Members of a whites-only group with extensive ties to the white power movement have purchased a nearly 70-acre property in central Tennessee that they intend to use as a self-described “headquarters,” a Hatewatch investigation found.
Kira Barber, 39, acting as an apparent representative for the Asatru Folk Assembly (AFA), purchased the tract of land, located in a rural area of Jackson County, Tennessee, in December 2022 for $250,000, according to public records. Group leaders have described the property, located roughly 80 miles outside of Nashville, as the AFA “capital” and the group’s “corporate and ecclesiastical headquarters.” In newsletters and fundraising materials intended to raise money for improving the plot of land on the group’s website, the AFA has stated it intends to construct a hof (temple) and school for young people.
Members of the Asatru Folk Assembly (AFA) practice an exclusively white form of pre-Christian Norse and Germanic religions that the Southern Poverty Law Center refers to as neo-Völkisch, with 31 chapters in the U.S. as of 2022. Founded by Stephen McNallen in Northern California in the late 1960s, the group has described its core demographic as “Ethnic European Folk,” which it has defined as “white people.” Group representatives have stated that AFA would deny admission to Black people “because they’re not of northern European descent,” as well as LGBTQ+ people.
AFA posted on Twitter and its blog on Dec. 9, 2022, that the group had purchased land in Tennessee. Since then, the organization has held gatherings with prominent members on the land – and plans to hold more. A January event featured AFA leader Matthew Flavel and other core members. The group has scheduled a handful of events throughout the summer, including one in August with McNallen. The plot is underdeveloped and lacked any structures at the time of purchase, according to photos from real estate website Zillow and Tennessee public records, though a source familiar with AFA’s activities in the region told Hatewatch that members of the group had camped out on the land. AFA has since shared photos and videos across various social media platforms featuring construction equipment and individuals engaged in landscaping projects, as well as maps detailing plans for constructing multi-family homes and communal meeting spaces.
While there are few mentions of Barber’s involvement with AFA online, one of the group’s leaders, Allen Turnage, 61, served as an attorney-in-fact for Barber throughout the purchase process, according to sales documents obtained by Hatewatch. Turnage is a Florida-based bankruptcy lawyer who has helped lead the group since 2016. He served as a representative for AFA in similar acquisition efforts, including the group’s controversial purchase of a church in rural Minnesota in summer 2020.
Hatewatch verified the authenticity of the sales documents by comparing them with publicly available information from the Tennessee comptroller of the treasury, which lists Barber as the owner of the same parcel of land.
AFA members retained ties to a number of avowed white supremacist groups, and some, including McNallen, marched among neo-Nazis, white nationalists, Klansmen and others at the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Though he no longer holds any official title within AFA, McNallen announced in late May on the low-moderation app Telegram that he intends to speak at this year’s white nationalist American Renaissance conference, though he is not currently listed among the speakers on American Renaissance’s website. The conference, which is held annually in a park about an hour outside of Nashville, takes place this year between Aug. 11-13 – exactly six years after “Unite the Right.”
Hatewatch reached out to Barber over text message and left a message at her office but received no response. Hatewatch contacted Turnage and Flavel over email. Neither of the men responded. Hatewatch left a voicemail with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department but did not hear back. Jackson County Mayor Randy Heady declined to comment.
‘Our first settler’
For members of the AFA, the plot of land, located on a country road in the unincorporated village of Whitleyville, represents their “Sigrheim.” The name is based on an Old Norse word, “sigrheimr,” meaning “home of victory.” In a fundraising appeal on AFA’s website, the group described establishing “Sigrheim” as “the dream of Asatruar since the reforging of our faith in the 1960s.”
“Ásatrúar” is a modern Icelandic term that AFA has appropriated, and Americanized, to refer to McNallen’s followers specifically. Practitioners of Ásatrú, including the Ásatrú Fellowship in Iceland, have condemned using their faith “as a justification for supremacy ideology” and “militarism.”
Since purchasing the property in December 2022, AFA has shared material on social media and in their official newsletter, “Runestone,” depicting members at “Sigrheim,” including the January event with several members of AFA leadership. AFA did not disclose the exact location in Tennessee of these events, though it referenced the state in multiple social media posts.
However, a source, to whom Hatewatch has granted anonymity to protect them from retaliation, identified the January event as having taken place at the Whitleyville property. They described witnessing nine to 10 cars, some with out-of-state plates, parked on the property around the time of the Jan. 14 event.
“They were kind of having a party on the road,” the source told Hatewatch.
A YouTube video posted to AFA’s channel on Jan. 17 includes photos of Flavel, AFA’s leader; Turnage, the lawyer who facilitated the purchase of the Whitleyville property; and various AFA clergy from other states.
The same source also described observing multiple young men traveling to and from the property throughout early 2023. The source described one man camping on the site, beginning in mid-April, despite there being no running water or sewage system in place.
