Photo by Ajamu Dillahunt
On October 26-29, 2017, 300 people from 70 organizations active in social justice struggles in all 13 Southern states, Puerto Rico, rural Oregon, and beyond participated in the Southern Movement Assembly's (SMA) 7th convergence.
Seventy-five percent of the organizations and participants were working-class Black and people of color with more than 60% women and 50% under the age of 35 years.
It brought together local struggles connecting them to a Southern movement framework in a strategic region of the US national and global economy and political system. Building contending and transformative power and developing leadership was the main focus of the SMA.
The SMA 6 held in 2016 in Chattanooga, TN launch a 3 point program - 1) building a solidarity economy; 2) practicing people's democracy; 3) and protecting and defending communities.
While having some similarities, SMA 7 very intentionally tried to distinguish this convergence from a conference. It had no keynote speakers and it placed emphasis the sharing and summations of common local struggles (frontlines) as the primary basis for affirming and developing theoretical ideas and dealing with objective and subjective contradictions. Many over 50, were exposed to some unfamiliar terms used by the younger participants.
Members of Black Workers for Justice (BWFJ) and the NC Public Service Workers Union-UE 150 and from a couple other organizations endorsing the holding of a National Assembly for Black Liberation participated. The Draft Freedom Manifesto was widely distributed, including discussions about holding a National Assembly. Lots of participants wore the Black red and green Impeach buttons.
Members of National Nurses Union, NC Public Service Workers Union, two organizations in the Southern Workers Assembly sponsored a Workers Rights frontline. Workplace and labor movement organizing had not been a main area of them work of the SMA organizations. This frontline not only had a good discussion, it took some of the participants to leaflet as 3 manufacturing plants. They did a report back. This better enabled the Workers Rights frontline to discuss the meaning of social movement unionism and the important connection of a community-labor alliance in building working-class peoples power.