Here at GBM, 2011 was a year of the unexpected, both heartbreaking and inspiring.
On April 27, deadly tornadoes swept through Alabama, leaving wide swaths of the state devastated. The tornadoes didn’t respect the boundaries we often set between rich and poor, but recovery for people living in lower income areas has been slower than we hoped. GBM received an outpouring of generous donations following the tornadoes, which enabled us to assist families directly and pass on resources to on-site relief organizations.
On June 9, devastation of another type hit the state when Gov. Robert Bentley signed the most punitive, far-reaching and unjust immigration law in the nation. Although the law was not scheduled to take effect until September 1 and court rulings delayed implementation of some sections, the damage was immediate and far-reaching.
Over the course of the next few months, immigrants (many of whom are part of “mixed” families – documented as well as undocumented) left the state, and left employers without the skilled workers they needed. Because the law criminalizes assistance to undocumented immigrants, those who remain here have been fearful of asking for the help they need. Not one Hispanic family signed up for holiday assistance through GBM this year. Utility companies around the state began demanding citizenship papers as a condition of providing service. Hispanic students disappeared from Alabama schools, and those who remained faced bullying from other students who called them illegal and told them to “go back to Mexico”.
GBM has been at the forefront of the faithful opposition to Alabama’s new immigration law, and we will continue to work for repeal.
We’ve been busy this year – check out the highlights after the jump. We’re grateful for your interest and support in 2011, and we look forward to partnering with you in 2012! If you’d like to make a financial gift to support our work, click HERE.
- Thanks to our generous donors, GBM provided food, clothing, and/or financial assistance for 2,693 families (7,086 people, including 3,029 children) as well as holiday food, new clothing and new toys for 250 families (1,058 people, including 697 children).
- When the city of Birmingham planned to withhold $3 million in funding for the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority and cut fourteen bus routes, GBM staff and volunteers organized bus riders to push back by contacting the mayor and city council members. The city reversed the decision to cut funds and routes, and Mayor William Bell credited GBM with “making me do the right thing”. We continue our ongoing work of building broad and deep support for affordable, reliable, sustainable regional public transit, working with local allies, the Center for Social Inclusion, the Los Angeles Bus Riders’ Union, and PolicyLink.
- GBM and volunteers from Prince of Peace Catholic Church and other faith communities organized the first major faithful pushback against Alabama’s punitive new immigration law on June 25, drawing nearly 4,000 people to an interfaith candle march in downtown Birmingham. The march was followed by a rally on September 1 that drew around 3,000.
- GBM, as part of the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice, spearheaded congressional field hearings on the impact of HB56. The hearings, held before a packed house at the Birmingham City Council chambers, were followed by the official kickoff of “One Family, One Alabama”, the campaign against HB56. Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and Kelly Ingram Park were filled with people gathering to express their opposition to the law.
- On December 17, GBM and the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice brought Jim Wallis of Sojourners to Montgomery. Before Jim spoke in the evening, Lisa Sharon Harper, Sojourners’ Director of Mobilizing, led a faith-rooted organizing training, following a one-day training conference to educate grassroots organizers and a rally at the governor’s mansion to demonstrate support for repeal of HB56.
- GBM, in partnership with Western States Center, began the work of “Uniting Communities”, addressing issues of justice and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of color. The people of this community face bias, bullying, and violence both because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and their race. We have built a diverse and committed core group that meets monthly to share information and ideas. As part of this effort, GBM has partnered with Beloved Community Church for our LGBT/Racial Justice Film Series, which has featured “Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin”, “Anyone and Everyone”, and “Through My Eyes”. Each film drew a diverse audience and engendered powerful sharing of stories.
- GBM has produced another informative calendar to illuminate how everyday struggles relate back to Alabama’s deeply flawed 1901 constitution and highlight the need for a new and improved basic governing document.
- We continue to bring together the poor and non-poor in our community to identify and address the barriers that keep people in poverty and to acknowledge and celebrate both our common dreams and the richness of our diversity.