Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Thinking Global, Acting Local

Wow, wow, wow! What a great day. Today marks are third day of facilitating outings for CEO kids summer camp, and this was perhaps our most ambitious day yet.

At 10am this morning we had several folks from Food Not Bombs(FNB) join us along with six youth participants(11-15 years old). The FNB folks had prepared a brief talk on what they do and why they do it. There was a group discussion on the priorities set by our federal budget, and the root causes of homelessness and poverty. For FNB sharing free vegetarian meals is a way protest to war, poverty, oppression, and social injustice.

After a group discussion everyone participated in preparing a really big meal. It was clear that all of the youth participants were enthusiastic about helping chop veggies, stir fry food, and do all the other tasks required to pull off a large meal.

Then it was time to pack everything up and head to Hurt park in Downtown Atlanta. There we were greeted by Balewa Alimayu, director of the Homeless and Incarcerated Veterans Program, and several of the folks he works with. We set up the food and shared it with everyone in the park.

After we all had a stomach full of delicious food we made a sharing circle, Balewa introduced several veterans to the group. Each veteran was courageous enough to share their struggle, not only with surviving a combat zone, but the struggle surviving coming home from a war zone.

The message was driven home over and over again, articulated in several different ways but different people: We need to invest in our communities, not war.

With multiple wars, Wall Street bailouts, record home foreclosures, drastic education budget cuts, MARTA cuts, and cuts to the public sector in general, FNB's message really resonated with everyone. For every bomb, every young person recruited and deployed, every community destroyed overseas, ever dollar spent on military aid, represents a robbery of our communities here, in our time of need.

Tim Franzen
American Friends Service Committee

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Steppin' Up Against HB87

It's been a prolific week in the struggle against one of the nations worst immigration bills, Georgia's HB87(Which some are dubbing, "Hate Bill 87"). Yesterday word came out that Federal Judge Thomas Thrash blocked certain sections of HB87.

Today, in an action organized by the Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance(GUYA), about 200 people(mostly very young) demanded not only an end to HB87 but a just pathway to citizenship to all who call Georgia home. Six of today's participants choose to block traffic until police arrested them. All who were arrested today lack the identification documents the HB87 requires. AFSC Atlanta is humbled by the courage of these young people, the risks they take to stand up for their community and human dignity is awe inspiring.

There's more organized for this week. July 1st, this Friday, is a day to do nothing. Buy nothing, don't work, don't even drive. A day without immigrants, a day without their allies. Then on July 2nd, it's time to take action!

The Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights(GLAHR)
is asking folks to come from near and far to march for justice, march for dignity, march for human rights. Here at AFSC we hosted an art party to create several striking and large wheatpaste installations promoting the July 2nd mobilization that will go up in legal spaces this evening...look out for them around town this wee.

We hope to see a lot of folks this Saturday at the capitol from 10am-2pm.
No Human being is illegal, everyone has the right to exist in spaces they have called home their whole life.

Tim Franzen
American Friends Service Committee


I must confess that Sunday Brunch is my favorite meal of the week. It represents relaxing days of sleeping in, nourishing my body with foods of comfort, and hanging out with close friends. This past Sunday we organized a fundraiser brunch for "Be the Change" youth convergence.

Some of our favorite folks in the city came out to enjoy delicious fresh fruit, biscuits and gravy, scrambled egg(and scrambled tofu), soysage, juices, and coffee. All our guests kicked in 10 bux a piece(some gave more) to fund scholarships to this year's youth convergence. It was a win win. Everyone has to eat, might as well do it in a way that brings maximum positive impact, right?

Thanks to all who came out, and extra special thanks to Erica School, Dell(Earthworm) MacLean, Jenell Holden, Edric Figueroa, Jazmine Szumski, and Molly McLaughlin for helping make the Meal Happen!

Tim Franzen
American Friends Service Committee

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wonderroot Day 2!

With the success of our first day facilitating field trips for CEO Kids summer camp, the group was anxiously awaiting our next meeting. We followed up with yet another day at Wonderroot Community Arts Center. The students were eager to check on their projects from the last Wonderroot visit and excited to see what other projects they could create.

On Friday at Wonderroot two of the volunteer staff were able to share with us the vision of Wonderroot of contributing to social change through art and also by providing a safe space for youth of their surrounding communities. This past Friday the students were taught how to make creative collages of things they felt passionately about. The collages ranged from themes of Justin Beiber to themes of the camp itself. Another new project they took on was patch making, where we saw similar themes to those that were in the collages. The students were excited to wear their patches proud!

The kids were also able to check in on their ceramics projects and were looking forward to coming back to Wonderroot on their own time to glaze their pieces. Finally, the most anticipated part of Friday was for the kids to get to listen to the final product of their 'Monkey Fist' track. It's definitely going to be a hit and will soon be up on the blog for others to have a listen!

CEO Kids is looking forward to SCAP further introducing them into the social justice world. We have a couple more field trips planned with the group that include serving food to the homeless with Food Not Bombs, and also a trip to the King Center! We're excited at every opportunity to reach youth, and even more excited that the youth we encounter want to continue to learn and be a part of SCAP!

Josie Figueroa
American Friends Service Committee

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Social Justice Summer Camp Day One!

During a career fair at Stephenson high school Student Career Alternatives Program was approached by an enthusiastic faculty member,Tonetta Collins, who was organizing a summer camp for youth age 10-13. It's the first time Tonetta has organized a summer camp and she wanted to reach out to for ideas.

SCAP ended up agreeing to facilitate six all day field trips designed to open up dialogues with youth about social justice, grassroots community organizing, civic engagement, and arts as a medium for positive social change. Yesterday was day one and we all had a blast. SCAP partnered with Wonderroot Community Art Center for not just one but two field trips. Yesterday youth learned their way around Wonderroot digital media lab, recording studio, and ceramics studio. One of the exciting collaberative projects we all worked on that day was the recording of a song. Youth came up with a song that was about the famed martial arts move, "Monkey Fist" which ended up being an analogy for hidden strength and self defense. We'll be putting out the song on this blog tomorrow evening!

Youth also learned how a community art center works, and how they can access all the resources Wonderroot offers young folks. Camp participants were treated to a delicious lunch in Wonderoots community garden provided by Homegrown restaurant.

It's an understatement that day one went well. All the youth were super excited about their day and it was clear that they eagerly await day two. We want to give an extra big shout out to wonderroot, and all the amazing staff that devoted their time to our kids.

Tim Franzen
American Friends Service Committee

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Free Free Syria!

Today 50-60 folks from the Syrian community, along with some allies, gathered at the CNN center to express solidarity with the people of Syria and to condemn the brutality displayed by the Syrian Government.

Yesterday alone an estimated 200 peaceful protesters were gunned down in Syria. Their crime was demanding basic civil rights, constitutional reform, and the implementation of concrete measures to fight government corruption.

The demands from the Atlanta Syrian community were simple, and are basically echoing what Syrians in Syria are demanding.

· Stop the use of live ammunition against peaceful protesters and children

· Hold accountable the perpetrators of the killing of peaceful demonstrators and bring them to justice

· Allow free media and international human rights organizations to cover the situation

· Restructure the security agencies to protect peaceful protesters

· Release all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience

· Recognize political parties and allow for genuine freedom of expression

· Amend the Syrian constitution to limit the presidential term of office and implement free elections

· Introduce clear measures to fight corruption

The push for broad reforms in Syria should be seen as part of the broader movement in the Middle East, "Arab Spring" as some are calling it. Here at American Friends Service Committee we have been in talks with several different Arab communities we've worked with over the past three years about the possibility of bringing everyone together for a panel on the Arab Spring. It could be an opportunity to explore the global implications, as well what it means for folks who have migrated here from the region.

Tim Franzen
American Friends Service Committee

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Migrant Youth Voices Hits The Campus

After this past Sunday's Food For Thought Benefit, where one of our Migrant Youth Voices short film was shown, we we approached by a Paideia high school student who wanted to show the short film at his school and have a facilitated discussion about immigration reform, racism, and the coming realities of HB87.

We were surprised that there were any high schools still in session, but we were happy make the film screening happen on short notice. We want to get out to as many school, churches, homes, and community centers for film screenings as possible. The short notice event also gave one of our Migrant Youth Voice(MYV) participants the opportunity to polish his public speaking skills a bit more. After the film screen our MYV participant(who was featured in the film) spoke and answered questions for about 30 minutes.

It's been unexplainable inspiring to witness the journey many of the Migrant Youth Voices participants have taken in a fairly short period of time. From living with their secret, to sharing their stories with others who have been there, to sharing their story on film(safely), to speaking publicly. It's clear that there will be several emerging community leaders from this crew. Perhaps that is the silver lining that the passage of HB87 has brought, a new unstoppable force that will unquestionable prevail in the long run.

Contact us if you're interested in hosting a film screening in your community. The films are very short and we can set up a panel to follow. It's a great way to start a conversation.

Tim Franzen
American Friends Service Committee