Pittsburgh Friends Meeting supports AFSC

American Friends Service Committee PA Updates, February 2014
The Human Rights Alliance
by Scilla Wahrhaftig, AFSC PA Program Director
The American Friends Service Committee PA Program is one of the initiators of the new Human Rights City Alliance. The Alliance is working with other organizations to hold Pittsburgh to its Human Rights City Proclamation passed in 2008 by the city Council on the initiative of the AFSC youth group.
Through rallies, a workshop at the Summit against Racism and discussions, we are defining priorities and ways to advocate for changes to our city’s policies and practices. Our goal is to make ours a city that respects all the people’s rights.
We will be coordinating with other organizations already working of the following key issues:
Education: Our city schools are in a sorry state. Youth participants in our AFSC youth program report major problems, such as classrooms with over 30 students. Teachers just can’t get to all the students to help them because of the class sizes. Further they report there are not enough chairs or desks, or textbooks, dirty schools especially bathrooms, and issues with security.
Great Pittsburgh Schools has developed a Community Based Plan for our schools that is excellent and a great model for us to work towards. We will be working with them to help promote this model.
Immigration: The PIIN (PA Interfaith Impact Network) immigration task force is working both to prevent some of the unfair targeting of undocumented immigrants by ICE and is also putting together a plan for the Mayor’s office on how to make Pittsburgh a “Welcoming City.” A Welcoming City is one which works to promote and support all immigrants to our city. The Alliance will be finding ways to help move Pittsburgh towards adopting this idea.
Housing: the Hill District Consensus Group is looking at the gentrification of the lower Hill and the building of new high end housing in the Hill District. The gentrification of our neighborhoods and displacement of low income housing is a major issue that needs to be addressed.
Gender discrimination: This is an area that is the focus of New Voices Pittsburgh: Women of Color for Reproductive Rights as they struggle for the rights of women and especially African American women. The One Billion Been Rising for Justice event on Valentine’s day was especially focusing on women who have been incarcerated for defending themselves from sexual violence. That is an issue of deep concern to us and needs to be addressed in our society.
Environment: Two major issues of special concern at the moment are fracking and the need to explore green solutions to our storm water overflow problems.
As we support and develop new initiatives that groups and individuals are developing we will be promoting a People’s Centered Human Rights movement. It should engage people in the process of developing policies and programs that will achieve full human rights. This requires a lot of work by us all and real changes in our political strategies.

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