The Poverty Initiative (USA) Supports the Shackdwellers Movement

The Poverty Initiative (USA) Supports the Shackdwellers Movement

We, the Poverty Initiative at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, are deeply concerned about recent reports of violent attacks against Abahlali baseMjondolo [AbM], also known as the Shackdwellers Movement, at the Kennedy Road informal settlement in Durban, South Africa. Members of our organization, Christopher Nizza and Dara Kell, were present for the attacks and we have received first-hand accounts of brutal assaults, jailings, and the destruction of people’ s homes in what appears to be a politically motivated attack. Over a thousand people have been forced to flee their homes and death threats have been placed on the heads of the leaders of the movement.

The Poverty Initiative was deeply honored to have hosted representatives of the Abahlali baseMjondolo during their recent trip to the United States when they met with community organizations, NGOs, and religious groups in New York and across the country. They contributed greatly through their participation in our national Poverty Scholars’ Leadership School in sharing the conditions of poverty in South Africa and what grassroots organizations are doing to address this urgent problem. Leaders of poor people’s organizations from around the United States, as well as religious leaders and other international representatives strongly embraced these brothers as their own and were strengthened by the seriousness and clarity they gave to all of us. We know them as people of great dignity, integrity, and faith and are proud to be in a long-standing relationship.

Abahlali baseMjondolo is at the forefront of emerging global struggles of the poor for a right to a decent life and a right to housing. AbM has taken on this important struggle to unite the poor across racial, ethnic, and religious lines. Despite attempts to drive a wedge between ethnic groups, AbM insists and always have insisted on unity. We who struggle to organize poor people in the United States understand the effort of some to divide us along similar lines. We take seriously AbM’s historic position. Their struggle is our struggle and our struggle is their struggle. We see an attack on them as an attack on us.

Therefore we call upon all member organizations of our network as well as all who cherish democracy and justice to act in solidarity with these embattled brothers and sisters with a show of support and offering of prayers. Please join us in bearing witness to the still ongoing situation in the Kennedy Road informal settlement.

Please watch and share this video [] and visit the Abahlali baseMjondolo web site [] for updates. We endorse the petition [] composed by Raj Patel. We ask that you add your signature and share this petition with others. If you have any questions, contact the Poverty Initiative by phone (212.280.1439) or by E-mail (