Building Bridges in Jackson, Mississippi this Week

by Juan Reynosa, SouthWest Organizing Project

The landscape of our country is ever-changing. Recently released Census data shows that “minority” births outnumbered white births for the first time and that the country is becoming what is considered “majority-minority.” While people of color will soon be the majority in our country that does not necessarily guarantee that we will be able to gain power within institutionalized systems.  We must continue learning how government has worked against us throughout history, and how to connect our struggles in order to build community power and hold governments accountable to our communities.

6 years ago, Southern Echo, the Southwest Workers Union, and the SouthWest Organizing Project came together to begin the process of sharing histories and building relationships amongst communities of color across the South and Southwest regions of the United States. This process has flourished into a collaboration known as the South by Southwest Experiment, which is now moving into a process of reflecting with other communities from across the country on the critical importance of accountable community governance.

Our country has a lot on its horizon, from redistricting political boundaries for the next ten years, to continuing to work hard to get DREAMers and other undocumented immigrants the rights they deserve, assessing the impact of US Supreme Court decisions … and let’s not forget the upcoming Presidential election.  This is a pivotal time for our communities to be a part of the decision-making process. 

So here at the South x SouthWest Experiment we decided to continue an ongoing conversation amongst people of color and low wealth communities about our collective work to make government work for us and more accountable to us.  As we like to say at the South by SouthWest Experiment “We are organizing our communities to become architects of policy, rather than objects of policy.”

Building upon our shared legislative, census, redistricting, and education policy work, the South by Southwest Experiment developed an accountable community governance model rooted in history and the shared challenges we’ve faced. The question now is where do we go from here?  We would like to share our experience with others in our region to promote accountable governance, as well as learn from others about their victories and best practices within an accountable governance model.

Thus we are gathering here in Jackson, Mississippi to convene our Building Bridges to Empower a True Majority: Accountable Governance conference. This week we will continue this conversation with at least 150 allies from across the country in order to prime ourselves for so many of these upcoming governance tipping points that are on our plate.

Having this conversation together will only to help open more doors and opportunities for people of color and low wealth communities as we move towards being the new majority.  The South and  Southwest regions have long been mired with stories of struggle and government abusing their power; it is time to turn that story around into one of people of color binding together to achieve community power and a government that works for them.  This is not an impossible idea, rather it is one that is achievable through our process of relationship and trust building amongst communities in order to have the foundation to move forward as one. 

The convening this weekend is fertile ground for story sharing, sharing of best practices, and developing a shared analysis to achieve a more accountable government for our communities.  As I said, this is a big stepping stone in this process and I can’t wait to see where it takes us.

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