Editor’s Note: This article uses the pseudonym ‘Bill Johnson’ in place of the CUS founder’s actual name in order to maintain anonymity.
Written By Sarah Chesek
Anonymous. Urgent. Civic Action. Under no authority but their own citizenship, the Chattanooga Urbanist Society dropped off “illegal” benches and repaired bridge guardrails. Tired of watching the city’s infrastructure go unaddressed, the founder of CUS realized the cost of inaction—someone possibly falling–—was far worse than possibly being caught.
“Chattanooga Urbanist Society is a group that exists to take direct action to protect and uphold the rights of pedestrians, cyclists, and make the public realm a better place to experience in Chattanooga,” stated Bill Johnson, founder of Chattanooga Urbanist Society.
Walking into the Soddy Daisy Community Library feels like stepping into an unexpectedly warm hug. String lights hang from the ceiling, local art rests atop the shelves, and two pudgy cats amble around the 2,880 square feet of space that Curtis Cecil and Kelly Flemings are proud to call their library.
Lincoln Park used to be a safe space for the African American community to enjoy themselves. In fact, before integration in the 60s, it was the only park in Chattanooga they were allowed in. The property is currently owned by Erlanger, who have built parking lots over most of the park, reducing it down to just five acres. Compared to the original twenty acre plot, it’s now a mere skeleton.
Tiffany Rankin grew up in the area and remains a resident in the neighborhood adjacent to the park. She has always been a community leader, but she started to get heavily involved and raise awareness for the park when she heard the City of Chattanooga was planning to extend Central Avenue. The road would cut into a boundary of the park, sizing it down further. The plan was to “urbanize” the area, which, to Tiffany and many others in the community, meant displacement and gentrification.
The Union Gospel Mission through its GRACE Discipleship Program works to help men dealing with life-controlling issues. Program graduate and current volunteer, Dan Johnson, goes into the importance of the program itself, the people who come to Union Gospel Mission for help, how faith intersects with the work done, and why he stays there.
Seth Carpenter is a photojournalist as well as the current Photo Editor of UT Chattanooga’s student-run newspaper, the University Echo. Recently, he told the story of how a nurse and her family have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. He hopes the stories he tells will make a difference in the lives of people around him. You can contact him at Sethcarpenter101@gmail.com.