How long has your chapter been in your city/town? How has your work with chapters looked like over that time frame? 

We’ve been unofficially around for a year and officially around for 9 months. As a chapter, we’ve been working on a lot of things. 

Our main focus is the #FreeTheVote campaign, where we have focused on giving political education around voting rights for currently and formerly incarcerated people and hosting mass letter writing events. We hope to perform more direct actions around the jail/related officials’ houses to bring public attention to the issue as well. We’ve also collaborated a few times with the Atlanta chapter for political education and hope to work together on new member orientation & statewide campaigns.

How many active member leaders does your chapter have?

4

What are your specific demands for your Free from Fear campaign? 

Our chapter has focused on particularly the #FreeTheVote campaign, in which we’re demanding that everyone in jail and pre-trial detention gets to vote via an absentee ballot. We’re also pushing to end cash bail, pre-trial detention, release vulnerable folks from jail during the pandemic, and to completely stop jail admittance rates at this time. We are also in a unique position where Columbus is situated next to two of the largest ICE detention centers in the state of Georgia. We are working to make the public aware of this fact and targeting the local airport commissioners, who have a contract with ICE to make money off of deportations.

Who are your targets?

Our targets are the warden, the sheriff, city council members, local airport commissioners, and explicitly anti-Trump folks who need a political home and are people we want to base-build with. 

What wins or successes has your chapter had? (ex. policy wins, actions, workshops/events, etc)

We’ve successfully raised 3k for our first rapid response bail fund, created to protect Black protectors who are detained during recent uprisings against police brutality. Attended two city-wide protests where we handed out over a hundred flyers about our organization and bail fund.

We’ve gained a lot of experience in direct actions recently. We attended a training by the BlackOUT Collective and also performed two direct actions, one was for #StrikeForBlackLives and another was to show that our city was still racially divided despite support for BLM protests. We were able to clearly plan out roles and were able to calmly engage with police when they tried to intervene.

We hosted SONG’s statewide organizing school back in November 2019.

We helped out with facilitating SONG’s first episode of the Squad Up Skill Up Slay: Street Fighter Series, which was called Community Organizing 101. 

We helped out a fellow comrade/member of our chapter feed his family one night through mutual aid.

We attended an event hosted by a local Black organization to help people to register to vote and build connections there.

We attended a city council meeting where our members spoke out in support of a citizens review board with subpoena powers. 

One of our members has worked with a veteran organization to help collect and redistribute food.

Built business partnerships (a printing shop, visual arts organization, local restaurant) with local Black-owned places that we would collaborate with. 

We’ve successfully hosted an Alternative World Building event with the Atlanta chapter, where we connected abolitionist and mutual aid concepts to visionary fiction. People felt inspired and reinvigorated in their line of work after attending.

We’ve written over 50 letters to our local jail and gotten a few responses (written letters and phone calls) back. We’ve got a response from one person who got purged from the state voter database and indicated that he was interested in registering to vote again.

What does political education work look like for your chapter?

Most of our political education so far has been teaching currently and formerly incarcerated folks about their voting rights and introducing the local community to the concept of abolition. Hopefully we can expand to talking about participatory defense and the nearby ICE detention centers.

What does arts & culture work look like for your chapter?

Arts & Culture work includes gathering together to design and paint signs for the recent actions we mentioned before; planning to design t-shirts for the group and teaching us how to screen print; attending and inviting others to attend a queer virtual dance gayla and queer-led/queer-friendly bachata classes; turtle stalking in the park and other outdoor fun. We have also had discussions around projector actions, banner drops, and other artivism tactics, as well as future cooking and gardening skill shares.

What to join the Columbus Chapter?

Contact the Columbus Organizing fellow, Connie Tran, and follow SONG Columbus on Instagram and Facebook.

Phone number: (706) 431-5428