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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Marie Mott, a local activist and candidate for Chattanooga City Council, performs a libation during a protest against the killing of George Floyd at Miller Park on Monday, June 1, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn. Floyd, 46, died after being handcuffed and pinned for several minutes beneath Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin's knee.

I have a right to my anger, and I don't want anybody telling me I shouldn't be, that it's not nice to be, and that something's wrong with me because I get angry. — Maxine Waters

How are the voices of Black women received in this city and county? Especially outspoken, unapologetic Black women?

Are such Black voices received with respect?

And openness?

Gloria Griffith.

Dr. Everlena Holmes.

Annie Thomas.

Maxine Cousin.

Or do we in white Chattanooga instead shut down?

Do we ignore their voices? Try to mute them?

Dr. Tommie Brown.

Joanne Favors.

Tamara Woodard.

The Rev. Charlotte Williams.

When these Black voices are unfiltered and angry, how do we in white Chattanooga respond?

Are we uncomfortable?

Do we turn silent?

Or angry in return?

When these Black women — regardless of their politics — refuse to placate, appease or play nice, how do we respond?

When they hell-no reject the yes-ma'am-sugarcoat roles and customs our city can prescribe onto them, how do we respond?

Are we humbled?

Or furious?

Shelia Harris.

Dr. Willie Mae Hubbard.

Capt. Jerri Sutton.

Fannie Mae Crumsey.

Linda Morris.

Ash-lee Woodard Henderson.

The Rev. Ann Pierre.

Willie McClendon.

Edna Varner.

If Black women speak to us honestly, can we hear it?

Really, really hear it?

Margie Reynolds.

Lakweshia Ewing.

Ardena Garth.

Elizabeth Dixon.

Elizabeth Williams.

Theresa Turner.

If not, then why not?

If we shut down or grow angry, then why?

Chantelle Roberson.

Linda McDaniel.

Valoria Armstrong.

Donna Elle Harrison.

Demetrus Coonrod.

Elaine Swafford.

Katherlyn Geter.

Karitsa Mosley Jones.

And Marie Mott.

"I'm Black and a Black woman and vocal," said Mott.

Mott, 32, is a radical Black woman in a city that both loves and hates such Blackness. She has taken risks. She has been threatened. And she won't stop.

"Those that love me and those that call for my lynching," Mott said. "I have a screenshot where a lady said I needed to be hanged."

On Thursday, Aug. 27, Mott, a leader in this spring's Black Lives Matter protests and a City Council candidate, will stand in a Hamilton County courtroom alongside Cameron Williams and other activists, each facing charges ranging from blocking a roadway to inciting a riot.

Mott faces six charges, four in connection with incidents that allegedly occurred on July 9, 2020.

That night, Mott admits to taking down the county sheriff's flag — not the American flag — from its pole outside the county jailhouse.

And burning it.

On Thursday, those charges — theft, vandalism, reckless burning — should be dropped.

And the cases dismissed.

Whether or not Mott burned the sheriff's flag is not the issue. I'm not arguing her guilt or innocence.

She was motivated by conscience.

Yes, she destroyed property.

So did the Boston Tea Party patriots in 1773.

Both acts were done to highlight, emphasize and dramatize injustices hidden in plain sight.

So let us not confuse the minor for the major.

Which is worse?

Burning the sheriff's flag?

Or a sheriff's office that has left beaten and abused citizens — from the roadside violence to baptismal coercions — in its wake?

"It's getting to the point I am using two hands to count," Mott said. "How many instances of brutalization and complete disrespect for a human body that is unarmed — how many of those do I see and witness without it snapping me psychologically?"

Which is worse?

Destroying a jail flag?

Or the jail itself, packed with Black, brown and white bodies in often nightmarish conditions?

"Treat me like a child of God because that is what I am," Mott said. "That is all we're asking for. We're not going to stop until all people are treated like human beings."

This city has witnessed a long chorus of outspoken Black women making this same statement.

Yes, these women are different. Some are far more radical than others.

Yet all are outspoken Black women, which unites them in a shared struggle:

Can we in white Chattanooga hear and listen to them without shutting down? Without resenting, ridiculing or dismissing?

Can we see our own freedom is linked to theirs?

Can we ... open up?

"My job is to send some shock waves to the heart," Mott said.

These names? They are just a few of many. I apologize for any deserving women who went unnamed. The fault is mine, not theirs.

After all, what does it mean to be radical and Black in this city?

To take risks?

To stay true to yourself in a world often opposed to such a self?

To love one another?

To demand love in return?

"The majority of Black women are radical," one Black friend said. "We have to be."

David Cook writes a Sunday column and can be reached at dcook@timesfreepress.com.

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David Cook
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