Late Georgia Representative John Lewis. Photo courtesy of Collection of U.S. House of Representatives

By Logan Langlois

NASHVILLE, TN — Thunderous applause erupted across a sizable and energetic Youth Rally crowd at the end of several speeches Saturday, each one passionately advocating for the fight against John Lewis Way being renamed President Donald Trump Blvd. The protest itself was organized by Safiyah Suara, a local Nashville high-schooler and daughter of Councilwoman Zulfat Suara in participation with the John Lewis March Committee. The rally was organized in an effort to raise awareness on how the bill would impact the residents of Nashville as well as how it would continue Tennessee lawmakers’ agenda to refuse to fund education, reduce the Metro Council by half its representatives, and abolish the Community Oversight Board. 

Though the event carried the title of a ‘youth rally’, attendance consisted of diverse support from people of all ages. Several attendees were even old enough to have participated in the direct actions for civil rights which were being discussed.

“I marched these streets with Diane Nash and John Lewis when I was 13 years old,” said Valinda, an elderly Black protester who joined the rally in order to show her support. 

“We paved the way for you all, we opened up the gate. Keep it open and come out here and work. Protect what has been given to you, what people have died for… protect it.”

Speakers in the rally took turns pouring out passionate speeches. Among these voices was RaCarol Woodard, Regional Organizing Director of the Equity Alliance.

“This is a voter suppression state,” she began. “I’m here to ignite everybody out here. Because [this] is so much bigger than you, it’s so much bigger than me, and it’s so much bigger than this… John Lewis, he didn’t just die, and neither did our ancestors just die, for us to sit here. Instead, he fought as a student … Thank you every student that’s out here … Now I need you to go get your people … and it’s time that we take it back, and we goin’ to go to the polls and we’re gonna take our state back!”

Woodard ended her speech soon after with a ‘Black power’ fist raised while chanting “my vote, my voice” with a fired-up crowd. After the speeches, Safiyah Suara further explained why she was inspired to organize the rally. 

“The fact that John Lewis was in this city and made such changes and Donald Trump basically only had one rally here, I think it just goes to show how…interesting this bill that is trying to be passed is.” 

The bill which inspired the protest was brought before the council earlier this month by State Representative Paul Sherrell and State Senator Frank Niceley, who claimed that they only want to change a small section of the road. Senator Niceley himself is no stranger to controversy, after just last year being in hot water regarding a perceived anti-Semitic comment. If signed into law, businesses such as the Nashville Municipal Auditorium, the Metropolitan Government of Nashville & Davidson County, and the Cordell Hull building will all have to change their addresses in accordance with the street name change. Since the proposal, the launch of an online petition opposing the bill has already gathered over 17,000 signatures at the time of this report. The petition is available for signature at