Who We Are
- The South by Southwest Experiment (SxSWE) is a partnership between the SouthWest Organizing Project (1980 New Mexico), Southwest Workers Union (1988 Texas) and Southern Echo (1989 Mississippi) and the related MS Delta Catalyst Roundtable.
- SxSWE was initiated by Echo, SWU and SWOP following the successful Gulf Coast Justice and Solidarity Tour in which the three organizations collaborated following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
- Each partner organization is intergenerational in its make-up and leadership. Youth participation and leadership is a key to the partnership’s work.
- SxSWE is governed by a Steering Committee of representatives from the three partners, and its work is implemented via collaborative projects designed both to add value to the work of each organization, and make it possible for the partners to share best practices of their own efforts with one another.
Why We Came Together
- Racism exists throughout the U.S. but it has always had a distinctive significance in the South and the Southwest as a justification for the domination and control of people of color, their labor, land and resources. Ever since the time of the enslavement of African Americans and the dispossession of Mexicans and Native Americans up to the present period characterized by economic and political exclusion, both regions have served as the crucibles of development for a model of domination of people of color applicable to the rest of the United States.
- Much of the wealth of the U.S. was created historically through conquest, slavery and the related exploitation of labor and resources in both regions. However, geographic, racial and cultural differences within and between the regions have helped prevent people of color from working together to obtain a fair and just distribution of goods and services commensurate with the roles that we play in generating that wealth.
- Racial justice is a fundamental part of any path to social justice in the United States. We believe that it will only be attained insofar as structural racism and accompanying social inequality in the South and the Southwest are addressed. African American, Latino and Indigenous low-wealth communities in the South and Southwest must play a central role during this historical moment, during which people of color will become a majority of the U.S. population by the year 2040. In order to overcome historic structures of domination and control, our communities must become architects of public and private policy, rather than being the objects of policy set by those who have historically exercised power.
- Our work is based on the principle that mutual understanding and trust provide a sound and necessary basis for joint work. SxSWE is unique in that we did not even begin to collectively identify potential areas of work until we had established familiarity and trust between the three partners, our leaders and our members.
- In 2007-08, each partner hosted listening and learning visits by delegations of 20 members and leaders from the other partners. These and other activities brought our people together and allowed us to begin to understand the histories and cultures of each people and place and to better avoid the pitfalls of distrust and division. As just brief examples, African Americans from the Mississippi Delta have learned about the history of Chicanos struggling for control over land and resources, and of efforts by immigrants to gain greater rights and recognition. Mexicans and Chicanos from the Southwest have learned the rich history of the civil rights movement in the South, and an understanding of southern food, music and culture.
- Relationship building is an intentional part of our ongoing efforts, and has laid a solid foundation for the initiation of collaborative efforts that began in 2009 to address issues of mutual concern.