What do foreclosure prevention, civil rights activism, and youth leadership have in common?  Residents of Western Massachusetts will have the chance to find out on Monday, January 16, when AFSC hosts its 28th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration in Northampton, MA.

Among the speakers will be 14 year old Kalimah Dunwell.  When Kalimah’s parents lost the jobs they’d held for years, they also lost their home to foreclosure last year. After several months of unemployment, they both found work, but it seemed too late. The bank was ready to evict them.

Thanks to the Dunwell family’s organizing with the Springfield No One Leaves Coalition, of which AFSC is a founding member, the Dunwell family was able to stay in their home while seeking to either buy it back or remain as rent-paying tenants.  More than 80 families in similar circumstances have been helped by coalition efforts in the past year.  The coalition was also instrumental in developing some of the strongest foreclosure prevention legislation in the country in Springfield, MA this past year. 

Kalimah Dunwell and her family were not just assisted by community actions.  They were also part of making them happen.  Kalimah started attending No One Leaves meetings with her father nearly a year ago. She is one of several youth leaders who have been stepping up and speaking out in efforts to turn the tide of the foreclosure crisis. 

”We are lucky to have Kalimah talk about the bank tenant movement in Springfield – a movement that she is helping to build,” says Jeff Napolitano, program coordinator for AFSC of Western Massachusetts. “Her example is why we believe another world is possible.”

Dr. King spoke to the ways in which the peace movement, the civil rights movement, and work for economic justice were all part of the same struggle.  AFSC, too, works in the understanding that only when root causes of injustice are addressed can peace be sustained, and that violence and war are inherently unjust. 

As we celebrate Dr. King’s birthday, we’ll also be celebrating the youth leadership, nonviolent action, and organizing efforts that keep his spirit alive in our communities today.  (See links below for details about MLK events in Northampton, MA and Manchester, NH.) From Kalimah’s efforts to help people stay in their homes to the youth leadership in the Occupy movement, that spirit is well represented in Western Massachusetts.