by Dewayne Bingham, The University Echo —
After months of protesting police brutality and running a progressive, grassroots campaign for City Council, activist Marie Mott fell just short in her bid for the council’s District 8 seat.
Despite being a first-time candidate, Mott won 35% of votes in the District 8 election—receiving only 373 votes fewer than incumbent Councilman Anthony Byrd.
The Chattanooga native shared that she felt encouraged by what she was able to accomplish in such a short period of time, being among the youngest of candidates.
“I think I did exceptionally well running for the first time,” she said. “Three years ago, nobody really knew who I was.”
Among her successes, Mott raised almost $15 thousand in campaign funding, helped establish Healing Gardens Cha to combat food insecurity in urban communities within Chattanooga, and connected with countless neighbors by canvassing, despite the challenges posed by COVID-19.
Especially with elderly and marginalized community members, Mott noted that face to face interaction was one of the most invigorating and rewarding aspects of her campaign. Although she did not win a seat on City Council to represent her district, she shared that canvassing door to door allowed her to better empathize with her community’s needs and serve moving forward.
“It’s so imperative that we get back to really knowing one another, because that’s the way we garner respect from one another,” Mott said. “If it was about winning, it was about me… I want people to know that I love them. I love this city and we have so much potential.”
Mott envisions her role moving forward to largely revolve around her work with Healing Gardens Cha, whose staff of around ten volunteers work to promote self-reliance and food security within the city.
The group focuses mainly on growing fresh vegetables in Ridgedale’s NEEMA Garden. They are also constructing a smaller garden at Exile off Main Street and collaborating with The Howard School, Orchard Knob Elementary and Woodmore Elementary to provide for students.
“Being able to grow our own food is a way we can begin to build power and take care of ourselves,” Mott said. “We’re not waiting on someone to recognize that we need help. We can organize and do these things ourselves, to meet the needs of one another, because we’re community members… We’re neighbors. We’re family.”
Another way Mott plans to continue advocating for Chattanooga is through featuring local artists, musicians, chefs and activists on her upcoming podcast 423Marie.
“I want to put Chattanooga culture out there to the forefront because there’s so much talent here,” she said. “I want to show more than just the problems. I want to show all of it—the beauty and the struggle.”
Mott emphasized that, now more than ever, the nation’s eyes are on Chattanooga.
She cited the Washington Post’s recent story about the lynching of Ed Johnson on Walnut Street Bridge, arguing that the city’s historic and more recent struggles against racial injustice have garnered national attention.
“Sometimes we see these things happening and it’s easy to get deflated,” she said. “But I don’t want people to feel that way. I’ve seen great change happening. We’ve made strides, and I just want to see that continue.”
Even without the agency bestowed by a seat in public office, Mott plans to continue educating her community about the hardships and the promise of calling Chattanooga home.
Mott shared that she was greatly inspired by Ella Baker’s philosophy that strong people do not need strong leaders.
“I want you to feel and truly be empowered to bring about the changes in your community,” she said. “What I want to do is stoke the fire in you that helps you understand you are the ones you’ve been waiting on—that we are the ones we’ve been waiting on.”