Tours For Justice in Atlanta

The large crowd of students, social activists, and community activists gathered eagerly at the Peoplestown Community Center in Atlanta, Georgia, on a Saturday in March. They were about to get on board for the annual Metro Atlanta DSA (MADSA) bus tour of “Resilience, Tenacity and Self-Determination in Peoplestown, Mechanicsville, Pittsburgh and Summerhill.” Designed to shine a light on inner-city Atlanta and the challenges faced by residents due to rapid gentrification, the tour is co-sponsored by longtime MADSA coalition partners Occupy Our Homes Atlanta (OOHA) and the Peoplestown Revitalization Corporation (PRC). Our tour guides of the evening were Tim Franzen of OOHA and Columbus Ward, president of the PRC.

First stop was the Stanton Oaks community in the Peoplestown neighborhood. Formerly called the Boynton Village Apartments, this facility is privately owned but heavily subsidized by the federal Housing and Urban Development agency. The owner of Stanton Oaks planned to let the property fall into such disrepair that at the end of the HUD contract the federal agency would not renew that agreement. This action would allow the owner to sell units at market rates and turn a taxpayer-subsidized profit.

Everything was going as planned until the tenants, led by Sherise Brown, created the Boynton Village Tenant Association. Once organized, they convinced the management to make the needed repairs to the property and to renew its HUD contract. No longer a blighted property, Stanton Oaks now includes a community center and a play area for children.

Next came the Rosa Burney Apartments. Located in the Mechanicsville neighborhood, this property looked more like a yellow brick prison in need of a facelift than a residence hall. As at Stanton Oaks, residents of Rosa Burney have fought to gain some concessions. With its HUD contract coming up for renewal, the status of the building is still unclear. Deborah Arnold, president of the Rosa Burney Residents Association, vows to fight on to maintain affordable housing and end a rampant bedbug infestation.

In the Pittsburgh neighborhood, we found a once vibrant working-class community marred by boarded-up buildings and blight due to years of disinvestment by the city. In this environment, the “Peace by Piece House” was born.

The “Peace by Piece House” was donated to a group of activists dedicated to creating a meeting place for the community to organize. Built next to a city-owned community garden, the “Peace by Piece House” works to organize in the community with the aid of volunteers and the American Friends Service Committee.

Our final stop was at the residence of Georgia State University professor Tanya Washington in the Peoplestown neighborhood. Washington’s house and many others are on the shortlist to be taken from her through eminent domain and demolished to make way for a pond and possibly student housing for Georgia State University. The removal of this housing would not only displace dozens of residents, but could possibly disrupt the growth the neighborhood has been experiencing.

As conceived by Georgia Tech professor emeritus and MADSA member Larry Keating, whose book on inner-city Atlanta—-Race, Class and Urban Expansion—is a must-read, the tours are designed to show the resilience of communities targeted for destruction and make connections with other activists.

Brandon_headshot.jpgMusician and writer Brandon Payton-Carrillo is a member of the DSA National Political Committee.

This article originally appeared in the summer 2016 (early June) issue of the Democratic Left magazine.

 

 

Individually signed posts do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership. Democratic Left blog post submission guidelines can be found here.

 

Film Discussion: The Price We Pay

January 30, 2017
· 44 rsvps
The Price We Pay blows the lid off the dirty world of corporate malfeasance — the dark history and dire present-day reality of big-business tax avoidance, tax havens - and what we need to do to stop this.  DSA member Bill Barclay, who has a cameo role in the film, will facilitate the discussion. Watch the film prior to the discussion.

Full film available on Vimeo.

How to Plug in New Members

February 01, 2017
· 12 rsvps

Is your DSA chapter growing quickly and you're trying desperately to find ways to plug new members into your chapter's work? Never fear! On this conference call an experienced DSA organizer will go over the basics of new member outreach and developing a plan for plugging new members into your chapter's work. Most of the call will be devoted to troubleshooting specific issues you're facing, so please brainstorm some issues beforehand that you want to bring up on the call.  8 PM ET; 7 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 7 PM PT.

Film Discussion: Salt of the Earth

February 05, 2017
· 8 rsvps

Join DSA members Shelby Murphy and Deborah Rosenfelt in discussing Salt of the Earth, a captivating film made in 1954 by blacklisted writers and actors about a strike at a New Mexico zinc mine. Well before the resurgence of feminism in the 1960s, these filmmakers were exploring gender inequality and solidarity. Available on Netflix.

Shelby Murphy is a Latina from Texas and former Young Democratic Socialists co-chair. Professor Emerita of Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland, Deborah Rosenfelt researched the making of the film and its aftermath for the reissued screenplay. Here is her blogpost about the film.

 

DSA New Member Orientation Call

February 15, 2017
· 61 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  8 PM ET; 7 PM CT; 6 PM MT; 5 PM PT.

Film Discussion: Documentaries of People's History in Texas

April 02, 2017
· 3 rsvps

Join DSA members Glenn Scott and Richard Croxdale to discuss videos produced by People’s History in Texas (PHIT), a project that brings to life the stories of ordinary people in significant socio-political movements in Texas. They will discuss The Rag, their newest documentary, which tells the story of an influential underground paper based in Austin, Texas, from 1966-77. Click here to view Part I (the early years as an all-volunteer paper covering the student, anti-Vietnam and Civil Rights movements), Part II (the impact of Women’s Liberation on the paper) and Part III (building community: covering local politics, nukes, co-ops, feminist institutions). But check out their short the video on the Stand-Ins about a group of university students who led a movement to desegregate Austin’s movie theaters in 1961.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 2 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion.