Grammy winner Allison Russell discusses controversy surrounding Tennessee lawmakers blocking a resolution honoring her

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Allison Russell, a celebrated Americana musician from Nashville, recently won her first Grammy, marking a significant milestone in her career. The award for Best American Roots Performance was given for her song “Eve Was Black.” 

But Russell’s moment of triumph quickly turned controversial in her home state of Tennessee.

During a routine legislative session, two resolutions were proposed in the Tennessee House to honor both Russell and the band Paramore for their Grammy wins. However, House Republicans objected to the resolution honoring Russell while allowing the one for Paramore to pass. The objection moved the resolution to honor Russell off the legislature’s consent calendar, sending it back to a legislative committee. Due to the consent calendar rules, there was no debate over what objections the Republican lawmakers may have had with honoring Russell. It is not clear if the resolution will ever be approved. 

The Republicans’ decision prompted Paramore’s lead singer, Hayley Williams, to call the move “blatant racism.”

Russell said she heard about the news after she landed from a flight. She said she got a call from Tennessee Rep. Justin Jones, who was one of two Tennessee lawmakers who were expelled from the state’s House of Representatives by a Republican majority following a protest over gun violence, informing her of what happened. Jones was later reinstated.

“Unfortunately, there’s a pattern of behavior that’s pretty blatant,” Russell said. “Whether their issue with me is that I’m Black, or that I’m queer, or that I’m an immigrant to the U.S, I don’t know. Maybe none of the above, but one can speculate that has something to do with it.”

She pointed out the similarities in treatment towards other representatives, including Jones and figures within the LGBTQ+ community. Russell said she never responded to a charge of racism after the incident occurred.

“I responded to Rep. Jones’ video and statement about what had happened. I watched the speaker turn off Rep. Jones’ mic when he was clearly making an announcement while gaslighting him to say he wasn’t making an announcement. Anyone can go watch it. I don’t want to personally spend too much time shining a light on what they’re doing.”

Russell said “we need to motivate, encourage and empower the voters in Tennessee to show up at the polls.”

CBS News reached out to Rep. Jeremy Faison, who blocked the resolution, and the Tennessee House Republican Caucus for comment. 

Faison said in a statement: “When any member has a question about an item on the consent calendar, it is customary to bump it so there can be a vote solely on that item. As a member of leadership, members routinely come to me with questions about items on the consent calendar, which was the case for this particular resolution. A Nashville Democrat bumped every item (13 resolutions, in total) from the consent calendar the same week. Among them were resolutions honoring a deceased U.S. Army combat veteran, an entire elementary school, and middle school teachers. Their actions didn’t cause me to assume all Democrats have disdain for veterans, public education, and teachers. These are common best-practice policies that honor the deliberative process most states follow.”

Despite the legislative hiccup, Russell’s focus remains on her groundbreaking Grammy win and the doors it could open for artists like her. 

“Never in a million years did I think I would hear my name called, and my song ‘Eve Was Black’ honored in that way,” she said.”It honors my whole circle of collaborators, the whole rainbow coalition,” said Russell.

Russell said the day of the Grammys was frantic and that she wasn’t even wearing shoes when she ran to the podium. Russell said she thought about winners like Mavis Staples, who won a Grammy while in her 70s.

“So many artists that have come before have kicked the doors open for an artist like me who in the past would have probably fallen between the cracks of genre to be recognized.”



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