Friday, April 3, 2015

March From ATL to Valdosta for Kendrick Johnson

Today American Friemds Service Committee is excited to provide support to Atlanta-based grassroots organization, The CommUNITY, as they lead a march from Atlanta, GA to Valdosta, GA, to raise awareness in the case of Kendrick Johnson.  Johnson was found dead on January 11, 2013 in the gymnasium of Lowndes High School in Valdosta, amidst now notoriously questionable circumstances. Johnson, 17 at the time, was a junior at Lowndes High.

 Marchers will be walking 17 miles per day, to symbolize Kendrick Johnson’s age when he passed, with shuttles assisting progress by night, and seek to arrive in Valdosta early on the afternoon of Monday, April 6th.

Organizers from The CommUNITY will be delivering a letter to authorities at Lowndes High School, requesting a moment of silence for Johnson (something which has not occurred to date), at the school’s graduation on May 23rd, as well as an honorary diploma for Johnson, who would have graduated this year.  They are asking this diploma be given to his sister, Kenyetta Johnson, who was denied the opportunity to walk the stage at her graduation last spring, due to the controversy surrounding her brother’s case.

Representatives from a variety of activist groups and churches will be in attendance at the march’s launch, and have offered financial and logistical support to marchers.

Many of the supporting groups, and The CommUNITY, have been involved in recent activism around civil rights and police shootings in Georgia, and see a direct tie-in to the Johnson case: “We march 17 miles a day, marking the years he lived. We march in remembrance of ALL lives lost, and all lives we advocate to save. We march to protect those that fight every day to live,” said Queen K, of The CommUNITY. 

Guest Writer,
Jim Chambers

RFRA Bill Defeated in Georgia!

American Friends Service Committee wants congratulate all who have worked tirelessly against discrimination, including legislators and the many different groups who fought for the defeat of Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Georgia!  We are grateful for the leadership and work of Georgia Equality, and we know that in the final days amazing organizing work in Indiana may have been the straw that broke the camels back for RFRA in Georgia.

We are especially proud of Moral Monday Georgia Participants, Emma Stitt, Jess Reznicek, Lorraine Fontana, and Megan Harrison, who went to jail to highlight the issues, and we are deeply moved by the sacrifice of two women, Emma and Jess, who courageously chose not only to stay in jail until RFRA was defeated, but await release on the state’s accord in solidarity with other women not able to bond out.

Their willingness to put aside the comforts of freedom to shine a spot light on the door to discrimination that RFRA would have swung open is nothing less than heroic. Jess and Emma’s personal sacrifice was driven by their Christian faith, which provided a one of many religious voices against RFRA across the country.

Defeating RFRA is an important victory for all Georgians. As we celebrate we must not forget that the sponsor of the bill, Senator Josh McKoon has been very clear about his intention to introduce the bill again next year and his unwillingness to add an amendment which would bar the law from being used to discriminate against anyone.

We look forward to honoring Emma and Jess with a celebration upon their release.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

How You Can Help Residents Take on Displacement and Lack of Food in South Atlanta

Pittsburgh Residents Hold Their Signs
American Friends Service Committee, working through Occupy Our Homes Atlanta, has been engaging in some amazing work around the Turner Field Area communities. As some of you may know last year we worked with dozens of Peoplestown residents to facilitate a listening project. Our findings were that affordable housing was at a crisis level, low income housing units were approacing unliveable conditions, and there was a major lack of access to fresh food that stretch well beyond Peoplestown.

With the Beltline project moving in and the Atlanta Braves moving out the communities around Turner Field have caught the eye of developers in a big way. We've already seen a huge spike in rental prices. Development isn't a bad thing, in fact folks want to see their communities developed; folks want development that benefits those that have lived in the community for decades. This get to a core belief of AFSC's Atlanta Economic Justice Program; that communities should be controled by those that live in them.  We are working with residents in Poeplestown, Mechanicsville, Summerhill, and Pittsburgh to launch housing justice/anti displacement campaigns, support community gardens, and insure that real affordable hosuign and community contro, of land is part of any benefits package that comes out of the Turner Field Agreements.

 We have some quick needs for resources to cover specific costs. I hope you will consider taking a look and investing what you can into the efforts of these amazing residents standing up against tremendous odds.

