You may remember that last August, All Together Now’s Everyday Racism app won an Intercultural Innovation Award. Part of the prize includes attendance at capacity building workshops to build our organisation’s sustainability.
So, last week I flew to South Carolina in North America as a guest of United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and the BMW Group tolearn more about fundraising, leadership and interpersonal excellence. I had the chance to practice pitching All Together Now’s work to several philanthropists and gain some useful insights into how we could improve our strategy and communications.
I am extremely grateful to both UNAOC and BMW for their support, encouragement, and connections, enabling us to improve our work in Australia.
As a result of this prize, All Together Now is able to expand on what it learned from building the Everyday Racism app. Our team is now creating an educational iPad app for 8-10 year olds to teach them about racial bias. This app is expected to be launched in mid-2016. We are currently working very closely with some academics in both Australia and the USA to ensure this app will be evidence-based and independently evaluated.
You may remember that back in July ’13 I was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to investigate the factors that make non-profit racism prevention initiatives effective. So earlier this year I travelled to USA, England, France, Poland, and Belgium to learn from some of the most effective antiracism programs around the world
Since I’ve been back I’ve written a report on my findings, which you can download from the Churchill Fellowship website.
In summary, Australia needs to have a sustained and long-term commitment to achieving racial equality by working in cross-sector partnerships to create practical solutions that are evidence-based. All Together Now has been working in this way since 2010 and continues to seek the support of journalists, funders and activists to support this work to make it possible:
My report contains recommendations to All Together Now’s board based on what I learned during the Fellowship. The recommendations – should they be approved – will improve All Together Now’s approach to racism prevention. Recommendations include
All Together Now’s Board of Directors will make a statement in response to these recommendations once they have been fully considered.
On Wednesday I had the absolute privilege of visiting the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in Alabama, one of the leading advocacy organisations fighting hate and bigotry.
SPLC is best known for taking hate groups – like white supremacists – to court and suing them so they go bankrupt and have to cease their activities. SPLC has been extremely successful in doing this, taking out entire US-based hate groups like Volksfront.
The SPLC has three divisions: Teaching Tolerance educates by providing resources to teachers to reduce prejudice, Intelligence Project investigates hate groups, and the Legal department litigates against hate groups.
Given the focus of my Churchill research, I had the opportunity to get an in-depth understanding about Teaching Tolerance and the Intelligence Project during my visit.
First up I met with Teaching Tolerance. For more than 20 years, this program has been providing teachers around the country with information so they are able to teach school students of all ages about accepting diversity (including race, gender, sexuality, ability).
Teaching Tolerance started because the founders of SPLC had already worked for 20 years monitoring and suing hate groups and were getting frustrated that the members of hate groups were getting younger and their crimes were getting more heinous. If they were going to change this dynamic, they would need to rear young people in a way that made them more accepting of the diversity all around us.
Providing resources directly to teachers is a scaleable and sustainable way to operate. Teaching Tolerance started out as a print magazine (which you can now download as an e-magazine) and has since grown to provision of lesson plans and film kits. The program is now launching a full curriculum and anti-bias framework that has taken three years to create.
The anti-bias framework is impressive. In Australia, we tend to go for the “easier” domains of discussing identity and diversity, which are only the first two areas of Teaching Tolerance’s framework. They continue the work further by also addressing justice and moving to action. I think our practice in Australia could certainly be improved by incorporating the idea of “racial justice” and “racial action”, not just “harmony” and “anti-racism” so that it doesn’t become all talk and tokenism without effective remedies.
Next up I met with the Intelligence Project. This program collects information about extremists to inform law enforcement – and the SPLC’s own lawyers – about perpetrators of hate-motivated violence and those that have the potential to perpetrate hate crimes.
As you may know, All Together Now runs the only not-for-profit program in Australia targeting far right extremists. So understanding what is involved in this type of work, I find the depth and thoroughness of the Intelligence Project’s approach and the way they communicate the message to police very impressive.
Of course there is often a price to pay for doing such work. As it states on SPLC’s website:
Our headquarters in Montgomery has been the target of numerous plots by extremist groups, including a firebombing that destroyed our offices in 1983. Several dozen people have been sent to prison for plotting against [our CEO] or the SPLC.
As you would expect, the SPLC’s offices have very tight security!
What has stood out for me after these two interviews is that the Southern Poverty Law Center doesn’t just point at the problems, but they also offer very practical solutions. They’re proactive and credible. They make it easy for the country’s teachers and police to stay up-to-date on reducing prejudice and hate because they’re good communicators. And they’re responsive to their stakeholder’s needs – both teachers and police.
So next stop on the tour is New York! I’ll be meeting with a handful of organisations which each have a very different approach to racism prevention … stay tuned!
I’ve arrived in Montgomery, Alabama!
Before I started my Churchill Fellowship, the only thing I knew about Alabama was Neil Young’s song of the same name. Let me tell you that after only two days in Montgomery, I’m now much better informed about Montgomery!
So back in the mid 1800s Montgomery was one of the most prominent slave trading communities in Alabama due to its geography and economy based on cotton production. Between 1808 and 1860, Montgomery grew from a population of 40,000 to more than 435,000 due to slavery.
In the 1860s Montgomery was geographically instrumental in the Civil War, and is the location of the first White House of the Confederacy. In the early days of the Confederacy, Jim Crow mandated segregation. This meant that African Americans had to use different public facilities than the ones used by white people including drinking fountains, healthcare, schools, bathrooms, and hotels. They were not allowed to vote.
This reminder of the historic injustices in Montgomery is told on signs around the town centre, many erected by the Equal Justice Initiative. (Also: check out their comprehensive racial justice timeline).
You may have already heard of Rosa Parks. At the end of a long day at work, Rosa was seated in the front “white section” of the bus on her way home. As the bus became full the driver asked her to stand and move to the “colored section” at the back because there weren’t enough seats for white people to sit down. She refused to move, so the bus driver called the cops and Rosa was arrested.
That night, the Women’s Political Council created fliers calling for a bus boycott by African Americans and distributed them the following day.
A couple of days later, Martin Luther King Jnr’s Sunday sermon included a plea for fairness and justice. He compelled his African American congregation to refuse to ride on the buses to end racial segregation.
The next day African Americans either walked to work or stayed home. This action – the Montgomery Bus Boycott – continued for over a year until the court ordered the state to desegregate the buses.
I did not realise all this happened right here in Montgomery! The Rosa Parks Museum was first on my list of places to visit and as you can probably tell, it didn’t disappoint!
Fast forward five years to 1961, when segregation on interstate buses and bus terminals was still in force. An interracial group of students were determined to continue the Freedom Ride that had been stopped due to violence in a nearby town. They sat together, defying the segregation laws. Their bus arrived at the Greyhound station in Montgomery where Klan supporters armed with baseball bats, ropes and chains were waiting. They attacked the riders, and some were left unconscious.
These are just a couple of stories from the American Civil Rights movement. There are many more. At the Civil Rights Memorial Center I learned there have been many people from all around the country who have contributed to racial justice. In the Center, I added my name to the Wall of Tolerance, committing to work for justice, equality and human rights.
Some of the pioneers like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jnr are commemorated on the Civil Rights Memorial out the front of the Center.