Thursday, January 5, 2012

Today in Things You Would Find Implausible if It Wasn't Real Life: Court Finds Black Church Owns Klan Shop

Posted By on Thu, Jan 5, 2012 at 6:24 AM

The Rev. Kennedy in front of his property
  • The Rev. Kennedy in front of his property
Thanks to Southern Beale, I have been laughing for hours over this story of a black church in Laurens, S.C., which is now the legally recognized owner of the building that houses the Redneck Shop, where you can pick up all your fine Ku Klux Klan duds.

And how did they come to own this building? Oh, people, that you have to read to believe:

Ownership of the building was transferred in 1997 to the Rev. David Kennedy and his church, New Beginnings, by a Klansman fighting with others inside the hate group, according to court records. That man, according to Kennedy, was feuding with store proprietor John Howard over a woman and "developed a spiritual relationship" with Kennedy's church, the judge wrote.

Yes, a fight over a woman.

The Rev. Kennedy isn't sure what his congregation is going to do with the building. For obvious reasons, his congregation is a little weirded out about meeting in a building that used to house a segregated theater and is now home to a Klan tourist attraction, but it sounds like he hasn't ruled out using the building as a meeting place. He says, "I think that the church would do good in that building."

Well, sure. Why not? As Billy Sunday says, the Devil's had it long enough.

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Christmas Miracle? Is the Belle Meade Country Club Changing Its Tune?

Posted By on Thu, Dec 22, 2011 at 5:19 AM

It has always amazed me that so many prominent Nashvillians could belong to the Belle Meade Country Club, knowing it has no voting black or female members, knowing they needed to quit if they wanted to run for higher office (e.g. Bill Frist), and yet still acting like they are surprised by — and somehow powerless to stop — the discrimination at the club. (Though, sweet Jesus, with so many Belle Meade Country Club members who claim to have been working to diversify the club, we have to assume that either some prominent folks are stretching the definition of "working," or that these members — supposedly the crème de la crème of Nashville — are surprisingly ineffectual. Y'all want us to trust you with running the whole city when you can't run your own club any better than that?)

People, the tens of thousands of dollars you give the club for the privilege of belonging? If y'all moved that money elsewhere, you'd see real change, almost instantly.

And lo and behold, three years after Matt Pulle wrote his article for the Scene in which one Allison Halsell read this —

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Impeaching Obama Tops Senate Candidate's Wish List

Posted By on Tue, Sep 27, 2011 at 10:41 AM

Voters are electing the successor to Republican state Sen. Jamie Woodson in Knoxville today. Insiders say the favorite is Congressman Jimmy Duncan's sister, Becky Duncan Massey. But Pith sees a dark horse in that race. Her name is Victoria DeFreese, and her popularity was bound to have shot up when she cleverly revealed that impeaching Barack Obama would become her No. 1 priority in the state legislature.

If she could pass one piece of legislation to help the economy and create jobs, what would it be? That was the question the Knoxville News-Sentinel asked each candidate. DeFreese knocked it out of the park:

"Because the federal government manages the macro-economy and that impacts all states, if I could introduce one piece of legislation that would be ensured passage, I would suggest a resolution calling for the impeachment of President Obama. If we could join with other states and pursue that, that is what I would like to do."

Friday, December 17, 2010

Heimdall's New PR Team: White Supremacists Frown on Idris Elba in Thor

Posted By on Fri, Dec 17, 2010 at 12:29 PM

From the end of the Viking era until recently, Heimdall has suffered from being one of the least interesting of the Norse gods. Sure, back in the day, he cuckolded three guys, but for a thousand years now, he's just sat around and waited for a chance to blow his horn. Yes, he's basically the Norse equivalent of Little Boy Blue.

But no longer! Now, Mr. Sexypants himself — Idris Elba — is playing Heimdall in the upcoming movie Thor. Now, I think we can all agree that Thor is going to be terrible, deliciously terrible, but filled with hot men strutting around looking like crosses between members of a biker gang and vending machines (see here for Elba doing his best to emote in his vending-machine state). But if you are a little-known, long-neglected god, this is your chance to change people's perceptions of you.

Just try this, if you're in a place with people. Just say out-loud, "Oh, Stringer Bell" and take a look at the reactions of the people around you. I think you'll find that, among fans of The Wire, Elba's character is considered amazingly attractive and badass. Not bad qualities to have associated with yourself, if you're a god, right?

