Monday, October 19, 2009

2009 Gandhi-King Conference on Peacemaking-Oct 23rd-25th

Schedule updates, workshops posted, and more...

Gandhi-King Conference on Peacemaking
October 23-25, 2009
Memphis, TN

Final preparations are under way for what is going to be our most engaging conference yet. We have just updated the schedule and added a listing of workshop offerings to the website. The phones are busy fielding calls from as far away as Kenya and Nepal, with peacemakers from all over the world finding ways to make the trip to Memphis to be a part of this important gathering.

Please don't wait a minute longer. Register today to reserve your space in this gathering that will feature....

Speakers: Rev. CT Vivian, lifelong civil rights activist • Kathy Kelly, Voices for Creative Nonviolence • Mubarak Awad, Nonviolence International • Barbara Love, United to End Racism • Rudy Balles, PeaceJam Foundation • Michael Nagler, Metta Center

Workshops by: LaOnf, 9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, United to End Racism, Community Media Workshop, National War Tax Resistance, the Matrix Center, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Young Spirit Foundation, the Community Nonviolence Resource Center and much more...

Want more than just a conference? The Gandhi-King Convergence: from shared ideas to coordinated action.

The Gandhi-King Convergence is an opportunity for people from across the country and around the world to come together to vision, share ideas and resources, and further our work in a more unified and collaborative way. Participants will form issue-based working groups and engage in a process to share insights and experiences, find ways we can be of support to each other, and to create an action plan for the coming year. Presenters will act as resource agents in this process to provide guidance and support. We will also form a network so that these groups can stay connected and support each other in their common work throughout the year. These working groups will help us dig deeper and turn our knowledge into action!

Registration includes all this PLUS a Friday reception, lunch on Saturday, and the Saturday evening banquet.

click here to download the workshop schedule, register, and more...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

..... Take a Bow

On behalf of ISSUES FIRST, we want to congratulate County Mayor AC Wharton on his victory in the Special Election for Memphis Mayor. Issues First wishes you all the best and godspeed.

I'll leave the post election analysis to those better suited than I and just wanted to take a moment to say something personal.

I want to express my appreciation and respect for the Campaign Workers and volunteers who worked not only on Mayor Wharton's winning campaign but on all the others as well. It's hard, unglamorous and thankless work..filled with late hours and little if no pay. You do this work because you believed in the candidate you worked for..believed in them enough that you gave your precious time, money and energy to try and get someone else elected to public office. This is a tremendous thing and the bitch of it is..when your candidate are often unsung..when you breaks your heart. So please accept my humble congrats and admiration of your work and take a bow.


That all goes for our ISSUES FIRST workers and volunteers as well, but our campaign is not over...signing a pledge is one thing...honoring it with action is another. So our work continues as we work with and support our Mayor in his noble goal of building ONE MEMPHIS, as well as as working even harder to reach out to the community, our partners and those who are impacted by the issues of Poverty,Health,Jobs,Crime and Violence to ensure that this PEOPLE'S AGENDA moves forward.

This Election is Over..Our Campaign is Not

...but first...let take a nap and catch our breath....and catch up on some DVR'ed episodes of DEXTER

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

AC Wharton on the ISSUES FIRST Campaign

Dear Brad:

The theme for our campaign - "One Memphis" - emerged out of my desire to see not only greater unity among people, but greater understanding that the issues we face are inextricably linked. The four that you have highlighted in your Issues First agenda, poverty, obs, health, and crime must not be approached as divided, segmented problems but with the clear understanding that they are inter-related. Just as the prosperity or decline of one area of Memphis affects all areas of Memphis, so does impacting one of these issues affect what happens with the other three.

My administration will be defined by the same ethos that has defined my campaign - an investment in people instead of projects and a focus on making results, not taking credit. During my time as your County Mayor, I have worked tirelessly with local companies to provide incentives for the workforce training and hiring of ex-felons. Young men and women who have ended up on the wrong side of the law once should not be forever denied the ability to earn a living or provide for their families, as long as they have accepted responsibility for their actions and paid their dues to society. In fact, recidivism rates in Shelby County are so high precisely because upon leaving jail, a continued life of crime is too often the only available option for an individual.

