Thursday, August 14, 2014

Jailed for Justice Tour: Day 16, Marietta

 What an amazing stop to end the Jailed for Justice Tour! Emerson UU and Cobb County NAACP rolled out the red carpet for our amazing panel and we were able to end this incredible tour on a high note. One of our larger panels, on our last night of the tour we heard from 5 people who were arrested, including UU Minister, Karen Reagle. Two of our panelist, Bob Goodman and Sara Gregory, were telling their stories for the first time and were terrific!

It was amazing to see the relationship that was created around the Jailed for Justice Tour. The UU congregation and the Cobb Co. NAACP joined together to cohost the event and built a new working relationship in process that will help MMGA grow in Marietta. As we heard from the Cobb Co. NAACP President from the pulpit of the Emerson UU Sanctuary, I knew that a new coalition had been formed, Moral Monday Marietta! This will only strengthen the Moral Monday Ga coalition and it added to the power of our last tour stop.

The mood was festive as people crowded into the beautiful Emerson Sanctuary, it was a great multi-generational crowd, who were on their feet after hearing from our panel. After hearing the personal stories of our arresttee's for the past 15 days I thought it might become repetitive but I was pleasantly surprised! I was still enthralled and inspired by each one of our panelist day after day. Even for the people who had spoken before, I learned something new every time.

As I heard each person's story I was reminded of the real beauty of Moral Monday. This movement is about each one of us. Individual people standing up and saying they aren't going to take it anymore. When we demand a better life and better world it is obtainable, if we work together. Moral Monday has given us that opportunity. It has given organizations a place to come together and create a space to work together. It has given us a call to action, a rallying cry for us to mobilize around. I cannot wait to see what Moral Monday will look like in Marietta and in each location we stopped on during the Jailed for Justice Tour.

As I look forward to the Moral March on Georgia on August 23rd I know that the people we met today in Marietta will help us raise our voices and demand change in Georgia. We will demand a better state and we will get it, because united we stand strong.

Jackie Rodriguez, Guest Blogger, AFSC Community Organizing Intern

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Jailed For Justice Tour: Day 14, Columbus

It was an eventful day in Columbus Georgia for the Jailed For Justice Tour! Stop #15 of the Jailed for Justice Tour would not have been complete without speaking out against an injustice happening right in Columbus. We decided to draft and hand deliver a letter to the Mayor of Columbus, Teresa Tomlinson, urging her to uphold the First Amendment in Columbus by making sure that the School of the Americas Watch be permitted to hold their annual vigil.

Held in front of the gates of Fort Benning, organized by the Schools of the America Watch,  this peaceful rally and vigil has been held at the gates of Fort Benning for 24 straight years; 2014's vigil is set to be the 25th. The movement has never been denied a permit. One irony is that if the military should stand for anything in this country it should be protecting our constitution, not exporting war, counter insurgency, and nation building, which is what the School of the Americas(or WHINSEC as they now call it) does behind the gates of Fort Benning.

Click here to read more about the SOAW movement history

After delivering the letter we decided to head to the tour stop and I believe we were greeted by most of the media outlets in the Columbus area, and more importantly a really huge crowd! One thing that this tour has made clear it that folks are ready for a Moral movement in Georgia and judging by the excitement in the air last night Columbus is ready to lead the way!

There were several hundred chairs set up and by the time we got started there seemed to be at least fifty people standing, we simply ran out of room. The issues on the minds of folks in the community who gathered with us weren't unlike other concerns we have heard from around the state. People are living with an unfair criminal justice system that sees young black males as targets and revenue sources once placed in prison. Communities are seeing ever decreasing social services budget that are hitting there communities hard. We also heard from Columbus, and from around the state that people were unhappy with the governors' refusal to expand medicaid, and that we needed to work on gun violence in our communities.

We look forward to seeing our brothers and sisters from Columbus in Atlanta on August 23rd when we hold our Moral March on the Capital!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Jailed for Justice: Day 13, Rochelle

If one word could sum up our Rochelle stop it would be passion. Everywhere we have gone, all of the people we have met, have shared the belief that together we can and will make change. Rochelle was no exception. It was so inspiring to see person after person flooding into the church to take part in stop 13 of the Jailed for Justice Tour. Here is this tiny little town, we saw one of the biggest turn outs of the entire tour and the crowd was ready. 

The citizens of Rochelle gathered because they were ready for something new, they were ready for change, they were ready to ban together and make change a reality for their town and it was an honor for us to be a part of that. The President of the local NAACP delivered a particularly rousing speech in support of change. “We cannot rely on these people in Atlanta to make change, we need to make change right here for ourselves.”

