CCJ 2017 Round-Up
Dear CCJ family,
Thank you for taking part in a thirty three year legacy of movement building for Black Liberation in Chattanooga. Concerned Citizens for Justice continues the fight to end white supremacy that is rooted in the history of Chattanooga. Our dedicated membership is keeping CCJ alive and moving collectively. Each year is different and 2017 has been largely dedicated to building movement solidarity; developing how CCJ functions; and studying, researching, and planning long-term strategies that can bring real and radical change to our city. Direct action and civil disobedience are still essential tactics that CCJ values greatly, and our people’s presence in the streets will have more impact as our collective force grows and our strategy becomes fine-tuned.
We wholeheartedly believe in meeting people where they’re at, and CCJ has to know where we are first! So, let’s recap some of what went down in 2017 as we move into the new year.
We started off 2017 with a symbolic reclaiming of the Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial March by putting the people in the lead of the march instead of unaccountable elected officials using it as a photo opportunity. Following that symbolic action, CCJ joined other organizations to form a People’s Agenda Coalition to let City Council know we were serious about them being accountable to the people. In the lead up to April City Council elections, CCJ asked candidates how they align with Public Safety Demands that were developed from years of assemblies and community meetings. We then communicated the candidates’ stances on these demands with our membership and the greater community to demonstrate how our vote relates to the fight for community control of the police, budgets, and political processes that govern our lives. Each candidate’s position on the demands was boosted from social media, email, phone-banking, and bi-weekly Feed the Community Programs on the Westside. When districts 7 and 9 went into a run-off election, CCJ organized a candidate debate at the Unity Group of Chattanooga’s monthly meeting and the newly elected city council members were the only candidates to attend.
The people of Districts 7, 8, and 9 sent a loud message to the establishment that they were tired of the status quo by unseating and replacing their City Council members who had been unresponsive to their demands. The battle ground has shifted in the fight, but we’ve still got a long way to go.
The Communiversity, CCJ’s campus of Universidad Sin Fronteras/University Without Borders, collectively develops consciousness of where we’re at, visions of where we want to be, and strategies of how to get there through community education and action. Mutual Aid Liberation has been a moving part of the Communiversity, from the Black autonomous HangOut at Barking Legs, to our longstanding partnership with The Village in Eastdale, and CCJ is still exploring and developing how we can practice liberation in this time of overlapping crises. The Participatory Budgeting Workteam was a product of the Communiversity semesters on the Movement for Black Lives Platform and the Southern Movement Blueprint, and intervened in the city’s budgeting process using a new tactic. CCJ members gave a presentation on Participatory Budgeting during the July 25th City Council meeting, and several city council members have voiced interest in participatory budgeting. With grounded and visionary strategy, and collective action, this could be a key step in gaining grassroots community control of the city’s resources. (visit participatorybudgeting.org for more info)
Highlander Research and Education Center is one of CCJ’s strategic partners and this year one of our members, Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson, has taken on a herstoric role as the first Black woman to serve as one the Center’s directors. Ash maintains regular communication and council with CCJ and continues to link our local struggle with the national Movement for Black Lives organizational infrastructure. CCJ is in a process of developing the communications and member accountability infrastructure needed to collectively advance our work in an even more principled and impactful way. As a grassroots organization that is made possible by working-class volunteers and donations, CCJ members are constantly bombarded with systemic hardships of finding housing, wages for life expenses, transportation, as well as facing criminalization and intimidation from the state.. With our strong solidarity network of movement forces across the state and region, CCJ is steadily building organizational structures that are rooted in our principles, and are being given enough time to develop with southern grace, patience, and a willingness to struggle with any obstacle that comes before us.
While studying and practicing political education in Chatt, CCJ is also developing popular education practices with the University Sin Fronteras; participating in several years of educational institutes, transnational delegations, and a Faculty Degree program with movement actors from the Southwest, Midwest, indigenous country, and Puerto Rico. CCJ has deepened partnerships with organizations across Chattanooga, Appalachia, and the South, and continues to serve as an anchor organization with the Southern Movement Assembly (SMA), a significant movement governance vehicle in the region. In June, CCJ rolled deep to the Southern People Organizing Intensive in Clarkston Georgia, with a delegation of fourteen folks from Chatt who are ready to throw down on the Southern Freedom Movement. Solidarity in grassroots movement building across the city, state, and region, is an essential way that we can build collectively to get our people free. As Fannie Lou Hamer taught us, “None of us are free, until all of us are free!”
The Southern Movement Blueprint is a plan of action from the the anchor organizations of the Southern Movement Assembly, and the collective synthesis of the hundreds of grassroots community leaders, activists, organizers and participants who attended SMA6 in Chattanooga in 2016. These strategies of how we can practice liberation, dismantle oppression, and gather our people toward building movement power, are happening on the ground across the Global South. In October 2017, these grassroots movements converged on sacred ground in Whitakers, North Carolina –with more than three hundred southern freedom fighters and seventy organizations represented, to continue building the foundation of the plan. CCJ is exploring ways we can further implement the Southern Movement Blueprint right here in Chattanooga.
We demand justice for Jocques Scott Clemmons, who’s life was taken by Nashville police on February 10th. Rodney L. Cole in Nashville, Rodney James Hess in Crockett County, and Darrion Barnhill in Henderson County, have also had their lives taken from Black communities by police violence this year, in just Tennessee alone. We demand justice, and at the same time, mourn this loss of Black life in our state, as well as all the lives of Black people lost to the violence of white supremacy all across the south, the country, and the world. Two years ago, in Chattanooga, JaVario Eagle was murdered by six heavily armed CPD officers, and the fight for justice continues to this day, and well into the coming year. Safety beyond policing is possible, and our North Carolina movement family with Spirit House and Black Workers for Justice will be greatly influencing our work in 2018.
From fighting to divest from policing and prisons, to supporting community-led movement work such as Feed the Community program, CCJ will continue fighting and building into 2018, and for as long as we need, until all of us are free.