Chattanooga Councilwoman Speaks with UTC Students about Local Racial Issues

By Sarah Chesek, Staff Writer-

This week students had the opportunity to lead an interview with Councilwoman Demetress Coonrod. The event allowed participants to learn more about racial issues within Chattanooga. 

The event was organized by Dr. Eckelman Bergel, an associate professor of history and the director of Africana Studies. Her goal was to allow students to “gain a better understanding of Chattanooga’s racial and racist history.” 

During the 75-minute interview, students asked various questions related to racism, politics, gentrification, COVID-19, and sex education. 

Coonrod not only answered questions presented by students but also acknowledged the imprecations in Chattanooga like the hardships felons receive after being released from jail and the lack of affordable housing. 

Coonrod spoke a lot about her personal struggles after being released from prison and being a woman of color in politics. 

She mentioned that people who encouraged her to run later sided with her opponent. She also talked about the difficulties of working with those who don’t directly understand the struggles Black citizens face day-to-day. 

One student asked about how the police department could regain trust in the Black community after the police brutality that has taken place in our society. 

Coonrod believes more like-minded citizens should be involved with the police department. She suggested inviting the police department for committee events to listen to the concerns of citizens instead of just calling them when there is an issue. 

Her ultimate goal for Chattanooga is to develop it into a place where citizens are not judged by the color of their skin or socio-economic status. She also discussed wanting more affordable housing and livable wages. 

“I see these interviews as an opportunity for students to deepen their awareness about systemic racism in education, politics, culture, public health, and criminal justice in the city,” Bergel said.  “Importantly, these conversations are intended to initiate, restore, and build lasting connections between UTC and the wider community.” 

Coonrod encouraged students throughout the discussion to become involved in local politics and offered her help to any student who was interested in learning more about her position or local government in general.

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