With rising systemic and racial violence towards Black and historically disinvesting communities of color in the American South and beyond, we all must stand in solidarity with the oppressed and demand change. We must leverage our resources, position, privilege, and power to continue to hold systems accountable while leveling the playing field of engagement for those who have been systematically marginalized.
In the summer of 2020, in response to the COVID-19 crisis that has deepened existing racial, social, and environmental disparities, four placed-based networks emerged and united to launch the Georgia Systemic Change Alliance. With the support of the Sapelo Foundation and Partnership for Southern Equity, four networks emerged from Albany, Brunswick, Savannah and Statewide to form the Alliance. The networks share three critical goals:
• Recovering, rebuilding, and reimagining systems and policies post-COVID.
• Advancing the movement for black lives and broader racial justice across systems and policies.
• Building internal muscle and infrastructure of networks for the short-term and long-term.
Each network has created a roadmap for systemic policy change, racial justice, and network-building. They have also created a case study to offer key learnings from their year together.
The Sapelo Foundation committed $800,000 as a grant-making partner. It built relationships with leaders from all four networks, helped identify common goals and needs, and approved two-year grants to all four networks in the Alliance. A $50,000 matching grant is provided to each network to support fundraising and implementing recommendations. The Partnership for Southern Equity was selected to manage and coordinate activities.
In September 2021, the Alliance released reports for the Albany, Brunswick, and Savannah networks. Over the next year, each network will implement the recommendations in their given reports. The Alliance also released a case study about its behind-the-scenes-work, during a year of unprecedented challenges and opportunities in Georgia.
The Albany Network – “Reimagine Albany” – is led by the United Way of Southwest Georgia. This network launched in 2020, when Albany had the fourth highest rate of COVID per capita in the world. Its report includes recommendations for (1) housing, (2) education, and (3) health.
The Brunswick Network is led by a long-standing collaboration of 18 black churches and allies called Community First. It has been convening for over a decade and deepened their efforts over the summer in the wake of the murder of Mr. Ahmaud Arbery. Its report includes recommendations for (1) criminal justice and (2) environmental justice.
The Savannah Network is led by the Mayor’s Office. Savannah Mayor, Van Johnson, announced the Task Force in 2020 and appointed former Savannah Mayor, Dr. Otis Johnson, as chair. Over 30 cross-sector members collaborated. Its report includes recommendations for (1) criminal justice, (2) economic empowerment and wealth development, (3) education, (4) environmental justice, (5) health, and (6) housing.
The Just Georgia Coalition” is led by the NAACP of Georgia and includes formal partnerships with Black Voters Matter, New Georgia Project, Southern Center for Human Rights, Working Families, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, and Black Male Voter Project. Instead of a report, its leaders and partners have already developed a website with plans and demands.