Thursday, March 31, 2011

Building ESL Infrastructure In Clarkston

Today members of the Movement to End Israeli Apartheid Georgia (MEIAG) and Project Hope Atlanta met in Clarkston to take a tour of the space where ESL classes will be taught starting next Tuesday. The ESL classes will be a free service that caters to Palestinian, Iraqi, and other refugee women who live in the area.

The classes represent the first collaboration between both groups. MEIAG has been exploring ways to engage with the Palestinian refugee community for the last year, organizing outings, rides to doctors appointments, and more.

It's exciting to see Project Hope and MEIAG coming together to bring ESL classes right to the doorsteps of refugee women that may not have had access otherwise. It's also impressive that MEIAG's analysis leads the group not only to act for global change by working to end the Apartheid practices of Israel, but to address the local consequences of Aparthied as well.

Kelli's Childcare Collective has agreed to facilitate free childcare in an effort to make classes accessable to mothers in the community.

AFSC Atlanta is exciting to play a supportive role in this exciting new project, and we hope you are too!

You Can Help!

1. We need more volunteer ESL teachers
2. we could really use some help with childcare on Tuesdays from 2-4
3. Donate to cover travel expenses for volunteers

Please contact me if you're able to help at

Tim Franzen
American Friends Service Committee

SCAP Brings Non-Military Options to Stephenson High

Stephenson High school invited Student Career Alternatives Program to their first spring career fair, which took place today. This marked our second visit to the Stone Mountain high school. One striking thing that we again noticed today that the student body is over 99% African American, which seems to further confirm the fact that Atlanta Metro school have become resegregated over the past 20 years.

We were all impressed with the counseling staffs dedication to the students and their post high school careers. So many high school counselors cave into parents request to hold career fairs after school instead of during school. The fairs that take place during school hours are so much more accessible to students.

We had hundreds of students come talk to us through the course of the fair. Students explored ways to serve their country, travel the world, find adventure, get money for college, develop artistic skills, and other job skills training without out having to join the military.

We also provided students that were considering military service with our new DVD, "Before You Enlist" which breaks down the realities of the enlistment contract and interviews young people coming back from Iraq/Afghanistan. We weren't the only folks tabling at today's career fair. In addition to dozens of colleges and a cosmetology school, there was two tables staffed by Army recruiters.

We're excited at the prospect of building a relationship with Stephenson high staff. There's already talk of a summer program collaboration with SCAP!

Tim Franzen
American Friends Service Committee

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"It's My Life" Visual Art!

So we're still putting the poetry, music and video submissions onto the internet, but for now we're gonna go ahead and post all the lovely photos, paintings, graphics, and collages that students entered into the "It's My Life" youth art contest.

Keep in mind that the gallery will be up until April 15th and much of the art is still for sale with all the proceeds going to the artists.

We will also be hosting a closing Friday April 15th from 6-8pm at the AFSC office, 60 walton street, Atlanta 30303.

Tim Franzen
American Friends Service Committee

Students Sound Off to Decrease Fossil Fuel Reliance

Here's the second youth produced video that came out of our Be The Change Curriculum at the Horizons School. This crew of students call themselves the LFFR, of Lower Fossil Fuel Reliance.

We actually spent a few hours with then today to support their effort to make 1000 origami pinwheels to send to President Obama. In many Asian cultures(about half of the LFFR crew is first generation Asian immigrants) it is believed that if you make 1000 origami paper cranes then you will receive one wish.

When the LFFR crew completes their quest to create 1000 paper pinwheels(they got up to 405 today) they plan to hold a press conference at the Horizons school and send the pinwheels to the white house with one simple with; lower fossil fuel reliance.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Undocumented! Unafraid!

About 300 students from Forest Park High School in Clayton County staged a walkout Friday March 18, leaving school to protest the HB87, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011. Critics say the bill would cause racial profiling because it requires police to check the immigration status of those they suspect of being undocumented immigrants.

