In our new political reality, workers who make up America’s emerging majority—workers of color, women workers, immigrant workers, and the structurally unemployed—are under attack. The legacy of racism and injustice that many associate with the old South now threatens us all.
But the South also has another legacy: as the birthplace of labor unions, civil rights struggles, and multi-racial movement building. For 10 years, the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice (NOWCRJ) and the National Guestworker Alliance (NGA) have built on that legacy with a leadership development methodology we call Organizing from the Epicenter. It has built resilience for workers and their communities after profound trauma. And it has led to precedent-setting victories for workers’ rights and racial justice—locally, regionally, and nationally.
At a time when epicenters of crisis are everywhere, and when tens of millions of workers are looking for a path from trauma to resilience, we believe that progressive leadership development in the South holds transformative potential nationwide.
In March 2017, NOWCRJ and NGA held a convening in New Orleans called True South: Leading from the Epicenter. We gathered pre-eminent advocates and thought leaders about the role of the South as a gateway to a more equal future, rather than a reminder of an unjust past. We reflected on the implications of the new presidential administration, and strategized about the opportunity to build an engine of multi-issue, multi-racial, progressive leadership development pipeline in the South that will benefit the whole country.