Rep. Hakeem: General Assembly Legislative Update

Thursday, June 4, 2020 - by Rep. Yusuf Hakeem

I Can't Breathe

I'm angry! I'm so angry, I can't breathe; but I will. I will breathe for George Floyd. I will breathe for Eric Garner, for Breonna Taylor, for David McAtee, for all those affected by police brutality and were never heard; I will breathe for all those I marched with during the civil rights protest and who are no longer with us. It is my duty to breathe.

Like many of you, I watched the horrific murder of George Floyd, and I couldn't believe what I was seeing. As my wife and I sat there heartbroken watching George Floyd call out to his mother, we knew what he was saying. His cries of help meant one thing. He was saying please God, don't let this happen to me.

Today, we are seeing the horrific ghosts of our past permeate all across this nation. Fifty-five years earlier, in Marion, Al., Jimmie Lee Jackson was killed while protecting his mother from being attacked by the police. His death led to the 54-mile march from Selma to Montgomery. That Sunday, March 7, 1965, three hundred protestors gathered outside of the Brown Chapel A.M.E Church in Selma, Al., to peacefully protest police brutality and our most basic human rights. As the protestors began to leave the town of Selma and cross the Alabama River, they could read Edmund Pettus's name, a Confederate General and Grand Dragon of the Klu Klux Klan, decorated across the bridge's crossbeam. Once reaching the other side of the bridge, they met with a barricade of state troopers and Major John Cloud.

Major Cloud's infamous words rang out from his bullhorn, "THIS MARCH WILL NOT CONTINUE," before ordering the troopers to disperse the crowd with clubs and tear gas. Those events directly parallel what has been happening this past week, except, every day is Bloody Sunday.

Right now, there is a question as to whether or not black lives matter. When we say that black lives matter, we are not detracting from the fact that all lives matter, they do. I believe all lives matter, but we all need to look through the eyes of the people being victimized. I genuinely believe that more and more average citizens around the country are doing this, and they believe a change must take place.

I think now more than ever, we need to ask ourselves, are we content with the status quo and hollow words, or are we inclined to make a positive change. It starts at the voting booth. This is an opportunity to channel generations of pain and frustration.  Now is the time to pray, organize, strategize, and mobilize.

To my fellow legislators, we need to start having real discussions about criminal justice reform and how we train our police officers. Over the past year, I introduced several bills addressing these very same issues: HB0321, HB0323, and HB0424. However, each bill met resistance. I was told now is not the right time to address these issues and that we need to wait and see the governor's criminal justice reform package first. We can no longer afford to wait! The time to do something meaningful and necessary is now more than ever.

If we do not put an end to this, we will never progress. This progression is needed for the survival of all Americans and for the continued sustainability of our country.  However, there are glimmers of what could be and what we should strive for, nationally here in Tennessee.

I was extremely pleased to see Chattanooga Police Chief David Roddy quickly and strongly denounce the horrific use of excessive force used against George Floyd. His words "if you wear a badge and you don't have an issue with this…turn it in," came as a sigh of relief for many Chattanoogans. In Nashville, peaceful protestors at our state's capital were met with armed members of the national guard. In a show of unexpected solidarity, the national guard laid down their riot shields. Together we will stand; we will breathe; we will be heard.

New COVID-19 Testing Sites in Chattanooga

On May 21, the Hamilton County Health Department announced the opening up four new COVID-19 testing sites located at Brainerd High School, East Lake Academy, Hardy Elementary, and Orchard Knob Elementary. The announcement comes after the Health Department's decision to no longer continue COVID-19 testing at that Bonnyshire Emissions Testing Center due to vehicle emission testing returning in certain parts of the state. It is important to note that testing will not occur inside the school building.

These testing centers were strategically placed within the most populated areas of the county to ensure easy accessibility by everyone and maximum testing. All testing at these locations will be performed in a drive-through and walk-in tents around the school's parking lots. Testing at all four sites will take place between 7-11 a.m. Physician referrals, appointments, and present symptoms are not required to get tested. All COVID-19 testing is free. The new COVID-19 testing sites will operate through July. 

