SUPPORTING POWER-BUILDING AND LONG-TERM RECOVERY IN THE SOUTH
Last month, a winter storm catastrophe devastated communities across the South, stripping millions of people of basic utilities and material needs. Weeks after the winter storms, power outages and water shortages, several Southern states are still dealing with serious infrastructure issues, particularly Texas and Mississippi.
This crisis compounds multiple frontlines of corporate and state infrastructure failures with climate-driven extreme weather as well as the long-term disinvestment in communities of color. For those familiar with disaster response, there are multiple phases of disasters and disaster response. While attention may already be shifting away from immediate relief, communities in the South still need support to meet their basic needs and build long-term resilience.
Meeting Immediate Needs
Solidaire Network believes strongly in funding trusted mutual aid networks on the ground and movement-led infrastructure organizations. In the immediate aftermath of the storm, our members mobilized nearly $35,000 to more than 50 organizations and individuals across the South working on mitigating the immediate impacts of the storm. Organizations like BASTA delivered mutual aid efforts delivering water and food while also organizing tenants associations at properties where tenants have had prolonged water and power outages, fusing ongoing mutual aid with long-term power-building. Youth Rise Texas, a Solidaire grantee and movement partner, provided much-needed financial support and relief for its members and their families, including cash for portable water and weekly groceries. Youth Rise Texas understands that current and future ability to organize and build power across the state is not possible if members’ basic needs are not met. The People’s Advocacy Institute is another great organization that launched a rapid response fund to deliver water and help clean up in Jackson and impacted rural communities throughout Mississippi.
Resourcing Groups on the Ground for the Long-Term
Our community also has been supporting partners such as the Southern Power Fund organizing for short and long-term recovery across the region. The Southern Power Fund (SPF) was launched in 2020 to support frontline communities in the South in responding to this critical moment and resisting systemic oppression. The four anchor organizations of the Southern Power Fund include Southerners On New Ground, The Highlander Research and Education Center, Project South and Alternate Roots.
The Southern Power Fund is rooted in place, connected to hundreds of grassroots organizers and organizations that have worked together for decades throughout the South. Although SPF is a new effort, they are gaining more attention because of their powerful work that is led by those directly impacted by various socio-economic, cultural, and climate crises. The fund’s work is not funder-driven or housed in national organizations or intermediaries, but instead led by a steering committee, made up of Southern legacy organizations and long-term organizers who have decades of relationships and experience in the region. Solidaire is on the steering committee as a member of the philanthropic organizing team for the fund, and our members raised over $1 million as part of last year’s $10 million fundraising goal.
While groups and individuals on-the-ground in seven Southern states were scrambling to help their neighbors affected by the storm, the Southern Power Fund focused on resourcing smaller, Southern groups immediately. So far, the fund has organized and sent over $1 million to 48 people of color-led, grassroots groups in states dealing with crises. The funds moved from Southern Power Fund are general operating support to assist the groups with rapid response efforts that supply and connect families with material needs, but also support community organizing and political education. Because their 2020 fundraising ask of $10 million had been met, the Southern Power Fund anchor organizations were ready to activate quickly with cash on hand to support efforts on the ground.
How You Can Get Involved
Institutional funders interested in supporting the Southern Power Fund can contact Tamieka Mosley from Grantmakers for Southern Progress at [email protected] or Chantelle Fisher-Borne from Funders for LGBTQ Issues at [email protected].
Grantmakers for Southern Progress shares this advice for institutions on providing funds to groups responding on the ground to the current crisis. Here are two directives from Southern organizers:
1. If you have existing grantees in affected areas that are rooted in the communities hardest hit AND you are able to move funds to them in the next two weeks, send these organizations additional funds that are easy to access and with ultimate flexibility to move the funds in response to what conditions on the ground call for; and
2. If you are not able to move quickly or do not have existing grantees rooted in the hardest hit communities, move funds into the Southern Power Fund. Here’s a link to a one-pager that outlines what the Southern Power Fund has been able to do in response to the storm.
To receive a list of additional organizations that Solidaire members are supporting, please reach out to our Movement Partnerships & Grantmaking Practitioner Ada Smith: [email protected].