Highlights and Summary of Highlander’s 2009 Program Work
Nurturing and connecting grassroots people and groups working for transformative change is why Highlander exists, so let’s start there. Here’s what was new in 2009:
- We sharpened program focus on the economy. Using people’s experiences to demystify complex issues is what Highlander does best and in this moment we thought it imperative to build understanding of the structural reasons for the economic crisis so people can develop strategies for change.
- We convened a small working group of educators and cultural organizers from African American and immigrant communities of color who developed popular education tools for understanding globalization in the context of race, piloting those tools from here to El Salvador.
- We launched a collaborative initiative with Appalshop Media Institute (KY) and High Rocks for Girls (WV) called STAY, and 30 Appalachian young people created “a diverse regional network to create, advocate for, and participate in safe, sustainable, engaging and inclusive communities throughout Appalachia and beyond.”
- We launched the Zilphia Horton Community Culture Project, a pilot project creating residencies in local communities to match cultural organizers with community groups in an active campaign or policy effort.
- We are part of a national collaboration, Communities Creating Healthy Environments (CCHE), a capacity-building initiative to address childhood obesity in communities of color. Coordinated by the Praxis Project, Highlander’s work on this six-year process includes leading the Southeast/South Outreach; serving on the Technical Assistance, Organizing and Multilingual Strategy Teams; as well as the organizing/education and policy technical assistance teams.
- In our stewardship of the land, we grew an organic garden for use in the workshop center and started the diligent, hard work of converting our newly acquired apple orchard to organic. We connected sustainability and environmental issues more central to programming, and intentionally created more opportunities for people to interact with the land.
- We started a new activity called Workshop Work Week, a week long convening of educational workshops (the idea of Highlander), volunteer service (to the place of Highlander), cultural sharing, relationship building, and replenishing fun. Thirty-three people came from across the country and Thailand.
Why did we launch new projects in times of economic crisis? Because in exactly those kinds of times, we believe it is imperative for Highlander to keep doing what Highlander does best – bring people together to learn from each other, build the capacity of grassroots people and groups to transform issues of injustice in their communities, connect people to others working on similar issues, and connect people across race, culture and issue for holistic analysis and stronger, broad-based grassroots movement.
In addition to the new efforts mentioned, we were also busy with Highlander’s ongoing program work.
- The 10th Seeds of Fire Youth Camp brought together a diverse group of 36 youth and adult allies from 11 organizations across the South. Together, they learned fundraising and budgeting, organizing, and leadership skills. They analyzed the history of globalization and its ties to land, food, wealth, migration, race and our education and juvenile justice systems.
- We completed our first cycle of THREADS, Highlander’s new leadership and organizing institute building skills and connecting people and issues. Ranging in age from 15-57 THREADS, twenty graduates are working in their communities on mountaintop removal, Gulf Coast restoration, immigration, juvenile justice, economic sustainability, and more, and have built a family based on collective liberation and mutual support.
- We completed and are distributing the curriculum for the Level 1 training of our Multilingual Capacity Building Program, holding workshops and integrating MLCB throughout all of our work to create cultural shifts for language justice and multilingual spaces.
- We convened a Cultural Organizers Workshop with 35 people bringing together grantees and potential grantees of the We Shall Overcome Fund whose critical work lives at that nexus of art and social change, and working locally, regionally and nationally.
- In Southern Strategies, we worked with partners to write and disseminate a briefing letter to President Obama signed by over 190 southern organizers and community leaders. To read that letter, go to www.southernstrategies.ning.com.
- We provided key leadership this fall to a national collaborative effort of white people coming together to do their part to counter escalating racism, and helped create Let’s Build a U.S. For All of Us: No Room for Racism. For the collective statement and action steps, please see www.usforallofus.org.
- We had the 25th Children’s Justice Camp and celebrated that anniversary at Homecoming noting some of the activities long time campers are doing today, including being part of the Stonewall delegation that visited the White House this summer, and directing the Tennessee Health Care Coalition.
- We expanded our work with the Solidarity Economy Network, serving on the coordinating committee, helping to lead the Education and Network Committee, and supporting a global mapping project. SEN connects diverse individuals, organizations, businesses and projects in alternative economic frameworks grounded in social well-being, equity, mutualism and cooperation. We helped represent SEN at an international conference in South Africa and presented workshops.
- During two grant cycles in 2009, Highlander Center awarded twenty-one grant awards to cultural organizers and groups from the We Shall Overcome Fund including:
- 2nd Chance Organization, Inc. (Lexington, MS) – “Where are the Children?”
- Action Communication and Education Reform (Duck Hill, MS) – Project CAM
- African American Connection of the Performing Arts (Cave Spring, GA)
- “Remembering Our Past and Securing Our Future”
- Black Community Developers, Inc. (Little Rock, AR) – Non-violence through Literacy.
- The Carpetbag Theatre, Inc. (Knoxville, TN) – Youth Theatre Festival.
- Emerging ChangeMakers Network (Mobile, AL) – Selma Leadership Summit.
- Jean Childs Young Institute for Youth Leadership (Atlanta, GA) –
- Youth Leadership Program: Youth Empowerment Forum 2009.
- Kaleidoscopic Productions (Bowie, MD) – Celebrating Our Civil Rights Legacy.
- Men Under Guidance Acting Before Early Extinction (M.U.G.A.B.E.E.) (Utica, MS) Race Peace (Mississippi).
- Patrick Oliver (Little Rock, AR) – Reading and Writing for Success Training Workshops.
- People Organized in Defense of Earth and her Resources (PODER) (Austin, TX) Young Scholars for Justice: Understanding the Environment through Culture and Arts.
- Voices in the Treetops (Paula Larke) (Stone Mountain, GA) –Stone Mountain Peace Tree Suite.
- Community Media Organizing Project (Knoxville, TN) Digital Story Telling Project.
- Music and Brain Power (Little Rock, AR) “Music to our Ears.”
- S.H.E.! (Solidifying Her Evolution) (Louisville, KY) Women’s Choreo-poetry ensemble performances and youth workshops.
- Spirit House, Inc, (Durham, NC) “In the People’s Hands Art and Activism Project.”
- S.E.E.D. (Knoxville, TN) “How the Green Economy Affects DA Hood.”
- KY Jobs with Justice, (Louisville, KY) KY Social Forum.
- Project South (Atlanta, GA) South by Southwest Summit.
- African American Connection of the Performing Arts (Cave Springs, GA) Juneteenth – A Celebration of Freedom, Part II.”
- Synchronicity Performance Group, (Atlanta, GA) Playwriting for Girls.