“Out North”

Jefferson Street

I‘m a Nashville Native. For a long time, I was intimidated to tell folks I was from Nashville. My father was from Cleveland, OH. At that time, it seemed better to tell folks as a kid, “I’m not from Nashville, I’m from Cleveland.”

Who would say they were from Nashville?

Why tell such a despicable truth like, I’m from Nashville?

Yuck!

Then, if I was around Black Locals who claimed Nashville, I felt bad again. I felt bad because I was not from the right part of Nashville. I was from Woodbine. Woodbine was kind of weird at that time.

You know… because it was Diverse.

I hate that D-word… Diverse

I was in elementary and middle school with White kids, Mexican kids, Kurdish kids, Laotian kids, and every once in a while… Black kids. Many times, I was the only Black kid in my class. When I did see a Black kid, I was excited and intimidated at the same time. I was excited to see someone who looked like me. I was happy to see Kendra O. She was the cute little Black girl in my kindergarden class. I was too afraid to tell her that, so I pushed her on the ground. The wrong way to show a love tap…

Then, there was my homeboys Cedric and Jamie. Unfortunately, we became friends after almost getting into fights because of your momma jokes. Maybe it was the competition of there can only be one successful black boy in class at a time. Go figure…

I had beautiful Black teachers like Mrs. Chandler and Mrs. Darby. If it wasn’t for a Mrs. Chandler, a Mrs. Poe would have me kicked out of 1st grade because I was already seen as a troublemaker. Anytime something happened in class, I could be on the otherside of the room. It didn’t matter, the moment Mrs. Poe asked who did that, other kids were programmed to say, “Eric!” They did this even when Eric was not in the class… But I digress…

The reason this is even in this post is because all those experiences, mixed in with Nashville being Music City because of Country Music, made me tell folks I cannot get happy about a city I do not want people to know I am from…

When I moved to Murfreesboro around the 8th and 9th grade years, I thought this could be my chance for me to be a real Black person. You know? Like the ones they showed on BET and MTV. I had to speak with ebonics not just as a badge to Black people, but White people too…

Yea, they might think I was dumb, but it was better than them thinking I was not black…

Yea, I started sagging, and it might have felt weird at first, but no one was going to call me a countrified sell out anymore…

As much as I loved UGK, No Limit, and the Dungeon Family, I had to study the music of Nas, Jay-Z, and Biggie so I could lose as much of my Southern Drawl as possible. Having an Northern imitation voice would let people know I was really Black, and not some weak little Nigga from the South…

So there you have it…

I was ashamed of not feeling Black…

& ashamed of being from the South…

Could I code switch?

Absolutely!

But that might get me in trouble for not being a real Black…

Could I read well?

Yes sir!

But I need to use the words, Like, #nawwhatimtalkinbout? and nigga as much as I could…

For as long as I could…

So my proposed Identity could look as Authentic as possible…

I can’t let people know I like 311, Alanis Morissette, Amy Winehouse, Fiona Apple, No Doubt, Nirvana, and Metallica…

That’s not what Black people listen to down here…

I’ve always loved rap, but I always loved music in general…

I thought I had to let go of a piece of my Humanity to be fully Black.

I no longer think like that anymore. I claim my Humanity and my Blackness in the Same BodyProudly & Unashamedly. I listen to whatever music I want to listen to at the time. I speak in ebonics, academia-nese (yes, I think I made that up), business, political, and faith talk. I’m a speaker of many langauges. Regardless of being a preacher, I dress how I feel… out of place

Being out of place is my Super Power.

I am no longer afraid of that Power. I Breathe it, Live it, Embrace it, while keeping my head up even when people do not understand me. It’s why even with college degrees (and much loan debt), I’m not buying expensive cars or moving on up to the East Side (all pun intended).

I stay in the place that made me happy to love that being human, black, spiritual, political, and intellectual are not contradictions, it’s the Standard. That place is “Out North”.

Why “Out North”?

