Category: Interviews

Charlane Oliver shares how The Equity Alliance got started.

by Carjamin Scott on February, 1, 2019 at 9:23 a.m.

The Equity Alliance is arguably one of the most influential grassroots organizations in Nashville. It is a social justice advocacy group that works to engage communities of color, particularly African-Americans, about their voting power. I chatted with Charlane Oliver, Co-Founder and President of The Equity Alliance, to learn more about why the organization was started.

I asked Charlane, “What motivated you to start The Equity Alliance?”

“So, it was a series of events and it was out of frustration. It started with Trayvon Martin’s murder. He was killed two days after my son was born. I started seeing things differently – the bias and the laws against black men – and how we are looked at as disposable.”

“Then George Zimmerman, his murderer, got off. Trayvon lost his life but George did not. I started to question the system. I knew I had to do something but I wasn’t exactly sure what I should do. I thought about becoming an attorney, or running for office to get involved and get things in check. Then, other things happened like the flint water crisis and I began to wonder – do we give a damn about black and brown people in this country?”

Charlane continued, “I worked in the 7th richest county in the nation, it’s very affluent, very privileged, and very white.” This was where Charlane learned how these communities influenced elections, how their wealth created power and a utopia for them, and how one of the richest counties in the nation became that way.

Christiane Buggs
Christiane Buggs TEA Photo

Charlane was frustrated with the disparity going on in our country and wanted to build some political power. “A face came across my screen of a young girl named Christian Buggs. She was running for the School Board.” Charlane had a mutual friend with Buggs. The mutual friend connected them, and Charlane offered to manage her political campaign for free.

This was the start of her political influence. As Public Relations manager, Charlane was able to help Buggs win the Metro Nashville School Board seat with hardly any money, less resources than their opponent, and no prior campaign management experience.

Charlane stated, “None of the old guards in Nashville were willing to give Buggs the keys to the city. She was going to have to earn this position and I had to help her.”

Tequila Johnson
Tequila Johnson TEA Photo

While campaigning for Buggs, Charlane met Tequila Johnson, who is now the Vice President and fellow Co-Founder of The Equity Alliance. “We won that together but only two or three thousand people voted.” Charlane was encouraged by the win and learned that more needed to be done to get voters engaged.

The decrease of black voters in the 2016 election charged Charlane. According to a Pew Research Center Study (2017), the black voter turnout rate declined for the first time in 20 years in a presidential election, falling to 59.6% in 2016 after reaching a record-high 66.6% in 2012.

“I sent out a text to my partners and we met on November 18, 2016. Yes, I remember the exact date. Then, I pitched the idea.” Originally, she wanted to start a political action committee (PAC) to get more people like Buggs on the ballot; but, as the group continued to meet, their aim changed.

That year, Charlane and her partners hosted 24 events from November to February. She recalled, “We hosted an event with Conscious Conversation and had a panel of politicians – Lee Harris, Memphis Mayoral Candidate, Attorney Raumesh Akbari, Senate District 29 – and others. The event was packed and all 150 seats were filled in the SEIU Labor Union that day,” Charlane stated enthusiastically. “I knew that we were on to something, our people were longing for events like this and we wanted to engage them year round.”

I interrupted and said, “Charlane, the Black Womens’ Empowerment Brunch was the definition of Black Girl Magic,” she laughed. “We got so much positive feedback from that event. One girl said that it felt like the Essence Festival was in Nashville.” Charlane continued further. “We hosted that event because black women never get the credit they deserve. We wanted to provide a safe space for black women to be who they are and feel proud of it. We don’t get these opportunities enough.”

Charlane says there will be another Black Womens’ Empowerment Brunch next year. “That brunch exceeded our expectations. People are getting engaged with what we are working on. It is a new day.”

I asked Charlane, “What are your thoughts on the Tennessee midterm elections?”

“We have made some great gains, we have a lot of people participating now. In 2014, people sat on their hands and fell asleep at the wheel. This time more people went to the polls and participated.”

“From lil Pookie of the projects to Mrs. Catherine with the college degree. We have moved the needle further. We are engaging people who have been sitting on the sidelines for a long time, Now we are giving them tools, strategies, opportunities to plug in, and hope.”

At the end of our conversation, I thanked Charlane for her time and service to our community.

The Equity Alliance wants you to get involved, learn more here. Want to make a donation? Click here.

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Carjamin Scott can be reached at and you can follow her on twitter @scottcarjie.


Dr. Shanna L. Jackson, the First Black Female President of Nashville State Community College, Discusses her Pathway to the Presidency.

by Carjamin Scott on July 15, 2018, at 10:30 p.m. CST

Dr. Shanna L. Jackson, the first black female president of Nashville State Community College, was the keynote speaker at the inaugural Black Women’s Empowerment Brunch hosted by the Equity Alliance.

Dr. Jackson is the product of two college-educated parents. Her mother instilled the importance of believing in God, and her father was the first in his family to graduate from college. Dr. Jackson mentioned that her father’s education was his gateway out of poverty. Her parents encouraged her to set big goals and never let gender or skin color stop her from reaching her dreams.

“At 5 years old, I told my parents that I want to become the first female President of the United States,” said Dr. Jackson.

Her education career began as an instructor at South College, this was the first time she experienced students that were not from two-parent households, students who were the first in their family to attend college, students who did not have a support system that encouraged them to attend school, students who had issues outside of school such as childcare needs, and students who grew up in a home where attending college was not expected.

“This is when I learned the difference between equality and equity. I was “woke,” I realized that my instructor job was not about me. I had a purpose to serve,” she said.

Dr. Jackson explained, “Education is the key to both economic and political empowerment. Education does not just prepare you for a job, it changes families.”

Dr. Jackson explained, “Education is the key to both economic and political empowerment. Education does not just prepare you for a job, it changes families.”

This experience changed Dr. Jackson’s childhood goal and the path to the presidency of a community college began.

Dr. Shanna Jackson, Keynote Speaker, and NSCC President

Pathway to Presidency

Here are the steps Dr. Jackson took to become the first Black female president of Nashville State Community College.

First, she found a mentor, then she found a sponsor.

Dr. Jackson sought college leaders out, told them what she wanted to do, and asked them for feedback on how she can reach her goal. She learned the difference between mentors and sponsors.

“Mentors are great, but sponsors are better. Sponsors have the power to make things happen on your behalf,” explained Dr. Jackson.

She discussed the importance of creating relationships and surrounding yourself with people who are critical, open, and honest with you about your strengths and your shortcomings.

She printed community college president job descriptions.

She printed out community college president job descriptions to determine the strengths she had and the gaps she needed to fill before she could serve in the position. She began to apply and was interviewed for a position.

She persevered through adversity.

She was turned down for a college president position that a mentor told her to apply for. After the interview, she met with the mentor, they discussed what she needed to work on, and it helped her to prepare for her next interview opportunity.

She researched current community college presidents to learn their similarities.

She researched current community college presidents to learn their career background, education, and impact at the colleges they lead. She wrote down her strengths and what she needed to learn to become a community college president. “I created a plan to fill the gaps because I realized that I had a calling to fulfill,” she stated.

She furthered her education.

She enrolled at Tennessee State University and earned a Doctorate in Education degree while working and raising kids. Her husband supported her goals and she was able to complete the degree in three years.

She bloomed where she was planted.

After reaching a career ceiling, she began talking to the College President she worked for at the time, about how she wanted to move the college forward. Soon, a new position was created, she applied and interviewed. Then, she became the Executive Assistant to the President. Dr. Jackson explained, “This was a critical turning point in my career because it provided the breadth and depth I needed to reach my goal.”

On June 1, 2018, eleven years after earning her doctorate degree and after serving in other administrative positions, she became the first black female president of Nashville State Community College. Her next goal is to close the equity gap particularly for students of color.

She addressed the crowd, “What are your hopes and dreams?”

“We have a responsibility to make a difference” “Own your power, the time is now.”

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Carjamin Scott can be reached at and you can follow her on twitter @scottcarjie.

Nashville Students and Alumni Share Why They Chose an HBCU

by Carjamin Scott on May 24, 2018, at 10:33 p.m. CST

Prior to the American Civil War of 1865, Blacks did not have access to formal higher education opportunities. To address this problem, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) were formed. The Higher Education Act of 1965 defined HBCUs as “…any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of Black Americans.” Although HBCUs were created to educate Black students, HBCUs admit students from all races and backgrounds and offer a variety of programs that prepare students to contribute to society.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, “HBCUs were founded and developed in an environment of legal segregation and, by providing access to higher education, contributed substantially to the progress Black Americans made in improving their status.” Some argue that there is no longer a need for these institutions because Blacks are now able to attend any school they choose.

However, the rate of enrollment for minority students remains stagnant at traditionally private white institutions (PWIs). Many factors exist that could explain why enrollment for students of color at these institutions is low such as:

Continue reading “Nashville Students and Alumni Share Why They Chose an HBCU”