NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Franklin Alderman Gabrielle Hanson is creating controversy following an email she sent to the CEO of Nashville International Airport (BNA), urging the airport’s board to reconsider their support of a Franklin-based coalition’s upcoming Juneteenth event.
The Franklin Justice and Equity Coalition is set to host a Juneteenth celebration on June 17 in downtown Franklin.
In her email, Hanson urged the airport’s board of directors to discontinue their support of the Franklin Justice & Peace Coaliton.
Hanson’s letter read in part, “Over the course of the weekend, I have had over 20 Franklin residents reach out to me with concern over BNA paying thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to support what is equivalent to Franklin’s local BLM chapter…To put it mildly, our citizens are outraged and angry. I have to agree, I don’t want my tax dollars or fees off of plane tickets going to radical agenda’s either…Is it the mission of BNA to support African American organizations? Is it the mission of BNA to support Juneteenth? Is it the mission of BNA to support radical agenda’s that are dividing our country? That is the question our citizens would like answered.”
However, BNA Director Doug Kreulen confirmed to News 2 they will continue their support of the coalition’s events, saying in part, “BNA receives no local tax dollars – this charitable donation is not linked to your taxpayer money in any way. This sponsorship is a part of our overall efforts to expand our Business Diversity Development program….Juneteenth commemorates African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement. It is a Federal Holiday that the Airport Authority observes as one of our eleven holidays celebrated by all employees throughout the year. We are proud to celebrate it through this contribution in 2023.”
News 2 reached out to the Franklin Justice and Peace Coalition, who said they are “aware of the comments made to BNA. We are focused on our Juneteenth Celebrations to ensure community partners, vendors, performers, volunteers, and speakers have the best time possible at each event.”
News 2 also reached out to Hanson following her email and is still awaiting a response.
The full email Hanson sent to Kreulen on June 5 can be found below:
Dear Mr. Kreulen and Board of BNA Airport:
Over the course of the weekend, I have had over 20 Franklin residents reach out to me with concern over BNA paying thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to support what is equivalent to Franklin’s local BLM chapter, Franklin Justice and Equity Coalition. It is incomprehensible to think that an airport in Nashville would want to support an organization, in one of America’s most revered small town’s, that believes in defunding the police, reparations and other radical social justice platforms. Please see (this link) that show your support dollars and approval of their agenda.
Perhaps you aren’t aware that this organization only came about during the heat of BLM rioting across America, as they say, in response to George Floyd, Breanna Taylor and others. Perhaps you aren’t aware of the division they caused in our community last year when they asked the city to back them and take Juneteenth away from the African American Heritage Society, who had been our Juneteenth stalwart for decades. The African American Heritage Society has represented the achievements and successes, along with accurate black history in our community for decades. They have preserved the legendary McLemore House and provide annual scholarships to black youth in our community. Yet, they were targeted by the City of Franklin and FJEC and were asked for tens of thousands of dollars to move forward with Juneteenth BLM style or face not having Juneteenth at all. But because of many citizens in Franklin who became involved, AAHS was able to have their own Juneteenth without FJEC.
To put it mildly, our citizens are outraged and angry. I have to agree, I don’t want my tax dollars or fees off of plane tickets going to radical agenda’s either. I am floored that your board would approve of allocating money in this way. These citizens are prepared to post publicly and link this support to each and every board member, along with their business interests so that the public will know that the board of BNA is financially supporting, and in agreement with, radical social justice agenda’s in towns where they literally should have no voice.
Is it the mission of BNA to support African American organizations? Is it the mission of BNA to support Juneteenth? Is it the mission of BNA to support radical agenda’s that are dividing our country? That is the question our citizens would like answered.
As an elected official I am respectfully requesting that you either withdraw the financial support and public endorsement of FJEC, or write a check to the African American Heritage Society and allow them to advertise you as a sponsor, providing the same financial level of funding that you did to the Franklin Justice and Equity Coalition. It appears that you want to support African American causes in Franklin, and, particularly, Juneteenth. If you are going to support one entity, you need to support ALL entities providing the Juneteenth experience in our community, particularly those who don’t veer off of the course of accurate black history and seek provide an uplifting message of hope and inspiration.
I have copied Alma McLemore, the head of the African American Heritage Society on this email.
Sincerely, Gabrielle Hanson
Kreulen’s full email reads as follows:
Dear Alderman Gabrielle Hanson:
Thank you for your email concerning Nashville International Airport’s charitable giving initiatives.
The Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority regrets that you disagree with our decision to contribute to the Juneteenth Festival in Franklin. I would like to share more about BNA’s giving initiatives.
BNA proudly supports a myriad of organizations that reflect our diverse and growing community throughout Middle Tennessee. The citizens and passengers we serve come from all different walks of life, including race and socioeconomic status. It’s our goal to be an active and engaged airport that, as a community partner, enhances our region’s quality of life. We are active members of, and contributors to, many different organizations – nonprofit, civic, and educational – throughout our community. In all cases, these are reputable organizations that benefit our diverse community and share our core values of Respect, Integrity, Service, and Excellence.
Juneteenth commemorates African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement. It is a Federal Holiday that the Airport Authority observes as one of our eleven holidays celebrated by all employees throughout the year. We are proud to celebrate it through this contribution in 2023.
BNA receives no local tax dollars – this charitable donation is not linked to your taxpayer money in any way. This sponsorship is a part of our overall efforts to expand our Business Diversity Development (BDD) program – a program we are proud to develop and grow. In fact, our BDD program has grown from $50 million to over $300 million in successful business opportunities for Small, Minority, Women-owned, Business Enterprises in the past 5-years. As Chair of Williamson Inc. I could not be prouder of the support we have provided to the Black Business Coalition in Williamson County. I am thankful for the support that Matt Largen and Tara Blue have provided to me in this effort.
Thank you for the introduction to Ms. Alma McLemore and The African American Heritage Society. I will respond to Ms. McLemore in a separate email to learn more about her organization.
Respectfully, Doug Kreulen
News 2 also reached out to the Franklin Justice and Equity Coalition for further comment on the matter. In response to this request, representatives sent the following:
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This is a developing story. WKRN News 2 will continue to update this article as new information becomes available.