Southern Movement Media Fund 2020 Grantees
The Southern Movement Media Fund’s inaugural grantees were given support for projects related to news and media production during and after the 2020 election. All represent a wide range of mobilizing efforts across rural and urban Southern communities.
Brunswick, Georgia: Neesha Powell-Twagirumukiza
Neesha is a Georgia-born and raised movement journalist, creative nonfiction student, cat parent, spouse, and auntie living in Atlanta (occupied Cherokee and Creek territories) who conspires in the name of liberated Black futures, queer, transgender, and two-spirit Black/Indigenous/people of color power, solidarity economics, and transformative justice/community accountability. For nearly a decade, they’ve organized within and written about grassroots social justice movements. They were part of the 2019-2020 Freedomways cohort.
The fund covered costs associated with reporting on cultural, political, and social change in Brunswick, Georgia, Neesha’s hometown. Brunswick is a small coastal city still reeling from the murder of a 25-year-old Black man named Ahmaud Arbery by three white men.
Durham, North Carolina: Dr. Cynthia Greenlee
Dr. Greenlee holds a Master’s degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina and a Ph.D. in history from Duke University, where she specialized in the late 19th century, African Americans, gender, and the law. She’s a contributing editor at Scalawag and Catapult. In former professional lives, she was the deputy editor at the Southern Foodways Alliance and the senior editor with Rewire.News, the leading online publication about reproductive health, rights, and justice. She’s also at work on a book about African Americans and abortion from 1860 to the present, and she’s been a mentor and adviser with Press On’s Freedomways Reporting Residency.
The fund supported “We Eat, We Struggle,” a project that blends historical and journalistic research on the role restaurants in the South play in social and political change.
Orlando, Florida: Raquel Reichard
Raquel is an award-winning journalist and editor whose work focuses on Latinx culture, politics, music, and identity. As a writer, she centers oft-overlooked communities and stories, while as a speaker and consultant, she helps young and emerging writers and creatives of color break into the media industry and succeed in their professional lives.
The fund supported the production of an investigative piece highlighting and contextualizing the ways politicians have used Latinx trauma to win votes in Florida.
Richmond, Virginia: Jasmine Leeward
Jasmine has worked as a communications specialist for New Virginia Majority, a group organizing for racial, environmental, and economic justice through strategic electoral work and grassroots campaigns. Jasmine sees her work as a manifestation of Audre Lorde’s definition of survival: “learning how to stand alone, unpopular, and sometimes reviled, and how to make common cause with those others identified as outside the structures in order to define and seek a world in which we can all flourish.”
“I create media for Black people, specifically people who are poor, specifically in the South,” Jasmine said in their video application for the fund. “I don’t erase myself from my work. I continue to try to insert myself and show that I am a part of the community that I’m serving.”
The fund supported the development of Jasmine’s archiving project documenting movements in Richmond, Virginia, including eviction defense work and Black Lives Matter.
Atlanta, Georgia and across the South: National Council of Elders (NCOE)
NCOE was founded by key figures in various U.S. iconic social justice movements: the Rev. James Lawson, Rev. Phil Lawson, Dr. Vincent Harding, Dolores Huerta, and Dr. Grace Lee Boggs. NCOE’s mission is to work in solidarity with young activists to solve problems in the present, to understand their analyses of contemporary struggles, and share elder knowledge and historical perspective. Members of the NCOE believe that such intergenerational dialogue and unity provide powerful energy to shepherd change.
The fund supported the “20th Century Movement Elders: Passing the Torch, Engaging Current Struggles,” an oral history and podcast project archiving elders’ historic contributions to current movements.
Birmingham, Alabama: Trans Women of Color Healing Project
This project was created to transform the negative narratives that society has used to shape, frame, and paint the lives, identities, and narratives of trans women of color. Using education, history, and stories, the project spoke knowledge to power to combat the erasure of trans lives, narratives, and most importantly, trans contributions to the world.
The fund supported the production of materials and development of healing spaces that center stories of trans women of color, while supporting the voting capacity of this community.
Birmingham, Atlanta, Durham and Charleston: Scalawag Magazine
Scalawag is a journalism and storytelling organization that illuminates dissent, unsettles dominant narratives, pursues justice and liberation, and stands in solidarity with marginalized people and communities in the South. Online, in person, and through their family of engaged members, Scalawag reimagines the roots and futures of the South they call home.
