published Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Cook: Mayoral stance on Bessie Smith Strut

"The mayor needs to be at the front of the Strut, holding a turkey leg and drinking a tallboy. He needs to be right in the front of it, dancing and having a good time.

"Otherwise, the gangs win."

This is my barstool buddy talking. I'll call him Groucho; he's an ex-Alaskan fisherman whose commentary is often too unwashed and vulgar for print. But at times, he speaks in ways wise and perceptive, and this line made me stop and think.

If the Strut stops, do the gangs -- and fear -- win?

The Strut has been pushed around a lot lately, beginning with Mayor Ron Littlefield's surprise announcement last month that the Strut had been canceled.

Then revived, in the hands of Friends of the Festival. Then canceled. Then possibly revived, in a hybrid of ownership, kind of like everyone is barely touching this, holding it like a hot potato just ... so ... much ... to keep it alive.

"Safety is the issue," the mayor said in an email.

I want to believe him. Part of me -- five-eighths or so -- does believe him.

But.

Why make the decision so late in the year? If Strut safety has been a concern for years, then why not talk about this last August, not April? And why make this decision unilaterally?

"The Bessie Smith Cultural Center was shocked as everyone else," begins the official statement issued by Irvin Overton, chairman of the center's board.

And all this recent talk of liability reminds me of another possible lawsuit pending against the city. Remember Paul Page? The sexual harassment claim against the former director of General Services was handed over a few months ago to the U.S. Department of Justice, which means a federal lawsuit against the city may occur.

Was sexual harassment not a liability issue, also?

The mayor said he wants the Strut to be in the hands of a capable nonprofit that can transform it into a promising fundraiser for the center.

"Like Wine over Water," he emailed.

Tallboys over Turkey Legs.

Which reminds me of Groucho.

"I may run for mayor," he continued. "On a tallboy and turkey leg platform."

We don't want that. Trust me. But here's what he means: If we take the mayor at his word -- that safety is the issue -- then that means that the Strut must happen, first and foremost, without any of us taking "no" for an answer.

Because, if the Strut is canceled because of safety, then the gangs win. So do fear and violence.

That's why the Strut must go on. Not mainly because it's fun, but because the Strut is more than just a Strut. It's both symbol and message, emerging out of a most appropriate musical tradition for the midnight crossroads at which our city sits.

The blues.

The blues are a musical answer to fear and despair, a box-guitar response that gives a rope to folks drowning in a violent world. You don't sing the blues because you're successful. You sing the blues because that's all you've got.

But in the singing, there is transformation and transcendence. The blues teach us that violence does not have the last word, and the only thing worse than gang violence is canceling the street party because of fear of it.

If the Strut happens this year, police will surround the place like tinfoil. Maybe Groucho will show. There's a chance some gang members will be in the crowd, too.

And the mayor promised he'd be there.

"I attended last year and have attended almost every year since the beginning," he said.

Good. We need him there, sending the message that this city can party. This city is not afraid of gangs or the threat of violence.

Unlike that midnight deal with the devil, we won't sell our soul for a quick fix.

David Cook can be reached at davidcook@hushmail.com.

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

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LaughingBoy said...

What will be the response when there is a shooting, a riot or any such tragedy? "At least we brought everybody together"? This is not a safe event.

April 23, 2012 at 3:04 p.m.
nucanuck said...

LB,

A thirty year record of good times with very few bad incidents would indicate that this event is indeed safe and those that disagree will not attend. We don't close down a business because a crime happens on site unless it becomes chronic.

The Strut is symbolic of our city's effort to blend cultures and advance tolerance. We don't need to lose this important effort toward community harmony.

April 25, 2012 at 1:45 a.m.
jesse said...

looks to me like this whole uproar was staged so they could start charging admission of $5 or $10 dollars a head!!

somebody in power seen ALL them folks havin a great time and thought"we gotta make a buck off of this!"

start lookin for " RONS B-B-Q RIBS" on mlk at THE STRUT!!

i think this year i will smoke me a coupla slabs o baby backs.pull up ETTA JAMES on the stereo and just STAY HOME!

April 25, 2012 at 12:18 p.m.
LaughingBoy said...

Times have changed, and the event is not safe. The "stampeding" lately has been completely ignored but the police and the mayor sure know about it. I don't want to be in the middle of people being trampled and crushed because some idiots have started a stampede and riot. I've seen nothing that convinces me how moving to the river would have been offensive or racist. Would blacks have been barred from attending? There are thousands at Riverbend on R&B nights and I rarely see any causing a disturbance, just your normal few drunks that you'll see on every night except the religious night. If the Strut is designed for all people to come together why the need still to have it an area regarded historically as a black district?