During the community discussion portion of the program we were troubled to learn that despite the fact that a large portion of the population of Rochelle is black there are no black bank employees, no black law enforcement, and there may not be any black school teachers. Segregation is alive and well in Rochelle Georgia, and folks are ready for a Moral Movement aimed at shaking a status quo that isn't working.

Rochelle is no stranger to movement, in fact just last year Rochelle made international news when one high school student decided to organize the cities first integrated prom. It’s hard for some to imagine but the civil rights movement simply didn't fully take root in parts of the deep south. We were truly honored that the young bold organizer, Mareshia Rucker, that lit that spark was among the attendees last night! It was truly an honor to get to know her!

We are excited for the future of Moral Monday in Rochelle, during our community conversation there were even talks of having a march at the county courthouse. We look forward to that day when we can stand beside our brothers and sisters in Rochelle.  

Jailed For Justice Tour: Day 11, Waycross

Waycross Georgia was the 11th stop of the Moral Monday Jailed for Justice Tour on August 7, and the excitement across the state continues to build. We were hosted at the Gaines Chapel AME Church, which we learned was the oldest Church chartered in Ware County. The audience and program included many community leaders all concerned about the problems that affect Ware County citizens. 

During our community conversation it was revealed that the county currently has an unemployment rate 2 percent higher than the national average.  The citizens also cited concerns about citizens being victimized by the prison industrial complex; one of the most immoral trends happening in the country as a whole. Quality education is another primary concern in the area. 

The Mayor of Waycross honored us with a Proclamation making August 7, Moral Monday Jailed for Justice Day in the city.  Such was the welcome we received and it continued throughout the program. After the Mayor, City and County commissioners, and leadership of the NAACP from both Ware and a neighboring county addressed their constituents and memberships; the of the Moral Monday arrestees spoke to the crowd about what prompted us to take an arrest to draw attention to important issues facing our state. I was one of those speakers. 

As I told the story of my activism and my arrest in protest of the SYG laws in Georgia, I could feel the enthusiasm of the people for such citizen activism. I heard many an AMEN! when I expressed my concern about the travesty of the school to prison pipeline which is enslaving so many of our young black men, often for minor non violent crimes. I could see the pain in the faces of black parents when I talked about the murders of young men of color, and the perpetrators walking free. When I called this what it is, Modern Day Lynchings, the citizens applauded in agreement.

Two of my fellow arrestees also spoke, and were received in the same warm, accepting manner. There was discussion of next steps to create Moral Monday Waycross, and of what that might look like.  We got a commitment from these enthusiastic leaders to bring 2 bus loads of people to Atlanta on the 23rd of August for the big planned Moral March on the Capitol in response to our appeal to join us as a part of a southern solidarity call to action by Reverend William Barber, the founder of the Moral Monday Movement. 

As the enthusiasm continues to grow, the Tour moves on to Historic Macon, Georgia on August 8. We look forward to seeing our new friends from Waycross in Atlanta in a couple of weeks on the 23RD of August.

Peggy Marx, Guest Blogger, Moral Monday GA arrestee

Jailed For Justice Tour: Day 12, Macon

We where greeted with a news crew interested in covering the story of the Moral Monday movement spreading to Macon Georgia, which was a great start to an eventful evening on our 12th city on the Jailed for Justice tour. The panel of Moral Monday Georgia arrestees was once again beautiful and truly inspiring, one highlight was civil rights veteran Rev Fred Taylor, who has been arrested 28 times! Rev Taylor talked about the spiritual aspects of committing his body to civil disobedience and his willingness to endure the consequences in order to bring about real social change.

The highlight of the evening for many was the community discussion about issue folks in Macon would like to take on and what a Moral Monday coalition would look like in Macon. Many issues were touched on but the one that seemed to be on folks mind was the extreme inequalities in the criminal justice system and the targeting of young black males in the Macon area. Tales of roadblocks on Thanksgiving and communities losing their sons to the prison industrial complex were far to common in the crowd. Folks were clear the Macon needs and wants a Moral movement that is both locally strong and connected through out the State of Georgia.

Several in attendance committed to help organize local Moral Monday Macon meeting and organize transportation to the August 23rd Moral March on Georgia.

After the event the NAACP hosted a lovely reception for all who attended. It was another lovely evening, we are truly exciting to continue to build relationships with local organizers in the Macon area. A statewide movement isn't truly statewide without the heart of Georgia; Macon!