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Posts Tagged ‘nashville’

Photo: Larry McCormack/The Tennessean
Jackie Vandal, assistant manager at a Kroger market in Nashville, hugs LaShenda Williams, a woman hired by Kroger after sleeping in its parking lot for a year. Williams now has her own apartment.

I attended a high school that had us memorize Bible verses. In the story of the Prodigal Son — who “took his journey into a far country and there wasted his substance with riotous living” — a few simple words have always meant the most to me. “And when he came to himself, he said … .”

Those words are powerful because, in my view, it really takes a lot for a desperate person to say, “I can do something about this.”

So in the story of the homeless woman who had disabilities and had fought off addiction, I’m most impressed with the moment she got up the courage to ask about a job. True, the hiring manager at the market where she’d been sleeping outside for a year showed compassion, but the real turning point was the homeless woman’s fearful but brave decision to ask.

Cathy Free reports at the Washington Post, “LaShenda Williams woke up in a grocery store parking lot last year after another restless night in her car. On the window of the supermarket, she spotted a new flier.

“The East Nashville Kroger store where she had been living in her car for almost a year was advertising a job fair. Williams, 46, who has a learning disability and has difficulty reading or writing — and also had been addicted to drugs — saw meaning in the flier. …

“Williams went inside the store, as she did every day, to say hello to the employees. But this time, she gathered her courage and asked the hiring manager: ‘Maybe I could work here one day. You got room for me?’

“The manager, Jacqueline Vandal, said she’d help Williams fill out the application. Vandal sat with her patiently and helped her answer all of the questions on her application, then submit them on Williams’s laptop computer. When a prompt came up, informing Williams that she’d successfully applied, Vandal immediately gave her the good news: ‘You’re hired.’

‘I couldn’t believe it — I hugged her and cried,’ said Williams, who has been homeless off and on in Nashville for several years. ‘It was overwhelming. Somebody gave me a chance.’

“Vandal, 56, said Williams’s persistence in filling out the application tipped the scales in her favor.

“ ‘LaShenda had the right attitude, and I knew I needed to give her a shot,’ Vandal said. …

“In May, after working for five months as a self-checkout associate, Williams saved enough money to get a small place of her own. Co-workers and customers rallied to collect household items for her one-bedroom apartment, said Williams, and after her story was featured on Kroger’s website and in Nashville’s Tennessean last month, offers of help poured in. …

“Verlenteez Williams [no relation], who runs a food prep and catering company in Nashville, said he wasn’t surprised that people were eager to step up. ‘We were all feeling empty from the uncertainty of the times,’ he said. ‘All we really have are each other.’

“Until she put on her uniform and reported for work at Kroger, LaShenda Williams said, she felt for years that she had no one. …

“ ‘I walk with a limp because I have cerebral palsy, and I had a tough time getting hired anywhere, so I just did odd jobs like housecleaning,’ Williams said. ‘When I finally got treatment for my addiction, I couldn’t afford a place of my own. I’d live from place to place or stay in abandoned houses.’

“It was late 2018 when Williams decided to park her 2015 Kia Forte in the Kroger parking lot.

“ ‘It was open 24 hours and the lot was always lit up at night,’ she said. ‘I figured I’d be safe there.’ “

Read more at the Washington Post, here.

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Travel Trip 5 Free Things Nashville

Photo: Mark Humphrey/AP
“More than 15 million visitors came to Nashville last year, and country music is a big reason why,” says
CityLab.

I have never been to Nashville, but when John visited, he was impressed. He told us that music and signs of music were on very street corner. A recent article added other angles to Nashville’s music story.

Lee Gardner at CityLab writes, “Thanks to a surging economy and an onrushing hot-city rep, the Music City has been gaining about 100 new residents a day. … But as the skyscrapers and rents have risen, many of the hallowed offices and studios of Music Row, the industrial heart of the country, have come under threat from the wrecking ball.

“Country music has survived a lot worse, according to Don Cusic. He’s is a Nashville-based historian of the genre who served as a consultant for Country Music, the massive new 16-hour PBS documentary series from filmmaker Ken Burns that charts the genre’s trans-Atlantic influences and tracks its nearly 100-year rise from disrespected ‘hillbilly music’ to the vox populi of the white working class, and a multi-billion-dollar business in the streaming age.

