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“Building Grassroots Democracy in Minority Communities” Professional Fellows from Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia in the U.S.A., September 29 - November 9, 2013 GUESTS’ PARTICIPATING IN DIRECT ACTIONS IN THE U.S.A 18 Professional Fellows spent six weeks in the U.S. to exchange and learn different community organizing methods in engaging citizens as active participants in solving problems in their own communities. They also explored how to build power

and leadership in minority communities that can contribute to positive changes in legislation that make then a difference in their community. During 3-week internship with various American companies Fellows gained hands-on-hands experience at

civil society institutions and participated in their daily activities. This report with highlights from the European fellows focuses on their participation in various direct actions in different communities across the United States.

October 8, 2013, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless office: Professional Fellows all together before they go for 3 weeks internship at different organizations across the United States (L-R) row 1: Boba Baluchova, Laura Stefanut, Zsofi Lenart, Elena Carbunaru and Viktoria Petrova; row 2: Robert Bekefi, Lia Gaudi, Shaban Darakchiev, Gabriela Mezeiova, Annamaria Kovacs, Vladislav Petkov, Oana Botezan, Jozsef Angyal, Iustina Neagu, Hristo Angelichin and Kalina Hristova; row 3: Jim Field (CCH), Roman Tycka Kollarik, Rachel Leonor Ramirez (CCH) and Jim Picchetti (CCH).

* Sponsored by the U.S. State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Organized by the Great Lakes Consortium for International Training and Development with WSOS Community Action Commission, Inc. – Contract Agent and Manager Website: http://www.glc-teachdemocracy2.org/ Facebook: GLC_TeachDemocracy E-mail contact: glc_teachdemocracy2@hotmail.com


“Building Grassroots Democracy in Minority Communities”

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March on Immigration Reform on October 12 & 26, 2013 In Chicago, Illinois Viktoriya Petrova Borisova: “On Saturday, October 12, European fellows Zsofi Lenart (Hungary), Laura Stefanut (Romania), Boba Baluchova and Gabriela Mezeiova (Slovakia) and I (Bulgaria) participated in very interesting March on Immigration Reform, organized by our hosting organization. Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) is a statewide coalition of more than 130 organizations dedicated to promoting the rights of immigrants and refugees to full and equal participation in the civic, cultural, social, and political life of our diverse society.

During the March I was giving a short interview about reforms for the Bulgarian TV News station.

Zsofi Lenart and me hold signs, posters and banners, helped organizers of the March to gather people from different neighborhoods of Chicago before the march started and then helped until the end.

Thousands of immigrant leaders, families and allies from immigrant rights, labor, faith communities marched in Chicago together on October 12 to demand that Congress should pass immigration reform with dignity, justice and respect for all immigrants. The action started at Teamster city at 12:00 Noon and ended around 4:00 PM at the Daley Plaza in Chicago. Zsofi and I did a bit of volunteering in preparing the banners and posters for the march and helped organizers to gather people from different neighborhoods of Chicago.

Laura and Boba took a lot of photos, videos and made notes for their reports. Laura states: “As my field of interest is on the domestic work and immigrants, I was documenting how do vulnerable immigrant workers became empowered in Chicago. There were about 2000 people who marched to the Daily Plaza.” The marching people demanded that the federal government should halt deportations, stop the further criminalization of immigrants, and pass legalization that includes a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants. We could see hundreds of banners and posters with slogans like: “Legalizacion ahora”, “Obama, escucha! Estamos en la lucha!”; and we could hear the sentences like: “Stop the deportations.”; “Families together.”; “Enough is enough.”

Boba states: “The most important idea that we’ve learnt that day was: how powerful and strong one crowd of thousands of courageous people can be when it is well organized (people stand together to achieve their goal – basic human rights). It can have very strong influence on politicians and decision makers!”

Jozsef Angyal: “I participated with other GLC fellows in Chicago on October 26 in a direct action related to immigrants driver licenses. In Illinois since 2005 Temporary Visitor Driver's Licenses were issued to individuals, who do not have Social Security Numbers but who have lawful immigration status. As part of the immigration reform they wanted to extend these TVDL for undocumented immigrants as well, so they are able to drive legally in the United States.”


Professional Fellows in the U.S. (September 29 - November 9, 2013)

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March on Immigration Reform on October 12, 2013 in Little Rock, Arkansas Kalina Hristova Valova: “On Saturday, October 12, Oana Botezan and I took part in March For Immigration Reform with as around 500 people marched to the Capitol in

Shaban Darakchiev: “On Saturday, October 12, Roman Kollarik and I participated in direct action in the “Our Mission - No Evictions” march in San Francisco. I was involved in organizing people, who wanted to join the march and helped out with the registration and handing out brochures.

