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.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

As the Election Begins, 40k Newly Registered Voters Have Been Left Behind in Georgia

Today on the second day of early voting, a delegation of folks representing a number organizations delivered over 33k petition signatures to Secretary of State Kemp’s office demanding that voters, some having registered as far back as May of this year, be added to the voter rolls. With early voting launching Monday, the Georgia Secretary of State is sitting on valid voter registrations. The most important role of the secretary of state's office is to make sure elections are fair, accessible, and secure. Processing these registration forms is not only the right thing to do — but it's also his job.

Color of Change and PowerPac+, and were joined by leaders and activists from Moral Monday Georgia, including American Friends Service Committees, to insist that the Secretary of State do everything in his power to stop this latest voter suppression attempt and uphold his oath to Georgians.

After making brief statements to the press we delivered the petitions to Kemp's office and demanded a response in the next 24 hours. To date Kemp's office has refused to give any reason for his refusal to add the 40k newly registered voters into the system, and he has likewise refused to meet with Moral Monday or other long standing civil rights groups like the NAACP Georgia.

The fact is that this election has already started; the polls are officially open for early voting and 40k newly registered voters are being denied access to the polls. 40k is more than enough voter to through the election, which calls into question the legitimacy of Georgia’s claim to democracy. It is deeply troubling that even to the casual observer following this story it seems that Georgia’s Secretory of State is successfully attempting to block 40k people of color from having access to the polls in 2014.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Youth Building Power From Atlanta to Ferguson

Last night a van load of Atlanta youth, organized by the newly launched Gen Y Project,  began the long drive toward Ferguson, MO to participate in what organizers are calling a weekend of resistance.

The call was put out by Hands Up United, Organization For Black Struggle, Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment and other partners in Ferguson.

There will be a series of public events-marches, convenings, panels, concerts- to build momentum for a nationwide movement against police violence.

 The weekend culminates with the launch of St Louis' own Moral Monday actions, as they put it, "Power concedes nothing without a demand. On Monday, we’re taking our cue from the fearless activists in North Carolina who were inspired to fight back against right-wing attacks there and across the South. They kicked off the Moral Monday’s movement for progressive change by engaging in civil disobedience every week, reminding all of us that these actions have been a part of every major movement for change. We’ll be hosting a series of actions throughout the Ferguson and St. Louis area."

We are really excited to be able to support the Gen Y Project and even more excited to see the surge in young young people all over the country rising up in their communities against police violence. In Atlanta and beyond we are beginning to see young people transform a political moment into a youth led political movement.

Organizing takes resources, and sometimes those resources can be harder to come by in youth led projects.  From the van rental, gas, and lodging the costs add up. This weekend we are asking folks to show their support by investing a few dollars into this effort. Should we raise more then is needed to cover the trip we'll be excited to put it to use with other local Gen Y Projects.

For those that want to follow our Atlanta groups trip we will be posting updates here: Gen Y Project and here: South Star News.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Families With Disabilities Bring Special Delivery to Fulton County Chairperson John Eaves

Today American Friends Service Committee joined Occupy Our Homes Atlanta, residents with the Fulton County OETH Permanent Supportive Housing Program, and representatives from Atlanta Jobs With Justice and American Postal Workers Union to deliver a demand letter to Fulton County Chairperson John Eaves office after hearing the concerns of women in the program and doing and onsite visit earlier in the week.

This isn't the first time we have had serious issues with the program and their treatment of the women in it. Click here to read about the last time we organized alongside women in the program.

Months ago Chairman Eaves office had promised to find housing for a number of the women who refused to be displace from the community the had come to embrace, he had also promised to assist with temporary housing, both promises never happened. More recently Eaves had made a commitment to bring improvements to the program during a face to face meeting with the women and hasn't followed through with those commitments either.

With a number of women's housing on the line we decided to take action with a number of women that were brave enough to be front and center with their grievances, there we many who met with us privately who did not come out of fear.

We delivered the following letter to Chairman Eaves office and we were able to meet with program staff.

Dear Chairman John Eaves,

We are here today because you have the power to fix the Fulton County OETH Permanent Supportive Housing Program and clear barriers from our path to self-sufficiency. In July, you moved our families from Vine City to the airport and we pulled our children through yet another new start. They are still struggling to find their footing in a new school and we are experiencing yet another round of staffing, program terminations, and threats. The staff says we must hold a job without access to childcare. They tell us we may not finish our degree. Every step invites termination from the program and return to homelessness. The shelters are full, Mr. Chairman.

We ask that you use your power to lift our destiny out of the hands of a vindictive program staff and the employees of the Regency Park Apartments. How can you put a flesh and blood woman and her six-year old child out in the street for making noise? Every woman facing program termination must be allowed to appeal and an impartial jury must hear her case. Stop Tracey DelGado’s termination immediately. We have signatures from Tracey Delgado’s neighbors who deny she has been noisy.

Program termination must not be used as a threat to coerce any woman to give up her right to freely decide or to protect the rights or the privacy of her children. If you do not allow a transparent process, the right to appeal, or a fair hearing then this is just a cruel weapon that beats us down and keeps us submissive under your control.

We ask you remove all barriers to our pursuit of education to lift our families out of poverty. The promises of the program are so often unmet, are communicated so poorly, and have changed so many times, that we cannot risk relying on it solely. Please don’t cut off our opportunity to prepare in advance of the day that you decide to put us out.

We ask that you allow us to watch each other’s children so that we may go to work and move our families up and out.

We ask that you allow our children to play in the front of the complex like other children who live at Regency Park. You have told us to send them to the dog park. Our children are not dogs.

We are asking for the right to be treated with respect and compassion by the case manager and supervisors in the Fulton County OETH housing program. We understand that there are rules to be followed and we are not asking for a handout, just stability for our families and the chance to go on.
After delivering the letter we were granted a rather long meeting to hash out many of the concerns the women had. While it's clear that the program still has a laundry list of problems we are glad that the County was willing to meet with us to discuss concerns and we are happy the women of the program led the discussion. We did come to some agreements and set a time for a follow-up meeting to discuss problematic policies of the program, explore how groups like Occupy Our Homes Atlanta might work with these families, and develop a stronger understanding of how the program works.
We certainly don't believe this issue is resolved, but we are hopeful that a path of resolution may have begun today. Many of the women in the program launched an online petition yesterday, and we encourage folks to check it out by clicking here.