SURJ Columbia meets are held at 3 p.m. on the second Sunday of every month in a meeting room at Richland County Public Library, 1431 Assembly St, Columbia, SC 29201.

Recorded here are the minutes from March 12:

Grassroots Alliance for Immigrant Rights – guest speaker Laura Cahue
  • Laura gave a timeline of the last 30 years of federal immigration and ICE policy, especially 287-G and Jail-287-G programs.
    • In these programs, local law enforcement and sheriffs’ departments agree to enforce federal immigration law.
    • In SC, the Jail-287-G is the most troubling – ICE rents out beds in jails, sweeping people from the criminal justice system directly into the detainment and deportation system.
    • These agreements are voluntary, and can be challenged or nullified if civil rights abuses by the departments can be demonstrated.
    • GAIR and others look to challenge this program in two ways: convincing sheriffs’ departments not to sign 287-Gs, and convincing county and city administrations that enforcing federal immigration law is a poor use of taxpayer money.
  • So what’s SURJ’s role in this fight?
    • A group in Charleston is working on collecting video and audio interviews with immigrants for a project called My American Life. The purpose is to change public opinion about immigrants and counter stereotypes by sharing their actual lived experiences.
      • Several people in our group have backgrounds in communications, messaging, and audio or video editing. We will be looking to assist the Charleston group by offering training in these areas, and perhaps by directly contributing technical help.
      • Melanie has agreed to oversee this project and liaise with GAIR and the Charleston group.
      • In the meantime, think about the views of the people whose minds we need to change. What stories and statements do they need to hear in order to seriously rethink their stance on immigrants? (Example: “Social Justice” is not effective, but “Family Values” is)
    • GAIR is creating a map of neighborhoods that are most affected by these programs and other targeting by ICE. They have created a flyer with information on what to do if law enforcement comes knocking.
      • Eventually, they will need help canvassing neighborhoods to distribute this information.
Previous month’s actions
  • Consciousness Raising discussion
    • Much of the discussion centered on the question “What moved you to anti-racism?” It’s easy to criticize our past behavior (as we should), but remembering what started you on the path of self-reflection and social justice can be a way to use your own story for inspiration.
    • There was interest in having another event, but no concrete plans were made.
    • A suggestion was made that the next event could center around reactions to an event, movie, or reading, to give the conversation focus.
  • I Am Not Your Negro screening
    • Attendance was fairly low; no discussion followed the movie.
    • Keep an eye on the Nick (and elsewhere) for future screenings about racial issues. If we repeat, we will need a volunteer to develop and facilitate a discussion, so that viewers can connect the points made on screen to their own lives and communities.
    • Will there be an opportunity for such a screening/discussion during Indie Grits? Could be a recruitment opportunity if a volunteer wants to hand out flyers/handbills before or after.
The Harm Free Zone Southern Regional Book Study (
  • Through SURJ – Triangle, we have been invited to participate in a reading and discussion of Baz Dreisinger’s Incarceration Nations: A Journey to Justice in Prisons Around the World.
  • This project is being led by SpiritHouse Inc., an NC organization that “…uses art and media to support the empowerment and transformation of communities most affected by racism, poverty, gender discrimination, and the school to prison pipeline.”
  • There was interest in forming our own book discussion group; a separate email will go out to coordinate a time between interested parties.
    • Reply using “SURJ Book Club” as the subject heading if you are interested, but weren’t able to make it to the meeting.
  • A volunteer is needed to facilitate our group’s discussion, as well as watch the webinar training linked to from SpiritHouse’s website. (runtime ~75 minutes) Please reply if you are interested in taking this role. The first step will be contacting Tia Hall at SpiritHouse to offer our group’s official support and to determine next steps.
  • No need to buy the book yet – as a group full of librarians, we will be searching for free / lendable copies, whether electronic or physical. It’s $14 on Kindle and $15 for a new hardcopy on Amazon.
Call-in Workshop
  • Elyn has identified a roleplaying exercise we can use for a participatory workshop on “calling in” – pointing out / challenging racist speech or behavior with the goal of changing the person’s mindset, rather than making an example out of them or high-roading. She is willing to facilitate.
  • We have tentatively set the time for the workshop at the end of next month’s meeting. It should take about 1 hour.
  • If you want to participate and this time doesn’t work for you – reply using “Call-In Workshop” as the subject heading.
Other business
  • Eve is gathering events for a SURJ monthly calendar. If you know of an event that fits with our group’s mission, email her and she will add it to the mailing.
  • Tell your friends about our group and our projects! Even if they can’t come to a monthly meeting, anyone is welcome to attend the book club or other events that we host.