T.M. Garret, former white supremacist turned human rights activist, will share his story at two public events in Chattanooga. The first event will take place next Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Brainerd Baptist Church, 300 Brookfield Ave. The second event will take place in conjunction with the Mayor’s Council Against Hate on Thursday, Jan. 9 at 5:30 p.m. at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 305 West 7th St. Both events are free and open to the public. These events are being supported by Chattanooga’s interfaith community including: the Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga, Islamic Society of Chattanooga, First Christian Church, Northminister Presbyterian, Rev. Ann Weeks, Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee, Mayor’s Council Against Hate, First Christian Church, and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.
“Now is the time for our community to come together and to continue to stand against hate.”, states Michael Dzik, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga. “History has shown that when people do not stand up against hate, that hate multiplies and spreads. We want Chattanooga to be a safe place for all members of the community.”
TM Garret was born as Achim Schmid in Mosbach, Germany and raised in a small nearby town. He was raised by his mother, a cook, after his parents divorced. His father, a boatman, died when Garret was eight years old. He became attracted to Nationalist groups at the age of 13 and radicalized in the years after.
He joined the white supremacist movement and founded a series of skinhead bands with names like Celtic Moon, Wolfsrudel (Wolfspack) and Höllenhunde (Hounds of Hell). Later he became a member of a German Ku Klux Klan faction and formed his own KKK group, which he later left; it disbanded in 2002.
Today, Mr. Garret is an anti-racist activist and lives in Horn Lake, Ms. He legally changed his name to TM Garret Schmid in 2018. After leaving the white supremacist movement in 2002, Garret used his experience he collected during that time to found companies in the call-center and internet marketing industry, the music industry and a licensed job-recruitment company. After he moved to the Memphis metro area to work with his long-time friend and business partner Colonel Robert Morris, he founded PicArts Media, a film production and promotion company, and Mid South Music Entertainment, a record label and booking company. He worked with artists like Canadian Idol runner up Jaydee Bixby, Jimmy Miles, Dani Fouts and T. Graham Brown; TV personalities such as Mark Muller, who starred in God, Guns & Automobiles; and the "princess of country music" Georgette Jones, the daughter of George Jones and Tammy Wynette. Garret sold the entertainment group in 2015.
In 2015 Mr. Garret started working with Exit Deutschland, a German anti-Nazi organization which was founded to combat the far-right and to help people leave hate groups. He became their US ambassador and runs an American EXIT program under the umbrella of C.H.A.N.G.E.. Mr. Garret is developing his own EXIT program, which includes the Erasing the Hate tattoo removal campaign, participation in community events, counseling and therapy sessions and visits to places like the National Civil Rights Museum and the Withers Collection Museum and Gallery, both located in Memphis.
After the fatal confrontation between law enforcement and Alton Sterling in Louisiana in 2016 kicked off a series of events, Mr. Garret decided to start the non-profit organization C.H.A.N.G.E Inc., which engages in community outreach programs, food drives, seminars, anti-racism campaigns and anti-violence campaigns. C.H.A.N.G.E stands for Care, Hope, Awareness, Need, Give and Education. The organization holds recurring events in high-poverty areas and supports black communities.
In August of 2017, Mr. Garret partnered with artists working at Sick Side Tattoo & Body Piercing Studio in Horn Lake, Ms. (Memphis metro area). Together they work to cover up racist and gang-related tattoos through the Erase the Hate campaign. Soon, other tattoo parlors joined the campaign and offer to cover up racist and gang related tattoos for free. The service is currently available in Horn Lake, Ms., Memphis, Jacksonville, Fl., and Los Angeles. The campaign was featured in the short film Rewired, a documentary by the Chapman University about Mr. Garret, and in an upcoming film for A&E network.
Together with other activists and members of Exit Deutschland, Mr. Garret developed HateXchange, the official counterpart to EXIT Deutschland's award-winning program named Hass Hilft (Donate the Hate), where residents and sponsors turn neo-Nazi marches into "involuntary walk-a-thons" by raising money for an anti-extremist organization. Besides "walk-a-thons" and "park-a-thons" as on Nov. 10, 2017 in Charleston, SC, donations are also involuntarily raised by hate comments on social media. $1 per collected comment is donated to non-profit organizations like Life After Hate, Human Rights Watch, the Southern Poverty Law Center and selected local non-profits.