Creating the structure, responsibility, and financial security of a good job not only reduces crime, it raises household incomes across our entire city. As a result, Memphis becomes safer and more prosperous. We're already doing this, and as your next City Mayor, I look forward to doing even more. From FedEx to Piggly Wiggly to Holiday Inn to Stax Records, Memphis has proud legacy of successful entrepreneurship. I know that spirit is still alive in our city, and in a competitive 21st century economy, it's more important than ever. My administration will ramp up its support for small and minority-owned businesses and strategically use incentives to atract companies to parts of town where jobs are needed the most. My office will also comprehensively organize all of the city's economic development agencies, departments and non-profits to ensure that we are recruiting and retaining valuable talent as aggressively as possible.

A thriving community is an inherently safer and healthier one. A few weeks ago, following an appearance I made before the National Press Club, the United States House of Representatives passed a resolution to focus new attention on the epidemic of infant mortality that plagues Shelby County. An infant dies in our community every 42 hours - that's a rate on par with some third-world countries, and it is utterly inexcusable. I've been working with Governor Bredesen to secure resources so that we can attack this problem by going straight to the most afflicted ZIP codes and neighborhoods and talking directly to expectant mother. There should not be a separate standard of care for rich families and poor families. I if have to lead my staff door to door to every household in the City to ensure that, I'm prepared to do so.

It's sometimes said in politics that there are not permanent friends or permanent enemies, only permanent issues. I certainly hope that the issues I'm running to address are not permanent ones! To that adage, however, I'd add that there are not permanent leaders, only individuals such as myself who have been presented the opportunity to serve at the will of the people. I am running for City Mayor so that I can continue a personal mission of service that I began many years ago. I applaud the Mid-South Peace & Justice Center for your leadership in making sure that our focus as candidates and elected officials remains squarely where it needs to be - on the needs desires, concerns, and aspirations of those we have pledged do serve.

You may find answers to additional questions about my platform at my website,, or by emailing me personal at

Yours in service,

AC Wharton, Jr

Friday, October 02, 2009

"Where they are more easily tolerated."

"This is going to be a long one"

Many of you no doubt have seen,heard or read that the Center City Commission is moving ahead with plans to try and get new ordinances passed that would ban single beer sales in areas of downtown...excluding Beale street, as well as the creation of "No Panhandling zones." The proposed motivation for such action is the stated belief that such a ban would discourage aggressive panhandling of tourists and downtown residents. If you have not heard about this yet, please feel free to check out this article right here.

Now...where to begin....first let's make something clear, no one is defending aggressive panhandling, and no one has the right to threaten harass or intimidate people out of their money.This issue has little to do with it's publicly stated aim of dealing with that crime and is instead another in a long line of veiled attempts by the Center City Commission to use extreme cases of Aggressive panhandling to rally public support to drive the poor and the homeless out of Downtown and into other neighborhoods. "...and by other...I mean yours"

About a year ago the CCC spent half a million dollars in launching a private security force downtown with the stated purpose of discouraging aggressive panhandling ONLY, and not harassment of the homeless, yet a year later and by their own reports the CCC's security force only deals with AP issues 40% of the time. The bulk of the time is dealt with enforcing "Lifestyle" issues.

The CCC actions push poor people out of downtown despite the fact that a large number of homeless service providers are in fact located in the Downtown area. The result is the continued push of the homeless out of the Green zone and further into Midtown, Berclair and Orange Mound, rather than pursue a policy that addresses homelessness and drug and alcohol addiction for the benefit of all parties involved. If the opposite were true, then where is the CCC's call for a free shelter in Memphis?

We are the only major metro area our size that does not have one. Where is the CCC's call for greater mental health and alcohol addiction services? Where is the CCC's call for assistance for those trying to navigate the complex application process for social security disability benefits? Hell, the CCC just updated it's fancy dancy website and did not update their information on Homeless services, nor have they added an online giving button to their website as they encourage people to give to charities not panhandlers.We have asked them to do this for over three years now.

More to the point, where is the effort to engage the homeless population as a potential partner in dealing with the issue. As the homeless as a whole bear the brunt of the backlash against Aggressive Panhandlers, many of them are angry about the situation as well...which the CCC would know if they ever bothered to dialog with them. Aggressive Panhandling is a behavior, homelessness is a situation, yet these methods of dealing with a behavior punish Aggressive Panhandlers the poor,the homeless, and non homeless folk alike? Where was the input from the homeless and the homeless service providers?

What is the real benefit of banning single beer sales in areas other than Beale Street? What if YOU worked downtown and wanted to buy a tallboy after work one day, why set aside one set of rules for one population and another set of rules for another?
A well known local blogger regularly documents his public intoxication walking around downtown Memphis and wins awards for it.
Members of the CCC at last year's Christmas tree lighting ceremony were seen in broad daylight pouring Maker's Mark from a bottle in a brown paper bag into their cups. In fact there was a video of this on their website until earlier this year.
So I guess the message is, if you have money, public intoxication is not a problem or a crime. What about the regular law abiding citizen who just wants to buy a beer?

If the problem is people with an alcohol addiction problem, then what is the benefit of forcing people to buy beer in larger quantities. Is Malt liquor even sold in a six pack format? Would this policy not simply push those with alcohol abuse issues to buy pints of equally inexpensive liquor from area liquor stores, as they would be unaffected by this proposed ordinance? Exchanging beer cans for liquor bottles...progress?

What is the real benefit of nonsensical "no panhandling zones"? Will that really solve anything..or is it a policy designed to push the issues elsewhere.? Afterall, by creating a "No Panhandling zone...aren't you really just creating Panhandling zones elsewhere?

In fact Today's editorial in the Commercial appeal, shines quite a light on the underlining motivation behind this push, check it out right Here

Here is the crucial quote from that piece...
"But some panhandlers are simply trying to collect enough money for their next beer or malt liquor to drink on the street. If they can't get what they want Downtown,
perhaps they will give some thought to moving where they're more easily tolerated."

....Where they are more easily tolerated.....where they are more easily tolerated....again, that means...your neighborhood. In fact, just the other day I spoke with a group of volunteers at the midtown based St Vincent Depaul Food mission on Cleveland. While I was there, I watched as this organization served over 225 meals to the poor and homeless in less than two hours. Why the upsurge?...because according to the staff and clients, these folks were being pushed out from Downtown.
Late last week, at a place of Hospitality in Midtown I spoke to volunteers and clients about how the police pick up homeless individuals and drive them out to the city limits and drop them off as well as "indicted corners and alleys" where the police routinely harass the homeless for simply standing in certain areas known to be spots of "drug/gang related activity". Hell, about a quarter of the city fits that criteria...
Speaking to activists at a Food mission in Highland Heights/Berclair, i've heard from staff,volunteers and clients about how the population of homeless folk increases in the area right before any major event occurs downtown.
Where they are more easily tolerated......

The CCC instead of focusing and reaching out to potential partners to deal effectively with the roots causes of homelessness, drug addiction and public safety for everyone in the community, the CCC is engaged in just another in a series of steps to further criminalize poverty in the two safest precincts in area in the city of Memphis.

One last thing....
It's never fun and it's scary to some to be Aggressively panhandled...I totally understand and respect that, but let's be real. Go to Washington D.C. Philadelphia,Chicago,Los Angeles, or in major other tourist location inside or outside the US from Paris to Rome....and then go on and on about how serious a problem we really have here.People need to get out more.

The cost of incarceration at 201 poplar is $87-90 dollars, per inmate, per day. Arresting poor people or fining and citing for nonviolent "nuisance" offenses is a fiscally, morally and pragmatically failed policy for dealing with homeless issues.

Don't we have some real crimes to focus all this time money and energy on?

Thursday, October 01, 2009

ISSUES FIRST-Carpenter,Chumney,Lawler,Lowery and Whalum sign the pledge

Today at one of Memphis' largest food missions for the poor and homeless in our city five candidates in the election for Mayor of the City of Memphis stood with the community and signed a public pledge that the ISSUES of POVERTY,HEALTH,JOBS, CRIME AND VIOLENCE outlined in the PEOPLE'S AGENDA would be priorities in their administrations.

The ISSUES FIRST CAMPAIGN hosted a press conference outside of the ST VINCENT DePAUL food mission at 123 North Cleveland, candidates Charles Carpenter,Carol Chumney,Jerry Lawler,Myron Lowery and KT Whalum fulfilled a commitment to signing and embracing the issues set forward by this community driven campaign of issues that center on the challenges faced by thousands in our communities everyday.

Each of the candidates spoke of their support and their individual and collective passion for promoting positive change in the city of Memphis and uplifting the work of those in the community.

Our deepest thanks to these leaders for their pledge, and watch this space for updates on our next Pledge signing event, Where candidates Wanda Halbert, AC Wharton, and Sharon Webb will also sign the pledge of the People's Agenda.

Demand Change