NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — During Black History Month, it can be easy to look back at those who made a major significance in our country. However, there are plenty of people still making a change right in our backyards.
Since graduating college at Tennessee State University, Nashville-native Odessa Kelly has been making a difference in predominately African American communities.
Today, she continues to be a voice for the voiceless. Odessa Kelly was born right here in East Nashville and continues to call this neighborhood home more than 30 years later. She's watched as her community changed over time.
"Right now, we are ignoring things that could change the identity, and the feel of the city," Kelly said. "I want to protect that. It’s OK for things to grow, but we shouldn’t lose the best parts of our city."
Kelly says she's very critical of the city because it holds a special place in her heart.
Her children will never get her experience on Cahal Avenue. She says during that time your neighbors were your family members, and they helped instill core values in the youth.
“I would say a large majority of them were not college-educated. A lot of them probably didn’t even have a high school degree," Kelly said.
As Kelly was trying to find her true work passion, she picked up a job at the Napier Community Center.
During that time, she fell in love with the kids, the community, and wanted to advocate for their success. She eventually became the director of that center.
"I found out serving people, and trying to do the best by communities that have been marginalized is what I want to do," Kelly said. "Some of the people with the biggest potential in Nashville, or right over there in Napier."
Kelly believes gentrification is the reason for the changes to the Nashville she knew as a child. Now, Kelly is the Executive Director for Stand Up Nashville which is designed to make sure development encourages tourism and empowers community members. This coalition is the watchdog for how the development will impact each neighborhood.
"Where is our workforce pipeline that's feeding into these jobs," Kelly said. "How are we getting people to prepare? Construction jobs, especially if they are union, are pathways out of poverty."
Stand Up Nashville's current project is working with the developers of the Nashville Soccer stadium. So not only do taxpayers have input, but they will see a direct benefit.