Thursday, February 2, 2017

Activating Tenant Power!

 Today the Housing Justice League launch it's new tenant leadership development training series which will take place every month at a different apartment complex and include smaller trainings in between each month based on the needs of each complex.


The first training was help at City Views at Rosa Burney in historic Mechanicsville. Resident leaders and new tenants came together to learn how to strengthen their tenant association and how to connect with other tenant associations to win victories around better HUD contracts, better living conditions, and stronger affordable housing policy in the city. The trainings are open to any tenant that want to begin the process of building or strengthening a tenant association of tenant union.



If you are a tenant that would like to receive training there are two ways to go about it. You can message the Housing Justice League at HousingJusticeLeagueATL@gmail.org about attending the next scheduled training, or you can inquire about hosting a training at your complex. This service is provided by the Housing Justice League at no cost. Now more then ever Atlanta needs a tenant movement to combat rising rents and unbridled development.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Quakers to Trump: Sanctuary, Not Walls

Quakers to Trump: Sanctuary, Not Walls
AFSC speaks out on executive orders, urges congressional action

WASHINGTON, DC (January 25, 2017) Today, President Donald Trump announced sweeping executive actions that would expand the border wall, cut federal funding to sanctuary cities and increase the number of people Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will target for deportation. The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) – a Quaker organization that has worked for immigrant and refugee rights for almost 100 years – denounced these policies as dangerous and divisive.

“For more than two decades, border wall infrastructure has contributed to the deaths of thousands of migrants fleeing poverty and violence who are forced to cross through deadly terrain,” said Pedro Rios, director of AFSC’s U.S./Mexico Border Program. “This human rights disaster will only be exacerbated with more miles of border walls and excessive, unaccountable enforcement.” While Trump’s executive action paves the way for wall construction, additional congressional action will be needed to fully fund the project. AFSC is calling on Congress to do everything in their power to stop wall construction and to protect the human rights of migrants and those in border communities.

Trump also signed an executive order limiting federal funding to “sanctuary cities.” More than 350 jurisdictions across the country have enacted policies prohibiting local officials from taking actions like asking people about their immigration status, holding people so ICE can detain them, or sharing information with ICE. 

“Limiting collusion between ICE and local law enforcement has been an essential first step to keeping our communities and families safe from unjust deportation policies,” said AFSC’s policy impact coordinator Kathryn Johnson. “We’re calling on congress to respect the Fourth Amendment and oppose legislation that punishes ‘sanctuary cities.’”

The executive orders also dramatically expand the number of Customs and Border Patrol agents, call for aggressive immigration enforcement within the country, and for mandatory detention at the border – including of children and families.

“These policies are immoral, astronomically expensive, racially discriminatory, and threaten to tear apart families and communities” said Johnson. “That’s why AFSC and our partners across this country and around the world are standing together to demand congress oppose these priorities.”

AFSC’s programs outside the U.S. are also voicing concerns. “Through our work in Central America and Mexico we know that many people fleeing to the U.S. are doing so because of violence and extreme poverty,” said Douglas Juarez, AFSC’s Regional Migration Program Coordinator. “Closing the U.S.’s doors to these children, women and men puts their lives at risks as they are returned to the danger they fled. These problems must not be addressed through security and militarization, but through following international law and respecting everyone’s right to migrate.”

But AFSC and other organizations are not just waiting for congress to take action. They have launched a campaign, called #SanctuaryEverywhere, to help everyday people protect each other from these attacks. According to Lori Khamala, who directs AFSC’s immigrant rights program in North Carolina, they hope to equip thousands of people with training and tools to create sanctuary wherever they are.

Says Khamala, “whether we are welcoming refugees or working to stop deportations; protecting religious groups who have been targeted and attacked; working to ensure that Black Lives Matter by interrupting anti-Black violence; or protecting the rights of LGBTQI people, we are all in this together.”    

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The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that promotes lasting peace with justice, as a practical expression of faith in action. Drawing on continuing spiritual insights and working with people of many backgrounds, we nurture the seeds of change and respect for human life that transform social systems.


