Chattanooga Organized For Action
The mission of Chattanooga Organized for Action is to assist individuals and organizations in becoming the essential agents of real systemic change to achieve social, economic and environmental justice.
On Saturday May 20, 2017 at the South Chattanooga Youth and Family Development Center, CALEB (Chattanoogans in Action for Love, Equality, and Benevolence) will host the Rising River Summit, a daylong educational event focused on Chattanooga’s economic landscape. Dr. Ken Chilton, Assistant Professor of Public Administration at Tennessee State University and former President of the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies, will give the keynote address. Seminar speakers will address topics including “Inequality and Education,” “Energy Costs and Solutions,” “Community Benefits Agreements,” and “Community Reinvestment,” among other topics. The Rising River Summit is free and open to the public. Lunch will be provided; all donations will be graciously accepted.
Over the last several years, Chattanooga has seen a flood of economic growth. With the development of North Shore, Southside, Gig City, and the Innovation District, our downtown area is thriving and people are drawn here from all over the world. We pride ourselves on our innovative and collaborative spirit. We have a flourishing non-profit sector that funds creative projects all over the city, and words like “renaissance” and “revitalization” are part of everyday discourse. We call Chattanooga the best town ever and the greatest mid-sized city in America. But is it really?
Two things are rising in Chattanooga: the cost of housing and the poverty rate. According to the recently-released Enterprise Community Partners report, “Bridging the Gap,” 25,000 households in Chattanooga are burdened by housing costs. Hamilton County students born into poverty only have a 4% chance of escaping it and a lower chance of success than their peers in other places. In spite of massive tax subsidies for multinational businesses, Chattanooga has been recently highlighted as having the 7th lowest wages in the country for a person with a bachelor’s degree. Ranked 7th in the nation for income inequality and home to two of the top ten zip codes for racial displacement, Chattanooga’s progress is leaving many people behind and displacing others.
Rev. Charlotte Williams of Eastdale Village Community Church explains the motivation for the economic summit:
“As Dr. Angela Davis says, ‘We are no longer accepting the things we cannot change; we are changing the things we cannot accept.’ Hopefully this economic summit won’t just be one of a passing of information, but of collaboration for the community and community officials, to ensure that people have equal access to power and resources to change their own lives. We’re only as strong as our weakest link. The economic inequality in our city, and the intersections with law, the courts, and various communities, isn’t a sign of justice. CALEB’s multiple organizations have been doing the work in greater isolation, so we’re coming together out of a desire for change.”
Who Is CALEB?
CALEB is a non-profit, institutional coalition of Faith-Based, Labor, and Community organizations working to give their constituents a powerful voice in public affairs and issues in the wider community. One of CALEB’s core objectives is to raise public awareness around the economic disparities that exist in our region, and to increase civic engagement in our area. CALEB operates under the Gamaliel Foundation, a grassroots network of non-partisan organizations organizing to empower ordinary people to effectively participate in the social and economic decisions affecting their lives.
Ryan Scott, organizer with the Ironworkers, says “I am proud to join together with the other members of CALEB to provide an avenue for the average citizen of Chattanooga to have a stronger influence in their community. I hope we can all work together to improve the quality of life for all the people in Chattanooga, regardless of their social or economic status, and give a voice to those who might not otherwise be heard.” CALEB institutional partners include Bridge City Community Church, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, Eastdale Village Community Church, the Ironworkers Local 704, the Unity Group, SEIU Local 205, and Chattanooga Organized for Action.
CALEB is committed to organizing and mobilizing the residents of our community to affect change in the socio-economic and political institutions of Chattanooga and the surrounding region, and to bringing together people of all ages, races, religions, abilities, and economic statuses in order to shape the future of our city for the benefit of all. We hope you will join us in this endeavor.
COA's report on major discriminatory lending practices, entitled Whose Reinvestment: The Failure of Equitable Home Lending in Chattanooga, has been released after nearly a year of work.
The report may be read HERE.
The major findings of the report are startling:
● Race matters in the Chattanooga lending market. Mortgage lending is substantially greater in neighborhoods that are predominately white, and African-American neighborhoods are lending deserts. Even when homes loans are given in predominately black census tracts, few loans are being awarded to African-Americans.
● Large, particular largely minority, sections of Hamilton County have been disinvested by major lenders. There is notable lack of investment in high minority census tracts, especially much of East Chattanooga and Alton Park, as well as disinvestment in the rural parts of Hamilton County in the northeast and northwest corners.
● There is a significant disparity in home loan origination between African-American and white residents of Chattanooga. The disparity ratio of approved loans to relative percentage of population was 36% for African-Americans and 107% of whites.
. ● The lending market seems to favor other minorities over African-American minorities. In terms of both disparity ratio as well as the total number of loans originated relative to population sizes, other minorities fare better than African-Americans in the lending market. While white populations have the best advantage at securing a loan, non-black minorities have significantly greater loan rates than the city’s black population for nearly every bank.
● Banking branches are not easily accessible in high-minority and/or low-income census tracts in Chattanooga. As a metric of community investment, banking branches are often not present in the communities in most dire need of lending.
Citico Rising: Lincoln Park & The Struggle for Sacred Spaces
Chattanooga Organized for Action is asking all Chattanoogans, who are able, to show out and support the Chattanooga InterTribal Association at 8 AM on June 19th in a ceremony for the preservation of Native American sacred sites.
