President 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 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 pac to get more people like Buggs on the ballot; but, as the group continued to meet, their aim changed.

Charlane and her partners hosted 24 events from November 2016 to February 2017. 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.



Do You and Do it Well: Advice from April Ryan

by Carjamin Scott on January 23, 2019 at 7:11 a.m. CST

I’m currently reading Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House by April Ryan. I have an affinity for Ms. Ryan because she is a female journalist of color who has served as a White House Correspondent for the past four presidents. She is someone who is courageous and speaks truth to power.

She is a single mother from the inner city of Baltimore and represents a view point unlike most of her peers. During her talk at Vanderbilt she was open about the scrutiny she endures under the Trump administration. She mentioned, “I cannot go home with my head down, I have to keep my head held high. There are days when mommy is wearing a perfect smile, but I am tired.”

I had the pleasure of assisting with the planning of April Ryan’s visit to Vanderbilt during MLK weekend. I was able to have dinner with Ms. Ryan, attend her keynote lecture, and receive some advice. After I told her how much I respect and admire her, she responded, “Honey, let me tell you something, be you, do you, and do it well. Go forward and kick the door down.”

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

10 Things I Wish for my Marriage

by Carjamin Scott on January 16, 2019 at 11:55 p.m. CST

This weekend marks our five year wedding anniversary and it is hard to believe all that we’ve accomplished over these last few years. From raising our children while enrolled in doctoral programs to participating in a number of community service events — outsiders want to know about our marriage and how we are able to juggle everything. The short answer is, it’s a team effort.

Admittedly, it took time for us to work at becoming in sync to work as a team. We have had issues and have had a number of tough conversations about how we want our marriage to be, why we got married in the first place, and even if our marriage is going in the right direction.

Ultimately, we have learned that marriage is much like a plant seed. It needs fertile soil, indirect sunlight, adequate rain, protection from bugs and disease, and pruning to bloom. I’d like to put emphasis on the protection and pruning. I could write a biblical sermon about the parallels between marriage and plants. I’m going to flush that out in another post before I lose track of the 10 things I wish for my marriage.

Throughout our relationship, I’ve grown much more in love with myself, Kerwin, and our family. From friends, to lovers, then newlyweds to now, our marriage has been truly transformative and the longer we are together the more proud I am of what we’ve accomplished.

As I reflect on the success of the last five years, I’ve compiled a wishlist of what I’d like for us to continue as we spend our lives together.

10. Keep our stock up.

As Kerwin accomplishes goals – education, fitness, and career, I want to accomplish mine. My wish is that we continue to encourage each other to accomplish goals. I’m grateful that we are both willing and able to make sacrifices for one another so that we keep our stock up.

9. Share our relationships.

We have a number of relationships outside of our marriage — work colleagues, church members, classmates, that we share. My wish is that we continue to share our relationships with each other, that we continue to trust each other, and that we remain selective with the company we keep.

8. Give and take honest advice.

This one is hard to write but appropriate for this list. During the earlier stages of our marriage, it wasn’t easy taking or giving advice to each other because we were successful at being single. We didn’t truly value the advice that the other person had to offer. Now we listen and are open to loving critique. We are much stronger and trusting of each other. My wish is that we continue to share with each other and talk with each other first before seeking the opinions of others.

7. Laugh a lot.

Kerwin is the funniest man I’ve ever met. He keeps me laughing. We truly have a good time together. Sometimes I can get him to laugh too. I appreciate that he knows how to lift my spirits and have a good time. My wish is that we continue to bring joy to our marriage and laugh a lot.

6. Remain spontaneous.

I do not enjoy routine. I get bored easily. If given the option I’d rather watch a tv show instead of a movie because I prefer the commercials. I love the spontaneity of our relationship. When I get off work, I enjoy when we have an unplanned event to attend, or Kerwin is able to come home early. My wish is that our marriage remain spontaneous and fun.

5. Be accessible.

We are accessible to each other. We are first in each other’s lives. When I need him I expect him to help me and he feels the same way. There is something special about being in a healthy relationship with someone who wants to be there for you, a true helpmate. My wish is we never ignore the other and that we continue to be accessible to each other.

4. Create romance.

I used to think that romance was dating, gifts, and soft music. Now, romance is putting gas in my car, washing the dishes, doing laundry, or giving me some time away from the kids. His idea of romance hasn’t changed and I make sure to do those things for him. My wish is that we continue to share what romance is and then provide that experience for each other.

3. Meet in the middle.

There are things that I like to do that Kerwin doesn’t like to do and vice versa. During the early stages, we had to learn how to meet in the middle. We learned how to spend time together while engaged in different activities. We do this when Kerwin is watching a movie and I’m reading or when I’m in a Barre class while he is playing basketball. My wish is that we continue to meet in the middle with our activities.

