Selma 50th – The Sankofa Moment

51e442_572e5e2d1ddb4c8abcce83c5a1b678e7One week ago, four members of SpiritHouse Inc., left Durham NC, to join our Southern Movement Alliance (SMA) comrades, in Selma AL, for the 50th Anniversary of the Edmund Pettus Bridge crossing. This historic weekend was a commemoration of the first of three marches, from Selma to Montgomery, to secure voting rights for Blacks in Alabama. The violent, state sanctioned, retaliation on March 7, 1965, by the Alabama State Troopers, led to that march forever being known as “Bloody Sunday.”

On our arrival, we paid tribute to those who marched and survived unimaginable beatings on that day and we joined our fellow SMA anchor organization, The Ordinary People’s Society (T.O.P.S.) to lead their annual Backwards March across the same historic bridge. T.O.P.S. whose goal is “to create, build, promote and maintain a better humanity by remaining open to the needs of people in our society,” has been leading the Backwards March, in Selma, since 2007 because, as founder Rev. Kenneth Glasgow says, “we have to go back and get some things right before we can move forward.”

As we drove from our hotel through Montgomery we talked about the similarities between the Backwards March and the West African Sankofa proverb. The Sankofa which literally means “it is not taboo to go back and fetch what you forgot,” is symbolized by a mythological bird that is flying forward while looking back in the opposite direction. In its mouth (or sometimes carried on its back) is an egg that represents the future.

Black people separated and displaced across the diaspora have been returning to fetch lost pieces of ourselves for generations. After the abolition of slavery, it was not uncommon for formerly enslaved and runaway Blacks to return to the places where they had been held captive in hopes of finding the loved ones they had lost, or reconnecting to the land that had absorbed so much of their blood and sweat. Today, many of us continue this journey by participating in events like the Selma 50th, joining ancestry.com or sending swabs of our DNA off, searching for pieces that will make us whole.

And so, from Durham to Alabama, between Erykah Badu, J. Cole and the O’Jays, we talked about the omitted stories left behind in Selma and across this country. How many incarcerated family members, LGBTQ brothers and sisters and women experiencing domestic and sexual violence, remained silent for the sake of the movement? How have these gaps in our individual and collective histories impacted our community? And what lessons are waiting for our retrieval?

In his speech, on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, President Obama spoke about how far we have come since 1965. He said that he “rejected the notion that nothing has changed” [in this country], and that “to deny our progress, would be to rob us of our own agency.” He acknowledged that there is still more work to be done, and referenced what has been happening in Ferguson as evidence of this. However, what he, and other presidents before him, failed to do, is to address those whom he/they intentionally abandoned for the sake of the most palatable progress. oday, America’s 40 year Drug War, which began just after the Civil Rights Era, has placed over 7 million (mostly poor, mostly Black) people under correctional control, stripping them of the very rights to jobs, education and housing, that were won by their elders.

Today, according to a Malcolm X Grassroots Movement report entitled “Operation Ghetto Storm,” every 28 hrs a Black person (mostly men between the ages of 15 and 35) is killed by police officers, security guards or vigilantes claiming self- defense.” Today, Trans women of color are being murdered at an alarming rate of almost one per week.

And today, young people, poor people, LGBTQ and formerly incarcerated people, who have been pushed to the furthest edges and made invisible, are refusing to remain silent. These brilliant souls have learned from the lessons hidden in the retrieval and are not only telling their own stories, but they are uncovering and telling the stories of their past kin left behind. They are claiming justice for all as a human right with the understanding that it will not be accomplished until we include everyone in the process. Bravo to T.O.P.S and the people of Selma for embracing ancestral wisdom and reminding us to fetch and learn from our past.