The saga of Lincoln Park's struggle against gentrification continues. Undaunted and unbroken by years of protest against a major road extension which could destroy the African-American landmark for which their community is named, the community suffered another blow with the approval of a major high-end condo development on their outskirts of their neighborhood. This development was seen, by community members, as another step in the "aggressive gentrification" in the area.
Lincoln Park is a holdout community in one of the most aggressively gentrified zip codes in the entire United States. It is mostly African-American, mostly elderly, and mostly poor. And they are fighting for their homes.
At Risk: African-American and Native-American Historical Sites
The Lincoln Park community is not alone and the history of the Lincoln Park area is long. The erasure of communities of color is an old trick of the developers who come to Chattanooga. Until 1915, the Citico Mound, a burial site and sacred cultural center of the Muskagee people who once called Chattanooga home, was located between Lincoln Park and the Tennessee River.
Citico Mound was the center of city built far before whites settled in the Chattanooga area... until Indian Removal and, later, the original construction of Riverside Drive wiped it from the map. Over the course of development in the last century, hundreds of Native American burials have been accidentally uncovered by bulldozers in the area.
As recently as 2001, there have been major discoveries of Native American remains in the Riverside Drive area. The extending road between Third Street and Riverside Drive puts this site at further risk.
Chattanooga's Native American community wants the sacred sites that once dotted our landscape to be persevered. There should be an end to the continual destruction of the Citico area. In the image to the right, the Citico Mound area is highlighted in orange.
On June 19th, representatives of the Chattanooga InterTribal Association will be participating in the nationwide Day of Prayer for the Protection of Sacred Sites. This sunrise event will be at 8 AM at 1428 Riverside Drive. Click HERE for more information and to RSVP for the Facebook Event.
COA is in solidarity with the indigenous peoples of Chattanooga whose legacy, community, and culture have been marginalized by colonialism in the past and in the present.
We need the people of Chattanooga to attend and show their support for those marginalized in our city's past and present.
Made for All Residents: The Voices of the Lincoln Park
At the May 31st meeting of the Chattanooga City Council, residents and supporters of the Lincoln Park Neighborhood had had enough. They showed out in opposition of a zoning change that Lincoln Park leaders called "aggressive gentrification".
Lincoln Park can be considered a holdout community in a Chattanooga zipcode which is one of the most significantly gentrified in the entire nation. The community is predominately elderly, predominately African-American, and predominately low-income.
In an ongoing campaign, Chattanooga Organized for Action has supported the Lincoln Park neighborhood in its struggle against gentrification in the form of a large road extension which may destroy their historical African-American park.
Hundreds of Chattanoogans shared Lincoln Park's plight over social media.
The Day of the Vote
Though Lincoln Park neighborhood leaders came to City Council prepared with signed petitions of Lincoln Park residents, the City Council voted 9 - 0 in favor of the eight-story commercial development. Lincoln Park neighborhood leaders continued to feel voiceless next to the large development firms working to gentrify their community.
The opposition was only allowed to speak for 6 minutes out of the 9 minutes that they had been promised before the vote.
Despite this setback, Lincoln Park's long struggle to keep their community continues. More than half of the residents of Chattanooga's urban overlay are burdened or severally burdened by housing costs. We believe that every Chattanoogan, in Lincoln Park and beyond, deserves a safe and affordable housing.
There will be many fights in Lincoln Park's future.
A Guide to the Lincoln Park Opposition
On the link below, we're sharing the full City Council meeting. We are also sharing quotes and time-stamps for the various Chattanoogans who spoke out in opposition of gentrification and in favor of the Lincoln Park community.
Tiffany Rankins, Secretary of the Lincoln Park Neighborhood Association
"You guys looked at the renters like they were nothing and to allow [property owner Ken Defoor] to come up and say he wanted to buy the community was very arrogant.... Lincoln Park has always be considered after the fact, we want before the fact." -Tiffany speaks before the vote at 5:35-10:13. She speaks after the vote at 1:38:33-1:39:45.
Jefferson Hodge, Chattanooga Organized for Action
"I want to talk about those who didn't sign the petition... because of a shared sentiment. That shared sentiment was the feeling of hopelessness. That we could've come with a mile-long list of names opposing large out-of-city developers. We could've come with all sorts of facts and all sorts of data and those things wouldn't matter." -Jefferson speaks before the vote at 12:57-13:52. He speaks after the vote at 1:13:39-1:16:00.
Vannice Hughley, Lincoln Park Neighborhood Association President
"This building on the corner of central and third, taxes will go up. I’m a senior citizen, I’m on a fixed income. We can’t afford higher taxes and that’s our plea." -Ms. Hughley speaks after the vote at 1:12:52 - 1:13:31.
Lillie Stubsten, Student Activists for Equality
"So let me just say that, as a student, I actively oppose all racist and gentrifying development. The institution of UTC may applaud certain projects... but the Students do not. We will not let our historic neighborhoods be destroyed in our name." -Lillie speaks after the vote at 1:16:09-1:17:44.
Michael Gilliland, Chattanooga Organized for Action
"It is a sick math when hundreds of people can bounced out of their communities like little kids on a trampoline and that be called progress because they’re being priced out. And we don’t have the organs or ability or infrastructure to address this."- Michael speaks after the vote at 1:17:48-1:20:49.
"I just believe that the order of operations is backward, I just think that as city officials the first priority and first responsibility should be managing the well-being of citizens and not private developers, so all I just want to say is that the measures that Councilman Hakeem mentioned is great, they just should have been resolved first before you all voted unanimously to approve the zoning."- Mr. O'Grady speaks after the vote at 1:21:34-1:23:08.