Base: Who are we? Who are the people we are trying to organize?
We are a fighting grassroots organization of community members, rooted in the Black Radical Tradition of Chattanooga and the South. We are multiracial and multi-generational, but we prioritize the leadership of working class Black people, especially women. We are organizing people who are most directly impacted by state violence and white supremacy in Chattanooga: incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people, survivors and loved ones of people impacted by police violence, and anyone experiencing discrimination, displacement, or has a desire to bring radical change to our communities’ material conditions.
Symptoms: What are the problems we seek to address?
Working class communities, especially Black communities, across Chattanooga and the country are faced with poverty, over-policing, mass criminalization and incarceration, police brutality, and displacement. All of these issues intersect daily and are aggravated by public disinvestment, media, and popular narratives that blame communities for these issues. Community organizations, churches, and activist groups, and grassroots leaders work constantly to address these symptoms, but lack access to political power and resources to address the root causes.
Root causes: What are the root causes of these problems?
The root causes of the problems we face are multi-layered, intersectional, and deeply rooted in the white supremacist history of the U.S. Working class Black communities in particular are faced with anti-Black racism, super-exploitation by the capitalist class, along with patriarchal oppression. We face fights on multiple fronts: at the local level we face the current new wave of neoliberal policies that gut social services and infrastructure while investing in gentrification, tourism, and militarized policing; At the state and federal level we face a shift toward increasingly neo-confederate style policies that work to strip democratic rights from communities, and attacks the progress of earlier movements.
Vision: What is our vision of change? How would the world be different if we’re successful?
We are fighting for a completely new city and world where we can live without oppression or exploitation; where communities practice self-determination and participatory democracy; a reality where people’s needs are met and where we are free from police violence as well as community violence. We believe in a world where policing and prison systems are completely abolished and replaced with alternative systems that are products of collective action, self-determination and grassroots political power. While we build that new world, we need reparations and community control of the decisions that affect communities. Harm-Free zones, mutual aid centers, and transformative justice practices that center human dignity and liberation, are ways that we transition to a world without police, criminalization or incarceration. We believe that the Vision For Black Lives policy demands offer specific and immediate steps toward bringing our city, state, and country the change it needs.
Analysis: What is our understanding of the shifts that need to occur in order for us to reach our vision?
We must completely dismantle the systems of oppression, and build our own systems of liberation, to transform the way that power is held and exercised in Chattanooga and our region. A united force of Black communities and low-income workers can fight back against the exploiters and oppressors who work in opposition to the interests of our people. We believe the key to dismantling these harmful systems is to develop base-building organizations, Black independent political power, and community control.
Strategy: How do we influence change in the root causes of the problems?
We organize so that we can become a powerful force that is able to influence decisions that will lead to the implementation of our vision. We study our material conditions and the balance of forces to identify moments of opportunity: assessing our opponents, our allies, and potential openings for change. We then design campaigns, communications work, and base-building that will allow us to fight and build power in these moments. There are several types of power that we develop and use:
- Political power: Our ability to influence laws, the ways that they’re applied, and who is in position to make them. We believe this power must be built and used independently of moderate and unaccountable politicians.
- Economic power: Our ability to make sure that money is spent on the things that we think are most important. We see economic power and political power as directly linked.
- Disruptive power: Our ability to use our bodies and voices to stop unjust systems from continuing to operate.
- Transformative power: Our ability to show by example the kind of world we want to create, to transform ourselves and believe in our own value.
- Narrative power: Our ability to tell our own stories and make sure that other people understand our issues from our perspective, rather than from the perspective of the people who would exploit us.
Activities: What will we do in the short- and medium-term?
Build CCJ into a fighting membership-based organization:
- Formalize our membership to create ladders of engagement;
- Political education and leadership development to increase capacity;
- Develop our financial infrastructure to carry out our work and support the movement.
Transformative Campaign work and Programs:
- Wage a community oversight campaign for control of the police;
- Develop our participatory legal defense work into a program that can defend communities against criminalization and police violence.
Build Independent Political Power:
- Engage strategically in elections in order to shape the terrain we struggle on;
- Develop the infrastructure, in coalition with others, to win elections and govern independent of the Democratic Party.
Grounding in Cultural Organizing:
- Infuse culture and healing into all areas of our work, to create practices that sustain us, our organization and communities through these traumatic struggles.
Partners: Who are our allies and how does our work complement that of others?
We see ourselves as part of a vibrant and diverse social justice movement. We believe in building strong, intersectional, and cross-generational movements that are able to leverage the collective power of many social forces working together toward a shared vision. Our partners in this work include other Black and People of Color-led organizations, as well as broader social justice groups who see the need for revolutionary change in our lifetimes.