Thursday, May 26, 2016

AFSC Position on Trans Pacific Partnership

Five Quaker organizations from Europe and the United States have expressed concern about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the controversial ‘mega’ trade deal being negotiated between the European Union and the United States. 
It is the first time that Quaker organisations, working on both sides of the Atlantic, have spoken out together about such a trade treaty.

American Friends Service Committee, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Quaker Council for European Affairs, Quaker United Nations Office and Quaker Peace & Social Witness, have sent a statement to Prime Minister David Cameron, government representatives and trade officials. They say that TTIP negotiations are prioritising the prospect of short-term economic gain over the longer-term factors necessary to human wellbeing and protection of the Earth.

The statement comes in the context of building opposition to TTIP, as controversial, confidential negotiation documents were leaked into the public domain and the French government has warned that it is considering blocking the deal.

The Quakers say that TTIP will almost certainly hamper international commitments to tackle climate change and global poverty, including the recently agreed Paris Agreement on Climate change and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Quakers are calling for a fundamental rethinking of global trade rules and for future trade deals to be aligned with the demands of these commitments. 

The Quakers also assert mechanisms such as the Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism or Investment Court System hand too much power to large companies, making them “fundamentally antidemocratic in nature and therefore unacceptable.”

“Protections for investors included in TTIP, such as the Investor State Dispute Settlement Mechanism, threaten members’ ability to enact policies to protect people and the environment,” said Kathryn Johnson, representative of the American Friends Service Committee. “This alone is reason enough to reject TTIP as we’ve seen how these mechanisms have been used to undermine environmental, health and other policies and extract billions of dollars from tax payers.”

The Quaker statement also highlighted concerns about the lack of transparency around the deal, the negotiations for which remain largely secret. “It is impossible for civil society groups to get meaningful information about the negotiations,” said Andrew Lane, Representative at the Quaker Council for European Affairs based in Brussels. “Even more disconcerting is the uncertainty about whether or not the national parliaments of EU countries will have adequate opportunity to scrutinise the deal.  If TTIP negotiations continue it’s vital that elected representatives have proper access to information and a genuine opportunity to reject the deal if they consider it to threaten the well-being of people, or the planet.”

The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.

Notes to editors
·         Quakers are known formally as the Religious Society of Friends. Their commitment to equality, justice, peace, simplicity and truth challenges them to seek positive social and legislative change.
·         Trade for well-being, not just for profit: A shared Quaker statement on TTIP and free trade agreements can be read in full at 
·         The Quaker Council for European Affairs brings a Quaker vision of just relationships to the European Union and the Council of Europe. QCEA has worked on trade issues and TTIP since 2013, advocating for trade deals to prioritise the well-being of people and planet, above profit.
·         The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organisation that promotes lasting peace with justice, as a practical expression of faith in action. This work has included decades of grassroots education and advocacy for trade policies that place human dignity, economic justice, and environmental sustainability the heart of the global economy.
·         The Quaker United Nations Office works with the UN, multilateral organisations, government delegations, and non-governmental organisations, to address the interconnections between trade, investment, intellectual property rules and how they relate to poverty, hunger and food insecurity. QUNO engages with all stakeholders from small-scale farmers to trade negotiators, providing safe spaces to explore how the food system could be made to work for the whole of the world’s population.
·         Quaker Peace & Social Witness works with and on behalf of British Quakers to turn faith into action. It is a department of Quakers in Britain, whose representative body discussed TTIP in July and December 2015 concluding that it had “deep concerns about the impact of the proposed agreement”.
·         The Friends Committee on National Legislation is the nonpartisan Quaker lobby in the public interest, and works with the United States Congress to change government policies that perpetuate all forms of injustice. FCNL has worked within interfaith and multi-sectoral coalitions to highlight to elected officials the major environmental, human rights, and labour concerns with the Transpacific Partnership (TPP), TTIP, and other free trade agreements
·         Over 3 million people across Europe have already called on the EU and US governments to stop negotiating TTIP

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Moral Revival Draws a Crowd in Atlanta

Over the last month a quick coalition formed to organize a classic revival with a pretty big twist with Rev William Barber founder of the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina. There was no money offerings taken, no one was cured of physical ailments, no one was asked to repent or be save, anointed cloths were not for sale, this was a different kind of revival. Instead the revival was interfaith with a strong emphasis on social justice. The only pledge folks were asked to give was one to get involved in local efforts to push for policies that increase the minimum wage, make healthcare accessible to those that can’t afford it, protect the LGBTQ community, reform the criminal justice system, protect and expand affordable housing, protect immigrant rights, and more.

