Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Building Tenant Power South of I-20

American Friends Service Committee is excited to be working alongside long term residents in Peoplestown, Mechanicsville, Summerhill and beyond in an effort to build and strengthen tenant associations in low income apartment complexes. Atlanta is many decades behind other cities it's size when it comes to a culture of tenant associations and tenant rights.

For over a year we have partnered with Peoplestown Revitalization Corporation, Occupy Our Homes Atlanta, and a number of other community groups to build the SMP(Stands for Summerhill, Mechanicsville, and Peoplestown) Housing Justice Movement.

Last month with the help of Right to the City Alliance we launch a monthly training curriculum specifically for tenant leaders designed to help them build and strengthen tenant associations in the area. Mass displacement is a dynamic problem that happens when communities are developed too fast. It's not a simple problem, and there's not one way to combat the issue. One way mass displacement happens is the destruction of low in complexes, but with strong tenant associations residents can fight back and in some cases force owners to sell the property to tenants at a fair current market price. We've already had some success and we're really excited to be working with a new group of strong emerging tenant leaders in the area!

Right now the project could use support. One way you can support this important work is by making a contribution of any size to our fundraising drive by clicking here!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Training For Change In Atlanta

 This past Sunday American Friends Service Committee had the pleasure of working with the Atlanta chapter of Zulu Gatekeepers to facilitate a community organizing 101 workshop. Participants learned the basics of how to build a new group, develop and launch an issue based campaign, identify allies, and build power in Atlanta communities.

The turnout and energy was so great that we have decided to start offering regular organizing workshops again in partnership with Zulu Gatekeepers. Workshops will focus on base building strategy, media messaging, the art of activism, and campaign development. We will work to keep workshops free to community member's and grassroots organizations.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Community Day! Giving Back While Buiding Forward!

Dozens of young ones got free hair cuts

Dance Parties broke out!
What happens to Turner Field once the Braves leave has been a hot topic in Atlanta. Will that land become a Casino, will new stadiums replace Turner Field, will an Atlantic Station type development go down? One thing that’s for sure is that the communities surrounding Turner Field can’t afford another development project that benefits a few well connected folks while further cutting off and displacing long term residents that have been living here long before it was cool to move into the area.

We need strong, organized communities to make sure that development that happens in the area benefits those that have been holding down the community for years, but we also need to have time to relax and enjoy each other, to enjoy the community we love!

Building a movement takes a lot more then neighborhood meetings and strategy session. Active base building should include cultural events, house parties and other social events that bring people together.

Our giant home defender pledge!
Slip n Slide was a hit!
This past Saturday we had the opportunity to work with community partners to do just that. Community Day brought hundreds of residents together at Four Corners Park in the heart of beautiful Peoplestown. Although the event is in Peoplestown it's a celebration of all the amazing Atlanta neighborhoods south of I-20. Families came out for an afternoon filled with music, entertainment for the kids, community education, and lots of give aways!
Lots of painted faces!
With the help of the dillaFoundation and a ton of local businesses that volunteered to put out donation boxes we were about to give out close to  300 back packs filled with school supplies and dental packs! We also had music all day, food for all, a slip and slide for the kids, free ice cream, and a whole lot more.

Bags, and more bags!
In an effort to bring more residents into the movement to protect, improve, and expand affordable housing we asked folks to sign the pledge to defend their homes and the homes of their community member, hundreds signed the pledge! We’re excited to continue to work closely with the newly formed resident led SMP Housing Justice Movement and Occupy Our Homes Atlanta as the lead the way in the fight to stop mass displacement in the Turner Field area.

This event simply wouldn’t have been possible without the support of:
Zulu Nation
Youth on the Move
Boynton Village Tenants Association
McGruders Grocery

Hop Hop gave back all day!
We even had live hawks!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Residents Bring Concerns About Turner Field Development to Mayor Reed

Yesterday American Friends Service Committee joined the TurnerField Community Benefits Coalition at city hall to hold a press conference and deliver a letter to Mayor Reed. Over sixty residents from the neighborhoods surrounding Turner Field showed up on Tuesday morning to send a clear message to the Mayor and city official. One of the residents, Doristine Samuel who’s lived in Mechanicsville since 1957 stated, “We used to have a beautiful community. We had everything we needed. Big development has destroyed our neighborhoods, from the highway to the Olympic stadium, to Turner Field. We need development done right, with community members involved. We know the Mayor wants a legacy, but it must be a legacy we can live with.”

The letter asks the Mayor to make a public commitment to completing the Turner Field Livable Centers Initiative Planning Study (LCI) process before negotiating any development deal. It requests that Mayor Reed use the recommendations from this study to initiate a competitive bidding process for the massive redevelopment project. “Our communities have suffered long enough as a result of top-down development,” says Summerhill resident John A. Colabelli. “We don’t want a quick fix solution. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to restore the surrounding neighborhoods and reconnect downtown to the entire south side of Atlanta.” The LCI Planning Study grant was awarded to the City of Atlanta in February 2015 and represents the largest LCI grant ever-awarded by the Atlanta Regional Commission. The study is due to be completed by July 31, 2016.

After delivering the letter to the Mayor’s office in mass the group split up into teams and made sure every city council member, every county commissioner, and every Atlanta County recreation authority representative had a hand delivered letter by the end of lunch.
American Friends Service Committee is excited to continue to support this important coalition work. We are informed by the idea that communities should be controlled by those that live in them. We can no longer afford to have a few well connected folks who already live in overabundance make massive profits off public-private development deals while the surrounding communities fall into decay. We have the coalition effort can turn the tide of bad development deals in Atlanta and encourage all to get involved!

The Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition is a coalition of 42 neighborhood associations and advocacy groups representing thousands of residents in the communities surrounding Turner Field. The Coalition seeks community participation in decisions related to the redevelopment of the Turner Field Stadium area.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Tenants Organize in Peoplestown, Summerhill, Mechanicsville!

This week tenant leaders from multiple apartment complexes came together to learn how to organize tenant associations across the Peoplestown, Mechanicsville, and Summerhill communities. We were excited to the room absolutely packed with residents ready to organize against what some see as the coming displacement that often comes with big development or low income communities and build strong tenant associations that have the power to improve their living conditions. It's not only exciting that tenant associations are emerging in these communities, they're emerging together as a rising tide.

The room was absolutely packed and clear next steps were made for each complex represented. AFSC has partnered with Occupy Our Homes Atlanta over the last two years to a listening project designed to launch organizing work that's informed and led by residents. The tenant organizing project is one of the results. By the end of the year we hope to see seven new tenant associations in the three neighborhoods, two have already formed!

Issues raised by tenants included black mold, deplorable conditions, poor treatment by property management, retaliation for individual attempts to organize from property managers, and displacement of long term residents. Despite that fact that there is still a degree of fear of retaliation from property management, it was exciting to hear that when residents act as a collective , as was the case recently with Boynton Village, they win!

AFSC is exciting to continue to support this important work as the eye of development becomes more and more fixated on the Turner Field neighborhoods.