Grantee of the Month
TRCF is proud to recognize our grantees throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania that promote social justice and change through their activities. Each month we will recognize one of these organizations as our Grantee of the Month.
The American Friends Service Committee
Grantee of the Month, July 2012
The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace, and humanitarian service. They base their work on their belief in the worth of every person and their faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.
The AFSC has more than nine decades of experience building peace in communities worldwide. AFSC was founded in 1917 during World War I to give young conscientious objectors ways to serve without joining the military or taking lives. They drove ambulances, ministered to the wounded, and stayed on in Europe after the armistice to rebuild war-ravaged communities. Since then, AFSC has worked throughout the world in conflict zones, in areas affected by natural disasters, and in oppressed communities to address the root causes of war and violence.
From these experiences, AFSC knows that peacemaking requires more than merely advocating against one war or another. Real peace is more than the absence of war. Rather, peace requires changing the culture, situations, and systems that lead to violence.
AFSC builds the capacity for peace person-by-person, community-by-community, using conflict resolution, “summit meetings” between rival groups, and simple projects such as gardens to bring together diverse elements to reduce violence. When people understand the terrible consequences of violence and witness realistic alternatives, they gather as a powerful force to address the underlying causes and lay the foundation for lasting peace. AFSC began the Pennsylvania Empowering Voices for Peace and Justice Program to bring people of divergent views together to build a peaceful and just world.
AFSC has partnered with Pittsburgh Young Leaders Academy (PYLA) to hold a youth program called Racial Justice Through Human Rights (RJTHR). Through the program, a group of racially, culturally, and geographically diverse teens meet to explore the natures of violence and nonviolence, and to discuss ways to bring about social change. The teens also talk about diversity and the history of racism. The goal of the program is to give the teens a better understanding of racial and ethnic justice in a human rights framework, and to teach them how to create peaceful change at a community level.
The first RJTHR youth group asked the City Council to declare Pittsburgh a Human Rights City. On April 19th 2011, through the work of the group, Pittsburgh became the 5th Human Rights City in the world.
AFSC’s other current initiatives include:
– Networking with partners locally and nationally to educate the public about the use of torture by the US
government and prolonged solitary confinement in our prisons.
– Raising awareness about the human and economic cost of war and militarization through exhibits, dramatic
readings and information sharing.
TRCF’s 2011 grant to AFSC helped the organization continue its Racial Justice Through Human Rights youth program.
This year’s RJTHR group participated in the Youth Media Advocacy Project, a collaboration between Carlow University and Greater Pittsburgh Student Voices. The project provides students with the knowledge, skills and support to use the media to influence education policy decisions that impact their daily lives.
The RJTHR group produced a video called Education Justice in Pittsburgh, which discusses the impact of the recent budget cuts in Pennsylvania on an already unequal education system.
Carlow mentors worked with the group to refine their issues discussion, storyboard their video, and to select adults to appear in the video in addition to the students themselves. YMAP brought in Steeltown Entertainment to professionally film and edit the video to the students’ specifications.
The result is the very powerful 5-minute trailer seen here. A longer-form version of the film will have a screening at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year. The RJTHR group hopes their video will raise public awareness about the issue of racial inequality in education throughout Pennsylvania.
Visit AFSC’s website here.