Over 400 people showed up the the Revival, which was held at St Mark Methodist Church and over 300 viewed via live stream!

This was an opportunity to lean back into the work we began years ago and acknowledge that we need a mass movement in Georgia that’s bigger than any one organization. This was an opportunity to celebrate and lift up the dynamic work that is happening now as groups press forward on a number of important issues. This was an opportunity to be inspired by each other, to sing together, to smile at one another, to recommit to building the state regular every day Georgians deserve.

Our Mission of the revival: The nation needs the next Great (Re) Awakening in order to build and secure the Third Reconstruction. Based on fusion multi-racial coalitions, the goal is to mobilize faith communities and people of conscience to give moral voice to the call for an anti-racist, anti-poverty, pro-justice agenda to invest in impoverished communities. Leadership will come from faith and moral leaders with deliberate outreach to African-American, Latino, Native American, Asian and white clergy of diverse backgrounds and religious affiliations, along with other leaders with moral authority in an effort to build an enduring base, power and infrastructure that can affect change not only in the current election cycle but also well into the future.

Revival Goals:

1. Build state based power rooted in moral analysis, articulation and activism that can drive persistent movement on policy agendas at the level of state legislatures and governors.

2. Reframe the national conversation from the state up and from the bottom up around moral issues of race, poverty and gender.

3. Create a movement that directly combats the southern strategy that divided African Americans, Latinos and whites who share economic interests, remembering that the southern strategy is used across the country now.

4. Lift up and empower progressive moral voices in the national conversation, including members of the most marginalized sectors of society.

5. Provide a moral framework for policy discourse and provoke robust solution-oriented agendas on poverty and the persistent racial inequalities that plague our nation. Utilize 2016 election as megaphone for the issues.

6. Develop a moral, progressive fusion movement based on the North Carolina Moral Monday model that successfully brings together demographics across race, religion, gender, class, sexual orientation/identity, political party, immigration status, ability and national origin.

American Friends Service Committee is proud to be a part of this effort and we ask that you stay tuned as next steps are rolled out!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Meet Atlanta's Housing Justice League!

It's been almost 5 years since Occupy Our Homes Atlanta (OOHA) was launched in the wake of the worst financial crisis in modern history. Since then, OOHA has worked with homeowners, tenants, small business owners, and everyone in between to fight back against unjust foreclosures and evictions, and built an organization that is truly led by those most directly impacted.

Fast forward to today and the housing crisis in our city has taken a whole new shape. Atlanta is rapidly becoming unaffordable for regular everyday people: Rents are on the rise, affordable housing is disappearing, and people are being displaced from the communities they helped build. Our local governments more often prioritize big developers over community members, and developers are almost always out to make a quick buck without considering the needs of the people, communities, and cultures they displace.

As the fight for housing justice has evolved, so has OOHA. Over the last couple of years, OOHA has honed in on neighborhoods in South Atlanta that are facing rapid gentrification and displacement. They've worked to build tenant associations, push for more affordable housing in the city, and played a leading role in shaping the future of the communities surrounding Turner Field. As they move forward towards a new chapter, it's only fitting that they expand the work and rebrand so members can continue to take ownership of this work.

That's what prompted the launching of the Housing Justice League.

The Housing Justice League aims to help folks who are struggling with displacement, foreclosure, and eviction by organizing to win. We believe everyone should have a place to call home, and want to see an Atlanta where everyone has access to safe, adequate, and affordable housing.

Now they are ready to take the movement for housing justice in Atlanta to the next level and want YOU to be a part of it.

The work has always relied on small donations from people just like you to sustain this important work. A contribution in any amount-- no matter how large or small-- helps ensure that we can continue to build a housing justice movement that fights for an Atlanta that works for everyone.
We are already providing leadership development for tenant organizers, free legal clinics, and organizing infrastructure for communities and tenant associations. We have big plans in store for the future, but we need resources to make it happen.

We're so excited about what the future holds for the work, and we hope that you'll join American Friends Service Committee in supporting this important work! Stay tuned! 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Residents Fight for Turner Field Development that Works for Everybody

Today we were excited to join the the Turner Field CommunityBenefits Coalition, which represents the neighborhoods of Summerhill, Mechanicsville, Peoplestown, Pittsburgh and others nearby Turner Field, has spent the last several weeks collecting more than 2,000 petition signatures in support of community benefits across the communities affected by the redevelopment of Turner Field. 

 This morning Coalition we converged at Atlanta City Hall to deliver thousands of petition signatures to Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority director and Atlanta City Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms in support of negotiated community benefits between the developer and impacted Turner Field communities.

“These petition signatures affirm that Atlantans in the impacted neighborhoods and across the metro area want a new model for major redevelopment projects in this city,” said Jason Dozier, Mechanicsville resident. “We need the Recreation Authority, City and County to know that we don’t want community benefits decided for us – we want to be at the table and part of the decisions.” The petition asks the Recreation Authority to require the developer to meet with and come to an agreement with the neighborhood groups in the impacted areas to determine what the specific community benefits will be. The communities have conducted an extensive community planning process to identify specific recommendations, which are set to be completed in the next two weeks. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Bus Tour and Peoplestown Rally Against Displacement

Photo by Amy Mei Willis
On Saturday, March 19th people sprang into action to prevent displacement in Peoplestown. The day began with a bus tour of neighborhoods that will be affected by the Turner Field development deal and ended with the Peoplestown Rally and March Against Displacement. The Bus Tour was made possible by support from the Metro Atlanta Democratic Socialists of America and Peoplestown Revitalization CorporationWe are also grateful we had students and professors from Georgia State and Georgia Tech with us on the Tour. 

We started the day off with introductions to the work that is happening around Housing Justice in the Peoplestown, Mechanicsville and Pittsburgh neighborhoods. Columbus Ward (pictured to the left) discussed his work in Peoplestown with the Peoplestown Revitalization Corporation throughout the years. There were discussions around previous development deals in the neighborhoods and how that has affected the neighborhoods today. The presentations gave insight into what people would be seeing on the tour. After presentations, we embarked on the Bus Tour.

Photo by Bryan Vana
The first stop was Stanton Oaks, which was formerly Boynton Village, in Peoplestown. Sherise Brown (pictured to the right) spoke about her experience with Stanton Oaks/ Boynton Village. Mrs. Brown spoke about how tenants organized to make sure that Boynton Village remained affordable even after being bought by a different company. She discussed her experiences with renovations of the complex, ensuring that Stanton Oaks got a new 20 year HUD contract, and the tenant association at Stanton Oaks. Folks had the opportunity to ask questions about her experience and what it is like at Stanton Oaks.

The next stop on the Tour was City Views at Rosa Burney in Mechanicsville. Deborah Arnold shared her experience organizing tenants to ensure that City Views remained and remains affordable and that everyone living at City Views has a good, quality standard of living. 

Photo by Bryan Vana
 The Peace by Piece House in Pittsburgh was the third stop on the Bus Tour. Peace by Piece is an AFSC program thats mission is to support and mobilize Black youth and young adults through political education and organizing in order to realize sustainable, sovereign and equitable communities rooted in Black love.  Joel Dickerson, and Khadijah Austin, both from Atlanta, spoke about their experience with renovating a house and community garden in Pittsburgh. The house and the garden are going to act as Peace by Piece Atlanta's hub. Farajii Muhammad spoke about the Peace by Piece and his experience organizing in Baltimore, Maryland. Khadijah gave a tour of the house and showed recent renovations. Joel gave a tour of the garden next door. By the end of the day 17 people signed up to help volunteer with renovations at the house.

photo by Amy Mei Willis
The final stop on the Bus Tour was Tanya Washington's House 148 Atlanta Ave SE in Peoplestown. Once everyone got off the bus we joined Tanya Washington, Mr. and Mrs. Darden, and Miss Mattie Jackson on Tanya's yard. We stood in Tanya's yard and listened to spoken word and resident's stories. Mr. Darden Mrs. Mattie Jackson, Senator Fort, and Tanya Washington spoke about Peoplestown, gentrification, and this block fight. After Tanya spoke, we started the March around the block. 

Photo taken by Amy Mei Willis
As we marched around the block, we stopped and placed "rezoned for gentrification" signs in lots where houses used to stand. All of the houses between Tanya's House and the Darden's house have been bulldozed. Throughout the march we chanted and sang to let our voices be know to the neighborhood that "we shall not be moved."
The Rally left Miss Jackson, Tanya Washington, and Mr. and Mrs. Darden feeling energized, supported, and filled with a great positive energy. We encourage folks to sign and share their online petitionBig Thanks to all who participated! #peoplestownwillnotgodown