Lorenzo Kom'boa Ervin

Lorenzo Kom'boa Ervin, born in Chattanooga, TN in 1947, began his political activity during the student sit-in movement in the early 1960s when thousands of youth throughout the South demonstrated to overturn the racially segregated Jim Crow laws. Ervin joined the NAACP Youth Group, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and later the Black Panther Party and became a traveling organizer for the Southeastern Unite States. In the summer of 1968, following the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, a so-called "Black Power" grand jury convened in Hamilton County, TN to investigate the activities of the Black civil rights organizations. Framed up on charges of "gun-running" and facing "shoot to kill" orders by the police and FBI, Ervin was forced to flee the country. Captured and beaten by US agents, Ervin was returned to the U.S. to face more charges. He served almost 15 years of a two-life sentence in federal prisons until an international defense campaign won his release in 1983.

The night Kom'boa Ervin was released from prison, a 66 year old African American man, Wadie Sutters, arrested on vagrancy charges, was beaten to death by his jailers in Chattanooga. The Concerned Citizens for Justice was formed, and as its president, Kom'boa Ervin helped organize demonstrations and protests to pressure the police and politicians to stop the killings. (Documents released in 1987 showed that in a 10 year period in Chattanooga, over 25 unarmed individuals had been murdered by police officers.)

The CCJ was influential in creating the Ad Hoc Coalition Against Racism and Police Brutality, comprised of organizations all over the South that have been active in organizing against klan and police violence. In 1987, they filed a class action lawsuit against federal voting rights violations which resulted in the election of a new nine-member city council (four Blacks) and the first Black police chief being hired by the city. No Black had been elected to political office in Chattanooga in nearly 100 years.

Kom'boa Ervin now resides in Atlanta, GA where he is one of the founders of the Justice for Jerry Jackson Committee. On December 7, 1995, Jerry Jackson, was gunned down by city police officers as he lay on the ground begging for his life. He was shot five times in all. The D.A. has announced his intention to file murder charges against the officers after witnesses to the crime refused to recant their testimony and after a series of protests led by the committee and the mother of Mr. Jackson.

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