North Nashville slowly getting the attention it needs

Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 11:45pm
Workers tried to relieve pressure on the levees at MetroCenter. The Titans' practice facility can be seen in the background.

During the early days of the Nashville flood, many north Nashville residents felt like forgotten victims.

North Nashville, Bellevue, Antioch and Pennington Bend were among the hardest-hit communities. But much of the devastation in north Nashville was overshadowed in the media because of coverage of the other communities.

“That is what fueled a lot of anger coming from a lot of people,” said District 1 Metro Councilman Lonnell Matthews Jr. “We were talking about it among each other, but it wasn’t being talked about as a city as a whole. It seemed like Nashville wasn’t seeing what was going on in north Nashville.”

Those north Nashvillians who had electricity saw rising floodwaters outside their windows, if not in their homes, but there were few images of their predominantly African-American neighborhood on TV news. Those without power didn’t see news trucks or throngs of volunteers from other parts of town rushing to their aid. It added insult to injury, a stab to an already hurting heart.

“When you try to make sense of what is going on, you try to identify with what someone else is going through just as much as what you’re going through,” said the Rev. Harold M. Love Jr. of Saint Paul A.M.E. Church. “When you see the TV, it’s not your area. When you read the newspaper, it’s not your area.

“When you read about what’s going on, it’s not your area, and you don’t see yourself. So how do you make sense of the suffering when you’re not being portrayed as one who is suffering? You are being ignored because everywhere else people are being helped.”

Love compared the situation to two people being taken to a hospital with identical injuries. “You get attended to; I’m left on the gurney,” he said. “Everyone talks about you in the hospital, what a horrible wound you received, yet I’m bleeding out and my name is not mentioned. People are talking about what they are going to do to help your situation, and I keep hearing your name and not mine. That is the frustration.”

Love said the media coverage is important for the reader of today and tomorrow. “Video from television may be erased or not stored over the years, but you can still go to the library and pull up a newspaper article from 80 years ago,” he said. “We don’t want to be forgotten about. We want the media to remember the way our lives were changed and transformed.”

Councilmen Matthews and Jerry Maynard have worked overtime this week trying to bring awareness to their constituents’ plights. In addition to going door to door to provide flood victims with the latest information, they made calls to various Metro agencies to begin repairs, recruited volunteers and encouraged the media — sometimes in firm tones — to visit the area. They took Mayor Karl Dean and other city officials — with camera operators following closely behind — on a tour of the area on Wednesday.

“We’ve been working together,” Matthews said. “We’ve been fighting the fight together, calling Public Works and other Metro agencies, like the police department. We did see that the area was being neglected at first. It wasn’t getting the attention it deserves. Not taking anything away from any other area of town, but it should get equal distribution of the resources when we’re trying to help each other out.”

Added Maynard, “All we had to do was make it known. After we made it known, the city responded. I thank Mayor Karl and give him credit.”

The councilmen agree that the presence of the mayor lifted the flood victims’ spirits. “The last couple of days, just seeing the attention, once Metro agencies, the volunteers and the news cameras started coming around, people felt that they were really concerned with what they were going through,” Matthews said. “It put them a little more at ease about, ‘People really do care about us, so we’re going to get through it.’ ”

But both men believe their crusade for this area must continue even though floodwaters are receding. They say it’s crucial that north Nashville receive an equitable share of donations from money raised by the American Red Cross, the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee and other charitable organizations.

“The mayor said we need to raise as much money as we can and help as many people as we can, and so I committed to the mayor; I will do whatever he needs me to do,” Maynard said. “This is the beginning of the recovery. We survived the flood; now we’ve got to do the recovery portion. We’ve got to raise as much money as we can out of state, in state, West Coast, East Coast, in the South, up North. Let’s raise as much money as we can, and let’s pull together as a community.”

Community leaders remain dedicated to telling the story of north Nashville so that it remains a part of any flood recovery conversation during the next year.

“One of the main things that I have observed is the fact that the water did not discriminate,” Love said. “It hit areas in this part of town as much as it hit areas like Bellevue, Antioch and Opryland. Not to say that ours or theirs was any worse, but to say that it was an equal-opportunity flood.”

11 Comments on this post:

By: richgoose on 5/10/10 at 12:40

The writer did everything he could do to show that "North Nashville" was discriminated against and needs more welfare Unfortunately we did not see any streets listed or pictures shown. Since boundaries are in my mind based on childhood rememberances maybe I do not know exactly where North Nashville is by today's georgraphy standards.

By: Kosh III on 5/10/10 at 6:24

Madison has also been overlooked by the media. A Metro water pumping station(Gibson Creek) near my street had the pumps overloaded and burned out, it sent up plumes of thick dark smoke for a day. It was surrounded by 10 ft of water so the fire dept could do nothing but watch it burn. No mention yet.
Many homes in the area were innundated, most had no flood insurance.
Streets: Berwick Trail, Madison Blvd, Idlewild Drive, Idlewild Court, Yale, Dennison, Emmitt, Falls.