A People’s Victory on the Bridge in Selma

51e442_faf8286c7ea046d8a3fae09afdf89646At the 50th commemoration of Selma, it was ordinary people, who do extraordinary things, at the lead and at the center of the 70,000 people gathered who marched across the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge. As rumors and misinformation fly around the internet about what happened in Selma this weekend, our Southern Movement Assembly delegation want to amplify the powerful reasons why there were no big celebrities leading the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge 50 years after Bloody Sunday.

While the TV preachers, famous speakers and their handlers remained at Brown Chapel, local leadership, Rose Sanders Toure made a bold call not to wait. Rose and countless unnamed people have kept the flame of history lit, commemorating the significant moment when state violence attacked the Southern Freedom Movement foot soldiers of 1965 on that bridge. Representing the rising tide of the Formerly Incarcerated People’s Movement, Rev. Kenneth Glasgow has been organizing a ‘Backwards March’ over the bridge since 2007, a week before the Jubilee Crossing to express the need for our movements to ‘go back, get it right, and go forward with everyone who has been forgotten or left behind.’

On March 8, 2015, under the gaze of a national spotlight, the people’s movement started with a Backwards March of formerly incarcerated people, youth, elder movement veterans, international refugees, LGBTQ folks, and grassroots organizers. Those who fight on every frontline, resisted being erased by the idea of individual, iconic leadership by wearing bright gold banners that read: We are the Peoples Movement, Leadership from the Bottom-up. The Backwards March parted at the bottom of the bridge, and Rev. Glasgow with The Ordinary Peoples Society (TOPS) led the march back over the bridge with Rose, the Southern People’s Movement Assembly, and partner organizations.

In 2015, 50 years later, it was the People’s Movement of today that reclaimed the bridge for the people, for our collective memories, and for the current frontline battles against state violence, economic displacement, mass incarceration, and injustice.  As Rev. Glasgow says in this short video highlighting this victory: “The people are tired. We will not wait. . . . Enough is Enough. Unite to Fight.”

The Southern Movement Assembly recognizes the fierce leadership of local Alabama freedom fighters past, present & future and is calling for action over the next two years to grow the Southern Freedom Movement of the 21st century with the Southern People’s Initiative.

VIDEO OF HIDDEN HISTORY: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKswBq4v3q4
MORE ON THE BACKWARDS MARCH: http://www.theroot.com/articles/history/2015/03/the_contradictions_of_selma50.1.html
MORE PHOTOS: https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/116624007298117539119/albums/6124666795467795377


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Unite to Fight Tour brings TOPS, other groups together

51e442_8e5415e4273b47ffb2daaa76aaa28d5cThe Rev. Kenneth Glasgow and other civil rights activists are touring southern cities this summer, signing eligible incarcerated voters up to vote and bringing to light alleged non-compliance with laws allowing people held in prison to vote.

Glasgow held a press conference outside the Dothan City Jail on Thursday and said that many incarcerated people eligible to vote are being denied their right to do so by county jails and registrars offices around the state. Glasgow won a lawsuit in 2008 concerning voting rights. Under the law, people awaiting trial and people convicted of misdemeanors are eligible to vote, as well as felons not convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude.

To read more in the Dothan Eagle click this link

 

Unite to Fight Organizing Institute

The Unite to Fight Summer Organizing Drive kicked off with a successful 5-day Institute. 70 people from 19 organizations in AL, GA, FL, TN, NC, LA, & TX came together to participate in University Sin Fronteras daily classes, organizing & strategy training, media training, and cultural celebrations!
Carolyn Pittman, Director of the Georgia Citizens’ Coalition on Hunger addresses the crowd at the Juneteenth Poor
People’s Day celebration on the final day of the Institute. (photo at below)

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ROAD TOURS, ACTIONS, & ASSEMBLIES

  • July 10-18: Unite to Fight On the Road! 5 States in 9 DaysA delegation of 9 organizers from Project South, The Ordinary People’s Society, New Jim Crow Movement, Crescent City Media Group, and University Sin Fronteras will be ON THE ROAD to support partners through work exchanges, connect communities to the Southern Movement Assembly process, & register new voters. We will be in Durham NC, Charleston SC, Jacksonville FL to Immokalee FL, Dothan AL, & South Georgia. Stay tuned to www.southtosouth.org & Southern Movement Alliance!