One of the Many Signs Already in the Community
We have these new yard signs that read, “Stand Together, Stop Displacement, We Matter”. They look great and they provide a visible housing justice presence in the community. We have a lot of ground to cover and we’re about out of our initial order. These signs aren't cheap! In fact they cost $8 a piece! So we hope, with your help, to raise at least enough to order 100 more ASAP! Can you help us raise $880? Your dollars will help us build the door to door housing justice visibility we need in the community!

Tommy Moore Prepares to Plant
Tommy Moore has been growing food all over the struggling Pittsburgh community, located just south of downtown Atlanta. Pittsburgh lost 86% of its wealth during the financial crash. Half of the homes are still vacant and gunshots can be heard every night. It's a virtual food desert. Tommy needs $200. To buy new seeds and replace tools. Will you help me have his back?

Lastly, WE NEED CANVASSERS! We are doing three canvasses a week and need more volunteers to knock on doors.
Tuesday and Thursday: 5-7
Saturday 12-2pp
We always meet AT 1101 Hank Aaron Drive, SW (Brick Building)30 minutes early to do a brief canvassing training and go over talking points. Please come if you can!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Two Christian Women Refuse Bail Until RFRA is Defeated!

Emma Stitt far left, Jess Reznicek far right
It's been five days since a group of women entered Senator Josh McKoon's office to share their concerns with sb129(Religious Freedom Restoration Act). The women were very quickly told that they would be arrested if they didn't leave the office despite the fact that it was during business hours. The women stated, "We will wait until the Senator is able to meet with us." They were quickly arrested.

Emma and Jess wait to board prisoner transport 
Jess Reznicek and Emma Stitt felt so strongly about the potential harm of RFRA, they have refused to post bond and will remain in jail until the RFRA bill is defeated, or for the duration of their sentence, which has yet to be determined by the courts. Their refusal to use their privilege to get out of jail is further demonstration of their desire to remain in solidarity with the women of Georgia who are not able to post bond, as well as all of the women of Georgia who will be adversely impacted by RFRA. As Emma and Jess are led by their faith to wait in a jail cell the debate around RFRA continues. Over the course of the last week Senator McKoon has refused to allow an amendment to the bill which would stop it from being used to discriminate against the LGBTQ community and women stating, "That amendment would completely undercut the purpose of the bill."

Emma Stitt, 29, has been with the Open Door Community in Atlanta for four years, where she leads weekly soup kitchens and showers for the homeless, ministers to prisoners throughout Georgia, and participates in non-violent street actions to demand justice for the poor, imprisoned and marginalized.  

Jess Reznicek, 34, is a member of the Des Moines Catholic Worker community in Iowa, which is committed to a simple, nonviolent lifestyle as they work among the poor. Although Jess lives in Iowa, her passion for women’s reproductive rights transcends state lines and has led her to act in solidarity with Georgia women through this action against RFRA. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Four Georgia Women Arrested in Senator McKoon's Office After Requesting a Meeting with Him Regarding RFRA Bill

Today a group of women was arrested with Moral Monday Georgia and coalition partner Georgia NOW, attempting to deliver a message to Sen. Joshua Mckoon regarding HB 129. Commonly referred to as the "religious freedom bill" this GA House version of the nationally known RFRA bills has been called a "license to discriminate bill" and is a hot button issue for groups working on LGBT Rights, Ending Violence Against Women, and Reproductive Justice. According to Jackie Rodriguez, President Georgia National Organization for Women, "This bill has far reaching consequences for the health and well being of the women and Georgia. This will not only effect the LGBT community, who is already lacking protection under Georgia law, but it will also be essentially declaring open season on women in this state. We are providing a state sanctioned bill to commit violence against women and roll back what little reproductive rights we have left in this state."
Megan Harrison, Lorraine Fontana, Emma Stitt, and Jessica Reznicek, were arrested attempting to delivery signs to Sen. McKoon that ready "No RFRA Yes WOMEN" and were quickly met by capital police. McKoon refused to meet with the women , having them arrested instead. Refusing to leave until they could pass there messages along to the Senator, they were quickly escorted out by capital police and detained. On the eve of the pending committee vote for HB 129, Emma Stitt and Jessice Reznicek are refusing bond, committing to remaining in custody until the bill has been voted down by the House Judiciary Committee.