Chattanooga pastor hopes Silverdale discussion ignites healing in community

Staff Photo by Olivia Ross / Chrystal Brown shows a pamphlet and book July 5 that were made in remembrance of her son, DaQuarrius Brown. Brown was an inmate at Silverdale at the time of his death.

A Chattanooga pastor is hoping to ignite healing and encouragement by hosting a panel discussion about alleged mistreatment and medical neglect of incarcerated people at the Silverdale Detention Center.

"We hope that Friday will bring a fire that will ignite healing, not only these families, but that it will also empower other families and others to speak up and to speak out and to provide healing for the entire community," Eastdale Village Community United Methodist Church Pastor Charlotte Williams said in a telephone interview with the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Seven Chattanooga-area families are scheduled to attend the panel discussion organized by the Concerned Citizens for Justice at 7 p.m. at the church, 1403 Tunnel Blvd. The public is invited.

The Concerned Citizens for Justice, a civil rights organization founded in 1984 by Maxine Cousin, Annie Thomas and Thomas' two daughters, was founded after Cousin's father, Wadie Suttles, died on Dec. 6, 1983, while in Chattanooga police custody, according to the organization's website.

Officials reported that Suttles jumped from a bed and struck his head on the concrete floor, which caused his brain to swell, ultimately leading to his death. Cousin, however, said medical examiner records determined Suttles was beaten to death, which is why she continued asking for outside intervention for decades.

A Chattanooga attorney recently requested a transfer for her client from Silverdale to the Tennessee Department of Correction, citing inhumane conditions, which the attorney claims have led to the deterioration of her client's mental health. The attorney is using a video inside the cell to support her court motion.

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office -- the facility's administrator -- indicated inmate vandalism was responsible for the conditions shown in the video.

"I ask that we remember that they (incarcerated people) are human," Williams said.

One of the families expected to participate in the discussion panel is that of DaQuarrius Brown. Chrystal Brown, DaQuarrius Brown's mother, claims medical neglect at Silverdale led to his death.

Williams asked that those who might be discouraged by the legal system look to the written word for encouragement.

"We have to pray and ask for courage, for empowerment and for the words to speak up and speak out, because if we allow fear to paralyze us, then we are complicit in the oppression that continues," Williams said. "If not you, then who? Because if we just allow it to go on, then nothing will change."

Contact La Shawn Pagán at or 423-757-6476.