You are from Woodbine! (That’s not “Out South” or “Out East”)

You lived in Murfreesboro! (That’s the land of Nowhere)

So Why “Out North”?

Out North,” is where Jefferson Street resides. A street that was a service road to a place called, Fort Gilliam. Fort Gilliam was a place where Black soldiers and Ex-slaves lived after the Civil War. That place is a tight-knit community of folks who had no choice but to trust one another if they wanted to survive. They worked together to build Churches where they found Hope in the image of God to keep them going. It’s where those Churches used tithe money, fish-frys, Heaven and Hell parties to create Black Businesses & Educational Institutions we know as HBCU’s. It’s where people went to speakeasys, juke joints, and pool halls that might have distributed moonshine and numbers running that funded scholarships for those to become doctors and lawyers. It’s where people lived together in community regardless if you were a wino or teacher. Community was Community whether Right or Wrong.

Now! Don’t let me romanticize this too much. Metro Nashville policies pushed people out of the community. Interstates demolished Del Morocco’s and Black Hotels. Jim and Jane Crow still made the decisions if you could drink at a certain water fountain or had to pick up your food from the back door. Either way, there was something beyond the people that brought them together for a collective power to make lemonade from lemons, dollars out of fifteen cents, and quilts out of old rags. Regardless of class status you thought of these people, they had a sense of Pride.

It is the home of why Nashville is called the Music City. We know them as the Fisk Jubilee Singers. It is the home of Hot Chicken. Before a Hattie B’s. It is the reason great entertainers like Jimi Hendrix and Lil’ Richie are who they are, because they honed their skills in Black Nashville bars and clubs.

It is the home of Great Education from American Baptist Theological Seminary (ABC), Fisk University, Meharry, and A & I State College (TSU). ABTS, that is the place where my parents met. They went to school. Went to church. It molded them therefore, molding me. When I came back to Nashville to attend American Baptist College, it was that street named Jefferson Street, in that place, “Out North,” that let me know it was okay to be Black, Intelligent, Communal, Political, Spiritual, and Creative… with flaws and all.

We all have that Pride in wherever place we reside. We know it was the place that seemed insignificant to others that made us who We are today.

We can no longer leave those places and allow them to be destroyed in an inactive activity we call, Nostalgia. It’s time we claim these places with our Pride, through our Service & Work in the Community.

If you are an Entrepreneur, bring jobs back to North Nashville!

If you are looking for a Home, buy one in North Nashville!

If you want Peace, fight to bring Peace back in North Nashville!

If you want Healthy Food, Grow it in North Nashville!

If you want to see Beautiful People in different Shapes, Sizes, Shades, and Hues, let’s Walk the streets of North Nashville!

If WE want to hear why they calls this place Music City, let’s play those harmonious tunes in North Nashville!

We cannot expect North Nashville to be Great, if WE do not make it Great!

Where is your Pride?

Where is your Love?

Where is your Strength?

Show it, by living into the places that brought you life! I found my life in North Nashville. I found my Pride in a history that is almost forgotten by a new Nashville.

Councilman Ed Kindall describes that wonderful place in his book, A Walk Down Historic Jefferson Street. Buy it. Read it.

Let’s know Our history.

Let’s remember where WE are from.

Let’s reflect on the Great things that were before us.

After we do that, let’s ReImagine it and Create it on the shoulders of a Beautiful Past, to catapult it to a Gorgeous Future.

I am not just living in North Nashville, I am North Nashville because of all the Great Women & Men who helped make it a Great Place.

We do not need validation from A-Listers. We are the A-Listers who just need to believe in what was once there, can be there again… even better.

Throw your sets up?

I do.

By being apart of Great People who are working on cleaning up a Great Place called, “Out North.”

No more litter.

Pick up and throw away the trash.

No more violence! Pastors and Gang Leaders need to work together to make “Out North” Safe!

No more trash, let’s make North Nashville the Treasure it has always been, before someone else notices it before us.

Love North Nashville. Live North Nashville. Be North Nashville.

Eric Brown