The students, who had been threatened with suspension and other punishments by school officials to prevent them from walking out, staged a spirited rally in Forest Park Starr Park and marched by roads adjoining the park. Students said they would have to wait until Monday to find out whether they were suspended.

The demonstration was planned and executed completely by students, including 12th grader Brenda Fernandez, who says the school administration and police both tried to stand in the way of the protest planning. The students contacted the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR) a few days before the action and reieved that group's support. The crowd at the demonstration consisted almost entirely of highschool students from Forest Park High School; a few students from other high schools also attended, as well as a few parents, younger siblings, and other immigrants' rights activists.

Student walkouts have historically been a powerful tool in the immigrants' rights movement in the US as well as in other progressive and radical causes. In 2006, middle and high school students in California and Nevada walked out of class to protest HR 4437, proposed legislation that would among other things build a wall between the US and Mexico. These student walkouts helped spark a nationwide wave of protest that resulted in rallies of millions of people in dozens of cities.

Dell MacLean
Georgia Peace and Justice

Monday, March 28, 2011

2011 "It's My Life" Art Opening A Beautiful Success!!

This past Saturday our downtown office hosted the opening for the Student Career Alternative Program's 2011 youth arts show. All of the pieces on display in the gallery were submitted by 13-19 year olds for SCAP's 2nd Annual "It's My Life" Youth Arts Contest. The evening featured visual art on display, performances from students who submitted in music, video, and writing, and of course the awards ceremony for the contest. We also enjoyed performances from Dejah Ault and last year's music winner, Iqbal Chowdhury.

Our goal was to create space to showcase some of Atlanta's talented youth, possibly provide some new windows of opportunity, and to get folks really thinking about the themes that inspired each piece.

High school teachers and counselors all over the Atlanta Metro were invited to participate by passing along the contest information to their students. We ended up with submissions from 16 different Atlanta area high schools this year! We also had a great diversity in entries, including writing, visual art, music, and video. Every student who entered received a certificate and a year membership card to Wonderroot Community Arts Center, with access to classes, a studio, a darkroom, an event space, and more.

The contest challenged students to create pieces inspired by one of four themes:

What does militarization take away from your education?

What is your vision of a peaceful and sustainable world?

How can you act for local and global justice?

What are your non-military career paths and dreams?

We had some pretty amazing entries this year! Over the course of the next week or so, look out for photos from the contest on this blog. We'll be working on posting every submission on the blog and website.

Turnout at the event was really great, and I must admit that most of us that do this work on the regular were feeling the warm fuzzies all night after seeing all the kids present their work, the proud look in parents' eyes, and all the smiles from folks that came out to support! The art opening was a reminder to me that there is proof that folks as young as 13 are not only more than capable of developing a deep analysis of the big issues that affect their daily lives, but they're also fully capable of presenting their solutions to the world's problems.

The "It's My Life" youth art exhibit will be up until April 15th. Come by the second floor of 60 Walton Street downtown to check it out. Much of the art is also for sale, with the proceeds going directly to the student-artists. In addition, anyone who would like to is invited to come out to the closing reception Friday April 15th from 6-8pm. Please contact Erica at with any questions.

Finally, congratulations to the winners!

Grand Prize Winner ($100cash!): Joan Bedinger, writing
Education Award (Best Response to Theme 1): Aisha Davis, video
Visionary Award (Best Response to Theme 2): Nicolaas Rashad Turner, mixed media
Justice Award (Best Response to Theme 3): Darrin A. Pope, mixed media
Career Award (Best Response to Theme 4): China Burlison, writing
Artistic Technique Award: Saul Palos, mixed media
Originality Award: Amanda Dolan, photography
Changing Hearts and Minds Award: Gloria Johnson, writing
Creative Solutions Award: Midrell Fitzgerald, graphic design
Judges' Choice Award: Clifford Hopgood, music

THANK YOU to the team of graduate students who took photos and footage of the event. They are working on a short but exciting documentary about SCAP's work, which will be featured at a film screening in the next few months. (More info to come!)
THANK YOU to our esteemed panel of judges: Alice Lovelace from AFSC, Dejah Ault representing SCAP, Valerie Love from Sam Flax, and Kuukua Wilson representing Wonderroot Community Arts Center.
THANK YOU to Willy's Mexicana Grill and Grandmothers for Peace for providing food and drinks for the event.
And THANK YOU to all of our sponsors that donated prizes for the event. Because of you, we were able to award 10 artists with individual unique prizes!

Sam Flax
Wonderroot Community Art Center
All Fired Up
A Cappella Books
Criminal Records
Blick art materials

Tim Franzen
American Friends Service Committee

Friday, March 25, 2011

AFSC At Civic Engagement Student Research Conference

Clayton State University, The New York Times, and the Southeast Region of the National Archives hosts an annual Student Research Conference on Civic Engagement at the Southeastern National Archive Building in Morrow Georgia.

This year I had the very special honor of being their keynote speaker. Before I spoke I had the opportunity to look over several of the student created posters that were designed to begin conversations about various social issues that have faced or are facing Georgians. I was impressed with the political analysis that obviously went into each poster.

I started my talk with a quick civic engagement exercise in which each member of the audience called a member of the Georgia House or Senate to lobby on in support of the Student Parent Privacy Act and students were extremely receptive. Many said that it was the first time they had ever called their representatives. The rest of the talk I gave focused on how my personal narrative has pushed me into the work I do now.

I was excited to get to stick around afterwords and learn about some of the students personal narratives and how those narratives move them to work to create the community they want to see. With the loss of their public transit system, radical education budget cuts in K-12, and Governor Deals HOPE dismantling, Clayton county certainly need more grassroots civic engagement.

Special Thanks to Carrie Martin Henderson for inviting me out to speak and all the great work she does!

Tim Franzen
American Friends Service Committee

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Student Parent Privacy Act drops in state house and senate!

Because of No Child Left Behind, all public high school students' contact information is sent to military recruiters by default, without their knowledge or consent. Students can technically opt out of this, but they are not informed of that fact so most don't know how to do it, or even that they can at all, and so it doesn't happen by the deadline. Their private information is handed over--then they start getting call after call from military recruiters, sometimes daily.

HB 567, the Student Parent Privacy Act, would allow students an opportunity to opt out of having their info sent to recruiters. The simple bill, only a few paragraphs long, would require schools to notify students and parents that their info will be sent to recruiters unless they choose to opt out. On the same form, they could indicate their wish to opt out; they could then return the form to the school, which would forward it to the board of education, causing those students' info to be kept private. The bill was introduced in both the state House and state Senate this week and is currently in the Education Committee of the house and the Education and Youth committee of the Senate.

It is a violation of privacy to hand over minors' contact information, essentially to advertizers, who will then pester them nonstop.

Please call your state representative and state senator to tell them to support HB 567. You can go to and type in your address to find your state legislators' contact information. If your legislators start hearing from their own constituents it will make a huge difference! The bill is so common sense, it would be hard for any legislator, Republican or Democrat, to oppose: how can you object to informing people before giving out their phone numbers?

Please call your legislators and urge them to support HB 567. Here's an example of what you could say:

"I'm a constituent of ________, calling to urge them to support HB 567, the Student Parent Privacy Act. The bill would prevent students' contact information from being given to military recruiters without their knowledge or consent. It is important to protect minors' privacy. It would be a simple matter for schools to send a form home with students giving them this important notice and allowing them an easy way to control their private information. This bill is just common sense. Can I count on him/her to vote yes on HB 567?"

If each legislator gets even a few calls from their own constituents, that will be a huge step toward getting this bill passed.

Below is a list of the phone numbers of every member of the Education committees of the house and senate. They are supposed to represent the entire state when acting as committee members, so they need to hear from you too! Pick one on the list or call a few:

State Senate

Education and Youth Committee Members

Fran Millar (Chairman) (404) 463-2260

William Ligon, Jr. (Vice Chairman) (404) 656-0045

Jesse Stone (Secretary) (404) 463-1314

John Albers (404) 463-8055

Vincent Fort (404) 656-5091

Donzella James (404) 463-1379

Freddie Powell Sims (404) 463-5259

Horacena Tate (404) 463-8053

Lindsey Tippins (404) 657-0406

Tommie Williams (404) 656-0089

Bill Jackson (404) 651-7738

Chip Rogers (404) 463-1378

State House

Education Committee Members

Brooks Coleman (Chair) 404.656.9210

David Casas (Vice Chair) 404.656.0254

Tommy Benton (Secretary) 404.656.0177

Tom Dickson 404.463.2247

Kathy Ashe 404.656.0116

Rick Austin 404.656.0287

Paul Battles 404.656.0152

Amy Carter 404.651.7737

Mike Dudgeon 404.656.0298

Terry England 404.463.2245

Hugh Floyd 404.656.0314

Wayne Howard 404.656.6372

Jan Jones 404.656.5072

Margaret Kaiser 404.656.0265

Edward Lindsey 404.656.5024

Howard Maxwell 404.656.5143

Rahn Mayo 404.656.6372

Randy Nix 404.656.0177

Ann Purcell 404.656.5139

Barbara Massey Reece 404.656.7859

Ed Setzler 404.656.0177

Willie Talton 404.656.5116

Rashad Taylor 404.656.0220

Sam Teasley 404.656.0177

Brian Thomas 404.656.0220

Andy Welch 404.656.0109 get your legislators' contact info.
Read the bill on the legislature's website.

Thousands Of Georgians Rally Against HB87/SB40 At The Capitol!!

What a day! Thousands of Georgians came together today to rally at the capitol against HB87/SB40.

State Reps. Matt Ramsey and Sen. Jack Murphy, both Republicans, have sponsored legislation that would require employers to use a federal database to check the immigration status of new hires. Legislation also would authorize law-enforcement officers to check the immigration status of anyone they suspected of being undocumented. The bills would also make it a crime to assist anyone that's undocumented and it's vague enough that it could be interpreted that simply giving someone a ride to church or the store could be an arrestable offense.

The Fact that Arizona is taking a timeout from their historic anti-immigrant legislation amid concerns from business leaders that the issue is hurting the state's struggling economy seems to have caused no pause to republican's who are pushing the bill. This seems ironic because I keep hearing Georgia republicans posture themselves as the party of "common sense" and "fiscally responsible".

When one simply scratches the surface in the search for the real motives behind this bill the obvious conclusion is pretty scary. It appears to be scapegoat legislation targeted at one of the seeming least powerful voices in the state. The law makers who are crying for the passage of this bill are willing to further assault Georgia's already struggling economy in an effort to rally their base by stirring up fears based on made up "facts" that literally seemed pulled out of the stratosphere.

Immigrants, students, members of the civil rights community, representatives of labor, faith and business communities, and other everyday Georgians banded together to demand Governor Deal commit to veto harmful, anti-immigrant legislation

The message at the capitol was clear, Georgia can't afford this terrible legislation. Dozens of speakers addressed the crowd of over 5,000 including Congressman John Lewis, a leader of the 1960s civil rights movement. He said that he was arrested dozens of times while working alongside Martin Luther King Jr. "I was beaten, left bloody, but I didn't give up and you must not give up," he said to loud cheers.Indigo Girls performed their song "Shame on You" with lyrics adapted for the rally.

Indigo Girls also made an appearance, performing their song "Shame on You" with changed up lyrics just for the rally.

We were especially proud of all the high school students from several of the schools we've been working with that got permission to skip school to attend. After the rally they came to the office for a strategy session on ways to mobilize against hb87/sb40 on their campus.

The rally was called by the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights and supported by dozens of organizations across the state. It was a great day to be at the capitol. At one point, I believe the crowd made so much noise the gold dome shook.

Thanks Kelly Azabache Core for hooking me up with the pics!

Tim Franzen
American Friends Service Committee