  • July 25-29: Jacksonville FL – Participate in Standing Our Ground Week Southern young people, reproductive justice organizers, and families fighting criminalization and mass incarceration will gather in Jacksonville to support the release of Marissa Alexander. Assemblies, marches, and educational convenings will connect this case to many of our frontlines. More information here.

  • August 22-23: Atlanta GA – Send a Delegation to the Southern Movement Assembly  Community and organizational delegations will converge to determine shared action plans for the Southern Freedom Movement over the next two years. Stay connected throughout the summer at: www.southtosouth.org

– See more at: http://www.projectsouth.org/news/#sthash.QVcWcCju.dpuf

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Southern Movement assembly Dothan

Dothan AL, August 2013

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40 organizations met in Dothan, Alabama on August 30-31, 2013 in the third Southern Movement Assembly since September 2012. The Assembly was held in the Baptist Bottom community, hosted by The Ordinary Peoples Society (TOPS). The Assembly followed a dynamic four months of Freedom Summer that included base-building, liberated educational spaces, and an organizing drive to hold simultaneous actions on Southern State Capitols on August 28th – the 50th Anniversary of the historic March on Washington. The summer also included a rapid response organizing campaign to show a strong movement force in the fallout of George Zimmerman’s acquittal for murdering Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black youth. The Walk for Dignity was a coordinated response that was organized within days of the verdict to march from Jacksonville to Sanford FL. The third Southern Movement Assembly converged organizations and movement forces that have participated in advancing the Southern Freedom Movement in the 21st Century.

To learn more and read the full synthesis download the PDF
http://prezi.com/embed/zcpcunlenktz/?bgcolor=ffffff&lock_to_path=0&amp
See more of SMA 3 here!

Walk For Dignity

The Southern Freedom Movement made history by walking from Jacksonville to Sanford last week!
Over 100 people walked with us at some point on the journey, and hundreds more contributed to the effort from states around the South and the country.
The organizations and community members who walked recognize that we cannot seek solutions to this crisis from within the same system that created it. We look to each other as communities and leaders who will determine the best course of action to create safety and resilience for ourselves, our children, and our families.51e442_bb9e027d3a624d04ac24c5e39134d7d4

The last quarter mile of the Walk for Dignity marched past the Sanford Police Department, a building larger than most of the houses on the block combined. The Station sits on the boundary of Goldsboro, one of the oldest Black cities in Florida. As we walked into Goldsboro, the Florida afternoon rain started coming down. Each day of the walk from Jacksonville to Sanford, the rain came, we pulled out the ponchos, and we kept walking. Today, the last day of the walk, there were no ponchos, it was just us, 75 strong walking to the monument that the community built for Trayvon. We didn’t stop, we didn’t pause. Our chants got louder and we danced in a torrential downpour. We were moved by a spirit, and we sang for some kind of justice that could liberate us from racist killings, the growing hate we could feel in the air, and the fear that people told us kept them inside their homes. We journeyed over 122 miles to confront that fear and hate with our dedication, commitment, and solidarity. We accomplished our goals, and we renewed our strength to continue.

The Walk for Dignity was organized in five days after a series of morning calls with over 10 organizations in the Southern Movement Assembly. The New Jim Crow Movement called for the walk, and as an organization on the frontlines of the crisis in Florida, they anchored the process. As organizations on the frontlines of crisis across the South, our Southern Freedom Movement organizations recognized that the verdict represents a broader system that kills Black and Brown people with impunity and allows poverty to worsen without an end in sight.
Rooted in the local consciousness, we set our demands to fire Angela Corey, the prosecutor who has locked up more young people of color for longer sentences than any district in the country, and to free Marissa Alexander who was sentenced to 20 years for protecting herself without injuring anyone.
These demands express the rage many feel towards a system of systemic racism represented by Angela Corey and the mistreatment of Marissa Alexander.

