*JB Smiley, Jr. is a young attorney with great passion and vision for fair and equal opportunities for all Memphians, especially those located in the City Council Super District 8 Division 1. With a political season wrought with far-right regimes trying to maintain strongholds, and the far left attempting to regain ground on issues that impact the disenfranchised, exactly where does JB Smiley, Jr. stand?
The Electronic Urban Report spoke with JB about his plan of action if elected to the Memphis City Council.
EURweb: You are running on the platform of “Leaving No Neighborhood Behind.” Why did you choose that and what does that mean?
JB: If you look at the current dynamics of the city of Memphis, often times you hear the talk about revitalizing or redeveloping downtown Memphis or certain more affluent neighborhoods, while we have two of the poorer zip codes in the state of Tennessee left without any type of real investment or plan. When we talk about leaving no neighborhood behind, we talk about developing Memphis, we have to include those underserved communities. My mom grew up in the Fowler Homes Housing Projects, which is the 38126, the poorest zip code in the state of Tennessee. Most of my family grew up in that area. I am 31 years old and I do not recall a time when there was any plan to develop that community. So, when we talk about neighborhoods being behind, or underserved communities, or folks being left without representation, I feel like they are speaking directly to my family and people who grew up in similar circumstances as my parents. I just want everyone to feel like they have representation or an opportunity to achieve.
EURweb: You are a graduate of Leadership Memphis and one of many attorneys who find the importance of going back and empowering communities. So, why is it important for lawyers to be in legislative positions?
JB Smiley: Let’s back up a little bit. I attended an event at Hope Church and there was a lawyer by the name of Brian Stevenson, and he spoke a lot about what he does. He helps those individuals who are on death row who are wrongly convicted. He helps them with their sentence or their appeals. He talks about how he ended up in his lane and he made a statement that has been extremely impactful in my life and no matter what I am doing I try to apply it. You talk about seeking public office. He said that you cannot address a problem if you are not in close proximity with it. For me, it just made so much sense.
For me, I practiced law in Little Rock, Arkansas but there was just something pulling at my heartstrings and I had to go home and do the work. But when I moved home, I didn’t want to move into any community other than a community where people looked like me, where I could do some things and do what I can and use my privilege to help that community.
Why is it important for lawyers to be in legislative positions? The City Council is a legislative position and legislative positions have the authority to promulgate the laws, push legislation and push policy. If you don’t have a fundamental understanding of the law, or you cannot read and comprehend the law, then it will be hard for you to advocate for a law that you do not understand.
So, in Tennessee, there are fewer numbers of lawyers who seek to serve in public office and a lot has to do with the amount of money that you make. But for me, I think if we get into this profession to help people, there is no better way to help someone or help the entire community, than having people who have the ability to understand, the ability to read or the ability to draft legislation that can change the dynamics of your city. That can actually have an effect on generations to come. So we’re pushing legislation and I would suggest that it is better to keep people serving in those positions who have a fundamental understanding of the law. Lawyers, for the most part, have that understanding.
EURweb also asked JB about the Super District, what it means to voters and what issues are at risk where JB is currently running for City Council in District 8 in Memphis, Tennessee. Click the player below to hear the full interview.
JB Smiley makes a strong case that every person and every vote counts. His law firm Smiley & Associates is dedicated to serve individuals and small businesses throughout Shelby County. He also founded the S&F Unlimited, LLC investment firm to help preserve small businesses. Additionally, Mr. Smiley’s track record of community support includes a Health and Resource Fair at Gaston Community Center, an annual South Memphis Toy Drive, youth mentorship programs, Urban Community Ministries and other outreach via his home church Mount Zion Missionary Baptist. JB Smiley vows to fight for the people who have not had representation for so long, and he promises to fight equally for the homeless as well as the homeowner.
JB Smiley is running for City Council District 8, Division 1 along with 5 other candidates. Election day for this and other seats in Memphis, Tennessee is October 3rd. Early voting is September 13-28th 2019. For more on JB Smiley, Jr. visit: www.voteJBSmiley.com