“Cusic spoke with CityLab about why Nashville became synonymous with country [and about] what’s next for the city. …

“Gardner: Why do you think Nashville became synonymous with country?

“Cusic: Actually it was Chicago and country music that were synonymous until about World War II, and after that Nashville. It starts becoming synonymous because of the radio stations. In Chicago it was WLS, in Nashville WSM — the National Barn Dance in Chicago, the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. But the Chicago show lost its sponsor, which was Alka-Seltzer, and the Grand Ole Opry didn’t. It was sponsored by Prince Albert Tobacco.

“The other basis for the Opry’s stability was that it was owned by the National Life and Accident Insurance Company. The company used the Grand Ole Opry as a ‘door opener.’ Salesman would knock on doors with a brochure about the Opry, and that would lead into sales of insurance policies. When rock ‘n’ roll hit in the late 1950s, a number of radio stations switched to rock, [but] the Grand Ole Opry kept going because it could sell insurance. …

“Gardner: What is it about Nashville other than the Opry that allowed things like Music Row to take root?

“Cusic: It’s the people behind the scenes that made a difference. … You had a lot of these key figures who were executives who said, ‘If we’re going to have a show, it’s going to be top-notch show.’ I think that’s a lot to do with it right there.

“Gardner: People now talk about Music Row … as a forerunner of the ‘innovation district’ concept. Do you think that having this tight concentration of companies and creatives had an effect on the rise of country, and of Nashville?

“Cusic: Absolutely. Nashville attracted … a creative community, and that creative community feeds off of itself. I teach at Belmont College, and my students are always saying, ‘Where I come from, I’m the only person that writes songs; I’m the only person that plays the guitar. I get here and everybody writes songs and everybody plays the guitar.’ …

The other thing was the Nashville musicians’ union. Here, musicians could make a living playing, and when the studios developed, you had top-notch musicians here.

“Gardner: Country music — and perhaps Nashville, too — get stereotyped as being extremely white. … I gather the series explores some of those stereotypes. …

“Cusic: They did a survey not long ago, where about a third of the people in this country didn’t like country music, and not because of the music, not because of the artists, not because of the songs, but because of the image they had of it. They didn’t want that to be their self-image, and the image they had was we were backwards, we were hicks and hillbillies, we were racist. … I think this documentary takes that down quite a bit. …

“Gardner: Nashville has seen a lot of economic changes. … How is that affecting the city’s country music identity?

“Cusic: I wrote a book called Nashville Sound, and it really should have been Nashville Sounds. The public perception of Nashville is not accurate, totally, with music, because there’s a thriving jazz scene here. Contemporary Christian music has a huge presence here. You’ve got pop and rock acts here. …

“Gardner: I imagine, though, that many of the people now moving to Nashville don’t really care much about music. Do you think that the city’s musical identity has been watered down?

“Cusic: One of the things that comes through in Ken’s documentary — you can’t kill it. You can hold it underwater, but you just can’t kill it. It’s like a rubber ball that keeps bouncing back. That’s kind of frustrated the Chamber of Commerce at times, because they still want Nashville to be the Athens of the South. [But] it comes back to country music over and over again. That’s what stuck in people’s minds. Believe me, the business establishment and social establishment have tried to change that. They can’t do it.”

More at CityLab, here.

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metro-arts-student

Photo: Metro Arts
This
student is engaged in a restorative justice program that uses the arts to reach young offenders. Cecilia Olusola Tribble, Community Arts Coordinator of the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, says, “We have been able to work and watch miracles happen every day.”

My friend Diana was the first to explain to me the concept of restorative justice, and I wrote about it here. The idea is to bring a young perpetrator and his or her victim together, if the victim is willing, to learn about the effects of the crime and make restitution. When the process works, the young person turns aside from wrongdoing and keeps a clean record. Today I have a story about how the arts can be part of a restorative justice outreach to youth who are already incarcerated.

Cecilia Olusola Tribble writes at ArtsBlog, “The purpose of the Restorative Justice + the Arts program is to enable artists and arts organizations to provide dynamic program opportunities for youth and families who have interacted with the criminal justice system. Our aim is to equip teaching artists with the tools they need to bolster their practice in ways that lead youth toward productivity, resiliency, and well-being.

“In 2016, photographer and musician Nduka Onwuzurigbo heard about the transformation happening in the juvenile justice system and wanted to create a project with the youth in the detention center.