Check out Video & Press from the #Walk4Dignity
  • Walk Begins in Jacksonville: news4jax.com/Walk-for-dignity/-/475982/21121162/-/kemxnf/-/index.html

  • Democracy Now! covers demands to #FreeMarissa and #FireAngelaCorey:democracynow.org/2013/7/26/march_for_dignity_seeks_release_of 

  • WESH Channel 2 Orlando covers Walk for Dignity in Sanford:wesh.com/news/central-florida/6day-walk-for-dignity-makes-its-way-to-sanford 

  • WKMG Local 6 Orlando shows Walk for Dignity through rain, to August 28th:clickorlando.com/news/marchers-in-sanford-demanding-angela-coreys-resignation/ 

  • Watch video recorded LIVE by Walkers from Jacksonville to Florida:ustream.tv/channel/walk-for-dignity

To connect to more #Walk4Dignity stories, check out social media:

  • Facebook: facebook.com/southfreedommovement 

  • Twitter: twitter.com/projectsouth 

  • Tumblr: weallcount.tumblr.com   

  • Youtube: Walk4Dignity video playlist

We walked through the sites of colonialism and into Fort Mose where free Africans escaped and converged with indigenous resisters. We walked over the territory of the slaveholding Confederacy and into St. Augustine where Martin Luther King Jr. worked with civil rights forces when they were not allowed into Jacksonville. We walked into today’s hostility – a regenerated racism manifested in 9 year olds swearing at our group from car windows and a tension in Sanford that has led to more violence since Trayvon’s death.

We walked into the George Washington Carver Community Center in Bunnell and held a spontaneous youth speak-out. We were welcomed at churches like movement sanctuaries. Pastor Charlene Cothran said, “When I heard the verdict I was so angry, I wanted to do something. And when I got the call from Pastor Glasgow, I knew that something had come to me.” She opened up her storefront church, and we held an Assembly about the root causes of this verdict and the long-term solutions that we must fight for. Jacksonville residents traveled down to meet us where we stayed. People saw us walking Mary McCloud Bethune Ave in Daytona Beach and joined us to walk the next day. Labor Councils, African-American Cultural Centers, and residents found us along the road to contribute money, water, bread, and support. They told us they were so glad to know that they could do something, anything in this moment.

We walked to respond to this critical moment as a Southern movement. We walked to confront power structures that deny us the ability to simply walk through our own neighborhoods. We walked to confront historic injustice and to build liberation that will bring our families freedom in the 21st century.

As Southern Freedom Movement organizers, we are regenerating forms of community governance to build our own power through the Peoples Movement Assembly process. The Walk is a significant example of the power and potential of the process to respond to crisis and attacks on our communities.
We are committed to continue fighting for our demands and to converge Southern movement forces with our allies on August 28th for the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington to launch a renewed strategic platform for change.
Read more news about the #Walk4Dignity and August 28th Day of Dignity at www.southtosouth.org

The Walk for Dignity included participation from the New Jim Crow Movement (FL), Coalition for Immokalee Workers (FL), Great Day in La Villa (FL), Justice for Trayvon (FL), Free Marissa Now International Campaign, AFL-CIO (FL), Dream Defenders (FL), Project South (GA & regional), The Ordinary Peoples Society (AL), SONG (regional), Alternate ROOTS (regional), the Georgia Citizens’ Coalition on Hunger (GA), Crescent City Media Group (LA), Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (LA), University Sin Fronteras (national), Women Watch Afrika (GA), Southwest Workers’ Union (TX), Black Workers for Justice & the Southern Workers’ Assembly (NC), Highlander Center (TN), and other organizations throughout the US South.

