“With its scenic beauty, stable population and economy, civic vitality and cross-sector partnerships, fiscal integrity, and strategic location, Chattanooga enters the 21st century as one of the most progressive and livable mid-size cities in the US. In this decade the city has won 3 national awards for outstanding "livability", and 9 Gunther Blue Ribbon Awards for excellence in housing and consolidated planning.”
- “About Chattanooga” at Chattanooga.gov
“In Chattanooga, the prevalence of low-wage jobs has contributed to the high poverty rate: 27 percent of the city’s residents live below the poverty line, compared with 15 percent nationwide. Women head about two-thirds of the city’s poor households, and 42 percent of its children are poor, nearly double the rate statewide.”
- “Low-Wage Workers Are Finding Poverty Harder to Escape” Published at the New York Times, March 2014
Chattanooga: Renaissance Myth and Working Poor Reality
The myth of Chattanooga is the myth of the Renaissance City of the South. A mid-sized Southern American metropolitan area which has only progressed forward from the economic hardship and ecological decline which had haunted Chattanooga decades before the present. If one were to look at our downtown with its bridges, attractions, and development; that progress becomes tactile. How can a city where the buildings have grown this large with spectacle this fantastical be moving any direction other than forward?
Yet, the reality of Chattanooga which is experienced by the majority of our low-income residents is jarring. Chattanooga is ranked 12th in the nation for income inequality. We are ranked as the 8th poorest health in the nation. We also hold the 7th highest rising rent in the nation with some of the most severely gentrified zip codes across the country.
This inequity is experienced racially, with persons of color in Chattanooga having tremendously less access to social and economic privileges experienced by its white residents. It is experienced by gender with women heading 2/3rds of all households in situations of poverty. It is an inequity which is socially produced by individuals profiting off both the myth of the Renaissance City and the exploitation of tens of thousands of Chattanoogans.
Chattanooga Organized for Action feels that it is time we stood up and declared that we, as a community of Chattanoogans, deserve better than growing poverty, housing costs, and social inequality. We can be the true Progressive City of the South in which every resident is able to participate in the wealth generated within our borders. We can be the true Progressive City of the South where every resident has an affordable place to live and is allowed a living wage. We can make this true Progressive City of the South happen through action.
Throughout the summer, COA will be hosting a series of meetings in order to collectively educate and empower one another to act for the improvement of our community. It is our own experiences of wage poverty, economic inequity, and social injustice that are our best tools in building a society wherein this suffering can end. We know that no matter how many statistics the New York Times and other national media and research bodies can shame the political leadership of our city with, real change will not come until the voices of our residents are loud and clear that this injustice must end. We can be our own best advocates for the end of poverty as we know it in Chattanooga. Together, we can reach a richer understanding of the Chattanooga which is so often neglected by local politicians and the wealthy holders of power.
Invite your friends and fellow residents to take a definite part in the process of moving our city forward. Learn and educate with Chattanooga Organized for Action.
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.