Monday, January 23, 2017

Turner Field Neighbors and Students Unite to Fight GSU/Carter Development Sponsored Gentrification


Press conference before council meeting
On Tuesday, Jan.17th, one day after Atlanta celebrated MLK day, Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition (TFCBC) residents and students packed City Hall to speak out against Turner Field stadium purchasers. On Dec.31st, 2016, Georgia State University and its development partners closed a purchase deal to acquire Turner Field stadium and its surrounding lots. This deal, however, did not include the detailed Community Benefits Agreement TFCBC has researched and arranged over the past two years. GSU and Carter Development have taken a stance of non-negotiation, and no-CBA, despite active outreach by Turner Field residents to the contrary. The refusal to include a Community Benefits Agreement in the purchase deal, first through the sale by the City, and later in the purchase by GSU, has created a climate of non-negotiation. Without a CBA, there is no guarantee that development in and around Turner Field will not displace families, nor economically benefit residents who remain. The welfare of the Turner Field Neighborhoods, and especially its most low-income residents, has been dramatically de-prioritized by the City of Atlanta, and their future neighbor, Georgia State University.
Students join residents at the MLK march the day before

In response to these actions of disregard, on Tuesday, residents and students spoke out. Protest began when Mayor Kasim Reed took the podium at City Hall. Dozens turned their backs in silence to Reed, who has overseen the stadium’s sale and its subsequent (mis)allocation of purchase funds. They remained standing throughout Reed’s speech, physically filling most of the audience space. Reed exited the council, but not TFCBC’s protest. 

Community members turn their back as Mayor Reed speaks
Residents and students again took the floor during public comment. For nearly four hours, Morehouse and Spellman College students, Peoplestown residents, GSU students, NPU-V district chairs, and Housing Justice League organizers spoke out against the CBA’s absence in the Turner Field purchase deal. Senator Vincent Fort detailed the history of the Turner Field neighborhoods, and how the purchasers’ refusal to sign a CBA was only the latest in a string of unfriendly developments. “The residents of Peoplestown and beyond have been put under the thumb of developers for far too long. Their priorities for their community need to be raised up. The Turner Field Neighborhoods demand a Community Benefits Agreement that acknowledges their humanity. No CBA, No Deal!”

“Without the CBA in the sale of Turner Field, the community was not promised safety, not promised job security, not promised the right to stay in their homes. It is violent that the City of Atlanta would undertake such a sale, in complete disregard of residents’ welfare,” noted Agnes Scott activist Idil Hussein.

Throughout the comment session, speakers gave statements of high intensity that directly addressed the City and GSU’s failure to negotiate with residents. Spellman activist Eva Dickerson indicted City Council representatives as unsatisfying black female role models, and highlighted the need for non-official black woman activists to take on leadership and direct political change. GSU activist Sam Hogan recorded dissatisfaction with Georgia State University and Carter Development for continuing to undercut residents. HJL staff member and tenant organizer Sherise Brown demanded greater transparency from the City in its development negotiations. “The City only met with a few residents from Summerhill during the purchase negotiation…and the same with GSU and Carter. This hand-picking of residents does not give other neighbors the opportunity to voice their concerns…and it leads to purchase deals like this one, with no CBA.”

Morehouse activist and ATL is Ready organizer Avery Jackson noted during public comment, “This loud, clear-spoken collection of students standing alongside black communities against city-wrought gentrification…this is the new unchained, unregulated politics of 2017. We are not here to ask questions or demand change. We are here to re-set the negotiation table so that community voices can never not be heard.”
Public officials and development stakeholders have often argued that any Community Benefits Agreement negotiation is cost-prohibitive. But, they fail to acknowledge that the investments and priorities addressed by the CBA could be funded entirely from the sale proceeds of Turner Field.

“The sale has thus far generated at least $30 million in revenue, but has been invested into another corporate-sponsored stadium rather than the Turner Field Neighborhood communities. Eminent domain law has been used as a tool of urban gentrification, allowing the City to land-grab from the Turner Field neighborhoods,” noted Housing Justice coordinator Tim Franzen and PRC president Columbus Ward. Short of revising the eminent domain ruling and regaining land, TFCBC members seek to orient the development process in ways that would benefit the community. Repaved streets, better insulated schools, and more fresh produce-carrying grocery stores would all be small examples of such a process, and indeed, are the objectives of a CBA.  
Students sit-in during City Council meeting


After the speakout ended, students took to the chamber floors for a sit-in. They broadcast a Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King speech as councilmembers conducted their affairs, twirled car keys, drew silent attention to Councilwoman Carla Smith, and altogether unsettled business as usual. This creative resistance will amplify if and as the Turner Field purchase deal moves forward without a Community Benefits Agreement. TFCBC activists are redoubling their commitment to stop inequitable development in their community.    

