Southern grantees and their partners are sharing the best models for building power and organizing infrastructure at the state level.
Alabama: The Alabama Organizing Project is a working collaboration among six state-based organizations. Collaboratively, they work together to bring the benefits of experience and diversity to support community organizing across the state. Their organizational goal is to facilitate the movement of people out of poverty in Alabama by targeting two structural obstacles: the regressive tax system of Alabama, and a state constitution that, in their words, “disenfranchises many of Alabama’s poorest citizens.”
Florida: Since the beginning of 2013, Equal Voice for Florida’s Families has worked to formalize a collective voice and community vehicle to amplify the power of low- and moderate-income families across the state. Organizations have united behind collaborations to modernize Florida’s unemployment system; to prevent adoption of anti-immigrant policies or those that legitimize racial profiling; supporting equal access to higher education; empowering low-wage workers who have been victims of wage theft or other unfair labor practices; and fighting against the senseless killing of young black and brown children.
Mississippi: The Mississippi Delta was one of the first areas where the Marguerite Casey Foundation provided funding to support developing a network. Mississippi Delta Catalyst Roundtable was organized in 2005 to build the capacity, tools, and skills of grassroots community organizations and to assist new and emerging organizations in the Delta region. Ten community-based organizations make up the membership, and the network is anchored by Southern Echo.
During Aug. 22–28, 2014, 12 states — six of which are in the foundation’s South region — held solidarity events as part of the Moral Mondays movement that took shape in 2013 in North Carolina. Organizations in the 12 states (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Wisconsin) held actions, rallies and legislative meetings on a different issue each day. The issues (all low-income families’ issues) included labor and wages, education, criminal justice, voting rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, immigration, health care and environmental justice. In Alabama, Equal Voice network member organizations and new grantee Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice joined with more than 40 other organizations as part of the Save Our Selves Movement (SOS) for the state’s Moral Week of Action, dubbed the “Jericho March Around the Alabama State Capitol.” Seven marchers were arrested for not leaving the Capitol building after it closed, including John Zippert of former grantee Federation of Southern Cooperatives and the Alabama Equal Voice network. The “Faithful Seven” later went to trial in Montgomery County and were acquitted.
During 2014, the movement for immigrant justice and the movement to end incarceration of and violence toward boys and men of color gradually converged. Organizations working on the ground believe that far too often borders, prison cells, police and poverty are designed to divide communities internally and from each other. Organizing efforts spanning from halting Immigration and Customs Enforcement detentions in Georgia to combating pro-gun policy in Florida in response to the death of Trayvon Martin spawned regional and national coalitions and organizing campaigns to address all structural attempts to disproportionately criminalize marginalized people.
In August 2014, days after the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, organizations like the Dream Defenders, Southerners on New Ground, Florida New Majority Education Fund and NAACP responded with solidarity rallies across the South, mobilizations to Ferguson, and strategic messaging to address the greater issue of militarized force against low-income communities of color. The end of 2014 brought global outcry and actions in response to the no-indictment rulings in the high-profile police killings of Brown and Staten Island’s Eric Garner.