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How to Be Allies to the Austin East Community Right Now

By Wendy Weiss, Programs and Membership Coordinator

The Austin East High School community and neighborhood is in need of support from our larger Knoxville community. They have faced violent and traumatic loss of 5 of their student youth since January of this year. Last week, 17-year-old Anthony Thompson, Jr. was shot and killed by police officers in the high school.

You can read a previous article about the historic reality of how Knoxville’s Black community, 17% of Knoxville’s population, are facing a 42% poverty rate. This is the highest rate of poverty among Southeastern states. Our problem is systemic and has been enacted over decades and centuries since the founding of the Knoxville.

42% poverty rate in Knoxville’s Black community.

We need to be asking some questions of Knoxville political leaders. How are the Knoxville city and county governmental bodies responding to requests from this under-resourced community? Where can budgets be reallocated to meet the needs and support organizations that are already doing work in the community? What is the Knox county school board doing for traumatized students at Austin-East and throughout the county? How is our local media portraying the news of these events? To whose advantage/disadvantage is this all being done?

Beck Cultural Exchange Center has an ongoing monthly series, The Virtual Townhall Meeting on Racial Justice. Last week featured a panel of the men of Austin-East. The host, Rev. Reneé Kesler, asked what each of them sees as their part to do and what they would ask others to do. The ask of the community and their allies was clear. Show up, keep showing up, and give what you can offer.

In honor of the youth lost to violence, their families, their friends, and their community, please show up. Reach out with financial and/or volunteer support to any of the following organizations that are working every day to give their children, families, and community members more stability and the ability to thrive.

The time to honor these youth with a moment of silence is over. No more silence. It’s time to take action. It’s time to speak up, amplifying the voices from Knoxville’s Black community and BIPOC leaders.


Austin-East Foundation

Go Fund Me for Anthony Thompson, Jr.’s Family

The United Methodist Church Holston Conference

Fund to support East Knoxville churches and ministries. You can send a check to Holston Conference at P.O. Box 850, Alcoa TN 37701. Mark your check using project #942 East Knoxville Ministry.

Shora Foundation

Sleeves for Needs

The Women LLC Foundation

Beck Cultural Exchange Center

NAACP Knoxville Branch of the East Tennessee Chapter

Tanika Harper, founder of Shora Foundation

“Mental Health Resources for Our Youth” panel discussion

Join “Knoxville Acts Up” Facebook Group

Beck Cultural Exchange Center, Town Hall Meetings on Racial Justice, hosted by Rev. Reneé Kesler

UT Legal Clinic: Critical Conversations on Race

Race, Children, & Police in Knox County Schools

Noon, Thursday, April 22, 2021

Write to/Call DA Charme Allen (script & contact info in link)

Black Coffee Justice

Westside Thursday Evening Conversations, Zoom Adult RE

Thursdays, May 6 & 13, 6:30-8 pm

Amplifying student and leadership messages from the Austin-East community and talking about how to be allies in ways that truly support the community and their needs. Take this opportunity to be a part of the solution! Contact Wendy for the Zoom link if you’d like to attend:

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