A few years ago, I led a delegation of clergy and lay persons to a meeting at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, New York. After I was introduced to speak, two well educated ladies walked up to me and asked, ?where is Tennessee??. I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked, bewildered, baffled and amused at the same time. I responded to their question with a question. ‘Are you serious or joking?’? They responded, ?We are serious. We think it is probably in that part of the country where rednecks are still lynching folks and people walking bare footed?, they responded. I was incredulous to say the least. However, they are not alone in their negative perception of Nashville and Tennessee.
So where is Nashville and what makes it tick?. Set amid the gentle rolling hills and farmlands of central Tennessee, Nashville is the capital city of Tennessee. It was named after Charles Nash, a revolutionary war hero. Tennessee shares borders with Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Alabama Virginia, Mississippi, Missouri and Arkansas.? Tennessee has a population of about 6.5 million people and an area of land of about 41,217.12 square miles.
According to the 2010 census, Nashville has a population of 601,222(city proper), and 1,589,934? for the 13 county metro area.? It is the second largest city in Tennessee after Memphis.? Country music’s founding city, Nashville is home to more than the Grand Ole Opry.? It is a major hub for health care, music, publishing and transportation industries.
Nashville? is the center of country music in the United States and is home to the famous Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Since 1925, Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry has been the longest continuously running live radio broadcast in the world. The music industry is one of the largest employers in the city and a major engine for the tourist industry.
Nashville is the health care capital of the United States. It is home to more than 300 health care companies, including? HCA, the largest private operator of hospitals in the world. The health care business contributes over $30 billion a year to the Nashville economy and about 200,000 jobs. Over 30 well equipped first class hospitals are located within the Nashville metro area. These include Vanderbilt University Medical Center, St. Thomas Hospital, Centennial Medical Center, Southern Hills Medical Center, Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital (the best in the world), Tennessee Christian Medical Center, Williamson Medical Center, Select Specialty Hospital, Veterans Administration Hospital, Skyline Medical Center, Stone Crest Medical Center, Bellevue Baptist Medical Center, Summit Medical Center, Middle Tennessee Medical Center, Parthenon Pavilion, Rolling Hills Hospital and Metro General Hospital. Vanderbilt’s Ingram Cancer Center is one of the best in the country.
As the crossroads of American culture, Nashville has educational offers for everyone. Nashville is called the ?Athens of the South? because of its high concentration of colleges and Universities. There are over 25 colleges and Universities? located within metropolitan Nashville. These include Vanderbilt University, Tennessee State University, Fisk University, David Lipscomb University, Nashville School of Law, Belmont University, Aquinas College, Nashville State Community College, Trevecca Nazarene University and Cumberland University. Meharry Medical College, which trains almost half of the African American physicians in the United States is also located in Nashville, as well as American Baptist College which is a mecca for church ministers. Meharry? is the best in the United States when it comes to tropical diseases as exists in Africa. The first President of Malawi, Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda was educated at Meharry. The first Black Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, Bishop Abel Muzorewa was also educated in Nashville. Over 75, 000 students are enrolled in colleges and Universities in the Nashville metro area.
Popularly known as the ?protestant Vatican?,? Nashville has over 1,000
churches of all denominations. It is the headquarters of United Methodist Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, the National Baptist Convention, USA, the National Association of Free Will Baptists and Thomas Nelson Publishing, the world’s largest producer of bibles. The American Baptist College, which specializes in training pastors is located in Nashville.
Nashville has been lauded as one of the best places to locate a business in the United States. Nissan North America has its largest North American assembly and manufacturing plant in metro Nashville, as well as the headquarters of Dell Computers and Dollar General Corporation. The largest hotel in the world-the 3,000 room Gaylord Opryland Entertainment and Amusement Center-is located in Nashville.? Other major corporations with headquarters in Nashville include Firestone(largest tire manufacturer in the world. Owns the huge rubber plantation in Liberia), Hospital Corporation of America (HCA)( largest operator of hospitals in the world), Shoneys, Captain D’s, Genesco Shoe Company, Gibson Guitars Company (world’s best known and respected maker of guitars), Ingram Industries(operates the largest fleet of barges in the world), Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) (largest private corrections company in the U.S) and Purity Dairies. Oak Ridge, the energy capital of the world is located a few miles from Nashville. Oak Ridge National played a major role in designing and assembling the first nuclear bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
According to the 2010 census, the city is 60.5% White (56.3% non Hispanic White), 28.4% African American and 3.1% Asian. There are about 120,000 immigrants in metro Nashville. Of this number, 60,000 are Latinos, 25,000 Asians, 15,000 Africans( including 5,000 Somali refugees and 2,500 South Sudan refugees), and 11,000 Kurds (the largest concentration of Kurds in the United States). Nashville is now euphemistically called ?little Kurdistan?, because of the large number of Kurds who were resettled here after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
Nigerians, Ghanaians, Kenyans, Liberians, Senegalese, Tanzanians and Sierra Leonians make up the remaining African contingent. However, the city pays more attention to Latinos and Asians, leaving Africans carrying the bag and the crumbs.
For those who want to visit Nashville, it is accessible by air, land and river. It has an international airport, which services all the major airlines.
* Dr. Leonard Madu, is President of the African Caribbean Institute and Chamber of Commerce. He is also a Fox TV analyst and writes from Nashville, Tennessee.