– See more at:

http://www.projectsouth.org/2013/08/walk-dignity-charts-freedom/#sthash.H940j6MN.dpuf

Southern Movement Assembly II in JAX, FL

“The Southern Freedom Movement Began when the First Enslaved Person decided to resist”– Trap Bonner, Crescent City Media

51e442_d14f35d3a08b4fd3a47fcad27f997190For many years our organizations and movements have talked about how we BELONG together + we must work across our different issues – worker rights, immigration, anti-hunger, anti-poverty, but now with the Southern Movement Assembly we are creating a process, collectively to develop strategy and take action together.

Regional Synthesis Statement and Priorities for this Summer:

  • We recognize the Southern Freedom Movement is growing power.

  • We recognize that a rising 21st century Confederacy is attacking our families at every level of existence.

  • We need decolonization strategies to free our minds, free our bodies, and free our people.

  • As a 21st Century Southern Freedom Movement, we recognize that our oppression is connected to the global South and our liberation is imperative to the global South.

This summer, we commit to build Southern Force through five action strategies:

1)   Building our Base > We commit to building our numbers through organizing.
2)   Education for Liberation > We commit to sharpening our understanding and politics through all forms of education.
3)   Building our relationships for greater political alignment > We commit to build relationships through the Southern Workers’ Assembly, Caravans, Tours, Delegations, Exchanges, & strategic communications with each other.
4)   Facilitating Community Forums & Assemblies > We commit to facilitating forums & assemblies to practice participatory research and community governance.
5)   Creating new communications & media > We commit to telling our own stories through innovative communications and media strategies.

Southern Movement Assembly 1 Lowndes County, AL

Almost three hundred community leaders gathered in Lowndes County, Alabama on September 22, 2012, and together, we are regenerating the Southern Freedom Movement. 
Large delegations of young people from every state in the South, migrants living in Alabama and beyond, Black organizers and leaders from 10 states, and LGBTQ organizers from five states came together to declare:
We All Count – We Will Not be Erased.
The Southern Movement Assembly produced a shared, regional plan of action – The People’s First 100 Days. Leading up to November 6, over 25 Action Sites throughout the region will continue to register voters, engage communities, and defend the right to vote. While false policy solutions are debated in DC, we will kick off our 100 Days with a call to action on November 7 – N7 – where we will take the streets and commit to real solutions for our communities – by the people and for the people.
Why did we camp?
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In 1965, Tent City in Lowndes County marked the height of the voting rights movement.    Black residents built it after being forced out of their homes for registering to vote. SNCC elders informed the crowd on Friday night that people fought back, launched a successful independent political party, and ran candidates for local positions. Tent City was not a tactical retreat; it represented resilience, community governance, resistance, and offensive strikes. At a time when the right wing hate machine divides our communities, we camped in solidarity with our history. We experienced the vitality of meeting in our own space, resourcing our own travel, and gathering on historic grounds to regenerate the power of Southern Freedom Movement.

What’s next?

51e442_6306f0f2c1394c5f943a2d874d88eb18While the two parties market their divisive messages to narrow constituencies in 7 to 8 so-called battleground states, 25 grassroots Southern delegations from Louisiana to Appalachia declared that our voices matter, despite voting restrictions like Voter ID laws and redistricting. We stood together under the banner of Fannie Lou Hamer’s call, “Nobody’s Free till Everyone’s Free.”

Though the South has always played a major role in fighting for freedom, democracy, and voters rights, the region is often left for “red” by most of the U.S. during election years. If even a fraction of the 30 million voters who are being discouraged or prevented from voting were able to vote this year, the misleading blue-red electoral map would look very different.

The Southern Movement Assembly represented a turning point. Despite our exclusion from the national debate, over 40 organizations representing 25,000 people most affected by poverty, racism, the lack of healthcare, crumbling education systems, and rising violence came together and found unity in our multiple struggles.

It was never just about a vote, and the Southern movement will amplify our vision for a just world in the People’s First 100 Days.

See more here! 

 – A full synthesis of the Assembly is available here!