June 20, 2018

FFJ Advisor Discussion Series: Stephanie Guilloud

Our discussion series with FFJ’s Field Advisors continues with Stephanie Guilloud, Co-Director of Project South. Read our interview below to learn more about how the Legacy Museum and Lynching Memorial can be “a tool and weapon of truth in our long-term struggle to defeat white supremacy and win freedom and justice for us all.”

If you could stop a lynching today, would you? 

“Thank you for taking our case,” Anna Deavere Smith told the 2,000 person crowd at the Grand Opening of the Legacy Museum and Lynching Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama on April 26, 2018. Bryan Stevenson, the visionary lawyer and leader of Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), had just told a heart-wrenching story about a phone call from an intellectually disabled client who had found out he would be executed that day. The man told Bryan, who had taken the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, “Thank you for trying to save my life. Thank you for taking my case.”

Anna Deavere Smith, the incredible artist and playwright, referenced the story Bryan told to reflect the power and intimacy of what was happening. Bryan Stevenson and EJI’s intervention in a corrupted and manipulative history is an act to save our lives. They built a museum and memorial that is not trapped in a faded chronicle of past events but is alive with the injustices and racial terror that Black people face every day in prisons, jails, and in public life. The sites assert that none of us can move forward without reckoning with the truth.

We all need to be part of it. Because we already are a part of this reality, this U.S. history, this present-time racist violence. In our streets, at our borders, in the courts, and in our daily lives. We are a part of it, and if we can strengthen our collective body by truly understanding the past terrors and current horrors of white supremacy, we may be able to save ourselves.

What is it? 

On the foundation of a slave warehouse in downtown Montgomery, Alabama, Equal Justice Initiative created a legacy museum that tracks the trans-Atlantic slave trade to today’s incarceration epidemic. In a harrowing parallel, digital holograms of enslaved people speak and sing from behind bars in one part of the center and in other parts, digital holograms of incarcerated people speak from behind glass. You lift the receiver to hear them speak as if you were visiting them in prison. The space is a beautiful and devastating design. The memorial is an outside space where you feel the anguish of enslavement, read the names of people lynched, and experience something heavy and freeing at the same time. These are not static museums dedicated to exposing past injustices, these are dynamic spaces dedicated to engaging truth.

The Lynching Memorial and Legacy Museum are proving the argument without any apology or justification that slavery did not end in 1865.

How did they do it? 

Slow, steady, methodical research. They coordinated multiple projects of painfully vivid histories of over 4,000 lynchings from 1877-1950. They released reports, they produced documentaries and videos, and they built these spaces. All while they continued to practice law and take on clients facing the death penalty and extreme punishment in Alabama and other parts of the South.

They got big investments. Google partnered to make this thing happen and to make it stunning.  An interactive touchscreen map is an innovation in design, data, and emotional delivery. You can stand in one place and see the exact number of known lynchings in any given county in the U.S. with their names listed on the side of the screen. It is an incredible demonstration of the breadth and depth of the decades of terror. It cannot be dismissed and does not need to be justified.

What does it mean? 

One thing it means is that Montgomery will be changed forever. The Montgomery Advertiser, the only newspaper in town, printed an editorial the week of the opening that states in one simple opening line, “We were wrong.” This long-time white institution, my grandfather’s newspaper, claimed responsibility for the press’s complicity in racist violence. For a Southern capital’s newspaper to claim institutional culpability in how violence and racism led to brutal deaths is significant in today’s hostile political climate.

These spaces assert “we will not be erased” – not from history and not from today – without making any inch of the truth more palatable. Montgomery is the perfect site to hold this transformative process. I hope that this will be a site of pilgrimage, not to understand the Civil Rights Movement as a moment in the past but as a way to become more human and more dedicated to our collective fight for freedom.

James Baldwin was quoted throughout the opening week’s events, “History is not the past. It is the present.”

I traveled to my mother’s hometown with eight folks from Project South, some who were born after I graduated from high school and one who had lived through both the racist violence in 1960s Atlanta and had been incarcerated for a year and a half for writing a bad check. We experienced a Montgomery that is growing, that is still a heady mix of poor and rich, that is still pointing people to the tours of the Jefferson Davis’ White House, the former seat of the Confederacy. We also experienced the power of a movement moment when hundreds of local volunteers, Black and white, signed up to support this historic opening. Montgomery natives pointed us to good local restaurants and kept a massive event from feeling like a conference and more like a shared experience, rooted in the same city that launched the Bus Boycott and received the marchers from Selma. We were all proud to be part of a new historical moment in this city.

