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A Talk with Natashia Euler on The Kensington Welfare Rights Union
By Clayton Ruley

Editors Note: The Kensington Welfare Rights Union is a Philadelphia grown project with goals we all should fight for like health care for all and education that actually can make a difference. We spoke with Natashia Euler of the organization and she gave us the scoop on the organization and some personal reflections too! Listen and take some action people!

 

GeoClan.com (GC) : Tell me brief history of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union?

 

Natashia Euler of The Kensington Welfare Rights Union (KW ):   KWRU was started by a group of 4 women with their children in April 1991. They came together out of necessity – realizing that they could help each other survive.    This was during a time when families were threatened by Governor Casey's welfare cuts.   While talking about the injustice of poverty and their homelessness, they decided to start organizing other people in the same situation to come together to do 3 basic things:   Speak to the issues that directly effect our lives, help each other and all poor people get what they need to survive, and build a broad base movement to end poverty.

 

The Mission : The Kensington Welfare Rights Union (KWRU) is a multiracial organization of, by and for poor and homeless people. We believe that we have a right to thrive - not just barely survive. KWRU is dedicated to organizing of welfare recipients, the homeless, the working poor and all people concerned with economic justice.

 

GC : What type of programs and actions have KWRU done/created in support of their mission?

 

KW : well. there are so many.   Tent Cities in North Philadelphia to tent cities in the rotunda at the capital, bus tours, and marches all in effort to organize to make these issues visible, and to document these violations.   Truth Commissions, sleep outs in front of the mayor's office, demonstrations on Republican national conventions. This is all fighting for people to have their basic economic human rights.   We have constant education with our members about their rights; we do constant outreach to the community as well as basic social services.

 

GC : What specific rights/issues is the organization working with now?

 

KW : Well we talk a lot about economic human rights.   This framework allows us to address everyone's basic needs/rights. .   Such as Food, Clothing, Housing, healthcare, education, a job at a living wage. We use the Universal declaration of human right to advance this framework.   We have also been apart of the Philadelphia affordable housing coalition along with about 20 other organizations with directly with the housing crisis in Philadelphia.

 

GC : What's are some frustrations encountered when dealing with the powers that be about these rights/issues? When dealing with the people?   

KW : The powers that be well..?    They don't care.   They criminalize the poor.   The city creates these initiatives that are suppose to help with all the issues that people are facing, but they don't work and there is so much bureaucracy that the money never gets to the street.   City hall gets to all sit on nice big salaries.   There is a 100 million dollar surplus in our cities budget right now and everyday I see homeless families in our office.   So the most difficult thing is knowing that these resources exist yet, they constantly deny people of these basic rights.   The contradictions that we face in this country shows the lack of value we have toward human life.

 

GC : What's needed for KWRU from the people? Can people volunteer?

 

KW : People can volunteer.   We have a program for student "summer of social action" that u can look up on line for the application.   We have a list serv that will let u know when all the new events are.   We are in constant need of food, baby clothes, diapers and supplies for our office. People can also donate using our website.   We need mad support for our events, for example the national truth commission.

 

GC : How long have you been at KWRU and what's your role? How did you know of this organization and how did you get involved?

 

KW : I have been with KWRU for 3 years now.   I am the Chair of the Local Organizing Committee, Administrative assistant to the Director/ Office manager. Among many other things.

 

I grew up very low income in PA. I was raised by my grandparents who were in their 70's and a mother who struggled with drugs. My grandparents both died by the time I was in 7 th grade; which left my brother and I nowhere to go.   This of course has affected my view on the world.   I always knew I wanted to do some kind of Humans Rights work and was interested in pursuing photography. After being in phila for a couple years I meet a couple kids who worked with kwru. We got to rappin bout politics and then soon started I attending marches. I looked into a lot of non-profits in phila, but KWRU was the only on that stood out.   I liked how the people who were directly affected were in the leadership and were speaking for themselves. I liked how KWRU was about changing things instead of just charity.   KWRU saw the bigger picture.  

 

 

 

GC : Can you draw a parallel to the treatment of people in the USA and the people in Iraq?

 

KW : Well I'm not sure how to answer this question:  

I know that billions of dollars is being spend on the war.   And the same people who supporting this military spending are taking it straight out of social services here in this country.   Such as headstart programs, literacy programs, healthcare, housing, welfare. We are killing poor people in Iraq so our corporate profit will keep rising. We are killing people here for the same reasons. The government preys on the most vulnerable of our society first: children, the elderly, and the sick. and we just let them.   Its twisted morals and sick how we keep letting the government takes from us and treat our basic needs as privileges.   Yet there is a never-ending budget for war.    This must change.   I am so angry by this war. (Let me know if u need more. I'm not sure how much I should go into each question)

 

GC : How does the media played a role in wars and other significant events told and untold in your opinion?

 

KW : The media plays a big role in manipulating our view on everything.   The media panders to people ignorance, telling people who to hate and criminalizing religions beliefs, cultures, and race.   The media has left the poor out of ever discussion.   The media is responsible for fear. Media hides poverty, by showing only the wealthy.   I never believe the media now. This is especially true in this country during times of war.   Corporate media is all owned and controlled by the US government, so u know they just trying to shame other people, but ignore all human rights laws when it comes to their own actions.