The fund helped Scalawag expand capacity for deepening movement relationships in Durham, North Carolina; Atlanta, Georgia; Birmingham, Alabama; and Charleston, South Carolina.
Charlotte, North Carolina: Epoch Tribe
Epoch Tribe is a Black storytelling collective that creates live performances, and fosters partnerships with local media platforms to tell the stories of Black people that live at the margins. The collective has produced storytelling events about gentrification and the weapons of whiteness, and has partnered with the city of Charlotte to capture the stories of their immigrant neighbors.
The fund supported its “Vote So Hard” series, which interviewed Black voters before and after the 2020 election. The series’ goal was to inspire and empower Black voters by telling their stories, getting their personal narratives, and exploring why they vote, what their voting experiences have been like, and what their hopes for the future are.
Charlotte, North Carolina: SISTORIES
SISTORIES is an interactive Black Feminist litmag and community writing workshop that recognizes story sharing as an ancestral practice within the Southern Black radical tradition. By publishing the essays, fiction, poetry, visual art, and photography of Southern Black femmes, pairing their narratives with interactive workbook elements, and hosting free community writing workshops, SISTORIES works to transform the conditions and impact of oppressive systems, including white supremacy, capitalism, patriarchy, ableism, homophobia, and transphobia, in our bodies, spirits, and communities.
The fund supported the production of the second issue of their free print magazine and accompanying workshop series. The issue, “Correspondence,” sought to explore and document the collective memory of the moment from a Southern Black femme perspective, amidst the trauma of the uprisings, a global pandemic, and the election cycle, through a series of epistolary narratives.
Conway, Arkansas: The Blackbelt Voices podcast
The Blackbelt Voices podcast propagates the richness of Black Southern culture by telling the stories of Black folks down South. Through first-person narratives and in-depth conversations, the podcast seeks to share the experiences of Black Southerners living in, loving, and reconciling with the region they call home. Since its launch in September 2019, the podcast has amassed more than 138,400 downloads around the world and has been featured nationally in Vanity Fair, O, The Oprah Magazine, and as a “New and Noteworthy” podcast by Apple Podcasts.
The fund supported production costs and outreach to expand the reach beyond the Blackbelt Voices podcast, and compensated writers across the South to contribute articles for the platform’s website.
Dallas, Texas: Dallas Free Press
Dallas Free Press is a nonprofit journalism outlet that amplifies voices in disinvested Dallas neighborhoods and explores solutions to the city’s systemic inequities. Keri Mitchell of the Dallas Free Press partnered with Amber Sims of the Imagining Freedom Institute, which focuses on dismantling institutional and structural racism by providing historical analysis of inequitable policy and practices, and implementing equity and social justice.
The fund supported the production of a collaborative project that told the history of Black schools in Dallas, for publication in the Dallas Free Press and the Dallas Weekly, a legacy Black newspaper in South Dallas.
Durham, North Carolina: Migrant Roots Media
Migrant Roots Media is a multilingual, multimedia digital platform that amplifies the voices of migrants, children of migrants, and those fighting to stay in their countries of origin. The organization’s work seeks to unearth the root causes of migration by examining global systems of displacement, including the role of U.S. interventionism in the global South. They strategically position intersectional voices so they can advance more just narratives and sociopolitical analyses concerning migration and other social issues.
The fund supported multimedia post-election analysis and resources on the incoming administration’s immigration agenda.
Louisville, Kentucky: Root Cause Research Center
The Root Cause Research Center (RCRC) believes that the people most impacted by an issue are best positioned to discover the root causes and solutions of that issue. They are the ones with the firsthand experience, social context, historic context, cultural context, insights, and networks that are necessary to fully unearth the whole story behind a deep-rooted problem. The RCRC is a grassroots-led research organization grounded in data justice, movement science, and abolitionist planning that works alongside and trains community members to investigate and report community concerns.
The fund supported the launch of their Kentucky Abolition Project, which centered rural housing justice and counter mapping police narrative.
Louisville, Kentucky: TAUNT
TAUNT is a publication that allows local storytellers to serve as the readers’ guides into the worlds they know best by treating their pieces like prisms they hold up to the light and seek to see from multiple angles.
The fund provided production support for their “Unaccounted: Kentucky People and Places Beyond Election Day” project, which asked: “What is Kentucky’s version of the 1619 project?” It also sought to answer what historical context we must provide for the state in our contemporary culture. Kentucky is a place often shrouded in stories told by national news outlets for those located elsewhere to gawk at. Often, actual experiences from those who live in the state have been left out. “We belong here. It is inscribed in our past, our present and we speak it into our future,” says TAUNT.
