2020 has been a year of change, reflection, and more importantly, adaptation. The Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce is no stranger to any of these, and in an effort to better support its members has adapted to our “new normal” in new and exciting ways.
Let’s take it back to what seems a lifetime ago—January 2020. The Chamber was expecting its best year yet, with more than 500 members and plans to take its mission statewide. Tennessee, and the nation, was reacting to the “Slate of Hate,” which was composed of more than nine bills that would strip certain rights from the LGBTQ+ community, but especially so for the Trans community. The Chamber penned an open letter, with 35 corporate and 107 small business signers, condemning the proposed legislation. Sadly, the adoption bill was passed and the measure immediately impacted the lives of many LGBT citizens within the state.
All the while, rumblings of a novel coronavirus began circulating in February. They seemed distant and small, as if something like a pandemic couldn’t reach the United States to such a degree that it already had overseas.
Suddenly, as these things tend to happen, a massive F3 tornado swept through Nashville in March, causing more than $1.5 billion in damage and affecting some of the most impactful businesses in the city, ripping storefronts and homes from their foundations.
The Chamber’s response was quick, offering resources, directing volunteer clean up efforts, and directing members to financial resources for recovery and aid. A total of six member businesses were directly impacted by the tornado and many more LGBTQ+ citizens had their lives upended. The Chamber worked to make sure all were taken care of.
Just a few days later, COVID-19 was knocking on our doors and the nation shuttered. Nashville was put under lockdown, and our world was forever changed. While the Chamber moved its focus to getting its members relief funds, networking and other in-person events transitioned to Zoom. The legislative session’s focus shifted to the March tornado and COVID-19 relief, stopping the largely anti-LGBT bills that looked to be on the path to passage.
In response to COVID-19, the Chamber paused all membership dues, created various social campaigns to encourage social distancing and the wearing of masks, transformed its networking programs, and partnered with the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp., Vanderbilt Health, and Ryman Hospitality Properties to promote the Good to Go program.
The Rainbow Connection Series featured a collection of Zoom-based networking opportunities for members, and continued the Chamber’s mission to ADVOCATE, EDUCATE, and CONNECT. Through each webinar, members were able to connect with corporate and small business members, learn how to better their businesses with lessons from public relations, marketing, financial, and policy professionals, and network with one another. The Chamber plans to continue this program well into 2021.
In the backdrop of COVID-19, there began another reckoning: systemic racism. The death of George Floyd sparked protests around the country that grew to astounding numbers. In partnership with Nashville Black Pride, the Urban League of Middle Tennessee, and the Nashville Black Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber provided its members key points of action, distributed anti-racism resources, allyship information, and better ways to protest in the looming pandemic.
As COVID-19 and protests fighting systemic racism continued, Nashville’s pride festivities were also affected. A large part of the Chamber’s pride celebration included the Pride in Local Music concert, which was produced in partnership with the Austin LGBT Chamber of Commerce, and local LGBT certified business Good Neighbor Festivals. The concert was a huge hit and helped raise funds thousands of dollars for local LGBTQ+ artists.
As the year progressed, it became increasingly important for the Chamber to encourage political activation regardless of party affiliation. Through the #NashPrideAtThePolls campaign, the Chamber was able to politically engage its members and encouraged voter registration and participation in partnership with Vote Early TN.
All in all, this year has thrown challenge after challenge at not only the Chamber, but the community as a whole. It has forced the Chamber to truly focus on its membership, bettering itself for every type of member; networking, small business, and corporate. A key part of that includes a revamped website and membership portal, creating easier ways for members to engage and discover one another and the resources the Chamber offers. Connection has always been at the heart of what the Chamber does and it is more important now than ever.
As 2021 approaches, the Chamber is ramping up its digital efforts as it appears that our current pandemic will follow us well into the future. This presents the Chamber with exciting and new opportunities to connect with its members in unique ways.
If you would like to find out more information about the Nashville LGBT Chamber, join as a member or donate to the Chamber’s foundation, which focuses on education and community building. Visit their website at nashvillelgbtchamber.org, or follow the @NashLGBTCC on social media.