Rev. Venita Lewis

By Clint Confehr

NASHVILLE, TN — The NAACP’s next branch president here slept on concrete for nearly two months to protest George Floyd’s murder. Demonstrators called her Queen Mother at Tennessee’s Legislative Plaza.

On-line balloting Nov. 16-17 elected the Rev. Venita Lewis to succeed Nashville NAACP Branch President Sheryl Guinn. Lewis’ term starts Jan. 1. Davidson County General Sessions Court Judge Rachael Bell was chosen to administer Lewis’ oath of office in Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, 2800 Buena Vista Pike, at 6 p.m. on Dec. 29.

Lewis has been an NAACP member four decades. The “I Will Breath Rally” attracted thousands. They sang “This little light of mine.” The protest rolled into demands for removal of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s bust from the Capitol. Lewis was there “when they rolled his head out.”

Nearly 230 people voted in the branch election during Wednesday-Thursday balloting, Lewis said. Her margin was about 20 votes. Participation was down, she said, adding national association leaders suggested voting during a Thursday-Saturday period. “A lot of people work on Wednesday,” Lewis said.

Jonathan Williams was elected first vice president, besting Ludye Wallace’s bid by 35-40 votes, Lewis said from memory. She and Williams are the branch’s new officers.

They declared themselves candidates during a branch meeting when Guinn and Wallace were pre-announced candidates, Lewis said.

“We brought in over 200 new members,” she said.

As a long-time branch advocate and leader, Wallace said he wasn’t surprised by candidacies announced at the meeting. He supports the new officers.

Born in Bay City, Texas, Lewis was raised in the Pentecostal Church from a “line of 17 clergy,” she said. Experienced in retail management, Lewis wants to increase branch office hours in the Frierson Building, 1310 Jefferson St.

To increase service to young people, Lewis said the branch should rejuvenate ACT-SO. The NAACP’s Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics include a year of programs to recruit, stimulate, and encourage academic and cultural achievement among Blacks in high school.

Gentrification, COVID-19 and lingering maladies from the March 2020 tornado are challenges the branch should address, Lewis said. Rent and utility assistance also need attention.

As an ordained minister, Lewis has served the community from the Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church through her nonprofit organization, KEVA, Inc., 1106 Ed Temple Blvd. Keeping Every Vision Alive distributed Christmas gifts Dec. 10 at the church where Aaron Marble is the senior pastor. It was the third annual No Child Home Alone event providing gifts to children whose parents are incarcerated, or were killed by senseless violence. Lewis also works with Silence the Violence. She wants to meet with District Attorney Glenn Funk and Police Chief John Drake.

Increasing branch membership — “We should have 2,000 to 3,000 members” — is among Lewis’ goals.