Dec 18 2006
10:59 am

In Sunday's News Sentinel it was reported that Ezra Maize, the new leader of the local NAACP has told Mayor Haslam he would have backlash from the African American community if the Mayor hired a caucasian to replace former Community Development Director Renee Kesler, an African American. Mark Brown, City Councilman has organized a group of African Americans to go behind closed doors with the Mayor to discuss racial problems in our community. Let me see if I have this right. Renee Kesler, former Community Development Director, intimidates, threatens and harsses her employees according to 1,200 pages of documentation gathered by Civil Service. Renee also pushed through grants without complete applications to selected individuals. Renee also took steps to ensure the demise of Economic Ventures so control could be passed to someone she could manipulate. I know I'm not the brightest star in the sky, but I just can't figure out how that's a racial problem. It sounds more like an individual who lacked management skills and integrity. Oh yeah, Ezra Maie said Renee was qualified for this job. As head of the local NAACP Ezra Maize will have opportunities to bring issues that need to be addressed by our community to the fore front. This is not one of them.

StaceyDiamond's picture

Empowerment Zone etc

It's been my experience with some groups like this is that they use race, sex or other wedge issues to get on the dole and get money for their friends in similar groups, like the Bush Admin. pouring millions into faith-based groups etc., like how the Knox Social Forum failed when certain people tried to stir up trouble and divide the group so they could try and get grant money, when the group's purpose had nothing to do with raising money. I think the Sentinel is also trying to use race to stir up controversy in this. At the same time, I could see how there might be a real fear of that money going for more luxury condos . Stacey

rigtu's picture

The race card

Shortstuff's comment is the most concise analysis of the situation I have seen. To imply that the Sentinel is trying to stir up controversy is IMHO just wrong. If anything, it appears to me that the Sentinel has bent over backwards to sanitize the issue enough that decent people, regardless of color, would not be enraged but would be more aware. Anyone who has ever been involved in large organizations know from experience that what is said in public is just the tip of the iceberg. I am sure the Sentinel could have given a lot more details from the 1200 pages but space is a bit limited in a newspaper.

As for Mr. Maize, as a newcomer to the neighborhood, he is simply following typical NAACP rhetoric and party line while the machine dominated by Anderson, Kesler, Brown, Thompson and friends are using him as a pawn to keep their power from being further eroded by such outrageous behavior as that of Anderson and Kesler.

It is typical of these kind of people to play the race card whenever their positions of power are threatened. Of course, the only reason why they do is because the know it will work. After all everyone knows the ONLY reason someone in Kesler's position would be brought down is that she is black. The fact that she is a racist and abused her power and position for her friends, and did a great disservice to the citizens of Knoxville, both black and white, surely had absolutely nothing to do with her resigination.

Evil can only triumph when good people stand by and allow it to do so. The Sentinel in this case has done a service to the community in this situation.

I hope that Mr. Maize, who seems to be a good person, will wake up and realize how he is being used by the machine. As a man of the cloth and the leader of his organization, he should be wiser and smarter than to be led down the path by these power hungry racists. Of course, according to the director of the Race Relations Center, only white people can be racists. That philosophy itself is wrong and offensive. Just as much as Mr. Maize saying "It would not look good if Renee was replaced with a Caucasian. Whatever her reason for resigning, it wasn't because she wasn't qualified." Yes, she was qualified but she was a racist and abusive person. In short, she was not fit for the job regardless of her color.

Martin Luther King must be rolling over in his grave. If I remember correctly he said character, not color, is what counts.

watcher's picture

Don't even know where to

Don't even know where to START on this one to keep my head from exploding. First of all, let's think about this "behind closed doors" thing. Okay. We all know Kesler is black. She is also a woman. Well then, a coalition of hand-picked women should get together and demand a "behind closed doors" session with the mayor on the topic. It is my understanding she is also a mother. Mothers unite! Demand YOUR "behind closed doors" session with the mayor! And she's a former banker, right? Let's get a bankers' association on board to demand their "closed door" session. CAN YOU JUST IMAGINE?!?! I just don't get it. For God's sake...Haslam's the mayor, not Maize! He needs to act like it and treat Maize with the dignity and respect he'd treat any other constituent, PERIOD. Anything beyond that is suspect and even the most novice politician should know that. Backbone, please! (And I promise you, there are PLENTY in the Knoxville African-American community who are thinking the same thing as the rest of us regarding Kesler's departure..."AMEN!")

Now, let's talk about qualifications. WHO SAYS SHE WAS QUALIFIED??? She's a former banker; actually, not even a banker, really. She worked for a bank, but had NOTHING to do with lending or transacting money (other than coordinating donations to her pet projects, so in that way, I guess she was "experienced"). Her position was in community relations...period.

Now, don't even get me started on Mr. Thompson. While he is a master at presenting himself as "all about the community," don't be fooled. He has made and continues to make a pretty penny on all of his "public service" projects, to the detriments of other, QUALIFIED African-Americans who lost their property and operational contracts as a direct result of Thompson's "charity." Good for him that he was a great (?) football player. But, like Kesler, it in no way "qualifies" him for high-impact role economic development.

As for KNS, I have to agree with one of the previous responses about them doing their best to - if anything - play down the "race" thing. Sure, there were red flags all over many of those stories and anyone with a brain in their head could read between the lines. But really, KNS didn't need to come right out and say anything. All they needed to do was report the facts...which spoke for themselves. KNS didn't bring these facts life; Kesler, Anderson, Thompson, Carter, Brown, Porter and most of the "behind closed door participants" DID. All KNS did was have the guts to report those facts to the public.

Regarding this whole debacle drawing "a community that listens to each other" into a racial soap opera, the players "behind closed doors" made that bed. When you play the race card to get what you want, you can't turn around when you're trumped and claim you didn't like the artwork on the deck.

Bottom line...advertise the position with qualifications and requirements, interview responsibly, and offer the job to, oh, I don't know, THE MOST QUALIFIED PERSON??? Who knows...that might even be a white male (*gasp*)!!!

watcher's picture

P.S. And if it's true that

P.S. And if it's true that Maize is Kesler's pastor, there's even more stink all over this thing. But he's right about one thing; this is not just about Kesler...Kesler's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg!

StaceyDs Cat's picture

sunshine anyone?

I can't beleive the paper didn't pick up on the number of elected officials at the closed door meeting.

There was Jordan and Strickland both from county commission, Brown from city council and the mayor.

Is this in violation of the sunshine law?

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Ditto for me.

Like I said elsewhere, I'd feel quite differently about Sam McKenzie's candidacy for the same office.

(Stacey, I don't think that meeting violated the Sunshine Law, however. Since Jordan no longer serves on commission, I don't see in that list any two people from the same deliberative body attending.)

Kennedy's picture


If you want to know why no one takes Maize's candidacy serious, just read above. Truly Despicable in my opinion.

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