published Friday, May 16th, 2014

Unity Group pulling together for solutions

UPCOMING EVENTS

* Concerned Citzens for Justice: Organizing the South Against Mass Incarceration at 3 p.m. Saturday at Bethlehem Center, 200 West 38th St. with the Rev. Kenneth Glasgow, founder of the Ordinary People’s Society, as keynote speaker.

* We Are The Ones Coalition sponsors “A Call to Action: Solutions to Drugs, Gangs, and Violence” on May 31 at 2 p.m. at Eastdale Village Community Church, 1403 Tunnel Blvd. with Minister Abdul Sharrieff Muhammad, Southern Regional representative of Louis Farrakhan as keynote speaker. A youth talent show is scheduled at 1 p.m.

* The Chattanooga Hamilton County NAACP sponsors a criminal justice seminar on June 14 at the Chattanooga Choo Choo. Call 423-267-5637 or email atkinse3@hotmail.com to register.

A grass-roots plan to reduce violence and promote economic equality for all emerged from several community organizations whose members were motivated by the recent appearance of a hate group in Chattanooga.

Before the National Socialist Movement had left Chattanooga after marking its 40th anniversary at a meeting here in April, the Unity Group proposed harnessing the energy generated from NSM’s visit to help disadvantaged people in the city.

“The Unity Group started out in politics but we have always had a socioeconomic, community-based agenda,” said Quenston Coleman, the group’s community liaison. The Unity Group focuses on social justice issues.

Crime and economic equality are issues too large for one group to tackle alone, said local Nation of Islam leader Kevin Muhammad. But if organizations unite for a common cause, they can spur progress.

“We’re making a call to put down religious and philosophical barriers to solve the problem,” Muhammad said.

When the neo-Nazi group came to Chattanooga, pastors and civil rights leaders joined with the Unity Group to organize a prayer vigil.

Since the neo-Nazis left, Christians, Muslims, young and old are supporting one another with the goal of improving the community. Several events are scheduled in coming weeks.

The NAACP is hosting a criminal justice seminar on June 14. Joe Rowe, NAACP executive committee member, said he expects better attendance because various groups are working together. The seminar topic is “Balancing the Scales of Justice Through: Rehabilitation, Reentry, and Redemption.”

The NAACP and Concerned Citizens for Justice are also discussing the “Ban the Box” initiative for Chattanooga. The initiative encourages employers to remove questions about an applicant’s criminal record from an initial job application. The purpose is to prevent employers from discarding an application based solely based on a person’s criminal history. The employer may still ask about applicants’ records during the interview, said NAACP secretary Eric Atkins.

The “Ban the Box” initiative has been is adopted in 62 local jurisdictions across the United States, according to the New York City-based National Employment Law Project.

Concerned Citizens for Justice also is hosting an “Organizing the South Against Mass Incarceration” rally on Saturday.

And on May 31, We Are The Ones Coalition is hosting a daylong call to action soliciting solutions to drugs, gangs and violence.

The beauty of this group is that it is grass-roots, Muhammad said.

“We’re not bringing a solution from the top down,” he said. “We are the foot soldiers, the ones on the ground talking to people.”

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com.

about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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