Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Occupy Our Homes ATL is Fired Up from Wildfire!

It’s was hard to be fired up at such an early hour when we set out for the Wildfire Convening 2014 in Fruitland Park, Florida; but by the end of day one we were under the palm trees and fired up for our weekend! An in depth training experience the Wildfire Project brought together progressive groups from all over the country. We had the opportunity to meet groups engaging in work similar to that of Occupy Homes Atlanta, and some much different, but we shared one thing in common, our desire for change!

The long weekend was emotional, raw, and powerful, and brought together people from diverse backgrounds into one place of strength and power. We were able to confront and discuss our relationship with the world under the current power systems of patriarchy, white supremacy, and capitalism; and how that shapes our interactions with the world, our work, and internally. These discussions continued through-out the weekend and we discussed a better work and what those power systems could like to benefit the people, instead of oppressing them. 

Designed in a way that made our entire group think critically, the Wildfire training allowed the entire OOHA team to examine our own organization and the strength and power of our amazing network. We learned and exchanged ideas about direction action, organization, structure, fundraising, and all things vital to running an organization seeking progressive change. There were tears, laughter, singing, and screaming but we emerged that much more powerful. We are now thinking, questioning, planning, and adding that much more critical thought and attention to our movement. This critical analysis and strategy is what will allow us to thrive well into the future.

Above all else the most important part of the trip was the people. We met Dream Defenders, the Ohio Student Association, Occupy Our Homes MN, the Wildfire Team, and Get Equal, and made commitments to support and amply each other’s work. These connections will help us build opportunities for collaboration and learning that go far beyond one weekend. We are building for a better future and it will be possible because together we are unstoppable.

Want to find out what we learned? Join us for Amply Your Voice; A Storytelling Workshop tomorrow 11/20 from 7-9pm at AFSC 60 Walton St, Atlanta! 

Guest Blogger:
Jackie Rodriguez, Project Coordinator, Occupy Our Homes Atlanta

Friday, October 31, 2014

Trick or Vote!!

Trick or Vote is the nation’s largest get out the vote effort in costume and the GenY Project decided to join the cause. Last night the Gen Y Project got hyped up, filled a bus, and went to the West End to spread the word. Armed with voter pledge cards and candy the group set out to remind the neighborhood why it's important to utilize their right to vote. Together we hit the West End Mall and neighboring shops sparking lots of conversation, giving out information, and of course people welcomed the free candy. Some had already voted and others were geared up and ready to vote on November 4th.

With all the efforts to block young people and black/brown bodies fro the polls in Georgia, getting out and voting is more important than ever. Voting isn't the only thing our communities need to do to change a political landscape that isn't working for a lot of us, but it's an important piece of the puzzle that we only lose when we don't participate.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Jim Crow Business in Georgia

Moral Monday Georgia, along with American Friends Service Committee, Held a Rally and Sit in on this past Monday at the Georgia Capitol in Protest of Clear voter Suppression Tactics by Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

Today we learned that the judge presiding over the case has decided not to intervene in the Secretary of State’s work despite the fact that young folks who registered, and have proof that they registered, are missing from the voter polls during an election that has already started.
We are in what appears to be a crisis of democracy, and on Monday several Moral Monday Georgia participants felt strongly enough about the issue to march the following letter into Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office:

Dear Secretary of State Brian Kemp,

This past year we've seen a historic effort to register new voters in Georgia and change a political landscape that continues to benefit a few people at the cost of everyone else.  

Right now, weeks after early voting has begun 40k eligible voters have yet to be entered into the voter rolls. 40k is enough to win or lose this election. We know that most of these 40k are young people who have never voted before and come from communities of color.

On October 24, 2014 four witnesses were not allowed to testify at the hearing against Brian Kemp's office. All four had registered to vote and are not on voter roll yet. Two of them are young first time voters.

We are troubled that you call the lawsuit, "frivolous” This is not frivolity; access to the ballot box is essential to our democracy.

Imagine if you had gone through the trouble of registering to vote and when Election Day came you were told your name was nowhere to be found.

We have a simple question: Mr. Secretary – if you have found all of our missing registered voters, where are they?

The reality is that the election has begun and already 40k voters have been silenced, shut out of the process. We belief that this is a crisis of democracy, and today some Moral Monday Georgia participants are willing to nonviolently put their freedom on the line to put a spotlight on this crisis.

We have decided to remain in your office until this issue is addressed. This means we would like to see every one of the missing registered voters entered into the voter rolls. We believe that in a democracy every voice matters, and we’re counting on you to do the right thing and make sure the promise of democracy in Georgia is realized.


