For many of us, we have been working for years to solve the challenge of racism in this community.

One of my favorite photos (that is buried in a box somewhere) is my mother, Jane Eskind, helping lead a march in the ‘60s. I thought of her often in the days just past.

My heart has been broken over this pandemic and the virus of racism, which has again been made more visible to us who have watched the ebbs and flows of bigotry over time. It has been visible to many but just as invisible to too many.

I hope that the generation who marched righteously this week to memorialize George Floyd, and so many others, will keep carrying the torch. Not to use it for bad but for good. To shine a bright light on what the future can hold rather than succumbing to the siren call of creating darkness for their neighbors and their businesses and their livelihoods.

Thirty years ago, when The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee was created, we purposefully set out to emphasize NOT the institution we were trying to create but the word “COMMUNITY” – this was to be for everyone. Everyone had a seat at the table, whether they were needing help or offering it.

When we created the inaugural Board of The Community Foundation in 1991, we were lucky enough to receive help from giants like Dr. Jamye Coleman Williams, Roland Jones, and Cecelia N. Atkins, who were among the first to offer their support and assume their seat at the table.

We have always known that Black Lives Matter. We witness it every day. And in every year as people of all backgrounds have been welcomed and have embraced us, as we have embraced them and their gracious efforts to make our work richer and more meaningful.

I was glad that the church of Rev. Kelly Miller Smith, Sr. (who my mother marched with in the ‘60s) was where many of those marching began last weekend. But I recognize that it is likely that few of these younger generations have heard Rev. Kelly Miller Smith, Sr.’s name and learned his worth.

It is hard to imagine how we will always snuff out the fires we encounter, but I am betting on the leadership, strength, and steadfastness of those generations who now follow in the footsteps of those who have tried and succeeded in connecting generosity with need in the decades that lie ahead.

Ellen Lehman
Founder and President
The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee

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Listen & Learn

Rep. John Lewis’ message to protesters fighting for racial equality

Congressman John Lewis was a champion and leading figure of the civil rights movement. He marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and was repeatedly beaten and arrested during nonviolent protests for racial equality. Congressman Lewis joined “CBS This Morning” for his first network TV interview since the protests over the death of George Floyd began, he shared his message of hope to protesters.

What Does Equality Mean to You?

Several years back, we asked various city leaders and citizen activists the questions, “What is equality?” “Who helped build your bridge to equality?” and “What more needs to be done?”

Let’s listen to Eric Brown, Kane Brown, Agenia Clark, Yuri Cunza, Dr. Forrest Harris, Susan Huggins, Ashford Hughes, Glenda Glover, and Justin Jones.

Gail Williams Addresses Equity, Equality, Making Change and Being Courageous

For many of us, we have been working for years to solve the Watch and listen to Gail Williams accept the Francis S. Guess Bridge to Equality Award, on behalf of herself and her late husband David Williams II, during last year’s program.

Her speech addresses the conversations David and Francis would have surrounding the inequitable plight of young African American males and how to best shorten the gap; how to shape the conversation for this community for effectiveness for change, for equity, and for equality.

Gail sheds light on how she and David often discussed how they could lead in a way so we could collectively work on building leadership opportunities for young people of color.

The Bridge to Equality Award program included a luminary filled panel having a conversation about building bridges to equality, and we will be sharing clips from this powerful discussion as the days unfold.

Panelists included Tennessee Titans great and philanthropist, entrepreneur and entertainer Eddie George, Dean of Vanderbilt University Divinity School Rev. Dr. Emilie Townes, VP of External Affairs and AMEND Together at the YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee Shan Foster, President of Impact Youth Outreach, Inc. and President and CEO of Imperial Cleaning Systems Robert Sherrill, and Vanderbilt University Women’s Basketball head coach Stephanie White. The panel was moderated by Nashville Predators President and CEO Sean Henry.

TED: Talks to help you understand racism in America

For more ways to listen and learn: TED – a global community, welcoming people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world – has created the playlist: Talks to help you understand racism in America. From passionate pleas for reform to poetic turns of phrase, these talks take an honest look at everyday realities of Black Americans and illuminate the way forward.

Listen and Learn at

Give Back

The saying “hindsight is 20/20” suggests it is easy to know what is right after the fact. Yet, in these times our communities are calling on us to do what is right, right now with a profound sense of urgency. In light of recent events, people around the globe, and in our own community, have an opportunity to be powerfully assertive, to stake a claim in defining the decade.

Imagine, a decade or century from now where you can see clearly how your actions improved the lives of so many generations ahead. We invite you to join us as we work together to strengthen our family, our neighbors and our friends through the Give Black, Give Back Initiative of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.

The Give Black, Give Back advisory board includes Eric Brown, Mr. Ron Corbin,  Mrs. Barbara Grey, Brandon Hill, Kia Jarmon (co-chair) Jennifer Oldham, Lisa Swift-Young (co-chair) and Antonio Young.


For those who are asking for ways to help support our region’s Black-Owned Businesses, here is a list to start. If your business isn’t listed, please email to be included.

Support Black-Owned Businesses


Frustrated by social injustices and police brutality plaguing communities across America, Equity Alliance’s co-founder and Co-Executive Director Charlane Oliver shares an inspiring personal story about how she channeled her anger into action to launch The Equity Alliance (TEA) shortly after the 2016 presidential election to increase voter engagement in communities of color.