Rev. William Barber’s eloquent history lesson reminded us that lynchings happened in the U.S. South to reverse the gains of Reconstruction after the Civil War and to prevent Black political participation. In the U.S. South today, we are experiencing a significant attack that has all the markings of a legal lynching in the 21st century.

Pastor Kenneth Glasgow is facing capital murder charges in Dothan, Alabama based on an Alabama law that allows the state to charge anyone near a crime to be fully responsible for that crime. He is innocent. The states attorney is not even making a case that he killed the woman who lost her life in the incident that happened on March 26, 2018. (Read more about the case in an excellent article published in The Root)

Project South has worked with Pastor Glasgow and The Ordinary People Society (TOPS) for over 15 years. Pastor Glasgow is one of the many Alabama Black leaders who built the infrastructure and the momentum for the victory in the Special Elections for U.S. Senate in December by registering formerly and currently incarcerated people to vote. In 2017, Pastor Glasgow stood in a picture with the Governor of Alabama while the governor signed a piece of legislation that is more progressive than 47 states in the U.S., a piece of legislation that was the result of 15 years of organizing. The law expands access to the vote by over 200,000 people by allowing incarcerated people, with convictions that fall outside of certain felonies, in the state of Alabama to register and vote absentee (Maine and Vermont are the only other states that allow currently convicted and incarcerated people to vote). In 2018, not even four months from the victory that proved the power of Black political participation, Pastor Glasgow is facing charges that carry the death penalty or at best, a life sentence.

If we could stop a lynching today, would we? 

Movement leaders, his family, pastors all over the state, and local families who have been impacted by the work of TOPS have come together to protect and defend Pastor Glasgow. He is out on bond (which was a victory, as most capital charges do not get bonded out) and waiting for a Grand Jury trial which will indict, dismiss, or lessen the charges. If indicted, we go on to a trial jury. We’re in for a long haul.

And meanwhile the Alabama primaries happened on June 5. Pastor Glasgow does not rest. He worked with coordinators and captains inside the jail where they kept him for two weeks, and they have registered over 800 people. He is continuing the #Free2Vote work across the state, and organizers and pastors are making sure that everyone who can vote in Alabama is registered and ready.

What Project South and the Southern Movement Assembly knows is that an attack on any one of us is an attack on all of us. We are proud of our movements that have not flinched in the face of this intimidation and attempt to isolate Pastor Glasgow. We are stronger together, and we will stop this legal lynching. We are bolstered by our ancestors’ courage and the work of the Equal Justice Initiative to build something so powerful and affirming.

I was proud to be with a delegation from Project South and the Georgia Citizens’ Coalition on Hunger to the EJI Lynching Memorial and National Museum for Peace & Justice. We were not passive observers but actors in the present moment. We did a public action to engage people about Pastor Glasgow’s case, and we will be bringing the youth members of Project South’s annual Septima Clark Community Power Institute back to Montgomery to continue engaging the Lynching Memorial and Legacy Museum as a tool and weapon of truth in our long-term struggle to defeat white supremacy and win freedom and justice for us all.


Stephanie Guilloud is the Co-Director at Project South: Institute for the Elimination of Poverty & Genocide based in Atlanta, Georgia.

Stephanie Guilloud is originally from Houston, Texas with roots in Alabama. Stephanie is an organizer with 17 years of experience and leadership in global justice work and community organizing. At Project South, Stephanie works closely with Southeast regional organizing projects, the Southern Movement Assembly, and membership programs. Stephanie worked as the National Co-Chair of the Peoples Movement Assembly Working Group of the US Social Forum from 2008-2013. She served on the board of Southerners On New Ground (SONG), a multiracial queer organization, from 2005-2014. Stephanie is the editor of two anthologies: Through the Eyes of the Judged; Autobiographical Sketches from Incarcerated Young Men and Voices from the WTO; First-person Narratives from the People who Shut Down the World Trade Organization.


In the spring of 2017, Funders for Justice (FFJ) launched its inaugural cohort of Advisors – nine field leaders recognized for their leadership in community power-building, racial and gender justice, police accountability campaigns, and anti-criminalization movements. We asked them to share their insights on the current political climate, how we can build a vision for the world we want, and what funders can do in this moment. 

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June 2, 2020

Black Lives Matter: We Say Their Names

We at NFG say their names. George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN. Breonna Taylor in Louisville, KY. Ahmaud Arbery in Glynn County, GA. Tony McDade in Tallahassee, FL. Dion Johnson in Phoenix, AZ.

Black Lives Matter, today and every day. NFG stands in solidarity with Black communities as we again find ourselves anguished, angered, and compelled to action in response to the murders of George Floyd and Black people across the U.S. by police.

