. At a recent Equity Alliance Forum, the crowd pleaded with O’Connell to tell them what he plans to do for - the black community. He could not reply. Why did Perry and so many news outlets conveniently not report that? How can, in one instance, he care deeply for the black community, but in the next, can’t say exactly how?

Perry states, “O’Connell has served his district honorably.” As a black woman descended from generations of black Nashvillians, I have to ask: what is honorable about a neighborhood I weep over because of how gentrified it has become? How honorable is it that after eight years, black kids still have to take their Halloween candy sacks and travel across Rosa Parks to Germantown to trick-or-treat, only to be chided for doing so? Where is the honor, Perry? Maybe, Perry, not only do we need another option for mayor, but maybe, we also need new black leaders that won’t continue to sell us out. I suppose when O’Connell is using your building for his office, you feel obligated to protect your assets. 

As far as Perry’s statement regarding Belle Meade and Green Hills propping up Alice Rolli goes, why does she not mention how much Tony Giarratana has donated to O'Connell's campaigns over the years, or the other very wealthy individuals who bankrolled O'Connell's campaign for this race?

The truth is, O’Connell stayed in the core and Rolli stayed in the outskirts— which include Joelton, Madison, and Whites Creek, where I live. Perry won’t tell you those places have been neglected by the city council, which O’Connell sits on. Isn’t the message running throughout Nashville “We focus too much on downtown?” And yet, most of O’Connell’s base resides downtown. 

Regarding Rolli’s conservatism: it’s the South. Most people in the South are conservative, be they black or white. There is also no mention of Rolli being a moderate Republican, which she has stated on various occasions. Rolli has a right to be whatever she wants, just as Rosetta’s mother had the right to be a Republican, and her close friends have the right to hold conservative beliefs.

There are not many Black press options in Nashville.  We have no real voice. Instead, we have a paper that thinks it should think for Black Nashvillians instead of allowing us to think for ourselves. We need better choices than what we have been given. Alice Rolli, like every other politician running for office, did meet with the Black press. I know this because I spoke to her myself. She said she did in fact speak with Perry and knows her, but Perry decided to put out a hit piece anyway. So what is Perry’s and the Tribune’s real motive? If O’Connell is such a great candidate, why do they need to lie for him?

Perry mentions Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, yet she won’t mention the wave of Republicans who were just as outraged about what happened on Capitol Hill as so many others. Why try to make it seem like all Republicans had a hand in this? During the fallout from the Tennessee Three, leaders and advocates for the Community Oversight Board were pleading with the Metro Council and media to help them bring more attention to the situation before the board was wiped away. This included the city council not putting all of its power behind stopping the situation. Why does Perry not call out the city leadership, which O'Connell is a part of?

Perry tries to use the COB among other things to tear Rolli down, but in the end, it’s Perry who has torn herself down, by printing a story that is propaganda and not truth. Rolli has not stopped black men from succeeding in Tennessee. Not only has she intentionally placed black men in power, she’s even encouraged black men and women to join her campaign; yet she did not need to shout it from the mountaintop. Instead, she says nothing in the face of so many attacks and continues to move forward with a campaign that means so much to her. The Tennessee Tribune story was full of half-truths, propaganda, and opinions, which is not journalism. As my grandmother used to say, “If you are going to tell the truth, tell it all.”

This is a time of great division. The media is being infiltrated and influenced by operatives of the left and the right, and we do nothing to close the gap, only move it further apart. We must learn to work together, to remove all sensational language from our verbiage when describing each other. Do we want a community that works for all or only some? 

A recent situation with Rolli and her consulting firm resembles an incident involving my campaign when another candidate decided to use the tagline I had been using faithfully for over three months. Her firm decided to drop a commercial with it, sending shockwaves through social media and resulting in many side conversations and text messages with me about the incident. The difference I see is when Rolli found out she made a mistake, she immediately cut ties with the company, called me personally, and sent out a letter of apology to her supporters.

In contrast, the other candidate did not come out and immediately acknowledge their mistake; they did come to me later after seeing me in public to request I do a public Zoom meeting with them (which I was not obligated to do). My team reached out to schedule something, then waited two weeks, during which a person of color came to me and explained they were yelled at by the candidate for standing up for me and my ideas. That is when I decided to make a public statement on the situation.

That progressive candidate had close to a month to sever ties with their marketing company and publicly apologize not only to me but to many black Americans that have been disenfranchised through theft of their intellectual property and much more throughout the history of our country. So, while I am not defending Rolli, I am saying she stood by her mistake and owned it, while many do not, continuing the harm. So, when we talk about leadership: leadership is not perfect, but leadership is courage, and courage is owning your mistakes, and dealing with whatever comes. Unlike Perry, I will not tell you who to pick, but I will tell you to choose wisely. 

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