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I Took a “Black Out” Tour Through Nashville Tennessee

The current state of the world has taken its toll on us all. And being black and working in the news business adds an extra layer of stress. As a journalist, you don’t have the option turning off the television and honestly, the constant messages of the upcoming Presidential race, racial injustices and of course Covid-19 had me in a state of burnout. I had also been working from home since March and I felt isolated from the world like never before. My mental health was being affected. I knew that it was time to get away. I wanted to take a quick trip that was close to home, but still far enough away to give me the change of scenery I needed to lift my spirits. So I decided on Nashville. As a city girl, Nashville was completely different than the places I usually explore, but I’d heard great things. Plus, it was only an hour away from my hometown of Chicago, so I didn’t have to worry about spending hours on an airplane. While I learned that some of their museums and other popular attractions were closed due to the pandemic, much of the city was wide open. So when I discovered the cutest bed and breakfast that happened to be black owned, I decided that I would pack up my cowboy boots and mask, book a flight and keep with the theme of “all things Black in Nashville”. Here’s what I discovered:


Dubbed one of the most historically significant restaurants in Nashville, this spot was where many sit-ins to fight segregation happened and in the 1960’s. It was also where the late Representative John Lewis was arrested for the very first time at the age of 20 years old for sitting at what was then a “whites only” counter. The place has been standing since 1930 and since it’s restoration has drawn visitors from all over the world for photo ops. The registered historic site is currently closed due to the pandemic. But it was an honor to stand in the same spot where so many freedom fighters stood just so that Blacks could have the opportunities that they have today. 


Belle Meade started in the early 1800’s with just 250 acres and eventually grew to a whopping twelve hundred. John Harding founded the plantation and his family earned a living through boarding horses, later establishing one of America’s most thoroughbred bloodlines. 136 slaves worked on the Belle Meade Plantation, ranking the Harding family among the top one percent of slave owners in the south at that time. Many of the stories about the slaves that worked there had been buried until recently. Last year, the museum hired its first ever Director of African American Studies in an effort to ensure that those enslaved African’s have their stories told.


I will argue with anyone about the fact that as a native Chicagoan, we have the pizza game on lock! But I was pleasantly surprised to learn that these two Tennessee State University grads are holding it down in the south with their “pizza berria”. The restaurant allows you to walk in, order your toppings at a counter and have your pizza prepared right in front of you, (kinda like Subway). You can choose between a “slim” (small) or a “husky” (large) pizza. They also have beer crafted by their local breweries. I ordered the “husky” pizza with ground beef, green peppers, onions and mushrooms with a pineapple cider. It was amazing! In fact, the pizza is so good that this Black owned business has expanded outside of Nashville and set up shop in California and Georgia.


What happens when you decide to turn an old Victorian mansion with eight rooms into a Bed & Breakfast? You get Urban Cowboy Nashville, that’s what! This Black owned B&B is a rustic getaway perfect for relaxing and being alone with your thoughts. Each room or “cabin” has different themes—from “The Midnight Rider” to “The Lions Den” and boasts heavy wood framing with old school clawfoot tubs. The lobby has a gorgeous fireplace and is decorated with vintage pianos, leather couches and southwestern-inspired designs. Everything at the hotel including the bar was self-serve due to Covid. If guests needed room service, a text was sent and the staff was happy to respond. There was also a cool bar (or “parlor”)  in the back of the establishment that served craft cocktails and small bites. Urban Cowboy has other locations in Brooklyn and the Catskills.


Adorable artwork on the walls, cake waffles with Hennessy syrup, and mimosas that range from watermelon to plum all make this spot a main attraction for brunch. But the way the two owners (who happen to be sisters) make their customers feel at home is the reason why this Black owned East Nashville restaurant is a thriving business. Don’t think that brunch is the only time of day you should visit, though. Bbq rib tips, pork tenderloin and collards and cabbage are some menu dinner staples that also keep customers coming back for more.


This year, amid the racial unrest that followed George Floyd’s death at the hands of police in Minneapolis, The “Queen of Country Music” was asked while being interviewed by Billboard magazine about her thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement. “I understand people having to make themselves known and felt and seen,” she told the magazine. “And of course Black lives matter. Do we think our little white asses are the only ones that matter? No!” When mural artist Kim Radford was finishing up the mural at the popular Nashville club The 5 Spot, she got word of Dolly Parton’s quote and thought that it would be cool to add it at the very top. Soon after, the mural went viral on social media and has now become a popular spot since August for tourists and locals to take pictures.


I was told that you absolutely cannot visit Nashville without checking out the ORIGINATORS of hot chicken in the south. Prince’s has been around for almost a century and people (including myself) flock to their multiple locations and stand in long lines just to get a taste of their signature dish. The level of heat that you should order depends on your taste buds. Getting it too mild defeats the purpose of going—and getting it too spicy could result in not being able to enjoy it at all. I prefer my temperature somewhere in the middle— ‘hot’. The spice in the chicken paired with crispy pickles was perfect. James Beard even gave this establishment its America’s Classics award for serving up delicious, unique and timeless meals to the community.