By Tribune Staff
NASHVILLE, TN —After months of speculation, and on the heels of the largest referendum vote in the history of Metropolitan Nashville, it’s official: jeff obafemi carr, a longtime activist and institution builder in the city, is running for Mayor.
carr is a graduate of Metro Public Schools and a Cum Laude graduate of Tennessee State University. He first rose to prominence as the Student Government Association President of TSU in 1990, when, at 22-years old, he led a nationally-publicized Sit-In and hunger strike. The protest movement forced the State of Tennessee to spend over $120 Million Dollars to improve the North Nashville campus.
Upon graduation, he began working in Youth-centered community initiatives under James R. Threalkill at the historic Edgehill Center. Using his Communications degree, he developed successful programs that prioritized at-risk youth. While employed at Edgehill, he also began publishing The Third Eye, a community newspaper that was influential in advocating for the African-American Community, including pushing for the merger of Nashville General Hospital and Meharry’s Hubbard Hospital (where he, incidentally, was born).
He is known in the arts community as the founder of the Amun Ra Theatre (ART), whose theatrical works appeared on main stages in Nashville and across the country over the course of its 11-year history. An avid reader and researcher, in 2007, he was awarded a commendation from the Tennessee Historical Commission for his play Ordinary Heroes, which explored the unknown stories of the Nashville Civil Rights Movement. He was appointed by Mayor Karl Dean to the Metro Arts Commission, where, as a member of the Grants and Awards Committee, he was tasked with overseeing over 2 million dollars in grants annually to local arts organizations.
The most well-known initiative of ART was its highly-touted Youth Performing ARTs Academy, a Youth Violence initiative which taught young people how to act out on stage instead of on the street corner. carr is most proud of that program which, over the course of almost 10 years, generated an impressive success rate: 100% of its kids graduated high school and enrolled in college.
“I’ve been blessed to have had a great life up to this point,” says carr, when he reflects on his success in leadership. “Over the course of almost three decades, I’ve been in the decision-making chair in institutions that actually produce tangible results. We have a short window to run for an unexpired term, at a time when executive decision-making experience is needed over legislative experience to provide stability. An effective Mayor, after all, doesn’t write legislation. A mayor provides stability and experience.”
carr is the Co-Founder and Chief Spiritual Officer of The Infinity Fellowship Interfaith Gathering. In 2015, only a year into its’ founding, Infinity brought national acclaim to Nashville for the building of Nashville’s first micro-home community. A crowd-funded project, it built 6 homes in less than two months that were donated to homeless residents who had previously been sleeping in tents. carr has since lectured around the country on how to build effective, innovative Affordable Housing. He is also the Chief Executive Officer of The Media Scientist Laboratories, an umbrella multi-platform production, consulting and intellectual think-tank company. TMSL most recently partnered with NoTax4Tracks, where carr was the Senior Advisor and strategist leading the opposition to the $9 Billion-Dollar Transit Tax Referendum. His voter education-centered outreach work is credited with producing near-record numbers in voting for a traditionally low-turnout May election.
carr’s Mayoral platform will reflect his experience, he says, noting the brevity of the remaining term of just over a year, left when Mayor Megan Barry resigned from office. “The people want and need a leader who is going to move beyond great-sounding ideas and build programs based on proven success. So, I’m sticking to the areas I know most about; the areas that I’m uniquely qualified to lead in. I am, among 13 people running, the only candidate that has actually built Affordable Housing, addressed Youth Violence successfully, and has navigated both sides of the Transit issue from dozens of community engagements. From the beginning, I saw the flaws in this Transit Plan, and even when I was a lone voice in the wilderness advocating against it, I am proud to say that I stuck to my guns. A leader has to have the vision and judgment to know what works and what doesn’t, from the beginning, without figuring it out along the way. I’m committed to taking what I learned in these conversations and debates on Transit and turning them into an effective plan that works for everyone in our city.”
Another issue carr feels passionately about is Public Schools. He is married to Kenetha, a Cum Laude Graduate of Fisk University and his partner in both business and Infinity (she is its Chief Operating Officer). They have five children ranging in age from 23 down to age 6. The youngest four all attend Metro Public Schools, a rarity in the Mayor’s office.
“Kenetha and I know what every day life is for people, and the everyday struggles parents have with navigating Nashville. I think it’s awesome that, for the first time in decades, we have the chance to elect a sitting Mayor who makes educational decisions with his own children in mind. I always thought it was odd that public officials, who are elected by the public, and make decisions about the public good, rarely trust Public Schools to educate their own children. That all changes in a carr administration. Should the people put me in that chair, they will finally have an administration that is of, by, and for the people.”
That philosophy of bringing diverse people together is reflected in two cornerstone positions of his campaign staff. Joining his campaign as Treasurer is David Fox, a prominent local businessman who was the Runner-up to eventual Mayor Megan Barry in the 2015 election. “I’m very eager to do all I can do to ensure jeff wins this critical election,” Fox said. “After witnessing such unfortunate leadership of our city the past few years, I’m delighted to support the only fiscally responsible candidate with a legitimate path to winning this election.”
Rounding out the diverse staff is Campaign Manager Gicola Lane, a well-known community
advocate, organizer, and non-profit leader. A 2018 Emerge Tennessee Alumna, she has made a name for herself via, among other things, her leadership with the National Bail Out, which
provides resources and support to help get low-income residents out of jail.
“This campaign reflects the true diversity of Nashville,” carr explains. We have to move this city beyond the partisan politics that have divided people into white and black or blue and red camps. That won’t work anymore and people are tired of it. We have to have a Mayor who can unite people, hear all voices, provide experiential leadership from day one, and execute efficiently in a financially responsible way. As an Independent, it is my aim to create an atmosphere of cooperation and completion. I’m asking Nashville to ride with carr.”
For more information and to hear the details of carr’s vision and platform, visit carrfornashville.com.