January 6, 2016
As we begin a New Year, we’d like to toast all of our grantee partners across the South for a very successful 2015. Here are a few of the year’s achievements:
- Alabama Appleseed Center for Law & Justice’s policy expertise and research helped boost awareness of predatory lending practices to the national level. The White House asked Legal Director Shay Farley to convene a roundtable of advocates to speak with “senior-level staff” in March. Farley soon learned she and members of the faith, civil rights and advocacy communities would be meeting with President Obama ahead of a major address in Birmingham about economic justice and predatory lending. In his remarks, the President highlighted many of the advocates' efforts.
- The Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center successfully defended against a petition for review in the Supreme Court on behalf of a widow’s black lung claim. ACLC also won major black lung cases in the Courts of Appeals and secured a $6 million settlement against a coal company for thousands of water quality violations. The Center worked with dozens of communities to pass resolutions in support of the federal POWER Plus plan, which will pump millions of dollars into coalfield communities to boost economies and create jobs.
- Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families successfully fought to protect a state-funded pre-K program from deep cuts. AACF and partner organizations mounted a massive campaign that included a robust legislative advocacy program, a creative social media push, and phone and in-person engagement with educators, parents, business owners, lawmakers and other Arkansans. AACF managed to secure $3 million in one-time funds. “While that amount is nowhere near adequate to meet the need, AACF is pleased to have won an increase when so many other state agencies took 1-2% cuts,” AACF wrote.
- Like many Southern states, the North Carolina General Assembly adopted a strict photo ID requirement for voters. Democracy NC employed research, organizing and advocacy to convince lawmakers the changes would adversely affect low-income people of color, students and seniors. It pushed for public hearings, organized turnout and trained participants to tell their stories, speak with the media and submit comments to the Board of Elections. A few weeks after the hearings last year, the General Assembly decided to allow certain alternative forms of identification. A federal trial over the legislature’s package of voting changes was held last summer, but the judge has not released his decision.
- Moore Community House’s Women in Construction program and community partners built a training center in Biloxi, renovating its current space and adding an open-air shop to meet critical community needs. In 2015, Women in Construction and its partners won a prestigious American Institute of Architecture Award for the space, which has already trained nearly 100 women in high-skill, high-pay trades. WinC Program Director Julie Kuklinski also won a "Women of the Year: Hometown Heroes" Award from Glamour, which included a feature in the magazine and garnered national exposure for a very successful program. “With each graduating class, we are feminizing the face of construction on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and advocating for increased economic security for women here and their families," said Kuklinski.
- The Southern Rural Black Women's Initiative published a startling report that found “on nearly every social indicator of well-being — from income and earnings to obesity and food security — black women, girls and children in the rural South rank low or last.” Unequal Lives: The State of Black Women and Families in the Rural South grabbed the attention of regional and national media. SRBWI's Mississippi Regional Administrator Oleta Fitzgerald was invited to participate in a White House conference called “Advancing Equity for Women and Girls of Color: A Research Agenda for the Next Decade.” The White House says it is seeking to identify and eliminate gaps in scholarly research and data about women and girls of color so policymakers can understand and help address the opportunity divide.
- The West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition and the West Virginia Community Development Hub successfully advocated for reforms to the state’s food and farm legislation, including a change that allows food-based businesses to form as cooperatives and the streamlining of the farmers market permitting structure. The Hub wrote an excellent blog post describing specific strategies that were instrumental in achieving these victories: “While the cooperative business bill showed the importance of a strong collaboration of advocacy groups working together to pass a bill, the farmers market bill demonstrated how important stakeholder engagement and a few key legislative leaders can be to getting a bill passed.”