2. Be forgiving.

Not one time, not two times, but many times, I want us to remain forgiving. We’ve done something hurtful, did something out of character, or just got on each other’s nerves before but it’s all been forgivable. My wish is that we continue to have a short memory of faults and remain forgiving of one another.

1. Love each other anyway.

My top wishlist item is for us to just love anyway. I am who I am and I’m glad that he is still here. He is who he is and I love it. Sometimes I’m in a great mood, sometimes I don’t feel like being bothered, sometimes I’m quiet, sometimes I’m sick, sometimes I’m tired, sometimes I don’t want to go out etc. He also has those days. Even when we are not doing what the other wants, I wish that we continue to love each other anyway.

As I conclude this post, I’d like to learn from the married folks if you think this list is attainable. From the single people, I want to know what your future marriage wishlist contains. I hope you share this post and comment about it.

To Kerwin: You are the love of my life and I thank God for you.

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

LinkedIn Tips for Newbies

by Carjamin Scott on December 23, 2018 at 7:11 a.m. CST

New to LinkedIn? Here’s how to get the most out of your LinkedIn profile. 

LinkedIn is a social media website that individuals use to showcase their work experience and network with industry professionals. Recruiters use LinkedIn to find top talent and fill job openings. 

If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, and are interested in furthering your career, chances are you could be missing out on opportunities to get noticed by employers. Use these tips to get started.


Like the name implies, the intro section is the first thing individuals see on LinkedIn. Here is how to use this section to give a great first impression.

  1. Profile Photo – Your profile photo should be a professional business headshot. Since this is a business professional site, you should not use group photos, photos of objects, or any sort of distorted selfie images.
  2. Headline – Picture your headline as, “I am great at this, this, and that”. Or these are the best three adjectives to describe my career title. Or this is my title currently. Basically, your headline is a short statement or phrase with a few adjectives to describe your work interests and abilities.
  3. Location – You should include your current or targeted location in your profile so that recruiters are able to determine where you are. 
  4. Summary – Your summary can be written in a number of ways. The main objective is to tell a story about your career profession and goals. 

Articles, Posts, Activities, and Interests 

Most people don’t realize the value of the articles, posts, activities, and interests sections; however, when utilized strategically, each can help you get noticed on LinkedIn.

  1. Articles – Consider writing an article to publish your knowledge on LinkedIn. This is a great way to engage with your network and showcase your subject matter expertise. 
  2. Posts – You can repost articles on LinkedIn. When reposting, consider providing a short summary of the article to entice your followers to read what you’ve reposted. 
  3. Activities – Every article or post you comment, like, or repost lands in the activities section of your LinkedIn profile. Be strategic about the content you engage with on your page. Recruiters and your current company can see what content you are engaging with. Try to avoid engaging in any activity (ie. politics, controversial topics,) that could jeopardize your ability for promotion or a new opportunity. 
  4. Interests – The companies, groups, and schools that you follow or belong to land on the interest page of your LinkedIn profile. You should join and follow organizations that reflect your interests and affiliations.


The background section should detail your work experience, education level, and volunteering accomplishments. Recruiters will use this section to determine if your skills align with their job openings.

  1. Experience – The experience section on your LinkedIn page is probably the most important section to complete if you want to sell yourself to employers. In this section you want to include the name of your company, your employee title, length of experience, and a job description. The job description section can be completed in many ways. Some examples I’ve seen have included bullet points of accomplishments or a short summary. It’s important to use keywords that employers are searching for no matter which method you choose when completing the job description section. 
  2. Education – The education section on your LinkedIn page should include schools attended, length of each program, activities while enrolled, and a description. For recent graduates with no work experience this section is essential to showcase what you’ve done during your education career. Uploading media such as presentations and grades are helpful to employers interested in learning more about your accomplishments while enrolled in school. 
  3. Volunteering – The volunteering section on your LinkedIn page is useful for employers to learn about the organizations that you are invested in. List your role, mission, length involved, and a description of the organization you are involved in. 

Use these tips to get started on your LinkedIn profile. Contact me to present these tips and more. 

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

DSBC: Becoming Michelle Obama Recap #1

by Carjamin Scott on December 20, 2018 at 7:11 a.m. CST

Our first Book Club meeting was hosted on December 16, 2018 at 2p. Guests were greeted and offered snacks – popcorn, meat and cheese tray, macaroons, water, and wine. There were nine attendees – two men, seven women, and two married couples. The age range, work experiences, and education levels of the room varied which provided increased depth for our conversation.

To start, we surveyed the room to determine what we hoped to gain from the discussion. We learned that most of the attendees had read the first few pages of the book. Some of the attendees joined the club because of their admiration for Michelle Obama. One attendee mentioned that she saw parallels between her life and Barack Obama’s life. Other attendees just wanted to read the book alongside friends.