In partnership with Queer Kentucky and Southerly, the project also gave a paid platform for BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and immigrant and refugee stories and storytellers throughout the state to lay the landscape of their lives down on the page. Read those stories here.
Louisville, Kentucky: #TeamStrangeFruit
This project was led by Dr. Kaila Story, an associate professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies and Pan-African Studies and the Audre Lorde Endowed Chair at the University of Louisville, and Jaison Gardner, a longtime community activist. Their work sought to examine Black gay life through the voices of those who live it.
The fund supported a multimedia platform that centered stories of Black and POC queer and trans folks through a podcast series, video segments, and photojournalism.
New Orleans, Louisiana: Promised Land
Promised Land is a deep dive into the colonial roots of the eviction crisis in New Orleans. To uncover those roots, reporters Maria Murriel and Isis Madrid of Pizza Shark investigated the systems that both uphold the so-called American dream — and exclude specific people from it.
The fund supported the production of an oral history multimedia newsletter and podcast in collaboration with housing justice advocates in the city.
Richmond, Virginia: Marijuana Justice
Marijuana Justice focuses on repealing the prohibition and reinvesting into communities impacted by the drug war. The organization utilizes organizing through awareness building to reduce the harm the criminal justice system has on Black lives.
The fund supported the part-time Black queer organizers and Black media creatives who produced the organization’s #LegalizeItRightVA campaign video ahead of the 2021 Virginia General Assembly session.
Wilmington, North Carolina: Shoresides
Shoresides provides local news to rural and low-income communities in coastal North Carolina. They are a team of journalists, artists, and community organizers who banded together in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence to address the region’s inequities and help build a healthy media ecology.
Shoresides is a project of the nonprofit Working Narratives, which enlists the power of storytelling and narratives to address social inequities. Working Narratives was founded in 2011, and its projects include the Free Movement Conference, Coastal Youth Media, Working Narratives Lab, Nation Inside, and an embedded partnership with Techmoja Dance and Theater Company.
The fund supported a team of community journalists to produce local stories and lift voices from vulnerable populations in their communities along coastal North Carolina.
Ko Bragg (she, her) is the manager of Press On’s Freedomways Reporting Residency and an investigative reporter and editor who considers herself a “northern southerner,” having grown up in rural Virginia, New Jersey, and later Mississippi, her ancestral homeland. She is also the Race & Place editor at Scalawag and a contributing editor of Southerly, and also served as a mentor for Freedomways’ inaugural cohort in 2018. As a reporter, she’s spent several years covering the criminal-legal system’s disparate impact on Black children in Mississippi. For her investigation into the laws that automatically charge Mississippi kids as adults, she won Evident Change’s 2020 Media for a Just Society Award and a First Place Green Eyeshade Award for Public Service Online Journalism from the Society of Professional Journalists. Her work appears in CJR, FRONTLINE, The Lily, The 19th, The Appeal, and Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting. Outside of writing and editing, you can find Ko in one of two places: Hunkered down watching reality television at her home in New Orleans or on the hunt for raw oysters.
Bia Jackson (they, them) is a Southern Black queer femme, feminist, content creator, and communications strategist from Richmond, Virginia with roots in White Castle, Louisiana. They are the former communications manager for Southerners On New Ground.
Quisha Mallette is a North Carolina native currently living in Durham, North Carolina, whose work as an attorney and organizer is deeply invested in uplifting the community and challenging harmful policies and practices of state and local institutions. Quisha’s community-based efforts include organizing with Durham Beyond Policing and Southerners On New Ground, where she has organized around the inherent injustices of the criminal justice system and its impacts on marginalized communities, particularly queer and trans Black people and people of color.
Femi Shittu is a Black queer woman troublemaker from the rural South. She is committed to spreading LGBTQ+ history and claiming the queer legacy in the struggle for liberation. She has organized with the Black Youth Project 100 in Durham, the Black LGBTQ+ Migrant Project, and Ignite NC.
Tina Vasquez is a senior staff writer at The Counter focusing on immigration, gender, and food systems. She was previously a senior reporter at Prism, a women of color-led nonprofit news outlet. A 2020 Type Investigations Ida B. Wells Fellow, she has written for The Nation, NPR, Playboy, and the Boston Globe. She is based in North Carolina.