Thursday’s Mayoral Candidate Forum at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church in East Knoxville garnered a large gathering of Knoxville citizens.
Organized by SEEED and the Community Voices Coalition the forum aimed to focus on the issues that matter most to the urban and inner city communities of Knoxville.
There has been a concerning absence of questions in previous candidate forums in regards to what matters most to many East Knoxville and inner city residents. These are gun violence, youth opportunities, poverty, and affordable utilities.
Hundreds of community members were surveyed recently in an effort to gain feedback on what matters most to them. It was also a chance for the Mayoral candidates to let the inner city residents know where they stand on matters that have continuously plagued marginalized residents.
Turnout was high and local residents such as Denzel Grant and community representative for Trisha Melton, Mother of the late Chris Melton, who lost his life to gun violence at the hands of a gang member in South Knoxville got the chance to take the podium and share their stories of struggle, pain, and concern for the city.
The forum was moderated by Knox County Education Association President Tanya Coats. All six mayoral candidates were present which included, Marshall Stair, Indya Kincannon, Michael Andrews, Calvin Taylor Skinner, Eddie Mannis, and Fletcher ‘Knoxville’ Burkhart.
Over the course of two hours each candidate was able to answer questions and offer their solutions to questions raised during the Community Voices Coalition survey.
The Community Voices Coalition is a group of local organizers who are working to survey residents, particularly low-income and people of color who are often left out of the conversation. The goal is to promote participation in community conversations and candidate forums, and to allow citizens to tell their stories to identify LOCAL solutions to their most serious issues.
It is a necessary initiative in the City of Knoxville due to the economic decline of the Black community and climbing poverty rate. We have lost far too many children and young adults to gun violence in our city and the increase in gang activity has left a stain that has been difficult to clean up.
It must also be noted that we have far too many Knoxvillians whose livelihoods are declining due to unaffordable utility bills and housing, and youth who are falling as prey to the streets.
As the local election season is underway we must continue these difficult conversations and continue to ask the hard questions.
Our candidates must be aware of what is going on in all of Knoxville particularly in areas hurting the most.
As voters it is our responsibility to educate ourselves on the issues and vote in November for leaders who will best represent not only the suburban communities but also the Black community and inner city of Knoxville.
It is time our voices be heard. SEEED and the Community Voices Coalition are in our corner and giving us an opportunity to do just that, and we thank them.
Angela Dennis is a Freelance Writer and Blogger residing in Knoxville, TN. Her work has been featured in multiple publications such as Knox News Sentinel, Blavity, Black Girl Nerds, etc.