Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Well, here's a short article I wrote for the WIT August newsletter....
My name is Erica Horton and I am a sophomore at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. I am a member of the Bonner Program – a service scholarship program – at Centre, through which I decided to do a “Summer of Service.” After attending workshops at two separate conferences featuring WIT members, I wanted to learn more about the organization. From my brief glimpse of WIT, I saw strong women dedicated to positive change. I eventually chose WIT as my service site this summer and the first week of June I moved to Louisville – a city I didn’t really know. So, a couple weeks before my 19th birthday and on my own for the first time, I dove headfirst into Women In Transition.
My work with WIT this past summer has been an incredible experience. I have met many amazing women who have been an inspiration. I have also learned much more about issues relating to poverty in the United States and have been reminded constantly of how lucky I have been. The injustices I’ve seen this summer have opened my eyes. I’ve been motivated by each and every story I’ve been told and I am determined to continue along a path towards positive change.
I would like to thank all the women who have not only been an inspiration to me, but a friend. WIT opened its arms to me when I moved to Louisville and I thank you all for your support and friendship.
My summer experience with WIT has been so great, I’m sticking around! This past month I was elected to the Board of Directors and I’m excited to continue along with WIT. With the participation of both members and supports, Women In Transition will certainly flourish. I would like to encourage anyone and everyone to learn more about WIT and to get more involved!
Friday, July 13, 2007
I really do have a lot to say; I'm just not in the mood for blogging right now, though I thought I'd make an attempt.
So I'll post later... I'll tell you all about our "Theatre of the Oppressed" workshop we're having Saturday!
Sunday, July 1, 2007
For the United States Social Forum, hundreds of members of the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign met in Atlanta, Georgia and marched from the Martin Luther King Jr. Center to Coca-Cola's headquarters. As I mentioned earlier, Women In Transition is a member organization of PPEHRC.
And so began my first experience of non-violent protest - this past Friday at 3:00 we gathered at the grave of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. - Activisit, Civil Rights Leader, and Champion of Justice. At the end of his life, Dr. King began to lead a poor people's movement, and as a part of that ongoing movement, we met at the reflecting pool where his and his wife, Coretta Scott King's bodies lie. Public property. AND WE WERE KICKED OUT. Kicked out of the site dedicated to a man who would have been marching right along with us that day.
Somehow, at my first march, I ended up security. Being the little white girl on security was a bit intimidating at first, but I got the hang of it. My job, along with marching and joining in on chants, was to make sure that everybody stayed OFF the sidewalk (where the police kept telling people to go), stayed in one lane of the street, was organized to show our numbers, had water, and to fill in any gaps that might form with other people. And I got to wear a bright orange vest. So while I did all of that, I simultaneously joined in chants demanding healthcare, housing, a living wage, and justice.
"Hey hey, ho ho, Poverty has got to go"
It was near 100 degrees out, but the organizers did a really good job making sure everyone stayed hydrated. Most WIT members were at the very front of the march with their children. Strollers headed our march (as, I've learned, all PPEHRC marches) because they are our future.
One group, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, led a rally at a Burger King along the way. Burger King has paid tomato pickers in Florida horribly low wages and our marchers demanded a living wage for these workers.
When we finally arrived at Coca-Cola headquarters, we held a rally and presented Coca-Cola with a citizens arrest for crimes against humanity, including the privatization of water and exploitation of workers in Colombia.
My mother told me that we were accomplishing nothing by marching. I have two responses to that.
1) If it makes no difference, why the hell were the police flipping out? I saw more police together than I've ever seen in my life. Police cars, motorcycles, horses, bicycles, unmarked cars... and we were followed by helicopters the entire way. Basically, we made a stir in the community and we were definitely noticed.
2) It is freaking powerful! Marching side by side with people from age 3 to 83, of all races, genders, colors, creeds... students, workers, homeless, leaders, all led by those directly affected by the issues: people in poverty. Oh, and the encouragement from passing traffic... honks, peace signs, shouts of joy, people joining along... We were never quiet, we were constantly chanting and singing, and there was nothing the police could do to stop us. We had power and we were being heard.
This week was stressful but also a learning experience. I have never been treated with such disrespect in some ways - I have never experienced Classism before this week. 100 or so PPEHRC members were staying in the Central United Methodist Church of Atlanta. We were treated like children... or criminals, I'm not sure which one's is more appropriate. But last night, the police came and patrolled the hallways, telling us to go to our respective rooms and go to sleep. I was appalled at how the one cop spoke to Cheri Honkala (National Director of PPEHRC). She talked to Cheri like she was trash. "You're in charge here and you're asleep while all these people are out running around?" (Short story... Cheri passed a kidney stone the day before the march, AND THEN MARCHED, two hours, 100 degrees, yea. I wanted to punch this cop in the face).