For questions about COVID-19 testing and information, call the COVID-19 hotline at 209-8383.

Testing Dates Monday-Sunday

Hardy Elementary School - 2100 Glass St, Chattanooga, TN 37406
May 26-31
June 8-14
June 22-28 
July 6-12
July 20-26

East Lake Academy of Fine Arts - 2700 E 34th St, Chattanooga, TN 37407
May 26-29
June 8-12
June 22-26 
July 6-10 
July 20-24

Brainerd High School - 1020 N Moore Road, Chattanooga, TN 37411
June 1-7
June 15-21
June 29-July 5
July 13-19
July 27-Aug. 2

Orchard Knob Elementary School - 2000 E 3rd St, Chattanooga, TN 37404
June 1-5
June 15-19
June 29-July 3
July 13-17
July 27-31 

Tips on How to Wear a Mask and Social Distancing
To mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the CDC recommends wearing a cloth face mask. To properly wear a face mask, the mask should fully cover the nose and mouth. Wearing a cloth face mask over the nose and mouth prevents a person who may not be aware that they have COVID-19 from spreading the virus. Face masks should not be placed on kids younger than age 2, or on people who have a hard time breathing or can not remove the mask themselves. Caution should be taken if you choose to wear a mask during any physical activity.

If you choose to leave your home, it is imperative that you practice social distancing, follow good hygiene practices, and wear a face mask. COVID-19 most commonly enters our system when we touch our eyes, nose, and mouth after touching infected surfaces. Because of this, it is crucial to avoid touching shared surfaces as well as your face and to wash your hands frequently.

Department of Labor:
If a Tennessee business closes to help slow down the spread of the COVID-19 and has to lay off employees temporarily, those workers can collect unemployment benefits, if they meet other eligibility requirements.

For more detailed information on unemployment, please copy and paste the link provided.

The Mental Toll Of On-Line Learning

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As Hamilton County officials continue to debate in-person learning, I read today where Clark County officials in Nevada are reopening schools for a very disturbing reason. The district alone has seen 18 student suicides in nine months since in-person learning was ended. It was so alarming after the sixth suicide that the district installed GoGuardian alert systems on school issued ... (click for more)

What About LBJ?

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Breaking News

County School Students To Return To Campuses Next Monday

Hamilton County Schools officials said students will be returning to campuses next Monday. K-5 will be four days per week, and all other grades on a hybrid/A-B schedule. County School officials said, " Due to the current Phase Tracker level of 0.73% based on local COVID-19 trend data for the five-day average, Hamilton County Schools will follow the Phase 2 scedule Feb. 1-5. ... (click for more)

TVA Joins UT As Principal Partner In Tennessee RiverLine

The Tennessee Valley Authority joins the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, as a principal partner in the Tennessee RiverLine, North America’s next great regional trail system. TVA’s elevated commitment of a $1.2 million investment will accelerate the progress of this regional initiative, which was founded in the UT College of Architecture and Design’s School of Landscape Architecture ... (click for more)


UTC's Cornelius Named SoCon Player Of The Week

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga junior center Abbey Cornelius was named the Southern Conference women’s basketball Player of the Week presented by GEICO for games played Jan. 19-25, the league office announced Tuesday. Cornelius helped the Mocs to a 1-1 record on the week against Samford. She averaged 17.5 points and 11.5 rebounds per game shooting 65.2 percent on the ... (click for more)

UTC Basketball Postpones Two Games Due To Positive Covid-19 Results

Due to a positive COVID-19 test in the team's Tier 1 personnel, the Chattanooga Mocs men's basketball team is postponing games this week. This consists of student-athletes, coaches and essential support staff and affects upcoming games at ETSU (Wed.) and at Furman (Sat.). UTC is following CDC guidance as well as NCAA & SoCon protocols for contact tracing and a plan for ... (click for more)