Let's hope this guy doesn't make the Strut:

Police said a validated gang member who was due in court today to answer a first-degree murder charge has been involved in another gang shooting (Chattanoogan).

Witnesses said Demetrius Demond Bibbs, identified as a member of the Black P Stone Bloods, on Tuesday fired at Guy Wilkerson, who was in the side parking lot of the Boys and Girls Club on 4th Avenue.

Jesse, good for you, that's probably a wise decision. The Strut was never "free", except for those attending. Think about it.

April 25, 2012 at 2:42 p.m.
chet123 said...

WHAT 5 DOLLARS?????THE SECURITY IS WORTH THAT MUCH...AND THE BLACKS SHOULD NEVER COMPLAIN SINCE BLACK UNDER-CLASS SINGLE MOM CANT RAISE THEIR HEATHEN CHILDREN FROM SHOOTING UP THE DARN PLACE!!!... THE BESSIE SMITH STRUT HAVE ALWAYS AMUSED ME....UNDER-CLASS BLACKS AND SUB-CULTURAL RED NECK COME TOGETHER TO GET DRUNK..HA HA HA....ONLY IN CHATTANOOGA! HA HA HA

April 25, 2012 at 2:48 p.m.
JustOneWoman said...

chet123 said..."BLACK UNDER-CLASS SINGLE MOM CANT RAISE THEIR HEATHEN CHILDREN FROM SHOOTING UP THE DARN PLACE!!!..."

**Typical male blaming single mothers for typical male behavior. If you seek change, let it begin with you CHET123. As long as you continue to put the blame of one onto someone else, you will forever be in chaos.

You call people underclass and then rage about Obama creating class warfare? Chet123, sometimes you are commical, but this remark is over the line and you know it. Shame on you! You owe this community an apology. As a single mom, you owe me an apology. And you really owe your Mom an apology.

Should we blame your mother for your lack of respect? Should we blame your mother for the poison in your heart? Should we blame your mother for your lack of intelligence? No, it is YOU who is to blame for all of that, just as it is each individual's, not the single mothers out there just trying to feed their families and keep it all together.

Do you even know what heathen means?**

April 25, 2012 at 3:30 p.m.
jesse said...

chet is a non denoinational,non racist HATER!!

he don't play fav's,he just hates everybody!

except weston wamp!now go figure that one out!LOL!

April 25, 2012 at 4:10 p.m.
chet123 said...

MY WHOLE PREMISE HAVE BEEN ON TELLING THE TRUTH..YOU NEED TO TELL THE TRUTH ALSO...YOU CAN RUN A TRACK ON ME AND NOWHERE WILL YOU READ I MADE THE COMMENT OBAMA CREATED CLASS WAREFARE...HATE TO SAY THIS JUSTONEWOMAN..BUT YOU LIED!!!!..SORRY TO OFFEND YOU.....I KNOW I'M NOT POLITICALLY RIGHT....BUT I'M NOT WRONG EITHER......

THE BREAK DOWN OF THE FAMILY IS RESPONSIBLE FOR GANGBANGER........I'M A PRODUCT OF THE TRADITIONAL FAMILY....MY FATHER WOULD HAVE KILLED ME FOR BEHAVING LIKE A ANIMAL.........

THE FEMALE CONTROL THE BIRTH CANAL....NOT THE MALE......THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR HAVING CHILDREN OUT OF WED-LOCK.....THATS A CHOICE.....THERE ARE MULTIPLE DEVICES TO PREVENT PREGNANCY.....THIS IS WHAT WOMEN RIGHT IS FOR.....YOU CANT HAVE IT BOTH WAYS....WITH RIGHTS COME RESPONSIBILITIES........

HOPE YOU DONT HATE ME....JUST BELEIVE IN TELLING THE TRUTH....

April 25, 2012 at 6:33 p.m.
chet123 said...

I SEE I STRUCK A NERVE!!!! THE TRUTH WILL DO THAT....NO CIVILIZATION HAVE BLOSSOM INTO SUCCESS WITHOUT FATHERS....WOMEN NOT EQUIPPED TO RAISE BOYS......ONLY A TINY FEW CAN DO THAT.....AND ITS FOOLISH TO GO AGAINST ODDS...FOR EVERY ONE WOMEN WHO CAN RAISE TOUGH BOYS...THERES A HUNDRED WHO CANT......YOU DONT TAKE THEM ODD WITH ANYTHING......THATS DEFEATING......ROUGH BOYS NEED A ROUGH FATHER TO GIVE THEM AN ADJUSTMENT IN ATITUDE.....HOPE WE ARE STILL FRIEND...

April 25, 2012 at 6:42 p.m.
chet123 said...

I'M A DEMOCRAT THAT BELEIVE IN A STRONG TRADITIONAL FAMILY.....AND I DONT APOLOGIZE.......

