NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — On Saturday, the Tennessee Justice Center (TJC) unveiled its new home in South Nashville, along with a mural on the side of its building to remember the Nashville Sixteen. 

Although the TJC has been around for 27 years, leaders said its new building on Lafayette Street will serve as a more permanent headquarters. Construction took roughly two years.  

“We’ve never had a home. We’ve always kind of done the church basement routine, we have gone wherever we could, and we’re an organization that focuses on giving every Tennessean a chance to soar,” said Michele Johnson, executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center. “Health care advocacy, nutrition advocacy — we try to make sure that every Tennessean has what they need to thrive.”

According to Johnson, the project took roughly $8 million to complete and is strategically located in South Nashville.  

“We’re across the street from Napier Sudekum, which is an area where many people struggle to have a bright future. The census data shows that at birth, life expectancy is 15 years shorter for the kids born there than born even just a mile away from here,” Johnson explained.

The center is marking its ground as a beacon of hope, complete with a historical land marker, in addition to the Nashville Sixteen mural. The artwork represents 16 first grade students who worked towards desegregating Nashville schools back in 1957. Three of the 16 shared their stories on Saturday, Oct. 7.

“Running into a mob of angry people that didn’t want Black children in a white school, that was an eye opener,” recalled Barbara Jean Watson, who attended Jones Elementary. “But my mother never flinched, she never looked to the left or to the right, she just said, ‘Follow me, hold my hand.’” 

The group emphasized the importance of knowing Nashville’s history and encouraged young minds to always strive for a brighter future.  

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“I was just looking forward to coming to school, and it’s a part of history and something that needed to have been told a long time ago,” said Marvin Williams, another attendee of Jones Elementary. 

TJC’s resources are free. You can read more about the facility’s services by clicking here.