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.
New Truist Bank commits $60 billion
The National Community Reinvestment Coalition has exciting news today: Truist Bank has agreed to a community benefits agreement that dedicates $60 billion in funding and support lower-income communities!
Chattanooga Organized for Action participated in a coalition meeting between NCRC and bank leaders in Atlanta in April of this year. It is wonderful to see the increasing number of Tennessee organizations participating with NCRC in efforts to secure enforceable commitments from major banks. The BB&T/ Suntrust merger will make the new Truist Bank the 6th largest bank in the country. Dedicated commitments to investment for low-income applicants and communities is a strong first step towards more equitable lending.
The plan’s specific goals include:
Read more at NCRC!
Stand Up for School Bus Safety Coalition and Hamilton County School Bus Drivers Achieve Major Results
It's amazing what the community can do when it works together. After the tragic Woodmore school bus crash in November of 2016, local bus drivers feared that major safety problems were still being ignored by the private bus company, Durham School Services. The drivers met with a number of community organizations, and requested support from the Teamsters union; shortly afterwards, the Stand Up for School Bus Safety was launched to bring their concerns to the public while keeping drivers protected from retaliation.
The coalition held press conferences, presented issues to the local school board, and attended national school conferences to highlight the lack of accountability in many private bus contracts. In April of 2018 they released a report compiled by researchers at Wayne State University that compared the safety record of Durham to other major companies. That report and a corresponding letter was sent to over 250 school districts that had a contract with the bus company.
An organized effort gets results! The Hamilton County Department of Education hired a third-party contract supervisor to make sure contracts with the school district were being upheld. In May of 2018, the bus drivers voted to unionize with the Teamsters Local 327. A year later they were able to secure their first contract. As the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported:
In April of 2019, the Hamilton County School Board severed ties with Durham School Services and signed a contract with First Student, a Durham competitor.
Chattanooga Organized for Action is proud to have partnered with bus drivers and other community organizations in the Stand Up for School Bus Safety coalition. Their successes are a success for all of us.
Dr. Ken Chilton, Associate Professor at Tennessee State University and former Director of the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies, has worked with COA to produce a new report on racial displacement in Chattanooga.
The report, "Negro Removal in Chattanooga: The Impact of Market-Based Displacement on Communities of Color" lays out the residential changes that have occurred between 2000 and 2017 as a result of high-end growth and investment, and what that has meant for Chattanooga's black residents. It tracks neighborhoods that have seen heavy declines in black residents, but also areas of town that have seen major increases. The conclusion calls for more low-income resident participation in planning decisions, and the use of community benefits agreements (CBAs) as a way to ensure more equitable growth.
DOWNLOAD A COPY OF THE REPORT.
CALEB will be hosting a community organizing training on March 10th at the Iron Workers' Hall. Register on the link below to reserve your place!
With fresh press coverage and increasing public interest, we're pleased to announce that a date is set for our next People's History Walking Tour of MLK Blvd! Join us Tuesday, October 24th from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm. as COA volunteers take you through a history of white supremacy and anti-racist resistance in Chattanooga, TN.
The tour is free of charge and open to the general public, but we gladly accept donations to continue COA's mission. Space is limited, so reserve your place with a ticket below.
For more information on "The People's History of Chattanooga" Project, check out our website HERE.
We're excited to share the investigative series "The Lost Way," which debuts this week in three installments. Reporters Joan Garrett McClane and Joy Lukachick Smith have spent the last year in research on the famed "Chattanooga Way" and the original community-wide planning process Chattanooga Venture. Through personal letters, archival material, and interviews with over 50 individuals, the Times Free Press has provided an in-depth account of early hopes as well as what went wrong. "The Lost Way" cuts through the ubiquitous acclaim of public-private partnerships and PR spin to show how downtown development destroyed its own community participation and left a list of growing social problems.
COA's People's History Walking Tours, as well as the coalition-building work of CALEB are featured in the last chapter of the series. We encourage you to check it out.
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.