Friday, June 29, 2012

Virginia Defenders Celebrate Tenth Anniversary in Richmond

Virginia Defenders Are Ten Years Old

PO Box 23202, Richmond, VA 23223 - Ph: 804.644.5834 - Fax: 804.332.5225

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Dear friends,

We're 10 years old! Would you like to wish us a Happy Anniversary?

It was back in July 2002 that a small group of Richmonders staged a rally at the Bell Tower on Capitol Square to demand justice for a wrongfully incarcerated Virginia prisoner. From out of that action was born the Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality.

For the past 10 years, this all-volunteer organization has carried out the good fight here in Richmond and beyond. Early on, we struggled to improve conditions in the Richmond City Jail. We distributed 1,500 blankets to the needy, while demanding the City not cut off anyone's heating gas during the winter. Working with United Parents Against Lead, we helped exposed the inadequacies in the City's lead-abatement program.

Along with organizations such as the Virginia State Conference NAACP and Youth for Social Change, we organized to stop the fatal police shootings that plagued the city from 2001 to 2008. We've supported the work of immigrant rights organizations such as Mexicanos Sin Fronteras. We brought people to the mass community marches in Powhatan County to demand justice for Tahliek Talliaferro. And, with many other forces, we helped reclaim Richmond's long-abandoned and disrespected African Burial Ground.

In 2005, the Defenders played a leading role in founding the Virginia Anti-War Network (VAWN). In 2009, we did the same with the Virginia People's Assembly. In 2010, we were a founding member of the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC). Since 2005, we have published the statewide Virginia Defender newspaper and hosted the weekly DefendersLIVE! program on WRIR radio.

It would have been nice to be able to hold a big celebration to mark these 10 years of struggle, but there just hasn't been time. We've been too busy working on the next Defender and the next broadcast of DefendersLIVE! And organizing people to attend the court hearings for Ashley Williams, the young Richmond mother falsely charged in the tragic death of her 2-year-old son. And supporting the work of the many new local groups that have emerged from Richmond's Occupy Wall Street movement.

Instead of stopping to celebrate past struggles and victories, we thought we would just invite you, our friends an allies, to send a message of solidarity, congratulating us on a decade of struggle for freedom, justice and equality. The messages will be published in the Summer issue of the Defender, due out July 12.

There are two ways to do this: The simplest is to just send us a message, by email or fax.

Or, to help support our work, you could take out an ad. This would be especially helpful now, since our newspaper is more than $4,000 in debt and we don't have the money to publish this next issue. (A rate sheet with sizes and prices is attached.)

We know this is a difficult time for all progressive organizations, but the Defenders rarely ask for money. We'd rather spend our time organizing. And besides, our needs are simple. We don't have an office or a paid staff and our members all pay a voluntary monthly pledge. But we do need to pay the printer for the newspaper, and right now we need your help.

All messages and ads must be received by midnight Friday, July 6. But please let us know as soon as possible what you'll be sending, so we can reserve the space.

Please see what you can do. For more information, just contact us, anytime.

Thanks so much,

Ana Edwards & Phil Wilayto

Editorial Board

The Virginia Defender

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