Organizing people takes time and energy so you have to have a lot of social capital and network of friends to make it easier. I am sure that marches and any other kind of activities should include all the disadvantaged communities in order to support each other actions. LGBT community working in Castro was also a part of the march.”

Arkansas. There were two lines, one started at Philander Smith College and another from Dickey Stephens Park and then both marching lines united at the State Capitol building.”

in San Francisco, California Roman Tycka Kollarik: “The rally was co-organized by several local organizations. Around 400 people from a few neighborhoods attended to protest unfair impacts of raising prices of local real estate on local people. The march was accompanied by Native American dancers, group of Brazil drummers and dancers.

Strong testimonies helped to keep the crowd energized. I learned today that ideas of equality and justice are empty words without powerful crowd of angry people demanding their implementation in strategic planning and everyday decision making. Also the merchandise around the rally is very good opportunity for fundraising.”


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Direct Actions in Chicago, Illinois Boba Baluchova: “On Tuesday evening, October 15, European fellows took part in action and joined almost 3000 Chicagoans in the fight to take back the jobs, schools, housing and safety net. Lia Gaudi and I (as interns in Chicago Coalition for the Homeless – CCH) with 150 co-workers, organizers and leaders from CCH attended the event: “Take Back Chicago!” in UIC Forum at 5:00 PM. We were there already at 3:00 PM and helped the organizers from core organizations

‘Grassroots collaborative’ and ‘Stand up! Chicago’ to set up the room and distribute printed materials about the event. At this event about 35 organizations called for affordable housing, fair taxes, increasing of minimum wage, stop public schools’ closing Majority of the main hall of UIC Forum (fast-food and supermarket workers etc.) declared that a salary: $8.5 per hour is not enough for living in dignity… Annamaria Kovacs from Hungary, Laura Stefanut from Romania and Gabriela Mezeiova from Slovakia

joined us. Being present during the preparation of program, planning the agenda and setting up the room are very important for community organizers – to use the power of people, to have a control of event and to push the guestspeakers (politicians on hot chair on the stage) to make right decisions. It was inspiring rally – full of courageous people.”

For more information visit: http://standupchicago.org

“On Thursday, October 17, the members of Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) decided to take a direct action and visit the Chicago Mayor's office. Lia Gaudi and I joined the group of CCH advocates to deliver the letter to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office – to request a meeting about the proposed Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) Re-entry Pilot Project. It was very interesting direct action in front of Chicago mayor's office. Debriefing led by the director of CCH was

also very important in order to understand the process of thinking, planning and acting of community organizers. Over the past year and a half, housing and social service advocates in Chicago have worked quietly to tackle a controversial issue – easing CHA’s longstanding restrictions on residents with criminal records. They formed a Reentry committee, drafted a pilot program and found a sympathetic ear at the very top of the CHA – Charles Woodyard, who just last month committed to keep

meeting with them about the idea. Pastor Charles Austin is one of the advocates with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) on the issue of CHA withholding housing from people re-entering from incarceration brought to light by CCH's Reentry Committee.

According to him – “After coming out from the County Jail people are suggested to rebuild their life. But it is very hard to rebuild the life without the foundation of a stable place to live. This Reentry Project can help convicted offenders find place to live more quickly.”


Professional Fellows in the U.S. (September 29 - November 9, 2013)

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Direct Actions in Chicago, Illinois “On Thursday, October 17, four professional fellows placed as interns with Jane Addams Senior Caucus (JASC) Laura Stefanut from Romania, Gabriela Mezeiova from Slovakia, Shaban Darakchiev from Bulgaria and I am from Hungary with others leaders from JASC and ONE Northside par-

ticipated in protest action in respond on a temporary fiscal deal reached by Congress the day before. We all took part in press conference at People’s Church in Chicago about the effects of the government shutdown and budget cuts on the lives of the communities, especially seniors and children. The group of leaders presented energising

and brave speeches about the communities’ lives and the importance of keeping social security safe for the elderly and kids in need. They sent a loud message to Washington, D.C.: “...It is a time for budget that raises revenue, and focuses on strengthening and protecting Social Security!”

After two days of preparing the signs Gabriela, Laura, Shaban and I were holding signs with messages about the facts and expressing feelings of people involved in government shutdown and budget cuts on services.

JASC leader Ann Marie Cunningham was talking about why instead of cutting Social Security with the Chained CPI, government must strengthen the program for the future by scrapping the payroll tax cap.

JASC leader Victor shared his story of working on a factory line, and why raising the retirement age on Social Security would be devastating for so many people who are just hanging on for their retirement.”