To be brief, we were not treated like guests and it felt hardly like a house of a Compassionate God. Hypocrisy.
I also have never seen as many homeless people in a city as in Atlanta. EVERYWHERE. and going the week with only one shower (which we borrowed someone's hotel room for) I gained a little bit more of an understanding (though still a very small one) of what it might be like.... at least I'd never gone that long without a shower. yuck. I also had a few conversations with homeless people. One man, asking us what we were doing (after we explained about PPEHRC) replied, "So you're Christians? REAL Christians? Not people who pretend, but those who actually do the work of Jesus?" coughCentralMethodistcough
Other things I did during the week - participated in a Rally at the Atlanta City Hall for Public Housing (even with the extraordinary amount of homeless in Atlanta, they're tearing down even more public housing), ran around and did a lot of logistical things, dealt with the drama of taking a group of women and children on a trip (ahhh), and attended a few workshops myself.
Direct Action Organizing on Campus was the name of a workshop I attended by the United States Student Association. Expect to hear more about that later.
Anyway... I think I'm done for now. If I think of anything else interesting from the Forum or Atlanta, I'll post again.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
I'm going to use this moment to tell you all to shop at Wild Oats. They donated two boxes of food for our trip... Just Because! So i love them. because everyone else was too greedy to help us out. and they sell yummy organic food :)
Anyway, we're leaving for Atlanta today and I'm pretty excited. We're sleeping in a church basement while down there and showers are going to be limited... so I will probably be pretty cranky. Plus, I have to get up earlier than everyone else to attend staff meeting. and I'm not a morning person.
BUT there will be some kickass workshops, panels, etc. And I will be, along with the rest of the 300-500 PPEHRC delegates, participating in a "March for Water" to Coca-Cola headquarters... oh, greedy water-buying-up corporation
SOOOOO.... I think I'm going to go pack for the week... and maybe I can update while down there.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
At our annual meeting we talked about the U.S. Social Forum, our new CORROC support group
(for parents whose children have been taken away by CPS), our new Revolutionary Reading group (which will help members with their reading and on their way to getting their GED), a workshop we're planning next month called "Theatre of the Oppressed" (more later), our Fairwell Fundraiser for Jennifer, electing new members to the Board, and new issues we want to tackle next year. Needless to say, we have a lot of stuff going on!
Due to its increasing popularity, we will be keeping on with the CORROC campaign. WIT found some success in its alliances with the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and the Minimum Wage Campaign (yay legislation!), so we will be moving on to different issues. These issues must be decided by the members.
Some of the issues people came up with were - Food Justice (it is impossible to lead a nutritious lifestyle on food stamps), Restoration of Voting Rights (Only in Kentucky and one other state, felons voting rights are not automatically restored upon release from prison), Predatory Lending (i.e. Rent-a-Center, quick cash places that prey on the poor), the Quality of public schools, and Housing and Tenants Rights.
Food Justice and Quality of Schools are the top two issues we will be focusing on, in addition to CORROC. We will also be working on Tenants Rights and Predatory Lending in small ways that are TBD.
At our staff meeting, we talked mostly about the USSF, which we will be leaving for next Tuesday! In short, I have a lot of work to do before then... and while we're down there. I'm going to be the go-to person in Atlanta, so I should probably have some clue what's going on. I won't have internet access while I'm down there so expect a long post once I get back, July 1. I'll write again before I leave, since I don't think I've talked about USSF much and it's kind of a big deal...
Well, I guess I better start getting to work now, haha
Saturday, June 16, 2007
Our June newsletter is now done!
I would post a link to it here, but I can't quite figure out how to do that. I might e-mail it... that way you all can see what we're up to.
The picture to the left is of some of the people I work with. From left to right: Angela, Jason (whose bedroom I stole the first week I was here), Nicole, Virginia, and Cara.
Today we started on our new recruitment push with a day of recruiting around Sheppard's Square - a project near Downtown Louisville. We actually had a surprising amount of success. Expecting people to be rude made it even nicer when people were receptive. The first woman Angela and I talked with invited us in and seemed ready to jump right in with the organization. Most of the people we talked with actually seemed very interested and willingly gave us their information (i.e. name, phone number, address). Our Annual Meeting/Cookout is this Tuesday. We passed out flyers and invited everyone we saw... I really expect I'll see some of the same faces come Tuesday, which will be exciting.
