MADSA welcomes refugees Dec. 12, 2015

About 20 MADSA members joined a diverse crowd of 125 at a “Welcome Refugees” rally in front of the Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church in Stone Mountain. The event had been quickly called by the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition (MADSA is a member) and refugee community and faith groups to show solidarity with refugees and immigrants, following incendiary statements by Donald Trump and others. Photos: Reid Freeman Jenkins

Community member and Metro Atlanta DSA activist Keith Beaver shared the following reflections on the rally:

In the early 1990’s, Clarkston Georgia, in the heart of DeKalb County’s 4th Commissioner’s District, was deemed “a good fit” for Somali refugees fleeing that war-torn country. Clarkston was already becoming more ethnically diverse and the rental market was wide open due to a middle-class flight to the suburbs. Still, the howls of racism and nativism were swift and strong. Racist bigots began referring to the city as “Darkston;” breathtaking and unforgivable certainly, but not surprising. From the founding of the city through the 1980’s, the City of Clarkston had remained close to 90% white and the sudden change sent the white community reeling to expose still seething base instincts of a social fabric which 30 years earlier had been ordered by federal officials to end racial segregation.

Fast forward to today. Another war, this time in Syria, and we are welcoming and providing safety to another flood of war refugees to DeKalb County’s 4th Commissioner’s district and specifically to Clarkston. This time, though, it is the State of Georgia howling a racist mantra of “brown people not welcome here.” The current mayor of Clarkston, Ted Terry, has taken exception with Governor Deal’s illegal and futile contradiction of U.S. refugee resettlement policy.

At least twenty members of the Metro Atlanta DSA joined Pastor George of Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church, Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition and many others to say “Welcome to Georgia,” “We want you here,” and “You make our community better and stronger.”

I am so proud of our emerging tradition of welcoming immigrants and refugees to the county commission’s 4th district. Diversity makes our community strong and wise, and it fosters democracy. In the most recent election for Clarkston City Council, Ahmed Hassan, a refugee from Somalia, was elected to Council. I cannot think of a better demonstration of true, pure, grassroots American democracy than Mr. Hassan’s election to City Council. I hope this is just the beginning. My hope is that, soon, we will see a member of our refugee community elected to the Georgia General Assembly or even the United States Congress. We are a nation of immigrants and DeKalb County’s 4th Commissioner’s District is an epicenter of hope and justice for the immigrant and refugee community. We embrace our immigrant sisters and brothers and shout loudly and clearly, “You are welcomed here!”

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