 

We must create our own media to tell the truth.   GeoClan has got the right idea with independent media.

 

 

GC : How can we fight for our rights and the rights of others as a society?  

 

 

KW: Stop the silence.   Its kind of eerie how quiet people are about not having jobs and fewer social services.   Its disturbing that there isn't more of a national outcry about what the government is doing to people all over the world as well as here in this country.   Also doing documentation of all these human rights violations is a good way to make them visible and creditable.   The Kensington Welfare Rights Union is collecting this documentation to take to the UN, as well as locally to put pressure on city council (or the powers that be).  

 

In a country of such wealth there is no excuses for children to go to bed hungry.   This won't change unless we change the moral and values of this nation.   Basically about   the hearts and minds of the people.   Get people to see that allowing for there to be homelessness, it is a direct threat on everyone's right to housing. When people are dying out side the world best hospitals and it is just as much about my right to healthcare as it is your right to health care. Etc.

 

GC : Is the glass of America, in terms of liberty and justice, half-empty of half full? Can we truly make things better?

 

KW : History has proven that we can make things better. Change is possible but it is going to take a large movement of the people who are directly effect by poverty to make this change.   Civil rights movement and woman's suffrage movement are examples that this is possible.   We need to get the masses of the people to organize against globalization and change policy that is not in the best interest of the people.

 

GC : What is the Economic Human Rights Campaign?

 

KW : The Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign was spearheaded by KWRU because realized that if we were going to make any real change in this country it would have to be a national effort.

  Through bus tours and marches kwru realized that people all over the country were under economic assault.   So linking up with other organizations led by the poor to create the Poor peoples economic human rights campaign.

 

The Mission : The Poor People's Economic Human Right's Campaign is committed to uniting the poor across color lines as the leadership base for a broad movement to abolish poverty. We work to accomplish this through advancing economic human rights as named in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights- such as the rights to food, housing, health, education, communication and a living wage job.

 

GC : How far has KWRU's reach gone and have you been surprised by the people reactions to the organization in positive and negative ways?

 

KW : I'm always surprise at how many people have been involved with kwru at some point or have heard of us.   Even on the west coast!   I think people have respect for what we do.   Even more people think that the basic social service stuff that we do it noble, but beyond that some people have problem with our tactics.   Its very interesting being in city hall or welfare offices and people get that panic look like" what are they gonna do now".   This kind of stuff is merely interesting to me; I'm not fazed by it.   I know that charity is not going to change anything. Charity doesn't change policy and policy is what kills people.   So we have to be creative to get attention to these issues.

 

GC : What has been your personal highlight? Lowlight?

 

KW : Highlights- families getting housing, the political education that I received being apart of this process is priceless, traveling, meeting a lot of interesting people all over the country who are organizing for change, seeing that people are incredibly resilient and resourceful when faced with poverty, domestic violence, etc.

 

Lowlights- never ending struggle, dealing with people who make a lot of money to address poverty issues and don't do shit aka OESS, the never ending cuts to social services (we have less resources to refer people to). The amount of children and elderly that live in poverty that I have seen is always very upsetting. The lowlight could be a long list but only because they are the things that make me mad or emotional. These are the same things that make me more motivated tho.

 

GC : Do you have some future projects or events you want to highlight?

KW :   We are doing a fundraiser for one of our lead organizers that has been wrongfully imprisoned. We are trying to raise money for an appeal lawyer in April. This summer we are doing a march through North Philadelphia in June, the National Truth commission is in Cleveland, Ohio in July and we do weekly food distribution, monthly drug reality tours and poverty reality tours.

 

GC : How can the organization be reached? Are there like organizations that you want to shoutout for those in other parts of the world?

 

KW : Here is our information.

 

  The Kensington Welfare Rights Union

  2825 N. 5th St.

  Philadelphia, PA 19132

 

We are also looking for Volunteers to work in our office. Please contact us at 215-203-1945 or thro website www.kwru.org if you are interested.

 

I'd like to give a shout out to Venezuela, they doing it big down there.  

Also all the PPEHRC group in the US. www.economichumanrights.org

 

 

GC : How has technology helped/hurt the progress of these causes and the organization in your estimation?

 

KW : Technology has been huge in breaking apart the connection in production between the workers and the capitalist, which has been the only thing that held society together.    Laborless- production = no jobs which only leave people in poverty.   The government has chosen the profit over its own people.  

 

Technology holds a lot of good things tho. For example: communication, medical technology that has kept people alive, technology has been useful in replacing jobs where peoples lives were in danger.   Since there is no going back, we must make sure that the profits make from technology are redistributed/re organized for the people.

 

GC : What do you think about change (think of GeoClan.com's slogan, Uploading Change)?

 

KW : Ha ha ha, I think you might already get a feeling how I feel bout change from what I already said.  

Change is possible, it's necessary, and it's an emergency.

For more info on KWRU go to www.kwru.org.

 

Send any comments to community@geoclan.com



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