We know that injustice persists, so what more can we do? If you’re like me, you wonder what comes after the peaceful marches and writing election postcards.
Short version: Americans of Conscience is announcing a year-long, collaborative relationship with SOWEGA Rising, a non-profit working to improve the well-being and political power of marginalized Southwest Georgians. If you’re in a hurry, scroll to the 3-step action at the bottom of this page.
Long version: 5 minute read
Last month, I viewed a video in the Washington Post that stopped me in my tracks. In it, I learned that southwest Georgia – a 12-county area just above the Florida panhandle – was hit hard and early by COVID-19. Albany, Georgia had the heartbreaking distinction of having the 4th highest rate of COVID deaths in the world. And yet, while neighbors fell ill and died at a staggering rate, there was no federal response.
As one resident said, it felt “like the nation had turned its back on us.”
Moved, I reached out to the people interviewed in the Washington Post video. I was honored to speak with community organizer Sherrell Byrd who shared how COVID is complicating their region’s already-complex issues. For example, recent closures of local grocery stores makes shopping for fresh food an hours-long ordeal. People end up buying what’s available at the local Dollar General, and this lack of fresh food leads to chronic disease.
“As we know, comorbidities such as heart disease and diabetes lead to fatal outcomes if someone contracts COVID,” she said. “The fact that many people here, particularly communities of color, lack access to quality health care and mistrust local health care options has made the pandemic all the more devastating to this community.”
Ms. Byrd is the co-chair of SOWEGA Rising, a non-profit that coordinates community responses to the complex, overlapping issues in Southwest Georgia. “We base our work on the African proverb: ‘Alone I can go faster, but together we can go farther.’”
I was inspired as Ms. Byrd explained how SOWEGA Rising and its many partners are mobilizing people and resources to improve the well-being, quality of life, and political power of marginalized Southwest Georgians.
Their diverse efforts include organizing a pandemic response and registering voters as well as growing new youth leadership and grassroots solutions to access fresh food. SOWEGA Rising is showing up for its communities, living their stated goal “to facilitate Southwest Georgia’s rise from the bottom of the state to the top of the list of quality of life metrics.”
They are doing incredible work, they just need allies.
This is where you and I come in. If you oppose the lack of basic respect toward Black Americans, if you’re among those who marched for Black Lives last summer – in person or in spirit – or wrote postcards for Georgia’s runoff, you might wonder what more you can do.
We are offering one solution: relationship.
When I asked Ms. Byrd how Americans of Conscience could support their work, it was clear that a one-time action wasn’t enough. Instead, I proposed to her a plan to support their work over an entire year. To build a relationship with them, one visionary group to another, to advance justice a little further in their community. To my delight, Ms. Byrd and her board agreed.
Starting today, in addition to our regular AoC Checklist, we will feature a monthly action to support the people of Southwest Georgia in specific, tangible ways. Even from far away, we can advance this community’s goals toward food justice, youth leadership, voter registration, equitable rural health, criminal justice reform, and more.
“I am so touched that people outside of Georgia noticed us,” Ms. Byrd told me.
We do notice, and we’re called to do more.
Today, Americans of Conscience is launching a $1,000 matching campaign for SOWEGA Rising which will go directly toward supporting their current efforts to mobilize immediate food aid and pandemic response. If you can’t donate right now, don’t stress – you will have other chances to be part of the solution this year. But even a little can make a difference; AoCC will match donations at any amount up to $1,000 in total.
To let the people of Southwest Georgia know they aren’t forgotten and that their lives matter to people around the country, take these three steps:
- Go to sowegarising.org to read about their work.
- Click the DONATE button to contribute to our match campaign.
- Write in the comments that AoCC brought you.
In a month, we’ll celebrate how much we raised together and introduce our next action to support our neighbors in southwest Georgia.
Thanks to this new relationship, we can put our values into action and, as Gandhi said, “be the change we wish to see in the world.”
P.S. Visit sowegarising.org and donate today!