Last fall I moved into the position of Co-Executive Director of the Southern Vision Alliance, joining my long-time colleague Elena Everett. These past months have been a time of reflection and assessment for me as I came into this new role. As we fully enter 2019, I wanted to share some of my initial reflections.
In February, SVA had the opportunity to connect with intermediaries bringing fiscal sponsorship incubation and capacity to frontlines and grassroots organizers across the country. As we were getting to know each other, we found ourselves as the only southern based grassroots intermediary in the room. This amplified a reality that we’ve known since our inception in 2014; our region faces historic underdevelopment and underinvestment in robust movement infrastructure.
Today, the South is home to the largest, growing population of LGBTQ people of color. Communities of color, specifically Black communities are steadily returning to the South since the Great Migration that began in the late 1800’s. Immigrant and refugee communities, following a pattern of migration from the global South to the global North, forced by a changing global economy and precarity in their home countries, are more and more on the frontlines of scapegoating, political backlash and repressive policies. Service workers, domestic workers, education workers are faced with the impacts of austerity measures. North Carolina is home to one of the largest military bases in the world. We can see clearly the relationship of Southern, rural and urban, organizing to the global forces of economic, social, and political upheaval.
We are often and ever more rapidly presented with crises. We’ve learned that these crises are also opportunities to activate the power and possibility that resides in this region we call home and unapologetically fight to reclaim and transform.
A major crisis/opportunity coming down the pipe for us is 2020. This will be a flashpoint for the South. The Republican National Convention is coming to Charlotte, NC, where just 2 years ago we saw massive protests against police brutality in the aftermath of the police killing of Keith Lamont Scott. The city’s former mayor turned NC Governor is Pat McCrory, who in 2016 railroaded the notorious anti-trans and anti-worker HB2 (the bathroom bill). And just 7 years ago, Charlotte hosted the Democratic National Convention.
The vested interests in our region, from both conservative and progressive forces, speaks to the long history of the South as an important lynchpin in the economic, political, and social landscape of the country. This truth dates back to the colonization of the land and Indigenous people as well as the enslavement of Africans and Black people.
SVA’s responsibility in this period will be to accurately place our strategies in historical context and to deepen the rigor with which we approach our imperative to fight for the world we all deserve. As such we want to share a few questions that are live for us:
- How do we shift the conversation to locate the crises in the economic, social, and political superstructure instead of being a crisis located within our communities? For example, the U.S. is not facing a “migrant crisis”, we are facing a crisis of global capitalism, war, and exploitation.
- How do we support our communities in transforming trauma and move from personal pain to understanding collective pain? And how can we be responsive to the need for healing in a way that helps build a movement, not alienate people from it?
- How do we make more intentional time to reflect on and evaluate our organizational growth and put in a plan to sustain us? What are the lessons we need to center from our time within the non-profit sector, both its limitations and its allowances?
Perhaps the best and most terrifying part about organizing in this region are the truths we are forced to confront everyday. The proximity between what is deadly to our communities and what will get our people free is like the distance between two neighbors, who with their own full lives could easily ignore each other and give more credence to the propaganda that divides us.
Our task continues to be to strive to create the kind of movement that can move our communities out of silence and into attention; to identify shared enemies and envision strategies to fight for shared wins; to make use of this proximity in the form of solidarity and unity.
We are grateful to be able to support the organizations and frontlines leaders who are taking up this challenge every single day. And as always, we are grateful for your partnership in organizing to transform the South.