Ardena Garth Hicks was the first African American female public defender in Tennessee’s Hamilton County. When the State of Tennessee created the office of public defenders 18 years ago, it was an appointed position by the Governor. Ardena was the only applicant with both defense and prosecutorial experience. Of the 27 initially appointed public defenders, only two were black females.
The Women’s Council on Diversity has inspired Chattanooga since its first meeting the day after 9/11. The influx of international companies led to our community-wide Global Leadership Class six years later, followed by Women GroundBreakers Storytelling. Documented in the American Diversity Report, these projects demonstrate how a small Southern city tackles its growing diversity and internationalization. Women Ground Breakers is now a Think Tank and part of Lean In, the international women’s movement begun by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook.
The transformation of the South by international industry has picked up speed. In 1974, there were only 19 foreign-owned manufacturers in Tennessee. They were valued at $649 million. In 1995, the state had 400 foreign-owned firms with a value of $15 billion. By 2013, the number of foreign-owned firms had more than doubled to 864 with a value of $30 billion. According to the Global Location Trends Report by the IBM Institute, Tennessee led the nation in jobs created by foreign owned firms.
Continue reading Globalization in Chattanooga – by Deborah Levine
Morris Dees, Founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), was the featured speaker at the Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga annual First Amendment dinner. Mr. Dees was introduced by Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke. Mayor Berke, a member of Chattanooga’s Jewish community was comfortable in the Federation setting and shared that he was not wearing a tie due to the well-known perils of ketchup. Picking up on the informality, Dees removed his own tie and listened, along with a packed house, to the mayor’s remarks.
The traffic was fierce on Martin Luther King Boulevard as people flocked to the community-wide interfaith service at Mount Olivet Baptist Church. Olivet, had grown from humble beginning in the 1920s to one of the city’s largest African-American churches. Yet, the church was packed, overflowing with elected officials, police officers and FBI, military veterans, and media among the diverse crowd of Black & White, Christians, Jews, and Muslim. Together, we prayed over the loss of four marines and a wounded sailor, who would die just hours later. We prayed over the trauma to our entire community inflicted by lone gunman, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez.
There’s no escaping the lack of trust these days from local officials to world powers. Whether we get our news from television, newspapers or the internet, we’re inundated with highly emotional trust issues. Take the examples of the turmoil around a third bailout for Greece, the fear over a nuclear arms agreement with Iran, and the disgust with declared international truces in Ukraine, Korea, and Yemen and undeclared domestic truces in Ferguson and Charleston. In the US, trust issues will be a dominant theme in the presidential campaign as candidates accuse, blame, and attack. Reporters rely on phrases such as “can’t trust,” “lack of trust,” “trust but verify,”and “rebuild trust.” For most of us, these phrases are just diplomatic talk for “What were you thinking?” and “No, and Hell no!”
Nine people were killed by Dylann Storm Roof in Charleston’s historic black church and the debate about how to categorize his actions is fierce. Is it domestic terrorism or mass murder? Is it a case of drug-induced mental illness or a hate crime? The debate embraces some of the most controversial issues of our time: guns, race, alienated young men, and the confederate flag. The question before us should not be which of the labels and issues are relevant and correct. Rather, the question should be how to address the volatile mix now surfacing in terrifying blasts with increasing frequency.
Dr. Fiona Citkin urges minorities and immigrants to work together to bring meaningful, positive change in the U.S. in her Huffington Post article, “Immigrants and Minorities of America, Unite!” Yes, there are many benefits to bringing minorities and immigrants together, but there are also numerous pushes & pulls involved in uniting them, in establishing their local-global connection. I have long maintained that “Harmonize NOT Homogenize” is key to our working together, but today’s highly emotional environment makes even this approach difficult.
When regional Native Americans convene in Chattanooga’s First Tennessee Pavilion, you’ll find me there, too. This year, the gathering seemed larger and more energetic than ever. I come to admire the colorful dress, hear the drum circle, and watch the dancing. The booths full of Native American arts and crafts are irresistible and my drawers are full of jewelry purchased there. I also come for the honor guard, a promenade of Native American veterans, police, firemen, and war mothers.
The “Us vs. Them” mentality is universal. It’s embedded in how we define ourselves as individuals and as communities. For every “Us”, there’s a “Them”. Whether by nation, region, religion, language, or religion, it’s human nature to differentiate. Fortunately, while the phenomenon is a given, the related actions are not. In a world where limited resources can whither away communities, cultural differences increasingly generate violence. Watching the news today is an exercise in confusion as to which war we’re seeing, which era, and which players are currently killing each other off with a seemingly endless supply of arms. It’s tempting to think that little has changed. Yet, the attack on the French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, compels us to re-examine the change that impacts us all: technology.