Monday, December 19, 2016

Residents and GSU Students Threaten to Block Turner Field Development if Binding CBA Not Agreed Upon

Outside Atlnta City Hall
As the final sale agreement for Turner Field is set to be completed by the end of the year, the surrounding communities of Summerhill, Mechanicsville, Peoplestown, and Pittsburgh still have no binding CommunityBenefits Agreement.

Today Turner Field area resident and GSU students meet at the capitol to send a clear message to the city and the developers of the Turner Field property.

“As residents, we simply can't afford another development project that further displaces our community members and has no real community engagement, and no real accountability to our neighborhoods”, stated longtime Peoplestown resident Alison Johnson.

Public officials and development stakeholders have argued that any Community Benefits Agreement negotiation is cost-prohibitive, but fail to acknowledge that the investments and priorities addressed by the CBA could be funded by proceeds from the sale of Turner Field. The sale is expected to generate at least $30 million in revenue, but instead of investing in our communities, our public officials are investing in yet another stadium. That land was stolen from our community through eminent domain and urban renewal, and we demand that it be returned to the neighborhoods that have lost so much across so many decades.

“Students of GSU stand in solidarity with the Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition. We will do everything in our power to ensure that President Becker sits and negotiates a Community Benefits agreement with the coalition. President Becker should expect a good fight from students on this. It is our responsibility to ensure our tuition does not go to a purchase that will not benefit the communities it will affect”, stated the United Students Against Sweatshops, a TFCBC ally.


 “If we must set up a tent city, we will; if we must chain ourselves to construction equipment, we will; if we must fill the jails over and over, we will. We are prepared to do whatever it takes to stop yet another questionable and inequitable development project in our community, and we call on everyone to stand with us in our time of need!” Stated longtime Peoplestown resident Columbus Ward.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Graduation Ceremony Disruption Serves as a Public Warning

On Wednesday, Dec, 14th, members of the Turner Field campaign coordinated a direct action at Georgia State University’s mid-year commencement ceremony. During the University System Chancellor Hank Huckaby’s commencement address, residents and students intervened with chants of “Dr. Becker, do the right thing” and “CBA or no deal.” Their chorus sounded through the Georgia Dome, and received focused attention from Hank Huckaby and Mark Becker. Huckaby berated the protestors, and incited police officers to remove them from the seating area.  

Asma Elhuni, JT Pennington, and Athri Ranganathan were pushed out of the Dome and taken to a holding room. There, they were detained and interrogated by police for two hours. The encounter was largely non-confrontational, though officers handcuffed Ranganathan and claimed he was lying about his name, date of birth, and social security number. After a delayed acceptance of Ranganathan’s information, officers issued criminal trespass notices to all three individuals. Asma, JT, and Athri are currently under a two-year ban from entering Georgia State University property. They are amidst discussions on how to fight this heavy-handed ruling.

The administration's back-turning to Turner Field residents, unwillingness to negotiate, and drowning of voices has incited community anger. The action was an intentional jab at GSU President Mark Becker and his refusal to discuss a Community Benefits Agreement with Turner Field Neighborhood residents. The threat of GSU-sponsored displacement of Turner Field residents is imminent, and must be countered. The Housing Justice League and its allies stand against the removal of Turner Field residents from their homes. It will continue this fight as the purchase deal moves forward and effects ripple through the Turner Field neighborhoods.

GSU is finalizing its purchase of the Turner Field stadium on Dec. 31st. The Turner Field campaign, a broad coalition of residents and students, is fighting for this purchase to benefit the community. The Community Benefits Agreement for which it is fighting ensures that GSU must gain community consent before developing the Turner Field stadium. The campaign prioritizes the right for residents to remain in their homes and for the community to regain legal ownership over its property. Turner Field residents demand that their voices be lifted up and seriously considered.    

Image may contain: 5 people, people standing, crowd and outdoor Image may contain: 3 people, shoes, tree and outdoor

Residents and students gave a public warning to Mark Becker and his administration on Wednesday. The campaign commits to continuing action until GSU seriously engages residents and their demands. There is much at stake in the purchase deal, including the future of the Turner Field neighborhoods-- it cannot be taken lightly.