GANGBANGER ARE LIKE GRAAHOPPERS....THEY DEVOUR THE LAND.....CREATE NOTHING BUT DESTRUCTION.....

HEY YOU SORRY RIGHT-WING NUTTY!...SUPRISED?????? HA HA HA HA

April 25, 2012 at 6:48 p.m.
chet123 said...

BY THE WAY....WHY WOULD I OWE MY MOM AN APOLOGY..Hmmmmm??? I DONT UNDERSTAND WHAT THAT SUPPOSE TO MEAN....MY MOTHER WAS A MARRIED WOMAN.....Hmmmmm GUESS SOME PEOPLE THINK THE SINGLE MOTHER IS THE NORM...I CAN GO BACK IN MY FAMILY HISTORY BEFORE EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION AND THERE WERE THE TRADITIONAL NUCLEAR FAMILY....

OUR FAMILY IS PATRIARCHY....AND THERES NO GANGBANGING...THIS IS BECAUSE THE MEN KEEP THE BOYS IN LINE....TEACHES THEM TO HAVE RESPECT FOR OTHERS AS WELL AS THEMSELVES....

YOU CAN CALL IT OLD SCHOOL.....BUT IT HAVE WORKED FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS....AND IF ITS NOT BROKE...WHY FIX IT???

April 25, 2012 at 8:56 p.m.
chet123 said...

What happen to justonewoman....guess it OK for me to slam the good ole boys....but guess she thought i would overlook black people flaws....well i got news!!! There's a big pink elephant sitting in the room and justonewoman pretending it not there...haha..her atitude exemplify the core problem in the black community.....ITS MATRIARCHY......even the church ministers and pastors are afraid to address this issue for fear they may loose 70% to 80% adult membership who happen to be female..with 99% of the children.....

Bill Crosby was right despite of the massive push-back by lame black leaders,many of which are product from single mom family.

yep!...only in Chattanooga!

JUSTONEWOMAN HAVE MORE IN COMMON WITH THE GOOD OLE BOYS THAN SHE WILL ADMIT..

WHEN FACE WITH THE TRUTH THEY BOTH RUNS LIKE SCARED RABBITS

The truth will make you run like a scared rabbit

April 26, 2012 at 10:50 a.m.
dao1980 said...

Bing Crosby?

April 26, 2012 at 10:59 a.m.
chet123 said...

BILL COSBY....NOT BILL CROSBY....THE JELLO PUDDIN MAN!!!!!

MY MISTAKE!

April 26, 2012 at 11:03 a.m.
jesse said...

i looked up "incoherent "in the dictionary today and it said"see chet 123"

April 26, 2012 at 12:41 p.m.
chet123 said...

jESSE....INCOHERENT THIS!....UNDER-CLASS BLACK AND SUB-CULTURE RED NECK ARE BOTH THE SAME......YOU CANT REASON WITH EITHER GROUP...VIOLENT.....COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE....AND BACKWARD...AND LIVE IN A SMALL BOX...JESSE YOU FIT IN THAT CLASS OF PEOPLE HA HA HA

SO LEAVE THE REST OF US DECENT PEOPLE ALONE!!!

April 26, 2012 at 12:51 p.m.
dao1980 said...

I love me some puddin' pops.... and some Bill Cosby. Good stuff!

April 26, 2012 at 2:31 p.m.
JustOneWoman said...

chet123 said..."WHY WOULD I OWE MY MOM AN APOLOGY"

Because she raised you better than that. You keep acting like a jerk.

WHEN FACE WITH THE TRUTH THEY BOTH RUNS LIKE SCARED RABBITS

Fear is the mind killer. You seem to be the only one that is talking of being afraid or running. Run like rabbits? LOL Unlike you, who has all the time in the world to post, I work. So if my post are not up to your timely standards, get over it. I really don't care.

April 27, 2012 at 9:48 a.m.
chet123 said...

fear is the mind killer!...did i miss something???nice way to divert from heathen children that almost closed down the strut....and everything else....how can an economy flourish??....

SINGLE MOMS RAISE YOUR KIDS OR GET A HUSBAND OR DONT RUN OFF THE ONE YOU HAD....OR STAY ON THE PILL

April 29, 2012 at 6:57 a.m.
chet123 said...

DONT TELL ME...DONT TELL ME.....SOME EGGHEAD GOING TO SAY ITS NOT POLITICAL CORRECT.....TO THOSE FOLKS I SAY ITS NOT LOWBROW,PRIMITIVE, BARBARISIM EITHER.......THIS IS NOT THE "DARK AGE" PERIOD......RAISE YOUR OWN CHILD....OR FIND A MENTOR WHO CAN

April 29, 2012 at 7:18 a.m.
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