By: michael thomas on 5/10/10 at 6:44

Typical media coverage.

By: Tull on 5/10/10 at 9:02

I live in Antioch and we could care less if we are overshadowed be other parts of town. The call went out for neighbors to help neighbors and that's what happened we welcome outside help BUT we don't wait on it, we get busy helping ourselves first.
"Love compared the situation to two people being taken to a hospital with identical injuries. “You get attended to; I’m left on the gurney,” he said. “Everyone talks about you in the hospital, what a horrible wound you received, yet I’m bleeding out and my name is not mentioned. People are talking about what they are going to do to help your situation, and I keep hearing your name and not mine. That is the frustration.”
This kind of thinking from your "leaders" is why the Black community is always waiting for help instead of helping each other.

By: wasaw on 5/10/10 at 9:43

Kinda sounds like Katrina, don't it? Folks in the devasted parts of Nashville aren't whining about how they can get another piece of the free pie. There was no major devastation in North Nashville (remember, North Nashville is Madison/Rivergate). The whiners are the Jefferson St. people. They are only stretching out those long arms again to obtain whatever government freebies there is to get. When you live off the government all your life; have illegitimate children, you expect to be taken care of. The taxpayers are tired of paying for the Jefferson St. dead beat, no matter their age.

The folks mentioned in the article don't help each other. They are constantly in competition to out-get each other. Blacks don't get it. Black council members don't get it. Black clergy don't get it. Help starts at home but you've got to lay down your whiskey bottle, your crack pipe, and get out of the breeding bed and get out and do something. Black councilmen, black clergy, you guys are missing the point. Use your influence and get the black youth out to help their relatives and neighbors. Stop looking for the government to solve your problems. Help starts at home.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 5/10/10 at 9:51

wasaw, it doesn't have to do with being "black." there are plenty of white folks with that mentality too.

By: gdiafante on 5/10/10 at 10:11

Hmm...kinda like the rest of Nashville complaining about not getting enough national attention?


And the story is dead on. Have several friends that work in North Nashville/Metro Center area and was hardly any coverage or information except for one sandbagging story on Wednesday.

I did get to see the Opryland Hotel and Bellevue 265 times an hour though.

By: gabbyknashville on 5/10/10 at 12:27

The main story I kept seeing over and over was a very sweet black woman in North Nashville that had people from all areas and of all races to show up on her door and help her. She was so thankful and commented on how blessed she felt. This woman lived across the street from the gentleman who had died. I also personally know of many people who have gone out the north Nashville area and helped out so this statement and this article is a bit offensive. Each community came together to help their neighbors and people who weren't even their neighbors came out to help in north Nashville. If more help was needed, there are groups such as Hands on Nashville that should have been contacted. But maybe that would have been too easy or maybe that would not have sold newspapers. Not sure who is to blame on this one but it is for sure not the volunteers in Nashville.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 5/10/10 at 12:41

Napolitano toured the Bordeaux area, right?

By: tardistraveler on 5/10/10 at 4:07

As a native Nashvillian, the term "North Nashville" refers not to Madison/Rivergate area, but to the area surrounded by the river north of the State Capitol. Metro Center is in this area, Germantown, TSU, Jefferson St., etc.

My property borders Shelby Bottoms, and it wasn't mentioned in the media either - the media coverage focused primarily on Opryland, Bellevue, and Antioch. There are many other areas that got hit hard as well.

But I'm not complaining - I'm eligible for FEMA assistance just like everyone else in Nashville, regardless of what the media covered. I've seen lots of police and Red Cross vehicles in my neck of the woods - I hope North Nashville and others are getting the help they need.

By: reportinglive on 5/10/10 at 9:38

As a television reporter who reported live from North Nashville in the midst of the storm for more than 3 hours, and who's filed a story in Bordeaux every day (except Mon) since last Sunday--I find this article interesting.

Jerry Maynard walked up to me on Sunday when it finally stopped raining. We helped put out the call for Robert Woods, the then missing man from West Hamilton Avenue whose body was later discovered near his home.

On Tuesday, the Clark family from Hummingbird Lane was featured in all three newscasts. On Wednesday, several other Bordeaux and Hadley Park families were featured in the mayor's North Nashville tour story. On Thursday--same stories. Images of the home lifted off its foundation on Hummingbird Lane, and a washed away Tucker Road have been plastered across my station's website and airwaves all week. On Saturday morning, volunteer efforts from Bordeaux were broadcast. On Sunday morning, a North Nashville church was featured on the station, and today I returned to West Hamilton to feature another family in a FEMA story.

No one had to say anything to us in a "firm tone." We showed up to North as much as any other area because we needed to be there.

It's very interesting that none of your sources mentioned the one station who showed up each day to cover North, especially considering these are the neighbors who have thanked us for being on the ground each day. Funny what makes the headlines.

The reporter who now knows North Nashville like the back of her hand.