Concerned Georgians

Moral Monday Georgia


Eight Georgians (Kevin Moran 66, Greg Ames 66, Daniel Hanley 33, Lorraine Fontana 67, Peggy Marx 58, Joel Solow 27, Molly Swann 62, and Kathy Acker 62) were arrested for refusing to leave Kemp’s office until he answered.

Ironically they were arrested for disrupting government business. Sadly these days it seems voter suppression is the business of Kemps office, which sits directly across from Governor Deal’s office. Arguably no one stands to gain from blocking young people and communities of color more than Governor Deal who sits several spaces higher on the totem pole above Kemp.

Another sad irony is that the reason Kemp wasn’t in the office that day is that he is currently on a GOP Victory tour. We today Governor Deal and Brain Kemp did get a victory, they have successfully built a barrier to the pole for the group of people who are most likely to vote against them. It’s a victory that should not be celebrated.
There's a name for this kind of business, we used to call it Jim Crow. Jim Crow existed to ensure that policies and laws that only benefited some remained by stopping those negatively affected from participating in the democratic process. Jim Crow will forever be synonymous with nasty, mean business. 

We are proud to be able to share space with the Moral Monday Georgia arrestees as their bold action shined a light on the kind of government business that is worth disrupting.
Some mainstream press articles on Monday's action:


Friday, October 17, 2014

Gen Y Draws a Crowd in the West End

AFSC's new youth led Gen Y Project planned and coordinated a movie screening and listening session in the West End area featuring the movie: BlackPower Mixtape. Black Power Mixtape was produced by Goran Olssan. This movie examines the evolution in the Black Power Movement and the black community from 1967-1975
Gen Y Project chose Black Power Mixtape because we felt like this film would open peoples mind and allow folks to understand how the black community has been oppressed by the system since the birth of this country. It also points out how The Black Panther Party was governing their own communities and empowering the black community to become activist and conscience about the racist world that surrounded them back then. It was sad and heartbreaking to see how drugs destroyed our people and took their minds away from the revolution, democracy, and future of the black community.
 After the movie, everyone had a chance to turn in Q/A cards to discuss key events (all events was key) that touched them the most about the movie; that allowed us to have conversations around issues in our communities today, and how we can get our black communities to become more conscience about the issues that affects and oppresses our youth and young adults.
Oscar Cain
Gen Y Project

Thursday, October 16, 2014

It's True; Wall Street Makes for Terrible Landlords

On Wednesday October 15th at Noon, members Occupy Our Homes Atlanta will gathered to deliver a petition and a giant check to Invitation Homes to demand that the company employ fair rental practices in the management of their large number of Atlanta single-family homes.

For the last two years, private equity firms have been buying up foreclosed homes in various cities across the country and converting them to single family home rental properties with an eye towards securitizing the rent their tenants pay. In Atlanta, the largest investor of this kind has been The Blackstone Group, the world’s largest alternative asset private equity firm. The Blackstone Group owns companies like Sea World, The Weather Channel, and Hilton Group. Now they own thousands of houses in Metro Atlanta, and tens of thousands across the United States, through their subsidiary Invitation Homes.

Nefesh Chaya signed a two-year lease with Invitation Homes so that she and her service dogs could settle into the neighborhood. She is facing eviction today because she requested reasonable repairs to a home that had been vacant for a while. Invitation Homes promised that mold removal and repairs would be complete before move in day, but they weren't, and Nefesh had to push the company to follow though. In September, Invitation Homes decided they weren’t going to spend any more money on repairs. They added the cost of a kitchen plumbing fix to Nefesh’s online bill. Invitation Homes refused to accept her rent without the disputed repair cost when she traveled to their office and then they filed an eviction.

Invitation Homes acquired their Atlanta homes for pennies at foreclosure auctions, has driven up rent in the city, and are willing to threaten eviction to get more money out of Atlanta residents. Neighbors tell us that the last tenant in Nefesh’s home was pushed out this way too. Occupy Our Homes Atlanta is concerned that Invitation Homes’ predatory rental practices undermine stability in our neighborhoods and promise to transform a large number of Atlanta single-family homes into revolving doors.

As we gathered outside the building that Invitation Homes leases it was clear that the word was out on our visit as security had a rather large perimeter around the building and were actively looking for our group. When we were spotted we made it clear that our purpose was to deliver a ceremonial check, along with real cash, and a set of festive balloons to Invitation Homes on behalf of Nefesh. The check represented the amount owed minus disputed repair fees(in Georgia repair fees are legally allowed to be disputed and are seen as a separate matter not connected to lease/rent fee).

At first we were refused entry into the building and Invitation Homes refused to come down. Eventually Invitation Homes Allowed two people to come up to their office where they refused to accept Nefesh’ rent money, claiming that unless she paid for the repair and added legal fees, they would proceed with a forced eviction.