“Since her election in 2014, Judge Sheila Calloway has been restructuring the juvenile justice system in Metro Nashville/Davidson County to include resources to divert children and families in trouble, providing them creative paths toward a better, brighter, and more productive future. …

“[She] mobilized her team to make sure the children in the detention center were able to participate in the photography project. As that singular project was seeing success with the youth who were incarcerated and had a positive community response, Metro Arts in Nashville approached the judge about establishing an ongoing partnership. Since then, Metro Arts and the Juvenile Court in collaboration with the Oasis Center have been able to build the Restorative Justice + Arts program.

“It costs roughly $88,000 to incarcerate one youth for a year in Nashville. For the same amount of money, we have been able to pitch, build, and pilot the Restorative Justice + Arts program. …

“To start the program, Metro Arts held focus groups with our artist community, grantees, arts educators, and other stakeholders. … Next, Metro Arts spent time in the various departments in Juvenile Court. The focus in the court is in the process of shifting from solely emphasizing penalty to giving children and parents the tools to restore healthy relationships and communities. Judge Calloway has explained Restorative Justice in the following way:

‘Restorative Justice moves the conversation from “Who did the crime & what do they deserve?” to “Who has been harmed?”, “What are their needs?” [and] “Whose obligation is it to fix their harm?” ‘ …

“In FY 2018, the artists have been able to serve 424 youth who have been incarcerated, had other involvement with the court, or who are deemed at-risk due to poverty, school attendance, neighborhood crime, poor school performance, or living in an area where fresh food is scarce. …

“It is because of the partnership between multiple government agencies, youth-centered organizations, arts organizations, and artists that we have been able to work and watch miracles happen every day. We have witnessed youth leaving the detention center and seeking out their yoga and dance teacher. … We have watched the miracle where former gang members admit to shooting at each other, but theater and painting classes have bonded them together as brothers with arms entangled. Our hearts are full at experiencing young folks arguing with the characters of an August Wilson play to make a better choice. …

“This spark came from one artist who asked the question and made the difference.” One and one and 50 make a million. More here.

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I read a silly headline today. It said that books are “in” again.

I’m pretty sure that for a lot of people, they were never out. But maybe the timing is particularly good for the new, roaming branch of independent bookstore Parnassus Books.

Alexandra Alter reports at the NY Times, “Nashville’s newest bookstore is an old van. The bright blue bookmobile, which hit the road [in March], is a roving offshoot of Parnassus Books, a popular independent bookstore. It will roam around town, stopping at food truck rallies, farmers’ markets and outside restaurants.

“The arrival of a bookstore on wheels is a fitting evolution for Parnassus, which is co-owned by Karen Hayes and the novelist Ann Patchett. The store’s name comes from Christopher Morley’s 1917 novel ‘Parnassus on Wheels,’ about a middle-aged woman who travels around selling books out of a horse-drawn van.”

[We will pause here to note that Morley, 1890 -1957, is a Haverford College grad, as are two members of my family.]

“Since Parnassus opened in 2011, Ms. Hayes has wanted a traveling bookstore of her own. She looked at taco trucks and ice cream trucks and felt envious of their freedom to take business wherever people gathered, she said.

“ ‘A bookmobile made so much sense, because food trucks work so well in this town,’ Ms. Hayes said by telephone. ‘It’s a great way to get our name out there, too. It’s a rolling advertisement.’ …

“ ‘One of my hopes is that we’ll be able go into some of the outlying suburbs and cities that don’t necessarily have a bookstore,’ said Grace Wright, a Parnassus bookseller who will manage the bookmobile. ‘There’s nothing like a good bookstore.’ ” More here.

Speaking of bookstores, I’ve been trying to patronize my local indy routinely, even though Amazon delivers. When I lived in Minneapolis, Amazon got an independent women’s bookstore called Amazon to relinquish the name it had had for years, and I had a sense at the time that it was only the first step in the online behemoth’s march across the globe. Didn’t realize how much more than a bookseller it would become.

Photo: Nathan Morgan for The New York Times
Karen Hayes is a co-owner of a Nashville bookstore named after Christopher Morley’s 1917 novel “Parnassus on Wheels,” about a middle-aged woman who travels around selling books out of a horse-drawn van.
 

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