jueves, 14 de julio de 2011

- Harvesting Hope in Georgia -

Its often said, its not the hand you were dealt, its how you play it. In states like Arizona and Georgia, the most depressing of laws are also giving rise to the most inspiring of organizing.

Similar to last year in Phoenix, we're partnering in Georgia for another Summer of Human Rights that builds community power and turns the tide from hate to human rights. Instead of becoming victims to the fear that HB 87 is meant to sew, the law has planted the seeds of new leadership across the state. In response to the 1070 copycat, ordinary people are performing extraordinary deeds.

There’s Faustino, who, after participating in a grassroots leadership training, helped organize two bus loads of people from Tifton (population ~17,000) to attend the March for Justice on July 2nd.

A reported 25,000 people marched in the streets of downtown Atlanta on July 2nd in what the police told us was the largest march downtown had seen in 25+ years. Busloads of people arrived from small towns across the state: Gainesville, Moultrie, Tifton, Fort Valley, Savannah, Athens. For people who already are living under 287(g) and “Secure Communities” polimigra programs, a court ruling that temporarily blocked sections of the law was seen as an advance but by no means an end. The community mobilized in record numbers and expressed in resounding form, in chant, song and in braving the Georgia summer heat: Aquí Estamos y No Nos Vamos (We’re here and we’re not going anywhere)!

There’s Araceli, who despite economic setback decided to close her restaurant on July 1st to participate in ‘A Day Without Immigrants.’

Araceli was not alone. At least 200 businesses heeded the rally cry of “Don’t Work. Don’t Buy. Don’t Comply” and shut their doors on the implementation day of HB 87. In addition to business owners closing shop, workers also made sacrifices in staying home on Friday. Teodoro Maus of Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights said, “We will mark our presence with our absence so that the state of Georgia takes note of the important role and contributions of Latinos in the state.” On Friday, Araceli and countless others sent a deafening message through collective silence: We Have a Right to Remain.

There’s Santiago, a young man who traveled from North Carolina to join others to stand with communities in resistance in Georgia and participate in the Summer of Human Rights.

Dozens of supporters have traveled to Georgia this summer to support the organizing efforts and stand with communities in resistance. Volunteers have fanned across Atlanta conducting outreach, creating independent media and spreading the word about the campaign against HB 87. Because we know that "an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” organizations and allies traveled from North Carolina, Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, New York, DC, and elsewhere, while groups held solidarity rallies in California, Portland, and New Jersey. Their presence and their support is invaluable, they leave a lasting impression: Georgia – No Estás Sola (you are not alone)!

For migrant communities and beyond, these are uncertain times.

In Georgia, as in any state where 1070s are proposed, we see two ways forward. The misguided direction of laws like HB 87 lead to division rather than moving Georgians forward together. Disguised as solutions, these laws promote hate and lower the bar on civil and human rights for all. Yet, amongst the fear and uncertainty, people are finding a courage to resist and harvest hope in Georgia. The seeds are being planted…along the fields where farmworkers toil, in schools where students are demanding their human right to education, and in every neighborhood where shop owners declare themselves a Tienda del Pueblo (A Store for the People). The objects of hate are transforming themselves into agents of love.

Organizing in Georgia will continue. New leaders will emerge, organizing campaigns will claim victories to ease the suffering and find solutions to community problems. We will continue to fight to end HB 87 and other policies such as 287(g) and ‘secure communities’ that are separating our families.

The seeds begin as conversations in the kitchens of restaurants, from barrio to barrio stretching out in places many of us have never even heard of. But we will, because we have only just begun.

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“Ningún pueblo de América Latina es débil, porque forma parte de una familia de doscientos millones de hermanos que padecen las mismas miserias, albergan los mismos sentimientos, tienen el mismo enemigo, sueñan todos un mismo mejor destino y cuentan con la solidaridad de todos los hombres y mujeres honrados del mundo entero.” (Segunda declaración de la Habana)

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