We urge our network to continue challenging white supremacy. We call on philanthropy to divest from criminalization and invest in communities. We encourage you to fund communities directly, support protestors and essential workers — like Breonna Taylor — who continue to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, and donate to bail funds around the country. Read more about how grantmakers can take action to fund transformative justice in this blog post from NFG’s Funders for Justice.
 


 

NFG cares about you, and your communities. We are here to work beside you and support each other as we share, inspire, grieve, and act together. And we are committed to organizing philanthropy to support grassroots power building so that Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities thrive.
 

RESOURCES & CALLS TO ACTION

OPPORTUNITIES TO CONNECT

  • We will be holding Member Connection Calls on June 9 and June 11. These calls are open spaces for you to drop in and be in community with new or familiar NFG friends and colleagues. We invite you to join us at any point throughout the hour to say hi, share anything that’s on your mind, take a breath, and strategize with the NFG community.
  • Drop us a line! NFG staff are ready to help connect you with others in our network, or provide some 1:1 listening and strategizing with you about whom to connect with or specific ways you can take action in your institution. We invite you to get in touch with anyone on our staff.
  • Join the NFG network for our 40 Years Strong virtual convening series, starting later this month with discussions with philanthropic and movement leaders on what is needed in this political moment and beyond, as well as how philanthropy must be accountable to communities of color and low-income communities. Registration is now open.
May 29, 2020

Say Their Names: Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Dion Johnson

This piece was written by NFG's Funders for Justice program leadership.

We say their names: Breonna Taylor in Louisville, KY, George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN, Ahmaud Arbery in Glynn County, GA, Tony McDade in Tallahassee, FL, Dion Johnso in Phoenix, AZ.

Black Lives Matter, today and every day.

Fund Black lives, Black futures, Black organizing. 

We Stand in Solidarity: Funders for Justice stands in solidarity with protestors in Minneapolis, Louisville, Phoenix, New York, Detroit, Los Angeles, Chicago, and other cities across the country, fighting for the lives and freedom for all Black people. We know that communities are powerful, and will dream and fight for the transformative justice in which together we create the new world we all need. As funders, our mandate is to fund communities rising up against state violence, and to continue to fund as communities build the power and momentum for long-term change.

We Must Continue to Challenge White Supremacy: While police killed unarmed Black people over and over again, we witnessed no police response to armed white nationalist posted in front of state capital buildings and yelling in the faces of security guards, demanding an end to shelter in place because they wanted to get a haircut and go out in public without a mask.

Stand with Black Women Essential Workers: Breonna Taylor was a young Black woman who was an EMT — an essential worker already risking her life during a pandemic. Yet we repeatedly witness evidence that the state does not protect or respect the people, especially Black women, risking their lives to save others. Essential workers are already facing dangerous conditions, with extremely limited protection equipment, low pay, often dangerous commutes to work, and then in turn endangering their families. That Breonna was one of the latest casualties of state violence is profoundly painful.

How to Support Protestors: We encourage you to fund communities directly, including at times when groups are not able to fill out even a short proposal or form because they are leading protests in the streets. We encourage you to give now however your foundation is able — including getting creative in mobilizing resources — perhaps to use your foundation’s expense account to send money for needed supplies like water and food. And, we encourage everyone reading this blog to make a personal donation, because we all come to the work we do as the full people that we are: part of communities fighting in resistance, part of communities fighting for survival, part of communities taking action in solidarity. You can donate now to bail funds in many cities. 

Invest/Divest Now: While millions of local dollars are cut from city budgets — in youth programs, health services, and education, among others — due to shortfalls, the police unions/associations continue to push for more money and more police. Yet police are not saving people in this pandemic — they are policing, fining, and sending people to jail - mostly Black people. The federal administration has refused to send more supplies and funding to medical workers and other frontline workers, while increasing funding to police-related spending and private security guards.

We All Have A Mandate: Philanthropy’s mandate to support communities in living healthy and free lives means funding both the public infrastructure that keeps communities safe — like health care, housing, and education — and funding the people, organizations, and the movements rising up against police violence and building power to defund the police, prisons, ICE, and detention centers. Philanthropy must support divest/invest campaigns and other abolitionist strategies, because nothing the police do is meant to ever keep communities of color safe. Now is the time to divest from the police, when cities are cutting budgets and need the funding for community wellness more than any other time. (Check out FFJ’s divest/invest resource for funders and consider how you want to support community safety and justice.) 

Bail funds and legal support in cities around the country are linked in this google doc hosted by the Movement 4 Black Lives

Where to donate to support protestors and Black folks organizing for Black Lives in Minneapolis: