[saymaListserv] AFSC-NCRC June Meeting

Michael Austin Shell bright_crow at mindspring.com
Thu Jun 7 10:46:06 JEST 2001


AFSC National Community Relations Committee, June Meeting

Dear Friends,

I've just returned from the thrice-yearly meeting in Philadelphia of AFSC's
National Community Relations Committee (NCRC), the executive committee for
the organization's Community Relations Unit (CRU).  NCRC is made up of
staff and volunteers from the nine autonomous North American AFSC regions
and their programs.  Additional people serve on its various task forces and
working groups.

CRU does not administrate the domestic regions or programs, but it
encourages, supports and sometimes initiates the development of cooperative
program efforts across the organization.  Its purpose is to unite all AFSC
domestic entities, together with their non-AFSC coalition allies, in a
network of shared goals, resources, knowledge and grassroots organizational
expertise.  It also has an advise and consent role with the AFSC Board of
Directors.  Finally, CRU is developing a new role in helping the
International Unit to integrate community relations concerns into its
overseas programs.

Although NCRC meeting agendas vary greatly, the June meeting exemplifies
well the range of AFSC's community relations concerns.  What follows is a
summary of the principle concerns and program developments discussed at
that meeting:

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

1.  Anti-death penalty work:

     -- Religious Organizing Against the Death Penalty Project, an
ecumenical coalition founded by AFSC, continues to provide extensive
study-group materials, most recently focusing on the McVeigh case

     -- New Mexico Coalition to Repeal the Death Penalty reports
substantial progress toward repeal in that state

2.  Prison privatization: various programs are investigating and
challenging the rapid growth in the U.S. of two disturbing, interwoven trends

     -- building of speculative private, for-profit prisons (which must be
kept full to be profitable), under the guise of spurring economic
development in poor regions of the country

     -- increased use by private industry of forced prison labor, often
without standard worker rights or protections, exploiting the fact that the
13th Amendment to the Constitution does NOT protect inmates from slavery or
involuntary servitude

3.  Education vs. incarceration: several efforts address two more
interrelated trends

     -- a drastic shift of public funding from education to increased law
enforcement efforts and prison building

     -- increased reliance by schools upon "zero tolerance" disciplinary
policies, criminalization of normally rebellious teenage behaviors and
incarceration of young people (especially minority youth), rather than
using community-centered approaches to prevention, mentoring, conflict
resolution, etc.

IMMIGRATION

In keeping with the peace testimony and the equal valuing of all people,
AFSC consistently challenges immigration policies which make borders
permeable to capital and profit, but not to the movements of people seeking
honest labor

1.  Mexico-U.S. border work:

     -- monitoring and lobbying for civilian review of abuses by the
Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)

     -- providing local communities in both nations with comprehensive
models for abuse documentation and community organizing

2.  Immigrant rights work: continued work for a new legalization program
(general amnesty) for undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

3.  Migrant worker issues:

     -- helping migrant workers internationally to education and protect
themselves with regard to their exposure to toxic agricultural products and
other health risks

     -- monitoring of negotiations between the U.S. and Mexican governments
re migrants, and potential lobbying to prevent abusive work visa legislation

4.  Globalization issues: continued monitoring, public education and
community organizing regarding the impact of globalization on local
economies and immigrants

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES

For the same reasons it addresses immigration issues, AFSC works both
domestically and internationally to support the protection of indigenous
peoples and their rights.  The June NCRC meeting heard reports on three
relevant efforts

1.  Binational indigenous migrant worker organizing, developed by
indigenous people of Oaxaca, Mexico, together with migrants from several
nations who work in the Central Valley of California

2.  Continued nonviolent efforts by the Zapatistas of Chiapas, Mexico, to
assure indigenous rights, in the face of the Mexican Congress' watering
down of a bill promised by President Fox

3.  Growth of international indigenous movements, and continued efforts to
gain U.S. consent to the United Nations "Draft Declaration of the Rights of
Indigenous Peoples"

ECONOMIC JUSTICE

1.  Grassroots Alliance to End Poverty: an effort supported by AFSC,
described on its Website at <http://www.alliance2endpoverty.org>

2.  Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) reauthorization work:
efforts to restore to families the supports removed by recent nation
welfare "reform," including the publication of a workbook for activists
called "Everyone is Deserving: A Toolkit on TANF Reauthorization and
Welfare Reform," (see <http://www.afsc.org/news/2001/nrwelf.htm>)

CIVIL RIGHTS

The last June agenda item brought us full circle back to the concerns
discussed under criminal justice work.  While revisiting Sunflower Co.,
Miss., to prepare a documentary on the outcomes of school integration there
35 years ago, NCRC folk learned that the state is building 15 prisons,
several of them private, in the predominantly black delta region of the
state.  Public schools are over 90% black, while most white students go to
private academies, yet white administrators still control the public
system.  Local interviewees reported a clear pattern of escalating
disciplinary suspensions and expulsions, criminalization and incarceration
of young people, especially young black males.  This is a pattern which is
playing out increasingly all over the country.

I encourage Friends to visit the AFSC Website at <http://www/afsc.org> or
to contact me for more information or referrals.

Blessed Be,
Michael.




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