By V.S. Santoni
Building strength in marginalized communities is the work that The Equity Alliance sets out to do every day. With alliances in Memphis, Chattanooga, and multiple locations in Middle Tennessee, Jess Williams (Director of Development and Marketing) of the Equity Alliance says “Our mission is to unapologetically build independent Black political and economic power. But the way that we do that is unique. Those who are most impacted by the issues are the ones who have the best solutions to those issues. So, we take a relational approach to our work. Black voters don’t want to be treated like a one-night stand. So, we are in the community constantly being an advocate and liaison for forgotten, silenced, and overlooked communities.”
The organization believes in demanding that the government is held accountable to Black people across the state, and that their voices are heard when they make decisions. They don’t take the traditional path of non-profits as they are a coalition-based organization. Williams says “our and our partners’ grassroots efforts are led with Black liberation at the forefront because we understand that when Black people are free, we will all be free.” She also notes that they infuse their work in Black culture to meet people where they are. The Equity Alliance isn’t above the community, they are part of the community.
And that is paying dividends in visibility. It is no secret that Tennessee is currently controlled by a supermajority of Republicans. According to Williams “The extremist legislators in our state will scrape the bottom of the barrel to make sure that Black, brown, and working-class people do not have a say in how we live, love, and play.” Campaigns in 2020 included responses to the tornado “#DontSellOutNorf” and the COVID-19 pandemic with the Our Fair Share Campaign. Since its founding the organization has made 2.5 million direct voter contacts and according to Williams “Most recently, during the Nashville municipal election, our efforts elected the most progressive metro council Nashville has ever seen, including the election of Nashville’s first all-woman council-at-large and Nashville’s first openly transgender council person, Olivia Hill.”
If you are interested in getting involved Williams notes that “our people here in Nashville can join the text and phone banks we are hosting to help turn Memphians out to vote on October 5, 2023.” She further notes that their “TEAM is growing, and we are actively recruiting people to join our statewide staff. Those who are interested in applying should go to www.theequityalliance.org/jobs to view the available roles and apply.”