Points of Unity
Who We Are
Concerned Citizens for Justice (CCJ) was founded in 1984 by Maxine Cousin, Annie Thomas, and Ms. Thomas’ two daughters, Lisa and Lydia. The organization was founded in the wake of the Wadie Suttles case to address, publicize, and protest police brutality. The organization laid the groundwork for the Federal Civil Rights lawsuit, Brown v. Board of Commissioners, which changed the racist, at-large commission form of government in Chattanooga.
CCJ was reactivated in 2012 after the murder of Trayvon Martin by activists, students, union organizers and other community members in order to fill a vacuum left by the assaults on and in hopes of reenergizing the Black Liberation Movement in Chattanooga, TN. Based on its historical legacy, we chose to reactivate under the original name, but we firmly believe that citizenship is not a prerequisite for being treated with fairness and dignity and that no human being is illegal.
CCJ is a multi-racial organization with leadership from Black people. We welcome participation of all people who share our values and commitments, but we prioritize the leadership of Black people.
What do we Value?
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Systemic Power Analysis
We value a systematic analysis of power that recognizes that the most serious danger to Black and other oppressed communities is not individual acts of hatred which are the symptoms of interconnected systems that allow, reward, and institutionalize those behaviors and further creates laws and customs that oppress groups of people.
Grassroots Orientation / Collective Action
We believe in building an independent grassroots base of people directly impacted by an issue at the local level that can engage in collective action to win immediate material gains for the people. At the same time, we recognize that in order to carry out the fundamental changes that need to happen in our society, we must build our local movement in coalition with others from across the country and world, as well as those fighting battles on different fronts.
We believe that the only way to tear down the oppressive systems we live under, which work to strip us of our self-determination and humanity, is for people to organize themselves and act collectively to improve their conditions while ultimately gaining power. Struggles against white supremacy and capitalism should and must be led by those most directly affected; they have the most to gain and the greatest interest in completely dismantling these systems.
Diversity of Tactics
We believe in embracing a diversity of tactics, including direct action and civil disobedience, in order to resist in a variety of forms. Under specific material conditions, tactics such as petitioning, lobbying, and voting can win gains for the people, but these forms of struggle are never in themselves capable of creating the radical changes that are necessary. Furthermore, they are only effective in meeting their goals when used as a tactic in a larger strategy that challenges unjust power relations.
We believe in the self-determination of Black people and other marginalized communities. We believe that nothing about us without us is for us, and therefore advocate that our communities seek out opportunities to build a city that values direct participatory democracy.
Solidarity in Movement Building
We believe that it is imperative to show solidarity to other organizations doing progressive movement building work. This is important to us because we know that all oppression is connected, and none of us can live up to our fullest potential until all of us are free.
CCJ is building a movement led by Black people with solidarity from White anti-racists and other allies. We believe our city, state, and country needs more John Browns and Anne Bradens! We will educate, agitate, motivate, and organize Black people in our city in our base building and programmatic work, in solidarity with white allies and other people of color and marginalized communities.
We believe that in our work to build a better world, we must be held accountable by each other, the communities we work in, and by the movement. We reject the leadership of organizations and people who opportunistically seek to take advantage of popular movements for personal or professional gain, and believe that we all must be held accountable to working in the community’s interests under their leadership.
Historical Lessons from Past Struggles for Justice
We believe that all of our work, as much as possible, should build on the legacies of the struggles and victories of Black people and other liberation movements that came before us. We are especially influenced by the movements that have brought about positive social change for Black people and poor people in the U.S. South, and incorporate lessons from those movements in our organizing and programmatic work.
What are our goals?
- To discover and dismantle the underlying causes of society’s injustices and work for systemic change. We do this by approaching our campaigns to end police brutality, stop racial profiling and mass incarceration with an understanding of the root causes, which are white supremacy, classism, and other forms of systemic oppression.
- To end the exploitation of Black people and white supremacy. We believe that this will require work in multiple areas.
- To strengthen and bring new energy to the Black Liberation Movement that is inclusive of all people of African descent, including women, working class Black folks, Black members of the LGBTQ community, and to learn from the struggle of freedom fighters who came before us.
What does that word mean?
a systemic structure that is contained within our institutions, our prisons, our schools, our hospitals, our government, in legacies and histories of enslavement and colonialism that uplifts the notion that Black lives, culture, lived experiences, etc., are not as valuable as those of White people.
a persistent social relationship in which certain persons are being mistreated or unfairly used for the material benefit of others. In other words, when one group of people uses another group of people’s work to make money.
Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender and Queer
People of African origin. Using this term assures that we include all black people, not just those whose lineage is tied to North America. This term also connects us to the political and communal power of Black people from all over the world who have fought for the liberation of people of African origin.
These points of unity were heavily influenced by the missions, visions, and principles of unity of organizations and movements including but not limited to:
- The Black Radical Congress
- Organization for Black Struggle
- United Students Against Sweatshops
- The Vietnamese Progressive Movement