In a tough political year in West Virginia, young people from the Appalachian Center for Equality program rose to the challenge.
In the wake of the 2014 elections, control of the WV legislature passed to Republican hands for the first time since 1932. Many legislators who had championed the statewide Our Children Our Future campaign to end child poverty were either no longer there or were not in leadership positions. Many legislators were newly elected and largely unknown.
West Virginia Economic Justice Project program coordinator Beth Spence began working for AFSC in WV in 2002, but her connection goes back decades farther. A Logan, WV native and longtime collaborator with the AFSC program there, she did pioneering work on rural homelessness. She also helped the new Economic Justice Project get started in 1989.
Our Children Our Future, West Virginia’s campaign to end child poverty, is gearing up for the 2015 legislative session. This coalition of coalitions, of which AFSC is an active member, has won over a dozen policy victories over the last two years, including prison reform, Medicaid expansion, raising the minimum wage, and restoring funding for family programs. While most of these victories take place at the capitol in Charleston during the 60 day legislative sessions that typically last from January to March, the campaign works statewide and year-round to build momentum.
AFSC’s West Virginia Economic Justice (WVEJ) program won a major victory in the 2014 state legislative session with the passage of a measure establishing a Future Fund, a permanent mineral trust fund created from a portion of natural resource severance taxes. “This is a campaign we’ve worked on with key allies for about four years,” WVEJ Director Rick Wilson said. “The bill is not perfect because it was amended and weakened late in the session, but we hope to strengthen it next year.
A sense of rebirth and renewal is spreading throughout the South Region under the dynamic new leadership of Kamau Franklin. Kamau, a civil rights attorney who was named regional director in April, brings to AFSC his rich background in organizing at the grassroots level around issues of racial justice and civic engagement. He shares his vision for the region here.
Storm Coleman testifies in front of West Virginia’s Select Committee on Children and Families.
To people who criticize welfare and disability recipients in West Virginia, 16-year-old Storm Coleman suggests a visualization exercise: “Picture yourself in my mom’s shoes.”
“Imagine that you’re overweight, or you’re in pain all day, you can’t walk around, and you have three kids to provide for, and no job will hire you either because you’re disabled or ’cause you’re overqualified—’cause my mom is really smart.”
AFSC is a Quaker organization devoted to service, development, and peace programs throughout the world. Our work is based on the belief in the worth of every person, and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice. Learn more
Where we work
AFSC has offices around the world. To see a complete list see the Where We Work page.