Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Paul Smith today hit the city’s plan to move the Bessie Smith Strut from MLK Boulevard to the Riverfront.
“That this was done in this backroom manner, with no chance for public comment and input, is simply outrageous,” Mr. Smith stated. “It’s nothing less than an economic lynching of the merchants and businesses on MLK Boulevard and a slap in the face to the African American community.”
Mr. Smith said he believes the public safety concerns stated as the reason are merely a smokescreen.
“Thousands of people, of all races, turn out for the Strut each year and delight in the opportunity to mingle together, listen to music, eat some good food and have a good time. Who are the people who demanded this move? Have they ever actually been
to the Strut? This decision needs to be reversed now. We call on the City Council to immediately investigate this.”
Citizens of Chattanooga and Hamilton County should not surrender any of their streets or communities to fear of thugs and criminals, he said, and all communities are entitled to equal protection.
He added that the Strut "was begun as a way to build better community relationships, as well as support businesses and locations along MLK Boulevard, including the Bessie Smith Cultural Center. He suggested the Center trademark the name Bessie Smith Strut so it could not be co-opted by any other entity."
“The fact that the name is being changed from ‘Strut’ to ‘Celebration’ is yet another dismissal of the artist the event is named for,” Mr. Smith said. Research shows that the lyrics to Bessie Smith’s songs 'Aggravatin’ Papa', 'At the Christmas Ball', 'Give Me a Pig’s Foot and a Bottle of Beer', 'I’m Going Back to My Used to Be,' 'Sam Jones Blues' and 'Cake Walkin’ Babies From Home' all feature the word 'strut' or phrase 'strut your stuff', as in the lyrics “Strut your stuff, they're the cake walkin' babies from home/Strut your stuff, strut your stuff, cake walkin' babies from home.”
Mr. Smith expressed support for the “Occupy MLK Boulevard” that is asking people to strut on MLK on June 11 instead of going to Riverbend.