AFSC West Virginia 2024 Kickoff

By Lida Shepherd

Calling for Ceasefire

AFSC staff in West Virginia stand in solidarity with the interfaith effort in Charleston to amplify the call for a ceasefire and immediate humanitarian aid in Gaza. See more about the effort at the Charleston city council to advance a resolution in support of a ceasefire in the Charleston Gazette-Mail. AFSC's WV Economic Justice Fellow Kenny Matthews writes:

On January 2nd of the new year, the steps to City Hall in Charleston, WV were lit up with candles to shine a light on Gaza. White bundles and stuffed animals lined the steps to represent the roughly 8,000 babies and children killed so far in Gaza. Several interfaith members of the community issued their call for ceasefire on both sides. Islamic, Jewish, and Christian clergy banded together to show that the issue isn’t a religious one but a humanitarian one. Standing there I felt the pain, hurt, and hope emanating from the crowd. There were hugs and tears as people put forth the call to Charleston’s city council to pass a resolution supporting a ceasefire.

The following evening on January 3rd, the buzz in City Hall was electrifying as I made my way up to the third floor for the city council meeting. It didn’t seem possible, but there were more people there than the night before! People addressed the city council about the need for a clear, definitive call for ceasefire. One woman stated that at least 8,000 children have been killed so far, which is approximately the same number of children in Kanawha County. Imagine if all the youth in our entire county was killed? Wouldn’t that be too much to bear? Wouldn’t you want someone, anyone, anywhere to cry out against that?

The resolution was tabled. My heart broke on behalf of my AFSC colleagues who are in Gaza right now, and the countless families who have lost loved ones. My heart broke for the millions of people who are hungry and without clean water or access to basic medical care. The fight isn’t over! Until the shedding of innocent blood is stopped, we can’t stop advocating for ceasefire.

Also this week, U.S. Director of Economic Justice for AFSC and lifelong goat herder Rick Wilson published a piece about Gaza in the Charleston Gazette-Mailwhich you can read here.

Join AFSC's Weekly Action Hour

Every Friday at 12 PM ET, AFSC staff provide updates on Gaza, efforts towards humanitarian aid and ceasefire, and then together we take action. Our elected officials need to hear from us again and again. Join us!

Flyer for Leading for Justice legislative kickoff
Flyer for Food for All Summit
WIC emergency: Join our day of action on January 10th
Toward the Right to Food: Voices of Hunger WV banner logo
2024 Restorative Justice Summit graphic with dates

Leading for Justice Legislative Look Ahead

Tuesday, January 9th at 8 PM ET: Join AFSC and our partners at ACLU-WV, REACH Initiative, and the WV Center on Budget and Policy to hear an overview of criminal law reform policy priorities (and yes, what we are worried about), plus strategies for staying engaged during the 2024 session! An informal discussion will follow. Register here.

ICYMI: AFSC's Joanna Vance hosted Leading for Justice press conference last month during December interims where coalition leaders including Bev Sharp, Danni Shifflett, Jordan Dennison and Star Hogan outlined policy priorities. Read all about it in the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

"Soup's On!" at the Food for All Summit

On Saturday, January 27th in Charleston, the WV Food for All Summit will be a chance to break bread together, listen to those who know hunger first hand, and lift up the importance of access to healthy food for all people in West Virginia.

Advocates and service providers from across the state will delve into ways we can continue to shape a more sustainable and equitable food system in West Virginia, both through local programs and state and federal policy. Get your tickets today!

Protect Lifeline for WV Infants, Children, and Families #FUNDWIC

The House Appropriations Committee has proposed slashing WIC funding, which would cut the amount of fruits and vegetables made accessible through the program and potentially push more families onto a waiting list for a widely popular and utilized program. The House speaker and others of his ilk are proposing budget cuts that quite literally would take food away from children.  With rising food costs and people struggling every day to make ends meet, it is critical to protect and expand WIC. Take action via National WIC Association.

Seeding Sparks for the Right to Food in WV: Applications due Jan. 8th

AFSC's ACE program in collaboration with Voices of Hunger WV are soliciting applications to support advocates advancing the Right to Food in local communities across West Virginia. Voices of Hunger WV supports community-led efforts to address hunger and food insecurity through a rights-based framework and elevate the stories and lived experiences of those struggling with food access. Apply for funding and support today!

Speaking of the Right to Food: Great Success!

For years (actually for over a century now) AFSC in West Virginia has pulled every lever within our reach to expand access to food for kids in West Virginia.  Every now and then we can say in the words of Borat, "Great Success! High Five!"

We got word from the WV Department of Education's Office of Child Nutrition that now 52 out of 55 counties are fully participating in the Community Eligibility Program (CEP)—meaning every school offers free and reduced lunch, no questions asked, no burdensome paperwork. The other three counties (Putnam, Berkeley, and Raleigh) are partially participating—with hopes that those three counties will go "all in" in the months to come. Stay tuned, and for now, HIGH FIVE!

WV Restorative Justice Summit: June 14-15 at Wesleyan University

The two-day event will provide opportunities to learn about the potential for restorative justice in our schools, courts, and communities. The WV Restorative Justice Project is soliciting proposals for workshops, panel presentations, speakers or other presentations for the summit.

Presenters will receive free registration as well as room and board for the conference. Submissions are due on February 1st. Find out more here!

Mark your calendar: Legislative Advocacy Days and Trainings

  • Tuesday, Jan. 23rd: Hunger Free Day
  • Thursday, Feb 1st: Miner Workers/Black Lung Day
  • Monday, Feb. 5th: Leading for Justice Day
  • Wednesday, Feb. 7th: Black Policy Day
  • Thursday, Feb 8th: Compassion Calls Us Day (WV State Capitol) and Faith and Food Training (Trinity Lutheran Church)
  • Tuesday, Feb 13th: WV Environmental Council Day (E-Day!)

Stay warm, stay in touch, and I hope to see you soon! On that note, please feel free any day during legislative session to join us at "The Well" in the upper rotunda, where gossip is shared and commiseration with comrades is had. Legislative session starts January 10th (gulp).

In solidarity,

Lida Shepherd
WV Virginia Economic Justice Program Director