All in all, we all left in a good mood (which is wonderful since I think everyone was dreading today). Hopefully we found some new members today... and I think we did!
It's still a little strange for me, however, never having experienced poverty. WIT is very strict about remaining run by poor people - not letting the rich tell them what to do. In fact, to be a member, you MUST be poor. Of course, those wealthier are welcome and encouraged to be supporters. There were a few times today where I just sat back and let the other recruiters talk - when they got to their experiences and such - for I couldn't relate. However, I do plan on being a supporter once my internship is over.
I'm just really glad today worked out. I don't think anyone's ever told me to "have a blessed day" before... but I heard it a lot today. Really breaks down those stereotypes of the projects, huh?
So, have a blessed day...
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Anyway, here I am at the office of Women In Transition... and I will take this time to tell you more about the organization I'm dedicating my summer to.
To steal straight from our brochure...
"WIT is a grassroots organization run by and for poor people working to create a world in which everyone's economic human rights are provided. Started in 1998 by welfare recipients, WIT believe that everyone has the right to affordable housing, healthcare, clothing, adequate childcare, clothing, and food for their families. We also believe that children should not be removed from their families because they lack these basic human rights."
"Being led by the poor is fundamental in building a movement to eradicate poverty. We use strong language and powerful actions, because eliminating poverty is something that can be done."
We have two main issues we've been working on this year...
-Claiming Our Rights, Reclaiming Our Children
We've also been working with the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and the Raise the Wage Campaign.
I have two jobs right now... preparing for the U.S. Social Forum and Recruitment. I've also been helping out with our newsletter, which should be out by the weekend!
This week looks like a lot of time in the office - on the computer and on the phone - and a recruitment push this Saturday. I'll try to update Saturday afternoon to tell you all how recruitment went! Hopefully it's more of a success than last Saturday :(
Monday, June 11, 2007
I moved to Louisville... have my own apartment - 4th street... pretty sweet.
I realized that I am completely dependent on my mother, although I like to pretend I'm independent. For someone who just moved out on their own, I have had some pretty crappy luck. The first day I got here my cell phone broke and I had to go buy a new one.... things such as that... broken car, getting stranded in Waddy, KY because I have no money or no gas, being extremely in debt to my mother, sleeping on the floor of my apartment in Sunil Ramaswamy's sleeping bag... ahhh I'm sorry I'm being such an emo kid.
I guess what I mean to say is: I'm frustrated. I keep thinking of things I need to do... some things I should have done awhile ago... and other things keep popping up...
I feel like I could be doing a better job at my internship with WIT... and I know I will once I get adjusted... but after this weekend (long day Saturday... lots of driving... no reimbursement for gas) I'm questioning it all... like why the hell do I do all this service? As I'm practically an Atheist, I know there's no religious pursuit here. I'm not even that worried at the moment about being a good person. I just do it because... well I don't know, I just always have and I don't know how it started.
Usually I work with kids, and with kids it's easy to see the difference you're making... it's easy to fall in love with them... and I have a very strong nurturing instinct (though that's probably a surprise to most everybody) there's a motherly part to Erica Horton.
Now it's different. I'm working with adults... adults who are poor, lacking resources, and unorganized. People from a completely different world than myself. And it's hard to sense where their coming from sometimes.
A lot of the work I've been doing is office-type stuff... and calling businesses asking for donations for our Atlanta trip. Hey guess what... corporate America is not so generous. at all.... OH wait.. Kroger said they'd give us a $10 gift card... yep.. that's pretty much the success I've had.
I've also heard some pretty intense stories. I spent an hour at a women's house working on an article for our newsletter. She's just joined up with WIT and is working with the CORROC program (Claiming Our Rights, Reclaiming Our Children). She's had 4 daughters removed from her. Her husband had all his children but one removed as well. This couple was extremely angry, yet seemingly very devoted to their faith in God. This woman's 18 year old daughter told the court she wanted to go home... they're permitting her to VISIT... isn't she a legal adult.
The thing is with a lot of these cases, children are removed for "neglect" and that neglect is actually poverty. The children are removed from their homes and often put into much worse situations.
Okay... so if you can't tell I'm a former live-journal-er (told you I was an emo-kid)... and I tend to ramble. So I'm going to end this one here and get back to cha'll later.