In Nashville, Tennessee, state Reps. Justin Pearson, Gloria Johnson, and Justin Jones interrupted proceedings to advocate for what they described as ‘common sense’ gun reform. Outside they were backed by the thousands of protesting students and activists.
After repeated attempts to get their message heard through established legislative protocols, the lawmakers stood on the Statehouse floor with a bullhorn to voice the concerns of their constituency.
Because of their methods, which their Republican peers described as disorderly, two of the three lawmakers, Pearson and Jones, were expelled from the legislative body.
It is telling that the Tennessee State Legislature would be more concerned with a disruption to their proceedings than with the disruption of human lives caused by gun violence.
The expulsion has subsequently placed these legislators on a national platform. Perhaps this expulsion is just what was needed to spread the message even further.
Known as the Tennessee Three, these legislators now represent much more than their constituents. It has been widely shared that they represent the changes in democracy that no longer make room for the voices of the people. How, then, do we the people ensure that our voices are heard?
The Tennessee Three put their political careers on the line that day. It was thrilling to witness politicians who, in the face of much opposition, actually prioritized the concerns of the people who elected them.
Fellow Tennessee legislators had endured years of being overlooked and silenced. The Tennessee Three decided that their commitment to their message outweighed the potential repercussions. Their sacrifice is commendable. And replicable.
Shortly before his death, famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass advised to “Agitate! Agitate! Agitate!” Douglass was referring to the necessity of actively and continually pushing for positive change. Wherever we may find ourselves, we have a chance to further the ideals in which we believe.
In our respective communities, workplaces, and even in our homes, we have the opportunity to continue the legacy of amplifying the messages that we feel are important.
As we continue to hold our elected officials accountable, we, too, can hold ourselves accountable for upholding our ideals.
We can appreciate those who we put in power as they speak for us. We can also speak for ourselves. While each of us may not have the platform afforded to the Tennessee Three, we each have a voice and a message to be shared in our own corner of the world.
Rep. Jones was unanimously voted back in the House as an interim representative. Rep. Pearson intends to run again in the upcoming election. Pearson maintains his commitment to upholding the priorities of his constituents. We the people can stay committed to upholding our own. At every opportunity, agitate!
Contact Editor-in-Chief Camike Jones at 317-762-7850 or by email at CamikeJ@IndyRecorder.com.