Tennesseans protest Republican-drawn congressional maps on MLK Day

Odessa Kelly, Democratic candidate for Congress in District 5, speaks Monday in Nashville at a protest of new congressional district maps. / Photo by John Partipilo/Tennessee Lookout

Concerns over COVID-19 and lingering snow from a weekend storm halted several Middle Tennessee events traditionally held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to honor the late civil rights leader, but more than 100 people turned out in Nashville to protest new Republican-drawn congressional and legislative district maps.

The Nashville Justice League - comprised of The Equity Alliance, the Central Labor Council of Middle Tennessee and others - sponsored "Fight Back, Stop These Maps!" at the Tennessee Capitol.

On Jan. 12, legislative leaders unveiled maps of new Tennessee congressional districts that showed Nashville's 5th District will be carved into three parts. In a statement, the Nashville Justice League said: "It is clear that with the maps presented the goal is to dilute the minority voting and political power in Davidson County specifically. The proposed redistricting maps presented by the TN GOP break the minority vote in Davidson country upwards of three ways diluting the political power and eliminating fair representation for Black and brown voters."

North Nashville, a historically Black area, will, under the new plan, be included in District 7, currently represented by Republican Congressman Mark Green. East Nashville will be included in District 6, which extends north to Kentucky and as far east as the Cumberland Plateau, while the new District 5 extends south, taking in Maury County.

Speakers included 5th District Democratic congressional candidate Odessa Kelly and Charlane Oliver, co-founder of The Equity Alliance, a grassroots organization dedicated to building Black economic and political power.

House Speaker Cameron Sexton and other Republicans have said their process has been transparent and in the best interests of Tennesseans.

"I mean 20 years ago, the state was blue, now it's red," Sexton told the Times Free Press. "It's up to the people to determine who they elect. It's not up to us, so they'll have opportunity to vote for whatever congressmen they want to."

Read more at TennesseeLookout.com.