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Thelma Harper, ‘Transformative’ Tennessee Legislator, Dies at 80

Author: The Associated Press
This post originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News

Thelma Harper, a Democrat who became the first African-American woman elected to Tennessee’s State Senate, died on Thursday. She was 80.

The death was confirmed by her daughter, Linda Harper. She did not say where her mother died or what the cause was.

Ms. Harper entered the Senate in 1989 and was the state’s longest-serving female senator by the time she retired, in 2018.

“Whether she was fighting landfills for her neighbors, serving a community organization or leading a hearing in the legislature, Thelma Harper was a strong voice for her community, for justice and our most vulnerable children,” the State Senate’s Democratic Caucus said in a statement.

Ms. Harper was the first chair of the Tennessee Black Caucus. In the mid-2000s she successfully pushed to have a stretch of U.S. Highway 41 in Nashville renamed in honor of the civil rights hero Rosa Parks.

She also had a national presence. In 2000 she introduced Vice President Al Gore, the presidential nominee, at the Democratic National Convention at Madison Square Garden in New York in a speech called “The Al Gore I Know,” in which she described his time as an elected official in Tennessee.

“Like many families,” she said in the speech, “when we called upon Al Gore, he always listened to our voices. He always responded to our needs. And he always fought on our side.”

In 2008, she was a leader in Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in Tennessee.

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, a Republican, called Ms. Harper a “transformative public figure,” “a fierce advocate for her constituents and the city of Nashville” and a role model. In a tribute on Twitter, he made reference to her fondness for eye-catching hats.

“Today the legendary Thelma Harper traded in her signature hat for a halo,” he wrote.

Thelma Harper was born on Dec. 2, 1940, in Brentwood, Tenn., just south of Nashville. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and accounting at Tennessee State University in Nashville in 1978. Before joining the State Senate, she served for eight years on Nashville’s Metro Council. Her husband, Paul, died in 2018.

That same year, when she was asked why she was retiring, she told The Tennessean that it was time for the next generation of leaders to take over, adding, “Look, man, I’ve been here forever.”

The New York Times contributed reporting.

‘This is the dawn of a new sport’: First Russian Bare Knuckle FC star Evgeny Kurdanov talks MMA future after transformative year

After becoming Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship’s (BKFC) first Russian signing, rising star Evgeny Kurdanov has moved to the US and admitted that he has been stunned by the last year of his early MMA career.

A part-time philosopher who often invites his vast Instagram following to send him the proverbs and phrases he adores, Kurdanov is driven by a desire not to return home to Russia without more victories to his name.

Announcing his signing at the start of the month, BKFC certainly believe Kurdanov will become a star. David Feldman, the promotion’s president, has described himself as “very excited” about the “amazing prospect” who had a perfect four-fight record with Hardcore BK Russia.

“I, just like you, could not believe it that everything would gain momentum – for example, the fact that I will be preparing to move to the states and preparing to speak with bare fists there,” Kurdanov told his audience of more than 159,000 on Instagram, where he has separate accounts for his fighting career and his deeply-considered thoughts on life.

“Now, more and more often, we hear and see fighters on smartphones and TVs on screens fighting with bare fists.

“This is the dawn of a new sport that will take hold in our minds. We also know this story from MMA, a sport that was considered savage 25 years ago.

“In this life, a lot of interesting and unpredictable things can happen and life can change dramatically.

“I – and, indeed, no one – could have predicted that in a year I would pick up such a move.”

With his unmistakable beard and frequent use of a hat, Kurdanov’s coach, Levi, is the man he credits with keeping faith in him when he decided to pursue breaking into the bare knuckle bigtime last year.

There was another surprise and more inspiration when he recently met legendary Russian boxer Kostya Tszyu, an “uncle” who he says gave him “valuable advice” on training.

“I never thought that we would meet, although over the past year everything has changed in my life,” confessed Kurdanov.

“Training, for me, is something more than just a sport. This is my meditation. Sport gave me the opportunity to go out… so I train as if my life depended on it.

“The training process is always very exciting. You learn something new. You get experience and plots.

“You get tired physically and mentally. Most importantly, you enjoy the process.”

Although Kurdanov expects to make his debut for BKFC in the US, Feldman anticipates promoting more events in Russia, where he hopes to be able to capitalize on the appetite for the sport.

“The Russian market for BKFC continues to expand exponentially with each of our shows,” he announced at the time of Kurdanov’s signing, adding that fans in Russia and eastern Europe are watching events in “huge” numbers.
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