People seem surprised when they find out that Nashville is a Democratic city and that Tennessee’s 5th congressional district is safely blue. Obama won the district both times he ran and Hillary won it comfortably In 2016.
TN-05 has a solid PVI of D+7, but the incumbent, Jim Cooper is a Blue Dog, best known for his conservative politics– and as the brother of Nashville’s mayor and the son of a former Tennessee governor. Cooper spent nearly a million dollars of his family’s money to buy the seat in 2002. He’s never had a serious challenger since. Republicans are happy with his conservative politics and Democrats have been afraid to challenge him in a primary.
Meet Keeda Haynes, a top-notch progressive reformer who vigorously backs Medicare-For-All, the Green New Deal, a $15 living wage, a national cap on rent and home price increases, top to bottom student loan reform, H.R. 40 (Sheila Jackson Lee’s bill to set up a reparations commission), marijuana legalization, a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented individuals currently living in the U.S., competitive prescription drug costs and a whole platform built on solid progressive positions.
This week, Blue America has endorsed Keeda and I asked her to introduce herself with a guest post– and the brand new video below– in the hope that everyone else would be as impressed as I’ve been.
Please consider contributing to her campaign by clicking on the 2020 Blue America congressional thermometer on the right. This is a very special candidate who would make an extraordinary member of Congress.
I Am That Change
-by Keeda Haynes
Many Americans recently have recoiled in horror at the filmed slaying of 25-year-old, African-American Ahmaud Arbery by two vigilantes in Glynn County, Georgia. Another tragedy of epic proportions also occurred in Louisville when police officers– without knocking and announcing their presence– fatally shot 26-year-old Breonna Taylor, an emergency room tech, to death. Sadly, the cases of Ahmaud Armery and Breonna Taylor are not isolated incidents in the United States of America. They are pristine examples of a criminal justice system that too often disrespects and devalues the lives of African-Americans and other persons of color.
But, beyond these high-profile killings of African-Americans, countless millions languish away in prison, shackled by a criminal justice system that locks them away and throws away the key. It’s what Michelle Alexander has called the New Jim Crow– the systematic oppression of entire groups of people. The human toll of mass incarceration takes on many shapes and forms and no longer can we turn a blind eye to it.
Many care little for our prisoners, assuming a person is in prison because of their criminal conduct. But a prison sentence should not be a death sentence…but that is what it has turned into for the hundreds of inmates that have died in custody due to the coronavirus. They were someone’s father, mother, sister, brother, daughter or son and their lives had value. Our prison population is one of the most vulnerable and they deserve to be protected.
When I sat on the top bunk of my 3×8 prison cubicle in Alderson, West Virginia, looking back over the range at 100 other women, recently sentenced to seven years in prison for a crime I didn’t commit, I thought to myself” what if I die here.” The possibility of that happened back in 2003 wasn’t nearly as possible as it is today. Having served nearly four years in federal prison for a crime I did not commit, I know that fear, confusion and frustration that many incarcerated individuals are feeling right now. Only through my faith did I persevere and emerge from prison an even stronger individual, hell-bent on devoting my life to public service and fighting for those in need.
After my release in 2006, I went to law school, passed the bar exam, and became a public defender in Nashville, Tennessee. I advocated in the trenches for those society has considered the least of these amongst us. Every day in the courtroom, I knew the difficulties my clients faced because I had sat in their shoes and felt those same feelings of desperation.
Now, my public service has taken a different direction after working as a public defender for the past six and a half years, but my fight, passion and determination remain. I am running for Congress in TN-05 and I will take the same level of passion and determination to Washington to advocate on behalf of the community of District 5. I will stand alongside the community, fighting daily for access to quality health care, affordable housing and criminal justice reform. I will provide them with equitable access in government decision making and will make sure their voices are heard.
Armaud Arbery shouldn’t have been killed while jogging. Breonna Stewart shouldn’t have been killed in her sleep. Hundreds should not have died in jails and prisons. I shouldn’t have served nearly four years in prison for a crime I did not commit.
It is time that we in TN-05 have someone in Congress that understands that the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world; that mass incarceration disproportionally affects black, brown and low- income communities; and, that we need to address the racist policies and procedures that have caused this large disparity.
Watch Keeda’s powerful new video: