My name is Abiodun Henderson and was awarded a canvassing internship. When my father died in September last year, I was inspired by his previous activism with the Black Panthers to join the Occupy movement. For the last eight years, I've been a server in Atlanta making an average of $40,000 a year and when the restaurant I worked at closed, I decided to become an activist/organizer full-time with no pay. As someone that is new to community organizing, I'm drawn to the housing justice work AFSC is committed to. So when the opportunity to canvass residents impacted by the housing crisis came around, I jumped at the chance to do what I love while receiving a stipend.
My job was to inform homeowners going through foreclosure that there are a group of people willing to fight with them and empower them with the knowledge they needed to fight for themselves. With the help of Renika Wheeler, we talked to underwater homeowners in the hardest hit neighborhoods Atlanta has, like Pittsburgh and Vine City to name a few, about the issues they were facing, the mortgage crises and why there were so many vacant houses in our communities. The look on their faces showed how blessed they felt to not have to go through their trials alone.
There was Mr. and Mrs. Hartsfield, who were about to lose their Habitat for Humanity home and were pleased to learn about the meetings we hold every Thursday and promised to come. We also talked to community members who weren't in crisis like Eva Nash who said she just wanted to learn more so that she could become empowered to help others.
I learned a lot about canvassing that I didn't realize before. For instance, eye contact is key, talking to an individual is sometimes a better bet than a pair, maintaining a positive attitude even when people don’t stop to talk with us and how to spot the people who will. I realized the consequences of inaction can be seen in our own communities. They are manifested in complacency and a disbelief that our voices even matter. Thanks to the AFSC for helping me use mine.