By Tameka Greer
On the eve of Juneteenth, the day enslaved Africans in Galveston, Texas, learned they were free, a collective of Black women leading organizing work in the South issued the following statement. The leaders are Nse Ufot (Georgia), Ashley Shelton (Louisiana), Tameka Greer (Tennessee), Rev. Rhonda Thomas (Florida), Stephanie Strong (Alabama), and Akilah S. Wallace (Texas):
“Louisiana, where I’m from, has some of the most regressive laws in the nation, which leave Black people feeling that we are still in proverbial chains,” said Ashley Shelton, executive director of the Power Coalition. “With 680 incarcerated individuals per 100,000 people, Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the nation and the highest wrongful conviction rate. We understand the ways in which mass incarceration mimics slavery, and we are hosting a Juneteenth Bail Out to pay the bail of incarcerated persons who sit behind bars due to a lack of resources. If we are free, money shouldn’t impoverish so many Black and Brown bodies.”
“There are 50 states with over 50 different laws governing who can vote, how they vote and when they vote,” said Nse Ufot, executive director of the New Georgia Project. “This patchwork of policies makes it difficult for Americans, let alone voting rights advocates, to navigate or push back on voting restrictions. It also increases the likelihood voters could be criminalized for not knowing the ever-changing rules in their respective jurisdictions. This crop of voting restrictions is not about election integrity but part of a broader attempt to hold onto power and resist demographic change. True emancipation is federal legislation, such as the For the People Act, that forces Republicans to take their hands off our vote. If they can decide who votes, they can meddle with our freedom and liberation.”
“As Black Texans prepare to fight for their rights during the impending special legislative session, we lean on the faith of our ancestors who on Juneteenth learned their prayers had finally been answered. Faith in Texas, too, believes in a new age of emancipation from oppressive systems of white supremacy. Cry out for freedom, dear sisters and brothers … until victory is won,” said Akilah S. Wallace, executive director of Faith in Texas.
“This year we are celebrating Juneteenth through the lens of reclamation and healing,” said Tameka Greer, executive director of Memphis Artists for Change. “We are reclaiming our culture and history, while intentionally focusing on healing ourselves. Memphis Artists for Change will spend time in our communities listening to the voices of the people and their stories, in an attempt to project those voices into a groundswell of activism, opportunity and change!”
The Black Southern Women’s Collective is a group of Black women organizers and executive directors committed to pooling resources and organizing insights to impact change in the South. The six-member group is organizing to advance voting rights and civic participation and bring an end to police violence, mass incarceration, and other issues adversely impacting Black communities.