UPDATED 03/01: The following story includes original reporting, as well as updated information provided by CFMT and Interdenominational Ministers Fellowship (IMF) president and senior pastor of Pleasant Green Missionary Baptist Church at 1400 Jefferson Street, Pastor Chris Jackson.
The Interdenominational Ministers Fellowship (IMF) started as a deliberate direct action group, attacking social evils without subscribing to the formalities of structure or bureaucracy. They were anxious to get all the ministers of all denominations to come together for fellowship-discussion which would strengthen them for direct social action to unitedly, collectively and cooperatively attack the social evils which plagued Nashville after the 1954 Supreme Court decision on public schools desegregation. … The IMF has never been a rigidly structured organization. They achieved and stayed on the job and stayed together because of the fellowship style of leadership. The IMF has received a $30,000 grant from the Middle Tennessee Emergency Response Fund to work with the NAACP in a program to help Jefferson Street beauty shops and barber shops hit by the tornadoes of March 3.
Interdenominational Ministers Fellowship received a $30,000 grant to support the relief efforts in the aftermath of the March 2020 Middle Tennessee tornadoes.
“Being a barber is about taking care of the people.”
— Singer-songwriter Anthony Hamilton
Nashville’s Jefferson Street corridor, once the city’s thriving epicenter of historically African American business and culture, has survived urban renewal and desegregation and has slowly battled back in attempts to restore its past luster.
Nowhere has this been more evident than with the numerous beauty salons and barber shops that have sprung up along Jefferson Street as well as other parts of North and East Nashville through the years.
That’s progress, one scissor snip at a time.
Then a deadly series of tornadoes tore through Middle Tennessee in the early hours of March 3.
Jefferson Street and its North Nashville neighborhood suffered significant damage, as did barber shops and beauty salons along the corridor, as well as in adjoining Germantown and across the Cumberland River in East Nashville.
“Our customers are like family,” stylist Narkieta Neal of East Nashville’s A-Luv Salon told The Tennessean’s Yihyun Jeong in a March 8 story and the tornado damage experienced by salons and barber shops. “And you know, family is important, especially around here.”
Beauty shops and barber shops have long been major parts of historically African American communities. From the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History & Culture:
“Since the turn of the 19th century, beauty salons and barber shops have served as special places among African Americans. They have been places not only to get hair care services but locations where black people could be vulnerable and talk about issues of importance in the community. There were spaces where customers played games such as chess, cards, and dominoes, while having conversations about local gossip, politics, and community affairs.”
The Interdenominational Ministers Fellowship has partnered with the NAACP and have started a program to help tornado-damaged Jefferson Street beauty shops and barber shops.
The IMF has been involved with tornado relief efforts since canceling its regular weekly Wednesday noon meeting in early to deploy members to help with cleanup efforts and dispersing food and supplies at the disaster recovery center at Lee Chapel AME Church in North Nashville, says IMF President Chris Jackson, senior pastor of Pleasant Green Missionary Baptist Church, located at 1400 Jefferson St.
IMF’s first meeting post-storm occurred on Zoom and featured personal testimonials from those who have been displaced by the tornado, including pastors from Nashville’s Greater St. John Missionary Baptist Church (2200 26th Avenue North), Braden Memorial United Methodist Church (803 Main St.), Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church (908 Monroe St.), Celebration Christian Center (1215 Ninth Ave. N.), as well as from Tabitha Mundy, co-owner of displaced business Music City Cleaners at 624 Jefferson St.
Representatives from FEMA and the Small Business Administration also were on hand to provide disaster relief information.
Meanwhile, check dispersal for tornado-damaged beauty shops, barber shops and other businesses begin in early April from the IFC and NAACP.
Then the organizations will mark progress. One snip at a time.
Follow up with Pastor Chris Jackson, president, Interdenominational Ministers Fellowship (IMF) and senior pastor of Pleasant Green Missionary Baptist Church at 1400 Jefferson Street
CFMT: From your organization’s perspective, what progress has been made since the March 2020 tornadoes, and what more still needs to be done for survivors?
Pastor Chris Jackson: Citing the need for progress on Jefferson Street and its history, A large percentage of the North Nashville residents who were displaced by the storm were renters. History reflects that Jefferson Street was once the most culturally relevant and economically thriving corridor in the Nashville African-American community until state planners decided to route I-40 eastward into downtown through the middle of this historic African-American community. In 1968, houses were claimed through eminent domain, access to businesses was blocked by six-foot construction fences and within a year, many of the businesses closed and housing values dropped more than 30%.
A casual drive down Jefferson Street will reveal that this community has never recovered from the traumatic effects of the interstate destruction. A long-term, systemic response is necessary in order to begin the process of rectification beyond temporary fixes.
A great response to this dilemma and to the 2020 Tornado has been the formation of the North Nashville Tornado Relief Coalition which includes the following groups: Jefferson Street United Merchants Partnership (JUMP), Interdenominational Ministers Fellowship (IMF), Urban League, NAACP, Lee Chapel AME and New Covenant Christian Church (DOC). This group pooled $60,000 and as of December 2020 has disbursed over $46,000 in community assistance.
This assistance has come in the form of shingle replacement, tree removal, general repairs and reconstruction support. The group is partnering with the Fifteenth Avenue Community Development Corporation and the Teachers Credit Union.
According to Sharon Hurt, Metro Council Member-at-Large, among other things, the group hopes to accomplish the following: Serve as a stimulus for others to give; Send a strong message of how North Nashville is better together; Help stabilize and stimulate businesses that have sustained losses as a result of the March 2020 tornado.
One of the high hopes for the group is to create low-income housing opportunities in the North Nashville area. A first step in this direction has been to demolish the tornado-damaged former Scales Funeral Home at 1412 Jefferson Street. owned by Pleasant Green Church. This demolition was recently accomplished thanks to the generosity of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee working through the Middle Tennessee Emergency Response Fund committee.
In place of the funeral home, the plan is to build a Life Lab and Hope House to provide housing, education, job training, credit-repair, home-ownership positioning and general assistance with other life issues as needed. After one to two years of preparation, the plan would be for program participants to ‘graduate’ into their own homes and to restart the interview process for new candidates/families.
The progressive endeavors mentioned above will create a win/win situation for the program participants, the city government and for the entire community. If interested in partnering with the North Nashville Tornado Relief Coalition in any way, please contact Sharon Hurt at (615) 726-5867 or Pastor Chris Jackson at (615) 329-1189.
LEARN MORE ABOUT INTERDENOMINATIONAL MINISTERS FELLOWSHIP
Online at https://www.imfnashville.org/