Letter from the Southern Vision Alliance – Our History

In 2014, several of us who would become the leaders and staff of the Southern Vision Alliance, conducted a listening tour across North Carolina with a simple question:
“what would it take to build a strong and inter-connected youth and student movement in the South?”
We wanted to hear from folks on the frontlines. In high schools, colleges, and in our communities – particularly communities of color, LGBTQ people, working class families, immigrants, rural, urban and suburban youth.

Themes emerged: young people want opportunities to collaborate, build power together, and coordinate across geographies, identities, issues, and organizations in order to transform the world. They wanted to be a part of multigenerational organizing to benefit from the wisdom of movement elders.

We identified challenges: the economic precarity of young people and working class folks, and leadership turnover. We talked about the need to hold organizational memory, to make room for experimentation and error, and the desire to make impactful contributions to the broader movement.
The Southern Vision Alliance (SVA) formed to take on these challenges, to provide support and capacity to youth, students, and directly-impacted communities so that they have support to organize in their own names.

In the formation of SVA, we have confronted these barriers by building an organization, what we have dubbed a “grassroots intermediary,” to provide the kind of infrastructure and capacity-building support that organizers have said that they need.

As leaders in the movement, we see the structural ways that marginalized communities are barred from leadership in the kinds of fights, campaigns, and organizations that are needed to champion meaningful and lasting wins. We live in a nation of abundance, but exist in a system of manufactured scarcity. We see how forced competition between oppressed communities pits us against each other to access resources. This manufactured scarcity is part of why we stay isolated from one another and why we retreat back to our silos or familiar tactics. Manufactured scarcity is what opens the for folks to fall prey to xenophobic and racist ideologies.

We believe deeply in the Ella Baker model of leadership which emphasizes the importance of group centered leadership. We are committed to building leaders that can build more leaders. We know that movements are not made possible by just one person or personality.

We believe solidarity is a verb. Our motto is #LessEgoMoreImpact. Our commitment is to the broader movement at all times, with every crisis, and every opportunity. While we believe in building strong organizations, we also believe in building together. Instead of competition, we are committed to cultivating collaboration.

We believe in solidarity and unity in action where we are all equally responsible for our liberation, while centering the leadership of the most directly impacted.

Above all, we believe in the power of the people in the U.S. South  – young people, students, queer people, people of color, immigrants, and those living at the intersections –  to confront the past, challenge the present, and build a better future.

The threats we face in this new political period are heightened and intensified. SVA is wrestling with how we transform our fear, anxieties, and egos into collective action; into meaningful entry points for the many people who are looking for a role to play; into a deeper commitment to building a mass movement capable of changing the world for the better. We are eager to continue in our work to support the crucial organizing needed to transform the South.