Lately, I have heard about Nashville’s plans for “sustainable growth and
prosperity.” These conversations have put me in deep thought and wonder about the
Nashvillians in my community, and I have two questions for you.
Question #1: What does Nashville's sustainable and inclusive growth mean to
The growth of Nashville is a familiar topic to most people. Growth is essential to
the health of our city - our tax base, public goods, and public services. Yet, growth by
itself – growth without equitable distribution or accrued benefits – is incomplete. There
can be no sustainable growth without an equitable lens of intentional distribution of
To better understand this distribution of sustainable growth, we have to start with
the wealth gap. We know there are racial disparities in wages and income for business
owners and entrepreneurs, consumers of goods and services, savers and investors,
and homeowners in Nashville. If Black Americans are starting with an unequal playing
field, knowing that the Black homeownership rate, the main source of wealth in America,
is the lowest it’s been in history, knowing the wealth gap for Black Americans is 6.7
times lower than the average of our counterparts, and knowing dollars in the Black
community circulate out just as soon as they come in what does “sustainable growth”
mean for Black Americans? As is, Nashville’s current plan just means avoiding the
depletion of resources for the city’s institutions and political systems.
Questions #2: Does Nashville’s plan for sustainable inclusive growth include
historically underinvested communities? Does it include you?
Who is Nashville’s sustainable growth and prosperity for? Who receives the
benefits of Nashville’s growth and prosperity, and how are those benefits distributed? If
we are going to improve the quality of life for Nashvillians who suffer from poverty, who
receive barely livable wages, and who work multiple jobs to make ends meet, what does
that look like?
Our most precious resource in this city is our people. Our people need to
adequately reap from the growth of Nashville’s economy to improve their quality of life.
So, what does it mean for our people when we use the term sustainable? After
all, the fact is that the city’s growth is driven by the productivity of people of color,
specifically Black Americans, who are yet underrepresented in high-demand industry
jobs. We are not fairly represented in the good-paying, high-salary jobs. History tells us
that as inequality of wealth distribution grows and resources accrue to a smaller subset
of people, our systems get shaky and exclusive to only those privileged enough to have
the means to participate. To truly have sustainable, inclusive growth for the whole city
everyone in the town must benefit. New development and prosperity must be inclusive
of underserved communities and consider people who are still locked out of the city’s
In other words, you can’t have sustainable growth without having development
distributed into underserved communities among people locked out of the city’s “big
What will it take to have actual sustainable growth and prosperity in Nashville?
We, Black Americans, must shed light on these substantial racial disparities and have a
call to action to progress against the wealth gap. Black Americans play a critical role in
Nashville’s economy and deserve to receive the just fruits of their labor. We must end
the generational exclusion of Black Americans from Nashville’s economic growth - a
well-documented inequity in Nashville (another “Cliff Note” to come on this!).
So, what will your response be the next time you hear about Nashville’s plan for
sustainable growth and prosperity?