Rescue and Restoration is a community organizing effort established in 2014 to address health, political, education and economic issues that affect predominantly African-American communities. The City Council Movement is the political caucus of Rescue and Restoration and was founded in 2017. The City Council Movement is indebted to Black elders who provided critical leadership in igniting this movement, and we center Black and marginalized communities in our continued fight.
The photo gallery below includes photos from the first People's Assembly of the City Council Movement on January 21, 2017. Amelia Parker, incumbent At-Large C city council member who ran as a part of our movement, and current candidate David Hayes are both pictured in this early work.
In 2014, a community group called Rescue and Restoration was convened by Advocates for Neighborhood Development after a position paper of the same name, authored by Zimbabwe Matavou, articulated the conditions of Knoxville's African American communities. Topics of concern included: poverty, the lasting effects of urban renewal/removal, gentrification, homelessness, civic engagement, police violence, environmental issues, and more. This group became Rescue and Restoration and embarked upon community organizing efforts in education, politics, health, and economics.
The political caucus of Rescue and Restoration expanded its political efforts, holding the first People's Assembly in January and committing to involvement in electoral politics. The City Council Movement was born. With nine seats on Knoxville's city council, the City Council Movement determined to elect five new council members whose values aligned with the goals of Rescue and Restoration. Five committed members running as a slate would create a solid majority on the city council that could effect change in city police and improve the lives of Black and Brown, poor, and working-class people in Knoxville.
In 2017, City Council Movement (CCM) ran a slate of four candidates. In District 3, the City Council Movement supported Seema Singh (formerly Seema Singh-Perez), a social worker and member of the Democratic Socialists of America. Amelia Parker, a human rights attorney and Black Lives Matter chapter co-founder, ran as CCM's District 4 candidate. CCM supported two candidates in a packed District 6 field of sixteen: Rescue and Restoration co-founder Zimbabwe Matavou and the Reverend John Butler.
CCM shook up Knoxville politics with great success in its inaugural year. Seema Singh was elected to her District 3 seat, and Amelia Parker's race was one for the history books. After tying with longtime politician Harry Tindell at 488 votes each, the policies for a tied race quickly came into question. A runoff election was deemed infeasible by the city, and so the sitting council was tasked with deciding whether Parker or Tindell would move on to the general election and face Lauren Rider in November. Council members voted 9-0 in favor of Harry Tindell, drawing criticisms from the community and from CCM about an undemocratic and biased process. Matavou and Butler did not advance in their District 6 races; CCM finished 2017 with one of its four candidates elected to council.
With Seema Singh's inauguration to council, CCM implemented a cabinet structure to support incumbent candidates on research and policy. Realizing the impact of the annual city budget on the distribution of resources, CCM members focused educational People's Assemblies and organizing efforts around the budgeting process. Particularly, CCM members advocated for a participatory budgeting process that would allow community members to have a greater say in how their tax dollars are used.
Equipped with experience from the first round of elections and cabinet formation, CCM embarked on another season of elections. Not to be deterred by 2017's contentious results, Amelia Parker ran again, this time for At-Large Seat C. Amelia was joined by community activist David Hayes, who ran in At-Large Seat B, and Charles Al-Bawi, a child welfare attorney who ran in District 5. This time, Parker emerged with a win, the second CCM candidate to be elected to city council. David Hayes ran a competitive campaign, with 45% of the vote against opponent Janet Testerman.
Unable to be stopped by a global pandemic, CCM organized a series of virtual people's assemblies and educational events on Facebook LIve. These community conversations included:
March 25: A Community Call on COVID-19, featuring council members Amelia Parker and Seema Singh
April 27: Our Community, Our Decisions: Local Democracy and COVID-19
May 4: Community Budget Review, featuring Councilwoman Amelia Parker
October 24: Fall 2020 People's Assembly
The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare some of Knoxville's most harmful policies toward poor and houseless individuals. At the same time, Knoxville has experienced a tragic uptick in deaths from gun violence in 2021, both from within the poorest communities and by police. The police killing of Anthony Thompson Jr. at Austin East High School in April ignited a new wave of protest and political action among community members. Community members are simultaneously expressing concerns about a new baseball stadium in downtown Knoxville and about continued gentrification in the wake of an affordable housing crisis. With five council seats up for reelection in 2021, CCM once again supported a slate of candidates committed to people-centered solutions to these problems. Activist Nzinga Bayano Amani (formerly David Hayes) returned for a run in his home district of South Knoxville. Jen McMahon, former CEO of social enterprise Century Harvest Farms, competed for the District 4 seat, and entrepreneur Deidra Harper sought election in District 6. Each of these candidates demonstrated in their own ways that they are committed to CCM values.
Unfortunately, CCM's 2021 slate of candidates did not advance to the November 2021 ballot. CCM is proud of Nzinga Bayano Amani, Jen McMahon and Deidra Harper for putting themselves out there and working really hard up against the centrist establishment and conservative big money. Knoxville is all the better when candidates with diverse viewpoints step forward and run for office. Thank you to everyone who continues to believe in the vision of a Knoxville For All and a brighter day for our city when social services and the real needs of residents take priority over policing and baseball stadiums. And, a big thank you as well to everyone who spent time on the phone and knocked doors and tabled at events talking and listening to voters. It takes a village to bring about long term meaningful change.
The City Council Movement will support a slate of candidates in 2023 and is currently meeting with individuals considering a run for office next year. CCM provides financial and field support to city council candidates running for office. If you are thinking of running and your values align with ours, send us an email at email@example.com