Norf Wall Festival
Live from The Legacy Mural
By Jay Sanchez
Photography By Hare
Raw, Uncensored, Unapologetic…
My radio just went from Gil Scott-Heron to the majestic sounds of Hector Lavoe. A cool 100+ heat index is beaming on my hybrid… I am now turning into the historical Jefferson Street corridor in North Nashville; it’s Saturday July 23, 2022. The energy of North Nashville has a unique feel to me, reminds me a lot of my days growing up in Los Angeles. My focus quickly returns to Jefferson Street, the beautiful “yellow brick road” that’s been a personal destination since 2001. A lot has changed since then; the yellow brick road is slowly transforming into G.T.F.O. (Get The Fuck Out) Boulevard. North Nashville is witnessing the effects of the unfortunate and troublesome trend the city of Nashville so bluntly continues to push. The power of Gentrification has made Nashville almost impossible to live in and to make things worse, affordable housing is quickly becoming a fairy tale all around the city.
WHAT NOW? We all meet at The Wall of course. At center stage is The Legacy Mural, the site that’s host to a powerful gathering of those fighting for this community. The Norf Wall Festival takes place on 27th & Jefferson Street, an event that has now been a part of this beautiful community for 3 years. The Art driven festival is now the place where we bring these and other conversations to the table, with the sole purpose of empowering the Norf Nashville Community.
As I pull up to the event, I quickly run into PSV T upon parking on 27th. PSV T is the owner of the PSV Store located at the 100 Taylor Collective. He’s host to one of the most eclectic spots in Germantown, his involvement in community-based events has also been well documented. “I had to pull up for this bro,” PSV T quickly says, “this is for the community of North Nashville.” The Norf Wall Festival is the creation of Artist Woke, the focus of the festival is to create “community solutions.” The festival first kicked off back in 2015 as Norf assembled by young artist to bring the community together through art and unity, this conversation resumed in June of 2021.
Fast forward, the festival finds itself eager to infuse the conversation with this gathering at The Legacy Mural. The reason is to further provoke action that will improve and elevate a community fighting to maintain the neighborhood identity. The festival is a gathering of many from this community and from other parts of the city coming together for greater purpose. Guest performers and speakers included Jaffee Judah, Joseph Bazelaiz, PSV T, Matthew MD Mccoy, and Jimmy Mac just to name a few. We also had the pleasure of hearing the honorable Howard C. Gentry in an intergenerational conversation.
[Artist Woke is engaging with residents that live directly across from the mural at 2709 Jefferson Street.]
JAY SANCHEZ: Bro, I’m excited to be here today. These beautiful people just welcomed us as if we lived next door. This takes me back to the days of my father organizing events for the UFW (United Farm Workers) where community engagement was key. Why are we here today? What are you wanting to accomplish with this festival?
WOKE: Thank you for coming and showing support bro. This is an event that is reflective of my community. At the same time, I want everyone to know this isn’t just another festival; we are presenting community solutions for us all.
- We want access to public art and art education; success pathways are at the top of our list.
- A space to live & work is very important to this cause; we call this Liberated Grounds.
- We want to see more networking and professional development opportunities for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) creatives and artist.
- With this festival we are also working for more community engagement through art.
JS: I’m honored to be here supporting this cause brother. What you and your fellow creatives have put together is magical. It’s amazing how creatives as yourself came together to further this powerful conversation not only for the greater good of Artist in this community, but for everybody that lives in North Nashville.
WOKE: Yes brother, this is why we’re here today…
[A long-time resident of 2709 Jefferson Street apartments wishes to get in on the conversation as well.]
JAY SANCHEZ: Good afternoon, I’m here conversating with individuals just trying to get insight on what’s taking place here today. How long have you lived in this neighborhood?
Ms. Renee: I’ve been here for 28 years, originally from Memphis, TN.
JS: Tell me about the festival taking place literally across from your parking lot?
Ms. Renee: It’s beautiful. It’s a representation of this community. My face is on that wall across from us, we all have a connection to The Legacy Mural here in North Nashville you know. It pleases me to see the community as one here today on this hot ass day, especially with everything going on here.
JS: In your own words tell me what’s going on in North Nashville?
Ms. Renee: Well, you sure you want me to get candid?