AFA has acknowledged members of the group residing at “Sigrheim.” An AFA member with access to the group’s YouTube account left a comment on the Jan. 17 video on April 12, stating, “Our first settler moved out to the property yesterday as a matter of fact!” The timing of the comment matches when the source told Hatewatch that a man starting camping on the property.
Promotional material for AFA’s forthcoming July event advertises “camping … available on site,” though advises attendees to bring their own equipment. The event is set to take place at “Sigrheim” on July 22. The group has also shared material on its website promoting a June 17 “midsummer” gathering, as well as an Aug. 11 event with McNallen, that are set to take place at “Sigrheim.”
Muddling AFA’s involvement
While the group has referred to “Sigrheim” as a “headquarters” for the organization, public records and sale documents provided to Hatewatch by a source familiar with the transaction do not explicitly disclose the AFA’s involvement.
Barber is listed as the sole owner of the property in Whitleyville, according to materials from the Tennessee comptroller of the treasury, which keeps records on properties throughout the state. Barber and Turnage, acting as her attorney-in-fact, are the only two names associated with the buyers on a sale agreement for the 68.65-acre piece of land, which both signed on Oct. 27, 2022. Title company documentation indicates that Barber obtained a loan to help pay for the property under her own name.
The source familiar with the transaction told Hatewatch that Turnage, as attorney-in-fact, took the lead on the purchase of the land.
Few mentions of Barber’s apparent involvement in AFA exist online. However, Hatewatch was able to determine her connection with the group based on a letter from AFA’s leader published online after the sale, as well as the P.O. box she listed as her mailing address on Tennessee state records associated with the Whitleyville property.
In a December 2022 edition of the “Runestone,” Flavel credited “the special effort of Daniel Mason and his wife Kira” for obtaining “Sigrheim.” Public records indicate that Barber cohabitates in Maine with a person named Daniel Mason. Mason is also listed as an AFA member on their website.
Hatewatch also found that Barber listed a Tallahassee, Florida-based post office box as her mailing address in documents filed with the comptroller of the treasury. The P.O. box address that Barber has associated herself with matches one used by AFA’s corporate entity, the Asatru Folk Assembly, Inc. Florida corporate records for Asatru Folk Assembly, Inc., identify Turnage as the group’s secretary as of early 2023.
Rural roots and white separatism
AFA’s move to Tennessee is far from the first time that the organization has tried to establish a base in a rural area. In 2020, the group purchased two former churches in rural towns in North Carolina and Minnesota with the intent of using them as meeting spaces.
In April of that year, AFA purchased a former Methodist church in Linden, North Carolina, located about an hour south of Raleigh. At the time, the town had a population of around 130, a quarter of whom were Black. A 2021 Washington Post report described the town’s leadership as “mostly silent.”
Then, in June, the AFA bought a former Lutheran church in Murdock, Minnesota, a small village roughly 115 miles northwest of the Twin Cities with a population of fewer than 300 people at the time of the church’s purchase. That December, the Murdock city council voted anonymously to approve a conditional permit to allow AFA to use the church as a “hof.” When pressed for comment, the mayor of Murdock described the decision as “strictly a zoning issue.”
Following the city council’s approval of the permit, someone using the pseudonym “Eridan Ampora” launched a Change.org petition calling upon the town to block AFA from using the building.
AFA has continued to use the North Carolina and Minnesota properties throughout 2023. In both cases, Flavel cited the proximity of AFA members to both towns as an explanation for the group’s decision to purchase those particular churches.
AFA leaders, such as Flavel, have criticized pushback against the group’s white separatist beliefs while nevertheless defending their decision to exclude people of color. In a 2020 interview with an NBC affiliate in Minnesota, for instance, Turnage characterized the group’s membership as “Northern European” and verified that the group would reject Black, indigenous and other non-white people.
“I think the best analogy is that we view our gods as our ancestors. … If we have a family reunion, it’s only our family,” Turnage told KAR-11.
However, some practitioners of Ásatrú have condemned the AFA’s appropriation of Norse religious terminology and imagery for racist ends.
“Narrowing Ásatrú down to a politicized religion for one imagined racial group is a strangely self-defeating theological choice,” Karl E.H. Seigfried, who writes The Norse Mythology Blog and leads Thor’s Oak Kindred, a diverse Ásatrú organization in Chicago, told Hatewatch in an email.
“Although older generations of academics wrongly and anachronistically translated Old Norse terms for family, generation, kin, tribe, and house as ‘race,’ the sources themselves are overtly inclusive. Names like All-Father and World Tree are part of a cosmic cosmology that embraces multiple interacting worlds and many intermarrying tribes. To shrink this enormous theological vision down to a tiny racial ideology is to diminish it to a point of insignificance,” Seigfried added.
Photo illustration by SPLC