Overall, everyone participated because our conversation was about how our personal stories compared with the Obama’s. We discussed Mrs. Obama’s parents versus our parents or our parenting style, Mrs. Obama’s community versus our neighborhood that we grew up in, and Mrs. Obama’s mention that she is a “box checker” whereas her husband is a “swerver.”

We ended at 4:15p and after the discussion we agreed to read the first section of the book, Becoming Me. It’s about 100 pages. We will meet again on January 13 at 2p at the same location. The location address will be emailed prior to the event. All are welcome to attend. Some of the questions that we may use to guide our next discussion are here.

If you are not on the book club mailing list, please join here.

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

DSBC: Becoming Michelle Obama Book Club Discussion Questions

by Carjamin Scott on December 7, 2018 at 5:11 p.m. CST

Good afternoon friends,

I’m so excited about our inaugural book club meeting to discuss Becoming Michelle Obama. The discussion is scheduled for Sunday, December 16 at 2p at the home of Rosetta Miller-Perry, Owner and Chief Publisher of The Tennessee Tribune.

If you have completed the RSVP, the book club meeting address was sent to your email account. If not, there is still time to RSVP and you may do so at this link.

Below are the questions that we will use to guide our discussion.


To begin, please introduce yourself and select a character from the book that you feel most impacted Mrs. Obama’s #iambecoming journey and discuss why.

Discussion Questions:

1) In discussing her neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, Mrs. Obama writes, “Failure is a feeling long before it becomes an actual result. It’s vulnerability that breeds with self-doubt and then is escalated, often deliberately, by fear.” How did this insight shape Mrs. Obama’s work and mission as First Lady? What can we all do—as individuals, parents, and community members—to help break this cycle?”

2) Early in her senior year at Whitney Young High School, Mrs. Obama went for an obligatory first appointment with the school college counselor. Mrs. Obama was treasurer of the senior class. She had earned a spot in the National Honor Society. She was on track to graduate in the top 10 percent of her class and she was interested in joining her older brother, Craig, at Princeton University. The guidance counselor said to her, “I’m not sure that you’re Princeton material.” How did Mrs. Obama handle hearing that statement? How does one avoid having one’s dreams dislodged by someone else’s lower expectations?

3) In her early life Mrs. Obama writes about being a “box checker,” but as she gets older she learns how to “swerve” to adjust to life’s circumstances. What does it mean to swerve and how do we develop that skill in life?

4) In Becoming, Mrs. Obama describes a number of women who have served as mentors for her at different times in her life, including Czerny Brasuell, Valerie Jarrett, and Susan Sher. What do these women have in common? What lessons did Mrs. Obama learn from them about finding a fulfilling career as a parent? Who are your mentors and how do you cultivate those relationships?

5) As a young professional, Mrs. Obama seemingly had it all—a great job, a great wardrobe, and a clear path to great things in a top-notch Chicago law firm. But she writes, “In my blinding drive to excel, in my need to do things perfectly, I’d missed the signs and taken the wrong road.” She decides to change careers to focus on public service—a move that surprises some who were close to her. What is the value of listening to that little voice that suggests you might be on the wrong path even though the world thinks you are doing exactly the right thing? How do you support someone who decides to follow their own path or create a new one?

6) In Chapter 15, Mrs. Obama explains why she chose to support her husband’s run for the presidency despite her misgivings about politics. What made her change her mind? Would you have made the same choice? How do you balance the competing worlds of family life and work in your life?

7) Life on the campaign trail was a constant education for Mrs. Obama. Among the lessons was the power in people coming together to see her and to see each other eye to eye. “I’ve learned that it’s harder to hate up close.” How do we create spaces where people can come together to talk, listen, and share stories and ideals to build stronger communities, even when people might not agree or share the same history or perspective? How do we as a nation push back against cynicism and the “us vs. them” battles that so often divide us?

8) Mrs. Obama has surrounded herself with a strong and supportive circle of friends from an early age. In some cases the circle was within reach; as she got older and busier, she had to work harder to create and maintain her circle of support. She writes “Friendships between women, as any woman will tell you, are built of a thousand small kindnesses . . . swapped back and forth and over again.” How did she create the building blocks of strong friendships in her life? What is the value in creating and maintaining a circle of strength?

9) Why do you think Michelle Obama chose to name her memoir Becoming? What does the idea of “becoming” mean to you?

I am so excited about our discussion. I can’t wait to see you there! Feel free to bring your favorite champagne, wine, or beverage as we toast to the beginning of something greater for our lives, fellowship with each other, and create community.

These questions are from the official Michelle Obama Becoming Book Guide.

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