Mission & Vision
“Justice is what love looks like in public. Deep democracy is love put into practice.” Cornel West
Everybody knows the Chattanooga story. Once called the dirtiest city in America, Chattanooga bounced back to become the Renaissance City of the South. With a sparkling downtown and the arrival of new industry, it looks like things are on a roll for the old Dynamo of Dixie, right?
It might come as a surprise to some that there are at least two Chattanoogas.
There’s a Chattanooga that rejoices in the renaissance of downtown, that’s affluent and well-connected, that has its choice of multiple grocery stores which offer healthy and nutritious foods. There’s a Chattanooga that can send its children to the nation’s finest private schools, that can commute to good-paying jobs and can enjoy evenings with their families in beautiful parks, movie theaters and enjoying all the fine dining that our city has to offer.
This is a Chattanooga that has no difficulty getting what it wants.
Then, there’s the other Chattanooga.
This is a Chattanooga that struggles day-to-day with grinding poverty, with dilapidated public housing and abusive slumlords, with the fear and uncertainty of unemployment. This is a Chattanooga where you can lose your job if the bus isn’t running on time, where your children suffer from malnutrition and where your elderly family members resign themselves to diminishing social services. This is a Chattanooga where your schools are overrun with violence, your streets run by gangs and your neighborhoods cast into fear and despair.
This is a Chattanooga that hasn’t known renaissance.
These are the communities in our city that are struggling with the catastrophic realities that are the legacy of a vicious history of systemic racial, economic, social and environmental injustices. Far too often we have collectively failed to ask the deep questions that would force us to truly examine ourselves: why does one Chattanooga have its wants met so readily and the other Chattanooga struggle to meet its most basic needs? Why are the demands of our poor so easily dismissed while the whims of the affluent so easily met?
Why do we live in a Chattanooga where everyone has a voice, but not everyone is heard?
It is the purpose of Chattanooga Organized for Action to aid the least, the last and the lost in the struggle to find their voices and make sure that their demands are heard.
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.
Chattanooga Organized for Action has made the choice to be Chattanooga’s premier social justice organization. Our members are dedicated to the mission of standing in solidarity with others as we collectively struggle to take control of our communities and our lives.
Its a mission that begins and ends with the grassroots – everyday people who have not been elected to public office or appointed to a corporate board of directors, but who are none the less directly affected by those who wield such tremendous power. We serve to help the grassroots take back that power so that everyday people can make their Chattanooga the kind of city they want it to be.
Chattanooga Organized for Action is dedicated to doing justice.
Justice is an action. It means standing in solidarity with others to bear witness to the precious dignity of human life by calling for fundamental changes to how power flows in society. It means we move power away from the powerful to the powerless, from circles of political and corporate elites to our communities: to our neighborhood associations, religious institutions, unions and civic groups.
We believe that the only people who can make our city work for the powerless are the powerless themselves. But, making our city work for everybody means we must regain our status as citizens.
Being a citizen means we have to hold the powerful accountable for their actions.
The only way to hold the powerful accountable is through getting organized, understanding power relations and providing grassroots leaders with the skills, tools and resources necessary to be effective.
That is the work of Chattanooga Organized for Action. We provide unique and valuable opportunities to develop leaders out of everyday people. It is those who are being directly marginalized, forgotten and silenced who must bridge the gap between the Chattanooga that gets what it wants and the Chattanooga that struggles to get what it needs.
The only people who can raise the standards of the other Chattanooga are the marginalized people who live there. No one else can or should do it for them.
At Chattanooga Organized for Action, we know they can.
“Everywhere I look I see a lot of charity, but not enough justice.” Dorothy Day
Chattanooga Organized for Action has made a difference in the lives of hundreds of people from all different backgrounds, races, income-levels, religions, ethnicities and walks of life by investing in our city’s greatest resource: its everyday people. And unlike other organizations, the work we do outlasts our presence because our work is to build community leadership that lasts.
Building leadership that lasts means we have to take responsibility for our communities. We refuse to wait on politicians and those in power to offer their solutions to our problems. We become the leaders our communities deserve and struggle together to bring the changes that will help our communities flourish, from the grassroots up!
The following are just a few of the steps that Chattanooga Organized for Action is taking to sow the seeds of democratic leadership so that we might reap an unstoppable grassroots revolution:
Investing in the potential of our base – those who are most directly affected by systemic racial, economic, social and environmental injustices.
Reaching across racial, economic and social lines to create a diverse Board of Directors and membership base.
Cultivating and fostering the creation and development of grassroots organizations led by those most directly affected.
Promoting citizen-led decision making practices.
Building Chattanooga’s advocacy and organizing infrastructure.
Increasing constituent engagement by educating individuals and organizations in methods of civic participation.
Developing indigenous leadership capable of holding political leaders accountable
Providing popular, civic and political education to all of Chattanooga’s citizens.
Creating trail-blazing civic innovation.
Partnering with local artists, web designers and social entrepreneurs to develop new strategies for democratic engagement.
Utilizing social media to create new possibilities for democratic, grassroots-led citizen engagement.
Enabling grassroots organizations to have a greater public presence and impact.
Encouraging understanding of privileges.
Acknowledging the experiences of exploitation and institutionalized racism and sexism by promoting safe and honest discussion in which people can understand how privilege has shaped our understanding of ourselves and one another.
Promoting consensus-building as an organizational method as opposed to divisive decision making.
Come join us as we build on our city’s long legacy of grassroots democratic engagement!
COA members meet weekly to discuss strategy and co-ordinate campaigns with allied individuals and organizations.
Membership meetings are held every Monday at Renaissance Presbyterian Church. The meeting starts at 6:00 PM and ends at 7:30 PM.
Renaissance Presbyterian Church
1211 Boynton Drive
Chattanooga, TN 37403
All are welcome to attend. Allied organizations can request to be put on the agenda for the meetings. Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with details.
For more information please contact us at email@example.com
Contributions to Chattanooga Organized for Action can be made on-line at homepage of the website via Paypal or via check.
Checks can be made to “Chattanooga Organized for Action” or “COA” and mailed to:
Chattanooga Organized for Action
216 N. Hickory St.
Chattanooga, TN 37404