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

MSM Steps Out on a Limb in Mosque Controversy

Posted By on Wed, Sep 1, 2010 at 5:16 PM

The mighty MSM—or at least the Chattanooga paper—finally has gotten around to reporting what every thinking person in this state has known for some time now: Our political leaders are really spineless when it comes to the anti-Muslim hysteria overtaking Tennessee. But of course, we shouldn't fault our major media outlets if they're a little slow on the uptake. Unable or unwilling to state the obvious themselves, they needed to find someone to do it for them.

Asked about Gov. Phil Bredesen's rather tepid defense of religious freedom yesterday, Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said:

“That’s a good statement, but perhaps it would have been more beneficial coming earlier and also coming earlier in the repudiation of the voices of bigotry that have been very loud in this debate."

In response, Bredesen press secretary Lydia Lenker pointed out "the governor wasn’t asked for his thoughts by the media until yesterday," as if Bredesen can't put out a press release or give a speech expressing his thoughts at any time.

Hooper also commented on Mike McWherter's standard response to any question about mosques, that "you can’t just drop these into the middle of a very quiet neighborhood and expect the same quality of life.” Hooper called that "very strange—you know, kind of like we don’t want any more black families in the neighborhood because more might come in.”

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Report From Monday Night's Candlelight Vigil at the Murfreesboro Mosque Site

Posted By on Tue, Aug 31, 2010 at 2:33 PM


Supporters and opponents of a proposed Islamic center clashed at a vigil in Murfreesboro Monday night.
  • (Photo by Jude Ferrara)
  • Supporters and opponents of a proposed Islamic center clashed at a vigil in Murfreesboro Monday night.
On The City Paper's website today, editor Stephen George reports on last night's candlelight vigil at the site of the proposed Murfreesboro mosque.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Man in Full: Jim Leeson, 1930-2010

Posted By on Thu, May 6, 2010 at 11:46 AM

Jim Leeson (1985 photo)
  • Jim Leeson (1985 photo)
If you've never heard of James T. Leeson Jr., that's just how he wanted things.

Ask him about his role in the Civil Rights Movement, and he would steer the conversation from his own activities to the tragicomic foibles of people on all sides of it, white and black. Ask him about the neurotics, cranks, paupers and princes he mentored in Vanderbilt's Sarratt Tunnel as adult supervisor of the university's student journalists, and he could cite an instance when just about every one of them had shown his or her (usually his) ass.

Ask about a wealthy Franklin pooh-bah, and he would tell you who the guy was sleeping with that month. Ask for his praline recipe, and he would change the subject.

Thing is, when you could get Jim to speak of the Civil Rights days, his accounts were consistently laced with understanding and even affection toward the racist whites, confused liberals, power-hungry black preachers and corrupt officials of both races that he had in his sights.

The same ambiguity held when he talked about the people he had mentored at Vanderbilt, many of whom have gone on to carve out national and global reputations in journalism and other fields of endeavor. His devotion to them was clearly the life's work of this lifelong bachelor. Yet his friendship was often most valuable when he was calling out lapses by those he liked.

Of the many people who have mourned Jim since he was found dead of a gunshot wound on Monday near his Williamson County home, having killed himself after minutely organizing his demise to make it as convenient as possible for all who were part of his life, his onetime colleague, Nashville author John Egerton, may have gotten to his core most effectively:

He was a singular figure, a man virtually unknown publicly yet loved and hated, admired and feared by a broad swath of the rich and famous, poor and anonymous multitude. In the 45 years I knew him, he never did anything except on his own terms. That was his way, no exceptions. I guess death was no different. It would have been out of character for him to go the way most of us go — quietly, with all the unspoken protocols and formalities predictably observed.

Jim Leeson was a close friend of mine from my freshman year at Vanderbilt in 1982 until he left this world. He was a friend and admirer of Scene editor Jim Ridley. Nothing about this post pretends to be objective. But I do think he was an important enough person to merit notice here.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

How the Obamas Feel About Attacks Against Michelle

Posted By on Tue, Mar 9, 2010 at 1:05 PM


Walt Baker's email gave Pith a creepy feeling of déjà vu. Gutter attacks on the Obamas are becoming a Tennessee tradition.