JS: Please, I’m here to document the raw feelings and emotions coming from the community today. Let the reader know how you truly feel.
Ms. Renee: “These motherfuckers are coming in with all their money and pushing us out.” They’re using high rent and lack of affordable housing to kick us out from OUR NEIGHBORHOOD. There’s a lot of hardworking individuals who can’t afford to live in North Nashville anymore. We must rally together as a community and fight back to keep all this bullshit from happening.
JS: Do you feel like these investors are coming in and cleaning house with their resources and backing of our local government?
Ms. Renee: Yes, these local officials need to be voted out of office. All these investors coming in and leveling our neighborhood, need to take all that shit out to Brentwood or Franklin where most people can afford it. I live on a fixed income and do my best daily with what I’ve got. These are my people; this is my community. “We have sacrificed for generations and still we must fight to keep our own.” We all must stand and fight. The outside is coming in and taking over and we can’t let that happen anymore. “This is our Legacy.”
Nashville, TN has been in the top 10 house market list for a couple of years running. To be more exact; Nashville ranked 3rd in 2021, it also ranked 6th at the beginning of 2022 according to Zillow.com. The Zillow Home Value Index (ZHVI) was $446,258 in Nashville through May of 2022. Data also shows a value increase of 31% in the last year alone, with a total increase of 69.3% dating back to May of 2006. To live comfortably in this costly city, you’ve got to make at least $80,000 a year which is far above the 35-40K median income found in North Nashville. Economic warfare has been declared on a community that has been a staple of this city and the home to rich history, very much like Harlem in New York.
As economic violence continues to thrive, we continue to see neighborhoods in every corner of Davidson County become more non-existent. These actions are not regulated or put in check by the local government while allowing historic neighborhoods and businesses to be systematically eliminated from the city. The people of North Nashville and their rich culture are under attack. Jefferson Street has hosted prolific entertainers such as Jimmie Hendrix, Little Richard, and even Tina Turner. It has also been an epicenter of the Civil Rights movement, a place that witnessed the integration and participation of those attending TSU and Fisk University. It is also home to many black owned businesses and creative spaces such as One Drop Ink, home to Artist Ol Skool; His excellence as a visual artist and ink master has blessed the city since the late 90’s.
JAY SANCHEZ: I’ve followed your work for some time now, an honor to meet you sir. I’m doing this piece for NumberInc, just trying to share this moment with our readers. Tell us the significance of this event taking place here today?
OL SKOOL: “The demise of this neighborhood has been imminent since the construction of the Interstate through this side of town.” I don’t hate the fact that North Nashville has value today, “it bothers me to see that the people native to this part of Nashville are NOT able to capitalize on that value.”
JAY SANCHEZ: With property value and rent at an all-time high in the city, what is a native of North Nashville to do?
OL SKOOL: Not a whole lot we can do now with the wheels in motion. “We needed to organize and raise hell back when this community was red lined, and people couldn’t get value on their homes.” Now we have no control of the situation, people are no longer capable of affording their homes. We’re getting kicked out due to this current wave, “they’ve devalued our neighborhood for so long we don’t see the value in it no more” shit is super fucked up. There’s so much rich history on this part of town, but many who live here are unaware of that history.
JS: How do we make sure that’s not the case? How do we make sure the history continues to be part of the conversation?
OS: We currently don’t have that figure to push our history forward, a lot of knowledge of this community passed on with Yusef Harris (a teacher, a mentor) to many in this community who’s no longer with us. We need someone to step up as a historical orator and voice for the history of North Nashville. That’s in part a main reason we’re here today, we’ve got to keep our history in North Nashville alive.
JS: Is that why we’re all gathered at The Legacy Mural today?
OS: Yes, indeed my brother. There’s a lot of history on this wall alone man. Generations are represented on The Legacy Mural; this festival brings the community together. The mural is a testament of Jefferson Street, this festival embodies our rich culture as individuals and creatives alike. The Norf Wall Festival brought varying forms of art together to create and celebrate community, but the job isn’t done yet. As the community continues to struggle with these changes affecting North Nashville, many are organizing through events such as this with the hope of improving the current conditions for us all.
writer Jay Sanchez: @ghostguevara
photographer Hare: @epilogueofhare