As this calendar year comes to a close and we reflect on its struggles and victories, here at Highlander we are struck, more than anything, by reflection, gratitude and excitement.
We send thoughts to our friends in New York, New Jersey, West Virginia, and all along the east coast who are struggling still to recover in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. We know how the experiences of some were made even more difficult by how racism, class and gender affected their experiences in this disaster and their continued experience with lack of recovery. And we have seen friends, family and neighbors extend themselves to give time, energy, money and skills to help neighbors in need, and for this we are grateful.
We watched huge amounts of money go toward misinformation campaigns and brutal voter suppression tactics, and we celebrate and are grateful to those who refused to have their thoughts purchased by corporate money, who waited for hours in line to step into the voting booth and honor those who struggled for their rights by exercising them.
And we are grateful to you, our friends and allies, for your belief in and generous support of this work. Highlander staff and board have been working hard to map out a new Strategic Assessment and Action Plan to focus and guide our efforts for the coming years and pursuing our Generations to Come Capital Campaign, which will expand and update our facilities, making them more accessible and energy efficient.
But that’s not all. Because of you, young people from Appalachia, the Deep South and immigrant communities continued developing their leadership and skills to take on issues in their schools and communities. Your generosity ensured that community groups had the opportunity to work with us to integrate art and culture as organizing tools to more effectively advance their policy campaigns on voting rights, environmental justice and immigrant rights. Your support meant we continued to anchor and participate in networks and collaborations that add up to doing more than any one of us could on our own, including economic sustainability in Appalachia; race and class implications of access for healthy foods and recreation for young people; Blacks and immigration; technology access for rural areas, to name a few. Your contribution means we can actualize plans to expand our efforts on worker justice, radical sustainability, and economic alternatives. Your friendship helps hold the space for these powerful processes for organizing and movement building to happen at Highlander and in communities across the south and country.
At Highlander’s 80th Anniversary, from the stage in the front of the big tent, I asked my good friend and colleague Bob Cunningham, with the Kentucky Alliance against Racist and Political Oppression, to stand. Bob had been instrumental in my political development from the moment I first attended an Alliance meeting in Louisville in1985. He had never been to Highlander, though it had been his desire to come for a long time. I then asked all others who were at Highlander for the first time to stand. Nearly 40% of the people stood. They came from every southern state, from across the country and even the world. And they were mostly young people.
This is the depth and breadth of Highlander’s reach, work and ongoing impact. We bring people together to learn from each other, build relationships, craft joint strategy, incubate new ideas, and develop tools and relationships necessary for today’s challenges for social and economic justice in our region. Highlander has been doing this good fight for 80 years, and young people at the 80th anniversary are testimony that it continues with vigor today. You are a reason we can, and we ask your generosity to keep this force moving.
We hope we can count on your continued support. We’re honored to start a new year with you—and a new phase in Highlander’s journey.