There was Bill Hobbs' "Anti-Semites for Obama" press release, Chip Saltsman's "Barack the Magic Negro" CD, and Sherri Goforth's "spook" picture. Coincidentally, what should come up last night in Game Change, the book we're reading about the 2008 presidential campaign? That's right, the state GOP's posting of that Web video mocking Michelle Obama over her "proud of my country" remark.

The book sheds new light on the Obamas' feelings about the video and other attacks--potential and real--against the future first lady:

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Friday, March 5, 2010

Nothing Funny About This Monkey Mail

Posted By on Fri, Mar 5, 2010 at 9:37 AM

Walt Baker, the prominent CEO of the powerful Tennessee Hospitality Association who was a key figure in gaining approval of the controversial $585 million convention center, sent the kind of "joke" email last night -- comparing First Lady Michelle Obama to Tarzan's Cheeta -- that might stop even Michael Richards in his tracks. (The entire email on the jump.)

Baker forwarded the racist missive -- introduced with this: "Quoting Larry the Cable Guy ... I don't care who you are, this is funny" -- to 12 prominent Nashvillians, including mayoral legislative aide Toby Compton, Nashville

Convention & Visitors' Bureau head Butch Spyridon, lobbyists Joe Hall and Peter Heidenreich, former Scene editor and publisher, respectively, Bruce Dobie and Albie Del Favero, and Nashville Post reporter Ken Whitehouse.

Coming from a hospitality czar, the post didn't strike recipients as particularly hospitable.

"I don't think it's funny -- period," Dobie says. "Anything else I have to say about it I've already let Walt know."

Whitehouse calls the email "disgusting."

Del Favero was on the way to his office when we reached him and says he hadn't yet opened the email. "It's probably in my inbox waiting on me. But I've never known Walt to send anything that is politically incorrect."

"Who all got it?" Del Favero asks. When told, he responds, "Oh, how stupid!"

UPDATE: Baker says he meant no offense and sent it to what he considered to be "a select group of friends." "If anybody wants to make a political agenda out of it, they're wasting they're time," he tells Pith.

"It's not a political statement," Baker continues. "It was done in the spirit of having some fun with some close friends. It was something that was forwarded to me, and I forwarded it to a couple of people that, quite honestly, I thought might find some humor in it like I did."

Apparently, they didn't.

"I've gotten some emails back from folks," he says, "and that's fine too."

UPDATE II: The CVB's Spyridon calls the email "unacceptable and not representative of our organization and what we stand for." He says he telephoned Baker and "chewed him out."

UPDATE, 3/6: Baker sent a one-word follow-up email to the original recipients Friday afternoon. It read only, "Sorry." And today, the publicly funded CVB announced it's canceling its $50,000 marketing contract with Baker's company. Here's the statement today from CVB president Butch Spyridon:

"On behalf of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau, I apologize for the offensive email sent yesterday by Tennessee Hospitality Association CEO Walt Baker. As a recipient of the email, I am embarrassed for my organization and myself. The content is deeply hurtful to all Nashvillians and beyond. The attitudes expressed in the email are both appalling and unacceptable, and are not shared or condoned in anyway by the NCVB or by me personally.

Nashville's hospitality industry has worked tirelessly to create a welcoming environment for our visitors and this behavior discredits the work done by so many. After serious consideration, the NCVB has terminated its contract with Mr. Baker's marketing agency, Mercatus Communications. I have communicated this action and my deep regrets about the email to the Mayor's Office and other hospitality industry leaders."

See too Baker's apology, also in the comments below and in an email to the Metro Council.

"Thursday night I spontaneously forwarded -- to a small group of people -- an email that had been sent to me as political humor. As I forwarded it, I did not think or consider its implications, other than that it was political humor. I am saddened that anyone misinterpreted the sentiments behind the email. I deeply apologize to anyone who is offended by this action. I hope that those who know me realize that the message was not intended to be malicious or hurtful in any way and can find it in their hearts to forgive me."

LATEST UPDATE, 3/8: Walt Baker was terminated today from his post as CEO of the Tennessee Hospitality Association. "Walt's email reflects a deep misunderstanding of the nature of hospitality and our role as an association," said THA board president Bill Mish. "His email was sent in his personal capacity and not in his connection with the hospitality associations."

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