Long a core member of A4E, everyone is incredibly proud and excited that the unstoppable Briana Bivens is stepping into the key role of A4E’s Organization Coordinator.
Dear Athens for Everyone members and supporters,
I’m excited to announce that this month, I’ll begin the role of Organization Coordinator of Athens for Everyone. This organization was founded on a commitment to social, economic, and racial justice in Athens, Georgia, and I want to maintain this commitment while striving to work together with our allies to explore and communicate what this means for us together as a community.
Ours is a community with a 38 percent poverty rate, a history of discrimination and racial terror, and a palpable struggle between the narrow interests of the wealthy and powerful few and those who are struggling to get by. But Athens is also a community with a budding organized labor movement, longtime advocacy for living wages thanks to the leadership of organizations like Economic Justice Coalition, strong literacy and mentorship programs for youth thanks to local hallmarks like DESTINED Learning Center, and a rich legacy of Black history elevated by organizations like the NAACP and Association for the Study of African American Life & History. Athens for Everyone has victories to celebrate, too: We won Sunday Bus Service after countless hours of knocking on doors and canvassing the community to learn what people wanted. We advocated alongside the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement to win legislative victories against discrimination in bars. We worked with state and local organizations to defeat the 2016 state school takeover amendment. And we collaborated with Dignidad Inmigrante en Athens and the Athens Immigrant Rights Coalition to end the Sheriff’s cooperation with ICE that was tearing apart immigrant families. Athens certainly has the energy, talent, and heart to struggle for freedom and justice.
And we have lots more work to do!
The cash bail system makes sure that the poor stay locked into our criminal (in)justice system. The chronically-underfunded public education system falls short of providing affirming learning environments for students of color, for students from working-poor backgrounds, for immigrant students, and for queer and trans youth. And secure jobs at fair wages are out of reach for too many people in Athens, especially Black Athenians who continue to be locked out from wealth-building opportunities. And this is just a short list. If history tells us anything, we will continue to encounter new sites for struggle and new possibilities for freedom and transformation that we can’t even name yet.
We’ve got to work in coalition – with other organizations and with folks in this community most impacted by harmful policies and institutions – to advance a politics of freedom and build a more intersectional movement.
It’s this sort of dedication to coalition-building, direct community engagement, and power-sharing that I hope to stoke in Athens for Everyone.
I’m confident that in 2019 we can strengthen our leadership development process, make activism more accessible, and commit to capacity-building so organizers have space for the mental and physical care they need to sustain the work. I look forward to working with all of you to build coalition and strengthen our political education so that our advocacy can be as bold, effective, and equitable as possible.
I am excited to continue to work and grow alongside you as we develop our policy focus for the coming year. I am excited to situate whichever projects we choose in the context of freedom and justice…gender justice, economic justice, racial justice, education justice, housing justice disability justice, and environmental justice. And to communicate what we actually mean by these concepts through community outreach and bold policy ideas.
I am so thankful to all of you, and I look forward to learning from and with you.
Together we can build a sustainable organizational culture and an Athens that works for everyone.
With love, in solidarity,