Laura Stefanut:

manian Consulate in Chicago. This protest was held in solidarity with the protest movement “To Save Rosia Montana” in Romania. Protesters handed this way an open letter to the Prime Minister Victor Ponta around

these days also in Washington, D.C. In Chicago the letter was handed to the staff of the consulate, Mr. Consul George Predescu before he went to Washington, D.C. to meet with the Prime Minister.”

Annamaria Kovacs:

“On Tuesday, October 22, I took part in the spontaneous protest along with a group of protesters representatives of the Romanian community in Chicago inside the building of the Ro-


Professional Fellows in the U.S. (September 29 - November 9, 2013)

Direct Actions in Little Rock, Arkansas Kalina Hristova Valova: “On Tuesday, October 15, Oana Botezan and I participated in the direct action Protest on the Government Shut Down in Little Rock. We were visiting the U.S. Congressman Tim Griffin's office in Little Rock delivering a letter calling him to vote to end the government shut down, lift the debt ceiling, end the automatic spending cuts and raise revenue by closing corporate tax loopholes. Arkansas Community Organizations (ACO) was the coordinator of the meeting.”

Oana Botezan: “On Wednesday, October 16, I took a part in direct action Protest on the Government Shut Down with several people from my host organization, Arkansas Community Organizations (ACO). There I am with a banner standing on the street with other activists before we were going to office.”

For more information visit: http://arkansascomm.org/

Direct Action in Manchester, New Hampshire Andrea Tajti: “On Thursday, October 17, I participated in a protest for the benefit of New Hampshire Alliance of Retired Americans. With some activists from my host organization Granite State Organizing Project in New Hampshire we went in front of the office of the Senator Kelly Ayotte, and protested for social security and against pension cuts for seniors. The action was very successful, the protest went very well. The Senator was informed of our cause and arguments.”

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Direct Action in Wichita, Kansas Elena Carbunaru: “My friends Robert Bekefi from Hungary, Vladislav Petkov from Bulgaria and I am from Romania were placed for our internship in Wichita, Kansas. On Tuesday, October 15 we

all participated in a direct action protest happened during Kansas Policy Institute's annual dinner in Wichita outside the building. KPI is part of American Legislative Exchange Committee (ALEC) and is connected to

manipulative researches that feed bad policy and legislation proposals in the sphere of education, healthcare, environment.

Emira Palacios and Vladislav Petkov during the Protest in Wichita, KN

The protest was organized in collaboration between trade unions, community organizations and groups, among which Sunflower Community Action in Wichita.”

Direct Action in Minneapolis, Minnesota Hristo Angelichin: “On Thursday, October 24, I was part of a large-scale community meeting in North Minneapolis hosted by TakeAction Minnesota and with the Target Corporation officials to discuss Minnesota’s worst-in-the-nation racial jobs gap. The meeting was called to push for policies that can help close the jobs gap and provide hiring opportuni-

ties for those with previous criminal backgrounds. The Target Corp. closed its North Minneapolis store in 2003. The event was held at the Capri Theater, 2027 West Broadway Avenue and began at 6:00 PM. The forum was moderated by Professor Nekima LevyPounds, Director of the Community Justice Project at the University of St. Thomas Law School. Other participants include V.J. Smith, President of MAD DADS Minneapolis Chapter, and Pastor Dennis Edwards of Sanctuary Covenant Church and up to 300 community members.” For more information follow the link: http://www.takeactionminnesota.org/


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Direct Action in Oakland, California Roman Tycka Kollarik: “On Wednesday, October 9, Shabby Darakchiev (Bulgaria) and I (Slovakia) participated in membership action meeting “History of Housing Struggles and Resistance” led by Dawn Philips, Co-Director.. I learned that there are a few schools of community organizing with different values, understanding of community and role of community organizer. In order to reach necessary changes in certain communities, community organizing could be accompanied by other means of empower such as social services, advocacy, community building and development, etc.”

OUR SINCERE THANK YOU TO All Host Organizations in 12 states across the United States for cooperating with the Great Lakes Consortium, for organizing internships to our delegation and for all support!

Arkansas - Arkansas Community Organization, California - Center for Third world Organizing, Illinois - Jane Adams Senior Caucus, - Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, - Illinois Coalition for Immigrants and Refugee Rights, - Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Kansas - Sunflower Community Action, - The Seed House, Maryland - CASA de Maryland, Michigan - Harriet Tubman Center, Minnesota - TakeAction Minnesota, New Hampshire - Granite State Organizing Project, - United Valley Interfaith Project, Ohio - NeighborWorks (Neighborhood Housing Services of Toledo), Pennsylvania - William Way LGBT Community Center, New York City - Community Voices Heard, - Heritage of Pride.

THANK YOU to all Host Families for their welcome, generosity and support to our delegates. This program would not be a success without you!


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