Friday, August 29, 2014

Bank Of America: Settle With America!

Last week the Justice Department reached another record-breaking settlement with Bank of America-- this one worth $16.65 billion, with close to half of it being used for relief to homeowners and hard-hit communities. Unfortunately, as we've seen from past settlements, the money doesn't always get to the people that deserve it the most.

A few weeks ago, over 10,000 people signed a petition telling Bank of America to "settle with America." Today Occupy Our Homes Atlanta and American Friends Service Committee joined dozens of other groups around the country as we delivered those petitions to a Bank of America branch in an effort to make our voices heard.

Our message was simple:
With a new settlement with the Department of Justice under negotiation - possibly worth $17 billion - we demand you meet directly with families affected by your peddling of toxic mortgages and destruction of our economy. Only when you understand what your actions have caused will you be able to create a settlement that helps fix what you broke.

Once we entered the bank branch we took a seat in the waiting area and made it clear we were there to simply deliver a petition signed by thousands of American who have lost their homes and their wealth as a result of Bank of America's practices, we also made it clear that we planned to leave the branch once the petition was delivered.

Instead of being conscious of the fact that our petition represented millions of lost homes, broken dreams, and broken promises, instead of simply accepting the petition and politely seeing us on our way Bank of America called the police and threatened to have us arrested despite the fact that we were being lead by a Bank of America victim who despite never missing a payment lost every bit of wealth he built over 15 years of home ownership as a result of Bank Of America.

It's this type of disregard, even disdain, for everyday hardworking Americans that drives the concern around who will actually receive any of this relief money. To date the victims of the Wall Street created housing crash have seen very little relief from the billions upon billions of national settlements.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Moral Monday Georgia Week of Action

Over the last month Moral Monday GA has traveled to 16 Georgia cities in an effort to build the movement Georgia needs to turn the tide against the extremist agenda that continues to negatively impact most Georgians.

While on the tour the shooting of unarmed Ferguson, MO youth Mike Brown took place and has forced the national to take a deep look in the mirror. Now more than ever our young black youth feel unsafe anywhere. The inequities in the criminal justice system have been front and center on Moral Monday Ga’s political platform. So we decided, along with an amazing group of young people who have organically self-organized Ferguson solidarity marches in Atlanta, to merge on these two movements together.

On Saturday August 23rd regular everyday people from all over the state joined us for a Moral March on the Capital. We came together for a massive Moral March on Georgia from Woodruff Park to our state Capitol. The Moral March on Georgia is part of a southern wide strategy to build power against the extreme, economically insane policies that have seen our wages decreased, taken our jobs, seen our homes foreclosed and rent skyrocketed, our children’s education defunded, young black males criminalized and targeted, and our communities less safe. Actions had been planned in 22 states.

Once at the capitol we presented our issue priorities and asked those in attendance to ratify a Moral platform by signing the huge document.

Forward Together means that all of our destinies are linked, that we can't afford to work in issue and organizational silos. Gay straight, black, white, brown, male, female, old, young and everyone in between. We can no longer afford to allow a small group of extremists benefit from separating our communities.
Moral Monday Georgia ended it's week of action today, which marks the 51st anniversary of the march on Washington. Like many other Moral Monday movements our them today was, "Vote your dreams not your fears". Fear mongering seems to be a pretty consistent strategy to separate communities that have a clear vested interest in learning to work together.
We can't afforded to allow the same small group of folks feed off our unfounded fears, we can't afford a political landscape that pressures folks into voting against their own interests, we can't afford a system that continues to benefit those that already have an over abundance of resources while the rest of the state falls behind.

Our Priorities

*Secure pro-labor, anti-poverty policies that ensure economic sustainability

*Provide a well-funded, quality public education for all

*Promote healthcare access and environmental sustainability

*Address continued inequalities in the criminal justice system

*Protect and expand voting rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, immigrant rights and the fundamental principle of equal protection under the law.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

It Will Take More than a Movement Moment

The recent murder of unarmed teenager Mike Brown by a Ferguson police officer while his “hands were in the air” has racial tension at an all-time high. Thousands have flooded to Missouri to demand justice for the high school graduated headed to attend college.

Mike Brown’s life mattered. National community organizations cannot develop effective solutions and strategies for Ferguson if their organizers have not spent time in the area to learn the landscape and culture.

Our best service to the community of Ferguson is to tell the truth. It’s our civic duty to ensure that their voices are not silenced. Carey Jenkins, Program Coordinator for American Friends Service Committee, went to Ferguson to support young leaders on the ground. “Some were tear gassed, shot with rubber bullets, many were arrested all for nonviolent protest. Human and Constitutional Right are being violated. Babies, women, elderly, handicapped, and journalists are being bombarded with tear gas. None of that mattered to the police as the media tried to paint a negative picture of peaceful protesters what I witnessed were those sent to protect and serve as the aggressors." Stated Jenkins.

There's a silver lining to the madness we have seen unfold in Ferguson. Young people of color are self organizing around the country, holding rallies, walk outs, and group discussions. Vital conversations about race are being forced onto our TVs, social media news feeds, campuses, and other public spaces.

The generation currently coming of age is believed to be the most progressive, least homophobic, least racist generation in American history and there are signs they are awakening to spark a movement our country has been in dire need of.

Racism, lack of access to political power, and wealth inequality aren't problems solved with a few protests; it will take more than a movement moment.

Is this generation ready to do the hard work of building and leading the movement our communities need? That's the question many are optimistically asking.

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!